Theology of the Holy Spirit


“‘No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him" — but God has revealed it to us by his Spirit.’ The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the man's spirit within him? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us. This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, expressing spiritual truths in spiritual words. The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned. The spiritual man makes judgments about all things, but he himself is not subject to any man's judgment: ‘For who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct him?’ But we have the mind of Christ. (1 Corinthians 2:6-11 NIV)

Apart from the Holy Spirit, the Church would not exist. He has come to give the Body of Christ:

We should claim the power and presence of the Holy Spirit in our experiences.

The Birth of the Church

The Day of Pentecost has been called the “Birthday of the church”. Not because there were no Christians prior to that (the disciples were Christians, after Jesus’ death and resurrection) but because “the Church” did not exist corporately until then. Since Pentecost He has been “with” and “in” every believer in a new way. He is the “Administrator of the Church” in the world. It is He who gives “increase” in the work of God – 1 Corinthians 3:7.

Building Up the Church

The Holy Spirit is building a “temple in the Lord” – Ephesians 2:21, 22. He gives the church unity – 2 Corinthians 2:13; Ephesians 4:3.

This unity is not the result of organised ecumenism but the work of God. See attached article.

Unity in the Body of Christ – Lessons from Ephesians Chapter 4

How does He do it?

  1. Conviction (elegchō)

The world has its standards in relation to sin, righteousness and judgment. The first step God takes in bringing people back to Himself is conviction in peoples’ hearts, based on His standards. Sin cuts us off from God and blinds us; the initiative to come back to Him is not in us; it must therefore come from God. Jesus said (John 16:8-11) the Holy Spirit would convince people of:

Without supernatural conviction we do not know (or care) that (i) we are sinners, (ii) we need Christ’s righteousness, and (iii) that the world will be judged. When we realize these things, we become aware of the need of a Saviour and the Holy Spirit draws us Christ.

  1. Regeneration (being born again)

God is not far from any one of us - Acts 17:27; however to have salvation we need to be “born anew” - John 3:3, 6. This is not the work of denominations/man - John 1:13; it is a supernatural work of the Holy Spirit -Titus 3:5; Ephesians 2:1.

  1. Assurance

We know we are children of God because of the inward personal assurance of the Holy Spirit. He has supernaturally sealed us; He is the “earnest (arabon; downpayment) of our eternal inheritance – 2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 4:30. He makes our sonship real - Romans 8:15, 16; Galatians 4:6; 1 John 5:6. His assurance is greater than circumstances and human logic.

  1. Indwelling

When we become Christians:

  1. Sanctification

“… you were cleansed; you were made holy; you were made right with God by calling on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. (1 Corinthians 6:11)

Separation, holiness, making us like Christ; a spiritual experience, not a product of our human will power or effort. We are changed by the Holy Spirit – 2 Corinthians 3:18; 1 Peter 1:2, 22.

Sanctification is both:

The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death” – Romans 8:2. The problems arise when we try to carry out in our own strength what only the Holy Spirit can do – Galatians 3:3.

Discussion: what are the effects of the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit in our lives?

  1. Empowerment

Our Gospel came not to you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Spirit...” –

1 Thessalonians 1:5.

Through the Holy Spirit the Christian is given inner strength – Ephesians 3:16 – and power to be a witness for Christ – Acts 1:8 (martyros). Preaching, teaching and witnessing are powerless if the Holy Spirit is “absent”.

  1. Guidance

Christians need not feel lost, uncertain as to God’s will for their lives. Even mature believers sometimes feel discouraged by circumstances or their inability to accurately discern God’s will. We all need guidance. The same Holy Spirit who directed the early Church has come to guide us - Romans 8:14 (agō, or lead, guide, direct).

When we are led by the Spirit we do not do as we like. The freedom we have in Christ is not designed to please ourselves, but Him who called us. Selfish acts are replaced by obedience to the Spirit.

Since we are human, our prayers for guidance may be affected by our own desires or prejudices. If we walk in daily surrender He will not permit us to stray from the right path; our spirits are attuned to His voice. He will check, correct and direct us, and help us in our decision-making, as we carry out His will.

Examples in Acts. The Holy Spirit:

As Christians we need to allow the Holy Spirit to lead us – Galatians 5:16, 25. If we do this we will not be continually falling into sin (the ”works of the flesh”, sarx, ie our human nature, are prone to sin and opposed to God).

We need to be able to distinguish between the revealed will of God and our own desires when we say, “the Lord told me”.

The Holy Spirit does not lead us into legalism and form, but liberty – 2 Corinthians 3:17 (as long as things are done “in order” – 1 Corinthians 14:40).

The Holy Spirit will develop and gifts and ministries as we continue to step out by faith in obedience to His voice Romans 12:7-8.

  1. Worship

The Holy Spirit helps us to be true worshippers, not paying lip service (see Isaiah 29:13, cf Matthew 15:7-9); John 4:23-24; we worship “by the Spirit of God” – Philippians 3:3 (literal).

Even with the content/style of worship – Ephesians 5:18, 19. Worship without the presence and touch of the Holy Spirit is simply human effort.

  1. Prayer

The Holy Spirit helps us (even in weakness) to pray as we should – Ephesians 6:18; Romans 8:26. God knows we are weak when we pray and we often encounter practical and spiritual difficulties. The Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness and makes up for our deficiencies.

This encourages us to yield ourselves to Him and allow Him to pray through us. The more fully we surrender, the more Christ-centred we become and the more truly God is glorified in us. Praying “in the Spirit” may mean allowing the Holy Spirit to guide our thoughts as we pray in our own language/s. It may also involve the use of speaking in tongues, or even involve unspoken cries (inward groans) to God for the need that is on His heart. If we want our prayer lives to be richer, deeper, more meaningful, we need to surrender to the person and work of the Holy Spirit.

  1. Teaching

The Holy Spirit does not bring new teaching, but gives understanding of the meaning and application of Jesus’ teaching (John 14:26). How could the disciples remember (and agree) all the things Jesus taught them? They let the Holy Spirit refresh their memory. He teaches us by:

Do we need to be taught by people if we have the Holy Spirit? Yes, because He has given teachers to the church. However, teachers must submit to Him; the church is not the source of revelation (1 Corinthians 2:13). We emphasize being taught by men. Churches want educated, cultured leaders. God can use our education to great advantage, however the most important element is not our learning or experience, but the Holy Spirit’s impartation, impact, anointing. No Christian can be “spiritual” (cf Romans 8:66) without the Holy Spirit.

  1. Comfort and Joy

Jesus experienced the joy of the Holy Spirit in His ministry. The Holy Spirit gives “comfort” to the church in a hostile, anti-Christian world– Acts 9:31. The Kingdom of God consists of “righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” – Romans 14:17. This is a supernatural dimension of joy.

  1. Love

If we are to live in ways that please God it is essential for us to grow in love toward God and man.

Many Christians find it difficult to love other people and their love for God waxes and wanes. Romans 5:5 tells us that the love of God is “shed abroad” in our hearts by the Holy Spirit. This love, kindled in us by the Spirit, reaches toward God in commitment, to the Body of Christ in acceptance, and to lost humanity in compassion for their salvation (cf Romans 9:2,3).

  1. Fruit” in our Lives

The character traits of Jesus Christ, the “fruit” (karpos) of the Spirit, are produced in our lives as we surrender to His Lordship - Galatians 5:22, 23.

If we lack the fruit of the Spirit we will be deficient in our Christian lives and witness and need to re-evaluate the nature of our relationship with Him – not for condemnation, but as an encouragement to draw near, in faith and obedience.

The fruit of the Spirit is:








God’s love; affection, good will, love, benevolence, brotherly love




joy, gladness




peace harmony, the tranquil state of a soul assured of salvation through Christ, and fearing nothing




pat patience, endurance, steadfastness, slowness in avenging wrongs perseverance, forbearance, longsuffering,




mo moral goodness, integrity, kindness




uprightness of heart and life, goodness, kindness




a conviction about our relationship to God, trust, faith in Him




gentleness, mildness, meekness




self--control (the virtue of one who masters his desires and passions)


Romans 8 is a good case study of the ministry of the Holy Spirit in the life of the individual believer; mentioned 17 times in 39 verses. He:

  1. has liberated us – vs. 2

  2. will resurrect us – v. 11 (new life now and resurrection later on)

  3. dwells in us – vs. 9, 11

  4. leads us – v. 14

  5. assures us – v. 16

  6. helps us – v. 26

The Holy Spirit has come to have koinonia, or fellowship, with us – 2 Corinthians 13:14; Philippians 2:1. “Normal” Christian living therefore involves an ongoing relationship with Him. As a Person He is active on behalf of every believer, to fulfil the work of Jesus Christ in our lives.

Discussion: How can we have “fellowship” with the Holy Spirit?

The Anointing of the Holy Spirit is Essential

Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us...” –

2 Corinthians 1:21.

Jesus attributed His power and results to the Holy Spirit – Luke 4:18. He promised we would do the things He did (“and greater”). Through this anointing He was able to:

  1. Preach the Gospel to the poor. This includes:

(a) the poor and feeble of the world;

  1. those who have nothing;

  2. those who have everything they need but are spiritually poor.

  1. Heal the broken-hearted – those whose lives are crushed by problems, have no answers, are in despair, depression.

  1. Preach deliverance to the captives – those who are held prisoner by forces stronger than themselves, eg demonic powers, fears, habits, guilt or captivating sins.

  1. Give recovery of sight to the blind – physical or spiritual blindness

  1. Liberate the bruised - freedom from being crushed, hurt and wounded in body and spirit.

Without the anointing of the Holy Spirit, serving God and living the Christian life is an uphill struggle. Many Christians and churches are not as effective as they could otherwise be because they do all their work for God in their natural ability. Their hearts are sincere, their motives are good, but they lack that anointing that brings life to all they do.

Only the Holy Spirit’s anointing can “break the yoke” and secure the right results – Isaiah 10:27.

What Do We Mean by the “Anointing of the Holy Spirit”?

In the OT Tabernacle, anointing oil (usually olive oil) was applied to the High Priest, other priests and tabernacle furniture. Everything to do with the Tabernacle and the worship and service of God had to be anointed. Without it they were not fit or qualified to be used in God’s service.

For Christians, the “anointing” (or “unction”) is an enabling that comes from God. It is by the anointing (consistent with their calling) that people qualify for the work of God. Without the anointing, there are limited results. The anointing separates the true Gospel from all other religion or man-made methods. True preaching and other ministries are anointed ministry.

For example, the anointing of the Holy Spirit:

Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John and realized that they were unlearned and ignorant men, they marvelled, and they took knowledge of them that they had been with Jesus” – Acts 4:13.




give me assurance

face up to doubt and uncertainty; not be afraid of the future, death; learn to trust His Word, power and faithfulness and consciously hand over my doubts to Him; believe that I can “do all things”

live in me

be holy; live a consecrated life; work with Him; be “open”; listen to him; wait for his voice; live as though I am His “temple”; look for ways to deepen my relationship with Him; be renewed every day, even when I feel worn out; be aware of His presence

sanctify me

put off my “old man, old nature”; surrender things that need to be changed; live a holy life; allow Him to transform me; learn how to live God’s will and please Him; not belong to the world

give me power

not rely on my own power or effort in living as a Christian; be a true “witness” to Christ and ask Him for extra strength when I need it; use the God’s power in my life wisely

guide me

seek and trust his guidance for the rest of my life; learn how to listen to Him and learn how He speaks; choose to obey Him > specifically; seek to be “in step with” the Holy Spirit in my daily Christian walk

help me pray

pray “in Spirit and in truth”, with faith; develop my relationship with the Holy Spirit in such a way that I can cooperate with Him in an active and meaningful prayer life

help me be a true worshipper

alone and with other Christians seek to” draw near” to Him and practice heart-felt worship; proclaim His glory and majesty, even though I don’t understand it fully (cf Psalm 71:15)

teach me

be teachable, not harden my heart; long to be a good student; put His teaching into practice; share His teaching with others; seek His wisdom to be a godly person, parent, spouse, member of the community

be along side me as the Comforter

make a conscious decision to acknowledge His faithfulness and presence with me at all times and “work with” Him in my Christian life, responding as I am led by Him; cooperating with Him = my daily life will be different

enable me to experience his joy

be open to His joy – supernaturally imparted - and not allow circumstances to rob me of that joy; trust that nothing will come into my life unless He permits it; draw on His strength, handle situations differently, with a “wider: view of the world and what I experience in life

fill my heart with God’s love

be open to His love, to love God and people (including those who are hostile or “un-loveable”) as He does; allow Him to love others through me; break down barriers that people without Christ are accustomed to build

produce his “fruit” in my life

allow Him to prune me, cut off what is not of Him and produce His character in me; use His fruit to glory and serve God

glorify Jesus in/through me

not use my Christian life, opportunities, blessings for my ends or to draw attention to myself, but exalt Christ, in good times and bad; proclaim His salvation; surrender to Him, so that Christ can be communicated to the world through my life

give me spiritual gifts

identify those gifts; use them as He directs, , not as personal possessions, but for the benefit of others

flow through my life like “living water”

when I feel dry, open up my life to the Holy Spirit, allow Him to renew me; get rid of any blockages




give me assurance

live in me

sanctify me

give me power

guide me

help me pray

help me be a true worshipper

teach me

be along side me as the Comforter

enable me to experience his joy

fill my heart with God’s love

produce his “fruit” in my life

glorify Jesus in/through me

give me spiritual gifts

flow through my life like “living water”

Unity in the Body of Christ – Lessons from Ephesians Chapter 4

As Christians unite around Jesus Christ and engage in His work together, doing it His way, the church will be better equipped and focused to reach the world with the Great Commission and achieve God’s plan and purpose for our generation.

Understanding the context

The New Testament epistle, or book, of Ephesians was written by the Apostle Paul to the church community that he and his Christian colleagues had planted in the Graeco-Roman city of Ephesus around 62 AD.

Ephesus was the commercial, political and religious centre of what was then called Western Asia and is now part of Turkey. At the time the epistle was sent it had a population of roughly a quarter of a million; this figure was in constant flux because Ephesus was located at the crossroads of the Roman Empire.

For more than seven hundred years people from other parts of the empire had flocked to Ephesus to pay homage to the fertility goddess Artemis (her Greek name) or Diana (her Latin title). The Temple of Diana was four times the size of the Parthenon in Athens and was identified as one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. Ephesian merchants sold miniatures of the Temple of Diana to pilgrims and tourists. Income from these sales enriched the city and gave employment to the artisans.

As the Gospel spread, collisions with the existing religious systems were inevitable. The ancient pagan cults were no match for the message of Jesus Christ and great numbers of followers of Diana became Christians (read the full account in Acts 19). Many were set free from the power of occult. Social barriers among them were dismantled. The power of sin was broken, giving them hope beyond their political, social and economic circumstances. So many were converted to Christ that, on one occasion, a great bonfire took place, in which books and other artefacts of the occult were destroyed. The church in Ephesus went on to become the strongest church in the first century.

Inevitably, forces opposed to the growing Christian community were bound to react. The proclamation of the Gospel was first denounced in the synagogue, by followers of the Jewish religion who refused to recognise Jesus as the Messiah. So, for two years, the work continued in a nearby hall. The flash point came when the shrine artisans lost so much business that they went on strike, led by one Demetrius, who led crowds of angry people into the city’s 24,000 seat arena. As the stands filled, Scripture tells us that most people did not even know why they were there, but they clamoured on Diana’s behalf when stirred up to do so. By the end of the day, the opposition fell silent and the preaching of the Gospel expanded. From across the entire region people heard the message of salvation. The church grew progressively stronger. As Paul travelled he kept in touch with the congregations he helped plant. Often arrested by his enemies, he did not cease to proclaim the message. In chains, he wrote to the church in Ephesus, declaring the greatness of the salvation they enjoyed. (Because of his incarceration he was sometimes forced to use the services of an amanuensis, or scribe, to take down his words.)

Over time, the church in Ephesus became a mature congregation, a multicultural church with a sophisticated understanding of the depth of the message they had embraced. Chapters 1-3 of Paul’s letter describes in vivid detail our calling as believers, the privileges and blessings that are ours to enjoy in Christ, our new relationship with God and His purpose and plan for us, as individuals and as part of the broader Christian community. We often focus on the “weeds”, the minutiae of our day-to-day lives and struggles; God sees the future and acts in line with His “bigger picture”.

Most of the epistles written by Paul (and others, such as Peter and John) are about issues faced by their recipients. However, for the Ephesian church, it is not until Chapter 4 that we start to get some hints as to what was going on. The first matter addressed is “unity” within the local community of faith.

The Ephesian Christians lived in an environment conflicted by a panoply of gods, a vast array of religions, differing social histories and schools of philosophical thought. Jewish converts to Christianity often separated themselves from Gentile (or non-Jewish) converts, because the latter had not come to Christ through adherence to Moses and the Laws contained in the Old Testament, and tried to introduce legalism that was foreign to those from Graeco-Roman or local cultural backgrounds. Masters and slaves were difficult to unite. There was incredible spiritual opposition. The church needed to know how to handle the emerging differences and live the life God had called to practice.

Chapters 4-6 therefore provide advice and instructions as to practical outworking of the Christian faith. This was where the “rubber hit the road”. As a prisoner of the Roman authorities Paul was not in position to demand compliance. His life was on a knife edge. But world evangelism and the Body of Christ were never about Paul; they were about Christ. Christianity should never be about its leaders, denominations or styles. “Christ is all and in all” (Colossians 3:11).

Identifying the threats

All of the above is relevant to understanding the plea for unity contained in Chapter 4 of Ephesians.

During his last visit to the city, Paul warned that false prophets (including some from their own midst) would arise like “wolves” to destroy the church (Ac 20:29-31). They would attempt to break it up, or bring its members into their own folds. The biggest enemies of the Ephesian church were not persecution, the followers of Diana, political opposition, or heresy, but “white ants”. Scientists tell us that the most dangerous animals are the smallest, including invisible disease-carrying microbes, anopheles mosquitoes, other minute insects and the like. It is the same in the church. The principal enemies are not political systems or atheistic social theories, but small viruses that enter the community and wreak havoc.

Permit me exemplify what I mean. I recall meeting a group of Romanian Christians in Munich during the Olympic Games in that city in 1972. For the first time, Eastern bloc governments had agreed to allow tourists (as distinct from teams, coaches and officials) to visit the West, to observe the games.

After a group of us shared that we prayed for the church behind the Iron Curtain, we were surprised by their response: “We know where we stand, either we are followers of Christ, or we are not. In fact, we pray for you, in the West, because there are so many factors that erode you morally, so many temptations to compromise your faith and values”.

It is often the little things that undermine. The Christian community in Ephesus faced threats of disunity, the churn of false doctrine and the danger of being morally hollowed out without realizing it. Some felt rudderless in the face of spurious doctrine; they had no answers to false teachers (the New Testament did not even exist at this point); others were carried away without realizing it. The challenge was to recognise the very real threats, submit to the leadership God had placed in church, strive for unity and adopt attitudes to make the Christian life and community work and support the weak among them.

Let’s look more closely at verse 14 of Chapter 4.

Members of the church in Ephesus felt and acted as though they had no anchors; they were like ships tossed at sea. The Mediterranean Sea was central to governance and communication in the Roman Empire. Roads linked Italica in the far west with the remnants of the old Persian and Greek Empires in the east and stretched far away to the north to Gaul and throughout the southern half of Britannia; others snaked across the deserts of north Africa. However overland journeys were tedious and dangerous, due to conflicts, brigands and other threats. It was often easier to travel by sea.

However, in winter the Mediterranean is treacherous. I lived in Beirut for several years and my abiding memory of the Mediterranean during the winter months was how rough it became, with high waves driven by strong winds crashing over the Corniche along the water’s edge and causing flooding in lower lying places. Sailors often refused to travel during winter. The Apostle Paul was shipwrecked several times.

Ships today have stabilisers, but even then can be tossed like toys in dangerous weather. I recall crossing the Irish Sea from Ireland to Holyhead, in Wales, with my family in winter, during a force 10 gale. Rogue waves crashed with sickening thuds against the side of the vessel. Nearly everyone was sea sick. Those who were not ill lay prone on the deck and the ferry lurched from side to side; up and down with the waves; on top on the mountain one second, in the depths the next. The ferry that followed listed at 46 degrees, trucks and cars on the parking level were damaged, people were removed with broken limbs and an official enquiry was launched. The ferries had stabilisers. By comparison, ships in the first century were small, flimsy affairs. Every winter fortunes were lost; archaeologists and fortune hunters are still retrieving wealth from the sea bed.

The Ephesian church, like many Christian communities of the era, faced tremendous winds that buffeted its members. Lives were shipwrecked. (Read some of the other letters, such as Colossians, and consider the waves and winds of doctrine that made people dizzy and swept them away, first in this direction, and then in the other.) They were “carried about” (the Greek suggests a violent swinging). People today are out to shipwreck the faith of Christians. If we are not strong, it is easy to be tossed dizzyingly, out of control. God wants you to have stability.

Paul uses a second analogy in Ephesians 4, one related to gambling. He describes enemies of the Christian faith “lying in wait to deceive” (from the Greek concept of kubia, or playing with dice, gambling). There are cunning people and false agendas at work in our societies, waiting to catch us off-guard by manipulating the dice, so to speak. It is easy to be trapped, unable to discern what is going on. If you are not watching, they will play tricks with your eyes. Happily, the Holy Spirit is available and waiting to come alongside to advise and guide us.

The church in Ephesus ended up with a reputation for standing up to false doctrine (Rev 2:3, 6). The tragedy was that, in the process, they left their first love for Christ; they became so caught up in the issues of the day that they lost the spontaneity and authenticity of genuine Christian believers. How can we prevent that? By recognizing and submitting to leadership placed in the Body of Christ by Jesus Christ the head, by learning, engaging, cooperating and being open to God and focused on Him. This does not stop winds blowing, or waves crashing against our lives, but it ensures us that we will be able to navigate safely and with stability.

Recognizing God-given ministries to countervail the elements and provide leadership

Children are easily led. Jesus said that he would not leave the church as orphans, or without guidance, stumbling, second-guessing, making up the rules as we go, changing values and relativities to meet the circumstances. He has the equipped the church with gifts of leadership, whose objectives are to recognise winds of false doctrine and deceitful ploys of the enemy, teach, train, identify areas of service, develop, release, encourage, correct and task us, while working together to construct the Body of Christ.

Paul teaches us in his letter to the Ephesians that Jesus gave [literally “supplied, furnished”] some to be apostles [“commissioned, sent out, delegated”], some to be prophets [“those who speak out, announce, under inspiration”], some to be evangelists [“bringers of good news”] and some to be pastors [“shepherds, protectors, overseers] and teachers, to prepare [completely equip] God's people for good works [business, enterprise, undertaking] of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness [completeness; like a ship full of sailors, rowers and soldiers, and ready to set sail] of Christ” (Eph 4:11-13).

When this happens the results will be maturity, growth, security and unity and we will know God better. Jesus is building one Body (Eph 4:16). There is one head (there can only be one). Some gods in Paul’s day had numerous heads. I recall visiting ancient underground cisterns in Istanbul, not far from Ephesus, where large blocks of stone hewn in the shape of Medusa lay in the water. Early pagan worshippers would have been confused as to which head to face, which idol to worship. In the Christian life there is only one source of life, one way to God. The word “equip” used here is the same as “repairing” (nets, for example in Mt 4:21). There are other ministries mentioned in the New Testament (cf 1 Corinthians 12:28 and Rom 12), in addition to those mentioned in this passage; the purpose of them all is to unite, to connect and build. They have been put in place by Jesus Christ to develop the entire church, to enable us to fulfil the works to which God has called us (read Ephesians 2:10), works that make divine poetry out of our lives and circumstances.

Their role is to release and mentor people with abilities to minister (“serve”) and work together under God to ensure that every gift and calling are maximised. For this to happen, unity is paramount. “Can two walk together unless they are agreed?” asked the prophet Amos (Amos 3:3).

What is unity anyway?

Unity is oneness. It is as simple as that.

There are many points of disunity in our society: political division, wealth disparities, ethnic differences, different status suburbs, varying treatment of newcomers. TIME magazine recently ran an article about young Australians clothing themselves with the Australian flag and attacking tourists and migrants from different backgrounds. It was titled “Get lost mate”.

Unity is a miracle. For nearly the whole of human history mankind has been divided (cf Gen 11:7). It is not “natural” to be united, to speak with one voice, to have one attitude. (We are called to have the attitude of Christ - read Phil 2:5). Look at the combative nature of our parliamentary system (and consider that many countries do not enjoy democracy); the number of wars being fought at any one time, the widespread breakdown in family values, the level of self-importance and self-centredness that make even smallest baby demand to be the centre of attention and reign in his or her home.

Jesus prayed that we would be united (Jn 17:20-23). We need to protect the miracle of Christian unity when and where we find it. The epistle Paul wrote to the Ephesians states that we have been made alive together; raised up together; are sitting together in heavenly places in Christ; are being built together; are part of one new man; one body; by one Spirit; forming one temple; one dwelling place for God; one household. We are no longer strangers or foreigners, divided along ethnic or gender lines; kept apart by occupational demarcations, masters versus slave relationships, Latin versus Greek speakers (or whatever languages we use). We have one identity, one common citizenship in heaven (Eph 2:19, cf Phil 3:20).

When the Bible exhorts us to “keep the unity”, it means to “keep watch over it”; guard it; expect it to be under attack; value it as precious commodity; as God promises His blessing as a result of such a relationship (Ps 133). Jesus stated that the sign of our authenticity as Christians would be our unity; “they will know you my disciples by your love for one another” (Jn 13:35). It doesn’t really matter if there are differences; no two flowers are alike, no two snowflakes are the same, human DNA is different for every individual. We are not the same, but we are able to complement one another.

Areas of Christian unity

There are seven areas of unity identified in Ephesians 4:3-6.

To my Muslim friends God coming to earth would be inconceivable. Islam leaves God far off, unpredictable, unknowable, capricious, incapable of being loved, or of having relationships with people. Christians know God as “Father”. He told us that we see Him we also see the Father. He and the Father are one. He tears down walls between people; He pursues us with a spirit of reconciliation; He offers hope, makes poetry of our lives, fills us with His presence. Our unity is to be modelled on God’s unity. Just as God the Father and the Son are One, we are called to be one. Self-centredness, pride, ambition, negative attitudes, individualism, sulkiness, grumpiness, poor attitudes and lack of forgiveness have no place in this economy. God is our Father; we are His children; the relationship between us as Christians is closer than our family ties. So we need to put aside things that divide us but are not germane to our faith, like wine on the dinner table at a conference I attended in Spain, where foreign missionaries could not sit with local pastors as a consequence of their divergent opinion about what Christians were permitted to touch, taste and handle (Col 2:21).

How is our unity achieved?

We do not achieve unity as Christians just because we say it exists. Ironically, Christians are often divided over whether or not they are united. That does not make sense. There are some clues in Chapter 4, verses 1 and 2.

Making the right choices

If we will engage with the challenges inherent in these verses, we will be able to break down walls and relate to the world in the way Jesus did. The choice is ours. One group engenders division, separates people by attitudes, actions and words, and promotes disunity and churn. The other promotes unity, Christ-likeness and hope. I am optimistic that it is possible to experience the unity that Christ brings.

As I have travelled over the years, I have often marvelled at the miraculous, supernatural way in which Christians from all cultures can come together as one body because of their common relationship with Jesus Christ. I have met men and women for the first time and bonded instantly because of Him.

People construct walls. I have in my possession a piece of the famous Berlin Wall, constructed in 1961 as a barrier between East and West Berlin. It was finally pulled down in 1989 during the spectacular collapse of communism that led to the reunification of Germany. The thing that strikes me about the Berlin Wall is that it is only concrete, poor quality concrete at that. The things that separate Christians are poor quality conglomerates of attitudes, experiences, memories, traditions, opinions and allegiances that should not be enough to separate members of God’s family. It is time to tear down the walls. Jesus has “broken the middle wall of partition between us” (Eph 2:14). He has broken down the barriers of hostility.

The challenge for each and every one of us is to grasp the opportunity and the promise that the Holy Spirit will give us power to turn Jesus’ prayer for unity among His followers into our daily reality.

Ps Allan Davis

Jesus said, ‘A tree is recognised by its fruit’ “ (Matthew 12:33)

Two Paradigms – Two Types of Fruit

The Fruit of the Sinful Nature
Sexual immorality







Fits of rage
Selfish ambition






Other activities like these

The Fruit of the Spirit









" by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature .... If we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit." (Galatians 5:16, 17, 25)


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