What must happen before we can have unity of faith
We see what God has done for us by His Sovereign Grace in Ephesians chapters 1 to 3. And if you have not yet seen it, you might as well take your time right now to go through it. It is a revelation of that which God began to do in eternity past, before the beginning of creation, which He continues to unfold today, according to the counsel of His Will. This is God’s Sovereign Grace towards all whom He has saved, whether they have understood it or not. Hence, it is this truth that should sober the hearts of brothers who are well learned in these things towards their fellow saints who are not yet taught or brought (up) into this realities.
Precursor: “something that comes before something else and that often leads to or influences its development, one that precedes and indicates the approach of another, predecessor, forerunner.” Merriam-Webster Dictionary
This soberness should bend our hearts in prayer towards our fellow believers, regardless of their denominational affiliations or current biblical understanding. So, we should long for God to unite His body in our day, “…that they may be one, even as we are one.” (John 17:22). Thus, we see that what Bible teaching will not do, a genuine prayer towards all who have been saved will achieve our LORD’s prayer in John 17. In fact, correct Bible teaching requires an altar of prayer to enforce it upon the souls of men.
#1. Humility before the LORD and towards the brethren
Ephesians 4:1-2 “I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called,  With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love;”
We are to walk worthy of the vocation (the acting out of all that God has achieved for us by His Sovereign Grace) we have been called into. How? Not in pride of knowledge and criticism of our fellows. But primarily, with lowliness and meekness. And “.. with longsuffering…” That is, preferring to suffer a mislabel as long as it will take to win over your brother into a fuller experience of the knowledge of Christ. We are able to suffer long like this on account of our brothers, because of the forbearing love that the LORD Himself is willing to demonstrate through us, as He has already demonstrated towards us.
#2. Taking responsibility against division
Ephesians 4:3-6 “Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.  There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling;  One Lord, one faith, one baptism,  One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.”
There is already a unity of the Spirit that has been objectively breathed into the body by the Holy Spirit, and we are to keep (preserve) it. How? In the bond of peace. Regardless of differences that results from tradition and personal opinions on God’s Word, we must know that the “…God and Father of all, who is above all…” is the One that works “…through all, and in you all…”, when we allow Him. Please allow Him. If you cooperate with Him, He will unite you with others of different groups and denominations through your forbearance and longsuffering, simply because they belong to Him also.
#3. Your growth is the measurement of your grace
Ephesians 4:7 “But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ.”
We have seen some precursors already that leads to unity of faith. First, we live out that which the Grace of God has achieved in us and then we continually moderate our passions to accommodate others of God’s people, all according to the breath of the Holy Spirit within us, which is the grace of God.
Now, this grace is given and experienced according to the measure of the gift of Christ. That is, the measure of Christ we know and experience devotionally is the same measure of Grace we will have operationally. So, what measure of Christ has been formed in you? How much of the LORD can be seen in your life? Yes, we know that He is in you but that which is inside has a way of showing forth on the outside. The amount of progress you have made, areas where you have allowed the LORD to have His way, is the measure of Christ, and it is that measure that determines the Grace you can literally experience in service towards the rest of the body of Christ.
#4. Ministerial offices are given for growth and unity of the church
Ephesians 4:11-13 “And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;  For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:  Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ:”
So, based on the measure of growth we have experientially proven in Christ, we are given a measure of operation in the body of Christ. Hence, He gave some apostles… prophets, …evangelist, …pastors and teachers. You can look at these assignments in two ways.
1. A Gifting
2. A Calling
Even if you have any of these as a gifting, until the LORD Himself calls it forth, it does not become an assignment for you. And what will make Him to call it forth? The measure of the gift of Christ. Christ in you, being the hope of glory, is what determines your capacity to bear the office of a ministry or service gift.
In verses 12 & 13, the LORD introduces us to two words, “For” and “Till”. Both are opening words for each verse, and they represent purpose and measurement respectively. All the ministries are given “for” a purpose, and it is to perfect the saints, to do the work of service (ministry) and to edify (build up) the body of Christ. If you look at these very well, you will see that a calling into the 5 fold ministry is not a calling to a denomination or sect, it is a calling to the body of Christ, according to the scope of ministry the LORD will give in your lifetime.
How do you know that the saints are being perfected? How do you know that the work of ministry is being done? How do you verify that the body of Christ is being built up? The word “Till” points to how to measure the effectiveness of each ministry assignment among the saints. These ministries (apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers) must bring us together in the unity of faith.
Now, when you see people allegedly bearing such ministries not achieving that, you are free to discard their claim to such an assignment. No calling in the body of Christ is given to separate brethren and divide further those who are equally born again but don’t yet see eye to eye on a number of things, even in the Word of God. If one among us grows properly and God now calls him into a service of pastoring for instance, one thing that should mark it is the healing of breaches and binding together of brethren in love, rather than breaking of groups further along the lines of doctrinal differences.
We are beginning to see a semblance of these in some places. Any life that can cut across denominations and international church groups without compromising the Word of God is a life that is serving this “Ephesians 4:13” purpose, regardless of their simplicity. Even if they are title-less, they are the real apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers. It is those who achieve the purpose for these offices that are actually the real office holder, by the Grace of God.
#5. The maturity that produces unity
Ephesians 4:14-16 “That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive;  But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ:  From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.”
God is very clear about how He will achieve His eternal purposes. Concerning the Church, God’s plan is to make everyone of us “…grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ”. This will happen as we speak the truth in love. Obviously there will be those who will presume that they will participate in (the fellowship of) Christ regardless of their hatred for the truth. A capital NO please! Love does not compromise truth; it only fasten it upon the hearer in a more forceful way. This is a way of living by example and giving room for the hearer to grow up into that truth already in your experience.
To be against God’s Word that is clearly revealed to us is to be eventually cut off from the body of Christ (John 15:2, 6).
The maturity of speaking the truth in love will build up a generation of saints whose primary affection is to Christ and His Word, such that their understanding of doctrine and their experience of spiritual realities are shaped by the same. They will not be gullible to false teachings. They will not be tossed here and there by any wave of a new teaching since the Word of God is not going through any form of updating. Please note that the primary reason why these saints won’t be deceived is not their Bible knowledge; it is their growth in knowing Christ personally and experientially, which is actually the goal of Scriptures (John 5:39).
It is as everyone is joined to Christ in private devotion that they find that spiritual appetite for public fellowship with the saints, as well as, clarify the spiritual priority of unity in our experience. The body makes increase as every part grows in its own measure of Christ and shares that portion in his own experience with the rest. This constant, continuous supplies from every saint is what binds and compacts the body of Christ together.
The privilege of knowing God and sharing Him
As we respond to God’s order, let us note that unity of the body of Christ equally emphasize the individual saint and the community of saints. One is not more important than the other. It is only a matter of priority. Personally spending time with God is the one thing that many of us lack, just as Jesus told Martha. Yet, we must also proceed to partake of the administration of life that God has approved for public fellowship; after which we withdraw again. In fact, we eventually gain strength to enjoy this private fellowship with LORD everywhere, even in the busyness of the public space, because of the Grace to maintain this priority of spending time with alone Him.
We give of that Christ-life in us and then we receive of that Christ-life in others. And love is what makes all these possible.
“For the love of Christ constraineth us…” 2 Corinthians 5:14
“And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.” 1 Corinthians 13:13
NOTE: Unless otherwise stated, all Scripture quotations are from the King James Version
Picture credit: end times prophecy report