“By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” (Jn. 13:35)
Jesus could have designated any number of things as the distinguishing characteristic of His True followers, but He said it would be our love for each other. It is not our morals, our holiness, our separateness, our fancy buildings, or our condemnation of sin that identifies us as Christians. It is our love for each other that will cause the world to take notice that we are Christians. This explains why the world has ignored the Church to a very large degree.
Jesus did not say that everyone would know we are His disciples by our doctrine, our rituals, our hatred for sin, or even by the way we express our love for God. He said very clearly that the one characteristic that would cause the world to identify us as His followers was our love one for another.
Unity of the believers–that can only come through a genuine God-kind of love–is the greatest tool for evangelism that the church has or will ever have, according to Jesus. No wonder Satan has had the believers at each other’s throats. Believers spend billions of dollars yearly on evangelism through television and radio, conventions and crusades, yet the world is not evangelized, because the Body of Christ is not united in love.
The early church didn’t have the massive organizational structures that we see today or the ability to travel anywhere in the world in just a matter of hours. They certainly came nowhere close to spending as much money, in proportion to us, on spreading the Gospel. Yet the pagans of Thessalonica said of Paul and his companions, “These that have turned the world upside down are come hither also” (Acts 17:6). They had evangelized the known world in less than thirty years.
Before we can ever fulfill the Great Commission of Matthew 28:19-20, there will have to be a revival of love in the church where doctrine and ritual take a back seat to love one for another.
This same night, the Lord prayed to His Father using this same thought, saying:
“That they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me.” (Jn. 17:21)
The only way that Christ’s Body will be one as the Father and Jesus are One is through God’s kind of love. The world will know that we are of God by the oneness we manifest to them. No wonder the Church of Jesus Christ has not made a bigger impact on the world.
Just before He went to the cross, Jesus prayed that all believers would be one as He and the Father are One. This goes far beyond what many promote as unity today. Paul besought the Corinthians to “all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment” (1 Cor. 1:10). This is God’s standard of unity.
This oneness among the believers is what Jesus said would cause the world to know that Jesus is the Son of God. This is the greatest evangelism tool that the Church has. Yet we pour millions of dollars and much effort into other evangelistic efforts while we are at each other’s throats. However, when the Church is one, the world will be won.
“And He is the Head of the Body, the Church, Who is the beginning, the Firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence.” (Col. 1:18)
Scripture describes the church as a family (Eph. 3:15), a vineyard (Mt. 20:1-16), a kingdom (Mt. 5:20; Lk. 17:20-21; Col. 1:13), a building (1 Cor. 3:9; Eph. 2:21), a flock (Jn. 10:1-16; Acts 20:28; 1 Pt. 5:2-3), and a bride (Rev. 21:2, 9; 22:17). The description of Christ’s Church as His Body has no Old Testament equivalent. The Church is a living organism, and as such, it has life, with its Head being Christ Jesus. As Head, Christ is Chief, Supreme, and Lord of His Church.
“that the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, of the same Body, and partakers of His promise in Christ through the Gospel,” (Eph. 3:6)
Believers are united not only to Christ but also to each other. The Gentiles did not become part of some Jewish body, but Jew and Gentile became part of the new Body of Christ. Those who believe in the Gospel of Christ are born-again. Wherefore, in Christ, God has made all things new and the Church is the Body of Christ. Our world is broken and in desperate need of hope. Jesus and His Church are the hope of the world.
“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:” (Eph. 4:11-12, KJV)
The Amplified Bible translates Ephesians 4:12:
“His intention was the perfecting and the full equipping of the saints (His consecrated people), [that they should do] the work of ministering toward building up Christ’s body (the church).”
God gifted certain individuals with His anointing and then gave these people to the Body of Christ as gifts (Eph. 4:8). These gifts that Christ gave to the church, whom we call “clergy” are supposed to function more like coaches, to equip the saints for the work of the ministry. Unfortunately, in most churches, the pastor is the one doing most if not all of the work of the ministry. Instead, the pastor, teacher, etc., is supposed to train the members of the Body, who become the ministers, building up and edifying the entire Body of Christ in love (Eph. 4:11-16).
Now the word “for” that is used 3 times in Ephesians 4:12 is defined “as to obtain.” Therefore, the God-ordained gift and purpose for the apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers being given to the Church is to minister “so as to obtain” the saints being equipped so that they can do the work of the ministry, which in turn obtains the edifying of the Body of Christ in love. The clergy doesn’t do all these things. They start the process through servant leadership, and the Body of Christ edifies itself in love (Eph. 4:16).
It is a mistake to place the full burden of the ministry on what we call “the clergy.” Full-time ministers are gifted to minister the Word to the saints, the Church. However, the saints are destined to being equipped to go out and reach the lost and minister to one another within the Church, the Body of Christ in love. You see, shepherds do not bear sheep. No shepherds tend the sheep, and the sheep reproduce themselves according to their kind.
“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:” (Eph. 4:13, KJV)
Now if you will notice, in the King James Version, Ephesian 4:12 ends with a colon. Therefore, Ephesians 4:13 expounds on what Paul just said in Ephesians 4:11-12. The duration of the gifts listed in Ephesians 4:11-12 is “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.” In other words, until every Christian becomes united in seeing and believing alike on the fundamentals of the faith God has gifted the church with apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers. Until everyone matures as a child of God we need these gifts in the Body of Christ to equip us for our God-ordained purpose as the Body of Christ.
It is amazing that Paul proclaimed that Christians should come to the full stature of Christ. That was the design of the Lord when He gave these gifts to man (Eph. 4:11). However, this spiritual maturity is not considered possible by most Christians today, and therefore, it certainly is not their ambition and goal. Nonetheless, if this is what the Lord intended, we should at least be striving toward this mark (Phi. 3:14).
Many people think that all Christians coming into unity and a maturity in Christ will never happen. However, Scripture makes it very clear that this is the purpose and design of God in giving these gifts to man. God anticipates His Church, the Body of Christ to mature and grow up in Christ (Eph. 4:14). The result of all this should be that we are no longer immature, tossed to and fro by every teaching, caught by the sleight and cunning craftiness of others (Eph. 4:13).
“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:” (Eph. 3:14-15, KJV)
Again, if you will notice, in the King James Version, Ephesian 4:13 ends with a colon. Therefore, Ephesians 4:14 expounds on what Paul just said in Ephesians 4:11-13. The Lord doesn’t want His saints to remain in the nursery forever. He wants us all to mature and grow up into Christ in all things.
Now children are awesome. But children are also immature, meaning they are gullible, co-dependent and unable to reproduce. A child who is gullible can be easily deceived. They are not stable and established in who they are in Christ. Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for many who are Body of Christ today be to follow every new “fad” that comes along, showing signs of Christian immaturity. One of the things that must take place to move from childhood into sonship is spiritual discernment. This only comes from being grounded in the Word of God.
There is a season for every infant and child to be codependent on their parents and other adults who are guardians in their lives. However, the destined goal of every parent is to insure their children can be mature and live independent, raising their own family one day. Spiritually speaking there is a season for every new believer to be somewhat co-dependent on their spiritual parents until they become spiritually mature through the course of proper discipleship.
However, those who become codependent on their pastor or spiritual parents forever is another sign of spiritual immaturity. Our job as apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers is to equip the saints for the work of the ministry enabling them to come to grow up in Him in the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.
The body of a child is not equipped to reproduce, but a mature body can. Likewise, the immature Body of Christ will not be able to reproduce properly but those who are mature in the Body of Christ will be able to reproduce some 30, some 60 and some 100-fold.
Moreover, those who are not properly discipled, equipped as the Body of Christ in the Word of God are very susceptible to being like 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 and wait to deceive.
Paul describes such a child as an infant (Greek: nepios). He describes an infant who cannot do anything to control his or her circumstances, as opposed to an adult who can. An infant in a boat would just have to go with the flow, but an adult in a boat could row or swim and not be at the mercy of the current. Likewise, we should be spiritual adults and not just go with the flow. We have to get a vision of where the Lord wants us to go and use all the power God has given us to reach those goals. Paul was speaking of being tossed about the way something floating in the sea would be. Mature Christians are not “like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed” (James 1:6) That is double-mindedness, and it prevents us from receiving from God (James 1:7-8). In the same way that “card sharks” deceive with sleight of hand, Paul was saying people can deceive immature Christians, promising them everything but delivering nothing.
In Ephesians 4:15-16 Paul is comparing the way all the members of Christ function to the way the human body functions. Christ is the Head controlling all the different parts of His Body. But each part or member has to grow to express what the Head wants to accomplish.
How is it that believers grow out of the immaturity Paul spoke of in Ephesians? The answer is, they must speak the Truth in love. Truth without love is like a club, and love without Truth is powerless. One reason for such immaturity in the Body of Christ is because ministers (Eph. 4:11) haven’t been faithful to speak the Truth in love as they should. Many ministers preach on the things people want to hear instead of what they need to hear (2 Tim. 4:3-4).
“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.” (Eph. 4:16, KJV)
The same Greek word sumbubazo, which was translated “compacted” here in Ephesians 4:16 is translated “knit together” in Colossians 2:2 and Colossians 2:19:
“That their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, and attaining to all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the knowledge of the mystery of God, both of the Father and of Christ,” (Col. 2:2)
“And not holding fast to the Head, from whom all the body, nourished and knit together by joints and ligaments, grows with the increase that is from God.” (Col. 2:19)
Paul’s prayer for the Colossians’ hearts to be comforted was dependent on their hearts being knit together in love with other believers. Believers in Jesus are part of His Body, and some things only function properly when we come together as His Body. No single believer can manifest everything that the whole Body of Christ can manifest.
Through the love of God, each believer becomes intertwined with and inseparable from other believers. The end result of this kind of love is that revelation knowledge of “Christ in us” abounds. The Body of Christ can only function to its full potential when every part is doing its job, just like a physical body can only perform at its highest level when every part is working together. Lack of cooperation or supply from any part of a physical body makes what we call a handicap. The individual may still be able to survive, but there are limitations that restrict some activities. Likewise, as long as the members of the body of Christ are not knit together in unity and functioning as one, the body of Christ is handicapped. This restricts our ability to fully represent Christ here on the earth.
The end result of the whole body of Christ functioning properly would be that all the Body would be built up in love. When we operate in love, then all the world will know that we are Christ’s disciples (Jn. 13:34-25).
Very few believers in any generation seem to live up to their God-given abilities. For example, a man who has well-developed legs, but other parts of his body, such as his arms and hands, are so weak as to be useless. In this condition, there is no way this man could perform as well as he could if every part of his body was working properly. That is the way it is with the Body of Christ. We have only had a few individuals manifesting God’s power while the majority of the church is powerless. The end result is a Body at less than its full vigor and giving a less-than-desirable witness to the world.
The maturing of every part of the Body of Christ must be a priority if we are ever to accomplish the Lord’s instructions. Reaching the stature of the fullness of Christ must be a collective effort.
“Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.” (1 Cor. 1:10, KJV)
The degree of unity that Paul described here is awesome. He said that “all” (every believer) should speak the same thing and be perfectly joined together in the same mind and the same judgment. Paul’s instructions are very contrary to the situation in the Body of Christ today. Divisions are so commonplace that very few have the unity of the Body of Christ as a goal. The vast majority of Christians has become accustomed to denominational divisions among Christians. Most Christians don’t even take heed to divisions within denominations. In fact, more often than not, churches of the same denominational affiliation within the same city have no real fellowship with each other. This is not the type of unity that Paul was advocating.
Paul was not promoting a mere tolerance of others with different doctrines within the Body of Christ. He made it very clear that we were to resolve our doctrinal differences so that we are “perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.” The unity that Paul was preaching was a real unity of mind and heart. Anything less would have received Paul’s rebuke.
If this is so, which it is, then that means God is not the one who has started all the denominations. The Lord is not the one who has divided His Church into separate groups. This is the working of Satan to limit the effectiveness of the Church in the earth.
This does not mean that all denominations are of the devil nor are all those who attend denominational churches. God loves all of those who are true members of His Church, and He uses them to the degree that they allow Him to, regardless of what group they may be associated with. However, the denominational walls that people have built are a hindrance to the cause of Christ. Denominations are simply monuments to man’s inability to reconcile their differences according to God’s commands.
Furthermore, Paul did not instruct his “followers” to love those that were of Apollos and Cephas and try to get along with them (1 Corinthians 1:12-13; 3:4-7). He commanded them to drop their affiliation with certain people and to unite with one mind and judgment in Christ.
This looks so impossible today that many very sincere people feel that it is totally impractical to advocate true unity among believers. Statements are made like “We won’t agree doctrinally until the Lord comes.” However, although we cannot be dogmatic about this, it is closer to Scripture to say, “The Lord won’t come until we do agree doctrinally.”
Paul made it very clear that as long as there is strife and division among us, we are still carnal. The Lord isn’t coming for a carnal church. Scriptures such as 1 Corinthians 15:24-28 and Ephesians 1:7 reveal that the Body of Christ will be walking in victory at His return. A carnal church cannot walk in victory (Rom. 8:6), therefore, we can conclude that the Church will not be carnal or divided at Christ’s return.
There is tremendous power in unity. The negative side of this can be seen at the tower of Babel (Gen. 11:3-9). God divided the people of the earth to limit their power to do evil. But unity has great potential for good also (Ps. 133; Jer. 32:39; Acts 4:32; Rom. 12:16; 15:5-6; Phi. 1:27; 2:1-4; 1 Th. 5:13; James 3:13-18; 1 Pt. 3:8-9).
The Church of Jesus Christ was meant to use this power to release God’s power in the earth. With the division in the church, there is nothing that is being accomplished now that could not be accomplished better with true unity among believers.
From a logistical standpoint, division greatly hampers communication, isolating individual groups and making them easier prey for the enemy. The Body of Christ has been divided into little groups fighting independent wars. This was not God’s plan.
Thankfully, today, for a large portion of believers, religious affiliation is much less important than union with Christ and other believers. While this is still short of the unity Paul was preaching here, it is a step in the right direction and a cause for hope.
The answer to this problem is not to condemn everyone in a denomination and start a new denomination called “non-denominational.” The only way a godly type of unity can happen is by one heart at a time being moved by the grace of God, “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” (Eph. 4:13).
The renewal of our minds is an important part in the process of unity. We can coexist with others, but we cannot truly be in unity with them until we begin to be of the same mind. Christian love is not bound by doctrine, but true unity is. Love is the bond of perfection that holds us together, but there must be a shared foundation of doctrine in order to have real unity.
“Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love” (1 John 4:7-8).
Most of us think that we really understand the love of God, but our experience proves otherwise. We feel lonely, depressed, discouraged, and defeated. Every one of these negative emotions would be turned to positive by a proper revelation of God’s love for us.
As for loving others, most of us would admit there are some people who are very difficult to love. Since we do not fully understand God’s love for us, we fail in loving others. We can’t give away what we don’t have. If we receive a full revelation of God’s love for us, it becomes easy to love others with the love that we have received.
Did you know that the greatest commandments of all are not part of the Ten Commandments? In fact, all of the commandments and laws are an outgrowth of just two. Jesus said this in answer to the lawyer’s question in Matthew 22:36-40:
“Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”
Many of us are praying for healing, deliverance, and prosperity. We want joy, peace, and happiness in our homes. We want better relationships with family and friends, especially during the Christmas season. However, the answer to seeing these needs and desires met is all wrapped up in receiving God’s love and then walking in that love toward others.
Once you understand just how much He loves you, it’s not hard to love Him with all your heart, soul, and mind and to love others as yourself. Yet, many claim to love God and still don’t walk in love toward others.
1 John 4:19-21 says:
“We love him, because he first loved us. If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen? And this commandment have we from him, That he who loveth God love his brother also.”
That is a strong, strong passage of Scripture. Most of us want to interpret that some other way to take the bite out of it, but I just can’t see any way around this. If someone says they love God but harbor hate and resentment toward others, they are lying. We need to understand that this is the Truth and begin to allow God’s love to flow through us to others, including those we don’t like and those who have hurt us.
In James 2:8 it is called the Royal Law:
“If ye fulfill the royal law according to the scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself, ye do well.”
This means that it is the highest of all the laws, which is the same point that Jesus made in Matthew 22. The greatest thing any of us can do is to love God and to love people. That is the number one thing that God has given us to do. Until this becomes the focus of our lives, we are not going to benefit from His love working in us, and we will give Satan a tremendous inroad.
The Scripture says that offenses will come. If you live on this earth among people, someone is going to rub you the wrong way sooner or later. And, according to 2 Timothy 3:12, just because you are a Christian and identify with Jesus, some are going to hate you:
“Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.”
Most of the problems we have with people are the result of envy and strife. It might be our fault, their fault, or both, but strife is still the result. James 3:16 states:
“For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work.”
People often think of jealousy and envy as the same thing, but they are not. Jealousy desires what someone else has. But envy, according to the dictionary, is not just jealousy. It is jealousy with malice, with intent to hurt or bring another person down. Envy means you are bitter and angry; strife is when you vent that bitterness and anger.
James continues by saying that with those two things come confusion and every evil work. If God is not the author of confusion that means Satan is. So you could say that where envy and strife are found, you will also find Satan and all his evil works. Not some, but every evil work.
So, how do you deal with strife or other problems in relationships? First, evaluate the source. It is always one of four: It could be your fault, the other person’s fault, or both of you may be at fault. The fourth source occurs less often and is not the result of strife: God may want you to end a relationship that is hindering your future.
Most people do not want to accept personal responsibility. It’s much easier just to point a finger at someone else. The danger with this is that you can develop a victim mentality. You begin to believe that the reason you act the way you do is because of what other people have done to you. You don’t believe it is ever your fault. Always begin by looking at yourself first.
Often the problem is only in your mind and doesn’t actually exist. It is the result of judging the motives behind the actions of others. You jump to conclusions and take offense based on speculations. One of the qualifications of a minister is that he is sober minded. That means he is void of speculative imaginations. By assuming people’s motives are good, most offenses will never develop. There is a time and place to discern and judge the motives of others, but it must be done properly.
But, what if it’s the other person’s fault? No matter what they have done, you have a choice in your response. You have complete authority over yourself. You can start walking in love toward another person anytime you decide to. Paul said, “I die daily.” And, in 2 Corinthians 4:17, he stated:
“For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.”
I won’t list them here, but Paul’s light afflictions weren’t exactly light. They were just light in comparison to the glory he would experience in eternity. If we compared all the hurtful things people have done to us to what Jesus suffered for our sake, our suffering becomes insignificant. It’s all a matter of perspective; Paul understood that.
Most of the time broken relationships are the fault of both the people involved. That is especially true in marriage. No man has ever loved his wife the way Christ loves the church, and no woman has ever honored her husband the way the church is to honor God. The key to resolving problems in all relationships begins with forgiveness.
“Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times? Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven.” (Mt. 18:21-22)
“Take heed to yourselves: If thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke him; and if he repent, forgive him. And if he trespass against thee seven times in a day, and seven times in a day turn again to thee, saying, I repent; thou shalt forgive him.” (Lk. 17:3-4)
No one is going to sin against you 490 times in one day! What Jesus is saying is that if a person humbles himself and asks for forgiveness, then forgive him. Forgiveness is the most powerful weapon of all in ending strife and restoring relationships.
If this does not resolve the problem, God has a plan in His Word to help you.
In some instances, it might actually be God causing a relationship to break up. There are some relationships that God just doesn’t want you to have. For example, He doesn’t want you to be unequally yoked with unbelievers. He also doesn’t want you to have relationships that might keep you from your destiny. However, this should not be misused as an excuse to end a relationship because you’re unhappy.
Our most effective resource we have to evangelize the world is to love one another. Someone who cannot show mercy and forgiveness to one another does not understand the mercy and forgiveness they has received from their Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. We love because He first loved us (1 Jn. 4:9).
“Therefore, since we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we do not lose heart.”(2 Cor. 4:1)
“Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation,” (2 Cor. 5:18)
“For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” (2 Cor. 5:21)