The Unity of the Spirit

[Eph. 4:3]---'Endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit'.

What is to be kept is 'the unity of the Spirit.' This phrase may admit of different interpretations, but let us understand it in its most strictly literal sense, as indicating the unity of which the Holy Spirit is the author, that oneness of believing men in Christ which is the Spirit's new creation. Of course, in that view, it must be a unity corresponding in its nature and character to the nature and character of Him who is its Author and Creator. It cannot therefore be merely outward and formal. It may be that; but it must be something more than that. It must be inward and spiritual. And the outward and the inward, the formal and the spiritual, must meet in this unity, and harmonize and be at one.

Thus the unity may be regarded as twofold. It may be viewed in two lights---as outwardly manifested, and as inwardly wrought. But in either view, it is the unity of the Spirit. It is unity of which the Spirit is the immediate author. It is unity of the Spirit's making.

The outward Unity.---It is a unity that may be seen, and known, and read of all men. Now, holiness and love, godliness and charity, if they exist at all, must make themselves visible. A holy and loving man, or woman, or child, is not an inward ideal, but an outward, examinable reality. The Spirit makes holy and loving men, and women, and children. And that is His unity in its outward manifestation, as well as its inward birth. Thus He manifests His unity, inwardly and outwardly. That is the visible unity which He produces, which alone is worthily and truly His.

True holiness and true love are everywhere and always the same. Where holiness and love prevail, there can be no diversities. All holy and loving persons speak and act alike, because they think and feel alike. Is not that the true ideal of the church?---holy and loving persons associated together?

The inward Unity.---But the real seat of this unity is within, in the heart. There, of course, it is invisible, save only to God the Father, who is indeed Himself its living center. For the unity which the Spirit effects among all the redeemed is primarily and essentially unity in God the Father; unity, in a high sense, with God the Father. It is the unity of which Christ speaks when He prays : 'That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us; that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one : I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me' [Jn. 17:21-23].

That oneness which Christ thus seeks is the unity of the Spirit. The Spirit is Himself one with the Father and the Son, in the Divine unity or oneness with which, in some sense, the human is here so wonderfully identified. It is as being Himself one with the Father and the Son, in their mutual indwelling in one another in love, that He makes us one; through the Son's dwelling in us as the Father dwells in Him; and the indwelling in us consequently of the very love with which the Father loves the Son. That is 'the unity of the Spirit.'the only unity that can be worthily ascribed to Him. It is, as the Lord intimates, a unity which, in its fruit or issue, may be and must be visible; for by it the world is to 'know that the Father hath sent him.' But in its deep source and seat it is invisible. It is the secret of the Lord which is with them that fear Him. It is a communication made by the Spirit of God to and within the deepest spirit of man. It is His causing us to know and believe the love with which God has loved us. It is not our loving God but His loving us---loving us as He loves His own Son---that constitutes our unity or oneness, first with God the Father, and then in Him, with one another as brethren. It is no narrow, earthly, selfish unity, but a unity wide and high and heavenly.

This was the unity which St. Paul so prized. Here was, to his view, the hope of the world. They were one body, he told them in his letters: one body in Christ, with one spirit, the very Spirit of Christ, inspiring and strengthening them. As individuals they were parts of the whole, not complete wholes in themselves. They were members or limbs of the body. Of course they were not all alike: there are great differences between different parts of the same body. One man was a foot, another a hand, another an ear, another an eye. They had different gifts and different functions to perform. But they all worked together, they all served the purposes of the body. Their unity was a corporate unity---the unity of the one body and one spirit which gave life to the body.

The task before our generation is to propagate the ideal of unity, to read St. Paul's Epistle again, and to teach men the truth of the one body with the one spirit as the one hope of mankind. We must take the highest ground. We must not base unity on expediency. We must not say, division is weakness, but let us unite; and not sin against the spirit of fellowship: it robs the Christian message of its meaning, it renders no force to the one hope of our calling.

And while we proclaim afresh the ideal, we must be eager to realize it to the utmost of our power in our own immediate surroundings. The next great preacher of unity after St. Paul was Ignatius of Antioch. As he was carried on his journey to martyrdom at Rome, he wrote his last words to church after church, imploring them in Christ's name to submit themselves for the sake of unity. Conscious that he was the bearer of a Divine message, he used the very language of inspiration: "The Spirit proclaimed," so he writes, "and said: Cherish unity, shun divisions." This was his central message, and he added the testimony of his own experience of life: "I myself have so sought to do my own part as a man perfectly fitted into unity."

In Christ, timothy.