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The Bond of Peace

“I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call — one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” Ephesians 4: 1 - 6

Last Lord’s Day we received five new members and two new communicant members into the church. One of my great joys as your pastor is getting to know each person during our time in the New Members Class. As we concluded this recent class we learned that our vows require us to submit to the government of the church and to keep the church’s purity and peace. Maintaining unity, purity, and peace in the church is essential for the well-being of the church. Our spiritual growth as a church depends on the fellowship that we have in the Spirit as members of one body in Christ.

God has already given to all believers to enjoy a de facto unity and peace in the Spirit. The Holy Spirit sovereignly and powerfully provides a bond of peace between all Christians in the church. Our duty is not to establish peace in the church, but to maintain the peace that Christ has merited for us as a benefit of his ministry of reconciliation. Each member must therefore diligently endeavor by the grace of God to maintain this peace in the church. Christ’s peace is not a carnal peace, however, nor a peace as the world knows it (John 14:27). Each member must be alert to the danger of upsetting the peace of the church through sinful words or behavior — breaking the peace of the church dishonors Christ and hurts every single member of the church.

What does the Scripture teach regarding how we are to maintain the “unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace”? The seventeenth century Dutch theologian Wilhelmus à Brakel provides the following directives:

[Maintaining peace in the church] is not accomplished by tolerating various errors for truth and peace must go hand in hand. “Therefore love the truth and peace” Zec 8:19). It also does not mean that they tolerate a variety of sins and offenses, for the Lord commands, “Thou shalt in any wise rebuke thy neighbor, and not suffer sin upon him” (Lev. 19:17). The congregation of Ephesus was praised for this. “Thou canst not bear them which are evil” (Rev. 2:2). Rather, peace is maintained when:

(1) one adheres to the same truth. If one holds to a peculiar view, he ought to permit himself to be instructed by a wise person; doing so, however, by keeping this to himself so that no one will notice this. Differences of opinion result in the stirring of the emotions.

(2) one endures maltreatment by his neighbor without making it known that he is being maltreated, and without manifesting that he is enduring this. “With long-suffering, forbearing one another in love” (Eph. 4:2); “Forbearing one another” (Col. 3:13).

(3) one always esteems and behaves himself as being the least, rejoicing in the fact that we may behold God’s children, be in their presence, and serve them. “Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves” (Phil. 2:3).

(4) the evil of fellow members is concealed, is not spoken of behind their backs, and is not listened to in the gossip of others. Rather, attention will be focused upon someone’s virtues, and how he is esteemed by us and others. “Thou shalt not go up and down as a talebearer among thy people” (Lev. 19:16); “Charity...beareth all things” (1 Cor. 13:7).

All of us cherish peace. We are thankful for the Spirit’s blessed peace at Covenant Presbyterian Church. It would be sheer agony and an extreme disappointment to find disagreement, disunity, and strife in the only sanctuary we have available to the saints in the world — the Church of Jesus Christ. But this peace cannot be maintained without each member denying self, taking up his cross, and following Jesus (Matt 16:24). Only ignorance or superstition would have one to expect peaceful fellowship in the church apart from faith, hope, and love (1 Cor 13:13).

Peace doesn’t just happen in the church, even as it is freely given to us by the Spirit. The wicked do not know and have never known the way of Christ’s peace (Rom 3:17). Maintaining peace therefore depends on our “putting to death the deeds of the body.” (Rom 8:13). Sadly, peace will elude us all unless each of us, in the Spirit, by faith, “offer ourselves as living sacrifices unto God, which is our reasonable service.” (Gal 5:5; Rom 12:1). Let us, therefore, admonish one another, as often as we meet, to “pursue peace with all men, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord.” (Heb 12:14).

Pastor Lou Veiga

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