The Unity of the Spirit | Sermon By Dr. R. T. Kendall
This particular Psalm of Ascent was written by David who, better than most, knew what it was like to have a rival spirit in Israel.
In Ephesians 4, a parallel passage, Paul puts it like this: “With all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (vv. 2, 3).
Why would Paul even need to talk about the unity of the Spirit? It is because the Holy Spirit lives in believers. If Christians are not speaking, then the Spirit is divided.
Ephesians 4 begins and ends with references to the Holy Spirit. It begins by referring to the unity of the Spirit; it ends with the reference to grieving the Spirit (v. 30). It is so easy for the Holy Spirit to be grieved.
If we come together and the Holy Spirit is grieved, then it should not surprise us if He does not work in a powerful manner.
Unity of the Spirit is found when He is in each of us, ungrieved. It is a wonderful fellowship when each believer knows the ungrieved Spirit at work. That’s the way it was in the early church (Acts 4:32, 33).
The unity of the Spirit is a remarkable achievement because it goes right against human nature. Everyone in the body of Christ on earth is a sinner. Because we are all sinners, it is not surprising when there is tension and when a church is divided with rivalry.
The unity of the Spirit is not natural, but it is supernatural. It means that our natural ways, where we want to be heard and make our opinion felt, are not important, and we are willing to “climb down.” What does it take for brothers to dwell together in unity?
A Willingness to Lose Face
In order for unity of the Spirit to happen, somebody has to be willing to lose face. This means doing without being openly seen to have been right and getting our own way. This is why unity of the Spirit is a remarkable achievement.
Unity almost always means compromise. I suspect when we get to heaven we will discover that 98 percent of the theological controversies in the history of the Christian church had nothing to do with theology at all.
Compromise is not a bad word. It means to reach an intermediate position that has aspects of each person’s plan blended together. Compromise can sometimes come about when we realize that what we thought was important is not as important as having peace.
A Willingness to Forgive and Forget
I can choose to forgive, or I can choose to hold a grudge. By nature, I want to hold a grudge. I want to be able to point the finger; but if I forgive you, I can no longer point the finger. This is why unity doesn’t take place. Somebody won’t forgive and forget.
But forgiving and forgetting is not something we do only once. It is something we are to keep on doing. There are five principles of total forgiveness based on Genesis 45:1-15.
We should be like Joseph was when he forgave his brothers. He didn’t want anybody to know what his brothers had done to him; he didn’t want his brothers to be afraid of him; he didn’t want his brothers to be angry with themselves for what they had done; he wanted them to save face, so he said it wasn’t them who sent him to Egypt; it was God; and he wouldn’t let them tell their father, Jacob, what they had done. Total forgiveness is when you protect the other person.
But there is also a sixth principle: forgiving and forgetting is something we keep on doing. Seventeen years later, after Jacob’s death, Joseph’s brothers thought Joseph would punish them. They found out he still forgave them (Gen. 50:15–21).
We are to keep it up: forgive and forget. God does that for us, and we are to forgive one another as God has forgiven us.
A Willingness to Prefer in Honor One Another
Unity is remarkable and possible when believers have the will not to take the credit. There is a reason for Billy Graham’s success in Great Britain that very few know about. Until Graham’s arrival in 1954, the best-known evangelist in Great Britain was Tom Rees. He used his influence and friends to make the way for Graham. Billy Graham would not have been so successful had not Tom Rees stepped to one side.
A Willingness to Make the Anointing Primary
Unity is a remarkable achievement and comes as a result of the awareness that the anointing is primary. This is the thrust of Psalm 133. David said that unity is like precious oil, poured out on the head. The word oil implies anointing. The Holy Spirit is symbolized by the oil.
Aaron’s robe was ornate, the work of a skilled craftsman (Ex. 28:6). But according to David, more beautiful than the robe or the beard was the oil. This beauty was not just because the oil had a pleasant scent. Psalm 133 stresses the priority of the anointing.
This remarkable achievement, called the unity of the Spirit, comes as a result of seeing the anointing as primary. David had come to the place where he saw that it is not the beauty of the beard; it is not the beauty of the robe, but it is the oil! The unity of the brothers is better than all that seems so beautiful.
There is something more beautiful than my opinion or my sermon or my point of view, and that is for the Spirit to flow because there is unity.
There are three observations on the importance of unity: blessing is given where there is unity: “For there the LORD commanded the blessing” (v. 3). Unity is what Satan fears the most. Unity of the Spirit is not an optional matter. We have to have it in order to survive.