I am sitting at my desk writing the chapter on the E4 gifts for my book, when I was reminded of two key phrases in this great chapter. "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"vs2 + 3 and then "until we all attain to the unity of the faith and the knowledge of the Son of God"vs 13
As we script and scribe the "genesis" story, I have listened with intrigue where guys draw theological lines in the sand - in or out, buy in or stand back. As we are all bible people, the obvious question is where did the apostles [if any] draw lines in the sand to define walking forward on mission together?
When I read this text there are two loud petitions from Paul. They are not the lines we are vulnerable to [reformed vs armenian, charismatic vs cessationism, pre-, post-, millennialism…]. Rather Paul appeals firstly that we "maintain the unity of the Spirit". He simply does not applaud theological arrogance, aggression or sectarianism. His first appeal is to humility, patience, love and peace. We are required he says, to maintain what we already have! I think he would say the same today. He is not short of conviction however. The strong theological pieces that he requires adherence to are "one body, one Spirit…one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all…" That is what he demands that we maintain!
Secondly he endorses the theological journey that we are all on. He does not leave us in one dimensional simplicity. He draws us on to greater depths - "until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the Son of God". This great little word "until" means that we need the E4 gifts until the unity of the faith can be achieved. Because we are not there yet, we both still need the gifts as well as the humility that comes from still being on a journey and not knowing everything.
Brothers I am nervous that we draw theological lines in the sand that:
a. are not evidenced in the text as non-negotiables;
b. that imply we are right and others are wrong;
c. that does not give room for the 'new' that God is bringing our way [- just think how all of our theologies have deepened, grown, even changed in the last few years].
e. what else is the Father going to change, reveal, enlarge us on? Will we be ready or resistant to it? [History tends to point to those who had the last revelation, fight the new when the Father brings it]
Lastly, there is a "new" that the Father is rolling into the church. It is far more than cool buildings, skinny jeans, hipster rhythms. Isaiah prepares every generation with the same prophetic call:
"Behold the former things have come to pass, and new things I now declare; before they spring forth I tell you of them… And I will lead the blind in a way that they do not know, in paths they have not known I will guide them…" Is 42:9 + 16
Can we therefore walk in the door of relationship / family [ a divine knitting of hearts], then discover theological clarity en route [ be patient with humility and love], finding all of these pieces while we are on mission together? I think that is how it happened in the scriptures.