But we judge each other too. We judge one another for what we practice, how our church services are ordered, even for what gifts we demonstrate. When you judge your brother or sister in Christ, consider this, the person or people you judge were chosen by the Father before the foundations of the earth, adopted by Him, seated in the heavenly places with Christ, and indwelled with the Holy Spirit. How dare we judge or even be unkind to such a person as the royal treasure of God! Moreover, other believers are our kindred, and as we are united with Christ, we are united with one another. Rather than separate from one another over things such as denominations and titles, we ought to be being knit ever closer together as we grow ever closer to the Lord.
Paul’s letter to the Ephesians continues with chapter 4:1-16. Verses 1-3 read,
I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 3 eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
If we are filled with the Holy Spirit, meaning God actually resides within us and works in us, then we will show it. If He is in us then He shows up in how we live, think, and interact with people. That is what Paul meant when he wrote about the fruit of the Spirit. Galatians 5:16-26 in The Living Bible describes it this way,
I advise you to obey only the Holy Spirit’s instructions. He will tell you where to go and what to do, and then you won’t always be doing the wrong things your evil nature wants you to. 17 For we naturally love to do evil things that are just the opposite from the things that the Holy Spirit tells us to do; and the good things we want to do when the Spirit has his way with us are just the opposite of our natural desires. These two forces within us are constantly fighting each other to win control over us, and our wishes are never free from their pressures. 18 When you are guided by the Holy Spirit, you need no longer force yourself to obey Jewish laws.
19 But when you follow your own wrong inclinations, your lives will produce these evil results: impure thoughts, eagerness for lustful pleasure, 20 idolatry, spiritism (that is, encouraging the activity of demons), hatred and fighting, jealousy and anger, constant effort to get the best for yourself, complaints and criticisms, the feeling that everyone else is wrong except those in your own little group—and there will be wrong doctrine, 21 envy, murder, drunkenness, wild parties, and all that sort of thing. Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God.
22 But when the Holy Spirit controls our lives he will produce this kind of fruit in us: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control; and here there is no conflict with Jewish laws.
24 Those who belong to Christ have nailed their natural evil desires to his cross and crucified them there.
25 If we are living now by the Holy Spirit’s power, let us follow the Holy Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives. 26 Then we won’t need to look for honors and popularity, which lead to jealousy and hard feelings.
Fruit is the evidence of God’s miracle in a tree, a bush, or a vine. An olive tree will only produce olives. A grape vine will produce grapes. And if the vine is healthy it will produce good healthy grapes. And likewise, if it is not healthy it will produce sour grapes. Sommeliers will tell you that soil consistency, elevation, temperature, and exposure to the sun will all affect how a grape tastes which of course then influences the taste of the wine. Everything that goes into the vine impacts the taste of the grape. It is that way with us, if we allow the Lord to work in us through the Spirit then it will show in our behavior and even our thoughts. In Matthew 7:15-23 Jesus said,
“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. 16 You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? 17 So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. 18 A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Thus you will recognize them by their fruits. 21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’
Just saying one is a Christian, does make her a Christian. Even doing great works such as evangelizing, prophesying, healing, and casting out demons does not mean a person is actually a disciple of Christ; it is the fruit of her mind, the acts of her spirit, the demonstration of Christ’s love that are evidence that she is following Jesus.
There is no room for pride about ourselves, when we know that it is God’s grace that saves and not works. Therefore, I can neither be proud of anything I have done nor envious of anything someone else has done. We just lose all reason for pettiness, fighting, and division when we are operating in the love of Christ. 1 Corinthians 13:4-8a in The Living Bible reminds us how it looks to function in the love of Jesus.
Love is very patient and kind, never jealous or envious, never boastful or proud, 5 never haughty or selfish or rude. Love does not demand its own way. It is not irritable or touchy. It does not hold grudges and will hardly even notice when others do it wrong. 6 It is never glad about injustice, but rejoices whenever truth wins out. 7 If you love someone, you will be loyal to him no matter what the cost. You will always believe in him, always expect the best of him, and always stand your ground in defending him. 8 All the special gifts and powers from God will someday come to an end, but love goes on forever.
Walking in love filled with the Holy Spirit, we persistently grow closer to one another. We remember who we are in Christ and we remember who our brothers and sisters are in Christ. Paul continues his letter to the Ephesians with verses 4-6.
There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.
We are not Pentecostals, Baptists, Methodists, Lutherans, and Presbyterians, we are Christians, one body, one church, one bride. We all have the same Lord and Spirit and therefore the same goal, to glorify God. We have the same hope, the same Gospel, the same God. He is our Father and He is over all of us, working in all of us. Together we are the body, filled with the Spirit, exercising the gifts and raising His banner.
What good is one person healing in the name of Christ? Who gets the glory when one man is on stage healing people in Jesus’ name? But when it is the church together healing, prophesying, teaching, evangelizing, and showing God’s great mercy, who gets the glory? Should we raise the banner of a denomination or the banner of Jesus Christ? Which of these acts is truly love? In love, the church submits to Christ (Ephesians 5:24) and therefore in love, we submit to one another, especially our leaders (Ephesians 5:21, Hebrews 13:7).
When you bless someone, for instance give a gift to someone in need and you do it on your own, you are exalting yourself. When you give that same gift as a member of the body of Christ you exalt Christ and show the receiver the love of God. We were given the gifts we were given, not to promote ourselves but to bring acclaim to Jesus and bring growth to His body, us as a unit. Verses 7-12 read,
But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ's gift.8 Therefore it says,
“When he ascended on high he led a host of captives,
and he gave gifts to men.”
9 (In saying, “He ascended,” what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower regions, the earth? 10 He who descended is the one who also ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things.) 11 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ,
Remember from the Ephesians 1:20 that Jesus was raised up and is seated at the right of God. The right hand of God is His Justice, Redemption, and Grace. His right hand is the action of carrying out His will. it is Jesus Christ; the Word of God, the demonstrated will of God. We too are seated with Christ in the heavenly places so that through us the world can know the endless mercy and immense grace of God (Ephesians 2:6-7). We show that love through using the gifts He gave us and walking in who He has made us to be in Him. He gave us those gifts, called us to be who He made us, not so we could be the church of Donna, the church of traditional hymns, the church of contemporary praise music, the church of doctrine A, or the church of doctrine B, but so we could be His Church, His Bride, and His Body.
We are supposed to be equipping one another not arguing over whether drums are appropriate in church. We are supposed to be building up the body, not demeaning other denominations. We are God’s treasured possession. He does not value one denomination over another. It is we who made a piece of paper with a twenty printed on it mean more than one with a five on it. It is we who stamped one piece of silver with greater worth than another.
Be they pennies, nickels, dimes, or quarters, dull or shiny, I pick up every coin I see on the ground and put them in my piggy bank. The last time I counted them out, I had enough to pay for catering for my parent’s anniversary party. The coins didn’t mean much on their own, whoever dropped them and didn’t bother to pick them up again, didn’t appreciate their value either. But together those coins became a priceless gift for my parents.
The division caused by our fleshly pettiness takes away from God’s work for us and in us and demonstrates to the world attributes of the flesh such as hypocrisy, self-righteousness, and hatred. Verses 13-16 describe what using our gifts together in love will do.
until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, 14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. 15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ,16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.
We aren’t supposed to get caught up in the trivial arguments that divide us into Pentecostals, Baptists, Methodists, Lutherans, and Presbyterians. That is the work of the accuser of the brethren, the father of lies, Satan. Instead we are to answer those questions with the truth in love and grow ever-closer to Christ and consequently to one another, the whole body, the entire body working together in a Christ-sustained perpetually growing unified entity.