Purity and Peace

July 13, 2023 | by: Dale Thiele | 0 Comments

Posted in: Pastoral Encouragement

Recently at Oak Hills we have had several children make their public profession of faith. As part of this public profession, the children affirm their agreement with our church membership vows. These vows not only affirm one’s belief in the gospel, but also one’s commitment to the local church. Foundational to church membership is the belief that Christ, as the head of the church, has called his people into covenant relationship with one another. 

The fifth vow all members affirm is, “Do you submit yourself to the government and discipline of the church, and promise to study its purity and peace?” The first part of the vow acknowledges that Christ has established the leadership of the church for the shepherding care of his people. The second half of the vow acknowledges that one must diligently work to “maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Eph. 4:3). The diligence is implied in the word “study.” This word does not merely mean to learn something, but also to pursue something. Members promise to make the purity and peace of the church a top priority. 

So what contributes to the purity and peace of the church? 

Paul’s practical, ethical teaching in Ephesians 4:25-5:2 provides an excellent blueprint for studying the purity and peace of the church. The commands that Paul walks through in this section all relate to the interpersonal relationships within the church community. The purity and the peace of the church depend on her members pursuing truth, contributing to needs, building each other up, yielding to the Spirit, and being gracious and forgiving with one another. Let me highlight a few of these. 

  1. There is no purity or peace in the church where there is no truth. We already dove deep on Sunday morning into verse 25 where Paul calls the church to speak truth to one another. Falsehood is the work of the devil (see John 8:44) and tears us apart. Christian music artist, Rich Mullins, highlighted this reality in his song, We Are Not as Strong as We Think We Are. He says, “It took the hand of God Almighty to part the waters of the sea, but it only took one little lie to separate you and me; we are not as strong as we think we are.” Laying aside falsehood and speaking the truth is essential for the purity and peace of the church. 
  1. Anger is permitted for confronting wickedness. In verse 26 Paul says, “Be angry and do not sin.” Bible scholars, recognizing that Paul is quoting Psalm 4:4, state that Paul is not commanding anger, but giving permission for anger. The vast majority of Scripture passages about anger warn about the dangers of human anger. The permission for anger, as seen in Psalm 4, is against the wickedness of falsehood and injustice. In this sense, then, Paul gives permission for anger against sin; this is necessary for preserving the purity of the church. But Paul quickly qualifies such anger by warning against the sin of anger, commanding the keeping of short accounts, and being wary of the devil’s work (we’ll unpack this verse more on Sunday). 
  1. The Holy Spirit unites us in the body; to harm the body is to grieve the Spirit. In verse 30, Paul commands, “do not grieve the Holy Spirit.” In the context of Ephesians 4, we learn that the unity of the body is formed by the Spirit. To disturb the unity and peace of the body is to work against the Holy Spirit. If we would walk by the Spirit, the fruit of the Spirit would mark our relationships with one another; and thus, we would not grieve the Spirit. Walking by the Spirit is the process of listening to and yielding to the truth of Scripture. We study the purity and peace of the church by being students of the Word. 
  1. Grace, kindness, and forgiveness are essential for the purity and peace of the church. Verse 32, in my opinion, is the most essential command for the purity and peace of the church. Paul writes, “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” In this fallen world, while we still struggle with sinful flesh, we all will inevitably sin against one another. We will never have relationships with one another if we never forgive one another. 

This last verse also gives us the insight into how we can study the purity and peace of the church. God has forgiven us in Christ. This simple statement is the key. We are reconciled to the Father. He seals and fills us with his Spirit. The Son is interceding for us. By God’s grace we study the purity and peace of his church. 





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