Unity is something people in Christian circles discuss a lot. And for good reason. Consider, for instance, what Paul wrote in his letter to the Ephesian church (chapter 4, verse 3), that we must be“endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” What does this mean? Why did Paul write this? What should be our takeaway from words like this? Here, in a passage loaded with practical (and biblical) insight, is Gordon Fee, commenting on this very verse:

The phrase, “the unity of the Spirit,” recalls in a very direct way [Ephesians] 2:18 where Paul says that through Christ we both (Jew and Gentile) together in the one Spirit have access to God. That is, even though finally at the practical level this will have to do with personal relationships within the community, in its first instance it refers to the “union” of the two peoples into the one new humanity, the one new people of God. The “unity of the Spirit” does not refer to some sentimental or esoteric unity that believers should work toward. Rather, Paul is speaking of something that exists prior to the exhortation.

Whether they like it or not, their lavish experience of the Spirit, which they have in common with all others who belong to Christ, has made them members of the one body of Christ, both on the larger scale and in its more immediate expression in the local community and in their own (believing) households.

So they may as well get on with “liking it” and demonstrate as much but the way they live. All of this, then, underscores that for the unity of Jew and Gentile [the issue of division they were facing in that day] to happen on the larger scale, it must first of all happen among people who regularly rub elbows with one another. They are the one body of Christ by their common life in the Spirit; the exhortation is that they bend every effort to maintain this unity of which life together in the Spirit is the predicate.

As elsewhere in Paul, the word that best describes the nature of their “unity of the Spirit” is “peace,” here expressed in terms of “the bond of peace.” Along with Romans 14:17 and 15:13, this passage is the clear indication that for Paul “peace” as a fruit of the Spirit refers not so much to inner tranquility as to the necessary “shalom” that Christ has effected, in bringing an end first of all to the hostility between God and people, and secondly to the similar hostility between people(s). Since Christ is our peace, who has made of the two one new people of God, they are here being urged to maintain their “oneness,” which has bound them together in peace.

“The war is over; let us keep the peace” is Paul’s point.

[from Gordon Fee, God’s Empowering Presence, p. 700-701]