Denis Wilhoit - Thailand Convention - 2003

Ephesians 6-19, "Praying always with prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching there unto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints; and for me, that utterance may be given unto me, that I may open my mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the gospel for which I am an ambassador in bonds.." Paul was in Rome in bonds and he was sending a servant of God to tell them about his affairs, and to tell him about them. When we were in Sarawak, we heard the people telling about their situation. For a time, several workers had to leave and they couldn't come back, but the friends, they prayed about that and the door has opened for two to return now. They feel the power of those prayers has helped them, and they understand that it is like that we are unified.

 

Here Paul was trying to help them to look beyond their coasts to other lands, and to pray for all saints and to pray for him. For a long time, I have felt this is one of the greatest things we can do. We can think about Ephesus. It was the last place Paul stayed for a while and preached. It was in Asia and later we read of seven churches in Asia. John mentioned it first because it was the first one there. I didn't think about it until I went to Korea earlier this year. When I was there in the army, the workers had been there for about 15 years. It was one of the last areas in the world at that time where the gospel had gone. Just before I went there this year, I had visited a man named Don Garland, and he passed away about ten days later. Everyone seemed to realise then, now 50 years have gone by. I was there several years ago, and there was a lot of help that came from the US and Australia, because that was a new area. Now they are feeling very responsible and the friends from there have visited in Russia and Mongolia now. We have seen the same thing here. Since we have come here, we have heard of Bangladesh and Nepal, and it is a wonderful thing when we hear about people feeling their responsibility to other areas. That is what helps to unify the work everywhere. Just praying and visiting in a place is not all there is to do. We have to know how to promote unity to help promote it elsewhere. We have to be an example before we can help others.

 

Paul spoke to these people a lot about unity. The church at Ephesus lost their first love. I don't think we could be much of an example if we lose our first love, because there are certain things we must love if we want to promote unity. I was noticing what Paul was telling them to love and what to aim at. I don't think they lost entirely their first love, but they must have lost part of it. One thing we must love is sound doctrine, or the mind of Christ. The first little illustration he gave them was of a building. He said this building was upon the foundation of the apostles and the prophets. Jesus Christ is the chief corner stone. One evening several years ago, several of us were gathered together and there was a blackboard, and my companion drew a picture on the blackboard. It was a sketch of a building and he had a corner stone in one cornier and there were the foundation stones stretching out from the corner stone, and the stones were placed on those, and there were two walls. He said one wall was like the Old Testament. Ever since the time of Moses, those prophets lined up with Jesus. Ever since the time of the early apostles, they lined up with Jesus, and that wall is the New Testament. Wherever a stone was in that building, it was one with the other stones. That is a picture of all who believe in the foundation truth that Jesus taught. That is from the beginning of time till the end of time.

 

Another companion and I in another place were having gospel meetings. One time, a young man walked to our camp with me and he said, "This weekend our churches are going to have an ecumenical council in this town. There were 5 major religions that were to be there." He said, "All of us are going to give up one thought to achieve unity." So he asked me what I thought about that. I said, "Well, we think a little different. We feel we need to throw away every thought that is different to Christ's. Then we have unity with all of God's people for all time." I don't think these Ephesian people erred too much in this way. They hated deeds that were wrong, even when John wrote to them. "One with Him who went before." One of my companions wrote to me, and I think I appreciate it more today. One of our overseers used to tell us something often. He said, "We need to have unity and essentials, and tolerance, and leave the non-essentials. What we would need is wisdom." I hope that we all truly love what is right and what is sound.

 

In the fourth chapter, he gave them another picture when he spoke about the body, and the members of the body. So we are all like these members, and yet we are all so different. At first, these people did well in that way - the Jews and Gentiles, the walls were broken down between them. Those workers that laboured - there first were from different countries. It seemed like they gave a good example. I have often thought of myself and some of my companions. One time, I had a companion that was able to preach the gospel very well, but wasn't able to move around very much. I realised it was my job to find people and bring them to him to help. That would be a bit like the hand and the arm. The hand has all the ability and the skill, but the arm can move it into place where it can be used, but they need each other. What happens if you have a sort wrist? Which one does the work then? Only the one? They both have to rest and let the other arm do it. I realise that is how it is with companions, too. It speaks about the bond of peace, and it takes long-suffering and forbearance and meekness. Then if we love peace, it is possible to have a healthy joint. I think the illustration is quite clear to us, but it is another thing to do it. That is the only way to give an example. Whatever member it is, it is always guided by the head. A love for the mind of Christ will help us.

 

In the 5th chapter, he gave another picture. For many years, I missed that one. It speaks of Christ and the church, and the church is like the bride, and that is another relationship that needs unity. The only way there can be unity is if there is love. I think about a couple that has worked with us, and they are very devoted to each other, in their early sixties. I remember being in their home and some issue would come up, and this happened time after time. Almost every time, they had the opposite idea! They both had quite strong opinions about it, too. Sometimes he would get out a piece of paper and write out the pros and cons. You would wonder what was going to happen next. Then we would see them the next day and they were just exactly together, doing well. I don't know whose idea they followed, but I know there had to be submission. There is one difference in this picture here, Jesus is the bridegroom, so He is always right. It helps me to understand what kind of love we need. We have to love His will, and then there will be unity.

 

One more picture in the last chapter. It is not real obvious but it has been a help to me. He talks about them wearing the armour, and he is waiting for all churches, and to me it is a picture of the army. That is a nice picture of unity. One of the first things soldiers learn to do is to march. It is hours and hours of practice before they can keep in step. After they become good at it, they have a parade drill. Then they are marching together and people are watching them. Any little mistake shows up. That is a good picture of God's people because people do watch us, and they see every mistake. I like what we read about Zebulun, 1:12-33, "Of Zebulun, such as went forth to battle, expert in war, with all instruments of war, fifty thousand, which could keep rank; they were not double of heart." I remember very well this parade drill, and that is why this verse means something to me. The soldiers would be standing together in formation and then there would be a command, and that was to put your arm out to the side, so that you could just touch the soldier next to you, and the same with the man in front, and then that was your position. You were supposed to maintain that position at all time. That is also a nice picture of God's people. Paul mentioned to think of the older men as fathers and the younger men as brothers, and the older women as mothers and the younger women as sister with all purity. If we can keep that impartiality with everyone, that is a wonderful picture.

 

As we would march, often they would stop us. We had an examination where we were, just like convention, and we were always too close or too far from someone. There was one thing that was important if we wanted to keep rank, we had to keep our mind on our business. I think that was why Zebulun was so outstanding, because they were not of double heart. I find that my own thoughts and my own affairs get in the way. If I want to promote unity, I will have to be of one mind. I have seen it done right and it is very impressive. That is what we can aim at. We have been in countries that are very backward and they have to teach the people about public order. In one place, it only took three years, and another place, it has been 10 years now, and they haven't made any progress yet. I am glad that my awareness of this has been increased. I realise the need to start right in my own place. I can't think of anything greater than to promote unity in God's kingdom. I sincerely hope God will help us all.