In Nehemiah 8:4-8, Ezra the teacher of the Law stood on a high wooden platform built especially for the occasion of preaching the long neglected Word of God. Standing around him were 13 men in support of Ezra & God’s Word. When Ezra opened the book, the people all stood up. Ezra praised the Lord and all the people lifted their hands and responded, “Amen! Amen!” Then they bowed down and worshiped the Lord with their faces to the ground. Then the Levites—13 in all—instructed the people in the Law while the people were standing there. They read from the Book of the Law of God, making it clear and giving the meaning so that the people understood what was being read.
Ezra stood upon a platform. A platform in politics consists of objectives and policies of a political party that guide its governance.
The word platform originally was used to describe the set of rules governing church doctrine.
This story in Nehemiah shows us a very important platform on which the Church must be built. Without this one quality, a church will be entirely ineffective. It’s the platform of UNITY.
This unity platform shows up in three different ways in the church, kind of like a three legged stool. All need to exist and be strong in order for the stool to be stable and effective.
The first is – Unity In Leadership
The thirteen men/leadership were all leaders in their community. They had proven themselves as dependable, wise leaders. Their physical presence as they stood beside Ezra showed everyone that they all supported him. They all had something to contribute, possibly helping him read for the 6 hours he stood on the platform to minister.
Philippians 2:1-3 says, “So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.”
The second is – Unity In Worship
The congregation was all gathered as one people. They had the same heart for the Lord. They were all in one place, at the Water Gate, with the same goal of finding out what God’s Word had to say to them. And they were all in one accord, having the same worship – they all stood up, all raised their hands, all bowed down, and all said Amen & Amen, which mean “so be it”.
John 4:23-24, “A time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and His worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.
James 4:8, “Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you.”
And by the way, what a sweet and refreshing time we had in God’s presence at Church. His Holy Spirit ministered to many hearts and lives as people responded to the moving of His precious Spirit.
The third is – Unity In Discipleship
The 13 Levites/Teachers had a unified Theology. They made clear the meaning of what was being read, not making up their own theology, but keeping in line with the leader. They led the people, stepping up to their anointed roles as teachers. And they worked together, no one being in competition with each other. And overarching it all was a genuine love for the people. Their careful explanation implied a loving concern, not just a teaching out of obligation.
Ephesians 5:1-2, “Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”
We see the three unity planks of this platform, this three legged stool, in those who were gathered in the Upper Room. The leadership was gathered in one accord. In unison the entire congregation reverently worshipped. And when the Holy Spirit fell, they began to proclaim as one voice and one Theology the Gospel and disciple new Believers into the maturity of the Faith, and the Church was birthed.
Any great move of God in Church history has had these elements. Unity in leadership, unity in worship, and unity in Theology that always resulted in discipleship of new Believers and the Church growing.
A healthy church is a unified church in its wise leadership, humble worship, and loving discipleship.
And if unity is our platform, then Jesus is our Cornerstone that holds everything in place.
So let me ask you today, what can you contribute to the unity of this church?
In leadership? In worship? In discipleship?
May God strengthen the spirit of unity at Faith and keep us unified for His glory as we enter into 2015 and contribute more fully our time, talent, and treasure for His Kingdom.