Ephesians 4:1-16 | Unity & Diversity for Maturity
1 As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.
- “As a prisoner for the Lord”
- This is the second time that Paul has referred to his imprisonment, and he is not just a prisoner, he is a prisoner of Christ Jesus/the Lord
- Paul’s imprisonment reveals a ‘sold out’ and radical attitude towards his faith. Someone who is willing to be a prisoner for a cause is fully committed and dedicated to that cause
- Paul implores us to live a life worthy of the wondrous calling we have received and so take on the same attitude
- Paul is a physical prisoner but he is spiritually one too – he is bound and held captive within the grace of the God! Viewing ourselves as prisoners for God gives us a sole focus of living for God
- “Live a life worthy of the calling you have received”
- This is the bridge between the first 3 chapters and the last 3 chapters of Ephesians – the calling we have received & living a life worthy of it.
- One might think we need to earn or pay back our calling by the way we walk and that we ought to live up to it out of sheer will. Instead, it is recognising and knowing our position in Christ and letting that transform us, as Paul explains further on this passage.
- Once we have ‘sat’ in the great truths of the gospel, we are now empowered to ‘walk’ in them.
2Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.
- Paul uses varied terms here to describe the conduct that we should have to one another, imploring us to strive towards unity because he along with us know how difficult that can be at times.
- Be humble – accepting that we are still a work in progress and still have things to learn
- Be gentle – in the words we speak and how we deal with people, to not cause unnecessary harm or offense
- Be patient (longsuffering) – when our ideal is not met and we need to allow time and space for people
- Be forbearing (put up with) – to those whom are not easy to work with or talk to, even at inconvenience or detriment to ourselves
- In short, Paul is saying to “suck-up, back-up, shut-up and put-up”…in love.
3Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.
- Unity of the spirit
- Significant how this is unity of the spirit and not anything else (the word, uniformity etc.)
- The Spirit is key to living the Christian life and is who leads us into truth, freedom and love
- There is true unity when individual believers submit themselves to the spirit through prayer
- Through the bond of peace
- There is unity of the Spirit when there is a bond of peace – a lack of peace (conflict) causes a lack of unity in the spirit
- How do we keep the unity of the Spirit and peace between each other? – Through humility, gentleness, patience and bearing with each other
- Paul says to make every effort, therefore these are the things that we should make every effort to display. Am I being humble towards my leaders, am I being gentle towards my peers, showing patience to those who are difficult and forbearance to those making me suffer?
- Peace is not just a lack of conflict and arguments, it is dealing with all judgmental and offending thoughts against each other. Those thoughts and attitudes prevent a bond of true peace from developing as there is not true unity.
- Therefore we should make every effort to deal with the thoughts and attitudes which prevent that unity, and why it’s so important that we pray for each other, not just because it’s a good principle but because it stimulates unity between each other. When we pray for each other we challenge those offending and judgmental thoughts.
- We see why unity is so important because of the last verse in this section, because we are meant to be a living body and are responsible for the growth and health of each other. We cannot encourage and build up each others faith if there is no unity
4There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; 5one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 6one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.
- This highlights the single commonality we are called towards
- We are called to be one, single, united body i.e. everybody the same in terms of belief, focus & priority
7But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.
- We have all received a grace to use within the body and for the body. Our gifts and talents should not be used pridefully or boastfully since they are all gifts that have been given to us through Christ.
- This is not just speaking of leaders but all people. We have all been given graces and gifts to use for the benefit of the church and for God’s glory.
8This is why it says:
“When he ascended on high,
he took many captives
and gave gifts to his people.”
- Paul quotes from Psalm 68:18 but uses a slightly different wording whereby in the Psalm it says he received gifts from men. In the context that Paul is talking about, Christ has been given all authority from the Father and is now apportioning this grace and authority to his church – just as a king would receive gifts from other nations, and give gifts to his followers.
- This is why it is key and better that Christ ascended than to remain on earth. He ascended on high, took his throne and sent the Holy Spirit, who is a gift in and of himself. But through the Holy Spirit, Christ would also apportion grace and gifts to his church to fulfill her commission.
9(What does “he ascended” mean except that he also descended to the lower, earthly regions? 10He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe.)
- The gospel story is not that a man from earth managed to ascend towards God, but that God in his mercy descended to humanity. Jesus could only ascend because he had first descended. As in John’s gospel “the Word became flesh and made his dwelling amongst us”
- The gifts and graces that God has bestowed on his church are nothing to do with our inherent value or ability, but because of the mercy of God.
11So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers,
- Christ has given special roles to certain people to equip, unite and mature the church:
- Apostles & Prophets – pointing to and preaching Christ
- Even though there is nothing in the New Testament to say that these roles have stopped, we should be careful to not call anyone a prophet or apostle today and so not give them more authority than Christ has given them, even though their ministry might be prophetic or apostolic in style. Only God himself appointed people to these offices.
- Evangelists – leading the way to reach the lost
- Pastor/Teachers – to equip the flock of God. The Greek wording here indicates that this is one role in two parts, not two different roles. I.e. an elder/overseer needs to both pastor and teach the flock under his care
12to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.
- Christ has given the above roles for these purposes:
- Equipping the church for works of service/ministry
- Reaching unity in the faith & knowledge of God
- Maturity in the fullness of Christ
- These roles of leadership are contrasted with the gifts given to everyone as above – in God’s kingdom there is leadership and authority but also total participation
- We can see in politics how these extremes are separated – Far right encourages total authority whereas far left encourages no authority and absolute equality
14Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming.
- Growing in the knowledge of God helps us identify teaching that isn’t sound or helpful to the Christian walk
- A lot of teaching might not necessarily be wrong, it just might be the wrong focus and so not be helpful to our walk!
- God wants us to stop being infants/spiritual babies and to grow up
- Growing up in both action and knowledge
15 Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. 16From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.
- We grow and build eachother up, as God does his work in us
- The challenge is to speak the truth in love – we must continue to fellowship with each other, setting our minds and thoughts on the truth and lovingly challenging one another
- We often fail at doing one of these – either we don’t speak, it’s not truthful and sound what we speak, or we don’t do it in a loving way
- Let’s practise speaking the truth in love to one another
The church is to make every effort to pursue unity just as God has called us to be one united body. We are also a diverse church too in that God has given gifts and offices for the building up and maturity of the church. We are to pursue unity, through diversity, for maturity.