Unity in the body! – Ephesians 4:1-16

Unity in the body! – Ephesians 4:1-16
By Pastor Lee Hemen
February 26, 2017

I have found it humorous that over the past few decades there has been a humanistic mantra repeated over and over that was expressed best by a felon and addict, “Can’t we all just get along?” There are those that honestly think that all we have to do is be agreeable and then everyone will be pleasant with one another. Of course if you disagree with them then you are a bigoted, hurtful, homophobe.

We have heard the mindless chant of the unruly crowd of “No justice no peace!” But the truth is the reality that without the Prince of Peace there is never any peace! Unity does not come from being more agreeable with one another nor by repeating that all we need is love. The sin-corrupted world does not care and the spiritually weak believer has forgotten that without the presence and power of God there can never be peace or love. Paul addresses this issue here in Ephesians by relating that it is only through the body of Christ, his church, where we find unity; let’s discover what he teaches us about unity in the body…

READ: Ephesians 4:1-16

Recently I received a phone call by a group that wanted to sell our church a “Netflix-style discipleship” program on how to reach millennials. I honestly believe that the reason the world has so much problem with the Christian church today is not because of Christ but because they see so much of the world in the church! Paul reminds the believer of their…

I. Conduct in the church! (Vv. 1-6)

As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit–just as you were called to one hope when you were called–one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.

1. Paul reminds his readers of his condition that “As a prisoner for the Lord” then they should “live a life worthy of the calling you have received.” This was Paul’s urgent message to them that they would live (walk) in a sin-soaked world a “life worthy” of the gospel they were called to! This should not be a surprise to any believer but rather the goal of every Christian! Paul is not telling us how to earn part of our salvation because Jesus did it all, however, in a world that is completely fallen how in the world do we live a life that is worthy; especially in the body of Christ the church? Paul reminds us that since we have been redeemed by the grace of God we are to also take part in the life we now have in him! We are to be like Jesus! So Paul reminds us of how he lived in reminding us how we are to live as well! It begins with how one thinks about themselves, we are to “Be completely humble” in our thinking; not arrogant or prideful. And we are to be “gentle” which carries the notion of a sweet and kind attitude. He tells us to “be patient” with each other by “bearing with one another in love.” This is a message for believers in how to treat other believers! Today’s Christian has forgotten that we are part of the body of Christ; his church. So we are to “Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.” The church and its members are to reflect Jesus! Paul teaches us that “there is one body” the church and “one Spirit” in which all members, all Christians share because we were all “called to one hope when (we) were called”! In fact, least we should forget there is only “one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” Paul teaches us about the believer’s conduct in the church!

EXAMPLE: There is an old saying that states, “Be careful how you live your life; there is not a lot of room on a tombstone”, meaning that there is not much room to write about one’s life on your tombstone. Usually you only see a small pity statement, the birth date and the date of the person’s death so you had better be careful how you live in between those dates! My Dad would remind us that “How one lives their life says a lot about who they are.” How do you live your life as a Christian? How do you treat your fellow believers? Paul teaches us about the believer’s conduct in the church!

Our personal conduct as believers as we display it to the world around us is extremely important. But in a world that does everything it possibly can to influence us how do we keep ourselves pure? How do we hold out the word of truth to this darkened world? This is why also Paul reminds us of our…

II. Preservation in the world! (Vv. 7-10)

But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it. This is why it says: “When he ascended on high, he led captives in his train and gave gifts to men.” (What does “he ascended” mean except that he also descended to the lower, earthly regions? He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe.)

1. As Paul reminded his readers of what their conduct should be in the church he continued by relating that we are able to do so because “to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.” There are those who think that they do not need the forgiveness of God and then there are others who think that God could never forgive them, but Paul reminds us that it is God who gives to each of us just the right amount of his grace. And part of that grace is the gifts he readily gives us. It is according to the measure we need: “We have different gifts, according to the grace given us.” (Romans 12:6 NIV) He would write the Corinthian church that God gives his gifts “just as he determines.” (1 Corinthians 12:11) Paul also explains that “This is why it says: ‘When he ascended on high, he led captives in his train and gave gifts to men.’” Paul uses Psalm 68:18 that he changed from the second to the third person, and changed the direction of the gifts from having received them from men to the giving of gifts to men. However the Hebrew can and has been translated just as Paul intended. “The essence of the psalm is that a military victor has the right to give gifts to those who are identified with him. Christ, having captivated sinful people by redeeming them, is the Victor and gives them as gifts to the church.” (Bible Knowledge Commentary) Paul then explains why he said what he did: “What does ‘he ascended’ mean except that he also descended to the lower, earthly regions? He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe.” Jesus did just that! Paul reminds us of our preservation in the world!

EXAMPLE: I grew up in a family that depended a lot on what we could grow, hunt or fish. My mother would spend weeks and months canning all kinds of food from berries, fruits, vegetables, pickles, cabbage to all kinds of meat. She would make jams, jellies, and preserves. Later, after I was married I tried my hand at smoking fish and jerking different meats. These things are not new and some of the means to preserve food have been around for centuries. This was true for Paul’s day as well and is why he understood the necessity of good preservation. He knew this was true for our spiritual lives in Jesus also and so Paul reminds us of our preservation in the world!

The wonderful truth of the gospel narrative is the fact that we are not alone. Every Christian has an advocate, defender, and guide in God through the Spirit and Jesus! However, Jesus also provided us his body the church to do his work and will in the world. And it is here where we can find encouragement, strength, and spiritual mentorship. In Ephesians Paul reminds us about God’s…

III. Contribution! (Vv. 11-16)

It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until 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. Then 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 men in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. From 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.

1. Paul then goes into some of the gifts God has given us. God as Jesus, because he ascended and descended, showed and proved who he was and that he is more than able to give us his grace gifts. After all he fills the whole universe. So Paul tells us that “It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers”. Far too many focus on the gifts of God rather than why they were given in the first place. His gifts were given “to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up”, literally, this purpose is “for the perfecting or equipping as in mending” or “preparing” fishing nets. There is a definite progression here. Paul begins with those who were called out — the apostles, then those who preach the gospel – the prophets and evangelists, and then finally those who were called to be pastors and teachers within the church itself. The gifts are not as important as to why they were given in the first place: “until 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.” The early church needed these gifts to mature in their faith just as we do today. Today’s church is less prepared than perhaps Paul’s Ephesians simply because we have forgotten the importance of personal discipleship. These gifts are given so that “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 men in their deceitful scheming.” We have forgotten that the world is corrupted however if believers use the gifts God has given them then “Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ.” The church today has become spiritually stunted and we have forgotten “From 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.” Paul reminds us about God’s contribution!

EXAMPLE: We live in such a dependent society that we have been duped into thinking that others should take care of us. Now I am not talking about those who need assistance because of personal handicaps or unforeseen hardships. Our society has become so dependent that it sees that government only exists to take care of them from the womb to the tomb. Businesses are seen only as a means to create work and churches have become handout stations. So much so that people no longer join to serve God’s kingdom but rather to see what the church can provide for them. How wonderful to learn that God has provided for his church! Paul reminds us about God’s contribution!

Conclusion:

Paul teaches us about the believer’s conduct in the church! Paul reminds us of our preservation in the world! Paul reminds us about God’s contribution!
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This article is copyrighted © 2017 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

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10 Comments

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10 responses to “Unity in the body! – Ephesians 4:1-16

  1. Jeff Scott

    So, you think “unity” is unattainable or not relevant? Isn’t it funny how the church wants unity, as long as everybody else agrees with you or the church? Unity is a two way street, not something that is imposed. It’s sad when the church starts purposely avoiding unity with the world since we have to live in that world.

    • True unity is unattainable without the Spirit; it is only a well disguised facade. And the church is never to be unified with the ungodly world or things of the world.

      • JEFF SCOTT

        Maybe, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t work for the Earthly equivalent. Purposely working against the unity of man in this world is not the right thing to do.Like it or not, we still live here and we ought to do everything we can to work WITH those with whom we live, not just impose our “unity” upon them. Jesus NEVER imposed anything upon anybody, yet we modern Christians seem to think it’s our right, even our obligation, to impose our values and way of life upon everybody else. It’s not.

      • Again, you are placing words into my sermon I never wrote. Christians are to work first and foremost for the unity in the body of believers. Plus, it is you who wrote that I said we should “impose” my beliefs on others; thereby the unsuspecting masses. Again, a tired old tactic to try to insert your argument (perhaps fear or phobia) into what I wrote that I did not in order to divert what I said in the first place. In fact Jesus commanded us to “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20 NIV) And this command is reiterated in all the Gospels and written about in the Book of Acts as well as most of the rest of the New Testament. It is a basic tenant of all Christian churches. If you do not understand this then perhaps you have not understood the Bible and basic Christian theology.

      • JEFF SCOTT

        The difference is Jesus NEVER forced anybody (imposed) to accept Him or his values. I have substantial experience with the Fundamentalist Christianity that seeks to FORCE everybody to accept their interpretation of scripture, of history, and culture and then complains about being persecuted (not!) when people object to that imposition. And then to add to the pity party, they complain about the lack of “unity” in the country. And just because you seek “unity” in the church (which requires ALL sides to come to some middle ground…because NOBODY has ALL the right understanding of the Gospels), doesn’t mean we shouldn’t seek unity in our nation, Christian or non-Christian. Remember, faith is ours, but the country is EVERYBODY’s and we darn well better figure a way to live WITH those who don’t share our faith. The only way to get what YOU want is to find a deserted island somewhere and remove yourself completely from the world. Hard to be light to the world in that situation, so good luck with that.

      • You are missing what the biblical meaning of unity within the church is. It is not coming to some kind of agreement in order to try to get along; it is the unity of the Holy Spirit. This unity the world cannot understand because it does not have the Spirit and thinks it is a process of trying to get everyone on the same page through compromise. Jesus, Paul, John and others taught this is impossible. You are focusing on emotional, political, and physical unity; these cannot happen without first spiritual unity. If there is disunity within a church then it usually is because some are not in the Spirit of Christ and are working through worldly desires and sin instead. Most churches I have been a part of in the last 41 years understood this fully and had spiritual unity that influenced every area of their ministry and work. Whenever they lost this unity and focused on the worldly unity of trying to get one person’s way, that is when there were problems. However, once they prayed together, came together under the guidance of the Spirit, and focused on what God desired these problems melted away. The world will never solve its problems through compromise because mankind is sinful by nature and choice. The world only desires what is best for itself.

      • JEFF SCOTT

        Ok. So that begs the question: who decides what interpretation of scriptures do we unify around? Even you know there are competing interpretations of many scriptures, so who’s right? My grandfather was a minister for over 60 years and was the most Jesus like man I’ve ever met and he warned years ago about the danger of the growing Fundamentalism in United States Christianity, with it’s absolutism and blending of faith, politics, economics and culture. Many in today’s church would derisively accuse him of being a “liberal” heretic because he accepted everybody into his church and focused on God’s admonitions about how to treat the poor, sick, elderly, orphaned, lonely, and immigrant. There isn’t much room for that message in today’s church with it’s focus on homosexuals, immigrants and “liberals” and praying correctly for the wealth they believe God will deliver if they do so.

      • Do not know what “evangelical” or “fundamental” church you’ve attended lately but all I am familiar with do the exact same thing as you described as your grandfather’s church. Most liberal churches blend far more politics into their sermons than any fundamental church I’ve attended, been a part of, or known. Whenever the media wants to discuss social or political action it is always with a liberal church type like Methodist, Lutheran, Unitarian, Episcopalian minister or such. Few “fundamental” churches waste their time discussing politics on Sundays because that is up to the individual; rather we focus on the teaching of Scripture, evangelism, and personal spiritual growth.

  2. And by the way, Jesus said the world will never know the peace of God because it can’t. The world being those who have decided not to or who are unwilling to know Christ. The world being those outside of the knowledge of God.

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