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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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Follow the Spirit! – Galatians 5:16-26

Follow the Spirit! – Galatians 5:16-26
By Pastor Lee Hemen
August 25, 2013 AM

I like some of the new features of smart phones, especially the ability to use them as a GPS whether you are walking around town or driving to a destination. However, one has to be careful not to completely trust in the directions they give, because they still can lead you down someone’s driveway or to none existent places. Kind of like the car commercial a few years ago where the guy was following the vocal directions from his in-dash GPS and it tells him, “Turn left…” he immediately does and runs into a building, a then as the dust and debris settles the robotic voice continues, “…in 500 feet.” Not all guidance is necessarily good guidance.

Christians have access to the best possible guidance as they exercise their freedom in Christ. Unfortunately, many believers sometimes confuse Christian freedom with the liberty do anything they want, and then garner God’s forgiveness. They do not know—or they do not care—that they are free but only to follow the Holy Spirit’s leadership. Not surprisingly, they may become experts in several or more of what Paul called “works of the flesh”. They follow their own lusts, not the Spirit. They show little evidence in life of the fruit of the Spirit. God wants His people to avoid all works of the flesh and to focus on developing all aspects of the fruit of the Spirit. For this reason, He wants them to follow the Spirit’s leadership. Let’s see what Paul teaches us this morning as we learn to follow the Spirit…

READ: Galatians 5:16-26

Believers face the constant temptation to follow culture’s permissive influences. Many are the voices urging self-indulgence and insisting, “anything goes” and “if it feels good, do it.” We need to hear the Spirit’s voice giving spiritual, moral, and ethical direction. Paul gives us the antidote to poisonous behavior: following the Spirit’s leadership. He contrasts the Spirit to the flesh and highlights the conflict between them. He reminds us to…

I. Walk by the Spirit! (Vv. 16-18)

So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under law. (Galatians 5:16-18 NIV)

1. Paul quickly states, “So I say, live by the Spirit” and the reasoning is obvious to him because when you do, “you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature.” We forget that when we come to Christ, He saves us for eternity but not out of infernal bad habits. This is why Jesus would warn his followers to, “Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:4-5 NIV) The words literally translated are, “keep on walking.” As a believer walks through life, he should depend on the indwelling Holy Spirit for guidance and power. But the Spirit does not operate automatically in a believer’s heart. He waits to be relied on or trusted in guidance. The believer must learn to hear and heed the Spirit’s voice because when they do, they “will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature.” Too many believers constantly fight within themselves daily whom they will follow and then wonder why God is not more active in their lives. He cannot be and will not be if you continually decide to follow that which is contrary to His nature! “For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature.” Point in fact, “They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want.” Never forget, dear child of God, every Christian is a walking civil war. Flesh and Spirit are in perpetual conflict; they are diametrically opposed to each other and vie for dominance in believers’ lives. This is where your guilt comes in, you follow the lusts of your sinful nature, the Spirit within you knows you should not be doing what you are doing, and you then sense the guilt. It is unrelenting warfare for control of believers’ lives! The Spirit strives to prevent believers from giving in to evil; the flesh tries to thwart the Spirit’s work. However, Paul reminds us, “But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under law!” Trying to be “good enough” in order to assuage your guilty conscience places you back under a life of trying to live under the law, rules and regulations instead of the freedom of the Spirit. The answer: Walk by the Spirit!

EXAMPLE: What temptations arising from your lower nature do you face? How does the Spirit help you overcome them? Paul maintained strongly that only following the Spirit’s guidance could enable people to overcome evil and experience the freedom of grace. The inner struggle between believers’ old nature and the Spirit would continue, but following the Spirit’s leading—walking with Him—would empower them to be victorious. We are to let the Spirit guide our living. We must cooperate with Him. Each day presents temptations and challenges. The warfare between our old natures and the Spirit continues. We need to be sensitive to the Spirit’s prompting and to rely on His power to help us overcome persistent pulls to evil. Through His power we can avoid doing what displeases God. We are to walk by the Spirit!

Paul goes on to present a catalog of “the works of the flesh” so these believers could be forewarned. He repeated what he had told them when he was with them: People with lifestyles marked by works of the flesh are not part of God’s kingdom. He warns us to…

II. Avoid ungodly conduct contrary to the Spirit! (Vv. 19-21)

The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. (Galatians 5:19-21 NIV)

1. Paul tells us bluntly, that, “The acts of the sinful nature are obvious!” Paul listed what the flesh produces by naming three sexual sins: immorality, impurity, and debauchery! The first was a general word for illicit sexual activity—sexual intercourse before and outside marriage. The word can mean “fornication” or “prostitution” and often is translated “adultery.” How sad in our day and age where folks think they can skirt God’s grace and the hurt of divorce by having sex outside of marriage! Paul says it is impossible! The second word “impurity” refers to material dirt, defilement, moral filth or lewdness! It is the aspect of not caring what you do publicly or privately; literally, dirty thoughts and lifestyle! Much of the Internet today produces this kind of behavior through pornography, sexting, or openly flaunting sexual activity in public. Jesus severely warned, “For from within, out of men’s hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and make a man ‘unclean.’” (Mark 7:21-23 NIV) Paul had also warned, “The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the man’s spirit within him? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God.” (1 Corinthians 2:10b-11 NIV) Far too many play a dangerous game with the grace of God thinking that what they think or do has no consequence on their spiritual lives, Paul warns otherwise! In fact, it can lead to all kinds of ungodly activity: “idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like!” Dear child of God, do you constantly struggle with any or all of these? Perhaps you have forgotten, as the Galatians had, that a life lived this way leads to guilt and a weak faith. In fact, Paul suspected that those who constantly battled with these things may not have truly committed themselves fully to Christ, “I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.” Does your daily thoughts and life depict your faith? If we are to follow the Spirit, we should avoid ungodly conduct contrary to the Spirit!

EXAMPLE: With what attitudes of the old nature do you need the Spirit’s help to overcome? The world today encourages, exemplifies, and instructs us to daily indulge our sinful nature. It goes so far as to barrage us with the notion that if we do not, we are out of step, living in the past, or phobic. That we may suffer from some kind of psychological disorder because the rest of the world says anything goes anywhere anytime! However, if we let the Spirit guide our living, we will avoid doing what displeases God. We will model sexual purity for a perverted society in which moral guidelines are being erased swiftly. The Spirit will enable us to bear witness concerning authentic religion, will help us avoid destructive attitudes, and will help us reject consumption of drugs or alcohol in order to have a “good time.” If we are to follow the Spirit, we should avoid ungodly conduct contrary to the Spirit!

Finally, Paul teaches us that the Spirit’s activity in Christians produces a cluster of virtues that gives explicit evidence believers belong to Christ. Paul exhorts believers to “follow the Spirit” and then gives us three examples of what following Him calls for. He teaches that believers will…

III. Display the fruit of the Spirit! (Vv. 22-26)
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other. (Galatians 5:22-26 NIV)

1. Paul doesn’t leave us in spiritual despair but reminds us what, “the fruit of the Spirit” is. The word fruit refers to virtues only the Spirit can cultivate and bring to full growth in believers’ lives. Human nature apart from God can only perform works; only the Spirit can produce fruit. Note that the word fruit is singular. Genuine believers exhibit a cluster of virtues characteristic of living in the Spirit. The first is love. Paul chose the word “agape” because it does not carry the primary element of emotion or affection. Agape is God’s kind of self-sacrificing love: determined good will that acts for others’ best interests. “Joy” differs markedly from happiness. Happiness depends on favorable circumstances. Joy is a deep celebration of relationship with God no matter what the circumstances are. The gladness of being held securely in God’s grace empowers believers to face life’s challenges. “Peace” is much more than absence of conflict. The word has the idea of wholeness and well-being under God’s rule that issues in spiritual calmness in the face of difficulties. “Patience” means “longsuffering.” It conveys a slowness to become angry. We would say it is the capacity to “put up with a lot.” “Kindness” is gentleness, thoughtfulness, and consideration in dealing with others. It is not sentimentality. It has the sense of being agreeable, obliging, or pleasant. “Goodness” is “moral excellence,” but it is much more. The word carries the idea of active generosity and compassion toward others—of doing more than justice requires. We might define goodness as kindness in action. “Faithfulness” is honesty or loyalty in relationships with others. It is the quality of reliability; people can count on believers. “Gentleness” conveys the sense of strength under control. It was used of animals that people tamed and disciplined to carry riders or pull loads. The Spirit enables Christians to exercise disciplined strength in relating to others. “Self-control” is mastery over emotions, especially over sensual desires. It is the spiritual strength to discipline self, to impose self-restraint. Self-discipline issues in moral purity. “Against such things, there is no law!” In fact, “Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires.” And Paul ends his instruction by reminding us that, “Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.” We are to follow the Spirit, not our emotions or the world’s desires because when we do, we will display the fruit of the Spirit!

EXAMPLE: Which virtues in the cluster of the fruit of the Spirit are most evident in your life? Which are underdeveloped? What will you do to allow the Spirit to produce a more complete harvest? If we let the Spirit guide how we live, we will exhibit characteristics that please God. The fruit of the Spirit will be evident in our inner spiritual lives, in our interactions with others, and in our conduct. We not only will avoid works of the flesh, but we also will advance toward the goal of spiritual maturity, which leads to “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control!” In following the Spirit, we will display the fruit of the Spirit!

Conclusion:

We have learned from Paul what it means to follow the Spirit in our lives. We are to walk by the Spirit, avoid ungodly conduct contrary to the Spirit, and to display the fruit of the Spirit!

Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 Biblica. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.

Pastor Lee Hemen has been the outspoken pastor of the same church for 28 years in Vancouver, WA. He writes regularly on spirituality and conservative causes and maintains several web blogs. This article is copyrighted © 2013 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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