SSL 7 - Eph. 4:1-10
LAST WEEK: In Eph. 3:14-21, Paul concluded chapter 3 with a prayer for the recipients of this letter, which contained six important areas of application: (1) Being named by God gives us our spiritual identity and ties us to Him as our Father. However, a person is not named as a child of the Heavenly Father until he or she accepts Jesus Christ as his or her personal Lord and Savior (Jn. 1:12). (2) There is an inner person in each of us which is just as real as our physical bodies. For a Christian, it's natural that this power-to our inner self-comes through the Holy Spirit, God dwelling in our hearts, guiding and empowering us. (3) When Paul tells you to let Christ "dwell in your heart," it conveys the sense that Christ sets up housekeeping there, making your heart His dwelling place. But it's not habitual and permanent. We need spiritual strength-focused faith-to let Christ dwell in our hearts because there is still something in us that resists the influence of the indwelling Jesus. (4) In order to really katalambanó (comprehend) the "length and height and depth" of God's love, we must energetically reach out and grasp this great prize. The "length and height and depth" of the love of Christ is large enough to cover over our sin and every circumstance of life. (5) All of the world's knowledge can never bring us into the kingdom of God. Only Christ's love has that power, which is based on belief, not knowledge. (6) The ultimate goal of our existence as a church is to glorify God. When Paul refers to "the church"-(Gk. ekklésia) literally those who are called out-he pictures it as a unified whole, not as isolated entities. We, all of us, every church, every Christian everywhere, are ekklésia-called out under the banner of Jesus Christ.
THIS WEEK: Let's briefly review what we've covered in Ephesians so far. In Chapters 1-3, Paul gave us a big-picture doctrinal orientation that outlined the blessings associated with being a child of God. As we move on into Chapters 4-6, he will shift the emphasis to the responsibilities-the practical application-that go with our salvation. Paul worked to advance the theme of unity in Chapters 1-3, and today, in Eph. 4:1-10, he will explain how that unity can be achieved. We need to approach this lesson with the understanding that our church and churches in general are made up of different kinds of people. Do we agree on this? Whenever you put these differences together it naturally leads to conflict. Yes? The purpose here in Paul's instructions is not to avoid conflict but to learn how to deal with it so that unity might overcome. Unity is the goal of these verses and indeed, the entire letter.
Read Eph. 4:1-3 - ONE PURPOSE
Note: To bring about unity in the church, Paul delivers three commands: (1) Walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called (v. 1); (2) showing humility, gentleness, patience, and tolerant with love (v. 2); and (3) being diligent to
preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace (v.3).
1 Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, 3 being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
v. 1a: "Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord" - Two weeks ago, Paul referred to himself as "the prisoner of Christ Jesus on behalf of the Gentiles" (Eph. 3:1), and probably wrote this book from his imprisonment in Rome. Later, Paul will describe himself as "an ambassador in chains" (Eph. 6:20).
v. 1b: "implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called" - This first command can be paraphrased to say that we should live a life worthy of the calling we have received. The word "walk" Gk. peripateō) is a Christian metaphor for how we live our lives. A "calling" (Gk. klēsis) means an invitation to a special privilege and responsibility that becomes our vocation. We've been called to follow Jesus. Agreed? Therefore, as followers of Jesus, our calling in general is to be His disciples, which, in turn, becomes our "vocation" to God. And being "worthy of the calling" means that unless we take this serious-give it our best-we are just playing at Christianity.
v. 2: "with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love" - As the second command, Paul now lists the spiritual characteristics that form a "worthy" mindset: (1) "with all humility" (Gk. tapeinophrosune) lit. a compound word for completely humble. Jesus exemplified this, treating people with humility while he healed them with God's power. (2) "and gentleness " (Gk. prautētos), the kind Jesus demonstrated, is the gentle spirit that comes from deep faith in God. Jesus said, "Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS" (Mt. 11:29). Pride, the opposite of humility and gentleness, splits churches: people are rubbed the wrong way, don't feel appreciated, and then begin to grumble and complain. Paul's point is that to achieve unity, we must continually seek humility and gentleness. Next, (3) "with patience" (Gk. makrothumia) lit. long-suffering, opp. of short-tempered, describes someone rocky-steady who can endure opposition without striking out. Real patience, waiting out a situation, making yourself sit still or be quiet when necessary, is essential to unity. (4) "showing tolerance (Gk. anechomai = to endure, put up with)...with love" (Gk. agapé). People aren't perfect. They have idiosyncrasies that can be annoying at times. Why does he (or she) do that? Here it is: we can split and be alone or we can tolerate one another with love and have unity. Yes, God does change people, but we must allow Him to be the changer. Jesus accepted people, loved (agapé) them, and His love changed them.
v. 3: "being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace" - This third command contains many empowering words. (1) "being diligent" (Gk. spoudazó) lit. to be zealous, conscientious, and timely, describes making your very best effort (i.e., due diligence). (2) "to preserve" (Gk. tērein) lit. a military term to watch over something and guard it with awareness. (3) "unity" (Gk. henotēta) means being one, achieving oneness, harmony between those called out. Notice the word is "unity," not uniformity (big difference) (4) "of the Spirit" (Gk. Pneumatos), refers to the Holy Spirit that indwells believers. (5) "in the bond" (Gk. sundesmos) lit. that which binds or unites together, in harmony. (6) "of peace" (Gk. eiréné) lit. quietness, rest, and wholeness in the sense of all parts being joined together. The Holy Spirit makes it possible for all of these empowerment words to connect all of us as one unified body. But this doesn't mean that preserving unity is at all easy. It's not a one-time event but a continuing process. All of us need to be facing the same direction, faithful to the truth, and keeping the unity of the Spirit, with love above all.
TRUTH 1: To preserve the unity of the Spirit, we must understand its importance. Its importance is evident by the fact that Paul puts it first. Beyond that, we can specify three broad reasons why unity of the Spirit is of vital importance: (a) Paul suffered for it-he was willing to suffer for the truth that Gentiles were fellow members of the body of Christ because he understood that truth is tied up with God's eternal purpose of summing up all things in Christ. (b) Christ died to secure it-through the cross Christ broke down the barrier between Jews and Gentiles and brought them together in one new entity, thus establishing peace. (c) We are called unto it-on one hand, we are to walk worthy of the calling with which we've been called, namely, the Gospel that saved us and on the other hand, our godly conduct should correspond with this high calling, especially in loving behavior and attitudes that preserve the unity of the Spirit.
TRUTH 2: To preserve the unity of the Spirit, we need to live-out the personal characteristics that preserve unity. There are five characteristics we need to focus on: (a) Humility-this means being Christ-sufficient, not self sufficient. The proud person trusts in self, but the humble trusts in Jesus. (b) Gentleness-this is strength under control, a person who controls his/her temper and does not retaliate or seek revenge. (c) Patience-this is the opposite of short-tempered and describes someone who is rocky-steady under opposition, making him/herself sit quietly when needed. (d) Tolerance-this means bearing up with someone else's shortcomings or idiosyncrasies. God does change people, but we must allow Him to be the changer. (e) Love-means we must do more than just tolerate people. Jesus accepted people, loved (agapé) them, and His love changed them.
Read Eph. 4:4-6 - SEVEN BONDS OF UNITY
Note: In the next three verses, Paul will identify the seven bonds that unite us: (1)
One body; (2) One Spirit; (3) One hope; (4) One Lord; (5) One faith; (6) One baptism; and (7) One God and Father.
4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling; 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all.
v. 4: "There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling" - The key word for all seven elements is "one," which simply means we all share these things in common, every believer and every church as one. Most are self-explanatory, but let's go through them. The "body" is the church. While there are many, many churches all over this world, they all combine to form one body, which is the body of Christ. And one "Spirit," the very same Holy Spirit, indwells and empowers every believer. One "hope" means that every believer is called to share eternal life in the same eternity (there's plenty of room for everybody).
v. 5: "one Lord, one faith, one baptism" - We have one "Lord"-Jesus Christ; one "faith"-salvation by faith alone in Jesus Christ alone; and one "baptism" (by water) as the visible symbol of a believer's identification with the atoning death and resurrection of Christ. (Note: some churches differ on this doctrine-but that topic isn't included in today's lesson.)
v. 6: "one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all" - This is the key to our unity, both as individuals and churches: We believers may see some things differently, but every single one of us has the same Godly Father whom we worship and who directs our lives. The phrase, "over all and through all and all," in the original context meant Jews and Gentiles, but in our world today includes all believers everywhere in this world, whether black, brown, or white or anything in between.
TRUTH 3: While the bonds of unity between believers already exist, it requires a lot of hard work to preserve them. Harmonious relationships don't continue automatically. At some point, there will be differences and disagreements. To overcome these problems and preserve unity, we must understand how important unity is to our Lord, Jesus Christ and focus on the bonds that unite us.
Read Eph. 4:7-10 - THE GIVING OF SPIRITUAL GIFTS TO THE CHURCH
7 But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ's gift.
8 Therefore it says, "WHEN HE ASCENDED ON HIGH, HE LED CAPTIVE A HOST OF CAPTIVES, AND HE GAVE GIFTS TO MEN." 9 (Now this expression, "He ascended," what does it mean except that He also had descended into the lower parts of the earth? 10 He who descended is Himself also He who ascended far above all the heavens, so that He might fill all things.)
v. 7: "But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ's gift" - Having established the groundwork for unity, Paul changes direction to explain the diversity of the body. The "grace" given to every believer includes one or more spiritual gifts "according to the measure of Christ's gift." While categories of spiritual gifts are itemized in Rom. 12:6-8, 1 Cor. 12:8-10, and 1 Pet. 4:11, the list isn't all-inclusive. In fact, the types of gift given have so many variations that they are virtually without limit. And notice that the gifts are universal-include every believer everywhere. This idea completely went against the elitist thinking of Paul's day, where gifts and talents were considered to be something that favored educated or privileged people. The church, by contrast, is the greatest example of an equal opportunity employer-having something to do for everyone, regardless of background. Finally, notice the giver of all these myriad gifts-Christ.
v. 8: "Therefore it says, "WHEN HE ASCENDED ON HIGH, HE LED CAPTIVE A HOST OF CAPTIVES, AND HE GAVE GIFTS TO MEN" - Paul quotes Ps. 68:18 in this verse. The "it" is a reference to OT Scripture. Paul apparently assumed his audience would recognize the quote, without citing the source. The quote itself describes two actions fulfilled through Jesus: (1) The ascension. Following His ascension, the Holy Spirit came at Pentecost and gave spiritual gifts to people. (Acts 2:1-4). And (2) Jesus "gave gifts to men" (Gk. anthrōpois) lit. human beings, which includes men and women. All believers have at least one spiritual gift, some more than one; however, the focus of Paul's teaching isn't on how many gifts or even which particular gifts a person may have, but stresses that fact that Christians should do their utmost to use the gifts God has given them in order to serve and benefit others (not edify ourselves).
v. 9: " (Now this expression, "He ascended," what does it mean except that He also had descended into the lower parts of the earth?" - This difficult verse has generated two rather distinct scholarly interpretations: (1) Some cite 1 Pet. 3:19: "in which also He went and made proclamation to the spirits now in prison" - for the proposition that, following His death on the cross, Christ descended into hell, not to be tortured but to proclaim His victory on the cross. Although this understanding was incorporated into the Apostle's Creed by the established church in 390 A.D., it's still an interpretation, not a certainty. And (2) Others take the position that "descended and ascended" refers to Jesus' Incarnation (i.e., that He is fully God and fully man) and cite Phil. 2:6-8: "who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross." - for the proposition that rather than moving spatially, Jesus "descended" by humiliating Himself on the cross. The latter view seems to be favored by modern evangelical scholars.
v. 10: "He who descended is Himself also He who ascended far above all the heavens, so that He might fill all things.) - Paul continues his parenthetical side-note from v. 9. The fact that Jesus "ascended" means that He had to descend to earth first, and then return from earth to heaven. While Biblical references variously refer to "heaven" as the sky above the earth (Gen. 9:13-17) or outer space (Gen. 1:14), they most often are referring to the dwelling place of God (Ps. 102:19; Isa. 63:15; 66:1). The phrase "He ascended far above the heavens," appears to be a superlative-signifying that He is above all things-rather than a place. Paul's declaration that Christ ascended to heaven "so that He might fill all things," means He will complete them and render them perfect. In the context of the church, Paul will explain how Christ will accomplish this next week in Eph. 4:11-16.
TRUTH 4: Your spiritual gifts are important only if you use them. Whatever our individual gifts may be, God gave them to us for the purpose of serving and benefiting others rather the bringing notice to ourselves. Using our gifts is part of unity because it makes us stronger, a more powerful church.
Our Father in Heaven, we thank that we are free to assemble this morning to study and learn, and apply the truth of your Word to ourselves as members and servants of this church. We understand, Lord, that you have called us out to walk worthy of the calling with which we've been called. Please help us to shape all of our speech and actions-everything we say and do-to conform to the high calling you've given us. We know, Lord, that it takes a lot of hard word to preserve the bond of unity between us. Please help us to resolve our differences with humility, respect, kindness, patience, and above all, love, so that we will work very hard to preserve and keep the special bond of unity you've already given us. Lord, this lesson also reminds us that each of us have been gifted in a special way for the benefit of this church, and I pray that each member in this class today will use best his or her efforts to use these gifts to serve and benefit others. We ask these things in the name of Jesus Christ, and for His glory, AMEN.