Studies in Ephesians. Presentation 08. The Structure of the Book. Be what you are in Christ. See what you are in Christ. Chap 4-6. Chap 1-3. Doctrine Truth. Application. The Preservation of Unity Chap 4 v1-6. Introduction.
Be what you are in Christ
See what you are in Christ
Chap 4 v1-6
The apostolic method of instruction is both spiritually and psychologically sound.
First, Paul teaches, then he prays for enlightenment, then he exhorts. If we exhort without teaching, our hearers cry, "How can we live like that?" They are unaware of the resources available to them. If we teach and exhort without praying for enlightenment our hearers cry, “We do not understand what you are saying.” Paul has both taught and prayed and not he proceeds with exhortation.
1. In 4 v1-8 An Appeal for Christian Unity
2. In 4 v9-16 Recognising Diversity within Unity
Where would you begin if you wanted to exhort Christians towards unity?
In order to answer that question meet the McTavish family. Family life was not all that it should have been discord and division was their daily experience and so in a family meeting the children asked, “How can we make ourselves a family?”
But does what they wear or do together make them a family?
2. The Inward Dimension
This really involves how we see ourselves.
Great men never think they are great. Small
men never think they are small. Humility involves
having a true estimation of ourselves and for that we
need knowledge of our sin and God's grace. If our humility is not unconscious it is exhibitionism. Like the Christian who wrote the book entitled “Humility and how I achieved it”.
3. The Outward Dimension
Pride hides behind all disunity. Who are the people we get on well with and feel at ease with? Often those, who give us the respect we consider we deserve. The people we instantly dislike are those who treat us dismissively. But if we give such people our respect and recognise their value to God we will promote harmony in the church.
The Greek word ‘meekness’ was used to describe domesticated animals. Not ‘weakness’ but the gentleness of the strong. It is strength under control. Jesus identifies this characteristic in his own life.
"Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle/meek and humble in heart and you will find rest for your souls”. Matt.11.29
Jesus, like a yoked oxen, displayed strength under control. The meek will not demand his rights but choose to bear wrong rather than inflict it.
Don't have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments… the Lord's servant must not quarrel; instead, he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. 2Tim.2.23-24
There will be people, who will not agree with you;
do not be annoyed by them. Don't fight with them rather find attractive ways to present the truth to them; try to win them.
It is the quality which we most need when it is exhausted! The word used carries the meaning of being long-suffering towards aggravating people. It means suffering for a long time the attitudes and behaviour of others. Not being a jack in the box but holding oneself in control; not giving in to the temptation to humiliate the one you find aggravating.
It is said that God puts at least one aggravating person in each congregation to help us learn patience. All of us have aspects in our characters that are at times difficult for others to cope with. The man who is impatient with weakness in others has never looked in a mirror.
What can help us in the development of patience?
Think of how infinitely patient God is in his dealings
This quality is closely linked to patience. It describes a willingness to carry someone who is weak or wounded. It is possible to give the outward impression of being patient with a difficult person but often we are seething inside.
But forbearance includes a positive, outgoing, caring and supportive attitude.
It involves trying to understand them, giving them
the benefit of the doubt. They may be irritable
because of the pressures of life, illness, anxiety etc.
Perhaps they have not had the same exposure to God's Word or the benefit of the Spirit’s enlightening work that you have. Do not dismiss such a person. Be forbearing!
Love is the final quality, which holds all the other qualities together.
If we truly love someone, we will be humble, meek, patient, and forbearing. This is often seen in the parent/child relationship.
Example: a father throws his child into the air, or blows a stream of bubbles and the child cries out , “Do it again daddy”,
and again, and again, and again.
Does the loving father say, “I can’t be bothered; don’t annoy me?”
No! Of course not for he loves his child and does not quickly tire of bringing pleasure to their life.
One of the best definitions of love operating in human relationships is found in 1 Cor.13.4-7 “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”
If you ask a five year old child to build a computer, construct a house, or assemble a car there is only one answer. “It is impossible.”
God does not ask the impossible of us. He does not say, “I want you to work hard at creating unity”. Why? Not only because it is impossible but because he has already created it in Christ. We are asked to
maintain, look after what he has created.
A child can look after, a computer, or a
house. He may try to wash the wheels
of your car because these things are
So too, preserving unity is not impossible for
us. In v3 we read 'keep the unity', the continuous tense is used.
Why? Because we are to be alert daily to this requirement.
We have not to be complacent about this important matter.
There are a number of misconceptions of what church unity really is.
In these verses we discover the repetition of the word “one”. It occurs 7 times. Paul points out the relationship between the unity of the church and the unity of the Godhead.
1. one Father creates the one family.
2. the one Lord Jesus creates the one faith, hope and baptism.
3. the one Spirit creates the one body.
What is Paul’s purpose? To show there is no discord in the Trinity.
But neither is there uniformity. Each person in the Godhead remains distinct. The Trinity reflects a unity of purpose
and at the same time a diversity
Unity of purpose
Diversity of function
The Economic Trinity
Paul is also teaching that the Godhead is the very source from which our unity is derived. Unity is the result of our having been made one
with Christ, through being in Christ, through knowing Christ as Saviour and Lord. N.b.
“My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me”. Jn.17.20-21
Notice that Jesus recognised that the unity of the church would have an evangelistic impact on the unbelieving world: “so that the world may believe that you have sent me”
There is only one body because there is only one Holy Spirit. The body of Christ is the church. Its unity is produced by the Holy Spirit who indwells and animates it. The unity of the body of Christ is organic and spiritual, like the limbs of a body. They are not mechanical, like the parts of a machine. There is only one body because there is only one God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The unity of the church is as indestructible as the unity of God himself.
To do harm to a Christian is to harm
the body of Christ and indeed to harm
“Saul, Saul why do you persecute me.” Acts 9.4
Martin Luther used a graphic illustration. ‘Division in the church is like pulling the body of Christ apart...’ You may think that Christians have been pretty successful in doing the thing we are told we cannot do -divide the church.
Paul knows that the church’s
visible appearance can
contradict the invisible reality
- one body- hence his
exhortation to preserve unity.
If family members fall out and stop speaking, if they emigrate and don't write, if they change their name etc, as far as the outside observer is concerned they do not appear to belong to one another. But their behaviour is simply contradicting what is true of their relationship.
Whatever our natural differences as Christians, we are united by a glorious hope and common goal, the sure and certain hope of eternal life. Why in this context does Paul remind us to look forward to this hope? Because when we look backwards we are reminded of all the old divisions, distinctions and animosities. Our focus should be upon where we are going.
Philip Henry a Christian minister of lowly origins fell in love with a girl of rich parentage. On learning of this love interest, the girl's father asked her, "Where has he come from?" to which she gave a famous reply,
"I do not know where he has come from but I know where he is going."
It is doctrinal truth Paul has in mind. What Jude describes as, "the faith once delivered to the saints". Biblical doctrine is the basis of unity.
The scandal in the church is not the many denominations but the many different gospels that are being preached, not secondary issues but matters that influence a person’s salvation. See what Paul has to say...
“I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned!” Gal.1. 6-8
Any gospel that teaches anything other than “justification by faith” and suggests that the work of Jesus on the cross needs to be added to by human effort or by particular religious rites is not an authentic gospel.
Many religious cults like the Jehovah Witnesses teach that:
Salvation = Jesus’ death on the cross + human effort
That is like saying that the quality of gold can be improved by mixing it with lead!
It is not the mode of baptism, which is in view here, but the baptising work of the Holy Spirit.
“The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ. For we were all baptized byone Spirit into one body - whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free - and we were all given the one Spirit to drink”. 1Cor.12.12-13
It is the work of the Holy Spirit to incorporate us or unite us to Christ, making us spiritually alive with him. This work is invisible. While his breath is not seen the effects of it are. cf Jn 3.8
Knowing God as Father here means more than, God being the Father of all created things. Fatherhood is understood in this way in 3.14-15
“I kneel before the Father, from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name”.
But God is the Father of believing men and women in a very particular sense. They are his not just through creation but through redemption.
As the adopted children of God, we are twice his. cf John 1.12.
God is Father to all who belong to the family of faith and as such he exercises control over all things for his children, he blesses us ‘through’ Jesus Christ and he is ‘in all’ in the sense that he draws us close to his heart by his Spirit.
All three persons of the Godhead are at work in salvation and display unity in diversity. This characteristic should be found in the church.