2013-01-06 Christ’s Unified Body: We Are All The Same | Ephesians 4:1-6
Have you ever gone to a new school, a new job, or a new church in which you immediately felt you had nothing in common with the people there? They all seemed so different from you, they didn’t seem to understand what you were saying, and you didn’t seem to understand them. They almost seemed to be from a different planet. You may have wondered how these people could be so different from those at your old school, or job or church. After all, you only moved across town, or across the state, or across the country. It wasn’t as if you moved to another continent – but some of you may have done even that! In any case, you may have wondered how long you could stay there, how you could get along, how you could work together long-term. I felt that way for the first time on the first few days of school after we moved from Holgate to BG when I was in the 5th grade – new classmates, new teacher, new town, new everything. Some of you who are new to this church may feel this way, and some of you who have been attending here for several years or many years may still feel this way, somewhat disoriented and alone.
If you’re a Christian, at some point you’ve made such a move – literally from one kingdom to another, not physically, but spiritually. It may have been when you were very young, or may have been when you were much older. On a certain day, not by your own choice or initiative, but by God’s grace and mercy this move took place. The Bible says you moved from the state of spiritual darkness to light – “you were called out of darkness into his marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9). Your mind was enabled to see and understand God’s words and works for the first time. Also, you moved from the state of spiritual death to life – “But God, 5 “even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ…” Eph 2:4-5. You were empowered to live the kind of life that pleases God for the first time and you even wanted to do so.
Many things have changed in your life. You may still be adjusting to the move, wondering how you can live and work with Christ as your new Lord, and how you can work with and get along with the people of this new kingdom. What I would like to do over the next three weeks is to help you adjust to this new kingdom. Ephesians 4:1-16 tells us three things about this new kingdom you’ve entered into, especially about those who are fellow member with you in this kingdom: we are all the same, we are all different, and we are all dependent. This week we’ll look at how we are the same, about how much we have in common with one another in spite of our many differences.
Ephesians 4:1-6 ESV ¶ “I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called,” 2 “with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love,” 3 “eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” 4 “There is one body and one Spirit– just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call–“ 5 “one Lord, one faith, one baptism,” 6 “one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.”
We have moved from the first section of Ephesians in chapters 1-3 in which we are told what God has done in Christ on our behalf, to the second section in chapters 4-6 in which we are told what we should be and do because of what Christ has done. We have moved from exposition to exhortation, from indicative to imperative, doctrine to duty, theology to application. This is often Paul’s pattern. He moves from doctrine to practice. In Romans, chapters 1-11 are doctrinal, 12-15 are practical. In Galatians, 1-4 are doctrinal, 5-6 are practical application. In Ephesians, the split comes between chapters 3 and 4.
By doing this the Holy Spirit through Paul seeks to keep the church in balance. Some of us are more intellectual and some of us are more experiential by nature. That’s the way God made us. Therefore some of us prefer studying the doctrinal sections and some of us prefer studying the practical sections of the Bible. We are tempted to skip over the sections that don’t appeal us. Some of you would rather read and understand doctrine without putting it into practice, but that can lead to dead orthodoxy. Likewise, others of you would rather read and apply only the practical sections without studying doctrine and that can lead to all kinds of all kinds of heresies. We need both correct doctrine and practical living to be balanced in our faith. We need to give them equal weight in our lives. So those of you who love doctrine should not check out me here just because we’re getting practical. Those who love the practical have been patient for three chapters. Now it’s your turn to be patient.
Fortunately, the first six verses of this chapter give us a measure of both doctrine and application to get us started. The application comes first that says since we have a common calling we should exhibit a common conduct toward one another. The doctrine follows telling us that because there is one and only one God, there is therefore one and only one church and we share essentially the same experience as members of it. Since have the same calling we should have the same conduct. Since there is one God, we are all fellow members of his one church. Paul begins with an exhortation to live lives worthy of our calling. Verse 1, I… urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called…
We saw back in chapter one verse 3 that all Christians were chosen by God before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before him. This notion of our being called holds the two halves of verses 1-6 together here. In verse 1 he says, “you have been called,” and again in verse 4 it says, “you were called.” In verse 1 also, he says, “the calling” you received, and in verse 4, “your call” in verse 4. The point is that you all have a calling because you were called by God into this new kingdom. It is both plural – meaning you all were called, and passive – meaning you were passive in the process. God called you, you didn’t call yourselves. God took the initiative to call you by his merciful grace.
Because we have the same calling we should exhibit the same conduct. “ 2 “with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love,” 3 “eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” This is the manner of life that is worthy of our calling. These are qualities of the character of God in Christ and therefore can and should be the qualities of the character of the members of his body the church which enable us to get along with one another, to honor Christ and to show him to a watching world. . , These are included in what Paul called in Gal 5:22-3 the fruit of the Spirit. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,” 23 “gentleness, self-control…” This is what we are called to be and do. Let’s look briefly at each one.
Humility. John Stott says, “Pride lurks behind all discord.” And “maneuvering for [the] respect of others is pride.” Humility is the opposite of pride. It is refusing to insist on our rights and putting our neighbor’s interests before ours. We are to give fellow Christians respect because of their God-given worth, not because of their apparent worth to us. James Boice illustration illustration from Watchman Nee, Chinese farmer stealing water from rice fields above. Tried to be patient, not retaliate, should he confront? Xian friend said – “If we only try to do the right thing, surely we are very poor Christians…We have to do something more than what is right.” Pumped the fields below him first, then his own. Paul sums this up in Phil. 2:3 “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.” This Chinese Christian counted the man below him more significant than himself. What have you done lately that demonstrates to your fellow believers that they are worthy of your respect? How have you shown them they are more significant than yourself?
Gentleness, sometimes called meekness is not weakness, both Moses and Jesus were said to be meek or gentle, but as you know neither was weak. Jesus was both humble and gentle. Matt. 11:29 “Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” You may have a powerful or dynamic personality. Do you use it to blow your fellow believers out of the water or do you treat them in a gentle manner?
Patience. Pastor was asked by a man to pray for patience. The pastor prayed for God to bring him tribulation. We learn patience from what we suffer. Rom. 5:3 “Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance.” Remember that God puts some people in our lives to provide that tribulation which works patience. When they drive you crazy it can be God at work in you through them. Be patient.
Bearing with one another in love. John also writes, “love bears all things, endures all things…” These are the trials we have as a result of other Christians wounding us. Love endures the wrong and suffers the slight to demonstrate a way of life that is superior to the world and our unity through X.
Eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. We have been given the unity of the Spirit because we have all receive the same Spirit. However, we must eagerly maintain that unity. Our common experience of the work of the Spirit in our lives – calling, regeneration, repentance and faith, justification, adoption, sanctification and the hope of glorification gives us an intrinsic unity, like the common experience of a military unit or team imparts unity among them. We are to “eagerly” maintain that unity by continuous diligent action, to spare no effort in doing so. In the local church we should allow no festering rivalries among us. Between local churches there should be no competition or nay-saying. However, we should not sacrifice fundamental truths or doctrines to achieve union between churches. We cannot ultimately split the invisible church which is known only to God and preserved by him, but we can split the visible church. We are to maintain the unity of the visible church as much as possible by repenting and reconciling with one another. If you are a veteran member of this church, have you taken the time to get to know the newer members and attenders, or have you merely stuck with your old buddies? Not only have you greeted them after worship, but have you made room in your life for them so that they feel included in this local body of Christ. To bond is to join two or more things together, as glue joins two or more pieces of wood together. Maintaining peace through expressing love toward one another bonds us together. Col. 3:14 “And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.”
That brings us to verses 4-6. Here is the second main point. Since there is only one God, there is only one church and we are all members of it, and we all experience the same effects of the three persons of the Trinity as our salvation is accomplished through the Spirit, the Son and the Father. Paul seems to have presented these in reverse order of the Godhead because that is how we actually experience him in the outworking of our salvation.
We are members of the same body because we have the same Spirit. “ 4a “There is one body and one Spirit-…” Through the working of the one Spirit we become one body of Christ. A body, even if it has many parts, works together. The Spirit gives us the inner sense that because we are attached to the head which is Christ, we are also attached to one another as members of the body. I remember having this sense as a new Christian in college. I had the sense that my fellow Christians could understand me, and I them because of what God was doing in us by his Spirit. We had a common experience of the Spirit’s regenerating, sanctifying and persevering work in us. We felt as one even though we barely knew one another. And that is true of all Christians, in spite of cultural differences, personality differences, and differences in our gifts we are still one body of Christ through the one Spirit who works in all of us. Paul tells us elsewhere, “In Christ there is neither Jew nor Gentile, slave nor free, male nor female.”
Also, we have the same hope, faith and baptism because we have the same Lord Jesus Christ. “ 4b — just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call–“ 5 “one Lord, one faith, one baptism,” In Christ we have a common hope. Biblical hope is not just wishful thinking, but something that is certain and sure. We have the hope of the gospel according to Col 1:23 “not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard.” We have the hope of glory Col. 1:27 “To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.” And we have the hope through the resurrection, 1 Pet. 1:3 we are ” born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. ” In Christ we have a common faith. The content of our faith is the gospel, the good news of Christ’s coming to accomplish salvation through his life, death and resurrection. In Christ we have a common baptism – not the mode of baptism but what it signifies, our identification with Christ’s life death and resurrection.
Finally, we are members of the same family because we have the same God and Father. 6 “one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” In one sense God is the father of all living as the creator, but God is particularly the father of all believers because he is the source of all the causes and effects of salvation. He is, as 1:3 says, “the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us before the foundation of the world…”
Here’s the bottom line. As a local church, I want us to take the next step forward together by recognizing what we have in common and to celebrate those commonalities in spite of our differences. I want us to be able to say and believe in our hearts, “We’re all in this together for better or worse,” like a husband and wife setting out on a new marriage who believe God has called them together in spite of their differences who become bonded together over time by their common values and shared experiences. Likewise, I want us to be able to say and believe, “We’re all in this together win or lose,” like soldiers who are called up to serve together in wartime, who are bonded together in spite of their differences by their common national values and even their common suffering. I want us to be able to say and believe, “we’re in this together” as Christ’s one church, which can never be ultimately divided, because we are called into a common experience of salvation in its many effects by the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. James Boice puts it this way, “Whatever else you may say about the church, the church is God’s church, it is composed of God’s people, it is the result of God’s work and it exists for God’s glory. Let that be our vision!!!”