Ephesians 4 - Unity Of The Faith

INTRODUCTION: Paul appealed to the saints at Ephesus to live out the new life they have in Christ, and to forsake old ways that were part of their former separation from the Kingdom of God. He wanted them to renew their minds so they would be guided by the Spirit which had sealed them unto the day of redemption. Having a strong unity in the body of Christ here on earth would bring glory to God for his grace and mercy to them.

NOTE: All Bible passages are taken from the 1901 American Standard Version.


A - WALK WORTHILY OF YOUR CALLING

Ephesians 4 "1 I therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, beseech you to walk worthily of the calling wherewith ye were called, 2 with all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; 3 giving diligence to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace."

COMMENTS: Paul reminded the believers at Ephesus that he considered himself to be a prisoner in the Lord while he was in the custody of the civil government because he knew that they had received grace through the message of Christ. He strongly encouraged them to be humble and gentle, and to patiently accept each other in their daily living because that was part of their calling to be diligent to show unity in the Spirit and to maintain love within the church through the peace that was their bond with each other.


B - CHRIST ASCENDED THAT HE MIGHT FILL ALL THINGS

Ephesians 4 "4 [There is] one body, and one Spirit, even as also ye 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. 7 But unto each one of us was the grace given according to the measure of the gift of Christ. 8 Wherefore he saith, When he ascended on high, he led captivity captive, And gave gifts unto men. 9 (Now this, He ascended, what is it but that he also descended into the lower parts of the earth? 10 He that descended is the same also that ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things.)"

COMMENTS: Paul described the ways in which believers are one in God through the Spirit for one hope by one faith which should provide unity within every group of saints. Paul also wrote that there is given to each individual believer a gift of grace according to the measure determined by Christ. Paul used a quotation in scripture to verify his statement about gifts, but he did not provide the source, or a very detailed explanation of that reference. All people are captive to sin and death, and Christ led believers by grace through faith, out of the captivity when he ascended back into heaven having purchased the believer's salvation. The reference seems to be from the Psalms, and the difference in wording in this translation can be understood to express the same truth which was often veiled to religious leaders who trusted in their own works. Psalms 68 "18 Thou hast ascended on high, thou hast led away captives; Thou hast received gifts among men, Yea, [among] the rebellious also, that Jehovah God might dwell [with them]. 19 Blessed be the Lord, who daily beareth our burden, Even the God who is our salvation. Selah." Paul said the one who ascended had first descended into the earth after giving himself as a sacrifice for those who would believe in him. But Christ then ascended after conquering death he ascended far above the heavens in order to fill all things. Paul wrote a reminder of that same gospel message to another group of believers of Christ's death, burial, and resurrection. 1 Corinthians 15 "1 Now I make known unto you brethren, the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye received, wherein also ye stand, 2 by which also ye are saved, if ye hold fast the word which I preached unto you, except ye believed in vain. 3 For I delivered unto you first of all that which also I received: that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; 4 and that he was buried; and that he hath been raised on the third day according to the scriptures."


C - GIFTS WERE GIVEN FOR THE UNITY OF THE FAITH

Ephesians 4 "11 And he gave some [to be] apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; 12 for the perfecting of the saints, unto the work of ministering, unto the building up of the body of Christ: 13 till we all attain unto the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a fullgrown man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: 14 that we may be no longer children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, in craftiness, after the wiles of error; 15 but speaking truth in love, we may grow up in all things into him, who is the head, [even] Christ; 16 from whom all the body fitly framed and knit together through that which every joint supplieth, according to the working in [due] measure of each several part, maketh the increase of the body unto the building up of itself in love."

COMMENTS: Paul listed some of the leadership positions within the body, beginning with prophets and apostles, who had received their gifts from the Lord to guide all the saints to be more complete in their various ways of ministering to build up the body of Christ. All of the individual functions could bring about unity in the faith with more knowledge about the Son of God, to achieve a maturity of the full measure that Christ can provide. This would make it less likely that errant teaching could lead believers astray through the cunning deceit of those who only profess to believe in God. Speaking truth in love is the way that maturity in Christ will grow, into full realization that he is the head of the body of believers. Through him alone all of the various parts of the body fit together according to his harmonious design. He then works through each of the various parts to an increase of the whole body being built up in love.


D - BE RENEWED IN THE SPIRIT OF YOUR MIND

Ephesians 4 "17 This I say therefore, and testify in the Lord, that ye no longer walk as the Gentiles also walk, in the vanity of their mind, 18 being darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardening of their heart; 19 who being past feeling gave themselves up to lasciviousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness. 20 But ye did not so learn Christ; 21 if so be that ye heard him, and were taught in him, even as truth is in Jesus: 22 that ye put away, as concerning your former manner of life, the old man, that waxeth corrupt after the lusts of deceit; 23 and that ye be renewed in the spirit of your mind, 24 and put on the new man, that after God hath been created in righteousness and holiness of truth."

COMMENTS: Because of the foregoing points, Paul affirmed in the Lord that the Ephesians needed to be sure not to live in the manner of unconverted Gentiles. They should avoid the vane way of thinking as those who are without the light of truth and are separated from life which is in God because their hearts are hardened. Such people practiced lustful and lewd sensualities without shame and continually desire more of the same. That is not the way of those who have learned of Christ and have accepted the teaching about the truth found in Jesus. Paul directed the believers that they need to put away those things that are part of the former manner of life, which can cause corruption in their character through the deceit of lustful sin. They should seek to be renewed in their way of thinking by the new creation they have become through Christ to have the righteousness in the holiness of truth. Paul had written a similar message in an earlier letter to another body of believers. Romans 12 "2 And be not fashioned according to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God."


E - DO NOT GRIEVE THE HOLY SPIRIT OF GOD

Ephesians 4 "25 Wherefore, putting away falsehood, speak ye truth each one with his neighbor: for we are members one of another. 26 Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath: 27 neither give place to the devil. 28 Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labor, working with his hands the thing that is good, that he may have whereof to give to him that hath need. 29 Let no corrupt speech proceed out of your mouth, but such as is good for edifying as the need may be, that it may give grace to them that hear. 30 And grieve not the Holy Spirit of God, in whom ye were sealed unto the day of redemption. 31 Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamor, and railing, be put away from you, with all malice: 32 and be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving each other, even as God also in Christ forgave you."

COMMENTS: Paul continued to give some important distinctions that should be part of the Christian life. Do not use lies but speak only the truth to each other since all are part of the same body. If someone becomes angry, they should not allow it to lead them to sin, and they should not hold onto it overnight. Consider that the devil could begin to use unresolved anger to the detriment of all involved. Let anyone who has been a thief abandon that practice and instead work honestly for his own provision and to be able to help those who have needs. Don't use unwholesome or harmful words, but rather use gracious speech that will benefit others who hear you. As we consider these things offered by Paul, we need to realize that a primary goal for each Christian is that we not grieve the Holy Spirit of God who has sealed us to be kept for the day of redemption of our souls.

This next passage from one of the gospel records describes Jesus when he was both angry and grieved. Mark 3 "1 And he entered again into the synagogue; and there was a man there who had his hand withered. 2 And they watched him, whether he would heal him on the sabbath day; that they might accuse him. 3 And he saith unto the man that had his hand withered, Stand forth. 4 And he saith unto them, Is it lawful on the sabbath day to do good, or to do harm? to save a life, or to kill? But they held their peace. 5 And when he had looked round about on them with anger, being grieved at the hardening of their heart, he saith unto the man, Stretch forth thy hand. And he stretched it forth; and his hand was restored." Jesus had the emotion of anger and was also grieved because the people there hardened their hearts to believe that the law would not even allow a work of mercy to be done on the sabbath day. Though emotions are part of human nature, Christians need to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit within in order to strive to avoid bitter feelings, outbursts of anger, loud quarreling, nasty remarks, and unkind actions that grieve the Spirit when they are the mark of a hardened heart. Paul encouraged the believers instead to be kind to each other, having a tender heart, desiring to forgive as they remembered how much God in Christ had forgiven them. Another of Paul's letters has a very similar message. Colossians 3 "13 forbearing one another, and forgiving each other, if any man have a complaint against any; even as the Lord forgave you, so also do ye: 14 and above all these things [put on] love, which is the bond of perfectness."

--- REFLECTIONS IN PRAYER ---

Lord, I want to be humble and gentle, and to patiently accept other believers with a diligence that will show unity in the Spirit and will maintain love within your church. I believe your grace has given us the bond of peace that should transcend any turmoil that is part of the fallen world. Lord Jesus, you provided the perfect sacrifice to cover our sin, and then you ascended back to heaven to fill all things that you had predetermined according to your purpose. You gave various gifts by your Spirit in different measure to believers so they would complement each other to form a masterpiece of the unity of the faith that would bring all glory to your name, and provide truth from your Word to counteract false teaching. . Thank you, Lord, that you have made possible the renewing of the mind while we wait for the renewing into a spiritual body when you call us to heaven to be with you forever. Help me Lord, to abandon the things that grieve your Holy Spirit that has sealed me unto the day of redemption. Amen.

Published 15 April 2015