Translations: Chinese GB Big5

Ephesians 4:1-4:16 (web)

Living in Unity Appreciating Diversity

4:1 I therefore, the prisoner in the Lord,
beg you to walk worthily of the calling with which you were called,
4:2 with all lowliness and humility, with patience, bearing with one another in love;
4:3 being eager to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
4:4 There is one body, and one Spirit,
even as you also were called in one hope of your calling;
4:5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism,
4:6 one God and Father of all, who is over all, and through all, and in us all.
4:7 But to each one of us was the grace given according to the measure of the gift of Christ.
4:8 Therefore he says, "When he ascended on high,
he led captivity captive, and gave gifts to men." (Ps 68:18)
4:9 Now this, "He ascended,"
what is it but that he also first descended into the lower parts of the earth?
4:10 He who descended is the one who also ascended far above all the heavens,
that he might fill all things.
4:11 He gave
some to be apostles; and
some, prophets; and
some, evangelists; and
some, shepherds {or "pastors."} and teachers;
4:12 for the perfecting of the saints,
to the work of serving,
to the building up of the body of Christ;
4:13 until we all attain to the unity
of the faith, and
of the knowledge of the Son of God,
to a full grown man,
to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ;
4:14 that we may no longer be children,
tossed back and forth and carried about with every wind of doctrine,
by the trickery of men, in craftiness, after the wiles of error;
4:15 but speaking truth in love, we may grow up in all things into him, who is the head, Christ;
4:16 from whom all the body,
being fitted and knit together through that which every joint supplies,
according to the working in measure of each individual part,
makes the body increase to the building up of itself in love.

Discussion Questions

Observation

Major themes: UNITY, DIVERSITY, MATURITY
How are these themes related in this section?
Why did God provide a diversity of gifts?

Interpretation

Upon what basis should Christians be united?
Or in what things should Christians have unity?
Are there legitimate basis for not being united with other Christians?
In what things should Christians have diversity?
Does every Christian have a purpose in the body of Christ?
Considering the roles of apostles, prophets, evangualists, pastors and teachers, how does the church benefit from each of these and how would it be detrimental if any of these were lacking?
What are signs of immaturity within the body of believers?

Application

Do you have a spiritual gift? And what is it's purpose?
As a Christian, has God given you a ministry? Are you prepared for such?
How might you benefit by the spiritual gifts of others in your group?


Comments

Overview

Biblical Unity among the Christian community can only really be achieved through Maturity.

Walking (or "living") worthy of the calling is a rare thing.. Paul is using the aorist tense, which is the snapshot tense. From time to time Christians may manage to walk worthy of the calling. But he is not speaking of earning or maintaining one's salvation status. But rather exhorting the saved to behave appropriately. For although we are freely given the title of children of God, who really lives a life worthy of such a title? This sense of walking can be contrasted with the next section in verse 17 which speaks of walking in the present continuous lifestyle sense, in which he speaks of Christians not living a lifestyle like the rest of those in their ethnic group.

Christians are called to be children of God and so they should behave appropriately. Living in a family with brothers and sisters there inevitably arises conflicts due to the diversity of needs and diversity of maturity in the family. (See also the web page on An Exhortation on Christian Unity) Generally the immature in the family have the greatest needs and thus the parent's sacrifice of their time and efforts is often inversely proportional to the maturity of those on whose behalf they are making such efforts. There are of course times in which even the mature will get injured or sick and require special attention. However as members of the family mature, they generally become more independent and thus less of a burden and ultimately ready to start a family of their own.

The Unity of the Spirit is that sense in which Christians are united in a common family - the family of God. But as in all families, conflicts can arise. The history of post-Biblical Christianity is filled with examples of how not to handle such conflicts. Take for example the attitudes during the Reformation.

Reformers took infant baptism very seriously, even though the Bible speaks nothing of it. At the time the Menonites and early Baptist thinkers believed that infant baptism was not the type the Bible spoke of, but rather that baptism should following putting faith in Christ. Thus they believed, correctly I might add, that adults should be rebaptized as believers. But they were in the minority as the church had been previously dominated by Catholic theology. Now this seems like a minor difference of opinion that surely could be tolerated, as each follows his own conscience in the matter. And I'm sure if the reformers matured in their faith they would come to the same conclusion as the anabaptists. But instead the reformers set about to persecute and even murder the anabaptists.

Similarly even in the Reformed camp, the Lutherans and Calvinists divided. And what did they divide over? They divided over how one should think about the communion service. The Calvinists thought of it more symbolically, while the Lutherans more substantively. Zwingli had heated debates with Luther over this leading to the split. But surely there could be some toleration over such a minor issue. But not among the immature!

There is a great deal of immaturity in the modern era of Christianity as well.

The perspective mature Christians should have towards such conflicts is to help other Christians grow in maturity of their faith. Yes there are times when division is called for and when the beliefs and practices of other Christians should not be endured. But one should do all things out of the spirit of edification. In 1Corinthians 5 and 6, Paul speaks of it being the Christian's responsibility to judge other Christians in essential matters and even himself disfellowshipped a Christian practicing sin in that section. However, even in matters of which the Bible is explicit on or strongly implies, there should be some tolerance for diversity so as to allow time for the maturity of the believers. One does not make the same demands of young children as one does of older ones. It is only in extreme cases of deviant doctrine or deviant behavior when such disfellowship should be applied. In Romans 14 and Colossians 2:16 he speaks of not judging when it comes to non-essential matters, but forebearing in love.

Having an attitude looking to the edification of others takes humility. The proud tend to be either unduly divisive or apathetic, not really caring about the maturing of others, but are only concerned for themselves. And similarly we've seen how violent immature Christians in the reformation behaved, contrary to the gentleness of mature Christians. Parenting takes patience. Children don't grow up over night. It takes time.



A Worthy Life

Eph 4:1-2 "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."

You'll either live a worldly life or a worthy life. But what kind of lifestyle is worthy of the calling? A lifestyle which reflects that of Jesus Christ. "Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death— even death on a cross!" Php 2:6-8 Don't seek to make a name for yourself. Rather to seek to serve God and his people.

Likewise Christ was patient. The particular word for patient here ("makrothumia") means the self restraint which does not hastily retaliate a wrong. "For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself" Heb 12:3 "When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats." 1Pet 2:23 This is one of the characteristics of meekness.

And thirdly is to the endure through all the difficulties associated with loving one another. Many Christian are like "fair weather" friends, but true love is shown by how one responds to difficulties. It says, "A friend loves at all times, And a brother is born for adversity." Pr 17:17  Like under what conditions would you abandon your Christian friends - as in leaving church for another church? True- many Christians may be difficult to get along with. The word "bearing" ("anechomai") literally means to put up with, such as Jesus even said of a man struggling with his faith."O unbelieving and perverse generation," Jesus replied, "how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up ("anechomai") with you?" Mt 17:17 So "bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you." Col 3:13



Spiritual Unity

Eph 4:3-6  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.

Realize that the call to the unity of the Spirit is not a call to an allegiance to particular institutions or denominations. For there is but one body of genuine believers. And no institution nor denomination can claim that they fully encompass all true believers, nor can they even claim with certainty that all their members are genuine believers. In vain does Catholicism make such a claim, reckoning non-Catholic believers in Christ as condemned. In vain does the Church of Christ reckon that its baptism is the only legitimate baptism. For there is but one legitimate baptism - that which all genuine believers have partaken regardless of denomination.

But Paul is not calling for ecumenicalism whereby Biblical beliefs are cast aside for the sake of superficial unity. He is not calling for Christians to cast aside unity of the Spirit for the sake of unity in the flesh. Forms and rituals are secondary. Unity is with regards to the realm of ideas and only secondarily to the application of those ideas.

1Cor 1:10 "I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought."

See also An Exhortation on Christian Unity



Diversity of Gifts

Eph 4:7  But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.

Though there is to be unity of Spirit, there is also to be by God's design a diversity of gifts.

"Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good." 1Cor 12:7  "All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he gives them to each one, just as he determines." 1Cor 12:11

For example the gifts I've been exercising here are those of teaching and prophecy. By "prophecy" I'm referring to the speaking forth the scriptures inferring applications. Each Christian has giftedness, not determined by their own will, nor by that of any other person, but as the Holy Spirit has determined. For God did not want us to be the same in every aspect. God is not that boring. Just look at the diversity of nature.

The world gets it backwards where they preach diversity where there should be unity; and unity where God calls for diversity. Immature Christians likewise confuse the two.



The Lord Ascended to Give Gifts

Eph 4:8-10 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.)

Paul quotes Ps 68:18 though most translations render it "received gifts from men." John Gill notes that the Hebrew word signifies to give and to receive, and in fact in 25 cases in the Bible the AV translates the word as "bring". Also the Syriac version of Paul's day renders that phrase in Ps 68:18 "and hast given gifts to the children of men". In fact Ps 68 ends "the God of Israel gives power and strength to his people. Praise be to God!"

Another interesting fact about this quote in view of the context of Ps 68 is that it affirms the Biblical doctrine of the deity of Christ. For who is the "he" that Psalm 68:18 is referring. The end of Ps 68:17 says,  "The chariots of God are tens of thousands and thousands of thousands; the Lord has come from Sinai into his sanctuary." And Ps 68:19 "Praise be to the Lord, to God our Savior, who daily bears our burdens." Paul is saying that the Lord God our Savior whom the Psalmist refers to is the Lord Jesus Christ.

Jesus himself said, "I am the living bread that came down from heaven." John 6:51 And when he rose from the dead he told his apostles, "Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised" Acts 1:4 and "you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth." After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight. Acts 1:8,9 And on the day they received the gift Peter preached to the crowd saying, "Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit." Acts 2:38



Gifts of Ministry Positions

Eph 4:11 It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers

This is certainly not a comprehensive list of spiritual gifts. There are a number of lists given in the New Testament others being Romans 12:3-8 and 1Cor 12:8-10, none of which are comprehensive. But what is unique about this list is that it focusses on ministry positions. The apostles are the initiators. The word "apostle" literally means "sent one", and today may be applied to church planters - one's who initiate or found an assembly of believers. Prophets are those who speak out what the Bible says. Evangelists are those who spread the gospel. As for "pastors and teachers", the text seems to link these together in that the other categories are separated by the Greek word "de" (translated "and", but with a sense of contrast), where as pastors and teachers are linked with "kai" (which is "and" without the sense of contrast)

Indeed a good pastor must be a good teacher. "Pastor" is literally the word "shepherd". He is one who oversees the flock - the local assembly of believers. A teacher is one who explains the Word of God. However for many churches today that have a person with the title "pastor", though they preach once a week, they generally don't oversee much more than institutional matters and are relatively unaware of the actual condition of their flock, seeing as little conversation actually goes much on beyond the standard lecture format. This is partly the fault of the institutional leadership and partly of the congregation not desiring to be overseen.

Fortunately Christ builds his church despite institutional hinderances. Indeed those who play these roles in the Body of Christ might not be doing so in an institutionally official capacity. So feel free to exercise your gifts along these lines regardless of whether or not you have the endorsement of institutional leadership to do so.



The Purpose of the Gifts

Eph 4:12-13 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.

Spiritual gifts have been given in order to bring the body of Christ to maturity. We must focus outwardly with our gifts, ministering to others with their edification in mind. Maturity is the goal, Unity is an effect as are Works of Service, and the Diversity of Spiritual gifts are the means. But each must be allowed to exercise their gifts.

Unfortunately Institutional Christianity has historically drastically limited the activities of the congregation resulting in the suppression of spiritual maturity, resulting also in disunity. Institutions have made attempts to create a sense of unity while suppressing maturity, but such unity is often shallow. Many congregations are gagged. They go to church, sing some songs, listen to a lecture and go home, seldom being allowed to expressed their opinions or talk to one another about spiritual things outside of a controlled environment. And God forbid they should criticize the pastor's sermon!

Such institutional philosophy and practices do little to edify the body of Christ. Consider this chapter. It is written that each person is given giftedness to contribute to the edification of all. And that the goal is to prepare God's people for works of service, which is the practice of the mature Christian. But what we find in institutional Christianity today is an elitist mentality in which a few are allowed to speak and minister while the others are treated like a bunch of stupid sheep. And why is it so typical that when professional ministers think of "works of service" about all they can envision their stupid sheep being capable of is setting up chairs and the like? But congregations are also willing accomplices in this charade of institutional church life. For while having great potential for doing great things for God, they are lulled into laziness and purposely remain immature so as to avoid responsibility, being content with being treated as stupid sheep. This is a sorry state of affairs.

Christians do not have the option to enter "The Ministry". Each Christian is already in "The Ministry". Though the institutionally elite may tell you otherwise.



Gullible Children

Eph 4:14 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.

Immature Christians have characteristically been swayed by all kinds of strange doctrine. It's because like children they are led astray because they are not familar enough with the truth and have not trained themselves through study and experience to distinguish between good and evil.

"Solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil." Heb 5:14

Don't be gullible like children. Don't believe everything you hear. Be like the Bereans who were honored for scrutinizing even the apostle Paul's message. "Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true." Acts 17:11



Doing your part

Eph 4:15,16  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.

Speaking the truth is often categorized as hatred by those offended by it. Much of what Jesus said was offensive though it was intended for the edification of his audience. He said to his unbelieving brothers, "The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify that what it does is evil." John 7:7 And much as "love" today is measured by how good it makes the audience feel, speaking lies is never done in love. Lies never really edify. "Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses." Pr 27:6

But of course for those receptive to the truth there are many encouraging and instructive words the Bible offers. Christ is the model of maturity and the head of the body of believers. But to accomplish the mission each Christian must do their part. For "he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again." 2Cor 5:15 What is your part? And how might other Christians help you to gain experience and effectiveness in carrying out your duty to Christ? We're all in this together.


The Berean Christian Bible Study Resources


Jul 29,2015