Summary: In Ephesians, Paul lays out for us the key ingredients and foundational building blocks for a healthy body (church) life together.
Probably everyone who has ever looked at the back of a cereal box can at least recognize that familiar black triangle known as the Food Pyramid. You may not know that this dietary guideline was first published by the government in the 1960’s.
It started with the Basic Four (milk, meats, fruit and vegetables, and grain products). In the late 1970’s , the US Department of Agriculture added a fifth category to the Basic Four: fats, sweets and alcoholic beverages—which they advised people to consume in moderation.
It has not been updated for over 10 years, but recent news suggests that a new guideline will be published in the next year that will distinguish between bad fats-- like trans fatty acids in things such as potato chips-- and good fats-- like the omega-3 fatty acids in fish products, like salmon. (Online sources: http://iml.jou.ufl.edu/projects/Fall02/Greene/history.htm ~http://washingtontimes.com/national/20030528-102555-3130r.htm) The basic concept behind all of this is simple: The Food Pyramid reminds us of the crucial raw materials that our bodies need to thrive.
The problem is that so many books and diets out there that claim to tell you exactly how many of each food group you need. Sometimes these experts are at complete odds with one another. Some health gurus say, “Stay away from red meat and eggs,” while others (like the Adkins diet) tell you to eat lots of meat and stay away from the grains. These days, it is hard to know who to believe.
Perhaps, Mark Twain was right when he quipped, “Be careful about reading health books. You may die of a misprint.”
Today, I want to think with you about the Building Blocks for a Healthy Body. Did you know that the Bible gives us recommendations for a healthy body?
We have seen that in Ephesians, Paul describes the church as the body of Christ—in fact 11 eleven times he uses this image (Eph. 1:23, 2:16; 3:6; 4:4, 12, 16, 25; 5:23, 29, 30).
Likewise, the spiritual body of Christ needs some crucial building blocks to be healthy. In this letter, Paul describes the spiritual building blocks for a thriving church family. If you will allow me to use the analogy of a food pyramid, I want to consider with you what are the essential building blocks for the body of Christ to thrive.
(THE FOLLOWING POINTS ARE ORGANIZED IN THE FORM OF A PYRAMID JUST LIKE THE FOOD PYRAMID.)
I. Demonstrating HOLY love (4:1-2)
In 4:1-2, Paul describes the foundation building blocks as holy love.
The German philosopher Schopenhauer compared the human race to a bunch of porcupines huddling together on a cold winter’s night.
He said, “The colder it gets outside, the more we huddle together for warmth; but the closer we get to one another, the more we hurt one another with our sharp quills. And in the lonely night of earth’s winter eventually we begin to drift apart and wander out on our own and freeze to death in our loneliness.” (Source: Porcupines accessed at http://bible.org/illus/u-v/u-v-18.htm#TopOfPage)
The answer to the problem of getting along is HOLY LOVE.
4:1 HOLY: “to live a life worthy of the calling you have received…
4:2 LOVE: “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.”
II. Maintaining UNITY in essentials (4:3-7)
The next building block for a healthy church (found in verses 3-7) is … UNITY.
A. Two Important Reminders About Unity in the Church…
1. In Essentials… Unity; in non-essentials… Charity…
a. What are the essentials? Paul lists them in verses 4-7: There is one body and one Spirit-- just as you were called to one hope when you were called-- 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.
b. Essentials: doctrine, & morality
c. What are non-essentials? Things which are not essential to our salvation and our life together. Non-Essentials: preferences, likes-and-dislikes
2. Unity is NOT Uniformity
a. We can remain united even if we do not always think alike, look alike, feel alike and act alike.
b. Genuine differences in the body of Christ can even be beneficial as long as they are not occasions for fractures and clichés.
III. Serving one another with our spiritual GIFTS (4:8-13)
IV. Keep BUILDING-up one another (4:12b-16)
· The first four building blocks primarily have an INWARD FOCUS
· The last two building blocks primarily have an OUTWARD FOCUS
V. Having a CHRIST- centered mentality (4:15b-16; cf. 2:14-22)
VI. Keep REACHING-out (3:1-13, especially 3:10)
According to an Our Daily Bread from a few years back, the people of Grand Forks, North Dakota, in April of 1997 had little comfort. Eight blizzards, an ice storm, spring rains, and an early thaw had transformed their comfortable homes, schools, stores, and churches into a world of water. Hal Olsen, the disaster relief coordinator for International Aid, immediately arranged to "flood" the area with eight truckloads of life-sustaining supplies and gospel tracts. They were distributed by churches in the region. One man was deeply affected by this help. He had been very hostile to a church across the street from his house and had even tried to block it from being built in his neighborhood. But when he saw how that church responded to people in need, he said tearfully, "Now I’ve seen the church outside its walls."