Summary: Unity in the church
May 23, 2010
This morning we’re back in Ephesians at the fourth chapter. The first three chapters are about the believer’s calling to salvation; these next three are about our sanctification.
We’ve already read about our heavenly blessings; now it’s time to read about our earthly conduct.
How should believers act within the church?
We’re going to read together that we are to “lay aside the old self” (4:22) and be “imitators of God” (5:1) and “be subject to one another” (5:21). We are to “stand firm” (6:14) against the devil and his schemes because we are the Bride of Christ which has been sanctified and cleansed waiting to be presented without spot or blemish (5:25-32).
So, it’s within this context, the context of heavenly blessings resulting in earthly conduct, that we come to…
1. Christians are to walk in humility (:1-2)
Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called,
“Therefore” points back to chapter three at God’s immeasurably broad, long, high, and deep love.
He’s saying, “If God’s love is so great and if His grace is so powerful and if He really is the Lord who calls, then we should walk according to His will in a worthy manner.”
There are expectations associated with your calling. Believers are to present themselves as slaves to righteousness (Rom. 6:15-23).
Do you realize that joining the body of Christ is the highest calling possible?
Because of this it’s important that we walk accordingly:
2with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love,
These virtues all deal with interpersonal relationships.
The first word, humility, addresses the ego. Paul wrote to the Philippians that we should consider everyone else as more important than ourselves (Phil. 2:3).
The other three words define the fruit of humility—gentleness, patience, and tolerant love.
Gentleness describes the way people approach each other. Gentleness, first of all, keeps problems from happening, but second, gentleness keeps problems from getting worse:
A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. (Proverbs 15:1)
When I was a public safety officer at the Moody Bible Institute in Chicago we constantly trained at deescalating the situation. We didn’t want to spray people with pepper spray; we wanted the problems to go away. We were prepared to use the pepper spray if necessary, but ideally we could calmly talk someone down until the problem was resolved.
Some people walk around life like they’re looking for someone to spray. This isn’t Biblical and it’s not Christian. Jesus was tough when He needed to be, but overall He was marked by gentleness.
Patience describes the virtue of overlooking offenses and shortcomings. Gentleness is how we respond outwardly to trouble, but patience is how we respond inwardly.
Have you ever heard anyone say that you shouldn’t ask for patience because God will give it to you? Isn’t that ridiculous? Patience and gentleness are both fruits of the Holy Spirit, and if you’re a believer, you don’t have a choice about receiving them as fruits and you don’t have a choice about displaying them through your life.
Saying you don’t want patience is like saying you don’t want love, joy, peace, goodness, kindness, gentleness, faithfulness, or self-control. It’s like saying you don’t want the fruit of the Spirit to grow through you, and it’s utterly ridiculous.
A man’s discretion makes him slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook a transgression. (Proverbs 19:11)
Some people are looking for ways to be offended, but the Bible tells us that overlooking offenses is glorious!
“Tolerance in love” describes the ability to put up with others and their differences. It’s not always easy to accept everyone within the body. Our sinful natures often despise personalities opposite our own or we get impatient with differing viewpoints. But even though we don’t always see things the same, we’re one body made of many parts, each part with its own purpose (I Cor. 12:12-27).
The called man of God is to recognize this, and he is to walk in tolerant love (he is to put up) with those with whom he disagrees.
Tolerance doesn’t mean we put up with blatant sin. We are to tolerate differences, but those who live in sin are to be removed from fellowship (I Cor. 5:11).
The virtues of gentleness, patience, and tolerance are to be practiced because…
2. Our motivation is unity and the glory of God (:3-6)
3being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling; 5one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all.