Summary: what is God's vision for His Church and how does He bring this about?
One Body: An Exposition of Ephesians 4:1-16
One of my favorite hymns is “The Church’s One Foundation.” Christians share a common confession that Jesus Christ is Lord. He is the foundation of our faith. The writer goes on to say that the Church has been chosen from among all different nations over the centuries. We share a common confession of faith. We share in Communion and in baptism. God has put us together; let no man cast us asunder. Yet in this magnificent hymn of our common faith whose text is drawn in the reading from Paul’s Epistle to the Ephesians, there is a troubling reality that our churches are divided more than they are unified. We are by “heresies distressed.” One group of Christians anathematizes the other. This division is displayed among the unbelievers who scoff at the Christian faith. We are engaged in this battle for truth and must be reminded that our battle is not against each other. It is not even against unbelievers but rather spiritual wickedness in high places. We need to come to the point where we can join in the line form another hymn: “We are not divided, all one body we.” This isn’t to say that there is not heresy in the church. The enemy has invaded us. But we need to fight the real enemy together. So let us dig further into today’s text from Ephesians 4:1-16.
We must remember that Ephesians does not begin with chapter 4 as the British pastor Martyn Lloyd Jones reminds us in his eight-volume commentary on Ephesians. There is a tendency for us to go right to the places in Scripture to where it tells us what to do. We want to jump into the first commandment with “Thou shaly have no other gods besides Me.” But the ten commandments begins with: “I AM the LORD thy God which hath brought thee out of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. Without this proper context, the Ten Commandments are nothing more than a list of prohibitions. The preamble provides a context of God’s grace. We should not do these things because God has freed us from slavery, slavery to the laws and prohibitions of men. We then see the Ten Commandments as being the means of keeping us free. This makes all the difference in the world.
Paul spends a great deal of time setting up the rationale for our response to the gospel before turning to giving commands that Christians are to follow. The Dutch theologian, Herman Ridderbos, calls this the use of the imperative and the indicative. The indicatives are the facts upon which we are to base our behavior. In the case of Ephesians, Paul introduces us to the facts of the Gospel. He tells us of the magnificent plan He made for us from the very beginning. Ephesians 1:4 tells us that he had chosen us even before the universe was created. He goes on to say that His plan for us was “to make us holy and without blame before Him.” The Sovereignty of God assures us that His plan will be brought to full fruition. So we realize that whatever commands are given are part of this plan.
Paul tells us that the execution of this plan for His church is made possibly solely be grace and faith. It is His work in us and not our own. Ephesians 2:10 states that we are His workmanship, created for the purpose of good works. The death and resurrection of Jesus from the dead is what makes us alive from the dead in a spiritual sense.
The plan of God is for us to share eternity with Jesus Christ. This does require preparation. We cannot enter into this life apart from Him. This is because we are all part of the Body of Christ. This metaphor of body occurs throughout Ephesians and in Paul’s other epistles as well. The Body of Christ is a living Temple, another metaphor of Paul. Let us look first at the idea of Temple. Earthly temples were usually made of stone and precious materials. They were built to contain the presence of the deity. In the Greek tradition, temples were often built with symmetric halves. We can look at the Parthenon and will notice that the left half of that temple is exactly the mirror image of the right. The Greeks also proportioned their temples with human proportions as well. The Greeks worshiped the perfect human body. What was important is that the left side was the mirror image of the right. Being ambidextrous was prized. Most people are right-handed, so the muscles of the left would appear smaller. Their idea of balance meant that the body builder had to work harder on the left side so that it would appear the perfect mirror of the right. They would go so far to have symmetry that if there was a birthmark on one arm, one would be tattooed on the other.