Summary: Christ, as head of the church, gave us a model that will lead to unity and love. Are we listening?
Today we begin a short two week series covering what I think is one of the most relevant sections of the New Testament for us today. It gives a very concise, clear picture of how the church and the family are to operate according to God’s design. So please join me as we read Ephesians chapter 4 and chapter 5 to verse 21.
What is the “therefore” at the beginning of Eph chapter 4? Paul is suffering in prison primarily for preaching the manifold wisdom of God, he says in chapter 3 (apparently not a very popular wisdom not unlike today). He opens both chapters 3 and 4 saying he is a prisoner for God.
So because of this (therefore), he urges us to the point of begging that we will walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which we have been called. In Colossians 1 he expands on this saying that he hopes we would “be filled with the knowledge of God’s will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to Him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God. May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light”.
There are a couple things we have to get straight right off the bat. Paul equates this ability to walk according to our call, with knowledge of God and his will as laid out in the Scriptures. And as we see in Colossians and here in Ephesians, that it is under the power and grace of God. He gives us the gifts and abilities to do this.
Why is that important? Well he tells us that we must walk this walk with all humility, gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. It’s easy to just skip through that verse, but it’s so important. If we are going about this under our own power, by our own desires alone, it is so easy for the ego to get involved and we can become critical, divisive, and act as if we are more knowledgeable and spiritually mature than others.
And why does he go into this thing about there being one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father and so on? The most important there is that there is one body and one Spirit. Do you understand that most of the disunity in the body of Christ comes from people living their Christianity under their own power with their own thoughts and desires about how church should be done and how they should live? Paul is emphasizing that this should not be so. We are to maintain the unity of the one Spirit. The Holy Spirit is God and he is to lead us in all truth.
If all Christians were in the Spirit and following the one Spirit, we would all know what Scripture is saying, and we would easily submit to it. All agreeing that this is how we do things because God says so and the church belongs to Jesus of whom we said we would be willing prisoners or slaves because of his gracious act of redemption.
But instead, even back in Paul’s day we get people who don’t even really know what the Bible says trying to do church and their spiritual lives according to unbiblical traditions, personal agendas and desires, and cultural influences. That’s all sin.
Now starting in verse 8 he begins to talk about gifts and how they are given in the church. First of all they are given according to the measure Christ doles them out. We can’t claim our own gifts. They are to be discerned by us and the body of Christ as they have been given. And they will be given according to His will and the degree that we are submitting to our call.
“When he ascended he led a host of captives”. Do you know who those captives are? You and I. We are prisoners and captives who will follow Jesus in his ascension, which is just another way of saying we are children of God and have an inheritance with Jesus. But we are also willing captives because as his inheritance He wants us to be pure and holy people so that we can be with Him for eternity. His love for us makes us want to be His, and our love for him makes us want to obey, John chapter 14 tells us.
So Paul goes on in verse 9 to make sure we understand who Christ is as the ultimate authority in the universe. And then he says, OK here’s what he has given you to make the church perfect. Please listen carefully to this part.