6-Week Series: Against All Odds

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Summary: THE MATURE CHURCH (EPHESIANS 4:1-14)

THE MATURE CHURCH (EPHESIANS 4:1-14)

A friend who immigrated to the United States a few years ago had breakfast with me on Wednesday (September 28, 2018) in Hong Kong. He told me how unstable in the East Coast the last two years had been for four churches within the greater region. One of the biggest churches fired the pastor who succeeded a renowned pastor. The pastor promptly took the case to the denomination who sided with the church. When the matter could not be resolved, the pastor led 40% of the church members away and stated their own church not too far away.

Another pastor unhappily left the church after the church had finished its building project. Still another unfortunately left the church after the church had a bought a piece of land for expansion. The final one without notice whatsoever, leaving the church is a mess.

What do you think of the church? Weak or strong? Healthy or unhealthy? United or divided?

Who are the people who attend church? What church fascinates or frightens newcomers? What are her long term plans?

Beseech the Church to Grow

As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. 2 Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. 3 Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. 4 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.

There was a king who sent his son to a far away place to learn first hand how the peasants lived. The prince was told to let no one else know his true identity. During the time he would live among the simple folk, he was to dress and act in all ways as they do.

But the king was afraid his son might forget who he really was. When he would act and speak like the peasants, he might lose his royal identity and absorb their faults into his personality. For this reason the king told his son to put aside time each day to remember that he was the king’s son. (Rabbi Zelig Pliskin, Gateway to Happiness, pp. 124-5)

Paul tackles the passage by talking about attitudes before action. To live a life worthy (v 1) is to “walk worthy” in Greek. It means that our conduct, character, and conversation, among other things, to be compatible, congruent and consistent with our calling, not contradicted, controversial or criticized.

Verse 2 is not a new sentence but a continuation “with” humble and gentleness. Humble and gentle and patient (v 2) are all attitudes of the thinking (tapeino-phrosune = humble), heart (gentle), temperament (makro-thumia = patient). The Christian life is not lived in a vacuum, all talk and no test. Humble and gentle, patient and forbearing (v 2) are all attitudes of the thinking (tapeino-phrosune = humble), heart (gentle), temperament (makro-thumia = patient). They cannot be lived in a vacuum, all talk and no test.

The two practical ways (participles) are forbearing one another in love and making every effort to preserve the unity of the Spirit. One is to relate to others and the other is in the Spirit. Why? Because our testimony cannot be lived in a fable, fiction or fantasy, without people, their messy personality and problems. Church is about helping weaker, wayward or wishy washy people. It’s about if you can live with me when I’m sick, sad, stuck and short, then you understand what it is to be patient and gentle.

Bind the Church to Grow

4 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. 7 But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it. 8 This is why it says: “When he ascended on high, he took many captives and gave gifts to his people.” 9 (What does “he ascended” mean except that he also descended to the lower, earthly regions[c]? 10 He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe.)

The last four seasons (2014-18) in NBA basketball were dominated by two teams, Golden State Warriors with NBA’s third best player Stephen Curry, and Cleveland Cavaliers with NBA’s biggest star, LeBron James, nicknamed King James. In 2014 the Warriors won the first series when LeBron just signed with the Cavaliers. In the second year Warriors were no match for the Cavaliers.

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