Summary: What does it mean for the church to walk in a manner worthy of our calling and how do we accomplish this?
Preaching Series: The Tie That Binds
The Purpose of the Church
Text: Ephesians 4:7-16
Introduction: We live in a day and age when it seems that the church is becoming less and less important in our society. Many argue that the greatest challenge the body of Christ faces is not in becoming extinct (Remember: Christ will build his church, so that the gates of Hades will not prevail against it--See Matthew 16:18), but irrelevant. By the way, this is not all the fault of the new generation which by and large has come to believe that they have better ways to spend their time on Sunday mornings. We are told that only 17% of all Americans regularly worship. Assuming this number is accurate, this means that 4 out of 5 people do not feel the need to attend a church of any kind. Much of the responsibility for our current spiritual condition falls squarely on the shoulders of those of us old enough to have molded and shaped Christianity over the years. What God intended to be a dynamic relationship with Him that would transform our lives and relationships, has in some circles, become nothing more than the practice of religion with little or no bearing on the way we live. I’m reminded of the mom who was trying to persuade her seven-year-old son to go to church with her. "Daddy doesn’t go," the boy said. Thinking quickly the mother replied, "Well, when daddy was your age, he went every Sunday." "Is that true?" the boy asked his father. He was assured it was. "All right, I’ll go," he said, "but I don’t think it will do me any good either."
Perhaps this insightful seven-year-old has identified the main reason why so few people value the church anymore. It just doesn’t seem to make much difference in the lives of those who participate. I will not discourage you with any more statistics, but we all know that survey after survey seems to validate this point. (If you’re interested in numbers, check out the research of George Barna.) What’s gone wrong? How is it that we have come to find ourselves in this spiritual condition? Many would say that we have drifted away from a biblical portrait of the Christian faith, constantly redefining it in light of our experience rather than the unchanging, always relevant Word of God. If this is true, and I believe it is, then in order to fix the problem, we need to refocus on what the Scriptures teach about God’s purpose for the church.
This brings us to Ephesians 4:1 where the Apostle Paul sheds some light on the subject. He tells us that the purpose of the church is to walk in a manner worthy of our calling. To understand what he means by this we need to take a look at some of the preceding verses. In Ephesians 3:10 we’re taught that the church, (lit. ’called out ones’) is meant to display the manifold (i.e. able to manifest itself in many different ways) wisdom of God in that He brought us Gentiles, together with Israel, into the body. This wisdom was revealed to Paul (See Ephesians 3:2-3; Acts 9:15), to the holy apostles and prophets (See Ephesians 3:4-5), to all mankind (See Ephesians 3:8-9) and ultimately to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms (See Ephesians 3:10-11). In redeeming us, God has undeniably demonstrated His great wisdom which we evidence by our inclusion as His people, called out of the world and into His kingdom. Further, as the church we are meant to continually display the glory of God (See Ephesians 3:21) along with Christ who is the head of the church (See Ephesians 1:22). Having no capacity to work our way to heaven, we are nothing less than trophies of His boundless grace. So how do we, as the church, display the wisdom and glory of God? Paul tells us that we do so by walking (NIV--"live") in a manner worthy of our calling. Then he begins to describe this lifestyle as it is practiced in the church. Here are three thoughts for you to consider.
I. We walk in a manner worthy of our calling (and so display God’s wisdom and glory) as we maintain the unity of the Spirit (See Ephesians 4:2-6). The word "keep" means to stand guard over something (For an example see Acts 16:23). Paul is not telling us that it is our responsibility to produce unity in the body. Rather it is our duty to maintain the unity that is already ours because we are one body (See Ephesians 2:14-15). This verse is sandwiched between others that shed further light explaining how we can maintain the unity of the Spirit and why it is important.
A. How do we maintain the unity of the Spirit? (Christian Practice--Verse 2) Paul answers this question for us. "Be completely humble (See Mark 1:7-8) and gentle (i.e. meek -- See 2 Samuel 16:5-10); be patient (See James 5:10-11a), bearing with one another in love (See 1 Corinthians 13:7)." We are urged, in short, to let the fruit of the Spirit be seen in our lives.