Summary: This sermon exposits Eph 4.1-6 contending that in view of their salvation the Ephesians are to zealously contend for the unity within the body.
Ephesians 4:1-6 (Zeal for Peace)
Tradition claims that Jerusalem’s Church of the Holy Sepulchure is built over the cave in which Christ is said to have been buried. In July 2002 the church became the scene of ugly fighting between the monks who run it. The conflict began when a Coptic monk sitting on the rooftop decided to move his chair into the shade. This took him into the part of the rooftop courtyard looked after by the Ethiopian monks.
It turns out that the Ethiopian and Coptic monks have been arguing over the rooftop of the Church of the Holy Sepulchure for centuries. In 1752 the Ottoman Sultan issued an edict declaring which parts of the Church belong to each of six Christian groups: the Latins, Greek Orthodox, Armenian Orthodox, Syrian Orthodox, Copts, and Ethiopians. Despite the edict conflict over the church remains.
The rooftop had been controlled by the Ethiopians, but they lost control to the Copts when hit by a disease epidemic in the 19th century. Then in 1970 the Ethiopians regained control when the Coptic monks were absent for a short period. They have been squatting there ever since, with at least one Ethiopian monk always remaining on the roof to assert their rights. In response a Coptic monk has been living on the roof also, to maintain the claim of the Copts.
And so we get to a Monday in July 2002, when the Coptic monk moves his chair into the shade. Harsh words led to pushes, then shoves, until an all out brawl is going, including the throwing of chairs and iron bars. At the end of the fight 11 of the monks were injured, including one monk unconscious in hospital and another with a broken arm.
How tragic that a church which serves as a memorial to Christ is the scene for such bitter conflict among his followers. This is a far cry from Christ’s call to love one another, turn the other cheek, and his prayer that his followers might "be one".
What this passage highlights for us is the importance of being a unified body of Christ and it also offers some practical ideas as to how we might attain that unity.
1. CHRISTIANS ARE TO ENDEAVOUR TO LIVE A LIFE WORTHY OF THE GOSPEL VV. 1-3.
A good question to always ask whenever you you see the word ‘therefore’ is why is the word ‘therefore’ there for. Well, for Paul, vv. 1-3 must be understood in view of his elaborate, vibrant, poetic, lavishing language of God’s salvation. In view of that, this is what he wants them to do:
Walk in a manner worth of the calling to which you have been called.
Paul immediately draws a contrast with their previous lives walking according to trespasses and sins, much like Ephesians 2, where they pursued and indulged the flesh and were under the power of the devil. But now they are to walk and live in view of God’s gracious call of salvation. So God’s call brings both privileges and responsibilities.
The greatest cause of unbelief in the world, is not the theory of evolution, it is not postmodernism, it is not secularization of the West, it is one thing – the hyprocrisy of those who profess to be Christians. Against those who preach love, but practice hate. Those who speak of sexual fidelity, but defile themselves in sordid affairs or with prostitutes. Those who proclaim unity, but are divided into countless factions. And the world looks on: amazed at what we believe and repulsed by how we can act. Bertrand Russell, the great atheist philosopher once said, that if Christians practiced what they believed they would change the world. Ghandi said he would love to become a Christian, he was just waiting to meet one. Ask this of yourself then
Does your BEHAVIOR match your BELIEFS?
Does your WALK match your WORDS?
As James would ask of you: Are You a Doer of the Word.
But how do we do that? How do you live a life worthy of the gospel? Well, according to Paul here, you do it by exhibiting certain personal qualities.
Humility and Gentleness
In the Greco-Roman world, these weren’t considered virtues as much as vices. You won’t find Plato or Aristotle extolling the virtue of humility – it was servility. They were considered a sign of weakness and a lapse of personal ambition. Yet what the world despises we are to be. When the world says look out for number one, look out for number 2, 3 and 97. Best way to tell if you have a servant’s heart: how do you act when you’re treated like one? How do you argue with others: with compassion or with hatred.
Patience and Bearing One Another in Love