The Book of Ephesians Series
“Walking Together in the Unity of the Spirit”
Good morning Christ Covenant. Thank you again to Pastor Brian and the Elders for this opportunity. This morning we continue our series in Ephesians, and we enter the second part of Paul’s letter. Where the first three chapters offered us a theology on salvation and unity with Christ, chapters 4-6 tell us how we ought to live in light of what Christ did for us. We now turn to the first section, 4.1-16, that addresses our unity with one another at a practical level.
Before reading our text, I want you to notice that the first word is “therefore.” (4.1) If you remember English 101, we need to understand what the “therefore” is there for. This transition moves, first of all, from (1) all that we have learned about our triune God and His plan of redemption for us in Christ Jesus, Ch. 1; (2) Paul reminds us of our former lives before Christ, as we were all dead in our sins, walking according to the course of this World, but God, according to His grace, stepped in to save us all (Ch. 2). Lastly, (3) Paul tells us about his ministry as an apostle of the mysteries of Christ, that, in Jesus, the good news of salvation is for Jew and gentile, both being fellow heirs with Christ of God’s promises and blessings. This, Paul tells us, was a gift of God’s grace through the working of the Holy Spirit, which we, the Church of Jesus Christ, must continue and carry on (3.10).
Therefore, the Apostle will give the first step in understanding how we ought to live in light of what Christ did for us. Here now the word of God:
Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, 3 being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling; 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 was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift. 8 Therefore it says, “When He ascended on high, He led captive a host of captives,
And He gave gifts to men.” 9 (Now this expression, “He ascended,” what does it mean except that He also had descended into the lower parts of the earth? 10 He who descended is Himself also He who ascended far above all the heavens, so that He might fill all things.) 11 And He gave
some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and
teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ. 14 As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming;15 but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.
Walking Together in the Unity of the Spirit
This is a most important and relevant text for us this morning, as we are in divisive times. With social media and instant news and feedback, it seems that we are divided on just about everything, from the major topics of politics, the place of religion and the state, the effects and seriousness of COVID, as well as other less important matters like whether the keto diet works, or who is the GOAT (Greatest of All Time) in the NBA or even the best peanut butter brand! To borrow a phrase from the apostle James, “Brother and Sisters, these things should not be this way” in the Church of Christ (James 3.10). The question I want us to think through and answer this morning is what should our attitude be as Christians, and, more specifically, what should our attitude be towards one another in the Church?
Walking in a Worthy Manner (v.1-3)
Paul opens with the words “I implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called”. This is more than a nudge; this is a strong exhortation of how we ought to live. Another way to put this is that Paul is telling us, “as a prisoner for the Lord, I beg of you”. Paul first uses the word “walk” back in chapter 2.1-2 “And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world”. We all once walked in our transgressions and selfishness, according to our own understanding, in disobedience to God, but now, we have been called by God into His service. God has called us to be His sons and daughters; we have been called into a new relationship with God through Jesus Christ, and a new relationship with one another, as the Church of Christ. This word “walk” does not mean to take an occasional stroll, but, walking, here, includes how we should live in every aspect of our lives. Walking here is also addressed to the Church as a whole. We do not walk alone. There are no loners in the Church of Christ, as we must walk together.
So here, Paul is telling us to walk in a manner worthy of this calling. We must live lives that reflect the grace of God; we must live in obedience to Him, in love towards Him and our brothers and sisters, in self-sacrifice. We must live consistent with this new calling. Imagine a parent that claims to love her children but abandons them; imagine a husband that claims to love his spouse but he’s always trying to get away from her. Imagine someone that claims that are a Christian, that they love the Lord, but they want nothing to do with His body, the Church.
The Apostle John calls out this kind of inconsistency by telling us “If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from Him, that the one who loves God should love his brother also.” (IJn.4.20-21)
This type of consistency of loving God and loving one another is exactly how the Apostle Paul is telling us how we ought to live in light of what Christ did for us.
Paul now offers us moral qualities or virtues that are to characterize our behavior and disposition towards others. We are “to walk…with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace”. (4.2-3) We saw in ch. 3, last week, that Paul prays that we be rooted and grounded in love (3.17). Now he is calling the church to live a life of love, as love has an attitude of humility and gentleness and patience. Love bears with one another and seeks to preserve unity through peace. He is calling us to imitate Christ who is the greatest expression of all these qualities. Regarding humility, we read in Philippians that Christ was in the form of God but in His incarnation, He took on the form of a servant and humbled himself in obedience to God to the point of a shameful death. We are to have this same attitude in ourselves, which was also in Christ Jesus. (Phil.2.1-11) Humility and gentleness are the opposite of pride and arrogance. These two are disgraceful attitudes that dishonor the Lord and break the unity in the Church. The attitude of Christ is one of a servant who gives up His rights and lays aside His status to serve others. We read in John 13 that during the Passover: Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He had come forth from God and was going back to God, got up from supper, and laid aside His garments; and taking a towel, He girded Himself. Then He poured water into the basin, and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel with which He was girded. (Jn.13.3-5)
After He finished, He instructed them saying: “Do you know what I have done to you? “You call Me Teacher and Lord; and you are right, for so I am. “If I then, the Lord and the Teacher, washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. “For I gave you an example that you also should do as I did to you. “Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is one who is sent greater than the one who sent him. (Jn.13.12b-16)
If the Lord of life, the King of the universe, bent down to wash our feet, to make us clean, to give us every spiritual blessing, to reconcile us to God the Father, to seal us with His Spirit, what should our attitude be towards His body?
Humility, gentleness, patience, tolerance, and love are the spiritual qualities that move us toward towards unity. (4.2) The diligent use of these qualities have the distinct purpose to preserve the unity of the Spirit and the bond of peace. (4.3) We are to imitate Christ, exercising these qualities, that we may keep the unity in the Church. This is not a unity that we create, because it is the unity of the Spirit. Jesus created this unity in the Church by giving us His Spirit and by making peace, through His blood (Phil. 2.15).
We are called to diligently preserve this unity. Another way to say this is to make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit. Have you ever had a sick child, or a pet? Or let’s simply say a loved one? What do you do when you find out they are sick? You make every effort to restore them to good health. This is the kind of urgency and effort that Paul is calling us to make to keep the unity that Christ has given us in the Church. We are all to live in love and unity through the gift of the Spirit.
Why should we expect to walk in the unity of the Spirit?
For some of you, maybe these reasons alone are not good enough. Maybe you’ve experienced your fair share of difficulty within the Church, and you may be asking, why should we expect to walk in the unity of the Spirit? Paul answers this by telling us:
There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling;
one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all. (4.4-6)
First of all, Paul grounds our unity in the Church in the unity of our One, Triune God. Just as the Father, Son, and Spirit are all one God, they have one will and co-operate towards the same purpose and end, so we understand that though the church is marked by diversity, it is to be unified like out triune God. Can God be broken up or split? The same is true of the Church.
It’s important to briefly pause and say that Paul is not blind or ignorant of continuing sin in Christians nor the schemes of the Devil within the Church. We must understand that the Church, as God sees it, commonly called “the invisible Church,” is united in Christ by His Spirit. The invisible Church can never be broken or split. The Church as we see it is commonly called “the visible church,” and it is no secret that the visible church is subject to many difficulties and even division. Paul in his ministry had to deal and address many of the difficulties and divisions in the church during his ministry. Yet these conflicts did not discourage the Apostle Paul from calling us to see the Church as one unified community created by Jesus through His Spirit, characterized by love and peace.
We all share the one new identity – we are one body in Christ. We all enjoy one baptism in the Holy Spirit. We all proclaim together one confession of faith, which is simply “Jesus is Lord”. He alone is the Lord of salvation and the Lord of our life. We give our full allegiance and obedience to no one else. And last, we all share of one future hope according to our calling. In verse 1 we saw that calling expressed our new relationship to God and one another, but now we also see that our calling is future oriented. Earlier in Ephesians we read that we have been sealed with the Spirit of promise for the day of redemption. This points forward to the return of our Lord, “the hope of God” (Rom. 5.2). If we are all moving towards the same future reality, to be with the Lord for all eternity, wouldn’t it be most prudent and wise for us to labor together towards this same goal? Wouldn’t it be prudent for us to preserve the unity within the Church so that we may all arrive together?
If you’ve ever vacationed with another family, what do you do beforehand? You make travel plans together to get to the place, you figure out the costs to be able to split them, you plan your actual vacation and what you will do when you arrive. Basically, you plan ahead, together, so you can be unified during your vacation. You coordinate towards the same goals because you want to have a similar experience. I’m sure some of us have had the opposite happen, but the point is that within the Church, if we all share of the same hope and calling, we should keep the unity within the Church that we may arrive together.
Even though Paul has been stressing unity in the Church in these first 6 verses, he now turns to diversity within the Church, specifically the diversity of gifts that we all have. Unity is not achieved through uniformity. God did not create us to be carbon copies of one another. Instead, what we read, is that unity is achieved through the diverse gifts of the Spirit.
But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift. Therefore, it says, “When He ascended on high, He led captive a host of captives, And He gave gifts to men.” (Now this expression, “He ascended,” what does it mean except that He also had descended into the lower parts of the earth? He who descended is Himself also He who ascended far above all the heavens, so that He might fill all things.) (4.7-10)
Diversity of Gifts
Here Christ is pictured as a victorious King that has ascended to the right hand of the Father. He has been exalted by God as the King of Kings, having paid for our sins and triumphed over all His and our enemies, the last enemy being death itself. And what does our King do? He gives gifts to His Church. Whereas we are called to walk together with the same mindset and attitude of Christ, in humility, love and so on (v.2-3), now we see that Christ gives a diversity of gifts to every member in His church (7). He is the one that came down, in His incarnation, and He is the one that has been exalted by the Father, so, now, it is right and fitting that He is the one that properly equips His church with many gifts of the Spirit “so that he might fill all things”. Another translation puts it “He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe”. Sufficient to say that Christ fills the world with His salvation, with His blessings, and His gifts through His Spirit, and these are made known through the Church.
The Gifts of Christ
Paul now turns our attention to sone of these gifts: And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, (4.11)
We just saw gifts were given to “each one of us”, but now, we see that Christ gives the church specific officers. These are two groups of ministers of the word of God. The first group are the foundational preachers of the word. As Paul says earlier “So then you are…of God’s household having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone”. (2.20) These apostles and prophets are the ones that carried the word of Christ to all the known world of their day, and they are the ones that have given us the Scriptures.
The second group points to those who continue the work of the ministry of the word after the apostolic times. What is most important for us is to understand, again, that these are ministers of the Word of God. It is through the Spirit (v.3) and the Word that Christ builds up His Church (v.11-12). We are all equipped for the work of service in the Church through a regular diet of healthy preaching and teaching ministries in the Church.
Do you struggle in your Christian walk? Do we not all undergo various trials and temptations? The preaching and teaching of the word of Christ in the Church, in the power of the Spirit, is Christ’s ongoing gift to His people to help us and encourage us in our walk, through our trials, and temptations. He comforts us by saying do not be afraid, little flock, for [I am] pleased to give you My Spirit and My Word (Luke 12.32). We find an example of this in Acts 8, where the Spirit of God rushed Philip to an Ethiopian Eunuch who was reading Isaiah the prophet. Philip asks him: “Do you understand what you are reading? And he said, “Well, how could I, unless someone guides me?” And he invited Philip to…sit with him. Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning from this Scripture he preached Jesus to him. (Acts 8.31).
Brother and sisters, our pastors and teachers are Christ’s gifts to us, to His bride. They are guides, called and sent from our Lord to equip us, to build us up into His one body, and to unite us around the one faith and knowledge of Christ. Our pastors and teachers equip us for the work of service, specifically service towards one another, that we may grow and mature in the faith. They build us up as the body of Christ. They teach us God’s word until we all attain to the unity of the faith and the knowledge of the Son of God. I mentioned earlier that we are already united with Christ and one another, yet we strive to maintain unity this unity and we strive for the full unity we will all attain when our Lord returns. As we await His return, we move towards that goal together.
They nurture our souls bringing us from immaturity to maturity. They speak the truth in love so that we would grow up in all aspects into Christ. (4.12-15). It is interesting that in v. 14 we see that our Pastors and Elders keep us from false teaching and practices. Being children in the faith means not knowing what we are to believe and not knowing how we are to live. In v15, this false teaching is contrasted with right teaching. We see that pastors and teachers speak the truth in love that we may grow up in all aspects and speak the truth in love towards each other. They see to it that each individual part is working properly causing the growth of the body so that we would build up the church in love. (4.16) Have you ever seen someone that only works out only one part of their body? Maybe Popeye comes to mind, or someone with a massive upper body held up by a weak, rather shaky lower frame. For the body to grow together, for us to grow together in Christ Covenant, we must diligently work and serve one another that we may all grow and mature into the fullness of Christ.
Brothers and sisters, walking together in the unity of the Spirit is the first step in understanding how we ought to live in light of what Christ did for us. We all need to seek humility, gentleness, patience, and forbearance towards one another in love. We need to seek the unity of our oneness in Christ and desire that we all would grow up in all aspects unto Christ. Let’s see the church, this church, Christ Covenant Church as one unified community created by Jesus through His Spirit, characterized by love and peace.
Call to Prayer
to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, (4.1b)
Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us,to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen. (Eph.3.20-21)