Sermon on Ephesians 4:1-7, 11-16
Text: 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.
7 But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.
11 So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, 12 to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.
14 Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. 15 Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. 16 From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.
We live in a day and age where people cannot seem to understand why there are so many churches. They feel as though we should all get together and work together. Some church bodies also appear to be following that trend because they are talking about working together. Some have even joined together, ignoring doctrinal differences. They agree to disagree in certain doctrinal issues. This is not true church unity. What is true church unity? THE TRUE UNITY OF THE CHURCH IS: 1. Produced By The Spirit Of God and 2. Promoted By The Gifts Of God.
You may recall that the Ephesian congregation had been spilt by Jewish and Gentile factions. Last week we saw that Jesus came to the earth to get rid of the dividing wall of hostility that separated the two. Now, as we begin the fourth chapter, Paul encourages them to live in that unity.
In verse 3, Paul writes, “Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.” Paul is making an urgent appeal to the Ephesians, and us as well, to “Make every effort.” ‘Don’t just try it for a little while and then give up, because it is not always easy to do.’ Put all that you have into keeping this most precious gift of unity safe and secure.
Yet, can there really be unity in the church? After all, look at all of the different people that there are, each with their own personalities and strengths and weaknesses. The answer is, “Yes.” Yes, there is unity even among the various peoples. Paul reminds us in verses 4-6 of all of the things that we have together.
In verse 4, Paul mentions, “There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called.” “One body” – this is speaking of the Holy Christian Church, which every believer belongs to. You became a member of this body when you were brought to faith. Just as in our human bodies there are many parts, each with their own function, so also in the body of Christ. There are many parts, but they all work together to serve Christ. Paul makes mention of this fact in verse 16, “From (Christ) the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.”
Paul also speaks of “one Spirit.” It is the same Holy Spirit at work in each of us. Each of us has been called from the darkness of sin, unbelief and damnation into the light of faith in Jesus Christ. None of us can claim to have believed in Jesus on our own. It is only after the working of the Holy Spirit that we come to faith.
There is “one hope.” The hope that Paul is referring to is the hope of heaven. All of us are traveling to our heavenly home. How tragic it would be if we let some human frailty of another traveler receive so much attention that we are diverted from our goal. We only have such a short time together, and the goal of our hope will be reached. In the meantime, Paul urges us to bear with one another so that neither we nor they might miss out on the glorious fulfillment of our hope.
Paul also mentions in verse 5, “one Lord, one faith, one baptism.” We have a Savior in common. If he dwells in our hearts by faith, we will see our fellow-believers as Jesus sees them – souls so precious that he was willing to die for them. We are also serving the same Master. We work together to bring glory to the name of the one who died for us that we might be saved. We have one Lord.
We also have a common faith. As members of a church, we are united in our faith. That is the unity that we experience as we come together at the Lord’s Supper. We remember that our communion is not only a vertical one, as we are joined in a most special way with Jesus. It is also a horizontal communion as we join together with other believers, professing a common faith.
There is one baptism. We were made part of God’s family through the washing of Baptism. In this sacrament, our sins were forgiven, as we were adopted into the family of God. Again, we are all members of one family with God as our Father.
Another example of this unity is found in verse 6, “one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” God is over all of us. He is our Master, but it is not a dictatorial relationship. In addition, he is not so occupied with the affairs of this world that he has no time for us. He is our loving God, who cares for each of us individually. God is “through all.” God has made believers his instruments to do good works. God makes us able so that we might be active. God is “in all.” God dwells within us. When we consider that God is also in our fellow believers, we will want to treat them with respect, and not let some little flaw in them obscure what God has made of them, namely, his children, redeemed by the blood of Jesus, his Son.
As you can see, we are united. There is a bond between believers on many different levels. It has been brought about in us by the working of the Holy Spirit. Paul tells us, “Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.” How can we do this, especially when we are such different people with so many different abilities?
After spending so much time talking about our unity, Paul begins the next section by talking about individuals. In verse 7 we read, “to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.” Here the word “grace” is used in a slightly different way than how we often use it. Normally, we think of grace as God’s undeserved love in the area of our salvation. Not one of us deserved to have God send his Son to suffer and die so that our sins would be paid for. However, God chose to love us that much anyway. Rather, grace is used as God’s undeserved love as he gives us the individual talents and abilities that we have. As we look at this verse, there are two things to keep in mind. #1 – “To each of us.” God has given every Christian gifts that they can use. No one can say that they have no talents or abilities that God can use in his kingdom. Sometimes we do not realize we have these gifts, until we try something new. A way that these gifts can be misused is by trying to shrink into the woodwork, hoping no one will ask us to use the gifts that God has given us. We have these gifts and God wants us to use them.
The second thing to remember is that these gifts come from God. Since that is the case, how dare we look down on someone else because we think that their gift is not as good as ours is? Conversely, we never want to feel bad, if it appears that someone got better gifts that what we have. Rather than looking at their gifts, we want to use the gifts God has given us to promote the unity of the church.
Paul mentions some of the special gifts that God has given the Church over the years, “Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers.” The age of the apostles and prophets ended with the death of the apostle John on the island of Patmos. No longer do we have people directly called by God to serve him. However, we do have pastors and teachers. Take a few moments to think of the pastors or teachers who have influenced you over the years, whom God used to strengthen the faith created in you at your Baptism. They used their God-given talents and abilities to share the Gospel with you.
That is the reason God sent them to you. In verse 12, Paul tells us why these people were sent, “to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up.” Note it was not so that they would do all the work. Their main job is to “to equip his people for works of service.” Pastors and teachers are there to prepare, to equip, so that you can go forward and live the love that is in your heart. They are there to help you to see your gifts and the opportunities to use those gifts. Part of training, sometimes, is to point out when something is not being done correctly. Sometimes the pastor or teacher must also do this, pointing out that something is sinful. They also have the great privilege of pointing the individual to the cross when Jesus paid for that sin, as well. Pastors and teachers equip from the pulpit, in the classroom, in the Sunday School class. They are there to give the tools, to equip.
What are we equipped to do? This is done, “so that the body of Christ may be built up.” We use our individual talents for the building up of Christ’s body. This brings us back full circle to the idea of unity. Really, that is what a church is all about. It is not a building, or an organization that we belong to. Rather, it is people, unified by faith in Christ, working together to serve Christ. When we remember this, then we can grow. If the individual parts become more important than the whole, there is only envy and strife. However, if we realize that we are all part of this one body, working together, then we will do what Paul urges us to do. “Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.” God help us always to do exactly that. Amen.
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