The Unity of the Church: 4:1.
Chapters 4, makes the transition from doctrine to practice. Paul explains how our salvation works out in daily life. Before the foundation of the world, God planned our salvation. In Chapter 4: 1-16, the emphasis is the unity of the body of Christ. Our unity in the church reflects the unity in the trinity. That was the underlying theme of the high priestly prayer of Jesus Christ (John 17:20-23). This unity can’t be superimposed upon us. It is not an organizational unity but an organic and spiritual unity. Unity is not uniformity. Someone has said “Unity can include diversity, in fact unity demands diversity”. The unity we have in Christ is a unity of purpose. That purpose is to be a blessing to one another. Then only we can become a blessing to the world. Paul is urging us to live worthy of our calling (4:1). We are called to live worthy of the gospel (Phi 1:27; Rom 16:2; Col 1:10). Our unity comes when we learn, how to live together depending upon the grace of God. In this passage, Paul describes the necessary graces to preserve unity and the ground of it. We have to guard the unity already existing in Christ. We are one body, we have one Spirit, we have one hope, we have one Lord, we have one faith, we have one baptism, and we have one God and Father of all (4:4-6). The unity does not requires us to have the same opinion but it looks out for the interests of others above our own interests.
Our unity is produced and maintained by the Holy Spirit. 4:2-3.
We should find “Unity in essential truths, liberty in doubtful things and in all things charity”. To keep unity we must live in humility. We should not think more highly than we ought to. Humility is putting Christ first, others second and self last (Rom 12:3). Secondly we must be meek. Meekness is not weakness but it is power under control. It is accepting what God permits without disputing (Gal 6:1-2; Numbers 12:3). Meek people will never insist upon their own rights. Thirdly we must be long suffering to maintain unity. It is suffering without retaliation (1 Pet 2:21-23). It is willingness to go the extra mile with those who hurt us. The next grace is forbearance. It is bearing with one another in love. Love is the motivational force for forbearance. When others hurt or misunderstand us, we do not react in kind (1 Cor 13:4, 7). Finally we must be eager to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace (4:3). It should be our fixed determination despite the pressures exert on us. Peace with God and with one another is the unifying bond that holds us together. Christian unity makes sacrifices for the sake of loving and serving others. They look out for the interest of others above their own interests. Pray that the Lord would strengthen the unity among Christians.
The Ground of Unity: 4:4-6.
Christian unity is built upon sound doctrines. Unity on anything else is on a shaky ground. Paul gives 7 spiritual realities that unite all believers (4:4). There is one body and one Spirit. The Church is a living organism made of true believers. At conversion believers are united to Christ and one another by the baptism of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor 12:13). This one body is the model for all local churches. They have one Spirit who dwells in them. They are regenerated and connected to the head by the Holy Spirit. The church has one hope of the glorious reality of Christ’s return. Believers would live in anticipation of the return of Christ, redeeming the time and serving one another. We have one Lord, Jesus Christ who loved us and gave himself for us. “If He is not Lord of all, He is not Lord at all” (Rom 10:9-13). One of the greatest hindrances to Christianity is the lack of unity among them. The church has one faith. This is the once for all given body of truth (Jude 1:3). This body of truth should be guarded and passed on to next generation faithfully (2 Tim 2:2). The church has one baptism. This is the Spirit’s baptism that takes place at conversion and it is not a second blessing. The water baptism is the outward expression of our identification with Christ (Rom 6:3-6). We have one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all. This speaks of our marvelous relationship in the family of God. God is our Father (Matt 6:9). He is sovereign over all and in all (Heb 13:5). This speaks of His personal relationship with believers. Purity alone will not bring unity but also speaking truth in love (4:15). The lack of unity and division are the result of sin among the believers. We must be quick to forgive one another and make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. The unity of the church is precious to Christ and should be precious to us as well (John 17:11).
Spiritual Gifts: 4:7-10.
The risen Christ has given the church gifted teachers and leaders. Chapter 4:8 is a quotation from Psalm 68:18. It gives the picture of the triumphal return of the King and giving gifts to service men. Christ ascended to heaven victoriously accomplishing his mission. The captives are most probably the Old Testament saints in Sheol (Luke 16:23). The purpose of Christ ascension is to fill us with his blessings to bring the church into maturity. The maturity is described here as the fullness of Christ (4:13). Matured Christians show doctrinal stability and grow in the knowledge of Christ (4:14-15). God would use gifted men to strengthen the church (4:16). There is variety of spiritual gifts (1 Cor 12:4-11; Rom 12:3-8; Ephesians 4:11). Each believer is gifted. They should not despise it by not using it (1 Thess 5:20; 1 Tim 4:14). Gifts are the given to edify one another in the church. They are not the natural talents but the God given ability to serve others in love. By active involvement in the church one can discover his gift.
The Gifted men given to the church:4:11-16.
Christ gave the church some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelist, and some pastors and teachers (4:11). Apostles and prophets were chosen and commissioned by Christ to preach the gospel and establish the churches (2:20). The Bible does not teach apostolic succession. They were men who had seen the risen Christ and received power to do miracles. Prophets were the forth tellers who had received direct revelation from God and deep insight to interpret it. Evangelists are those who called to preach the gospel. They help to build the church by winning the lost. Pastor-teachers refer to one office with two functions. They shepherd believers by example and through the ministry of the word. All pastors have the responsibility to teach and guard believers from error. Teachers are the gift to the church to teach the word of God so that the church may grow in the knowledge of Christ. They are gifted to equip the saints for the work of the ministry until they measure up to maturity and unity in Christ (4:12-13). So that believers no more remain children in faith, carried away by every wind of doctrine (4:14). The evidence of maturity is Christ-likeness. They will be able to make spiritual discernment and speak the truth in love ( 4:15; Heb 5:12). Spiritual maturity brings unity and harmony in the church (4:16). Love is the distinguishing mark of matured church and believers.
Live as New Creation: 4:17-31.
Paul exhorts Christians to live in purity. Since we have become new creation in Christ, we should no longer live like gentiles. They are darkened in their understanding of God and are hopelessly confused. They are alienated from God because of the hardness of their hearts. They are greedy and given to every kind of impurity. Those who are in Christ think differently because they have a new nature (4:23). Since we have a new identity with Christ, we should turn away from our old ways and live a righteous life. They become “new man” in Christ. Our obedience reflects our identity with Christ. Paul highlights five areas of life that could grieve the Holy Spirit. Since we became new creation in Christ Jesus, we need to grow knowing Christ (Phil 3:10). We must replace falsehood with truth (4:25). Don’t sin by uncontrollable anger (4:26-27). Anger is an emotional outburst caused by irritation and a momentary insanity. We must deal with it before it becomes sin. The habit of holding anger overnight can cripple us. A soft answer turns away wrath. Christians must replace stealing with hard and ethical work (4:28)." Lazy believer robs himself, others and God". Those who steal are controlled by Satan (John 10:10). We must replace corrupt communication with wholesome talk (4:29-30). Fill our mind with good thoughts because out of the abundance of heart, mouth speaks (Matt 12:34). Our speech may minister grace to others (Col 4:6). We should replace bitterness with compassion (4:31-32). Bitterness is the settled hostility towards others. It can lead to anger, harsh word and slander. Evil speaking is the deliberate insult with abusive words. We should avoid these evil behaviors because they grieve the Holy Spirit.
Christians must be kind to one another:4:32.
Kindness is the outward expression of love. Tenderhearted people will put kindness into action. Believers should forgive one another in light of God’s forgiveness towards them in Christ. Forgiveness is not probation but pardoning the guilty unconditionally. Unforgiving spirit will lead to settled bitterness. If you are unable to forgive, you have lost sight of the forgiveness Christ has provided. A forgiving heart is a forgiven heart. Unforgiving spirit is self destructive and a joy killer. Forgiveness results in reconciliation and restored fellowship. The motivation for these actions is our desire to become like Christ (4:25). Unforgiving spirit grieves the Holy Spirit (4:30). "Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God in Christ forgave you" (4:32). Pray that God helps us to appreciate his mercy more deeply so that we will be motivated to forgive others.