The Unity of the Church:
(Read Ephesians 4:1)
Chapter 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). 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 unity brings blessings to one another. Paul is urging us to live worthy of our calling (4:1). We are called to live worthy of the gospel (Philippians 1:27; Romans 16:2; Colossians 1:10). Our unity comes from Christ. 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 (Ephesians 4:4-6). Unity does not require us to have the same opinion but it looks out for the interests of others above our own interests. The unity of the church is precious to Christ and should be precious to us as well.
Our unity is produced and maintained by the Holy Spirit.
(Read Ephesians 4:2-3)
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 (Romans 12:3). Secondly we must be meek. Meekness is not weakness but it is power under control. It is accepting what God permits in life without disputing (Galatians 6:1-2; Numbers 12:3). Meek people will never insist upon their own rights. Thirdly, we must be willing to suffer without retaliation to maintain unity (1 Peter 2:21-23). It is the willingness to go the extra mile with those who hurt us. The next grace is forbearance. It is bearing one another in love. Love is the motivational force for forbearance. When others hurt or misunderstand us, we do not react in kind (1 Corinthians 13:4, 7). Finally we must be eager to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace (Ephesians 4:3). It should be our fixed determination despite the pressures exerted on us. Peace with God and with one another is the unifying bond that holds us together. We should look out for the interests of others above our own interests. Pray that the Lord would strengthen the unity among Christians. We should seek unity in essential truths, liberty is doubtful things and in all things charity.
The Ground of Unity:
(Read Ephesians 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 (Ephesians 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 Corinthians 12:13). The church is one body of believers. They have one Spirit who unites 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 Lord at all” (Romans 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 the next generation faithfully (2 Timothy 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 (Romans 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 heavenly Father (Matthew 6:9). He is sovereign over all and in all (Hebrews 13:5). This speaks of His personal relationship with believers. Purity alone will not bring unity. We should speak truth in love (Ephesians 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 also (John 17:11). Unity requires us to be willing to sacrifice our preferences for the sake of loving and serving others.
(Read Ephesians 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 giving gifts to service men. They are given for the edification of the church. Christ ascended to heaven victoriously after accomplishing his mission. The captives are most probably the Old Testament saints in Sheol (Luke 16:23). The purpose of Christ's ascension was to fill us with his blessings. Gifts are given for the perfecting of the saints. The purpose of ministry is to bring spiritual maturity. The maturity is described here as the fullness of Christ (Ephesians 4:13). Matured Christians show doctrinal stability and grow in the knowledge of Christ (Ephesians 4:14-15). God uses gifted men to strengthen the church (Ephesians 4:16). There are many spiritual gifts (1 Corinthians 12:4-11; Romans 12:3-8; Ephesians 4:11). Each believer is gifted. Believers should not despise gifts by not using them (1 Thessalonians 5:20; 1 Timothy 4:14). Gifts are given to edify one another in the church. They are not the natural talents but the God given ability to serve one another in love. By active involvement in the church one can discover his gift.
The Gifted men are given to the church:
(Read Ephesians 4:11-16)
Christ gave the church some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers (Ephesians 4:11). Apostles and prophets were chosen and divinely commissioned by Christ to preach the gospel and establish the churches (Ephesians 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 are called to preach the gospel with the power of the Holy Spirit. 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 with clarity 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 (Ephesians 4:12-13). So that they no more remain children in faith, carried away by every wind of doctrine (Ephesians 4:14). The evidence of maturity is Christ-likeness. They will be able to make spiritual discernment and speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15; Hebrews 5:12). Spiritual maturity brings unity and harmony in the church (Ephesians 4:16). Love is the distinguishing mark of matured church and believers.
Live as New Creation:
(Read Ephesians 4:17-31
Paul exhorts Christians to live in purity. Since we have become a new creation in Christ, we should no longer live like gentiles. Unsaved 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 (Ephesians 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 a “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 a new creation in Christ Jesus, we need to grow in the knowledge of Christ (Philippians 3:10). We must replace falsehood with truth (Ephesians 4:25). We should not sin by uncontrollable anger (Ephesians 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 (Ephesians 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 (Ephesians 4:29-30). Fill our mind with good thoughts because out of the abundance of heart, mouth speaks (Matthew 12:34). Our speech may minister grace to others (Colossians 4:6). We should replace bitterness with compassion (Ephesians 4:31-32). Bitterness is the settled hostility toward others. It can lead to anger, harsh words 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:
(Read Ephesians 4:32)
Kindness is the outward expression of love. Tenderhearted people will put kindness into action. Believers should forgive one another since they are forgiven 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. Forgiven people are joyful people. Unforgiving spirit is self destructive and a joy killer. Forgiveness results in reconciliation and restores fellowship. The motivation for these actions is our desire to become like Christ (Ephesians 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" (Ephesians 4:32). Pray that God will help us to appreciate his mercy and grace more deeply so that we will be motivated to forgive others.