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Keep the Unity of the Spirit

(Written by Pastor Tim Redfield)

Ephesians 4:1-7, 11-16 – 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 It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, 12 to prepare God’s 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 men in their deceitful scheming. 15 Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into 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.

 

In the first three chapters of his letter to the Ephesians, Paul established that it was God’s grace that gave the Ephesians their faith in Christ. He reminded them of the wonderful gospel message which created faith in their hearts and called them out of unbelief and into faith. When they were unbelievers they were dead in their transgressions and sins (2:1). They could have done nothing to save themselves. God had to step in to help. Because of God’s great love and his rich mercy, he made the Ephesians alive with Christ. He gave them the gospel.

In order to reinforce the free gift of God, Paul wrote, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast” (2:8-9). The faith that was placed in the hearts of the Ephesians was entirely a free gift. They never had to look to themselves or their works to be saved. Paul had started his letter with this message of God’s grace. After encouraging the faith of the Ephesians, Paul starts talking about the life that they live by faith.

Paul starts chapter four by encouraging the Ephesians “to live a life worthy of the calling you have received” (4:1). He explains himself in the following verses. The call to faith that the Ephesians received created natural fruits of faith. They had an attitude that was humble, gentle, patient and loving. They were united through the Holy Spirit and this created a bond of peace between them. They were united by one common faith, one hope of eternal life, one Holy Spirit, one baptism which worked in their hearts, and one God and Father of all. Faith creates unity.

As they lived their life of faith, they began to mature in their faith. Until they were fully mature in their faith, it was easy for them to be tempted by the false teachings of the world. At times they could be like “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 men in their deceitful scheming” (4:14). There were times when they were tempted to follow after false religions. There were plenty of idols in the culture of the Greek world. There were many Greek and Roman gods. There were many philosophies which tried to look for the true meaning of life apart from God. There were many teachings that could lead them astray.

The image that Paul used seems a little strange. He compares weak believers to infants who are tossed back and forth by waves. Paul used the picture of infants because they are weak. Infants have no control over what they do or where they go. Infants need to be cared for by their parents or some other adult. Infants completely depend on others to get the food and clothing that they need. Infants are easily led around by others. Infants are very trusting of adults and it doesn’t take much to convince them to follow you.

Paul combined the picture of an infant with the picture of a ship that has no control over where it is going. The ship is tossed back and forth by the waves. Perhaps this is a ship without a rudder. No matter what the people on the ship do, they will travel wherever the waves take them. People who follow after false teachings are like infants because of their immaturity. They are also like a ship that has no control over where it is going. Combining the picture of an infant and a ship is a good way of getting our attention.

The devil tries to use teachings of the world to distract us. He wants us to be tossed about like infants. He is constantly trying to take the focus off of Christ. He uses cunning and craftiness in his deceitful scheming. He mixes a little bit of truth in with his lies so that he deceives many. Many churches want to teach that it is ok if we do not agree on everything the Bible says as long as we teach the love of Christ. While it is true that we are to teach Christ’s love, this does not mean that we can overlook disagreements about what the Bible says.

God blesses us and preserves our faith through his gift of the Holy Spirit. He called us to the one true faith by sending the Spirit into our hearts. We all share one common faith. We have faith in Jesus as our Savior. We trust in him for the forgiveness that he won on the cross and for the eternal life that he gained for all people through his resurrection. We have one common hope in our Lord. We know that there is one God, one Father of all things. Our Faith creates a unity between us and all other believers. This common faith creates peace between us. Because of our united faith we are able to stay grounded in God’s Word. Our faith makes us strong. God is the one who makes sure that we are not deceived by all the false teachings of the world. God preserves us in our faith.

When we remember the gospel message we have been given then we are able to Keep the Unity of the Spirit. Our unity is entirely a gift from our Savior. He has blessed us by giving us our faith and uniting us with believers who share our same faith. In order to help us keep our unity, Jesus also gives us different spiritual gifts.

Paul reminds us, “to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it” (4:7). Paul is referring to Christ’s spiritual gifts that he has given to each of us. He gives us gifts in different measures. Each of us has different talents and abilities that can be used in the church. God has given his grace in special measure to certain people to be leaders in his church. Paul says, “It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers” (4:11). These spiritual leaders guide us and encourage us in our faith so that we are not like infants who are tossed back and forth.

Our spiritual leaders give us God’s Word so that the body of Christ is built up. As we grow in God’s Word we become spiritually mature. Some of us do not have the gifts of leadership in the church but we all have gifts that can be put to use. Every time we use the gifts that Christ has given us, we are “speaking the truth in love” (4:15). We are letting the truth that is in our hearts shine forth in a loving way. As we continue to grow in our faith we continue to grow closer to Christ, the head of the Church.

Paul likes to use the picture of a body for the Church here on earth. Christ is the head of the body of believers. This signifies his role as the leader of the church and reminds us that he gives the ultimate direction to whatever we do. In other places in the Bible, Paul speaks of the roles of different believers as different parts of the body working together. He points out that the eyes, ears, nose, hands, and feet all have their distinct roles in the body. It is the same for us. We all have our own distinct roles in the Church.

In verse 16 he says, “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.” This verse is good for us to consider because it reminds us that some Christians are like the ligaments of the body. They hold everything together so that the body works properly. This reminds us that not every believer is going to have a highly visible role in the church. Not everyone is going to be a pastor or teacher. However everyone has an important role.

We might ask, what do these spiritual gifts look like? Paul said that some were appointed to be apostles and prophets. We read about these men in the Bible and through them we have God’s Word written down for our benefit. We also hear about pastors and teachers. There are many people in the church who have the abilities to preach and to instruct others in the Word. Ministers, school teachers, Sunday school teachers, Bible study teachers, and there are others. The term that Paul used to describe the most people is the word “evangelists.” This word means a person who proclaims the gospel. We all are evangelists to some degree in our lives. It can be through our conversations, our participation in church and Bible studies, or through our Christian living.

What are some of the spiritual gifts that can be overlooked? Who are those ligaments that Paul mentioned in verse 16. Perhaps it is someone who is good at encouraging others. Perhaps you encourage others to go talk to a pastor when they need to. Perhaps you let your light shine by not becoming easily angered and thus causing others to see the faith you have in your heart. Perhaps your spiritual gift is that you work faithfully and diligently on whatever task you are doing. Faithfully working hard at our jobs is a spiritual gift. We should never overlook the fact that our daily work is a way for us to serve God. Fulfilling our roles as fathers, mothers, children and family members is a way to serve God. Whatever we do to build up other believers is our spiritual gift from our God. When we put Christ first in whatever we are doing, we are using our spiritual gifts to serve the Lord.

 

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