The Apostle Paul has laid a foundation for the believers in the church of Ephesus to stand upon. These truths relating to all the spiritual blessings that are ours IN CHRIST bring together both Jews and Gentiles. We are now a part of the Body of Christ and seek to be like Jesus on earth. We are the church and the family of God where we learn to relate as one to each other. We are the temple of God where holiness is to abound making followers of Jesus as distinct from the world in which we live.
All of Paul’s letters contain a beautiful balance between doctrine and duty, and Ephesians is the perfect example. In Ephesians 4-6, Paul begins to emphasize how believers should live. He urges Christians to fulfill their responsibilities while resting on our Christian grace and blessings. The exhortations of this part of Paul’s letter (Eph 4-6) are built on the spiritual blessings mentioned in the former part (Eph 1-3). There are numerous points connecting both sections…
Adopted as children
This morning we will look at Eph 4:1-16, where Paul calls believers to live a life worthy of the calling they have received.
Eph 4:1-6 – Let’s Live Well
On the basis of chapters 1-3, Paul urges the believers in Ephesus to “live a life worthy of the calling you have received” (Eph 4:1). The concept of their “calling” speaks not only to their salvation but also the unity of Jews and Gentiles together. As a result of this, they are to live or walk out their faith IN CHRIST in a worthy manner. Worthy is an interesting word to consider; in means to be proper, fitting or to have equal weight, in other words, one’s calling and conduct must correspond appropriately and be in balance.
Paul then begins to list a few opening aspects of living well before God and each other. Humility and gentleness and patience are the expected results of being filled with the Holy Spirit. Both the Jews and Gentiles faced challenges of being humble towards one another; they both thought they were right in regard to their cultural faith but Paul confronted their misunderstandings and brought their faith together IN CHRIST. They were at times hostile therefore they needed gentleness and patience and love. As these are practiced the result will be preserving of the unity of the Spirit (Eph 4:2-3).
The church of Ephesus was steeped in false mystery religions with many gods. To confront this Paul reminds the believers that there in ONE – body, Spirit, hope, Lord, faith, baptism and God and Father of all (Eph 4:5-6). As Paul begins to describe how we should live, he strongly underscores the importance of unity; unity of what we believe and the unity of how we should live as one body. It has been said that unity can make or break a church; not only what we believe theologically but also how we live out what we believe. Therefore, Paul begins with a strong emphasis on unity.
Eph 4:7-13 – Let’s Live in Unity
Paul begins this passage by reminding the believers of their individual grace as given by Jesus Christ. It is interesting to note that the grace comes by measure through Christ. This is similar in thought when Paul speaks to the believers in Rome about their “measure of faith God has given you” (Ro 12:3). This begs the question, what measure of grace and faith do we have as individual members of the Body of Christ? Or can we increase grace and faith in our lives? The answer is yes:
· The disciples asked the Lord to increase their faith (Luke 17:5).
· We increase God’s grace and faith in our lives when we read God’s word (Rom 10:17).
· We increase in grace and faith when we obey God’s word (James 1:22-24).
The verses found in Eph 4:8-10 – This is why it says: “When he ascended on high, he led captives in his train and gave gifts to men.” 9 (What does “he ascended” mean except that he also descended to the lower, earthly regions? 10 He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe.) speak of grace and gifts in the context of the religious climate of Ephesus. In mystery religions their gods ascended and descended in the spiritual realms. Here Paul clarifies what Jesus accomplished when he descended through his incarnation (Son of God born in human flesh), descended into death only to ascend to the highest place. Phil 2:6-11 - Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, 7 but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death — even death on a cross! 9 Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
It is my belief that unity and freedom in Christ cannot be fully realized without understanding authority. Paul tells us the gifts God gave brought leadership and authority to the Body of Christ – “It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers…” (Eph 4:11). These “Gift-People” are not to Lord it over, but to lead by example; “to prepare God’s people for works of service” (Eph 4:12); prepare means to equip, train, to make adequate, to furnish completely and to make full. All this preparation is to help the church of Ephesus to be strengthened and built up (construction term in the Greek).
The goal of living a life worthy of the Lord is that of reaching “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” (Eph 4:13). When the Body of Christ comes to unity in the faith and in the Spirit and becomes mature, then believers have the opportunity to experience the fullness of freedom in Christ. Maturity speaks to me of being free from sin and Satan and being full of Jesus Christ. Our minds are clean and clear. Our emotions are in order and our actions are loving and righteous.
Eph 4:14-16 – Let’s Grow up
This passage speaks to the need of growth in the Body of Christ at Ephesus. There were pagan temples of worship as well as Jewish religious influence that the believers were confronted by. This challenged the Ephesian believers with “every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming” (Eph 4:14). It is Paul’s desire that they no longer think or act like infants but grow up IN CHRIST. Charles H. Spurgeon tells us, “Many Christians remain stunted and dwarfed in spiritual things, so as to present the same appearance year after year. No up-springing of advanced and refined feeling is manifest in them. They exist but do not grow up into him in all things.” He uses the analogy of a seed planted in the ground which grows and becomes a full ear of corn. Growing up is something that is inherent in creation. Paul uses the analogy of a body “joined and held together by every supporting ligament, (which) grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work” (Eph 4:16).
Chapter 4 introduces the living or walking out our faith. It is founded upon our right thinking about God from the previous chapters. However, freedom is to be more than just mental believing of truth, but an active expression of one’s faith. We must learn to overcome hostility as the church in Ephesus did by living in humility, gentleness and patience. In other words, our minds and emotions and actions are not to be plagued by anger, or any other sin for that matter.
We are to live well, in a manner worthy of Christ by being united with each other. This involves the leaders and laity within the Body of Christ. Leaders leading by example and equipping the saints to serve God. The relationships within the body are to promote growth and maturity as we speak to one another in love.
However, sometimes we look at the lost world and are burdened by the need for evangelism. Or we look at the poor and injustices and try to fix the problems. We may see those who are suffering and attempt to care for them. Then as a local church we program one or more of these tasks, whether evangelism or social welfare involvement. While these activities can make us feel better, like we are doing God’s work, we must remember the first function of the body is to build itself. In other words, the church is not a bunch of programs, it is a living organism, made up of people who need to grow IN CHRIST and in freedom.
Healthy things grow – that was the message of Paul to the ekklesia in Ephesus; Live well, Live in unity and Live and grow and mature IN CHRIST.
Let’s pray together…