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Ephesians 4 – Unity of the Spirit

Unmerited Favor


 

The church is likened to a new man. 

The new man and position: 

Ephesians 4:1-16 

1I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, 2With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; 3Endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.4There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; 5One Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all. 7But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ 8Wherefore He saith, When He ascended up on high, He led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men.  9(Now that He ascended, what is it but that He also descended first into the lower parts of the earth? 10He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things.) 11And He gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; 12For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: 13Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: 14That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; 15But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into Him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: 16From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.

The Unifier of the new man:

Ephesians 4:7

But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ.

The new man and his disposition and his walk: 

Ephesians 4:1-3

1I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, 2With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; 3Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

His words in Ephesians 4:15 (repeated here):

But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into Him in all things, which is the head, even Christ:

Ephesians 4:29

Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.

All of Paul’s letters contain a beautiful balance between doctrine and duty.  Ephesians is the perfect example.  The first three chapters explain duty, our responsibilities in Christ. 

The key word in this last half of the book of Ephesians is walk.  Paul admonished us to walk in unity, purity, harmony and victory. 

The word “beseech,” in Ephesians 4:1, above,  indicates that God, in love, urges us to live for His glory.  He does not say, as He did to the Old Testament Jews: If you obey me, I will bless you; rather He says I have already blessed you.  Now, in response to my love and grace, obey Me

God has given us such a marvelous calling in Christ.  Now it is our responsibility to live up to that calling.  The high calling the Christian has experienced carries with it very weighty responsibilities. 

The Christian life is not based on ignorance, but knowledge.  The better we understand the Bible doctrine, the easier it is to obey.  In Genesis, for example, Enoch is said “to have walked with God.” 

Genesis 5:22

And Enoch walked with God after he begat Methuselah three hundred years, and begat sons and daughters:

In Ephesians 4:1, above, John reminds us of our obligation as Christians to walk even as Jesus walked.  To  walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called means to live in a way that is in harmony with our vocation. 

Ephesians 4:2-16  emphasize the spiritual qualities becoming to the life of those who have been called to be God’s people.  Paul mentions particularly those things essential to right relationships within the community of the redeemed,  the things that enhance the fellowship and the overall well-being of the Body of Christ. 

Lowliness, Meekness, Long-suffering, Forbearance

Lowliness speaks of humility.  Here it’s in the disposition of persons who are aware of their own smallness and lack of merit before God. 

Meekness is a disposition that manifests itself in mildness, patience and quiet restraint.  Such meekness, of course, is not a natural trait but a work of Divine grace in the heart. 

Long-suffering is the opposite of short temperedness, is the disposition of the man who is “slow to anger.”  Such a person bears injury and insult without retaliating. 

Forbearance is the fourth quality.  It is able to make allowances for the faults of his fellow believers, to bear with them in their weaknesses and failings. The second verse says “in love.” This shows that this is not t be done grudgingly but in a loving manner, with a sense of family affection.   Forbearance is grace that cannot be experienced apart from love. 

Charity is love.

1 Corinthians 13:4

Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up.

Paul is describing some of the “fruit of the Spirit”.  He did not discuss spiritual unity in the first three chapters.  He waited until he had laid the doctrinal foundation.  Unity built on anything other than Bible truth is standing on a very shaky foundation. 

Unity is endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace, Ephesians 4:3, being eager to maintain or guard the unity of the Spirit.  The unity already exists as a spiritual reality.  It is our responsibility to keep it intact.   The spiritual unity of a home, a Sunday School class or a church is the responsibility of each person involved and the job never ends. 

The final grace is peace: the bond of peace.  The reason for war on the outside is war on the inside.  If a believer cannot get along with God, he cannot get along with other believers.  When the peace of God rules in our hearts, then we build unity. 

Be reminded in verses 7-11, above, Paul moves now from what all Christians have in common to how Christians differ from each other.  He is discussing variety and individuality within the unity of the Spirit.  

God has provided for the growth of His church through the bestowal of manifold gifts on His believing people.  These gifts are not to be identified completely, with natural endowments, such as mechanics, athletics, craft, art.  These, too, are given by God, but all spiritual gifts and natural abilities all come from God;  however, in the spiritual realm, each believer has at least one spiritual gift, no matter what natural abilities he may or may not possess:  a gift to serve God and other Christians in such a way that Christ is glorified and believers are edified.  Gifts aren’t toys to play with; they are tools to build with and if they are not used in love, they become weapons to fight with.   

We are not to live in isolation for, after all, we are all members of the same Body.  Christ is the giver of these gifts through the Holy Spirit.  Gifts vary but all are needed if the Body of Christ, the Church, is to function normally. 

In Verses 12-16, above,  Paul  is looking at the church on two levels.  He visualized the Body of Christ made up of all true believers ministering to each other, growing together and thereby experiencing spiritual unity. 

Love is the circulatory system of the Body of Christ, the Church, the redeemed.  It has been discovered that isolated babies do not grow properly and are especially susceptible to disease, while babies who are loved and handled, grow normally and are stronger.  So it is with the children of God.  An isolated Christian cannot minister to others, nor can others minister to isolated Christians.  It is impossible for the gifts to be ministered in isolation.  Spiritual unity is not something we manufacture.  It is something we already have in Christ, and we must protect and maintain it.    

Paul again uses one of his favorite figures for the Church:  the human body.  Just like every “member” of your body is different and how differently each functions, so every member is different. 

Love enables the parts to bind and to build together.  The failure of any member to do his proportionate work or to operate in harmony with other members will tend to cripple the body and stunt its growth.

Ephesians 4:17-32

17This I say therefore, and testify in the Lord, that ye henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind, 18Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart: 19Who being past feeling have given themselves over unto lasciviousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness.

20But ye have not so learned Christ; 21If so be that ye have heard him, and have been taught by him, as the truth is in Jesus: 22That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; 23And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; 24And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness. 25Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbour: for we are members one of another. 26Be angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath:

27Neither give place to the devil. 28Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labour, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth. 29Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth,  but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers. 30And grieve not the holy Spirit of God,

31
Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice:  32And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.

In verses 22-32 the admonition is to put off the old man as one would cast off the outworn or filthy clothes and be renewed in the spirit of your mind.  Like the new life itself, the garments of righteousness are made and provided by God.  The believer is to accept and wear them. 

First, lying must be banished from the Christian life and in its place, truth must be cultivated, for we are all members of one body.  Sinful anger must be controlled and subdued. 

Ephesians 4:26

Be ye angry, and sin not:  let not the sun go down upon your wrath.

Anger must never be cherished.  Anger must not be carried over from one day into the next. 

Anger that is not dealt with will soon take deep root in the heart, giving the devil a foothold. 

A third vice that has no place in the Christian life is stealing.  Paul urges the Christian to engage in honest work so that he not only meets his own needs but may have something to share with those less fortunate than himself. 

Verse 29, above, addresses corrupt communication.  Conscious effort is to be made to use language that will edify and minister grace to the hearer.  We must not grieve the Holy Spirit that sealed us unto the day of redemption. 

The final class of sins listed in Verse 31 all have to do with bad temper. 

Ephesians 4:31

Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamor, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice:

Bitterness describes the sour, resentful spirit of a person who broods over the injuries and slights he receives and refuses to be reconciled.  “These things, together, with all malice, are to be put away. 

The vacuum created when those vices are ejected from the heart is to be filled by the lovely virtues of kindness, tenderheartedness, forgiveness and love. 

Ephesians 4:32

And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.

Author: Nannie Mae Jordan
(Transcribed by Joyce Carter   Transcribed and Formatted by Jerry Knight)

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