Ephesians 4:1-16, The Worthy Walk
The author, Paul, begins this new section with “I, therefore”, making the clear connection with Eph.1-3. Chapters 1-3 were concerned with church doctrine and theology. He told believers about who they were positionally in Christ. Now that they knew of all their spiritual blessings in Christ, that they were saved by the grace of God, and they had a glorious promise of their inheritance in heaven—it was time to live a life worthy of being in Christ. Therefore in chapters 4-6, Paul would shift to the application section of his letter, and encourage them to walk (live) in a way worthy of their position in Christ. In other words, live a life worthy of your calling. Chapter 4 marks the transition from just having the knowledge of their blessings to the practical duty to live according to Christ-like principles. Keep in mind that Paul had done this at considerable cost such that he was persecuted and imprisoned. In fact, he reminds them in Eph.4:1 that he was currently “a prisoner for the Lord”, so at great sacrifice he had put into practice all the principles that God expects us to exhibit. Living the godly unselfish life is our practical response to the riches lavished on us by Christ. Even so, he was not demanding a forced legalistic conformity to rules, but a free willing desire to conform to the holiness, love, and sacrifice that Christ showed us.
Essentials for Christian Living, Eph.4:2-3
The first essential for the Christian walk is humility. Recognizing that the original sin was rooted in pride, and as Solomon wrote “Pride goes before destruction and a haughty spirit before the fall”, it should be no surprise that before we can follow Christ’s example, we must submit our will to His. The first sin was pride, and all other sins can be traced back to pride. The amazing thing about humility is that we so admire it in other people, and we detest pride in other people; yet we don’t seem to be able to detect the pride that may control our own hubris. We find an essential biblical principle in Proverbs 3:34, James 4:6, and 1 Peter 5:5, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble”, and again in James 4:10, “Humble yourselves before the Lord and He will exalt you”. Remember that Paul’s audience in Ephesus was primarily Greek, and there was no Greek word for humility. The concept was foreign to the Greek and Roman mind. They thought it to be cowardly and to show weakness. Therefore, Paul had to invent a new compound word to express it in the original language—“to think with lowliness”, and we translate it humility. This is yet another reason Christ is so unique—while the world exalts pride, humility is the foundation of Christian virtue. The problem with trying to be humble is that once claimed it is immediately forfeited because you boasted in it. We all know people who go out of their way to appear to be humble but once you get to know them the reality of their arrogance is apparent. I myself have just finished a book entitled, “Humility and How I Achieved it!”. Humility must be experienced, and the Bible is full of examples: Peter in Luke 5:8, realized that Jesus was God and was immediately aware of his own sinfulness saying, “I am a sinful man oh Lord”. Isaiah was taken to heaven in Isaiah 6, and after seeing the true holiness of God said, “Woe is me for I am a man of unclean lips”. Job spent about 30 chapters questioning God, but when he saw God’s power said, “I retract and repent”. Humility is awareness of God’s attributes coupled with awareness of our own sin and weakness. Humility is the virtue of submission.
The other essentials listed in Eph.4:2-3 are gentleness, patience, forbearance, and love. These are all attitudes of the heart, and Jesus was the perfect example of these character traits. Jesus was very gentle and meek, but when it came to holiness He was strong and uncompromising. Jesus had great patience with His disciples, but did not hesitate to admonish them when they were wrong. Jesus suffered greatly, but He endured and showed unconditional love. One thing chapters 1-3 made clear is that God has done so much for us that our lives should be changed. We demonstrate that change by an unselfish life of loving God and loving people. Many professing Christians today think the church was formed with a purpose to correct the evils of society, but actually by teaching and edifying the people in the church, the people change and grow spiritually–thus demonstrating the power of God in those who are in Christ. Naturally the outside world will be attracted to this family of believers who meet each other’s needs and love each other. On the other hand, the more preoccupied the church becomes with a social/political agenda, the less effect it has on the world.
Diverse Members United by One Lord and One Purpose
In Eph.4:4-6 we see the origin of the unity of all the diverse people that make up the church. Our unity originates in the Trinity. We are one body with many parts that have a mutually shared life. The birth of the church occurred with the coming of the Holy Spirit to indwell all believers in Acts 2. Since that time, the Spirit has been the power behind the church. We are all indwelt by the same Spirit who is actively convicting us, teaching us, leading us, and changing our hearts—all with the same purpose of serving and glorifying God. We also have one hope as John put it in 1 John 3:2, “when Jesus appears we shall be like Him”, meaning when Christ comes back we will experience the resurrection and be like Him. No matter where we are from or what our status is, all in the church have the same Lord and master as our ultimate authority. There is one Word of truth that is the Gospel of Christ that we have all believed, and our faith in it is the same. Next, Paul says we have “one baptism”, which I think he means the same regenerating work of the Holy Spirit that all believers receive. Lastly, we are united by the same God and Father who is our creator. Therefore the bond God has created that holds all true believers together should be preserved.
The Analogy of the Human Body, 1 Cor. 12:12-27
I think the best explanation of how such a diverse group of individuals could come together and function as one in the church is found in Paul’s analogy in 1 Cor.12:12-27. We are like a human body that has many body parts such as fingers, toes, feet, hands, eyes, mouth, etc. Each body part is different and has a distinct function. Nevertheless, in the human body all the parts are joined and participate in the same coordinated activities like walking, talking, playing, and working. None of the parts argue or revolt, because if they did the body would fail in every activity. Only when each part performs its proper function does the body achieve its desired result. Each part helps the other parts do the best job the whole body can do. The same is true of the church and its individual members. The church is made up of individual members each with a unique role to play in keeping the whole body healthy. Each believer in the church is supernaturally endowed according to God’s will to play their part in edifying the whole. Each member of the church is gifted by the Holy Spirit to serve the body as a whole. God determines what gifts you have and what your role is in the church.
The Diversity of Gifts, Eph. 4:7-12
The gifts given by the Spirit differ as chosen by the Holy Spirit. The story goes that during the French Revolution, three Christians were sentenced to the guillotine, and each had different spiritual gifts. The first had the gift of faith, so when they asked him for any last words he said “I believe God will deliver me”. Sure enough when they pulled the lever the huge blade did not come down. The second Christian had the gift of prophecy, and he said, ”I predict that God will deliver me”. Sure enough when they pulled the lever nothing happened. The guards all marveled at their faith and prophecy. The third Christian with the gift of helps was brought up and asked if he had any last words, and he said, “There’s some rust in the hinge and I’ll be glad to help you fix it”. We must all use our gifts in the church! We are all members of one body, but each of us has different gifts in which we are expected to serve the common good. Without this diversity of gifts the church cannot expect to function properly, just as a human body can’t function 100% without all its parts. For the church to be operating on all 8 cylinders it is crucial that we all exercise our gifts in coordination for the whole body. In Eph.4:8-10, Paul quotes Psalm 68:18 for the purpose to say Christ ascended to heaven after the resurrection, but He sent His Holy Spirit to give these spiritual gifts to men so that they could build the church. Examples of these gifts are teaching, preaching, helping, administering, giving, encouragement, mercy, and discernment. In Ephesians, Paul emphasized the leadership gifts of apostles, prophets, evangelists, and pastors. There are four New Testament passages that define and list spiritual gifts—Romans 12:3-8, 1 Cor. 12:7-11, Eph.4, 1 Peter 4:11. Each list is different, therefore I don’t believe we can make an exhaustive list and limit the gifts God gives. Nevertheless, it appears that you could break them down into 3 categories—Speaking gifts, Serving gifts, and Sign gifts. I think believer’s gifts are like fingerprints in that everyone’s are distinct from others. The sign gifts, also called miraculous gifts, were given primarily to the first century Apostles like Paul, Peter, John, and the others sent out by Christ. The traditional church today believes the sign gifts expired once the church was established and the N. T. was written (I agree). In 1 Peter 4:11, the Apostle listed two categories that typify normal church members—teaching and service. All four passages emphasize that the purpose of spiritual gifts is for the common good. These gifts were given by the Spirit so that we could edify the members of the church and meet the needs of others. Unfortunately in the church at Corinth (and our churches today) members were using them to exalt themselves. Yet, I see the first century saints using their gifts for two unselfish purposes:
Edification of the body of Christ—an inward building up of the people in the church,
Evangelism—directed outward to the community and the world
Jesus placed a hierarchy of leadership within the church such as Apostles, Elders/Bishops, Deacons, and Administrators. Then Jesus places each member in a role of service as Paul wrote in Eph.4:12, “to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ”. Then in Eph.4:14 we read that if the church works the way Jesus intended, then we will all grow and mature spiritually. Jesus expects the church to “perfect the saints, prepare them for the ministry to edify the whole body”. On the other hand if you don’t use your gift, the church is like a jigsaw puzzle with missing pieces. It’s all about showing up and letting God use you for service. I understand that in both heaven and hell people are given spoons four feet long to eat. In hell everyone is starving because they can’t figure out how to get such a long utensil in their mouth. But in heaven everyone is well fed because they use the spoons to reach across the table to feed each other.