Ephesians 4:4-6 The Foundation of Church Unity


Originally preached on 6/9/2013




Also Read: Ephesians 1; Colossians 1:13-23 (Pray through Eph. 1:16-23, 3:14-21)

In a day in which battle lines are always drawn; I would have you examine unity with me. But not unity at the expense of truth. I would have you examine the foundation of Unity as God defines it. I would like you to turn this morning to Ephesians 4:4-6 as our text as we examine the only right and proper foundation of the unity of the Christian Church.

We need a little context to make it flow; and time does not permit us to go into full depth; but we can grasp a brief overview of Ephesians so far.

In chapter one Paul opens the letter with a strong emphasis on God’s sovereignty in salvation, the glory of blessings given to us as God chose us, and the presence of the Holy Spirit as a sign and seal of our salvation; all capped off with an amazing prayer  (1:16-23) of gratitude, and a plea that we will understand the riches of God’s glory showered upon us through and by and for the glory of Christ.)

In chapter two the emphasis is on the fact that we were once dead, totally dead in sin – but God gave us life in Christ through Grace and not Works. Believers who were not Jewish were brought into God’s blessing and have become part of the one true church in which dwell both believing Jew and believing Gentile as one with no division, as one building, with Christ as the cornerstone.

In chapter three, because of our union in Christ for His supreme glory Paul rejoices in this mystery of Christ “That the Gentiles are fellow heirs and fellow members of the body, and fellow partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel…” This mystery is called the manifold wisdom of God. We learn that God is using the church, those who believe in Jesus as an object lesson to the watching Angels (good and evil). Again in Chapter three Paul breaks into prayer that we would be strengthened, that Christ would dwell in our hearts, and that we being rooted and grounded in love would be able to comprehend the majestic stature of God’s love for us all culminating in outrageous praise to God who can do more than that! (3:14-21)

Then in chapter four we turn to application of it it and answer the question: what are we going to do about it.  Listen to how the chapter begins: (Read Ephesians 4:1-3).

The call for us as a church is to be one, to be unified. We are to (1) Walk in a manner worthy of our calling. God has called us out of sin and into Christ – you’re a Christian: Act like it. (2) Tolerate one another – not just those here, but every member of the true church of Jesus Christ. Tolerance by the way does not mean ignore sin. It means that we respond to fellow travelers with humility, gentleness, and patience. Why? Because we’re all at different stages on the journey towards Christlikeness. Later on in chapter four he deals with the process and goal of maturity through teaching and equipping. Which means that maturity demands learning and taking part in the equipping. (3) He says that we are to be diligent – that is to work HARD at preserving the unity of the Spirit.

One wag has said, “where ever two or three are gathered, there will be differences of opinion.” They are right. So we have to work hard at unity – not by ignoring sin and error, but by treating it with humility.

So the power of redemption is God himself, the riches of God’s glory are showered upon us. though being absolutely dead in our sin, we are made alive in Christ by God’s gracious intervention. Now then we are brought into union in Christ with all believers Jew and Gentile – there is no difference anymore, only Jesus. There is only one church. Since unity of the full body of the church is the goal: what is the foundation of that unity? In Ephesians 4:4-6 the foundation of unity is spelled out. (There is no other foundation there is only one comprised of these seven ingredients spelled out in this ancient Christian Creed. Read Ephesians 4:4-6)

One body

We can look back therefore at the call for the church to be one, not only for Fame Evangelical church, but also the entire global body of Christ because in fact there is only ONE church. There is one body that is the body of Christ. There are not two churches, or twenty churches, or twenty-thousand churches, there is one. One church existing in its many locations united in the single entity of Christ’s body.

We are not therefore asked to try to become one. We are not asked therefore to move towards unity, but we are mandated to diligently “preserve the unity of the Spirit…”

Consider the reasons that people separate, are they greater than the reasons given here?

Furthermore look at the first few verses of this fourth chapter of Ephesians and consider well the manner in which unity is to be preserved. And at the same time consider how ugly and how different the sinful tendency of our hearts might be.

First he says to walk in a manner worthy of your calling… That is: You are called to be godly in Christ – so act like it! You are called to confess your sin, to turn away from it in repentance, and to embrace with humility the redemption given you in Christ: act like it! You are called out of the kingdom of darkness; you are called into the kingdom of light: Act like it. You claim to be of the pedigree of the Father by adoption through the blood of Christ: Act like it.

What are the framing characteristics of acting like it? Humility is first. Humility is not the same as proud self-deprecation; which believes that if I cut myself down others will think more highly of me. No. Humility is to recognize how wretched, vile, and sinful you and I truly are in the face of the most majestic and unobtainable holiness of God who gave himself to make us holy. We are not the causers of our redemption but the humble and undeserving recipients of it. We are not holier than thou, I am very likely less holy than thou and yet you do not come to the throne of God by the slightest measure of your own adequacy but only because Jesus Christ is adequate.

Add gentleness to your humility and harsh words are gone, hurt feelings at  your caustic tongue are nowhere to be found, and together hand in hand the humility and gentleness of your demeanor will conquer the evil intent of the enemy to sunder God’s church.

Add to this: patience – that glorious fruit of the Spirit which we all too frequently mock at our lacking. God forgive me a sinner for laughing that I lack the fruit of your Spirit! God forgive us all for letting impatience of the flesh rather than the patience of the Spirit of God mark our behavior and our attitudes. God fill us with your Spirit and rend our hardened hearts till they repent of the evil we embrace in our impatience. Patience. God grant us patience!

Immediately our wicked hearts cry out, “OH! Do not pray for patience or God will make you earn it!” Is that right? Shall we not implore God to kill our sin and to drive us to Him? OR shall we be content in our sin and forget that repentance means turning away from it? God we repent of our impatience. Cause us to be as you, patient for untold years while you yearn to craft our hearts into your image.

Showing tolerance for one another in love. Look at these two terms for a moment and consider that the motivator of tolerance is love, not ambiguity, nor apathy. We do not tolerate because we must merely endure one another. But we tolerate because we love that person who disagrees with you.

Toleration means that we do not care for that person and are willing to let them be alone. It means that we understand each other’s weakness and without passing judgment upon them, we seek to actively love, teach, direct, humbly learn, and grow in grace together with them.

One SPIRIT

Our unity, which we are to diligently preserve is a unity of the Spirit. There is only one Spirit. God the Holy Spirit – the third person of the trinity. There is one God existing in all of eternity as three coequal persons, yet there are not three God’s but one only. The Spirit of God is he whom Jesus and the Father has sent. He is the companion, the very presence of God dwelling in the hearts of believers. He indwells every believer and distributes gifts to each one as He sees fit in order to establish the church, grow it in grace, and glorify Christ.

The Holy Spirit is not divided as though this church has one Spirit and that church has another. The Holy Spirit is one Spirit and because the one Spirit of God indwells every believer in Christ, there can be only one church of which every believer in Christ is truly a member. The unity of the Body is founded not upon our trying harder, but is firmly established in He who makes us one in Christ.

One hope

That unity in Christ is described as our one hope. We were called in one hope of your calling. What call is that which is in view here? Only that call which is discussed in this glorious letter which serves as the Magna Carta of the Church: We read in chapter 1:3-14 of the Effective Call of God. He calls us across the darkness of sin entrenched souls and awakens us to His glory for His name’s sake. He chose the redeemed before the foundation of the world, he predestined us to adoption through Christ – not for our sakes, but to the praise of His glory! He made known to us the mystery of His will: This is that call. We have been called by God himself, a call we hear echoed in the words of the Gospel crying out “Come to me!” and being quickened in our souls our faith is awakened and we become alive in Christ crying out to Him in faith, “I come!”

To what do we come? We come to the hope of the glory of Jesus Christ. We come to the promise of redemption. We come to receive the forgiveness of our sin and of our sins before God in the blood of Jesus Christ. We come to hope – not a hope founded upon our goodness, but solely upon His! And not only this but the Hope that is expressed in 1:18-19 (read).  In Ephesians, hope is not only what we receive, but is expressed in the Joyful praise that shall come to Christ through the redeemed.[1]

One LORD

It is to Jesus that the One Spirit points and in whom is all of our hope. There is no other. Jesus Christ the second person of the trinity – very God of very God. The author and perfecter of your faith. He is Lord, he is sovereign, he is King, he is savior, he is God in human flesh. He who is ever without sin, became sin for us, was crucified for our sin, put to death upon a cruel wooden cross so that our sin might be paid for. He was buried in a borrowed tomb, and guarded by Roman soldiers. And on the third day he was raised for our justification.

To call Him Lord means to call him God. Not merely in some head analytical way but in truth through the Power of the Spirit of God who calls you:

… no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit.” (1 Corinthians 12:3, NASB95)

The fact that you acknowledge Christ Jesus as God and Savior is imperative for your salvation as we read in Romans: “… if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved;” (Romans 10:9, NASB95)

One faith

As there is one Lord Jesus there is also only one faith. There is not a faith of Baptists, and a faith of Methodists, and a faith of Calvinists, and a faith of Arminians. There is one faith only and we are measured not by adhering to any of those but only to this one faith already proclaimed: That Jesus Christ is Lord. “The “one faith” is not their common body of belief (even if it is mentioned in a creedal context); it is their common belief in Christ.”[2]

One baptism

Just as there is one Lord whose identity is the substance of one faith, there is only one inauguration into the one body by confession of that faith: Baptism. Christian baptism is baptism into the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, in the Name of the Father, and the Son and the Holy Spirit. It is not one baptism because there is only one form of it, but because it is the singular initiation into the body of Christ. No matter of Church membership, no recitation of any creed, no other form of membership testimony is described in scripture apart from baptism. To this extent, every Christian undergoes baptism.[3] In baptism we portray the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ in our going under the water and coming out of the water. There we proclaim, not ourselves, but HIM!

One GOD

Last of all the Father God himself is our foundation of unity. The first person of the trinity comes last because we began with the Spirit who points to the Son who brings us to the Father! There is no other passage to God the Father but through Jesus.

God is over all, through all, and in all. All of what? Certainly he is God of all things, everything and everyone. But we are not looking here at universals but of something specific. He begins by saying that God is the Father of us all. Of whom is God the Father? Is he the Father of those who reject him? No, he is not. He is their creator, he calls them to accept, He extends through us the gospel call of repentance – but he is not the Father of those who reject Him. He is uniquely and especially the Father of those who Accept His Son as it says in John 1:12 “But as many as received Him [Jesus], to them He {God] gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name,” (John 1:12, NASB95)

There is one body of Christ, one Spirit in the Body, One hope in Christ, One Lord Jesus Christ, One Faith in Christ, One Baptism into Christ and there is one God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

He is the Father of all true Christians. He is Over all things and especially over all Christians. He is through all things and especially Christians, and uniquely and powerful in the Person of the Spirit, God the Father who exists beyond the edges of the universe which he created is in all Christians.

Unity, truly personal unity is not a fabrication of trying to get along but it is an expression of who we are in Christ. If then this is who we are in Christ than we are certainly called to live up to it as we walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which we have been called.

Invitation

Tell me, is this not desirable? Does not God call to your hearts this morning to embrace Jesus Christ and join Him? Will you not believe in Jesus today and accept God as your Father and become one with the church of the Living God?

There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all.” (Ephesians 4:4–6, NASB95)

 


[1] Walter L. Liefeld, Ephesians, vol. 10, The IVP New Testament Commentary Series (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1997), Eph 4:4.

[2] F. F. Bruce, The Epistles to the Colossians, to Philemon, and to the Ephesians, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1984), 336.

[3] Andrew T. Lincoln, Ephesians, vol. 42, Word Biblical Commentary (Dallas: Word, Incorporated, 1990), 240.