Sunday, December 31, Lesson: Ephesians 4:1-16; Time of Action: 60 A.D.; Place of Action: Paul writes to the believers in Ephesus from Rome

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1 Sunday, December 31, 2017 Lesson: Ephesians 4:1-16; Time of Action: 60 A.D.; Place of Action: Paul writes to the believers in Ephesus from Rome Golden Text: I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace (Ephesians 4:1-3). I. INTRODUCTION. Our lesson this week discusses the unity of faith of all believers in the body of Christ, the church. It teaches what God has done and continues to do concerning the unity of the Christian church. As we study this lesson, we will see what parts individuals play and what the goal or end result of our working together should be. This applies to the local congregation as well as to the church at large since its beginning. Unfortunately, sometimes the unity of the church may not be evident in our experience, but we must understand the purpose of God in our unity, and the part we personally play in the fulfillment of that purpose.

2 II. BACKGROUND FOR THE LESSON. As was typical of the Apostle Paul s epistles, he began by writing about doctrinal truths and then followed up with how those truths should be practically applied. In the first three chapters of Ephesians, Paul dealt with the doctrine of the heavenly calling of the church, our position in Christ, and the unity that God provides. Our lesson comes from chapter 4 where Paul addresses how we are to preserve that unity. III. GOD S MANDATE FOR HIS CHURCH (Ephesians 4:1-6) A. Walking worthy of our calling (Ephesians 4:1-3). 1. (vs. 1). After presenting doctrine in the previous chapters, Paul wanted his readers to put this doctrinal teaching into daily living by saying I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called. The word therefore points back to the doctrinal teachings in the first half of this book. It marks the transition Paul is

3 making from the doctrinal teachings to the application of those teachings. He appealed to his readers while he was in prison, under house arrest in Rome. Paul understood that he was there by the Lord s will because he called himself the prisoner of the Lord. Even though he was in prison, Rome was not in control of his life, God was! He urged the Ephesian believers to walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called. The Christian walk refers to how believers are to live. Walking refers to consistent, routine activity in life. The word vocation means one s calling. Paul was telling his readers to let their conduct agree with their standing before God. He didn t urge his readers to be godly in order to keep their heavenly calling; they were to live consistently with the calling they already had. We might put it this way, you are a heavenly people, now live like it! 2. (vs. 2). But what conduct is worthy of the Christian calling? So, Paul said in this verse With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love. He listed three important virtues that a Christian should exhibit to demonstrate the worthiness of his or her calling. a. First, we should show lowliness, that is, an attitude of humility. Our exalted position in Christ should lead us to be humble, not proud, for we know that we received our calling or position not because of what we ve done, but only by God s grace. b. Second, we should walk in meekness. A

4 meek person is gentle in character, submissive to God and others. He or she does not seek to assert their own importance. In both attitude and actions, they are under God s control (see II Timothy 2:24-25). Sometimes meekness is considered to be a weakness. However, it really is a sign of strength. It takes a person who is spiritually and emotionally strong to show gentleness to others no matter who they are. c. Third, the believer should manifest longsuffering. This speaks of patience or slowness to become angry when we are wronged. God is longsuffering toward sinners, and He wants us, who bear His image, to be so as well. Showing these qualities lead to forbearing one another in love meaning that we put up with one another s faults and never stop loving them even when faults are revealed 3. (vs. 3). As we conduct ourselves in the manner of our calling, in this verse Paul said the believer should be Endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. The Greek term translated endeavoring means to make haste or to be swift. The emphasis here is to be swift to preserve or keep the unity of the Spirit. Believers are not asked to create unity, for the Holy Spirit has already done that. Instead, with divine assistance we are to preserve unity in the church even in the midst of Satan s attacks to destroy it. We are to preserve unity in the bond of peace. In other words, peace is what binds believers together in unity. We can t create that bond of peace because Christ already has (see Ephesians 2:14-17). This

5 unity is planted by the Holy Spirit, but it must be cultivated by each Christian. B. We are a unified body (Ephesians 4:4-6). 1. (vs. 4). Beginning with this verse and continuing through verse 6, Paul tells us that it is important to preserve unity among believers because God has bound believers together with a sevenfold cord. The apostle begins describing the parts of that cord by saying in this verse There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling. First, There is one body. All Christians belong to the same body of Christ, the church. Since we are a unified, spiritual organism, we should strive for unity among ourselves. Members of one body don t oppose one another. There is no Jewish church and a Gentile church. We are one body in Christ (see Galatians 3:28). Second, there is one Spirit. This refers to the Holy Spirit. Every believer possesses the same indwelling Holy Spirit (see I Corinthians 12:13). In spite of differences among believers, the Holy Spirit gives unified direction. He will never lead those who follow His teachings into disharmony. Third, there is one hope of your calling. Those who are called have the same, or one hope which is sharing in the glory of Christ throughout eternity (see Romans 8:29-30; I John 3:2-3). The Holy Spirit s presence in us is a guarantee that we will reach heaven (see Ephesians 1:13-14).

6 2. (vs. 5). Continuing to list the things that unite us in God s sevenfold cord; Paul here says we have One Lord, one faith, one baptism. Fourth, there is One Lord, Jesus Christ, who is the chief cornerstone of the church (see Ephesians 2:20), and He demands an allegiance and obedience that should bind Christians together. When we begin to follow men, as the Corinthian church did (see I Corinthians 1:12-13), we have divisions, not unity. Fifth, there is one faith that also unites us. There is only one gospel to be believed, and every believer must place the same faith in the same Person, Jesus Christ. He becomes our Saviour through faith, and there is no other way. Therefore, we come to Christ by only one faith. Sixth, Paul said we all share one baptism. The rite of baptism symbolizes our identification with Christ in His crucifixion, burial and resurrection (see Romans 6:3-6). However, in this verse one baptism surely refers to the baptism of the Holy Spirit that all believers experience at the very moment of conversion. When we are saved, we experience one baptism as we are baptized into the body of Christ by the Holy Spirit (see I Corinthians 12:13). 3. (vs. 6). The seventh and final strand in God s sevenfold cord that ties believers together in unity is One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all. Christian Jews and Gentiles do not worship separate deities. There is only one God and He is the Father of all Christians (see Ephesians 2:18). As the only God, He is above all, and through all, and in you all. Of course this is limited to believers, because only those who receive His Son have the Father (see I John 2:23: II John 1:9).

7 IV. GOD S PROVISION FOR HIS CHURCH (Ephesians 4:7-12) A. Grace given (Ephesians 4:7-8). 1. (vs. 7). At this point, Paul changes his emphasis from the basis of our unity to receiving spiritual gifts by each believer. He says in this verse But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ. The word but introduces Paul s change in emphasis. The phrase unto every one of us is given grace refers not to saving grace, but to grace or favor given for service. Every believer is given at least one spiritual gift to be used in God s work. We should discover our gifts and minister them in areas where we are most qualified. In Roman 12:6, Paul called such graces gifts. Interestingly, the Greek word for gift, which is charisma, comes from the Greek word for grace which is charis. The idea here is that God s graciously bestowed gifts are intended for the benefit of the entire church body (see I Corinthians 12:7; 14:12). Grace or spiritual gifts for service, is given according to the measure of the gift of Christ. In I Corinthians 12:1-11 the gifts mentioned there are said to be given by the Holy Spirit, but here they are described as the gifts of Christ. There really is no debate here. The phrase the gift of Christ could refer to the Holy Spirit Himself, since Christ sent Him as a gift to the

8 church (see John 15:26; Acts 2:38). The Holy Spirit then would be seen as measuring out to Christians such gifts as Christ has willed them to have. 2. (vs. 8). To support the idea of the giving of spiritual gifts, Paul quoted from Psalms 68:18 saying Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men. The Psalms Paul referred to is a victory psalm, describing how God works on behalf of His children, and how He will give them victory over their enemies. This quote portrays a military victor leading his captives home and giving gifts to his subjects. The captives in this case are Jesus own people rescued from another captor, which is sin. The picture Paul is painting is of Jesus, who won a great victory at the cross. He returned home to heaven, that is he ascended up on high victoriously and led captivity captive meaning He was able to free all those who had been previously held captive by sin. As a result of His victory and ascension, Jesus was also able to give gifts unto men specifically those who had received Him as Saviour and were now part of His newly formed church. However, the gifts unto men were gifted individuals as we will see in verse 11. These individuals were Christ s gifts to His church. B. Victory won by Jesus (Ephesians 4:9-10). 1. (vs. 9). Here, Paul, in order to explain verse 8 said parenthetically, (Now that he ascended, what is it

9 but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth? The apostle concluded that if Christ ascended into heaven, He first had to descend or come down from heaven. This verse also says that Christ descended first into the lower parts of the earth. Many people interpret the phrase the lower parts of the earth to refer to Hades (hell), the grave, or the earth. However, there is no evidence in Scripture indicating that Jesus went to hell after His death. It may be best to understand this verse as Christ ascending back to heaven only after coming down to earth in humility to die on the cross (see Philippians 2:5-8). By dying on the cross, Christ won the ultimate victory over sin, death, and the devil. However, we cannot be sure of the exact meaning of this phrase which is not crucial to understanding this passage. The main point is the statement in the next verse. 2. (vs. 10). In this verse Paul says He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things.) As stated previously, the main point of verse 9 is that Jesus is the same person who descended to the earth and then ascended up far above all heavens. He ascended back to the place of highest exaltation, a position at the Father s side to fill all things, meaning to fill the entire universe with Himself. Jesus return to His place of universal headship and authority over everything gave Him the right to bestow gifts on whoever He wished.

10 C. Equipping and edifying gifted believers (Ephesians 4:11-12). 1. (vs. 11). Because of Christ s victory over sin and death and His ascension into heaven, He was able to give gifts to the churches in the form of men. Paul said And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers. The word some refers to churches. Not all churches have all of these gifted persons and some churches have them all. The apostle listed four groups of church leaders gifted to the church by Christ, the gift-giver. a. The first group is apostles. Scripture implies that apostles had to be witnesses of the life, ministry, and resurrection of Jesus (see Acts 1:21-22; I Corinthians 9:1-6). The apostles in Scripture included the Twelve Disciples (including Matthias in Acts 1:26), Paul (see Romans 1:1), Barnabas (see Acts 14:14), James (see Galatians 1:19), Andronicus and Junia (see Romans 16:7). The apostles had a very specific ministry of spreading the gospel and establishing the church (see II Corinthians 12:12). The ministry of the apostles was replaced by the New Testament. Their office was not transferable and has ceased since no one living today has seen Christ (see I Corinthians 9:1; 15:5-8). b. The second group is prophets. New Testament prophets sometimes foretold the future (see Acts 1:27-28), but more often they exhorted and strengthened God s people (see Acts 15:32; I Corinthians

11 14:29). Since the prophets and apostles formed the foundation of the church (see Ephesians 2:20) they no longer existed after the first century. Their role was replaced by the New Testament. c. The third group of persons given to the church was evangelists. These persons were endowed with the special ability to present the gospel to unbelievers bringing them to Christ. Philip was a noted evangelist (see Acts 21:8), and Timothy was told to do the work of an evangelist (see II Timothy 4:5). Evangelists are still important to the church today. d. The fourth group was pastors and teachers. Most scholars agree that this should be one group of persons, pastor-teachers. These leaders ministered in local congregations, overseeing the saints and building them up in their spiritual growth. They were most likely the elders and bishops of the local churches (see Acts 20:17, 28; I Timothy 3:2). A pastor is a shepherd who is responsible for leading, feeding, directing and protecting God s flock (see I Peter 5:1-3). This involves teaching since biblical instruction is the most important weapon against error and the surest road to spiritual maturity. The ministry of pastor-teachers is just as necessary today as it was in the first century. 2. (vs. 12). In this verse Paul tells us why God gives these different leaders to the church. He said it was For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ. The

12 Greek word for perfecting means equipping, preparing, or rendering fit. The Greek word translated edifying literally means the act of building. Christ gave these gifted leaders to the church and their role was, and still is, to equip the believers for ministry or service. As they trained and developed the congregation, all Christians would be able to do the work of ministry. Note: There are four texts in the Bible that list the spiritual gifts which are special Godgiven abilities that enable us to be used in edifying (causing growth) the body of Christ. The gifts listed in Romans 12:3-8 are called grace gifts or gifts not necessarily given supernaturally. Those listed in I Corinthians 12:8-10 are called revelation gifts which were the word of knowledge, the word of wisdom, and the discernment of spirits (the ability to determine whether or not a message was from the Holy Spirit) and prophecy (foretelling the future). I Corinthians 12:9-10 list gifts called sign gifts designed to cause awe or amazement to all who observed them. These included miracles, healings, different kinds of tongues and the interpretation of tongues. These were gifts or abilities to be used in ministry. The gifts in verse 11 are gifted men given to the church. In God s plan, ministry or service is supposed to be the work of the whole congregation, not the work of just the gifted leaders. The exalted Christ purposes to have the church, His body, spiritually mature and all its members equipped or prepared so that they all will function properly and at full strength. This verse is Christ s bodybuilding program in order for the church to grow.

13 V. GOD S GOAL FOR HIS CHURCH (Ephesians 4:13-16) A. Maturing in unity and perfection (Ephesians 4:13-14). 1. (vs. 13). How long should the process of equipping and preparing believers for ministry continue? Paul answered this question by saying in this verse, Till 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 fullness of Christ. Preparing believers for service must continue until all believers are united in one faith, or doctrine and purpose, and achieve a full knowledge of Jesus Christ. With the phrase unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, Paul viewed the church as a man growing to maturity. Therefore, the goal of the church is to match the stature of the fullness of Christ who is the Head. Note: In position, the church is already Christ s fullness (see Ephesians 1:22-23). However, Paul was referring to a day when the church will actually experience Christ s complete fullness and be just like Him (see Philippians 3:21; I John 3:2). Until then, the need for gifted and equipped saints will continue. 2. (vs. 14). Just as Paul viewed the church as a

14 man growing to maturity, in this verse he contrasts that with the immaturity of children who are easily influenced. Paul said in this verse, That 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. Christians are not to be like children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine. Immature Christians are easily influenced or blown around back and forth by false or inaccurate teachings. Deliberate false teaching comes from those who use cunning craftiness to purposely twist the Scriptures in order to attract followers. The phrase they lie in wait to deceive means that false teachers look for ways to deceive or trick believers into following them. Some will use cults, some will give false hopes of gaining prosperity, and some will teach unbiblical ways to try to manipulate God to heal or bless. Christians who are easily deceived reveal a lack of growth in their knowledge of Christ. B. Maturing through truth in love (Ephesians 4:15-16). 1. (vs. 15). Instead of falling for anything, in this verse Paul said believers should be speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ. An important feature of spiritual growth is speaking the truth in love. This simply means that believers must be true in word and deed. Christians

15 must be honest, unlike the deceitful schemers in the previous verse. One important mark of the Christian should be his or her practice of integrity. Unfortunately, there is a great lack of integrity today even among Christians. We see this in how so-called evangelical Christians support a government ran by people who will say or do anything as if there is no God. As we speak the truth, it must be done in love. Too often Christians are so eager to speak the truth that they don t realize that how they say something could be more damaging than what they say. Speaking the truth in love will help us grow up into him (Jesus Christ) in all things or in all aspects of life. We need to be balanced, well-rounded Christians. If we neglect the personal holiness of Bible Study and Sunday school, or works of mercy, or sharing the gospel with others, we have failed to understand our goal of reaching spiritual maturity. We are to grow up into him which is the head, even Christ. Christ is not only the model we seek to imitate, but He is also the source of strength that makes growth possible. 2. (vs. 16). Referring back to Christ in the previous verse Paul says in our final verse, From 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 words From whom refer to Jesus Christ. Through Him the church body is fitly joined together. In other words, Christ knits the body together in greater unity. Jesus has compacted or closely united the church so that every joint supplieth according to the effectual working in

16 the measure of every part. This means that every believer is important in the body of Christ, and it grows only as every part works together. The result of this unity is the edifying of itself (the church) in love meaning that the church grows spiritually as every believer ministers or serves in love. VI. Conclusion. We keep the unity of our faith by acknowledging the gifts and jobs, or vocations to which we have been called. The burden of ministry will overwhelm one person. But when many believers work together, they not only make the task easier, but will also experience the blessing of God as they fulfill His design for bringing the church to maturity. Many Christians today have the feeling that they don t have to do the work of the church because they are paying the pastor (in some cases) to do it. God s plan, however, is that each believer be involved in His work. We all need to ask ourselves, What is my role in the body of Christ? Am I using my gift(s) in a way that is fitting to the life of a Christian? ***The Bible Expositor and Illuminator, Union Gospel

17 Press*** Sunday, December 31, 2017: Faith to Unite Commentary

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