Monday, November 12, 2012

Our WALK Begins With Relationships In The Church

Paul has moved from teaching doctrine to instructing the church on our daily 'walk' in Ephesians. Beginning with chapter four he calls us to walk in a manner that is worthy of the calling we have received.The rest of Ephesians will describe the walk that is worthy of the calling we’ve received. In simple language we will be shown what God expects of his church in daily life. We will be taught how to display his manifold wisdom to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places.

The Church: Walking in Unity (4:2-6). 
It is interesting to discover that the very first part of our walk Paul describes involves church unity (Eph 4:2-6). Paul begins with relationships within the church! Our walk starts with how we treat others. This is how the watching universe sees the glory of God displayed in his church.

We have learned in chapter two of the doctrine of unity: Christ accomplished it at the cross, tearing down the wall of division between Jews and Gentiles, creating one new man in place of the two, reconciling us to God and to each other. NOW WE ARE CALLED TO WALK IN THE UNITY CHRIST ALREADY ACCOMPLISHED. What Jesus has done must be believed by the church, embraced by the church and lived out by the church, for the glory of God!

1. Unity Maintained (4:2-3). “with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.“ (Eph 4:2-3, ESV). Paul teaches the church HOW to walk in the unity Christ accomplished. Since God has treated us with overflowing grace in Christ, we are now called to treat our brothers and sisters in the church the same way:
  • All Humility. The ‘humble recognition of the worth and value of other people’ (Stott). “…in humility count others more significant than yourselves” (Phil 2:3). This is how Paul treated the Ephesians when he was there (Acts 20:19) [O’Brien]! This describes Christ (Phil 2:3-8). Unity is destroyed when we lack humility; Pride thinks, “I do not deserve to be treated this way…I deserve better.”
  • Gentleness. Meekness. Controlled strength – not weakness. ‘consideration for others, willingness to waive one’s rights’ (O’Brien). Jesus describes himself as ‘gentle and lowly in heart’ (Matt 11:29).
  • Patience. Long-suffering. ‘Makes allowance for others’ short-comings – endures wrong rather than flying into a rage or desiring vengeance’ (O’Brien).
  • Bearing with one another in Love. We are called to maintain unity by putting up with one another...but in love. The love of God in us will empower us to treat others in this way.
By treating one another in the church in this manner we can maintain (not create) the unity ‘of the Spirit.’ The Holy Spirit has put us into Christ as one body. He is building this unity in our midst. This is his desire.
Be eager. But notice that we are not only to maintain unity through our Christ-like relationships in the church, but we are to be ‘eager to maintain’ this unity! ‘Eager’ carries the meaning, ‘be zealous or eager,’ ‘take pains,’ or ‘make every effort’ (O’Brien). Markus Barth adds that this excludes passivity, or a ‘wait and see’ attitude. We must earnestly desire to display this unity to the universe, because God desires it, and for the sake of his glory!
The Bond of Peace. This unity of the Spirit enjoyed by the church when we walk in love, is characterized by the ‘bond of peace;’ we are held together by peace. We believe in the doctrine of reconciliation (2:14-16), so we must walk/live as reconciled to one another. Peace! The war is over!
The exceeding Sinfulness of Disunity. To resist these instructions to eagerly work towards maintaining unity in the church and treat each other in this Christ-like way, is to fight against God (Acts 11:17b); to resist what the Spirit is working towards in the church. And since this is how God desires to display his glory to the universe, failure here is an affront to the very glory of God! When we harbor bitterness and unforgiveness, and fail to receive one another in love, we are saying with our actions that God’s glory is meaningless and despised, and that the cross has made no difference (O’Brien)!
 Finally, for this to be a practical part of our daily life in Christ, this must start at the local church level. It is not an insignificant thing even for a small local church to live in love and unity. Rather, it is eternally and universally significant, part of the realization of the eternal plan of God – displaying his glory to the universe!
2. Unity Described (4:4-6). “There is one body and one Spirit – just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call – one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” (Eph 4:4-6, ESV).

Having called us to maintain the unity, and instructed us concerning how to maintain the unity, now Paul describes this unity. He gives us 7 statements of unity, arranged around the members of the Trinity (Father, Son and Holy Spirit). This is because our unity in the church flows out of God’s unity within his Godhead. Because God exists as a unity of Persons, the church must and can and will be unified.
One body, one Spirit, one hope. “There is one body because there is one Spirit” (Stott). There are many local churches, but one Church; one body of Christ; one unified, multi-ethnic people of God who are filled with one Holy Spirit! Unity already exists; Christ’s people are already filled with the same Spirit. One hope that belongs to our call: This one people of God filled with the one Spirit of God shares the one HOPE, the same future inheritance. There’s not two heavens. Not one heaven for Methodists, one for Baptists, etc; Not one heaven for Asians, one for Africans, etc. God’s one people will be with him…together.
One Lord, one faith, one baptism. Jesus is Lord, and there is none other. He is the one Head of the church, the one Savior to sinners, the One way to the Father! The one faith is the one set of truths about Jesus held by believers (“the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints” Jude 3); “the doctrinal truths Christians commonly confess” (ESV Study Bible notes). The gospel! And the one baptism is the immersion into Christ accomplished by the Holy Spirit and pictured outwardly in water baptism. “For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body…” (1 Cor 12:13). One Lord, one set of truths about him, one immersion into him, pictured by one sign.
One God and Father of all… All of this flows from the one Father, who is described in his sovereignty and omnipresence. One ‘all,’ the church.
The unity of the church has been accomplished by Christ and is being produced by the Spirit. Just as God’s unity of 3 Persons is secure, so is the unity of the church secure. But we must eagerly join God in bringing this to light in our experience. He has done it, and he does it, but he does it through us as we obey and walk in it.

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