Ephesians 4:1-10, “Paul Exhorts The Ephesians To Be Christ-like And To Be In Unity In The Spirit”
1.1. In our last study, we looked at verses 14-21 of chapter 3.
1.1.1. In that study, we saw Paul’s second prayer for the Ephesian church. In that prayer, Paul’s emphasis had to do with the Ephesian’s “experience of God,” of receiving personally and experientially all of the fullness of the Lord, of His power and His love in their lives.
1.1.2. We saw that this prayer of Paul’s for the Ephesians church was also one that all of us as Christ’s people need fulfilled in our life. The experience of God that Paul prayed for the Ephesians was not meant to be an experience only for the exceptional Christian but rather that which should entail “the normal Christian life” which every Christian can and should experience, as it is available for all.
1.2. In our study today, we are going to look at verses 1-10 of chapter 4.
1.2.1. In our study today, we have now entered into the second half of the epistle to the Ephesians. Here Paul acts according to the style he used when writing his New Testament epistles to the churches, he spends the first half of his letters telling the churches about the things that the Lord has done for them and the second half detailing what their response to what the Lord has done for them ought to be. You could also say that the first half of Paul’s letters are doctrinal and that the second half are practical. The first half tells us of the things that God has worked into our life and the second half tells us what we now are supposed to work out in our life.
1.2.2. In our lives as Christians, it is the case that God always teaches us new things and then the next thing that we know He places us into a situation in which we have to apply the things that He has been trying to teach us. This is the purpose for the many trials that the Lord places in our life. It would be a shame and a great waste if we only learned great truths and never applied them in our lives.
1.2.3. We discussed at the beginning of this study of the book of Ephesians that the book taught us many truths about the nature of the church, and in our study today we will look at many things that Paul wants to communicate in that regard. In the New Testament epistles we see a consistent theme in that the Lord is always teaching things to His children and working out in the lives of His children (those who are genuine believers in Christ) things, which are in relation to the church itself. In other words, in the New Testament the apostles expected that what God was doing in His children’s lives He was doing through the church. Each believer is called into the church and functions as a living entity in a mystical type of union with Christ as well as every other member, each one being under Christ the Head. There is no Christianity discussed or assumed to exist apart from the church and functioning within the church. In our study today, we will look at what constitutes the proper functioning of the individual members of the body of Christ.
2. VS 4:1 - “1 Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called,” - Paul implores the Ephesians to walk in a manner worthy of their calling
2.1. Paul first of all reminds the Ephesians again of the fact of his being a prisoner of the Lord. I believe that Paul intends for the Ephesians to see by this his submission to the Lord as God’s called and obedient servant. Therefore, Paul is implying by this that in now admonishing the Ephesians concerning their individual conduct that he is not asking them to do anything that he himself is not doing. Paul never admonishes us in his letters to do anything that he himself is not presently modeling in his own life.
2.2. Paul has described in the first three chapters the incredible ‘calling’ that we as Christians have.
2.3. The Greek word translated here ‘implore’ is very strong and implies a strong entreaty and some have even inferred that the word implies “to beg.” The things that God’s word commands us as Christians to do or not to do should never be taken lightly by us or thought of as being optional. It is absolutely essential that we as Christians apply to our own lives the many exhortations to us as God’s people from God’s word. To refuse to take scriptural commands seriously is to sin and disobey and dishonor the Lord.
2.4. What Paul implores us as Christians to do is to ‘walk in a manner worthy of the calling’ that we have been given as Christians, and lets look at three aspects of this admonishment:
2.4.1. We who are Christians by our faith in Christ and His completed work upon the cross for our salvation have a ‘calling’ by the Lord into this Christian life.
188.8.131.52. The church is not like some sort of a civic club that a person might join. It is not “a religious organization,” but rather “a spiritual organism” consisting of those who have been brought together by Jesus Christ who dwells within each member of the body.
184.108.40.206. Since the fall, man’s nature has been very selfish and self-centered. We see in this world people all around us who are living for self and exalting themselves as number one. However, we Christians must never be selfish or self-centered in our concept or involvement in and with Christ’s church because the church is not about us it is about the Lord.
220.127.116.11. Every club or organization that a person might belong to, every job a person is employed for, and every membership has certain requirements of its members. These rules are required for all who are privileged to enjoy the benefits of membership. In the body of Christ, God expects certain types of conduct from His people and thus the New Testament authors give us many commandments which we are to follow.
18.104.22.168. Since each of us who make up the body of Christ have a special calling into the body of Christ, we need to be faithful to the Lord in that calling and our responsibility is to do His bidding and will in all that we do in our lives and in the church.
2.4.2. In the New Testament when it speaks of a Christian’s ‘walk’ it means “the manner in which we conduct ourselves.”
22.214.171.124. The Lord wants to direct how each of us as Christians conduct ourselves and our affairs in this world. We need to learn to imitate Jesus Christ in His character and holiness, be holy as He is holy, and walk in love just as He walks in love.
2.4.3. We are to walk in a manner that is ‘worthy’ of our calling as Christians, and this word ‘worthy’ is a word that refers to “balance scales when each side is of equal weight.”
126.96.36.199. Having studied in the first three chapters of this epistle all of the incredible blessings and privileges that each of us as Christians have been given simply because we are “in Christ,” it is imperative that in thankfulness and gratitude that we respond appropriately to our loving heavenly Father for the things that He has done in our lives. It is imperative that we walk in a manner that is worthy of the incredible blessings and privileges that we have received “in Christ.”
188.8.131.52. For instance, we as Christians need to in our life walk in a manner that is worthy of:
184.108.40.206.1. Having received grace and mercy from God when because of our sins we deserve only hell and judgment.
220.127.116.11.2. Having experienced the “riches of God’s grace.”
18.104.22.168.3. Having now in our present possession “every spiritual blessing in Christ Jesus.”
22.214.171.124.4. Being “equal heirs with Jesus Christ,” sharing in all that He has.
126.96.36.199.5. Having received the “unfathomable riches of Christ.”
3. VS 4:2 - “2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love,” - Paul tells the Ephesians to have all humility and gentleness with patience and to show tolerance for one another in love
3.1. In describing these characteristics that we as Christians ought to allow the Lord to work in our lives, ‘humility,’ ‘gentleness,’ ‘patience,’ and ‘tolerance,’ Paul speaks of both the character described by Jesus in His Sermon On The Mount as being “blessed,” as well as the “fruits of the Spirit,” which Paul in his letters describes for believers.
3.2. It is only by allowing the Lord to work into our lives the very character of Christ that we will be able to apply any of the other admonitions that the scripture gives for us as Christians to apply. As we allow the Lord to form the character of Christ within our life the result will be to walk as Christ would have us to walk and do the things that the Lord wants to do in our life.
3.3. There are no Christians on this earth who are fruitful for the Lord that are not also Christ-like in their character.
3.4. Paul writes here to the Ephesians that it is with ‘all’ humility and gentleness with patience that we are to do these things. This then tells us that we Christians are to display the furthest extent of humility and gentleness and do so in each and every circumstance that we find ourselves in. There is no circumstance that does not require us to show humility and gentleness as Christians.
3.5. In Paul’s day neither the Greeks nor the Romans had a word in their language that conveyed the idea of ‘humility.” This is because ‘humility’ was not considered a virtue by them but rather a weakness or character flaw. In Paul’s New Testament writings we occasionally find him creating new words when the Greek language could not convey what he intended to communicate, and thus this Greek word ‘tapeinophrosune’ which is translated ‘humility’ was one which Paul created, and it literally means “lowliness of mind.”
3.5.1. To be “humble” means not to think too highly of yourself, or better yet, to think of others and their needs over yourself. Jesus taught His disciples about humility on many occasions but probably most directly when on the night of His betrayal He their leader went and in the manner of a menial servant washed each of their feet at the dinner table.
3.5.2. In Philippians chapter 2, the apostle Paul taught that the whole experience of Jesus’ incarnation is an example of ‘humility’ that all of us as Christians ought to emulate: Phil. 2:5-10, “5 Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, 6 who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. 8 Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth”
3.5.3. This ‘humility’ is exactly what Jesus referred to when He said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit” in His Sermon On The Mount.
3.6. This Greek word “praotes” which is translated here ‘gentleness’ can also mean “meekness.” This word must never be confused with “weakness” or “cowardliness.” What it really means is “power under constraint.” The word was used when speaking of a mighty horse when it had finally been broken and could now be ridden. The horse was just as powerful as ever however it was now considered to be “meek” because it was under control.
3.6.1. ‘Gentleness’ or “meekness” is one of the fruits of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23) which the Holy Spirit produces in the lives of a Christian when he is submitted to and led by the Lord.
3.6.2. In His Sermon On The Mount, Jesus said that the “meek” were blessed and would inherit the earth.
3.6.3. Jesus was “meek” and yet he twice drove the money-changers out of the temple.
3.6.4. King David was “meek” and yet he was a mighty warrior and when only a youth slew not only Goliath the Philistine giant, but also a lion and a bear with his bare hands.
3.6.5. A person who is “meek” allows the Lord to guide him and he walks in obedience to the Lord. He also thinks of others above himself and never promotes himself.
3.7. ‘Patience’ is another one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit found in the life of a Christian who is filled with and walking in the power of the Holy Spirit.
3.7.1. This word means “to suffer long.”
3.7.2. Someone once said that ‘patience’ is “to wait without complaint.”
3.7.3. We Christians are to be patient with others. In the body of Christ when we believe someone is slow to catch on, when we perceive things in a different way than someone else, when people don’t do what we hope or believe that should do, we need to be patient with them in the same way that the Lord is patient with all of us. If God were not patient with all of us there would be no one left alive on the face of the earth. However, God suffers long with each of us in the same way we must suffer long with others.
3.8. Paul tells the Ephesians here that they are to ‘tolerate’ one another, translating the Greek word ‘anechomai.’ However, this word means more than to ‘tolerate’ someone. Rather, it brings the idea of “forbearance” and “endurance.” In 1 Cor. 13:4-8, Paul gives a definition of what walking in God’s agape love is like and there he says that “love bears all things” : 4 Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, 5 does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, 6 does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; 7 bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 8 Love never fails; but if there are gifts of prophecy, they will be done away; if there are tongues, they will cease; if there is knowledge, it will be done away. When we Christians are walking in God’s agape love we will naturally “forbear” or “put up with” one another in the body of Christ.
4. VS 4:3 - “3 being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” - Paul tells the Ephesians to preserve the unity of the Spirit
4.1. In this verse, Paul communicates the importance of “preserving” what he calls the ‘unity of the Spirit.’
4.2. ‘Unity’ in the body of Christ is so important that in Jesus’ high priestly prayer for His disciples just before going to Calvary what was mostly on His heart was that His disciples then and on into the future might be “one” : John 17:20-21, “20 “I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word; 21 that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me.””
4.3. ‘Unity’ in the body of Christ is critical if the body is to be healthy. When you consider the nature of the body of Christ you can then realize that it is just like our physical bodies. If all of the organs in a person’s body are not working together for the good of the whole then the body is going to be ill and hampered from optimal and full functionality as a result. Without ‘unity’ the body of Christ is ineffective for the Lord.
4.4. Paul tells us also in 1 Corinthians that if one person in the body is hurting it affects the whole body. We in the body of Christ need to always be open to ministering to any member in the body whom we discover is hurting. This is not just the responsibility of the pastor it is every believer’s responsibility.
4.5. “Lack of unity” is and has been a big issue or topic of discussion in the world and in the church. However, in spite of the emphasis that has been placed upon unity the reality of our experience is that there has been little experience of unity.
4.5.1. Interestingly, Martyn Lloyd-Jones has written that a greater problem in the church today than a lack of unity is the ecumenical movement’s progress in leading churches to seek unity at the expense of truth.
4.6. Note here that Paul preceded this admonishment concerning unity in the church having first written about the essential character that all of us as Christians must strive to possess. This is because the unity that we in the body of Christ are to have is not a unity such as people in the world may strive for. In the world’s concept of unity everyone is to agree to cooperate and set aside differences for the better good of the whole. The world’s approach to unity is simply to learn to tolerate people. However, the unity that we in the church are to have is different as it is a dynamic element produced by the indwelling Spirit of God within us. The unity that the church is to have is internal unity as it is produced by the Lord Himself, thus it is not like worldly unity that exists only on the external. You have to walk in a Christ-like way and be in fellowship with Christ in order to experience for yourself unity in the body of Christ. In the body of Christ we don’t do as the world does and “tolerate” people, we love them unconditionally with God’s kind of love.
4.7. Note that Paul describes the ‘unity’ that is to exist in the church as being ‘unity of the Spirit.’ ‘Spirit’ should be capitalized here because it is ‘unity’ that is produced by the working of the Holy Spirit through each member of the body that is at issue.
4.8. When my wife and I were first married we realized that marriage was a difficult arrangement. Then, when we argued and fought with each other, because Christ is in each of our lives and we have placed Him as Lord of our lives, we would always eventually come to the place of coming to Christ and getting our hearts right with Him, and this always resulted in us getting our hearts right with each other and resolving our conflicts. In the same way, in the church we all have Jesus in us and as each of us will submit to Him as Lord and walk in the power of the Holy Spirit, we will always be in unity in the body of Christ.
4.9. Paul tells the Ephesians that they are to be ‘diligent’ to preserve this unity. In other words they are to take great pains to make sure that unity.
4.9.1. A unified church is an incredible testimony to non-believers of God’s working in and through our lives.
4.9.2. Let me ask you Christian if you have taken it upon yourself to be ‘diligent’ to preserve unity in the church? This is something that each of us as Christians need to be committed to in our own walk, and also when we are with others.
4.9.3. If someone else in the body of Christ is being divisive we need to take upon ourselves to confront the person in love following Matt. 18 and remind them of the absolute necessity that we all be in unity in the church. Then, we need to hold them accountable to follow through with our counsel to them. If the person is gossiping or speaking in an unfavorable way about a brother or sister in the body then we need to hold the person responsible to either stop gossiping or to go to talk with the person they are gossiping about and confront them in the Matt. 18 manner. Each of us are responsible for maintaining unity in the body of Christ.
4.10. Unity in the body of Christ has something that binds it together and Paul tells us that this element is the ‘peace’ of God. What an awesome ‘peace’ from God rests over every church that is unified, but what unrest is present in a church that has allowed divisiveness to exist.
5. VS 4:4-6 - “4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling; 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all.” - Paul declares the unity that Christians ought to have by stating the oneness of the Holy Spirit, our calling, our Lord, our faith, our baptism, and our God
5.1. To emphasize the fact that there is to be no excuse for a lack of unity in the body of Christ, Paul tells us here that there is just ‘one body,’ ‘one Spirit,’ ‘one hope of your calling,’ ‘one faith,’ ‘one baptism,’ and ‘one God and Father.’
5.1.1. If there could be multiple bodies of Christ then a person could make the excuse for being divisive in the body of Christ that he is part of a different body of Christ.
5.1.2. If there could be multiple Spirits then a person could make the excuse for being divisive in the body of Christ that he is part of a different Holy Spirit.
5.1.3. If there were different hopes for our calling as Christians then a person could make the excuse for being divisive in the body of Christ that he simply has a different hope than some other group has.
5.1.4. Etc., etc., etc.
5.2. The ‘faith’ mentioned here is the whole of Biblical doctrine as contained in our scriptures.
5.3. The ‘baptism’ mentioned is probably Spirit baptism into the body of Christ that occurs whenever a person comes to salvation (1 Cor. 12:13).
5.4. The ‘hope of your calling’ refers to eternal life and all of the many things that we Christians inherit simply because we are in Christ.
5.5. There seems a definite reference to the three persons of the Trinity in Paul’s phrase, ‘over all and through all and in all.’ God the Father is ‘over all,’ Jesus is ‘through all,’ and the Holy Spirit is ‘in all.’ The emphasis here though by Paul would be the unity of the three persons of the Trinity.
6. VS 4:7-10 - “7 But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift. 8 Therefore it says, “When He ascended on high, He led captive a host of captives, And He gave gifts to men.” 9 (Now this expression, “He ascended,” what does it mean except that He also had descended into the lower parts of the earth? 10 He who descended is Himself also He who ascended far above all the heavens, so that He might fill all things.)” - Paul tells the Ephesians that to each one of us as Christians that grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift
6.1. Paul here begins to speak of the gifts of the Holy Spirit which each one in the body of Christ is given. The apostle Peter wrote about this in 1 Peter 4:10, “10 As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.”
6.2. The word used in the New Testament for a spiritual gift given by the Holy Spirit to a believer is the same word as the word for “grace.” Each spiritual gift is undeserved and given not because of anything we have done to earn it, for it is truly a gift. This is why Paul says here, ‘to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift.’
In these verses we see that Paul saw Jesus as
accomplishing three things after His death upon
6.3.1. He went and freed the spirits of the people who were held in Abraham’s Bosom in Hades, which we know from scripture is located in the center of the earth, leading them up to heaven to be with the Lord.
188.8.131.52. Hades used to contain at least two different compartments. There was a place of torments for the spirits of those people who were not God’s people in this life who were awaiting judgment. Then, there was a place referred to in scripture as “Abraham’s Bosom” where the spirits of those who were God’s people who had died were held.
184.108.40.206. It was the ‘captives’ in Abraham’s Bosom who were freed and led by Christ to go to heaven and appear before the throne of God.
220.127.116.11. In New Testament times if a person who belongs to God dies he goes straight into the presence of the Lord. Abraham’s Bosom no longer holds the spirits of men (see 2 Cor. 5:8).
6.3.2. He ‘ascended’ up to heaven.
6.3.3. He gave and distributed spiritual ‘gifts’ to His disciples.
7.1. As we consider how this study applies to our life, we need to first of all make a commitment of ourselves that we shall strive to walk in a manner worthy of that calling that we have been called with as Christians.
7.2. Lets also follow Christ’s example and let humility, gentleness, patience, and forbearance in love be unbroken in our relationships in the body of Christ. Lets make this our commitment.
7.3. Lets be diligent to take it upon ourselves to ensure that unity in the Holy Spirit is maintained, both in our life and in the lives of those we are with in the body of Christ.