Welcome back to our Gospel Wednesday series. Last week we took a look at Ephesians 1-3 and we learned about the context of the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Church in Ephesus. While Paul does a wonderful job of summarizing the Gospel to the elders, he does so by way of reminder of what he had already spent 3 years teaching them in person. Chapter 3 closes with a wonderful prayer, but Paul is not yet finished with his letter, so today we will continue reading in Chapter 4.
Unity in the Body of Christ
There are a lot of books and conferences on how Christians are supposed to live their lives now that they have been Saved from their just punishment of hell. Some good, and some not very good at all. Before jumping into one of those guides or studies, let’s see what the Word of God emphasizes for His Body, the Church. First and foremost, as a born-again believer, you’ve been brought into the Body of Christ, His body. While it may have taken place in a specific church congregation, your place in the Body of Christ is much bigger than the 4 walls and local leadership of your church. When we talk about Unity here, don’t limit your understanding to just your local membership to a congregation; rather, understand that our Unity is in Christ and His Word (Law and Gospel). We assemble with the brethren for the building up of the Body of Christ, to the maturing of the Saints. Unity in Christ isn’t defined by your local body of elders, nor by your church covenants, it is defined by the Word of God, for Christ is the Head of His Church.
Ephesians 4 (ESV)| Unity in the Body of Christ
1 I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 3 eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.4 There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. 7 But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift. 8 Therefore it says,
“When he ascended on high he led a host of captives,
and he gave gifts to men.”
9 (In saying, “He ascended,” what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower regions, the earth? 10 He who descended is the one who also ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things.) 11 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, 14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. 15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.
When we think about our modern-day church, it might seem difficult to fathom verse 5, that there is One Lord, One faith, and One baptism. When we focus in on our denomination, how lovingly are those of a different denomination portrayed? One Faith. Yes, there are a lot of major differences between Pentecostalism and Reformed, but they can’t both be completely right because there is only One Faith. The One Faith comes from the One Spirit (verse 4) and everything we know of God is by His Word. There is the ultimate standard of Truth, the Word of God. However, unity in the Body of Christ demands that we speak to our brothers and sisters in the Body of Christ with ALL humility, gentleness, patience and love. We have no right to vilify our brothers who do not agree with us. There is a difference between having a different understanding and holding to False Doctrine. Scripture exposes false doctrine, and we are never to accept or tolerate false doctrine, nor are we to allow any doctrines of men to rise to the level of Scripture.
Once we have been born again, made alive in Christ by grace, through faith granted as a gift from God by His Word, we need to grow in Christ so that we will no longer be children, easily mislead. Such growth isn’t a mystical endeavor filled with “spiritual trial and error”, it is a very real study and understanding of God’s Word, learning from the teachers and shepherds of the flock and studying the works of the Apostles and Prophets as recorded in Scripture.
Ephesians 4:17-32 (ESV) | The New Life
17 Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do,in the futility of their minds. 18 They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart.19 They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity.20 But that is not the way you learned Christ!—21 assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, 22 to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, 23 and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, 24 and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.
25 Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another. 26 Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, 27 and give no opportunity to the devil. 28 Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need. 29 Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.32 Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.
Our conduct should be an outward expression of our faith in Jesus Christ. For just as He has called us out of the world, and made the way for such by His Blood, by faith we are to walk in the Spirit of God rather than by our sinful flesh. If this thought worries you, remember the cross. We do not earn forgiveness, nor do we earn salvation, nor are we sanctified by our own works. To put off your old-self will be a daily, lifelong pursuit as long as we continue in this fallen flesh. No matter how much you grow in Christ, you will not outgrow the need to repent and be forgiven until the Day of Christ’s Return, when death will finally be defeated and we will all will be given new bodies, free from sin and the curse of death. We must always bear the fruit of repentance, and know that in Christ (and ONLY in Christ) there is the forgiveness of sin.
The putting on of the new self is done bit by bit, and not perfectly as long as we live here in this fallen world. As you learn the Scriptures, the Testimony of the Goodness of God, the Holy Spirit will give you understanding. Paul is echoing some of the basics as a reminder, put away falsehood by speaking the truth (You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor), let the thief no longer steal, but let him work honestly (You shall not steal), don’t sin in your anger (emotion) and settle the matter (particularly your anger) that same day, so the devil doesn’t have an opportunity to tempt you to bitterness and murder. Paul isn’t just giving a brand new list of commandments for Christians to obey in order to be righteous. None of these qualities are new to the Scriptures, but the Gospel of Jesus Christ means that the wrath of God (the righteous and just punishment for falling short of the Law) has already been poured out onto Jesus Christ in our place. In Him we are forgiven already, and by Him we are made free to walk in His Ways. Let’s explore this further in the next chapter.
Ephesians 5 (ESV) | Walk in Love
5 Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. 2 And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.
3 But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. 4 Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. 5 For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. 6 Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. 7 Therefore do not become partners with them; 8 for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light 9 (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), 10 and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. 11 Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. 12 For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret.13 But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, 14 for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says,
“Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.”
15 Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. 18 And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, 19 addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, 20 giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, 21 submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.
Notice here that the Law is still the Law. The Law still identifies sin, and our flesh still desires sin. Sin still brings death (for we know we still face a physical death and after that judgement) under the Law. Our freedom from the Law is in Christ and as such cannot be separated from Christ. Christ fulfilled the Law perfectly and then laid down His life anyway taking the full punishment for our sake. We are vulnerable when we sin, and we dare not continue in sin for fear of making shipwreck of our faith. Expose sin, and don’t take part in it. This is particularly tough considering our flesh and its addiction to corruption. Immature Christians often invoke the devil as the root of their sin, but in truth they are simply obeying the cravings of the flesh rather than casting it off. I think it is helpful to think about alcohol, nicotine, or even caffeine addiction. The body craves these chemicals it has grown to love and will fight to convince you its a good idea, that it’s what you really want. The flesh does this to us with all sin. We don’t all have the exact same failings, but we are all the same in that we have all failed. Therefore, as brothers and sisters in Christ, we are to look after each other, in love, being ever mindful that none of us is made righteous by our own actions or endeavors, but by the Grace of God.
Next week, we’ll close out Paul’s letter to the Ephesians as he breaks down key relationships and their application to the Christian walk. Each of these are important and central to the Kingdom of Heaven so I’m excited to dive into them next week. For now, let us focus on how we are living our lives hour-by-hour and day-by-day. All men and women are sinful, the question is whether or not you remain repentant of your sin and ask God for forgiveness. The focus must be on the Cross, for had He not laid down His life for us, forgiveness would not be available to us. But because Christ came and died and rose again, we who believe in Him have everlasting life. In Christ, we have no right to attack our brothers and sisters, to speak falsely to our neighbor, nor to sin against them… we who are in Christ should treat others in a manner that is in keeping with our faith in Jesus Christ. As our Faith grows (by hearing the words of Christ) our walk will improve as an extension of our faith, and so we will grow in the Unity of the Body of Christ.
1 John 1 (ESV) | The Word of Life
1 That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— 2 the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us— 3 that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. 4 And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.
Walking in the Light
5 This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. 6 If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. 7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. 8 If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.
In closing, let us revisit Paul’s written prayer in Ephesians 3.
Ephesians 3:14-21 (ESV)
14 For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, 16 that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
20 Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think,according to the power at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.
In Christ Jesus,