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Ephesians 4:1-6, Christian Unity, pt1:
- We now move from the narrative to exhortation. In Ephesians 1–3 we read the story of God who saves us in Christ. In Ephesians 4–6 we are drawn into the story, not just as people for whom God has acted but also as role-players in the story.
- Turning to the opening 6 verses of chapter 4, the first thing we see is an exhortation that the Christians in Ephesus are to “live a life worthy of the calling they have received” (4:1). This sets the tone about how we are to live in response to God’s call.
- Therefore, we have a two-point outline:
- 1) the instruction of unity, v1-3
- 2) the teaching on unity, v4-6
- The Instruction of Unity: (v1-3)
- Paul’s call for unity comes as a fellow believer! Verse 1, As a prisoner for the Lord, I urge you.” He is not using his apostolic authority, which should encourage us of his association to other believers! Perhaps if his command came from his apostolic authority, it would seem as if it doesn’t apply to him. Yet, it agrees to this standard of Christian living.
- Therefore, Paul writes “to walk in a manner worthy of the calling you have received.” This is the main exhortation of our passage. “To walk” is paraphrased the Greek verb peripateō, which means “live a life.”
- This verb was used in Ephesians 2:2 for the sinful behavior of the Gentiles, and for the good works in which God intends for us to walk in 2:10. This use of “to walk” is a metaphor for moral living, which was a reference to one’s Jewish heritage.
- This calls to question, what is “the calling you have received”? Our calling is that which emerges from the whole narrative of Ephesians 1–3. Through this story God has called us to belong to him, and to be part of his holy people.
- The first three chapters of Ephesians already begin to draw the picture of our response to our calling. Firstly, we are to live as God’s holy people, for the praise of his glory (1:1, 4, 12, 14). Having been saved by grace through faith and created anew in Christ, we are to do the good works God has prepared for us (2:10).
- As God’s people unified in Christ, we are to live as stones in God’s own temple (2:19–22). Therefore, our lives are to be lived under the sovereignty of the Lord, as God calls us to be His people collectively.
- This leads us to the commands of how we ought to walk in a manner that’s worthy! Firstly, “with all humility”, referring to “lowliness of mind”. Humility involves seeing yourself as you are, without arrogance or self-promotion. In Philippians, Paul bases a call to humility on Christ’s own humbling of himself in his crucifixion.
- In addition, we assume that this is a virtue overlooked in many areas of life as we are eager to boast in our achievements, and live in pride instead. Paul says we must live worthy of our calling with humility.
- Linked to humility, is gentleness. In 2 Corinthians 10:1 gentleness is a quality of Christ. In Matthew 11:29 Jesus describes himself as “gentle and humble in heart. It does not mean weakness, it refers to having the strength to humbly serve others. It is such an encouraging virtue, to think – it takes more strength to be gentle than being overwhelming with pride.
- There’s a third command, “be patient.” The exhortation to be patient assumes that our fellow brothers and sisters need patience from us, even as we need it from them. The next phrases develops how patience is exercised.
- We are patient by “bearing with one another in love.” The combination of “be patient” and “bearing with one another in love” implies that the Christian community is no picnic. Unity is hard work, and we need endurance, as we put up with things in others that bother us, and when they return the favor. This action is also characterized by love, which means there should be a trueness to our effort and not just common courtesy.
- Therefore, Paul continues “make every effort to keep the unity…” Be eager, “hurry in making every effort.” This means that unity is not something to be taken lightly, it is something to be sought eagerly.
- And thankfully, unity is not kept in our own strength, it is something created by the Holy Spirit. This is seen in Acts 2:42-47, where the outpouring of the Spirit at Pentecost leads to a profound unity among the followers of Jesus.
- A different picture of unity in 1 Corinthians 12:12-13 portrays the Spirit as immersing all Christians into the one body of Christ, which is beyond the cultural and economic divisions between us. Furthermore, this unity is kept “in the bond of peace.” And the “bond of peace” is a way of speaking about the deep unity among people forged by Christ through his death and made real through the Holy Spirit.
- These exhortations flow from the command to “walk in a manner worthy of the calling you have received” (4:1). This calling highlights our future hope which is centered in God’s uniting of all things in Christ.
- And so the reconciliation of all things in the future is foreshadowed in the reconciliation of believers in the present, which is a demonstration of God’s purposes in Christ for us as the Church.