Every Christian needs to be a committed and engaged part of a local church. The majority of what we are told to do in the New Testament makes no sense and is impossible without committed relationships with other Christians in a church body. For a couple years now, this has been a theme of our church.
Today we’ll take in Ephesians 4:1-16 in three sections. 1) How we treat each other, 2) what we believe together and 3) what we’re doing together.
How We Treat Each Other
I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, 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.– vv. 1-3
Christ changes how we order and go about our lives. Now that we’re Christians, Paul writes that we are to walk humbly. We’re also supposed to be gentle, treating people as if they have “handle with care” written on them. And we should be patient and bearing/putting up with one another, “eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit.”
We need to be united – this is a core value of God for Christians. But every force in our culture works against this. Society values individualism, independence, consumerism and customization so that we can be on our own with everything exactly the way we want it.
If we don’t aggressively work against the tide of our culture, we’ll be washed away from each other. We’ve been saved into a family and are designed to live in the context of other Christians.
What We Believe Together
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.– vv. 4-6
This is a beautiful reminder that the most important things we believe unite us. We are all dependent upon the same power of the Holy Spirit. We’re united by the same hope, the same commander, the same faith and the same baptism. The more we align ourselves with these truths, the more united we become.
So many things try to pull us away from our foundational convictions and beliefs. That’s why we have to come together every week – to reattach ourselves. Otherwise we’ll attach ourselves to something else, depend on other sources for power, lean on other hopes, obey other lords, trust in other faiths and identify ourselves with other baptisms.
Paul urges us to unite in how we treat each other and in what we believe. Next, he urges us to unite in what we’re supposed to be doing.
(For more on these first two points, you might like to see the sermon series “Shaping Themes in Acts“).
What We Do Together
Jesus didn’t save us just so we can have a “Get Out of Hell Free” card to whip out at His return. He saves us into a new kingdom, and it affects everything about our lives. There is work to be done, and Christ has given everybody a specific gift (vv. 7-10). Paul writes:
And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ …– vv. 11-12
The big idea is that Jesus has equipped every individual Christian for the great building project of the body of Christ. When you’re baptized, Christ gives you a unique set of tools to work on the project of building up the body of Christ, the church – not a building, but a group of people. This work is expected of every Christian.
(With this in mind, check out “Your Ministry as a Christian.”)
Now you might think, “I don’t feel gifted for anything particular in the church.” But if you’re a Christian, you are. There are all kinds of practical gifts listed in Scripture (1 Corinthians 12 and Romans 12), and there’s no indication that these are the only ones.
(Thinking about spiritual gifts, you might be interested in “Desire Spiritual Gifts.”)
If you really want to get involved in ministry but aren’t sure what to do, here is Paul’s advice: “So with yourselves, since you are eager for manifestations of the Spirit, strive to excel in building up the church” (1 Corinthians 14:12). Don’t even think about the gifts. Get to work building up the church and through that process you’ll find your gift.
(This sermon/sermon recap goes right along with that: “Strive for the Best Thing.”)
What Are We Building Toward?
As we think about this, it’s important to remember what we’re building toward. We don’t need to try to reconstruct the “good old days” or build a futuristic church. And we don’t need to try to respond to whatever whims and preferences pop up. We’ve been given a specific goal, building toward several things:
- UNITY – We build up the church “until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God” (v. 13). We need to unite fellow Christians on a level of faith and knowledge of Jesus, not just shared interests.
- MATURITY – We also build “to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” (v. 13). As we work, we grow into our identity in Christ. Don’t leave your church because of imperfections because no church is perfect. The imperfections in your church are invitations for you to get to work.
- STABILITY – Everything comes together “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” (v. 14).
When we’re all engaged relationally, theologically and practically, we “grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ” (v. 15). When each of us works properly, “the body grow[s] so that it builds itself up in love” (v. 16).
For us, this means we’re supposed to be gracious and united in how we treat each other. We should be theologically in agreement with one another and return to that foundation continually. And we need to engage in building up the body of Christ – there are no extra pieces and everyone has a job to do.
(If you’d like to think more about being a member of a church, you should read Pastor Matt’s blog series “6 Reasons Why You Should Become a Church Member.”)
- According to this passage, how are Christians supposed to treat each other?
- What are some foundational beliefs that unite Christians? Why is it dangerous when we aren’t united theologically?
- What is our project as Christians?
- Which spiritual gifts do you have? How can you use these to build up the body of Christ?
- How do we attain unity, maturity and stability?