Monday, September 17, 2012

Be Unified

Part 20 of a series through the New Testament book of Ephesians

You can listen to this sermon here.



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. 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 (4:1-6).


Privileges and Responsibilities 

I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called (v. 1).

In Canada, we enjoy many privileges (e.g., freedom of speech). But we also have responsibilities (e.g., obeying the law). We don’t think highly of someone who enjoys all of the privileges without accepting any of the responsibilities. 

If you have received the blessings of salvation, don’t ignore your responsibilities. 

We are urged to “walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which [we] have been called.” What is this calling? It is God’s gracious invitation to salvation and all of its blessings (cf. Rom. 8:29-30). Paul began this letter praising God for the blessings of salvation: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places” (1:3). We have been chosen (1:4) and adopted (1:5) by the Father, redeemed (1:7) by Christ, and sealed (1:13) by the Spirit.

Our “walk” is our lifestyle (cf. 2:2; 4:17; 5:2, 8, 15). “Our problem is that we have a million dollar salvation and a five-cent response” (Klyne Snodgrass, Ephesians, 217).

Chapters 1-3 of Ephesians are theological; chapters 4-6 are ethical. There must be a proper balance of theology and ethics. “In theology, head knowledge alone will make little difference in individual or corporate lives, and practice without theological knowledge has the potential to lead to heretical practice” (Harold W. Hoehner, Ephesians: An Exegetical Commentary, 499).

Since we have received from God so many amazing blessings, we should be willing to carry out our responsibilities. In 4:1-16, we find three responsibilities First, we are to be unified together (vv. 2-6). Second, we are to be serving together (vv. 7-12). Third, we are to be maturing together (vv. 13-16).


We Are to Maintain Unity 

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. 2-3).

Those who are humble, gentle, and patient will tolerate others and strive to maintain unity. “It is important to realize that unity is something given by the Spirit, not something we create” (Snodgrass, 198).

“There are six things that the LORD hates, seven that are an abomination to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make hast to run to evil, a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers” (Prov. 6:16-19). 

Self-centeredness is the root of disunity. A self-centered person is lacking in humility, gentleness, patience. Jesus modeled a life free from self-centeredness (John 13:3-5, 12-15; Phil. 2:3-8).

An understanding and appreciation of God’s grace destroys our self-centeredness and promotes unity.

“To keep this unity must mean to maintain it visibly. If the unity of the Spirit is real, it must be transparently evident, and believers have a responsibility before God to make sure that this is so. To live in a manner which mars the unity of the Spirit is to do despite to the gracious reconciling work of Christ. It is tantamount to saying that his sacrificial death by which relationships with God and others have been restored, along with the resulting freedom of access to the Father, are of no real consequence to us!” (Peter T. O’Brien, The Letter to the Ephesians, 280).


God Has Given Unity 

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).

“The apostle, however, is not speaking of a unity at any price in which the fundamental truths of the gospel are jettisoned. As a strong motivation for his appeal for unity he presents a series of seven acclamations, each using the word ‘one,’ in which the readers are reminded of the fundamental unities on which the Christian faith and life are based” (O’Brien, 280).

“The sevenfold list is basically threefold since three of these unities allude to the three persons of the Trinity, while the remaining four refer to [our] relationship to the Spirit, Son, and Father” (ibid.).

1. There is one body, one Spirit, and one hope. 

2. There is one Lord, one faith, and one baptism. 

“The ‘one faith’ does not have reference to an objective faith, the body of truth believed by Christians…, but rather to the subjective faith which is exercised by all Christians in Christ their Lord” (Hoehner, 516-17). 

“One baptism” may refer to either water baptism or the baptism of all believers into the body of Christ by the Spirit (1 Cor. 12:13).

3. There is one God. 

God is “Father of all.” “All” refers to believers. God is “supreme over all, operative through all, and resides in all” (Hoehner, 521).

God has given us this unity, and we are to maintain it. We maintain it by having humility, gentleness, and patience. These virtues will grow in our lives when we appreciate and understand the grace of God in our lives. May we not be people who enjoy all the blessing in Christ but ignore the responsibilities God has given us.