The following notes are related to the morning message for 14 July 2019 and are based on Ephesians 4:1-16
The passage of scripture that we will consider this morning is Ephesians 4:1-16. These words are so important for us to understand if the church is to be what it was intended to be. The passage has to do with unity. Paul will spend chapters 4-6 of Ephesians telling Christians how to practice Christlikeness. The ultimate goal of our lives is to glorify God. We do this best by becoming more like his Son in our love, in our manner of thinking, in our behavior, in our character, in our hearts. Therefore, Paul tells both the Ephesian churches and us to walk—live our lives—in a manner worthy of this calling which we have received. What does that actually mean? If we say that the corner stone of the church is Christ, and if the foundation is the word of God—such as has been given to us through the apostles and the prophets—and if we, the new creations of Christ, form one body, then we certainly ought to be displaying a sense of unity. That is how the church must start out.
Among the many issues that we as Christians need to work on, disunity is one of the most prevalent problems, and it is here at White Oak, too. The cure for the disease of disunity and lack of harmony in the church is found in being humble, gentle, and patient—showing forbearance with one another because we genuinely love one another. It is found in living together in peace as together we follow the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Unity in the body of Christ—the church—is crucial and foundational if we are to fulfill the appointed mission of the church in the world. So, as we speak of God’s calling to us, we must not overlook that he calls us to unity.
Jesus said in John 17:22, “And the glory which You have given Me, I have given to them; that they may be one, just as We are one.” Christ is the head of the church. Under him as our single leader, we are to move in one direction, obeying him. Individuals in the church are to work together for the purpose of building up of the body of Christ, acting as one in order to accomplish goals and purposes that originate with Christ.
Being the church which Christ established involves a spirit of unity which expresses itself under the lordship of Christ. Living in unity does not mean at all that we compromise or relinquish or deny our individuality or the diversity of the people who make up the church. In fact, it encourages both. All of us have talents, and all of us have been given various spiritual gifts. Both our talents and our spiritual gifts are to be used to build up the church, making it a strong presence of Christ in the world. Our talents include such things as speaking, writing and communications, language skills, problem solving skills, organizational skills, organizing, planning, singing, acting, art, website development, and on and on the list can go. Spiritual gifts include such things as leadership, administration, teaching, preaching, discernment, encouragement, shepherding, evangelism, serving, giving, and hospitality. Neither of these lists is exhaustive, of course, but they provide an idea of how varied we are within the church. If we are motivated to be good stewards of our talents and gifts, think what a difference it will make in the effectiveness of the church in fulfilling its mission as we practice growing in Christ.
The unity that Paul is talking about will lead to maturity. We are gifted in this church is so that “Christians might be properly equipped for their service, that the whole body might be built up until the time comes when, in the unity of common faith and common knowledge of the Son of God, we arrive at real maturity—that measure of development which is meant by the fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:12-13, J.B. Phillips).
All of us need to mature in personal areas. Paul just told us that we need to walk in humility, gentleness, patience, showing tolerance and love for one another. We need to be diligent in establishing, preserving, treasuring, and protecting unity. If we lack these things in our lives, we know it. If we know it, we need to do something about it. If an individual becomes more mature in these ways, the body, the church will also become more mature. Another way that we need to mature in is doctrine. We need to have a love for God’s word and a passion for knowing more and more of it. We need to know what is essential and what is not essential. We need to know what we believe and why we believe it.
In this world of anti-Christian bias we need an extra measure of maturity, grace, gentleness, humility, kindness, patience, and forgiveness. We need to keep our eyes on the one Lord. We need to be people of one faith. We need to be a close-knit group who love God with all our being and who genuinely love one another. We need to look after one another. Each one of us needs to do his part, applying within the church the talents and the spiritual gifts with which we have been blessed. We need to seek God in prayer, diligent study of his word, and in worship. Within the community around us we need to demonstrate our love and commitment to Christ. This church needs to have a significance for and an impact on the people who live around us. If we live like this, we will be living a life worthy of the calling that we have received.