Ephesians 4:1-6 Walking In Unity
We have been studying so far, the first three chapters of that great epistle that Paul wrote to the Ephesians, what many commentators call the queen of the Epistles. And we have seen in these three chapters, the two fundamental, basic truths that constitute the unconditional good news of salvation. In chapter one and chapter two, Paul expounded to us the truth as it is in Christ, the means of our salvation. And then, chapter three, he described for us the unconditional love of God that is the ground of our salvation.
Having clearly expounded the gospel to the believers in Ephesus, Paul now turns, as he normally does at the end of all his epistles, to Christian living or Christian ethics. And chapter four, five and six is dealing with how the gospel transforms our lives. How should Christians, justified by faith in Jesus Christ, how should they live, how should they walk?
And in chapter 4 of Ephesians and the first six verses, Paul is expounding to his readers the effect that the gospel produces in terms of relationship between believers. And this will be our study today, Ephesians 4, verses 1-6. Now I am going to read this passage first from my New King James Version. If you have your Bibles, I would recommend that you follow it in your translation.
Ephesians 4, verse 1: "I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to have a walk worthy of the calling with which you were called with all lowliness and gentleness, with long-suffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all who is above all and through all and in you all." What is Paul telling the believers here? First of all, look at the way he introduces this new section on Christian ethics. He does the same thing as he did in chapter three, verse one. He introduces himself, not as a prisoner of Rome, but as a prisoner of the Lord, Jesus Christ. And he is simply saying this. As one who is totally surrendered to God and to the call of his ministry, his apostleship, he is pleading with his flock, with his readers, "I beseech you to have a walk worthy of the calling with which you were called." What does he mean by that? Now keep in mind that the moment you accept Jesus Christ as your Savior, the moment you experience the new birth and have become one with Christ, you become a child of God. As 1 John, chapter 3, verse 1 says: "Beloved, what manner of love God has bestowed upon us, that we, we wretched, miserable human beings who have rebelled against God, through the grace of God, are now called the sons of God." Paul is telling us in Ephesians 4:1, "Please, believers, since you are God's children, behave as God's children."
Now it is important that we realize the formula of the gospel which is best described in Galatians 2:20: "I am crucified with Christ." The cross has brought an end to our old Adamic, self-centered life and in exchange, we have received the life of Christ. "I am crucified with Christ; I am still living but, it is not I, but Christ lives in me now and the life I now live, I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me." The formula of the gospel in the life of every believer is, "Not I, but Christ."" Here in this passage on Christian ethics, Paul is simply saying: "Let your life reflect the character of Christ. Let the world see Christ in you, the hope of glory."
Paul says in Colossians 2:6: "As you have received the Lord Jesus Christ, now walk in him." When we walk and behave as Christ by the indwelling Spirit or the indwelling Christ, our behavior will be patterned, will resemble the life of Christ that He revealed on this earth when He was here. The first four books of the New Testament, commonly known as the gospels, is a revelation of God walking and dwelling in one Man, Jesus Christ.
The book of Acts is also an historical account the same as the first four books but this time it is an historical account of the church, the body of Christ where God is revealed through the body, the church. Unfortunately, this revelation was short lived because the gospel was perverted and the power of the gospel became null and void. But as we return to the good news of salvation, as we rest in Christ totally, not only for our standing before God, not only for our ticket to heaven, but also in terms of our Christian living or what the Bible calls sanctification and we walking in the Spirit, allowing the Spirit of God to control us. There will be a transformation in our lives. There will be a complete change in our human relationships so that we will reveal the unconditional love of God in our Christian living.
Having laid this foundation we will look at what Paul says in verses 2 and 3 because here in these two verses, Paul is presenting to us the five basic virtues of the Christian faith. A genuine, born-again Christian, walking in the Spirit, should reflect the character of Christ in these five basic ways.
(1) Paul uses the word "lowliness" which actually means humility. This word is unique because it is a word that was coined by the New Testament writers since there was no Greek word in Paul's day, for the word "humility.""
(2) Gentleness or meekness. We shall look at this in detail also.
We will look at these five closely. Paul is saying that a true Christian will reflect the humility of Jesus Christ. To appreciate this we will read Philippians 2:5 where the apostle Paul talks in the context of humility which is found in the first four verses of chapter two. "Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus." Having admonished the believers in Philippi to have unity among themselves through humility, he now, in verses 5 to 8, uses Christ as the example of Christian humility. He is saying, "Let this attitude be in you which was in Christ Jesus." In verses 6 to 8, he describes the self-emptying love of Jesus Christ. He begins by pointing out that Jesus Christ is God. He was equal with God. He did not consider it robbery to be equal with God. It was a sin when Lucifer tried to equate himself with God but when Jesus equates Himself with God, that is no sin; that is no robbery because that is His native right. He is one with the Father. There is a "but" in verse 7: "But He made Himself of no reputation." The actual Greek says He "emptied Himself." He divested Himself of all His divine prerogatives. He took the form of a servant or slave and came in the likeness of men. Just as man has to be totally dependent for survival, for life and for everything else, so Christ became totally God-dependent. He who created the world by His breath, now becomes one with us. That is the self-emptying love of Jesus Christ.
But He did not stop there. Philippians 2:8 says that being found in the appearance of men, He humbled Himself and became obedient even unto the point of death, even the death of the cross. The life of Christ on this earth was a life of humility, as life that was in total submission to the Father. Paul is saying that this is what should take place in the life of every believer. When humility is experienced in a Christian church, the result is unity. Let me give you an example in the case of the disciples. The disciples did not know what true humility was before the cross. In the upper room they were fighting among themselves; they were arguing among themselves as to who would be the greatest. But when the cross of Christ destroyed in them every hope it put an end to self. They saw the unconditional love of God revealed on the cross and self became crucified. The Bible tells us that there in the upper room, just before the experience of the Pentecostal power, they were of one heart and of one mind. They were now perfectly united. Self was put aside. That is the fruit of the gospel; that is the revelation of the life of Christ in the believer as we walk in the Spirit.
The second is Gentleness or meekness. We must not confuse the word "meekness or gentleness" with the word weakness. Meekness is not weakness but is power under control. A very good example of a real meek man is Moses, the great general of the Jews who led the Jews out of Egypt. He was a great leader in Israel, one of the great prophets of Israel. He is described in Numbers 12:3. It is very interesting how Moses is described here. "Now the man Moses was very humble more than all men who were on the face of the earth." He was humble when God came to him and commissioned him to be the liberator of the Jews from the slavery in Egypt. He was humble all his life because he recognized that it was the power of God in him that did all the great works. He was gentle. We have the same description of Christ when He was on this earth in Matthew 11:29. Jesus is referred to as the meek and lowly in heart. That is how we, His followers, should be.
The third is long-suffering which means that we never give up. In John 13:1 we read that having loved His own, He loved us to the very end. One of the qualities of God's love is that it never gives up. In Jeremiah 31:3, we are told that God loves us with an everlasting love. His love never stops. In 1 Corinthians 13:8 from that great chapter that defines the love of God, the apostle tells us that God's unconditional love never fails. When we are rooted and grounded in the love of God, our faith will not dwindle. We will have a faith that is unshakable; we will have a faith that never gives up. That is what long-suffering is and we desperately need this so that we may be able to stand the wiles of the devil.
The fourth one is love. The first virtue is lowliness or humility. The second virtue is gentleness or meekness, the third virtue is long-suffering and the fourth virtue which is the ground of all the others is the love of God that is poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit. It is this ingredient that produces the first three virtues and results in the fifth virtue which is peace. In Galatians 5:22-25, Paul describes the fruits of the Spirit. It is love, joy, peace, long-suffering and so on which are the virtues of the Christian life which is controlled by the love of God. This is the crying need of the Christian church. Jesus, in the text John 13:34 and 35, gave the disciples the commandment that they had forgotten in Judaism. It is not a new commandment but it is a renewed commandment. This commandment is that they should love one another just as Christ loves us. Remember that Jesus loves us unconditionally and He loves us everlastingly and His love for us never changes. This is the kind of love that we must reflect in our relationship to each other. Jesus said in John 13:34, "I want you to love each other just as I loved you." Then He makes the statement in verse 35, "By this love relationship between you believers, all men will know that you are My disciples." The greatest proof of the power of the gospel is not raising your arms and shouting, "Praise the Lord, I am saved." The world does not care whether you are saved or not. The greatest evidence of the power of the gospel in the lives of the believers is their love relationship for each other. For this reason, we need to walk in the Spirit because this love cannot be generated by our human will or by our human resources.
Let me give you an historical truth that took place in the early Christian church which was made up of a diversity of people. There were the Jews on one side and Gentiles on the other. Naturally, these two groups were enemies. There were also male and female and the women were often looked down upon in those days. Then among the Gentile believers there were masters and slaves, two class distinctions that never mingled together socially. Yet when they all became Christians, they would sit down around the same table and have a common meal together known as the agape feast. Even the enemies of the gospel and of Christianity, historians like Cicero and Selius, admitted that Christians loved each other. When the world sees this love today, they will realize that the only way to bring in love and unity between races, colors, all kinds of nationalities, is the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. Without the gospel, we do not know how to love each other unconditionally. This is why our world is torn with all kinds of factions and division. But when this love controls us, then we shall walk as Christ walked and the love of God will be revealed in us. Listen to what the apostle John has to say about this love in 1 John 4:7: "Beloved, let us love one another for love is of God and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God." Our love for each other is the evidence that we are born again Christians and are walking in the Spirit. Verse 12 reads: "No one has seen God at any time. If we love one another, God abides in us and his love has been perfected in us." This unconditional love, this self-emptying love , this changeless love will be reflected in us as we walk in the Spirit. This is Paul's counsel to his readers.
The fifth one is peace. There are two kinds of peace that are mentioned in the New Testament. In Romans 5:1, the apostle is defining here the vertical peace which is what we receive first as we accept Christ, that is peace with God. "Being justified by faith, we have peace with God." This peace brings such deep appreciation for God that through the power of the Holy Spirit this peace reflects in terms of our horizontal relationship. It is this horizontal relationship that Paul is referring to in Romans 3:4: "Endeavoring to keep the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace." Once again, we say, that is the greatest proof of the power of the gospel, the perfect unity of the body of Christ.
Having given us these five virtues in verses 2 and 3, Paul points his listeners to two verses that give us the fundamental issue of what it means to be a Christian. Today, the Christian church is broken up into various denominations, various factions and we have become a poor witness of the power of the gospel. For this reason we need to understand what Paul is saying in verses 4 to 6. "There is one body and one Spirit just as you were called in one hope of your calling. One Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all who is above all and through all and in you all." First Paul is saying that when you accept Christ, all of us were baptized into one body. Before our conversion, we were dominated by the principle of self which has produced a human race that has put emphasis on the individual. Therefore, we fight for our individual rights; we fight for our individual glory. We aim and we live for self. That is the condition of the fallen, sinful man. But when we accept Christ, we surrender that self-life to the cross. This is the meaning of baptism as Paul says in Romans 6:6. The old self-life is crucified with Christ. Paul says in Galatians 5:24 that those who belong to Christ have crucified the flesh with all its desires or lusts.
In 1 Corinthians 12:13, Paul makes a very clear statement about the Christian. He says that all of us have been baptized into one body. That is why in Galatians 3:27 and 28 where he discusses baptism which is the door or the entrance into the Christian religion, Paul makes it clear that when you are baptized into Christ, you have put on Christ and therefore there is no Jew; there is no Greek; there is no male; there is no female; we are all one in Christ, one body. We all share the same spiritual life through the Holy Spirit, one Spirit, one calling, one hope. God is a God of unity. The greatest revelation of the unity of God is the Godhead. We have the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, three Persons but one God. This is because God's love has no self in it; it is unconditional; it is selfless love. It is a love that goes outward towards others. Christ, of course, revealed this on the cross when He decided that He would rather die and save the world than save Himself and let the world perish. He revealed on the cross that He loves us human beings more than He loves Himself. That love brings unity because it has no self in it.
So in the Christian religion, we reflect the unity of the Godhead, the triune God. We are one body; we share one Spirit; we have one hope, one calling. Paul defines the church as the body of Christ. The human body has perfect unity because of two facts:
(1) In the human body there is only one head which is the mind , the will.
(2) In the human body, every member is a slave to the head. When the stomach is hungry, it tells the head. The head tells my legs, "Please go to the fridge because the stomach is hungry." The legs do not say, "I am not hungry. If the stomach is hungry, he can go himself to the fridge." No, the legs are slaves to the head so when the head says, "God to the fridge" without any question the legs go to the fridge. Then the head says to the hands, "Open the fridge; pull out the food and feed the stomach." And the hands obey unconditionally the directions of the head. There is perfect unity in our bodies because we have only one head and the rest of the body is a slave to the head. Likewise, in the Christian church, we have only one Head, Jesus Christ and all of us are slaves of Jesus Christ. In fact, if you read Paul's epistles, he often introduces himself as a slave of Jesus Christ, not just a servant, but a slave.
In Romans 6:15 onwards, he tells us clearly that the reason Christians should not condone sin, is because we have become slaves of God and slaves to His righteousness. With this in mind, we will see what Paul is saying. Not only are we one body, we have one Spirit, one hope and one calling but in verse 5, Paul says we have one Lord, in other words, one Head, one faith, one truth that unites us together, one baptism. Everything in the gospel brings us into unity because there is no faction; there is no division. It is for this reason that when the Christians in Corinth were divided, Paul rebuked them in 1 Corinthians 3. He said, "Some of you are for Apollos, some of you are for me, Paul but who is Paul and who is Apollos? You were not baptized to this man; you were baptized into Christ. One baptism, one God and Father of all who is above all and through all and in you all." The perfect unity that was revealed and is revealed in the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit must now be reflected through the church, the body of Christ. This is the goal of Christian living; this is the greatest evidence. This cannot happen by dialogue. Some have tried this method and it has failed miserably. The only way that the Christians can be united is when they surrender to the cross of Christ, when they claim, as the apostle Paul claimed, "I am crucified with Christ, it is no longer I but it is Christ who lives in me through the Holy Spirit."
When the Spirit controls us as we walk in the Spirit, all division will go; all jealousy will go; all bickering, gossiping between each other will go. There will be only one thing that will remain, the love of God which will unite us together. This will be the greatest evidence of the power of the gospel. As it has been claimed to be said by a great atheistic philosopher, who was the son of a Lutheran pastor said, "If you Christians expect me to believe in your Redeemer, you will have to look a lot more redeemed."
It is my prayer that the truth of the gospel will set us free from self that we may be one. In Jesus name. Amen.
Walking in Unity