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Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Ephesians 4 (part1) - Unity in the Body of Christ

Ephesians 4 (part 1): Unity and Love in the Body of Christ

I. Unity in the Body of Christ (1-16)
A. Called to Unity 1-3 “I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, 2 with all humility and meekness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, 3 endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”

-“walk worthy” of the calling...here Paul is primarily holding up the unity of the body of Christ. What else are we called to in the body of Christ? We are called to be saints, adopted as children, heirs of God, called to be holy (2 Pet. 1:15).

-The life here that leads to unity includes these virtues: humility, meekness, longsuffering, and bearing one another in love.

-Meekness is a great word, yet it is often associated with weakness in the modern world. Perhaps the rhyme throws us. It suggests self-control, stability, and being unshakeable regardless of circumstances. It was used in the first century for a trained animal as opposed to a wild creature. Think of a wild horse versus a trained thoroughbred. The meek man in Scripture is one who is able to trust God in all circumstances.

-Longsuffering: refusal to retaliate. Chrysostom defined longsuffering as the spirit that has the power to take revenge, but never does. It is characteristic of a forgiving, generous heart.

-Living in these virtues leads to unity. When we are disunited we are working against the essential nature of the church (Farley).

-Our hymnography on the birthday of the Church reflects the essentialness of unity (Farley). Pentecost Kontakion “When the Most High came down and confused the tongues, He divided the nations; but when He distributed the tongues of fire, He called all to Unity.”

B. Unity Reflects the Trinity (4-6) 4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 6 one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you* all.

-The Father is the Source of Unity. Just as in the previous chapter where Paul stresses the Father is our source, he stresses here that the Unity of the church flows from the Unity that the Father provides. This reflects our own Trinitarian understanding.

C. Unity in Diversity (7-12) 7 But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ's gift.

- Once again the Church reflects the Trinity. Within the Trinity there is one essence and yet three persons. Within the Church there is one body and God has given a diversity of gifts. (1 Cor. 14-26).

8 Therefore He says:
"When He ascended on high,
He led captivity captive,
And gave gifts to men." (Ps. 68:18)
9 (Now this, "He ascended"--what does it mean but that He also first* descended into the lower parts of the earth? 10 He who descended is also the One who ascended far above all the heavens, that He might fill all things.)

-Paul now goes into a theological discussion of how God gave us the gifts . Upon ascending into heaven and sitting down at the right hand of the Father, He then sends His Holy Spirit and fills man with His gifts. “O Christ God, Thou hast ascended in glory, granting joy to Thy disciples by the promise of the Holy Spirit. Through the blessing they were assured that Thou art the Son of God, the Redeemer of the world! (Hymn of Ascension)”

11 And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ,

-The only gifts he specifically mentions in this passage are the clerical gifts. This verse is really two parts...the gifts of the clergy and their purpose. The purpose of the clerical gifts are so that the they might equip the saints or the laity to the ministry of the church.

-“Equip the saints“: This phrase is used to mean mending nets or to complete what is lacking in something. In this passage it means to give the faithful what they need to do their job.

-“The work of ministry” Once again the word diakonia is used which means the nitty-gritty down to earth work of ministry.

D. Unity in Action (13-16) 13 till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; 14 that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, 15 but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head--Christ-- 16 from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.

1. Experience Christ (13)
-As we grow closer in reflection to Christ, we grow closer to one another and vice versa. The word “knowledge” does not imply academic knowledge but experiential knowledge that comes from a relationship. We become like Christ. In this relationship we begin to grow up from children to adults. But it is not in isolation that we grow in Christ, but it is through our relationship with others in the Body that we know and are transformed.

2. Sound Doctrinally
-As we grow we know Christ so well that we recognize falsehood. This is not just speaking to understanding doctrine from an educational point of view, but to know and have experience Christ so much that we can see through the counterfeits. When those that work in counterfeiting are trained to recognize fakes they focus on the real thing so much that the know the fake when they see it. Again this is not done in isolation but through the body of Christ, our own experience of God is kept in check through the experience of the others in the Church. When we begin to isolate ourselves and our experience, it becomes easier to fall into delusion.

3. Be the Truth (15)
Farley translates this “but truthing it in love”. We don’t merely proclaim the truth, but express it through a relationship of love with others in the Body. To be the truth is to love.

4. Grow in Christ
We enable each other not just ourselves to grow in Christ, that is to become like Christ.

5. Become the Body
This process of a relationship of love forms the Body. We move from being the Body on a theoretical level to an actual experiential level. The body is a variety of parts working together for one purpose to be united with God.

Sources used:

Prison Epistles

The Orthodox New Testament

Ancient Christian Commentary

Also Chrysostom’s commentaries which can be found online here: http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/npnf113.html

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