Stephen Caswell © 2005
Geese Flying In V Formation
When geese migrate they can be seen flying in a V-shaped formation. While to us on the ground it is a thing of beauty, to the geese it is an essential for survival. If you watch them, you will observe that at certain intervals, relative to the strength of the head wind, the lead bird — who was doing the most work by breaking the force of wind—will drop off and fly at the end of the formation.
The reason for this is that the V-formation is much more efficient than flying lose; up to 60 percent less work is required! It has been discovered that the flapping wings create an uplift of air, an effect that is greater at the rear of the formation. So the geese take turns uplifting one another. By cooperating — working together — the geese can achieve long migrations that would otherwise be exceedingly difficult for the strongest and deadly for the others.
In a similar manner, when believers in Christ actively uplift one another through prayer, sharing material means, and heart-to-heart friendship and caring, they can go further into godliness than if they attempt their pilgrimage alone.
This morning I would like to commence a series from Ephesians 4. On the Church Camp Matt French shared some wonderful studies from Ephesians and touched on some of this. However, not all were on camp and this wonderful passage is so rich it would be good to look at it further. In this passage Paul encourages believers to walk together and to work together. Paul outlines a few essentials require for real unity. Paul lays out the grounds for unity. There are three; 1. Purity, 2. Humility, 3. Deity.
Ephesians 4:1: I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called.
a. Our Position
Paul starts chapter 4 with the word therefore. He summarizes the first three chapters and says look at what God has done for us. He has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places. Firstly, God the Father selected us for salvation. He chose us before the foundation of the world to become His children. What is the basis of God’s choice? His grace, mercy and love. We’ve don’t deserve God’s kindness. Praise Him He loves us.
Secondly, God the Son sacrificed Himself to save us. We owed God a great debt because of sin. Jesus Christ redeemed us from that debt when He died for us. Thirdly, God the Spirit sealed us as His own possession. We were spiritually dead until the Holy Spirit gave us a new birth. He enabled us to be born into God’s family. Every believer becomes a child of God by the grace of God. We are raised from the dead and given new life. We are then raised up into heavenly places and seated there with Jesus Christ. This is now our position in Jesus Christ. To the praise of His glory. Amen.
The conclusion is that we, believer’s, are God’s children. Since we are God’s children then we ought to behave like God’s children. Our belief must affect our behavior.
b. Our Calling
Ephesians 4:1: I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called.
Walk God’s Way. Paul doesn’t command us to walk worthy, he beseeches us. Paul could command us to walk worthy, but he doesn’t. He appeals to a higher motive than law; Paul appeals to love. Out of gratitude to God for what He’s done for us we should walk worthy of our calling. The word walk, περιπατέω, means to walk about, or live. It is said of Enoch that he walked with God. The way He lived pleased God. Our lives too, ought to please God. How should we live to please God? Colossians 1:10: that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.
Walk Worthy. Paul says we are to walk worthy. The word worthy, ἀξίως, suitably or properly. The word literally means of equal weight. We are to walk equal to our calling.
Training A Princess
Mary the girl from Tasmania recently married a prince from Denmark. This is a high calling that she received. I know that Princess Mary received a lot of training first. Before a royal prince marries a young lady they are first trained to behave in the right manner. Certain things are expected of them because of their position. Therefore Mary was given instruction in etiquette, conversation and other social skills. The privileges of royalty carry the responsibility of appropriate behaviour.
Peter describes the Church as a royal priesthood. As such we have received tremendous privileges along with certain responsibilities. The word Church, ἐκκλησία, means congregation, assembly. It comes from the Greek word to call. It literally means the called out ones. We have been called out of this sinful world to follow Christ. We belong to God not the world. We, God’s people, the Church have been called out to live differently from the world. 1 Peter 2:9: But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.
Do the Scriptures give us any further instruction on our calling? Yes they do! Hebrews 3:1: Therefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our confession, Christ Jesus. 2 Timothy 1:9: God has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began. Because we have a holy calling our lives must be set apart for God. We should live for the Lord every day since we belong to Him. Do we proclaim God’s praises? We should!
Our calling is also a heavenly calling. Heavenly citizens should behave like people do in heaven. Philippians 3:17-20: Brethren, join in following my example, and note those who so walk, as you have us for a pattern. For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: whose end is destruction, whose god is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame — who set their mind on earthly things. For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.
Dearer Than Life
In the forests of Northern Europe lives the ermine, a small animal known best for its snow-white fur. Instinctively, this animal protects its glossy coat of fur with great care lest it become soiled. Hunters often capitalize on this trait. Instead of setting a mechanical trap to catch the ermine, they find its home in a cleft of a rock or a hollow tree and daub the entrance and the interior with tar. Then their dogs start the chase, and the frightened ermine flees toward its home. But finding it covered with dirt, he spurns his place of safety. Rather than soil his white fur, he courageously faces the yelping dogs who hold him at bay until the hunters capture him. To the ermine, purity is dearer than life! The Lord wants us to be a people who will keep ourselves unspotted from the world.
God has blessed us with every spiritual blessing. When He called us out of the world for Himself, He called us to holiness. Therefore we must our lives must be marked by purity. Is holiness a priority to you? To Me? Are you living worthy of your calling? Am I?
Verse 2 talks about interpersonal relationships. On getting on with one another. Before we can serve one another we must humble ourselves. A proud person will never serve another. Humility requires both endurance and endeavor. Paul links humility with certain spiritual graces. These 7 graces are very similar to the fruit of the Spirit described in Galatians 5:22-23. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.
Ephesians 4:2: with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love.
Lowliness. The first grace is lowliness, or humility. Someone has said, Humility is that grace that, when you know you have it, you have lost it. Humility means putting Christ first, others second, and yourself last. It means knowing ourselves, accepting ourselves, and being ourselves to the glory of God. Sadly, some people have a very high opinion of themselves. The world’s way is to promote yourself; to climb to the top. That’s the very opposite of lowliness. Lowly people treat others as better than themselves.
Gentleness or Meekness. Jesus Christ was meek and lowly in heart, yet He drove the money changers from the temple. Meekness is not weakness. It is power under control. Moses was a meek man, yet see the tremendous power he exercised. Meekness is one of the fruit of the Spirit. The power of one atom can power a city when placed in a Nuclear Reactor. The same atom can destroy a city when out of control in an atomic bomb.
Longsuffering. Allied with meekness is long-suffering, which literally means long-tempered, the ability to endure discomfort without fighting back. If some one has a short fuse they blow up quickly. A long suffering person has a long fuse. They take a long time to blow up. This enables them to avoid many of the fights and quarrels that trap others. Our temper is something too important to lose.
Forbearance. A key thought in verse 2 is to bear with one another in love. This grace cannot be experienced apart from love. For love suffers long and is kind. The word bear, ἀνέχω, means, to suffer, endure, be patient. Patience is a difficult virtue to learn. It comes the hard way through the knocks and bumps of life. I often struggle with this one. Just ask my wife and children. Yet this doesn’t mean we give up; or think that it’s unnecessary. If we want to enjoy harmony and unity in the Church, patience is a must.
Our Human Bodies
When you play sport, you need every member in your body. If you drop a catch when playing cricket, would you burn your hands with a hot iron to punish them? Would you cut them off from your body for one failure? You say No Way! That’s crazy. That would hurt me too. Yet in the Church we often hurt one another. How? By our words and actions. We do it by criticizing our brothers behind their back; by spreading gossip about them. How many people have been hurt by gossip in the Church and left? How many others have left because they believed the gossip they heard? When believers gossip we only hurt ourselves. Our witness is lost, our unity is lost, our service for Christ weakened.
Try burning your hand with fire. Your whole body knows. Solomon said this about gossip. Proverbs 26:20-22: Fire goes out for lack of fuel, and quarrels disappear when gossip stops. A quarrelsome person starts fights as easily as hot embers light charcoal or fire lights wood. What dainty morsels rumors are - but they sink deep into one’s heart. A Church that gossips breeds discontent. If we’re patient and loving, we won’t gossip.
Ephesians 4:3: endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
Firstly, Paul tells us that Church unity comes from the Holy Spirit. After all He is the one who baptizes us into one body in the first place. The word endeavor, σπουδάζω, means, to be diligent, eager, earnest. This all speaks of real effort on our part. Literally it reads being eager to maintain, or guard, the unity of the Spirit. If we want unity in the Church than we will have to work at it. It won’t just happen. Unity requires us to consider others, not only ourselves. Although the Spirit brings unity we must work at it to keep it.
It’s great that you love each other, I once heard a seasoned saint say to a newly wedded couple, but if you’re going to be happy in marriage, you gotta work at it! The verb used here is in the present tense, which means we must constantly be endeavoring to maintain this unity.
To have family unity in our home we have to work together. We share meals, go out together and have family devotions. We work together, play together and laugh together. Disharmony comes to the home when someone pulls in a different direction to the family. A family that lives life together, will have stronger family ties and stay together.
The early Church lived this way. Acts 2:42-47: And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers. Then fear came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles. Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need. So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.
The word fellowship means to have all things in common. The early Church did this well as we read in Acts 2. As believers we have all things in common in Jesus Christ. Unity is encouraged when we share meals together at the Church and in the home. When we pray together, serve together, and laugh together. When we sing together, learn God’s Word together and evangelize together. Unity in the family or in the Church will never happen unless we share our lives with one another.
The final grace is peace — the bond of peace. Peace is not the absence of hostility like a cease fire, but the presence of God. Read James 3:13–4:10 for the most vivid treatment of war and peace in the New Testament. Note that the reason for war on the outside is war on the inside. If a believer cannot get along with God, he cannot get along with other believers. When the peace of God rules in our hearts, then we build unity. If we are at war with our brethren then you can be certain that we are not right with God.
Humility is an important quality for God’s servants. A proud person will never serve anyone. Do we think of ourselves in a humble, honest fashion? Or do we seek the lime light? Are we patient with each other in love? Are we working hard to maintain Church unity? Are we keeping our tongues from gossip? Gossip hurts everyone in the Church. Are we sharing our lives with one another? Or living independently from our brethren?
Ephesians 4:4-6: 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.
Many people today attempt to unite Christians in a way that is not biblical. For example, they will say: We are not interested in doctrines, but in love. Now, let’s forget our doctrines and just love one another! But Paul did not discuss spiritual unity in the first three chapters; he waited until he had laid the doctrinal foundation. While not all Christians agree on some minor matters of Christian doctrine, they all do agree on the foundation truths of the faith. Christ prayed for our unity in John 17:20-21. A unity based on truth. The kind of unity that the Godhead enjoys.
These 7 wonderful truths lay the foundation for our Christian faith. Paul names here the seven basic spiritual realities that unite all true Christians. All 7 relate to God or something derived or made from God. Every believer has shared in the same salvation experience. We are all saved by the same Savior, filled with the same Spirit. The same God is our Father and we’re all going to the same home, heaven. This should unite us!
a. One Body
The one body refers to Church. The Church is Christ’s body. There’s only one Church as far as God is concerned. It’s made up of millions of believers from every language, family, nation, and might I add denomination. Every one who has been born again of the Holy Spirit is a member of Christ’s body. Ephesians 5:23: For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body.
b. One Spirit
The Spirit here is the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit joins believers to Christ and to His body at conversion. It is the Holy Spirit Who gives us new life when we believe in Jesus Christ. Every individual member is indwelt by the same Holy Spirit. 1 Corinthians 12:12-13: For as the body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body — whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free — and have all been made to drink into one Spirit. One body, one Spirit leads to unity. Where does disunity come from? Not from God. It comes from believers. One Spirit unites us in one body!
c. One Hope
The word hope, ἐλπίς, means desire with expectancy. The believer’s hope lies in the return of Jesus Christ. We look for the 2nd coming of Christ knowing that He will take us to heaven to be with Himself. Titus 2:13 describes this: looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ. Our hope is wrapped up in Jesus Christ, immortality and life in heaven. The Spirit’s seal guarantees us this.
Romans 8:23-25: Not only that, but we also who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body. For we were saved in this hope, but hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one still hope for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance. One day we’ll all live in heaven.
d. One Lord
This of course refers to Jesus Christ the Son of God. He died for us, lives for us, and one day will come for us. It is difficult to believe that two believers can claim to obey the same Lord, and yet not be able to walk together in unity. If we would yield our lives to Jesus Christ the Lord our conflicts would disappear. Jesus Christ is the head of the Church. Acknowledging the lordship of Christ is a giant step toward spiritual unity among His people. We must give up our independence for interdependence under Christ.
e. One Faith
There is one settled body of truth deposited by Christ in His church, and this is the faith. The faith here refers to the Christian faith. There aren’t many ways to God. Jesus is the way, the truth and the life. Believers are saved by believing in the same person, Jesus Christ. Jude 3: Beloved, while I was very diligent to write to you concerning our common salvation, I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints. Christians may differ in some matters of interpretation and church practice; but all true Christians agree on the faith —and to depart from the faith is to bring about disunity within the body of Christ.
f. One Baptism
Since Paul is discussing the one body, this one baptism is probably the baptism of the Spirit, that act of the Spirit when He places the believing sinner into the body of Christ at conversion. Not every one is baptized with water whilst every believer is baptized by the Spirit. We read this before. 1 Corinthians 12:13: For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body — whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free — and have all been made to drink into one Spirit. This is not an experience after conversion, nor is it an experience the believer should pray for or seek after. Every believer has the same experience when they are baptized by the Spirit. He unites us together in one body.
g. One God and Father
Paul likes to emphasize God as Father. The marvelous oneness of believers in the family of God is evident here, for God is over all, and working through all, and in all. We are children in the same family, loving and serving the same Father, so we ought to be able to walk together in unity. In an earthly family, the various members have to give and take in order to keep a loving unity in the home, so too God’s heavenly family must do the same. The Lord’s Prayer opens with Our Father — not My Father. We have the same Father. We are members of the same family and will soon live together in the same home.
Paul’s point is obvious. Since there is unity in the God Head and their relationship with us; shouldn’t we walk together in unity?
Paul is quite concerned that Christians not break the unity of the Spirit by agreeing with false doctrine, and the Apostle John echoes this warning. The local church cannot believe in peace at any price, for God’s wisdom is first pure, then peaceable. Purity of doctrine of itself does not produce spiritual unity, for there are churches that are sound in faith, but unsound when it comes to love. This is why Paul joins the two: speaking the truth in love. Let us allow these 7 fundamentals to unite us together. Every believer has the same faith, Savior and Father. The same Spirit indwells us and unites in into one body. Since every believer has the same salvation experience shouldn’t we enjoy unity?
1 Thessalonians 5:23-24: Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful, who also will do it.