"Maintaining the Unity " Page 1 of 3 (series: Lessons on Ephesians)

by John Lowe
(Woodruff, S.C.)

Commentary on the Book of Ephesians

By: Tom Lowe Date: 8/3/17


Lesson 16: Maintaining the Unity (Ephesians 4:1-6)


Ephesians 4:1-6 (KJV)

1 I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called,
2 With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love;
3 Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
4 There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are 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.


Introduction

Paul doesn't deal with any problems in his letter to the Ephesians. All the news was good news from the people at Ephesus, and Paul had the glorious privilege of writing a positive letter to encourage them. The theme of his letter is "Christian Unity." Paul had established many churches, and watched them grow, so he realized that without unity, nothing else really matters. And with unity nothing can defeat the church. In the first three chapters of Ephesians, Paul lays the foundation for Christian unity. In his last two chapters, he describes the practical results of unity. And in chapter four he deals with the heart and soul of Christian unity.

Today, we are going to focus our attention on the fourth chapter. Here Paul speaks of:
1. The behavior of Christian unity.
2. The basis of Christian unity.
3. The benefits of Christian unity.

Paul begins with behavior, because it has everything to do with Christian unity. Often it appears that behavior is more important than beliefs, in maintaining unity in the church. For example, in our church there are many different beliefs about prophesy, and faith healers, and the work of the Holy Spirit, and the Rapture, and the gifts of the Spirit, and yet there is unity. But I could absolutely destroy this unity by my misbehavior. We occasionally hear about church splits, but very few can be traced to bad theology. But many church splits can be traced to behavior. Therefore, Paul quickly and directly deals with behavior and treats it as the main priority.


Commentary

1 I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called,

“I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord,”
Paul reminds them again that he is a “prisoner of the Lord.” He is not in prison for doing something wrong; he is in prison for the sake of the Gospel.

“beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called,”
When a man enters into any society, he takes upon himself the obligation to live a certain kind of life; and if he fails in that obligation, he hinders the aims of his society and brings discredit on its name. Here Paul paints the picture of the kind of life that a man must live when he enters the fellowship of the Christian Church.

The Christian walk and service are not according to manmade rules or standards. It does not mean that we are supposed to sign a pledge that we will not go here or there, not do this or that. We are to walk worthy of the name “Christian.” In us Jesus must find His earthly walk. He lives in our bodies, He walks in our bodies—and we are the Bible the world reads. We present the only Christ the world will ever know. If the world does not see Jesus in us, then we are not walking worthy of the Christ who lives within us. In Bible language He “… dwells in us and walks in us” (2 Corinthians 6:16).

It seems to me that Paul was saying to the believers at Ephesus, “I am a prisoner, I am in bonds for the Gospel’s sake; but you believers are free. Your responsibility is greater than mine. You must not use your freedom to satisfy your own desires and pleasures, but you must walk worthy of the vocation by which you have been called.”

If we are to be one of those people who can help bring Christian unity, we must conduct ourselves in a manner that doesn't reflect poorly on our calling as Christians. Since we bear the name of Christ we must never bring that name into disrepute. Remember, it doesn't make any difference what you say, if your life doesn't back up your words. People will judge you by what

they see you do. So you can't promote Christian unity if you are unfriendly, if you talk about others faults, or if you are living like everyone else does.

Being a Christian is a vocation, it is a calling or life's work. It behooves Christians to walk worthy of the source of their high and holy calling of God that they have in Christ. Christians are called to live for Christ and walk "even as He walked." But just in case the church at Ephesus doesn't understand what he's talking about, he spells it out for them. In verses two and three, he lists five characteristics of the type of behavior that builds Christian unity. Let's look at each of them and see what Paul had to say.

1. Humility
2. Meekness
3. Longsuffering
4. Love
5. Peace


2 With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love;

“With all lowliness”
The word “Lowliness” is not used much today, if at all; rather, in this modern era we say humility instead. In Greek there is no word for humility which does not have some suggestion of meanness attached to it, and before Christianity, humility was not counted as a virtue at all. The ancient world looked on humility as a thing to be despised.

In the days before Jesus, humility was looked on as a cowering, cringing, servile, shameful quality; and yet Christianity sets it in the very forefront of the virtues. What then is the source of this Christian humility, and what does it involve?

(a) Christian humility comes from self-knowledge. It is the virtue by which a man becomes conscious of his own unworthiness, as a consequence of the truest knowledge of himself. To face oneself is the most humiliating thing in the world. True humility comes when we face ourselves and see our weakness, our selfishness, our failure in work and in personal relationships and in achievement. Humility depends on honesty; it depends on having the courage to look at ourselves without the rose-colored spectacles of self-admiration and self-love. In simple terms humility comes from knowing who and what you are. If you are saved, then you should know that it's by the grace of God, and not because you deserve it. So you and I are nothing without God. And everything we have comes from Him. And anything that is "good" about us is due to the Holy Spirit, who has taken up residence in us. If we can just realize this, then it will be easy to be humble.

(b) Christian humility comes from setting our life beside the life of Christ and in the light of the demands of God.

We should be humble because we know Almighty God and we know the One who died to save us. Humility comes from comparing our life with the life of Christ. As long as we compare ourselves with others, we may come out of the comparison looking rather good. Friends, there is always someone that you can compare yourself to and say something like, "I'm not so fat after all; just look at Mr. So-and-so." Or perhaps you might think to yourself, "I'm a pretty good woman; just look at the other women and you'll see that I talk about Jesus more than they do." But my friends, we should not be comparing ourselves to others; instead, we should compare ourselves to Jesus. It is only when we compare ourselves to Jesus that we can see our own failures. None of us will come out well when compared to Him. Knowledge of God added to knowledge of self equals humility.

God is perfection and to satisfy perfection is impossible. So long as we compare ourselves with second best, we may come out of the comparison well. It is when we compare ourselves with perfection that we see our failure. Self-satisfaction depends on the standard with which we compare ourselves. If we compare ourselves with our neighbor, we may well emerge very satisfactory from the comparison. But the Christian standard is Jesus Christ and the demands of God’s perfection—and against that standard there is no room for pride.

Christian humility is based on the sight of self, the vision of Christ, and the realization of God. In other words, your high calling should not lead to pride, but on the contrary, it should lead to a modest opinion of yourself. This means unfailing humility, and a deep sense of unworthiness, in every experience and in every relationship. We must not be conceited, or egotistical, or proud.

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