Growing Together into Christ
For three chapters, Paul has dealt with "doctrine" in which he has described our spiritual "possessions" in Christ (chapter 1), and our spiritual "position" in Christ (chapters 2,3). In the remaining three chapters of this epistle, Paul will focus on "duty", i.e., responsibilities that are ours because of the blessings we enjoy as described in the previous chapters.
Of the blessings described, one upon which Paul elaborated is the "unity" that we have in Christ by virtue of His work on the cross: He has reconciled both Jew and Gentile to God in "one body" (Ephesians 2:14-16). Now, Gentiles can be fellow heirs, of the "same body" (Ephesians 3:6).
It should not be surprising, then, that the first duty that Paul exhorts us to fulfill is to "keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3).
Christ "attained" this unity by His work on the cross
Our task is to "maintain" it
Beginning, then, with a charge to "live a life worthy of the calling you have received" (Ephesians 4:1), Paul describes how to have a "worthy life", and that is by displaying...
THE ATTITUDES FOR MAINTAINING UNITY (4:1-3)
This word means: having a realistic opinion of one's self. A deep sense of one's (moral) littleness. Modesty, humility, lowliness of mind.
This virtue is necessary in order to properly value others around you (Philippians 2:3-4). Without this virtue, members in the body begin trying to be the "head" of the body, a role reserved only for Christ.
This word can be translated as gentleness, mildness, meekness.
It is not a quality of weakness, but of power under control. Moses was a meek man (Numbers 12:3), but capable of great strength and boldness. Jesus was "gentle and humble in heart" (Matthew 11:29), but we see where he drove the money changers out of the temple. Thus, it is choosing to be gentle, even when there is the potential for being harsh, but gentleness is more conducive for maintaining unity.
The idea here is one of forbearance, longsuffering, slowness in avenging wrongs.
When the body consists of members who are not perfect, and often sin against each other, maintaining unity is not possible unless they are willing to endure each other's imperfections.
BEARING WITH ONE ANOTHER IN LOVE
Similar to patience, "bearing" means to sustain, to endure.
What makes such "patience" and "forbearance" possible is another virtue – love. As Paul wrote in his chapter on love, "love is patient...is not easily angered" (1 Corinthians 13:4-5). Indeed, the virtue of love is the "tie" that binds all these virtues together (Colossians 3:12-14).
MAKE EVERY EFFORT
Displaying these virtues does not come naturally nor easy, nor does maintaining unity. Thus, the need for much effort, as Paul uses a word which means "to exert one's self, endeavor, give diligence".
Only by giving diligence to display ALL these virtues, can we hope to "keep (maintain) the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace" (Ephesians 4:3).
But just as important as having the right "attitudes", is understanding and holding to...
THE BASIS OF UNITY (4:4-6)
This refers to the body of Christ, the church (Ephesians 1:22-23).
Of course, Paul speaks here of the church in the "universal" sense -- the "body" of saved believers throughout the world of which Christ is the "head", and "savior of the body" (Ephesians 5:23).
While there may be many "local" churches (congregations), there is only ONE "universal" church, with ONE "head" - Jesus Christ!
This would be the Holy Spirit. Who has already been described in this epistle as "the Holy Spirit of promise" (1:13), "the guarantee of our inheritance" – (1:14), by whom both Jew and Gentile have access to the Father (2:18), in whom God inhabits those who are being built a "holy temple" (2:21-22), by whom the "mystery of Christ" was revealed to the apostles and prophets (3:5), through whom God strengthens with might the inner man (3:16), and the one whose "unity" is to be maintained in the bond of peace (4:3).
For Paul, this pertains primarily to "the resurrection of the dead". Which necessarily includes such concepts of "salvation" (1 Thessalonians 5:8) and "eternal life" (Titus 1:2; 3:7)
This refers to Jesus, of course, whom God has made "both Lord and Christ" (Acts 2:36).
This the body of truth, "the faith", which Jude says was "once for all delivered to the saints" (Jude 3).
It is that "pattern of sound teaching" of that Paul taught Timothy (2Timothy 1:13), and which he was to commit to faithful men (Titus 2:2).
We find this "pattern of sound teaching" in the pages of the New Testament, which contains that which all Christians must believe.
Does this refer to water baptism? I believe it refers to the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Not as a second work of grace, but that activity of the Spirit by which we are made part of the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:12-13).
ONE GOD AND FATHER
The Father, who together with the Son and Holy Spirit, makes up the "Godhead". Note that Paul emphasizes both his personality ("Father of all") and his transcendence and omnipresence ("who is over all, through all, and in all").
These "seven ones" constitute "the unity of the Spirit" that as Christians we must be so diligent to keep "in the bond of peace". Not one of these is "non-essential".
To assist us in our efforts to "keep the unity of the Spirit", Christ has given to His church certain "gifts". Let's now consider ...
THE GIFTS FOR UNITY (4:7-16)
THE SOURCE OF THESE GIFTS (vss. 7-10)
They come from the bounty of Christ's grace (vs. 7). They were given after Christ ascended to heaven as he promised (vss. 8-10)
THE NATURE OF THESE GIFTS (vs. 11)
Is Paul referring to "spiritual gifts" or "functions"?
If "spiritual gifts", then we should read verse 11 to say, "gave some to...". If "functions", then verse 11 should read "gave some to be...". Paul’s use of a different word in verses 7-8 than in his list of “gifts of the Spirit” in 1 Corinthians 12:1-11 suggests Paul has in mind "functions", and not "spiritual gifts".
Understanding it as "functions", we see that Christ gave some (people) to be:
Pastors and teachers (a single function)
We don’t have time to go into the definitions of these gifts today. Suffice it to say that Christ gave the gift of leaders to the church for a specific purpose.
THE PURPOSE OF THESE GIFTS (vss. 12-16)
To prepare members of the body for service ("equip the saints for work of ministry")
To build up the members of the body ("edify the body of Christ"), so they can grow to maturity (vs. 13) possessing the unity of the faith, having the knowledge of the Son of God, and measuring up to the stature expected of those in Christ.
So that, they will not be children (vs. 14) being tossed back and forth by every doctrine that comes along easily deceived by cunning and false teachers.
But instead will be "growing upward" as the body of Christ (vss. 15-16) in all things into the Head, Christ from which the whole body can grow, provided every part does it share.
If we can just . . .
Display the "attitudes" necessary for unity . . .
Hold fast to the "basis" upon which our unity rests, and . . .
Utilize the "gifts" Christ has given to assure we all come to the unity of the faith, then Christ's work on the cross will not be in vain (Ephesians 2:16). Not only that, but then we will also truly conduct ourselves in a manner "worthy of the calling you have received" (4:1).
We were called to be "fellow citizens with God's people and also members of his household" (2:19).
We were called to be "a holy temple in the Lord", "a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit" (2:21-22).
We were called that "through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known" (3:10).
Are you doing all you can as a member of the body of Christ to "walk together in unity", and by so doing live in manner worthy of our calling?