The Church: United in Christ
Continuing a study of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians.
Chapter 1: Predestined in Christ, our powerful Head.
Chapter 2: Saved by grace on the solid foundation of Christ.
Chapter 3: Founded in wisdom and how to apply it.
The breakdown of the rest of this book will be a little different (four sections).
Unity in Christ (4:1-16).
Conduct in Christ (4:17—5:21).
Christ in the home (5:22—6:9).
Strength in Christ (6:10-20).
Today we are going to discuss the unity that can be found in Christ.
Unity is an oft-elusive thing to have when it comes to people—particularly in the religious world.
Our goal as Christians is to be united in Christ as the Scriptures demand (1 Cor. 1:10; John 17:20-21).
But even we in the church often fail at this imperative—church splits, hurt feelings, false doctrines.
This lesson will help us learn to be better united with Christ and His church.
Unity with One Another (4:1-3).
Often personalities can really cause a lot of problems in the church.
The church is meant for all men, so there are some we are bound not to get along with.
There are some who are too gruff, too curt, too mean—did this, didn’t do that.
With different cultures all over the world in the Lord’s church, someone is bound to be offended—even in this country! In this state, even in this town!
Paul tells us the best ways to deal with that:
Walk worthy of our calling (4:1) – if we are focusing on doing the work of God, we won’t be focusing on our internal struggles.
Be humble (4:2) – it is easy for us to let our egos get in the way of unity.
Be gentle (4:2) – harshness turns people away, so let us speak gently to one another, but if necessary, firmly as well.
Be patient (4:2) – patience is key to dealing with one another if they fail to walk worthy, be humble, or be gentle.
Bear with one another in love (4:2) – and love covers a multitude of sins (1 Pet. 4:8).
Keep the unity (4:3) – the Spirit is not divided, as soon we’ll see; we must work to keep that unity among us.
Keep the peace (4:3) – bond of peace; be at peace with all men (Rom. 12:18).
Unity in the Essentials (4:4-6).
These are 7 essential doctrines that we must have and we as Christians must be unified on.
One body – there is one body of Christ, one church. There are not a multiplicity of beliefs and denominations that are right in God’s sight, only the Lord’s church.
One Spirit – it is through the Spirit that revelation comes, and He will not give us contradictory information; through one Spirit, we have a unity of the gospel.
One hope – we were called in this one hope by the gospel, the hope of heaven, being with our Lord; this hope is assured, like an anchor to the soul (Heb. 6:19).
One Lord – Christ is not divided (1 Cor. 10:13); there is only one Lord and Master of our lives; He is the One who saves.
One faith – the Spirit has only relayed to us this one faith, not a multiplicity of faiths that we can choose from; there is only one that saves.
One baptism – Bible speaks of seven baptisms, but only one is in effect now; only one of those baptisms saves (eunuch; Eph 5:25).
One God and Father of all – He is the one who has the ability to authorize and command; He is the One who is above all, through all, and in all!
Because of the unity that exists within these seven things, we also ought to be unified.
All things these work together to save us: Our God and Father authorized the Lord who sent the Spirit who relayed the faith by which we have hope when we are baptized into His body.
Unity in the Leadership (4:7-12).
What is the measure of Christ’s gift? (4:7-8).
The gift of His grace, recall, is exceedingly abundantly beyond what we can ask or think (3:20).
According to Psalm 68:18, He gave these gifts to men.
He gave these gifts to equip us and to edify us (4:12), along with the leaders.
Paul talks of five offices and leaders within the church (4:11).
Apostles – these are part of the foundation of the church (2:20); do we have apostles today? – only in the word they wrote – qualification was to see the risen Lord (1 Cor. 15:4-8).
Prophets – another part of the foundation of the church (2:20); prophets spoke on behalf of another (Exo. 7:1-2); who speaks on behalf of God today? – only the written word of God since there are no new revelations—it’s all been revealed!
Evangelists – these are proclaimers of the gospel, good message; they seek to share the gospel and save souls; Timothy was told to “do the work of an evangelist” (2 Tim. 4:5).
Pastors – shepherds, some told to shepherd the flock of God; these were elders, sometimes called overseers or bishops (Acts 20:17, 28; 1 Pet. 5:1-2).
Teachers – some are needed to be Bible teachers (Titus 2:1-8); they need to be mature in Christ (Heb. 5:12-14) recognizing a stricter judgment will follow (James 3:1).
These officers in the church must work together, speaking as the oracles of God (1 Pet. 4:11) which will not contradict one another.
These five offices, along with the spiritual gifts are given for a reason (4:12).
They are given to equip us or the good works we ought to be doing.
They are also given to edify the church.
Isn’t Scripture given to equip us for every good work? (2 Tim. 3:16-17). Yes, but at this time, all Scripture wasn’t given yet—teachers, pastors, and evangelists are still needed to help dispense the knowledge and wisdom of the Scriptures.
Unity of the Faith (4:13-16).
These spiritual gifts are given until something occurs.
You see at the time this was written, Christians were as children, easily fooled by people who claimed to be speaking for God—do we have that today?
Those who are fooled today are those who are not well-versed in the Scriptures.
Today, however, we can become a perfect (mature) man
Why? We have the unity of the faith and the knowledge of the Son of God.
How do we have it? Through the completed Scriptures.
Because we have these things, we are no longer in need of the miraculous spiritual gifts.
We can now have a unity of the faith with the Word of God completely revealed.
But few are willing to accept it!
So we must teach the truth in love.
When we do this, we will grow in Christ.
Everything fits together well in Him.
Let us work together, doing our share, continuing to grow and be edified in love.
If we do this, we will truly have a unity of the faith.
Paul gives his formula for unity here in this chapter of Ephesians.
He shows us how to be unified as people, not letting our personalities get in the way.
He shows us some of the essentials on which we must be unified in doctrine.
He shows us that we ought to have a unified leadership.
He shows us the unity that exists within the faith.
Two of the oldest denominations: Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy.
They had a major split nearly 1000 years ago.
Attempts have been made to reunify.
They have failed to make any progress despite having much in common.
It is partially because of their egos, lack of humility, but the biggest reason is 1000 years of tradition are now in the way.
That’s one reason why we say go to back to the Bible to find our basis of unity, not 2000 years of man-made traditions.
If we can find unity there, overcoming our egos, embracing humility, patience, and love, then maybe we can truly be united in Christ.