Thursday, May 7

Ephesians, Part IV

Over the last several weeks, we’ve been using the book of Ephesians as a way to look at the question. Here is some of what we talked about along those lines in our discussion of Ephesians 4:

  • Unity is a major topic in this chapter. Paul stresses how the followers of Jesus all believe the same thing and we are all part of the same body. In fact, in verses 4-6 Paul uses the word “one” 7 times. We are all bound together by the things we have in common in Jesus Christ. Everyone who says that they follow Jesus should have these things in common. We are all on the same team.
  • In the middle of this unity, there is a great deal of diversity. In Ephesians 4:11, Paul mentions 5 different types of people with different jobs within the Church – and these are just types of jobs that are designed to help equip followers of Jesus for the work of ministry. In other places in his letters, Paul lists still other jobs and gifts that God has given different people for their work in the Church and in the world. Different people have different interests, skills and abilities, so God gives them different jobs and gifts so that together the body of Christ can be as effective as possible at affecting the world for Jesus.
  • Maintaining unity in the midst of diversity can be a difficult thing. It can be very easy to think “that person isn’t as good as me because they don’t have the same gifts and the same job as I do.” Or sometimes it can go the other way – “I’m not as good as that person because they have more gifts and a better job in the church than I do.” Either attitude can lead to rivalry, hurt feelings, and disunity. These kinds of feelings can make it difficult to remember that all followers of Jesus are on the same team and that we should always be working together.
  • Paul addresses this potential problem in two ways. First, he urges us to walk “with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing one another in love” (4:1). Paul knows that if we are humble, gentle and patient, and if we always have love as the primary way that we deal with others, disunity won’t be a problem. If we can do those things, we won’t be jealous of what we feel like other people have that we don’t, and we won’t be proud or arrogant about what we feel like we have that other people don’t. I really think that these four traits – humility, gentleness, patience, and love – go a long way to maintaining unity. The second thing that Paul does is that he compares the church to a physical body. Our bodies have lots of different parts, and each one has its own function. If any part doesn’t work well, the entire body suffers. And no part can go it alone without the other parts. Paul is saying that the church, which is the body of Christ, works the same way. There are lots of different parts, but they are all necessary. If we don’t all work together, then the entire body suffers. Paul knows that unity is crucial for the church to be as effective as possible in the world.
  • If we are going to live like a follower or Jesus, we are going to need to live our lives differently than we did before we decided to follow Jesus. In the second half of this chapter, Paul talks again to the gentiles. In the first half of the book, Paul repeatedly talked about how the gentiles were on equal footing with God as the Jews. God doesn’t see the gentiles as being any different than the Jews. Both have the same access to God. But now, Paul tells the gentiles that, as followers of Jesus, they should no longer live as the gentiles do. Paul says that we need to “put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness” (4:22-24). Paul recognizes that in our lives without Jesus, we conform to the actions and ideas of our culture, but these things don’t line up with the desires of God. Paul lists some of the elements of everyday life, such as sensuality, greed, impurity and falsehood. These are things that we still see in the culture around us today. Paul reminds us that these things don’t match up with who Jesus is or what God wants. Therefore, we need to put these things aside. These are part of the “old self” that we should be putting away. Instead, we should be putting on the “new self,” which includes things like righteousness, holiness, truth, building each other up, giving grace to others, kindness, tenderheartedness, and forgiving others. Paul makes it clear that following Jesus should have an impact how we live our lives. The things we do and the way we interact with others should be different because of our relationship with Jesus.

This should give you a good idea of what we talked about concerning Ephesians chapter 4. Look for a discussion of Ephesians chapters 5 and 6 in the next few days.

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