Read Ephesians 4
Unity and Maturity in the Body of Christ
4 As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. 2 Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. 3 Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.
7 But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it. 8 This is why it says:
“When he ascended on high,
he took many captives
and gave gifts to his people.”
9 (What does “he ascended” mean except that he also descended to the lower, earthly regions? 10 He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe.) 11 So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, 12 to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.
14 Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. 15 Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. 16 From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.
Instructions for Christian Living
17 So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. 18 They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. 19 Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, and they are full of greed.
20 That, however, is not the way of life you learned 21 when you heard about Christ and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. 22 You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; 23 to be made new in the attitude of your minds; 24 and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.
25 Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbor, for we are all members of one body. 26 “In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, 27 and do not give the devil a foothold. 28 Anyone who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with their own hands, that they may have something to share with those in need.
29 Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. 32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.
For the first half of the book of Ephesians, Paul is focused on telling the Gospel story. As we move into the second half of the book, take notice of the first word of this chapter: “Therefore”. This word is a signal from Paul connecting the two halves of the book. After discussing the Gospel story in detail in chapters 1-3, Paul is now going to tell us what we should do and how we should live as a result.
You’ll notice there is an emphasis on the word “one” in this chapter. We are one body with one Spirit, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and one God over it all. We saw in Ephesians 1:10 that God’s divine purpose is to unify all people and all things in Christ. Therefore, because of this Gospel story found in Christ, we are now called to live as one. That’s what we should do, and that purpose should reshape every part of our own life story. Stop and think about that carefully: In light of Jesus’ life, death on the cross, and resurrection, are you living a life that supports or hinders unity with your fellow believers?
The truth is, unity among sinners can be extremely difficult. But Paul makes it clear we have been made new in Christ, and as a result we have to “make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.” What does that look like today? It’s swallowing your pride and seeking forgiveness for sinning against someone. It’s extending grace when you have been wronged, perhaps when the other person doesn’t even acknowledge their wrong behavior. It’s having the awkward and difficult conversation needed to overcome bitterness or frustration. When we don’t follow through when prompted by the Holy Spirit’s guidance, we give Satan the opportunity to divide God’s people and completely frustrate God’s divine purpose. Paul will speak more in chapter 6 about spiritual warfare and evil beings that will do whatever they can to prevent this unity.
If Ephesians 1-3 are the Gospel story, and chapters 4-6 are how the Gospel reshapes our own stories, imagine then that someone was writing the story of your life and they just concluded the chapter detailing your acceptance of the Gospel and your salvation experience. Like Ephesians 4, the next chapter in your memoir begins, “Therefore, __________.”
What would come next in your book? Is it a story marked by love and oneness with God and, as a result, those around you? Or is it a life marked by unwholesome talk, anger, rage, bitterness, jealousy, and gossip? If we truly believe in the Gospel story of Jesus and believe that God sent Him to bring unity with God and among God’s people, then what follows our “therefore” is a life marked by commitment to oneness in the body of Christ. If it’s not, do not dwell in that discouragement. The good news is that God is all about writing new stories. His forgiveness and mercy is available today, all you have to do is ask.
- What would follow “therefore” in the story of your life?
- Is there anything that is keeping you from complete unity with another believer?
- Ask God to reveal any steps that you need to take to seek unity today. Don’t try and fix the problem yourself – seek Him and His guidance, pray about what to do, and then see how He works to restore your relationships.
“Has it ever occurred to you that one hundred pianos all tuned to the same fork are automatically tuned to each other? They are of one accord by being tuned, not to each other, but to another standard to which each one must individually bow. So one hundred worshipers meeting together, each one looking away to Christ, are in heart nearer to each other than they could possibly be, were they to become ‘unity’ conscious and turn their eyes away from God to strive for closer fellowship.” A.W. Tozer
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