Life In Christ: Unified & Forward Together

Sundays are my favorite day of the week. It is a day when people from all different walks of life come together under the banner of Christ to worship Him. There is something amazing about this unified gathering that only happens because of Jesus.  It is a unique portion of our Life In Christ.

Over the last few weeks as we’ve been discussing the subject of Life in Christ, we’ve been examining the writings of the Apostle Paul. Specifically, we’ve been reviewing the Epistle to the Ephesians. While taking time to allow this topic to sink in, we’ve been able to behold that Life in Christ is:

  • The gracious identity that comes from God through Jesus.
  • The glorious outcome that comes through God in Jesus.

Unified 1Today, we move to the fourth chapter of this letter and to a discussion of what we are doing here (why we exist and gather) and what it means to be brought together with each other in the Lord. Let’s read the first sixteen verses to get a better grasp on this topic…

1 Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, 3 being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling; 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 was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift. 8 Therefore it says, “When He ascended on high, He led captive a host of captives, And He gave gifts to men.”

9 (Now this expression, “He ascended,” what does it mean except that He also had descended into the lower parts of the earth? 10 He who descended is Himself also He who ascended far above all the heavens, so that He might fill all things.)

11 And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ.

14 As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; 15 but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.

Ephesians 4:1-16 [nasb]

So we want to gain a better understanding of the Scriptures…but how?  We must see to answer a few questions if this is going to be possible.

  • What do the Scriptures say?
  • What were the results of this revelation of Scripture in their specifically revealed time and place?
  • What applications are carried forward from then to now?
  • What am I willing to do about what God reveals?

I have written more about gaining understanding on this blog.

What is The Context of This Letter: Context helps us better understand Scripture.

  • The Author – the Apostle Paul wrote this letter between 60-63 A.D. while imprisoned in Rome under Nero’s persecution.
  • The Audience – the church in Ephesus was a multi-cultural community of faith that was founded by the Apostle Paul in the 50’s A.D.
  • The Aim – the Apostle wanted the church to come to terms with their identity through Christ and to fully live out the implications of such a gracious gift.

So, what are we here for?  The Answer? …God has called people from all different walks of life to be unified as they walk forward together in a manner worthy of the Lord.

I. How Do We Choose To Walk Together In A Manner Worthy Of The Lord [v. 1-3]

We must first address the command of Scripture. This is a compassionate call for us to take seriously what Jesus Christ has done for us. This gifting is made apparent by the gifting of the Holy Spirit’s indwelling of believers…but this is not to be taken for granted. It takes an intentional choice

We are told to endeavor (be eager, be diligent) to preserve the unity of the Spirit.

This brings us to the point of wrestling with a very important personal and difficult issue… Will We Walk In A Worthy Manner Or Will We Go Our Own Way?

We must make a choice to preserve the unity of who we are and what we are here to accomplish. Thankfully, because of the work of Christ on our behalf, when we have placed our faith in Him as the saving Lord and Savior…the Bible gives us the assurance that we will never have to wonder about whose we are.

But what does this desire and command for unity even mean?  Well, first of all, let’s not confuse what we are talking about here.

“Unity does not mean uniformity. Unity comes from within and is a spiritual grace, while uniformity is the result of pressure from without.”  -Warren Wiersbe

This choice to preserve unity is not without the directions of how this choice is to be done biblically.

  • Humility that is biblical is needed for unity to be preserved. This act of humility is not thinking more highly of ourselves than we ought to—our less highly than we ought to.
  • Gentleness that is biblical is also needed for biblical unity to be preserved. The choice for gentleness is not a choice to be weak, but the choice to control the power that is possessed.
  • Patience that is biblical is also a chosen virtue that is needed for the preservation of biblical unity. This is also known as long-suffering and being long-tempered. It is the ability to endure discomfort without fighting back. This forbearance (tolerance) of others is a grace from God that cannot be experienced or expressed without the love of God.
  • Peace that is biblical is commended grace for this pursuit of spiritual unity. Having the peace of God ruling in our hearts brings a lifestyle of faithful and grateful submission and obedience. When the peace of God does not rule in our hearts, the decisions and distractions that originate in the heart bring about the pain of war and the feelings of enmity (not being at peace with God and the family of God). The reason for war on the outside is war on the inside.

II.  Why Do We Choose To Walk Together In A Manner Worthy Of The Lord [v. 4-6]

We may indeed be different from one another…but the one who unites us is the most important factor who makes all the difference for why we are unified together.

The Apostle Paul has given us,, a glimpse of some basic biblical foundations for unity. We need this revelation because our human reasons and human attempts that are not biblical are not lasting. They are temporary and not eternal.

These doctrines reveal the why we choose to walk together and the way we are able to walk together with Christ.

  • One Body… The body of Christ is something to which every believer becomes a member at their conversion to Christ by the Spirit. This biblical, global body to which we belong is the model for the many local bodies.
  • One Spirit… The same Holy Spirit indwells each and every believer of Christ. We follow His lead for all of us in each of us.
  • One Hope of Our Calling… The follower of Jesus is called forward with the promise of something more. We are all moving toward the hope that Christ has provided.  This promise will be fulfilled because Christ has already provided it through the cross. We all hold the same one promise from our Savior.
  • One Lord… The followers of Jesus have only the one Lord Himself that saves and to whom we submit.
  • One Faith… There is one gospel that we trust in. This Gospel is the doctrine of truth that saves. This is not a faith in a faith… it is faith in the one Savior. We find salvation by trusting alone in who Jesus is, what Jesus has done, and what He has said.
  • One Baptism… When we are united with Jesus Christ through salvation we are baptized in Him the Spirit. Every believer is united together in this baptism. While me have gone through the symbol of baptism in differing places, at differing ages, and in differing traditions… we are baptized in holy baptism by the same Holy Spirit.
  • One God and Father… For those who have trusted in Jesus Christ as the Savior, we have been granted a new and better spiritual parent to lead us. And we don’t have a differing Father… we have the one Father who has adopted us all into His family.

The Apostle Paul declared the identity of this God on whom He called upon for provision.  This helps us to understand that our prayer is not about self-will or calling on anything… but prayer is about speaking to God the Father.

By identifying that God is the Father of Jesus Christ, he is not so much trying to declare the paternity of Jesus but about declaring the relational unity of the Father and the Son that is made known within mystery of the Trinity (God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit).

In other words, Jesus was not a demigod (lesser than God the Father) but He was in all equality…God Himself.

The “Father ID” also reveals the access that we have to God as the good, good father that we can trust as our gracious parent that now welcomes His children to Himself.  

III.  What Helps Us Choose To Walk Together In A Manner Worthy Of The Lord [v. 7-12]

So, now that we see the how and the why… we must answer the what. What helps us to choose to walk together in a manner worthy of the Lord?

We are only able to be united with Christ and have unity together in Christ because of the grace of Christ (the Messiah). This is made evident through the Gospel.

What is this GOSPEL? What do we mean when we share this churchy-sounding word? It means good news… it means that we have been sent an incredibly gracious, glorious, good message. And here it is…

  • God created mankind to be in relationship with Him.
  • Our sins, however, have separated the relationship we have with God that was meant to be a holy and righteous relationship.
  • Sins cannot be overcome by our attempt at righteousness by doing good works.
  • Paying the price for sin, Jesus came to do what we couldn’t do by living a holy, sinless life and dying in our place.
  • Everyone who calls on Christ Jesus for salvation and places their trust in Him as Lord will be saved.
  • Life that is eternal in Christ is not something we have to wait for. It begins and grows from the moment we trust Jesus.

This Gospel of Jesus Christ brings about our forgiveness of sins, our adoption in Christ’s family, and our future of a heavenly inheritance.

The grace of the Messiah not only saves us…but His gift shapes us.

This gift of grace sanctifies us to be conformed the image of the Son as we walk this earth. The gifts of the Messiah are also gifts given by the grace of God to empower us to accomplish our purposes that were planned for our good and God’s glory (Ephesians 2:10).

Paul states that the nature of why we have these gifts is that Jesus has supplied them in His followers for the equipping of the saints for the work of His service, for the building up of the body of Christ, and for the proclamation of God’s glorious name to the uttermost parts of the earth.

In the New Testament we are presented with three lists that share these various spiritual gifts…

  • Romans 12:3-8
  • 1 Corinthians 12:4-11, 27-31
  • Ephesians 4:11

Here in the letter to the Ephesians we focus on five of these gifts of grace.

  • Apostleship – The gift of apostleship is not to be confused with the office of apostle.   Apostle means one who is sent with a commission and authority. Whereas a disciple is a follower or listener… an apostle in the early church was a divinely appointed representative. Carrying the gift of apostleship today means to be sent and commissioned to places where the gospel has not yet been heard and where churches are not yet established.
  • Prophets – Once again, this is not to be confused with the Old Testament office of prophet. To be a prophet meant that a person would boldly proclaim the Word of God and at times foretell coming events. The gift of prophecy is not about foretelling but forth-telling. This helps the church to understand by the Scriptures and through the Spirit to understand and comprehend the mysteries & knowledge of the Word of God. This brings about the church’s edification, encouragement, and consolation.
  • Evangelist – The word means “bearer of good news.” What we must remember is that all believers are called to the work of evangelism and being a witness of Christ’s gift… but God has also supplied the church with those disciples that are gifted further in the work of evangelism to proclaim the goodness of the gospel and to encourage the church in its responsibility to make known the faith.
  • Pastors – The title that is given for this role is equated throughout the New Testament with the title of shepherd, elder, and overseer. This means that they are to be responsible for shepherding the flock of God’s people and feeding them with the Word of God.
  • Teachers – The gifting of the teacher is at times synonymous with that of the Pastor. This gifting means that as a teacher, they have been gifted a deeper heart towards learning what is true and right and bringing these realities to light for others so that they may know what is right and true.

There Are Other Gifts Revealed In The Scriptures.

  • Administration
  • Discernment
  • Exhortation
  • Faith
  • Giving
  • Healing
  • Interpretation of Tongues
  • Knowledge
  • Leadership
  • Mercy
  • Miracles
  • Service
  • Tongues
  • Wisdom

IV.  Where Do We Choose To Walk Together In A Manner Worthy Of The Lord [v. 13-16]

Where are we meant to go? Where does all this lead us as we are unified together for God’s purposes? The invisible global body that is the church reveals Christ through the ministry of the local visible church.

The direction that we are to go together has been set before us. The Scripture tells us that the role of gifted servant leaders is meant to equip the saints for the work of service.

But service is not the end in itself…

We are walking toward somewhere alongside doing something all because we are being guided by Jesus and through Jesus and for Jesus.

So, where are we walking toward…

  • Christ-likeness. That there would be the evidence of spiritual maturity. Biblical spiritual maturity is not about just surviving or aging…but about a measurable maturity that conforms us to the image of Jesus.
  • Stability.  The world is full of false teachings, false philosophies, and the deceitfulness of human nature. We can even be conned by the scheming of our own hearts, minds, and flesh. Maturity means not being tossed about from the truth of God’s Word and the character of Christ.
  • Truth in Love. This means a maturity that is able to communicate the faith with knowledge, practice, and yet with a love that emulates Jesus within us.

“Truth without grace is cruelty.  Grace without truth is foolishness.” – Gordon Dalbey

 “Truth without love is brutality, and love without truth is hypocrisy.” – Warren Wiersbe

  • Cooperation. This area of maturity understands that we belong first of all to Jesus Christ and in accountability to one another and not to ourselves. We affect each other and we need each other. No matter how insignificant we may believe we may be there is no such a thing in the body of Christ as insignificance. A sign of this area of maturity is the celebration of the growth of others that also spurs our growth forward.

Spiritual maturity is not something that is ill conceived or can be humanly manufactured. Neither is the unification of the church that is called upon in the New Testament.

This is something that is given to us in Christ.

The question that remains with us is when will we choose to walk together…

  • For some, this decision was made long ago but is one that may need to be renewed.
  • For some, this decision still needs to be made for our next step in our walk with Christ as His disciples.
  • For others, this decision may need to have some healing and restoration brought about through Christ.

Are we (you) ready to choose to walk together in a manner worthy of the Lord?

This we are able to do as we #FollowJesus for our #LifeInChrist.
By His Grace.  Through His Gospel.  For His Glory.

The topics discussed are taken from the sermons during the Worship Gathering at Eastgate Baptist.

To listen to this sermon or other past messages…please go to this link.

 

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