15 – Ephesians 4:1-6 – Unification

“As the prisoner for the Lord, I appeal to you to lead a life which is a credit to those called into His service. Live humbly, with a gentle spirit, lovingly making allowances for the faults of others. Earnestly maintain the harmonious unity and peace produced by the Spirit. We all belong to the same body, have the same Holy Spirit, and possess the same hope produced by our calling. There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism. There is one God and Father, sovereign, pervasive, and living in all Believers”.  (paraphrased)

v. 1

In the previous three chapters Paul describes the Christian’s position in Christ. “Therefore” serves as the transitional term which connects all he has written up to this point with what follows. Having stated who we are in Christ, he now describes how our behavior impacts society. The Apostle has taken his readers to the mountain top of doctrine and now leads them to the common ground of daily duties. The teachings of Jesus focus on improvement of character and sensitivity regarding human relationships. We are tasked with bringing the atmosphere of heaven into the world.

Through a series of exhortations, Paul encourages Believers to respond proactively as a result of the new birth. Those who know Christ seek pragmatic ways to serve Him, “utilizing our bodies as living sacrifices” (Rom. 12:1).
After being confronted by Christ on the Damascus road, Paul forever considers himself “the prisoner of the Lord” (Eph. 3:1 & Phlm. 1:9). Although he never views himself as a captive of the Roman Empire, his use of this phrase is a gentle reminder that the Christian life is costly (II Tim. 1:16). The apostle is neither soliciting sympathy nor attempting to shame his readers into compliance. He knows His incarceration serves an eternal purpose. He is physically restrained, yet spiritually liberated.

Paul “beseeches”(parakaleo) the Ephesians to walk worthy of their calling. Parakaleo means to plead with, urgently entreat, or exhort. To “walk” (peripateo) refers to our conduct. To walk “worthy” (axios) is a term meaning “to balance the scales” or “to bring into equilibrium.” We live a balanced life when our behavior matches our beliefs.

Our “calling” (kleseos) to serve Christ is validated by our daily conduct. Kleseos means “an invitation,” and includes all who have embraced Jesus as their Savior.

~We are called by Christ into His Kingdom (I Thess. 2:12).
~We are called into the fellowship of Christ (I Cor. 1:9).
~We are called to live holy lives (II Tim. 1:9).
~We are called to serve one another (Gal. 5:13).
~We are called to be soldiers of Christ (II Tim. 2:4).

Because we must “walk as He walked,” our lifestyle must reflect our privilege (Heb. 3:1 & I Jn. 2:6). To live worthy of His salvation is to remain focused on our obligations, such as reverence, confidence, reliance, and gratitude.

vv. 2-3

Paul proceeds to list foundational attitudes for victorious and harmonious Christian living. Christ epitomized each of these attributes. When practiced by His followers, they have a proactive impact on the unity and growth of the Church.

Humility (tapeinophrosune) is the first step toward unity in the Body of Christ. The term means to have a proper self-estimate and to see ourselves as God sees us. Although the haughty Romans and Greeks believe humility to be a vice, Jesus introduces it as a virtue. He states the Son of God is humble in heart (Mt. 11:29). In His Sermon on the Mount, He promises the poor in spirit will be blessed (Mt. 5:3). The humble person will endure wrong rather than inflict it (Isa. 2:9).

Meekness (praotes) means “gentleness; a spirit of self-control that does not seek vindication or vengeance when wronged.” Praotes is a term used when referring to the taming and domestication of wild animals. Although the beast still retains its strength, it is now under the control of its master. One who is meek is mild-mannered and not on the defensive. He is unwilling to provoke others and is not easily provoked.

Meekness should not be mistaken for weakness. Moses is described as the most humble man on earth, yet is not afraid to confront Pharaoh (Ex. 5:1). Despite being cursed, taunted, and stoned by Shimei, King David chose not to retaliate (II Sam. 16:13-14). Paul tells Philemon he would rather appeal to his conscience than command him to obey (Phlm. 8-9). A meek person may have the right to assert his power and authority, yet declines all opportunities to use it. Jesus never kisses the feet of His enemies, but He washes the feet of His disciples (Jn. 13:5).

Longsuffering (makrothumia) is vital to the growth of the early Church, for Christians were frequently misunderstood and slandered. Although makrothumia it is akin to humility and meekness, it also carries the connotation of accepting criticism without retaliation.

~Noah tolerated ridicule while patiently preaching (I Pet. 3:20).
~Moses suffered ill-treatment with other Hebrews rather than enjoy the sinful pleasures of Egypt (Heb. 11:25-27).
~Prophets are noted for their patience throughout challenging ministries (Isa. 6:11 & Jer. 1:15-19).
~Jesus never reacted harshly to the relentless stream of jealousy and criticism from religious hypocrites (Lk. 23:35).

Longsuffering describes the person who perseveres to the end and does not allow himself be discouraged.
Forbearance (anechomenoi) means to endure and tolerate the faults of others. While longsuffering deals with attitudes we should have when we are offended, forbearance is the refusal to respond negatively to the offense. One who is longsuffering does not allow insult or injury to control him. But suppressing anger and resentment is achieved only through love. In Greek there are four different words for this frequently misunderstood term:

~ Eros describes physical love between a man and a woman and includes sexual passion. Eros is the forms the basis of the English word “erotic” and is essentially egocentric.
~ Philia is the warm affection for friends and relatives dear to us. This type of love is often reciprocal, continuing to give as long as it receives.
~ Storge refers to maintaining strong family ties and commitment.
~ Agape, the term Paul uses here, always seeks the highest good of another individual. It involves the will more than the emotions. God so loved the world He gave His only Son (Jn. 3:16). Agape refers to the selfless love such as Jesus exemplifies as He prays for His murderers (Lk. 23:34). We “forbear in love” when we pray for our persecutors (Mt. 5:43-44).

Endeavoring (spoudazo) means we must be vigilant in our efforts to retain the unity in the Church. We do not create unity, for it already exists through the power of the Holy Spirit. Spoudazo means “to be diligent to preserve what we already possess.” To “keep” (tereo) this unity means “to guard it by exercising watchful care.” To be “unified” (henotes) is “to be in agreement.” Peace (eirene) within the Body of Christ is the bond which preserves this unity. Believers who constantly find fault and exhibit bad temperament contribute to disharmony.  Although there are diverse ethnicities and age groups represented, the Church is one body. Jesus prays His people may be one as He and His Father are One (Jn. 17:11 & 21). He is the Vine and we are the branches (Jn. 15:5).

As each of the virtues Paul names are practiced, they contribute toward creating an atmosphere free from division within the Church. The pursuit of unity results in a peaceful environment in which to worship God. Disgruntlement and doctrinal battles are detrimental to the cause of Christ. The recognition of the presence of the Holy Spirit is the key factor in the solidarity of the Body of Christ. The Comforter blesses Believers who in turn bless the world.
v. 4

In the following three verses, Paul makes His case for cooperation and rapport by emphasizing the sevenfold oneness Believers enjoy:

“One body” refers to the entire Church, for “in Christ Jesus, there is neither male nor female” (Gal. 3:28). Whether bond or free, Jews or Gentiles, we are all allowed to drink of one Spirit (I Cor. 12:13).

“One Spirit” (pneuma) is the key factor, for He is our perfect Teacher (Jn. 14:26). As the human body is indwelt and influenced by the soul, so the Body of Christ is indwelt and influenced by the Holy Spirit. Pneuma is literally “the breath of God” and it is He who converts every repentant sinner. The Holy Spirit resides in us and motivates us. Individually, each saint becomes a temple of the Holy Spirit (I Cor. 3:16). Collectively, all Believers are built though the Spirit as a holy temple in which God dwells (Eph. 2:21-22). Without the Holy Spirit the Church could not exist.

“One hope of your calling” is a phrase referring to our ultimate goal of heaven. Peter refers to this hope as being “alive” (I Pet. 1:3). We are united by common aspirations and expectations.

v. 5

“One Lord” is the ultimate basis of our unification. The legendary polytheism rampant in Ephesus causes only confusion. In sharp contrast, Jesus Christ is the one Mediator between God and man (I Tim. 2:5). There is no other name under heaven whereby we can be saved (Acts 4:12).

“One faith” refers to the simple “faith delivered to the saints,” uncluttered by denominationalism (Jude 1:3). The past twenty centuries have proven doctrinal diversity results in discontent, jealousy, and fragmentation. Textural criticism always tends to divide Believers rather than unify them. That “Jesus Christ is Lord” is the sole creed of the apostolic Church (Phil. 2:11). There is one community of Believers on earth. This is consistent with the glimpse we are given of worshippers in heaven (Rev. 7:11).
“One baptism” does not refer to a particular method, however baptisma means “to submerge, dip, plunge, or immerse.” Water baptism is a symbolic act and does not save anyone (I Pet. 3:21). It is the public proclamation one has buried the former sinful life and is resurrected with Christ into a new and holy life. As an ordinance exemplified by Jesus Himself, it is an experience all Believers can share (Mk. 1:9-11).

v. 6

“One God and Father” is a phrase that demands a monotheistic world view. The numerous temples of gods and goddesses surrounding the Ephesians are monuments to the futility and disunity resulting from polytheism. All these edifices lie in ruins today, while Christianity has spread to every nation on earth.

~God is “above all,” for He is the Creator of the universe who exercises perpetual jurisdiction.
~God is “through all,” for He controls and sustains everything in the cosmos.
~God is “in us all” on a personal level, instructing us, maturing us, and drawing us ever closer to Him though His Holy Spirit.

God is seen as a Father to everyone who is committed to His Son. The Church is one family because we all love the same Father.


Points to Ponder

1. According to Jesus, what is a primary proof of discipleship (Jn. 13:35)?

2. Name the fruits of the Spirit, listed in Galatians 5:22-23, that are also found in Ephesians 4:1-6.

3. What are the results of pride (Pv. 11:2 & 16:18)?

4. If a person is truly humble, how does he or she view others (Phil. 2:3)?

5. What statement does Jesus make regarding Himself in Matthew 11:29?

6. What did Jesus choose not to do when He was reviled (I Pet. 2:23)?

7. What can we learn about meekness and humility from Matthew 23:12, James 4:6 and Philippians 2:3 & 2:9?

8. What statement does Paul make regarding unity in Romans 12:5?

9. What is said concerning our union with Christ in Galatians 3:27 and I Corinthians 12:4 & 13?

10. Paraphrase Paul’s thoughts regarding the importance of each member of Christ’s Church (I Cor. 12: 20-27).


Maxim of the Moment

Even if you are on the right track, you’ll get run over if you just sit there. - Will Rogers