Unity in the Body of Christ

Apostle Paul, in his letters to the churches, frequently instructs his readers in the necessities of Christian living, and Ephesians chapter four is a clear example of those instructions. It begins with, “I therefore, …” and as always, you have to ask what “therefore” is there for. To answer that question you need to look back into chapter three.

As it ends with a parenthetical benediction, let’s see what comes earlier: The thought begins way back in chapter two, with its summary statement of vs. 22: In him (Christ Jesus) you also (along with the apostles and prophets) are being built together into a dwelling place for God by[or inthe Spirit. 

I suspect this business of gathering up the context may seem tedious, or even cumbersome, but if you really want to know God’s whole truth, it’s necessary. After all, the most convincing lies are built on partial truths.

So, back to chapter three, which begins by presenting the mystery of the gospel, which, he says, was not made known to the sons of men in other generations as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit. (vs. 5) And what, specifically, was that mystery? This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, fellow members of the same body (referring back to 2:22), and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel. (vs. 6) Of course, that truth goes against everything the Jews believe about their privileged position before God. Could that be why the Jews have historically rejected Jesus as their Christ, or Messiah?

Chapter 3:8-10 reveals a fundamental fact about Paul’s spiritual and emotional constitution: To me, though I am the very least [or more least] of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery (specified in vs. 6) hidden for ages in God who created all things (by his Word, who became Jesus Christ), so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. We, the church, carry the solemn responsibility and privilege of making God’s “manifold wisdom” known to “the rulers and authorities in heavenly places.” That places us, in Christ Jesus, closer to God than his angels.

Verses 11 & 12 again refer to the mystery he revealed above, but expand it into the most wonderful promise: This was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through our faith in him.

On to verses 15-16: For this reason (the mystery revealed in vs. 6) I bow my knees before the Father,  from whom every family[or fatherhoodin heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, … Do you think God did all this for us just to be nice? He reveals his very specific reason for this blessing in verses 17-19: so that Christ (the very Creator of everything) may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love [agapē, the love unique to God],  may have strength [or be fully able] to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know (fully, through experience) the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

And finally, back to chapter four: I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. (vss. 1-4) Paul was able to rejoice, as “a prisoner for the Lord,” because he was no longer a prisoner of sin. The walk he referred to specifically involves humility,  gentlenesspatience, and bearing with one another in love. Why? Because we’re eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. And yes, that’s a repetition, because it’s so important.

Apostle Paul seems to begin chapter four with the kernel of all the New Testament’s “one another” passages. If you “bear with one another in love,” literally nothing will come between you and any other brother or sister in Christ. Even if you don’t exactly like one of them, in Christ you can love them, a “Mission Impossible” for anyone still living in sin.

The mandate is clear, and the choice is yours.


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