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Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Practical Issues for the church: Ephesians 4.

Paul  applies practically the theology that he has been at great pains to teach in the previous 3 chapters. He has reminded us that our salvation and faith are gifts of God freely given by His good grace and that our salvation is all of Him and has nothing to do with our own efforts. He has prayed that we might recognize the real cost of our salvation; that it is blood bought. The perfect sacrifice has been made which has brought us into relationship with God. We have learned about our pure-converted state and that since our conversion we are united with the body of Christ which is the church. We have learned that the church is the one chosen nation of God and  that He no longer favours people of Jewish descent but that His favour rests upon a people from every tongue, tribe and nation who are called into one body (the church) by their relationship to Him through Christ who is the head of the church. In the church there is no inequality, all are equal Jew and Gentile alike. We have been taught that we must be rooted and grounded in our faith in order that we might know the fullness of God through His revealed word; the scriptures.

This is a quick overview of the theology or doctrines that we learn from this letter so far; it is a soul refreshing view of what God has done through Jesus Christ on our behalf.

(Now in chapter 4 Paul makes application of these vital doctrines.)

Unity of the Church:

Paul’s letter is an open letter primarily for the New testament church but inspired by the Holy Spirit for the benefit of congregations universally through every age. So this is for both us and the church of Christ throughout the world today and therefore is relevant for us even though written nearly 2000 years ago. God’s word is alive and is vital to all generations of believers.(Heb. 4:12-13)

Paul is keen to make the point that we are one people (see verses 4-6) where he is summarizing chapter 2:11-22 Threrefore he reminds us in verse 4 that there is one body etc. he is really saying remember the sound doctrine I have taught you; now apply it to your life in the church. 

So how does he go about applying it?

  1. He appeals to them. Verses 1-3
He urges his readers to live a life worthy of their calling of which he reminded them of in the first 3 chapters. But before he does that he states his own predicament. He reminds them that he is a prisoner for the Lord. 

Why does Paul keep harping upon his incarceration? 

 Remember in Chapter3:13 he has already told them not to lose heart on his behalf but to recognize that his sufferings are for the glory of the church. It should be an encouragement to us! 

How can imprisonment be an encouragement? 

 Even Paul the prisoner is counting himself to be a part of the church, the united people of God! He may seem to be isolated and alone but he knew that he was still at one with the people of God. When we feel lonely and uncared for Paul’s example is that we belong.

What then does Paul urge us to do?

Verses 1-3
  • To live or walk (ESV): 
  • Humbly: 
  • With gentleness:
  • With patience:
  • Loving each other:
  • Led by the Spirit:
We are to live our life worthy of our calling and to display the characteristics of the Lord Jesus Christ. That is the responsibility of both the church and individual Christians.

  1. The unity we have: verses 4-6
  • One body:
  • One Spirit:
  • One hope:
  • One Lord:
  • One faith:
  • One baptism:
  • One God and Father of all:
The emphasis is on oneness and not multiplicity. The church throughout all ages is stable and never changes in any way because we have a God who is always the same. The builder of the church is the same yesterday, today and forever. (Heb.13:8) Therefore that which He builds is on that same stable foundation. We are at one with the great saints, past present and future this is our great encouragement.

  1. More doctrine: verses 7-10
Paul in his applications is concerned that he is speaking  according to scripture and that what he says is rooted and grounded in the truth! Therefore he continues by telling us that grace is given to each one of us. That is to us individually; we are saved individually. 

Individuals are important to God! 

We are reminded of the teaching of our Lord who said that the lilies of the field and the sparrows of the air are important to Him but that we are even more important. (Lk. 12:27 & Mt. 10:29)

Grace has been given to us, according to the measure of Christ’s gift therefore it is extravagant, lavished upon us, pressed down, full to overflowing! (Eph. 1:8; 1John 3:1; Lk. 6:38)

Paul’s application is proven by his use of scripture; he quotes Psalm 68:18 He was able to understand and apply this verse to the Lord Jesus Christ and His ascension and the gifts that He gives to His people from His risen status in heaven. The gifts are to fill all things; they are immeasurably more than we can think or ask for.

  1. Gifts for the church. Verse 11
  • Apostles: they are envoys of the risen Christ. The pre-requisites of the Apostles were that they had met with the risen Christ; (1 Cor. 9:; 1 Cor. 15:7) and that they had received the mandate from Him to witness for Him. (Mt. 28:19; Jn.20:21; Rom. 1:5; 1 Cor. 1:7) Clearly there can no longer be any Apostles of this order, but we are all called to witness for him under the direction of the Apostles directives.
  • Prophets: those who had a direct revelation from God for His people. The canon of scripture is now complete, it is finished, nothing to be added ( Rev.22:18-19) He has revealed all that is necessary for mankind to know about Himself, about sin and death and hell; heaven has been accomplished through the finished work of Christ on the cross. He has declared His plan of redemption the forgiveness for sin and salvation by His good grace etc. There is nothing more to reveal therefore there is no longer any need for prophets of the order of the scriptures. There is however a prophetic word to be preached which is the Gospel which reveals God’s truth into the hearts of sinners, but that is the work of the preacher and not a prophet with new ideas!
  • Evangelists: messengers of the evangel, the good news, preachers of the gospel. This I believe to be an ongoing gift to the church, by the evangelist or gospel preacher that the Lord chooses to build His church, how can people be saved without a preacher? (Rom. 10:14-17)
  • Pastors and teachers: Paul puts these two together; the Pastor is an under shepherd, one who tends the flock (Acts20:20.) In the previous verse (Acts 20:17) Luke indicates that the responsibility of the elders is to tend the flock. It is the elders who are the pastors of the church, (see also 1 Peter 5:1-12) The role of Pastor is a caring role under the authority of the Chief or the Good Shepherd, (John 10.) Teaching is also the responsibility of the eldership. An elder must be able to teach sound doctrine. In Titus 1:9 In 1 Tim. 5:17 Paul gives the impression that not all elders are called to be the preacher and teacher of the church but that there us a role for individuals from within the eldership who have been set apart for the purpose of preaching and teaching and that they are to be looked after for their labours. We believe that to be a good principle but it does not mean that the paid elder has a greater authority or is of greater importance than the other leaders of the church!! Double honour must surely mean that he is honoured by the church as they pay him to be diligent in the scriptures and to pass on to them the truths contained within.We need to make sure we do not set up our evangelical papal figures! The eldership is a unity; a united gift to the church!
That is why Paul goes on to explain that the gifts are given to the church in order that the church may be equipped.
  1. The gifts are to equip the church. Verse 12
For what purpose?
  • The work of the ministry; notice that it does not say for the gifts to do the ministry! But they are given in order that the church will be equipped for it’s ministry.
  • To build up the church, that is the body. It is a body building facility. A good body builder will take advice from others as to what is best for him. He makes sure that he has a right diet; he will drink wisely; exercise properly; rest correctly; all with great diligence. If that is how we build up a healthy body how much more important it is to build the body of Christ properly and effectively. 

    As the church we need to take wise counsel from the elders who are under the authority of the scriptures. We need a good diet of sound doctrine as found in the scripture. We need to feed on the bread of life which is Jesus Christ our Lord (John 6:35.) We need to drink of the fountain of life by coming to Him who gives water abundantly that we will never thirst again (John 4:14.) We need to rest right, this is a requirement of every body. The body needs to be relaxed and not tired and agitated. Christians we really need to learn this lesson. Sometimes I think our church timetable is not conducive to a people who are relaxed in their faith! There are many texts about rest in scripture we need to learn lessons as to how to rest. Jesus said “come to me all you who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest. His burden is easy and his yolk is light.” (Mt. 11:28-30)
  • To work out or exercise Body building of course is not just rest that is slothfulness! We are meant to exercise right. To “work out” our salvation with fear and trembling. (Philippians 2:12) We need to be exercised in the truth of God’s word but also to be active in our faith. Hebrews 12:1-3 tells us to prepare ourselves to run the race that is set out before us, the Christian life is a marathon for which we need to be fit! How do we get fit? We look to Jesus for strength and for the good example that we need. There is also great value in physical fitness, our body is a temple of the Holy Spirit and it is our responsibility to look after it in order that we are not too weary to run the race.
  • Great diligence. So much in today’s lifestyle is halfheartedly done. The church is to be noticed for its diligence. The perseverance of the saints is a doctrine that is vital for today. The church too easily takes on the credit card attitude of the world we want easy and quick access to blessing that we do not yet deserve. The Christian life and the witness of the church is a hard slog therefore we need to be diligent in our efforts. Our perseverance has saving consequences not only for ourselves but others also! (1 Tim.4:16)
The responsibility of the Pastors and teachers of the church is to build up the body in order that we might attain:

Verse 13
  • Unity of faith.
  • Knowledge of Jesus.
  • Maturity.
  • A likeness to Christ.

Verse 14;
In order  that we might not be:
  • Immature.
  • Easily swayed by heresies.
  • Easily led by crafty persons.

Verse 15-16

But that we would rather be:
  • Speakers of the truth lovingly.
  • Growing more to be like Christ.
  • Belonging to the body.

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