This sermon is number 16 in a series of 36
Ephesians - Part 16
"Lessons On Walking In Church"
by David Legge | Copyright © 2000 | All Rights Reserved | www.preachtheword.com
We're turning to Ephesians chapter 4, and we began our reading there - and we'll take a few moments to recap on what we've been studying in the year that has gone by. Ephesians chapter 4, and we're going to look at the first six verses (as your study sheet shows you) of this little chapter. The first six verses are out of a contextual passage which deals with verses 1 right through to verse 16, so in order to get the flow of all that Paul is saying to us, and the Holy Spirit is saying to us, let's read all these verses together.
Verse 1: "I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; One Lord, one faith, one baptism, One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all. But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ. Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men. (Now that he ascended, what is it but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth? He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things.) And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love".
The title of our subject this evening is: 'Lessons on Walking in Church' - how we ought to walk and behave within the church of Jesus Christ. In the church age in which we live - in our particular peak or trough, whatever way you want to look at it - the comment is often heard: 'Don't talk to me about doctrine, I want to live out my Christian life. Christian life is important, what you do, the way that you walk - not necessarily what you believe'. You often hear it said: 'It makes no difference what you believe, as long as your life is right and you walk with your fellow man and before God in holiness and righteousness'. That may be well, it may tickle the ear of many in our world today, it may appeal to sociality that is abroad - but as we look, in the light of Scripture, it does not measure up. Indeed, the very first word - almost - in our passage absolutely refutes such a view.
Look at it, verse 1: 'I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord' - and perhaps, as a young Christian, you learnt the invaluable lesson that where you read 'therefore' you [ask] 'wherefore?'. You find the word 'therefore', and that means that the writer, and indeed the Holy Ghost inspiring these pages, is coming from a subject and is wanting to build upon it. So when Paul says: 'I therefore', we can see that he is alluding, and looking back, to something that he has already said - and indeed, it is the passages that we have been studying in the year that has gone by, chapters 1 to 3.
Many commentators divide the book of Ephesians into two parts, chapters 1 to 3, and chapter 4 to 6. They look at chapters 1 to 3 as belief, and chapters 4 to 6 as behaviour - 1 to 3 as doctrine, 4 to 6 as duty. If you like, the first half is exposition of what we believe, and the second half is exhortation unto holy and godly life. If you turn to chapter 1 of Ephesians, and that great verse that we are building everything that we study upon, we see that we are blessed with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ Jesus - verse 3. That is the beginning of Paul's discourse and homily of the wealth that we have in Christ. Isn't that right? Chapters 1 to 3, the wealth we have. We spent many beautiful weeks - I hope, for you - as we looked at the wealth that we have in the Lord Jesus, the great Christ we have that has taken us - we saw it in chapter 2 - from the depths of our sin to the heights of His holiness, and blessed us with all kinds of spiritual blessings in heavenly places. Now what Paul is doing, he is saying: 'I therefore', because of this, look to this - because of your wealth, I want you to look to your walk.
That's why we're looking tonight at lessons on walking within the church of Jesus Christ - from theology to practicality, and that is the balance that we need to get. It's not all head knowledge, but it has to be balanced with carrying out what we know of Christ, what we know of God and His gospel, into our everyday life's experience. The key word within the second half of this epistle, from chapters 4 to 6, is the word 'walk'. Walk, walk, walk - the key word in the first half 'wealth', but now it is 'walk'. Look at chapter 4 and verse 1, we've seen it: 'walk worthy of the vocation', or the calling, 'wherewith ye are called'. Verse 17: 'This I say therefore, and testify in the Lord, that ye henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind'. Chapter 5 and verse 2: 'And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us', verse 8, 'For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light', verse 15, 'See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise'.
Do you see the order? The first half of the book - wealth, wealth, wealth - all the riches of knowledge and wisdom that we have in Christ Jesus, what we have been blessed with through the blood of the eternal covenant. Now Paul moves from that wealth to the walk. With every privilege that we have in the Christian life, and indeed every privilege that we have in human life, it brings the responsibility - and Paul is saying: 'With the privilege of your wealth, wealth, wealth - here is your walk!'. There are so many walks, and indeed if we fail to learn within the Christian life that doctrine must turn to duty, we have missed the mark. We have missed the point of doctrine and belief, if we do not see that the reason for what we believe is for the way we behave - that is why we have belief! That is why we have doctrine: that we may order our lives aright in the sight of God.
Now, it would be wrong to separate doctrine from behaviour. Perhaps the severing of these chapters, chapter 3 and 4, as wealth and walk is not as distinct as some commentators make it - because both duty and doctrine are intermingled. You can't separate them! As you look at chapters 4, 5, and 6 of Ephesians you find that - that it is mingled theology with practicality, it is belief with behaviour all the way through, for you cannot separate them. The more I read the word of God, and the more I study the pages of inspired Scripture, I find that human obedience is always a result and a response of godly grace. Isn't that right? Human obedience, wherever we find it within the word of God, always comes from the operation of the grace of God in a human life. Isn't that what it was at salvation? Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, isn't that right? We could not - we remembered last night - we could not pull Him down from heaven, He had to come. He came among His own, and His own received Him not. He came to this earth to save us, and even, indeed, in our individual experience of salvation it had to be - it had to be - the operation of the Holy Spirit that brought to our minds our need of Christ. It had to be the Holy Spirit that convicted us of our sin, and out of that godly grace that was shown to you and I, we realised our need and we were obedient to the gospel.
Paul is saying the same thing here - God acts, and we now have to respond. 'Therefore' - do you get it? 'I therefore, the prisoner', look at verse 1, 'of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called'. 'I therefore', what does he say? 'Beseech you'. You find that this is the pattern of Paul on many occasions. If you were to turn to Romans chapter 12 - you can do it if you wish - and verse 1, you see that for those first few chapters, from chapters 1 to 11, Paul is labouring in doctrine. Then he turns to practice, and tells those Romans: 'I beseech you therefore, brethren, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind' - be transformed because of what you have learned of the salvation of God which you have come into!
Time and time again Paul makes this transition, and he comes before these children who he has spawned in his own spiritual life, and he beseeches them. I like the fact that that is a very tender word: 'beseech' - 'Therefore I beseech you'. You see, where grace rules the soul the word of law 'I command', is changed to the word of grace 'I beseech'. There is a different relationship now: God urges us to live for His glory. He does no longer command us - it's not like the Old Testament where God said to His people, Israel: 'If you will obey me, I will bless you', 'By the word of the law ye shall live, if you keep the law'. But now God says to His children: 'I have blessed you with all spiritual blessings - now, out of gratitude, obey me'. Do you see the difference?
Our Christian lives, just like this epistle, our behaviour is to be a response coming out of the love and the grace that God has shown toward us. One man put it like this: 'Christ has done so much for me, the rest of my life is a P.S. to His great work' - isn't that lovely? His life started in Christ, with Christ, with the grace of God that was shown to him at Calvary, and now he is determining that the rest of his life would be dedicated to Christ, because Christ dedicated His life to him. Do we live up to such a calling? Do we? 'I beseech you brethren, therefore, that ye walk worthy of the vocation' - and that word 'calling', it's not some kind of ministerial calling, but 'vocation' means 'calling' - the fact that you are called by the grace of God. Do we walk worthy of His calling?
Old Gypsy Smith, that famous evangelist, often sang a hymn which asked the question, listen: 'How shall the world know Jesus, if they cannot see Jesus in me?'. It's a good question, isn't it? If what we believe doesn't weigh up with what we behave, there is something tragically wrong in our spiritual life. Our conduct, if it does not endorse the gospel, contradicts the gospel. The world at large will see that as a contradiction of fact. Now, look at what Paul is trying to get to us now - the Holy Spirit is wanting to impress upon your spirit, after studying chapters 1, 2, and 3 of this epistle, look at it. Chapter 1, look at chapter 1, our wealth is found in it, isn't it? In chapter 1 we find the wealth that we are called by grace into the body of Christ, even before the world began we were chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world, and then Christ called us and put us into the body - that is our wealth. Look at chapter 4 - verses 1 through to 16 is now our walk. In mirror of that wealth of being called and put in the body, now there is a responsibility of walk - walk worthy of the call in the unity of the body!
Look at chapter 2, verses 1 to 10 that we spent so much time studying, the beauties of how we have been raised, spiritually, from the dead. What a wealth! To be raised from being dead in sins, to being up with Christ in glory! But then Paul brings the mirror of that wealth to our walk in chapter 4 right through to chapter 5 verse 17, where all his theme is this: 'Therefore, because you are raised, put off the grave clothes, walk in purity'. Chapter 2 verses 11 to 22 speaks of how we are reconciled to God. You remember we looked at how every nation in the world, and especially and specifically the Jew and the Gentile who fought the bit out all of their lives, how they - enemies for all time - can be brought together in the reconciliation of God. That is the truth, but Paul says from that wealth - look at chapter 5 verse 18 through to chapter 6 verse 9: 'Walk in harmony. If you're reconciled to God, don't believe it, live it!'. Finally, in chapter 3, we read of how Christ is the victor over Satan and hell and all of his works - that is a great mystery we find in that chapter, but the mirror of it in our walk is found in chapter 6 verses 10 to 24: 'Walk in victory in the armour of God'.
Do you see it now? 'Because of this, live like this'. What way do we live? Well, he tells us in our first point: walk worthy, verses 1 to 3. He is saying in view of these facts - in view of the fact that you have been placed in the body of Christ, in view of the fact that now, in the faith, you are part of the habitation of God, you have been redeemed by the blood of Christ, you're a member of His body, the word of God says you are a member of His flesh and blood, you're a living stone, a lively stone in the temple of the Holy Spirit - and in view of that, your life should be...A...B...C.
That word 'worthy' that Paul uses: 'walk worthy of the vocation', is a Greek word pronounced 'axios', and the root of that word has the idea of weight. Axios - weight - 'walk weightily in the walk and the calling wherewith ye were called'. Our English word 'axiom' is derived from it, and it simply means 'to have equal weight', to have a balance. If you were doing a mathematical equation this evening (and I wouldn't be one to do that!), but if you were to take away something from one side, you will have to take something away from the other to make the equation equal - to make it true, as mathematicians say. That is described as 'axiom' - when you do something to one side, you have to do it to the other side to make it equal. If you think of a balance: if you put a weight on one side, you must put a weight on the other to make it balance.
'Walk axios', 'walk weightily' - what is he saying? 'I have put three chapters, my Christian brethren in Ephesus, three chapters on the weight of what God has done in Christ for you. That is weighing over on this side, and now I want you to put all the implications of that life, and that belief, and that faith, on the other side'. Now please listen to this, because this is so important: that means that what we learn as believers must be followed through as behaviour! The more we learn, and the more we grow, and the older and more mature we get in the faith, there has to be a change within our walk - we must walk more and more worthily before God! But the reality is that there are a great deal of people who know a lot, but don't live a lot - and that is not New Testament Christianity! There must be that axiom, that balance of weight, where we learn and then we live - and that all entails a responsibility to live a life that is pleasing to God.
As we see from this passage of Scripture, in verses 1 to 3, that responsibility is to others. We have spent much time in the first three chapters of this book looking at what we have, individually, in Christ Jesus, and indeed corporately as the church. Now Paul is telling us: 'This is the axiom, this is the way you balance the doctrine with duty: that you live a life that is pleasing to God among the brethren and sisters within the church of Jesus Christ'. Kent Hughes, in his commentary on Ephesians, says this: 'Life today in the twentieth century, life is like an elevator ride - everyone is facing forward, no eye contact, no conversation, no interaction, and everyone races to their faceless endeavours'. We live in a society where everyone is a number, social interaction is at an all-time low - and that can happen within the church of Jesus Christ, where people become alone, people feel aloof, people feel not wanted, because of the behaviour of those within the church of Jesus Christ toward them.
That author goes on to describe a man from the United States of America who was wheelchair-bound. Because of that he got so frustrated that he set his chair alight while he was sitting in it - and the US Fire Department ticketed him for setting fire to his own armchair! This is what he said: 'I did it because I'm here myself, I was afraid, I didn't care! I wanted to get attention, I set fire so someone would get me out!'. The reason why he was ticketed was for 'Misdemeanour Arson'. The Fire Chief said this: 'We did it to discourage him from doing it again, and maybe he'll realise that it's serious' - but I think, don't you, that he already realised how serious it was! That he was driven to such an extreme through ostracism, he felt so alone in the world, that he went to the extent of setting himself alight to get attention! Hughes says that recently he spoke to a young man, who was so starved for attention in his life, that he went and got his hair cut every single week in life - just so that he could be touched by another human being in a non-threatening way. Does that touch a nerve?
So many breaking hearts, but you know the walk of the worthy is meant to be different. It is meant to have a place for those people, and the first place is in practical humility. Look at your first outline, the first heading in your first outline: in practical humility, verse 2. Paul goes on, this is the worthy walk: 'With all lowliness and meekness' - all lowliness and meekness. Now that word 'lowliness' is only found in one other place, in Philippians 2 and verse 3 speaking of the humility of the Lord Jesus Christ. The Greek word actually means 'modesty', negatively speaking it means 'a lack of self-assertiveness'. We are taught today, and indeed I was taught, self-assertiveness at school. That's what we have drilled into our minds from the youngest age, but Paul is saying that this lowliness of mind is a lack of self-assertiveness - not being proud at anything. If we are not proud of something in our lives, and many of us are - our achievements, our gifts, what we have done in education, what we have done in business or in our career, whatever it may be - if we are not proud of something we have done, at the other extreme there are those who are proud of what they have not done. Especially within the church of Jesus Christ, and indeed within our circles, there are those who are proud of their ignorance - you might find that hard to believe. The next time you hear someone saying: 'Oh, I couldn't do the like of that', or, 'I couldn't be involved in that' - and verbosely they boast their ignorance! A false humility of what they cannot do!
A young minister once stood, at a Methodist conference, to his feet and said these words: 'I am against education, I don't need to read books except the Bible, I don't profess I know nothing about literature or anything of that kind - I am just an ignorant man, but the Lord has taken me up and is using me, and I am not at all interested in schools or colleges or education. I am proud to be just what I am'. An old preacher rose to his feet and said: 'Do I understand that the dear young brother is proud of his ignorance? If so, all I have to say is that he has a great deal to be proud of'. Isn't that right? We can boast about how we don't do this, or we don't have this, but my friend there is an equal sin in boasting our ignorance to boasting what we have. It is no different, for all boasting is wrong - for we are to boast in nothing but the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ. We are to take no pride in anything, even in ignorance. But it is our natural instinct to boast, isn't it? Parents - not that I would know, but I would advise you from the earliest age of your child to curb the natural instinct of boasting in them, for it's in us all. The quicker you can get that boasting out of them the better, for Paul says it is humility!
[Humility was even] despised by the Greco-Roman world that Paul is writing in. In fact, the word that he uses for 'humility' is the word that is used of 'slavery'! It's despised, it's shameful! Paul says this is the walk of the child of God within the church of Jesus Christ - the Greco-Roman world wanted a great souled man, a self-sufficient man, that was great, but not with Christ! Lowliness, which is a consciousness of your nothingness before God, it is an absence of conceit - and listen: it is an absence of arrogance! Today, in our circles, there is an awesome presence of arrogance.
Lowliness, and then he says 'meekness'. Eight times we find that word 'meekness' within the New Testament. The Lord Jesus Christ Himself used it in Matthew chapter 11 and verse 29, where He said: 'I am meek and lowly in heart'. If He is meek and lowly of heart, ought we not to be so? The Greek word means 'humility', almost the same as 'lowliness'. It was used in the Greek language of a soothing medicine, of a colt, an ass, that was broken and tamed. It's a word that was used by mariners to describe a soft soothing wind. My friend, if you walk and you are broken before God, you are meek. The opposite of a broken colt is a wild beast, and there are plenty of wild beasts in the church of Jesus Christ! This meekness speaks of control, control of your temperament, control of your senses and who you are - it is a spirit that doesn't take offence at what others say. But when others say things to us, what do we do? We flare up at their accusations, at what they say, the old man rises from the grave again!
Dwight Pentecost tells the story of a split in a church, and it was so serious that each side filed a lawsuit against the other to dispossess them of their land. They totally ignored what the word of God teaches about taking another to court, who is in the Lord. The court threw it out, the Judge threw it out of court, and it went to a church court - where it should have been in the first place. What the Judge did was, he awarded the property to one of the two factions, and the losers withdrew red-faced and riotous - and they formed another church down the road. During the proceedings, during that court trial, it came out that the conflict began at a church dinner when one of the elders received a smaller slice of ham than a child that was seated next to him. Isn't that the way it always is? We flare up at the least thing!
Jesus Christ, the Son of God, was called a drunkard, He was called a Samaritan - they said: 'He casts out demons by the prince of demons!' - they said He is the devil Himself! But when He was reviled, He reviled not again. What meekness! Meekness is not weakness. Moses, one of the strong towers of strength in all Israel, was described as the meekest man that ever walked upon the face of the earth, save our Lord Jesus: 'I am meek and lowly in heart'. Can we be like that? For if we are not like that, we are not walking the way Christ would have us walk within the church of Jesus Christ. Are you under control in practical humility?
Secondly: in patient charity - 'with longsuffering, forbearing one another', verse 2. 'Longsuffering', that was a favourite word of Paul's - he uses it many times within the New Testament. It means 'long-tempered', twelve times he uses it. Someone translates it like this: 'To endure with an unruffled temper'. The old preacher said, about marriage: 'The secret of a happy marriage is five bears: bear and forbear' - isn't that right? 'Bear ye one another's burdens, and forbear one another' - that is the church of Jesus Christ, it is exactly the same. Indeed, in any relationship it has to be the same, there has to be this patient charity with one another: longsuffering. 'But if they had said what was true, David, then I wouldn't have reacted like that - but what they were saying wasn't true, it was all lies, they were throwing accusations at me!' - listen! That is the way the flesh talks! The flesh speaks, and the flesh panders to the little foxes that spoil the vines.
Imagine a big dog and a little puppy, maybe you've seen it in advertisements on the television. The big dog is standing there, big and strong, and the little puppy is yapping down from below - and he begins to worry the ears and the paw of the big dog, and the big dog in one bite could swallow that little puppy up - but he stands and he puts up with it! That is forbearing, that is longsuffering in the face of God, and what God allows in your life. Forbearing: it literally means to put up with what people throw at you. It doesn't just mean maintaining an outward facade, whilst inwardly you could kill a person, but it means love - forbearing one in love. That word 'love' is agape love, a committed love, the same love that God showed toward us in that while we were yet in sin Christ died for us!
That's the love - when someone's spitting in your face and you can say, like Christ: 'Forgive them'. Oh, it's easy to forgive - didn't He say the Gentiles and the Publicans can forgive a man that's good to them? But it is the man that reviles, persecutes, yet you persecute not again and you show love towards them - that is the spirit of the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. Harry Ironside translated verse 1 and 2 with this: 'With all modesty and humbleness of spirit, with unruffled temper, lovingly putting up with all that is disagreeable in others'.
To walk worthy we must walk in practical humility, in patient charity - and thirdly, verse 3, in peaceful unity. 'Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace' - now, look at that verse: 'Endeavouring to keep'. You can only keep something that has already happened. You do not create the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace, it has already been created. As the Amplified Bible puts it: 'Be eager, strive earnestly to guard and to keep the harmony and oneness produced by and of the Spirit in the binding power of peace'. This is produced by God - don't you try and produce peace within the assembly, you'll never do it! God has already done it, we are to maintain it - and if it is not there it is because we have not guarded it.
We are to guard it, that unity of peace. You might look at the church and say, like many say: 'Look at the unity, there is no unity, there is disunity. There is a heartless division right through the whole church that is rending the body of Christ!' - but think about this. In New Testament theology, think about it, the body of Christ is not rent, the body of Christ is not severed or split in any measure. That is a thinking that believes that the body of Christ is built up of denominations and of sects. I argue that if you take all the denominations and all the sects and put them together - do you have the church of Christ? No! For within them you have unbelievers, you have clergy that are reprobate and damned unless they find Christ. Indeed, outside of those denominations you could have those who are regenerate - so by bringing them all together does not make the church. Therefore, by them being all split apart, it does not split the church - for the church of Jesus Christ is something bigger than all of that. The church is every single person that is regenerated of the Spirit of God, and divisions in Christendom cannot rend the body of Christ - but I'll tell you what it does do: it denies the unity in Christ.
It does not guard, it does not keep it. If we are to be true to the New Testament, and to the word of God, we must recognise that there is a unity through all believers who are founded on the fundamental truths of the word of God - and it is our duty to guard it! 'But they don't believe everything we do. They don't believe this, that, or the other' - listen, my friend: if they are saved by the grace of God through the fundamentals of salvation they belong to Christ, you belong to Christ - therefore you belong to them, and they belong to you! The arm can't say to the ear, the eye, the nose, or the foot: 'I have no need of you'. When we are scriptural about these things, we find that things perhaps are not as they seem - because the ligament that binds the members of the body together is peace! I grant you that there are many different wide spaces between many of them - but in theory we all belong to the same denomination. Who is that? David's denomination - he said: 'I am a companion for all them that fear Thee and keep Thy precepts'. That's the way we ought to look at it - a companion of all them that fear the Lord and keep His word.
If you think for a moment of all the differences within the church of Jesus Christ. The diversity, mentally speaking, the abilities of some men, translating the word of God, and some simple men whom God has used in a miraculous way. The social differences of class: middle-class, upper-class, lower-class, working-class - the whole lot of them, the differences of wealth, poverty, riches. The difference of size: tall, short, fat, thin. Differences of race: black and white. All sorts of differences - temperament: people with short temperaments, people with longsuffering temperaments. All different, but all of them by the grace of God can be kept in the bond of peace. Isn't that a miracle? No other organisation in the world can do it. All other organisations, do you know what they do? They go with people that are the same as them, isn't that right? 'I believe in this. I go to the left, you go to the right. I'm middle, I'm left of the middle, I'm right of the middle' - and they join together with all them that they agree with. Not the church! The church is an odd bunch of different grapes.
Oh, are you living in peaceful unity with God and His children? Finally, look at the second point. We're to walk worthy in practical humility, in patient charity, in peaceful unity - and that is to be motivated because of the theological unity we have in the body of Christ. We are to live in this unity that already exists, we're to guard it and practice it. It's interesting that there are seven of these facts that Paul outlines for us - perfect number, isn't it, within the Scriptures? He is saying: 'This is perfect unity, it's not to be strived after in the sense of it not being there, but it is to be guarded'. So many ignore these seven facts and unite together without them, and that is false ecumenism. These seven positive realities form the basis of true unity and true ecumenism. Instead of magnifying the differences we ought to look at these seven similarities, and rejoice in the peace of the unity of the Spirit within them.
Now, if you look down these verses, you will find that the unity of the Spirit is found within the Trinity. Look at verse 4 - you find the Spirit: 'One Spirit'. Verse 5: 'One Lord'. Verse 6: 'One God and Father'. You have the Father in verse 6, you have the Son in verse 5, and the Spirit in verse 4. The unity of the whole body of Christ is found in these seven things within the Trinity of the glorious Godhead. The first is of body - live in unity of body, verse 4a: 'one body'. Despite all the differences - think about it for a minute, all the differences - we are united in one body. From Pentecost at the birth of the church, to the second coming of the Lord, one true church - no wonder the hymnwriter could say:
'Let names, and sects, and parties fall
And Jesus Christ be Lord of all!'
There is one body, but my friend that one body does not exempt you from membership within the local assembly. There is one body, but God calls upon you to be part of the local assembly, because there is unity of body and unity of Spirit. Look at verse 4b: 'one Spirit' - the same Holy Spirit that indwells each of us, indwells the whole temple of God, the whole church of Jesus Christ! Twelve times Paul refers in Ephesians to the Spirit of God, and he is telling us: 'The Spirit of God is for you, you have Him, you need Him, you must recognise His work in your life'. There are many today claiming the Holy Spirit, but it is not one Holy Spirit - because you have the Holy Spirit of this denomination, and the Holy Spirit of this other denomination, and both of them do different things! But there is one Spirit, that is why John in 1 John 1 verse 4 says: 'Test the spirits whether they be of God'.
One body, one Spirit, one hope - the unity of hope, verse 4c. 'One hope of your calling' - it's lovely, isn't it? That whether you're from Romania, or whether you're from East Belfast, you have one destiny - one destiny, to be with Christ, to be like Christ, to enjoy the glories of Christ for an endless eternity, to wait for the second coming of Christ. What a comfort! What a hope! We saw that in chapter 1 verses 13 and 14 - the deposit and the guarantee of the Holy Spirit which is in us, so that we may know that we are going there.
Fourthly: live in unity of Lord, verse 5a: 'One Lord' - and it is the Lord Jesus Christ. It amazes Paul, I believe, that there could be two believers who are following the one Christ, yet they are not able to walk together! How can that be so? I'll leave you to answer that question. There is false profession: 'Lord, Lord, did I not prophesy in thy name, cast out demons in thy name?' - but the Lord says to all of us today: 'Why call ye me Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?'. Do you believe in one Lord? Follow Him! Follow Him with all your heart within the faith, because it is unity of one faith, verse 5b. What is the faith? We learnt in the book of Jude that the faith, as the RV says, is: 'once for all delivered to the saints' - it is the body of doctrine within the New Testament. It's not the faith we exercised to be saved, but it is the belief that determines the way we behave.
Does your belief determine the way you behave? Someone asked Gandhi on one occasion, who was not a believer: 'What is the greatest hindrance to Christianity in India?', and just like that he answered this: 'Christians'. What is the greatest hindrance, perhaps, to Christianity in Ulster? I know, friends; I know, family - the hindrance is Christians! We must live and behave with the faith, and in essentials it must be unity, and in doubtful questions it must be liberty, and surely in all things it must be charity. [We are] even to live in unity of baptism, verse 5c - one baptism in the Spirit that has placed us in the body of Christ, one baptism of confession: identifying that we have died, we are buried, we are risen with Christ to life eternal in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost - one baptism!
Finally: one God, verse 6 - 'One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all'. The Father of all, and that is not the modern doctrine of universal Fatherhood, or the brotherhood of man - but every child of God recognises that God is the sovereign Father of all creation, and every creature that has been born into the world will have to do and answer to God - why? Look at the verse: for He is above all, supreme, Sovereign of the universe - He is through all, He acts through every creature that is, and even the very evil in the world He channels through to accomplish His sovereign purpose and plan. Finally he says, He is in you all. What a glorious note to finish on: He is in you all! You don't need to seek Him, you don't need to pray for Him, but you need to pray to recognise Him, my friend. He's in you, but do you realise the potential of Him in you, that He is in you in order that He may accomplish His sovereign plan in your life - are you letting Him do that?
What a wonderful passage of Scripture! What God the Spirit is saying at the end of this passage is this: our unity in the church is eternal, it is unbreakable. It is no more possible to split the church than it is possible to split the Godhead! It is indestructible as God Himself! Therefore, do you walk worthy? Are there no rivalries, hatreds, factions, cliques? Are you? Go home and focus on these seven facts of unity, and focus on the humility of Christ and ask the Spirit's help, and guard the unity of the peace of the Spirit in this place - to the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Our Father, we thank Thee for the way that our Lord walked. He humbled Himself and became obedient unto death, even the cross. Therefore let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus - and Lord, we pray that that mind would be in us. A mind of meekness and lowliness, of patient charity, of guarding peace among one another - and Lord, that we would unite our hearts in those fundamental facts: one faith, one hope, one baptism. Lord, we are told in Thy word what Thou canst do with such a band of people saved by the grace of God, and aware of the blessings of God in their life. We pray that Thou mayest do it, and do it soon - for we realise that that hope of our calling is very near. Hear us we pray, in Jesus name, Amen.
Preach The Word.
This sermon was delivered at The Iron Hall Assembly in Belfast, Northern Ireland, by Pastor David Legge. It was transcribed from the sixteenth tape in his Ephesians series, titled "Lessons On Walking In Church" - Transcribed by Andrew Watkins, Preach The Word.
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