This is a letter written by the Apostle Paul believed to not be designed for just one congregation, but intended to be passed around to several churches in the area surrounding Ephesus. The epistle itself is in the form of a general document dealing with a particular or in this case several subjects rather than as a letter written to a specific church. For example, there are no specific exhortations or personal greetings, as with most of Paul’s letters.
Unlike other epistles written to specific churches, this epistle does not deal with specific problems in a local congregation. Instead, Paul addressed great themes that pertain to the Christian's position in Christ, as a member of the body of Christ, the church.
This letter to the church at Ephesus encourages, admonishes and teaches believers even today of God’s plan for His church. Paul offers so much information in these six chapters. When you read and study this book you can understand that the Holy Spirit gives the believer what they need to be saved, holy and God-honoring.
The central thought of the letter is that Jesus has brought to a disunited world the way to unity. This way is through faith in him and it is the Church's task to proclaim this message to all the world. And now Paul turns to the character the Christian must have if the Church is to fulfill her great task of being Christ's instrument of universal reconciliation between man and man, and man and God within the world. In this session in Chapter 4 Paul now shows how God made provision for those in the church to live and work together in unity and to grow together into maturity and love.
To hear an audio recording of the session click the YouTube link at the end of the notes.
Ephesians 3:14-21 NLT When I think of all this, I fall to my knees and pray to the Father, the Creator of everything in heaven and on earth. I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God. Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. Glory to him in the church and in Christ Jesus through all generations forever and ever! Amen
This prayer ends this section of the letter that tells us what God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit have done for us. It talks about our possessions in Christ every spiritual blessing and our position in Christ in the family of God saved in the church.
Before we begin this chapter, let us again remind ourselves that the central thought of the letter is that Jesus has brought to a disunited world the way to unity. This way is through faith in him and it is the Church's task to proclaim this message to all the world. And now Paul turns to the character the Christian must have if the Church is to fulfil her great task of being Christ's instrument of universal reconciliation between man and man, and man and God within the world.
In Chapter 4 Paul now shows how God made provision for those in the church to live and work together in unity and to grow together into maturity and love.
OBJECTIVES IN STUDYING THIS CHAPTER
1) To see the importance of walking in maturity and purity
2) To appreciate the gifts Christ has given the church for our edification, and the need for each one to do their share
Ephesians 4:1-10 NLT Therefore I, a prisoner for serving the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of your calling, for you have been called by God. Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love. Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace. For there is one body and one Spirit, just as you have been called to one glorious hope for the future. There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all, in all, and living through all. However, he has given each one of us a special gift through the generosity of Christ. That is why the Scriptures say, “When he ascended to the heights, he led a crowd of captives and gave gifts to his people.” Notice that it says “he ascended.” This clearly means that Christ also descended to our lowly world. And the same one who descended is the one who ascended higher than all the heavens, so that he might fill the entire universe with himself.
Let’s break this section down.
Ephesians 4:1-3 NLT Therefore I, a prisoner for serving the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of your calling, for you have been called by God. Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love. Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace.
The Undefeatable Patience
When a man enters into any society, he takes upon himself the obligation to live a certain kind of life; and if he fails in that obligation, he hinders the aims of his society and brings discredit on its name. Here Paul paints the picture of the kind of life that a Christian must live when they enter the fellowship of the Christian Church.
First, and foremost, there is humility. Before Christianity humility was not counted as a virtue at all. The ancient world looked on humility as a thing to be despised.
We started the year with a message that humility was the way to happiness. The scripture that I used for the text was;
Matthew 5:3 (ESV)3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
People who are “poor in spirit” do not boast of their accomplishments or talents because they know that everything they have was given to them, in one way or another by God.
Humility enables you to be honest about yourself. Jesus declared that if you want to be happy, you must be aware of your spiritual poverty. No picture is more pathetic than that of a person who has a great need and is unaware of it. It is the admission that you are nothing without Christ. This admission is always followed by the Lord flooding your life with the riches of his mercy and grace. To be “poor in spirit” is to be honest about yourself, and this is the way to happiness!
The second of the great Christian virtues is gentleness which also translates to meekness.
We also talked about this as being one of the ways to happiness.
Matthew 5:5 ESV "Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
In a world that thinks only an aggressive and ambitious person can get ahead in life, it is hard to believe that those who are meek will inherit anything, much less the earth!
Jesus wasn’t implying that being fearful or weak brings happiness. Instead, Jesus was talking about an attitude or an outlook. The meekness he described requires us to be strong people who are grounded in Him. It demands us to have a personal relationship with God. This kind of meekness really does bring happiness.
The third great quality of the Christian is patience.
Patience is waiting without complaining.
The Greek word translated patience, makrothumia, is a compound formed by makros (“long”) and thumos (“passion” or “temper”). So patience, as a quality of the Fruit of the Spirit, literally means “long temper,” in the sense of “the ability to hold your temper for a long time.” A patient person is able to endure a lot of pain and suffering without complaining. A patient person is slow to anger as he waits for God to provide comfort and punish wrongdoing.
A patient person can take a lot of provocation before reacting. Patience is exhibiting calmness in stressful situations. It’s showing empathy toward others when they are not doing things to our standard. Patient people don’t become easily annoyed, agitated, and they don't show intolerance. Patience is produced when we support the growth in others.
The fourth great Christian quality is love.
We are talking about the unconditional kind of love that God has for man. That’s the kind of love that Christians should have for their brothers and sisters. We don’t really see that kind of love often even in the body of Christ and Paul says that we should have it.
Humility, gentleness, patience, love--open the door for a fifth, obligation of a Christian and that is, peace. It is Paul's advice and urgent request that the people to whom he is writing should eagerly preserve "the sacred oneness" which should characterize the true Church.
Peace may be defined as right relationships between members of the Body of Christ. This sacred oneness, this peace, these right relationships can be preserved only in one way. All of these things depend on each other. So long as self is at the centre of things, this oneness can never fully exist. When self dies and Christ springs to life within our hearts. then comes the peace, the oneness, which is the great hall-mark of the true Church.
The Basis Of Unity
Ephesians 4:4-6 NLT For there is one body and one Spirit, just as you have been called to one glorious hope for the future. There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all, in all, and living through all.
Paul goes on to set down the basis on which Christian unity is founded.
(i) There is one body. Christ is the head and the Church is the body. No brain can work through a body which is split into fragments. Unless there is a coordinated oneness in the body, the designs of the head are frustrated. The oneness of the Church is essential for the work of Christ. That does not need to be a mechanical oneness of administration and of human organization; but it does need to be a oneness founded on a common love of Christ and of every part for the other.
(ii) There is one Spirit. The word pneuma in Greek means both spirit and breath; it is in fact the usual word for breath. Unless the breath is in the body, the body is dead; and the vitalizing breath of the body of the Church is the Spirit of Christ. There can be no Church without the Spirit; and there can be no receiving of the Spirit without prayerful waiting for him.
(iii) There is one hope in our calling. We are all proceeding towards the same goal. This is the great secret of the unity of Christians. Our methods, our organization, even some of our beliefs may be different; but we are all striving towards the one goal of a world redeemed in Christ.
(iv) There is one Lord. The nearest approach to a creed which the early Church possessed was the short sentence: "Jesus Christ is Lord" (Philippians 2:11).
(v) There is one faith. Paul did not mean that there is one creed. By faith the New Testament nearly always means the complete commitment of the Christian to Jesus Christ. Paul means that all Christians are bound together because they have made a common act of complete surrender to the love of Jesus Christ. They may describe their act of surrender in different terms; but, however they describe it, that surrender is the one thing common to all of them.
(vi) There is one baptism. In the early Church baptism was usually adult baptism, because men and women were coming direct from heathenism into the Christian faith. Baptism was a public confession of faith. There was only one way for a Roman soldier to join the army; he had to take the oath that he would be true for ever to his emperor. Similarly, there was only one way to enter the Christian Church--the way of public confession of Jesus Christ.
(vii) There is one God.
He is the Father of all; in that phrase is enshrined the love of God. The greatest thing about the Christian God, is not that he is king, not that he is judge, but that he is Father. The Christian idea of God begins in love.
He is above all; in that phrase is enshrined the control of God. No matter what things may look like God is in control.
He is through all; in that phrase is enshrined the providence of God. God did not create the world and set it going as a man might wind up a clockwork toy and leave it to run down. God is all through his world, guiding, sustaining, loving.
He is in all; in that phrase is enshrined the presence of God in all life. It was Paul's belief that in everything there is God.
Ephesians 4:7-10 NLT However, he has given each one of us a special gift through the generosity of Christ. That is why the Scriptures say, “When he ascended to the heights, he led a crowd of captives and gave gifts to his people.” Notice that it says “he ascended.” This clearly means that Christ also descended to our lowly world. And the same one who descended is the one who ascended higher than all the heavens, so that he might fill the entire universe with himself.
He has been talking about the qualities of the members of Christ's Church; now he is going to talk of their functions in the Church. He begins by laying down what was for him an essential truth--that every good thing a man has is the gift of the grace of Christ.
To make his point about Christ the giver of gifts, Paul quotes, part of
Psalms 68:18 NLT When you ascended to the heights, you led a crowd of captives. You received gifts from the people, even from those who rebelled against you. Now the Lord God will live among us there.
This Psalm describes a king's conquering return. He ascends on high; that is to say, he climbs the steep road of Mount Zion into the streets of the Holy City. He brings in his captive band of prisoners; that is to say, he marches through the streets with his prisoners in chains behind him to demonstrate his conquering power. Now comes the difference. The Psalm speaks the conqueror receiving gifts. Paul changes it to read, "gave gifts to men."
In the Old Testament the conquering king demanded and received gifts from men: in the New Testament the conqueror Christ offers and gives gifts to men. That is the essential difference between the two Testaments. In the Old Testament God insists on tribute from men, sacrifices ; in the New Testament a loving God pours out his love to men. That indeed is the good news.
Paul has used the word ascended, and that makes him think of Jesus. And it makes him say a very wonderful thing. Jesus descended into this world when he entered it as a man; Jesus ascended from this world when he left it to return to his glory. Paul's thought is that the Christ who ascended and the Christ who descended are one and the same person.
What does that mean? It means that the Christ of glory is the same as the Jesus who trod this earth; still he loves all men; still he seeks the sinner; still he heals the sufferer; still he comforts the sorrowing; still he is the friend of outcast men and women.
Jesus ascended up on high. But he did not ascend up on high to leave the world; he ascended up on high to fill the world with his presence. When Jesus was here in the flesh, he could only be in one place at one time; he was under all the limitations of the body; but when he laid this body aside and returned to glory, he was liberated from the limitations of the body and was able then to be everywhere in all the world through his Spirit. To Paul the ascension of Jesus meant not a Christ-deserted but a Christ-filled world.
THE OFFICE-BEARERS OF THE CHURCH - GROWING INTO CHRIST
Ephesians 4:11-16 NLTNow these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ. This will continue until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ. Then we will no longer be immature like children. We won’t be tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching. We will not be influenced when people try to trick us with lies so clever they sound like the truth. Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church. He makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.
Ministry Gifts- The ministry gifts serve to reveal the plan of God. They are characteristic of a full-time office or calling, rather than a gift that can function in and through any believer.
Christ is the focus of this passage. In fact, Christ “measures” the gift;
Ephesians 4:7 NKJV But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift.
Christ is the “measure” of the maturity of these gifts
Ephesians 4:13 NKJV till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ;
And he “measures” each person with the gift’s part
Ephesians 4:16 NKJV from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.
In fact in these instances Christ is the one who gives the gifts.
According to this passage, when gifted individuals exercise their spiritual gifts, the church is built up to maturity in Christ Jesus. That maturity is demonstrated when the church is not carried away by false teaching and when the church works together – each person working as Christ gifts them – to build up itself in love. Again, love is brought into the working of spiritual gifts. This is not an add-on, but an important aspect of working together.
Again, the focus is not on individuals, but on Jesus working through individuals to mature his church.
In every Church there are certain members who must be protected. In every Church there are certain people who have to be guarded against. There are always those who by ingenious arguments seek to lure people away from their faith.There is only one way to avoid being blown about by the latest religious fashion and to avoid being seduced by the specious arguments of clever men, and that is by continual growth into Christ.
Paul says that a body is only healthy and efficient when every part is thoroughly coordinated. Paul says that the Church is like that; and the Church can be like that only when Christ is really the head and when every member is moving under his control, just as every part of a healthy body is obedient to the brain.
The only thing which can keep the individual Christian solid in the faith and, the only thing which can keep the Church healthy and efficient, is an intimate connection with Jesus Christ who is the head and the directing mind of the body.
THE THINGS WHICH MUST BE ABANDONED
Ephesians 4:17-24 NLT With the Lord’s authority I say this: Live no longer as the Gentiles do, for they are hopelessly confused. Their minds are full of darkness; they wander far from the life God gives because they have closed their minds and hardened their hearts against him. They have no sense of shame. They live for lustful pleasure and eagerly practice every kind of impurity. But that isn’t what you learned about Christ. Since you have heard about Jesus and have learned the truth that comes from him, throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception. Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy.
Paul appeals to his converts to leave their old way of life and to turn to Christ's. In this passage he picks out what he considers the essential characteristics of heathen life. The heathen are concerned with empty things which do not matter; their minds are darkened because of their ignorance. Then comes the salient word; their hearts are petrified. That is what Paul says the heathen life is like. It has become so hardened that it has lost the power of feeling.
The terror of sin is its petrifying effect. The process of sin is quite discernible. No man becomes a great sinner all at once. At first he regards sin with horror. When he sins, there enters into his heart remorse and regret. But if he continues to sin there comes a time when he loses all sensation and can do the most shameful things without any feeling at all. His conscience is petrified.
Paul urges his converts to have done with that kind of life. He uses a vivid way of speaking. He says: "Put off your old way of life as you would put off an old suit of clothes; clothe yourself in a new way; put off your sins, and put on the righteousness and the holiness which God can give you."
THINGS WHICH MUST BE BANISHED FROM LIFE
Ephesians 4:25-32 NLT So stop telling lies. Let us tell our neighbors the truth, for we are all parts of the same body. And “don’t sin by letting anger control you.” Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry, for anger gives a foothold to the devil. If you are a thief, quit stealing. Instead, use your hands for good hard work, and then give generously to others in need. Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them. And do not bring sorrow to God’s Holy Spirit by the way you live. Remember, he has identified you as his own, guaranteeing that you will be saved on the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.
Paul has just been saying that when a man becomes a Christian, he must put off his old life as a man puts off a coat for which he has no further use. Here he speaks of the things which must be banished from the Christian life.
(i) There must be no more falsehood. There is more than one kind of lie in this world.
There is the lie of speech, sometimes deliberate and sometimes almost unconscious.
There is also the lie of silence, and maybe it is even commoner. Andre Maurois, in a memorable phrase, speaks of "the menace of things unsaid." It may be that in some discussion a man by his silence gives approval to some course of action which he knows is wrong. It may be that a man withholds warning or rebuke when he knows quite well he should have given it.
Paul gives the reason for telling the truth. It is because we are all members of the same body. If then we are all bound into one body. that body can function properly only when we speak the truth.
(ii) There can be anger in the Christian life, but it must be the right kind of anger. The world would have lost much without the blazing anger of Wilberforce against the slave trade or of Shaftesbury against the labour conditions of the nineteenth century.
There were times when Jesus was terribly and majestically angry. He was angry when the scribes and Pharisees were watching to see if he would heal the man with the withered hand on the Sabbath day (Mark 3:5). It was not their criticism of himself at which he was angry; he was angry that their rigid orthodoxy desired to impose unnecessary suffering on a fellow creature. He was angry when he made a whip and drove the changers of money and the sellers of victims from the Temple courts (John 2:13-17).
The anger which is selfish and uncontrolled is a sinful and hurtful thing, which must be banished from the Christian life. But the selfless anger which is disciplined into the service of Christ and of our fellow men is one of the great dynamic forces of the world.
Paul goes on to say that the Christian must never let the sun set upon his wrath. Paul's advice is sound, because the longer we postpone mending a quarrel, the less likely we are ever to mend it. If there is trouble between us and anyone else, if there is trouble in a Church or a fellowship or any society where men meet, the only way to deal with it is at once. The longer it is left to flourish, the more bitter it will grow. If we have been in the wrong, we must pray to God to give us grace to admit that it was so; and even if we have been right, we must pray to God to give us the graciousness which will enable us to take the first step to put matters right.
The Bible tells us how to deal with this kind of anger.
Matthew 18:15-17 NLT “If another believer sins against you, go privately and point out the offense. If the other person listens and confesses it, you have won that person back. But if you are unsuccessful, take one or two others with you and go back again, so that everything you say may be confirmed by two or three witnesses. If the person still refuses to listen, take your case to the church. Then if he or she won’t accept the church’s decision, treat that person as a pagan or a corrupt tax collector.
Along with this phrase Paul puts another command. "Don't give the devil his opportunity." An unhealed breach is a magnificent opportunity for the devil to sow dissension. Many a time a Church has been torn into factions because two people quarreled and let the sun set upon their wrath.