Commitment to Unity and Teamwork

 

 

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A Commitment to Unity of Body and Teamwork

Text: Ephesians 4:3-10

 

Dr. Alex Tang

 

 

 

We believe that every member is valuable to God and is given gifts for work in the kingdom of God. (1 Peter 4:10)

 

Therefore, we are committed to value each other and seek to use our gifts to work together to build up the body of Christ.

 

 

Ephesians 4:3-10

1.                  Unity in the Body of Christ

3 Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.  4 There is one body and one Spirit— just as you were called to one hope when you were called—  5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism;  6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.

 

2.                  Preserving the Unity in the Body of Christ

7 But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.  8 This is why it says:

“When he ascended on high, he led captives in his train and gave gifts to men.”

9 (What does “he ascended” mean except that he also descended to the lower, earthly regions?  10 He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe.)

 

 

Bible Exposition

1.                  The Unity in the Body of Christ

Verse 3   

3 Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.

5 so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. (Rom. 12:5)

27 Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. (1Cor 12:27)

 

Please note that we are not to create a unity but to keep it. Unity in the church is created by the Holy Spirit. It is already here. It is in existence. Here is the paradox. God has already created the unity in church. We are totally unnecessary; but on the other the other hand, we are challenged in this letter the Ephesians to do all we can to keep the unity. By the way, the letter is to be read in plural. You, the church is to preserve unity.

 

Maintaining unity demands constant attention and zealous effort because there are many powers working against it and sinful human desires and behaviors disrupting it.

 

(Eph.4:2)

2 Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.

Attitudes of humility, gentleness, and patience foster unity among Christians. To keep the unity demands commitment of the whole community of the church.

*      all of us caring about it together.

*      forgiving and reconciling with each other.

*      watching over one another

*      exhorting one another.

*      being committed to one another in the long haul.

 

Paul emphasize the manner in which they are to be carried out in one’s conduct: bearing with one another in love and making every effort (the Gr. has a participle, “making every diligent effort”) to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. Christians are not to make unity but to keep or guard what God made in creating the “one new man” (Eph. 2:15-16). They are to keep this unity “through the bond” which consists of “peace.” The shalom of God.

 

Verse 4   

4 There is one body and one Spirit— just as you were called to one hope when you were called—

Without a conjunction Paul listed the seven elements of unity centered on the three Persons of the Trinity. These provide the basis for the spirit of unity that should exist in the body of believers.

                                            

 

 

One body refers to the universal church, all believers (Eph.1:23; 2:16; 3:6). The body of Christ. All believers are “members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise of Christ Jesus” (Eph. 3:6).

 

One Spirit is the Holy Spirit who indwells the church (Eph. 2:22). The seat of Christian unity is in the heart or spirit: it does not lie in one set of thoughts, nor in one form and mode of worship, but in one heart and one soul. This unity of heart and affection may be said to be of the Spirit of God; created by the Spirit, and is one of the fruits of the Spirit.

 

One hope, indicate that all believers have a common hope regarding their future with God , a confidence that began at the time they were “called” to salvation. We have this hope in God

*      the hope of the gospel, which was preached (Col. 1:23a)

*      the hope of righteousness by faith (Gal. 5:5)

*      hope that God will not abandon us (Psalm 16, quoted in Acts 2)

*      hope that God will indeed keep His promises (Acts 26:6-7)

*      hope that in nothing we will be ashamed, but that Christ will be magnified in our bodies, both in life and death (Phil.1:20)

*      hope for consolation in these times (2 Cor. 1:7)

*      hope of salvation (1 Thess.5:8)

*      hope for resurrection (Acts 23:6; 24:15) because of Christ’s resurrection (1 Peter 1:13)

*      hope unto the end (Heb. 3:6; 6:11) and for grace then (1 Peter 1:13)

*      the blessed hope in the glorious appearing of the Lord Jesus Christ (Titus 2:13)

*      hope laid up in heaven (Col. 1:5)

*      hope of eternal life (Titus 1:2; 3:7)

 

All this is summed up in the truth that Jesus Christ is our hope and that we have the hope of glory of God because Christ is in us. Everyone in the Body is united by the Holy Spirit’s communication of this common hope that is in Christ we participate in the fulfillment of all of God’s promises.

 

The Holy Spirit is the one who links Body with hope.

 

Verse 5 

5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism;

The second person of the Trinity offers us another triangle composed of one Lord, one faith, one baptism.

 

                                  

 

 

One Lord (cf. Rom. 10:12) refers to Christ, the Head of the church (Eph. 1:22-23; Col. 1:18).

 

One faith speaks of faith which is exercised by all Christians in Christ their Lord (cf. Col. 2:7).  This is the true faith in Christ, one that cuts through denominational lines, through Catholics, Orthodox churches and Protestants. Through Pentecostals, Charismatic or non charismatics. Through Presbyterian and the rest.

 

One baptism  refers to water baptism, the outward symbol  and of the inward reality ( the baptismal life.) It is in acting out the baptismal life or the inner spiritual life believers demonstrate their spiritual unity. The baptismal life is holy living or spiritual formation of our souls.

*      we have all put off our old person by baptismal death with Jesus (Eph. 4:22)

*      we are being renewed daily by the Holy Spirit (Eph.4: 23)

*      we are putting on a new person by means of Christ living in and through us (Eph. 4:24)

*      we are part of the Body of all baptized Christians throughout time and space. There is one flock of sheep following the voice of one shepherd (John 10:16)

 

 Lord is the one who links faith with baptismal life.

 

Verse 6.

 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.

 

One God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all refers to God the Father and His relationship to all believers. The fourfold use of “all” refers to “all believers,” not “all mankind.” Certainly these characteristics are not common to all people. God is the Father “of” all who believe; they are His children (John 1:12; Gal. 3:26). And He is “over” all them as their Sovereign. He lives “through” them and manifests Himself “in” them. The Christian community is knit together by the Father.

 

 

                                                       

Three observations should be noted about this list of seven unifying elements (Eph. 4:4-6).

(1)               The Trinity is an integral part of the list. The one body of believers is vitalized by one Spirit, so all believers have one hope. That body is united to its one Lord (Christ) by each member’s one act of faith, and its identity with Him is depicted by one baptism. One God, the Father, is supreme over all, operative through all, and resides in all. All seven components are united in the Trinity.

(2)               The order in the listing of the three Persons of the Trinity is interesting. Paul began with the Holy Spirit rather than with the Father. The reason for this is that in the preceding verses he was discussing “the unity of the Spirit” (v. 3) and in verses 7-13 he discussed the gifts of the Spirit. The same order of Trinity Members is given in 1 Corinthians 12:4-6, where Paul also discussed the gifts of the Spirit.

(3)               Seven is the Jewish number for perfection. The Trinity is three. Four is the Jewish number for the whole world (baptism, hope, faith, body).

 

 

 

2.         Preserving the Unity in the Body of Christ

           

This unity in the Body is supported by grace and by His gifting. Paul is a practical guy. First he tells us the theology, then he tells us how to apply the theology.

 

Verse 7  

 7 But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.  

Previously Paul discussed the unity of the entire church (vv. 1-6). Now he discussed the diversity within the church (cf. unity in 1 Cor. 12:12-13, and diversity in 1 Cor. 12:4-11, 14-20). From God each believer receives grace or gifts (cf. Eph. 3:2, 7-8) as Christ apportioned it (lit., “according to the measure [metron, also used in 4:13, 16]; of the gift of Christ,” i.e., the gift He is pleased to give).

 

Each believer is to function in Christ’s body by God’s grace, proportionate to the gift (spiritual ability) bestowed on him, no more and no less. This means that a variety of gifts will be exercised, as seen in verse 11; Romans 12:4-6; and 1 Corinthians 12:4-6. Furthermore, since each believer receives “grace,” clergy and laity—to use a common present-day distinction—are on the same level in exercising their gifts.

10 Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms. (1 Peter 4:10)

Verse 8

 8 This is why it says:

“When he ascended on high, he led captives in his train and gave gifts to men.”

 

This is a difficult verse. Most scholars think Paul is quoting Psalm 68:18.  A Bible scholar discovered that we Psalm 68 could be divided into two parts:

(1)   The dominant note is that of the God that comes: “Let God rise up” (v.1), “God gives…leads” (v.6), “went out …..and marched” (v.7), “came from Sinai” (v.17), and “ascended” (v.18).

(2)   The second half deals the presence of God with His people. “who daily bears up” (v.19), “ in His sanctuary” (vv,24-25), “in the great congregation”(v.26) and “in the temple at Jerusalem” (v.29).

 

Psalm 68 holds together the complementary thoughts that “the God who is on the march, ever active, going before His people, and the God who stays in their midst, meeting with His people in the beauty of holiness.”

 

Verse 9,10

9 (What does “he ascended” mean except that he also descended to the lower, earthly regions?  10 He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe.)

In verses 9-10 Paul commented on the words He ascended. Paul is so afraid that the Ephesians miss the point that he gave a footnote. The idea of the passage is the giving of gifts. Before Christ could ascend He had to descend. To the lower, earthly regions, literally, “into the lower parts of earth” This would refer to Christ’s death and His burial in the grave. In His death Christ had victory over sin and redeemed those who would be given as “gifts” to the church.

 

Christ’s ascent above the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe probably refers to His regal relationship with the whole world, from which position He bestows gifts as He wills because of His work on the Cross. This fits well with 1:23, which speaks of Christ imparting all the fullness of His blessings to the church and to the universe. Christ, who embodies the fullness of the Godhead (Col. 2:9), fills the universe and is Head over it (cf. Col. 1:18)

 

Paul uses this Psalm to reinforce the idea that the unity of the body of Christ is a completed work. God has gone forth to redeem us and now He is dwelling within us. As He is with us, He is continually monitoring the needs of the church- both Universal (Catholic) and local. He gives gifts needed to build up the church. There are the spiritual gifts. But we often think of spiritual gifts as special abilities given to Christians. Paul went further than this. Paul implies gifts are also certain people given to the local church – apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers.

 

 

Closing Remarks: The Core Value Unity and Teamwork

 

1.                  Be serious about the Major and relax about the Minor.

 

In major areas of our faith, we must be serious and accept no compromise. Like Jesus is God, Jesus is the only way or we worship one God, not three Gods. That’s major. Otherwise distinguish between major beliefs, church tradition and human fragility. Or to put it another way, things of God and thing of man. Things of God are major and cannot be changed. Things of man can and should change with times. What does it matters if..

*      people lift up their hands in worship.

*      sing new contemporary songs instead of old proven hymns.

*      wear a nose ring.

*      seat in your favorite seat in church.

 

Let us be gracious about the things of man. Each of us is different and we journey to God on different spiritual pathways. Let us accept this difference rather that insisting that every must follow “my way”. There are only two ways- my way and the wrong way. My wife has a sticker.

“Next time you think you’re perfect, try walking on water”

 

2.                  Allow each other room to exercise  and affirm their spiritual gifts.

 

Holy Light should be the place where there is room for everyone to exercise their spiritual gifts. Everyone have gifts. Of course, there must be spiritual oversight, but there must be room for experimentation. There may be failures but that’s the way we learn. You cannot make omelets without breaking a few eggs. Anyone tried walking on water lately?

 

Encourage and affirm those who are already exercising their spiritual gifts. As human beings, we all need affirmations.

 

3.                  Be committed and love one another.

Commitment and love is the key to keep the unity in the church. We are all here for the long haul. (Eph.4:2) 2 Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.

 

*      Be kind to each other.

*      A matter of give and take.

*      Pray for one another.

*      Forgive one another.

*      Don’t bear grudges.

 

Stress here is laid on the church’s unity. Each of us is linked to Christ and one another. This oneness is a truth we must accept. Also implicit in this portrait is the notion that the church lives only as she responds to her Head. Christ alone is Head of the church. We look to Him for direction and guidance. What is His goal? Scripture tells us that Christ continues His work in our world. He is absent in one sense, seated at the right hand of God (1:20). Yet in another, He is physically here, alive and active in our century. Christ is in heaven, but His body lives and moves on earth. We who have been “created in Christ Jesus to do good works” (2:10) carry out God’s hidden plans. You and I, together with all believers, are called to be a contemporary incarnation of the living God. Christ reveals Himself in human flesh, the human flesh of His living church.

 

                                                                                                            Soli Deo Gloria

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