Faithlife Sermons

ES009. Ephesians 4:1-16

Ephesians  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  30:24
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Ephesians 4:1–16 NIV
1 As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. 2 Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. 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. 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 took many captives and gave gifts to his people.” 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.) 11 So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, 12 to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. 14 Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. 15 Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. 16 From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.
The first three chapters of this letter were mainly prayer and now he moves onto practical living until the end of the letter.
Today’s passage is split into two parts: verses 1-6 is about unity in the body of Christ and verses 7-16 are about unity through giftedness. The rest of the book is then based upon this unity in the body. We are to guard ourselves against disunity. But this unity can only be found in Christ.
Paul is using his experience of prison to call others to a more sanctified living. He says, “look, none of you are here with me in this hell-hole having to deal with physical constraints, health problems and, overall, the whole injustice of being here in the first place. After all, all I was only trying to do good and lead people to Christ”. “Take my example”, he says, “and be humble, be gentle, be patient, cope with each other and live in peace.” We are to walk worthy of the Gospel, to walk in the light and then unbelievers might see; don’t just talk but do.
This, of course, is the picture of a perfect church. I have not yet seen one that puts all this into practice so that means that we are all responsible to do our part. This is at the hard rock face. People are difficult. Yes, even Christians! Sometimes I want to say that some unbelievers are easier to get on with. This is not how it should be. It is not a mistake of Paul to exhort Christians to get on with Christians. Sometimes it is about the way we put ourselves about. Sometimes we are proud, not necessarily we think we are the bees knees, but somehow we are superior to others whether by intellect or by moral conduct. We think we are better than others. Of course, these things could be true. Maybe you or I am. Even so, there is no room for pride for whatever intellect we have, whatever good we have has not been of our own doing. Sometimes we can be proud about being given the grace that we have! We forget just how humble and gentle and patient and bearing Jesus and the Father and the Spirit were and are with us. We forget we have had to be forgiven and are forgiven. We forget we have had mercy shown to us and is still being shown to us. Calvin comments on how easily our temperament is such to get angry and bitter for daily we can easily offend each other. There remains then a need to be careful with what we say and do but also noting it is impossible not to offend people especially those who are more sensitive but it is also upon them, as well as us, to forgive for love covers a multitude of sins.
Matthew 18:21–35 NKJV
Then Peter came to Him and said, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven. Therefore the kingdom of heaven is like a certain king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. And when he had begun to settle accounts, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. But as he was not able to pay, his master commanded that he be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and that payment be made. The servant therefore fell down before him, saying, ‘Master, have patience with me, and I will pay you all.’ Then the master of that servant was moved with compassion, released him, and forgave him the debt. “But that servant went out and found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii; and he laid hands on him and took him by the throat, saying, ‘Pay me what you owe!’ So his fellow servant fell down at his feet and begged him, saying, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you all.’ And he would not, but went and threw him into prison till he should pay the debt. So when his fellow servants saw what had been done, they were very grieved, and came and told their master all that had been done. Then his master, after he had called him, said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you begged me. Should you not also have had compassion on your fellow servant, just as I had pity on you?’ And his master was angry, and delivered him to the torturers until he should pay all that was due to him. “So My heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses.”
Keeping peace is important not only for ourselves but also for the Gospel. Notice the word ‘keep’ the unity. The unity is already present but it can also be lost at a local level but is also easily restored if we can but love one another. We are bound to each other just as Paul, in prison, was bound to the jailer.
What follows here is like an early credal statement: Seven times Paul uses the word ‘One’. emphasising unity.
We are the ONE body of Christ from its founding until the day the Lord comes back for us.
The Church is through whom the ONE Spirit works and moves.
We have the sure and certain ONE hope of salvation - the day when we will be taken out of this world looking forward to the Day of His appearing.
There is only ONE Lord who is the Lord Jesus.
ONE faith or belief, that is in Jesus, and is based upon the Apostle’s doctrine.
ONE baptism in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
ONE God and Father permeates every part of this universe and lives in every believer. He is our Father. He is not yet the Father of unbelievers. And He is both near and far, near to be familiar and far because He is not like us.
This unity that is required of us is reminiscent of the Trinity who being three persons is One God with no division or disunity between them. For these Ephesian believers were living in a time of many gods, not unlike today, the emphasis was upon God who is One and does not include others who make claims to be gods. It is possible that this creed, which is a short statement of beliefs, with the 7 ‘ones’ was used at water baptism and used in a way like this:

One Body, one Spirit, one Hope

One Lord, one Faith, one Baptism

One God, over all, through all, in all.

This is not the creed of the world - the creed of the world declares that Jesus is not the only way as was said in court in March by the Prosecutor against two believers who had preached on the streets and how they upset people by declaring that Jesus was the only way because, the Prosecutor said, it cannot be true - so, these two believers were found guilty at Bristol Crown Court. Who is this prosecutor? Is he a theologian? They have effectively outlawed the preaching of Scripture on the streets saying that it was OK back in the 1st or 16th century but not today. The prosecutor does not know history - the Gospel and the cross have always been offensive! Please pray for these two. They were both fined £2016. [ Accessed: 4/3/17]
Jesus did not just die and resurrect but He also ascended to the Father giving His gifts to us along the way. The first gift is grace. Not only mercy was shown us but grace also was given to us. Instead of wrath we have been glorified. This truly is amazing. For this to happen the cross had to happen. Jesus was brutally taken from the earth and went down to the depths of the earth. There is some confusion here about what the lower parts of the earth are. The verse is not translated easily but is more likely to be the lower region, the earth. Earth is lower than heaven. Therefore what this means is that Jesus when He came to earth descended from Heaven before He ascended back to Heaven. In the defeat of the spiritual powers at the cross they no longer have the power to keep anyone from Heaven. Captivity was captured. Now it is upon us to declare the Good News of the salvation Jesus brings and all the good gifts as a result; every spiritual blessing we have in Christ.
On top of these individual gifts of grace given to individuals and gifts of the Spirit found in Corinthians, He also has given gifts in the form of individuals to the Church: Apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers.
Apostles are those who are sent. They are ambassadors. They are messengers who have been sent by Jesus to speak and act with authority. Whilst this is a distinct group of people in the Bible, that is, the disciples, Matthias and Paul some, today, could be thought of as apostles but not in the special sense found in the New Testament.
Prophets are those who speak on God’s behalf. They have a special ability to receive and deliver direct revelation of God’s will, what is called ‘special revelation’. This also is normally restricted to the New Testament but, with caution, there are some who can hear God in particular situations but never contrary to Scripture.
Evangelists are those who proclaim the truth of the Gospel and call people to live by Jesus’ standards.
Pastors, which is literally the word ‘shepherd’ are those who have oversight and care and is protector of the Church.
And teachers are those who faithfully pass on the teachings of Christ and the Apostles, explaining and applying Scripture. Pastors are also often teachers though not always.
Despite the fact that we are one in Christ we have all been given differing abilities and gifts and roles to play.
The work of these ministers are to prepare the rest of the Church to minister and to build them up and to get them on the same page so that they can know Christ and become like Him. Of course, I say ‘they’ when I mean ‘we’. This knowing of Christ is not just head knowledge but experimental - we know Jesus through experience.
The Church should be clear about Christian doctrines to know those who are false teachers and are able themselves to teach rightly with love so that the next generation will also grow up into Christ, the Head of the Church. This will only happen, though, if everyone gets onboard, realises their part to play, then the Church will not be child-like and babyish but mature, growing and loving. Let us not forget, though, that love is not the standard, truth is; Love based upon truth. There can be no unity whilst heresy is in the midst.
And we are all called to works of ministry. There is no one-man band in the Church:
Have you heard about the “one-note musician”? She inspected her violin, took her seat in the orchestra, arranged her music, and tuned her instrument. As the concert began, the conductor skillfully cued one group of musicians, then another, until finally the crucial moment arrived. It was time for her note to be played! The conductor signalled her, she sounded her note, and the moment was over. The orchestra played on and the “one-note musician” sat there quietly for the remainder of the concert, not disappointed that she’s played only one note, but with a sense of fulfilment and peace that she’d played it in time and with great gusto! (Gass, B. (1998). A Fresh Word For Today : 365 Insights For Daily Living (p. 62). Alachua, FL: Bridge-Logos Publishers.)
Note that this gift also meant that there were diversity of gifts and talents present and each one was dependent upon the others to play their part whether it was one note or the whole melody line - there is interdependence upon each other in the body of Christ, in both the local one and in the universal one. There is no room for factions like those found in Corinth where one group think they have better gifts - maybe they did but they were reliant upon those who had so-called lesser gift to make the whole picture, to fill in the gaps of a puzzle. We are fitted together for a purpose and that, in the first place, is to glorify God, not ourselves.
Paul concentrates upon unity for he knows what disunity looks like. He did not want another Corinth and he wanted the Ephesians to avoid this. The believers are part of this new venture, the Church, based upon their faith in Christ and each person can be used by God to build up the Church using the gifts that God has given to them. Not for their own benefit or to cause division but as each does their part they will, together, complete the mission of God. We have our new identity and have been given a purpose to serve in unity, in Christ.


May God grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith … that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.


Barry, J. D., Mangum, D., Brown, D. R., Heiser, M. S., Custis, M., Ritzema, E., … Bomar, D. (2012, 2016). Faithlife Study Bible. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.
Brown, D. R., Custis, M., & Whitehead, M. M. (2013). Lexham Bible Guide: Ephesians. (D. Mangum, Ed.). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.
Calvin, J., & Pringle, W. (2010). Commentaries on the Epistles of Paul to the Galatians and Ephesians. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.
McGee, J. V. (1991). Thru the Bible commentary: The Epistles (Ephesians) (electronic ed., Vol. 47). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.
Muddiman, J. (2001). The Epistle to the Ephesians. London: Continuum.
Scofield, C. I. (Ed.). (1917). The Scofield Reference Bible: The Holy Bible Containing the Old and New Testaments. New York; London; Toronto; Melbourne; Bombay: Oxford University Press.
Spicq, C., & Ernest, J. D. (1994). Theological lexicon of the New Testament. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers.
Kittel, G., Bromiley, G. W., & Friedrich, G. (Eds.). (1964–). Theological dictionary of the New Testament (electronic ed.). Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans.
Exported from Logos Bible Software, 09:16 05 March 2017.
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