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Sunday, June 21, 2015 pm                    Ephesians Index

 

STUDIES IN EPHESIANS (18)
Attitudes of Unity
Ephesians 4:1-3

 The past several lessons in our study of Ephesians we have emphasized how the gospel Paul revealed was made available to all.  Paul’s point was that we are all one in the body of Christ.   Having established his doctrinal teaching, Paul now (in his typical fashion) turns in a practical direction.  Removing enmity, God has done His part (grace), Jesus has done His part and the Spirit has done His part.  It is now time for man to do his part.  Beginning with our text tonight, Paul makes application to these brethren addressing how we need to act toward one another and the world. 

He begins by addressing unity directly.  In this lesson we are going to notice 3 verses that are filled with qualities that will promote true, godly unity.  In our next lesson we will see the basis for our unity revealed in 7 qualities.  So let’s get started.

 I.                    Unity is an absolute must!

a.        It is frequently emphasized and crucial –– 1 Corinthians 1:10, Phil. 2:1-2

b.       Jesus prayed for it – John 17:20-21

c.        How will the world know Christ through us if we are divided – John 13:34, 35.

 II.                  Paul the prisoner of the Lord

a.        Ephesians is described (because of this text) as one of the “prison epistles”, that is, Paul is writing while in prison in Rome.  You may recall that as the book of Acts ends, Paul is under “house arrest” in Rome where he remained at least 2 years – and then the book ends (Acts 28:30-31)

b.       But being a prisoner of the Lord was more than that.  Paul was a spiritual prisoner of the Lord.  He belonged to Him. The Lord was His master.
Galatians 2:20 – He was crucified with Christ and no longer lived for himself.
Like Paul, we too are to be His slaves  - Romans 6:15-18 describes how we are slaves of the one we obey. 

 III.                Walk worthy of your calling

a.        Walk means our manner of life – the way on conducts himself in word, deed and thought.
Paul uses the term 7 times in this epistle, 5 times in chapters 4 & 5 dealing with our lives as Christians. 

b.       Walk worthy – our manner of life needs to be consistent with our claims.  We claim to be Christians.  Do we act like it?  Are we walking in a manner that brings glory to God?
Romans 6:4 speak of walking in newness of life.  2 Cor. 5:7 – walk by faith
Genesis 5:24 – Enoch walked with God; Genesis 6:12 – Noah walked with God
Phil. 3:18 – some walk who are enemies of the cross of Christ, Ephesians 4:17 – Gentiles walk “in the futility of their mind.”

c.        Our calling – what does that mean? Earlier in Ephesians we discussed this calling as not a miraculous or arbitrary calling.  Rather it is an invitation to follow God. 
All are called, “by the gospel of Christ” (2 Thess. 2:14)
Phil. 3:14 Paul said he pressed toward the goal of the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

 IV.                Attitudes which promote unity

a.        The qualities mentioned here need to be our general disposition as Christians, but in this lesson let us consider each of these in light of our unity.  Consider that Paul is writing to a congregation that is at best demonstrating qualities of ethnic division.  For those who were prominent on both sides, I suspect some of the qualities we are about to discuss were lacking.
Whenever there is division between brethren, EVERYONE ought to consider these qualities within themselves.

b.       Lowliness – another word indicating humility.  It means to act without arrogance.  Humility is a fundamental quality of our faith. 
Romans 12:3 calls for us to not think more highly of ourselves than we ought to think.  1 Peter 5:5 speaks of being clothed with humility.
Philippians 2:3 speaks of having lowliness of mind in esteeming others batter than oneself.
Consider humility in seeking unity.  Are you willing to openly discuss difference with others?  Are you willing to put the needs of others over your own?  Are you willing to admit if you are wrong? Are you willing to yield?  All of these will help one achieve unity.

c.        Gentleness – an attitude of mildness in dealing with others.  Associated with the idea of meekness and being courteous.  This is a much needed quality in our society today.  It is also needed as we deal with brethren that are struggling, whether it be with sin or other problems in life.   
Galatians 5:23 describes this as a fruit of the Spirit. 
Interestingly, the word is sometimes translated “humility” such as 2 Tim. 2:25, “in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth,” (NASU – gentleness, KJV – meekness)
Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show by good conduct that his works are done in the meekness of wisdom.” (James 3:13, NKJV)

Solomon wrote, “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” (Prov. 15:1)
In seeking unity, it is imperative that we remain calm as we address differences.  If our goal is genuine brotherhood we will approach situations with this disposition. Unity is seldom accomplished as tempers are flaring.

d.       Longsuffering – A word that means patient endurance.  When we think of longsuffering it is more than simple patience, but patience even in times of provocation or misfortune.  It is patience, even when you have been wronged. 
As with gentleness, it is a fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23)
Our love is to “suffer long” (1 Cor. 13:4)
Hebrews 6:12,  But, beloved, we are confident of better things concerning you, yes, things that accompany salvation, though we speak in this manner. For God is not unjust to forget your work and labor of love which you have shown toward His name, in that you have ministered to the saints, and do minister. And we desire that each one of you show the same diligence to the full assurance of hope until the end, that you do not become sluggish, but imitate those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.” (Hebrews 6:9–12)

Overcoming difference doesn’t always happen the first time.  True resolution of differences takes efforts.  It realizes that some attempts might fail, but we can’t quit.  1 Thess. 5:14 calls for us to warn, comfort, and uphold and “be patient with all”.
Consider how longsuffering God has been with us (Romans 2:4, 2 Peter 3:9, 15 – the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation).  Should we not then make effort to be the same with one another?

e.       Bearing with one another in love – the word is associated with endurance.  The NASU says, “showing tolerance for one another in love”  all the above qualities will result in us acting tolerant toward each other. 
1 Cor. 13:7 – our love “bears all things”
Colossians 3:13 speaks of “bearing with one another, forgiving one another”
Romans 15:1 speaks of us bearing with the scruples of the weak.  A different Greek word, but one with a similar meaning (probably a little stronger).
Galatians 5:15 warns us about the results of biting and devouring one another!
This bearing one another is to be done in love – this is agape love, “caring enough to sacrifice for what is best.”   This love too is a fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23).  It is also described as the “more excellent way” in 1 Corinthians 13:1-8 (12:31)   Can you think of a better application of this than striving for unity.
Begin human, we have differences and idiosyncrasies.  Some people are more “challenging” than others, but we should not let that deter us from being what we ought to be, nor should we let that stand in the way of godly unity.  Far too many churches have divided and brethren have left congregations because of their failure to “bear with one another”.   
How much are we willing to endure for the sake of unity (w/o compromise)?

f.         Endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace – our goal is unity of the Spirit (unity based upon God’s teachings).  Clearly this expression is not talking about unity at the cost of truth – it is unity of the spirit.  I remind you again of the prayer of our Lord in John 17:20-21.  We will address this unity of the Spirit in our next lesson when we notice the 7 qualities of love.
We are endeavoring to achieve this – a word that means to be putting forth intense effort and motivation to accomplish what is needed.   It is associated with zeal and diligence.  In fact, most often it is translated “diligence” – 2 Tim. 2:15, 2 Peter 1:10 – be even more diligent to make your call and election sure.
Romans 14:19 calls for us to pursue the things which make for peace and the things by which one may edify another!
Achieving and maintaining unity is NOT an easy thing to do.  It requires proper mindsets on the part of all involved.  It can require hard work to achieve and maintain. (Notice that our text – Eph. 4:3 speaks of KEEPing this unity).
Sometimes, some will stray from that, perhaps a little or maybe a lot.  At those times we need to apply all the qualities we have discussed in this lesson to keep our unity strong.  At times that means YOU will have to give in, perhaps more than you want to, but if it maintains the Lord’s body, is it not worth it?

 

We all want peace.  It is desperately needed in our world and it is equally needed in the church of our Lord.  God wants us to be a peace with one another (1 Thess. 5:13), and that requires that we all strive to achieve the qualities we have addressed in this lesson.  This is where Paul begins to show what was needed for these brethren to be the family of God.   This attitude is so important that more than once, we are commanded to withdraw from the contentious brother (Romans 16:17, 2 Thess. 3:6, Titus 3:10, etc.)   As we examine our lives, are these qualities present as they ought to be?  Think about it!