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Sunday, July 19, 2015 pm                                        Ephesians Index

 

STUDIES IN EPHESIANS (19)
THE BASIS OF OUR UNITY (1)
Ephesians 4:4-6

 

Tonight we continue our study of the book of Ephesians.  We have noted Paul’s emphasis in this book is unity within the body of Christ.  He described the body of Christ as His church (Eph. 1:22-23).  In chapters 2 & 3 we have seen how Christ died to reconcile all (both Jew and Gentile) in Him and how Paul was given the “grace” to make this message known.  In our last lesson (4:1-3) Paul began making application toward unity.  We addressed some attitudes that are crucial to unity – a worthy walk, lowliness and gentleness, longsuffering, bearing with one another in love and endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

Following this Paul describes the basis of our unity.  He outlines 7 qualities upon which we are united.  In our religiously divided world, we find there is relative unity on some of the things while in others we are far apart.  The next 2-3 lessons we want to address in some details these 7 qualities which form the basis for our unity.

 I.                     One

a.        The word is used 7 times in these 3 verses.  It is the Greek word, ες (heis), a word that means one and only one (not two or more). It is an absolute number and it applies to all 7 qualities we are going to be discussing. 

b.       God demands unity –1 Corinthians 1:10, Phil. 2:1-2, Eph. 4:1-4, etc.  John 17:20-21, helps us understand the degree to which we are to be united – the same manner in which God and Jesus were united – in purpose and work.  We need to always keep this in mind as we consider the Lord’s church. 

c.        In our text, there are 7 ones.  There are some of these qualities that we comprehend the idea of “one” – one Father, one Lord, one Spirit.  Yet with the other qualities, many seem to think that we can just agree to disagree – many churches, many different faiths, and different baptisms. 
We ought to learn from the unity of the qualities that we do understand that equal unity needs to be achieved with the others. 

d.       In the coming lessons we are going to establish the “oneness” of each of these qualities.  Today we begin with the body!

 II.                  There is One Body (4:4)

a.        Just as there is only ONE Lord (Jesus) and ONE God (the Father) and ONE Spirit (Holy Spirit), so there is only ONE body. 

b.       That body is the church of Christ

Eph. 1:22-23 – tells us Christ is head over all to the church, “which is His body.”  (Col. 1:18)

Jesus in Matt.16:18 told Peter and the others, “on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.”  The word church is a singular noun indicating that Jesus intended to only build ONE church!
Eph. 5:23 – He is the head of the church and Savior of the body.  NOTE: If the church is His body and He is going to save that church (only), we had better seek to be part of that body!
Acts 20:28 tells us that Jesus purchased it with His own blood
Notice how in EACH of these passages, there is reference to only ONE church that Jesus built.

c.        One body, many members – with the body, Paul emphasizes the need for brethren to be working together.
Rom. 12:4-5, “For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function, so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another.

Eph. 4:16, “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.” (Ephesians 4:16, NKJV)

1 Cor. 12:12, 27, Paul is addressing personality division within the church at Corinth.  He reminds these brethren that we need to be working together and not pulling each other apart in different directions.  He uses the analogy of a body and notes that EVERY part is important and is still a part of the whole body (in this case a congregation).  When there is disunity the body will be malfunctioning.  Paul begins by emphasizing, “For as the body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free—and have all been made to drink into one Spirit.” (1 Corinthians 12:12–13).  He concludes this discussion by saying, “Now you are the body of Christ, and members individually.” (1 Corinthians 12:27)
There MUST be unity within a congregation!  AND there must be unity in Christ.

NOTE: In every passage where members are referenced in relation to the body, it is always individual within a congregation.

d.       What is wrong with denominationalism?

                                                   i.      The plea of many in the denominational world is, “Join the church of your choice”.  It is sometimes argued that the various denominations (or congregations) are the various parts or the body of Christ (they use 1 Cor. 12:12-27) or branches (they use John 15:1-8) of the vine that is Jesus.   Is there anything wrong with that?

                                                  ii.      We have already seen that such is a misuse of 1 Cor. 12:12-27, as such is clearly a reference to individual members.  Question, do you “baptize” a congregation or denomination?
Even in John 15 we find Jesus is speaking to His apostles (or disciples) – vs. 5.  Vs. 6 says, “if anyone does not abide in Me…” 

                                                iii.      In denominationalism, the different parts are pulled in different directions and conflict with one another.  That is NOT the picture of the body in that text!  Clearly Paul said in 1 Cor.  12:24-25, “… But God composed the body, having given greater honor to that part which lacks it, that there should be no schism in the body, but that the members should have the same care for one another.   The word schism means division or factions.  As Paul began this letter, having called for unity, he said, “For it has been declared to me concerning you, my brethren, by those of Chloe’s household, that there are contentions among you. Now I say this, that each of you says, “I am of Paul,” or “I am of Apollos,” or “I am of Cephas,” or “I am of Christ.” Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?” (1 Corinthians 1:11–13)

Consider John 15:1-8 where Jesus said He is the vine and we are the branches.  In a vine, all the branches produce the SAME fruit!  Denominationalism would be a vine producing all sorts of different fruits. 
Thought: If the different branches are denominations, what was the church BEFORE they came along – just a vine with NO branches!  Similarly, if different body parts are different denominations, what was the body before the denominations came along. 
We can show that the various denominations have their origins more than 1500 years later than the establishment of the church.   Most are the product of efforts to reform the corruption of Catholicism, (as opposed to an attempt to RESTORE the pattern of the New Testament church) but with differing philosophies, they went in different directions.  This is NOT the church we read about in the Bible!

                                                iv.      This unity-in-diversity (agreeing to disagree, as long as we agree on certain key elements – BTW, who gets to decide what these key elements are?) is NOT the unity taught in the Bible as we have already seen.
Paul did not speak contradictory messages to different congregations.
 1 Corinthians 4:17, “For this reason I have sent Timothy to you, who is my beloved and faithful son in the Lord, who will remind you of my ways in Christ, as I teach everywhere in every church.
Revelation was initially written to “the seven churches of Asia” (Rev. 1:4).  There is a personalized messages to each of these congregations in chapters 2 & 3.  In each message, the writer concludes with, “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” (Revelation 2:7, etc.)   NOTE that while each congregation had its own set of issues to deal with, the message applied to EVERY congregation. 

                                                  v.      Denominationalism minimizes the importance of Biblical teaching – if we don’t agree on something, rather than discussing it until we come to agreement, let’s just ignore it and move on.  Furthermore, why study at all?  Denominationalism makes doctrinal accuracy unimportant!  

                                                vi.      Denominationalism appeals to man’s desires.  In essence you can pick and choose HOW you want to worship and serve God.  You can come to God on YOUR terms.  If you don’t like what one church is teaching, go find another one that will accept you “as you are”.
In the Bible, we must appeal to God’s desires – Galatians 1:6-9, Matt. 15:8-9

                                               vii.      Jesus said in Matthew 15:13 that every plant not planted by the Father would be uprooted.
Psalm 127:1, unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who built it.  Let us respect His house and follow it.

e.       What about “churches”?

                                                   i.      There are times when the term “church” is used in a plural sense.  Galatians 1:2, Romans 16:16, Rev. 1:4, 2 Cor. 11:8, 28, etc.   The term “churches” (plural) is found 36 times in the New Testament.

                                                  ii.      In every context, without exception, it is a reference to congregations.  The difference between congregations and denominations is that the same message (unity) is found among congregations (cf. 1 Cor. 4:17, Rev. 2:7, etc.).  Among denominations there is doctrinal disagreement; sometimes totally contradictory (is God one person or three?  Is baptism immersion or sprinkling? Do we assemble on Saturday or Sunday? How is one saved?  How does God work in us today? Etc.).

 

Truly, there is only one body – one church.  Our goal is to study the Bible and to be a part of that one church.  What about you?  Are you part of the body of Christ? (Gal. 3:27, Rom. 6:3-4).  If not, why not become a part of His body today?