Sermon Notes: “The Way of Christ is the Right Way to Live: The Practice and Cause of Christian Unity” (Ephesians 4:1-6)

Sermon

Sermon Title: “The Way of Christ is the Right Way to Live: The Practice and Cause of Christian Unity”
Text:Ephesians 4:1-6

Date: Sunday, March 25, 2018

Speaker: Pastor Joseph

Four Important Truths about Christian Unity

  1. The call to Christian unity is grounded on the common call to salvation: spiritual unity (4:1)
  2. The call to cultivate Christian moral virtues is to enhance Christian unity (4:2-3)
  3. The common faith is the foundation for Christian unity and solidarity (4:4-6)
  4. The call to Christian community is premised upon the common calling from God (4:6)

Introduction: In the world and just like in our society, people are united for different purposes, objectives, and for a common conviction and shared cause. For example,

  1. People who are affiliated with the democratic party are united to advance the cause of their party.
  2. People who are affiliated with the republican party likewise are united to promote the republican logic.
  3. Soldiers are brought together in the time of war and to defend the sovereignty and attack of their country.
  4. The LGBTQ community is united so that they can gain the benefits of their civil and legal rights.
  5. Athletes often develop a common mind and spirit for the sake of the success and victory of their team.
  6. Formerly estrange individuals become lovers and couples, and ultimately are united in marriage as husbands and wives to create together a family and maintain loving relations between them.
  7. Workers come together to achieve specific and designated tasks and responsibilities assigned by their boss.
  8. Even the Devil and his coalition of demons come together to torment Christians and carry out their deadly-objectives.

Nonetheless, in the fourth chapter of Ephesians, God has called Christians and his church to maintain Christian unity and develop Christian moral virtues, whose basis are contrary to those objectives mentioned above. The basis for Christian unity is the shared unity in Christ that his followers share; this unity has three aspects: it is salvific (4:1), Christocentric (4:2-3), and theocentric (4:6). Christian unity is not based on specific racial line and privileges, ethnic superiority, prominent social classes and status, economic stability and wealth, nor is it grounded on the intelligence, wisdom, and connection of some members in the church. Overall, Christian unity Overall, it has as strong Christological foundation and Trinitarian basis: One Spirit, one Lord, one God the Father. We are called to the common faith; we are called from the same God; we are members of the same body: the ekklesia of God; we are called from the same God; we are called to a common salvation; and we are called to be “one in Christ.”

In Ephesians 4, Paul describes in great details how Christians should live with each other not just in trouble times, but as a daily practice and routine; he also highlights some principles on how they should grow together in maturity in Christ Jesus.  In other words, Paul is concerned with Christian behavior and the new patterns of conduct that should characterize the new life and new identity of this body of believers, who have just brought together by God in Christ as one people. In the first half of the letter (chapters 1-3), Paul instructs the Ephesians about some theological truths about God’s salvation plan, their former life in darkness and apart from God and Christ, the establishment and beginning of the church (the ekklesia of God), and their new identity in Christ as one new human race. In the second half of the book (chapters 4-6), he is going to emphasize how to live as embers of this new community. In this conversation, I want you to learn four important truths about Christian unity

Four Important Truths about Christian Unity

  1. The call to Christian unity is grounded on the common call to salvation: spiritual unity (4:1)
  • The call to walk worthy pertains to one’s moral conduct and it is a call to a new life, which is different than the former life these new converts to Christianity formerly walked (2:1-2). “Walking is an Old Testament and Jewish metaphor for conduct” (Arnold, Ephesians, 229). The reference here is to their new conversion and salvation in Christ. It was about the moment they heard and believed the Gospel, repented of their sins, turned away from their dark lives, and cling to Christ in repentance for deliverance. The call to walk worthy in the manner you were called is a call to transformation, to be a new church, and to actively pursue holiness and sanctification among ourselves.
  • This calling is also God’s invitation to enter a relationship with Him, which entails interpersonal connection and relationship in the body of Christ among the believers. This relationship is not only spiritual, it is also social, communal, ethical, and reciprocal. God has called us to a relationship of nearness. God continues to call individuals and families to a personal relationship with Him through Jesus Christ. He called Abraham to Himself (Genesis 12; Is. 51:2); He called Israel to be his people (Is. 48:12, 55); He called Moses, Joshua, Ruth, Nahomi, Esther, Joseph, Jacob to be with Him and for Himself. In the same manner, Jesus has called his disciples to follow Him and to be with Him. Today, God is calling the unsaved, the lost, the unchurch in our city, in our community, in our workplace, and high places to be with Him, to walk with Him, and live for Him.
  • Furthermore, Paul informs the Christians that their present life and new life should be characterized by “good works” (2:10). In chapter 4, he describes in detail the nature of the good works that followers of Christ must produce and live by (4:1-6).
  • Elsewhere in the book of Ephesians, Paul describes this new way of walking (4:17; 5:2, 8, 15)
  • Don’t live the same way that non-believers live (4:17).
  • Walk in the way of love the same manner Christ loved (5:2). This call to practice love, both in private and public, constitutes sacrifice and self-giving (read 1 Corinthians 13)
  • Live as children of light (5:8)—you are the light of the world.
  • Live wisely (5:15)

2. The call to cultivate Christian moral virtues is to enhance Christian unity (4:2-3)

These four cardinal virtues represent the marks of a healthy and united church

  • Humility and gentleness= Matthew 5:3, 5. Other terms that are used in Scripture are the lowly, the meek, the afflicted. God promises freedom, refuge, compassion, and comfort to those who are humble, weak, meek (Is. 14:32; 11:4; 49:13). He promises that he will exalt the poor (Luke 1:152) and those who humble themselves before Him. The Psalmist declares that God will not despise a humble heart and a contrite spirit (Ps. 51:17). The opposite of a humble heart and gentleness include being conceited, arrogant, self-ambitious, having a sense of self-importance (1 Peter 5:5; Prov. 3:34). These are all opposites to walk in humility and gentleness, and to develop an attitude to show kindness, compassion, and grace to one another. “For unity to exist, humble, selfless people must be living for the good of others” (Tony Merida, Ephesians, 96).

Our culture is telling us these things:

  1. To exalt yourself
  2. Pamper yourself
  3. Think about yourself first (Merida, 95)
  • Patience: There are several instances in Scripture where the call to be patient is the call to faithfulness and to wait on the Lord (James 5:10; 7-11)
  • Tolerance (“bearing with one another in love” or to put up with people). The Greek word “anecho” means “to put up with something annoying” (Thielman, Ephesians, 254) (2 Cor. 11:19-20) in love (Col 3:13)
  • Love: Matthew 5:43-48).
  • The maintenance of unity: Matthew 5:9; John 17:11, 20-21, 22-23
  1. The call to maintain unity of the Spirit is a call to nurture positive Christian relations and interactions. In Ephesians 2:18, Paul already informed the church in Ephesians that both Jewish and Gentile Christians have equal access to the same Spirit (spiritual equality)
  2. In 2:22, Paul emphasizes that “in Christ,” both Jews and Gentiles, who are the ekklesia of God, are being built as one body. This call is to maintain unity and not to create unity for in previous verses in Chapter 2, Paul has already established that Christ had already united, despite their differences and ideologies, background and social statues, both Jewish and non-Jewish people into one church, one Lord, one body, and one new humanity. This unity must be kept by the bond of peace.
  • Through the bond of peace: Matthew 5:9
  1. This unity must be kept by the bond of peace.  Peace should be the bond and the link that unite believers and followers of Christ. “Peace is the fastener that preserves the church’s unity” (Thielman, Ephesians, p. 255)

“we should maintain unity diligently. Unity is active, not passive. We should be zealous to maintain unity. Notice we do not work to create unity but to keep unity! God unites us, and we are to seek to maintain unity by the Spirit’s help” (Tony Merida, Ephesians, 96).

*** You have been called to live together as “one in Christ.” This is the effective call to discipleship and to follow Jesus, and this call comes with a series of demands that are not easy for us to achieve in our strength and human resources. The call to live as a new community in this changing world is the highest calling in an individual’s life as well as in the life of the church. It comes with the cost of self-denial, that is the renouncement of our ambitions, self-interest in the pursuit of the interest of other believers, and self-goals so that the church of Christ can be a catalyst and shining witness in the world. the call to live worthily and acceptably before God and in communion with each other in the body of Christ is married with the life of participation in the life of other brothers and sisters in Christ.

  1. The common faith is the foundation for Christian unity and solidarity (4:4-6)
  • Christian convictions: Our Christian conviction should inform how we live (4:4-6)
  • The common faith is articulated in a series of seven declarations of belief:
  1. In verses 4-6, Paul argues that Christian unity is intimately connected with some theological truths, doctrinal convictions, and a set of declarations of belief. He lists seven of these subjects that relate to the idea of the “oneness of the church.” These seven ones may represent an early Christian creed.
  2. The church is one.
  3. The Spirit is one. In other words, believers are united by one Spirit who saves and empowers them and continues to maintain their salvation and keeps them together as one.
  4. The Christian hope is one.
  5. The Lord is one.
  6. The Christian faith is one.
  7. The baptism is one.
  8. God the Father is one.

Because of the oneness of the church, Christians are called “to maintain energetically the unity that the Spirit has given them despite their differences with one another (2:18, 22)” (Thielman, Ephesians, 254).

Diversity within the Godhead: one Spirit, one Lord, one God

Diversity within the distributions of the trinitarian gifts: one body, one faith/hope, and one baptism.

One baptism

  • It signifies a common experience which these believers have shared/
  • It was “one” because it was distinctively Christian.
  • It was done in the name of Jesus (Acts 2:38; 8:16)
  • It symbolizes the death (Rom. 6:3-4) and resurrection of the believer with Christ (Col 2:12) (Thielman, p. 259

4. The call to Christian community is premised upon the common calling from God (4:6)

  • This passage signifies the universal fatherhood of God and indicates that his presence in the world is everywhere, his sovereignty has no bound, and his care for the world is abundant.
  • God the Father sums up all things in Christ (Ephesians 1:10, 11, 22; 3:9, 15)

Conclusion:

  1. “No one exemplified these virtues better than Jesus, who was the supreme example of humility (Phil 2:5-11). As for gentleness, Jesus said “Come to Me…because I am gentle” (Matthew 11:28-29). His patience is unparalleled (1 Tim 1:16). As for love, Christ demonstrated it in manifold ways and most vividly at the cross (Rom 5:8). As for being eager to maintain peace, He was the Peacemaker (Ephe. 2:14). Therefore, the more we look like Jesus individually, and the more we live like Christ, relationally, the more united we will become” (Tony Merida, Ephesians, 96)
  2. “It is essential to work on developing Christlike virtues that enhance unity…. We must rid ourselves of those characteristics that hurt our brothers and sisters, make them defensive, or create spirit of tension within the community. Practically, we should carefully examine our lives in light of the following considerations:

 

  • If we are quick to get angry, we need to work on patience.
  • If we have a tendency to be proud, arrogant, egocentric, and boastful (and who doesn’t’ struggle with these?), we need to work on humility.
  • If we are insensitive, bullish at times, rough, bossy, or quick to impose on others, we need to work on gentleness.
  • If we struggle with being intolerant with the shortcomings of other people, we need to work on bearing with one another in love.
  • If unity among fellow believers in our own local churches is not a priority for us, we need to make it a priority.
  • If the ardent pursuit of unity between churches in our cities is not a priority, we also need to make this a priority” (Arnold, Ephesians, p. 238)

Amen