Welcome back y’all! I’m sorry for these long gaps in-between posts. Life happens, but hopefully I can get part 2 of this chapter out to you sooner than usual! For now, I’m so glad you’ve been joining me on this journey so far! I SO appreciate all the feedback from you and hearing how this series has been encouraging you on your walk with God and your journey with His Word. It encourages me all the more, so from the bottom of my heart, THANK YOU! ❤
Let’s dive into Ephesians 4 together. Today we’re looking at verses 1-16. (If you’re still catching up, scroll down to the Browse Stories menu and select “bible study” from the drop down list. All previous studies are there!)
One God, One Body, One Fullness
We’re back to that theme of unity in the body of Christ.
Paul re-emphasizes the importance of pursuing unity within the body because we are all unified under ONE God. He repeats the number “one” eight times—seven times in reference to God and once in reference to us. It’s interesting how he does this because Paul is recognizing that we are unified body made up of individuals…each with our own gifts and our own stories. Though our faith journeys may look different from the next person the same message is threaded among all believers, and all combine together under one greater story…God’s story.
But this is not in a manner of pride…rather, verse 2 describes the character of this walk as very humble. In the time Paul is writing, characteristics like “humility” and “gentleness” were regarded as weaknesses, whereas pride was much more highly valued…these attributes are displayed in the character of Jesus, who goes completely against the grain of societal values (ESV Study Bible, 2267). Our walk as Christians should imitate Christ, which means walking in a way that sets us apart from what society deems as worthy…and that’s not always easy. In fact, most of the time, it makes us weirdos. It’s true. In a society that values ambition and success and pride and power, we’re called to a life of humility and gentleness. Not everyone is going to like us. But through us, through our stories, God can reveal his true character to the world.
In verses 8-10 we have this interesting little aside, something easily skimmed over. However I heard a pastor speak on this passage recently and he explained that this seemingly skippable “aside” is actually one of the most crucial things we could grab from this passage! Paul quotes Psalm 68:18 in verse 8 and then pauses to make a clarification, one I also think we should take the time to look at. He says by saying that Jesus ascended, it implies that Jesus also had to descend beforehand, in his case, to earth and then into the depths of hell. He came down to suffer and to die before being glorified at the right hand of the father (Luke 22:67-69; Ephesians 1:18-21; Hebrews 8:1-2; Colossians 3:1).
That’s kind of crucial to Christian theology, no? That’s what sets it apart from other religions…it takes this “earn our way to God” idea present in a lot of religions and turns it on its head and flips it inside out. God comes to us…not only that, he pays the price owed by us so that we can freely come to Him and walk in His ways. And not only that, but via the Holy Spirit, through the cross of Christ, He actually fills us with himself.
If that doesn’t blow your mind, I don’t know what else to say.
Because he then ascended, it is He who will “fill all things.” Remember that fullness we talked about before in chapter 3? That thing we ought to desire with every fiber of our being? Jesus makes this possible for the church in his death and resurrection and ascension. He makes the body complete. If we are to mature in him, we are to be made complete, mature bodies in Christ. And this is how we are able to “walk in a manner worthy of the calling” (v. 1).
Maturity in Christ
So what are some of the tangible ways we are made mature in Christ? Verse 11 says God gave everyone who came before us (the apostles, the prophets) or with us now (the evangelists, pastors, teachers) who preach the gospel in order that we might be equipped for the work of ministry. “Woah, woah, woah,” you might be thinking. “I thought living in light of the gospel wasn’t about work?” Recall again, Ephesians 2:10 (in case I haven’t mentioned it enough):
“For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Ephesians 2:10
God’s got work for us to do! Not so that we can earn his favor or gain a right relationship with him…remember, only Jesus can do that! This work is prepared in advance for us to build up the body of Christ, because we have been set free. We’re saved by grace, yes, but this provides us the freedom and the resources to do the “good works” of ministry.
So what is the work of ministry? Paul tells us in a rather lengthy and verbose manner in verses 12 through 16:
- to build up the body of Christ
- attain the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of Jesus (the Son of God)
- to gain maturity, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ
- speaking the truth in love
Ministry is not defined by whether you’re a pastor, or a worship leader, or leading a small group. Ministry is defined by the work that builds up other believers and helps them grow closer to Jesus. A community that is maturing in Christ is a community that is filling each other with words of truth and love through the Spirit in a way that glorifies the Father and points people to Jesus.
Paul talks about practical ways this can play out later in verses 25-32, but start to think now about what this looks like for you:
- How can you speak words of truth into people’s lives?
- How can you be pointing people to Jesus in a world that begs so much attention from so many other things? What could this look like in your family, at work, at school, or even at church?
- How do you pursue unity in your faith and in your understanding of God’s word? What makes this challenging?
- And most importantly, how are you desiring and pursuing the fullness of God in your own life, your own heart? What are the things that compete for that desire?
Pray about how you can build one another up in love this week. Ask God to bring opportunities your way to pursue him more, to teach and be taught, and to speak words of truth in love, by the power of the Holy Spirit at work in you, because of Christ.
For God’s glory,
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