Ephesians 4:1-16 "A Walk Worthy of the Calling"
Today we continue in our sermon series for August from the book of Ephesians, the fourth chapter. Here we find a message about unity, that God makes us all one in Jesus Christ, that he wants us to work toward keeping that unity, and he describes the benefits of unity in the Christian faith.
If you belong to a civic organization such as the Kiwanas or Lions club, you are used to the leaders encouraging all the members to work together to accomplish the clubs goals. Whether it is assisting the poor, or building a new athletic field, all the members are called to do their part to get the job done. Only by being unified in the cause can the group be really affective. Working together, after all, is the reason people join service groups.
In the Christian church there is a need for unity also. The church's unity is established by God. It is his church and he calls and gathers his people together. God makes us all one by giving us faith in the salvation accomplished by Jesus Christ in his death and resurrection. If you are a believer in Jesus as your savior, then you are united with every other Christian who has ever lived.
While this unity comes from above, God expects us all to live and work toward keeping this unity among us.
True unity does not come when we church bodies make announcements and mergers of supposed unity when they continue to preach and walk in opposing ways. This is unity in name only when division exists between members.
It is like a marriage where two people live in the same house but are deeply divided in heart. Decisions in the family must be made, but because there is division in the marriage, the decisions are made based on power, not on love and agreement.
True Christian unity comes from God, and it comes only through his word. When the Bible is recognized as the only trustworthy source of knowledge about God, we then have a chance at being at one with one another as God would have us be.
Today's text in Ephesians tells us to live a life worthy of the calling. The original Greek says "have a walk worthy of the calling. " How you walk says a great deal about what kind of person you are. If you head is bowed down, it tells us that you are depressed. If you stomp around, people will get out of your way. You are aggressive.
The Christian's walk is to be completely humble and gentle, not being angry, frustrated, demanding one's rights. God commands us to be patient, bearing with one another in love. We are not to demand things go our way, or let the disappointments of life sour our attitude.
When we are patient and humble, two things happen. First, we keep the unity of the faith. We do not cause Christ's body, the church, to be divided according to our own expectations. Secondly, we remain in the bond of peace that the Holy Spirit brings to us.
You have probably noticed at communion how the pastor turns and faces you and holds the bread and the cup, now the body and blood of Christ, up before you and says, "The peace of the Lord be with you always." This is more than a good wish to the congregation. God is saying here that the body and blood of His Son Jesus brings peace to every Christian, and it is the wish of God that no one break the bond of peace, but that you are always able to receive the peace in the body and blood.
God wants us to live at peace with each other by living as we were called by Christ. The Bible says we were called by one Lord, not many lords all working to control our attentions. Other lords can be money, power, pleasure, easy living, self gratification, or family loyalty. Only Jesus is the one true Lord.
We were called to one faith. Contrary to the thinking out there today that there are many ways to believe and you just have to choose the one that's right for you, the Bible say here that there is one faith to which we were called. This is the faith Jesus instituted in his life, death, and resurrection. This is the faith preached by the apostles he sent, written into the infallible word of God, preached again here today and received by you as you repent and believe the good news. This is the one true faith.
There is one baptism. There are not two baptisms, a water baptism followed by a separate spiritual baptism. The only baptism the Bible knows is the one instituted by Christ, when water is put on a person and we believe the water and God's word makes that person a Christian believer, no matter what age that person is. Baptism is the death of sin in us, and the birthday of forgiveness and eternal life.
There is one God and Father of us all. This means there is a definite purpose to our existence. The tragic thing is that most of us here today grew up in a world that believes life evolved out of nothing over millions of years. This allows us to evolve into every form of degradation and abomination imaginable without any guilt at all. Contrary to this view is God's word, which says He, as God and Father, created us on purpose in his own image that we might serve him. And though we all have bee separated from him by our sin, we now have access to him again by the atoning sacrifice of his Son, Jesus Christ.
When you live your life grounded in these things, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God the Father, you have unity with God and the rest of God's people. When you depart from these things, you separate yourself and disturb the unity of us all. When something else is more important to you than these things, money, family, free time, making your own choices, you will feel burdended. You experience the effects of division.
The good news is that God gives us all grace. God's grace is able to reach beyond the divisions we have erected between us. No matter where you are in life, God offers his grace, which is able to reach over the boundary and bring you back into relationship. It says here, "to each of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it."
The Bible goes on to explain how God leads us to unity, by giving us those mighty apostles and evangelists like Peter, John, and Paul, who went around the world preaching. He gave us prophets like Moses and Isaiah, who revealed will of God and wrote it down for us. Today he gives us pastors and missionaries who teach us his word, so we are not left merely on our own.
God wants us to be shepherded, but he does not want dumb sheep. He expects his sheep to know the difference between a shepherd and a wolf. The shepherds lead us to serve God and our neighbor, until we reach the unity in the faith that is not there yet. It wasn't there in Paul's day, and it's not here yet either, but it will come when we all submit to his word and to His Son.
We then learn about the benefits of the unity that comes from God. God wants to bless us with his unity. When we are united by faith in the word of God, we are grounded firmly in Christ. We are no longer babies. Babies have to be carried everywhere. They are dependent on a parent to lift and carry them. Not so the Christian who lives in unity with the word of God. He or she is able to stay put in the doctrine of Jesus Christ. The wind and waves may pound against him, but he remains grounded, like a lighthouse on a stormy shoreline, lighting the way for generations of ship that pass. This is the benefit of God's unity.
The unity of Christ will lift us beyond the separations we make according to the color of skin, wealth, power, and human abilities. We are lifted to a higher plateau. We are able to live in peace with each other, because we are all filled with the peace of God.
Remaining in unity means we are able to speak the truth in love. We are not afraid to correct those who have broken the unity by teaching or living apart from the word of God and show no repentance. We are able to speak to them because we are bound by the love of God. We love them too much to see them separate themselves from the unity of peace that God gives. But if they do not listen, we must obey God and mark them as those who cause division in the body of Christ and pray God will lead them back.
We should all pray that God would give us courage, faith, humility and gentleness to work together as the family of God. Where there are divisions we must pray for God to bring unity through his Word. We must resist the temptation to say it doesn't matter, because it does. God's word must come first. When God's word comes first in all of us, we will experience the unity of peace that the Bible is describing to us today. Amen.
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