Be brought to completion by the Spirit, part five

Posted: Wed. Oct, 26 2016

 

We grow as one congregation

Last week, we saw that we cannot grow as separate individuals. We grow together as a body.

The body of Christ, the church, is made up of all believers in Christ during the Church Age.

Each congregation is a particular local manifestation of the body of Christ.

So we grow together as one congregation. In this way, we participate in God’s profound purpose for the church.
Ultimately, this purpose is to sum up all things in Christ, things in the heavens and things on earth.

Ephesians chapters 4 through 6 describe how this happens.

 

The public proclamation of scripture

The New Testament letters that are addressed to churches - and Ephesians is one -  were originally written to be proclaimed publically when the congregation gathered

They were not written to be read silently or privately.  They were meant to be heard in the company of all the saints in that location.

Faith comes by hearing.

The word of God must be proclaimed to the assembly in order for growth to occur in the body.

The unfathomable riches of Christ must be PREACHED to the church.

In that way, the many-faceted wisdom of God is made known through the church to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places.

For example, the great prayer that ends chapter 3 of Ephesians takes wing when we hear it shoulder to shoulder with our brothers and sisters in Christ:

EPH 3:14-21
14 For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name, 16 that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God.

20  Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, 21  to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen.

You see, when we place ourselves in the community of the saints, we hear the passage addressed to all of us.    We hear Paul praying that the Father would grant all of us to be strengthened through His Spirit.

We grasp  that Christ is dwelling in all our hearts as one, through faith, and that all of us are being rooted and grounded together  in love.  We comprehend things together with all the saints.

We know in common the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, and we all,  as one body, are filled up to all the fullness of God.

 

Our banner

EPH 4:1-5
1 Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, 3 being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4 There is  one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling; 5  one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all.

Paul implores the congregation to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which we have been called.  And there is one hope of our calling that we all share in.

We also see here the banner under which we walk:

“Preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”

This is our calling. It requires humility, and gentleness, and patience.

 

Breathtaking unity

It requires showing tolerance for one another in love.

But oh, what a privilege we have, the privilege to preserve such breathtaking unity :

  1. One body
  2. One Spirit
  3. One hope of our calling
  4. One Lord
  5. One faith
  6. One baptism (by the Spirit)
  7. One God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all.

 

The ministry of the word of God

The glorified Christ has given us everything we need to do this.  So here He has given us some gifts.

Those gifts are the ministers of the word of God.  They were the  apostles and prophets in the first generation of the church. Now they are the evangelists (doing similar work to the apostles in preaching the gospel in all the world) and pastors and teachers (doing similar work to the prophets in proclaiming God’s word to the saints). [EPH 4:7-13]

The ministry of the word has a  two-fold purpose:

  1. To equip the saints for the work of service
  2. To build up the body of Christ

And the end result we are striving for is given in Ephesians 4:13:

EPH 4:13
13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ.

Notice the  word “all”.

The work of building up the body of Christ is not complete until we ALL attain to  three things:

  1. The unity. It is a two-fold unity. Unity of the faith, and unity of the knowledge of the Son of God.
  2. A mature man.  We all attain to the one mature man  - this is Christ, head and body.
  3. The measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ.

These are all body attainments!

It’s the unity of the body.

The body and the head, Christ and the Church, are the one New Man.

And the church as a whole, Christ’s body, is the fullness of Christ.

EPH 1:22-23
22 And He put all things in subjection under His feet, and gave Him as head over all things to the church, 23 which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.

Unity. Preserve the unity of the Spirit. This is our calling.

It starts with consistently listening to the truth of the word of God together.

It is by the truth of God’s word being preached and proclaimed in the assembly that we grow up in all aspects into Him who is the Head, Christ.  [EPH 4:15-16]

 

Ready to walk

When we speak the truth in love, every individual part of the body starts to work properly. Christ causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.

And with that as our firm foundation, we are now ready to WALK!

And the first thing the Lord wants us to know is how we are NOT to walk! [EPH 4:17-19]

Simply put, we are not to walk as the unbeliever walks. They are completely ignorant of the truth.  As a result, they have given themselves over to the lusts of their flesh and practice all kinds of impurity.

As we get to know the Son of God, we put those things behind us

God in His word will teach us how to walk. [EPH 4:20-24]

He teaches us to put away the old man, and this refers to our former manner of life.

He teaches us the importance of consistently being renewed in the spirit of our mind.

And He teaches us to put on the new man.

 

How does this work in our daily lives?

What activities preserve this heavenly unity while we remain here on earth?

And how do our activities here  contribute to the great work of summing up all things in Christ?

Here’s the surprising thing:  we don’t have to climb the highest mountain, or cross the oceans, or accomplish great things for God.

God will accomplish the great things. We just need to fulfill our calling: to  preserve the unity in the body.

He simply asks us to tend our own garden. He asks us to care for the other members of the body that He places in our lives.

 

Who are these members of the body?

  • They are our sons and daughters. 
  • Christians we work with. 
  • The believer we are having a hard time forgiving. 
  • Our parents.
  • That new person who just started to come to church on Sundays or Thursdays.
  • Our husbands, our wives. 
  • Christians who make us angry at times.
  • Bitter people in the congregation.
  • The targets of our hot tongue. 
  • Our bosses and co-workers.

Did I mention husbands and wives yet?

Remember, for growth to occur, each individual part of the body needs to work properly.

EPH 4:15-16
15 but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.

What are these parts?  Well, they are not the spiritual gifts. The letter to the Ephesians does not describe any gifts other than the communication gifts.

The individual parts are the people who make up the body.  And in Ephesians the people are identified by the roles and relationships we have with regard to other people in the body.

One set of parts consists of  fellow members of the congregation. Husband and wife are parts that go together.  As are father, mother, and children.  Boss and employee also.

When these “parts” work properly together, the body gets built up.

 By fulfilling our roles and relationships properly, and that means according to the truth of God’s word, with love, we preserve the unity of the Spirit.

That’s when we start to see things being summed up in Christ. 

Relationships begin to be reconciled to the Father through the blood of Christ’s cross.  When we realize that we are completely forgiven by our Father through the blood of Christ, we are released from bondage  to go love our brothers and sisters freely.

God reconciles things to Himself in the church by  ….

  • Healing marriages.
  • Knitting families together.
  • Restoring friendships.
  • Mending splits in churches.
  • Fostering productive and peaceful workplaces.
  • Uniting people of different backgrounds, races, classes, and cultures.
  • … and so on.

 

The joints of the body

Ephesians 4:16 also mentions joints in the body.  Joints are connections between parts of the body.  They fit and hold together the different parts of the body.  That’s what joints do. Joints are vital to the proper working of each part.

The joints are the meeting places where parts of the body connect.

For example, the joint where the husband and wife connect is the marriage.

The joint where parents and children connect is the family.

The joint that connects bosses and workers is the business or organization.

The joint that connects members of the congregation is the local assembly.

When these joints, these meeting places, become healthy and strong, the parts of the body  are built up and established. These joints get strong by building bonds of love.

COL 3:14
Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity.

So the joints are the core relationships we have with other believers in our life.  These relationships thrive when they are nurtured and fed by Christ through the preaching and teaching of His word.

With that as our firm foundation, we can now begin our walk through Ephesians 4:25 - 6:19 in earnest.

 

The two-step

Our walk consists of two basic steps that we are to take over and over again.

The first step of our walk is  putting away the old man

And the second step is putting on the one New Man, Christ.

We learn  how to walk properly by having our mind renewed with  the knowledge of the Son of God.

The walk involves specifics. There are specific things we stop doing, and other things we do again and again. We find these specifics laid out for us in Ephesians 4:25-6:19.

As we proceed in Ephesians, we will find Paul reminding us that these individual steps all contribute to preserving the unity of the Spirit.  They all contribute to the building up of the body in love.  They all relate to  Christ and His church.

 

Relationships in the congregation

EPH 4:25-32
25 Therefore, laying aside falsehood, SPEAK TRUTH EACH ONE of you WITH HIS NEIGHBOR, for we are members of one another. 26 BE ANGRY, AND yet DO NOT SIN; do not let the sun go down on your anger, 27 and do not give the devil an opportunity. 28 He who steals must steal no longer; but rather he must labor, performing with his own hands what is good, so that he will have something to share with one who has need. 29 Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear. 30  Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31  Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. 32  Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.

Paul begins with our relationships with one another in general.  This addresses the unity of the Spirit in the congregation as a whole. We will examine this passage in some detail next time. Today  we will briefly consider the negative half of things here.


Grieving the Spirit

There are things we are to stop doing.  These are things that grieve the Spirit.

The things that grieve the Spirit are the things that break up the unity of the body.

Those things include lying, anger, stealing from one another, unwholesome words (words that are the opposite of making us whole), bitterness, wrath, clamor, slander, and malice.

 

Stop and start

This practical section of Ephesians, from Ephesians 4:20 - 6:19, is carefully composed . A negative command is followed by a positive command.

Stop doing that, and start doing this.

Disobeying any of the commands hurts the unity of the body.

When we obey the commands, we build bonds of love  between members of the body. This preserves the unity of the Spirit.

Next week, we will continue our walk together in this practical section of Ephesians.

 

Until the next time, we’re all ….

In His grip,

Pastor John

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