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Unity in the Church (Ephesians 4:1-16)

First Baptist Church https://fbcbartow.org

“Unity in the Church”

(Ephesians 4:1-16)

Series: Christ and the Church [on screen]

Rev. Matthew C. McCraw, EdD

First Baptist Church, Bartow, Florida

February 21, 2021

The Passage

Ephesians 4:1-16

1 Therefore I, the prisoner in the Lord, urge you to walk worthy of the calling you have received, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 3 making every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to one hope at your calling— 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all.

7 Now grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift. 8 For it says:

When he ascended on high,

he took the captives captive;

he gave gifts to people.

9 But what does “he ascended” mean except that he also descended to the lower parts of the earth? 10 The one who descended is also the one who ascended far above all the heavens, to fill all things. 11 And he himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, to build up the body of Christ, 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of God’s Son, growing into maturity with a stature measured by Christ’s fullness. 14 Then we will no longer be little children, tossed by the waves and blown around by every wind of teaching, by human cunning with cleverness in the techniques of deceit. 15 But speaking the truth in love, let us grow in every way into him who is the head—Christ. 16 From him the whole body, fitted and knit together by every supporting ligament, promotes the growth of the body for building itself up in love by the proper working of each individual part.

Introductory Comments:

One of the greatest challenges in local churches is disunity. The stereotypical squabble in churches is the squabble over the color of the carpet. There can also be disunity over the choices the pastor makes, disunity over the use of funds, disunity over music preferences, disunity over the type of curriculum used, and more. Some of these silly issues have even resulted in church splits. 

Indeed, our own church saw disunity in the not too distant past. We praise God and thank Him for restoring unity in our church. Amen?

In Ephesians, Paul has spent the first three chapters speaking about the incalculable riches of Christ, one of which is the unity brought about by the work of Christ and the power of God’s Holy Spirit. 

Today, Paul makes a shift in his teaching to speak about practical truths for the Church. He gives us instruction and knowledge that will better help us operate as a church in which Jesus Christ is the head. So, we better pay attention. 

Let’s go to the Lord in prayer before we go any further and ask Him to speak to us through His Word. 

(prayer)

Klyne Snodgrass wrote a commentary on the book of Ephesians (I didn’t make up that name by the way). In his commentary, Snodgrass says, “No passage is more descriptive of the church in action than Ephesians 4:1-16.” Well, that’s the passage that we’re studying this morning! So, let’s see what God wants to teach us through the words of the apostle Paul. 

Today, we will be focusing on unity. We’ll discover three arenas in which we should have unity. 

First, we should have . . . 

I. Unity in our walk (vv. 1-6) [on screen]

Paul tells us to walk in a certain manner. When he speaks of walking here, he is speaking of the way that we live our lives. In other words, we should have unity in the way that we live. 

It’s also noteworthy that Paul is coming back to this idea that he is a prisoner of the Lord. He wants to remind them that he is suffering so that they may know the truth of God, experience the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and live as the church God’s called them to be. It’s almost as if Paul is saying, “You better pay attention, because I went to prison so that you could understand this!”

So, let’s look at the passage and let’s seek to understand it. Look at verses 1-6.

1 Therefore I, the prisoner in the Lord, urge you to walk worthy of the calling you have received, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 3 making every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to one hope at your calling— 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all.

These first six verses place such a powerful emphasis on unity and we cannot help but see this through the repeated use of the word “one” throughout these verses.

Before we get to that, though, look at what Paul says regarding the way that we walk. Paul says, “I . . . urge you to walk worthy of the calling you have received.”

Well, what is the calling that they have received? Paul has just spent three chapters explaining that! 

The Ephesians were far from God, without hope, lost in sin, children under wrath, not part of the family of God, they had no inheritance, and they were not in Christ!

Now, the Ephesians are elected, predestined, adopted, redeemed, they are part of the family of God, they have the inheritance of God, they have access to the incalculable riches of Christ, they have been brought into a one new unified people, and they are in Christ!

This is the calling that they have received, so Paul says that they are to walk (or live) in a manner that is worthy of this calling. 

Paul then goes on to characterize, or describe, what it looks like to walk worthy of the calling. He says in verses 2 and 3, “2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 3 making every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.” 

So, here are some attributes upon which we can focus to gain unity: humility, gentleness, patience, and bearing with one another in love (we’ll get to verse 3 in a second).


We are to be humble, meaning we think of others’ needs ahead of our own. We are to be patient, meaning we don’t prioritize our time and desires ahead of others. We are to bear with one another meaning that we put up with other people. 

Sometimes we are a bear to other people, but I’m not sure how good we are at bearing with other people. 

On this note, Klyne Snodgrass says, “The Christian life is a life of putting up with other people.” Amen to that!

Notice that our bearing with one another is based in love! If we love each other (and we should) we should bear with one another. It is essential to our unity!

Pause here for just a moment and ask yourself if these are attributes that describe the people that you know. Are these attributes that describe you? Are these attributes that describe the churches that you know? What about our church? Humility, gentleness, patience, and bearing with one another in love. 

Well, what happens when we are humble, patient, and we bear with one another? Go to verse 3: it maintains the unity of the Holy Spirit and it binds us together in peace!

We must catch this, church: we don’t have to create unity. The work of Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit has already given us unity. We are bound together by the calling of God, the sacrifice of Jesus, and the power of the Holy Spirit. 

When we are humble, patient, and we bear with one another, we maintain the unity that God has given us through His Holy Spirit. 

Likewise, when we are not humble, when we are not patient, and when we don’t bear with one another, we tear down the unity that God has given us. Think about it: I’ve never heard of a church split because the people were too humble and patient with each other. I’ve never heard of a church that fired their pastor because he was too good at bearing with the church members. No! Disunity happens in the church because we do the opposite of what Paul tells us to do. 

You might say, “Well pastor you don’t understand; it’s really hard to bear with so and so.” You don’t think that I understand? I have to bear with all of you and I love you anyway! Y’all have to bear with me and you love me anyway! I may forget to call you back or return your email! I may preach longer than you want or not as long as you want! I may not meet your visitation expectations. I may not compliment you enough. I may not be the kind of dad that you think I should be. I may not talk enough about the ministry that you like the most. I may not preach the book of the Bible that you want me to preach. But you all love me anyway! So, also, you love one another and you bear with one another. 

So, God gives us unity and we must be sure not to mess it up!

Listen, church, we will never be a fully unified church unless we are humble towards one another, patient towards one another, and we bear with one another. 

There is unity found in the way that we live and the way we act towards one another. 

Paul then goes into a beautiful description of the unity that is found in the work of God. Look at verses 4-6. He says, “4 There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to one hope at your calling— 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all.”

There is only one Lord and His name is Jesus; there is only faith and it is found by being in Christ; there is only one baptism and it is in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; there is only God and He is, indeed, Father of all, above all, through all, and in all. 

We already share all of these things listed in verses 4-6; we should also share unity together.

The way of God is oneness and unity, and we can model that unity in the way that we, the church, live our lives. 

Let us develop unity in our walk. 

Next, let us develop . . .

II. Unity in our ministry (vv. 7-13) [on screen]

This next section speaks to the gifts that God has given to churches for ministry, which leads to unity and maturity in the faith. Let’s check it out. Look at verses 7-13:

7 Now grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift. 8 For it says:

When he ascended on high,

he took the captives captive;

he gave gifts to people.

9 But what does “he ascended” mean except that he also descended to the lower parts of the earth? 10 The one who descended is also the one who ascended far above all the heavens, to fill all things. 11 And he himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, to build up the body of Christ, 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of God’s Son, growing into maturity with a stature measured by Christ’s fullness.

Paul says that grace was given to each of us, that is individuals, according to the measure of Christ’s gift. The work of Christ has made it possible for us to experience the grace of God and the riches of God, which includes God gifting us with abilities to serve in ministry. 

Verses 8-10 sound a little confusing at first with the “ascended” and “descended” language. Here’s what it means: Jesus came from heaven, to the earth, He was buried in the earth, He rose from the dead, and ascended back to heaven. Jesus has taken people captive with His grace who were once captive to sin. Among all the many ways that He blesses them, He still blesses them from heaven by His work that He did on the earth. In other words, the work of Jesus has tremendously blessed us and His work is still blessing us today! 

Some of the gifts that God gives to the church are found in verse 11. It says, “And he himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers.” 

Now, there’s a lot that has been written about what all these particular offices mean and how they apply to the Church today. We can certainly talk about some of that in our Digging Deeper study on Wednesdays at some point. 

However, here’s the point of this part of the passage: these positions were positions of leadership in the church that pointed people to the truth of the Gospel in different ways.

Paul said that God has given leaders to the Church who teach and tell about the work of Jesus. 

We then see the reason that these leaders are in the church. We see the result of their teaching and telling the church about the Gospel of Jesus. Look at verses 12 and 13:  “12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, to build up the body of Christ, 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of God’s Son, growing into maturity with a stature measured by Christ’s fullness.”

Look at these various results of God giving these leaders to the church: (1) to equip the saints, (2) to build up the body of Christ, (3) to reach maturity in the faith, (4) to reach maturity in the knowledge of Jesus, and (5) to grow in maturity like Jesus wants us to look. Wow! That’s a lot of benefits!

Catch this, church: God wants to use leaders in ministry to help others grow in ministry and maturity for the benefit of the church!

In case you didn’t realize what’s going on here, everyone in the church is ministering! Some are ministering as leaders and some are ministering in other ways, but they are all working in unity for the benefit of the church, for the growth in knowledge of the church, and for growing like Jesus in the church. 

Church member, are you ministering for the good of the church? Are you doing your part to develop unity, maturity, and knowledge in the church?

Here’s some news for some of you: the pastors are not supposed to do all the ministering. Did you know that? The main ministries for pastors in the Bible is on teaching, praying, leading, and equipping. We are to teach you, pray with and for you, lead you, and equip you for ministry. Well, who does all the other ministry? You do! That’s God’s design! 

So, when you are tempted to say something like, “Well that’s just the job of the pastors,” you better be sure that you have your facts in order. The job of the leaders of the church is to equip the church to be the church, for the good of the church, to be like Jesus wants the church to be, all for the glory of God!

Let us continue to develop unity in our church and let us do so by unity in our ministry. 

Finally, . . .

III. Unity in our growth (vv. 14-16) [on screen]

Paul says what the result will be if the church follows these instructions towards unity. Let’s see what he says. Look at verses 14-16:

14 Then we will no longer be little children, tossed by the waves and blown around by every wind of teaching, by human cunning with cleverness in the techniques of deceit. 15 But speaking the truth in love, let us grow in every way into him who is the head—Christ. 16 From him the whole body, fitted and knit together by every supporting ligament, promotes the growth of the body for building itself up in love by the proper working of each individual part.

Paul says that if we walk in unity, if we serve in unity, and if we grow into maturity, then we will no longer be like little children, who are easily drawn away by false teaching. 

Now, remember Jesus said that we should have child-like faith, which has to do with trusting in God like a child trusts in his or her parents. Child-like faith is marked by trust and dependence. However, Paul is talking about not having a childish faith, which is marked by immaturity and weakness

Paul goes on to say in verse 15 that we should speak the truth in love. Let us speak what is true to each other, but let us do so in love. Let us encourage each other, unify each other, build up each other. 

As we speak the truth in love, we will grow into Jesus who is the head of the Church. As we grow in Jesus we are fit together and knit together, we are bound together, and we are supporting each other. 

Every individual member of the body of Christ is important to its unity, stability, and growth. Paul says at the end of verse 16 that the church is unified and built, “ . . . by the proper working of each individual part.”

Church, let us find unity by maturing together, teaching one another, encouraging one another, and stabilizing one another. Let us find unity in our growth. 

We find unity in our walk, we find unity in our ministry, and we find unity in our growth. 

Concluding Thoughts:

There’s a wonderful illustration for unity that comes from one of my favorite movies, Finding Nemo. I have a clip from the movie that I’d like to show you. In this clip, a group of fish are caught in a net and Nemo has an idea of how they can escape if they work together. Let’s check it out.[show movie clip on screen]

Just as those fish worked together to escape that net, so also, God’s design for His church is that we would work together to maintain the unity that He gives. Through that unity, we will be mature, holy, and focused to accomplish the mission that He has given us. May we work towards that end.  


Let’s focus it all down to this bottom line:

Bottom Line: Let us make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit[on screen]

(repeat)

This comes straight out of verse 3. Look at your Bibles again. Paul says, “ . . . making every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.”

Let us do our part, church, to maintain the unity of the Holy Spirit in our church. I’ll do my part and you do your part. Let’s commit to that.

Challenge yourself this week and beyond in these specific ways:

Weekly Challenge: [on screen]

1. Commit to bearing with one another. [on screen]

Did you know that unity is not the same as uniformity? Uniformity means we are all exactly the same. Unity means we work together as one. We don’t have to all be the same. However, we should bear with one another. We should be united. 

We should bear with one another when the music style is not the style we prefer. We should put up with one another when someone doesn’t use the church buildings the way that we think they should be used. We should bear with those who interrupt us, or those who never stop talking so we can interject. We should lovingly bear with those who are different than us in a number of possible ways. 


Commit to bearing with one another. 

2. Commit to equipping. [on screen]

We should commit to equipping others and we should commit to being equipped by others. 

Let’s not get lost on the particulars of what the gifts mean. Let’s focus on the fact that God wants His people being led in and serving in ministry. 

Someone said on this subject, “We would do well to have less concern about identifying gifts and more concern about being a gift.” I have to agree with that. 

Let’s put an emphasis on equipping and being a gift to one another. 

3. Commit to growing. [on screen]

Let’s commit to growing together as a church: each of us focused on growing in the Lord and helping others grow in the Lord. 

Let us mature. Let us be knit together. Let us grow in unity. 

Closing:

If you are united to Jesus, you should be united to His Church. Through the Holy Spirit of God, we already have unity. Let us do our parts to maintain that unity. 

If you are not united to God,  you can be united to God by being united to Jesus, God’s Son. 

(Gospel presentation)

(closing prayer)

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