A Journey Towards Unity – Ephesians 4:12-14a

This is the final week of Easter. Pentecost awaits us. Something utterly different awaits God’s people. Something fresh is coming. Something new. This is what the first Christians after Christ ascended to be sit next to the Father, knew nothing of, except that they were to wait for the Holy Spirit to come to them. Pentecost is the day of new newness; the day the ancient Hebrews received the Law, and the now it’s celebrated as the day the new Law become clear. Christ in us. We become the new temple, the place that God actually dwells; a place that He longs to be. This is why unity is so precious. When God’s people, the new temple, work together and display Christ together, He can more easily and radically be seen. The temple was built by many parts, using their gifts to display the beauty and worth of Jesus in His temple. Here’s the Ephesians 4 passage for today:

The Grown-Up Body – Ephesians 4:12-14a

12 He did this to prepare all God’s people for the work of Christian service, in order to build up the body of Christ. 13 And so we shall all come together to that oneness in our faith and in our knowledge of the Son of God; we shall become mature people, reaching to the very height of Christ’s full stature. 14 Then we shall no longer be children…

As we learned in the previous post, the gifts of God were given to the people of God so that the body of Christ would make God’s oneness and presence known to all. This passage in Ephesians 4 is about the whole body, every member, growing up into maturity, which in Paul’s mind is unity, not uniformity. The various apostolic, prophetic, evangelistic, pastoral and teaching gifts noted in verse 11 were given to certain people, not so that those people could do all the work of ministry, but so that every member of the body, the whole temple, diverse in each individual part, would be trained and equipped to share in the work of making God’s oneness known.

God is so utterly concerned with the building up of his body (the temple) into the fullness of Christ that he has ensured, in every region and in every era, there would be those who are gifted to equip the members of Christ’s body to be witnesses of Christ Himself. There would be those who speak with power the Word of God; others who would announce the good news to those who are far off; those who would look after local churches; and those who would teach the whole counsel of God, and so on.

It takes the whole body and all the gifts of God working together to build up the body of Christ into maturity. As a mature body, we will avoid hurting each other with selfish motives and petty arguments, much like children who frustrate parents with their “me” and “now” syndromes – i.e. “It’s all about me” and “I want what I want now.” We belong to one another and we are called to grow up, to mature, to put away our childish ways, and be ready to be used for the sake of the whole.

A Prayer For Us Today

Father, we are your children, set free from sin because of the life, death, and resurrection of your Son, Jesus. Help us also to break free from our childish ways, growing into maturity. Give us grace to use our gifts, to stop caring only about “me” and for wanting what we want “now.” Give us vision for the future, for what will be when you return, so we can live out your will for us today, and your oneness will be seen by those who are far from you. Amen.

For Those Who Want To Go Deeper

If our life in Christ means that we will always be growing up, then in what ways do you need to grow up? Be honest with yourself; the Father loves you unconditionally. How does your church or denomination need to mature? Do you suffer from the “me” and “now” syndromes?

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A Journey Towards Unity – Ephesians 4:4-6

As our journey towards the end of the Easter season, expectantly anticipating the day of Pentecost, it’s good to continue to press into the oneness that is at the heart of our God, who is a father. God, the father of all, desires for all of his children to be re-united (see Genesis 3-4 for the context of us being one family) and to not just give lip service to reconciliation, but to actually labor towards it, sacrifice for it, make space in our lives for it. The journey today takes us to the next set of verses from Ephesians 4, and it has an emphasis on the word “one”… the very thing that radiates from the heart of a good father who desires a healthy family.

The One Body – Ephesians 4:4-6

4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as there is one hope to which God has called you. 5 There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 6 there is one God and Father of all people, who is Lord of all, works through all, and is in all.

Once again, Paul brings to the forefront the oneness of the Church, Christ’s body, the unity that we have in Christ Jesus. To understand more deeply the unity that Paul is fighting for, it would be helpful to understand a tangible reality of the division between Jews and Gentiles of Paul’s day.

In Ephesians 2, Paul talks about a dividing wall of hostility between the Jews and Gentiles. In the first century, the Jerusalem Temple complex actually had a wall of separation that was 4.5 feet high, and the Greek inscription on it read: “No foreigner [i.e. Gentile] is to enter within the balustrade and embankment around the sanctuary. Whoever is caught will have himself to blame for his death which follows.”

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The Balustrade kept those who were not Jews out of the inner courts of the temple

Paul, who is writing from prison (verse 1), was likely imprisoned because he had brought a Gentile into the “balustrade and embankment” of the Jerusalem Temple (Acts 21:27-29). Yet there is no place in the Old Testament law that calls for a dividing wall like this to be built within the sanctuary. This wall, like many other literal or hypothetical walls in the past (and present), came about (and come about) through the racial and social hatred of different sects or groups. The Old Testament has always presented a picture of the Israelites bringing “all nations” to the Temple to worship God (Ps. 22:27; Is. 2:2; Zech. 14:16). This “wall of separation” (the balustrade) was still standing as Paul wrote this letter.

In today’s text, notice the emphasis Paul places on the words one and all. Paul lived this! The body of Christ is one, it cannot be divided, just as the Spirit of God is one and cannot be divided. In Christ Jesus, who is Lord of all, we share one hope. We are all baptized into one faith. God is the one Father of all who come to Christ Jesus by this faith. It is through God’s nature, his love, that unity is possible.

A Prayer For Us Today

Our Father, thank you for including us into the body of believers. Forgive us where we have become so accustomed to our divisions, with countless traditions and churches all claiming the “right way.” You are the only right and narrow way, who broadly receives many unto yourself. Help us, in our weakness, to display the reality that is already true in you, that you are one. Reconcile us according to your great name, and help us celebrate our diversity, honor our various traditions, and exalt the name of Jesus. Amen.

For Those Who Want To Go Deeper

The body of Christ has been divided by well-intentioned Christians for centuries, and only in Christ can we be reconciled. How have you divided Christ’s body? What part can you play in helping to destroy the “wall of separation” that stands between Protestants, Catholics, and Orthodox believers? What would it look like to be one, to have unity among Christians in your city?1

A Quick Word on the Term ‘Missional’

When talking about Church lately, it has been popular to use the phrase “missional church”, and with that, there are probably thousands of meanings. Many people see a hipster church, with indie rock worship, a funny, cool looking, gospel-centered preacher, and then give that church the title, “missional”. Kineo has been labeled ‘missional’ because of that, but of course not because of the cool looking, gospel-centered preacher. This labeling of churches in this regard is terribly misguided.

At best, the word missional describes not a ‘specific activity’ of the Church, nor the style of apparel of it’s leaders wear, the trendy modern ambiance, or the type of music that is played by the worship band, but it describes ‘the very essence and identity’ of the church as it participates in God’s mission.

‘Mission’ (John 20:21) reminds us that the Church was created to be oriented to the world, existing for the sake of others. Cross-cultural missionaries of the past few centuries were sent with a task that was primarily not for themselves but for the sake of those to whom they were sent. Thus to describe the Church as ‘missional’ is to define the entire Christian community as a ‘BODY’ sent into the world, existing not for itself but to bring good news to the world. This is our identity.

THE BODY: In the book of Ephesians, the word body is sṓma in Gk which means: an organized whole, or a collective mass, made up of different and diverse parts and members, each having separate roles and functions to make the whole. In other words, the whole body of Christians collectively, of which Christ is the head. This word shows up all over Ephesians; (Eph. 1: 22-23; 2:15-16; 3:6; 4:4, 11-12, 16, 25; 5:23, 30) (see also Rom. 12:5; 1 Cor. 10:17; 12:13, 27; Col. 1:18, 24; 2:19; 3:15).

There is a very striking illustration in 1 Corinthians 6:15 regarding the body of Christ (the Church), where Paul says, “Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ?” If you are a disciple of Christ, then you are a ‘member’, joined as a part of the body of Christ, and the parts of your body are parts of Christ’s body.

We’re not Christians, we’re ‘family members’ joined by & with Christ, with a mission to make His beauty and worth known over every other earthly treasure.

Jesus Christ has a body here on earth. It is called the Church. She has legs to go to the places that Jesus would go. She has arms to do the work that Jesus would do. She has mouths to say the things that Jesus would say. She has backs to carry the burdens that Jesus would carry.

Paul said that his aim in life was that “the life of Jesus might be made known to others in his mortal flesh” (2 Corinthians 4:11). In other words, his aim is that “his body might make Christ’s body real to the world.”

So let’s be missional in the biblical way…as ambassadors of Christ, as though God were pleading through our bodies and lives. We all belong to one another, and mission happens better when we live like that (John 13:34-35). Defining missional based on Christ being displayed will endure the test of time much longer than being missional based on our trends being displayed.