Week Commencing 6th May 2018   With a PDF found here

Notes for next Sunday’s sermon on Ephesians 4:1-16

Week 6: GROWING UP

For three chapters Paul has been unfolding for his readers the eternal purpose of God being worked out in history. Through Jesus Christ, who died for sinners and was raised from death, God is creating something entirely new, not just a new life for individuals but for a new society. As we turn now to chapter 4, Paul begins to explore how we must live in the light of all that he has taught.

DAY 1: Read Ephesians 4:1-6

Paul has taught the Ephesians and reported his prayer for the Ephesians. Now he makes a solemn appeal to them. What gives him authority to appeal to them in this way? Because he is both a prisoner of Christ and for Christ. His convictions for Christ have ended up in him being under house arrest. He longs that the way he takes Jesus seriously, may indeed be the way others take him seriously. If Christ dwells in their hearts by faith; if they have begun to grasp the depths of God’s love for them; how then ought they to live? Well, it surely has to match the nature of their calling. They’ve been chosen, adopted, redeemed, informed, sealed, raised from the dead, seated with Christ, saved by grace, given a program of good works to do as God’s handiwork – wow – that’s some calling!! What will their lives look like if they live a life worthy of this calling they have received?

It will be marked by (v2) humility, gentleness, patience; by bearing with one another in love and by keeping the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace! What an absolutely beautiful description. But if we’ve grasped all that Paul has been teaching in the first three chapters, how could our lives not be marked by these characteristics? If Jesus has acted with such humility, gentleness and patience toward us, how can our lives not reflect that same! If Jesus has borne with us in love, how can we not bear with others in love? If we’ve been drawn together in Christ by his Spirit, who are we to break that unity – to destroy the peace he died to bring between us?

Brothers and sisters, may it be so among us!! And may our church be increasingly marked by a clear expression of that unity because of our humility, gentleness, patience and forbearance!

DAY 2: Read Ephesians 4:7-13

We are wonderfully unified by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, but that doesn’t infer we are all the same. The word ‘grace’ in v7 is very close to the word translated ‘gifts’ in Romans 12:6 and
1 Corinthians 12:4 and that is the sense of the word used here. The unity of the church is due to God’s grace which reconciled us to himself. The diversity of the church is due to the grace – or gifts – distributed to each one.

These gifts are from Christ. They are his gifts. By quoting Psalm 68:18, Paul relates this to the vivid imagery of God claiming Mt Zion as his own. (It was customary in ancient times for victorious kings to return with booty from their triumphant battle which was then distributed to the people.) Paul is picturing Jesus’ ascension as a further fulfilment of this. Jesus ascended to the Father’s right hand. His “train of captives” were the principalities and powers he had defeated. His gifts were those of the Spirit whom he would pour out.

Friends – you have been given grace – given a gift or gifts – particularly apportioned for you! By this gift or these gifts, you are to serve the body of Christ and all people – for the glory of God. It is not actually that hard to work out what your gift is. Simply ask ‘what am I good at’? and ‘what do I enjoy doing’? There are your gifts. The question is, how are you using these to serve and honour God?

In v11, Paul proceeds to give specific examples of the gifts and then goes on to discuss their significance. Obviously, the list is not exhaustive – indeed none of the lists of gifts in the New Testament is exhaustive. Apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers. All five gifts are heavily related to teaching. The teaching of the apostles and prophets we have in the Bible, and the teaching of today’s evangelists, pastors and teachers has never been more important and more needed. Pray that the church may be filled with good strong teachers!

DAY 3: Read again Ephesians 4:7-13

What is the significance of these gifts? v12 – to equip God’s people for works of service. This is so significant. Ministry is for everyone not for paid professionals! We have pastors and teachers who might equip YOU for works of service. Here is something fascinating: the word for ‘equip’ is actually the same word used in Mark’s gospel, of the first disciples whom Jesus called when mending their nets. The idea here is that all people are broken, and pastors and teachers help ‘perfect’ or ‘mend’ or ‘re-equip’ them so they can be put into service! It’s a lovely thought. My great privilege as the pastor and teacher of our church is to help restore people from a sinful, broken past, so they may be useful in the loving service of others. Let me say again – ministry is for everyone!! And note that it’s by this amazing means, that the body of Christ (that’s us) can be built up. The New Testament envisages ministry not as the prerogative of a clerical elite but as the privileged calling of all the people of God. The role of the pastor then is clear. They are to help and encourage all God’s people to discover, develop and exercise their gifts. Their teaching and training are directed to this end – to enable the people of God to be a servant people, ministering actively in the church and in a world of pain. The effective pastor does not monopolise ministry but multiplies ministry.

The goal of all this? That we might reach (literally ‘come to meet’) unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God. We saw from Eph 4:3 that our unity is given. So why now does he speak of attaining it? It is in the sense that it will find its full expression as the pastor equips and the people serve. We will come to meet that unity as we come to more fully know the Lord Jesus. We’ll grow strong – mature – and we will (also) come to meet the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. That is, we will be all God wants us to be as Christ’s body. As a church, unified and strong we will be filled with Christ himself! Please pray with me we may so be equipped to serve, that we may be built up, becoming strong and mature!

DAY 4: Read Ephesians 4:14-16

The impact of our becoming strong and mature in Christ is further explored in these final verses of our passage. We’ve seen at various times that there are people in the church – and people outside the church – who would lead us astray. If we are not strong and clear in the truth, we will be tossed back and forth by lies. We are not to be like little boats in a stormy sea, entirely at the mercy of wind and waves. Such are immature Christians. They never seem to know their own mind or come to settled convictions. Instead, their opinion seems to be those of the last great preacher they heard or the book that grabbed their attention.

By contrast, an equipped and serving congregation, will love to speak and listen to the truth of God’s word and as Christ’s body grow strong with him as our Head. For it is only from Christ himself – by his word – his message – dwelling in us richly, that the whole body will work together in all its many parts to grow strong in love, as each part does its work. It’s an amazing picture of us unified by the Spirit, equipped by pastors and teachers, serving one another in love and so growing strong in Christ all the time. May it be so here in our church!

References: “The Message of Ephesians”, John Stott. Some words and sentences used without change.