Intro: In a sense I want to start today where we left off last week. If you were not here, I will attempt to catch you up with where we are. If you were here, I pray that you will not be bored or wearied as we study these very important scriptures again.
I. Ephesians 4:1-6 – I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, 2 with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, 3 endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as 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 above all, and through all, and in you all.
A. Why do you think Paul referred to himself as “the prisoner of the Lord” in this passage? Certainly we can recognize that he most likely wrote these words from a prison in Rome. But his imprisonment was not because of Nero’s power to hold him in custody, but because he was confined through the cause of Christ – the Lord willed it, and so Paul freely acknowledged it. I believe that Paul’s identifying phrase points to the clear relevancy of these verses to us today.
1. The apostle he wanted the Christians in Ephesus to see him where he was, physically and emotionally. He was suffering as a prisoner, in the present face of a death sentence, as a result of his faithful walk with Jesus. But he wanted those Christians to know that it was worth the cost to walk worthy of the call. He wanted them to view his suffering from his own positive perspective.
2. Do we see accurately the danger and risk of walking worthy of God’s call? If we live faithfully we will suffer persecution. Is that becoming more apparent to us today? Jesus told his apostles: They will lay their hands on you and will persecute you, delivering you to the synagogues and prisons, bringing you before kings and governors for my name’s sake. It will lead to an opportunity for your testimony. (Luke 21:12–13) So Paul was living this calling out – he was testifying through his suffering. This is a view of our Christianity that we shun away from. But coming from one who is walking in it, this is a powerful testimony! [the story of Tahir Iqbal, a Muslim who was arrested in Pakistan and imprisoned in 1990 for expressing his faith in Jesus. He was a paraplegic in a wheelchair. When he was threatened with death by hanging for not renouncing his faith, he said, ‘I will kiss my rope, but will never deny my faith.'”]
a. It was in this context that Paul urged these Christians to walk worthy of the calling. Live up to your commission from God – live up to what you pledged when you took on the name of Christ, even to the point of suffering for Him. This was walking was not to be characterized by fighting back against the persecutors or through rebellious conflict, but through lowliness and humility.
b. Specifically, the apostle urges them to be “diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace”. (4:3). He urges them to remain united with God and each other, by preserving the unity created through the revelation of the Spirit. In essence, do everything you can to protect what Christ died to obtain. We spoke some about this command last week. But how is this unity safeguarded?
c. What follows in the text is a series of “one” statements. These will be the focus of our study for the next few months. How are we to see these declarations of oneness in connection with what has already been said? This is our intro to the later study…
II. Humility and Truth – We must be careful in our application here. It is a modern mistake to see the call for humility as a mandate for ambivalence or uncertainty. Being humble does not mean being wishy-washy towards truth. It does not mean truth does not matter. Many confuse humility with uncertainty, as though one is not humble if he acts with dogmatism or certainty in matters of his faith.
A. Is that what Paul meant? Is he telling us to preserve unity by refusing to hold to specific truth, or remaining uncertain so as not to draw lines with others? G.K. Chesterton put his finger on our problem 50 years ago in a little book called Orthodoxy:
What we suffer from today is humility in the wrong place. Modesty has moved from the organ of ambition. Modesty has settled upon the organ of conviction; where it was never meant to be. A man was meant to be doubtful about himself, but undoubting about the truth; this has been exactly reversed. Nowadays the part of a man that a man does assert is exactly the part he ought not to assert—himself. The part he doubts is exactly the part he ought not to doubt—the Divine Reason. (G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy, p. 55)
B. Later Paul warns against remaining doubtful about the truth and being blown about by every wind of doctrine. Ephesians 4:14 – that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting,
1. The humility that preserves unity is not uncertainty, doubt, vagueness or subjective interpretations. It is the willingness to submit to truth above all else. God and His revealed truth are at the center, and I must humbly go where they lead me. My will is not the law; God’s Word is the law. I don’t tell God how many faiths are acceptable to him; he tells me. I don’t define the foundation of the unity of the Spirit; God does. When we humbly react to truth for what it is, we will be united.
III. The Objective Ground for Unity – This is what Paul was providing in v. 4-6. He gives the objective ground in which unity is maintained. The unity of the Spirit is based on a given objective unity outside ourselves. This unity is not created or defined by our actions, but by the truth. Our job is simply to humbly submit to it.
Ephesians 4:4-6 – 4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as 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 above all, and through all, and in you all.
A. The oneness that Paul tells them about here is not some fragile, vulnerable consensus that we must all agree on. These are fixed realities. This is why they provide a real basis for our unity.
1. Ex. – Have you ever tried to play baseball without all the equipment or people you need. Couple of kids, no bases (tree, manhole, paper plate, etc.). You often are driven to make up new rules. The first thing you do is try to get everyone to agree on the new rules, then it becomes almost impossible to retain that consensus throughout the game. Usually ends with someone getting made and walking off.
2. The unity we share with each other is based on our unity with God [1 John 1:3 – that which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ.], and rests on the oneness of God, the oneness of faith, the oneness of baptism, the oneness of hope, the oneness of the Sprit. These things are one no matter what we do or say. We are simply called to humbly. Uphold them as the truth.
IV. What Does This Have to Do with the Walk? – Specifically, what does this have to do with task of the church to reach the lost with the gospel? Ironically these ones unite us in our basic task of making disciples of all nations. Paul is not just enunciating tenets of a doctrine. These “ones” proclaim the urgency and absolute imperativeness of gospel preaching.
A. If there is only one, then the lost must know about it!
• Since there is Only One God, the Father, to whom all men are accountable,
• Only One Lord, Jesus Christ, who alone died for every sinner;
• Only One Spirit, revealing all the truth about salvation;
• Only One faith, the single objective message concerning salvation;
• Only One baptism, into Christ in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, by which every person dies with the Lord and connects with the power of Jesus’ resurrection;
• Only One hope that awaits every Christian, providing the anchor of the soul in times of persecution;
• and Only One body, The Lord’s one church, the only ones who are redeemed by His blood, and gathered with Jesus as the head –
• Since there is only one the saved must rally around these realities of oneness and preach the only message that will save.”There is no other name under heaven, given among men by which we must be said” (Acts 4:12). Other religions, other gods, other faiths, and other lords will not save.
B. The oneness of truth was the factor involved in the effectiveness of the gospel message in the first century, Paul has just explained that in Eph. 2:
1. Could the Gentiles be full fellow heirs with Jews in the blessing of salvation?
• The answer was that Christ reconciled both in ONE body to God through the cross (2:16).
• Both have access in ONE Spirit to the Father (2:18).
• Those who were once far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ and made into ONE new man (2:15). So the unity of the Jew and Gentile was answered in the message of oneness proclaimed by the apostles – the gospel of Christ.
• In other words, the uniqueness of Christ—the fact that there is only one Christ, and only one God, and only one faith—is the foundation for mission outside the church and the foundation of unity inside the church.
2. If there were many true gods, and many Saviors, and many valid faiths, and many baptismal entrances into many genuine bodies of redeemed people, there would be little need for gospel preaching or the mission of God’s people to make disciples of the whole world. Satan’s ploy of redefining humility and truth pay enormous dividends for him.
3. Paul preached oneness to the Gentiles – it was the heart of his message. Acts 17:23-31 – Therefore, the One whom you worship without knowing, Him I proclaim to you: 24 God, who made the world and everything in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands. 25 Nor is He worshiped with men’s hands, as though He needed anything, since He gives to all life, breath, and all things. 26 And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings, 27 so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; 28 for in Him we live and move and have our being, as also some of your own poets have said, ‘For we are also His offspring.’ 29 Therefore, since we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, something shaped by art and man’s devising. 30 Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent, 31 because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man Whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead.” There were not many ways to God; not many paths to the same destination. Truth is one, not many.
• Romans 10:12-15 – 12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him. 13 For “whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” 14 How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? 15 And how shall they preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace, Who bring glad tidings of good things!”
• Since there is one Lord among all the religions of the world, we should be diligent to spread the news to Muslims and Hindus and Buddhists and tribal religions and atheists. They can be united in Christ alone.
C. John 14:6 – 6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me. Do you understand that this is truth, no matter what men may do or say? If it is truth, then it is the basis for true unity. To the world today this statement of Jesus is viewed as intolerant, divisive or even hateful. But if it is true, then believing it is not arrogant or intolerant. It is the humble submission to reality. And it is not hateful, but loving because the world must know it.
1. If it is true, then those who teach it cannot be dismissed as ignorant or irrelevant. I may be ignorant of many things, but if I know this, I can be saved. If I do not, I cannot.
We must believe in the oneness of the message of God. There is one God, One Lord in all the universe whom all humans must deal with, and that this Lord is the God-Man Jesus Christ who lived and died and rose once for all 2,000 years ago in Palestine; and knowing, trusting and obeying him alone is the only way to escape the just judgment of God in hell.
But we must believe it with our eyes wide open. This is not a popular position, and will be more unpopular as time goes on. I pray earnestly, not so much for myself, but for my grandchildren. It may be that they will be called to walk their walk from within prison walls, contemplating their own death, because they believe there is: one body and one Spirit one hope; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.