Friday, May 1, 2009

Living Out Redemption Part One: Lying v. Truth

Scripture Introduction:
As you have probably guessed we will be continuing in our study of Ephesians this evening. In case you have missed a few weeks or you are just tuning in let’s get you up to speed. The first 3 chapters of Ephesians tell the story of God redeeming broken people and a broken world. The last 3 chapters, which we will be looking at in the coming weeks, tell us how to live as redeemed people in a redeemed community.
Ultimately, Ephesians is about the mission of God to “unite all things in Christ”. It is the mission of God to restore broken relationships. And once you have been rescued out of the kingdom of rebellion and transferred into the kingdom of redemption you are called to live in such a way that accurately paints a picture of what God has done. But we know from personal experience and from God’s Word to us, that the story is not finished. Just because you are rescued does not mean that you are fully redeemed quite yet. We still live in the midst of brokenness.
Nobody really wants to live lives of brokenness. We were created with a deep desire for joy. We prefer joy over sorrow. We prefer peace over disunity. We prefer love over apathy. We prefer life over death. So, in the midst of brokenness where sorrow is easier than joy, disunity more common than peace, apathy more likely than love, and death seeming to preside over life, how do we live redeemed rather than broken?
Remember last week when we looked at the spiral of rebellion and the spiral of redemption. The answer to our question is found here. It’s a simple answer but it’s hard to live out. The answer to living lives of redemption instead of lives of brokenness is to live on this spiral and not the other one. This week we will make practical what we talked about last week. But I want you to know at the outset what is at stake; living lives of brokenness and rebellion or living lives of joy and redemption.
Sermon Introduction:
This text is really simple to explain. It’s a list of don’t do this—do that—and here’s why. It’s pretty easy but as we look at these things and try to live them we find that it is very difficult. Furthermore, there can be people that never tell a lie, speak the truth, always watch their tongue, never steal, and give everything they have to the poor, and still wind up in hell. As we look at this text we have to be really careful not to read them through the lens of religion. But we also have to be careful not to read them divorced from the gospel as if we have not been changed and as if these things are impossible. This text is not saying—here’s how you should live, I know you won’t, it’s best not to try, just have faith in Jesus. This text is meant to be obeyed and it can be obeyed through the power of the gospel in our lives.
So, before we begin looking at these specific things like lying and anger and speech let’s consider the truth that is empowering these directives. At the very beginning of verse 25 you see the word “therefore”. You have heard me say it before but when you see a “therefore” you need to ask what is it there for? Look back; try to find the last big statement he made. We find that in verse 20-24 where Paul has just contrasted the life of an unbeliever and now in verse 20 he says, “BUT…that’s not what Jesus is doing in your life”. So, the “therefore” in verse 25 looks back to what God is doing in our life.
Look at verse 22, “put off your old self” and its partner in verse 24, “put on the new self”. We have heard this language before when we studied in Colossians 3. There he says, “…put to death what is earthly in you” and “put on all of these various virtues”. But something interesting is found in Colossians 3:3, “For you have died” or even prior to that in 2:11 it talks about Christ, “putting off the body of the flesh”. And some people have really tripped over Colossians 3:3 and Colossians 3:5. In Colossians 3:3 Paul says that “you have died”. Then in verse 5 he says, “put to death”. It is active in voice meaning it is to be something that we do. It is also to be a settled attitude. How can it be then that it is something that Christ has already done and now it is something that we must do?
I think that is pretty obvious actually. Notice the word “therefore” in verse 5 of Colossians 3. That tells me that the grounds or the motivation for our action in verse 5 comes from what just happened in verse 1-4; namely the work of Christ. It is as if Paul is saying “the old man is dead, now put him in the morgue so that he doesn’t stink up the joint”.
If you kept a corpse in your house even though it is dead it can do considerable damage. Honestly though I think Paul is talking about something a little more active than simply scrubbing your floors and getting the dead man out of your house. It seems from experience and other places in Scripture that sin is something that is active that we must keep away and put away. But I think this work is a duel work. It is cleaning up the dead man in your house and it is also keeping evil out of your house. So that it is both active and dead in two senses of the word.
Perhaps another way to look at it would be to consider habits. Earlier I spoke of Jesus rescuing us out of the kingdom of rebellion and putting is into the kingdom of redemption. Picture it like moving from one city to another.
Think of the Beverly Hillbillies. The entire show is based on the difficulty of moving from one kingdom to another. Jed, Granny, Jethro, Ellie May are country folk. They eat opossum innerds, crow belly, grits, and hog jowls. When Jed is shootin’ for some food and up from the ground comes a bubblin’ crude his life is immediately transformed. He now moves to Beverly Hills as a multimillionaire living in a mansion. The very first episode shows our point beautifully. When introduced to their mansion they think it’s a big prison. So, they say to Mr. Drysdale, their banker, “you tricked us Mr. Drysdale”. And the credits start rolling as you see Jed, Granny, and the rest jumping over the bushes to escape “prison”.
All throughout the series the big joke is that even though they live in Beverly Hills they are still Hillbillies. Old habits die hard. They have been placed in a new environment but their character is not yet fully formed to match their new environment. It is the same way with the gospel. Old habits die hard. Yes, we have been placed in the kingdom of redemption but we still sometimes go back to living like we are in the kingdom of rebellion. So, what Paul is saying to us in this text is essentially this: continue to be transformed by the gospel and stop going back to where you came from.
This is what we are going to do tonight and probably next week. We will look at these directives one at a time and consider three things about each one of them. I have no idea how far we will get on these tonight or even if we will finish next week. With each one, though, we will consider idolatry, community, and the gospel; for instance on the first directive we will look at lying and idolatry, lying and community, and lying and the gospel.
I. Lying v. Truth
I really appreciate the way that Paul writes these directives. In almost every one of these directives it will follow a pattern; Paul will tell us the negative, make it positive, and then give a motivation. So, here in our text he says, “put away falsehood”, that’s the negative. Then he says, “let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor”, that’s the positive. So, not only are we supposed to merely stop lying but we are to actively engage in truth telling. Then he says, “for we are members one of another”, that’s the motivation. You are to stop lying, engage in truth telling, and do so because of the unity that Christ has purchased for you. Sounds easy, so why do we not live it?
Lying and Idolatry
First, we really need to understand what is going on here. What exactly is meant by “put away falsehood”? It’s really simple what it means: “don’t lie”. We complicate it though by the way we rationalize sin. Is it really lying to not tell my friend that her prom dress is not flattering? Is it really a lie if I do it to help somebody? What if I lie to avoid hurting someone’s feelings? What if I have to lie so as not to be a bad witness for Christ?
We are so good at rationalizing this sin that we have developed categories. If you go to Wikipedia you will find 15 different types of lies.
· Fabrication—when you kind of B.S. your way through something.
· A bold-faced lie is one where everybody including you know that you are a full of it.
· Lying by omission—telling the truth but leaving out a very important piece.
· Lie-to-children—saying something in euphemism to keep someone’s purity
· White-lie—“no that pimple is barely noticeable”
· Noble lie---helping an elite maintain power.
· Emergency lie---in an extreme case such as lying to protect a wife hiding from her deranged husband
· Perjury—lying under oath. “That depends on what ‘is’ is.” “I have never knowingly took steroids says a beefy Barry Bonds.”
· Bluffing---“look at my face, can’t you tell by this that I’m holding 3 Aces”.
· Misleading/Dissembling---filling out a reference for a lazy worker. You’ll be lucky to get him to work for you.
· Exaggeration---The fish I caught was THIS big
· Teasing lies—lies meant in jest and understood by everyone that you are lying.
· Contextual lies—“stating part of the truth out of context”
· Puffery—“JC Penney’s biggest sale of the year”
· Lying in Trade—“putting brand new on a refurbished system”
Now some of these do offer moral difficulties. Is it really a lie to tell a little kid—“the stork brought you” rather than explaining every aspect of childbirth? Is it really a lie to protect a battered wife from her deranged husband? Are white lie’s really that bad? I really like the way that John Piper sums it up when he says, “it is possible to be a person who fears the Lord, walks by faith, and yet feel constrained in extreme, life-threatening situations to oppose evil by lying intentionally.”
Piper does a great job of putting these questions in perspective in this sermon. He says, “yes it’s possible to still love Jesus and feel the need to lie intentionally oppose evil.” But let’s be real 99% of our lie’s do not fall into this category. Yes, there are times in the Bible when someone lied for the cause of truth—but look at the overwhelming number of times the Bible says that God hates lying. The issue here is the heart. Why do we lie? Jesus says we lie because of our hearts.
“For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks…what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander.”
I think we can see this clearly if we consider some of the reasons why we lie. As I considered the reasons why I tell lies here is what I came up with—maybe you should add some:
· To impress people—whatever I like about myself and whatever I think I need to exaggerate about myself to cause you to like me and have a positive view of me. Whether I lie about how much I can bench press, my skills at computer programming, my knowledge of an iPhone, the number of people I’ve dated, the grade I got on a test score, the funny thing I said (but really only said in my head). I lie because I want to impress you.
· To escape consequences—probably the most frequent reason we lie is to save our tails. You see this in little children very much, but only because they aren’t as good as us at hiding it. If we think we are going to get in trouble for it we will craft really big stories to get out of it. One of my beauties when I was 9 was that a really loud sonic boom shook our house and caused the tiles to come down. NOT that my cousin and I were swinging from a rod that apparently held that side of the ceiling up. It was Adlai Stevenson that said, “Lying is an abomination to the Lord and a very present help in times of trouble”.
· To keep peace—this is very often the reason for our silence. Even while preparing this message I was struggling with whether or not to confront someone’s statement on Facebook. I decided not to, still not sure if that was a good decision, and my big reason I know was to keep the peace. This is the same reason why I am sometimes silent in sharing the gospel—I want to keep peace. It’s also sometimes why I tell a lie rather than a truth when somebody asks me a very serious question. I lie and tell them what they want to hear rather than the truth.
· Malicious slander—when I am sinned against I can be tempted to slander. I can be responsible for telling a lie or spreading a lie about someone that I do not like. I do this because for revenge sometimes, but sometimes I do it to make myself look better, to build a falsely close relationship with someone else, or just because it seems fun.
· Denial—if lies continue to go unchecked eventually they spiral down into a calloused denial. It gets so bad that I really do not even know that I am lying. I even believe my own lie. I think it’s truth but it’s not. So, I live in flat out denial.
· Callous habits—eventually I develop the habit of lying rather than the habit of telling the truth. It’s usually not those big lies but those little white lies. Those lies that are just cutting the corner and only leaving out a few details. This might seem like I’m splitting hairs and maybe it is. But what about this one, “How are you doing today”? “I’m doing great” you reply. Or “what’s up?” “Nothing much”, you reply. Even though you aren’t doing good today or there is quite a bit that’s “up” today. We get into patterns of surface relationships, surface conversations, and before we know it a good portion of our world is revolving around a lie.
But what is really going on here? Why do I have a desire to impress people? What in my heart makes it move towards malicious slander rather than grace and forgiveness? Why am I so afraid of consequences, or broken relationships, or displeasing people? It is helpful to know that what is really take place here is idolatry.
When Jesus confronted the Pharisees he had some pretty sharp words for them. On one such occasion he said this, “You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and has nothing to do with the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.”
It is interesting to notice the context of this. They are arguing about who is Abraham’s child. Jesus acknowledge that they are physically Abraham’s children but they are not spiritual children of Abraham. Abraham believed God. They don’t. Therefore, they are more in line with Satan than with God. And here is the really interesting part. Why are they rejecting Jesus? Why are they believing and spreading a lie? Listen to what Jesus says, “Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot bear to hear my word.” And that is when he starts talking about their father the devil.
The only way Satan can be the father of lies is by knowing the truth so well. What separates the devil from truth is not information but a happy embracing of the truth. It is the same way with us. Lying is not a problem of information. It is a problem of knowing the truth but not liking it. Lying is an attempt to change reality; and that is to believe the age old lie that we are the center of reality, we are self-sufficient, and that we are in control.
Let’s think about lying to impress people. What is taking place here? First of all, I am saying that acceptance and approval by another person is more important to me than obedience to God. I am exalting man to the place of God. Again that is idolatry. But really who am I exalting above God? Myself. I am weighing the pleasure of looking good to someone else and saying that I like that better than being obedient to God. That is rebellion.
Secondly, when I have to lie about who I am what does that say about where my identity is wrapped up? God created us to be dependent on Him as worshippers that are living to enjoy His glory. When I lie to impress people I am admitting (at least to myself) that I am not exactly who I want to be. But rather than trying to live out who God created me to be as a dependent worshipper I try to create my own identity. In essence what I am saying is God I can create a better me than you can.
Again at the center of each of this is idolatry. Lying is an attempt to change reality. How much more idolatrous can you can get than to stare reality in the face and attempt to reconstruct a reality of our own making? So, anytime we are lying we are going back to living like the old man.
I think John Piper says it well when he says, “…when Paul says that the old nature is corrupt, he means (among other things) that the old nature is a liar. And this means, then, that the corruption of lying comes from the desires of deceit. Very simply this means that the reason we lie is because we have desires that we shouldn't have, and the reason we have them is because we are deceived about what is truly desirable.”
You will notice in our text that it says we are “members of one another”. Of all the things Paul could have mentioned as a motivator for telling the truth he says, “speak the truth to one another because we are members one of another”.
It’s really easy to see what he is saying here. What would happen if your brain started lying to your body? Why is it that you could close your eyes and still drink a cup of water without spilling it in your lap? Our brain has an amazing way of knowing our body position even without the ability to see. But sometimes that can get messed up. Let’s do an experiment. Everyone stand up. Close your eyes and follow these directions exactly.
Close your eyes and raise both hands above your head. Keep the fingers of your left hand totally still (no wiggling!).
Touch the tip of your right index finger to the tip of your nose, then quickly use the same finger to try to touch the tip of your left thumb. Keep your left hand still. Even if you "miss," go on quickly to the next step.
Again touch your right index finger to the tip of your nose and immediately use the same finger to try to touch the tip of your left index finger.
Repeat the process three more times, each time trying to touch a different finger on your left hand. Keep track of how many times you succeed in touching the tip of the correct finger. How successful were you at finding each fingertip? Did your performance improve with time?
Now repeat the activity, but this time gently wiggle the fingers of the hand you hold in the air. Are you more successful in touching the designated fingertip?
Now let’s consider this in light of being members of the body of Christ. Even though we are saved and even though we know Jesus we still have remaining sin in us. And because of this remaining sin we still have pockets of spiritual blindness. This is why we must not only stop lying to one another but also we must speak the truth. We need people to “wiggle our fingers” so that our brain knows where they are.
When we flat out lie to one another it would be like having a disorder where you have a brain body disconnect. If the brain started lying to the hand and told it that its mouth was its eye then when you tried eating spaghetti you would wind up with an eye poked out and noodles on your face. When we refuse to speak the truth we get our little hand experiment, people are blind to the truth and because of that growth does not take place like it should.
It is really sad but I think what Scott Peck has said is painfully true. Peck says
“God designed us to yearn for open, honest, authentic relationships - he calls them "Communal Relationships." But because we choose peace-keeping over truth telling, we end up in "Pseudocommunal" relationships instead. The result is marriages, families and friendships that are strictly surface level. No one ever says anything "unsafe." They never discuss misunderstandings or reveal their hurt feelings or air their frustrations or ask those difficult questions. The underlying commitment is "Don't rock the boat. Don't disturb the peace."
And you get peace all right. But it's a counterfeit peace! Misunderstandings arise, but they're never resolved. Feelings beg to be shared, but they're not. Offenses occur, but nobody talks about them. Doubts about the other's integrity creep in, but they're never dealt with. In time such relationships are destined to deteriorate. The secret agendas of hurt and misunderstanding lead to detachment, distrust and finally deep bitterness. Feelings of love begin to die. It's the story of too many marriages, family relationships and friendships. “
Let’s consider here again those little white-lies that we tell. Last night because of sermon preparation I was especially aware of lying. The Beverly Hillbillies were on and because I knew I was going to use them as an illustration I decided to watch. Little did I know they would provide a second illustration.
In this particular instance there is an old guy from the hills named Shorty. Apparently Shorty was quite the womanizer. When he came to Beverly Hills to visit the Clampett’s he just went crazy with all of the pretty girls out there. To try to get him to settle down Jed suggest he find him a girl from the hills, settle down, and go back home. Well, he decides that he wants to try to marry Ellie Mae—Jed’s daughter.
This doesn’t set to well with Jed so he decides to play a little trick on Shorty to get him to leave. Shorty had left a letter under Ellie’s door. Well, Jed told him that he was happy that Shorty would be in the family. He was excited that Shorty was going to marry Granny. Well, the truth is Jed had found the letter…Ellie never saw it, nor did Granny. But still Shorty decides to pack his bags and head back to the hills.
Come to find out though he never actually went back. He was afraid that Granny would have flown back to Silver Dollar City to meet up with him. So, he had been living in the Clampett’s root cellar for over a month.
So, Jed lied to Shorty but it was for his good and for Granny’s good…right? As I was watching this episode I realized that this very same thing is what we do frequently in the church. Rather than actually speaking the truth into someone’s life we either shut up altogether or try to candy coat things and beat around the bush. It would have been harder but what Jed should have done was taken Shorty aside and said listen man, your womanizing is causing me some concern. I don’t want you going after my daughter after all you’re like 50 something and not the type of guy I want my daughter to marry. This would have been the hard road but this is the type of thing we are to do. This is what Paul is talking about in this text.
Speak the truth into people’s lives. I absolutely love what Paul Tripp says about this. “I need you in order to really see and know myself. Otherwise, I will listen to my own arguments, believe my own lies, and buy into my own delusions. My self-perception is as accurate as a carnival mirror. If I am going to see myself clearly, I need you to hold the mirror of God’s Word in front of me.”
If we are going to have lying rooted out of our lives and if we are going to be bold enough to speak the truth into other people’s lives then it will only come through the gospel. We have to understand that our struggle with lying is a struggle with idolatry. And our struggle with idolatry is foundationally a struggle with the heart. Fix the heart you fix the idolatry, fix the idolatry, you fix the lying.
The reason we lie is not the specific situations that we are in. It is not that we can sit back and blame a situation or a person and say that we were put a position where we had to lie. The truth is that I determined to lie long before I was even put in that situation. Unless the lying heart is cured lying actions will not be deeply transformed.
It is crucial that we understand this point. Our culture, and even the church, is a band-aid and medication type of culture. For about 6 months I have had a toothache. It is getting progressively worse because I have a cavity that I need to get dealt with. But the way that I have been dealing with it for quite some time is often the way we deal with problems in our life. Rather than going to the dentist I have been taking aspirin, Tylenol, Ora-jel, and sometime seven Sinus medication. One night I even went so far as to chew on cloves because I read of a home remedy that was supposed to cure the pain.
What I am doing with my tooth is only trying to cure the pain. The cavity is always there but sometimes it will go weeks without hurting. I only notice it when it hurts. And when it hurts I do things to get the pain to go away. We do the same thing with sin in our lives. We do everything we can to get the pain to go away. We start a bible study. We pray more. We share our faith. We read a Christian book. We come to church. We try to ignore it. We run away from Jesus. We try to numb our conscience. We do all of these things trying to get the pain to go away.
Only God has the power to overcome our lying heart and replace it with a heart that is passionate about the truth. This is what happens in the gospel. Through his death and resurrection Jesus conquers the power of sin in our life. But he does not leave us there. He transfers us into His kingdom and gives us His Spirit to do work on our heart. He comes in and changes our heart.
But remember the imagery that we had a few weeks ago? It’s the same thing here. With each temptation to lie Jesus is asking the question do you believe me enough to not lie and to embrace truth? With each time that we are tempted to be silent when we should speak truth into someone’s life, Jesus is asking us whether we believe Him enough to forsake fear and speak truth.
If sin is the problem repentance is the only cure. I really appreciate what Paul Tripp says here, speaking of living with moment by moment faith and repentance. “Faith keeps us laying hold of the grace and mercy of Christ and thereby avoiding despair. Repentance keeps us facing our ongoing struggle with sin and thereby avoiding pride…Faith is another way of saying, ‘seeing Christ’s glory and grace and turning to him.’ Repentance is another way of saying, ‘admitting and turning from sin.’ They are two sides of the same coin, and both are essential for the Christian life.
Perhaps you are here tonight and you do not know Jesus. You are living the biggest lie there is.

Believers get with the truth.

What Does a Christian Look Like?

What Does a Christian Look Like?
Ephesians 4:17-24
Living in Rebellion or Redemption
Scripture Introduction:
We will be continuing our study of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians this evening. Remember where we have been thus far. As we studied Ephesians 1-3 we saw the mighty work of God in redeeming broken people and a broken world. In Chapter 4 we have noted the change that takes place. Chapter’s 1-3 were about God’s action on our behalf and 4-6 will be our response. 4:1 is the key verse here, “walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called”. In other words, live out what God has done on your behalf in saving and redeeming you. Or to put that another way even still—look like a believer.
But, what does a Christian look like? If you were able to analyze a house full of people for a month how could you tell who was a believer and who was not? Ultimately the truth is none of us can tell, that is why it will be God that stands as the Judge of the universe and not us. But the Bible does hint at the reality of people being able to tell whether you are a believer or not by the way you live your life. So, what does a Christian look like?
We know, hopefully, that it has nothing to do with appearance. Yes, Jesus loves people with mullets and combover’s. He even loves people that are still rockin’ 80’s hair. Jesus loves people that could be on the cover of GQ and he loves people that could be on the cover of Revolver. The number of tattoos or the position of your body piercings has little to do with determining whether or not you are a believer. The children’s song is indeed true, “red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in his sight”. You cannot tell a believer from an unbeliever by the color of their skin or their gender. You cannot tell if a person knows Jesus by their level of attraction. It’s not as if Jesus only loves pretty people or as if he only has a heart for those that have faces only a mother could love, no their faces do not disqualify them from the love of Jesus.
So, analyzing a house full of people we could not tell who was a believer by their appearance, but what about their activities. What if one guy was reading his Bible all week while another guy was listening to his iPod? What if one guy prays three times a day and another girl, rather than praying three times spends hours a day in front of a mirror applying makeup and brushing her hair?
What about visible sins? What if we catch one guy watching a porn flick, one girl that is constantly cursing, a man that’s rude, a woman that flies off the handle in anger, an obvious homosexual man, a flirtatious woman…can we automatically dismiss these people as unbelievers? And what about those people that are very upstanding and good moral people? Can we immediately assume that they are believers?
What does a Christian look like? That is what we will consider tonight from Ephesians 4:17-24.
Sermon Introduction:
One of the really neat things about Ephesians is that we can read of their conversion. Now, keep in mind that Ephesians probably is a circular letter, but their environment and conversion will still resemble that of many of their neighboring cities. We can read about their story in Acts 19. After coming to Ephesus Paul found a group of Jewish people that had followed John the Baptist. They quickly came to know Jesus and received the Spirit of God. Then we read a really interesting story in Acts 19:11-20. Apparently there were some Jewish exorcists living in the city. They had heard of what Paul’s ministry and the miracles that accompanied him in the name of Jesus. So, these Jewish exorcists, decided to evoke the name of Jesus. I love this story. When they speak to the demons, the demons respond, “we know Jesus, we recognize Paul, but who are you?” And at this they really laid into these exorcists and the Bible says they fled out of that place “naked and wounded”. This caused quite a bit of a stir and from this many Ephesians came to know Jesus. Their response was to take all of their magical scrolls and burn them in the city. This was a massive bonfire—we know this because someone calculated how much was thrown in the fire. 150 people’s wages for an entire year is the value of that which was burnt. So, this was a massive book burning.
Shortly thereafter a riot ensued in Ephesus. The reason for the right was that many of the men who made idols were ticked off because they were not getting any business. The gospel had so spread and the new believers were forsaking idols to worship Jesus—so these craftsmen came together to put together a plan. It’s worth noting what they feared, “And you see and hear that not only in Ephesus but in almost all of Asia this Paul has persuaded and turned away a great many people, saying that gods made with hands are not gods. And there is danger not only that this trade of ours may come into disrepute but also that the temple of the great Artemis may be counted as nothing, and that she may even be deposed from her magnificence, she whom all Asia and the world worship”.
Who is this Artemis? She was worshipped as the great mother goddess. “As mother goddess Artemis possessed fertility and reproductive power that caused the earth to blossom with life of all kinds. She was the goddess of childbirth and a nourishing mother to all. Animals and wildlife were also a part of her domain and under her control.”
Her temple in Ephesus is known as one of the seven wonders of the world, and the worshipers of Artemis, “regarded her as supreme among all the gods and goddesses. They honored her as ‘first among thrones’, ‘savior’, ‘Lord’, ‘Queen of the World’, and ‘the heavenly goddess’. All of this talk of idolatry will seem strange to us because we do not live in a culture that necessarily bows to statues or has temples created to worship gods that we hope will help it to rain. Our gods are more subtle. We will consider that in a moment but for now let’s try to get in the mind of a first century pagan Ephesian.
Where does idolatry come from? Well, idolatry comes from rejecting the living God and what he defines as good. The Ephesian’s idolatry is the outgrowth of thousands of years of human rejection of God. As Christopher Wright helps us see, “At the root, then, of all idolatry is human rejection of the Godness of God and the finality of God’s moral authority. The fruit of that basic rebellion is to be seen in many other ways in which idolatry blurs the distinction between God and creation, to the detriment of both.”
God created us to be worshippers. When we reject the living God we will worship something else. This is what is happening in Ephesus with the temple to Artemis. Even if we reject God we still have the same needs that must be met. We still have the same types of desires for beauty and majesty and glory. We reject the beauty, majesty, and glory of God so we try to recreate it with false gods. We still have desires for healthy children, bountiful crops, good wine, etc. So, we construct a god in the hopes that they can do something for us.
Once more I turn to Christopher Wright, “Having alienated ourselves from the living God our Creator, we have a tendency to worship whatever makes us tremble with awe as we feel our tiny insignificance in comparison with the great magnitudes that surround us. We seek to placate and ward off whatever makes us vulnerable and afraid. We then counter our fears by investing inordinate and idolatrous trust in whatever we think will give us the ultimate security we crave. And we struggle to manipulate and persuade whatever we believe will provide all our basic needs and enable us to prosper on the planet.”
We will return to this in a moment but I must say that we have to be careful not to think that these people are stupid. We are just as idolatrous if not more—our idolatry is just prettied up and seems more grounded in truth. Rather than bowing to a little marble statue with the hopes of being blessed we spend all of our time and energy into creating a persona for ourselves in the hopes of being blessed. Rather than going to a temple and worshipping a god to keep him from getting angry and hoping he will cause it to rain we buy health care, spend ridiculous amounts of money on military, we purchase guns, home security systems, self-help books, herbal teas, face creams, the list goes on and on. We too are prone to idolatry.
We learn from Scripture that idolatry has a spiraling effect upon its worshippers. You become like what you worship. In Psalm 115 we read of the foolishness of idolatry. They look like people but they aren’t. And this is what happens with worshippers they become like their idols, “Those who make them will be like them, and so will all who trust in them.” We see this downward spiral in full force in Romans 1:18-32. It starts with a refusal to worship the living God, it spirals downward into debased thinking (I mean how messed up do you have to be to worship something you created), it then finds root in your heart you become hardened so that you trade the living God for a lie, and with this you are given up to ridiculous passions and it effects the way that you live. As Romans 1 closes we see the immorality and sin spiraling out of control in such a way that rather than being on a mission to make the glory of God spread to the nations they are on a mission to make sin spread to the nations.
It is in such a context that the gospel reaches Ephesus. With all of their God-hating, Artemis worshipping beliefs the gospel penetrates hearts and people get changed. They stop buying these little magical charms and begin growing in trust of God. This is what ticks off the silversmith that makes his living making idols. The gospel has struck in Ephesus.
Let’s consider now what Paul is saying in our text for this evening. Earlier he exhorted the Ephesians to walk in a manner worthy of what God has done. Well, what does that look like? It looks like unity as we have seen the last couple of weeks. But it also looks like walking in a changed life. Let’s go back to our opening illustration. If you were watching a house full of people for a month how could you tell who was a believer and who was not?
Let’s look at this with two spirals, because I think this is in essence what Paul is saying here. The first spiral that we will consider is the unbelieving idolatrous spiral. The second spiral that we will consider is the gospel-redeemed spiral. Every one of us at one time or another has been on the first spiral. Only believers are on the second spiral.
Not to get side-tracked but looking at it this way really helps to understand a couple of things. First, have you ever wondered why some lost people seem like better people that some believers? I mean I have known some believers that you know really did love Jesus but man they really act lost some times. And I know some unbelievers that are turned off to the gospel that have better morals and integrity than I do? Why is that? It is that way because the believer was quite a way down the spiral and is by God’s grace moving upwards and becoming more like Jesus. The unbeliever, by God’s common grace, has not spiraled very far down as of yet. Therefore, even though he is lost he might seem to look more like Jesus than a follower of Jesus. So let’s take a look at these spirals.
I. The spiral of rebellion

A. Fighting the Gospel
Paul begins this section of Scripture by encouraging the believers in Ephesus (who are Gentiles) to no longer walk as the Gentiles do (that is unbelieving Gentiles). He then discusses the way of life for the unbeliever—this is what we have called our spiral of rebellion. He has already described this way of living in chapter 2:1-3. There we saw that rebellious man is spiritually dead; enslaved to sinful society, self, and Satan; and under the wrath of God. This way of living is marked by rebellion and a rejection of God. And what happens when we reject God? We go down this unbelieving idolatrous spiral that kills or humanity and eventually will leave us separated from all that is good.
Here in our text we see three ways that Paul describes their fighting of the gospel.
1. Living in the futility of idolatry: Denying Life
The first thing that Paul says is that Gentiles live in the futility of their minds. The word “futile” means empty and is characterized by pointlessness. I love what Peter O’Brien says about the futility that comes from God rejection, “Because it lacks a true relationship with God, Gentile thinking suffers from the consequences of having lost touch with reality and is left fumbling with [silly] [unimportant things] and worthless side issues.” In other words because they have rejected the source of life they are now left groping for anything to give them meaning.
But remember Paul’s point here is not to say look at those crazy unbelievers, laugh at them, pat ourselves on the back for being believers and thank God for saving us. His point is to say do not live like that anymore. So, how might we live in futility? Anytime we too are fumbling with silly unimportant things and worthless side issues we are rejecting the gospel and living lives of idolatry rather than dependence on Christ. What might these be in your life?
2. Living like the lights are out: Denying Truth
The second thing Paul says is that Gentiles are “darkened in their understanding”. They are living as if the lights are out. You know what that is like to be in a place that is darkened. Nothing looks as it really is and you are left feeling around trying to find some light and you are left totally disoriented. This is a perfect description of the mindset of an unbeliever. Whenever we deny truth we have nothing left but a lie. When the gospel comes into our hearts the light comes on. Only through the gospel can we perceive the world the way it really is.
It never ceases to amaze me how believers (self included) can be duped into thinking like the lights are out. It is so easy to revert back to the old way of thinking. In Ephesus they would be tempted to trust in gods like Artemis to help them have healthy babies or good crops. At root though what are they doing? They are trusting in a god of their own creation and with their own set of rules. If I do this then my god will do this. Now we might call our god Yahweh or Jesus, or define Him as the biblical God, but when it does not match up with how the living God has revealed Himself then we too are guilty of bowing to a false god; we just stole the name of the real one and gave it to our fake god.
This is a call then to think of God as He really is and to submit to him and to reality as he defines it instead of reality as we want to define it. This could be an entire sermon on this point. For now I want to sum it up with a question. Do you pattern your life out of the God of the Bible instead of the god of your own making? And let me say this simply—not as a way of gaining favor with God—but as a way of knowing God. If you are not reading your Bibles and giving yourselves to knowing this God then your life will be lived by a reality of your own making and not the truth as it really is in Jesus.
3. Living without God: Denying Lordship
The third thing Paul says is that Gentiles are alienated from the life of God. When we fight against the God of the gospel we ultimately alienate ourselves from the life of God. This is, as we will see in a moment, where this downward spiral causes us to lose our humanity. We were created to be in relationship with God. To be alienated from God is to rip us of our humanity at its deepest point. But in this text Paul is urging believers not to live like Gentiles that are alienated from God. So, how would you live like you were alienated from God? You would live with a god of your own making. More often than not you live as if you yourself are god.
We need to sum this point up but I fear that if you are struggling with having an improper view of God you will miss this point entirely. If you view God as a big mean guy that is consistently looking to judge you then you will hear these points and think “I had better get my act together”. You will hear the first point about not living a wasted life and you will think that means you have to be at church 7 days a week, only listen to Christian music, never read magazine; basically become a super spiritual hermit. You will hear the second point about denying truth and you will give yourself to studying who God is. You will analyze, dissect, study doctrine, read your Bible; you will master Christianity and Christian doctrine. And lastly you will do everything you can to help God be in a relationship with you. Because you live under the assumption that he is mad at you and you need to do something to make him happy you will probably give your life to missions, Bible study, prayer, etc. all of this to make your god happy. That’s not the gospel—that is religion.
B. Losing our Humanity
When we reject God and fight the gospel we inevitably lose our humanity. We see this spiraling downward in the latter part of verse 18 and in verse 19. Why are Gentiles living in futility, darkened in understanding, and alienated from God? They are so, because of ignorance that is in them. This is not a lack of information type of ignorance this is as Peter O’Brien describes, “a failure to be grateful and obedient. It describes one’s total stance, and this includes emotions, will, and action, not just one’s mental response.” This ignorance is stubborn rebellion; when you reject truth the only option is ignorance. And why are they ignorant; why this stubborn rebellion? It is because of their hardness of heart; or as it is further defined in verse 19—“callous”.
Christopher Wright sums this up well when he says, “Since idolatry diminishes the glory of God, and since humans are made in the image of God, it follows that idolatry is also detrimental to the very essence of our humanity…To refuse to glorify God, and even worse, to exchange “the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles” is to frustrate the purpose of our very existence. Idolatry is radical self-harm. It is also radically, terribly ironic. In trying to be as God…we have ended up less human. The principle affirmed several places in the Bible that you become like the object of your worship is very apparent. If you worship that which is not God, you reduce the image of God in yourself. If you worship that which is not even human, you reduce your humanity still further”.
This same message is what ran the idol makers out of business in Ephesus. Paul, then, is encouraging the Ephesians not to go back to such a God-rejecting way of living because it will rob them of humanity.
C. Dying in Sin
Notice the humanity killing nature of verse 19, “they have given themselves over”. They have exchanged the image of God for sin. They have decided to long for sin rather than love God. And this is where the downward spiral climaxes. Since they have lost all sensitivity to God they are now free to indulge in all types of sin.
If you are in love with sin then not hearing the convicting voice of God might sound like good news to you. But it is not. We see a hint of this at the end of verse 19, notice how it says, “greedy to practice every kind of impurity”. That means that they are constantly lusting for more sin. What does that tell you? I’m sure you have experienced this with sin in your own life. It does not go away after you indulge in it. It keeps coming back for more. That is why drug addicts very seldom start with hardcore things but they start with weed. Eventually it doesn’t get you high so you have to get harder stuff; same thing with alcohol, same thing with sex. But, it is also the same thing with religion and religious experience. We can just as easily make an idol out of that. Certainly sexual immorality is what is mostly being talked about here but it’s not left at that. It’s “every kind of impurity”. If it goes against God then that’s what is practiced.
II. The gospel-redeemed spiral
Now at this point in our text we see that everything changes. “But that is not the way you learned Christ”. In other words living like a Gentile is not how you were taught to live in Jesus. It’s interesting to note that he says, “learned Christ”. Nowhere else in the Bible or really even in any ancient literature are we told to learn a person. This is not the way you got to know Jesus—nor the way that the body of doctrine that teaches us about Christ is. No, it’s different. And here we see the gospel-redeemed spiral.
We have to be really careful at this point that we not divorce this text from everything that has taken place so far in our study of Ephesians. The hearing of the gospel, the teaching of the gospel, the growing in Jesus, everything has happened because of God. So, this gospel-redeemed spiral is not a self-changing spiral. Never divorce this from the gospel. This stems out of the gospel. But what happens when the gospel takes root in your life. How can you tell a believer from an unbeliever?
A. Fighting of sin
Rather than fighting against the gospel and embracing sin the believer will embrace the gospel and fight sin. I am convinced that there are two main differences between a believer and unbeliever. 1) The believer is a relationship with Jesus in such a way that everything he has is ours and all of our weakness is conquered by his strength. 2) Because of the work of Christ the believer is in a process of battling sin and growing in holiness. The unbeliever does not have a relationship with Jesus and is in a process of battling God and growing in sin (if you can call it growth). The difference between a believer and unbeliever is not the presence or absence of sin. The difference between a believer and unbeliever is the attitude towards sin. The believer is engaged in an everyday battle with sin. Christ has conquered its damning effects and He has conquered its ultimate power. That’s the already; us fully living that out is the not yet. We will spend more time with what “putting off sin” and later “putting on the new self” looks like so we will only look at the principal at this point.
B. Growing in the Gospel
Rather than destroying our humanity we are in the process of returning to who God has created us to be. Look in the Garden of Eden and that is partially where God is taking you. Here in our text it says “renewed in the spirit of your minds”. This “spirit of our minds” is the innermost being. We saw much this same thing in 3:16 where it was called our “inner being”. I will spare you the grammar lesson—but the way that this sentence is structured helps us to see that it is a process. This “being renewed” is not something that is complete it is something that we are in the process of. I take this to mean growing in grace, growing in the gospel, moving up the spiral, moving towards God more, changing from the inside out, growing in holiness and righteousness, looking more like Jesus and less like the world, being fully redeemed by God. This then too is the difference between a believer and unbeliever. The believer is growing. If five years from now you look back on where you were in your relationship with Jesus and you aren’t growing in holiness and in your knowledge of Jesus and in grace and in the gospel, then something is radically wrong. Christians grow.
C. Growing in godliness
We could term this holiness, righteousness, or a whole host of other words. What this text is saying when it talks about putting on the new self is being more like Jesus. This then is the destination of the believer. We are recreated by God and we are being modeled by His character. Again, this “new self” is something we will look at in detail in the coming weeks. I only wanted to show you the principal in this text that will serve us for the coming weeks as we look at the specifics. What does it mean to grow in godliness? Well it means to look more like Jesus. What that means specifically we will be looking at in the coming weeks.
So, what are we to take from all of this? I want to close this with a few points of application.
1) This side of redemption we will continue to struggle with idolatry. We will find ourselves at time drifting back towards the God-rejecting idolatrous spiral. Again I turn to Christopher Wright talking about our need to forsake the idols we cling to, “We invest so much of ourselves in our gods, spend so much on them and blend our identity and significance with theirs that it simply will not do for us to have them unmasked, mocked, or toppled. And yet, of course, topple they must before the living God. For that is the destiny of all human effort that is not for the glory of God or offered to be redeemed by him.” Brothers and sister we must forsake our idols and turn to the living God.
2) This is also a warning to arrogant professors. Those that are claiming to trust in God but not fighting sin, not growing in grace, not growing in holiness. There are many that are on the spiral of idolatry that think they are on the spiral of gospel redemption just because they’ve created a false god and they are doing all of the steps that their false god requires. The gospel does not give you freedom to sin nor does it enslave you to the law. The gospel gives freedom for obedience and breaks the guilt, shame, and condemnation from sinning against God.
3) Looking at the Christian life as a process is an encouragement to struggling believers. Perhaps my favorite quote is by Richard Sibbes, “There is more mercy in Christ than sin in us”. How freeing it is to know that God knows full well that redemption is a process. How freeing it is to know that he remembers our frame. How freeing it is to know that my acceptance by God is through the work of Jesus Christ and not my own. Because of Christ’s work and His mercy I will be redeemed, some day. Someday I will commit my last sin. How refreshing.
4) Lastly, the entire Christian life is one of sweet repentance. Tim Keller gives for us the difference between religious repentance and gospel repentance. Religious repentance is selfish (it only hopes to save from consequences), self-righteous (it tries to pay for sin by personal atonement), and bitter to the end. It is bitter because in religion our only hope is to live a good enough life for God to bless us. Therefore every instance of sin and repentance is traumatic, unnatural, and horribly threatening. This is not so with gospel repentance. Gospel repentance is motivated out of love for God, it rests solely on the work of Christ and His righteousness, and because of that our repentance is not so traumatic. In fact, as Keller says, “the more you see your own flaws and sins, the more precious, electrifying, and amazing God’s grace appears to you.”

Unified or Unstable?

Unified or Unstable?
Ephesians 4:7-16
Walk in Unity: Part Two

Scripture Introduction:
I’m not sure if you are familiar with Wordle or not. Wordle is a graphic representation of the most frequently used words in a certain text. Recently a research professor named Thom Rainer asked people on Twitter this question: “What do you think when you hear Southern Baptist.” Here is the Wordle:

Looking at this Wordle it is pretty clear that those that responded view Southern Baptist’s as legalistic, traditional, and old; concerned with missions and fried chicken. It does not take a religious scholar to figure out that something is wrong with a Christian denomination when people associate fried chicken with you more than they do Jesus. It certainly is not good that legalism is mentioned way more than Jesus.
This got me to thinking. It got me to thinking about what it means to be a Southern Baptist but it also got me to wondering what would a Wordle look like if we asked people what they think when they hear First Baptist Church of New London.
Remember last week at the beginning we asked a couple of important questions: what is the church, what is the fundamental purpose of the church. Nick reminded us that the church is a blood-bought community of redeemed believers for the sake of Christ. Kelsey pointed out that the purpose of the church was to know God and to make him known. Then we kind of expanded on that and looked at answering this question from an Ephesians 3 perspective. We simplified it and said that the fundamental purpose of the church is to be a billboard that proclaims the beauty of God.
So, how are we doing? When people think of FBC New London do they think of the glory of God, the beauty of Christ, the grace of redemption, the power of the Spirit, love that comes from the gospel, etc.? Or would people say legalism, fried chicken, boycott, tradition, and Disney?
Remember where we are at in Ephesians 4. In Ephesians 1-3 Paul has described the mighty work of God in redeeming broken people and a broken world. Ephesians 4-6 is living out, in experience, what God has done in reality. We are to live lives that reflect the mighty work of God on our behalf. Last week we saw that this meant unity. Tonight we will continue that theme but tonight will be looking at unity in the midst of diversity. Tonight we will look at the church working properly as God designed it to work. What happens when the church is not working properly? Well, one of the things is that you look more like the Pharisees than Jesus. If we are to be an accurate billboard then we must heed what God’s Word says to us in Ephesians 4:7-16.
Read Ephesians 4:7-16
Sermon Introduction:
In order to really understand this text and what we will be discussing in this sermon we have to come to the agreement that you will not effectively grow spiritually apart from the body of Christ. This is the assumption behind every word of Paul in this text. These gifted men are given not for individuals but for the church. The ministry God has given to you is to take place within a community of believers. It is not a solo mission. It does not necessarily mean the institutional church or within the Southern Baptist Convention but your ministry needs to take place within a blood-bought local community of redeemed believers.
Now this is the principle behind this message—as the church goes so goes believers. If the community of redeemed believers is fumbling the gospel, barely staying afloat spiritually, and inaccurately portraying the worth of God then you can rest assured that the individual believers will be the exact same. When the church is not accurately living and proclaiming the gospel then the individual believers will be struggling to live out the gospel. As the church goes so goes the believers within that church. Tonight we are going to look ask two questions. What happens when the church is working properly? What happens when the church is broken?
Paul is not dealing so much with a broken church, his message here is positive. He hints to the possibility of a broken church but mostly his message here is positive. Actually this passage is quite difficult. As you study this text there are quite a few questions and problems that arise. Verse 7 is pretty straightforward. In verses 1-6 Paul has been discussing unity within the body. In verse 7 he points out that even though we are unified it is not an absolute uniformity as if everyone has to wear the same color shirt or speak the same way or be exactly the same. I like what John Stott says concerning this:
To show this diversity and the different gifts that Christ gives Paul points to Psalm 68. Psalm 68 is an absolutely beautiful psalm that celebrates God’s victory and protection for his people. It points to the ultimate victory of God and his enthronement as the ultimate King of the universe. But Paul’s quoting of it gives us a problem. The problem is the Paul does not quote it verbatim. If you read Psalm 68 it says, “You ascended on high, leading a host of captives in your train and receiving gifts among men…” If you read Ephesians 4:8 it says, “When he ascended on high he led a host of captives, and he gave gifts to men.” So, you see Psalm 68 says that God receives gifts, whereas in Ephesians 4, it says that God in Christ is the one giving gifts.
For time’s sake I will spare you the different theories as to why Paul seemingly misquotes this Psalm. Let me say upfront that there is no contradiction here and what I think is happening is that Paul is giving the overall meaning of the Psalm and never really intends to quote it verbatim. There are a couple of reasons why he does this. Psalm 68 is a victory hymn that shouts the praises of the conquering King. Jesus is that conquering King. When you conquer in war you get spoils. For instance if you conquer a nation you get its gold. The image here, then, is that in being victorious Christ receives the spoils of war…as a loving general he then divides the spoils of war to his soldiers. Thus, as John Collins says, “the psalm focuses on the conqueror who acquired the spoils from the defeated, while Paul’s adaptation of the truth of the psalm focuses on how that conqueror distributed the spoils to his own.”
Furthermore we can find a connection between this Psalm and Numbers 8 and 18. Listen to Numbers 18:6, “I have taken your brothers, the Levites, from among the people of Israel; to you they are given as a gift for the Lord, to do the service of the tabernacle of the congregation…” So these captives in this text are taken by the Lord and then given back as gifts to serve the congregation. Both of these could explain why Paul seemingly misquotes this Psalm. It is still difficult to understand fully what Paul is saying but I think is overall point is clear. Christ has conquered and in doing so he is distributing gifts as he pleases.
Verse 9 and 10 are needlessly controversial. Some think that what is being said is that Christ’s descended into hell. That is not what this text is saying. Really verse 9 and 10 is pointing back to Ephesians 1:20-23: “that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, 21 far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. 22 And he put all things 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.”
Remember that what God is doing by redeeming broken people and a broken world is spreading His glory to the nations. That is really what this story is about. This is the mission of God. God is on a mission that will climax with his realized universal rule. Peter O’Brien connects this wonderfully when he says, “The building of the body is inextricably linked with his intention of filling the universe with his rule, since the church is his instrument in carrying out his purposes for the cosmos.”
So here is the point of verse 7-10: Christ is the conquering King of Psalm 68 and in this he is giving gifts to his bride—the church. He does this so that the church might grow in love and grow in displaying the beauty of God. It is part of fulfilling the mission of God. But mentioning growth means that we are not perfect yet. So, let’s look first at a church that is broken and then we will look at a church working properly.
I. The unstable church
Skip down to verse 14. Notice that Paul says, “so that we may no longer be…” This implies that until we reach maturity we will have the tendency to be tossed to and fro. We will return to verses 11-13 in just a moment for now let me sum them up. In those verses Paul discusses the gifts that God gives to the body and the purpose for giving them. That purpose is that we might be unified and growing in Jesus: Essentially, it is that we might be what a church ought to be a united community of blood-bought believers for the sake of displaying the beauty of God. But when the church is not functioning properly you see verse 14 happening. Or you will see a community of believers where Fried Chicken is bigger than Jesus.
I submit to you that what happens to any denomination, local church, or individual believer is that somewhere along the way we bought into a lie and it carried us away. It is not the place or the time to discuss where or what this lie might have been for us as Southern Baptists. All we will say for now is that somewhere along the way we bought into a lie. And usually it’s not just one lie it is a host of them and it spirals out of control. Or as Paul says here we get tossed to and fro.
1. Tossed to and fro
What is it that causes us to be tossed to and fro? “…Every wind of doctrine”. In each generation until Jesus comes back there will be new teaching that is really not new teaching that attempts to subvert the gospel. If we are not grounded in Jesus and connected to the body you will be tossed to and fro. You will end up abandoning the biblical gospel. I like what Peter O’Brien says about this, “Unable to come to settled convictions or to evaluate various forms of teaching, they fall an easy prey to every new theological fad.”
Is this not a pretty fitting description of the typical church in America? Fortunately your exposure to this is probably somewhat minimal. But if you want to see what I am talking about pick up a Christian newspaper, look on the internet for what churches are doing to draw people, check out the local Christian bookstore. You will see fad after fad after fad. Recently I took a tour through our local Christian book store, I see How to:
· stay Christian in College
· be a Christian without being religious
· manage your money
· get a date worth keeping
· heal the sick
· save your marriage alone
· argue so your spouse will listen
· And one I maybe need to get “How to preach a sermon”

I see “Church Marketing”, I learn how to Repaint the Christian faith, I finally after all these years discover the Secret Message of Jesus, I can learn how to create “Wow experiences in my church”, the list goes on and on with everyone having an idea of how church should be, what will help you in your Christian life, on and on. I see aisles and aisles of Christian music. I see Christian T-shirts, Christian jewelry, I find Christian board games, Christian movies, everything Christian but sadly I walk out of a store sick to stomach and wondering where Jesus is in a Christian book store.
Now, don’t get me wrong. There are many books, music, all sorts of things that God really does use to lead us closer to Christ. You can look at my bookshelf and see how I live my life—I love to read, I try to read as much as I possibly can. You really will become like those who you spend your time with and shaped by the books that you read. What I am addressing is simply this—do all of these “Christian” things point us to Christ and His sufficiency in all things or do they point us to Christianity. Christianity will never save you, only Christ will.
What has happened is that for years Christians and the Christian church (myself included) have bounced from fad to fad, from program to program, and from technique to technique. And n the midst of all of these fads the gospel is crying out to us, “Jesus is enough”! You do not need a new trick or technique or some new secret. You need the Gospel of Jesus Christ lived out in the body of Christ.
Standing behind all of this fad-driven unstable Christianity are two things that Paul mentions, “human cunning” and “craftiness in deceitful schemes”. This is a reference to wicked men that are wolves in sheep’s clothing. It is also more than likely a reference to the demonic, to Satan, that is constantly roaming the earth attempting to defile the gospel, enslave humanity, and deceiving.
There are many different images we could use for a broken church. Sadly we could scan history and find numerous examples where the church as a whole was inaccurately proclaiming the gospel. Just as we can look at our own lives and see much the same. As we turn now to a church working properly this will help us to not only paint a picture of where we should be but also helps us to perhaps find some of the causes for a broken church.
II. The unified church
So, what is God’s plan for redeeming broken people and a broken world? Through Jesus he makes his glory known, experienced through the gospel, and lived out in the blood-bought community of redeemed believers. We turn back to verses 11-13. Just after Paul discussing Christ giving gifts and filling all things he mentions what these gifts are, or better yet, who these gifts are.
A. Who are the gifts?
It is kind of surprising that Paul does not say he gives some the gift of apostleship. No, he says he gives the apostles. The gift to the body is gifted people who articulate, extend, and preserve the gospel. This leads us to a somewhat controversial question; are the apostles and prophets for today? If you are interested in that question I would suggest going to Sam Storms’ website that you can find on your bulletin and read a couple articles there. For our purpose we will say that in this particular text the type of apostle and prophet that Paul is speaking of is a foundational gift that is no longer in action. We will look at these very quickly.
1. Apostles: An apostle is a “sent one”. The specific reference here is to one that has been specifically called by Christ and seen the risen Lord. As Tom Schreiner notes they “established and governed the whole church, under Jesus Christ, and they had authority to speak and write the words of God, equal in authority to the OT Scriptures.” If it were not for this gift we would know little to nothing about Jesus, we would not have a New Testament, and we would not have any clue about what a biblical church is to look like.
2. Prophets: Just on a side note this one might be a foundational gift and it might not be. I learn towards it being so, but it is possible that it is not. We have seen this “apostles and prophets” before in 2:20 and 3:5. There they were mentioned as what the gospel is founded on and it is clear that the task of the prophets is to proclaim the Word of God. They are indeed subordinate to apostles.
3. Evangelists: Evangelists are those that build on the foundation laid by the apostles and the prophets. This is more than likely a reference to those that preach the gospel in areas where the gospel has never been proclaimed. These would be our modern day missionaries and church planters. There is really little else that we know about this position. It might be an itinerant minister that goes around to various churches but I think that is highly unlikely. More than likely these are people that proclaim the gospel in uncharted territories.
4. Shepherds: It is possible that shepherd and teacher should be combined so that what we are dealing with is a teaching pastor. We will separate them though. The shepherd is the same as overseer in the Bible in other places. This is the man or group of men that God puts in place to watch over and nurture the church. This is the pastor.
5. Teachers: If teachers are meant to be separate it would be a subgroup of the shepherd category. It would be a particular type of pastor that primarily teaches.

B. What do they look like in action?
What then does this look like today? God gives men, and I think this is specifically men, which opens up another topic for another day. God gives gifted men to the body for its being built up. God gives to the body pastors, teachers, church planters, and missionaries. So, does this mean that everyone with the title pastor or teacher or church planter or missionary is a gift from God and one that ought to be treated as such? Well, the ones that are doing their job ought to be honored. The ones that are not are not real shepherds but only what the Bible calls hirelings that are not protecting the sheep but are instead sheep in wolves clothing. So, just because someone has the title it does not mean they fit the biblical category. But the ones that are doing what the Bible calls them to do ought to receive the honor that the Bible calls for. We see three things that these gifted men are called to do.
And our understanding of this text is crucial. For years there was a misunderstanding of these verses and it led to very destructive practices within the church. How did that happen? It happened because of a simple comma. Chris Vogel explains well when he says: “The effect of this simple grammatical mistake was to view [ministry as being] left up to professionals while everyone else came as spectators who listened and left. The pastor was to teach, encourage, maintain the focus on Christ as well as making sure everyone’s needs, both physical and spiritual, were being meet. Christianity became a spectator sport, like football - eleven men down on the field, desperately in need of rest, and 50,000 people up in the stands desperately in need of exercise.”
But that is not what the text says. It says that God gave gifted men to the church so that the entire body would be equipped to do the work of ministry. Look at these three things that these men are supposed to do:
1. Equipping the saints
Notice verse 12. Verse 11 lists the gifted men that are given to the church and then he says why they are given, “to equip the saints for the work of ministry”. The pastor, evangelists, teacher, missionary is sent to the church to equip the people to do the work of ministry. It is not the other way around. My job as a pastor is to equip you to do the work of ministry. But so often what happens is that the minister is thought to be the one that ought to do all of the work of ministry and those who are not “called to the ministry” are supposed to be sure to faithfully attend, give their money, pray for the pastor who does the work, and soak up all the knowledge they can, and if possible try to get someone else to come and watch their minister do some ministry.
What then is the pastor supposed to do? He is supposed to preach and teach in such a way that those that are not pastors will be equipped and faithful in the ministry that God has called them to do. You know what this tells me. It tells me that every believer is uniquely called and gifted by God to do a specific ministry to proclaim the glory of God. If your pastor is not secure enough to equip you to do ministry then he is not doing his job. But in that same vain if you are sinfully sitting on the sidelines it is not the pastor’s fault—it’s yours. A healthy church has everyone engaged in ministry and not just those “on staff”.
2. Building up the church
What happens when pastors are doing what God calls them to do, in equipping the saints; and what happens when the saints respond in active ministry? The church is built up. This certainly points to a growth in size as well as a growth in maturity. This helps us to understand that the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry is meant for building up the church. It is not for our own personal glory stories; it is to build up the body of Christ. What is specifically meant by building up the church is outlined in verse 13 which we will look at now.
3. Leading to maturity
The picture here in verse 13 is wonderful. It has in mind a stated goal and it looks at a group of people working together toward that goal. The picture is not like a group of people separated on a starting line racing to get to a finish line. The picture is more like a large group of people attached by a string shuffling their feet trying to get to the starting line. If anybody falls or gets disconnect the group doesn’t just move on and live them behind it stops picks them up and starts shuffling again.
So what is that goal? In verse 13 it says, “…until we all to the unity of faith and to the knowledge of the son of God.” The first aspect of the goal is unity of faith. Wait a second I though last week we said that this was something that has already been won for us and we are to maintain it. Yes, that is true. But this week it says to attain it? How does that fit together? It is kind of like a savings bond that your parents bought for you when you were born. You cannot touch it until you are 18. It’s already been purchased. But you also have to attain it—meaning it’s not fully yours yet you have to stay alive until you are 18. That is the picture of redemption. God has already done it and we are moving towards the goal of making it fully ours. That is the way with this unity of faith.
The second aspect of the goal is “to attain full knowledge of the son of God”. This “already, not yet” tension is felt in this text as well. Earlier in Ephesians Paul talks as if we already know the son of God, Jesus. But we also know that we will someday know him more fully. What Paul probably has in mind here is a full understanding of the gospel. This is much of what he has prayed earlier in Ephesians 3:16-19. The goal then is that we might be fully united and fully knowing Jesus. Doesn’t this sound familiar? God redeeming broken people and a broken world and part of that redemption is redeeming our relationships with one another. It’s the same thing here. That is the goal that is being spoken of here.
Paul now uses a second picture of what that goal is, “mature man”. This is not to be seen individualistically but that the total community of blood-bought believers would be mature. This is similar to what Paul said in 2:15 about the “one new man”. This is in contrast to the immature child that we will see in verse 14. And this picture of the mature man is more fully defined by the phrase, “to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ”. In other words what it means to be mature is to be like Jesus. That is where God is taking us; Unity with one another, fully knowing Jesus, and being like Jesus.
Let’s look now at these last couple of verses and close this out. Verses 15 and 16 are really summary verses and from this we will find a couple governing principles that will close this out.
· The focus of this passage is on the growth of the body as a whole. Notice such phrase as “the whole body”. This is not denying that the body is made up of individuals, but it is saying that your individual growth is not to be apart from the body. In fact if you are “super-spiritual” and running out in front of the rest of the body you aren’t as “super-spiritual” as you think. To really follow Jesus is to stoop and serve the body. Your “me and Jesus” Christianity does not cut it biblically. Therefore, you must be passionately concerned about the body of Christ both for your own growth and for the love of the Bride. You cannot love Jesus and hate his wife.
· Faithful ministers are gifts to the body treat them as such. Notice in verse 16 where it says, “…joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped”. That is another way of referencing the gifted men that Paul talked about earlier. The growth of the body very much depends on the faithfulness of that body’s gifted minister. Therefore, you need to take care of your pastors.
This is not me selfishly saying that you need to treat me like a gift. But we live in an anti-authority culture that hinders the growth of the body. Your pastors are here for you and you need to honor them. One way you do that is by getting off your rear and allowing them to do what they are called to do biblically—equip you. There are people that God has gifted to help you grow—use them. That why we are here. Encourage them. And you know the greatest way you can encourage a faithful minister of the gospel? Get excited about Jesus and live out the gospel. Our greatest passion, on our better days, is that we as a church might be built up, that Jesus might be honored, and that the gospel might spread to the nations. Live out the gospel and you will be honoring your pastors.
· Jesus is the hero of the church. Verse 15 reminds us that our goal is Jesus and the source of our strength is Jesus. A unified church is radically in love with Jesus and because of that they are unified and they are faithfully ministering together. The level that the church gets the gospel is the level that it will be unified rather than unstable.
In closing let’s look back at that Wordle that we saw earlier. You know one of the reasons why people think of Legalism, Pharisees, Disney, boycott, and fried chicken instead of Jesus when they think of Southern Baptist? Perhaps this is too much of a black and white blanket statement and I sincerely hope it is. But I think in a large part the reason why people think of those things when they think of Southern Baptist is because we have abandoned the biblical gospel and the sufficiency of Christ. Rather than depending upon Jesus to save people we rely on the Purpose Driven Life. Rather than building relationships with people and hoping to share the gospel we make Christianity an “us versus them” type of religion. Rather than trying to redeem our culture we are trying to oppose it and recover our Christian America that was never really Christian in the first place. The reason people think of fried chicken when they think of Southern Baptist is because we are more united in food than in the gospel. Our fellowship is more centered around potato casserole than around broken people helping each other cling to Jesus.
We must recover the gospel. And the beauty of the gospel is that no matter how broken the church is—and no matter how broken her individual members are—Jesus loves her. Jesus radically loves His bride and He will one day make her holy. The beauty of the gospel is that someday we will be mature and we will “grow” and be “built up in love”. Christ’s love. The love of Jesus will rescue His bride.

Walk in Unity

Scripture Introduction:
The verses that we will be reading tonight from Ephesians come to us with a sense of urgency from a man in a dangerous location. Ultimately we know that it is God Himself that is giving us this message. But the messenger he is using is a man that is in prison and he is delivering this message with a sense of urgency. The subject of this text tonight might surprise you—it’s not something that you would really think of as urgent. Honestly, I would expect something different here—but it’s not—and I think Paul says what he says for a reason. What we are going to be talking about tonight is extremely urgent.
Up until this point Paul’s tone has been what we would call indicative; meaning he has been using his teaching voice and not so much his preaching voice. Oh, I think Paul has gotten excited a few times as he is talking about the great work of God but he has really only given one directive (a “do this”) up until now. You see the first three chapters is Paul outlining what God has done in the life of believers—it’s a story of redemption if you will—God is redeeming broken people in a broken world.
To really come to grips with what has been said in the first three chapters it is helpful to view the world as if it is made up of two kingdoms: the kingdom of God and the kingdom of the rebellion. The kingdom of God refers to his rule where he is rightfully acknowledged as in power. This kingdom is being established and someday will be fully established. He is the King and there will be no usurpers to His throne. He has created everything and everything is His by virtue of that fact. He is the King and there is no other.
But there is another kingdom that is attempting to gain control of the world. That is the kingdom of rebellion--the kingdom of darkness. This kingdom is under the wrath of God. This is the losing side. So when we think of these two kingdoms we must not think of them as equals with an equal shot at winning. The rebellious kingdom already has its fate sealed—it’s just awaiting its day. This is the kingdom of rebellious sinners (including Satan the prince of this kingdom). Some day this kingdom will be brought to justice. Some day this kingdom will be expelled from experiencing any of the goodness of God and will experience only His wrath.
The biblical picture is that all of humanity--through sin--has sold themselves into the kingdom of rebellion; thus, putting us on the wrong side. We have broken God’s Law and because of this the curse of the Law stands against us. Sin leads to death. We stand as enemies to the rightful King. We are rebels. That is what sin is. No rebellious sinner can enter into the King’s holy kingdom. Now, humanity does rightfully belong to the Kingdom of God, but we have rebelled and have joined ranks with the kingdom of rebellion. The effect of this rebellion is death and separation from the goodness of God. Therefore, if we are to be brought back into his glorious kingdom something must happen.
That “something that must happen” is what Paul has been describing in these first three chapters. The first three chapters tell us what God has done to bring us back into his kingdom. What emerges from these chapters is that God is creating out of the mass of these rebellious sinners a people for Himself that He is going to redeem. God is in the process of redeeming broken people and a broken world. What this means is that he has restored our relationship with Himself through Jesus. And this also means that He has restored our relationship with one another.
God has done it already but it is yet to be fully realized. This is what chapter 4 through 6 is about. 1-3 was about what God has done on our behalf and 4-6 is what we do to live in a manner that reflects that. So, that is the background for our text this evening: Ephesians 4:1-6, so turn there as we read this urgent message.
Sermon Introduction:
This urgent message is that we must live in such a way as to reflect what has actually taken place. God is in the process of redeeming broken people and a broken world—live like it. Live like you have been redeemed. Live like you belong to God’s Kingdom. And Paul begins this section by focusing on what might be the most important thing in reflecting the truth of God’s redemption: unity.
Let’s be careful not to divorce what is being said in this text form our every day experience. Because we live in a broken world with broken people love gets violated. We talked about this last week. When love gets violated people get hurt and disunity happens. Disunity hurts. You know what disunity feels like. You have had this experience with friends or people of the opposite sex or family members. You know the pain of disunity. There is a sense in which I think every person (Christian or not) longs for unity and peace in relationships. I think this is part of the image of God in us that is still retained. We want all of our relationships to be marked with peace and unity. This is indeed the way that God intended.
There are two key statements in this passage. Verse 1 will serve as the foundation for chapters 4-6. Where it says, “live in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called” that is simply another way of saying live in such a way that accurately reflects what God has done in your life. If you have been redeemed live like it. If you have been forgiven live like it. If you have been brought out of the kingdom of death and into the kingdom of light live like it. Everything after this verse will be explaining what “live like it” looks like.
The second key statement in this passage is the one that 4:2-17 is all about; you find it in verse 3, “eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace”. That is what this section is about. So the heading for all of these messages would be verse 1: Accurately reflect what God has done in your life. And the very first thing that describes such a life is unity. If God has given access to the Father to all peoples through the same Spirit then we are to reflect that in our unity with one another. This is part of God’s great global plan to unite all things under Jesus Christ. This is his redeeming broken people and a broken world—part of that is redeeming our relationships with one another.
Notice in verse 3 how it says, “maintain”. That means that if you are a believer your unity with other believers is something that has already been bought. We are to “keep” or “maintain” that unity. I love what Martin Lloyd-Jones says on this, “it is a unity which is produced b the Holy Spirit and him alone. Man cannot produce this, try as he may. Because of the nature of this unity, because it is a spiritual unity, it can be brought into being only as a result of the operation of the Holy Spirit.”
Unity is not optional. It is a part of God’s redemptive process. To sow seeds of disunity is to go against the work of God. I like what one bible commentator says on this, “To live in a manner which mars the unity of the Spirit is to do [so in spite of] the gracious reconciling work of Christ. It is tantamount to saying that his sacrificial death, by which relationships with God and others has been restored, along with the resulting freedom of access to the Father, have no [meaning] to us!”
Tonight we will look at two things: how to keep the unity and the reason for such unity. So, how do we keep unity within the body of Christ?
I. The Call to Unity: How to Maintain Unity Within the Body of Christ
Again the key statement here is verse 3, “maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace”. But this statement has four graces that surround it. These four things tell us what maintaining unity looks like and how it happens. These four graces are humility, gentleness, patience, and loving forbearance.
A. Humility
In verse 2 you will see the word humility. I really think the best definition for humility is the one given by CJ Mahaney, “Honestly assessing ourselves in light of God’s holiness and our sinfulness”. Humility does not mean thinking of yourself lower than you actually are—it means viewing yourself accurately in light of your sinfulness and God’s holiness. This is what an old preacher by the name of JC Philpot has said,
“As a general rule, we learn humility, not by hearing ministers tell us what wicked creatures we are; nor by merely looking into our bosoms and seeing a whole swarm of evils working there; but from being compelled by painful necessity to believe that we are vile, through circumstances and events time after time bringing to light those hidden evils in our heart, which we once thought ourselves pretty free from. We learn humility, not merely by a discovery of what we are, but also by a discovery of what Jesus is. We need a glimpse . . . of Jesus, of His love, of His grace, of His blood. When these two feelings meet together in our bosom . . . our shame, and the Lord's goodness; our guilt, and His forgiveness; our wickedness, and His superabounding mercy; they break us, humble us, and lay us, dissolved in tears of godly sorrow and contrition, at the footstool of mercy!”
Humility looks like a turtle on a fence post. If you see a turtle on a fence post you know that somebody must have helped him out. It is the same thing with us. If you see any graces or beauty in our life the humble person will acknowledge that such graces come only from Jesus. Humility comes from recognizing Jesus as the hero of your life.
Humility maintains unity in the body whereas pride kills unity. Humility allows others to be recognized and honored whereas pride must always be in first place. Pride asserts truth to bolster its ego whereas humility asserts the truth to serve Christ. Pride sees those that differ as enemies and humility sees them as an opportunity to learn.
B. Gentleness
In the Roman world the words humility and gentleness that Paul uses here were considered vices instead of virtues. Even in our culture the word meek or gentle is sometimes seen as an insult. When you think of someone being meek, mild, and gentle you think of someone that serves as a doormat always getting steamrolled by stronger people. You think of the person that is far too quiet. But that is not really the biblical picture. A good picture of gentleness or meekness is Clark Kent. Outwardly he’s an unassuming nerd but inwardly he is faster than a speeding bullet and stronger than a locomotive.
A.W. Tozer said it best when he said:
Gentleness is having a great consideration for others. It is waving your own rights for the sake of someone else. Rather than making sure that I get what I want it is my ambition to serve others. I also like what Sam Storms says about meekness, it is “the willingness to allow others to say about me the same things I readily acknowledge before God.”
Gentleness maintains unity, whereas violence, rudeness, and forcefulness kill unity.
C. Patience
Have you ever seen an old dog with a little puppy? The little puppy keeps yipping at the big dog and nibbling at his ears. Rather than getting annoyed the old dog maintains its posture and doesn’t bit the puppy in response. He puts up with quite a bit of the annoyance. That’s really what biblical patience looks like. Living around broken people means that they are going to make mistakes and it also means that every person is going to have something annoying about them. If we are going to maintain unity then we are going to need this patience. Patience here is allowing for others shortcomings. Rather than getting upset and responding with frustration and anger we endure a lot of annoyance like the old dog with the little puppy.
Patience maintains unity, whereas impatience kills.
D. Loving Forbearance
“Bearing with one another in love” is quite a bit like patience. This is enduring wrong rather than responding in rage. We spoke last week of love growing when holiness grows. This is really the same thing here. The more we grow in Jesus the more apt we are to respond in love rather than rage.
Allow me to briefly summarize these four things. These four things come from really getting the gospel. This is why Paul begins his letter by telling us what God has done on our behalf. This is also why he prayed as he did in 3:14-21. The more we come to grips with what God has done—the more we “get” the gospel—the more we will see these graces in our lives. Humility comes from understanding the gospel. You cannot rightly understand the cross and respond to people with such pride. So, in light of the gospel and for the sake of unity we must not allow pride to reign. Meekness comes from understanding the gospel. You cannot rightly understand the cross and be forceful and jerky. Anytime we are asserting our rights it means that we do not rightly find our identity in Christ. Patience comes from understanding the gospel. You cannot rightly understand the cross and respond with impatience and frustration at other people’s sin. Do you see the ignorance and arrogance of this? If it were not for Christ you would be doing things far more vile than that person. To get frustrated with their level of growth in Christ is arrogant and ignorant. It’s arrogant because you are forgetting grace and it is ignorant because you are probably blind to the log in your own eye. And lastly loving forbearance comes from understanding the gospel. You cannot rightly understand the cross and respond to people in rage. If you really understand the gospel you will put up with quite a bit of junk because you know the big picture.
This aspect of understanding the gospel is where Paul now turns and we will do so ever so briefly.
II. The Grounds for Unity
In verse 4 through 6 Paul begins a list of seven things that believers have in common. I really like this illustration by Chris Vogel: It is an undoubtedly fictional story of a man that was walking across a bridge one day, only to find a man standing on the edge about to jump. So, this guy runs over and tries to stop the guy. “Stop, Don’t do it”. “Why, shouldn’t I jump”? “Well there’s so much to live for!” “Like what?” “Well, do you believe in God?” “Yes”. “Me too!” “Are you Christian, Buddhist, or something else? “ Christian. “Catholic or Protestant”? Protestant. Me too, Episcopalian or Baptist? Baptist. Me too, Southern Baptist or Northern Baptist? Southern. Me too. Are you a General Southern Baptist or a Reformed Particular Southern Baptist. Reformed Particular Southern Baptist. Me too, Reformed Particular Southern Baptist, Reformation of 1879 or Reformation of 1915? 1915. DIE HERETIC SCUM. And the man helped out the desperate man’s cause—he pushed him off the bridge.
It’s really sad that within the church we have so much in common but minor things can cause disunity. Now let’s be clear there are two things being asserted here—one is that believers are united around these essential things and therefore all minor differences must be dealt with in humility, gentleness, patience, and loving forbearance. But there is also something else being asserted here—unity is grounded in truth. Unity for the sake of unity is not what Paul is saying here. This is unity based on something.
1. One body—we have been called into the same group of redeemed believers. There is only one church—one bride of Christ. This is, as Peter O’Brien has said the “heavenly gathering, assembled around Christ, in which believers now participate.” We have been united into this one body. There are no other options. If you are not a part of this body then you are not a part of Christ. Certainly there are local churches and individuals—but this very fact unites us to believers from all around the world. There is only one church.
2. One Spirit—the Holy Spirit indwells every believer. There are not 2 million Holy Spirit’s there is only one. The very same Spirit of God indwells every believer. Therefore we are united in that regard. If you do not have the Spirit of God you are not part of the body of Christ and if not part of the body of Christ you know nothing of the blessings spelled out in Ephesians 1 through 3.
3. One hope—When Paul says in verse 4, “just as you were called in the one hope of your calling” he is pointing to the destination that believers share. We all have the same blessings spelled out in Ephesians 1 through 3. We all have the same destination. We have all been adopted, justified, forgiven, and redeemed. We have the same hope. You do not have your own personal heaven and I do not have my own personal heaven. We each have the same destination.
Again I turn to Peter O’Brien when he says, “As a foretaste of this grand hope the very existence of the church, a society of pardoned rebels, a multiracial unity in the one body, is the means God uses to manifest his richly diverse wisdom…a sense of expectancy, therefore, should motivate and unify their actions.”
4. One Lord—This is a reference to Jesus. We all have the same king, the same Lord, the same Savior. Jesus loves you just as much as he loves me. He does not have higher affections for some and not others. He loves His Bride—every member that comprises the church, the entire body—His Bride.
5. One faith---this either means that it is by the same type of faith that we are saved or it refers to the body of doctrine that all believers hold in common. It would be easier to explain if it were the first one—that it is through the same type of faith in Christ that we are saved, but I think it is actually referring to the body of doctrine. So, what Paul is saying is that as believers we hold to the same basic beliefs.
6. One baptism—this is another difficult thing because we do not all have the same method of baptism. Some baptize babies. Some believe baptism saves you. Some believe baptism is only an outward sign of an inner reality. Some baptize babies believing that this saves them. Some immerse people in water, some only sprinkle, some do both. So, how in the world are we united on this? More than likely what is in view here is not so much the method of baptism (although it could be, because more than likely they were unified in the early church around the method of baptism) but what is in view here is probably the entrance into the kingdom. We all are saved the same way. I know that makes it sound like baptism saves you which is why I do not like that option—but I think what Paul is saying is that we are immersed into Christ in the same way—and I think this is looking back at grace through faith.
7. One God and Father of all—this last one really sums it up. This is a reference to the universal sovereignty and presence of God. Meaning that even if we are not so much united in these other six things we are united in the fact that God is Creator and Lord over all.
So what does all of this mean for us practically? It means that living lives united to other believers is absolutely critical. Perhaps you have heard it said that you will never grow spiritually unless you are reading your Bibles every day. And I think I really agree with that statement. I would like to add another—not as a load or a legalistic regulation, but saying if you want to grow spiritually then you will do it through being united to a local body of believers. You will not grow apart from them. And when you are united then we must see these things cultivated. So, perhaps a good summary would be to say get the gospel—forsake your ridiculous pride and need to be right and get along with other believers. Pursue maintaining unity like your soul depends upon it—that’s the type of urgency Paul is saying these things.
Now this text does not primarily address non-believers but believers. There is a word here for you if you do not know Christ. And that is that what you are looking for is found in these seven things. The peace and unity and redemption that your heart longs for is found in the person and work of Jesus Christ.