INTRODUCTION: Paul equates the church to being a new creation.
I. Scripture Reading
Ephesians 4 New English Translation (NET Bible)
Live in Unity
1 I, therefore, the prisoner for the Lord, urge you to live worthily of the calling with which you have been called, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 3 making every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as you too were called to the one hope of your calling, 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.
7 But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of the gift of Christ.8 Therefore it says, “When he ascended on high he captured captives; he gave gifts to men.” 9 Now what is the meaning of “he ascended,” except that he also descended to the lower regions, namely, the earth? 10 He, the very one who descended, is also the one who ascended above all the heavens, in order to fill all things. 11 It was he who gave some as apostles, some as prophets, some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, that is, to build up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God—a mature person, attaining to the measure of Christ’s full stature. 14 So we are no longer to be children, tossed back and forth by waves and carried about by every wind of teaching by the trickery of people who craftily carry out their deceitful schemes. 15 But practicing the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into Christ, who is the head. 16 From him the whole body grows, fitted and held together through every supporting ligament. As each one does its part, the body grows in love.
Live in Holiness
17 So I say this, and insist in the Lord, that you no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. 18 They are darkened in their understanding, being alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardness of their hearts. 19 Because they are callous, they have given themselves over to indecency for the practice of every kind of impurity with greediness. 20 But you did not learn about Christ like this, 21 if indeed you heard about him and were taught in him, just as the truth is in Jesus. 22 You were taught with reference to your former way of life to lay aside the old man who is being corrupted in accordance with deceitful desires, 23 to be renewed in the spirit of your mind, 24 and to put on the new man who has been created in God’s image—in righteousness and holiness that comes from truth.
25 Therefore, having laid aside falsehood, each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members of one another. 26 Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on the cause of your anger. 27 Do not give the devil an opportunity.28 The one who steals must steal no longer; rather he must labor, doing good with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with the one who has need. 29 You must let no unwholesome word come out of your mouth, but only what is beneficial for the building up of the one in need, that it may give grace to those who hear. 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.31 You must put away all bitterness, anger, wrath, quarreling, and slanderous talk—indeed all malice. 32 Instead, be kind to one another, compassionate, forgiving one another, just as God in Christ also forgave you.
II. Outline. Ref: The Outline Bible, Dr. Harold L. Wilmington
A. In the first sixteen verses of this chapter, Paul is explaining the position of the new creation.
1. He describes, and appeals for, the unity of the new creation
a. One body; The body of Christ (vs 1-4a). We, the born again believers in Christ, are the body of Christ.
b. One Spirit, The Holy Spirit (vs 4b).
c. One hope, eternal life (vs 4c).
d. One Lord, The triune God (vs 5a).
e. One faith, The Christian Faith (vs 5b).
f. One baptism, The baptism of the Spirit into Christ’s body (vs 5c). The “one baptism” is not an argument to prove immersion over sprinkling. The Spirit baptism is accomplished when our spirit is immersed into the Spirit of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, per 1 Corinthians 12:12-13, “For as the body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free—and have all been made to drink into one Spirit.”
g. One God and Father, The heavenly Father (vs 6).
(1) He describes the Unifier, which is the work of Christ, which brings all of the following parts of the new creation together.
(2) His gifts to believers. Henry Mahan’s Commentary vs 8.
(a) This is a quotation from Psalms 68:18, and it speaks of our Lord’s ascension to heaven from Mt Olivet in the sight of the apostles (Acts 1:9-11). In this he fulfills the type of the High Priest entering into the holiest to make intercession for his people, to prepare a place for them and to send down the Holy Spirit with His grace and gifts to them.
(b) He led captivity captive.’ He led a train of vanquished foes; he conquered those who had conquered us, such as sin, Satan and death. Christ conquered and triumphed over every spiritual enemy and those of his people.
(c) And gave gifts to men’ – the gifts of the Holy Spirit, and especially such as qualify men for the work of the ministry and make them useful for God’s glory and the good of the church (Romans 12:5-8).
3. The gifts were described as being:
a. Apostleship (vs 11a).
b. Prophets (vs 11b).
c. Evangelists (vs 11c).
d. Pastors (vs 11d).
e. Teachers (vs 11d).
4. His goals for believers.
a. To be equipped (vs 12).
b. To be mature (vs 13).
c. To be settled (vs 14-16).
4. The gifts are spiritual. The recipients are born again believers in Christ, who are spiritually equipped leaders of the church. They may have never been to a formal school of religious education. They may have never received a vote to place them in a position of church leadership, but they may have had such positions. The pastors and deacons that Paul addresses in his letters to Timothy and Titus are elected and appointed leaders of physical and visual churches, and may not posses the spiritual gifting for those positions. They may serve those positions well, but still may not have received the spiritual gifting of leadership that we see in this chapter. It is important to know that no scripture exists that deletes the spiritual gifts that Paul identifies in this chapter. It is also important to know that spiritual gifting is non-gender specific. The spiritual gifts are not specifically for males. Consider Galatians, 3:28 “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.” However, this verse does not take away from the requirements for Pastor and Deacon male leadership in the physical and visual church that Paul addresses in his letters to Timothy and Titus. These spiritual gifts are not temporary. See Romans 11:29,” For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.” The spiritual church, the body of Christ, extends far beyond the doors of church buildings. The need for spiritual leadership is needed in areas where there is no established brick and mortar church. You and I, who are the born-again members of the body of Christ, the true church, don’t go “to church.” We are “the church.” We go to a building where we meet together as the church, with other members of the body of Christ.
B. In the remaining sixteen verses of this chapter, Paul discusses the disposition of the New Creation. We see that a new life requires a new lifestyle.
1. Believers in Christ should avoid immoral lifestyles, that are characterized as being the lifestyles of those who have not been born again. Examples are:
a. Confused thoughts (vs 17).
b. Closed minds (vs 18a).
c. Hardened hearts (vs 18b).
d. Impure and greedy thoughts (vs 19).
2. Believers in Christ should adopt spiritual lifestyles.
a. Renewed spiritual thoughts and attitudes (vs 20-23).
b. Removed the old self, which includes:
(1) Lying (vs 24).
(2) Anger that is uncontrolled (vs 26-27).
(3) Stealing (vs 28a).
(4) Grieving the Holy Spirit (vs 30).
3. Believers in Christ should put on the new self. Examples are:
a. Truthfulness (vs 25).
b. Honest labor (vs 28b)
c. Helping those in need (vs 28c).
d. Building up one another (vs 29b).
e. Kindness and compassion (vs 32a).
f. Forgiveness (vs 32b).
III. Selected Commentary. Ref: Reformation Study Bible, DR. R. C. Sproul
1. Verse 7. But grace was given to each one of us. All Christians share the grace of salvation through faith (2:5, 8). Each Christian is also given some particular gift of grace to benefit the church (Paul speaks of his own in 3:2, 8). See theological note “Gifts and Ministries.” RSB
2. Verse 8. Ps. 68 celebrates God’s triumphant march from Mount Sinai in the wilderness to Mount Zion in Jerusalem and His enthronement there. Paul regards this as prefiguring Christ’s victorious ascent into heaven.
captives. The spiritual forces of darkness were defeated at the Cross (Col. 2:15 and note). While Ps. 68:18 describes the victorious Lord receiving gifts from men, Paul pictures Christ as sharing His tribute with men. Paul may have thought of this psalm because it was associated with Pentecost. This was the day the ascended Christ poured out the Spirit on the church (Acts 2:32, 33).
3. Verse 9. Christ came to the exalted position He now enjoys through humiliation. His incarnation was His taking on a human nature here in “the lower parts of the earth”; cf. 1:20–23; Phil. 2:1–11. This pattern of service is to be imitated by believers.
4. Verse 11. Apostle And Prophets.
a. apostles. In a restricted sense, those who had been with Jesus and witnessed His resurrection (or received a special revelation of the risen Jesus) and who had been commissioned by Jesus to be founders of the church (Acts 1:21, 22; 1 Cor. 15:1–9). The word was also used in a broader sense of people sent out as delegates of particular churches (2 Cor. 8:23; Phil. 2:25), though these do not appear to be the ones Paul has in mind in this passage. See 2 Cor. 1:1 note.
b. prophets. The New Testament prophets conveyed special revelation to the early church. Their functions included prediction, exhortation, encouragement, warning, and explanation (Acts 15:32; 21:9–11; 1 Cor. 14:3). The teaching of the New Testament prophets and apostles laid the foundation of the church (2:20).
IV. Closing Thoughts. Ref: What Does Every Bible Chapter Say? John Hunt.
A. Main Themes.
1. God’s sovereign call to salvation (vs 1).
2. An exhortation to mutual love, unity, and unanimity (vs 2-16).
3. An encouragement to Christian purity and holiness of life (vs 17-32).
B. Main Keys.
1. Verse. We must no longer be children, tossed to and fro and blown about by every wind of doctrine, by people’s trickery, by their craftiness in deceitful scheming (vs 14 NRSV).
2. Phrase. “joined and held together (vs 16 NIV).
3. Theme. The nature of the Church.
4. Thought. The gifts bestowed on us by the ascended Christ.
5. Thing to look out for. What we are to put on and put off.
6. Bible Cross Reference. Verse 8. See Psalm 68:18.
7. By Way Of Explanation. Verse 17. “futility of their thinking.” (NIV). Unbelievers possess unenlightened minds. Any life without God is meaningless and far from being intellectually satisfying.
V. What Is Religion?
A. Per Miriam Webster Dictionary.
1. the belief in a god or in a group of gods
2. an organized system of beliefs, ceremonies, and rules used to worship a god or a group of gods
3. an interest, a belief, or an activity that is very important to a person or group
B. Per Dr. R.C. Sproul, “Everyone’s A Theologian,” page 3.
1. Theology is the study of God.
2. Religion has to do with the worship practices of human beings in particular environments.
VI. Worship And Praise.
Consider the Presence of God in our lives. Consider the worshipful attitude that can be obtained as we listen to the music of worship and praise that is led by Terry Mac Almon.
To Him Who Sits On The Throne
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