By Christel Humfrey
Paul urges the Ephesians to walk worthy of their calling (4.1-16). For the Apostle this is no lightweight matter. A healthy church represents glorious realities and each member is responsible to nourish the whole.
Paul describes the church as a body of diverse members whose head is Christ. This body is like no other. Unified by spiritual realities, it seeks to grow up into a fully mature adult.
The Holy Spirit empowers the church to walk in unity, but we are also called to maintain it (v. 3). This is not a contradiction, but it’s rather the reality of Christian life. We work out our own salvation in light of God’s work in us (cf. Phil 2.12-13).
Humility, gentleness, patience and compassionate love are characteristics that reflect Christ-likeness and are consistent with our calling (v.2). As we grow in these qualities we will be able to forgive and bear with each other even when it isn’t easy. With practice and by God’s grace, we can grow together and walk “worthy” of our new life and calling.
Doctrine is also important for unity. Many complain that doctrine divides, and it is true that there are many denominations within the visible church. But doctrine also unites us and is an incentive to maintain visible unity. We have one body, which is Christ’s body–the church, and one Spirit that binds us together (v.3). We also have one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism and one God and Father (v. 4-5). These seven truths remind us of our spiritual oneness.
Diversity within the church is not at odds with unity, in fact, it contributes to the health of the body. Christ has given “each one of us” grace to fulfill different roles in the church (v. 7).
Paul mentions five roles specifically that “equip” and “build up” the church (v. 12). But each part of the body is essential for the church to grow up in love (v. 16). No member is unimportant because each of us must function properly for the church to flourish.
Rather than a child tossed to and fro by the opinions of others (v.14), we are to grow up into an adult who knows who they are and what they believe. “Speaking the truth in love” we are called to “grow up” into Christ who is our head (v.15).
Christ is also the one “from whom” the body grows “when each part is working properly” (v. 16). We need to look to Christ for grace to grow into spiritual adulthood. Jesus himself said, “I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matt. 16.18). So we can grow up in faith–pursuing unity and maturity–with confidence that our spiritual head cannot fail.
The church is unlike any other organization because it is also a living organism. The Spirit unites us “in the bond of peace”, and each local congregation is a visible manifestation of this spiritual reality (v.3. cf. 3.10). Just as this spiritual union cannot be broken, let us strive to maintain a visible unity that reflects this reality.
Christel Humfrey is a pastor’s wife and mother. She has a B.A. in music with a minor in ballet. Against all odds, she fell in love with a cowboy. Together they have three sons and minister in Calgary, Canada. In her free time she enjoys blogging at foretasteofheaven.blogspot.ca. You can follow her on Twitter @ChristelHumfrey.
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