Ephesians 4:1–16 Growing a Healthy Church.
Key Notes: The Walk. Meekness. Unity and diversity. Lay-clergy split. Equipping leaders. Pastors and boards.
Paul has concluded his second prayer and the section on theology. The second half of the book is about practical Christian living. He will address the work of the Church, personal holiness, and life in the family and society. First we learn about Christ and the Church’s corporate life. Next time we will go into more detail.
4:1–3 Paul begins with attitudes. He begs them to live worthy of their calling, with lowliness of mind, patience, long-suffering, focused on maintaining unity.
4:1 ‘”to lead a life worthy” uses the Greek word for walking. We are to walk along the path God has called us to. When God walked in the garden and called to Adam, he was hiding in the bushes. Gen.3:8.
“Walk” is a word Paul uses often in Ephesians to indicate our way of life, our life-style. .
"sins in which you once walked" 2:2
"works which God prepared beforehand tthat we should walk in them" 2:10
"walk worthy of the calling" 4:1
"walk not as other Gentiles walk" 4:17
"walk in love as Christ loved us" 5:2
"walk as children of light" 5:8
"walk circumspectly…redeeming the time because all the days are evil." 5:15
We spend much time thinking about what we should say, how and when. Paul is concerned with where we go. And we must be wary that the talk does not contradict the walk.
4:2–3 “…with all lowliness and meekness, with patience, forbearing one another in love."
The Greeks deplored lowliness; the word denotes a flat, servile, poor spirit, a thoroughly undesirable trait from a humanist perspective. Our reply is that Jesus said, “Learn of me for I am meek and lowly in heart and you shall find rest for your souls.” Matt.11:29.
Meekness keeps us from despising other church workers whom we consider incompetent or doing menial tasks. Long-suffering keeps us from boiling over in frustration over church affairs, which usually are not going the way we think they should. These good attitudes help maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
These qualities are quickly challenged. Complaints are endless.
The music …..!
The sermon did not feed me.
There was no altar-call — again.
I didn’t like the way communion was served.
Nobody visited my aunt when she was sick.
The drummer was chewing gum.
We are not taking care of our missionaries.
If we don’t have woman elders I am leaving.
4:4–6 The basis of unity is seven “ones”. It should be committed to memory. We have
One body, one Spirit, one hope,
One Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of us all.
The Persons of the Trinity are mentioned individually.
One body, one hope, one faith, one baptism is a reality which is hard to see close at hand, but it is recognized when we meet individual people from far away. Thus an Anglican bishop from Nigeria and a Chinese evangelist who comes to speak in Africa find instant rapport in spite of their tremendous differences in language, culture and spiritual upbringing. "Jesus is Lord." Their bond in Christ transcends everything else, including arriving a day late.
4–10 Having spoken of unity, Paul goes on to talk about diversity. Diversity is based on Christ’s endowment, His gifts measured individually by grace.
Paul quotes from Psa.68:17–18. Psa.68 is a warrior psalm that starts out
“Let God arise, let His enemies be scattered; let those who hate Him fall before Him. “ (Psa.68:1)
Later it says,”With mighty chariotry, twice ten thousand, thousands upon thousands, the Lord came from Sinai into the Holy Place. Thou didst ascend the High Mount, leading captives in Thy train, and receiving gifts among men, even among the rebellious, that the Lord God may dwell there. “ Psa.68:17–18
The picture is of God ascending and descending from Mt. Sinai with myriads of angels, to occupy His place in the tabernacle in the Wilderness, (Ex.40:34–38) and later, the Temple in Jerusalem.
The first gift He gave Israel was the pillar of cloud and fire to direct their way. Supernatural bread (manna) and drink followed. Probably the greatest gift was the Law of Moses. Another gift was 70 elders endowed by the Holy Spirit for administering judgment when Moses became overburdened. Num.11: 16–30
Paul takes this text and applies it directly to Christ, as fulfilled in His resurrection and ascension. That is in line with the general teaching that Israel’s contact with God in the wilderness was in and through Christ. For example, Moses spoke with God face to face.
“Thus the Lord used to speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend.” Ex.33:11
Please note that only a few verses further on in Exodus, God says “…you cannot see My face for man shall not see Me and live.” (Ex.33:21). So it was Christ with whom he had familiar speech. It was the glory of the Father’s face that he was not permitted to see directly.
There is a puzzle is Paul’s quotation because he says “gave gifts to men” where Psa.68 says” received gifts from men.” The Greek OT ( Psa.68:18 LXX ) mediates: “…Thou hast received gifts for men….”
Paul points out that the descent, even to “the heart of the earth” precedes His ascension above all heavens.
Jesus said “As Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the whale, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.” (Matt.12:40).
The death of Christ (His descent in the grave and His resurrection / ascension) were the necessary events that permitted the release of the Holy Spirit. (Jn.7:39). The release of the Holy Spirit endowed the early Church with the means of ministry. They were to be apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers. Tthese offices are mainly for communication. There are four other lists of spiritual offices and gifts (IPet.4:10–11; Rom.l2:6–8), ICor.12:4, 28) which include helping, healing, giving and administration.
These gifts are given to equip the saints,
To do the work of the ministry
To build up the body of Christ
To bring all to maturity.
James Boice points out the error of this reading: there should not be a comma after “saints”. The phrase should read “to equip the saints to do the work of the ministry, and build up the body and bring all to maturity. It is not the job of the clergy to do the work of the ministry, but to equip the saints to do it.
There is a fair amount of resistance to this idea. The traditional view of the clergy assumes a passive and docile congregation:
“As for the masses, they have no other right than of letting themselves be led, and of following their pastors as a docile flock.” (Papal Encyclical: Vehmentor Nos,’06, quoted in Ephesians. J.M. Boice; Baker,’97, p.135)
That is traditional clericalism and it has a long tradition, founded on the concept of the priesthood in the Catholic church. It says “we work; you watch.” There is a fair amount of clerical resistance to people participating in certain aspects of ministry, notably in Christian education of adults. There is another form of clericalism, in which the “laity” are content to be passive: “You work; we watch. You leave us alone.” The clergy / laity division is an error in itself. A division of the church into lay and professional workers is not biblical.
The consequences of division of the church between professionals and laymen is seen in the relationship between church boards and pastors. Instead of team-work there is usually annoyance and lack of cooperation. Pastors see church boards as an obstacle, a nuisance, a resistance to progress. (Committees are not noted for their creativity. Their basic function is to say “no.”) The boards see the pastors as unrealistic and over-reaching, acting with a high hand. The relationship is usually a spiritual sink rather than a source. The seminaries need to work on this problem.
How could those with a leadership role train others with these gifts, that is, to “equip the saints for the work of ministry”? One does not become a baseball player by watching games in a stadium or become a violinist by watching Heifetz perform.
An apostle is a ‘sent one”— we would say, a missionary. How would a veteran missionary train others? By challenging others in the church to answer the call to missions, recruiting, testing, accompanying the beginners to their first field experience, helping to raise funds and publicize their work. It is a task every church should be involved in.
The prophet’s job in the OT was to be a social critic, denouncing evil, and predicting judgment. Examples of modern prophets are varied, including Chuck Colson, James Dobson, and Tony Campolo. It is not enough to criticize society; we all do that. The important part is to make the criticism public and bring Scripture to bear. Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson showed how difficult that is.
The evangelist proclaims the Gospel in public. It is the prominent role of the student para-church organizations, sharing the message on the streets or on a soap-box and in small groups. The leader is a staff-person trained in evangelism who takes a beginner along to observe a personal encounter and later participate. Eventually the trainer will reverse the roles; a saint is being equipped.
The pastor is a shepherd, called to tend a flock, a church. Feeding, protecting and helping in the birthing of new believers are part of the job. The pastor trains under-shepherds who tend smaller flocks (small groups), check their progress, and encourage them to divide and multiply. Eventually the flock leaders will coach other new under-shepherds.
The last category is the teacher. The teacher explains a portion of the Bible and makes its application to modern life. Training new teachers is not easy. Some can be trained by observation but opportunities for ongoing instruction are hard to find. Most audiences are not patient with beginning teachers. Most beginners do not like feed-back. My own success was best with small group leaders that I would teach as if they were the listening audience; then they would teach their own groups (international students) and an experienced observer would report on their progress.
4:13–14 The goals are clear: that all come to unity of faith, knowledge of Christ, to maturity, measuring up to the fullness of Christ. On the negative side, we are not to be children, blown around by every new teaching. Paul implies that many of the deviant doctrines are not taught in good faith, but with intent to deceive.
“...by the cunning of men” comes from the Greek word for dice, someone playing games with us.
“...by their craftiness in deceitful wiles”. Craftiness means ready for anything in Greek.
“Deceitful” comes from the Greek word transliterated “method” suggesting a carefully thought-out scheme.
4:15–16 So we are to grow up in Him, working together with care, becoming more and more attached to Christ, our Head.