Psalm 68:8/Ephesians 4:1-16

Psalm 68 among other things, speaks of the victory and presence of the LORD, verse 18 may ring familiar if you know Ephesians: “You ascended on high, leading a host of captives in your train and receiving gifts among men…”

Paul quotes this verse in Eph 4:8, as he is writing about Christians walking in a manner worthy of our calling – the unity of the body in humility, gentleness, patience and forbearance with each other, and love.  Some things to note:

  • The deity of Christ: Paul ascribes this now to Christ in his resurrection (“…he ascended on high”), authority (“led a host of captives”), incarnation (“…he descended), and his position now in Heaven with the Father (…”he ascended”)
  • God is the giver, in Christ:  v7 says that grace was given to each, according to the measure of Christ’s gift.  Grace that enables us to live lives of unity in humility, gentleness, patience, forbearance with each other, and love.   His grace is also evident in the way he gives us apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds, and teachers
  • Maturity is the goal:  we live in unity as a sign of our maturity. Maturity of what?  v13 – knowledge of the gospel – all of God’s word – his one story of the redeeming of a fallen human race in Christ Jesus. Maturity also keeps us centered, rooted, and established – so that we won’t follow any passing ideas.  I was reminded of a great saying yesterday in a lecture “He who stands for nothing, will fall for anything.”
  • Speaking the truth in love...must be grounded in Christ, for the maturity of the body, and for the growth of the body.  It’s not just a license to say whatever is on your mind to someone.  Besides, we are to do that with all humility, gentleness, patience, in forbearance with each other and in love.

In all this God is glorified – as we look back to Psalm 68, the very next verse sums it up well – “Blessed be the Lord, who daily bears us up; God is our salvation.”

 

Unity of the Faith

In Ephesians today – got stuck at Chapter 4:11-16.

And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.
(Ephesians 4:11-16 ESV)

  • He gave: apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds (Pastors/Elders), teachers – why?
    • equip the saints for the work of ministry
    • building up of the body of Christ (the church) – What does that look like?
      • unity of the faith
      • knowledge of the Son of God (Jesus Christ. And knowledge from the Bible, not ours)
      • mature manhood (mature, Godly men and women)
      • looking like Jesus Christ
      • this protects us from false doctrine
      • and it all leads to love

There has been much talk about unity lately…and much talk about doctrine.  So when I read this passage I thought it was pretty interesting how Paul brings it all together.  There is unity to be had in knowledge of Jesus (correct Biblical doctrine); maturity; Christ-likeness and in the end love.  This is what the body should look like.

ESV study note here is right on: “some people think that the learning of doctrine ins inherently divisive, but it is people who divide the church, whereas the knowledge of the Son of God (both knowing Christ personally and understanding all that he did and taught) is edifying and brings about “mature manhood” when set forth in love.  The work of the gifted ministers was to proclaim and teach the word centered on Christ rather than on speculative or eccentric teaching of their own.”

So what does this all mean?

Correct, balanced, Biblical teaching that brings the full counsel of God’s word, centered on the Gospel brings about unity and maturity, not division.

Unity in Christ and Communion

While reading in 1 Corinthians today I was struck by 1 Cor 10:17 which says

“Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread.”

The “one bread” is Christ – he referred to himself as the ‘bread of life’ (John 6:35) and the church is his body and we are all members of it. (1 Cor 12:27).

Romans 12:5 also says that “…we are one body in Christ and individually members of one another.”

The unity of any church has to be Christ.   Our bond in Christ as fellow believers, the gospel, the cross, and the grace demonstrated for us there has to be the strongest thing that binds us together.  Not our programs, or our music, or our kids…Christ.

The Bible also says that we demonstrate this at communion.   We eat the “one bread” at communion.  ESV study note again is great here and it says “The Lord’s Supper, therefore, is an occasion when members of the church declare their unity with each other because of their common unity in Christ.”

When we gather to celebrate the Lord’s supper this Sunday, let’s remember it represents the body and blood of Christ – but also that our unity as the body of Christ the church is Christ himself.