Ephesians 4:1-16

1Therefore I, being a prisoner for the Lord, encourage you to walk worthily of the calling to which you have been called, 2with all humility and gentleness, with patience putting up with one another in love, 3doing your best to maintain the unity of the spirit in the bonds of peace. 4There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope in your calling: 5one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6one God and Father of all, Who is over all and through all and in all. 7But grace has been given to each one of us according to the measure of the gift of Christ. 8Therefore it is written: “When he went up to the heights he captured a group of captives, and he gave gifts to men.” 9Who is He Who went up, if not He Who descended into the lower regions of the earth? 10He Who descended is also He Who ascended far above all in the heavens, in order to fulfill all things. 11And He appointed some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, some to be shepherds and teachers, 12to equip the saints in the work of ministry, to build up the body of Christ, 13until we all attain the unity of the faith and the knowledge of the Son of God, to the mature manhood, to the measure of maturity of the fullness of Christ, 14in order that we may no longer be infants, tossed by the sea and blown about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by trickery of deceitful schemes, 15but speaking the truth in love, we might grow in all things into Him Who is the head, Christ, 16from Whom the body is joined together and held fast by all the ligaments with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, making the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.

 

 

When Paul reminds his Ephesian audience of his status as prisoner even as he oversees their spiritual development, he challenges them to “walk worthily of the call.” What is the “call” of which he speaks? The best way to understand this is to remember his use of “call” earlier in the book. Ephesians 1.18 references “the hope to which he called you,” which points back to God’s plan to unite all things in Christ. The “call” (singular) to which the Ephesians should respond, therefore, is God’s call to be part of this “uniting all things in Christ.” Notice that Paul isn’t speaking of an individual “call on my life” sort of thing—he’s emphasizing the one call that God has given to His people generally (the invisible church) and specifically (the local church). Therefore, the Ephesians are “walking worthily of the call” that God has given them to the extent that they are united in their purpose of proclaiming Christ to the world around them so that they may see all things united in Christ. He continues in this vein when he writes of the “grace” (“charis”) that Christ has given to the church. While Romans 12 and 1 Corinthians 12-14 speak of the diversity of gifts within the one body, this passage actually emphasizes the overlap of gifts—and therefore emphasizes the singularity of THE GIFT. In other words, all of the gifts mentioned in this passage—prophet, pastor, etc.—have one common purpose. Through these offices, the church has been given one grace, and that is for the purpose of equipping the saints in the work of ministry for the purpose of spurring her toward maturity (12-14). Spiritual infancy can be describes as the lack of theological depth and consistency, as well as the lack of practical depth and consistency. Infancy is the natural state of all of us. But infancy is a bad place to stay, and God’s method of nurturing Christians into maturity is in the context of the local church. This is where they are to get their theology, their doctrinal teaching, their models of praxis. This is where they are to get their questions answered. This is where they are to learn to live for Christ—to see it modeled, stumbled over, and embraced. Therefore, according to this passage, none of the Ephesian Christians were given some specific gift for their use. Rather, the church at Ephesus had been given the gift of God’s grace and teaching (manifest in the various teaching and prophetic offices mentioned) so that the Ephesian church might then spur one another onward toward maturity.

 

Boy, is there real application here! Many, many American evangelical churches are really just clubs comprised of people who are swayed by many winds of bad doctrine. They don’t recognize bad doctrine as bad doctrine, of course; it feels right to them, and seems to fit their interpretation of scripture (which, it turn, is barely developed and badly stunted in maturity)….so they think they are embracing “good doctrine” and generally have negative feelings toward anyone who would correct it. This explains the fierce independent streak in American evangelicalism; lack of church discipline, lack of doctrinal correction, lack of maturity. But God’s plan for growing Christians into maturity was to set them in a corporeal (or physical) grouping of other Christians in time and space….and then to fan into flame the spiritual gifts that He had given to that church through those folks. The exercise of these gifts would then spur them onward past infancy toward sound doctrine, hermeneutics, exegesis, and theological adulthood. This could only happen in a culture of humility and love; as long as one’s own private “head voices” out-shouted the pastoral and teaching voices in the church, pride ruled supreme.

 

Just as Paul’s exhortation to the Ephesians was that they would unite in one gift of “uniting all things in Christ,” so my exhortation to you is to slightly lower the value of your own voice, and exalt the value of God’s voice in this passage. God has given the gifts and their respective offices to the church, not simply individuals. He has done this because He has a singular purpose: to unite the church in its calling, and to bring the members of the church into maturity. Let’s take part in that, as God intended, today. And tomorrow.

 

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