Ephesians Study, Part 28: One Body, Many Members

Review:

Last week we got started on Chapter 4 of Ephesians where Paul told us to act like the chosen people that we are, walk in a manner worthy of our calling.   And then we identified our calling to be like Joshua.   We already have the victory assured, but we are to go into the world and take it for Jesus.   Then Paul described how we should walk; humble, meek, patient and tolerant.   And remember, he told us that this is how we have to live our lives to maintain the unity that followers of Jesus must have to succeed.  

This week: One Body, Many Members

...we will pick up the thought of living in unity with Ephesians 4:4.  

When we talk about unity, many people try to unite Christians for unity's sake in ways that are not biblical.   Paul does not deal with unity in Chapter 4 until he has spent three chapters laying down sound doctrine.   He builds on that foundation of sound doctrine.   Christians are not to agree with false doctrine.   Again, this is important enough that let's turn to Romans 16.

This is the last chapter of Romans and Paul's definitive statement on Christian doctrine.

That is a call to doctrinal purity.   However, doctrinal purity does not necessarily produce spiritual purity.   An example of that is the first of the letters to the seven churches in the book of Revelation.   Jesus told John to write seven letters to seven churches that occupy Revelation chapter two and three.   The first letter was to the church in Ephesus.   And when he writes the report card he gives them good news and bad news.

This is one reason that in verse 15, before Ephesians Chapter 4 is over, he is going to enjoin them to speak truth with love.   We'll deal with that later.   Speaking truth is not enough.   But we must speak truth with love.  

Paul is going to list here seven elements of unity.   And you'll notice something here that is not obvious until you watch for it, but he centers these seven elements of unity on the Trinity.   Another place where, if you're sensitive to it, the Trinity's all over this message.   He mentions the one body, that of course refers to the universal Church.   Not the churches that we think of as buildings, not the churches that we think of as organized denominations, but in fact the true living body of Christ.   It consists, of course, of all believers.   He has mentioned that three times already;

He was setting the stage for this.   Paul uses the diversity of members of the body as his argument in First Corinthians 12.   He uses the physical body as the example to show that we all have different roles, and that each role may have different significance, but that all roles are central.   And he speaks of that in first Corinthians 12. Each of us is a required member of the body.   Each of us has a purpose to carry out.   I think this leads to the conclusion that all believers are to be visible.   Some people cop out by saying that they're a member of the invisible church.   When those who say that ring your doorbell, go-ahead and give them invisible money.   That invisible money can support their invisible church.   That's fine.   True believers are to be visible, active.   They are called to be visible.   There is no excuse for a real believer not to be a member of a local church because it is there that he exercises his gifts to help others to grow.   We'll come more to the gifts here in a minute.

When you start to think about a local church, the question of denomination comes up.   The famous preacher Harry Ironside is quoted as saying that someone came up to him and asked him, "What denomination are you?" He said "I belong to the same denomination that David did."   The person said, "What denomination was that?  Then Harry Ironside quoted Psalm 119:63 which says:

Kind of a sneaky answer.   When someone tries to nail you down about what denomination you are, one of your options now is to say that you're the same denomination that David was, and you can quote Psalm 119:63.

Paul uses the term one body, one spirit.   That's pretty straightforward, the Holy Spirit.

What is our one hope?   People speak of the blessed hope, but it's interesting how many people, when they use that term, have no idea what they're talking about.   What is our blessed hope? Our blessed hope is the return of Jesus.   It's fascinating that many churches speak of the blessed hope but they don't really believe in a literal second coming of Jesus.   The return of Jesus and our return to heaven is our eternal hope.   There are many verses that point to that.   In Ephesians 1 verses 13 and 14, Paul address that.   By the way, focus on his return.   If people are truly focused on their eternal hope which is the second coming of Jesus then it will definitely affect their priorities in their life.   People who are expecting Jesus to be back shortly tend to get their act together.   People who expect Jesus to return shortly have a heavy burden to spread his word and to lead other people to accept him before he returns.   They care about things now rather than in the never-never future.

One Lord, One faith, One baptism... --Ephesians 4:5

One God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all. --Ephesians 4:6 Paul loves to emphasize the Father.   He did it twice in Chapter 1.   He did it in Chapter 2 verse 18.   And he did it Chapter 3 verse 14 and he will do it again in Chapter 5 verse 20.  

When we speak of "God the Father", we can only use that term if we are born again.   He is indeed the Father of us if we have been born again spiritually.   In that case we have been re-born into his family.   It is interesting that the so-called Lord's Prayer, as it is usually called, should really be called the Disciples' Prayer.  It was Jesus' response when the disciples asked him how they should pray.   The term "The Lord's Prayer" should really apply to the prayer in John 17 where Jesus prays to the Father on his own behalf.   But everybody by convention refers to the Lord's Prayer as the one where he starts "Our Father, who art in Heaven..."   Note that he starts with "Our father", not my Father.   The only time that Jesus did not call him Father is with his first words while he was hanging on the cross.   Then, he said "My God my God, why have you forsaken me?"   Because at that time he was hanging there in our place.   That's the only time that he did not call him Father.

In verse 6 Paul says

This becomes one of the most fascinating discoveries, once you recognize the transcendency of the creator.   Chuck Missler and another writer published a book called The Creator Beyond Time and Space.   In that book they make the case that God transcends beyond his own creation.   Every other holy book in the world, except the Bible, presumes the universal three dimensions and presumes that God is part of those three dimensions.   Only the Bible recognizes that God is beyond the physical limitations, that he transcends his own creation.   That he is beyond time and space and so forth.   Once you recognize that, as we have discussed, science now agrees with it.   What is amazing is that the transcendent one is now joined to his creation.   The amazing thing is, that as we meet here today, there is a man sitting on the throne of God, and he has nailed pierced hands that will rule the universe throughout eternity.   God is now joined to his creation.

A Diversity of Gifts:

Now Paul is going to shift gears here.  He's going to move from what we have in common, to how we differ from one another.

In the natural realm, we all have abilities.   Candidly, in the natural realm we are not all created equal.   Some have many, many talents, some have fewer.   But in the spiritual realm every believer has at least one spiritual gift, one supernatural gift.   And one of the exciting things in your life, one of the most exciting things in his grand adventure in our lives, is to discover what the spiritual gifts are that God has given you when you become a believer.   We know from the Scriptures that every believer is given at least one.   The reason that is so exciting is not because they're necessarily so dramatic, but it is a clue to what our ministry is.   God has a special ministry for every one of us in this room.   And if we fail to exercise those gifts we are injuring the rest of the body.   That's his point here.   There are a number of lists of spiritual gifts in the Bible.   When people come up and start talking about spiritual gifts you can look them straight in the face and ask them if they happen to have the gift of wood carving.   Or how about stone carving?   They will look at you quizzically.   And what you would be doing is using the spiritual gifts listed in the Old Testament in the book of Exodus.   Of course that's not what they had in mind.   But it turns out that there are several lists of spiritual gifts in the Bible, but of course we normally are talking about three lists that are given in the New Testament.   In First Corinthians 12:4-11, 27-31 there are lists.   There's a list in Romans 12:3-8.   And there's a list here in chapter 4 of Ephesians.   The point is, I believe, that each of these lists is representative.   They are not exclusive.   The spiritual gifts are not toys to play with.   They are tools to build with.   Incidentally nowhere in the Scripture does it say that we are to inspect the spiritual gifts.   You're supposed to discover what yours is indeed.   You are not call to inspect the gifts, but you are called to inspect the fruits.   The fruits are the results of those gifts.   I don't know what gifts you have but I should see visible evidence of the fruits of those gifts in your life.  

There is no gift above any of the other gifts.   The Holy Spirit gives us the gifts as he chooses.   There are two errors you can make with regard to spiritual gifts.   One is to assume that they're not for today and I believe that's biblically incorrect.   The other error is to assume that there is one gift above other gifts, which is also biblically incorrect.   Paul deals with spiritual gifts in both Chapter 12 and Chapter 14 of First Corinthians.   But right in the middle of those two chapters is Chapter 13 where he says that he will show them a more excellent way.   The more excellent way that he points out is love.   Love is the identity.   When one member of the body suffers, the whole body suffers.   If your foot hurts your whole body suffers.   If your back hurts, or whatever hurts, your entire body suffers you get the idea.   The analogy is pretty valid for the body of Christ.   If you do not exercise your gift, then you throw all the rest of us out of tune.   If you're a member of the body of a local body and you're not exercising your gift then in some sense that local body is shortchanged.

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Next week:

...we will again pick up with Ephesians 4:8 and continue Paul's admonition about how we should behave, how we should live our lives, and how we should live up to our calling.