The previous sections explain how the church was established. In this and the following sections, Paul discusses what life as a Christian in the body of Christ should be like. This passage, in particular, stresses the necessity for unity and newness of life.
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- The Unity of the Church (4:1-6)
- The Gifts for the Church (4:7-11)
- The Goal for the Church (4:12-16)
- The Moral Standards of the Church (the New Man) (4:17-32)
What is “the calling with which we have been called” (1)?Hide Answer
To be God’s own people (1Pet 2:9-10), to be members of His body, the church.
What are the essential virtues mentioned in verse 2 and 3 that make for the ‘unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace’?Hide Answer
Lowliness, meekness, patience, forbearing one another in love, eagerness to maintain unity. The first four virtues are passive towards others, absorbing contention and dissension till they fizzle out. Read Gideon’s gentle answer that preserved the unity of Israel (Judg 8:1-3). The last virtue is active as in the teaching of Jesus on the Mount regarding making peace with one’s brother before offering a gift to God (Mt 5:23,24).
Elaborate on the many ‘ones’ in verses 4 to 6. For example, one body refers to one church (see Eph 1:22,23). Christ has only one church and it is important for followers of Christ to be in that one church—we call this the one true church in contrast to the false churches. See also Mt 24:24 and Jn 10:14,15. a. One Spirit b. One hope c. One Lord d. One faith e. One baptism f. One God and Father of allHide Answer
a. One Spirit—One Holy Spirit. Thus to be careful of false spirits ( 1Jn 4:1- 6). Thus also the Holy Spirit is God (see Acts 16:7-10).
b. One hope—the hope of being God’s people in the kingdom of heaven. Thus do not believe in Jesus for things hoped for on earth alone (1Cor 15:19).
c. One Lord—Our Lord Jesus Christ. Thus no one else should be called master other than Christ Himself (see Mt 23:8-10; 1Cor 1:12, 13).
d. One faith—One core collection of truths we believe in faith (see Tit 1:4) which was once for all delivered to the saints through Jesus, the apostles and the prophets (Eph 2:20; Jude 3).
e. One baptism—One mode of baptism, one receiving of baptism (Rom 6:3; Heb 10:26-29).
f. One God and Father of all—Serve no other. The false alternatives:
mammon (Mt 6:24) and Satan (Jn 8:44).
How is God our Father a. “above all”? b. “through all”? c. “in you all”?Hide Answer
a. He is sovereign over all creation.
b. His works pervade all creation (cf. Rom 8:28).
c. He dwells in the hearts of believers through His Spirit.
The word “but” in verse 7 suggests a transition. How does this paragraph contrast with the previous paragraph?Hide Answer
Whereas 4-6 stresses oneness, this paragraph discusses diversity within the body of Christ.
A digression—It is difficult to decide if verse 8 is a quotation from the Old Testament because no passage seems to fit exactly. Two possibilities exist. First, that the verse, either here or in the Old Testament, has been slightly mistranslated and thus the closest match will be Psalm 68:18. The other is that the quotation is from some other non-Old Testament writing (see Jude 14,15 which is a quotation from a non-Old testament writing, Assumption of Moses). The explanation in parenthesis of verses 9 and 10 can be compared with Jn 3:13.
Grace and gifts are apportioned according to the measure of Christ’s gift. Name the gifts as recorded in verse 11 and discuss these offices in relation to the work of the church.Hide Answer
Apostle – Greek ‘apostolos’: a delegate; an ambassador of the Gospel; a commissioner of Christ (with miraculous powers); a messenger; he that is sent. All followers of Christ are disciples but not all are apostles. The 12 were called apostles (Mt 10:2, Rev 21:14). Paul, Barnabas, Andronicus and Junias were considered apostles (1Cor 15:7-9; Acts 14:14; Rom 16:7) indicating that apostleship is not restricted to the 12. It seems that to qualify as an apostle, one must be personally sent by Jesus (1Cor 9:1,2).
Prophet – Prophets had their roles in the early church (Acts 11:27,28; 21:10,11). But they still had to conform to the perfect standard of God (Deut 18:20-22; 13:1-5). Prophesy in Hebrew is ‘naba’ – speak (or sing) by inspiration (in prediction or simple discourse). Prophet in Greek is ‘prophetes’ – a foreteller; by analogy, a divine speaker. So prophecy is more than foretelling the future, it is speaking the word of God. Thus the church is encouraged to seek the gift of prophecy above the gift of speaking in tongues (to others) (1Cor 14:1-5).
Evangelist – Greek ‘euanggelistes’: a preacher of the gospel. Philip was an evangelist (Acts 21:8). Timothy was charged to do the work of an evangelist (2Tim 4:5). An apostle is personally sent by Jesus and a prophet speaks under the inspiration of God. In contrast, an evangelist preaches the good news that he has heard – that true belief in Jesus saves. Also in contrast with the pastor and the teacher, the evangelist’s scope is to those outside the church.
Pastor – Hebrew verb is ‘raah’: to tend a flock i.e. pasture it. The Greek
noun is ‘poimen’ – a shepherd (literally or figuratively). The link to the
commission of Christ in Jn 21:15-17 to feed His lambs, tend His sheep
and feed His sheep is clear. The work of a pastor, in contrast to the
evangelist, is to shepherd the members in the church.
Teacher – Greek ‘didaskalos’: an instructor (doctor, master, teacher). A
teacher is different from a prophet or an evangelist in that it is his
responsibility that his students understand what he teaches. The teacher
has to ensure doctrinal understanding (Heb 5:12). The teacher is also
reminded that he shall be judged with greater strictness (Jas 3:1). So
why be a teacher then? Because it is our duty and responsibility if we
have been given the gift (Lk 12:42-48).
Note: Compare these gifts with the gifts in 1Cor 12:28. The two lists
overlap but by themselves neither are comprehensive.
What is the purpose of the diverse gifts?Hide Answer
They are for equipping the saints for the work of ministry and for the edifying of the body of Christ (12).
What does the word “ministry” mean (12)? What does this tell us about our attitude in using our spiritual gifts?Hide Answer
‘Ministry’ in Greek is ‘diakonia’ meaning attendance (as a servant). The root word is ‘diako’ meaning to run on errands. This does not demean the work involved which is the glorious work of saving souls but clearly shows the vast gulf in status between the master (God) and the minister (the human worker). The minister thus should not see himself as superior to the common member and lord it over them (Lk 12:45-47) but rather should realize his responsibility to his superior, God Himself.
What are the two primary goals of church growth, according to 13-16?Hide Answer
Spiritual wisdom and stature. These two aspects coincide with “truth” and “love” in 15-16. A mature church is one in which believers are filled with the knowledge of God, being able to discern what is right. But spiritual knowledge must be accompanied by love (1Cor 8:1). In other words, believers need to develop and manifest Christ-like characters by supporting each other and edifying one another out of love.
According to verse 16, every part of the body needs to join with other parts while doing its share. How does this analogy apply to our service in the church?Hide Answer
No believer in the church should be idle, but everyone has his share of work in the body of Christ. While we each play our individual roles, we cannot afford to function alone. We need to work together with other believers in one accord.
It has often been emphasized that Jesus kept company with sinners (see Mt 9:10,11; 11:19). Thus sinners should be welcome in church. However, some have gone so far as to say that the church should not preach about sin and about what is wrong and instead use ‘positive’ teaching to guide the members. Reading Eph 4:17-32 will help us understand what God really wants in His church. To begin, describe the old nature i.e. the nature of a Gentile (non-believer).Hide Answer
Futile in their minds. Darkened in their understanding. Alienated from the life of God because of their ignorance. Due to their hardness of heart, have become callous and have given themselves up to licentiousness, greedy to practice uncleanness.
What is required of a believer?Hide Answer
Verses 20-24 talk clearly of putting off the old nature and putting on a new nature. Jesus accepts us even though we are still in our old nature BUT He expects us to change after we ‘learn Christ’. He said to the woman caught in adultery, “Go and sin no more.” (Jn 8:3-11).
Contrast the mind of an unbeliever (17-18) with the mind of a believer (23). Account for the difference.Hide Answer
The unconverted mind is futile, darkened, ignorant, and blind. On the contrary, the mind of the new man has been renewed. Through the Holy Spirit’s enlightenment, we have come to know the surpassing greatness of Christ and the glory of our inheritance (Eph 1:17-19; Phil 3:7-8). Thus, our values, priorities, and outlooks in life should be focused on the things above rather than on the desires of our flesh (Rom 12:2; 13:14; Col 3:1-4).
List some of the features of the new nature. Discuss where each of us are with regards to attaining these virtues. Encourage one another.Hide Answer
Speak the truth (25).
Anger without sin because it is given a time frame to expire (26-27).
Stop sinning – the thief must no longer steal (28).
Do good – the former thief must find honest work so that he may help others (28).
No evil talk, speak edifying words (29).
Do not grieve the Holy Spirit (30)—The Holy Spirit lives in the believer (Jn 14:17) and teaches him the truth (Jn 14:26). We grieve Him when we refuse to listen to His teaching and prefer to walk according to our own will. Read also Ps 78:40,41.
Put away bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor and slander (31).
Be kind, tenderhearted and forgiving (32).