STUDIES IN EPHESIANS
Copyright © Rosemary Bardsley 2003
STUDY SIX: TO LIVE WORTHY OF OUR CALLING [4:1-16]
Paul has spent three chapters spelling out the meaning and implications of the salvation we have in Jesus Christ. He has taught us clearly that:
For the next three chapters Paul teaches us the practical implications of the grand facts of the gospel message. Chapters 1 to 3 give us the facts of our salvation, our new relationship with both God and our fellow believer. Chapters 4 to 6 teach us about the way this new relationship is meant to express itself in our daily choices and attitudes.
A. WORTHY OF THE CALLING WE RECEIVED [4:1]
Paul now proceeds to tell us that we should 'live a life worthy of the calling' we have received. By 'calling' he means all that he has already identified as ours in Christ, and all that that he has identified as God's intended telos or goal in calling us to Christ.
Let us remind ourselves of our new identity in Christ and the new reason for our existence:
Task #1: On the basis of the verses listed, think of a single word or a phrase that expresses the meaning of Paul's description of believers [left hand side] and Paul's teaching about the result or purpose of our salvation [right hand side].
To live worthy of this calling, Paul urges us, should be our goal. This is what God now calls you in Christ, and this is what he has called you to, in Christ. Live worthy of it.
B. THE UNDERLYING UNITY [4:3-6]
In 4:2 Paul teaches: 'Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.' This, to his mind, is the most obvious outworking of our calling:
The opposites of each of these cause division within the body of Christ. For this reason Paul tells us to 'make every effort' to preserve the existing unity. Our automatic response to these words is to assume they are simply talking about our personal attitudes to each other; but, as we will see in the next few verses, their context is not a vacuum, but the context of God's truth. God's truth is the foundation of true unity and the source of true unity. Paul is not advocating unity at the expense of God's absolute truth but unity grounded on and springing from the truth.
Task #2: Discuss the meaning of the phrases from 4:3-6 describing the underlying unity of believers. Write their meanings in the boxes. Where possible try to get the meaning from something Paul has already said in the first three chapters.
In these ten phrases Paul disempowers any validation of on-going division between Jewish and Gentile believers in the church at Ephesus. Picking up some of the facts he has already established, he urges his readers to live in the power and the light of the unity that already has been established between them by their union with Christ:
In the church today we are not plagued by Jew/Gentile divisions, but we are constantly confronted by doctrinal errors of one kind or another, including the divisive and destructive impact of legalism. What Paul states in Ephesians 4:1-16 is of extreme relevance for us as we find ourselves in situations where unity and truth seem to be in conflict. True truth and true unity are never in conflict, because the latter is grounded on and issues from the former.
C. CHRIST'S PROVISION AND PURPOSE FOR HIS CHURCH [4:7-16]
Paul teaches that Christ has given gifts [grace] to individuals within the church to bring the church to unity and maturity. These are the gifts of proclamation of God's truth, teaching the good news, pastoring and teaching. All of these four gifts involve communication of God's truth. Note that they are all [including 'evangelism'] gifts given to the church for the well-being of the church. As God's truth is communicated in the church the church progresses towards spiritual maturity.
Task #3: Read 4:7-16. From these verses make two lists in the boxes below. Note that each of the purposes connects to those that follow.
We will now look at each of these purposes or intended outcomes:
C.1 'to prepare God's people for works of service' 
In Ephesians 2:10 Paul stated that we were 'created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do'. Now, Paul tells us, the reason God has placed people with different gifts within the church is to 'prepare God's people for works of service.' These works of service [diakonias], which Christ wants members of his church to do, are anything from giving someone a meal to preaching the Gospel. This involves every member of the church.
Task #4: Identify the 'work of service' in each of these passages. [In each the Greek word used is diakonos or one of its derivatives.]
C.2 'so that the body of Christ will be built up' [12, see also 4:16]
Older translations use the word 'edified' here. The concept is the spiritual growth and strengthening of the church. Notice that this happens as everyone gets busy doing what God saved us to do  and as 'each part does its work' . When God's truth is clearly taught it motivates the church to action, this in turn strengthens the church.
C.3 'until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ' 
Notice the centrality of 'the faith and ... the knowledge of the Son of God'. It is the focus and content of the Christian faith that generates observable unity. As we have just seen, unity already exists in the church. Now, Paul indicates that there is also a progression towards unity ... as our knowledge of Christ increases as we are taught the truth about him. There is also progression towards maturity as the church learns about Christ by the communication of his truth. Thus verse 13 lists four things that result when God's truth is communicated within the church:
C.4 'then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves ... ' 
The communication and teaching of God's truth within the church, motivating the church to acts of service and leading the church towards unity and maturity in Christ has a further purpose and result: that the church, individually and corporately, will be increasingly protected against the allurement and attractions of false and deviant teaching. Here again we see Paul's intense focus on the content of 'the faith' and his affirmation of the extreme importance of the truth. He identifies false teaching as
Its effect on un-taught, immature believers is that they are 'tossed back and forth' and 'blown here and there'. Without stability. Without foundation. Without consistency. Without discernment.
C.5 'Instead, speaking the truth in love ... '
It is obvious in context that Paul here is not talking about 'telling the truth' as opposed to 'telling lies': he is referring to 'teaching the truth' as the opposite of the false teaching to which he has just referred. It is to protect the church against the deceitful doctrines of men that Christ has placed in his church people with the four teaching/communication gifts listed in verse 11. It is this truth that will bring the church to maturity in Christ, her head. Note the qualifying 'in love'. The love of God constrains us to teach his truth rather than error: it is not to promote ourselves or our opinions that we teach the truth, but because of our knowledge that the truth about Jesus Christ is the only truth that can set people free. To refuse to teach the truth is to act without love.
C.6: ' from him ... ' 
As the church is taught the truth about Jesus Christ and individuals within the church each do the work of God, the church as a whole is built up.
Task # 6: Having taught us about the unity of the church (incorporating both Jew and Gentile believers), and having taught us that the gifts God has given to the church are aimed at establishing unity and maturity in the church, in 4:14-16 Paul sums up the result/expression of this unity and maturity. From these verses finish the sentences below:
Task # 7: Discuss the foundational and essential connection between God's truth and unity and maturity in the church. Note any significant points in the box below.
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