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Diligently Preserve Unity

Sermon Date:November 13, 2016

Sermon Topics:Ephesians 4:1-6

Author:Allen Burns

Scripture Reading: Ephesians 4:1-6

Sermon Title: Diligently Preserve Unity

Sermon Text: Ephesians 4:1-6

MAIN IDEA:  God urges us to walk worthy of our calling by diligently seeking to preserve unity.

(Preserve unity with: “A Hug – Praise the Lord” – All HUmility Gentleness, Patience Tolerance Love)

The Hope of Our Calling

The Walk of Our Calling

The Unity of Our Calling

 

NOTE: “Scripture quotations are from the NASB." I provide this manuscript as a courtesy. I do not follow the document word for word during the message. I also do not write the document with the intent of publication; there may be grammatical errors throughout. Thanks for understanding.

 

 

Introduction

The letter to the Ephesians begins with one of the greatest, most uplifting chapters in the Bible. God intends it to be a great source of encouragement. It is written to give God glory and to give His saints hope.

Hope is an expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen. Biblical hope is a certain hope and not wishful thinking. We have full expectation that our hope will come to pass.

We are given fantastic and unimaginable hope. We realize God loves us and has granted to us precious promises. Because of God’s promises, we may live knowing this world is not all there is for us. We hope in our resurrection from the dead and we hope to live with Christ as adopted children of God.

We have hope because we are called. God calls His people. He speaks and His saints respond to His voice. God calls us to us and says, “Put your faith in My Beloved Son, Jesus Christ. Be my adopted child.”

God’s call gives every child of God hope. In this letter, the Apostle refers to our hope as “the hope of our calling.” We base our hope on the character of God. God is faithful and not a liar. What He says will happen.

The Hope of Our Calling

 What is our hope?

What is the hope of our calling?

Our hope is found at the end of the narrow road we walk. At the end of our journey, we will not taste death, but we will walk through the pearly gates of heaven. At those gates, every trouble, sorrow, pain, and tear will be left behind. We will walk through the pearly gates because God made us alive together with Christ, and raised us up with Him (2:5-6). This present life filled with corruption, decay and death transforms into righteousness, prosperity, and life.

Our hope is the tabernacle of God will be among men. We will walk to the center of the Heavenly Kingdom where we will stand before the throne of God with boldness and confidence. We stand boldly because we enter the Kingdom in complete holiness. The blood of Christ has washed away every sin and replaced our sin with perfect righteousness. We will stand holy, blameless, and above reproach before the Great Judgment Throne (1:4).

Our hope is that we will see our Savior seated in the heavenly place and He will say, “Come, sit with me, for it is granted for you to sit with me in this heavenly place (2:5-6). Once we sit with Him, we will enjoy a great marriage feast. We will have reached our final destination. We will dwell together with God in the New Jerusalem. God will be our God and we will be His people. When we thirst, we will be given to drink from the spring of the water of life without cost (Is. 55:1). We will eat of rich food and we will receive healing from the Tree of Life. We will be complete in every way imaginable. We will partake of the perfect joy and pleasure of every spiritual blessing found in the storehouse of the heavenly places (1:3).

We are a people with great hope. Our hope is not wishful thinking. Our hope is based upon the authority of God’s perfect, complete, inerrant Word. Our hope is the anchor of our soul. We have a living hope. Our hope is the light which motivates and directs our way as we walk along the dark narrow road.

All Saints Have One Hope

Not all the believers in the church in Ephesus had this hope. The Apostle Paul established the church. Slowly the church evolved and it became a church with the “haves” and the “have nots.” Jewish believers were the “haves.” They were the minority. The Gentile believers were the “have nots.” They made up the majority in the church. They did not have the same hope. The church was not walking in unity.

The Gentile believers did not have the same hope because they did not see how the blessings of Abraham belonged to them. Perhaps they thought this because of the Jewish believers. We cannot know for sure. The faith the Gentiles had in the work of God faltered. They questioned their inheritance. Their hope diminished.

The Apostle Paul spent two years preaching to them the unfathomable riches of Christ. Now, as he sits in the confines of Roman imprisonment, he writes to Ephesus to restore hope. He tells them he has been praying for them. He says,

I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling … (Eph. 1:18)

He then writes three chapters detailing how the Jews and the Gentiles are not two groups of believers with two different callings, but they are fellow heirs and fellow members of the same calling. One calling with one hope. There is not Jewish Christians and Gentile Christians. They are both Christian. They are joined together. They are both sinners saved by grace sharing the same hope of glory.

Paul writes the letter to bring them in to unity. They share the same hope of their calling. There is not two hopes, but one hope. As the letter is read and taught in Ephesus, all disunity should dissipate. They are to read the letter and know they belong to one another. Gentiles and Jews are fellow heirs and fellow members of the body, and fellow partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel (Eph. 3:6).

This truth does not just apply to the church in Ephesus. All believers, from the Genesis until the day of Christ’s return, have the same hope. We will walk through the same pearly gate as Abraham, Moses, King David, the prophets, and every believer who puts their faith in Christ. We enter the same gate and share in the blessings of heaven together.

There is no class structure with Christ’s salvation. Every believer is a recipient of the unfathomable riches of Christ.

All who are called by God have hope. It is the hope of our calling.

As we look at our text this morning in chapter four, we see there is a unity of our calling.

The Unity of Our Calling

There is unity in our calling. God called us to be united, not separated.

Let’s read verses 1-3, the opening statement of chapter four:

Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

Let’s paraphrase what Paul is saying.

Therefore, because Jew and Gentile are called with one hope and one calling, I implore you, I beg you, to live a life that reflects you are together called by God. Live with humility and gentleness. Be patient. Lovingly show tolerance for one another’s faults. When you live like this, you will be in unity with one another. Be diligent to preserve the unity of the Holy Spirit by living with one another in the bond of peace.

Now, let’s look first at verses 4 & 5:

4There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling; 5one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all.

This sentence could go before verses 1-3 because it serves as the basis (the reason behind), why we should obey the command of the first sentence.

Paul takes one truth, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling; and binds it together with other truths. Just as there is one hope, you need to know that there is one body, one Spirit, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God. It is all one. Because it is all one, you should be united as one.

Let me paraphrase these verses as if I were one of the elders in Ephesus, and it is my responsibility to teach this letter to the church, this is what I would say:

Brothers and sisters in Christ. We should work very hard to live in unity with one another because we all belong together. The Apostle Paul has clearly taught us that Christ died for all of us. Before we were called by God, we lived in sin. Gentiles lived in sin and Jews lived in sin. God saved us. We all are the adopted children of God. We all receive the same inheritance. Those among us who are Gentiles have the same hope as those among us who are former Jews. We have one hope of our calling. There is a “singularity” to our hope. The hope of the Gentiles is the hope of the Jews. The hope of the Jews is the hope of the Gentiles. Our hope is the Christian hope.

In the same way that we have the same hope, there is a singularity to our religion. God is one. My God is your God and your God is my God. There is one salvation. My salvation is your salvation. We all have the same faith in Christ; not two different faiths in two different Lords. We serve one Lord and our Lord has one body. Together, we are members of one body and Jesus is the Head. We are baptized in Christ’s death and we will be raised together with one resurrection. In his letter to us, Paul is emphasizing that there is one salvation, one Lord, one God, one hope. There is unity and for us to not live in unity is to not live according to our hope. We are living with one faith in one Lord.

Brethren, we need to preserve the unity that exists. There is only Holy Spirit who lives in each of us. The Spirit, Lord, and Father are in unity. Because they are in unity and because we share the same hope, we need to live in unity and diligently preserve the unity of the Trinity.

Let’s preserve the unity by walking in a manner which reflects the unity of our calling. Walk with humility and gentleness. Demonstrate patience. Lovingly how tolerance toward one another.

To preserve the unity, we need to have the walk of unity which is the walk of our calling.

The Walk of Our Calling

Here we get to the nuts and bolts of how we need to live.

We have six ways to respond to this text. Paul implores his readers to respond. We are urged to respond as well.

1- Be doers of the word

Paul wrote this letter to change the readers. In other words, this letter is written so they will think, speak, and act differently. His desire as an Apostle, is to ensure the church lives as it church should.

Paul typically writes by first providing pure truth and then providing applied truth. Think of pure truth as stating facts. We do this in life all the time. For example, in the medical field, people need to study pure truth about the body, before they practice applied medicine. Without pure truth about how the body works, doctors and nurses will make mistakes in applied truth. After learning about pure truth, then medical professionals learn applied truth.

Pure truth: the body is covered with sensory nerves which convert outside stimuli into electromechanical signals to the brain. When the nerves are stimulated, they signal the brain to respond. The response may be a sudden movement of the affected area, a loud cry of exclamation from the patient, or a combination of the two. This is pure truth with no applied truth.

Applied truth: Because it is necessary to cut through the skin to gain access to a torn muscle, it may be necessary to sedate the patient to prevent them from screaming and punching you in the face while you are trying to cut them with the scalpel.  The pure truth informs the medical professional how to proceed with an operation; which is applied truth.

Just as it is dangerous for medical professionals to try to operate without pure truth of how the body works, it is dangerous to have applied religion which is not based upon pure truth.

An example of pure truth in Christianity: Jesus is the way, the truth and the life. No man may come to the Father except through Jesus. Because of this pure truth, we have the corresponding applied truth: Believe (imperative) in Jesus. Do not put your faith in works or other people, but only believe in Jesus. He is the only way to gain entry to be with the Father.

Pure truth informs applied truth. When we have just pure truth, we have head knowledge. But, we don’t consider how the truth applies to life. When we do not have applied truth in our life, then we ignore what James says, “Be doers of the word and not hearers only” (Ja. 1:22).

Paul knows pure truth must be known first. To inspire change, Paul first writes three chapters of pure truth. Paul states truth after truth. In the letter to the Ephesians, only once in the first three chapters does Paul give a call to action. He does so in Ephesians 2:11 when he tells the Gentiles to “remember; remember that you were at that time separate from Christ.”

Except for that one verse, Paul gives no instruction or requirements, he gives no rules to obey nor does he provide any obligations for them to meet. There are no “imperatives.” An imperative is an authoritative command. An imperative is always given when there is applied truth. Imperatives are commands which correspond to pure truth.

In the last three chapters, there are 40 imperatives. Clearly, there is a shift in the letter from pure truth to applied truth. Paul is now informing the Ephesians, based on the pure truth of the first three chapters, the proper way to live. He writes about the applied truth to govern life.

Be doers of the word.

2- Know unity is the aim (goal) of this letter

This is why Paul wrote the letter. The first three chapters are aiming at the this text; these two sentences of chapter four. This is the main purpose he wrote.

Imagine being the carrier of the letter. You know what the letter says, but you have not had a chance to give it to the elders in the church for them to read. As you are carrying the letter to Ephesus, you are joined on your journey by one of the church members. There is only about a mile or so to walk before you get to the church and you strike up a conversation.

You tell them about Paul and his situation and then you say, Paul wrote a letter to the church. The person asks what the letter is about. You say, it is right for me to give the letter to the elders. However, I don’t think Paul or the elders would mind if I tell you a little bit about the letter. The letter has two main points. The first is that Jews and Gentiles have the same inheritance in Christ. All the promises of Abraham belong to all the saints, not just the Jews. The second point is that, because we share in the same promises, everyone in the church needs to live in unity. It is very important that we live in unity.

We are implored to walk in unity.

 We need to have in mind the reason for this letter in our Bible is to urge us to live in unity with one another. The importance of unity may not be understated. In reading the book, “I Am A Church Member,” we read together the importance of unity and we pledge together to be a unified church member. This letter gives us the applied knowledge of how we may diligently seek to preserve the unity in the bond of peace.

Know this book is written for us to be in unity with one another.

3- Diligently Preserve Unity

Imagine in Ephesus that there are 300 people in the church, around 30 are former Jews and the rest are Gentiles.

Imagine living as a Jew and everything you do is to honor God. Your food choices, clothing, and how you worked and played was done in a way to be right before God. Now, imagine your church being invaded by a bunch of foul-mouthed pagan Gentiles. Your Gentile friends don’t know the difference between the Feast of Tabernacles and the Feast of Trumpets. The lifestyle of the Gentiles is annoying.

Imagine you are a former pagan and give your life to Christ. You join the church and in the church, are a bunch of “holier-than-thou” Israelites. Every time you turn around they are making some comment about your food, Artemis tattoo, working on Saturday, or some other practice. Once in a while you slip and do something you used to do when you worshipped idols. You repent and ask the Lord to help you in the future. However, it seems every time you slip into sin, one of your Israelite friends in the church catches you in the act. The Jews are annoying.

We can be sure there were people in the church in Ephesus who rubbed one another the wrong way. It is inevitable that whenever the people of God gather that there will be friction. We have had our share of friction. However, we need to do all we can to lay aside our differences so we preserve unity.

We must seek unity at all costs. We must deny ourselves and put others first. We should not seek unity at the expense of truth. In other words, if a brother or sister does not repent, and denies the truth of scripture, we must do all we can to help them come to the truth. Doing this takes patience and love.

(Preserve unity with “a Hug – Praise the Lord” – All HUmility Gentleness, Patience Tolerance for one another in Love)

 

We diligently strive for unity when we walk with humility and gentleness. This is what the passage is talking about when it says we need to show others patience in their struggles. We need to show tolerance for one another in love. When we are tolerant for one another in love, we do what our Savior says when He says to forgive, “seventy times seven times” (Mt. 18:22). Forgive others as Christ has forgiven us.

Diligently preserve unity.

5- Walk as a child of God our Father

6one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all.

The phrase, “over all, through all, and in all” tells of the Father’s relationship to believers.

God is over all which means He is sovereign of our lives. God is through all, which means God is working through us for His purpose. Lastly, God is in all references God indwelling of the believer with His Holy Spirit.

God is over all and He predestined us to adoption as His children. Before God saved us, we walked according to the course of this world and the power of darkness (Eph. 2:2). Now that we are saved and in the light, we are to walk as children of light (Eph. 5:8).

God is through all and working in us to accomplish His purpose. We are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them (Eph. 2:10).

God is in us so we are to no longer walk as unbelievers (Eph. 4:17), but we are to walk according to the Spirit and not in the flesh. God would have us be imitators of Him, as beloved children; and walk in love (Eph. 5:1-2).

When we think about walking in good works, chances are we think of tasks and doing things. We likely think of helping someone in need or serving in the church. The Christian walk is a walk of service; however, what is most important, is that the Christian walk is a walk of character. God is most concerned with how we serve.

Notice the verse says, “walk in a manner worthy of our calling” and it is followed up with character traits. It doesn’t say, go to church, give money to the poor, help people move, visit the sick, make meals for people, or study the Bible every day. These things are not wrong, but they are not walking in a manner worthy of our calling. To walk in a manner worthy of our calling we are imitators of God. We are humble, gentle, patient, and showing tolerance for one another in love.

Because God is over us, working through us, and in us, we will reflect the love of God. We will be conformed to the image of Christ.

Walk as a child of the Father.

6- Treat others based upon hope

We are a people who have a shared hope. Our hope is to be with Christ and to sit with Him in the heavenly places. God wants us to cherish this hope. We are future royalty.

Imagine if next week, the of King Willem-Alexander, the King of the Netherlands came back to live here in NH. Imagine one of his children, Princess Catharina-Amali, decided to attend our church. She is the heir apparent to her father the king.

Let’s be honest, which one of us would treat her the same as we treat all the other children in the church? We all know that she would receive preferential treatment. She would be likely to “get away with a little bit more” than the rest of the children. We would overlook a few more of her sins than we would with other children.

How do we see one another? Do we look at one another with all their faults? Do we look at skin color or how they dress? Do we judge them by who they voted for in the election? Or, do we look at them in the Spirit?

Therefore from now on we recognize no one according to the flesh (2 Cor. 5:16)

Why? Because we are new creatures in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17). Every believer in our church is an heir of God and fellow heirs with Christ. Each of us are children of the King. As children of the King, we need to act as we are sitting at the right hand of God in the heavenly places. More importantly, we need to treat one who is sitting at God’s right hand in Christ.

We need to see one another as we will see one another after we pass through the pearly gates. What will that be like? You and I will be perfect. All the things that annoy us will be gone. We will be high-fiving one another and rejoicing together that we made it home. We are children of the King of kings

Be more concerned your brother or sister in Christ is treated as a child of the King than being concerned for how you are treated.

Summary

God urges us to walk worthy of our calling by diligently seeking to preserve unity. This is the aim of the letter to the Ephesians. We have reached the reason why God put this letter in the Bible.

How do we preserve unity? With “a Hug – Praise the Lord”! – All HUmility Gentleness, Patience, Tolerance for one another in Love)