Ephesians 4:1-16

When we began Ephesians I mentioned that you cannot read just the first half (chapters 1-3) without also reading the second half (chapters 4-6). Likewise, you cannot read the second half without reading the first half. This is because each half relates to the other in dramatic ways. This week we’ll start looking at how these two sections relate and why Paul wrote Ephesians in such a way.

Ephesians 4:1–4:

1 Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, 3 being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling;

This word “Therefore”, which begins chapter 4, is critical to understanding the structure of Ephesians as a whole. This word acts as a fulcrum on which the weight of the first three chapters act as a balance to the weight of the last 3 chapters. Removing anything from either side would render the entire book out-of-balance. To understand why I see this word as the fulcrum on which both side of Ephesians balance we need to understand the main thrust of each side of Ephesians. The first three chapter in which we have already worked through cover the riches that we have in Christ. This is what Christ has done for us, that which we could not do for ourselves and this out of His immeasurable grace. The second half of Ephesians takes a big turn and Paul begins to encourage and exhort us to walk in the righteousness that Christ has given us. You could say Paul wants us to walk in a manner worthy of our calling in Christ.

Now that we have a firm grasp of the riches that Christ has given us in the first three chapters, we desire to obey the command to walk in a manner worthy of Christ. Our walk is not performed under our own power, but through His gift of the Spirit used to empower us. This is bolstered by the knowledge (both understood and experienced) of Christ’s love for us. But in order to be driven along by the power of the Spirit we must first yield to the first three chapters of Ephesians. I know personally that I have more peace knowing that it is Christ who strengthens me and makes me want to walk in a manner worthy of Him. Doing this on my own is an impossible feat. I know; I’ve tried and failed. Ultimately, God wants us to rest in Christ’s work and keep our eyes focused on Him, not ourselves. Meditating on the first three chapters makes this possible. Now, as we enter into the last three chapters of Ephesians we can read these commands and exhortations not as a checklist of thing I have to do but as things I long to do to give glory to the One who gave everything for me even when I didn’t deserve it.

Starting in verse 1, notice the similarity to Ephesians 3:1:

     1 For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles

Paul again describes himself as a prisoner of his Lord. But difference here is that in 3:1 Paul says he is a prisoner of Christ Jesus and here in verse 4:1 he says he is a prisoner of the Lord. This more formal terminology for Jesus seems to imply a more formal tone. Indeed for the rest of Ephesians the tone changes from the glorious riches that Christ has given us to the responsibility on our part.

Verses 2-4 outline what we are called to…Unity! Verse 2 lists all of the attributes required for walking in unity: humility, gentleness, patience and tolerance for one another (note that Ephesians is speaking only to believers so this tolerance is between believers, especially when doctrinal differences arise-tolerance between believers and unbelievers is a topic for a different time). In essence, this verse tells us what our walk should look like. It is a walk that has a complete humility, gentleness, and patience as its hallmark. Then Paul goes further to describe this walk as one that is showing tolerance for other believers. This word “showing” is a present participial, which is a secondary verb that helps us to better understand our walk. This says that our tolerance should not be just a one time action or something that we do occasionally, but something that is ongoing and a part of who we are in Christ. Additionally, all these attributes must be grounded in love; otherwise, we are no different than a clanging cymbal.

Paul ends this section in verse 4 by adding another present participial verb “being diligent”. But what are we supposed to continuously be diligent for? The answer would be to preserve the unity of the Spirit. There’s that word “unity”. The body of Christ (the church) is designed to function as one with Christ as the head. Any dis-unity will threaten to break up or make less useful the church. This is why Paul is pushing so hard for unity in the church. A functioning church is unified under its pastor and all under Christ as its head. A functioning church is useful to God and will be used to glorify Him.

Ephesians 4:4–6:

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

Paul continues the theme of unity of the church in verses 4-6. Notice the use of the word “one” used to describe each noun:

God and Father

Then in verse 6 Paul switches to using “all” to explain who and what God rules over and exists within. God is one and He rules over all (“all” is not restricted to just believers) for all time and He inhabits all (especially the church body) for His glory.

We can even break up these three verses to individually describe the Spirit (v4), Son (v5) and Father (v6). The triune God is one just as we as believers are unified as one in God through the blood of Jesus, the indwelling Spirit, and our Father in heaven with whom we have full access.

Ephesians 4:7–13:

7 But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift. 8 Therefore it says, “WHEN HE ASCENDED ON HIGH, HE LED CAPTIVE A HOST OF CAPTIVES, AND HE GAVE GIFTS TO MEN.” 9 (Now this expression, “He ascended,” what does it mean except that He also had descended into the lower parts of the earth? 10 He who descended is Himself also He who ascended far above all the heavens, so that He might fill all things.) 11 And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ.

In verse 7 Paul takes a bit of a turn from verses 4-6. He uses the contrastive conjunction “but” here to contrast the gift (grace) given to believers (“to each one of us”) to our status in the unified God and His unified church body (“all” in verse 6). In God we are all equal and are as one (i.e., unified); however, here Paul is saying that Christ has given us a gift (singular) of grace that differs in the amount given among individual believers. He has given us a measure of grace specific to other gifts (plural) that He gives each believer. These gifts (plural) are defined in verse 11 as apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers. This measure of grace according to our differing gifts does not mean some of us are viewed as more loved in God’s eyes than others. We are all loved the same as we are one body, the church, given to glorify God. But our gifts differ. These differing gifts require a specific amount of grace given to the recipient. Think of it as God gives us the perfect amount of grace to be able to use His gifts to His glory and not to our own. Paul goes on to describe these gifts and why they are given to some and not others in an upcoming section of scripture.

Verses 8-10 speak of Christ ascending far above all the heavens to where He now sits at the right hand of God. But it also adds that Christ led a host of captives to which He gave gifts. This statement would have been recognized by the original hearers in terms of a conquering king who uses military might to conquer an enemy. However, here’s where the idea of a conquering king differs from what the original hearers would have understood. A conquering king would have taken the captives as a show of the kings victory. Then the conquered would give gifts to the conqueror. But as Paul puts it, the conqueror gave gifts to the conquered. This is the opposite of what they would have understood.This speaks of the riches of Christ’s glorious grace that were given to us, the conquered, even though we did not deserve it.

Verses 9-10 talk of Christ descending from heaven to earth, to the cross, and to the grave in order that He would ascend to above all the heavens. This was so that He might be over all things and fill all things (including the church). We can go back to Ephesians 1:19–23:

19 and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe. These are in accordance with the working of the strength of His might 20 which He brought about in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, 21 far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. 22 And He put all things in subjection under His feet, and gave Him as head over all things to the church, 23 which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.

Here we see the connection between the end of verse 10 where it says, “…so that He might fill all things.” and these verses in chapter 1. Christ the conquering king who captured us from the hands of the enemy so that we might be glorified in Him as the church body to which He fills. By filling all things Christ asserts His dominance over all things.

Now in verse 11 Paul begins to connect the various ministries that Jesus has given us as gifts to the idea of church unity. Paul lists several of the offices of ministry in verse 11. These ministries are varied and distributed among believers as Christ deems necessary. These are given along with a measure of grace (verse 7). Our ministry and this grace go hand-in-hand, but to what end? In verse 12 Paul answers that by informing us that these ministries are given to equip us or, in other words, to make us fit for a purpose. That purpose is for service and this service is designed to build up and benefit the body of Christ (i.e., the church).

Ephesians 4:14–16:

14 As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; 15 but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.

Verse 14 begins with “As a result…” meaning that the purpose of Christ giving us gifts along with the grace to use those gifts is for us to grow into mature believers in Christ. We are to no longer be immature believers but mature believers. As we use our gifts to help build up the body of Christ we, ourselves, are being made more and more mature in Christ. This has the benefit that we are not swayed by false doctrine, we do not fall prey to the trickery of men, and we can see through deception, even the most crafty and deceitful deceptions. Why? Because we know the truth, which grows stronger in us as we mature in Christ.

However, in verse 15 Paul gives us a warning as maturing believers. As we mature in all ways in Christ we must take care to not let our love grow cold. Remember in Revelation that Ephesus was one of the churches mentioned and even though they did well, their love had grown cold. If the Ephesians maybe would have heeded this verse better maybe they wouldn’t have been rebuked by Christ in Revelation. So it must be a warning to us too. Do not let your love grow cold. Always speak truth, but speak truth only in love. That is especially difficult nowadays, but we should always season our speech with love.

In light of all that we have read and especially verse 15-16, re-read 1 Corinthians 12:1–31 keeping in mind all that we have just discussed: the body, the church, unity, one Spirit, one Lord, one God, the measure of grace given, and gifts that Christ bestows freely:

1 Now concerning spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be uninformed. 2 You know that when you were pagans you were led astray to mute idols, however you were led. 3 Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking in the Spirit of God ever says “Jesus is accursed!” and no one can say “Jesus is Lord” except in the Holy Spirit. 4 Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; 5 and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; 6 and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. 7 To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. 8 For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, 10 to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. 11 All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills.12 For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ.
13 For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit. 14 For the body does not consist of one member but of many. 15 If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? 18 But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. 19 If all were a single member, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts, yet one body.21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.”22 On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, 24 which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, 25 that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. 26 If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together. 27 Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. 28 And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, administrating, and various kinds of tongues. 29 Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? 30 Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret? 31 But earnestly desire the higher gifts. And I will show you a still more excellent way.