#BetterTogether Series 
  • We all know life is richer and more meaningful when we're connected yet for centuries tensions exist in society due to terrorist activities, racial divisions, fearful economics, and the seeming futility of "success." Relationships have deteriorated all around us. We believe God has planned more for His people, don’t you? Come with us as we study Ephesians...together!
1. We're Better Together: We Are United (Ephesians 4:1-16)
  • Diversity bound together in Christ is the way a church was meant to be. We are one!
Sermon Preparation Guide
  • Importance - What are the central ideas of this text?
    • God created the Church as one people, one body in unity. (Ephesians 4:4-6)
    • We are to work diligently to preserve the unity we have. (Ephesians 4:3)
    • There is diversity amidst our unity, and together we are to grow spiritual in live to Christlikeness as one body. (Ephesians 4:7, 11-16)
  • Implications - What questions should the listener be asking?
    • How is the Church one people, one body in unity?
    • How are we to work diligently to preserve our unity?
    • Why is it important to have diversity amidst unity, yet grow in unity?
Talk it Over Discussion Guide 
  • Interpretation - What is the text telling/showing us?
    • What is the basis for walking worthy of our calling in Christ?
    • What does it mean to “walk in a manner worthy of the calling” to which we have been called? What is the calling to which we have been called?
    • List are the marks of our walking worthy?
    • What are the foundational bases of our unity?
    • What is the importance of unity?
    • Who has been given spiritual gifts? Why? Who gave the gifts?
    • List the 5 gifts Paul enumerated in verse 11. Describe what these gifts provide to the Church? Why are these gifts foundational?
    • What is the objective of the 5 foundational gifts? Why is that objective important for the Church?
    • What is the “work of ministry” of the saints?
    • What is the measure of maturity in one's walk of faith?
    • How is the Church to be built up in Christ? What is the “glue” that holds up the building?
    • How are we to “grow up” into Christ?
  • Implementation - What should the listeners response be?
    • To what has Jesus Christ called you?
    • What does it mean to be part of the body of Christ?
    • How are you supposed to act and live as a part of the body of Christ? Make a list.
    • What does “oneness” mean to you, and how does it “flesh out” in the Church?
    • Where does the unity of the Church come from? What do you need to do to preserve the unity of the Church?
    • What are the 5 foundational spiritual gifts and why are they important to you and for you? Do you have one or more of these foundational gifts? Who do you know that has one or more of these gifts?
    • How are the 5 foundational gifts to impact you and your walk with Christ?
    • What is the goal of your spiritual growth?
    • What does it mean in your life to attain to the “measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ?” (Ephesians 4:13b)
    • What is your responsibility to the Church as part of the Church? To your local congregation?
    • How can you be built up in love? How can you help others to be built up in love?
Sermon Teaching Notes (as prepared by Pastor Dick Murphy)
  • Investigation - What's generally going on in this area of scripture?
In our prior Series covering the first three chapters of Ephesians entitled “God's Plan,” we saw that God had a plan from the beginning to bring glory to Himself by calling a people into relationship with Him (Ephesians 1:4 & 5) and uniting all things in Himself (Ephesians 1:9 & 10; 2:13 & 14). And we saw that God's plan was to accomplish His mission through the His people, the Church, which He planned from before time and revealed in time (Ephesians 3:3-6), created in Christ (Ephesians 1:20-22; 2:4-7), implemented (Ephesians 2:19-22), and empowered the Church to accomplish (Ephesians 3:16-22). We concluded that God's plan is indeed many splendored and beautiful. And what an amazing thing it is that as so empowered, we can go forth with confidence that His work will be done in and through us. This Series, covering chapters 4-6, will focus on how we as the Church are to live together within the body to carry out God's plan, all the while reflecting to the watching world in our “together life” the glory that is God and inviting others to answer God's call to join His family in Christ.

Right away in verse 1 of chapter 4, with the word “therefore” the Apostle Paul points back to what he had already written as the basis for what he is about to write. In other words, it is because of what God has done and who we are in Christ as the Church that we are to live together in a certain way. And note that the “we” included Paul who denominated himself as “a prisoner for the Lord.” So Paul writes, “I urge you ...” The word urge could be translated “entreat” or “exhort,” or even “beg.” It is a strong word and its use underscores the absolute necessity that we live the way and with the attitude Paul is about to outline, and that way is “in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called.” The calling refers to our having been called to be God's children and actually made into His children through Jesus Christ, brought out of sin and into a relationship with God (Ephesians 2:1, 5). It is Jesus whose good Name we represent, and our conduct as His Church is to conform to and be in keeping with His good Name (cf. Ephesians 2:10).

Our walking in a worthy manner is to be characterized by humility, gentleness, patience, bearing with one another in love, and eagerness to maintain the unity of the Spirit (Ephesians 4:2). Each of the foregoing characteristics are counter-cultural and supportive of unity. Humility is lowliness of mind and the opposite of “me first.” Gentleness is power under control (cf. Matthew 11:29 where Jesus describes Himself as “gentle and lowly in heart.”). Patience is literally “putting off” wrath. An older translation used the word “longsuffering.” The word describes how extends His mercy to us as sinners instead of His wrath and judgment, and in his first letter Timothy, Paul refers to such as God displaying “his perfect patience.” (I Timothy 1:16) Bearing with one another speaks of holding up, or enduring one another in our imperfection and is certainly related to forgiveness. A former pastor of mine called this “love that tolerates.” And finally, we are to expend much effort to maintain, or preserve, the unity that we already have in the Spirit; we are to watch over and guard that unity which is “god made” and defines our status as the Church of Jesus Christ brought together. And we are to maintain that unity “in the bond of peace,” meaning that we are tied together, bonded, and are no longer enemies of God or of each other. Remember that part of what Paul is addressing is the inclusion of Gentile believers in the Church; they have now been “brought near” (Ephesians 2:13) by Jesus who “is our peace.” (Ephesians 2:14) It is that peace that we must work to maintain, and guard against being broken and breached. All of the foregoing undergird our unity in Christ as the Church and as local expressions of the Church.

And as if to further explain the reality of our unity, Paul goes on to set forth the seven-fold foundation of that unity. Specifically, he writes that there is one body, one Spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism and one God (Ephesians 4:4-6) Each of these seven are common to all believers everywhere who make up the Church. One church refers to the reality that all believers in Jesus are part of the Church; there are no distinctions (And especially to Paul's audience, there is no Jewish church and Gentile church; there is but one church.), but rather oneness with a multiplicity of members. One Spirit refers to the Holy Spirit who is the agency of our faith and the unifying Presence and Power of the Church and all who are in it (I Corinthians 12:13). One hope is the common and certain end, namely the “hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27; 3:4. See also I Peter 1:3) One Lord is Jesus Christ Himself, the sovereign Lord over the Church and all creation (Colossians 1:15-20); He is our common confession, “Jesus is Lord.” (I John 2:23; 4:2) One faith is the basic gospel message that we believed and that we share, that which is entrusted to us, namely that salvation is in Jesus Christ alone. (II Timothy 1:12-14). One baptism is the “baptism” of the Spirit at the moment of conversion (I Corinthians 12:13) and the witness to that conversion by baptism in water (See Acts 19:4-6). And lastly, one God is reminiscent of the Jewish confession of Deuteronomy 6:4, “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.” There is only one God, albeit in three Persons, Father, Son and Spirit, “over all and through all and in all.” (Ephesians 4:6). In all the foregoing is our unity as the Church, and we are urged to maintain that unity notwithstanding our diversity in the sense of different personalities, different backgrounds and upbringings, different languages, and any other differences we may have. While these have significance, they are trumped by our unity in Christ, for “we are united.”

Lest one think that in our unity, all are or must be the same, and that the Church is just one homogenous mix of uniformity, Paul continues to make the point that in the midst of this unity, there is diversity … that each one is different and important, and gifted by grace (Ephesians 4:7), and that our gifts are measured by Christ's gift, which was everything and by which He was exalted as King (cf. Philippians 2:8-11). Then Paul notes, by citing Psalm 68:18, that when Jesus ascended, He gave gifts (Ephesians 4:8). A reading of Psalm 68 provides the context, as the Psalm is all about the victorious king (God) who defeats his enemies (Psalm 68:1), who leads prisoners to prosperity (Psalm 68:6), who restored his people to abundance and a dwelling (Psalm 68:7-10), who marches with his troops into the conquered city to be crowned as the victor (Psalm 68:14-17), and who is blessed as he ascends (Psalm 68:18). And this Psalm reflects the norm in the culture of the day where a victorious king would indeed march into the conquered city with the captives in tow and the subjects blessing him, receiving and giving gifts. Such was Jesus' victory, described by Paul, in giving a parenthetical commentary on his citation of the Psalm, as Jesus having descended “into the lower regions of the earth” meaning that He died, and ascended “above all the heavens” meaning that He was victorious and dwells in heaven above all.

After his parenthetical explanation, Paul continues by describing the gifts as including the gift of “the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers” whose task it is to “equip the saints for the work of ministry” (Ephesians 4:11 & 12). So, each believer has been given a spiritual gift or gifts (cf. Romans 12:6-8; I Corinthians 12:1-11, 28-31a; I Peter 4:10 & 11), but the five gifts he notes are foundational, as they equip all in the Church to carry out the mission and ministry of the Church. Those gifted as apostles found churches, those gifted as prophets “forthtell” God's word – they proclaim it for all to hear; those gifted as evangelists speak God's message, the gospel of grace and live in Jesus to invite people to follow Jesus; those gifted as shepherds care for the flock of Jesus' followers; those gifted as teachers explain, expound and apply God's word to the Church.

These five gifts (the “APEST” gifts) are key as they equip the “saints so that the body of all believers will be built up (Ephesians 4:12b) “until we attain to the unity of the faith.” (Ephesians 4:13a). In short, these foundational gifts are for the service of the entirety of the body of Christ, the Church, and to that end serve the goal of unity which, in turn, is bound up in achieving the maturity of knowing Jesus and being like Him (Ephesians 4:13b). So, unity, maturity, Christlikeness are the goals of the Church, so that believers will not be like children who are fickle, undisciplined, immature and susceptible to error and being misled (Ephesians 4:14). Instead, Paul writes, those who make up the Church are to speak and act in love towards one another and together grow up into Christlikeness and service of Christ the King (Ephesians 4:15). And by being so joined with Christ, it is in Him that the Church is not only joined together, but grows together with each part, meaning each individual believer, doing his or her part in the process to the end of the whole being built up in love as a united whole (Ephesians 4:16).

What a beautiful picture of the Church of Jesus Christ! It is one body, called out and brought together in Him, empowered by Him, and built up in Him through the exercise of foundational gifts and the working together of all the individual parts, so that the Church may accomplish HIs mission of expanding the Kingdom of God through the “work of the ministry” by the saints. Believers are thus not to be “lone wolves” doing their own thing, even if well intentioned. Rather, the entire Church and each local expression of the Church, is literally one body, and each individual piece of that body is knit together in love with each other piece, all walking in Christlikeness, all seeking to preserve the unity that is present in the Spirit, all growing in maturity as each understands and plays his or her part in the work of the whole. That is God's plan for the Church, and He has made the Church and is building the Church, to accomplish His plan, all to His glory. A worthy calling indeed, to be made a part of the Church and then to “walk in a manner worthy” of that calling in the power of God the Spirit, to please God the Son, and bring honor to God the Father. Amen.