A High Calling.
Therefore I, a prisoner for serving the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of your calling, for you have been called by God. – Ephesians 4:1 NLT
One of the things to constantly keep in mind when reading most of the letters of Paul is that he is typically writing to a congregation, not an individual. Except in the case of his two letters to Timothy and the one he sent to Titus, most of his letters are intended for a particular body of believers. He is addressing the church corporately. In his letter to the Ephesian church, he is stressing the unique nature of their identity as part of the body of Christ. They are a diverse group of individuals from all walks of life and a variety of religious backgrounds, whom God has called together and placed within His family. They share a common bond as recipients of the grace of God made possible through Jesus Christ. And while everything about their diverse backgrounds might naturally result in disunity and dissension, Paul calls them to unity. They have been loved by God, so now they should love one another.
He begs them to lead lives worthy of their calling. He wants them to conduct their lives in a manner that is in keeping with God’s purpose in calling them in the first place. Then he gives them concrete examples of what that kind of corporate life will look like. They are to be humble, gentle, patient with each other, and willing to love in spite of one another’s faults and failures. He stresses that their union as members of God’s family was the work of the Spirit of God and, as a result, they should strive to maintain their peace with one another. This was not an easy thing considering the natural animosity Jews and Gentiles had toward one another. And it’s important to remember that, as a result of the Gospel, the church in Ephesus was made up of both factions. Paul reminds them that “there is one body and one Spirit, just as you have been called to one glorious hope for the future. There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and one God and Father, who is over all and in all and living through all” (Ephesians 4:4-6 NLT). Unity is the theme of this section. Unity in diversity.
God, in His infinite wisdom, has not only called together a diverse group of individuals and placed them into His family, He has gifted each and every one of them with special Spirit-enabled gifts designed to benefit the body of Christ. Among them are the leadership gifts He has given to the church in form of apostles, prophets, evangelists, and pastor-teachers. These individuals were given to the church by God in order to strengthen and equip the body of Christ so that each member would do his or her work effectively, resulting in a vibrant and growing church. The Greek word Paul uses for “equip” is katartismon which means preparing, mending, or restoring people to their proper use. There are those in the church whose primary responsibility it is to help the body function efficiently and effectively. The church functions best when each individual believer is utilizing his or her spiritual gift in order to build up the rest of the body. When everyone is doing their job and conducting their lives within the body of Christ according to their individual calling, the entire body prospers. And the goal of all of this activity is spiritual maturity – “until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ” (Ephesians 4:13 NLT).
Spiritual maturity or increasing Christ-likeness is God’s objective for the church, and everyone plays a vital role in the process. God’s plan calls for unity and a shared concern for one another. “He makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love” (Ephesians 4:16 NLT). We are in this together. The church is not a collection of individual believers growing independently and in isolation, but a body where each part has been meticulously and strategically placed by God and designed to function in a symbiotic and sympathetic relationship. This God-ordained and Spirit-empowered entity called the church is to be a remarkable witness to God’s amazing wisdom. It shouldn’t work, but it does. But only as long as we live in humility, gentleness, patience and love with one another, doing everything we can to maintain the unique spirit of unity that God has created to experience.
Father, thank You for the church. When I consider the incredible diversity of the body of Christ and the wide assortment of personalities and backgrounds represented, I am amazed that it works at all. In spite of our individual sin natures and tendency to live self-centered lives even in the midst of community, Your Spirit makes it all function – in spite of us. Give us a growing desire to live in unity, using our God-given gifts to benefit one another. Help us to understand that we grow best when we grow together. Amen.
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men