unity: walking as one

When you think of church what comes to your mind? There are numerous opinions. Some think the church is building, or it is nothing more than a social club, or it is a place where you go to get a religious experience or hear pious ramblings. It is easy to see how someone could come to this conclusion with the state of many churches today. However, we learned last week that the church is the beautiful display of God’s rich glory in Christ shining to the world [Ephesians 3:20-21].

Paul is fired up about the church and the work of Christ, and he wants you to be too. That is why he again brings up the fact that he is in prison [4:1 cf. 3:1]. Why? He wants us to know that walking with Christ is worth it. Since Paul is writing from prison it is proof of the danger of the gospel [cf. Luke 21:12-13]. To live out the gospel for real is risky, unpopular and radically dangerous. That is why at this moment more than 100 million Christians worldwide are suffering interrogations, arrest, and even death for there faith in Christ, with millions more facing discrimination and alienation [Open Doors USA].

Walk this Way [Ephesians 4:2-3]

Since Christ is worth it, Paul pleads with the church to so walk in Him. What does it mean to “walk in a manner worthy of your calling”? Walk is to do as live is to breathe. Walking is doing what I have been called to do.[1] Paul desires that their calling in Christ affect their conduct. In other words, their understanding of the doctrine of Christ [beliefs; Ch.1-3] forms their duty to live for Christ [behavior; Ch.4-6]. Therefore Paul gives the first command to the Ephesians in this letter calling them how to walk in Christ:

First, you are to walk in humility. To be humble is to give up my personal preferences for God’s. Humility is walking in a way that seeing and meeting the needs of others [Micah 6:8]. Walking humbly is living in a manner that is worthy of submission to God’s wisdom, truth, will and authority [Philippians 2:6-11]. Humility is serving the King as willing subjects for our good and His glory.

Second, you are to walk in gentleness. Gentleness [aka: meekness] is courage under control. This is a mark of Jesus’ ministry [Matthew 11:29; 21:5; 2 Corinthians 10:1]. Gentleness is not to be confused with weakness, rather it is strength that accommodates others weakness. Gentleness diffuses conflict, especially as you speak the truth in love. To be gentle is to give up your rights or comforts so that others might be blessed by pointing them to Christ because you have passion for God and compassion for people.

Third, you are to walk in patience. To be patient [aka: forbear or long-suffering] means that you give up trying to have your way with others. Patience makes room for others short comings and endures the wrongs done to you. Rather than blowing a gasket you have self-control. This is closely connected with the final way you are to walk, bearing with one another in love.

Now as you hear this you might be thinking of someone who is hard to live with. Maybe they have been unfair to you or said unkind things about you. Maybe your personalities just clash. Have you ever though that the person who is irritating you the most is being used by God to develop your character?

When you walk this way it is the tastiest recipe for unity and peace within the church and in your relationships. Do you see how these characteristics mix together? If you are humble you will be gentle. If you are patient you will be bearing with one another in love. If you are gentle and patient in love towards others you will be a peacemaker and a unity preserver. Unity and peace are incredibly important within the church. Paul knows this is a struggle for the church [cf. Colossians 3:12-15]. Unity is not something you are to put off or think about, Paul urges you to walk this way because it’s your calling in Christ [v.1]. Are you willing to walk this way so that peace and unity rule in your relationships?

One is not a Lonely Number [Ephesians 4:4-6]

To show that unity is absolutely possible, Paul lays down the hand of seven trump cards all reflecting the oneness of God, “There is one body [2:16; 1:23], Spirit [2:18], hope [Colossians 1:23, 27; 3:4], Lord [1 Corinthians 8:6; 12:3; Romans 10:9], faith [4:13], baptism [cf.1 Corinthians 12:13; Romans 8:9], and One God and Father of all [1 Corinthians 8:8; Deuteronomy 6:4].”  These are basic truth on which the gospel is based and which we believe. Followers of Christ are all part of one Spirit [cf. 2:18] and will always have the common theme of Christ that brings them together and keeps them together.

Unity and peace in the church and our relationships is possible. God is sovereign. He is enthroned as the One who rules over all things. Therefore, you have a means to walk in unity and peace in your relationships. As Peter O’Brien says in his commentary concerning verse 6,

“God’s universal sovereignty and presence are set forth as the climactic ground for the unity of the Spirit that believers are to maintain. His universal rule is being exercised to fulfil His ultimate purpose of unifying all things in Christ. The unity of the church is the means by which the manifold wisdom of God is being displayed to the universe. The church is the eschatological outpost, the pilot project of God’s purposes, and His people are the expression of this unity that displays to the universe His final goal.”[2]

So what if your fellow churchgoer or Christian buddies agree with you on the main 7 unifiers, but disagree about something minor or preferential? What if you cannot get along with other persons personality? How can we walk as one? Answer is to simply walk in humility, gentleness, patience, and bearing with them in love because Christ is worthy [vs.1-3]. Do you see how Christ is the focal point of Ephesians? If He is the focal point to the Ephesians walking in unity, what do you think that means for you, your church, and your relationships?

[1] cf. 2:10; 1 Thess. 2:12; Rom. 12:1; 1 Cor. 10:31; Phil. 1:27; Col. 1:10; 3:17

[2] Peter Thomas O’Brien, The Letter to the Ephesians, The Pillar New Testament commentary (Grand Rapids, Mich.: W.B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1999), 285-86.