Ephesians ranks up there as one of my favorite books of the Bible. Chapter 4 is both encouraging and convicting. Imagine what our churches would look like if all the members of the body were in proper working order, if we lived in the unity that the apostle Paul speaks of. This is not some kind of unity that is forced upon those within rather a unity that comes from being united in the same Spirit, having the same Lord, the same faith.
If I ever wonder what it means to walk in a manner worthy of my calling, Paul spells it out here in the following verses.
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. There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all. Ephesians 4: 1-6, NASB
That is quite a list and as I read over it I know there are some areas I need to prayerfully work on.
The next part that catches my attention is actually our church’s memory verse right now, which we are learning in a different translation from the one I am currently reading:
And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers; to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ. Eph. 4:11-12, ESV
Why did the Lord give us apostles and prophets and all the rest? So they can do the ministry? No. It is so that I can be equipped to do ministry, so that I can be equipped to build up the body of Christ. So I read my Bible to listen to the apostles and prophets who have gone before so that I am equipped for my work, so I can build up the body. I go to Sunday School, church and small group Bible study where I can further listen to evangelists, pastors, and teachers for the very same reason. It is vitally important to listen and learn for me to be in proper working order.
What is the result of all of this?
“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. 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; but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, 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.” -Ephesians 4:13-16.
There is a bit of warning tucked away in those verses. It used to be our sphere of influence was relatively small. We heard from our families, our neighbors and friends, teachers and classmates at school and church. We caught our news from the nightly broadcast or the newspaper. We read books, watched a bit of tv (I am thinking before cable and the kazillion options came on the scene,) maybe caught a movie or two. All of that has changed with the advent of the internet. We have conversations with people we have never met, tv is a 24 hour a day gig (stations actually use to sign-off at night) You go to the store, a restaurant, the dr. office and tvs are blaring. Our minds our bombarded with ideas almost everywhere we go. We can get on the internet and find all sorts of ideas-the good, the bad, and the ugly are all there for our immediate consumption. I believe there is a very real danger of “being tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine.” One has to really do their research to get to the truth these days and one has to know the Truth so as not to be led astray and thus do damage to the body. We are to be a people who speak the truth in love-but we have to know that Truth in order to do so. We are a people who are to grow in all aspects into Christ so that He can bring about growth in the body-a body in proper working order. And the over riding theme of that growth? Love.
As if all of that is not enough, Paul goes on…
“Therefore, laying aside falsehood, speak truth each one of you with his neighbor, for we are members of one another. Be angry, and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not give the devil an opportunity. He who steals must steal no longer; but rather he must labor, performing with his own hands what is good, so that he will have something to share with one who has need. Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear. Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.” Ephesians 4:25-32
That is a pretty tall order! The Lord has a lot of work left to do in me. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if every word out of my mouth was good for others…oh my tongue has been used far too often in ways that do not give grace to the hearer. It is an interesting phrase really, “so that it will give grace to those who hear.” I came across this definition of what that phrase means: “that by which men most profit with regard to going forward in godliness and love.” Our words carry a lot of power-and can either be used for good or evil-for profit or loss if I stick to the definition above. And yet how carelessly I can toss words about.
You know, life would be so much easier if I just raced past Ephesians 4…did I say it was at once encouraging and convicting?