Ephesians Chapter 4 (Part 1)

by Jeff Dominguez

Chapter 4:1-16 – Maintain the Unity of the Church


Paul’s letter to the Ephesians is perfectly divided into two halves. The first three chapters deal with doctrinal concepts (orthodoxy). And in this chapter, Paul will begin with the second half which is about the right application of the doctrines that he taught in chapters 1 to 3.

In the previous chapters, Paul revealed that the church is an entirely new entity composed of Jews and Gentiles alike. And as discussed in chapter 3, this is not an easy thing to accept for both of them since for hundreds of years, they have been living apart and had different customs and traditions. Therefore, when these two groups are brought together, conflict is highly possible. That is why for his first teaching about application, Paul taught that the church must maintain its unity. But before proceeding to that, let us first discuss verse 1 because it is the main verse of chapter 4.

I. Live A Life Worthy of Your Calling (v1)

“I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called…” (ESV)

“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.” (NLT)

This verse summarizes not just the entire message of chapters 4 to 6, but also the entirety of Paul’s teachings. Notice that all of his letters always include an application portion (usually in the latter part). This is because Paul understood that Christians shouldn’t just be filled with head knowledge about God, but must also apply it in their lives. As he perfectly said, every Christian should live in a manner that is worthy of their calling. In other words, what they believe should be reflected in the way they live. The rest of his teachings in this letter is but detailed instruction of this command.

II. The Unity of Christianity (vv2-6)

“With all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call—one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.”

In this passage, Paul declared his first instruction to the church: “Maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (v3). Just like we’ve anticipated, Paul knew that the mixture of Jews and Gentiles wouldn’t be easy and conflict is highly possible. Notice that verse 3 is sandwiched in this passage. Verses 1 and 2 reveal the key ingredients to maintain the peace while verses 4 to 6 reveal the why. Let’s begin with the why.

According to Paul, there shouldn’t be any conflict or division in the church because, in the first place, Christianity is united. It means it has one body and Spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and one God. In other words, they worship the same God, believe in the same teaching, and have the same faith. Therefore, there’s nothing that should cause division among them. In addition, this declaration of unity also serves as a warning that they shouldn’t teach anything contrary to what the Apostles have taught. Again, Christianity is united; therefore, Christians should also be.

Next, going back to verses 1 and 2, Paul revealed that the key to maintaining peace is humility, gentleness, patience, and love. Notice that these traits are also the fruit of the Holy Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23). If we think about it, conflict and dissension usually arise from people who are proud, hot-headed, impatient, and unloving. This is why Paul is right that to achieve peace, the people must first learn to be humble, gentle, patient, and loving towards one another. Peace is the natural outcome when people practice such traits.

III. Serving One Another With Our Spiritual Gifts (vv7-16)

“But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift. Therefore it says,

“When He ascended on high He led a host of captives, and He gave gifts to men.”

(In saying, “He ascended,” what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower regions, the earth? He who descended is the one who also ascended far above all the heavens, that He might fill all things.) 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, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into Him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.”

In addition to the keys to maintaining peace, Paul added another one in this passage: SERVICE. Service is perhaps the catalyst in the formula. In chemistry terms, a catalyst is a chemical that is added to a chemical mixture to speed up the process. So if Christians would start serving one another, peace would be achieved faster. And in this passage, Paul is not just teaching the Ephesians to serve one another. He also revealed the concept of spiritual gifts.

Paul already taught the concept of spiritual gifts in his letters to the Corinthians (1 Cor. 12) and Romans (chapter 12). Just like in those letters, Paul’s message about spiritual gifts revolves around the idea of using these gifts to serve one another and to build/edify the church. But in this letter, Paul emphasized the spiritual gifts that were given to the leaders (apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds, and teachers). And as Paul clearly stated, they were given special gifts not for them to be better than others, but to “equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God…” (v12-13). This is God’s mandate to church leaders (and perhaps to every Christian as well). In the following verses, Paul reminded everyone that the church is the body of Christ (vv15-16) and just like a human body, the church should grow. And for it to grow, the church must work together and help one another. As Paul perfectly said in verse 16,

“when each part is working properly, [it] makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.”

Here is the summary of the practical teachings in Chapter 4:1-16:

In the next article, we will discuss the second half of chapter 4 which talks about putting on our new selves.

God Bless!! 🙂

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