“Unstoppable”–Ephesians 4:1-16


Sunday, March 22nd, 2015

Ephesians 4:1-16

Unstoppable
Service Orientation: A church that relentlessly pursues unity and maturity in Christ is a church whose impact is unstoppable.

 

Bible Memory Verse for the Week: Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Colossians 3:12 (NIV)

 

Background Information:

  • Unlike several of the other letters Paul wrote, Ephesians does not address any particular error or heresy. Paul wrote to expand the horizons of his readers, so that they might understand better the dimensions of God’s eternal purpose and grace and come to appreciate the high goals God has for the church. (Walter L. Liefeld, NIV Study Bible: Introduction to the book of Ephesians, 1830)
  • 4:2 First, and foremost, there is humility. The Greek is tapeinophrosune, and this is actually a word which the Christian faith coined. In Greek there is no word for humility which has not some suggestion of meanness attaching to it. Later Basil was to describe it as “the gem casket of all the virtues”; but before Christianity humility was not counted as a virtue at all. The ancient world looked on humility as a thing to be despised. (William Barclay, The Daily Bible Study Series: Galatians and Ephesians, 135)
  • 4:2 re:meekness Praus is the Greek for an animal which has been trained and domesticated until it is completely under control. Therefore the man who is praus is the man who has every instinct and every passion under perfect control. It would not be right to say that such a man is entirely self-controlled, for such self-control is beyond human power; but it would be right to say that such a man is God-controlled. Here then is the second great characteristic of the true member of the Church. He is the man who is so God-controlled that he is always angry at the right time but never angry at the wrong time. (William Barclay, The Daily Bible Study Series: Galatians and Ephesians, 138)
  • This verse lists four characteristics of a person who is “worthy of the calling.” Believers make up the church, the body of Christ. Thus, believers, by privilege of their responsibility, must be together, serve together, and worship together. The following characteristics help create and maintain smooth relationships among people. (Life Application Bible Commentary: Ephesians, 74)
  • In a visible, present sense, the church filled the role of Christ’s body in the world (1 Cor. 12:27). Christ was the head (Eph. 1:22; Col. 1:18; 2:19), with the redeemed functioning as vital members of the body and thereby “severally members one of another” (Rom. 12:5; cf. 12:4; 1 Cor. 12:20). Not all the believers had the same office (Rom. 12:4), but “according to the grace that was given” (Rom. 12:6), all served in some useful way the work of the body (Eph. 4:11, 12). Within this ministering fellowship, as followers of their Lord, they helped one another grow and mature in “the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” (Eph. 4:13). (Robert E. Coleman, The Master Plan of Discipleship, 60)
  • Having explained God’s great goals for the church, Paul proceeds to show the steps toward their fulfillment. First, God has reconciled individuals to himself as an act of grace (2:1-10). Second, God has reconciled these saved individuals to each other, Christ having broken down the barriers through his own death (2:11-22). But God has done something even beyond this: He has united these reconciled individuals in one body, the church. This is a “mystery” not fully known until it was revealed to Paul (3:1-6). Now Paul is able to state even more clearly what God has intended for the church, namely, that it be the means by which he displays his “manifold wisdom” to the “rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms” (3:7-13). It is clear through the repetition of “heavenly realms” (1:3,20; 2:6; 3:10; 6:12) that Christian existence is not merely on an earthly plane. It receives its meaning and significance from heaven, where Christ is exalted at the right hand of God (1:20). (Walter L. Liefeld, NIV Study Bible: Introduction to the book of Ephesians, 1830)

 

The question to be answered is… What should the body of Christ at HFM expect as a result of increased effort toward unity and maturity?

 

Answer:

  1. A greater sense of shared-vision, mission, and purpose. (Pro. 29:18; Ecc. 4:9-10; Acts 2:44; 1 Cor. 3:17; Eph. 2:21-22, 3:6)

I want the whole Christ for my Savior, the whole Bible for my book, the whole Church for my fellowship, and the whole world for my mission field. (John Wesley)

 

Vision is the ability to understand the history, the present condition, and the potential of the church, and to conceive a plan for action that will maximize the ministry potential. More often than not, vision is a result of having spent much time absorbing the facts about the community, knowing the resources upon which the church can call (people, funding, facilities, equipment, etc.), and devising sound but creative strategies for moving forward. Vision always entails progress: it is never satisfied with the status quo. (George Barna, How to Find Your Church, 104)

 

  1. Increased awareness of our unique giftedness as individuals and as a church. ( 28:3, 36:2; 1 Co. 12, 14; Eph. 2:10, 4:11-12)
  • Greater impact on our community. (Matt. 28:16-20; Mark 16:15; Acts 2:42-47, 14:21; Rom. 15:16)

Every Christian is either a missionary or an impostor. (Charles Spurgeon, A Sermon and a Reminiscence, from the March 1873 Sword and Trowel)

 

  1. A deeper understanding of the Gospel. (Mark 8:35, 16:15; Acts 14:21; Rom. 1:16-17; 1 Cor. 9:16, 23; Eph. 3:6; Phil. 1:27)

    1. The Gospel’s implications for us
    2. The Gospel’s implications for others

The gospel creates community. Because it points us to the One who died for his enemies, it creates relationships of service rather than selfishness. Because it removes both fear and pride, people get along inside the church who could never get along outside. Because it calls us to holiness, the people of God are in loving bonds of mutual accountability and discipline. Thus the gospel creates a human community radically different from any society around it. (Tim Keller, Center Church, 311)

 

The ultimate need of a lost society cannot be met apart from supernatural grace and the discipling of men and women in the narrow way of Christ. (Robert E. Coleman, The Master Plan of Discipleship, 97)

 

  1. In other words, a church focused on all the right things; a church that’s unstoppable.  (Rom. 1:16)

 

Enemy-occupied territory – that is what this world is. Christianity is the story of how the rightful king has landed, you might say landed in disguise, and is calling us all to take part in a great campaign of sabotage. When you go to church you are really listening-in to the secret wireless from our friends: that is why the enemy is so anxious to prevent us from going. He does it by playing on our conceit and laziness and intellectual snobbery. (CS Lewis, Mere Christianity, 45)

 

The Word for the day is… Unstoppable

 

 

CONCLUSION / APPLICATION: What will it take to reach fullness in unity and maturity as a church?

 

  1. Humility (Prov. 11:2, 15:33, 18:12, 22:4; Phil. 2:3; Col. 3:12; Ja. 3:13; 1 Pe. 5:5)

Christian humility comes from self-knowledge. Bernard said of it, “It is the virtue by which a man becomes conscious of his own unworthiness, in consequence of the truest knowledge of himself.” (William Barclay, The Daily Bible Study Series: Galatians and Ephesians, 135)

  1. Gentleness (Gal. 5:22-24; Phil. 4:5; Col. 3:12; 1 Tim. 6:11)
  2. Patience (Prov. 19:11; Ecc. 7:8; Col. 1:11, 3:12; 1 Tim. 1:16; 2 Tim. 4:2; Heb. 6:12)

Be patient, bearing with one another in love. (NIV) “Patient” (also translated “long-suffering”) conveys the quality of being able to handle one another’s faults and failures and refusing to avenge wrongs. No one is ever going to be perfect here on earth, so believers must be patient with one another despite their faults. (Life Application Bible Commentary: Ephesians, 75)

  1. Bearing with one another in love. (Rom. 12:9-10, 13:8, 15:1-2; 1 Cor. 13, 16:14; 2 Cor. 8:7; Gal. 5:22; Eph. 3:17-19, 4:2)

The overwhelming testimony of the New Testament is that love both expressed and experienced among members of the body is absolutely essential if that body is to be healthy and alive. Thus the development of love within the body must be a primary concern of the spiritual leadership. (Larry Richards and Clyde Hoeldtke, A Theology of Leadership, 92)

 

We are not to suppose that Christian love can exist independently of faith. Paul did not intend to set up one grace in rivalry to the other. He did not mean that one man might have faith, another hope, and another love–and that the best of these, was the person who had love. The three graces are inseparably joined together. Where there is faith, there will always be love; and where there is love, there will be faith. Sun and light, fire and heat, ice and cold, are not more intimately united than faith and love! (J.C. Ryle Tract: “Christian Love”)

 

  1. Keeping unity through the bond of peace. (Ps. 133:1; John 17:23; 1 Cor. 1:10; Eph. 4:3; Phil. 2:1; 2:2, 3:14)

We cannot expect the world to believe that the Father sent the Son, that Jesus’ claims are true and that Christianity is true, unless the world sees some reality of the oneness of true Christians. (Francis Schaeffer as quoted in the Life Application Bible Commentary: Ephesians, 75)

 

Unity is not simply the work of the Spirit but the very instrument through which the Spirit works. (Tim Keller, Center Church, Kindle location 10667)

  1. Using your spiritual gifts to build-up the church. ( 12:6; 1 Cor. 12, 14; Heb. 2:4)

Is the church a priority for you? If your priorities are in line with Jesus’ priorities, then the church will be a great priority for you. You may be in school, but your school will not be here in 2,000 years. You may have a job, but in 2,000 years your company will no longer exist. You may love your nation, but in 2,000 years your nation will be a footnote in history. But in 2,000 years there will still be the church of Jesus Christ. (Mark Driscoll sermon, “I Am Gifted”)

 

 

Worship Point:

The church was designed to be a place where Christ’s people can grow together in unity and maturity. As this design takes shape in our church, worship will happen in ways like never before.

 

 

Gospel Application:

The gospel of Christ is an unstoppable force in the hands of those who are united and maturing in Christ.

 

 

Spiritual Challenge:

Pray for unity and maturity at HFM. Pray about your role in that picture and find ways to take-part as we discover God’s unique plan for us in the coming years.

 

 

 

Quotes To Note:

The Christian life is compared to a walk because it starts with one step of faith, involves progress, and demands balance and strength. If we do not learn to walk we will never be able to run (Heb. 12:1-2) or stand in the battle (Eph 6:11ff). (Warren Wiersbe, Wiersbe’s Expository Outlines of the New Testament, 547)

 

Has it ever occurred to you that one hundred pianos all tuned to the same fork are automatically tuned to each other? They are of one accord by being tuned, not to each other, but to another standard to which each one must individually bow. So one hundred worshippers met together, each one looking away to Christ, are in heart nearer to each other than they could possibly be were they to become “unity” conscious and turn their eyes away from God to strive for closer fellowship. Social religion is perfected when private religion is purified. The body becomes stronger as its members become healthier. The whole Church of God gains when the members that compose it begin to seek a better and a higher life. (A.W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God, p.63)

 

There are four main bones in every organization. The wish-bones: Wishing somebody would do something about the problem. The jaw-bones: Doing all the talking but very little else. The knuckle-bones: Those who knock everything. The back-bones: Those who carry the brunt of the load and do most of the work.  (Bits & Pieces, October 15, 1992, pp. 16-17)

 

Clearly churches, even growing, vibrant congregations, have problems. If nothing else, just the sheer logistic pressure occasioned by a rapidly expanding fellowship precipitates tensions. When limited knowledge and spiritual immaturity—conditions always with us—are added to this, we can understand why problems constantly need resolution in the church. The issues need to be honestly faced and dealt with. To ignore them invites disaster. But to meet them in the sufficiency of God’s grace makes the difficulties stepping-stones to progress. Essential to the reconciling process, however, is the mutual concern of the church, which allows problems to be addressed in the context of love. (Robert E. Coleman, The Master Plan of Discipleship, 64)

 

Human beings grow by striving, working, stretching; and in a sense, human nature needs problems more than solutions. Why are not all prayers answered magically and instantly? Why must every convert travel the same tedious path of spiritual discipline? Because persistent prayer, and fasting, and study, and meditation are designed primarily for our sakes, not for God’s. Kierkegaard said that Christians reminded him of schoolboys who want to look up the answers to their math problems in the back of the book rather than work them through…We yearn for shortcuts. But shortcuts usually lead away from growth, not toward it. Apply the principle directly to Job: what was the final result of the testing he went through? As Rabbi Abraham Heschel observed, “Faith like Job’s cannot be shaken because it is the result of having been shaken.” (Philip Yancey, Disappointment With God, 207-208)

 

There is always a danger that church leaders and ministers will conceive of the gospel as merely the minimum standard of doctrinal belief for being a Christian believer. As a result, many preachers and leaders are energized by thoughts of teaching more advanced doctrine, or of deeper forms of spirituality, or of intentional community and the sacraments, or of “deeper discipleship”, or of psychological healing, or of social justice and cultural engagement. One of the reasons is the natural emergence of specialization as a church grows and ages. People naturally want to go deeper into various topics and ministry disciplines. But this tendency can cause us to lose sight of the whole. Though we may have an area or a ministry that we tend to focus on, the gospel is what brings unity to all that we do. Every form of ministry is empowered by the gospel, based on the gospel, and is a result of the gospel. (Tim Keller, Center Church, 36)

 

Maturing in Christ takes time. There is no way that children can be raised in a hurry. To try to get it over quickly can only lead to frustration. The hectic way that churches have tried to force this into a few weeks of confirmation classes, if they have done it at all, is entirely inadequate. Disciples must have devoted Christian friends to follow, and this can only be facilitated by being together over a period of time. (Robert E. Coleman, The Master Plan of Discipleship, 76)

Additional “Quotes to Note”

Clearly churches, even growing, vibrant congregations, have problems. If nothing else, just the sheer logistic pressure occasioned by a rapidly expanding fellowship precipitates tensions. When limited knowledge and spiritual immaturity—conditions always with us—are added to this, we can understand why problems constantly need resolution in the church. The issues need to be honestly faced and dealt with. To ignore them invites disaster. But to meet them in the sufficiency of God’s grace makes the difficulties stepping-stones to progress. Essential to the reconciling process, however, is the mutual concern of the church, which allows problems to be addressed in the context of love. (Robert E. Coleman, The Master Plan of Discipleship, 64)

 

These specially gifted people (4:11) were given to the church for one ultimate goal: to equip the saints. The word for “equip” means to make right, like the setting of a broken bone, or to bring to completion by training or restoring. The apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers furnish and equip the believers to do the work of the ministry, which results in the building up the body of Christ. The church builds itself in the faith as the members care for one another, show love, and generally manifest the other gifts God gives (as mentioned in Romans 12 and 1 Corinthians 12). Yet the church also builds itself as it reaches out to its surrounding community with the love of Christ, drawing others into the fold. God has given his church an enormous responsibility-to make disciples in every nation (Matthew 28:18-20). This involves preaching, teaching, healing, nurturing, giving, administering, building, and many other tasks. Fulfilling this command solo would be impossible. But God calls us as members of his body. No one should be a bystander, an observer. Everyone must do the work of ministry. (Life Application Bible Commentary: Ephesians, 83)

 

“If you stop and ask yourself why you are not so devoted as the (early) Christians, your own heart will tell you that it is neither through ignorance nor inability, but purely because you never thoroughly intended it.” (William Law, Courage – You Can Stand Strong in the Face of Fear, Jon Johnston, 1990, SP Publications, 34)

 

I met a young man not long ago who dives for exotic fish for aquariums. He said one of the most popular aquarium fish is the shark. He explained that if you catch a small shark and confine it, it will stay a size proportionate to the aquarium. Sharks can be six inches long yet fully matured. But if you turn them loose in the ocean, they grow to their normal length of eight feet. That also happens to some Christians. I’ve seen some of the cutest little six-inch Christians who swim around in a little puddle. But if you put them into a larger arena–into the whole creation–only then can they become great. (Charles Simpson.)

 

Strong sons of God are not perfected by childish pursuits. (David Breese, Living For Eternity, 78)

 

God is perfection and to satisfy perfection is impossible. So long as we compare ourselves with second bests, we may come out of the comparison well. It is when we compare ourselves with perfection that we see our failure. A girl may think herself a very fine pianist until she hears one of the world’s outstanding performers. A man may think himself a good golfer until he sees one of the world’s masters in action. A man may think himself something of a scholar until he picks up one of the books of the great old scholars of encylopaedic knowledge. A man may think himself a fine preacher until he listens to one of the princes of the pulpit. (William Barclay, The Daily Bible Study Series: Galatians and Ephesians, 136)

 

Then, as so often, Paul’s mind goes off at a word. He has used the word ascended, and that makes him think of Jesus. And it makes him say a very wonderful thing. Jesus descended into this world when he entered it as a man; Jesus ascended from this world when he left it to return to his glory. Paul’s great thought is that the Christ who ascended and the Christ who descended are one and the same person. What does that mean? It means that the Christ of glory is the same as the Jesus who trod this earth; still he loves all men; still he seeks the sinner; still he heals the sufferer; still he comforts the sorrowing; still he is the friend of outcast men and women. (William Barclay, The Daily Bible Study Series: Galatians and Ephesians, 144)

 

How can one live worthy of the calling? The Greek word for “worthy” (axios) refers to a balance, as on scales. Thus, believers are to live “in balance” with their calling. How they act should match what they believe. Remembering Christ’s sacrifice should cause believers to live for his glory in every area of their lives. (Life Application Bible Commentary: Ephesians, 74)

 

Most of our problems in life come from a lack of proper orientation to the gospel. Pathologies in the church and sinful patterns in our individual lives ultimately stem from a failure to think through the deep implications of the gospel and to grasp and believe the gospel through and through. Put positively, the gospel transforms our hearts and our thinking and changes our approaches to absolutely everything. When the gospel is expounded and applied in its fullness in any church, that church will look unique. People will find in it an attractive, electrifying balance of moral conviction and compassion. (Tim Keller, Center Church, 51)

 

These specially gifted people (4:11) were given to the church for one ultimate goal: to equip the saints. The word for “equip” means to make right, like the setting of a broken bone, or to bring to completion by training or restoring. The apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers furnish and equip the believers to do the work of the ministry, which results in the building up the body of Christ. The church builds itself in the faith as the members care for one another, show love, and generally manifest the other gifts God gives (as mentioned in Romans 12 and 1 Corinthians 12). Yet the church also builds itself as it reaches out to its surrounding community with the love of Christ, drawing others into the fold. God has given his church an enormous responsibility-to make disciples in every nation (Matthew 28:18-20). This involves preaching, teaching, healing, nurturing, giving, administering, building, and many other tasks. Fulfilling this command solo would be impossible. But God calls us as members of his body. No one should be a bystander, an observer. Everyone must do the work of ministry. (Life Application Bible Commentary: Ephesians, 83)

 

“If you stop and ask yourself why you are not so devoted as the (early) Christians, your own heart will tell you that it is neither through ignorance nor inability, but purely because you never thoroughly intended it.” (William Law, Courage – You Can Stand Strong in the Face of Fear, Jon Johnston, 1990, SP Publications, 34)

 

Let it be stressed, however, that nothing in the common life of the church is compatible with the practice of materialistic socialism today. State communism is a legislated and forced sharing, imposed from the top down. By contrast, the apostolic church sees sharing as an individual choice, a consequence of love and self-denial, which comes from the bottom up. It is a spontaneous act of worship, giving as unto the Lord. (Robert E. Coleman, The Master Plan of Discipleship, 65)

 

Leave a Reply