How Can the Bible Relate to Us Today?

Is Your Church United or Untied? – Part 2 [Ephesians 4: 1-3]

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Ephesians 4: 1-3

Now let’s see what the apostle Paul says to the church at Ephesus about relationships in just this one passage: Ephesians 4: 1-6. Let us start with an examination of the first three verses:

1As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. 2Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. 3Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.” [Ephesians 4: 1-3. NIV]

[v. 1] “. . . live a life worthy of the calling you have received.”
What calling? What about when God’s Spirit reached out to you, convicting you of your natural separation from God, and you became a believer by asking God to come into your life through faith in Jesus Christ? Christians refer to that as “Salvation.” What, then, does Paul say about salvation? If God is living in you due to your faith, make your life worthwhile to God and to others. Show the world that the loving God lives within you – and you show that by demonstrating your self-giving love for others.

Then what does Paul say in verses 2-3?

  • Be completely humble.  Paul says it this way to the church at Philippi in Philippians 2: 3-4: 
    ”Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests, but each of you to the interests of the others.”  [NIV, 2011 edition]
    Ask yourself, “Am I that kind of person – a humble person looking out for others’ needs and interests?
  • Be gentle, or as it says in the King James Version, be meek.  This doesn’t mean you should be a figurative doormat to others for them to walk all over you without you ever voicing a thought or a viewpoint. Instead, it means that you should be able to express your thoughts with gentleness toward others in order to help them see your viewpoint or your ideas without them having to react strongly for you to see theirs.
  • Be patient, bearing (or carrying) each other in love.  This means not tearing down others in the heat of the moment, not saying ugly things about them or to them when you’re upset. There’s a concept from the ancient Greeks that, when a word is uttered, it continues to live. And you can’t take it back. When we have a difference of opinion in churches or in marriages or with children – any kind of relationship – it is not a time to call someone names or belittle them. There is a saying among children in the United States, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me.” However, names do hurt, especially to children and spouses. The point of name-calling is to make the recipient of the name feel badly about themselves or to think less of themselves. Paul is entreating you to be patient with each other, even when the other person disappoints you or you disagree with the other person. Paul expects us in our relationships to emotionally carry the other person in love no matter how upset you may be in order to preserve the unity. It’s okay to disagree, but you can still love and be gentle and be patient in your disagreement.
  • Love”.  You may have heard this before, but this is “Agape” love [“Ah-GAH-peh”]. This is God’s kind of love, the self-sacrifice kind of love.  John 3:16 says,

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” [John 3: 16. KJV]

Now read how I have re-phrased the same verse with the further background meaning:

“For God so self-giving agape-loved the world (that’s you and me and everyone in church and all those outside any church and those who aren’t believers in Christ but are of other faiths – or of no faith – and those who are opposed to God: it’s everyone) that God gave/gifted to us his own Son (his only Son) that if you just believe in Jesus Christ as your Lord (Manager of your life) and Savior (Caregiver of your life), you won’t die a permanent spiritual death but will have a blissful and abundant life with God forever starting now.”

That’s John 3:16 expanded with some John 10: 10 thrown in.

To illustrate how long a “a blissful and abundant life with God forever” is, a verse from a favorite hymn “Amazing Grace” portrays it this way, “When we’ve been there ten thousand years, bright shining as the sun, we’ve no less days to sing God’s praise than when we first begun.” That’s how long forever is.

Now let’s looks at verse 3 of Ephesians 4:

Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.”

“Make every effort. . . .”  Do you know what that tells us? We have a choice. We can take the easy way out and not be concerned about working cooperatively with others. Or we can choose to do what Paul declares, to make an effort to keep the unity among people like a lasting bond. Have you ever used “Elmer’s Carpenter Glue” or “Gorilla Glue” to fasten two pieces of wood together? After doing so, and the wood has set, perhaps for a few years, you then try to separate the two bonded pieces of wood. The pieces of wood will shatter before they ever separate at the joint where the two pieces of wood are joined together with the glue.  The two pieces of wood became one. Paul says that peace among believers should be like a Gorilla Glue bond – tight and unable to separate.

I’m going to stop here even though I don’t have far to go to finish this series on being “United or Untied” in Ephesians 4: 1-6. Perhaps I can write up the last entry in the next couple of days to finish it out this week. I hope you think this study in Ephesians is worth your reading and considering. What I’ve been writing is something that every church should be practicing. However, the fact that Paul felt he had to write these words indicates that many churches during his time were not practicing loving, bonding and being at peace with one another. May we do better 1,960 years later.

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