Unity in the church body
By Pastor Seth Wallace
Let the sea resound, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it: Psalm 98:7
Ephesians 4 is one of those chapters that is full of practical instruction for the Christian life. If you read through it, you will see many verses you recognize and some you may have memorized. This chapter speaks to how we are to live, specifically within the body of the local church. You might see a title in your translation like, “Unity in the Body of Christ,” at the beginning of the chapter. And that idea of unity is what Paul is getting at as he begins in verse 1:
“I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, 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.” (Eph. 4:1–3)
We understand how beneficial this is in the local church, but these instructions can also benefit us in our homes, our communities, workplaces, etc. And at a time when many challenges face us, it’s worthwhile to consider such encouragement. “Humility and gentleness … patience … bearing with one another in love,” those are all things we can apply. And I can tell you that if you’ve experienced any strife, responding in humility with gentleness is a much better salve than exploding in anger.
“A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” (Prov. 15:1). We have all probably experienced the dangers of anger. It’s rarely – and I do mean, rarely – without sin. Jesus showed anger toward the religious in His day but never sinned. In verse 26, we’re told, “Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger.” While it is possible to possess righteous anger, it is rare. So we must be on guard against it, and it says in verse 27, that we might “give no opportunity to the devil.”
One of the common themes you’ll see throughout chapter 4 is the emphasis on the Holy Spirit. Scripture makes it clear that we cannot do any of this in our own power. Don’t get tripped up into thinking, “I’ve just got to do better.” Yes, we do strive and fight and war against the flesh. But we’re never called to do this in our own strength. We’re pretty puny when it comes to fighting sin. So don’t go at it alone. You’re not alone. Through the means of prayer, ask God for His Spirit’s power in the fight against sin and to demonstrate His fruit – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Finally, consider the last verse in chapter 4 as a great way to apply all of this, “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” (Eph. 4:32). It’s a verse that my parents often quoted to me, and my wife and I still quote often to our teens. It doesn’t just give us the command. It explains the reasoning why. And it’s important that we know this because this is often how we fight this battle – by preaching truth to ourselves. When you want to get angry, when you feel like you can’t forgive, when the pressure is closing in, preach this to yourself: “God in Christ forgave you.” All of your sins – past, present, and future – are forgiven in Christ. Read Luke 7:37-50, the story of the woman who was forgiven. Or consider another parable at the end of Matthew 18 about the unforgiving servant. Throughout Scripture, we’re reminded of the great debt that we owe that has been forgiven in Christ. Because we have been forgiven much, we can be kind and tenderhearted toward others, forgiving them.
We all have many opportunities ahead of us to be kind to others. Every day we get so many chances to respond either in selfishness and pride or in graciousness and humility. Be kind! By the power of God’s Spirit within you, be kind. Because you have been shown incalculable kindness and love in Christ, be kind.
Pastor Seth Wallace is the Senior Pastor of Christ the King. Find out more at ctkvb.org.