The Unified Body of Christ

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(Ephesians 4:1-16
Lesson Number: 

Lesson 7

The Unified Body of Christ

(Ephesians 4:1-16)

Copr. 2023, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D. Scripture quotations are from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved. Suggested answers are found within parentheses. If you normally receive this lesson by e-mail, but it is lost one week, you can find it by clicking on this link: Pray for the guidance of the Holy Spirit as you study.

Introduction: Is unity in the church an easy thing? You might look around at all the denominations and answer that unity is obviously hard. What about unity in a marriage? I frequently hear couples say “marriage is work.” It is not easy. Single people point to these common statements about the challenges of marriage to argue they are better off being single. Are Christian marriages easier? Are all of these denominations consistent with church unity? What does the Bible’s discussion of unity teach us about our local church, the world church, and practical living? Let’s jump into our study of the Bible and learn more!

  1. The Cost
    1. Read Ephesians 4:1-2. Paul started Ephesians 3 with the statement that he is a prisoner. We studied his explanation for why readers should pay attention to a prisoner. Paul repeats in chapter 4 that he is a prisoner. Why do you think he repeats something that he previously thought he needed to explain? (Paul has a different point here. He is explaining why unity comes at a cost.)
      1. Generally, we think of prisoners as people who have made a serious mistake and are not examples to be followed. Why does Paul tell his readers to “walk in a manner worthy of the calling?” (If you are presented with a challenge, someone might tell you “be worthy of the challenge.”)
    2. Look again at Ephesians 4:2. Do you find anything challenging here? (Who thinks that humility, gentleness, and patience are easy? These are all challenges.)
      1. Can you see why Paul draws a parallel between being a prisoner and his instruction to “walk” in humility, gentleness, and patience?
    3. Read Ephesians 4:3. What clue does Paul give us about how we can move forward with this difficult task? (The Holy Spirit enables us to have unity. Jesus already made peace between the Jews and Gentiles. The Holy Spirit aids us in the essentials of unity: humility, gentleness, patience, and love.)
  2. Examples
    1. Read Ephesians 4:4. What is the “one body,” and the “one Spirit?” (The body is the church and the Spirit is the Holy Spirit.)
      1. What is the “one hope?” (Eternal life.)
      2. Why does Paul give us these three “ones?” (We should look at these three as foundational to our faith. Our foundation is unity.)
    2. Read Ephesians 4:5-6. We now have four more “ones.” Do we really have “one faith,” and “one baptism?” (Paul takes for granted that there is only “one faith” and that is in Jesus.)
      1. Read Romans 6:3-5. What is Paul’s “one baptism?” (Paul believes in baptism by immersion. He writes of being “buried” in baptism. In this way we participate in the death and resurrection of our Lord.)
      2. Who is our “One Lord?” (Paul is referring to Jesus. See John 14:6. We come to the Father in Heaven only through Jesus. One Lord, one path.)
    3. Look again at Ephesians 4:6. Paul writes “one God and Father of all.” What does this say about the doctrine of the Trinity - three Gods in one?
    4. Read 1 Corinthians 8:4-6 where we find Paul further explaining his view of God the Father and Jesus. How would you explain Paul’s view? (Notice that 1 Corinthians 8:4 says “there is no God but one.” Read Deuteronomy 6:4-5 and Mark 12:29. This is called the “Shema,” the Old Testament declaration that there is only one God. Jesus endorses this in Mark 12. But note that Paul not only calls Jesus, “Lord” in 1 Corinthians 8:6, He attributes to Jesus the creation and continued existence of “all things.” Only God could do that, which reinforces the Trinitarian belief, a belief in unity.)
    5. After thinking about these examples of unity, have Christians completely lost sight of this goal due to all of our denominations? (The best way to look at this is to say that various denominations have various points of emphasis. For example, we discussed “one baptism.” Baptists have a focus on this. The Salvation Army has a focus on service. The Seventh-day Adventists have a focus on the Sabbath and prophecy. All of these are helpful in moving the work of God forward.)
  3. Practical Unity
    1. Read Ephesians 4:7. Why would Paul write of God’s grace to us in the middle of a discussion about unity? (This is the answer to how this difficult task is accomplished. Jesus empowers us to live in unity in our church and in our marriage. This grace is a gift.)
      1. Is this grace different than the gift of the Holy Spirit that we discussed previously?
    2. Read Ephesians 4:8 and Psalms 68:18. Paul is roughly quoting this verse in Psalms. One commentator said that he was quoting a very old translation. What do you picture in your mind when you read this verse? (Jesus ascending to heaven after His resurrection. He came as a victor.)
      1. What are these “gifts” that Jesus gave to humans? (Read Acts 2:32-33. The gifts are the gifts of the Holy Spirit which are given to us. This ties together the idea of Jesus’ grace to us and the Holy Spirit. Part of the grace flowing from Jesus’ victory are the gifts of the Holy Spirit.)
    3. Ephesians 4:9-10 is essentially a footnote that explains that Jesus came to earth and then returned “above all the heavens.” Read Ephesians 4:11-12. How do you understand this - is the gift the organization of the church? Or, is Paul saying that humans are gifted to fill these positions in the church? (I think the answer is both. Jesus gives us the gift of organization and the Holy Spirit equips those who fill those positions.)
      1. What is the logical consequence of this? Should a teacher not try to be an evangelist or a shepherd? (In a sense it defeats the organization. An old irritation of mine is that a person asked to sing or give a prayer in church decides to take the opportunity to give a mini-sermon.)
      2. What do you think it means to “equip the saints for the work of ministry? To make the members into one of the organizational categories? (I don’t think that is what it means. Instead, I think these specialized roles help the members in general to grow in their faith and service.)
    4. Read Ephesians 4:13. Recall that we started this lesson talking about unity in the church and in marriage? How does this organization powered by the Holy Spirit bring unity in the church?
      1. Would that also be true for marriage?
      2. Aside from unity, what else do Holy Spirit organizational gifts bring to the church? (Maturity. Becoming more like Jesus.)
    5. Let’s bring into this discussion another of Paul’s New Testament books on this subject. Read 1 Corinthians 12:28-31. Are these “stay in your lane gifts?” (Yes and no. Paul clearly says that not everyone has the same gift. Yet he also says to “desire the higher gifts.”)
    6. Read Ephesians 4:14. If you have a strong, Spirit-led leadership team what is the result when it comes to false doctrine? (It helps to repel deceitful doctrines. Disputes over doctrines is a major source of disunity.)
    7. Read Ephesians 4:15. Should truth be spoken? Should we be afraid to speak truth? (The first point is that truth should be spoken.)
      1. How should we speak truth? (In love.)
        1. What does that mean? (We want the best for the person.)
    8. Read Matthew 12:34. Is this an example we should follow? (Context is important. Jesus and the Holy Spirit have been attacked as being agents of Satan. The “viper people” are truly evil, and not those who are struggling with their faith. Note that this same chapter (Matthew 12:36) says that we will have to give account for our careless words.)
    9. Read Ephesians 4:16. What is the result of a properly organized, Spirit-lead church? (It works! It grows up in love. What a great picture of the kind of church God wants us to become!)
    10. Friend, unity is the goal for your church and your marriage. Will you follow Paul’s advice to have in place an organization that is guided by the Holy Spirit?
  1. Next week: Christ-Shaped Lives and Spirit-Inspired Speech.