As the Church grows and expands, people with vastly different backgrounds become part of the same Church. On one hand this is a wonderful testimony that believers are one in Christ. On the other hand, conflicts and tensions do arise out of differences. So we see conflicts in the Church in Jerusalem as well as Church outside Jerusalem where the congregation are predominantly gentiles.
It is under this kind of environment that Paul writes and reminds believers to live a life worthy of their calling.1
The reminder starts with a call to maintain unity, and the message is pretty straightforward: believers are urged to keep the unity of the Spirit as they are already spiritually one, and they are to serve in unity so that all will grow until they reach maturity and unity of faith and of the knowledge of Christ.
The passage can be structured as follows:2
- Make every effort to keep the unity. vv. 1-3
- Remember the basis of unity. vv. 4-6
- Serve in unity with the given diversity. vv. 7-12
- Aim for maturity and unity. vv. 13-16
We will pick up some details and applications from the text in future articles, but as we see the connectedness of verses 1 to 16, we are reminded that keeping unity is not mainly for our own enjoyment (although it is certainly not wrong to enjoy unity in the Church), but it has a clear purpose / goal of working toward maturity, “attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.” (Eph 4:13)
1 As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.
2 Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.
3 Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.
4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called;
5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism;
6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.
7 But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.
8 This is why it says: “When he ascended on high, he took many captives and gave gifts to his people.”
9 (What does “he ascended” mean except that he also descended to the lower, earthly regions?
10 He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe.)
11 So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers,
12 to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up
13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.
14 Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming.
15 Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the head, that is, Christ.
16 From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.
- As a circular letter, Paul wrote to the Church in Ephesus and/or the surrounding Churches, but he generalized principles for the universal Church, so the message is applicable to us even today. ↩
- Unlike some earlier sections where the structures can be seen directly from the long sentences, here we have many sentences, so the structuring is based on unit of thoughts rather than grammar. This means that the structuring does not have to be exactly this way, but it helps to see the subunits under the big topic of unity. ↩