Very few people are interested in reading an article with only three pieces of new information. There’s just not enough novelty. But if you propose five you’re likely going to turn away potential readers because of commitment anxiety. So here I am, offering four of my observations while reading Ephesians 4 this past week! 🙂
1 – Paul is Teaching You and Warning You.
Did you know there is actually a wrong way to go about living life as a Christian? In the first seven verses of this chapter Paul puts to rest any doubt about whether there are objective, measurable standards to how Christian’s ought to live. There is a manner worthy of the calling, which means there is a manner unworthy of the calling. What is worthy? Humility, patience, forgiveness, gentleness and eagerness for fellowship – to name a few. Anything short if that is unworthy. Almost all of Paul’s writing is didactic. So when you read something written 2,000 years ago to a home church from Paul urging them to live a certain way, you are supposed to look beyond that and ask yourself, “Am I living this way?”. Paul teaches you via how you answer that question.
2 – There are No Professionals In Church.
At least there shouldn’t be. Verse 11 and 12 are trying to make this point as clearly as possible by saying, “And he gave….”. Aka there are no apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds or teachers by training or degree. If a degree is the only claim someone has to one of these offices, it’s self-delusional make-believe. People LOVE to be religious and can put on quite the spectacle, but to fill one of these offices properly and to the intended effect, a gift of God is required. This is why we ought to love and support and join forces with our teachers. They are equally human, equally needy, and equally vulnerable as you. A preacher is just some dude who God gave certain gifts to who happens to use his gifts on the stage. Pray for that guy, he needs it.
3 – I Said Join Forces
Because of verse 12. The reason God gives these offices to the church is so that the entire church can be trained how to do the work of the church. We have preachers and teachers to help us learn the scripture so we can go out preaching and teaching and loving and serving. We have hospitality teams and fellowship teams and meal train teams and on and on and on so that you can learn how to go about doing that yourself. For the sake of being in God’s plan, don’t be a pew sitter. If you go to church week in and week out and never clean for others, never serve others, never teach others, never pray for others or any other thing that could fit into this list, you’re doing it wrong. God wants you to do these things for many reasons, the least of which is they serve as evidence of his love for people (1 John 4:12)
4 – The Christian Life Cannot Be Lived Alone
I have yet to find precedent in the New Testament texts to justify thinking of the Christian experience as being feasible when isolated. Each metaphor employed by Paul seeks to convey the communal nature of our faith. We are one body with many parts. We are a temple with many stones. We are a city shining in the world. We are a priesthood. We are brothers and sisters. These are but a few that come to mind. I want to point this out because how else can you obey v.25-32? It’s literally impossible to please God if you live your life divorced from the church. He has told you what pleases him, and it is your interacting with other people in ways he has told you to interact.
When I read Ephesians 4 I feel really motivated to consider my life and how I’m using it. Am I really a gracious, patient, humble person that seeks to lift the burdens of others? Do I go out of my way on a regular basis to serve my local church and to show God’s love to anyone I might bump into? Do I think of my leadership team as the professionals who are supposed to get things done properly so I can have a good time on Sunday? Do I consider myself God’s valued treasure that is stored right alongside all his many millions of other treasures? Or do I consider the treasury my room alone? These are a few questions worth considering.
Belgic Confession 28. Every One Is Bound to Join Himself to the True Church
“We believe, since this holy congregation is an assembly of those who are saved, and outside of it there is no salvation, that no person of whatsoever state or condition he may be, ought to withdraw from it, content to be by himself; but that all men are in duty bound to join and unite themselves with it; maintaining the unity of the Church; submitting themselves to the doctrine and discipline thereof; bowing their necks under the yoke of Jesus Christ; and as mutual members of the same body, serving to the edification of the brethren, according to the talents God has given them.
And that this may be the more effectually observed, it is the duty of all believers, according to the Word of God, to separate themselves from all those who do not belong to the Church, and to join themselves to this congregation, wheresoever God has established it, even though the magistrates and edicts of princes were against it, yea, though they should suffer death or any other corporal punishment. Therefore all those who separate themselves from the same or do not join themselves to it act contrary to the ordinance of God.”