“Be Diligent to Preserve Unity on Doctrine”
Part 1: Ephesians 4:1-3
INTRODUCTION What is the Meaning of Ephesians 4.1-3
Ephesians 4 in your Bibles. This will be the first message in Ephesians 4:1-6. We’ll continue this same section next time. We have begun a new section in the book of Ephesians.
Our last two messages were the prayer in Ephesians 3 and the doxology at the end of chapter 3.
If you would look back to Ephesians 3:21 to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen.
To “Him,” that is to God the Father, be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus. God the Father endeavors to be glorified in the church.
So chapters 1 to 3 is the formation of this church and chapters 4-6 present several ways of how God the Father desires to receive glory in the church.
Chapters 1 to 3 contain the doctrine and chapters 4 to 6 are the application of that doctrine. And as kind of a bridge between the two sections, Paul prays in Ephesians 3:14-21.
Let’s read and remind ourselves of these verses and then read right into Ephesians 4:1-6.
Ephesians 3:14-21 14 For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name, 16 that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God. 20 Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, 21 to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen. [Ephesians 4…] Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, 3 being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling; 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all.
So Paul prays for spiritual growth in verses 14-19. He prays that we would be filled up to all of the fullness of God. That’s simply God’s fullness being filled up in us. That’s a prayer for growth. And if you are concerned about your ability to grow and to please God the way you should and don’t believe that you can do it, that’s okay because in verse 20 of chapter 3 God can do exceedingly more abundantly beyond all that you could ever possibly imagine. God can work a work of growth in you.
And now in chapter 4 he’s going to appeal to your spiritual growth and show you what growth looks like.
Chapters 1 to 3 is the challenge of coming to understand the wealth that we have in Jesus Christ. And we saw Paul’s desire that we would know this, not just intellectually, but to be empowered by it. We need Holy Spirit-empowered knowledge of Christ. So chapters 1-3 are all of the privileges and the wealth of the work of Christ. And Paul desires that we really come to be empowered by the Holy Spirit through that knowledge.
And now in chapters 4-6, is the walk. If chapters 1-3 is the wealth, chapters 4-6 is the walk. If chapters 1-3 are the privileges we have in Christ, chapters 4-6 contains the practices. If chapters 1-3 is the appeal for us to know the riches, the chapters 4-6 is an appeal to live in light of the riches.
And so both are required. There is equal balance with doctrine and with application. To give an example of this, Ephesians 1-3 contain only one command. We are commanded in Ephesians 2:11-12 to remember that when Christ came, Gentiles like ourselves were separated from God’s program of salvation. But that’s the only command in those chapters.
But Ephesians 4-6 has at least 33 commands for us. The spiritual wealth is first and the spiritual walk is second. But both are required.
ILL: Let me illustrate the necessity of both doctrine and duty. Let’s say you meet up with a certain man, whose identity will remain undisclosed for a moment. Anyway, this man kind of likes you.
And then let’s say that out of his kindness he gives you a cheque… A blank cheque. Now there are a certain number of things that you must know in order to make the most out of the situation!
In order for you to make the most out of this situation, you will need to have knowledge of certain things. First, you need to know who it is who gave this to you. Mystery revealed, it was Bill Gates, who is worth $77 billion. Second, you need to understand a blank cheque and how a blank cheque works.
And if you know 2 those things, believe me, you’ll be much more motivated to obey when somebody says to you, “just write out how much you want and take it to the bank.” Once you understood those two things, it wouldn’t take you long to obey the one command! Knowledge properly understood will drive your actions.
It’s the same way with the applications in chapters 4-6. By the power of the Holy Spirit, the more you understand chapters 1-3, the more likely your attempts at doing chapters 4 to 6 will be accomplished in a godly way.
You could attempt to do chapters 4 to 6 without knowledge of chapters 1 to 3. That would be kind of like me giving you a blank cheque. If you try to cash my cheque like it was Bill Gates’ cheque, you will be severely disappointed. You clearly did not understand the truth and so ah … shall we say that your actions did not produce the fruit that you desired. You misunderstood the doctrine of a blank cheque while you misunderstood the person who gave you the blank check.
In the same way, you can misunderstand or fail to desire to understand the wealth of chapters 1 to 3. If you do, your attempts at the application of chapters 4 to 6 will fail miserably, no matter what your life may appear to be.
So we are going to preach chapters 4-6 and hopefully we will do so in light of chapters 1–3.
So all of chapters 4-6 is our walk, or how we live in light of chapters 1-3.
And to further introduce chapters 4 to 6, I would like to point out how it is put together. You can really mark up chapters 4 to 6 by the word “walk.” And you could do just that, get out a pen and mark the word “walk” in your Bibles.
We have it in the first verse of chapter 4. Ephesians 4:1 Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called…
And then this section will discuss our unity as a local assembly. Verse 17 begins a new section Ephesians 4:17 So this I say, and affirm together with the Lord, that you walk no longer just as the Gentiles also walk, in the futility of their mind…
Again, by the way, the word for “walk” could be better translated “to live.” So this section concerns how we live in contrast to the watching world.
Ephesians 5:2 continues the same theme of our personal behavior … “and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you”
Ephesians 5:8 for you were formerly darkness, but now you are Light in the Lord; walk as children of Light
And the last occurrence …
Ephesians 5:15 Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise,
TRANS: And so chapters 4-6 is our earthly life empowered by the riches of God’s grace. And those riches were found in chapters 1-3.
And first in our earthly life, he deals with unity in the church. Verse one introduces chapters 4-6 with the command to live in a manner worthy of the calling that we’ve been called to.
Verse two contains the graces necessary for unity in the church and verse three carries the force of a command, “be diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit.”
And then, verses 4-6 form the basis of the unity, or what we unify on. What we unify on, verses 4-6. Be diligent to preserve that unity, verse 3. You’re going to need certain qualities in yourself for that to happen, verse 2. So, I’d like to preach that we “Be Diligent to Preserve Unity on Doctrine.” And this will be part 1, with part 2 next time.
The Command And the Graces Necessary (Eph. 4:1-3)
Ephesians 4:1 Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called,
In order to walk or to live in a manner that is worthy of the calling with which we have been called demands that we understand our calling. Paul implores us, he commands us to live in such a way that is in keeping with the calling that we have been called to. That we truly live like those redeemed by God’s grace!
ILL: If you say you’ve been called to be a marine or a Green Beret or a Navy Seal, and you live like a typical teenager today and play video games whenever you get a chance, no one will believe you! Obviously, because your talk doesn’t match your walk, you were never called to be a Navy Seal.
No, if you’ve been called, you would have lived like it! If you’ve been called to be a Christian, you’ll live like it!
This word for calling is also found in Ephesians 1. And I would like us to turn back there so that we understand our calling as Christians.
Ephesians 1:18. This begins the first of Paul’s prayer for the Ephesians. Ephesians 1:18 I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints,
Paul is praying in the middle of the verse that we would come to know what is the “hope of his calling.”
What is a calling? People speak about their calling in life. “What have you been called to do?” Here, it is similar, only it’s more of a position or a standing that we have before God.
And the only way to get this glorious standing before God is through trusting Jesus Christ and repenting of your sins, turning from your sins. Hebrews 3:6 teaches that we are the very household of Christ, but only if we hold fast our confidence and the boast of our hope firm until the end.
Without holiness, no man shall see the Lord, Heb. 12:14. A Christian is someone who has trusted in Christ and has made a decisive break from his old way of life.
When God leads someone to repentance, that person has a standing before God that is found in the Ephesians 1:3-14. Paul wrote the calling that we have in verses 3-14 and then he prays in verse 18 that we would come to know what is the hope or the confidence that springs out of this calling.
And so I would like to read these verses so that we can remind ourselves of our calling. And we are reminding ourselves of our calling because Ephesians 4:1 demands that we live a life that is worthy of the calling that we have been called to. And how can we live a life that is worthy of our calling if we don’t know the calling?
ILL: How can we cash the blank cheque if we don’t know who gave us the cheque or what a blank cheque even is?
So to live a life that is worthy of the calling, we must understand by the power of the Holy Spirit, we must understand the calling.
Ephesians 1:3-14 3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, 4 [right out of the gate, first blessing Paul talks about is… election …] just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love 5 He predestined us [that is, He predetermined the destiny of believers only…that destiny is …] to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, 6 to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. 7 In Him we have […here’s another part of the calling we need to understand, we have …] redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace 8 which He lavished on us. [We even get to know a bit of the future…] In all wisdom and insight 9 He made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His kind intention which He purposed in Him 10 with a view to an administration suitable to the fullness of the times, that is, the summing up of all things in Christ, things in the heavens and things on the earth. In Him 11 also we have obtained an inheritance [better, we have been made an inheritance … God’s inheritance], having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will, 12 to the end that we who were the first to hope in Christ would be to the praise of His glory. 13 In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation—having also believed [faith or a saving trust is required…having believed…], you were […here’s another one … ] sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, 14 who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of His glory.
Now, your job as one who has trusted Christ is to live in light of that calling! Your calling brethren…chosen before the foundation of the world. Your destiny, my fellow believer, is predetermined by the grace of God: here it is…adoption as sons! You get the full rights and privileges of being a child of God. You have been transferred from the family Satan to the family of God, with all the legal rights and responsibilities!
Never tire of that salvation! Never get over what God has done for you in Christ.
And you get redemption… You have been purchased back from the slave market of sin. All of your sins have been washed away by the precious blood of Christ, if you have trusted Christ. And you have been sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise. And you have an inheritance awaiting you in glory.
How is that for your blank check!? To say that the riches of this world pale in comparison to the riches of Christ is to even cheapen the riches of Christ. Nothing can compare to him and what he has accomplished for us in Christ.
TRANS: Now, back to Eph. 4:1. Again the command, Ephesians 4:1 Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk [to live] in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called,
So, consider yourself implored this morning! Glory in the calling that you’ve been called to! Make attempts at doing that! To the extent that you do and how often you do that, to that degree you will live in a manner worthy of the calling. It’s because of this verse and others that we have taken for our theme of Ephesians that “the riches of Christ empower our life in Christ.” It is the riches of Christ that empower our life in Christ.
And so to live worthy of the calling we must pray. We must pray what Paul does in Ephesians 1 that we would come to really know what is the hope of his calling. We must pray in Ephesians 3 that God would strengthen us with power by his spirit in our inner man so that we might know his great love and so that in the end we may be filled up to all of God’s fullness.
Without prayer for knowledge of the calling, we won’t know the true confidence in our hearts about that calling. And our lives will not measure up to the calling to which we have been called.
We must pray that we know the calling and understand the spiritual confidence we can have.
TRANS: Now, one of the areas in which we need to live worthy is unity. Beginning in verse two, Paul gives the qualities we need to have in order to accomplish the command in verse three.
You need to have… Ephesians 4:2 […] all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love,
In order to Ephesians 4:3 be[…] diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
The Graces Necessary
EXP: Once again, think of the original recipients of this letter. Jews and Gentiles have received this letter. And naturally they want to be racist towards one another and discriminating towards one another and hating one another for reasons that are obviously not in the Bible. That is what they feel like toward each other in their natural condition.
But instead, they need to be unified. And in an assembly where people are tempted to be at each other’s throats, what they need is first to understand their calling as believers. And as they are empowered by the Holy Spirit to understand these things, then at the mere mention of unity, they’ll desire to do it.
Like with the blank cheque. If you knew it was Bill Gates who gave you the blank check and you knew how blank cheques work, if I just mentioned to you “go to the bank and cash it,” you would immediately desire to do that.
If you understood the knowledge of God and the riches He has given to us and how assured these things are, if we read any command in Scripture, we would desire to do it. Especially if we are commanded to preserve the unity of the Spirit in any given assembly.
TRANS: But what is it going to take? First, it will take humility!
Andrew Murray, who wrote a book called Humility, defines humility as “the place of entire dependence on God.” He says humility “is, from the very nature of things, the first duty and the highest virtue of the creature, and the root of every virtue. And so pride, or the loss of this humility, is the root of every sin and evil.”
In order to be unified, we must be entirely dependent on God. We must be humble. If we are humble, we will not stumble. Pride comes before a fall.
Meditations on Humility
The first one is humility! I’d say that our calling is a humbling thing. Let me give a few meditations on humility…
Number 1, the gospel doctrine in chapter 1 that we read about our election and predestination humbles us because it is beyond our comprehension. It humbles the proud sinner who says, “How could God love us like this?” God could never love or forgive me….? Poor sinner, is anything too difficult for the Lord? Our calling humbles our hearts.
But secondly, God’s calling of us humbles our intellect because, in reality, as Paul even admits, we simply cannot understand these things. Paul prays in Ephesians 3 that we would come to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge. We cannot truly come to fully comprehend Christ’s love. But as we grow in that very love, we will grow and be humbled along the way.
So it humbles our intellect.
Number 3, our calling in Christ humbles our pride in our abilities. Chapter 2 of Ephesians reminded us of our sinfulness. It reminded us of how we walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air. It reminded us that we indulged our sinful natures and that we only deserve eternal wrath. I’d say that’s a humbling realization!
Not only that, number 4, our calling humbles us in our nationality as non-Jews. Chapter 2 helps us realize that we as Gentiles didn’t deserve to be brought near to God’s program of salvation. The fact that I am a sinner as described in chapter 2 and the fact that I’m a Gentile makes me feel like I really need to be entirely dependent on God! And I must have God do the work in me or it will not happen.
Number 5, even the apostle Paul felt humbled. And he was humbled because of the inestimable privilege of being a minister of the gospel. If you would look back to chapter 3:8. Ephesians 3:8 To me, the very least of all saints, this grace was given, [what grace ? … the grace … the gift … ] to preach to the Gentiles the unfathomable riches of Christ,
I mean, I get to preach this gospel?! Who am I to preach these riches!?
It’s no wonder that, after praying … which, itself, is a humbling experience…., he starts chapter 4 with none other than … humility!
TRANS: Not only do we need humility to be unified in the church, but we also need gentleness.
Gentleness is, of course, a behavior. Gentleness does not yell and is not harsh and cutting. When things don’t go your way in the church, you don’t raise a stink. You need to get excited when what you stand for is in the Bible and the church isn’t following that. But if it’s not in the Bible, you hold it loosely.
TRANS: We need humility, gentleness, along with patience.
And patience is that calmness even though trouble is near. Patience is being calm when someone is yelling at you and cursing at you.
Patience is when your kids go off again and you don’t complain or act irritable, or when your parents ask you to do something … again… but do it happily.
Or it’s when your sister says those biting words she knows just gets under your skin, but you remain calm and you don’t proceed to bite her head off.
This is all “showing tolerance toward one another in love” isn’t it? Not biting off heads! Don’t try to get under their skin! And don’t have your skin gotten under, no matter what happens.
Why do we lack these virtues? Because we don’t understand the blank cheque and who gave it to us! Because we don’t have the knowledge of God and knowledge of the calling that we’ve been called to. If we did, we would be diligent to get in the car and take it to the bank!
If we understood our calling, we would be diligent to pursue these virtues.
God wants to give you these virtues. Will you seek him for it through prayer? Seek Him in prayer and in His Word to have these virtues.
TRANS: These virtues will help us to be diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
The Command continued
Ephesians 4:3 being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
The force of the command in verse one, where it says “to walk worthy of the calling” is carried over here in verse three. We are commanded to be diligent or to make every effort to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
This is the Holy Spirit’s unity that we are preserving. A church isn’t called upon here to create unity. A church is called upon here to be diligent to preserve the unity that the Holy Spirit himself has already created.
And the word “unity” is a word describing “oneness.” And that word “one” is mentioned seven times in verses 4-6.
We unify on what we have in verses 4-6 and each one of them is a unity of itself.
For example, verse four says there is one body. This is the body of Christ, which is his people for all time. How many universal bodies of Christ are there? There is only 1! Paul is then saying to us, “Ought you too be one, be unified, in that 1 body?”
There is one Holy Spirit. How many Holy Spirit’s are there? One. Ought you, too, not be one seeing there is one Holy Spirit?
And we unite, we become one on these doctrines here as well. We unify on the doctrine and the doctrine of itself is an illustration of the unity we should have.
We unify on the doctrine and the doctrine itself pictures unity, whether it is one body, one Spirit, and thus through to verse 6. That’s Paul’s point. Verse 4-6 form the basis of unity. Everything we unify on flows from these verses. A church shouldn’t seek unity created by a different spirit. You’ll know the unity of the Holy Spirit when the unity that is created is centred on Eph. 4:4-6, which we will detail more next time.
CONCLUSION What is the Meaning of Ephesians 4.1-3
But because of what we have in Christ, live worthy of that. Live out the wealth of Christ. Make every effort to preserve the unity that the Holy Spirit has created, whether it is in this assembly or in your family.
And I couldn’t be more pleased with the unity that we, as church displayed and the unity that was visible in the Paterson family this week from Earle’s passing and the memorial service. Thank you for the help and kindness displayed and being gracious to one another. There was much blessing in all the struggle. Thank you for that wonderful display of unity this week.
Let’s close by singing 222. Tune from love divine all love’s excelling.