“I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, with all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one Body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.” –Eph. 4:1-6
Ephesians is a complete book, taking the reader from God’s plan before the foundation of the world to our glorious heavenly hope. It shows how He is presently working that plan out, reveals to us a secret age (present Church age) that was hidden in God, tells us how the new Church was started and given an initial boost, instructs us on how to behave in this age, and informs us of the conflict we will have with the world. With such a carefully worked out plan, and with the fate of countless souls in the balance, the Lord wants to assure that our conduct does not run counter to His intentions. He makes it clear there should be no conflict within the Body of believers; for that reason we are instructed to forbear one another in love and to keep the unity He has created in peace.
The unity, or agreement, of Ephesians Chapter 4 was created by the Holy Spirit, who took seven single entities and bound them together, and in so doing created something new. This is a clear depiction of the Lord’s work in creating His Church. Each of the seven “ones” is bound to all the others making a new unity. An analogy would be seven ping-pong balls (the seven ones) glued together to make a new unity. The Lord’s new unity results in a bond among believers in the church. The agent that will assure a healthy, vital bond is peace. Strife and discord among believers “unglues” the bond as surely as a solvent can unglue the ping-pong balls. The Church is God’s creation; as His stewards and ambassadors we have been given a clear mission to fulfill. We are exhorted to keep this unity because the Church is one Body in Christ, is empowered by one Spirit, is captivated by one hope, is inspired by one Lord in whom we all have our faith, is made one by a divine baptism (I Cor. 12:13), and is one with the Father who is our ALL.
EQUIPPING THE SAINTS
The Lord is not asking us to create anything, but merely to endeavor to keep what He has already created. As always, He does not ask us to accomplish a task without first informing us of His provisions and expectation for us.
We have been called to be saints, to be His children (not a child but a full-grown adult with adult privileges in His family) and to be His ambassadors. Thus, we have a heavenly calling, and have been given impeccable credentials—we are well equipped to do the job. In this case, our credentials are those of an ambassador and not those of a soldier. This is because we are primarily asked to endeavor to assure peace “within” the Body of Christ, i.e., among fellow believers. When the battle with outside forces is considered in Chapter 6, then defensive armor and offensive weapons are considered.
B. Manner Of Life
The mission before us as ambassadors is to assure peace among, as it were, the diplomatic corps of fellow ambassadors. Thus we are to walk in lowliness (humility) and meekness, which foster longsuffering and enable us to forbear one another in love.
We are told that the glue that holds this unity together is “peace.” When there is no peace there is enmity, there are partitions between people, there is alienation, we become strangers, etc. The correct bond assures that we will be fellows with other believers and that we will be like a magnificent temple with each member a perfect fit. A perfect fit means everyone has a purpose and Godly function, there are no useless members and all work selflessly and with singleness of purpose toward His ends (Eph. 2:14-22).
Each of us is given a gift to handle this job—we are given “grace” (Eph. 4:7). The mere use of the words endeavoring, forbearing, and longsuffering make it clear that this is not going to be an easy task. The ability to be longsuffer-ing seems to be a natural consequence of a humble and meek spirit. Forbearance requires extraordinary patience and restraint of one’s own feelings in deference to another’s. It is clear the Lord has to thus gift us or we could not perform our duty, but, to claim we can not perform it is to imply His grace is not sufficient.
Attending To Business
In II Corinthians 5:20 we are called upon to be ambassadors of Christ, living in a foreign world that has declared war against our Lord. Our duties as ambassadors are to represent Christ, assure communication of Spiritual truth, promote His “culture,” teach reconciliation, and promote peace. A group of ambassadors is a diplomatic corps and, by way of analogy, such a corps is the Body of Christ on this earth. The Lord expects that corps to be a model of Christlikeness to the unsaved world. Since one of the main duties of an ambassador is to promote peace, any discord within the corps itself is a clear indication of ineffective diplomacy to the world. The world looks at the Church for any evidences of discord so that it can “find excuse” for rejecting the messengers and thus the message.
If we were called upon to maintain law and order in the Church we could do it by discipline, rigorous rules, and exacting laws, but our job is to preserve love, respect, feelings, honor, etc. Thus, our job does not require us to control others, but ourselves through incredible self-discipline. The humility and meekness called for cannot be self-generated because they will then be merely spiritual pride in disguise and our testimony will be transparent to others. Where does the real thing come from? As a part of His grace, the indwelling Spirit produces His fruit (love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, and temperance, Gal. 5:22,23) in a Christian’s life. Note that it is precisely this fruit that is called for in Ephesians, and it is this fruit that truly equips us to accomplish our God-given duties.
In addition to the fruit of the Spirit, our Head (Christ) effectively uses each member of the Body to build up and edify the Body in love (Eph. 4:16). But we still have our free will and can resist or quench His leading. God’s plan for His Church and desire for us may be hampered by our own agendas and desires. To help prevent this, and in order for us to know how to live effectively in the Body, our Lord gives us more guidance on critical personality/character traits. These traits are not “nice to have” but crucial, required elements in order for the Church to edify itself in love (Eph. 4:25-32). These traits include: speaking the truth, controlling anger, good communication, no bitterness, no wrath, no malice, kindness, tenderness, and a forgiving heart.
At the end of the age these traits will be minimal in some believers. In I Timothy 4:1-3, we see some in the Body will depart from the faith, some will be seduced by other spirits, and some will believe doctrines of devils. All this will no doubt happen because the conditions of people’s hearts will be far from that of Ephesians 4. Believers will be influenced negatively by the world, in which people will be: “lovers of themselves, proud, unholy, without natural affection, heady, highminded…” (II Tim. 3:1-5). The Spirit will not be able to work as effectively as desired in some believer’s lives, resulting in their inability to keep God’s bond of peace. In the foregoing passage, the Word makes it clear that people in general will be truce-breakers and traitors—hardly the desired traits of an ambassador.
If we are to keep the unity produced by the Spirit in the bond of peace, we have to consider some typical relationships and consider how peace can be promulgated in them.
A. Peace With God
As believers we understand that we are at peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. We should also understand that being at peace with God means that He supplies all our needs. The moment people put their faith in Christ they are brought into a relationship with Him that fully satisfies their deepest needs. These deepest needs are those of our spirit. These deep needs involve our need for security (that God has a purpose for us and that we are important to Him). With these critical personal needs already met, we can now be less preoccupied with ourselves and strive to help others in the Body. We can now begin to practice unconditional love with believers, that is, we can ignore petty differences in order to love another (generally our differences are petty but when we are not tenderhearted we make them major issues).
Fellow Christians may lack a clear understanding of Christ meeting our deepest needs, but for this we can provide great counsel. For example, we can assure them that Christ is our peace (with God, Eph. 2:14) and that we are important to Him. We can not add in any way to the fact of our security and significance in Christ, but we can to another person’s understanding and appreciation of this truth. As we endeavor to help others we must be aware that people often understand something but do not have a comparable “feeling.” Thus, their feelings lag behind their understanding, i.e., one may know they are significant but still feel insignificant. These feelings change as part of the spiritual maturation process, but they must be given proper regard because the feelings of our fellow Christians are critical to their, even our, effective functioning. Thus, we must continually build each other up in a way to reinforce truth and feeling. We must search for ways to edify each other and to assure a peaceful existence in order to keep the unity expected by our Lord.
B. Peace Within
The unity produced by the Spirit is not just maintained by being at peace with God or with other people. We must assure that the Spirit’s unity is maintained within ourselves. We must ask, how do I strain the bond produced by the Holy Spirit? Here are some possibilities.
First, we must maintain balance between the seven entities, and to the extent we do, this is one measure of a peaceful bond. If we emphasize one or several entities above the others, or if we fail to see the true spiritual significance of an entity, then we lose balance and the bond is strained. For example, if we continually discuss and foster the one baptism but fail to see that it is the baptism of the Spirit, the real thing, not some water symbolism, then the internal bond is damaged.
Second, we must appreciate who we are in Christ, as a result of God’s grace, in order to have internal peace. We must look to Paul and believe what he said in I Corinthi-ans 15:10, “But by the grace of God I am what I am….” While we are not apostles like Paul, we still must appreciate that we are a unique creation of God and accepted in the Beloved. Each believer is God’s “special order” for His Body. This appreciation is not sinful pride or vanity, it is thankfulness and acceptance of His work of grace. Accepting this work of grace is essential for peace within the Body, because those who detest themselves have trouble living in harmony with others. Because of their own shortcomings they tend to throw stones at others. These stones can be very injurious and certainly they break the bond of peace. Such stone throwing (criticism, intolerance, innuendoes, anger, superiorness, cold shoulder/snubbing…) can be likened unto a spiritual cycle of abuse. We must break the cycle, leaving our stones at the cross, in order to promote the peace Christ seeks.
Third, our emotions are powerful motivators, and, while they must be respected, they also must be kept in control. If we crave the “emotional lift” resulting from the praise of others we will find it a debilitating ride. If we think we can dabble with hate and anger and are confident we can control them, we will lose the battle and learn their incredible power over us. The power of revenge is intoxicating, causing us to act irrationally. In all these things we must learn to handle emotions in God’s manner; if not, we will inadvertently chip away at the very peace we endeavor to keep.
It is no coincidence that the chapter preceding our text closes with this benediction: “Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us. Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all, world without end. Amen” (Eph. 3:20-21). How perfectly this benediction leads into chapter 4 where we are exhorted to forbear one another in love and endeavor to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. The unsaved and an immature Christian expect a life of fun and independence, but as spiritual adults we waive our “rights” and instead realize we must endeavor and forbear in this life. We do this because we realize that the pain and struggles we experience now help us and if they bring glory in the church, then it glorifies Him.