Bible Study from Calvary Chapel Newberg
with Tom Fuller
Getting On Page with God
What are the ingredients of someone living life like God wants us to live?
- Humility (an accurate self-appraisal of how much you are like or not like God)
- Gentleness (acting appropriately in every situation)
- Patience (not giving up while God works on you)
- Forbearance (not giving up while God works on others)
- All in Love (other-centered affection, not self-motivated or controlled by how others react)
These characteristics are necessary to do what Paul tells us next: to live this new life in the body of Christ in unity. Summing up Ephesians: it?s all about Jesus. Remember Ephesians 1:10 ??to bring everything together in the Messiah, both things in heaven and things on earth in Him.?
We, as part of this new thing that God is building: the body of Christ, need to be unified with all things summing up and pointing to Jesus. Verses 3 through 16 of Chapter 4 are all about this thing called ?unity?.
Think of unity as all of us acting like Jesus, like getting on page with God. It doesn?t mean we all act alike. It isn?t uniformity. Why is unity so important? Because we represent God in this age. You are the only gospel that most people will ever encounter. Eternity is at stake. Let?s see how Paul makes this point:
The King James says: ?endeavoring?, the ESV ?eager to maintain?, the NET ?making every effort?, and here the HCSB says ?diligently?. Being ?one? or unified with God?s purposes is not easy. We Christians come into the body of Christ as ?pardoned rebels.? (Peter T. O?Brien The Letter to the Ephesians, Page 282). The Greek word means to ?do one?s best.? It?s important work for us to understand, get on board, then act in a way that furthers our Father?s business plan?which includes bring new life to as many as possible.
It is a unity not created by everyone joining hands and singing Kumbaya. The Spirit of God creates unity, not our achievement. But we have a part in maintaining it. The word ?keep? is the Greek word to ?guard.? It?s good and vital work to maintain a common purpose in bringing glory to Jesus by reflecting His character and sharing the gospel. It?s a work done by the Spirit but we can wreck it if we ignore the training program God begins when we come into His family.
This unity is based on the ?peace that binds us.? We have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ? (Romans 5:1). We are no longer at war with God because the blood of Jesus made peace (Colossians 1:20). That peace binds us together, chains us to each other. We must hold onto that hope and not get pulled off into silly arguments and infighting.
Paul emphasizes this unity, or oneness in a series of statements:
4 ? 6
There are seven acclamations in these verses, each using the word ?one?. The first three refer to the unity of the Godhead, the Trinity, and the final four refer to the believer?s relationship to the Spirit, Son, and Father.
One body: not Jew and Greek
One Spirit: God?s Spirit creates this new unity
One hope: Jesus is the only hope of salvation
One Lord: Jesus is King of Kings and Lord of Lords, there is no other
One faith: Only trust in Jesus brings salvation
One baptism: There is only one way to be immersed in the reality of what Jesus has done
One God: It all sums up to Him who created and sustains it all.
Focusing on anything else moves us away from God?s purposes. Peter O?Brien says it this way: ?The unity of the church is the means by which the manifold wisdom of God is being displayed to the universe. The church is the eschatological outpost, the pilot project of God?s purposes, and his people are the expression of this unity that displays to the universe his final goal.? That?s a big job. Fortunately we don?t do it on our own. God has created a training program to help us come to unity.
How does this unity take place in the body? Believe it or not it comes by variety within unity.
7 ? 8
Every one of us individually has a part to play in God?s grand plan. This happens by Jesus giving us gifts. Notice that it is His measure and a free gift, not our faith, not our worthiness, nor by our trying really hard. You may want to do something really badly ? and God may indeed have put that in your heart and if He has then He will supply what you need. But sometimes what we really need to do is step back and let Jesus inform us about our part in His plan.
The quotation is from Psalm 68:18. The Psalm has to do with God rescuing His people and ascending on Mt. Sinai. Interestingly, the psalm actually says ?you received gifts from people.? I won?t go into all the details, but it seems likely that Paul is employing a method known as midrash pesher in which Paul?s interpretation of the text is built into his quote. In fact, there are some translations and paraphrases of that psalm that use Paul?s way of translating the phrase. The idea here is that Christ went up Mount Zion, triumphed over sin and death, rescued us, and now in turn sends us back out with His power.
9 ? 10
There are several ways to interpret this: Jesus went to Hades after His crucifixion to preach to the dead (1 Peter 3:9). It could also be the incarnation of Jesus coming down from heaven, or it could be Jesus ascent to heaven and the Spirit descending on us to empower us (Acts 1:5-8). In this interpretation, Psalm 68 is no longer about Moses going up on Mt. Sinai and returning to give the Law, but is about Jesus going up to heaven and sending down the Spirit to write the law on our hearts. The most likely interpretation seems to be of Jesus descending from heaven to earth in the incarnation, and now ascending back to be ?far above the heavens?. The purpose is so ?He might fill all things.? To do that, Jesus uses us ordinary humans.
11 ? 12
Here, the gifts are not powers (like in 1 Corinthians or Acts) but people. The list here is ad hoc, it is not inclusive but an example. There are actually five of these types of lists in the New Testament (Romans 12:6-8, 1 Corinthians 12:8-10, 28-30, Ephesians 4:11-12 cf. 1 Peter 4:10-11). In all some 20 gifts are listed. The point is we should not just try to see which one of these we fit into, but seek God for how we can fit into His program of introducing people to Jesus (evangelism) and encouraging them in that relationship (discipleship). That?s what training in the work of the ministry to build up the body of Christ is all about. Paul?s example of the gifts has a point, however, one we?ll get to next time.
Apostles means people sent with a divine message or task. They speak for God. Paul, for instance, was an apostle. Prophets tell it like it is (forthtelling) or tell it like it will be (foretelling). Evangelists preach the gospel or train others. Pastors care for the walk of people in the body (protect and guide) and teachers explain God?s Word and apply God?s revelation to the life of the church.
So part of my job as a pastor and teacher is to equip you by explaining the Word of God to you, and by giving you opportunities to apply that knowledge in your life, such as joining a growth group where you can pray and encourage others. As we?ll see, by explaining what?s in God?s Word, you are better equipped to know what is not. You also have ways that God will use you in His service to help equip others. It could be volunteering for Sunday School, or even to clean up after service. It doesn?t have to be flashy to be important.
So what?s the goal?
The goal is that we work towards a oneness of character and purpose. Christ?s character makes us mature. As the world sees us mature, they will see Jesus more and more in us. Why is this important? Because there is a magnetic pull in this age to keep us attached to a value system that is opposed to the character of God in Jesus.
Instead of going on through the end of this section, I want to stop here and consider some things:
- Getting on page with God means major changes to your character (?walk worthy? ? changing something, bringing up the beam of the scales)
- It requires an ongoing accurate self assessment of your character and how it compares to God?s
- It must be done with hope (?he who has started a good work will carry it on to completion? ? Phil 1:6)
- It must be done gently, with patience, and with understanding that we are all a work in progress
- Is becoming like God and the making of disciples always in view in your life?
- Ask for God?s gifts to help in that effort (not necessarily what we always pray about, is it?)
- How trainable are you? What are you willing to give up in that training?