A sermon on Ephesians 4:1-6 by Rev Richard Keith on Sunday 13 September 2020
There are many things that divide us. Some of us are young and some of us are old. Some of us are rich and some of us are poor. Some of us vote for the right and some of us vote for the left. There are so many things that divide us, but the most important things unite us. And Ephesians chapter 4 reminds us that it is not our job to create our unity. That job has already been done. It doesn’t have to be done again. But it is our job to preserve our unity.
This morning we are looking at Ephesians chapter 4, verses 1 to 6. In verses 1 to 3, the apostle Paul tell us what we should do. In verses 4 to 6 he tells us why we should do it. And so we are going to start by going backwards. At looking at why before we look at what in order to get the bigger picture. Like a photographer who might have to take a few steps backwards to fit the whole scene in the picture, we are going to start with verse 6 and go up backwards.
There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.
There is one God. There are not many gods. There are not different powers that struggle and fight over human affairs. There is not a bureaucracy in heaven with one god in charge of this and another god in charge of something else, so that you have to be careful which god you pray to. There is one God. Different people may follow different religions. They may offer their prayers to a whole host of gods. But believing in gods don’t make them real. And there is only one, true and living God who is the Father of all. He is our Creator. He made us for himself. He is our Judge. It is to him that we will give an account of our lives. He is our Father who loves us and wills that we might love him back. Whether we believe in him or not, whether we give him the love and obedience that he deserves or give it to another or keep it to ourselves, whether we acknowledge or deny him, whether we bless him or curse him, there is no other god to turn to. He is the Father of all, who is over all and rules as king, who works through all things and people and events, who is in all.
There is one God. And there is one Lord, Jesus Christ. God made us. He loves us. He is our Father. But we do not love him and we worship and serve things that God made rather than the God who made them. Yet he did not reject us. Though we wandered away like a lost sheep, God sent the shepherd to look for us and to find us and to bring us back. Our Lord Jesus Christ. He is our Saviour. He took our sin and our guilt and he carried them to the cross where they were put to death with him, but he was raised to life without them, so that they may not continue to hold us and destroy us. In his death, death died so that in his life, life might live in us. There are no other lords who might claim us or control or rule over us or determine our future. There are no other lords who own us to whom we owe our service.
There is one Lord, Jesus Christ, and one faith by which we confess him Lord, by which we turn to him and trust him, by which we abandon all attempts to justify ourselves and trust only in who he is and in what he has done for us. It is not faith in a creed or in a doctrine or in a teaching. But faith in a person by which we follow our only Lord and Saviour through life and death into a better life with him.
There is one faith, and one baptism by which we submit to Christ and to his way of love and service. Baptism which celebrates the blood of Christ which washes away our sins, and his Spirit who renews us and restores us like living water. Baptism which is like a ceremonial dunking and resurfacing which celebrates our union with Christ in his death and resurrection. So that we are dead to sin, but alive for God.
And so there is one body, the body of Christ, the church. God in Christ has called us and brought us to himself and in bringing us to himself, he has brought us to each other. For all our differences, just as a body is made up of different parts, a hand, a heart and a big toe, the body is one. And so are we. For we have all received the same Spirit of God and the same calling to the same hope. One day, we will live with each other in the eternal love of God. And so we are called to live with each other now in the same Spirit of love.
For there are many things that divide us. Some people are tall and some people are short. Some people are white and some people are black. Some people like Justin Bieber and some people have taste in music. But the important things unite us. They make us one. We don’t have to make ourselves one. We don’t have to create our unity by our own will and strength. Come on, guys, let’s all move together. We don’t have to make rules that force us to be one against our will. We don’t have to put one person in charge so that we are one when we all do what that person says. God has made us one in Christ by his Spirit.
We are one. You only have to open your eyes to see it. You only have to open your heart to believe it. We don’t have to make our unity by our own force of will and strength. We only have to preserve the unity that God has already made.
And it is this high calling that the apostle Paul calls us to in verses 1 to 3: to preserve the unity that God has made.
As a prisoner for the Lord, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.
Paul speaks “as a prisoner”. Paul’s appeal is made on the basis of his chains for Christ. Found guilty for preaching in the Roman empire the Lordship of the Jesus who was crucified by the Roman empire, Paul has found himself in prison. He was suffering the same disgrace as the Lord did for the Lord’s sake. With his own chains he has earned the right to make his appeal that we live a life worthy of the calling we have received. God has called us to himself. God has called us out of sin and death into his own holy life. God has called us out of ourselves to love. God has called us to each other, to real community, to fellowship, to mutual strength and support. And Paul appeals to us to live a life worthy of this high calling.
Paul reminds us here that our new life in Christ does not just have a destination of blessing and peace, but that the road that leads to that destination is the way of Christ, the way of peace. Jesus isn’t selling us plane tickets to heaven. Turn up at the airport and you go straight there. It’s a journey on foot. And there are challenges ahead of us. And sometimes the way is hard. And it is dark. But we have the light of his Word which is a lamp for our feet. But often we only have enough light to take the next step. But that is all we need.
And on this journey Jesus is calling us to take up our cross and follow him. Jesus who welcomed the children. Jesus who washed his disciples feet. Jesus who forgave Peter and restored him to service. Jesus does not just give us life. He is our life. And so he gives us a way of life. His way. To be humble and gentle and patient. Not thinking that we are better or that our way is the only way. But acknowledging that others are not just people too but also children of God and brothers and sisters in Christ. Not being harsh or irritable or controlling, but gentle. Not being quick to find fault or to assert your own authority or to insist on your own way, but patient. Not treating each other like children, subjecting each other to our constant criticism or to our unasked for advice. But giving each other the strength and the courage and the encouragement and the opportunity and the freedom to make our own best choices for the Lord. Bearing one another in love. Not pushing or pulling, but carrying, supporting, encouraging in a spirit of love and understanding and acceptance. Making every effort, not a half-hearted effort, or a grudging effort, but every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.
Peace is what binds us together. For we are one, not because we meet at the same time at the same place, nor because we subscribe to the same flavour of Christianity, nor because we submit to one controlling personality, but because God has made peace with us in Christ and calls us to peace with each other.
Many things divide us. But the important things unite us. We don’t have to create our unity. God is one and he has made us one. But God calls us to preserve that unity in peace, bearing one another in love.