FOR THE GOOD OF THE BODY
A Study of Ephesians 4:1-16
If we do not take care of our physical selves, we may become ill; we could even die. Similarly, the Body of Christ – which is the church – requires the attention of its membership to ensure its upkeep. At the head of the church is Christ Himself, and we can help maintain the church’s integrity and cohesiveness by adopting and acting out his qualities. Christ was gentle and humble; never did he consider that he was too important to accept this task or that. But he also knew when, and to what extent, he should be forceful in the defense of God’s hopes and desires for mankind. That was seen in Jesus’ reaction to the trading and gambling taking place inside God’s House, the Temple. So the text teaches us how to take care of the church through our actions. And, by extension, it teaches us that our actions also affect the integrity and well being of all other organized entities in our lives, whether they be family-, business- or community-based.
Pastor Paul from the pulpit
Psalm 139:14 says,
– “I will praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.”
Ephesians 2:10 says,
– “For we are His workmanship created in Christ Jesus for good works.”
Both verses suggest the human body is one of God’s most marvelous and incredible creations. Every detail of the body’s organization and functionality has been intricately designed. Take, for example, the body’s immune system. A healthy immune system has the ability to recognize any type of foreign invading force, copy it and then mount a defense against further intrusion or debilitating effect. The immune system has the ability to protect every other system in the body from becoming compromised by parasitic attack. The caveat is that the human body’s ability to function optimally is contingent upon how well we care for it.
In our text, the Apostle Paul draws an analogy between the human body and the church. Throughout the Pauline Epistles, the apostle uses different metaphors to refer to the church. In this passage, he presents the church as the “Body of Christ.” The head of the body, or church, is Christ Jesus.
It is with this view that the apostle urges believers to strive to preserve the unity in the Body of Christ. Paul says,
“I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.”
In other words, God extended a divine invitation to us to become a part of the Christ’s body, and we should not take that invitation lightly. In recognition of God’s gracious offer, let us live in a manner that reflects the character, person, and teachings of Christ Jesus.
One of the things you have to love about the Apostle Paul is that he gives us the what, why, and how to apply biblical principles to our lives. He challenges us in this passage to be like Christ. How do we do that? We start by considering Christ.
If it is our desire to emulate someone, then we must examine and study the thought process and lifestyle of the person we seek to be like.
Christ was humble and gentle. Whatever God told Christ to do, he did it. He did not complain or ask why. He simply did it!
Part of the struggle for us in this area is the way we view ourselves. The Bible teaches us that we should be modest in our view of ourselves. Indeed, that is what humility is.
When we do not see ourselves as better than others, then nothing is beneath us or outside the realm and scope of what we can do.
We would not be tempted to say things like,
“That is not my job.”
Out of a humble and gentle spirit flows a desire to treat others the way we want to be treated.
People who are humble and gentle have a soothing quality about them. In fact gentle means to be soothing.
Have you soothed anyone lately?
Patience was another aspect of Christ’s character.
The Scripture records one instance where Christ became visibly angry when He entered the Temple and found people buying and selling in the Temple courts. Jesus' anger was directed at the temple merchants, who had turned the House of God into a common market place. Their action had profaned God's house, and Jesus reacted against it in an illustration of a very narrow circumstance where anger can be necessary and justified. In all other interpersonal interactions, however, Jesus exercised restraint. He thus showed that, most of the time, biting one's tongue is the best course of action.
We all know people who annoy us. They seem to know precisely which buttons to push to unnerve us. As we interact with these people, we must consider Christ and exercise restraint.
We must develop the skill of biting our tongue and mastering our anger.
An extension of this is bearing with one another in love. This is actually not as difficult as it seems when we accept that no one is perfect, and that we all make mistakes. One of the inherent qualities of love is tolerance.
When we love someone we are inclined to put up with their shortcomings and flaws. We bear with them. We give them time to come around and to work through their stuff.
A by-product of love is peace. Christ created the church and it is He who builds it. Therefore, we who belong to Christ’s church are admonished to keep the unity of the spirit through the bond of peace. People become a part of the church by accepting Christ’s invitation to join Him.
As Christ has brought us together through the action of the Holy Spirit, we must now work in all things to stay together peacefully. Does this mean we should agree on all things? Absolutely not.
We must agree to disagree without being disagreeable. In any setting where there are people from different walks-of-life, disagreement is inevitable on even insignificant matters. But as we consider Christ, we are encouraged to work through our disagreements peaceably. This calls for give-and-give, not give-and-take.
We must each be willing to give-in on some matters for the good of the body.
Our text lays out Christ’s plan for accomplishing the challenge given to the members of Christ’s Body. One of the greatest obstacles for unbelievers, and for some within the church, is the accessibility of Scripture. Many simply fail to pick up a Bible because they deem it written in bible-ese. To address this problem, Paul says,
“It was He who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers.”
God in Christ has placed a special calling on the lives of men and women to hold special offices within the church. Their task is to reveal the mysteries of God. Such people are:
Apostles – people sent to specific locations to work with the people in that location;
Prophets – people responsible for proclaiming the good news of Jesus Christ;
Evangelists – some refer to this group as itinerate ministers. They move from place to place proclaiming the good news of Jesus Christ;
Pastors – men and women who care for, tend, shepherd and lead people into a closer relationship with Jesus Christ;
Teachers – they are not necessarily preachers. In fact, in most cases, they do not preach. Rather, they explain God’s Word. They provide clarity to help people gain insight and learn how to apply the principles of God’s Word to their lives.
It is out of love for all people that Christ gave the church these offices and the men and women who are called to fill them. Christ did so …
– “to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up.”
Here the apostle spells out Christ’s purpose for giving such a gracious gift to His people, to prepare, to equip, and to build up.
However, we really cannot understand the purpose of a thing until we understand the intended goal. What is the goal? Apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers are to continue preparing, equipping, and building God’s people up “until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God, and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.”
The goal is spiritual maturity, which is defined as the end process. It is a process of being around believers who are functioning properly.
The goal is to continue growing in Christ until we reflect Him in our look, thoughts and actions.
If we are committed to growing in Christ the result is this:
– “We will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching, and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into Him, who is the Head, that is Christ.”
As we become spiritually mature, we stop having temper tantrums and feeling slighted because things do not go our way. Rather, we begin to grasp and apply spiritual truths to our lives and establish appropriate priorities.
Things that used to erode our faith no longer hold sway over us because we stand firm and confident in the knowledge of God’s will. We learn how to function properly.
Paul makes it clear that Christ is the Head of the church and that through Christ we are united. The apostle says,
– “From Him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.”
Christ is the glue that holds us together. As strong as glue is, there are substances that can cause it to breakdown and lose its adhesive power. Acid is one such substance.
An acidic attitude can provoke a breakdown within the church, family, place of employment, wider community – or anywhere else we behave in such a way.
Imagine if the brain, or the heart decided one day to take a day off because it was displeased with what was going on. We would die. The human body – as mentioned previously – is a marvelous mechanism. It has the ability to compensate for breakdowns and for systems failures. However, it can only compensate for so long and the shutdown of one system will lead to undue stress elsewhere, causing duress and irreparable damage to the entire body.
To combat this, Christ continues to add and grow His body. He replaces tired and worn-out parts with newer more energetic ones to prevent complete systems breakdowns and failure. Everything that Christ does is for the good of the body.
Christ has provided us with a blueprint that, when implemented, produces togetherness, growth, and love. Through love, every part of Christ’s body is held together by Him.
If you are not a part of Christ’s body, or do not know Christ in the pardon of your sins, please take a moment consider and accept God’s life changing invitation to receive Christ and become a part of His family.
I know and acknowledge that I am a sinner. I repent, right now, of all my sins, and I am asking you to forgive me. You said in your Word, “Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Romans 10:13). I am calling on the name of your Son, Jesus, to come into my heart and be my Savior.
You also said, “If you confess with your mouth, Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9). I believe with my heart that Jesus died for my sins and rose from the dead so that I may have eternal life. I confess Him, right now, as my Lord.
I ask you Lord Jesus to send the Holy Spirit to live on the inside of me, and help me to live a life that is pleasing to both you and God, the Father.
In the name of Jesus, I submit this prayer.
Sunday 20 September 2009
May God Bless You