Wednesday 30 October 2019

        Ephesians 4 v.1/16

In the 4th Chapter of Ephesians Paul writes forcibly on the theme of unity.  He saw the Church as the family of brothers and sisters in Christ, and like earthly families wanting to meet together in their Father’s house. 
When a person joins a society or institution, one is expected to embrace the aims of that body and to act in a way which will never bring discredit. Paul always wanted the Church to be one that brought credit on Christianity.  Paul wanted us to act as he understood what Christ expected from the Church. 

When writing this Letter, he is in prison for the sake of the gospel and is pleading for Christians to live in a manner worthy of the unity and holiness to which they were called.       

He laid down some basics of the Christian faith. 
Humility, which means setting one’s life beside the example of Christ Himself. 
Gentleness, which means being angry for the right purposes, and not ever seeking to cause dissension. 
Peace, in that we seek to have good relationships with each other. 

Love, which is not the emotional kind, but that of a caring person, and withholding bitterness.

We are to hold one another up, to sustain and support each other, and to live according to the way God has spelled out in His Holy Word, holding to those principles. 

Paul laid out the ground rules for unity.  There is one body, Jesus being the head of the body.   

There is one Spirit, or we may call it breath.  If there is no breath the body will not function and the vitalising breath of the Church is the Spirit of Christ.  It is the work o the Spirit which keeps it alive.

There is one hope. We should all be striving towards the same goal or aim; such is the secret of unity. Oneness is essential in the Church.   Individual presentations may vary, but all should lead to the one purpose of spreading the good news of Jesus Christ.  

There is one Lord. The ancient creed was ‘Jesus is Lord’ and it was the dream of God that a day would come when all would confess Jesus as that Lord, The word was understood to indicate a person as Master, and Christians were united in the possession and service of one master.  Paul had wonderful visions of a world turning to Christ with one baptism as acceptance of repentance and the confession of Jesus as Lord in the one faith. 

There is one faith. In the Bible faith means the complete trust and surrender of the Christian to Jesus and the following of his commands.  We are bound together in one because all have made a common act of complete surrender to the love of Christ.  We may well have a different act of worship, but there has to be one basis common to all.

There is one baptism. Paul saw the world turning to Christ with one baptism as an act of repentance and the confession of Jesus as Lord in one faith. In the early Church it was adult baptism because people made a confession publicly of faith. There was none of the practice of calling a Minister and saying a christening was wanted and then being told to turn up at a Church at a stated time and date when false promises would be made and accepted.  There was only one way to enter the Church, the way of public confession of Christ.

There is one God in whom we believe; whilst our God is King and Judge, he is also Father.  He is always in control no matter what things may look like; guiding, directing, loving, sustaining, up holding.  Yet people still fail to acknowledge God’s constant presence.  To some he is just meant to be a benevolent giver of all their desires, or someone to blame when things go wrong, although they cannot spare one hour in the week to worship him.

In 1984 there was a man created a bishop who denied the resurrection of our Lord in the most offensive and sneering terms. He was to be consecrated at York Minster much to the disgust of evangelical Christians.

On the night of that consecration York Minster went up in flames. There had been renovation work carried out and a new lightning conductor had been installed to protect the millions of pounds the renovation cost.  In addition, smoke detectors had been fitted around the building.

During the night a meteorological map showed the whole of Yorkshire had been clear, except for a very small cloud which should have produced only a few drops of rain which hovered over the Minster. Out of that cloud was a bolt of a million volt lightning without any thunder, and blew out the entire lightning system and smoke detectors.  The architect and sixteen meteorologists, none of them known to be believers all said that was God acting.

The Archbishop of York at that time commented that it not only was not God, it could not have been because God would never do such a thing; this showed he either did not know his Bible or chose to ignore it.
In verses 9/10 Jesus refers to Jesus descending and ascending. He meant Christ came into the world at our earthly level, and then ascended back to heaven here his presence can be given to so many more people than he could when here on earth.  

Paul lists the gifts Jesus gave for his Church, so we have a picture of the early Church.

The Apostles had authority through put the Church and their ministry was not confined to one place.  There was never more than twelve, but they began to die out, for to be an Apostle a man had seen Jesus and had witnessed the resurrection.  This is why Paul had to fight to maintain his claim to be an Apostle; which he based on having met the risen Jesus on the road to Damascus.

The prophets were wanderers throughout the Church, proclaiming the will of God and forth telling his purpose.

The evangelists too were wanderers. They did not have the authority or prestige of Apostles; they were like itinerant preachers, or those who lead modern Crusade meetings.

Finally, there were the pastors, who like the present-day Ministers. cared for the people of their town or place.

Paul went on to speak of what could be expected of members of the Church, especially those who held some form of minor office. Paul emphasised that all members should use their personal gifts for the benefit of the Church.  Every gift we possess is in itself a gift from God.  Each person is unique in oneself, and what we are given is meant to be for the benefit of all.

We have people giving false teaching and we should all be prepared to test what is taught by searching the Scriptures, for false teaching will destroy the Church. Liberalism has entered the Church in Western nations with its trendy social issues, and is causing the Church to fall apart.  Confusion is caused as to what a person should believe, as activists are trying to replace the gospel on moral and social matters to comply with society’s standards.

Paul finally warned that there will always be those who need to be entertained with novelty.  This is so often extended to practices which frankly make the faith look and sound ridiculous.  God wants you to come to a place where there is stability and you will not be tossed around by every trendy wind.  Too many Christians are unstable because they have had no solid basis of doctrine and just don’t know what to believe or why.

The Church was built on the sure foundation of the teaching of the Apostles who were told by our Lord to go and teach all he had commanded.

We are called to worship the Lord with reverence and awe, and we do this by joyful praise and solid biblical preaching. We tell people God loves them and wants them all to be saved, for which purpose he sent Jesus to die on the Cross that their sins may be forgiven, which is the only way they can be saved and made fit for heaven; and we set examples by living respectable and decent lives and show ourselves to be worthy men and women followers of Jesus Christ

When we come together, we are expected to share those qualities Paul laid out.  There should never be disharmony amongst Christians, nationally or locally.

Anyone who has been in the Church for some time knows that no Church is perfect; there is usually one person who is a storm centre, who is not happy until total disruption is caused.  The Church can be a place of joy, but also one of heartache and pain.      

I have often been struck by the hypocrisy of weeks of Christian unity and I stopped attending years ago.  I am happy and always ready to join in worship with any fellow Christians in any Church.  When I first became a Christian, it was with a group of Christians in Kenya, where the members were from all different denominations and countries, of various ages and sex never having previously met, yet all one in Christ Jesus, enjoying and benefiting from being together. 

But now at gatherings in so called Christian unity weeks, each denomination tends to stay together and there is a refusal by some to have full Communion with other Christians.  If we are really sincere about unity, we have to be prepared to let it happen without reservation or conditions; which are not always practiced.

Paul thanked God for the Church, and that is something we should all do.  Our calling is to follow the example given by Paul so that we stand out in our communities. 

Let us all seek to have a Church, even if it just be our own local one, where the true gospel is taught as God intended; ready to support each other in times of trouble, ready to welcome strangers who come into our midst, and who are never reluctant to confess they are Christians.

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