Ephesians Bible Study ~ Week 6

We jumped into the wonderful teaching of Ephesians Chapter 4 tonight by discussing the themes of unity and diversity in the body of Christ. We can grow in our appreciation of each Christian’s diverse spiritual gifts when we remember that Christ’s provision of these gifts is for the growth and maturity of the body!

Ephesians 4: 1-16 ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

A.      Ephesians “Part II”

1.       Chapters 4-6

a. Parenesis – “using the language of exhortation in an appeal to demonstrate Christian identity in life” (Talbert, p. 39)

  • Four units: 4:1-16; 4:17-5:21; 5:22-6:9; and 6:10-20

2.       4:1-16

a. Unity (4:1-6)

  • A call to maintain the unity of the Spirit (vv 1-3)
  • The basis of this unity is 7 “unifying realities” of the Christian faith (vv4-6)

b. Diversity (4:7-16)

  • Christ’s diverse gifts are the basis of Christian diversity (vv7-11)
  • The goal of Christians’ diverse gifts are unity, maturity, stability, and growth of the church (vv 12-16)

B.      The Text

Parenesis (4:1-6:20) – advice or exhortation

Unity and Diversity: a call to maintain Christian unity (4:1-6) and the goals of Christian diversity (4:7-16)

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

[4:1] I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, [2] with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, [3] eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

The beginning of the parenetic section of the letter is signaled by the phrase “I…urge you” or in some translations, “I…exhort you.” The word “therefore” tells us that “Paul” will base his teaching (exhortation) on what has come before (ie, Chs 1-3). In other words, because of God’s actions towards us (as described in Chs 1-3), we should therefore respond by living our lives as Christians in a certain way (as will be described in Chs 4-6).

What are we being exhorted to do?
• Walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which we have been called

In other words, live in a way that is consistent with being called a Christian.

What does walking in this way look like?
A 5-fold picture:
• Humility (cf, Acts 20:19; Phil 2:3; Col 3:12; I Pet 5:5)
• Gentleness (cf, Gal 5:23; Col 3:12)
• Patience (cf, 2 Cor 6:6; Gal 5:22; Col 3:12)
• Bearing with one another in love (cf, Phil 2:2; Col 3:13)
• Eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace (cf, Rom 14:17; Gal 5:22)

[4] There is one body and one Spirit – just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call – [5] one Lord, one faith, one baptism, [6] one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. 

Why should we be “eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit”?
A 7-fold basis for unity:
Because there is…
• one body
• one Spirit
• one hope
• one Lord
• one faith
• one baptism
• one God and Father

Talbert notes that there is “a Jewish ring” to the language of these verses. The element that made the Jewish people unique was their creed of a single God and their unity as a people of a single faith. Talbert states, “The 7-fold basis for Christian unity in Ephesians is an adaptation of this Jewish way of thinking.” (p. 109)

[7] But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift.

Beginning in v 7, the focus shifts to the relationship between unity in the church and diversity among its members. In this verse we are told that grace has been given to each one of us “according to the measure of Christ’s gift.”

To fully understand this portion of Ephesians, it is important to hear the conversation going on with Romans 12:4-8 and I Cor 12:4-20. In these passages, Paul speaks about the diversity of gifts within 1 body. The perspective of both passages is that diverse gifts should be used for the unity of the whole body of Christ.

[8] Therefore it says, “When he ascended on high he led a host of captives, and he gave gifts to men.”

In v 8, “Paul” is quoting Psalm 68:18, but does not provide an exact quote. Scholars have different views on why the author did not quote Psalm 68:18 exactly, but the general consensus is that v 8 represents a “Christianization” of a Mosaic reading of that particular Psalm.

In other words, “Paul” altered the text of Psalm 68 to bring out its meaning in terms of Christ.

[9] (In saying, “He ascended,” what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower parts of the earth? [10] He who descended is the one who also ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things.)

Beginning in v 9, the text provides what could possibly be a commentary or explanation of the quotation of Psalm 68:18.

The statement that Christ “descended” has been interpreted a variety of ways. The primary interpretation by the early church fathers was that Christ literally descended into hell or Hades while on the cross, taking with him the “captives” (cf, v 8) of death, sin, the curse, and the devil. Recall that the Apostles’ Creed states, “He descended into hell…”

Talbert believes that, since Ephesians only pictures a world consisting of 2 levels (earth and the heavens), the descent of Christ in Ephesians refers to his descent into the grave before the resurrection.

[11] And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, [12] to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ,

Verse 11 picks up again on the role of Christ’s gifts in maintaining Christian unity by specifying that some gifts are given to certain individuals who have a large role in fostering unity in the church (apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers).

God’s purpose in equipping people in these offices with spiritual gifts is to so they may in turn equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ. According to Talbert, the text indicates the saints will need the guidance of people in these offices to know the proper way to use their gifts to contribute to the growth of the church.

[13] until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, [14] so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. [15] Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, [16] from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.

How long will we be working toward the growth of the body of Christ with our gifts?
Focus on inner growth:
Until we [the church] attain…
• unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God
• to mature manhood
• to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ

And what is the purpose of this Christian maturity?
• so that we may no longer be children…easily influenced by other teachings, doctrines, or even deceitful schemes
• so that we might speak the truth in love and grow up “in every way” into Christ, who is the ultimate measure of our spiritual growth.

Verse 16 tells us that Christ is not only the ideal measure of our spiritual maturity, but also the source that enables that maturity. He is the “head” from whom we are all joined together, each equipped with our unique spiritual gifts, to work together in building up the body of Christ in love.

The Major Issues

1.       Spiritual gifts

a. Biblical references for spiritual gifts: Rom 12:1-8; ICor12:8‑10, 28-30; Eph 4:11; I Pet 4:11

  • Note that the lists of spiritual gifts are not the same in these references; the lists are “illustrative” rather than exhaustive (Talbert, p. 118)

b. Organization of spiritual gifts (Fung, 1987)

Endowments for Ministry in Word

Equipment for Ministry in Deed

Gifts of gospel proclamation

            Apostles

            Evangelists

Gifts of supernatural power

            Miracles

            Healing

            Faith

Gifts of inspired utterance

            Prophets

            Discernment of spirits

            Tongues

            Interpretation of tongues

            Utterances of knowledge

Gifts of administrative leadership

            Administrators

            Pastors

Gifts of didactic speech

            Teachers/pastors

            Exhortation

            Utterances of wisdom

Gifts of practical assistance

            Helping

            Serving

            Sharing

            Caring

            Showing mercy

Homework for Week 7:

Read Ephesians 4:17-32 and consider the following questions:

The focus of this passage is putting off the “old self” and forsaking the vices that cause divisions among us.

  • Why do you think “Paul” is discussing these issues at this particular point in the letter to the Ephesians?
  • Does this passage still apply to modern day congregations of Christians?
  • With our congregation’s current focus on community and “doing life together,” do you think that we are to help each other live the “new life” described in this passage? How can we do this?
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