Ultimately, God desires unity with us individually and for each of us to be unified with others in the body of Christ. Jesus died for all so that, through His vicarious death and resurrection, all might live in the fullness of His love, grace, and unity with God and one another.
Today, I’ll begin looking at practical applications from Ephesians chapter 4, which is an extremely important section for the Church. This chapter carries the heart of the message of Ephesians. Paul, in continuing with his pattern in his letters, transitions from principles of faith to practical applications of faith in chapters 4-6.
Before I start in Ephesians 4, let’s recap Ephesians 3 for a moment.
As I shared last week, God’s eternal plan is that the Church would radiate His glory and that the Church and each individual would know the fullness of His love and power (Eph. 3:14-21).
Paul prays that we would know God’s promise “exceedingly abundantly beyond all that we ask or think according to His power that works in us!” (Eph. 3:20 NKJV).
Paul prays in Ephesians 3:17 “that Christ may dwell in our hearts through faith.” How does Christ dwell in our hearts? Through faith. Faith is fueled by a revelation of Christ and our love for Him. How does God’s power work? Through love and faith!
As we keep our focus on Jesus and live in Him, He fills our hearts. Our affections spring from Christ dwelling within. However, when we allow other things to creep in, our love for Christ and our faith can grow cold. It may be a desire for the things of this world more than a desire for Christ. It may be outright sin or compromise, or it might be an idol in our lives.
It happened to believers in Ephesus. In Revelation 2:4, Jesus admonishes the church at Ephesus to “repent and return to her first love.” The forces of evil work against us to dislodge us from our fiery love and devotion to Christ, but if we stay yielded to the Lord through His Word and the leading of the Holy Spirit, the Lord will keep us in the center of His love and full of vibrant faith.
When we have drifted from the Lord or grown dry in our relationship with Him, we need revived; we need renewed.We are to “draw near to God” and He promises to “draw near to us.” If God would revive and restore Israel and Judah of their waywardness, then He will revive and restore us. The first step is to recognize when we have strayed or grown cold, then the second step is to repent and confess any known sin, and then we are to trust God’s grace and mercy to forgive, cleanse, and revive our love for Him (1 John 1:9).
Paul prays in Ephesians 3 for an understanding of love to be evident, “being rooted and grounded in love.”When Jesus is at the center of our affections through faith, then the reality of being grounded in God’s love becomes possible. Staying on fire for God is easy! Live in the center of His love, Church!
Note, Paul doesn’t say we are rooted and grounded in sound doctrine, but rather we are rooted in love. Sound doctrine is important, but what really anchors us in Christ is love—His love for us, our love for Him, and our love for others. Sound doctrine apart from the pure love of Christ can lead us to loveless legalism.
The way we pursue love is by pursuing the God of love. Love is the gateway to knowledge. Knowledge apart from God’s love is distorted. Knowledge shared that is rooted and grounded in love is life-giving. The essence of revival is a renewed love for Jesus.
Paul states in Ephesians 3:18-19 that love compels us to go further to “know the width, the length, the depth and the height of the love of Christ (which passes knowledge) to be filled with all the fullness of God.” This doesn’t mean we will know everything, but those filled with the love of Christ will have greater, depth, breadth, etc. than they could otherwise.
Knowing God’s love intimately is the first step toward walking in God’s power. Power apart from love is dangerous. Faith works through love. When our heart is full of the love of God, we are secure and confident in Him. Our motives for prayer and ministry are in accordance with God’s nature and Word.
Our nation needs a vibrant, uncompromised Church to carry His love and power to society. When the Church is revived—walking in her first love devotion to Christ—she is a force of good that the powers of darkness cannot quench!
…One Lord, One Faith… (Eph. 4:1-6)
Paul states that we are to “endeavor (make every effort) to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Eph. 4:3 NKJV).
Let me begin by simply stating that the Lord desires unity and harmony. The devil desires division and discord. I’ll develop this more next week, but we have a responsibility to work with others in the body of Christ to preserve the unity of the Spirit.
Look at Ephesians 4:4-6 closely,
“There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.” (NKJV)
Consider the Trinity for a moment… God in three persons as one. Unity is the basic characteristic of the Godhead. Jesus was the One everything was made through and for. He is the unifying force in all that God does.
That said, there are times when God allows division. Consider what Jesus said in Matthew 10:34-36; paraphrasing, He said, “do you think I came to bring peace? No, a sword. A man’s enemies will be those in his own household.” In other words, the truth of Christ—the truth of the gospel—doesn’t always unite us, even in our own families.
Jesus came full of grace and truth. God’s truth often causes division. Many reject Christ and God’s Word. The result is division. Division can occur over Christ in our families, as some family members reject Him and the truth of God’s Word.
God at times allows temporary division in order to bring unity. His peace often requires the tearing down of evil strongholds that exalt themselves against the truth. This can be true for the follower of Christ as well as for the unbeliever. Often, what we perceive as doctrinal correctness or ministry practice is an error. Jesus will then allow us to go through seasons of refining to humble us, even “divide us,” in order that His love and truth will prevail in our lives.
Sometimes, the enemy brings about unity to ultimately bring division. Sadly, as a pastor, I’ve seen this dynamic occur more than once in the Church. People often rally around an issue, doctrine, or ministry practice and gather others of “like spirit” to agree with them.
This dynamic can be of the enemy and create discord and disunity in a church congregation. Simply, the test is “Does the ‘group’ radiate the love and fragrance of Christ?” If the goal of the group is a love for Jesus and drawing closer to Him, and if the goal is also to work humbly with others in the Church, then the unity is not of the enemy.
Paul states in Ephesians 4:1, “I am a prisoner of the Lord.”
Paul wasn’t a prisoner of the Romans, but he was a prisoner of the Lord. Paul accepted his situation as ordained by God. Those who live by faith know that nothing happens to them that the Lord does not allow for His own reasons. God allows times and seasons for His purposes.
We must cling to the promise of Romans 8:28, “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose” (NKJV).
Paul continues by saying, “walk in a manner worthy of the Lord.”
Living by faith, as Paul did, is the primary way we live in a manner worthy of the Lord. Those who live by confident faith in Christ—irrespective of circumstances—are always free even if in a prison.
Paul didn’t fear death because he was already dead to self and alive in Christ. He was already dead to this world, and he chose to die daily. There was nothing the world could do to him to steal his true life in God.
Paul’s life was found in the Spirit, and he was more comfortable with the Lord than he was in his body. This should be our aim! He would say, “To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord.”
Those who live in this manner—in genuine faith—will be the most free, peaceful, joyful, humble, and boldest people alive!
To walk in a manner worthy of the Lord is also to walk in humility, gentleness, and patience and showing forbearance to one another in love. How do we do this? By being dead to self and being alive in Christ… By putting off the old nature and living from the new nature.
Christlike character is foundational to live free from the pull of the flesh, the world, and the enemy. It is necessary to build healthy, Christian community and church culture. The genuine love of Christ and Christlike character are needed in the Church to help bring revival and awakening to the nations of the world.
For a deeper look at this topic, watch the Passion Church message “One Lord, One Faith”: