SanLo Community, an update for February 11, 2018…
Thank you Pastor Eric for the message from Ephesians 4:1-16, “The State of the Church.” As a family together in Christ, we are continuing in our series in Ephesians called Saved by Grace, Live by Grace. Now in the fourth chapter we reach a turning point from doctrine to faith, from belief to behavior, from salvation to living and now about the church. Paul exhorts and expounds the church to be unified and come together like a family. Paul’s exhortation points to five significant ways in which the church must be united and committed to in order to grow together.
1) We must be committed to the character of Christ. (vv.1-3) We must be together on being like Jesus in our attitudes and our actions. We must be growing to be more like Jesus every day in our personal lives and in our church. Paul is in a Roman prison cell for his faith, however, he is not defined or deterred by his situation, but he is captive and a prisoner to Jesus. Out of this circumstance, Paul exhorts to the church to the same aim: to be like Jesus, the character of Christ in a list of virtues. First, humility - it all begins and ends with humility. It is to surrender unto the Lord saying, “God is everything, and I am nothing. I need you Lord for everything.” We must be together in humble obedience. Next is gentleness - this doesn’t mean timid or shy, but self-controlled or having a mild spirit, having power under control. Third, patience - the ability to wait upon the Lord for His will to take place, to be long suffering toward someone and in life. We must be together in patience like God has always been with us. Lastly, bearing with one another in love or tolerance - not just putting up with someone but having an active love. This action will be costly at times. It cost Christ having to leave Heaven, to have perfect communion with the Father, experience death, and suffering. His love was active, painful, and yet amazingly powerful. We must be together on loving each other like Christ loved us. A church without character is really a church without Christ. So, it is imperative we develop and grow the character of Christ, being like Him. The church must be more like Jesus’ character.
2) We must be committed to the gospel. (vv.4-6) We must be together on the gospel, the good news of Jesus Christ that we are all centered upon. We must know and believe that Jesus Christ is the only way to salvation by grace through faith. We must be unified on His Word and His work through His death and resurrection for the forgiveness of sins. These verses are like a statement of faith for the church. Paul centers and unifies the church upon a specific belief using the word, one, over and over again to make his point. One body - we are all together as one family unit, bonded together by One spirit, - the Holy Spirit who seals us in salvation and in the church. Then He indwells us and bonds us together. One hope - there is one set future for us in eschatology, the end times. Paul doesn’t get hung upon on details, but the hope of eternity and that heaven is our destination. One Lord - yahweh - one master, one chief Shepherd and one leader of the church. Not one pastor, elder, or deacon, but one Lord. We are together with one Lord. One faith – one belief in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. He died on a cross and rose again to give us new life in Christ. There is only one way to God through His Son for forgiveness. We are only saved by His grace, not by any deeds or works of man. This is what we must believe together. One baptism - one sacrament holds us together to worship and to declare Jesus in the reality of each person’s confession and testimony. It symbolizes death to sin and new life in Christ, our one faith. We’re together in one baptism. Let’s never ever make a non-essential issue the issue because it’s not a gospel issue. Together we must be committed to the gospel.
3) We must be committed to the grace of God. (vv.7-10) We must be together on grace. Our faith is never merited or earned. It is freely given to us by our generous and merciful God through His Son’s death upon the cross. The foundation of grace must be a part of everything we do as a church. There are three main interpretations on these verses: Some say incarnation - His descent is from Heaven to us, then He ascended back to Heaven after His death and resurrection. This is His grace, Himself to us. Good thought! Some say Pentecost - the Spirit of the Lord descended upon the church from Heaven in order to give the church gifts to serve. Then the Spirit ascended back to Heaven. Highly possible especially given the context and the gifts are mentioned right after this. God’s grace is the spiritual gifts. Very possible! Lastly, some say the resurrection - the power of His resurrection. Jesus went down to Hades or the depths of hell. Then Christ arose victoriously over the grave and death to offer us eternal life and a life filled with purpose and significance, the spoils of His grace. It is the power of grace, God’s undeserved blessing to transform us. We don’t deserve anything from God, but He has freely given it to us through the power of His victorious death and resurrection, His descent and His ascent, His falling and rising in order that we can serve Him. We share together in the spoils of grace. Paul encourages us that the church must be committed to the doctrine of grace in order for it to remain united together. Because of grace, we are saved. Because of grace, we live. Because of grace, we have character. Because of grace, we believe. Because of grace, we serve. Because of grace, we grow. Without it, we are lost and powerless. We must be together committed to the grace of God.
4) We must be committed to serve Christ. (vv.11-13) We must be together on serving the Lord in both big and small ways. We as a family and body of Christ need each other, every single person is important to participate and contribute for each other and to the glory of God. Out of His grace, the Apostle Paul reveals several of the God given gifts of service and roles in the church: apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds, and teachers. These are some of the spiritual gifts given to the church. I believe Paul provides this list which is primarily all the public gifts, because these are the gifts that help the church be together in character, in the gospel, in grace, and in growth. It is the role of the pastors, elders, and leaders to be firm on these things and to empower the church with the gospel, with character, and with grace. You might say that doesn’t apply to me because I’m not a pastor, elder or evangelist. However, if you look at all of scripture especially 1 Corinthians 12 and Romans 12, you will find more of the spiritual gifts. Some of these gifts are service, encouragement, giving, leadership, mercy, knowledge, wisdom, and much more. All of these graces and gifts are necessary for the building of the body of Christ. Without the gifts, there wouldn’t be a church. Without people faithfully using their God given talents and skills, then the church won’t exist. It takes all of us, not just a few of us, or some of us to make church happen, but all of us. There is room for us all to serve the Lord. We must be committed to serve Him.
5) We must be committed to grow in Christ. (vv.14-16) We must be together on maturing in the Lord. We need to be committed to fostering a deeper love for Jesus Christ for ourselves and those around us. Paul outlines at the end all of what church is to do and to be. On one hand, the church must be about growing in order that it will stand against the test of time especially Satan and His deceitful ways. We should never stop growing because Satan never stops scheming. On the other hand, we must grow so the church exhibits its greatest attribute and gift to the world, love. Paul ends this portion on the church with love. Out of character comes love. Out of the gospel comes love. Out of the grace comes love. Out of service comes love. Out of growth comes love. Paul’s emphasis throughout is that this love can’t be done alone or in isolation. It must be done within the context of community, the church, one body - fitted together. You can’t love Jesus and not love the church. If you want to grow to love Jesus, then you have to grow in love with and toward the church. A church that isn’t growing is a church preparing to die. Growth and love must be a necessity for every church. The church is a team, a family, joined together by one Spirit and one Lord. God calls us to be deeply committed to His gospel and His love so that the world might know His saving grace. Let us, the church, give up our own agendas for His agenda. Let’s be the church God desires for us to be and to become. Let’s not settle for the status quo, but grow in Christ and in grace.
Let the state of the church be defined by His character and His love. Let’s be together for the gospel to GROW SANLO!
Have a blessed week in our commitment to love and grow in Christ,
Stan, for slzjcc