This week we will study Ephesians 4:1-16. The ethical teaching in Chapters 1-3 was primarily implied, whereas in Chapters 4-6 we get into specifics. In these opening verses, Paul focuses on the theology that supports the ethical teachings that follow. Try reading this scripture aloud, marking those words and phrases that pop out at you. Read with feeling! Paul’s emotions are still high from his prayer at the end of Chapter 3!
After reading 4:1-16, you may have noticed how it can be broken down by topics. The majority focus on our “walk” as Christians, but a few others (especially early on) emphasize doctrine. Try reading verses 1-16 a second (maybe even third) time aloud today and think about the repeated words and phrases, as well as any questions that come to mind. There’s a LOT here. Let’s slowly digest it.
Something to think about from “The Dream of God” by Verna Dozier: “I think that is what the biblical story is all about—the people of God losing the way and a God who will not give up calling them back. Again and again God calls us to return. I think the calling still goes on today, but I believe the Christian church has distorted the call, narrowed it from a call to transform the world to a call to save the souls of individuals who hear and heed a specific message, narrowed it from a present possibility to a future fulfillment.”
“I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called…” Ephesians 4:1
“‘Calling’ is the truth that God calls us to himself so decisively that everything we are, everything we do, and everything we have is invested with a special devotion and dynamism lived out as a response to his summons and service.” ― Os Guinness, The Call
“When we begin to glimpse the reality of God, the natural reaction is to worship him. Not to have that reaction is a fairly sure sign that we haven’t yet really understood who he is or what he’s done.” – N.T. Wright
“Our problem is that we have a million-dollar salvation but only a five-cent response.” (Klyne Snodgrass)
“Walk… with all humility…” Ephesians 4:1-2
“If my sinfulness appears to me in any way smaller or less detestable in comparison with the sins of others, I am still not recognizing my sinfulness at all.” ― Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Almighty and gracious Father, we give you thanks for the fruits of the earth in their season and for the labors of those who harvest them. Make us, we pray, faithful stewards of your great bounty, for the provision of our necessities and the relief of all who are in need, to the glory of your Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen. (Book of Common Prayer)
Walk with gentleness… (Ephesians 4:1-2)
“I choose to be gentle. If I raise my voice may it be only in praise. If I clench my fist, may it be only in prayer. If I make a demand, may it be only of myself.” ― Max Lucado
Walk with patience… Ephesians 4:1-2. Timely advice from the Apostle Paul this Advent season.
“A waiting person is a patient person. The word patience means the willingness to stay where we are and live the situation out to the full in the belief that something hidden there will manifest itself to us.” ― Henri J.M. Nouwen
“We who have turned our lives over to Christ need to know how very much he longs to eat with us, to commune with us. He desires a perpetual Eucharistic feast in the inner sanctuary of the heart.” ― Richard J. Foster, Celebration of Discipline
“There is one body and one Spirit…” (Ephesians 4:4) I either walk in a manner worthy of God’s call or I don’t. I either spend the moments of my day building up the body of Christ or… I busy myself tearing it apart. The choice belongs to me.
“Keep watch, dear Lord, with those who work, or watch, or weep this night, and give your angels charge over those who sleep. Tend the sick, Lord Christ; give rest to the weary, bless the dying, soothe the suffering, pity the afflicted, shield the joyous; and all for your love’s sake. Amen.” (Book of Common Prayer)
“The church exists primarily for two closely correlated purposes: to worship God and to work for his kingdom in the world … The church also exists for a third purpose, which serves the other two: to encourage one another, to build one another up in faith, to pray with and for one another, to learn from one another and teach one another, and to set one another examples to follow, challenges to take up, and urgent tasks to perform. This is all part of what is known loosely as fellowship.” ― N.T. Wright
“The reason life works at all is that not everyone in your tribe is nuts on the same day.” ― Anne Lamott
“The church is constituted as a new people who have been gathered from the nations to remind the world that we are in fact one people. Gathering, therefore, is an eschatological act as it is the foretaste of the unity of the communion of the saints.” ― Stanley Hauerwas
“Instead of becoming more like Christ through the forming and shaping influence of the church community, we form, and shape, and personalize our community to make it more like us. We take control of things that are not ours to control. Could it be that our desire for control is short-circuiting the process of change and transformation God wants us to experience through the mess of real world, flesh and blood, face-to-face relationships?” ― Tim Challies
“There is one body and one Spirit… one God and Father of all…” (Ephesians 4:4, 6)
“For behold, darkness shall cover the earth, and thick darkness the peoples; but the Lord will arise upon you, and his glory will be seen upon you. And nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising.” (Isaiah’s prophesy for Israel, Isaiah 60:2-3)
“And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 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…” (Paul discussing the ‘now’ and ‘not yet’ for those in the body of Christ, Ephesians 4:11-13)
Heavenly Father, giver of life and health: Comfort and relieve those who suffer with illness tonight, and give your power of healing to those who minister to their needs, that they may be strengthened in their weakness and have confidence in your loving care; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. (Book of Common Prayer)
“We are individuals, but our bond with Christ makes us one with him and one with each other. This is both a striking privilege and a responsibility. Christ fills all things and in the process binds us together. The word ‘religion’ is derived from the root for the word ‘ligaments’ and refers to that which binds together. Unity and efforts to assist each other are necessary conclusions.” (Klyne Snodgrass, theologian)
Almighty God our heavenly Father, graciously comfort those who are hospitalized or suffering illness today, and bless the means used for their cure. Fill their hearts with confidence that, though at times they may be afraid, they yet may put their trust in you; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
“Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart.” (Ephesians 4:17-18) The world can be a dark and difficult place. Am I walking through parts of it with a hardened heart, temporarily alienated from God? Even if only to protect myself from pain?
“For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.” (Romans 1:21)
“The word translated as “futility” (mataiotes) expresses meaninglessness, uselessness, worthlessness, or emptiness…. The mind is the important element, but all is lost when thought omits God and centers on self.” (Klyne Snodgrass)
“When people in churches today discuss Paul and his letters, they often think only of the man of ideas who dealt with lofty and difficult concepts…. We easily forget that the author of these letters spent most of his waking hours with his sleeves rolled up, doing hard physical work in a hot climate, and that perhaps two-thirds of the conversations he had with people about Jesus and the gospel were conducted not in a place of worship or study, not even in a private home, but in a small, cramped workshop. Paul had his feet on the ground, and his hands were hardened with labor. But his head still buzzed with scripture and the news about Jesus.” ― N.T. Wright
“There’s a lovely Hasidic story of a rabbi who always told his people that if they studied the Torah, it would put Scripture on their hearts. One of them asked, “Why on our hearts, and not in them?” The rabbi answered, “Only God can put Scripture inside. But reading sacred text can put it on your heart, and then when your heart breaks, the holy words will fall inside.” ― Anne Lamott
God of all ages, in the birth of Christ your boundless love for your people shattered the power of darkness. Be born in us with that same love and light, that our song may blend with all the choirs of heaven and earth to the glory of your holy name. Amen. (Revised Common Lectionary)
God of glory, your splendor shines from a manger in Bethlehem, where the Light of the world is humbly born into the darkness of human night. Open our eyes to Christ’s presence in the shadows of our world, so that we, like him, may become beacons of your justice, and defenders of all for whom there is no room. Amen. (Revised Common Lectionary)
But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of any works of righteousness that we had done, but according to his mercy, through the water of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit. This Spirit he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. (Titus 3:4-7)
And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. (Ephesians 4:30-32)
This Sunday we’ll take a close look at Ephesians 4:25 – 5:2, examining the structure and word choice, as well as the numerous allusions to the Old Testament. Paul gets specific about how the “new self” should look, but this isn’t some legalistic, first-century version of New Year’s resolutions. (He begs his readers not to grieve the Holy Spirit of God through empty obedience.) Rather, Paul is calling for complete renewal of our heart and spirit of mind, back to God’s original intent for us who are “created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.”
He shall judge between the nations, and shall decide disputes for many peoples; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore. O house of Jacob, come, let us walk in the light of the Lord. (Isaiah 2:4-5)
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind… (Romans 12:2)
Be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing. (James 1:22-25)