4 There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling;
5 One Lord, one faith, one baptism,
6 One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.
7 But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ.
8 Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men.
9 (Now that he ascended, what is it but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth?
10 He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things.)
11 And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;
12 For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:
13 Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ:
14 That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive;
15 But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ:
16 From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.
Many ministers ask the question, “What is the secret to church growth?” Of course, several things contribute to it. Among them, a strong teaching and preaching ministry is vital for the feeding of the flock, careful oversight of the church leaders into the lives of members, a common vision, corporate and individual prayer for the church, and unity in service. It goes without saying that the leadership of the church must lead the church in all these things. But it also goes without saying that the members of the church must cooperate. How can a particular ministry be set up when there is no one available to serve? And how can there be a prayer meeting when there is no one to pray? How can there be a church, an assembly, when those assembled are not tightly knit into the fabric of what makes a church? In Ephesians 4:4-16, we are given the hallmarks as to what a church is.
Verses 4-6: “There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are 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.”
Firstly, we are one body and 1 Corinthians 12 tells us that we are members of this one body – we may be the eye or the hand, but nevertheless we are part of this body. And Christ himself is the head. And with a body, if the liver doesn’t function well, there are bound to be problems. So, this is saying that the Christian should never think of himself as separate from the Church. If he is part of that Church, there is a symbiotic relationship. The body needs the liver to survive, and the liver needs the body to survive.
The member can’t one day just decide that he doesn’t want to be part of the Church anymore, with no good reason; or he can’t just decide to be an aloof member. It is akin to the liver suddenly changing its protein markers, and it stops functioning as a liver or becomes sluggish in its function. It will affect the body. Likewise, the body can’t develop an auto-immune response and start rejecting its own liver. The liver will die and so will the body. So, when Paul speaks of the Christian and members being of one body, he is speaking about our state. He doesn’t say, “Try to be a body,” nor “Endeavour to be together;” but he simply says that we are already a body and we are already members together. And so, from this, we gather that each of us has a vital responsibility – to be aloof, to be absent, to be away from the life of the Church will not only contribute to the sickliness of the Church but also to our own spiritual sickliness.
Furthermore, we are told that we all share the same Spirit. The Holy Spirit dwells as much in one Christian as he dwells in another. He is not more present in one member and less present in another. We all have the Spirit. We are told in Romans 8:9 that we “are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.” The Spirit that caused me to see my sinfulness, is the Spirit that caused you to see your sinfulness. The Spirit that caused me to repent, is the Spirit that caused you to repent. Whoever we are and whatever differences we have, the work that has happened in my heart by the Spirit is essentially the same work that has happened in yours. Sure, there are differences arising from personality, education, and even temperament – there may even be a difference in the depth of the workings of the Spirit in us, and even a difference in the degree of conviction of sin, but nevertheless the Spirit has done the same thing in me as he has done in you.
And on top of that, we have a common hope. We are looking forward to the same heaven; we hope for the same happiness beyond the grave. It is not like the people of the world who have a variety of hopes – like hope for pleasure, hope for honour, hope for gain, even hope for happiness; but we have this hope for extraordinary and limitless joy. Whereas worldly hope does not lead people to unity, our hope does. For example, two men have the same hope to get promoted; or two students have the same hope to get into the same college with only one place to offer; or two men have the same hope to obtain the same hand in marriage – obviously the consequence would be jealousy, contention, and strife. The reason is that only one of them can obtain these things. But we Christians have a common hope that every one of us will receive a reward. Brothers and sisters, our calling is, therefore, the same. We have the same Lord, the same allegiance to Christ, the same infilling of the Spirit.
Furthermore, that one God and Father, as mighty and supreme as he is, higher than all, as active as he is in all things, holding and doing all things together according to his will, yet this God and Father, is in us all. And this shows how we as Christians have in each one of us the God of the universe, and how we have the potential to do many mighty and spiritual things.
So, what is the good Apostle saying? What unites us is our commonalities. We are alike. Since we have this same Spirit, the same workings of the Spirit in us, the same hope, and even the same importance in the body, we are or should be more alike in our affections, our goals, our passions, our appetites; than we are with unbelievers. We should be closer to one another than to our unbelieving relatives. Whereas siblings may be very identical – e.g. one likes apples, so does the other; one likes blue, so does the other, or one likes geometry, so does the other – the Christian should be identical in his spiritual affections. “I don’t like to gossip” “Hey, me too!” “I really desire to grow in Christ” “Wow, so do I!” “I wish Christ were to come really soon!” “So do I!” There’s this mystical unity that binds us together. And every one of us possesses an equal amount of the Spirit, of God; the hope that we should have is not different, and we don’t trust another Jesus but the same one. We are the same, there is no difference.
Verses 7-14: “But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ. Wherefore he saith, when he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men. (Now that he ascended, what is it but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth? He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things.) And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive.”
But then, we’re told something interesting. There is something that all of us do not possess in equal amounts. And that is the grace of God. To some is more given, to others less, but everyone is guaranteed a portion. And this grace is sufficient for all of us – we do not get jealous of other people for having more grace than us. After all, it was given according to how much Christ wanted to apportion to us. And this grace is manifested in gifts; Christ, in his wisdom and grace towards each one of us, has given us a combination of gifts that is only suitable for us. But these gifts could not have been given to us arbitrarily. These gifts cost something. Just as a parent who gets his children gifts has to pay for them, Christ, too, had to pay for these gifts. And he paid for them with his victory over death.
Just as generals who march home from battles won bring back the spoils of war, so too, Christ, after ascending into heaven after winning the war, brought gifts and gave them to his children. These gifts, these abilities, such as pastoring, teaching, evangelizing – all these are given for the purpose of perfecting the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the building up of the body – building up of the church. This is so that, when exercised in the body, these gifts will bring the whole church into the unity of faith, of allegiance to Christ, and mature it, that we may grow up in Christ. And it is in him that we are unified. So, what makes us a church is not only our commonalities but the different abilities that unify us.
Verses 15-16: “But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: from whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.”
But even more so, this unity, this compactness, this joint-ness, depends on each member; we can unify the church even more, increasing and deepening, augmenting and widening it with our charity. The level of effective unity and service carried out by a congregation depends upon the depth of this mutual affection and desire for the church. And when we grow closer, the things that can tear us apart become lesser. So, brethren, our unity is not only achieved by our commonalities, and our different abilities, but also by our charity.
How much do you feel for the Church? Do you feel a part of the Church? A visitor to Spurgeon’s church got lost in the basement of the church. He overheard two men talking as they hurried away to some room. They said that they were late and needed to get to the heating room. So, this visitor was puzzled, and wondering why they were going to the heating room, followed them. As they walked into the “heating room,” he realized what they meant! They had meant the room where the prayer meeting was held. Therein were almost 1,000 people praying. During gospel rallies when the 4,000-seat auditorium was filled, 500 people would be praying downstairs in the heating room for the souls upstairs. This was aside from the other many members who sat in the auditorium and prayed.
Is this the reality in our church? In Spurgeon’s day, the basements and rooms of the church building were constantly alive with activity – daily. Groups assembled for the district visitation; prayer gatherings convened; ragged school classes (tuition) were underway; Sunday School teachers’ briefings took place and a host of other activities. And these activities were the activities of the whole church.
Members must not only be ministered unto, but they must minister to others. The goal must always be to promote the togetherness, the unity, the compactness, and the jointness of the body of Christ. After all, if there is commonality, and ability, should it not be applied in charity? Dr. Peter Masters has some important guidelines for promoting unity in the church. 1. We must be utterly convinced that the promotion of the unity of the church is essential to Biblical principle. 2. We must view ourselves as children who have been placed in a family and charged to contribute to and promote its interests. 3. We must strive to make the local church a holy and beautiful and harmonious fellowship. 4. We must believe that Christ requires us to worship, learn, and serve Him in a corporate way, and not to function in an independent manner.
So, let us serve the Lord in our church. Let us realize our need for one another, our ability to build one another up, and hasten to do these things because we love one another.
Reflect: How have you encouraged your brethren this week? A simple step would be to pray for that person and ask God for His abounding grace and His everlasting love to flow through you and upon others.