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06.04.17 Only Together Can We Grow Ephesians 4:1-16 Sermon Summary

by on June 5, 2017

Ephesians is my favorite book on ecclesiology, which means how to be the church. I could pick a number of single verses from this letter to build an ecclesiology, but on this Pentecost I want to focus on this one: “Make every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”

When the author speaks of the “unity of the Spirit” he’s not referring to an esprit de corps, but rather is indicating something that only God can do. In fact, in Ephesians, God has already done it. God has made us one in Jesus Christ by the Spirit.

But when the author refers to the “bond of peace,” that is something that we maintain. Whereas God effects the unity of the Spirit, we maintain the bond of peace. In the words of the Belhar Confession of 1986: “We believe unity is both a gift and an obligation for the church of Jesus Christ; that through the working of God’s Spirit it is a binding force, yet simultaneously a reality which must be earnestly pursued and sought.”

Unity is accomplished by the Spirit of God, but it is still our choice. What a great mystery. How do we “maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace”? According to Ephesians, it is through the diversity of gifts we receive from Christ through the Spirit.

This diversity includes apostles, prophets, evangelists, and pastors and teachers, according to the list in Ephesians. But it also includes people especially gifted for encouragement, administration, hospitality and generosity. And many more.

Ephesians says all these gifts come from one source—the Spirit, and move toward one end—maturity in Christ. And the common aspect of this movement—from one Spirit, through many gifts, to one Christ—is love. The Body of Christ, the church, “builds itself up in love.”

This should not surprise us. In John 13 Jesus washes the disciples’ feet and says, “As I have done to you, so you should do to one another. As I have loved you, so you ought to love one another. The world will know you are my disciples by your love.”

This is actually the purpose of the gifts, and one role of the Spirit. These gifts of the Spirit are our abilities, but they are also our opportunities. And when we take our abilities and offer them in various opportunities out of love, we recognize the unity of Spirit. And it establishes peace. It also makes Christ present to us and to each other.

As individuals and as the church, we only grow as each of us uses our gifts of abilities and opportunities to serve in love. And so this passage asks each of us two questions. The first is, How has the Spirit gifted us—what abilities do we have, and what opportunities can we engage? The second is, How can we love one another and the world better?

As we answer these two questions, we will grow as individuals, and we will grow as the church, for by the Spirit’s power, and only together, can we grow as the Body of Christ.

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