Ephesians study

5 – Together We Stand – Divided We Fall

Break the Ice (5 min)

  • What do the pictures represent or what is the subject of the pictures?
  • What other examples similar to the first picture can you name?
  • What other examples similar to the second picture can you name? 
  • Are these pictures a representation of how things are today in society? Our country? Our churches?

Bring the Word (40 min)

Images often tell a truer reality than we would want. In the first chapter of Ephesians Paul uses several references about how God and the Holy Spirit helps us see and recognize things we can’t see with our physical eyes. He helps us see life more clearly. The fact is we have more reasons to be in unity with God and each other as well as reinforcing that Jesus restored the image of God in humanity and the world.

Ephesians 4: Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace.For there is one body and one Spirit, just as you have been called to one glorious hope for the future. There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all, in all, and living through all. (NLT)

The second theme of Ephesians is found in this passage. It is essentially the unity in the Church – application (Ch. 4-6).

Prayer for the conversation to come. (Leader)


Part 2 Topic: The Father’s desire for the unity of His new people. Ephesians 4 through 6:20

The unity of the triune God is reflected in the unity of his children, Eph. 4:1-16

  1. Unity is not uniformity, but lifestyle love
  2. Deity is a triune unity
  3. Spiritual gifts are for the good of the body not individual honor
  4. Unity requires ministry
  5. Unity is under attack
  6. Unity is in Christ

Ask several read this passage

Key points to mention by verse:

Eph. 4-6

Practical section – Doctrine must affect lifestyle. Truth is relational. Salvation is not a product, policy, or ticket but an ongoing repentance/faith relationship with Christ which results in Christlikeness.

Unity throughout the believers in the church. Believers are one body and must function together.

Church leaders are gifts to Christ’s body, given to help and encourage the body. But all believers are gifted ministers of Jesus that are key to unity in the church, not the particular gift one possesses. Not all are called vocationally but all are called to serve.

Eph. 4:1-6

1. “walk in a manner worthy” – lifestyle discipleship

2. “the calling with which you have been called” – The call always comes from God. Believers are called to holiness.

3. “humility” – produces unity

4. “gentleness” – trained animal – Believers have been “tamed” to serve one another not compete.

5. “patience” – Believers are patient with one another because God is patient with them.

6. “forbearance to one another in love” – Believers should deal with faults and weaknesses in the same gracious way God has dealt with us individually.

7. “one body”, “one Spirit”, “one hope”, “one Lord”, “one faith”, “one Father”, and “one God” – unity of the believers in the Spirit, in the Lord, through hope, faith, and baptism and in God who gave us recreation, a second birth.

Eph. 4:7-16

“to each one of us grace was given” Notice the switch from the corporate aspect of the church to the individual aspect. Every believer has a spiritual gift, given at salvation by the Spirit for the common good (1 Cor. 12:7, 11). The NT lists of the gifts (1 Cor. 12:1-13, 28-29; Rom. 12:3-8; Eph. 4:11) are representative, not exhaustive. 

Believers are often counterproductive if they

1. boast over their gifts

2. compare one gift to another

3. define the exact characteristics of each gift

The reality of a called, gifted family of ministers, a kingdom of priests is the issue (1 Pet. 2:5, 9; Rev. 1:6). Believers are called to service, not privilege.

This is a quote from Psalm 68:18, which originally referred to YHWH. The phrase “gave gifts to men” is found in one Aramaic Targum, the Peshitta (Syriac), and Chaldee translations, while “received gifts from men” is in the Masoretic Text (Hebrew text) and the Septuagint (Greek translation). Paul obviously picked an OT translation that reflected his theological purposes. God in Christ has gifted His people. He gifted them for service, not for a privileged position (Matt. 20:25-28; 23:1-12).

NASB “He gave”
NKJV” He Himself gave”
NRSV “the gifts He gave”
TEV “It was he who gave gifts to men,”
NJB “and to some, his gift was”

Christ Himself, or rather the Trinity (Eph. 4:4-6; 1 Cor. 12:4-6), gives spiritual gifts to His/their people. Believers are all gifted ministers. Some are leaders, but all are ministers. We are saved to serve.

There are several lists of spiritual gifts in Paul’s writing (1 Cor. 12: 8-10, 28-30; Rom. 12:6-8; Eph. 4:11). These lists are not identical. This implies that these lists are not exhaustive, but representative. For Paul the gifts are aspects of Jesus’ ministry given to His body (the church) to continue His ministry. The NT never gives a definitive list of the gifts or a guideline for believers’ knowing which gifts they are given. The focus is not on identifying gifts, but on the diverse aspect of ministry. The same guidelines for knowing God’s will apply to discovering one’s spiritual gift.

“apostles” This is the ongoing usage of the term beyond “The Twelve” (Acts 14:4, 14, Barnabas; Rom. 16:7, Andronicus and Junias; 1 Cor. 4:6, 9; 12:28-29; 15:7, Apollos; Phil. 2:25, Epaphroditus; 1 Thess. 2:6, Silvanus and Timothy). Their exact task is uncertain, but it involves proclamation of the gospel and servant leadership of the church.

“prophets” The exact function of these gifted believers is also uncertain (Acts 11:28; 21:9-11; 15:32). They are not the same as OT prophets who wrote Scripture. New Testament prophets apply Scripture to new and different situations. They are linked with apostles, evangelists, pastors and teachers because they all proclaim the gospel, but with different emphases.

“evangelists” Surprisingly, in light of Matt. 28:19-20, this gift is mentioned only three times in the NT. Their task in the early church, like the previous two, is uncertain (Acts 21:8; 2 Tim. 4:5), but again obviously involved proclamation of the gospel and servant leadership. It is possible that these first three gifted leaders had itinerant or regional ministries.

“pastors and teachers” The titles “elders” (presbuteroi), “bishops” (episkopoi), and “pastors” (poimenas) all refer to one function and later office (Acts 20:17, 28; and Titus 1:5-7). The term “elder” had an OT background, while the term “bishop” or “overseer” had a Greek city-state background. The Greek syntax (one conjunction [de] and one article [tous]) links these two titles together as one function, one gifted person who proclaims and explains the gospel to a local situation.

It is interesting that in Rom. 12:7 and 12:28 teachers are listed as a separate gift and pastors are not mentioned at all (unless it is “he who exhorts” in Rom. 12:8).

NASB “for the equipping of the saints for the work of service”
NKJV “For the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry”
NRSV “to equip the saints for the work of ministry”
TEV “He did this to prepare all God’s people for the work of Christian service”

Leaders are God’s gifts given to train the Body of Christ for the work of ministry. The church needs to recapture the power, giftedness and biblical assignment of all the members of the church (clergy – laity, old – young, male – female, Joel 2:28 quoted in Peter’s Pentecost sermon in Acts 2). Every Christian is a full-time, God-called, God-gifted minister.

The term “equip” means to cause something to be ready for its assigned purpose. It is used of:

1. broken limbs being healed and made useful again

2. torn fishing nets being mended and thereby able to catch   fish

3. ships being fitted with ropes and sails and tacked for sea

4. chicks who had grown large enough to be taken to market

Also, notice the goal is not that only some believers became mature, but all (Eph. 4:13). 

The gifts are given to every believer for the common good (1 Cor. 12:7, 11). Every believer is a called, gifted, full-time minister of Christ. Not all are “vocational” ministers, but all are servants. The church is crippled by (1) a clergy/laity mentality and (2) the concept of salvation as a product instead of a relational process of servanthood…

“to the building up of the body of Christ” Paul mixes his building metaphor (Eph. 2:20-27) with his body metaphor (Eph. 1:23; 4:12; 5:30). Believers are gifted for the common good, not for individual acclaim (1 Cor. 12:7). The focus is not on the individual but on the body (Eph. 4:4-6). Spiritual gifts are servant towels, not merit badges. Believers are worker bees.

4:13 “until we all attain” Denotes an aspect of contingency. It literally means “to arrive at a destination.” Note that “all” speaks of our corporate responsibility. Notice the three aspects of maturity mentioned: (1) unity of the faith; (2) knowledge of the Son of God; unto a (3) Christlike maturity. Also, notice the goal is not that some mature, but all.

“the knowledge” This is the compound Greek term (epiginōskō), which implies a full experiential knowledge. This was a rejection of the Gnostic false teachers’ emphasis on secret, exclusive knowledge. The believers’ knowledge is complete in Christ. This may be a play on the Hebrew concept of “know” as personal relationship (Gen. 4:1; Jer. 1:5; Phil. 3:8, 10) versus the Greek concept known as cognitive information. Both are needed for a mature Christianity.

“mature man” This is in contrast to “children” of verse 14. The Greek root (telos) means “complete,” “fully equipped,” not sinless or perfect.

4:14 “as a result, we are no longer to be children” This implies that many believers were saved but immature (1 Cor. 3:1-3; Heb. 5:11-14). They still did not sense the necessary submission and dedication needed to be servant ministers. Believers must die to self and be alive to God (Rom. 6:1-14; 2 Cor. 5:14-15; Gal. 2:20; 1 John 3:16).

NASB “tossed here and there by waves, and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming”
NKJV “tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness by which they lie in wait to deceive”
NRSV “tossed to and fro and blown about by every wind of doctrine, by people’s trickery, by their craftiness in deceitful scheming”
TEV “carried by the waves and blown about by every shifting wind of the teaching of deceitful men, who lead others to error by the tricks they invent”

This refers to the false teachers, who seem to be a combination of Greek philosophers and Jewish legalists. This phrase refers both to human deception (the false teachers) and angelic deception (craftiness in deceitful scheming). Behind these false teachers lay the activity of the fallen angelic levels (Eph. 6:10-12; 1 Cor. 10:20; Daniel 10). God’s people are tricked, manipulated and deceived because they have not matured in Christ. There is a spiritual battle even after conversion. The goal of the Christian is not just heaven when they die but Christlikeness and ministry now (Eph. 4:15; Rom. 8:28-30; Gal. 4:19).

4:15 Believers are not just to speak the truth, but to live and to teach the truth in love (Ezra 7:10). The goal is unity (Eph. 4:2-3). How different this was from the confusion and rivalry of the false teachers.

4:16 Paul uses the metaphor of the human body to emphasize unity in love, amidst diversity. Disunity opens the door to Satan, his angels, and false teachers (Col. 2:8)

1. List the characteristics of “worthy lives.” How does your life compare?

2. Why is unity so important?

3. What is Paul stressing in verses 4-6?

4. Does every Christian have a spiritual gift? When do they receive it? Who gives it? For what purpose?

5. What is the goal of the church?

Bring it Home (5 min)

Preparation for next week: Reread chapter 4. Bring any insights or questions from this week’s lesson.

Have someone close in prayer.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *