Where Are We Going? - Ephesians 4:1-16Series: Walking Worthy of our Calling
Imagine that you just decided to go on a trip with the family. You load up the car, gather up the kids, make all the preparations and hop in the car. But then your wife turns to you and says: “Where are we going?” It wouldn’t make a lot of sense to do all the work and preparation and not know your desired destination. We need to know our destination and how we plan to arrive there. It’s important to have direction in many parts of our lives, and it is true also for a local church. Zig Ziglar said “if you aim at nothing, you’ll hit it every time.” That’s true, and quite profound. What are we aiming at? Where are we going?
With us joining this work let’s take some time this morning to answer this question with these questions: What do we need the most? Where are we going as a church? Where are we going as individuals? And what does my work as an evangelist contribute to that process?
What do we need the most?
Before we look at a plan or direction, there are something things that are more important or foundational that we need. (Ephesians 4:1-16) gives us a great road map and destination, but Ephesians 3:14-21 give us the foundation or preparation before the trip. What is the our greatest need? That we are filled by God. How is this done? By understanding his love for us.
This section starts with a prayer of Paul for the church at Ephesus. According to the riches of God’s glory, Paul wanted the church to be strengthened with power through his Spirit. Why? So that Christ would dwell in their hearts through faith. Paul wants Jesus to live in these christians.
How would that come about? By being rooted and grounded in love, and knowing the unknowable love of Jesus. This is how they would be filled with all the fullness of God. Do you see the heart of what Paul wants for the church? It is understanding the love of God and by that having Jesus live in them. They are filled with all the fullness of God when they try to understand the breadth, length, height, and depth of the love of Christ, and become like him.
Ultimately, the core of what all of need is to know the unknowable - to know how much God loves us. When that happens, Christ will dwell in our hearts through faith, we will be filled with the fullness of God, and become like Jesus.
That’s what the first part of this letter discussed. The first three chapters are about all the amazing things that God has done through Jesus. God has chosen us in Jesus, predestined us, redeemed us, forgiven us, shared his wisdom and insight, raised us, saved us, united us, built us, joined us, and so much more all in Jesus. Why? “in love” (Ephesians 1:4)
All these pieces in 4:1-16 are extensions of Jesus’ love for the church. When we fully love God and our neighbor, they will be things that we contribute to the church. This is the process by which God is filling all things.
Where are we going as a church?
Now, as a church, what is God wanting to accomplish? Where are we going? Notice that right at the beginning, Paul wants them to walk worthy of their calling. That’s everything we just talked about regarding the love of God. God is calling us to something amazing and transformative, but there is a kind of life that is consistent with the love and grace that are given to us. To summarize what God wants from the church let’s use these three categories:
A Unified church
Notice (Ephesians 4:1-6) are two different sides of unity. The first part is all about our attitudes and behaviors: humility, gentleness, patience, and an eagerness for the unity the Spirit has accomplished. Did you notice what was right in the middle of this text? “Bearing with one another in love.” The first step is for us to have the love of God in our heart, and then to share that love with others. That is the part of the process that brings unity.
The second part of this unity are undeniable truths. There are seven here that are the foundation of unity. Notice that none of these are our own opinions or values, these are all objective truths revealed by the Spirit. Our unity starts with understanding God is the source of all love, wisdom, power, authority, and is worthy bring all things into His submission.
Notice the end of verse 6 says: “one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” God is the source of all things and he is our Father. Everything lives and moves because of him and these truths are what bring us into the unity that is part of God’s nature. When we think of God, remember there are three beings in the one God. That means at the core of the universe and from eternity, is not power or isolation, it is love and unity seen in three persons.
Let me say just a practical word about this unity. This unity of faith and knowledge of the son of God (Ephesians 4:13) is a process. It is not something that happens immediately or by accident. It requires the open, back and forth dialogue that is present in healthy families and relationships. The solution is not for me to stand up here and just preach on texts. Sometimes we might be afraid to have a class where people can speak up and ask questions because of bad experiences or fear others will disagree. The assumption in this text is that we are not all unified, but that through what God’s Spirit has revealed, and our good attitudes, we can become unified. Brethren we cannot have unity any other way. What is required is working through the details, asking questions, sharpening each other (Proverbs 27:27). But all of this is done with humility, gentleness, patience, bearing with one another in love, and an eagerness to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
A Serving church
Verses (Ephesians 4:7-12) are about how Jesus is filling all things. How? The answer is grace - the gifts of blessings given by Jesus. Paul references Psalm 68, that psalm pictures the victory of the Messiah and the gifts that are offered to him, then he gives power and strength to his people. This is a reference to Jesus' life, death, resurrection, and ascension - this is his victory!
Notice the flow of this text, Jesus has conquered us all through his power and love. When a person then gives themselves to Jesus as part of his “captives”, Jesus’ response is to give that person power. Then he gives that person back to the body to serve for the benefit of others.
The gifts are multifaceted like Romans 12:3-8 describes. Everyone has a gift to use. Then Jesus also gives these leaders - apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds and teachers, as gifts to the church to fill the body as he desires. Then what happens is you have an entire church that is equipped for the work of ministry or service. Christ then acts and lives through the people who have been transformed. This is what a body does! It works out the desires and will of the head. Notice again, what is the motivating force behind this? It is grace (v 7) - God’s love.
A Growing church
Finally, the last part of this (Ephesians 4:13-16) is all about the growth that comes in the body. God wants a unified body, mature christians, people that are no longer children tossed back and forth. He wants people that can speak the truth in love and grow up in every way to be like Christ. Once a group is joined like this, each part is equipped, and each part works properly, the body is going to grow and build itself up “in love.”
Just as a plant or a child needs the right environment and resources to grow and thrive, a group of christians - new and old, need this environment to grow like God wants. Our goal then as a group is to be this kind of church. Remember, the church is not a building. The church is the people who have been called out by the gospel. Ultimately, our mission is about people - reaching those that are lost and helping them to grow up to be like Jesus. Everything in our local church needs to be evaluated through that lens, and each of us should put our hands to the work to help that happen. Growth will be come from God if we follow his plan.
Where are we going as individuals?
Here then is our next question, where are you going as an individual? While this group is a beautiful vision of a growing and thriving body, notice verses 13-16 emphasize the strength of individuals. In verse 16 it is “every joint with which it is equipped” and “each part is working properly.” These verses stress the individual responsibility of growth.
The church is only as strong or weak as the individuals that make it up. That being said, what are you doing to grow individually? It’s very easy to attend services and remain at basically the same level. In my years, the people that wanted to grow are the ones that grew. The ones that are not concerned about growth stay where they are, or decline.
Look at your life, are you becoming more humble, gentle, and patient? Are you bearing with others in love? Are you eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace? All of those are the fruit of knowing how much God loves you, then loving God and others more.
Are you being equipped for ministry? Have you increased your skills over the years? Have you learned to invite others to services? To teach a class? To encourage those who are struggling? To convict those who are in sin? Have you searched out and learned ways you can serve? If not, something is missing. Perhaps you need help being equipped, that’s the role of the ones in verse 11. But perhaps you are not equipped because that’s not what you expected or want. Love will motivate you to grow and serve others. Do you love God? Do you love his people?
Are you growing in knowledge of Jesus? This can be the fatal flaw for some, they are not learning anything new. This may be because they have settled (Hebrews 5:11-6:8), or because they feel like they already know. Do you want to be wise for salvation in Christ and to be equipped for service? Do you know where that comes from? 2 Timothy 3:14-17 says that all scripture accomplishes that. But the scriptures Paul primarily talks about here are the old testament! Do you know Isaiah? How about Deuteronomy, Kings, Zechariah, etc? Those are part of what God has revealed for you to know Jesus and for you to be equipped to do good. Start with reading the ones you don’t know, sit down with leaders and learn these truths. Grow!
What is my work as an evangelist?
What then is a role of an evangelist? It is right here in verse 12-16. Consider as well: 1 Timothy 1:5, 3:14-15. My job is to equip, build up, help unify, help others mature, and more.
How do I do that? By what we just focused on in (2 Timothy 3:14-17). Notice this text in 1 Timothy 4:11-16. My job is to teach and be an example for this church. I am to devote myself to publicly reading scripture, exhorting and teaching, I need to keep working on my gift, to practice and immerse myself so that I keep growing. I must keep a careful watch on myself and my teaching so that I can save myself and others.
This work then is not just preaching a sermon each week, or teaching our collective bible classes, even though those are important. It is time spent in thought and preparation, it is time spent in practice and self correction, it is time spent in study with others both collectively and individually. My job then is not entertainment, or invention, it is to answer questions, encourage study, to teach what this book says, and encourage all of us to live it out.
This work then is critical of all leaders. We have lots of work to do and it can require a lot of time. In fact, this is way more than we could do in 3 or 4 hours a week. But it is a noble and honorable work that we can grow into and participate in.
Let me end with two things. First, an urging: walk in a manner worth of the calling to which you have been called. In Jesus we have experienced so much and are called to wonderful things here and now. Will you participate? Will you appreciate that call and walk worthy of the sacrifice of Jesus? Will you allow him to fill and transform you?
Second, let’s pray Paul’s pray for the Ephesians for our church today: Ephesians 3:14-21. God can do far more than we ask or think. He can help us know his love. He can fill us with His fullness to His glory. Let’s work with Him and allow his power to transform us to be like Jesus.