of the Holy Spirit
WORK OF THE HOLY SPIRIT IN THE CHURCH
eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has
prepared for those who love him"
but God has revealed it to us by his Spirit.’ The Spirit
searches all things, even the deep things of God. For who among men
knows the thoughts of a man except the man's spirit within him? In
the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of
God. We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who
is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us.
This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in
words taught by the Spirit, expressing spiritual truths in spiritual
The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from
the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot
understand them, because they are spiritually discerned. The
spiritual man makes judgments about all things, but he himself is not
subject to any man's judgment: ‘For who has known the mind of
the Lord that he may instruct him?’ But we have the mind of
Christ. (1 Corinthians 2:6-11 NIV)
from the Holy Spirit, the Church would not exist. He has come to
give the Body of Christ:
of Jesus Christ – without revelation we would not understand
and spiritual life
with the Body of Christ
comfort and joy
equippers and other ministers
to live holy lives (sanctification)
– for our personal lives
– for our personal and corporate lives
should claim the power and presence of the Holy Spirit in our
Birth of the Church
Day of Pentecost has been called the “Birthday of the church”.
Not because there were no Christians prior to that (the disciples
were Christians, after Jesus’ death and resurrection) but
because “the Church” did not exist corporately until
then. Since Pentecost He has been “with” and “in”
every believer in a new way. He is the “Administrator of the
Church” in the world. It is He who gives “increase”
in the work of God – 1 Corinthians 3:7.
Up the Church
Holy Spirit is building a “temple in the Lord” –
Ephesians 2:21, 22. He gives the church unity – 2 Corinthians
2:13; Ephesians 4:3.
unity is not the result of organised ecumenism but the work of God.
See attached article.
in the Body of Christ – Lessons from Ephesians Chapter 4
does He do it?
world has its standards in relation to sin, righteousness and
judgment. The first step God takes in bringing people back to
Himself is conviction in peoples’ hearts, based on His
standards. Sin cuts us off from God and blinds us; the initiative to
come back to Him is not in us; it must therefore come from God.
Jesus said (John 16:8-11) the Holy Spirit would convince people of:
supernatural conviction we do not know (or care) that (i) we are
sinners, (ii) we need Christ’s righteousness, and (iii) that
the world will be judged. When we realize these things, we become
aware of the need of a Saviour and the Holy Spirit draws us Christ.
(being born again)
is not far from any one of us - Acts 17:27; however to have
salvation we need to be “born anew” - John 3:3, 6. This
is not the work of denominations/man - John 1:13; it is a
supernatural work of the Holy Spirit -Titus 3:5; Ephesians 2:1.
know we are children of God because of the inward personal assurance
of the Holy Spirit. He has supernaturally sealed us; He is the
downpayment) of our eternal inheritance – 2 Corinthians 1:22;
Ephesians 4:30. He makes our sonship real - Romans 8:15, 16;
Galatians 4:6; 1 John 5:6. His assurance is greater than
circumstances and human logic.
we become Christians:
Holy Spirit comes to live inside of us - Romans 8:9 - this is a
personal relationship, a union with Christ – 1 Corinthians
6:17,19; 1 John 3:24
are the “temples of the Holy Spirit” - 1 Corinthians
comes along side of us - John 14:17
helps our weaknesses (“infirmities”, including
physical/mental) - Romans 8:26, 27
were cleansed; you were made holy; you were made right with God by
calling on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our
God. (1 Corinthians 6:11)
holiness, making us like Christ; a spiritual experience, not a
product of our human will power or effort. We are changed by the
Holy Spirit – 2 Corinthians 3:18; 1 Peter 1:2, 22.
(based on the finished work of Christ); and
or experiential (the Holy Spirit translating that work into the
law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the
law of sin and death” – Romans 8:2. The problems arise
when we try to carry out in our own strength what only the Holy
Spirit can do – Galatians 3:3.
are the effects of the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit in our
Gospel came not to you in word only, but also in power, and in the
Holy Spirit...” –
the Holy Spirit the Christian is given inner strength –
Ephesians 3:16 – and power to be a witness for Christ –
Acts 1:8 (martyros).
Preaching, teaching and witnessing are powerless if the Holy Spirit
need not feel lost, uncertain as to God’s will for their lives.
Even mature believers sometimes feel discouraged by circumstances or
their inability to accurately discern God’s will. We all need
guidance. The same Holy Spirit who directed the early Church has
come to guide us - Romans 8:14 (agō,
or lead, guide, direct).
we are led by the Spirit we do not do as we like. The freedom we
have in Christ is not designed to please ourselves, but Him who
called us. Selfish acts are replaced by obedience to the Spirit.
we are human, our prayers for guidance may be affected by our own
desires or prejudices. If we walk in daily surrender He will not
permit us to stray from the right path; our spirits are attuned to
His voice. He will check, correct and direct us, and help us in our
decision-making, as we carry out His will.
in Acts. The Holy Spirit:
Philip to Gaza –Acts 8:26;
Ananias to meet Saul – Acts 9:10
Saul and Barnabas on their first missionary journey – Acts
the church out of cultural bondage – Acts 15:28;
Paul and his party to take the Gospel into Asia and Bithynia –
Apollos through Aquilla and Priscilla – Acts 18:26;
a word of warning to Paul on his way to Jerusalem – Acts
Christians we need to allow the Holy Spirit to lead us –
Galatians 5:16, 25. If we do this we will not be continually falling
into sin (the ”works of the flesh”, sarx,
nature, are prone to sin and opposed to God).
need to be able to distinguish between the revealed will of God and
our own desires when we say, “the Lord told me”.
Holy Spirit does not lead us into legalism and form, but liberty –
2 Corinthians 3:17 (as long as things are done “in order”
– 1 Corinthians 14:40).
Holy Spirit will develop and gifts and ministries as we continue to
step out by faith in obedience to His voice Romans 12:7-8.
Holy Spirit helps us to be true worshippers, not paying lip service
(see Isaiah 29:13, cf Matthew 15:7-9); John 4:23-24; we worship “by
the Spirit of God” – Philippians 3:3 (literal).
with the content/style of worship – Ephesians 5:18, 19.
Worship without the presence and touch of the Holy Spirit is simply
Holy Spirit helps us (even in weakness) to pray as we should –
Ephesians 6:18; Romans 8:26. God knows we are weak when we pray and
we often encounter practical and spiritual difficulties. The Holy
Spirit helps us in our weakness and makes up for our deficiencies.
encourages us to yield ourselves to Him and allow Him to pray through
us. The more fully we surrender, the more Christ-centred we become
and the more truly God is glorified in us. Praying “in the
Spirit” may mean allowing the Holy Spirit to guide our thoughts
as we pray in our own language/s. It may also involve the use of
speaking in tongues, or even involve unspoken cries (inward groans)
to God for the need that is on His heart. If we want our prayer
lives to be richer, deeper, more meaningful, we need to surrender to
the person and work of the Holy Spirit.
Holy Spirit does not bring new teaching, but gives understanding of
the meaning and application of Jesus’ teaching (John 14:26).
How could the disciples remember (and agree) all the things Jesus
taught them? They let the Holy Spirit refresh their memory. He
teaches us by:
impression – Mark 13:11; 1 John 2:27;
illumination and clarification – 1 Corinthians 2:11;
Scriptures – John 14:26;
teachers to Church – Acts 20:28; Ephesians 4:8,11, 12.
Failure only comes about as a result of the church being man-managed
instead of led by the Holy Spirit.
we need to be taught by people if we have the Holy Spirit? Yes,
because He has given teachers to the church. However, teachers must
submit to Him; the church is not the source of revelation (1
Corinthians 2:13). We emphasize being taught by men. Churches want
educated, cultured leaders. God can use our education to great
advantage, however the most important element is not our learning or
experience, but the Holy Spirit’s impartation, impact,
anointing. No Christian can be “spiritual” (cf Romans
8:66) without the Holy Spirit.
experienced the joy of the Holy Spirit in His ministry. The Holy
Spirit gives “comfort” to the church in a hostile,
anti-Christian world– Acts 9:31. The Kingdom of God consists
of “righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” –
Romans 14:17. This is a supernatural dimension of joy.
we are to live in ways that please God it is essential for us to grow
in love toward God and man.
Christians find it difficult to love other people and their love for
God waxes and wanes. Romans 5:5 tells us that the love of God is
“shed abroad” in our hearts by the Holy Spirit. This
love, kindled in us by the Spirit, reaches toward God in commitment,
to the Body of Christ in acceptance, and to lost humanity in
compassion for their salvation (cf Romans 9:2,3).
in our Lives
character traits of Jesus Christ, the “fruit” (karpos)
of the Spirit, are produced in our lives as we surrender to His
Lordship - Galatians 5:22, 23.
we lack the fruit of the Spirit we will be deficient in our Christian
lives and witness and need to re-evaluate the nature of our
relationship with Him – not for condemnation, but as an
encouragement to draw near, in faith and obedience.
fruit of the Spirit is:
love; affection, good will, love, benevolence, brotherly love
harmony, the tranquil state of a soul assured of salvation through
Christ, and fearing nothing
patience, endurance, steadfastness, slowness in avenging wrongs
perseverance, forbearance, longsuffering,
moral goodness, integrity, kindness
of heart and life, goodness, kindness
conviction about our relationship to God, trust, faith in Him
(the virtue of one who masters his desires and passions)
8 is a good case study of the ministry of the Holy Spirit in the life
of the individual believer; mentioned 17 times in 39 verses. He:
liberated us – vs. 2
resurrect us – v. 11 (new life now and resurrection later on)
in us – vs. 9, 11
us – v. 14
us – v. 16
us – v. 26
Holy Spirit has come to have koinonia,
or fellowship, with us – 2 Corinthians 13:14; Philippians 2:1.
“Normal” Christian living therefore involves an ongoing
relationship with Him. As a Person He is active on behalf of every
believer, to fulfil the work of Jesus Christ in our lives.
can we have “fellowship” with the Holy Spirit?
Anointing of the Holy Spirit is Essential
it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He
anointed us...” –
attributed His power and results to the Holy Spirit – Luke
4:18. He promised we would do the things He did (“and
greater”). Through this anointing He was able to:
the Gospel to the poor. This includes:
poor and feeble of the world;
who have nothing;
who have everything they need but are spiritually poor.
the broken-hearted – those whose lives are crushed by
problems, have no answers, are in despair, depression.
deliverance to the captives – those who are held prisoner by
forces stronger than themselves, eg demonic powers, fears, habits,
guilt or captivating sins.
recovery of sight to the blind – physical or spiritual
the bruised - freedom from being crushed, hurt and wounded in body
the anointing of the Holy Spirit, serving God and living the
Christian life is an uphill struggle. Many Christians and churches
are not as effective as they could otherwise be because they do all
their work for God in their natural ability. Their hearts are
sincere, their motives are good, but they lack that anointing that
brings life to all they do.
the Holy Spirit’s anointing can “break the yoke”
and secure the right results – Isaiah 10:27.
Do We Mean by the “Anointing of the Holy Spirit”?
the OT Tabernacle, anointing oil (usually olive oil) was applied to
the High Priest, other priests and tabernacle furniture. Everything
to do with the Tabernacle and the worship and service of God had to
be anointed. Without it they were not fit or qualified to be used in
Christians, the “anointing” (or “unction”) is
an enabling that comes from God. It is by the anointing (consistent
with their calling) that people qualify for the work of God. Without
the anointing, there are limited results. The anointing separates
the true Gospel from all other religion or man-made methods. True
preaching and other ministries are anointed ministry.
example, the anointing of the Holy Spirit:
freedom and liberty;
freshness to the spoken Word;
us into closer relationship and deeper consecration;
the fire of God to burn in the message;
men and women of God acting in His name;
everything else look vain and incomplete;
secured by prayer, openness and obedience.
when they saw the boldness of Peter and John and realized that they
were unlearned and ignorant men, they marvelled, and they took
knowledge of them that they had been with Jesus” – Acts
IN OUR CHRISTIAN LIVES
HOLY SPIRIT COMES TO:
up to doubt and uncertainty; not be afraid of the future, death;
learn to trust His Word, power and faithfulness and consciously
hand over my doubts to Him; believe that I can “do all
holy; live a consecrated life; work with
Him; be “open”; listen to him; wait for his voice;
live as though I am His “temple”; look for ways to
deepen my relationship with Him; be renewed every day, even when I
feel worn out; be aware of His presence
off my “old man, old nature”; surrender things that
need to be changed; live a holy life; allow Him to transform me;
learn how to live God’s will and please Him; not belong to
rely on my own power or effort in living as a Christian; be a true
“witness” to Christ and ask Him for extra strength
when I need it; use the God’s power in my life wisely
and trust his guidance for the rest of my life; learn how to
listen to Him and learn how He speaks; choose to obey Him >
specifically; seek to be “in step with” the Holy
Spirit in my daily Christian walk
“in Spirit and in truth”, with faith; develop my
relationship with the Holy Spirit in such a way that I can
cooperate with Him in an active and meaningful prayer life
me be a true worshipper
and with other Christians seek to” draw near” to Him
and practice heart-felt worship; proclaim His glory and majesty,
even though I don’t understand it fully (cf Psalm 71:15)
teachable, not harden my heart; long to be a good student; put His
teaching into practice; share His teaching with others; seek His
wisdom to be a godly person, parent, spouse, member of the
along side me as the Comforter
a conscious decision to acknowledge His faithfulness and presence
with me at all times and “work with” Him in my
Christian life, responding as I am led by Him; cooperating with
Him = my daily life will be different
me to experience his joy
open to His joy – supernaturally imparted - and not allow
circumstances to rob me of that joy; trust that nothing will come
into my life unless He permits it; draw on His strength, handle
situations differently, with a “wider: view of the world and
what I experience in life
my heart with God’s love
open to His love, to love God and people (including those who are
hostile or “un-loveable”) as He does; allow Him to
love others through me; break down barriers that people without
Christ are accustomed to build
his “fruit” in my life
Him to prune me, cut off what is not of Him and produce His
character in me; use His fruit to glory and serve God
Jesus in/through me
use my Christian life, opportunities, blessings for my ends or to
draw attention to myself, but exalt Christ, in good times and bad;
proclaim His salvation; surrender to Him, so that Christ can be
communicated to the world through my life
me spiritual gifts
those gifts; use them as He directs, , not as personal
possessions, but for the benefit of others
through my life like “living water”
I feel dry, open up my life to the Holy Spirit, allow Him to renew
me; get rid of any blockages
IN OUR CHRISTIAN LIVES
HOLY SPIRIT COMES TO:
me be a true worshipper
along side me as the Comforter
me to experience his joy
my heart with God’s love
his “fruit” in my life
Jesus in/through me
me spiritual gifts
through my life like “living water”
in the Body of Christ – Lessons from Ephesians Chapter 4
Christians unite around Jesus Christ and engage in His work together,
doing it His way, the church will be better equipped and focused to
reach the world with the Great Commission and achieve God’s
plan and purpose for our generation.
New Testament epistle, or book, of Ephesians was written by the
Apostle Paul to the church community that he and his Christian
colleagues had planted in the Graeco-Roman city of Ephesus around 62
was the commercial, political and religious centre of what was then
called Western Asia and is now part of Turkey. At the time the
epistle was sent it had a population of roughly a quarter of a
million; this figure was in constant flux because Ephesus was located
at the crossroads of the Roman Empire.
more than seven hundred years people from other parts of the empire
had flocked to Ephesus to pay homage to the fertility goddess Artemis
(her Greek name) or Diana (her Latin title). The Temple of Diana was
four times the size of the Parthenon in Athens and was identified as
one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. Ephesian merchants
sold miniatures of the Temple of Diana to pilgrims and tourists.
Income from these sales enriched the city and gave employment to the
the Gospel spread, collisions with the existing religious systems
were inevitable. The ancient pagan cults were no match for the
message of Jesus Christ and great numbers of followers of Diana
became Christians (read the full account in Acts 19). Many were set
free from the power of occult. Social barriers among them were
dismantled. The power of sin was broken, giving them hope beyond
their political, social and economic circumstances. So many were
converted to Christ that, on one occasion, a great bonfire took
place, in which books and other artefacts of the occult were
destroyed. The church in Ephesus went on to become the strongest
church in the first century.
forces opposed to the growing Christian community were bound to
react. The proclamation of the Gospel was first denounced in the
synagogue, by followers of the Jewish religion who refused to
recognise Jesus as the Messiah. So, for two years, the work
continued in a nearby hall. The flash point came when the shrine
artisans lost so much business that they went on strike, led by one
Demetrius, who led crowds of angry people into the city’s
24,000 seat arena. As the stands filled, Scripture tells us that
most people did not even know why they were there, but they clamoured
on Diana’s behalf when stirred up to do so. By the end of the
day, the opposition fell silent and the preaching of the Gospel
expanded. From across the entire region people heard the message of
salvation. The church grew progressively stronger. As Paul
travelled he kept in touch with the congregations he helped plant.
Often arrested by his enemies, he did not cease to proclaim the
message. In chains, he wrote to the church in Ephesus, declaring the
greatness of the salvation they enjoyed. (Because of his
incarceration he was sometimes forced to use the services of an
or scribe, to take down his words.)
time, the church in Ephesus became a mature congregation, a
multicultural church with a sophisticated understanding of the depth
of the message they had embraced. Chapters 1-3 of Paul’s
letter describes in vivid detail our calling as believers, the
privileges and blessings that are ours to enjoy in Christ, our new
relationship with God and His purpose and plan for us, as individuals
and as part of the broader Christian community. We often focus on
the “weeds”, the minutiae of our day-to-day lives and
struggles; God sees the future and acts in line with His “bigger
of the epistles written by Paul (and others, such as Peter and John)
are about issues faced by their recipients. However, for the
Ephesian church, it is not until Chapter 4 that we start to get some
hints as to what was going on. The first matter addressed is “unity”
within the local community of faith.
Ephesian Christians lived in an environment conflicted by a panoply
of gods, a vast array of religions, differing social histories and
schools of philosophical thought. Jewish converts to Christianity
often separated themselves from Gentile (or non-Jewish) converts,
because the latter had not come to Christ through adherence to Moses
and the Laws contained in the Old Testament, and tried to introduce
legalism that was foreign to those from Graeco-Roman or local
cultural backgrounds. Masters and slaves were difficult to unite.
There was incredible spiritual opposition. The church needed to know
how to handle the emerging differences and live the life God had
called to practice.
4-6 therefore provide advice and instructions as to practical
outworking of the Christian faith. This was where the “rubber
hit the road”. As a prisoner of the Roman authorities Paul was
not in position to demand compliance. His life was on a knife edge.
But world evangelism and the Body of Christ were never about Paul;
they were about Christ. Christianity should never be about its
leaders, denominations or styles. “Christ is all and in all”
of the above is relevant to understanding the plea for unity
contained in Chapter 4 of Ephesians.
his last visit to the city, Paul warned that false prophets
(including some from their own midst) would arise like “wolves”
to destroy the church (Ac 20:29-31). They would attempt to break it
up, or bring its members into their own folds. The biggest enemies
of the Ephesian church were not persecution, the followers of Diana,
political opposition, or heresy, but “white ants”.
Scientists tell us that the most dangerous animals are the smallest,
including invisible disease-carrying microbes, anopheles mosquitoes,
other minute insects and the like. It is the same in the church.
The principal enemies are not political systems or atheistic social
theories, but small viruses that enter the community and wreak havoc.
me exemplify what I mean. I recall meeting a group of Romanian
Christians in Munich during the Olympic Games in that city in 1972.
For the first time, Eastern bloc governments had agreed to allow
tourists (as distinct from teams, coaches and officials) to visit the
West, to observe the games.
a group of us shared that we prayed for the church behind the Iron
Curtain, we were surprised by their response: “We know where we
stand, either we are followers of Christ, or we are not. In fact, we
pray for you, in the West, because there are so many factors that
erode you morally, so many temptations to compromise your faith and
is often the little things that undermine. The Christian community
in Ephesus faced threats of disunity, the churn of false doctrine and
the danger of being morally hollowed out without realizing it. Some
felt rudderless in the face of spurious doctrine; they had no answers
to false teachers (the New Testament did not even exist at this
point); others were carried away without realizing it. The challenge
was to recognise the very real threats, submit to the leadership God
had placed in church, strive for unity and adopt attitudes to make
the Christian life and community work and support the weak among
look more closely at verse 14 of Chapter 4.
of the church in Ephesus felt and acted as though they had no
anchors; they were like ships tossed at sea. The Mediterranean Sea
was central to governance and communication in the Roman Empire.
Roads linked Italica in the far west with the remnants of the old
Persian and Greek Empires in the east and stretched far away to the
north to Gaul and throughout the southern half of Britannia; others
snaked across the deserts of north Africa. However overland journeys
were tedious and dangerous, due to conflicts, brigands and other
threats. It was often easier to travel by sea.
in winter the Mediterranean is treacherous. I lived in Beirut for
several years and my abiding memory of the Mediterranean during the
winter months was how rough it became, with high waves driven by
strong winds crashing over the Corniche along the water’s edge
and causing flooding in lower lying places. Sailors often refused to
travel during winter. The Apostle Paul was shipwrecked several
today have stabilisers, but even then can be tossed like toys in
dangerous weather. I recall crossing the Irish Sea from Ireland to
Holyhead, in Wales, with my family in winter, during a force 10 gale.
Rogue waves crashed with sickening thuds against the side of the
vessel. Nearly everyone was sea sick. Those who were not ill lay
prone on the deck and the ferry lurched from side to side; up and
down with the waves; on top on the mountain one second, in the depths
the next. The ferry that followed listed at 46 degrees, trucks and
cars on the parking level were damaged, people were removed with
broken limbs and an official enquiry was launched. The ferries had
stabilisers. By comparison, ships in the first century were small,
flimsy affairs. Every winter fortunes were lost; archaeologists and
fortune hunters are still retrieving wealth from the sea bed.
Ephesian church, like many Christian communities of the era, faced
tremendous winds that buffeted its members. Lives were shipwrecked.
(Read some of the other letters, such as Colossians, and consider the
waves and winds of doctrine that made people dizzy and swept them
away, first in this direction, and then in the other.) They were
“carried about” (the Greek suggests a violent swinging).
People today are out to shipwreck the faith of Christians. If we are
not strong, it is easy to be tossed dizzyingly, out of control. God
wants you to have stability.
uses a second analogy in Ephesians 4, one related to gambling. He
describes enemies of the Christian faith “lying in wait to
deceive” (from the Greek concept of kubia,
or playing with dice, gambling). There are cunning people and false
agendas at work in our societies, waiting to catch us off-guard by
manipulating the dice, so to speak. It is easy to be trapped, unable
to discern what is going on. If you are not watching, they will play
tricks with your eyes. Happily, the Holy Spirit is available and
waiting to come alongside to advise and guide us.
church in Ephesus ended up with a reputation for standing up to false
doctrine (Rev 2:3, 6). The tragedy was that, in the process, they
left their first love for Christ; they became so caught up in the
issues of the day that they lost the spontaneity and authenticity of
genuine Christian believers. How can we prevent that? By recognizing
and submitting to leadership placed in the Body of Christ by Jesus
Christ the head, by learning, engaging, cooperating and being open to
God and focused on Him. This does not stop winds blowing, or waves
crashing against our lives, but it ensures us that we will be able to
navigate safely and with stability.
God-given ministries to countervail the elements and provide
are easily led. Jesus said that he would not leave the church as
orphans, or without guidance, stumbling, second-guessing, making up
the rules as we go, changing values and relativities to meet the
circumstances. He has the equipped the church with gifts of
leadership, whose objectives are to recognise winds of false doctrine
and deceitful ploys of the enemy, teach, train, identify areas of
service, develop, release, encourage, correct and task us, while
working together to construct the Body of Christ.
teaches us in his letter to the Ephesians that Jesus gave [literally
“supplied, furnished”] some to be apostles
[“commissioned, sent out, delegated”], some to be
prophets [“those who speak out, announce, under inspiration”],
some to be evangelists [“bringers of good news”] and some
to be pastors [“shepherds, protectors, overseers] and teachers,
to prepare [completely equip] God's people for good works [business,
enterprise, undertaking] of service, so that the body of Christ may
be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the
knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole
measure of the fullness [completeness; like a ship full
of sailors, rowers and soldiers, and ready to set sail] of Christ”
this happens the results will be maturity, growth, security and unity
and we will know God better. Jesus is building one Body (Eph 4:16).
There is one head (there can only be one). Some gods in Paul’s
day had numerous heads. I recall visiting ancient underground
cisterns in Istanbul, not far from Ephesus, where large blocks of
stone hewn in the shape of Medusa lay in the water. Early pagan
worshippers would have been confused as to which head to face, which
idol to worship. In the Christian life there is only one source of
life, one way to God. The word “equip” used here is the
same as “repairing” (nets, for example in Mt 4:21).
There are other ministries mentioned in the New Testament (cf 1
Corinthians 12:28 and Rom 12), in addition to those mentioned in this
passage; the purpose of them all is to unite, to connect and build.
They have been put in place by Jesus Christ to develop the entire
church, to enable us to fulfil the works to which God has called us
(read Ephesians 2:10), works that make divine poetry out of our lives
role is to release and mentor people with abilities to minister
(“serve”) and work together under God to ensure that
every gift and calling are maximised. For this to happen, unity is
paramount. “Can two walk together unless they are agreed?”
asked the prophet Amos (Amos 3:3).
is unity anyway?
is oneness. It is as simple as that.
are many points of disunity in our society: political division,
wealth disparities, ethnic differences, different status suburbs,
varying treatment of newcomers. TIME magazine recently ran an
article about young Australians clothing themselves with the
Australian flag and attacking tourists and migrants from different
backgrounds. It was titled “Get
is a miracle. For nearly the whole of human history mankind has been
divided (cf Gen 11:7). It is not “natural” to be united,
to speak with one voice, to have one attitude. (We are called to
have the attitude of Christ - read Phil 2:5). Look at the combative
nature of our parliamentary system (and consider that many countries
do not enjoy democracy); the number of wars being fought at any one
time, the widespread breakdown in family values, the level of
self-importance and self-centredness that make even smallest baby
demand to be the centre of attention and reign in his or her home.
prayed that we would be united (Jn 17:20-23). We need to protect the
miracle of Christian unity when and where we find it. The epistle
Paul wrote to the Ephesians states that we have been made alive
together; raised up together; are sitting together in heavenly places
in Christ; are being built together; are part of one new man; one
body; by one Spirit; forming one temple; one dwelling place for God;
one household. We are no longer strangers or foreigners, divided
along ethnic or gender lines; kept apart by occupational
demarcations, masters versus slave relationships, Latin versus Greek
speakers (or whatever languages we use). We have one identity, one
common citizenship in heaven (Eph 2:19, cf Phil 3:20).
the Bible exhorts us to “keep the unity”, it means to
“keep watch over it”; guard it; expect it to be under
attack; value it as precious commodity; as God promises His blessing
as a result of such a relationship (Ps 133). Jesus stated that the
sign of our authenticity as Christians would be our unity; “they
will know you my disciples by your love for one another” (Jn
13:35). It doesn’t really matter if there are differences; no
two flowers are alike, no two snowflakes are the same, human DNA is
different for every individual. We are not the same, but we are able
to complement one another.
of Christian unity
are seven areas of unity identified in Ephesians 4:3-6.
God & Father of all –
There are three great world religions that emphasise the oneness of
God. They are Judaism, Christianity and Islam. “Hear O
Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is One” (Deut 6:4). Before
they became Christians the ancient Ephesians worshipped many gods.
The Greeks mocked and taunted their gods and made up stories
depicting the follies of the deities. If the gods came to earth,
they did silly things; they acted like people and got into trouble.
So the best thing for the gods was to stay in the mountains and not
come anywhere near human civilization. The shocking thing about the
Gospel is that God came down to us (Eph 4:8-10). That is what the
“incarnation” is all about.
my Muslim friends God coming to earth would be inconceivable. Islam
leaves God far off, unpredictable, unknowable, capricious, incapable
of being loved, or of having relationships with people. Christians
know God as “Father”. He told us that we see Him we also
see the Father. He and the Father are one. He tears down walls
between people; He pursues us with a spirit of reconciliation; He
offers hope, makes poetry of our lives, fills us with His presence.
Our unity is to be modelled on God’s unity. Just as God the
Father and the Son are One, we are called to be one.
Self-centredness, pride, ambition, negative attitudes, individualism,
sulkiness, grumpiness, poor attitudes and lack of forgiveness have no
place in this economy. God is our Father; we are His children; the
relationship between us as Christians is closer than our family ties.
So we need to put aside things that divide us but are not germane to
our faith, like wine on the dinner table at a conference I attended
in Spain, where foreign missionaries could not sit with local pastors
as a consequence of their divergent opinion about what Christians
were permitted to touch, taste and handle (Col 2:21).
is our unity achieved?
do not achieve unity as Christians just because we say it exists.
Ironically, Christians are often divided over whether or not they are
united. That does not make sense. There are some clues in Chapter
4, verses 1 and 2.
– this attitude is the opposite of self-centredness and pride.
Our natural ambition is to exalt self ahead of being submitted to
the real Head, Jesus Christ. In the Old Testament, lowliness was
seen as being slavish, which was not a virtue. Christ made a virtue
out of humility. What can be more humbling than the incarnation,
the Creator becoming like the created? He emptied Himself of all
the glory He shared with the Father from the beginning of time.
Lowliness means not thinking more highly of ourselves than we should
(Rom 12:3), letting go of pride, knowing ourselves, accepting who we
are, rather than who we are not.
- meekness is like the attitude of a strong animal that is
disciplined and controlled. By nature we are self-important.
Australians at the moment are debating whether we should have a Bill
of Rights. We present lists of demands. We proclaim that ”No
one is going to ride roughshod over me”. I have rights.
Meekness is the opposite of these attitudes. However, it is not
weakness; meekness is power and strength under control, like water
that sits quietly in a dam but can be harnessed and fed through
great turbines to produce hydroelectric power.
- this attitude is the opposite of stubbornness, and resistance; it
means being slow to return evil for evil. God is patient with us,
so we should have the same attitude towards others. It implies
giving, even if we are not hopeful of receiving anything in return.
– agape, the love of God motivates and directs us (see
Ephesians 3:17). It is not soppy or sentimental, running hot and
cold depending on our feelings or circumstances, but strong,
determined, capable, rugged and unshakable (Col 3:14). Without the
Holy Spirit we find it impossible to love this way. If we have
experienced the love of God (Jn 3:16), we need to be able to put
that love into action; the Bible says we should be prepared to lay
down our lives for one another, in the same way Jesus did for us (1
Jn 3:16) God’s love demands a response.
this word means “remaining on guard, protecting, being
diligent”. Loving and relating to the church and the world in
God’s way is not an accident of providence, but is very much
in our control. We choose to make choices God’s way.
the right choices
we will engage with the challenges inherent in these verses, we will
be able to break down walls and relate to the world in the way Jesus
did. The choice is ours. One group engenders division, separates
people by attitudes, actions and words, and promotes disunity and
churn. The other promotes unity, Christ-likeness and hope. I am
optimistic that it is possible to experience the unity that Christ
I have travelled over the years, I have often marvelled at the
miraculous, supernatural way in which Christians from all cultures
can come together as one body because of their common relationship
with Jesus Christ. I have met men and women for the first time and
bonded instantly because of Him.
construct walls. I have in my possession a piece of the famous
Berlin Wall, constructed in 1961 as a barrier between East and West
Berlin. It was finally pulled down in 1989 during the spectacular
collapse of communism that led to the reunification of Germany. The
thing that strikes me about the Berlin Wall is that it is only
concrete, poor quality concrete at that. The things that separate
Christians are poor quality conglomerates of attitudes, experiences,
memories, traditions, opinions and allegiances that should not be
enough to separate members of God’s family. It is time to tear
down the walls. Jesus has “broken the middle wall of partition
between us” (Eph 2:14). He has broken down the barriers of
challenge for each and every one of us is to grasp the opportunity
and the promise that the Holy Spirit will give us power to turn
Jesus’ prayer for unity among His followers into our daily
said, ‘A tree is recognised by its fruit’ “
Paradigms – Two Types of Fruit
The Fruit of the Sinful Nature
Fits of rage
Other activities like these
The Fruit of the Spirit
"...live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature .... If we live by the
Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit." (Galatians 5:16, 17, 25)