By Luke Johnson | June 18, 2015
What kinds of groups do you belong to? (Now or in the past.)
(family, sports, school, church, nationality, disability, etc.)
What does it take to become a part of these groups? (What do you have to do to “get in”?)
Think about how these groups influence what you do, and shape who you are.
What would your everyday life be like if you weren’t part of these groups?
We’re going to hear from the apostle Paul on being part of a ‘group’ -- a big group -- being part of Jesus’ own body. As you read, think about the groups you’re in.
What is similar/different about the ‘group’ Paul is talking about?
Read Ephesians 4:1-6
Right away Paul mentions “the calling you have received”. What is a “calling”?
What “calling” do you think Paul is pointing to?
Think back to how Jesus chose his disciples is the gospels. How did a regular guy become one of Jesus’ disciples? (Jesus asks, “Come, follow me.” Cf. Mark 1:17; Luke 18:22)
Paul is talking about the call Jesus makes to us to come follow him. Everything Paul says next is all about what it looks like to follow Jesus.
Look at verse 2: What does Paul tell us to “be”? (What character qualities?)
How do you think these qualities can help us fulfill the command Paul gives in verse 3?
In verse 3 Paul says to “make every effort” to keep unity -- that’s commitment! Why do you think Paul puts so much importance on unity?
In verses 4-6 Paul lists a bunch of “ones”. Can you find all 7?
What do all these “ones” tell you about the way things work in Jesus’ kingdom?
Paul is saying that the people who belong to Jesus need to exist like Jesus does -- in unity and in love. God is the perfect example of unity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit -- 3 ‘persons’ who are one. When Jesus makes his call to us, “Come follow me,” he’s not just saying, “Act like me,” but, “Come join the union I have with the Father.” It’s about much more than just ‘doing the right thing’ -- it’s about living on earth as a picture of the way that God himself lives. That’s why Paul says, “Make every effort to keep your unity strong!” It’s not just a ‘nice’ thing to do; by striving together, we put our feet in Jesus’ shoes.
Read Ephesians 4:7-16
What’s going on in verses 7-10? What is Paul saying about Jesus here?
In verse 8, Paul is quoting Psalm 68:18 from the Greek Old Testament (LXX). Psalm 68 is a song about the mightiness of one who “rides on the clouds” -- God himself is becoming King. He shatters his enemies and protects the fatherless and the poor. He renews the land and makes everything right. Despite his enemies’ attempt to defeat him, he “ascends” to the throne and reigns as King. Our Bibles (using the Hebrew Old Testament) say that “he received gifts from the people” (Ps 68:18), but Paul is quoting from the LXX, which says, “he gave gifts to his people”. Paul understands this psalm to be about Jesus, and so it is Jesus who is the victorious King who ‘ascended’ and who now gives gifts to his people.
Look at verse 11: What kinds of gifts does the King (Jesus) give to his people?
Look at verses 12-13: What are these gifts for? Why does he give them?
Where do you see “unity” in Paul’s explanation in verses 12-13?
Did you notice that “unity” comes before everything else in verse 13? “Maturity” and “attaining the full measure of the fullness of Christ” come after unity. Unity is where ‘maturity’ and ‘fullness’ grow.
Look at verses 14-16: Think about Paul’s commands at the beginning: be humble, gentle, and patient; make every effort to keep your unity strong. It’s a cipher for “love each other at all costs!”
How do you think devoting ourselves to these things might pave the way for the kind of maturity Paul describes in vv. 14-16?
Unity is all about love. It’s difficult to get trapped by lies or to get tossed around by crafty people if we’re always watching out for each other. By reminding each other of who we are as followers of Jesus, we’ll remember that we have important work to do as part of Jesus’ body -- important work to do among ourselves as we become better followers of Jesus, and important work to do out in ‘the world’ as Jesus is at work, undoing the power of death everywhere and bringing people into his life and love.