2017-12-27 / Religion

Unite in faith and spread the gospel

Sunday School Lesson
Rev. James Temples

Ephesians 4

It is interesting to listen to leaders — in a self-centered world — as they put forth a call for “unity.” The word “unite” means (1) “to put or bring together so as to make one; combine or join into a whole. (2) to bring together for a common cause…” (Webster). This use of the term brings one to the question regarding which of the individual thoughts becomes the “center” around which the “cause” will be the “unifying force.”

Before our Lord Jesus Christ ascended into heaven, he gave a directive — commission — to all believers. “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.” Mark 16:15. He assured them that they would not be totally dependent upon human effort nor human ability. “But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.” Acts 1:8.

This message of personal salvation began to spread, as our Master had declared. The Jewish believers had difficulty in grasping the thought that the gentiles — non-Jews — could actually know and worship God — Jehovah.

The man, Saul of Tarsus, became the individual that God would use as the “Apostle to the Gentiles.” This man was not given an easy task. False accusations, along with no evidence of wrong-doing, resulted in his appeal to Caesar. Upon his arrival in Rome, he was under house-arrest until the time of his court appearance. With no criminal charges, he “received all that came unto him, preaching the kingdom of God, and teaching those things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ, with all confidence, no man forbidding him.” Acts 28:30c, 31.

Obviously, this man could not visit the churches that he had established while under house-arrest. However, he was able to write letters to the groups. These letters were circulated among the congregations. One of these letters was written to the church at Ephesus. Ephesians 1:1.

The church at Ephesus was, mainly, gentile in make-up. False teachers had entered in among the churches, attempting to draw the people away from the “simplicity of the Gospel.” The focus of the preaching of Paul was his “five words” — “Christ died for our sins.” 1 Corinthians 14:19; 15:3c.

The call to the believers focused on their relationship with God — not on circumstances of the apostle. “I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk (the whole round of activities of life) worthy of the vocation (calling) wherewith ye are called.” Ephesians 4:1. The attitude of these believers needed to have a singular focus — “With all lowliness and meekness (controlled strength), with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love…” Ephesians 4:2. There is a purpose for this call that was made — “Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” Ephesians 4:3.

Unity focuses on the singleness of thought and action of all individuals in the group. Paul declared that “There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.” Ephesians 4:4-6.

False teachers had come among the churches with all kinds of “grace-plus” teachings. Sad to say, this same thing continues in churches of our day. This attitude — and fact — corrupts today, as it did in the churches of the past. The apostle reminded these readers, “But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ.” Ephesians 4:7.

When our Lord died on the cross, he declared, “It is finished.” John 19:30. His body was placed in the tomb. John 19:38-42. This fact did not mean that there was no activity in the spirit-world. During this time, our Lord emptied the place known as Paradise. He transferred the souls of all believing dead from there to heaven. Ephesians 4:8a, b.

Upon his resurrection, short further ministry, ascension, and taking his place in heaven, he “gave gifts unto men.” Ephesians 4:8c. These “gifts” are listed — “he gave (1) some, apostles; (2) and some, prophets; and (3) some, evangelists; and some, (4) pastors and (5) teachers.” Ephesians 4:11. The apostle explained the purpose of these divine gifts — “For (1) the perfecting (maturing) of the saints (holy ones), for (2) the work of the ministry, (3) for the edifying (building up) of the body of Christ.” Ephesians 4:12.

The apostle described the duration of the operation of these gifts — “Til we all come in unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect (mature) man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ…” Ephesians 4:13. This divine design has a purpose. These false teachers “peddle their goods” in such a manner that even their followers remained confused. For those who are focused on the teachings of our Lord, this description need not be accurate. “That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive…” Ephesians 4:14.

The expectation for believers is singular — “But speaking the truth in love…” Ephesians 4:15a. The expected result is a spiritual unity that is so often pictured — that each “may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: From whom the whole body fitly joined together, and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.” Ephesians 4:15, 16.

With this single focus of the group — to serve Christ with a whole heart and life — the desired unity will become a natural result. May we focus all of energies and abilities on serving our Lord.

Rev. James C. Temples’ Sunday School Lesson has appeared in the Early County News each week since 1967. He can be contacted at P. O. Box 1484, Swainsboro, GA 30401; 478- 299- 2068. Email: temples_ james@ yahoo. c om

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