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DAY 1 – What the Job Requires
When you apply for a job, what is the first thing you look at before you apply? For most of us, I imagine, we first check out the list of job requirements! Before you even bother filling out an application or sending in a resume, you need to know if you have the skills necessary to actually do what is being asked of you. That is sort of what Paul is doing in the fourth chapter of Ephesians. Up to this point, he has been describing the work of Jesus in bringing Gentiles and Jews together to build a new society. It’s been a lofty vision that he describes. Here, he describes what qualities are necessary to make this high vision of a new society function the way that it should.
Paul lists some requirements for the job. If we are going to live out the high calling that God asks of us we need things like patience, humbleness, and gentleness. (In Paul’s time, humility was considered to be a negative quality. It wasn’t a good thing in the Greco-Roman world to be humble, because if you were humble, you were thought to be weak. Nobody would choose to be humble.)
Paul also says that we should bear with one another in love. Bearing with one another can also be described as “putting up with one another.” It’s loving and staying in relationship with people, even when a person might not be our favorite person. Thomas Merton once wrote, “If we wait for some people to become agreeable or attractive before we begin to love them, we will never begin.”
Not only do we bear with one another, but we do it in love. Love is the foundation. Everything else is dependent upon it. If the
foundation isn’t solid, everything else will fall.
In his letter to the Colossians, Paul writes, “So, chosen by God for this new life of love, dress in the wardrobe God picked out for you: compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength, discipline. Be even-tempered, content with second place, quick to forgive an offense. Forgive as quickly and completely as the Master forgave you. And regardless of what else you put on, wear love. It’s your basic, all-purpose garment. Never be without it” (Colossians 3:12-14 [MSG]).
How are you doing with the “requirements for the job”? In this passage, which of the qualities of a unified church do you demonstrate? Which do you struggle with? Ask the Holy Spirit to help you. How can you “put on love” this week?
DAY 2 – One
The basis of unity is the oneness of God. Paul is making a statement of belief, almost like a creed that lays out belief systems. Perhaps you have attended a church where you spoke a stated creed, like the Apostle’s Creed. Here at Living Word, we often sing a song called “The Creed” that clearly states our beliefs. (“I believe in God our Father/ I believe in Christ the son/ I believe in the Holy Spirit/ Our God is three in one.”)
Paul wrote this letter in a culture where there were many different “gods.” In 1 Corinthians 1:5 he says, “For even if there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on earth (as indeed there are many ‘gods’ and many ‘lords’).” It was a culture, perhaps, not too far off from the one we live in today, where any and all paths to God are considered to be equally right and valid.
When Paul writes that there is “one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all” he is making a claim of exclusivity. We Christians claim the truth that God is one and he is the only one. Of course we should get along with and love our neighbors who believe differently than we do, but our Christianity does claim exclusivity. There is one God. There is one path to God.
God himself is a God of unity and oneness. God is three persons in one. The trinity is core to what we believe about oneness.
And not only is God one, but God’s heart is that we will be one as well. That is what Paul emphasizes over and over in this chapter. God’s people are one. We have the same body, Spirit, hope, Lord, faith, baptism, God, and Father. There is so much more that unifies us than what divides us.
How do you feel about the Christian claim of exclusivity? Do you think our culture is like the culture in Paul’s time? How do you feel about unity and oneness? Do you think the Church is doing well in this area? Pray for God to bring a special spirit of unity and oneness to his Church.
DAY 3 – Diversity of Gifts
In today’s passage, Paul talks about the diversity of gifts found in the church. Everyone is given a job to do, and not everyone
has the same job. Could you imagine a baseball team made up of only pitchers? Or a soccer team made up of only goalies?
Yesterday, Paul spoke about unity and oneness. Today, he is talking about diversity. Not everyone is the church is the same, and they don’t have the same job to do. Christ himself appoints different roles in the church, such as apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers. The entire book of Ephesians is full of language about God’s generosity. He gives us immeasurably more that we could ever want. He gives us grace. He gives us salvation. He lavishes his riches on us. And he gifts us—not with gifts for our own individual pride or gifts to puff ourselves up—but gifts to be used to build up the body of Christ, the Church.
Have you ever watched a room of children open gifts? Usually, a child is filled with joy and excitement when they tear off the
wrapping paper and see something they really wanted or really love. They want to take it out of the package and check it out, see how it works. They’re just so happy to have that gift. But sometimes, they might glance around the room. They might check out what other people are opening. They start comparing their gift to the gifts that others are receiving. They start to play a game of comparison, seeing how their gift measures up compared to what others have received.
We can often be guilty of this in the Church. We elevate some gifts above others. We glance around the room, checking out
what others have received. But our gifts have a use, and they need to be used in conjunction with one another. Our gifts are parts meant to make a whole. Someone gets the wheels, someone else gets the steering wheel, somebody else gets the chassis. Together, they make a functional whole.
This changes how we view our gifting. It’s not an individual gift for an individual person. It is Christ’s lavish grace that equips
us to serve our role in the body.
What is your gifting? Where do you fit into the church? Do you wish that you were gifted differently? Pray a prayer thanking God for your unique gifting and how he has made and equipped you.
DAY 4 – Gifted for a Purpose
How does a church grow strong and deep? What does it take? Is it something that just magically happens? Paul didn’t think so. In the passage you read for today, Paul emphasizes that those various gifts (that we read about yesterday) are for a purpose. They exist so that the body of Christ may be built up and people can become mature.
In Colossians 12, Paul writes, “Each person is given something to do that shows who God is: Everyone gets in on it, everyone benefits. All kinds of things are handed out by the Spirit, and to all kinds of people! The variety is wonderful” (MSG; emphasis mine). Our gifts show who God is. They help people to know him more. The equip us to become more like Christ. They help us to demonstrate Christ to the world.
Growth doesn’t happen alone. We can all name leaders, mentors, friends, teachers, writers, and mature believers who helped us journey in our faith. As we grow more and more like Jesus, we need people to model the way, to help us figure out our path, to hold us accountable, to lead us well. Maturity happens in community.
In Colossians 12, Paul goes on to say, “The way God designed our bodies is a model for understanding our lives together as a church: every part dependent on every other part, the parts we mention and the parts we don’t, the parts we see and the parts we don’t. If one part hurts, every other part is involved in the hurt, and in the healing. If one part flourishes, every other part enters into the exuberance” (MSG). All parts are necessary for the flourishing of the body. All parts are necessary for maturity.
Do you want to see a mature church, functioning well together? Pray a prayer asking God for maturity and unity in Living Word Community Church.
DAY 5 – Maturity Together
Yesterday, we read about how Paul emphasizes that the purpose of gifting is for the maturity of the Church. Today, we read more about maturity.
What are the signs of a mature church? Paul describes a certain kind of stability in this passage. Rather than being infants, tossed back and forth with every passing storm, bending in every breeze of bad teaching, a mature church is firm and strong. If you were in the middle of the ocean, caught in a passing storm, would you rather be in a creaky little wooden boat or a giant military vessel? Which will be safer in the storm?
A key aspect of maturity that Paul describes here is “speaking the truth in love.” We don’t always get this right. Sometimes we speak a lie, thinking it is the more loving thing to do. Or, we speak the truth, but do it in a way that is anything but loving! Maturity in the body is dependent upon speaking the truth in love. Biblical counselor Susan Heck writes, “Speaking the truth in love is speaking that which is doctrinally correct and that which proceeds from a biblically committed life to a person who is in need of correction. It is done in love for the benefit of one who needs some adjustment to their attitudes or actions.”
Sometimes we have to say hard things to one another. Sometimes we need to speak out when we see a fellow Christian blown away by the winds of bad teaching or tossed about as a result of bad decisions. John 1:14 describes Jesus as being full of grace and truth. We model that in the way we speak and interact with one another. 1 Corinthians 13:6 reminds us that “Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.”
Speaking the truth in love can be difficult or uncomfortable, but Paul describes it as necessary to build a church of mature believers.
How about you? Do you speak the truth in love? Do you care about the maturity of your fellow believers? Ask God to give you a bold and loving heart to help those around you grow into Christlikeness.
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