Those who believe in Jesus Christ are members of the one body of Christ. In Christ we are unified in spirit, and God exhorts us to guard that spiritual unity in the bond of peace. In this article, we want to explore this command to learn more about it so we can be pleasing to God in our interactions with others in the body of Christ.
First, let’s look at the verses under consideration.
- Ephesians 4:1-6 – I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called,
with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love,
endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were 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.
In the first verse, we are told to “walk worthy of the calling, or vocation, to which we were called. How to walk worthy is explained next. We are to have a disposition of “lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love.” Our meekness of heart that we have toward God and God’s Word is to be reflected in how we treat others.
A person who is meek to God and God’s Word will receive much more of God’s Word than those who are not. When trying to share what he or she has learned with others, conflicts can erupt, as any of us who have attempted to lead others into a deeper understanding of God’s Word have experienced. Truth is resisted and traditional teachings are defended with utmost vigor. How do we deal with people in these types of situations?
One of the most frustrating things I experience, almost on a daily basis, an almost defiant attitude that says, “I believe this way… don’t teach me anything contrary to it because I don’t want to argue.” If they won’t even let us explain our position using Scripture, there is no way they will receive the Word we want to present, no matter how aggressive or insistent we are in being heard.
I’m sure you’ve heard the expression, “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink.” I find myself in this situation time and time again. How do I deal with it?
To be honest, I usually feel frustrated. I want to plow through and say the right words to penetrate that attitude of stubbornness. But doing so may cause more harm than good.
Ephesians is built on the foundational doctrine presented in Paul’s epistle to the Romans. Chapters 14 and the opening section in Romans 15 deal with this very thing, which we must learn and keep in mind when we get to the higher truths in Ephesians. I will leave it to you to read Romans 14 yourself to get the background of the following section in Romans 15.
- Romans 15:1-7 – We then that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves.
Let every one of us please his neighbor for his good to edification.
For even Christ pleased not himself; but, as it is written, The reproaches of them that reproached thee fell on me.
For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.
Now the God of patience and consolation grant you to be likeminded one toward another according to Christ Jesus:
That ye may with one mind and one mouth glorify God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Wherefore receive ye one another, as Christ also received us to the glory of God.
God is telling us that, spiritually speaking, not every believer is in the same place of growth. Some are more immature in their knowledge and understanding of God’s Word, and are in need of the milk of God’s Word, while others are more mature and can handle more of the meat of God’s Word. Those who have the deeper knowledge and understanding must consider where others are in their walks with the Lord, and honor that in their dealings with less mature believers.
We are to receive each other as Christ received us – and that is unconditionally. Christ received us without our having any knowledge or spiritual understanding whatsoever. We who are more mature are not to Lord it over others, but are to receive others wherever they are in their walk with the Lord. This is where patience and longsuffering comes in.
The truths revealed in Ephesians, Philippians and Colossians are the highest truth God has given to mankind. In his opening prayer in Ephesians, Paul prays for all saints that they may comprehend the great truths in the Ephesians secrets. In order to comprehend these things, Paul prays that we might receive a “spirit of wisdom and revelation” to comprehend the higher knowledge of God presented in Ephesians, Philippians and Colossians. That spirit of wisdom and revelation is needed in order for anyone to comprehend these higher truths God has revealed to us. Knowing they exist and are ours is one thing, but comprehending them in our understanding so that it flows through to our conduct is another.
I endeavor to teach other these marvelous, glorious truths, but often run into opposition. The question to always ask is, “how hard do I press before relenting?” I know that to break a traditional teaching, the truth of God’s Word has to break through and expose its error. Attitudes prevail that resist such light. We do have to press at times to get through the initial resistance to anything not conventional. But when does our pressing go “too far” to the point that it actually hurts those we are trying to help?
Most people will not say yes to an idea without saying no first. In fact, studies show that the average person says no an average of five times before saying yes. This is because the decision-making process is an emotional one, not an intellectual one. Someone who has firm convictions based on traditional error will need to be pressed further than one who does not. This is necessary, because it is that one who resists the most.
The only way to determine when to press and when not to press is by listening to God as you observe the person’s reactions and responses. If the person you are speaking to shuts the door to learning, there is no way you yourself can pry it open. God has to prepare the hearts. Pressing too hard can damage the recipient by introducing confusion; your aggressiveness will not be appreciated and can damage your relationship with such a person.
In such a case as this, be assured that your planting the seeds of higher truths is still productive. Sometimes people need to hear something quite a number of times before “it finally sinks in.” You may not be the one who delivers the final words that effect that transition in attitude and belief.
My biggest challenge is with those who preach and teach God’s Word. You would think they would be more receptive to truth than anyone else, but I have found the opposite to be true, a majority of the time. Because they have a wider knowledge of God’s Word, however accurate or inaccurate their knowledge of it is, they think they have the truth already. They are busy people and often think that even considering it is a digression and a waste of time. They don’t have time for that! Besides, “these doctrines were agreed upon and decided in harmonious agreement thousands of years ago – why reinvent the wheel.” I have actually been told that, and similar things, many times over the years.
The truth is, these traditional, errant “doctrines” were not decided upon by agreement, but were instituted as a result of bloodshed and political faction in most cases. The truth the apostle Paul presents in his epistles to the church, especially the transcendent truths in Ephesians, Philippians and Colossians, was lost as early as 100 AD and has never fully been recovered until lately, and presently only by a relatively few.
When to press, and when not to press?
I press the “leaders” of the church much harder than with those who do not lead. They are accountable for their teachings and practices as they actively influence others. My concern is not only for them, but equally for those they teach. How can those they lead learn the transcendent truths revealed in Ephesians if they themselves won’t hear it?
My advice is to never “burn bridges.” Always leave the door open for further discussion. This is not a race, but a walk with the Lord. Do not insist upon agreement to maintain fellowship with the person. Recognize where they are in their walk with the Lord, and serve them there. Don’t serve meat to those who are still in need of milk. The milk will strengthen them so that they will, eventually, handle the meat of God’s wonderful Word.
We guard our spiritual unity by believing and walking in the truth of God’s Word as revealed in the Pauline epistles, with emphasis on Ephesians, Philippians and Colossians. The following seven points are that upon which our unity rests:
A. There is one body
B. and one Spirit,
C. just as you were called in one hope of your calling
D. one Lord,
C. one faith,
B. one baptism;
A. one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.
In members “A” and “A” we have God, the one Spirit who is the God and Fother of his family, the one body of Christ.
In members “C” and “C” we have the one hope of our one faith — the return of our Lord Jesus Christ to meet him in the air, and our subsequent celestial (heavenly) allotment.
In members “B” and “B” we have the one baptism of Holy Spirit by which we are sealed unto the day of redemption.
In members “C” and “C” we have the one hope of our one faith – the return of our Lord Jesus Christ to meet him in the air, and our subsequent celestial (heavenly) allotment.
In member “D” we have the central part of this literary structure: one Lord, Jesus Christ, who makes this spiritual unity possible. Not that the title “Lord” is used, not “Christ.” When “Lord” is used, our service to others is emphasized. When “Christ” is used, what Christ’s service (what he accomplished for us) is emphasized. We see we have to “do” something here to maintain our spiritual unity, and that was already explained in the opening verses: maintain a disposition of “lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love.” This is how we walk “worthy” of the Lord (again, service is emphasized).
Those who do not believe and comprehend the 7 points our spiritual unity is based upon are still in immaturity. They still need the milk of God’s Word. We don’t stomp our feet and insist on “the truth” with them because they are not ready to receive it – they need a spirit of revelation and knowledge into the deeper things of God. Pray for them using the prayer guidelines Paul presents in the first chapter of Ephesians.
It would be very rewarding and uplifting if those we spoke to about these transcendent truths would be open to receiving them, but that is not often the case. Be assured that every Word of God you speak is a seed, planted in the ears of those who hear you, which carries “faith” with it. Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God (Romans 10:17). We plant and water, God gives the increase. Your work is never in vain in the Lord.