I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that you walk worthy of the vocation with which you are called,
The doxology has just died away with its ascription of glory to God in the Church throughout all ages, and now the apostle turns from his intercession to admonish the Ephesian Christians about the necessity of cultivating lowliness of mind and mutual consideration, that in the Church there may be preserved "the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace." It is plain from the verses that follow that Paul's conviction was that the Divine glory could only be manifested in a Church thoroughly united. To the all-important subject of the unity of the Church we are consequently led.
I. CONSIDER THE UNIFYING FACTS, (Vers. 4-6.) Paul here lays before the Ephesians certain great facts which are meant to contribute to this unity of the Church. These facts we had better enumerate in barest outline.
1. There is one body. This refers to the solidarity of believers, who, so far from being independent units, are dependent parts of one great organism of which Christ is the Head. The unity of the Church is thus shown to be organic, and lying deep down in the nature of things.
2. There is one Spirit. For to the existence of a body there must be a spirit. The body, the Church, is pervaded by the Spirit, the Holy Ghost. It would be a corpse but for this indwelling.
3. There is one hope in all the called ones. The unity of hope is surely a remarkable fact. All the called ones have their faces set towards the future as the golden age, when their ideals shall be realized. Christianity is the religion of hope, the one religion which denies that the former times were better than these, or that the golden age is behind us.
4. One Lord. Jesus reigns as the Church's living Head. He as Mediator is the Source of all authority in the Church. His lordship or headship is a fact which calls for unity.
5. One faith. This asserts that the truth is one. Error is manifold, but the truth as it is in Jesus is one. It seems to our latitudinarian age almost heresy to affirm the unity of the Christian faith. But seeing that its substance consists in facts, it would be madness to relegate these to the region of uncertainty.
6. One baptism. This is baptism into the one Name of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost (Matthew 28:19), so that the Divine Name unifies the baptized believers. "The doctrine of baptism" is reduced to a significant unity thereby.
7. "One God and lather of all, who is over all, and through all, and in all (Revised Version). This is the seventh and last of the unifying facts. The fatherhood of God, all-embracing, all-pervading, speaks of family unity and rebukes all discord. In presence of such facts the wonder is that division could be entertained.
II. CONSIDER THE UNIFYING GIFTS. (Vers. 7-12.) More has been done towards the unity of the Church than confront believers with unifying facts, even in their sevenfold perfection. The ascended Savior has bestowed unifying gifts upon his believing people. We need not tarry over the humiliation by which Christ secured them - a humiliation down to the lower parts of the earth, and involving the tenanting of the tomb and the region of the dead. We hasten to the glorious gifts themselves, which come out of the hands of the ascended and glorified Christ. And here we have:
1. Apostles. We may well restrict the term to the selected witnesses of our Lord's resurrection, the noble band who wrought most earnestly for the unity of the Church.
2. Prophets. The inspired ones, whose inspiration was always on the lines of Christian unity; for the will of God which they conveyed to men is that believers should be one.
3. Evangelists. Men like Timothy or Apollos, who go forth with the one message, thereby promoting unity in the Church of God. The gospel is not a manifold, as we have seen, but a unity, and he who proclaims it with simplicity and earnestness contributes thereby to the unity of the Church.
4. Pastors and teachers. These gifts are less special, and consequently more important. True pastors, true teachers for God, will aim at the perfecting of the saints, unto the work of ministering, unto the building up of the body of Christ." The note of a Divine gift is the desire to promote the all-important unity. Is it not a glorious thought that orders of men have been established by Christ for this special purpose of promoting the unity of the Church?
III. CONSIDER THE UNIFYING DEVELOPMENT. (Vers. 13-16.) The unifying process is to be educational and so progressive The unity will not spring full-grown and panoplied like Minerva from the head of Jove, but it will grow, as knowledge grows and kindly feeling, "from more to more." And in this patient development Jesus is to be our Ideal, and his fullness and perfection the goal for which we strive. Taking him as our Standard of excellence, we are to grow up into him in all things; and if we do, unity must result. And here we should observe:
1. Our development will carry us beyond childish vacillation. (Ver. 14.) For there is nothing so detrimental to unity as inability to make up our minds about the essential doctrines of the faith. If we are tossed about like vessels unmoored, if we are a prey to designing and cunning men, we cannot contribute anything to the unity of the Church.
2. Our development will enable us to be communicative and so far edifying. (Vers. 15, 16.) For as we grow in knowledge of Christ we learn to speak the truth in love. A speechless member of the community cannot contribute much to unity and edification. We are bound to be witnesses. And loving language about the Lord promotes the glorious unity. It grows as the organism grows in mutual adaptation, strength, and power. The Church, thus growing in the knowledge of the living Head and pervaded by the one Spirit of life and of love, advances towards the perfection which Christ has shown us. Hatless and Monod, in writing on these verses, refer to the indeterminate character of the passage as to the realization of the perfect state being in this world or beyond it. But the emphasis is laid by Paul upon the fact of development, and how each individual may contribute to the consummation in the unity of the Church. If each of us considers his duty in the matter of edifying that body of which, as a believer, he forms a part, the glorious development will make its steady progress towards the perfection to be realized at last. It is surely worth an effort to contribute something to such a purpose. - R.M.E.
Parallel VersesKJV: I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called,