Message Tab

A Lifestyle of Community

 

Ephesians 4:4-7, 
14-16, 25-32
Bible Studies for Life, Jan 2

 

Along the banks of Sweetwater Creek in Douglas County lie the ruins of a mill and a handful of houses. The remains are mostly overgrown with trees and bushes, but they mark the location of a once thriving town called New Manchester.

New Manchester was a flourishing community prior to the Civil War, but the mill that created the town would also cause its destruction. During the Civil War the New Manchester Mill was a major producer of uniforms and a target of Shermanís army. In July of 1864, Sherman ordered the destruction of the New Manchester Mill along with the mills in Roswell.

The inhabitants of New Manchester, mostly women and a few men unfit for the army, were loaded into boxcars and transported to the North. The women were dispersed north of the Ohio River to work in Northern mills and most never returned to Georgia. With the mill destroyed and its inhabitants removed, New Manchester ceased to exist.

Communities are usually defined by a location or by a shared experience or heritage. 
In the New Testament era, though dispersed across the world, the Jews maintained their identity through their communities. Though surrounded by pagans and idols, the Jews preserved their faith and followed the Law of Moses. Christianity transformed these communities as Jewish Christians blended with Gentile Christians. They formed a community transcending heritage and location.

 

Ephesians 4:4-6

Paul wants the Ephesians to live in a manner worthy of a Christian and wants peace and unity to pervade the church. Verses 4-6 may have been an early Christian hymn either written or used by Paul. In these verses Paul emphasizes the core doctrines that unite the church as a community of believers.

There is only one body of Christ and it is united by the Holy Spirit. The Ephesian Christians were composed of multiple congregations meeting in homes throughout the city, but Paul reminds them they are one church in Christ. More importantly, there are not separate churches for Jews and Gentiles; they are united in Christ.

They have placed their faith in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the head of the body. They had experienced one baptism, which was a public confession of their faith in Christ and their union with Christís death and resurrection.

Ultimately, we are united because our salvation comes from one God, Who is both our God and our Father. Christians must recognize that no matter how different we are God unites us by the Holy Spirit through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

 

Ephesians 4:7, 14-16

After establishing how the Church is united, Paul discusses the diversity with which God has blessed the Church. Everyone within the Church has been given a gift to use within the body of Christ.

Grace is the unmerited or undeserved favor from God that saves us. It is also the power by which He enables individuals to serve His kingdom. Jesus gives a unique personal gift to believers to enable them to fulfill their function within the church. Paul lists some of these functions in verse 11 (similar lists are found in Romans 12:6-8 and 1 Corinthians 12:8-10). These gifts are intended for service and will help guide believers toward spiritual maturity.

Mature believers are grounded in the correct doctrine and guard against false teachings. They also help younger believers to grow in their own faith and find their role within the ministry of the church. Christians maintain truth, but do so in a spirit of love that encourages those in the church.

Just as there are no non-essential body parts, there are no non-essential Christians in the church. We all have a responsibility to use the gifts that we have been given.

 

Ephesians 4:25-32

While we are united in our salvation, unity within a community is difficult to maintain and requires diligence. Paul gave specific commands for Christians living that would strengthen the bonds within the community.

Christians must be truthful, fulfilling both the Ten Commandments and the Sermon on the Mount. Lies and half-truths can easily destroy any community and should be avoided.

Anger should be quickly resolved or it can fester, providing the devil with a foothold. As emotional beings we are going to get angry and sometimes anger is the proper response to an event. However, we are to be guided by Godís righteousness and not respond with a sinful action that the devil can use against us.

Honesty, integrity and generosity are characteristics that will encourage the Christian community. Christians should take care that our actions and words will not harm our neighbor, but will strengthen our fellow believers. When Christians act dishonestly or use hurtful language they injure other believers, but ultimately they are rebelling against the Holy Spiritís leadership.

In order to avoid harmful actions and words, Christians must rid themselves of negative emotions such as bitterness and malice. Christ has forgiven us of our sins and we should embrace an attitude of forgiveness and love toward one another. The normal human response is to lash out in anger at an attack, but the Christian response should always be one of forgiveness.

Words can be far more devastating than actions. Though modern technology has blessed us in many ways, it has also opened a door to spread slander and malice on a global scale. As Christians embracing the truth we must take care not to believe every text or blog that we see. We should weigh every action and every word we spread by 
the standard of whether it will help or hurt our community 
in Christ.