Grace in Action

Grace in Action

Home Church Service 10/30/2021

These sermons began as devotionals for my family as we met during the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic. We have now begun to include our friends and the devotional has now become a full sermon. We are also recording our service and will begin posting those videos in the near future.

When my family and I meet for worship, we like to discuss what we are learning, in the moment. Sometimes that happens right after the message and at other times we will address something during the message. This message was designed to be interactive, discussing what we are learning right after I have addressed each point of the message. You will find the questions at the end of each section. In most formats they will appear in bold. Use these questions as a guide to meditate on the points Paul is making. Allow the Holy Spirit to search your heart and above all, be honest with yourself and the Holy Spirit. After all, He knows any way!

Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all.

But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift. Therefore it says, “When He ascended on high, He led captive a host of captives, And He gave gifts to men.” (Now this expression, “He ascended,” what does it mean except that He also had descended into the lower parts of the earth? He who descended is Himself also He who ascended far above all the heavens, so that He might fill all things.) And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ. As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love. 

                                                                          Ephesians 4:1–16 (NASB95)

Paul has spent three chapters addressing the position of the Christ follower. Why did Paul find it necessary to spend so much time on our position in Christ? The short answer is for what lies just ahead! Paul wanted his readers, then and now, to fully understand the importance of “being in Christ.” Thus, Paul spends time to show how we have been called, sealed and filled IN Christ, then he shows how we have been made alive WITH Christ, given boldness in Christ and finishes with how we are strengthened BY Christ. The Christ follower is to be IN, WITH, and BY Christ.

Things begin to take a sharper focus as we begin chapter four. Here Paul begins to explain The Practice of the Christ Follower. The next three message deal with our visible actions as Christ followers. This first message covers how we relate to others, the use of our spiritual gifts and our former life. For the Christ follower to be IN, WITH and BY Christ, to live a life that glorifies the Lord, it will take Grace in Action and that can only happen when the Christ follower fully understands their position in Christ.

As a prisoner of the Lord, Paul urges the Ephesians to walk in a manner worthy of their calling. They are to preserve unity through a bond of peace, as one body, in one faith, with one God and Father over all. Through Grace in Action, they equip the saints for the work of service, building up the body to unity of the faith and knowledge of the Son of God.

As Christ followers we are to live a life that glorifies the Lord. We are to seek unity and peace within the body of Christ, having one calling, faith, baptism and Father over us all. It takes Grace in Action to prepare the body to be the hands and feet of Jesus and for all Christ followers to achieve maturity in Christ.

In this message we seek to answer the question, “What is the purpose of Grace in Action?”

Grace in Action allows the Christ follower to live a life that glorifies Christ and shows genuine love for others.

1). Grace in Action allows the body of Christ to live and function in peace.

We are called to one body that shares one Lord, faith, baptism, and one Father.

Though I have only read the first sixteen verses this message will cover all of chapter four. It is a big chunk to bite off, but they truly do flow together. Chapter four begins with how we deal with other Christ followers, followed by how we use our spiritual gifts to benefit others in the body of Christ, and concludes with how we deal with our former life. Paul opens with an exhortation to “walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called.” This is why it is important to fully understand Paul’s teachings in the first three chapters – the Christ follower’s position in Christ.

In chapter two, verse one and two, Paul used the language of our walk in describing our former lifestyle – “you were dead in your trespasses and sin…you were disobedient children…walking according to the ways of this world.” Now Paul calls us to contrast our former “walk” by “walking” in the good works that God has prepared for us, again seen in chapter two, verse ten. Paul is calling us to remember the prior actions of God in our lives, that of being called, sealed and filled in Christ; made alive with Christ and then strengthened by Christ.

Paul now calls for our actions to conform to the divine actions of God, carried out IN, WITH, and BY Christ. Paul clarifies these actions by listing three graces that are to characterize our walk – humility, gentleness with patience and tolerance in love. These three graces are to help us “preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” We are being urged to grow these three graces, graces that we have seen perfected in Christ, and will allow the body of Christ to live and function in peace. Paul emphasizes how important these ethical qualities are in the life of the Christ follower by using the words “with” and “all.”

 Humility and gentleness are closely related. Humility or lowliness occurred in Greek literature only rarely and then it was generally used in the negative to show weakness or a shameful lowliness. In the Old Testament, humility or lowliness, occurs more than 250 times and is often used in the context of how the Lord brings down the proud and the arrogant or how He exalts the humble and lowly who have placed their trust in Him. In the New Testament the humble or lowly signifies those who serve the Lord with great humility or is submissive to other Christ followers. Thus, the action of Christ humbling Himself is the pattern for all Christ followers.

Gentleness or meekness designates the poor or oppressed in the Old Testament, that is, those who in their deep hunger sought the Lord. Gentleness or meekness was one of the marks of the rule of Jesus. Jesus fulfilled the role of the Messiah, the messianic king, by bringing salvation without force. In fact, Jesus is described as gentle and lowly of heart. Thus, gentleness or meekness is to characterize the life of a Christ follower, especially with other Christ followers who have sinned. To avoid confusion, this gentleness is not a weakness, it is a genuine concern and consideration for others and a willingness to waive your own rights.

Finally, there is tolerance or long-suffering. This term appears in both the Old and New Testaments and is used to describe the patience of God with His people. Because God has been tolerant or patient with us, we too must be tolerant or patient with others. This tolerance, however, is not the tolerance of today. Tolerance today boils down to accepting whatever others may think, feel or believe is right or true, even if it is clearly wrong or false. If you do not agree with what someone says or believes you are considered intolerant or close-minded. The tolerance the Christ follower is called to makes allowances for the shortcomings of others. We endure the wrongs of others without flying into a rage and seeking revenge.

None of this is possible unless they are all done in love. We cannot humble ourselves and be gentle without truly loving others, especially within the body of Christ. We cannot be tolerant or patient with others unless we are able to put aside our rights in love for and consideration of others. This doesn’t mean we roll over and simply accept whatever someone says or believes. We can disagree but we must disagree in humility, gentleness and patience, all covered in love.

Questions for discussion/reflection:

Are your actions conforming to the divine actions God has carried out in your life? How?

How are you showing humility, gentleness and patience for others?

As a Christ follower, is your life marked by a genuine love for others? How?

Grace in Action allows the Christ follower to live a life that glorifies Christ and shows genuine love for others.

2). Grace in Action allows the body of Christ to attain unity of the faith.

We are called to the knowledge of the Son of God and a maturity measured by the fullness of Christ.

The second exhortation Paul gives is that all would attain unity of the faith. First, we need to ask and answer the question “who is all?” Obviously, Paul is talking about the body of Christ, both individually and corporately. All must grow to the unity of the faith. This unity is begun by the Spirit. So, this unity is to be seen in and through the church. Remember, we are called to a new creation in Christ – the church, or the body of Christ. The unity is kept in the bond of peace through the Spirit of God.

So, this is a visible unity. How is this unity visible to the outside world? Paul lists seven ways the unity is to be seen. Those who are part of the new creation – the body of Christ – share in one body, one Spirit, one calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism and one God and Father. Because there is one Spirit, we are called to one body that shares one hope. Because there is one Lord, there is one faith and one baptism. Over all of this there is one God and Father. Each Christ follower, has in turn, been given grace from Christ to help maintain this visible unity. From this unity the body then works to the unity of the faith.

What is in view here, at the giving of grace to each member, is the maturity of the body. No one person, save Christ Jesus, can be all things to all people. There is a reason the new creation God began is a diverse group. Each individual Christ follower is to use his or her gifts to perform their distinctive service that the entire body might function as a whole. The grace given by Christ makes this possible, for no one is to keep the gifts they possess for themselves. Working together the body enables all Christ followers to grow to maturity in Christ.

Earlier we learned that Christ fills all things, and it is Christ Himself that sets out to accomplish this goal in the church by supplying His people with all that is necessary for growth. Remember, the church is to reveal the manifold wisdom of God to the universe, this wisdom is the filling of the universe with the rule of Christ, so the church must be properly equipped. Jesus provides gifted people who share their gifts with the entire body that all would come to maturity. Paul lists five categories linked to the ministry of the word, that is the preaching and teaching of the word and care of the body. Those listed by Paul are apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers.

These five categories are listed because they exemplify the gifts of Christ’s victory by which He empowers His church. They are also emphasized because they provide the church with the teaching of Christ, so the entire body is fed, strengthened, and grows to maturity. Each of these categories are engaged in revealing the mystery of Christ. Through the preaching of the gospel, to exercising leadership through nurture and care of the body, to the feeding of the body through Bible study and application of the Scriptures, all worked with a common goal in mind – maturity that leads to the unity of the faith.

The final goal, the unity of the faith, also includes the knowledge of the Son of God. The Greek word that Paul uses means to attain or arrive at a particular state. The growth of the Christ follower does not happen when you isolate yourself from other Christ followers. The vision that Paul has here is a body collectively working towards the destination of maturity. It is important to understand that we have all been given faith but our oneness of faith, our unity of the faith, is still yet to be realized. Here is the point, God’s people are moving towards the goal of reaching and achieving all that is included in the one faith. Simply put, Christ is the standard we seek to achieve.

Questions for discussion/reflection:

In your opinion, does the body of Christ have a visible unity today? Why or why not?

What gift has Christ given you to help the body achieve maturity?

Where are you in your journey to the unity of faith?

Paul spent three chapters exploring and explaining The Position of the Christ Follower. We want to ask the question why he spent so much time on this one subject, and the short answer is to prepare us for lies ahead. We need to fully understand our position in Christ.

Paul begins chapter four, a chapter that begins the look at The Behavior of the Christ Follower, by urging us to remember where we came from and to now walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which we have been called. This will take Grace in Action and happens as we fully understand our position in Christ.

So, how does this tie into our former life and how are we to move forward as Christ followers? First, Paul urges his readers, then and now, not to fall back into the patterns of thinking and behaving of the old self, a pattern that Paul describes as “dead in trespasses and sin.” We are to remember that, even though we once lived out these patterns, we are now to abandon that environment, for we have been raised and seated with Christ, members of the new creation in Christ – His body.

Secondly, we are to remember what we have been taught concerning Christ Jesus, through both the preaching of the gospel and in your own personal study. In learning about Christ, we have been taught the truth that is in Jesus. Not only is Jesus THE truth, He encompasses ALL truth. This truth, found only in Christ, is the reason we have put off, or laid aside the old self. Which brings us to the third point to remember – you are being renewed in mind as you put on the new self. We are to yield ourselves to God and allow ourselves to be renewed into the new self which is made in the likeness of God. In Genesis 1:26 we learn that God made man, human beings, in His image. This is the renewal Paul describes as the new self. Right now, we continue to carry the image of God within us, but that image has been damaged by sin and the consequences of sin. In our renewal God removes the effects of sin so His image once again can be seen in us.

Finally, the new self is created to display new ethical qualities that belong to God, such as righteousness and holiness. This is part of what we put on as the new self and are directly related to what God has already done for us – called, sealed, filled, made alive, given boldness and strengthened. Because we have put off the old self, we have also put off the old ways of our former life – anger, stealing, lying, coarse language, bitterness, wrath, slander and malice have all been put aside. They are replaced by the ethical qualities that belong to God – peace, joy, happiness, kindness, gentleness, righteousness, holiness, truth – all things that come from the unity of the Spirit as He works to complete our renewal in the new self.

We do all things for the glory of God through Christ our Lord.

Amen and amen.

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