Ephesians 4:1 – 12
Unity in the Body of Christ
I therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, 2with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 3making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, 5one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all.
7 But each of us was given grace according to the measure of Christ’s gift. 8Therefore it is said,
‘When he ascended on high he made captivity itself a captive;
he gave gifts to his people.’
9(When it says, ‘He ascended’, what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower parts of the earth? 10He who descended is the same one who ascended far above all the heavens, so that he might fill all things.) 11The gifts he gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, 12to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ,
Paul (or the author speaking for Paul) reminds his readers or hearers (remember, letters were read aloud to a congregation, not generally read individually) that he is speaking from prison. His imprisonment is for the sake of Christ Jesus, and the mission that Christ has given him. He begs them (us) to lead a life worthy of Christ, of the calling to which they (we) have been called. We are reminded here that Paul is not speaking of just certain leaders as having been called, but of all Christians as called people – we have all been called by Christ, in God’s grace. He begs us/them to live that worthy life which includes humility and patience, bearing with one another in love. We should maintain the unity of the Spirit in a bond of peace. That means that even though we may disagree on some point, we still respect one another, and maintain unity, rather than dividing the church in a disagreement, or picking sides and starting a battle!
There is one body, and one Spirit, just as we were all called to the one hope! Our hope is in Jesus Christ! Whatever else we may believe, that is our core; he is our hope! There is One Lord, Jesus, one faith, that in him, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all! This is a soaring declaration of faith!
We are all a part of one body, but we are not all the same. In order for the body to function, the Spirit has given different gifts to each of us, according to the grace of God. Some of us are called for one task, others for another. He gave us each gifts to fulfill that task to which we are called – some are prophets, some apostles, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers. But whatever our gifts, their purpose is to equip the saints (all the believers) for the work of ministry, for building up the body.
There was an aside there that I skipped over, one of those places where Paul seems to get distracted and go off on what modern preachers call a “rabbit trail”. He quotes a scripture from Psalm 68:18, which speaks to him of Christ’s ascending on high, giving gifts to all people. He is then reminded that if Christ ascended, he must be the one who descended – I would not read this as having “descended into hell”, but as Paul’s reminder that Christ descended from heaven to be one with us, and then would ascend to heaven where, as he says elsewhere, he will be seated at the right hand of God.