Ephesians 4:1-6: be united in humility, gentleness, patience showing tolerance in love.
Prepared and preached by Pastor Steve Rhodes for Bethel Friends Church on Sunday, August 27, 2017
Writing about Ecc. 3:1-8 Chuck Swindoll writes:
Kids are nutty.
Some friends of ours in Texas have two little girls. The younger child is constantly on the move, rarely winding down by bedtime. So the nightly affair has become something of a familiar routine. A story from her favorite book. A drink of water. A prayer. A song. Her doll. Another drink of water. A kiss. A hug. A third sip of water. A trip to the bathroom. A warning. Another kiss. You know, the whole bit.
One night her dad decided he’d be Mr. Nice Guy, the epitome of patience and tolerance. He did it all. Not once did he lose his cool. When Miss Busybody finally ran out of requests, her daddy slipped out of the room, heaved a sigh of relief, and slumped into his favorite chair by the fireplace. Before he could stretch out and relax, however, there was a piercing scream from the jitterbug’s room. Startled, he dashed down the hall and rushed to her bedside. Great tears were rolling down the little girl’s face.
“What’s wrong? What happened?”
“I burnt my tongue.”
Baffled, he tried again, “You what?”
“I burnt my tongue!” she yelled.
“How in the world did you do that?” he asked.
“I licked my night-light.”
That really happened. She couldn’t control her curiosity. She simply had to discover how it would feel to lick that little thing that glowed so warmly and serenely by her bed. Rude was her awakening to the fact that lights are strictly for lighting . . . not licking. And tongues are made for tasting . . . not testing. You and I realize that the best thing our little friend could have done was to stay in bed, keep her tongue to herself, and allow the light to fulfill its appointed function.
But she didn’t—and she got burned.
In Ecclesiastes 3:1–8, Solomon, the wise, passes along to us a list of various types of “appointed times” on earth. Among them he mentions
a time to heal . . . a time to shun embracing . . . a time to give up as lost . . . a time to be silent
I see in these words of counsel one strong undercurrent of advice: BACK OFF! It is often wise to relax our intensity, refuse to force an issue, allow nature to take its course, “let sleeping dogs lie.” Backing off, says Solomon, provides opportunity for healing to occur, opportunity for perspective to break through the storm clouds of emotion and illuminate a difficult situation with a fresh understanding.
When the time is right, things flow very naturally, very freely. To rush or force creates friction-scars that take years to erase. Take it from one who has learned this difficult lesson the hard way—keep a tight bridle on your tongue, relax, and settle for a good night’s sleep. Otherwise, you’re going to get pushy, you’re going to get caught with your tongue in the wrong place . . . and you’re going to get burned.
Sometimes it’s best to back off, remain silent, and settle for a good night’s sleep.
I read that recently and I thought of it with today’s passage. In Ephesians 4 Paul begins exhorting the church to walk worthy of their calling. He is writing about their calling as Christians. But the focus in Eph. 4:1-6 is on unity. Many times we are pushy with other people, overly curious, not recognizing seasons and times, we get our tongue in the wrong place and we ruin the unity that we are called to. Now, let’s move from devotion to sermon.
My theme and challenge is: be united in humility, gentleness, patience showing tolerance in love.
- Paul challenges and exhorts the church to Walk in a manner worthy of their calling.
- Notice how first he writes that he is a prisoner for the Lord. He had written that in chapter 3:1 as well.
- Paul implores them with this material. That is a strong word.
- Notice that we are called. We all have a calling. It is not only pastors and missionaries who have a calling. Jesus calls us all as Christians.
- How do we walk in a manner worthy of our calling? What does this look like? Or, at least right here what is he writing about?
- The answer is unity.
- This unity should be shown in:
- Humility: One writes: Humility” is a term not found in the Latin or Greek vocabularies of Paul’s day. The Greek word apparently was coined by Christians, perhaps even by Paul himself, to describe a quality for which no other word was available. Humility, the most foundational Christian virtue (James 4:6), is the quality of character commanded in the first beatitude (Matt. 5:3), and describes the noble grace of Christ.
- Gentleness: gentleness. “Meekness,” an inevitable product of humility, refers to that which is mild-spirited and self-controlled (cf. Matt. 5:5; 11:29; Gal. 5:23; Col. 3:12).
- Patience: The Greek word lit. means long-tempered, and refers to a resolved patience that is an outgrowth of humility and gentleness (cf. 1 Thess. 5:14; James 5:10).
- Showing tolerance for one another in love: one writes: bearing with one another in love. Humility, gentleness, and patience are reflected in a forbearing love for others that is continuous and unconditional (cf. 1 Pet. 4:8).
- I have one more word about tolerance. We tolerate the smell of the outhouse, right? We don’t desire that smell, do we? I hope not.
- Society has changed the meaning of this word. To tolerate means that even though we have a problem with something, or someone, or even though some idiosyncrasies annoy us we still love them.
- Tolerance does NOT mean condoning sin. But in love we tolerate them.
- Being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
- The church is called to unity.
- Paul gives the perfect illustration of Unity
- One body: The church is ultimately one body. We are all part of the bride of Christ. People say, “I don’t go to church becomes of hypocrites” yet that call themselves Christians.” Who are we going to be with in Heaven? The church.
- One Spirit: The Holy Spirit. Get this, we all have the same Spirit. Praise God!
- Called in one hope of your calling: We all have the same hope.
- One Lord: We believe in one Lord.
- One faith: We all have the same faith. All Christians have the same faith.
- One baptism: We are all baptized into Christ. This could be referring to spiritual or water baptism.
- One God and Father of us all who is over all and through all and in all. MacArthur shares: He focuses on the Trinity—the Spirit in v. 4, the Son in v. 5, and the Father in v. 6. His point is not to distinguish between the Persons of the Godhead but to emphasize that, although they have unique roles, they are completely unified in every aspect of the divine nature and plan.
In Ephesians chapter 4 Paul gets into real practical matters. In the first three chapters he wrote about deep theology. But now, that theology is related to the practical. God has united Jews and gentiles, what God has united, let no man tear apart.
So, going back to that Swindoll devotional: let’s be careful to not rush in and lick light bulbs. Actually, let’s tolerate those nightlights. Let’s love them. Let’s have humility. Let’s be united in humility, gentleness, patience showing tolerance in love.
Do you know Jesus? Luke 9:23
God created us to be with him. (Genesis 1-2)
Our sin separated us from God. (Genesis 3)
Sins cannot be removed by good deeds (Gen 4-Mal 4)
Paying the price for sin, Jesus died and rose again. (Matthew – Luke)
Everyone who trusts in him alone has eternal life. (John – Jude)
Life that’s eternal means we will be with Jesus forever. (Revelation 22:5)