Called to Community (Ephesians 4:1–12)

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Doug Van Meter - 11 September 2016

Called to Community (Ephesians 4:1–12)

Ephesians Exposition

The Christian is a person who has been effectively called by God to be a disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ—irresistibly summonsed to repent of their sins and to pledge fidelity and loyalty to follow the Lord Jesus Christ, having embraced Him as Saviour. As disciples follow the Lord Jesus Christ they increasingly take on the character of the Lord Jesus, which is manifested in their conduct.

From Series: "Ephesians Exposition"

This series comprises the sermons preached at BBC during an exposition of the book of Ephesians.

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Recently, while in Lusaka, I spent an afternoon with my friend Ronald Kalifungwa. As we drove in his car, he asked me to tell him about my conversion and my call to the ministry. He then told me his story.

It was interesting that we had a similar sense of a call to minister God’s Word, in a “fulltime” sense, that was almost simultaneous with our coming to Christ. We both came to the conclusion, by the confirmation of our local churches, that this was what God had made us for. And we have each been trying to be faithful to this calling for nearly years.

Christian, what has God made you for? That is a very important question. Every Christian has a calling, a vocation that God has designed for us. God has equipped each of us in some way to fulfil some function in which we make a living and in which we serve God’s overall purpose for this world—and the next. For some, it may be as a labourer, a mechanic or a physician. For others, that calling may be as a mother, teacher, businessman, or politician.

But though our vocations vary, there is a “vocation” (KJV) or “calling” (NKJV) to which every disciple of Jesus Christ has been called—namely, to be Christians; to be Christlike. And Paul reveals the elements of this call right here in these 32 verses.

The concept of “calling” is an important one in Scripture. In fact, apart from God’s call, there is no hope of salvation.

Paul speaks of this calling in 1:18 and again in 4:1, 4. In each case, it is with reference to what theologians refer to as God’s “effectual call.” It refers to God calling those for whom Christ died out of the devil’s domain of darkness and calling them into the kingdom of God’s dear Son (Colossians 1:13).

We can summarise this sovereign and gracious act of God as a calling from and a calling for: from sin and Satan and self and for salvation and the Saviour and the saints. But what, principally and practically, does this look like? It looks like Ephesians 4.

We will spend perhaps studies in this chapter with a view to understanding just what it is that we as Christians are called to. And though there is much overlap of these various themes, the general headings which we will address are as follows:

  1. We are called to Community, vv. 1–12
    • We are called to Christ, vv. 1–6
    • We are called to Christians, vv. 7–12
  2. We are called to Conformity, vv. 13–32
    • We are called to Christlikeness, vv. 13–16
    • We are called to be Counter-Cultural, vv. 17–32

In this study, we will address this matter of being called to community. What, particularly, does this look like?

The call to community, in a sense, is the major theme of the epistle. Paul is revealing the mystery of God’s work of making “one new man” in Christ (2:15). Believing Jews and believing Gentiles are formed into the one body of Christ. This was earth-shaking news in the first century. Those who were arch enemies were now at peace with one another because, by the gospel of God, they were now at peace with God. The friend of my Father is my friend. Better still, the child of my Father is my sister or brother.

It is in the light of this almost incredible, society-shaking news that Paul opens chapter four with a word pointing to practical application of this dynamic doctrine. It is the word, “therefore” in English. In the original, the first word is “urge” or “beseech.”

Paul has Christian community on his mind and he is no Pollyanna. He knows that where there are people—even Christian people—there is sin. And where there is sin there is conflict and potential division. He therefore urges his believing readers to live out their calling to be part and parcel of God’s new community. He expects for them to take this seriously. He expects for them to obey the injunction. But his expectation is rooted in the expectation that they will realise what an inestimable privilege it is to be a member of God’s kingdom, of God’s household, of His temple (2:19–22). Do you?

If we realise this privilege, we will share in Paul’s deep longing that every Christian live out this privilege, to the fullest, of being in Christ, together. There is nothing on earth like the church. We are the bride of Christ, the building in which Christ dwells, the body which is His.

So, having established this, what does this call to community involve?

We Are Called to Christ

Community commences with Christ. We see in vv. 1–6:

I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.

(Ephesians 4:1–6)

I do not want to take for granted that everyone reading these words gets this, or that all of us always keep this before us. There is a danger that we can become so focused on the church that we forget Christ. We might find ourselves so intent on the condition of the walls that we neglect to consider the Cornerstone (2:20).

The Christian life begins with the Lord Jesus Christ. The church is His. He died for her (5:25) He washes and sanctifies and preserves her (5:26–27).

We are called to Christ before we are committed to the church. First things first.

Do you know Him? Has He saved you? Have you experienced His forgiveness? Have you believed the gospel?

Have you believed that God is holy and that you have sinned against Him? Have you believed that you are therefore under His wrath, that the wages of your sin is death—eternal death? Have you believed that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, lived a sinless life and then died on the cross for sinners? Have you believed that He rose from the grave three days later, and then ascended to the right hand of His Father in heaven? Have you heard His call to repentance and faith? Have you repented of your sins and called upon the Lord Jesus Christ to save you from your sins? Do you know the Lord Jesus Christ as your Saviour?

Having settled this matter, what does this call to Christ look like? What does He expect of His disciples?

Called to Balance

In vv. 1–3, we see that believers are called, in a right way, to balance.

I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

(Ephesians 4:1–3)

The word translated “worthy” is axios. It is a word that was used of the axis on a scale, on which items purchased and currency paid were balanced. There is an unhealthy way in which Christians sometimes talk of “balance” ultimately to excuse biblical fervour. But there is also a right sense in which we should be balanced.

Our walk is to match our talk; our practice is to line up with our profession; our life is to square with our lips.

This is the only kind of balance that we should pursue. In fact, if this would be our pursuit, then I suspect we would not get so hung up on trying to live the “balanced” life. That is, we would be so intent on obeying what we know, and following the Lord in such a way that honours Him, that we would not have the time to worry if we were “too involved” as Christians in body life. Rather, we would be concerned probably that we are not involved enough. After all, those who are committed to walking the balanced life are concerned that every Christian live such a life and this concern will drive them to constructively engage and help one another in such a pursuit.

We could name several behaviours that we need to carefully balance with what the Bible informs us we should follow. For instance, the balanced Christian will not abuse alcohol or drugs; the balanced Christian will not be trapped by the temptations to pornography; the balanced Christian will not be greedy and materialistic; the balanced Christian will not be racist; the balanced Christian will not be a brawler—one who settles disputes with his (or her) fists; the balanced Christian will not slander or gossip; the balanced Christian will not disengage from gathering with other Christians; the balanced Christian will not despise and fight against authority figures in their life.

More positively, we can conclude that the balanced Christian is the disciple of Jesus Christ who weighs words and actions against the perfect scale and standard of God’s Word. What the Bible commands the balanced Christian will devotedly seek to obey, and what the Bible prohibits the balanced Christian will assiduously seek to avoid doing.

The above is all true. And this kind of lifestyle is revealed and exhorted in many places in the Bible, and particularly in the New Testament. But in the passage before us, Paul’s emphasis is upon walking and living the balanced life focuses primarily on disposition more than on overt behaviour. And the reason is simple: The disposition lays the foundation for the formation of actions. If the attitude is right then, in most cases, right actions will flow from it. As I was recently reminded, orthopathy (right affections) is a vital component of orthopraxy (right behaviour).

Note the particular dispositional characteristics that are mentioned: lowliness, gentleness, longsuffering, and bearing with one another in love.

What stands out is that this particular disposition is descriptive of what is required for healthy relationships. Therefore, to be balanced is to be relational. Let me put it this way: Those who are walking in a manner that is worthy of the name “Christian” are those who are walking in healthy relationships with others in the church. In fact, v. 3 confirms such a conclusion when it instructs us to be “endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” That is, those who are called to Christ are to be characterised by a zealous and obvious commitment to guarding the unity of the congregation; as well as the larger unity of the church.

But how does one do so? By possessing and practising the disposition described in v. 2.

You see, the call to be balanced in v. 1 is characterised by the display of the kind of disposition exhorted in v. 2 and the consequence is harmonious unity in the church as revealed in v. 3.

Let’s flesh this out, both in principle as well as in practice.

The principle is pretty clear: The Christian who is living a balanced life will be approachable and reasonable, and even when he finds himself in disagreement with another, will disagree in an agreeable kind of way. In a word, he will be winsome even though, when it comes to conviction, unshakeable. I don’t think it is off the mark to make the claim that those who lived the balanced Christian life are likeable. At the least, they are likeable by those who are reasonable.

Church life can be difficult—discouragingly so. Discontent can creep in because of mistreatment by others. But as Jamie Dunlop has written, “Discontent is inevitable; broken unity is not.”1

Practically, this means that the balanced Christian, the balanced church member, will seek to be right with others. She will seek to be righteous with and towards and others. She will pursue healthy relationships.

This will be demonstrated in different ways by different people. But make no mistake, it will be demonstrated. There will be kindness and understanding and compassion towards others. There will be sympathy and patience and humility towards others. There will be loving care and concern for others. And all of this will begin at home with the family of God. After all, this is the context of this exhortation.

Such a relational openness will be practised “in here” and then will be carried “out there.”

Think about it: If you are nasty to your family then there is every chance that you will eventually be nasty to those who are not your family. You may be far more pleasant in the workplace and at school than you are at home—for a while at least—but once your coworkers and employers and fellow students and teachers begin to get up your nose, you will soon treat them with the same kind of contempt and even cruelty that you treat those in your home. The same is true in church life. So learn how to treat one another in this family and then you will be better suited to treat those who are not in the family.

This does not mean, however, that everyone will like you when you are like that dispositionally. In fact, your commitment to be righteous in your relationships will probably rub others the wrong way; at least it will those who do not want to be righteous.

In sum: The gospel changes not only our position but also our disposition. And this in turn will bring changes to the way that we live. And one of the major ways it will change us is in our relationships with one another.

How are your relationships? Are you avoiding the body? Ask yourself a very important question: Why am I so self-absorbed that I refuse to be a part of a Grace Group? That is a fair question.

Are you angry at someone because they have spoken the truth to you? Do you hold and show angst towards those who are more gifted than you or who have some providential blessing that you do not?

Are you keeping your distance from those who bug you? In fact, ask yourself the important question: Why do they bug me?

Further, are you open to those who are different from you in their pigmentation, ethnicity, socio-economic position, vocation, physical condition, or educational attainments or lack thereof? These are important questions, which I will address more in two weeks, but for now know this: If we are not working on our relational disposition then the harmonious unity of the church will not be well guarded.

There may be some rare cases in which a Christian simply does not fit with a particular body (though I cannot, for the moment, imagine what those circumstances might be), but for the most part the onus is on the individual to connect with the body.

But there is something here that we must address before proceeding.

Paul’s concern was not only that this kind of loving unity be experienced in the local church but also among local churches. In fact, this may have been more than merely a nominal concern to Paul; it may have been his major concern.

If this was a circular letter, as many are persuaded it was, then it is beyond dispute that Paul was concerned for a wider fellowship than merely that within the membership list of a particular local church.

Practically, what does a relational disposition look like among local churches?

It looks like praying for one another. It looks like encouraging one another. It looks like partnering with one another and therefore strengthening one another with our resources. It looks like believing the best of one another. It looks like giving honour to one another. It looks like rejoicing with one another.

In short, it looks like loving one another as Christ loved us (John 13:34–35; 17). In fact, this seems to be John’s way of describing someone who truly has saving faith. That is, this is the mark of those who have been called to Christ.

Called to Believe

In vv. 4–6, we see that we are called to believe: “There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.”

When Paul wrote of the need to (literally) “make haste” to guard the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace, he was making more than a dispositional appeal; he was also making a doctrinal appeal. He was concerned that they be zealous to maintain a holy harmony rooted in God’s holy Word.

The “unity of the Spirit” is the unity of which the Spirit is the source. I take this to mean what Paul referred to in 1 Corinthians 12:13: “For by one Spirit we were all baptised into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free—and have all been made to drink into one Spirit.”

The Holy Spirit unites believers in Christ. He unites believers (those who believe) in Christ and so the Holy Spirit unites believers in Christ. The key concept is believers. Those who believe Christ are united by the Holy Spirit to and in and with Christ. And as Paul indicates, those who believe are baptised.

Christians begin their journey by answering the irresistible call to believe Christ—to believe in Him and upon Him. This is made very clear in vv. 4–6.

There are certain things that every true disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ believes. All believers everywhere hold to a certain doctrinal position. And apart from adherence to these things, true Christianity is impossible. So, what do all Christians subscribe to? Or in other words, how can we constructively examine a profession of faith? What is “apostolic doctrine”? What is the faith once for all delivered to the saints? And what, therefore, are we called to so zealously and intentionally guard? Paul here lists at least six things.

First, he speaks of one body and one Spirit—the conviction that the church is the inseparable Body of Christ and that it is a supernatural work (the work of the “one Spirit”).

Second, he writes of one hope—the certain assurance that Jesus Christ is the Saviour of sinners and that He keeps those whom He saves. In other words, all Christians everywhere believe the good news of God, the gospel.

Third, he speaks of one Lord—the universal belief of Christians that Jesus Christ is Lord.

Fourth, he addresses one faith—that all Christians everywhere trust Christ and Christ alone for salvation. Salvation is by faith alone, plus or minus nothing (2:8–9).

Fifth, he talks of one baptism—the sign and seal of our profession of faith. All Christians everywhere believe that baptism is a God-ordained sign for everyone who professes the name of Jesus Christ—even if we don’t always agree on the mode of baptism. We all believe that it signifies that we have been united with Christ in His death, burial and resurrection. We also all believe that we are united to Him in His life.

Finally, he writes of one God and Father of all, highlighting the truth that all Christians everywhere are monotheists (Deuteronomy 6:4). We are Trinitarian, affirming one God in three persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The true God has no real rivals.

In summary, all Christians may agree on other things (and we will disagree on several things as well), but we will all most certainly agree on these points of doctrine. A person’s confession of faith can be examined as to whether they believe these fundamentals.

Every member of BBC must believe these doctrines. And every person who does believe these truths are a part of the body of Christ.

Of course I am not implying that this is merely a “notional” belief but rather that such a belief is one of heart and soul—a saving belief; one wrought by the one Spirit.

So, do you believe? Can you with conviction confess the Apostles’ Creed?

Perhaps you are unsure and would ask, how can I know?

Well, to begin, you can examine your disposition (vv. 1–3). You see, belief affects behaviour. Doctrine is influential. And so, if you have believed the gospel, there will be traces in your life of the disposition enjoined above.

Second, what impact does this doctrine as delineated have on your life? Do these truths move you? I might be so bold as to ask whether they thrill your soul. They should.

I am aware of the danger of being overly subjective but I am also aware of the opposite danger of being overly objective. Fideism (also known since the eighteenth century as Sandemanianism) is, sadly, very much alive. It remains a clear and present danger. The not-so-distant raging debate in evangelicalism concerning what is termed “lordship salvation” was nothing less than a response to this encroaching heresy into the church. Thankfully, it has been beaten back, but the threat always remains.

The idea that believing certain facts about Jesus Christ and His gospel, in the same way as one would believe legal testimony, is sufficient for salvation is not what Paul is teaching here—or anywhere for that matter. Believing Christ is an act of mind and will and affections. Saving faith makes a difference in how you feel about God in Christ. Of course, one is not saved by feelings; we are saved by grace through faith. Yet feelings follow saving faith like the caboose follows the engine of the train.

Martin Luther said that “feelings come and feelings go, and feelings are deceiving. I dare not trust in them alone but in God’s Word unfailing.” That sums up well the position I am articulating here.

Feelings do come and go. But if you profess to be a Christian, and the feelings never “come,” then there may be a problem with your belief. When Peter and John healed the paralytic, he entered the temple “walking, leaping, and praising God” (Acts 3:8)—a clear show of emotion. Peter later wrote powerfully about the gospel of God and conclude, “In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials” (1 Peter 1:3–9). One senses that Paul was overcome by emotion when he wrote to the Galatians:

O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you that you should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed among you as crucified? This only I want to learn from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh? Have you suffered so many things in vain—if indeed it was in vain?

(Galatians 3:1–4)

If I can conclude by once again referencing this matter of our disposition as explained in vv. 1–2. Christians believe particular doctrines in such a way that this belief makes a difference. It makes a difference in how we live and in how we think, and it makes a difference even in how we feel.

But it should also be noted that it is precisely because of the difference that doctrine makes that the Christian will desire and be determined to learn more doctrine. It will be his delight because it is seen as a means towards the end of knowing and loving God.

Why is this so important? In other words, why does doctrine matter? Why is it so important that we believe certain things and that we don’t believe contrary things? The answer is simple: If we do not believe correctly, then our souls are at stake. For if we are not united to Christ, then we are still in our sins and under the wrath of God. And that is a very dangerous place to be.

The Johnstown Flood of 31 May 1889 was a terrible disaster. Expert advice warning of the imminent disaster was ignored, as was a telegram sent warning of what was about to happen. The result is that twenty million tons of water came crashing down on the town, killing 2,209 people—including 99 entire families and 396 children. One thousand six hundred homes were completely destroyed.

But this is nothing in comparison to the wrath of God crushing unbelieving sinners. If you don’t believe these truths, then look at the only person in history who has thus far felt the full weight of God’s wrath: His Son!

Practically then, there are several things we should consider and do. Be encouraged to spend quality and concentrated time in God’s Word. Avail yourself of the opportunities to learn more about God and His gospel. Invest time in helping other Christians to learn more about God and His gospel. Don’t be afraid of emotion! In fact, we should be doing all we can to develop ordinate affections while at the same time avoiding inordinate affections. Failure to be on guard will dull our sense of the truly beautiful and delightful; it will dull our ability to “rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory” (1 Peter 1:8).

We Are Called to Christians

In vv. 7–12, we see that, while community begins with Christ, it continues with Christians:

But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift. Therefore He says: “When He ascended on high, He led captivity captive, and gave gifts to men.”

(Now this, “He ascended”—what does it mean but that He also first descended into the lower parts of the earth? He who descended is also the One who ascended far above all the heavens, that He might fill all things.)

And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ.

(Ephesians 4:7–12)

Called to Belong

We are called to belong. This point is, in many ways self-evident, from what Paul has been writing now for over three chapters. The theme of this epistle is that of one new man in Christ (2:15). Paul glories in the revelation that God, through His gospel, has made people of all ethnicities, all social structures, and both genders one in Christ. Paul rejoices that every Christian belongs to Christ and therefore they belong together (see 3:6; cf. 2:19–22). And together they belong. Let me explain as we spend a few minutes examining these verses.

The word “but” introduces a contrast. Paul has spoken of unity, “but” he now speaks of diversity as he introduces the matter of spiritual gifts. Besides highlighting the important truth that unity is not to be equated with uniformity (and equity is not always the same as equality), Paul’s major concern is to drive home the point that each member is to use their gift for the building up of the body. (We will examine this in more detail in our next study.)

This is particularly clear in v. 16 where he speaks of each member doing his or her “share.”

But underlying this teaching is the fundamental revelation that those who believe on Christ are quite literally brought together in Christ. By believing, we belong together. And since we belong together, we continue to believe together. When God called us to believe, He was calling us to belong—to belong to Christ (by His sovereign will, John 6:37ff; John 17; etc.). But this belonging to Christ means that we also belong to all who also believe on Christ. Those who believe in Christ belong together.

I have tied to make this point in earlier expositions, but it is a point worth repeating: Only those who believe truly belong. And believing precedes belonging.

There is a lot of activity in the church with reference to church planting. And much of it is healthy and provides cause for happiness at the extension of the kingdom. But some of it is not so happy. The same can be said with reference to church growth in various places. Much is to be commended, but other is less than desirable.

I raise this matter because it has much to do with the issue of belonging. Particularly amongst the more “emergent,” there is an emphasis in some churches on giving people a sense of belonging before believing. This is unwise. This is unbiblical.

You will note that there is a particular order here: an exhortation to balance, a reminder of what they believe and then—and only then—a description of what it means to practically belong to the body of Christ. Doctrine precedes duty in this text; believing precedes belonging.

In fact, going back a couple of verses, Paul’s reference to “baptism” makes this abundantly clear. The baptism implies an open profession of faith identifying you as one who believes: believing, and then baptism and then (or simultaneously), belonging.

Having, I trust, made this important point, let me spend the remainder of our time addressing some matters related to this while explaining why this matters.

First, it matters because if we emphasise belonging before believing then we tempt people to presumption concerning the true state of their soul. If we treat people as though they belong to Christ when in fact they have not believed on Christ, we promote a deception—a deception that may prove damning in the end if not corrected.

There are lots of reasons why people attach themselves to a church and not all of them are worthy reasons. That is, not all reasons are gospel-driven reasons. We therefore are not helping people if we treat them as those who belong before they clearly and credibly confess Christ as their Lord and Saviour.

Second, we are not being loving if we are not at the same time being truthful. In our church, this matter of the importance of belonging has practical ramifications, almost weekly for us a congregation, and for us as a leadership. For example, when we publish our church directory we only put families in there who are members or are going through the membership process. But we often have attendees who wish to have their names published, and the leadership is called upon to say no. We at times have non-member attendees who wish to have their prayer requests or pregnancies published in the weekly bulletin, but we draw a line in these areas for the membership.

Decisions are made based on principle and based on the eldership’s responsibility for the care of souls. A false sense of belonging is not helpful for anyone.

The same goes for Communion. There is a sense in which we practice closed Communion. That is, we believe that the Table is for believers only. It is for those who belong. And as we understand the biblical teaching, a believer is one who is baptised and who is a member of a local church. So, if someone claims to be a Christian and yet is not baptised, or if someone claims to be saved and is baptised and yet refuses to become a member of a church, then the Table is closed to them. It is not that we are trying to be unkind. Rather we simply desire to be faithful to the Word of God. At the end of the day, we are called to please our Lord, not people. Though it is a wonderful thing when we can do both, nevertheless the former is the main concern.

Ligon Duncan, a well-known Presbyterian pastor in the United States, understands this well. He was once asked about those churches that will not allow him to participate in Communion because he has not been immersed as a believer, even though he is in fellowship with them. He replied:

“I appreciate the conviction of a Baptist who … would argue strenuously that people who have not been baptized as believing adults are not baptized and therefore shouldn’t be welcomed into church membership and communion, because, in our day and age, that sounds mean to a lot of people. We’re all about inclusion. It’s the Baptist who won’t let me join his church who is the Baptist with whom I want to fellowship.”2

Third, we need to make an important distinction. Certainly all who come to a church gathering are to be treated with affection and are to be welcomed. But affection and affirmation of one as a believer can be two very different things.

This leads to another important observation. I have often heard it said that the church needs to be careful about using “insider” language, especially in the context of a corporate worship service, where unbelievers or non-member believers may attend. We are admonished to not make visitors to feel like outsiders. I understand the sentiment and there is no doubt that we should be careful to remove manmade obstacles that would hinder someone from drawing nigh to God. Yet, at the same time, we need not apologise for the fact that, by God’s grace, we know the language of Zion. And by the way, this sometimes applies to those who wish to dumb down Bible translations so all will be able to understand the Bible. But we must not forget that, first, God’s inspired Word must be honoured and translated with integrity. And second, the natural man does not understand the things of the Spirit of God. So the sentiment may be sound, but the theology and the anthropology behind it is erroneous. And it is dangerous. We are looking for heart change wrought by the Spirit and the Word, not merely the ability to parrot the gospel without any real understanding of the meaning.

The fact is, those who do not believe, those who have no interest in living “balanced” lives (v. 1) do not belong. There is an undeniable reality that they are outsiders. And I say this lovingly: They should feel like outsiders. They should sense that there is a difference between being inside and being outside. And the hope is that they will repent and believe the gospel and then belong (see 1 Corinthians 14:23–25).

Fourth, we are not honouring God when we fudge on His rules, when we replace His order(s) with our own. Since it is God who has established the bonds as well as the boundaries of the church, we must follow His directives. To do anything but this is to tamper with His temple. And that is neither right, nor safe (1 Corinthians 3:16).

Finally, this is why open membership is not helpful and, in the end, will prove harmful. As Paul makes quite clear in the earlier verses, baptism matters.

I know that this is a tough thing faced particularly by those who were raised as paedobaptists. But Scripture is clear and we must be clear as well.

In our next study, we will continue our review of Ephesians 4 will then begin to get into some “new” territory in our exposition. But we should be persuaded that this study matters; it is necessary. After all, we need to know what it is that God has salvifically called us to. We know that He has called us to be balanced, to believe and to belong. Are you? Do you?

If you are and if you do, then make it your aim to practice the exhortations of Ephesians 4. Let us help one another with this. And let us do all we can to encourage the church at large in these very matters.

If you do not believe, and if you do not belong, then I want to ask two simple questions.

First, why not? You are a sinner and you need a Saviour. And God has provided the one Saviour! His perfect life can be credited to your account while your sins are credited to His. He is the substitute who was sacrificed by God on behalf of all of those who will believe, and who will then belong. His resurrection from the dead means that He lives right now at the right hand of the Father to save all who come to Him in the one faith Paul of which. Turn from your sin as you come to Christ today. Cast yourself totally on Him and He will save you; He will save you now.

And so, my last question simply remains, will you?

Show 2 footnotes

  1. Mark Dever and Jamie Dunlop, The Compelling Community: Where God’s Power Makes a Church Attractive (Wheaton: Crossway, 2015), Kindle edition.
  2. Bobby Jamieson, Going Public: Why Baptism is Required for Church Membership (Nashville: B&H Academic, 2015), 26.