The epistle now turns to what is practical. If we have seen doctrinal truth in chapters 1-3, where our wealth is set before us, now we have the desire of God that we live out the truth He has given us. We will see the walk that must mark every believer. Having concluded the former section by introducing the truth that we have been brought into one body, he is now going to teach the necessity of believers being characterized by unity.
In the first sixteen verses of the chapter we have:
The final verses set forth the display of unity by all the saints.
The desire for unity is foremost in the apostle’s heart as he makes his appeal to them as being a prisoner of the Lord. Lordship is the theme of these chapters and it is such that all should be subject to it.
Here we find the appeal of the servant as he desires that we should walk worthy of the calling wherewith we are called. He is reflecting on all we have been brought into in chapters 1-3. If we are elect, if we have an inheritance with Christ in His future glory and the earnest of the Spirit as a guarantee of it, then we should walk worthy. The same could be said of the blessings received in chapters 2-3; all these should elevate the believer’s life to be a true representative of heaven.
As far as the attitude of the saints is concerned, this must be in a twofold way: first, in our actions before the saints in lowliness and meekness; second, in responsibilities toward the saints with longsuffering and forbearance. Such a walk will maintain the unity into which we have been brought.
We are then brought to consider the activity of the Spirit who has formed this unity, v. 4. Believers cannot make the unity. It has already been done. Our responsibility is to keep it; let nothing mar or spoil that into which we have been brought. Sadly, this unity is not always seen today, when men do that which is right in their own eyes and the result is that division marks so much of Christianity.
The description of unity is seen in verses 4-6, where we see that it is formed by the Spirit, v. 4, by faith in Christ, v. 5, and founded by God, v. 6. This section of the chapter brings before us truth for the body, while in verses 7-16 it is the body of truth that is taught.
A sevenfold unity is expressed in these verses and we find that each person of the Godhead is involved in creating and maintaining what is now seen.
This verse unfolds three aspects of the unity made:
a) the unity of the body;
b) the unifying Spirit; and
c) the ultimate goal.
As the body came into being through the Spirit of God, so the destiny of it is brought before us. It is linked with the calling of verse 1 and presents a living hope.
In verse 5 ‘all’ is centred in Christ for we all have one Lord. This Lordship was owned when, on the day of conversion, we put faith in Christ. Some would link this with the doctrine which has been left to us, but as ‘all’ has to do with individual association with Christ it seems saving faith is in view. All is demonstrated by obedience to the Lord in baptism. The verse reveals the control of the Lord, our conversion by faith and the confession of that faith in baptism.
All is brought under the supreme authority of God who is said to be the Father of all. We judge that when Paul writes of one God and Father of all, v. 6, he is speaking within the confines of this sevenfold unity, and this, unlike chapter 3 verses 14-15, is limited to those in the one body who have one Lord.
God is also our Father. Three things are stated, as three different prepositions are used:
1) epi – He is above all; His pre-eminence;
2) dia – and through all; His purpose;
3) en – and in you all; His presence.
From verses 7-10 we see the dispenser of unity as the Lord Jesus imparts gift to maintain the unity into which we have been brought. Gift is always seen as a grace, that is, it is unearned and unmerited, but divine choice imparts it as the Lord deems fit. We now have the gifts of Christ before us; in Romans chapter 12 we see the gifts of God, and in 1 Corinthians chapter 12 we find the gifts of the Spirit. A careful reading of these passages will unveil the differences and the reason for them.
The gifts of Christ are given by a man who has passed through death, burial, and resurrection and who has now passed into the presence of the Father and occupies the place of absolute supremacy. These gifts are given to men and men are the gifts.
From verses 11-16 we see the development of unity by the gifts that have been given. These gifts are fourfold and divided by the word ‘some’, leaving us with the foundation gifts of ‘apostles’ and ‘prophets’, 2. 20, followed by the evangelist and, finally, the pastor teacher. The evangelist is the man with the hook to bring them in and the pastor teacher is the man with the book to keep them in. The last of the gifts must have the ability both to care as the pastor and to teach the truth of God. Every teacher must have a genuine care for those whom he seeks to lead on in the faith.
These gifts are given for the development of the saints and when stating ‘for the perfecting of the saints’, v. 12, it has the thought of ‘to equip for service’ and with a view to the ministry being carried on by those who follow as they also make a declaration of that which is passed on to them. The same thought is expressed in 2 Timothy chapter 2 verse 2, ‘the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also’.
Once again, verse 13 would bring before us three desires of the Lord as gift is employed among the saints to produce those features the Lord would long to see in us. We see that the desire of the Lord is:
Not only are the gifts given for our spiritual prosperity, but also, v. 14, for our preservation from the satanic assault from without, which is intended to prevent the features of Christ being seen in us, v. 13. In His goodness, the Lord has provided for us, to prevent immaturity, instability, and gullibility.
The thought is of remaining a child, a babe, v. 14. It is always sad to see an infant that does not develop. Attention is drawn to the condition of the Corinthian believers in chapter 3 verses 1-3, where the same word is used (nepios). They are said to be ‘babes in Christ’. The reason for the lack of growth was the carnality that marked them as they followed the teaching of certain men to the exclusion of other ministry that God had given.
Lack of teaching leaves the saints open to the tempest of false doctrine. In James chapter 3 verse 4 an illustration is given of fierce winds driving along a ship which is guided aright by the shipmaster through the storm. The Lord, through the tongue of the teacher, which is the subject of James chapter 3, can, and will, preserve us through profitable ministry. In Jude verse 12, false teachers are seen as clouds that bring no blessing, ‘carried about of winds’. In Jude’s Epistle we have the false teachers; here we have their dupes.
These sad people are said to be ‘carried about’, that is, transported hither and thither, and are like those of Mark chapter 6 verse 55 when they ‘began to carry about in beds those that were sick’. Today, we find many that are spiritually sick, who go from place to place and take in all forms of wrong doctrine, simply because they do not listen to those who bring the truth of God to them. The reason why they are so gullible is because of the character that marks these false teachers and the way they operate, which is by sleight of hand. Notice the words that are used of them, ‘sleight’, ‘cunning craftiness’, and to ‘lie in wait to deceive’. We would hardly think that any would take up the things of God to such ends, but this is the divine description regarding them.
How beautiful to see those who are growing up into Him. If the object of the ministry that is given is to bring us to ‘the stature of the fullness of Christ’, as seen in verse 13, in verse 15 we are taught that truth in the life will have the effect of causing us to grow, and that unto Christ, bringing us into deeper association with the Lord Jesus. Thus, the Lord Jesus is the object and end of our growth. Surely that should make us more Christ like?
The whole thought behind the giving of gift is not to make much of man at any time, but rather that Christ might be honoured in all things. With the figure of a body seen throughout these verses, the honour of the head must be paramount, for the body is completely controlled by the head. If there is deformity in the body, then the head loses the ability to motivate that member of the body and so loses control. To grow up into the Head means that Christ has complete sway over us.
In verse 16, all believers, according to the measure that has been given, contribute to the good of the whole, as each part fulfils its responsibility in the body. This makes for an increase of the body, as each member is used for the furtherance of the body, as we strengthen each other in love. This verse displays how every believer is not only an integral part of the body, but also vital to it, to cause it to be what the Lord desires.