The Great Commission
Gracious God, today I invite You anew into my life. Enter in, and change me from the inside out.
Read EPHESIANS 4:1–16
As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. 2 Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. 3 Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.
7 But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it. 8 This is why it says:
“When he ascended on high,
he took many captives
and gave gifts to his people.”
9 (What does “he ascended” mean except that he also descended to the lower, earthly regions? 10 He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe.) 11 So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, 12 to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.
14 Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. 15 Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. 16 From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.
New International Version (NIV)
Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
“Gospel humility is not thinking more of myself or less of myself, but thinking of myself less!” (Tim Keller).
C. S. Lewis, in The Great Divorce, describes his narrator standing in the rain, waiting to board a bus in hell. Immediately in front of him, a waspish woman snaps at her husband and after an argument they both stomp off. Next, two men insult each other and get into a fight in which other people join. By the time the bus eventually arrives, the line is quite short. Most people cannot get along with most other people! Discord and disunity reigns.
Paul’s vision for the church could not be more different. These verses are like another Great Commission, alongside Matthew 28:19, 20, with two cardinal principles for action. Unity is all-important. Believers are urged to love each other by making “every effort” (3) to keep together in God’s unity. This theme of oneness, which we met before (Eph. 2:14–18), is so countercultural. Instead of most people failing to get along with most other people, the church displays concord and unity. Count where “one” appears in the text! Maturity is vital too. By the grace of the ascended Christ, certain leadership gifts (11) are given to encourage this united community to grow more mature, to serve the world and to become more filled with Christ and his likeness. Their thinking is no longer erratic. Their behavior together values truth but never at the expense of love.
Let’s recognize just how difficult this process is. The argumentative bus line is the norm. Humility, gentleness, patience and love don’t come naturally, but the responsibility of each believer is to give all of their energy to stay together. Yes, God gives his Spirit to strengthen the bond of peace, but he needs all our effort too (3). This is the paradox of the church. With all of its glorious God possibilities, it remains full of sinners who can easily miss the plot.
Consider this: “Maturity begins to grow when you can sense your concern for others outweighing your concern for yourself” (Rowland Croucher). In the light of today’s Scripture passage, what is your response to this quote?
Heavenly Father, relationships with other Christians, can, at times, be a challenge. Give me a greater ability to think of myself less.
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