23 October 2012

Ephesians 4:1-16

"The gifts he gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until all of us come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ." (vv. 11-13)


There has already been one reference in the letter to the Ephesians to being a prisoner (Ephesians 3:1) and there will be another at the end of the letter (Ephesians 6:20). Paul was imprisoned by the Romans, but the implication here seems to be that it was his devotion to Jesus which led to his imprisonment. The readers of the letter were urged to behave in ways which were worthy of their calling - just as Paul was worthy of his calling.

Today's passage is about ethical behaviour - not least when Christians don't find it easy to put up with each other. Humility and gentleness were hallmarks of Jesus' way of life, and Christians are urged to behave with that in mind. The writer speaks of the unity which is already a given - 'the unity of the Spirit' is there, and Christians are called to live within it.

Grace refers to what God freely gives - it isn't earned or calculated. It is mainly understood by remembering that Jesus came down to earth, and that he returned to heaven, not because human beings deserved his presence, but because it was a free gift from God. Christians are called to live together carefully, but Christians are not all the same! People are given different gifts which are all to be used in building up "the body of Christ". The term, "the body of Christ" is often used to describe the Church - just as the various parts of a body are different, nevertheless they are all important to each other, and it is the building up of the Church which is important and through which maturity as disciples develops.

Christians are called to a maturity of faith - not just a childish belief which is at the whim of other people. And as Christians grow up, so God's Church grows.

To Ponder

  • Think carefully: what gifts has God given to you?
  • How could you use those gifts to the best of your ability, and for the building up of God's Church?

Bible notes author

The Revd Stephen Burgess

Revd Stephen Burgess is chair of the York & Hull District of the Methodist Church. He initially trained as a chemist and after some years in industry and teaching served in two school chaplaincy appointments before becoming superintendent of the Cambridge Circuit and then moving to Yorkshire.