by Mike Ratliff
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24 Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.
25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. 26 Let us not become boastful, challenging one another, envying one another. Galatians 5:22-26 (NASB)
On one hand, we are commanded in Sacred Scripture to stand firm while holding to God’s truth as “The Truth” with no exceptions. On the other hand, we are also commanded in the same Word of God to walk in unity with the whole Body of Christ. Unfortunately, many today insist on the latter while teaching that in order to obey it we must totally neglect the former. The cause of this, of course, is that those saying such things are taking passages out of context. Those who excise segments of Sacred Scripture outside of their proper context run a great danger of error. One example is found in Ephesians 4 in which Paul calls for the Church to be unified in love while not being divided over “every wind of doctrine.” Some have used this passage in attempts to silence our call for the Church to return to adherence to proper doctrine.
We will focus on Ephesians 4:1-16. In this passage, the Apostle Paul moves from the doctrinal truths he has given us in the first 3 chapters of this epistle to exhortation. What he gives us in these 16 verses is life application based completely in the doctrinal truths found in the doctrines presented in Ephesians 1-3.
1 Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, 3 being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling; 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all. Ephesians 4:1-6 (NASB)
1 Παρακαλῶ οὖν ὑμᾶς ἐγὼ ὁ δέσμιος ἐν κυρίῳ ἀξίως περιπατῆσαι τῆς κλήσεως ἧς ἐκλήθητε, 2 μετὰ πάσης ταπεινοφροσύνης καὶ πραΰτητος, μετὰ μακροθυμίας, ἀνεχόμενοι ἀλλήλων ἐν ἀγάπῃ, 3 σπουδάζοντες τηρεῖν τὴν ἑνότητα τοῦ πνεύματος ἐν τῷ συνδέσμῳ τῆς εἰρήνης· 4 Ἓν σῶμα καὶ ἓν πνεῦμα, καθὼς καὶ ἐκλήθητε ἐν μιᾷ ἐλπίδι τῆς κλήσεως ὑμῶν·
5 εἷς κύριος, μία πίστις, ἓν βάπτισμα,
6 εἷς θεὸς καὶ πατὴρ πάντων,
ὁ ἐπὶ πάντων καὶ διὰ πάντων καὶ ἐν πᾶσιν. Ephesians 4:1-6 (NA28)
All who are in Christ are one calling. We are all part of those who should be praising God continually “…who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him…” (Ephesians 1:3-4) I firmly believe that the visible church we see is not the definition of this body described here. No, it contains a large number of religious people, but only a subset of them is part of these elected by God. These elected Christians are the invisible Church, the real Church, the real Body of Christ. The call here is for those of us in this body to be unified in the one calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.
The Greek word Paul used in v2 for the “love” with which we are to bear with one another is ἀγάπῃ. Αγάπῃ is love, however, this word is not found in Classical Greek, but only in revealed religion. The KJV translators rendered this word as “charity” because it means benevolent love. However, this benevolence is not shown by doing what the person loved desires but what the one who loves deems as needed by the one loved (e.g. John 3:16). However, the the action word in v2 is ἀνεχόμενοι, which the NASB translates as “showing tolerance for,” but could be translated as “bearing” or “enduring.” Ανεχόμενοι describes the action of holding up against a thing; to bear with or endure. The KJV translates it here as “forbearing.” In v2, ἀνεχόμενοι is a present participle. This expresses continuous or repeated action relative to the main verb. This continual action is true regardless of the grammar structure of the verb. In this passage, in v1, the main verb is περιπατῆσαι, which is translated in the NASB as “to walk.” In other words our Christian walk, which is how we should conduct ourselves at all times, should be marked as Paul describes in vv1-6.
Ephesians 4:7-16 (NASB) 7 But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift. 8 Therefore it says,
“When He ascended on high,
He led captive a host of captives,
And He gave gifts to men.”
9 (Now this expression, “He ascended,” what does it mean except that He also had descended into the lower parts of the earth? 10 He who descended is Himself also He who ascended far above all the heavens, so that He might fill all things.) 11 And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ. 14 As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; 15 but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love. Ephesians 4:7-16 (NASB)
If you listen with godly discernment very long to the “new” concepts of Christianity in our time, whatever they call themselves, you will clearly see that the push is to a nebulous concept of the truth. There is a call for tolerance for every form of religious “opinion.” There can be no dogmatism to hold to the true biblical form of Christianity is to be exclusive. There is only one truth and all else is not it. In this passage we see that it is God Himself who gives us our doctrines and leaders whose job it is to teach us the truth in love so that we might arrive together in oneness within this truth. Those who are not blinded to God’s truth (there are so many today who are obviously blind to what is truth and what is not) will be growing together in Christ on this firm, solid foundation. When “new” concepts and man-made forms of “christianity” come along, these will not be tossed to and fro by these winds of false doctrine. No, instead, they will remain solidified in God’s truth in oneness and ἀγάπῃ. The deceit, scheming, and trickery of those who belong to our enemy will have no power over these. Yes, they may persecute and abuse those who are not tricked by them, but God will never lose one of His (Romans 8).
Be edified my brethren. If you are on this firm foundation you are growing in oneness with the Body of Christ. You may be suffering for Christ’s sake in this, but I encourage you to keep your focus on our Lord alone. Remember what He did to purchase you. Do you think He will lose even one of those who He has bought with His blood? Think again!
To those of you offended by this message. I pray that you will repent and seek the truth at the throne of Grace and from God’s Word. I pray that you will obey Him and in this turn from your man-made religiosity to the Jesus who is vastly different than how the majority of the visible Church presents Him.
Soli Deo Gloria!