Ephesians 4:3-6, Holiness and the effort for unity under one Lord.
Thursday February 11, 2021
The body, the church, is to be holy as Israel, God’s client nation, was to be holy.
'Do not defile yourselves by any of these things; for by all these the nations which I am casting out before you have become defiled.
What things? Incest, bestiality, homosexuality, dedicating children to demon gods, and sacrificing children to demon gods, are what sins God uses to describe the abominations of the nations then living in the land of Canaan.
[From Keil and Delitzsch Commentary on the Old Testament]
In Egypt it was lawful to marry sisters and half-sisters, and the licentiousness of women was very great. With Persians marriage was allowed with mother, daughter, and sister, and this is also said to have been the case with the Medians, Indians, and Ethiopians, as well as with the Assyrians; whereas the Greeks and Romans abhorred such marriages, and the Athenians and Spartans only permitted marriages with half-sisters.
The more immoral Satan can make the nations of the world, the less they will care about finding anything good. Hence, these nations, like certain cultures today, are lawless. A title for the antichrist is “lawless one.” Paul asserts in 1Ti 1:9 that God gave the law for the lawless and rebellious. Peter describes the deeds of Sodom as lawless in 2Pe 2:8.
'For the land has become defiled, therefore I have visited its punishment upon it, so the land has spewed out its inhabitants. 26 'But as for you, you are to keep My statutes and My judgments, and shall not do any of these abominations, neither the native, nor the alien who sojourns among you 27 (for the men of the land who have been before you have done all these abominations, and the land has become defiled); 28 so that the land may not spew you out, should you defile it, as it has spewed out the nation which has been before you. 29 'For whoever does any of these abominations, those persons who do so shall be cut off from among their people. 30 'Thus you are to keep My charge, that you do not practice any of the abominable customs which have been practiced before you, so as not to defile yourselves with them; I am the Lord your God.'"
The point is that no sin is to be tolerated in the community of God, or in our case, the family of God, a family of priests betrothed to the Lord, our High Priest and King. Sin will occur due to our weaknesses, but it is not to be sanctioned or encouraged or anything other than despised as unholy, hated by God, and repented of. Any other attitude will find a Christian eventually as a slave to their sin nature, old self, i.e., fleshly, as happened in Corinth and in Galatia.
An important aspect of the ministry of Christ for His church relates to the sanctification of the body which is portrayed in scripture in a threefold relationship: 1) positional sanctification; 2) progressive sanctification; 3) ultimate sanctification.
Sanctification means holiness. At salvation we are set apart as God’s own, positional sanctification, which is eternal and permanent. Eternal security, the true and biblical doctrine of the believer’s immutable position in Christ, guarantees that all believers will have a portion in heaven, which is ultimate sanctification, being set apart from the old world and living forever in the new, God’s kingdom.
Progressive sanctification is the experience of the believer when he learns to separate from his self (old man), his flesh, his sin, and the world system independent from God, over time. The only way this is done to him, cleansing his thinking and perspective of faith, is through the Word of God and the Spirit of God.
“I do not ask Thee to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one. 16 They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. 17 Sanctify them in the truth; Thy word is truth. 18 "As Thou didst send Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world. 19 And for their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they themselves also may be sanctified in truth.”
Progressive sanctification is the believers experience of being set apart from sin, self, and the world in time. It is predicated on the application of the word of God cleansing the mind of the child of God.
A principal passage dealing with this sanctification is in Eph 5.
Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her; 26 that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she should be holy and blameless.
The washing is by the word. This is not a reference to water baptism as is a common view of a certain camp of expositors.
There is great reward to experiencing a separation from sin, self, and the world; a natural fruit grows from that experience.
We are one body, which is made and given life by One Spirit, and has as its goal one hope of its calling. So then, the body has one head, one faith to sustain its journey, and one origin – the baptism of the Spirit.
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.
Seventh, there is one Father, the giver and planner of it all; the one Originator, the one source of the entire plan of human history and the final kingdom of men joyously thriving in God’s kingdom of heaven. It is truly a glorious story, the glory of which belongs to one Trinity.
The one body is the church, comprised of Jewish and Gentile believers; and its unity and cohesion (remember 1Co 3:1-17) is due to the one Holy Spirit who indwells and animates it. Our faith is one, in one Lord and His law (Rom 8:2; Gal 6:2), to whom the Spirit as baptized us into Him by the one baptism. Our calling is one, to be like Christ for whom we wait in expectant hope. The one God and Father is over the whole family, to whom He has given His name.
There is a visible and invisible church. The invisible church is comprised of all believers everywhere. They are unified in the eyes of God the Father. They are his family and they possess His name. They are one body, indwelt by one Spirit, having one calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and one Father. However, we see great disunity in the visible church. It must therefore be the visible church that Paul refers to when he says:
being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
“being diligent” – spoudazo = sparing no effort. “It is hardly possible to render exactly the urgency contained in the underlying Greek verb. Not only haste and passion, but a full effort of the whole man is meant, involving his will, sentiment, reason, physical strength, and total attitude.” [Barth]
Barth further adds: “The participle excludes passivity, quietism, a wait-and-see attitude. Yours is the initiative! Do it now! Mean it! You are to do it! Such are the overtones of verse 3.”
This is an apostolic command that is largely ignored by the church. It is certainly the local church that Paul has in mind, and so many are marred by rivalries between individuals or groups which have been allowed to fester for long periods. Again, refer to our study of 1Co 3. We need to spare no effort, and urgently be eager for love and unity in the church.
The Holy Spirit unites us to that body which He has formed and to us He asks us to recognize it and make every effort to preserve it as one. It is true that not all Christians may see things as you do. They may be less or more mature, have less or more knowledge of the scriptures. They may have been brought up with traditions that lie deep within them that are not based on scripture, but they have yet to work out and smooth over those wheel tracks. But, as in a physical family, they are still your brothers and sisters, and as Paul revealed to us, humility, meekness, patience and forbearance and love will keep the peace.
Henry Ironside, in his commentary on Ephesians (1937) relates the occasion when he was attending a group of meetings in Minneapolis became very ill with typhoid. Unable to walk without assistance, on the train ride back to California the conductor set him up with a mattress in his berth where he remained lying for the entire trip. In the morning he took his morning Bible reading when a person walked by, asked him what he was reading, and then went and got their own Bible and joined in. Over the next days there were as many as 28 people reading the Bible in his train car. The conductor would go all through the cars and say, “The camp-meeting is beginning in car number so-and-so. Any wanting to take advantage are invited.” The attendees would sometimes start a hymn, or a prayer, and they would ask questions. When it finally came time to say goodbye in Sacramento, one dear German sister came and said, “Oh, it has been like a camp-meeting all the way. It has fed my soul. But I want to ask you, what denomination are you?” “Well,” I said, “I belong to the same denomination that David did.” “What was that? I didn’t know that David belonged to any.” Ironside replied, “David said, ‘I am a companion of all them that fear Thee and keep Thy precepts.’” “Yah, yah,” she said, “that is a good church to belong to.” Ironside goes on to comment that if he had interviewed everyone attending, there would have been a dozen different sects, but the blessed thing was, we found we were all one in Christ.
If one Spirit dwells in us, it is one Lord who reigns over us. If we have one hope to reach for, we have one faith to live by. If we are one body, then we must have one baptism.