Ephesians 4:1-16


One of the most glorious books of the Bible is the Epistle to the Ephesians. It is a book which takes us into the heavenlies and which shows to us the wonders of our inheritance in Christ.

If Romans is Paul's teaching on Justification and the Righteousness of God, then Ephesians is Paul's teaching on Identification and the Body of Christ.

While Romans begins its discourse with the total depravity of man, Ephesians begins its discourse with the union that the believer has in Christ.

Ephesians 4 marks the pivotal point in this book. During the first three chapters, the believer is only told to do one thing - to BELIEVE what God has said about him. Throughout these first three chapters, God does all the work. You can do nothing. You can only learn about who you are in Christ. It is here that you learn that you have an identity in Christ Jesus. Because you have been identified with Him, you share in everything that He has.

This is your position in Christ. You are reckoned to be seated right now in heaven with Christ. All of the privileges of heaven are yours now.

The plea throughout the first three chapters of Ephesians has been that you believe these things. But now as we come to chapter 4, there is a change. There is a call to action.

Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, entreat 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 forbearance to one another in love, 3 being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. (Ephesians 4:1-3).

Paul says, "I... CALL you to walk in a manner worthy of the CALLING with which you have been CALLED."

Paul says, "I... CALL you to walk in a manner worthy of the CALLING with which you have been CALLED."

Notice how this passage begins. It begins with the word "therefore." This takes us back to the last three chapters that have gone on before. Don't miss this! Paul is about to give us some instructions for living. But he has already laid the foundation as to WHY we ought to live that way. Everything that he will say from this point forward is based upon the truths set forth in the first three chapters.

Paul refers to himself as the prisoner of the Lord. This is significant. It is significant because of where Paul was as he penned these words. He was a prisoner in Rome. And he had been a prisoner for a long time.

Picture the scene. Paul is in Rome under house arrest. An iron chain runs from a ring set into a wall to one made fast around his ankle. A soldier stands nearby on guard. It is his job to guard this old Jewish man. He is guarding a prisoner of the Roman Empire.

The old man is writing a letter. It is already several pages in length. Notice what he does not write. He does not call himself a prisoner of Rome. He sees himself as a prisoner, not of Rome, but of the Lord Jesus Christ. He realizes that God is in control of his circumstances. What are your circumstances? Have you come to the realization that, no matter what they appear to be, God is still in control?

Paul could have worded this in the terms of a command. After all, he was an apostle. He had the authority to command the church. But he does not do that. Instead he makes an entreaty. He pleads with these believers. His desire is that they live in a manner that is consistent with what they already are in Christ.

He has spent the last three chapters telling them what they are in Christ. Now he calls them to live according to what they ARE.

Ephesians 4:1-16 is organized in a large parallel known as a chiasm. The first part of this parallel (verses 1-6) deals with the unity of the church. The second part of this parallel (verses 7-16) deals with the diversity of the church.

Practical Unity (4:1-3)

Practical Diversity (4:12-16



Doctrinal Unity (4:5-6)


Doctrinal Diversity (4:7-11)



Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, entreat 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 forbearance to one another in love, 3 being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. (Ephesians 4:1-3).

Notice that we are not instructed to MAKE the unity. Instead we are told to PRESERVE the unity and to guard it. There exists a unity among believers. This is not something that we have generated ourselves. It is a unity which is based upon the Lord and who HE is and what HE has done.

You cannot make this unity. But if you are not careful, you can damage it. You can damage it when you do not show...



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 4:4-6).

This unity is based upon Christ and your identification with Him. It is the unity which you share by virtue of your position in Him.

Notice the three members of the Godhead who are mentioned throughout this unity.

Holy Spirit



  • One body
  • One Spirit
  • One hope
  • One Lord
  • One faith
  • One baptism
  • One God and Father

This is the basis of fellowship between believers. What does "fellowship" mean? It means to have things in common. True Christian fellowship does not depend upon financial status or age or cultural background. We have something much greater in common with one another. What we have in common is eternal. It is our position in Christ.

Now we come to a crucial question. How are we to preserve this unity? What can we do to accomplish this preservation? It is first by being "in Christ." He is the source of our unity. As we have become united to Him through faith, then we have also become united to all of His people.

But that is not all. It is also by recognizing the fact that we are different. This is seen in the following verses.



But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ's gift.

Therefore it says, "When he ascended on high, he led captive a host of captives, and he gave gifts to men." (Ephesians 4:7-8).

Now we move from unity to diversity. We have a unity that is rooted in Christ, but we also have a diversity that is rooted in Christ. It is a diversity based on the fact that Christ has given various gifts to men.

There are two words here that go together. They are the noun "grace" and the verb "given." Grace is always something which is given and received. Grace involves the giving and receiving of a gift. You know what a gift is. A gift is something that you are given and which expects no repayment. You do not buy a gift or repay it. That would make it a purchase or a loan. A gift, by its very nature, expects no repayment.

When Christ died upon the cross, it was to provide us with the gift of eternal life. But that is not all. He also provided gifts for THIS life. This was promised in the Old Testament.

Thou hast ascended on high,

Thou hast led captive Thy captives,

Thou hast received gifts among men,

Even among the rebellious also, that the Lord God may dwell there. (Psalm 68:18).

This is the language of a triumph. In ancient times, a conquering general returning home would enjoy the honor of a triumph, a tumultuous parade. He would come through the gates of the city riding upon a white horse. Behind him in chains would come all those whom he had conquered in battle. It was a joyous time; a time when gifts were given and received.

This picture is of Jesus. He is the one who has conquered sin and death. He is the conquering King. And at such a time, He has given gifts to His church.

Therefore, I will allot Him a portion with the great,

And He will divide the booty with the strong;

Because He poured out Himself to death,

And was numbered with the transgressors;

Yet He Himself bore the sins of many,

And interceded for the transgressors. (Isaiah 53:12).

Do you see it? He won the victory and we get to participate in the booty. He did the fighting and we get the rewards.

We will look at some of those gifts in just a moment, but first Paul takes a parenthetical excursus to further explain what Christ has done.



Now this expression, "He ascended," what does it mean except that He also had descended into the lower parts of the earth?

He who descended is Himself also He who ascended far above all the heavens, so that He might fill all things. (Ephesians 4:9-10).

Paul takes a moment to explain the Psalm which he quoted. He takes the first phrase of the Psalm - "He ascended." The subject of that Psalm is God. He is the One who is said to be ascending.

You've heard the old saying, "Whatever goes up must come down." But it is the exact opposite when you speak of God. You don't speak of God as being down here - you speak of Him being "up there." Indeed, the Hebrew word for "heaven" simply means, "Up there." When you speak of God ascending, that means that He had to have first DESCENDED. When it comes to God, whoever goes up must have first come down.

Here is the principle. The fact that God was described as ascending means that the Scriptures indicated that God would come to earth. He accomplished this in the person of Jesus Christ.

The reference to into the lower parts of the earth is simply a way of saying, "Down here" as opposed to "Up there." There was a time when Christ could not ascend into heaven. It was before the incarnation. He could not ascend into heaven because He was already in heaven. But then He came to earth to be born as a man.

After His death, burial and resurrection, Jesus ascended far above all the heavens. He who became the lowest has now risen to become the very highest.



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. (Ephesians 4:11-13).

Now we come back to the topic at hand. Paul has been speaking of certain GIFTS which were given by Christ. They are spiritual gifts. This brings us to a question. What is a spiritual gift? Before I state what it is, perhaps I should say what it is not. It is not an office in the church. It is not a natural talent, such as music or art. It is not a reward. A spiritual gift is a God-given ability for service. In this simple definition, we see three concepts.

a. They are God-given: This is their SOURCE.

b. They involve an ability: This is their MEANING.

c. They are for service: This is their PURPOSE.

Paul is not going to speak about spiritual gifts in general. Instead his focus is upon several very specific types of gifts. They are gifts involving COMMUNICATION.


Leadership over all of the churches



Proclaimers of the word of God


Proclaimers of the gospel


Pastors & Teachers

Leading and teaching over individual churches

1. Apostles.

Our English word "apostle" comes from the Greek word apostolos. It is an old military term, going back to the days of the Peloponnesian War between Athens and Sparta. The apostolos was the admiral of the fleet. He was the supreme commander. He was the one who had been sent out by the rulers of the city to wield authority over the Athenian navy.

The New Testament usage is similar. The apostles were those men who had been commissioned by Jesus Christ to wield authority over the churches of God.

2. Prophets.

Prophets were familiar in Old Testament times. But there are also examples in the book of Acts of New Testament prophets. Like their Old Testament counterparts, they were given the ability both to foretell and to forth tell the message of God.

I do not believe that there are apostles and prophets today in the same sense that there were in the days in which the New Testament was written. These two gifts were TEMPORARY. They were gifts which were given for the establishment of the early church. And after the church was established and the Scriptures had been given, these two gifts ceased to be given.

There are two more gifts. These gifts are also given for the establishment of the church. It is the use of these two gifts which take up the slack left by the absence of the apostles and prophets.

3. Evangelists.

The word "evangelist" literally means, "messenger of good news." An evangelist is one who has been gifted with the ability to share the gospel clearly so that it will be understood and accepted by others. This is not to say that you must have the gift of evangelism in order to share the gospel. Rather it means that certain people have a special gift which gives them greater ability in bringing others to Christ.

4. Pastors and Teachers.

There are two parts to this gift. The first part is the aspect of the Pastor. The word "pastor" simply means "shepherd." He is one who shepherds and cares for the flock of God. The second part of this gift is that of "teacher." He is one who is able to explain the Word of God in a way in which it can be understood.

It reminds me of the young man who was certain that he had the gift of teaching. Unfortunately no one else had the gift of listening.

Now we must be careful here. We must be careful not to confuse the gift of pastor-teacher with an office of position within the church. The Bible indicates that the early church was under the leadership of a plurality of elders. Each local church had several mature and spiritual men who had the responsibility of leading the church. They were called "elders" or "overseers." Never does the Bible say that all pastor-teachers are to be elders or that all elders are to be pastor-teachers.

Our tendency is to look for GIFTED men to rule the church. But the Biblical mandate is that we look for SPIRITUAL men to rule over the church.

In verse 12, we are given the REASON for these particular spiritual gifts. It is introduced by the word "for."

Gifted men were given


For the equipping of the saints


For the work of service


For the building up of the body of Christ

The immediate reason for the gifts of communication (evangelist and pastor-teacher) is to equip believers for the work of service. Most people do not seem to know this. Most people seem to think that it is only those who have the gifts of evangelism and pastor-teacher who are to do the work of service and the work of ministry.

The church is often run like a spectator sport. Football is a spectator sport - 22 men who desperately need rest being watched by 22,000 people who desperately need exercise. People come to watch the pastor "do his thing" and they think that their part is to be quiet and to listen and his part is to minister. But Christianity is not a spectator sport. All Christians are called to do the work of ministry.

The preposition which introduces the clause "for the work of service" is noteworthy. It is the preposition eis. It is normally translated "into." It is the equipped saints who are to go INTO the work of service. We often speak of one who is going into the ministry. This is wrong. All believers are to be IN ministry.

The ultimate purpose of this progression is to the building up of the body of Christ. This is a reference to the edification of the church. The church is involved in a building program. This building program is twofold.

The result is that 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 (4:13).

We saw in verse 3 the plea to preserve the unity of the Spirit. It was to this end that the gifts were given to the church. This was their purpose - the attainment of a mature unity - that we be like Christ.

Verse 11

Verse 12

Verse 13

Gifts were given

For the building up of the body

Until we all attain to the fulness of Christ






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 4:14-16).

The fact of our growth brings about certain results. Paul lets us know this by starting this section with the words, "As a result…"

Verse 14

Verse 15

Verse 16

The negative result

The Positive result

How that result is achieved

Tossed about children

Growing up into Christ

By all members pulling together in love

There is nothing wrong with being a child. Being a child is a natural phase of growth. But when many years have passed and there is nothing in the way of growth, then something is seriously wrong.

One of the marks of a child is given in the rest of this verse. It is his reaction to false teaching.

This is one of the marks of the immature believer. His faith is only as strong as the last good sermon he heard.

The problem is one of spiritual discernment. Because he has not yet developed spiritual discernment, he cannot see the hazardous currents of false doctrine and soon he finds himself adrift. Many believers wind up as spiritual pinball machines, bouncing from one type of false teaching to another.

What is the answer? Get with the Book. Get with true teaching. It is only as you feed upon the word of God that you can begin to develop spiritual discernment.

Here is the result of spiritual growth. The picture is of a body. The head of the body is Jesus Christ. The members are different aspects of the church. You are a vital part of that body. You are in a vital union with that body - but only insofar as you are in contact with the HEAD.

What happens when the members of a human body doesn't receive or respond to messages from the brain? Paralysis. And the church is paralyzed when it is not in contact with its Head.

Verse 14

Verse 15



Tossed about - unstable like waves

Grown up - stable like a building

In error

"Truthing in love"

Did you ever notice that the head of a child is much bigger in proportion to the rest of his body. The remainder of a child's life is spent in having his body catch up with his head. It is a fitting analogy, for that is how we spend the rest of our spiritual life here on earth. We are on a quest to catch up with our Head.

Notice what holds the body together. It is not a single member. It is not those members with the gifts of evangelist or pastor-teacher. It is the unity of ALL the members.

This brings us full circle. Paul began with a call to preserve the unity that we have in Christ. Now we see that it is we who are in Christ who hold that unity together. It is only as each member of the body of Christ pulls together that this unity is preserved. And the result? The growth of the body.

No longer children

Grow up into Him



In error


Truthing in love

Are you in the body of Christ? I am not asking whether you are a member of a church or some particular denomination. I am asking if you have ever come to Christ, trusting Him as your Lord and Savior, giving your life to Him that He might give His life to you. If you have not, then I invite you to come to Him today.

But I also have another question. It is a question for Christians. Are you functioning within the body of Christ? Are you an active part of a local church? Not merely "on the roles," but participating in the nurture and growth of the entire body?

You have a high calling. And I call you to walk worthy of the calling with which you have been called.

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