Paul wrote to the church at Ephesus to teach them what the church is (chapters 1-3) and what the church does (chapters 4-6). The first half of the letter explains what the church believes, and the second half explains how the church behaves in light of what she believes. The second half begins with an appeal for members of the church to reflect the grace that saved them in the way they treat their fellow members (v.1-2).
“Members” is Paul’s term of choice for referring to our place in the Body of Christ (see 2:19, 3:6, 4:25, 5:30), and we should be eager to protect the inherent bond of unity we have as interconnected members. The word “one”, used seven times in verses 4-6, describes who we are and what we believe as a church, and that oneness should define how we behave toward each other — we are one in Christ, unified.
Because of the constant external pressure of the world that pushes against the church and the relentless internal threat of sin that can divide the church, unity must be constantly guarded. We can’t fulfill our God-given assignment — to make disciples of every nation — without it. God has graciously provided leaders for every local church whose task is to protect and promote the unity. Some of the leaders on the list in verse 11 protect unity in the church by defending against false doctrine and Satan’s lies (teachers). Some defend the church by boldly preaching the pure gospel of Christ (evangelists). Others are gifted in equipping the members for service and directing “the work of ministry” (pastors, v.12). If every member is growing in Christ, busy in ministry, and treating other members with unconditional love, the mission of the church will be accomplished (v.15-16).
The next section (v.17-32) teaches the only way the church can continually “build itself up in love”. Every member must decide every day to “put off” the old fleshly sin nature and “put on” our new nature in Christ (v.22-24). It truly is a daily decision to crucify the flesh and surrender to the Lord. When we do that, the character of Christ is revealed in our relationships: truthfulness (v.25), industriousness (v.28), generosity (v.28), encouragement (v.29), kindness (v.32), compassion (v.32), and forgiveness (v.32).
Just imagine what it would be like if every member of your church — beginning with you — would live that way! Wouldn’t that be powerful? Wouldn’t that kind of church be unstoppable? It can happen, you know. It’s not a far-fetched scenario. It’s church as it should be, and it can begin with you (and me).