Seventeenth Sunday after Trinity: Ephesians 4:1-6

Paul concludes his previous prayer for the Ephesians.  Because Christ dwells within the hearts of His people, who together form a temple of living stones (1 Peter 2:5), He Himself forms the foundation of that temple.  Since He is in them and they are in Him, they are able to comprehend the things of God and to know the love of Christ which surpasses all understanding.  Paul concludes that prayer with a doxology to the Father, an indication that he has touched on a matter of supreme importance.  The indwelling of Christ is a spiritual mystery, but one that has profound bearing upon our daily lives.

This is why Paul begins the pericope with “therefore.”  Christ’s indwelling informs our conduct, because we are becoming holy as He is holy.  Walking “in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called” reflects this reality.  To walk contrary to God is to deny that we are the temple of the living God.  As Paul said to the Corinthians:  “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God?  You are not your own, for you were bought with a price.  So glorify God in your body” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).  Paul is even more pointed earlier in that same letter:  “If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him.  For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple” (1 Corinthians 3:17).

Yet this manner of walking is not ill-defined.  Being a Christian is not a vague concept, nor one that is immediately obvious to us because of sin.  The Lord informs us of His will so that we are able to walk in it.  Even in perfection, man had to learn from God what was good and what was evil.  It was only when Adam attempted to decide between them himself, effectively making himself into God, that man fell into sin.  “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8)?

These, then, are some of the marks of being a Christian:  humility, gentleness, patience, long-suffering, a desire for peace and unity.  Whereas the flesh seeks only division, the Spirit seeks unity.  Nor is this unity a fleshly unity, which would paper over problems in a vain attempt to just get along.  The real unity of the body of Christ flows forth from its essential oneness.  There is only one God, and therefore only one faith.  Likewise, we have been baptized into one Christ.  If, then, we all have the same God and the same faith, it follows that we are also one, sharing in the same things.

Immediately after the pericope, Paul goes on to say that we, though one in the body of Christ, all have our individual spiritual gifts meant to build up that oneness.  This is hardly division.  On the contrary, the variety of the gifts form a composite whole working together according to God’s intentions.  These gifts will come to an end when we reach mature manhood at Christ’s return (Ephesians 4:13).  Then we will no longer squabble like children, insisting on our own way, but we will dwell together as brothers in unity in our head Jesus Christ.