According to Dr. James McHenry (Maryland delegate to the Constitutional Convention of 1787), a lady asked Benjamin Franklin as he left Independence Hall on the last day of the Convention, “Well Doctor, what have we got—a Republic or a Monarchy?” Franklin replied, “A Republic, if you can keep it.” Following two lessons on sin and two lessons on salvation this month, we might say, “What have we got—a grace system or a works system of salvation?” The Apostle Paul’s answer might be, “A grace system, if you can keep it.” Dallas Willard reminds us that, “Grace is not against striving; it is against earning.” Once we are justified and redeemed, we live out sanctification (holy living). We are able to do this because Christ empowers us through the Holy Spirit. We could ask, as a focus question from this text, “How do sanctified and empowered people live anyway?” How do they live a life worthy of their calling?
They Exemplify Right Attitudes
Achieving Christian unity takes more than right attitudes, but it still takes right attitudes. It is interesting that previous to the theology of verses 4-6 Paul wrote a very practical section in verses 1-3. One way to walk worthily in the Lord is to display right attitudes.
Paul, the prisoner for the Lord (both physically and spiritually), mentioned five such attitudes. There is a call to humility (lowliness of mind) and a call to gentleness (see Galatians 5:23). There is a call to patience (longsuffering) and a call to bear with (put up with) one another in love. Finally there is a call to maintain (strive; give all diligence) the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. These right attitudes give evidence of a sanctified life.
They Believe Right Things
Undergirding the right attitudes are proper doctrinal platforms. Paul mentioned seven things empowered people believe. Perhaps the list is not arranged in any order of importance, but we do notice the multiple uses of one and the involvement of every person of the trinity, with the Spirit mentioned first.
Besides the foundation of the trinity for the one body (the sanctified and empowered community), there is one hope (a future totally controlled by God), one faith (a response to God’s love found uniquely in Christ), and one baptism (an immersion into the body of Christ). Sanctified people believe in these things. In fact, they would take a bullet for these things.
They Use Their Gifts to Equip the Saints
Seth Wilson used to say, “The goals of God are personal.” By this he did not mean the goals of God were private. There is a strong communal side to our faith. But in the midst of the unity of verses 4-6, there is great diversity in verses 7-13. Grace not only saves us but also strengthens and equips us. Therefore one nuance of grace is its use with spiritual gifts.
Paul affirmed four things about the gifts of the empowered community. First, these gifts are given as Christ apportioned them (literally “according to the measure of Christ’s gift). He decides. No one wrestles God to the mat to selfishly take the gifts desired. Second, these gifts are secured by Christ himself. Some believers are sheepish about having spiritual gifts. But they are as sure as the incarnation and the ascension. If God can come to earth and win the victory over Satan, then he can certainly give gifts to people (a very interesting use of Psalm 68:18). Third, the gifts in this passage are actually people. God gave people (particularly leaders) to the church. Apostles and prophets might be foundational positions (Ephesians 2:20), while evangelists and pastor-teachers are ongoing gifts. Finally, these gifts are intended to make the church look like Jesus. His first-century body was God incarnate. When leaders equip (set right) the twenty-first century body of Christ, then the church is built up attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.
They Grow to Maturity
It is hard not to love a baby—beauty surrounded by innocence. But if the baby is 12, still in a high chair, and unable to feed himself, something is wrong. God likes things to grow (nations, families, churches, and even gardens). Spiritual infants are susceptible to doctrinal error. Rather, God wants believers to “truth in love” (truth here is actually a participle, a part of which would be speaking).
The church will grow to look like Christ as each member of the church does his or her work. Then the church will be saved, sanctified, happy, and on its way to Heaven.
Dr. Mark Scott teaches Preaching and New Testament at Ozark Christian College in Joplin, Missouri.
Lesson study ©2018, Christian Standard Media. Lesson based on The Lookout’s Scope and Sequence ©2018. Scripture quotations are from the New International Version, ©2011, unless otherwise indicated.