Ephesians 4:3-16 One Another
In Ephesians 4:2 Paul listed 4 characteristics that are vital for believers to develop if they are going to “live a life worthy of the calling you have received.” Read Ephesians 4:2-3. Verse 2 is a transitional verse that defines what a life worthy of Jesus looks like and a life that leads to unity in the church.
Unity in Jesus’ church is essential. As a church and those who make it up, it is essential that we are united in the Spirit. Acts 2:42 records that the early Christians, “Devoted themselves to fellowship.” The word used there for “fellowship” is the Greek word “Koinonia” which loosely translated means community. The community they were devoted to was that made up of fellow believers so literally they devoted themselves to each other. There was an intimacy in the early church that enabled them to grow and work together. Read John 13:34-35.
Then some 25-30 years later Paul wrote to the church in Ephesus and reminded them of the importance of that fellowship and being one in Jesus. Unlike the first churches that were made up primarily of Jewish Christians, the church in Ephesus was made up of Jews and Greeks, of rich landowners and slaves, of educated and those who never had the opportunity to learn to read or write. Unity needed to be worked at more deliberately than it did in Jerusalem but was no less essential if they were to consider themselves to be a church of Jesus.
Read Ephesians 4:4-6. In the verses that follow, through verse 16, Paul detailed some of reasons why unity is important and what it should look like. Paul said we are to be united in Jesus because we have a shared oneness in Jesus, and we have shared values that set us apart from the rest of society.
Paul wrote that unity was essential if we are to grow in our faith and successfully bear a testimony to the community around us. A church that spends all its time scrapping cannot grow. Paul noted that God has given us a variety of spiritual gifts not so we can compete with one another or feel that some are better than others. Ephesians 4:12-13 details why we have been given a variety of gifts. Read those verses.
We have different gifts so that collectively we can grow as a church in the Lord. Some are teachers, some have gifts of music, some have gifts of maintaining our facilities, some have gifts of helps in the community. When we the various gifts together in unity we grow, and we have a witness to those around us.
Paul wrote in verse 2 we are to, “bear with one another in love.” In the New Testament there are a number of pictures or commands that picture how we are to relate to one another. Looking at them presents an interesting challenge to all Christians.
The longest list of verses containing a command to “one another” is to “love one another.” This is repeated 19 times plus it was commanded by Jesus Himself. John 13:14 records Jesus telling us to love one another not just once but twice. Read that verse. Christians are to be a group of people known for their love of one another.
How are we to love one another? Jesus said we are to love as He loved. So how did Jesus love? Romans 5:8 records that He loved us even when we were unworthy of that love, while we were sinners. Later in that chapter Paul recorded that nothing can ever separate us from Jesus’ love, and it will never end. His love, according to II Corinthians 5:21, was a sacrificial love that gave up everything for our redemption. I Corinthians 13 is God’s picture of what the love we are to have for one another should look like.
Several “one another” commands tie into one’s love of one another. For example, read Colossians 3:13, Ephesians 4:32, and Romans 15:7.
(Incidentally, there are some “negative” one another” passages that relate to loving and forgiving. Read James 4:11, James 5:9 and Romans 14:13.
The list of “one another” commands goes on. Read Hebrews 10:24-25. Four other times we are told to “encourage one another.” The Hebrews 10 passage specifically tells us encourage one another by spurring each other on toward love and good deeds.
We really don’t need to ask why this is important. Jesus told us, according to John 16:33, that, “In this world you will have trouble.” The nature of those troubles may vary from individual to individual but realistically life can be difficult and discouraging at times. One of the ministries we can have within the church is that of encouragement. The ministry of just coming along side and letting someone know you are there can be a great encouragement. Read Proverbs 16:24.
A favorite Bible characters is Barnabas whose real name was Joseph but was nicknamed Barnabas by the early church, with Barnabas meaning “Son of Encouragement.” A church that is filled with individuals who are known to be sons and daughters of encouragement will be a church that others will want to be a part of.
Ephesians 5:19 presents another “one another” challenge that is closely related to encouraging one another. Read that verse. Admittedly there is a wealth of implications to that but at least one is to take the time to encourage one another by reminding them of the great promises found in the Psalms and expressed in so many hymns. Who, going through a tough time, will not be encouraged by the reminder that “The Lord is our shepherd” or that we truly have a “friend in Jesus?”
Another “one another” that is closely related to encouraging one another. Read Galatians 5:13. Jesus made it clear that one who seeks to be first in the kingdom is one who is a servant. Serving one another is a way of reaching out and declaring in practical ways that someone is valued and important to us. Service can be in the form of encouragement or via a helping hand when one needs that extra assistance. Very closely related to that command is seen in I Peter 5:5. Read that verse. The coming along side in serving one another is not saying, “I can do what you cannot” or “I can do something better than you” but instead we should say in attitude, “Let me help you accomplish your goals because together we can do more than either of us can do alone.”
God’s Word has several more “one another” passages worthy of our thought. I Peter 4:9 reads, “Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.” In biblical times there were no motels, so Christians cared for fellow Christians who were traveling. Perhaps today Peter would remind us to take a meal to someone having difficulty preparing them or just in need of break and a healthy meal.
The list goes on. Read Colossians 3:16, Romans 12:10 and, Romans 15:14.
What do all of the “one another” passages have in common. They remind us that as a church we are a family, the family of God. Our culture does not tend to greet one another any longer with a “hello brother” or “hello sister” but that is what we are in Jesus. And because we are family, we are responsible for the care of “one another.” That care means we bear with one another, love one another, forgive one another, spur one another on, encourage one another, offer hospitality to one another, teach one another, and we honor one another.
It’s a big demand but one that God has promised to help us fulfill. The challenge is for us to pick areas where we can do more and then allow God to bless His family through us.