I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call—one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift. Therefore it says, “When he ascended on high he led a host of captives, and he gave gifts to men.”~ Ephesians 4:1-8
In chapter 4, where does Paul begin when it comes to living out the Christian life secured for us by Jesus Christ? Though Paul will address home life, married life, and workplace life, he actually starts with church life. And what a beautiful beginning it is!
He begins by highlighting the unity of the body of Christ secured for us on Calvary’s cross. The dividing wall of hostility has come crumbling down (Ephesians 2:14). The church was established on the foundation of the apostles and prophets (Ephesians 2:20). And now we see this marvelous, seven-fold unity that exists in the church universal: one body — one Spirit — one hope — one Lord — one faith — one baptism — one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. (Ephesians 4:5-6)
What a mighty unity Christ has gifted to the church! This is truly wonderful, a very real and tangible taste of heaven, of unity perfected and eternally enjoyed.
And yet, many throughout church history have felt that in order to preserve this unity, to maintain it as we read in verse 3, there must be uniformity. This ideology says that if we are all going to get along, we must all be the same. We must talk the same, look the same, and think the same. We need to like the same stuff and read the same books. Only in uniformity can there be true unity. But this is false. It is a lie. It is the twisting of something Biblical and beautiful into a one-dimensional mess.
And this is what Paul points us to in the our text. Yes, unity is invaluable. Yes, it is to be fought for. But, no, it does not mean we need a church full of clones. Not theological clones. Not cultural clones. Not personality clones. None of it.
In the context of Christ purchasing this universal unity for the body of Christ, we see that Christ has done something else for His people. To each of His people He gives grace and gifts! And there’s a bunch of them!
In addition to the 5 gifts or offices listed in verse 11, we have Paul in Romans 12 and 1 Corinthians 12 pointing to a wide array of gifts Christ has given to His people. Everything from generosity to teaching, from administration to exhortation. When you combine the four or five New Testament passages that involve Christ’s gifts to His church, there are at least twenty distinct gifts Christ has given. In no way do these lists seem to be comprehensive or complete.
And yet the encouragement from these passages is always the same…
Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them…~Romans 12:6
To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.~ 1 Corinthians 12:7
What Christ gives to you, dear Christian, you must use for the sake of others! And why? Why all the variety? Practically speaking we can say it is for the edification of the body, but there is something bigger we afford to miss.
The church is the body of Christ. He is the Head and we are His body. He informs, charges and strengthens us as His members and we do His holy will here in the earth. From the head, to and through the body. This is the very language, the language of one body, many members, that Paul uses in each of the three chapters when he discussed Christ’s gifts to the church.
Here’s the big picture! Christ is so glorious, so beautiful, and so abundant in perfections. A one-dimensional body operating in the earth, or as a local church for that matter, is not going to cut it in displaying Christ’s beauty to the world. The variety of gifts, the varying graces Christ gives to each of us, only serves to make Him more known and more beautiful to one another and to the watching world.
Yes, the church was given unity. No, the church was not given to lifeless uniformity! For you and I to be all that we are called to be as a local church, we need one another, as those whom Christ has gifted and graced, to exercise these things for the sake of each other. So, we strive for unity. We are called to maintain it. But we must never strive for uniformity. Rather, we must walk in the beautiful and colorful variety of the gifts and graces Christ has given us. These are differences to be both embraced and celebrated. When this happens in the life of a local church, then you have true and Biblical unity on display. Then the watching world will know that you are Christ’s people, by the way you love one another.