Sunday School Lesson
Devotional Reading: Romans 12:1-8
Lesson Scripture: Ephesians 4:1-16
Lesson Aims: To understand that the church is people, not a building; to appreciate God’s gifts that unite and mature us; and to celebrate oneness in Christ.
Background: Paul continued to remind the church about its doctrine in chapter three. He spoke about the “mystery” of the church. Mystery here did not mean having some secret knowledge like the Gnostics. “Information communicated by revelation from God” (Richards’ Complete Bible Handbook) defines the term best.
The church is the new revelation that God kept to Himself in the Old Testament. To understand the church, you have to rely on the New Testament, which is inclusive as opposed to the first covenant. God’s greater purpose for humanity was more than simply choosing a group of people to be His. Don’t forget that God made everything and everyone! His new revelation is complex yet simple, personal yet public. Actually, the church is an intimate relationship between the believers and God, along with one another, in the body.
Lesson: Paul moves from doctrine to practical application in chapter four. He declares that each believer should live as a worthy example of being a “child of God.” What is said and done must reflect Christ. In doing so, unity can be achieved based on three criteria: humility, a gentle spirit and patience. Because believers are human, divisions will come up, but the apostle encourages them to remember the foundation of oneness: one body, one Spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism and one God. In order to accomplish unity, God gives gifts to them that serve as a unifying force.
Everyone depends on God and each other to become more like Christ. Everyone has a role to contribute that is important to the body. There is room for all on the basis of equality. No one is more important than the body. The Omnipotent One’s gifts are divine and designed to unite and grow the body. How long does it take to mature? It is a continuous process until believers see and understand the truth (Jesus). When this happens, they are no longer infants who go back and forth as if they have no roots. Instead, because of their training (teaching) and service, they can resist false teachings in love. They fit together, building up one another in the body in order to be more like Christ.
Application: Some time ago at a Sunday School convention, the delegates learned a catchy phrase to maintain unity: “Unity in the essentials, liberty in the nonessentials, and love in all things.” Life teaches the meaning of the phrase in all relationships. To represent Christ, our words and actions must go together or our witness will be ineffective. Examine the Church Covenant if you will. Do we think about what we’re saying? On paper, the wording is eloquent, yet we forget it when dealing with each other. Paul encourages the church (then and now) to be mature in spirit, to recognize that all have gifts and to join the gifts together for the edification of the body – not the individual. Are we striving for that unity and maturity?