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Lesson 8: Unity Amid Diversity *

Introduction: Unity has always been a good word. Diversity, on the other hand, is about being different. Sometimes being different is good, sometimes it is bad. Diversity can be an excuse for being sinful, proud or both. Our study today is a blueprint for handling diversity in a way which brings about a healthy, loving unity. Let's jump right into our study!

  1. Walking Together

    1. Read Ephesians 4:1. The NIV translates this differently than I prefer. It says "live a life worthy of the calling you received." "Peripateo" is the Greek word behind "live a life" and it is the basis for the English word "peripatetic." Anyone know what peripatetic means? (Walk all around. Constantly walking in different places.)

      1. When Paul urges us to "constantly walk" in the way in which God has called us, what is he asking us to do? (Keep moving ahead in God's way. Walking towards righteousness is a common theme of the New Testament.)

        1. If righteousness is a walk, how should we view our "slips" into sin? (It reminds me of advice about dieting. The concern is not so much about weight variations each day, the concern is whether every week you are trending downward in weight. Is your life on the "upward" path?)

    2. Read Ephesians 4:2. Paul tells us not to just be humble and gentle, he tells us to be "completely" humble and gentle. How do you score on this instruction? Is the walk of your life "completely humble and gentle?"

      1. How does the world view being humble and gentle? According to the IVP Commentary, the Greek world viewed gentleness as a virtue, but humility was not - unless you were a social "inferior." Is that true of your world?

    3. Notice that in Ephesians 4:2 Paul continues, "bearing with one another in love." To whom are we called to be "humble and gentle," those in the church or everyone?

    4. Read Ephesians 4:3. What group is referred to here? (If the "Spirit" is the bond, this has to be the church.)

      1. What gives us unity in the church? ("The bond of peace.")

      2. How do we achieve peace in our church? (Being humble and gentle with each other. Whatever the Bible may teach the Christian elsewhere about humility and gentleness, there is no doubt Paul is here speaking about the church.)

      1. My last question assumed that we have to "achieve peace" in our church. Is that assumption correct? (No. Jesus already gave us unity. The call to us is not to "mess it up" with our pride and harshness.)

    1. Think back about the last time you did not have peace and unity in your church. How would humility and gentleness have changed things?

      1. Understanding how to apply this in every situation, especially in the context of church authority, is sometimes difficult. Many years ago, I had a very difficult member of my Sabbath School class. She wanted to be the teacher instead of me, and no doubt thought she would be better. When she would raise her hand to comment, I would call on her. But, instead of just commenting, she would start to ask her own questions of the class and then solicit answers from others! How would you handle that problem with humility and gentleness if you were me? (I never said to her, "Stop that, I'm in charge here" - although I felt like it. Instead, I helped her to start her own class - which shortly thereafter died because of a lack of attendance. Within a year she (and her family) stopped attending church. It worked out well for my class, but not so well for her salvation.)

    2. Read Ephesians 4:4-6. What is Paul's argument here about unity? (We all have the same God and the same goal, why should we have conflicts?)

  1. Victory

    1. Read Ephesians 4:7-8. This is based loosely on quotation of Psalms 68:9 and Psalms 68:18. What three things do we find happening here? (Jesus ascended to heaven. He led captives in His train and He gave gifts to us.)

      1. What does it mean to "led captives in His train?" (The "train" is what trails along behind.)

        1. In classic war terms it would mean captive enemy soldiers. What are the captives here? (In war terms, these captives would be killed or enslaved for the glory of the victor. In Jesus' case, His goal is to bring us to heaven, to give us eternal life. Thus, I think we are the "captives" who follow Him. We are "hauled" back to heaven as trophies of His victory.)

      2. What do you think are the "gifts" that Jesus gives to us? Think in the context of the military conqueror. Normally, this would mean the captives are given as slaves to the friends of the victorious king. What are we talking about here? (Some commentators suggest this refers to spiritual gifts. The Bible Knowledge Commentary has another idea. It suggests this means that sinners are "captured," redeemed and given to the church as gifts.)

    2. Read Ephesians 4:9-10. Paul is giving us a little explanation of the terms in Psalms 68:18. What do you think Paul means here, and why does he bother to try to explain this? What point is he making? (Jesus humbled Himself by becoming one of us. This act of humility and love resulted in His glorious triumph over sin. Jesus won the victory, He won back the entire universe. This builds on Paul's point in the beginning of this study. The way to victory in the church, the way to preserve unity, is for each one to be humble and gentle. Jesus modeled this for us in His victory over sin.)

  2. Diversity

    1. Read Ephesians 4:11-13. What does this suggest are the gifts that Jesus gave to us in His victory over sin? (I like the suggestion I shared before about the "gifts" being reformed sinners, but these verses leave no doubt that Jesus is also giving us the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Compare 1 Corinthians 12:28.)

      1. What is the purpose of these gifts? ( Ephesians 4:13: To build up the church in unity in the "faith and knowledge of the Son of God." To help us mature and become like Jesus.)

      2. Is there a flaw in Paul's thinking? Notice that we are given different gifts. When you start giving different gifts to people, doesn't that encourage division? Long ago American constitutional law discarded even the "separate, but equal" idea. According to 1 Corinthians 12:28-31 the gifts are ranked - they are not all equal. Thus, the gifts are separate, but not even equal. Won't that cause problems? (Consider again Ephesians 4:13. Mature Christians, those who (as discussed above) are humble and gentle with each other, will realize that each one has his own gift and together those gifts work to build up the entire church.)

    2. Read Ephesians 4:14-15. What is a danger to the church? (Taking seriously (or at least being taken in by) each new, popular teaching. This is another aspect to "diversity" - diverse teaching.)

      1. What is the antidote for that? (The truth, spoken in love.)

      2. What does it mean to "grow up" into Jesus? (This is a call for us to become more like Jesus in character. We become "mature" in our attitudes and in our doctrine.)

    3. Read Ephesians 4:16. Let's examine this mental picture.

      1. What are the parts of the body? (Us, as we use our spiritual gift(s) in the church.)

      2. What are the "ligaments" that hold us together? (Humility, gentleness, and love.)

        1. How many people do you know who have a spiritual gift, but are lacking a "ligament?"

      3. What is our responsibility? (Each part has to do its work.)

      4. What is the result? (A church growing and building in love.)

    4. Friend, are you doing your part in the church? Are you using your spiritual gift(s)? Are your "ligaments" of humility, gentleness and love firmly in place? If the answer to any of these questions is "no," will you pray that God will transform your attitude to give you maturity, love, humility, and gentleness?

  3. Next week: Living the New Life.
* Copr. 2005, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D. All scripture references are to the New International Version (NIV), copr. 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society, unless otherwise noted. Quotations from the NIV are used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers. Suggested answers are found within parentheses. The lesson assumes the teacher uses a blackboard or some other visual aid.

© 2021 Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.
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