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Sabbath School Lessons on Ephesians
About the Author
Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.
is the author of these Sabbath School lesson study outlines. He is the Reed Larson Professor of Labor Law at Regent University School of Law. Professor Cameron has devoted his life to promoting the Gospel and defending believers. In addition to teaching at an overtly Christian law school, he continues his 37 year practice of law which is limited to the litigation of constitutional rights and religious freedom cases for employees. He holds an undergraduate degree from Andrews University and a Doctor of Law from Emory University School of Law.
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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!
- Walking Together
- 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.)
- 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
- 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?)
- 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?"
- 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
- 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?
- Read Ephesians 4:3. What group is referred to here? (If
the "Spirit" is the bond, this has to be the church.)
- What gives us unity in the church? ("The bond of
- 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.)
- 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.)
- Think back about the last time you did not have peace and
unity in your church. How would humility and gentleness
have changed things?
- 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.)
- 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?)
- 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.)
- What does it mean to "led captives in His train?"
(The "train" is what trails along behind.)
- 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.)
- 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.)
- 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.)
- 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.)
- 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.)
- 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.)
- 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.)
- What is the antidote for that? (The truth, spoken in
- 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
- Read Ephesians 4:16. Let's examine this mental picture.
- What are the parts of the body? (Us, as we use our
spiritual gift(s) in the church.)
- What are the "ligaments" that hold us together?
(Humility, gentleness, and love.)
- How many people do you know who have a spiritual
gift, but are lacking a "ligament?"
- What is our responsibility? (Each part has to do its
- What is the result? (A church growing and building in
- 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?
- 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.