A sermon based on Ephesians 4:1–7, 11–16
Sunday, August 2, 2015 – Pentecost 10B
If you haven't read the book, I'm sure you've seen one of the many movies based on the book by Alexander Dumas entitled, "The Three Musketeers." Of course you also know the motto of the heroes of the story: "All for one and one for all." By this, they meant that each member of the three musketeers would fight for the group or for anyone in the group. They were vowing to stand by each other's side in their common fight.
In a sense, that's what the Apostle Paul is getting at in our passage of Scripture for today. He was trying to get the Ephesians to adopt as their motto: "All for one and one for all." And he motivated them in this commitment to unity by showing them God's commitment to them.
So today as we too adopt a motto for ourselves at Grace Lutheran in Kenai, we flip it around. Instead of "All for one and one for all," we first remember God's commitment and sacrifice for us as we adopt the motto, "One for all and all for one." The portion of God's Word we meditate on this morning is found in Ephesians 4, verses 1-7 and continuing from 11 to 16…
As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. 2 Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. 3 Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit— just as you were called to one hope when you were called— 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.
7 But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.
11 It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, 12 to prepare God's people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.
14 Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. 15 Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. 16 From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.
I. One for All
Now, you may already know this, but in the 3 Musketeers, the hero of the story isn't even one of the 3. Monsieur d'Artagnan is the main character who meets the 3 Musketeers and must duel all three in a single day. After he fights them he earns their respect, eventually joins the Musketeers as their leader, and gives them the motto: "All for one and one for all."
But while d'Artagnan had to fight hard to be included and no longer considered an outsider, that's not the way it worked for the Ephesians or the way it worked for us. Instead, One did the work for all. Paul alluded to that in verse 1 when he said "then I urge you to live a life worthy…" "Then" could also be translated "therefore," and you know that whenever you see "therefore," you need to back up to find out what it's there for. In verse 1 Paul is making a shift from the first half of the book where he described God's grace, to the second half which calls for our response. But with that little word, "then," or "therefore," he's reminding us all what the One did for all.
So let's do a quick review of the book of Ephesians so far…
- God has given us all spiritual blessings through Jesus - Eph. 1:3.
- God chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world - Eph. 1:4.
- God has determined that we will be like Jesus, and with Jesus, one day - Eph. 1:5; 11-12.
- God has made us accepted in Jesus - Eph. 1:6.
- God provided the blood of Christ that washed us from our sins - Eph. 1:7.
- God reached out to us when we were dead in our sins and headed to Hell - Eph. 2:1-4.
- God loved us when we were hostile to him. - Eph. 2:4.
- God gave us life when we were dead. - Eph. 2:5.
- God has secured our future. - Eph. 2:6-7.
- God has secured our salvation, even giving us faith. - Eph. 2:8-9.
- God has given us a new life in Jesus and new purpose in him. - Eph. 2:10.
- God has brought Jews and Gentiles together in Jesus - Eph. 2:11-18.
- God has made a new race of people from those who believe the Gospel. - Eph. 2:19-22.
- God desires to use us, bless us and teach about the divine mystery of His everlasting grace and love - Eph. 3:1-21.
All of these great truths teach us about who we are in Jesus, and about all that the Lord has given to us through His grace. And he means to remind us about it all with that simple word, "then." And he sums it all up in verse 4: "You were called to one hope."
And you know what that one hope is: That through Jesus' perfect life and once-for-all sacrifice on the cross, our sins are forgiven. His one sacrifice won eternal life for us who are so quick to bail on him. As the author to the Hebrews put it, "He sacrificed for their sins once for all when he offered himself." (Hebrews 7:27) And, "he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, having obtained eternal redemption." (Hebrews 9:12)
So we rejoice in the One for all, in the One who lived and died and rose for all. We rejoice in and in his once for all sacrifice that guarantees our place in heaven with him. We are one with God and we didn't have to fight to be included or to earn God's respect. Jesus fought for us. He fought for all.
When Paul uses the word "then" or "therefore," he is reminding us about everything he has previously written. But "therefore" does more than just point back, it also calls for a response, "therefore" means because of this previous, what follows is what you ought to do. Paul is telling us that us that everything he has already written calls for a certain response. His once for all sacrifice moves us to rededicate our lives to him and promise him, "One for all… and all for one," as we all vow to live for him. "And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again." (2 Corinthians 5:15) And how do we live for him? Well, that's what Paul's getting at here:
II. All for One
Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. 3 Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. God through Paul says that we are to strive for Peace. To be the one body that he's made us. And that, in spite of our differences: "But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it… It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers…"
Have you ever seen a Three Musketeers movie? It's one of the first movies I remember watching (of course, the version I watched featured Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, and Goofy as the Three Musketeers). And I remember learning how animation worked. Still images are drawn, with each one slightly different from the last, then played back so quickly, that you think they're moving. That's how it works with any movie. In fact, it's called a "movie" which is short for "moving pictures." Of course, the pictures don't really move. They're just shown in such rapid succession that our brains don't view them as separate images, but as one moving scene.
So think about it: Each frame of the movie is separate and distinct. They may look similar at times, but no two frames are ever exactly alike. Some are darker, some are lighter. Some are filled with action, others just set the scene. But put them all together and they make a wonderful story. And every frame is important to the movie as a whole.
That's sort of the way that Paul describes the Church. We may all serve different functions, some may be apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers, others may be God's people doing works of service, but we're all a part of the same body. We are many parts, but have one head. We have many different jobs, but we are all one Church. We all serve in different ways, but we all serve the One God. "All for One." We all live for him who died for us.
So be content in your vocation—in your job, but also in your station in life as a mother or father, son or daughter, husband or wife, as citizen, as church member, as Christian. And carry out your role in any one of those vocations to the best of your ability, as if serving God himself, because that's who really are serving. Do this all out of love for the One who died for all, as we all now live for him. One for all… and now all for One.
And the result? We will all be built up and will grow up. Ever see the movie Castaway with Tom Hanks, where he's being tossed around by a huge storm? Can you imagine if instead of Tom Hanks in that raft, it were a little baby? How long do you think that baby would last? That's the way that Paul describes us if we try to do this "Christian" thing alone: like "infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming."
But we're not alone. We have each other just like the Three Musketeers had each other. And together we will all become mature. "We will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ." We will, "[grow] and [build] [each other] up in love, as each part does its work."