Ephesians 4 is the great unity chapter. This marvelous text opens with what have been called the dispositions of unity: lowliness, gentleness, longsuffering, forbearance, and love (v 2).
In verses 4-6 we find what are sometimes referred to as the positions of unity, that is, the basic doctrines which unify all genuine believers. These are one body, one Spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and one Father.
Among our people, there has been considerable interest in the positions of unity with sometimes blatant disregard for the dispositions. There can be no progress on the former without diligence on the latter. It’s little wonder why Paul started with our hearts before speaking to our heads. Who seeks instruction from one for whom he has no personal regard? No one seeks honey in a hornets’ nest.
Paul begins his appeal with a reminder that we live according to a higher personal standard, a worthy walk and the “upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil 3:14). The characteristics of this worthy walk include:
Lowliness – “the having a humble opinion of oneself; a dep sense of one’s littleness; modesty, humility, lowliness of mind” (Thayer’s). See Matthew 5:3.
Meekness – gentleness with a view to oneself (cf Gal 6:1, James 1:21, 1 Pet 3:15).
Longsuffering – patience, forbearance, slowness in avenging wrongs, self-restraint (Thayer’s).
Forbearance – “to hold oneself up against.” We would say “put up with” or “tolerate” another (I love this one!). The strength to undertake such a difficult position is seen in the qualifier at the end, “in love.” Love empowers me to deal with difficult brethren, wishing and working for their ultimate good, even at considerable personal cost or effort.
“And above all things have fervent love for one another, for love will cover a multitude of sins. Be hospitable to one another without grumbling. As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.” (1 Peter 4:8-10).
When we learn to master the dispositions, then we will be fit to teach the rest.