An Appropriate Walk –
Ephesians 4:1-6closeEphesians 4:1-6 Unity in the Body of Christ 4:1 I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 3 eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. (ESV) closeEphesians 4:1-6closeEphesians 4:1-6 Unity in the Body of Christ 4:1 I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 3 eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. (ESV) Unity in the Body of Christ 4:1 I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 3 eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. (ESV)
I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, entreat you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing forbearance to one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, on God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all.
Welcome to our slow stroll through Ephesians. When I was here a few weeks ago, and we discussed the previous chapter, we were looking at the prayer of Paul at the end of Chapter Three. If you remember some of that, I am frankly astonished. If you were interested in the passage or if something I said might have perked your interest in the book, I would consider that a success. I have a friend who attends my regular Bible study and after every conversation with him, I am driven back to the Scriptures to explain again things I have already been convinced of. For that reason, I think our discussions are a healthy activity but at times, also frustrating.
Here we are together again, looking into the teaching of Ephesians and we want to make sure that we are taking this passage, the passage in Chapter Four, in the contextual context it was intended. If you turn back just a page, you can notice yourself that a quick summary of the previous chapter is that it addresses the wide diversity of the family of God and explains that that diversity is one of the mysteries to New Testament church. It was unthinkable to the Jews that people from different backgrounds and different statuses could abide peacefully in the same congregation. In fact, Jesus Himself threw out this challenge to the NT church when He stated in John 13:35closeJohn 13:35 35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (ESV) closeJohn 13:35closeJohn 13:35 35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (ESV) 35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (ESV) : “By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, by your love for one another.” Jesus looked forward and knew this mystery now explained by Paul. Then after Paul reteaches this principle of Jesus when he prays for the church because he knew something we are still learning: In order to get along other Christians, we cannot rely on our own good nature but it requires supernatural strength from the Holy Spirit. A harmonious church is not because every person is alike or we have all learned to be civil, but rather it is living proof that God is actively working in the lives of those who attend the church.
Look at the three main points of Paul’s prayer in the latter part of Chapter Three
- to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man
- that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith
- that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God
This is a remarkable prayer list. If I was praying this for someone and I prayed this prayer, you might think they were heading out to the mission field, or going into North Korea, or sharing the gospel among the lost who serve in the ISIS army. You might hear something like this just before someone was going to preach in front of 5,000 non-believers. Paul prays one of his most impassioned prayers – and what is the objective of this prayer? What does Paul hope to accomplish in the lives of those he is praying for through this prayer.
You certainly don’t think that Paul would waste his precious words both written to men and prayed before our Father in Heaven? He wouldn’t pray like this if it wasn’t very very important. It is in chapter four where Paul tells us why he wants these things for the believers. What do we need this power of the Spirit, this indwelling Christ in our hearts and this being filled up to all the fullness of God for? What is the purpose of these great requests from heaven? That is what we will see today. That is what Chapter Four will tell us.
As I mentioned, in Chapter Four, Paul builds on the theme of this mystery: That a diverse and different people could live together and how our individual lives must be lived in order to accomplish this unity we have been called to live. That is the meaning of the therefore in the first few words. He prays that the church have God’s power living through them and then gives a clear explanation of what unity looks like.
Here in Chapter Four, Paul is going to get practical, invasive into the lives of the believers in Ephesus, and I hope into your life as well. The hinge to this change of topic lies on that single word “therefore”. Paul is going to address areas of the Christian life that sometimes are overlooked because they are so ordinary. I am of the belief that God is glorified through ordinary things. Think about this for just a moment, the sun coming up in the morning is pretty ordinary, even though there are weeks we don’t get to see that sunrise much. I know that there is great beauty in the rising sun. Isn’t that about the most ordinary thing in our world and yet, we are told that the glory of God can be seen in the rising of the sun. One quote from an older saint named Clyde Kilby, a favorite of John Piper, used the words “The Strange Glory of Ordinary Things”, in which he expounded on how God uses the ordinary things to bring Him glory. Jesus spoke about the rocks crying out the glory of God if all were silent. What about when someone has a child born and even if it happens every day and there might seem like there is nothing out of the ordinary – that is actually quite remarkable when you begin to think about it. Today, if your heart beats at an average of 80 beats per minutes, it will beat about 115,200 times in the next 24 hours. Or in the next year, it will beat around 42,163,200 times. That might seem ordinary to some, but I believe that we are fearfully and wonderfully made. Well, in our ordinary, everyday relationships God can be glorified through our personal relationships as well.
The first area where Paul exhorts us is in our walk, to walk in a manner worthy of our calling. But what does a Christian walk look like – remember the aim of the prayers of Paul is that we would be a visual representation of the mystery he explains in Chapter Three. What was that mystery? It was that we could live together. That we would fulfill the testimony Jesus challenged us to show – our love for one another. The price that Paul demands for that unity is not a challenge to doctrinal purity, but rather it is a challenge to our own self adoration. Paul requests that we set aside some of our own importance and walk in such a way that our unity brings glory to Him who called us to Himself. How does Paul suggest that we arrive at this unity?
There is a phrase that I often quote when I am out golfing, which seems to be less and less. The quote is by Mark Twain. He wrote: “Golf ruins a good Walk”. I don’t necessarily believe it; however it usually gets a smile as long as I don’t over use it. However, if the Apostle Paul were quoted about what ruins a good walk; he would probably say that “Pride, roughness, and a lack of patience ruins a good walk.” Of course, Paul is not writing about a physical walk, but our spiritual walk, our Christian walk.
Walking in a manner worthy of the calling for which you have been called.
- There are two principles that are laid out by the word to walk in a worthy The idea of the word “Worthy” is first of all the concept of balance. When two things are worthy of each other, they are equal in value. So our Christian walk must be of the same high value as our calling. The higher you value your call, the higher value you will place upon the importance of your walk. Now, don’t confuse what I am expressing here. If you don’t know Christ as your Savior, you can have what seems to be a perfect life and you are still not going to make it to heaven. But Paul is addressing Christians in this passage. And I tell you that if you have very limited view of God’s calling you – if God’s calling you is something that you think has little or no value, you will have a disrespectful walk. There are very few of us who might openly admit that we don’t value God’s call in our lives, but there are two sides to that thought. If our Christian walk is not worthy, we reflect our value of God’s call on our life. If my Christian life does not impact my Christian walk, I have in essence first been disobedient to God but also I am showing what a low value I place on the fact that God called me from darkness into His light.
- The second idea that is found in the principle of walking in a manner that is worthy is that we walk in a way becoming of or matching our calling. My Dad worked in Silicon Valley back in the day when that area was looking for anyone who knew anything about computers. He used to tell me that if you went to an interview and your clothes matched the people doing the interview knew either that your wife or Mom dressed you or you weren’t computer programmer material. Maybe that is the reason my wife puts out my clothes because between you and me, I don’t really care how a dress. I don’t care if my socks match my shirt but because this is important to my wife, I make an attempt to be more aware of these things. What Paul is saying is very close to the same principle but on a very different level. He is telling us that our behavior should match our calling. That they should not clash. We should not name the name of Christ and then be the bile of the world. We should not be that horrible neighbor or that mean spirited driver. We should not be the person who people fear to ask a question or the horrible customer in the restaurant. That is not what salt behaves like and that is not in matching with being worthy of our calling.
And you know, we all have extenuating circumstances. I have the occasional low blood sugar. If you have ever had this you know what happens. The first thing your body does is to pump adrenalin into to your body to burn fat and make some sugar. It is the equivalent of being pumped full of a shot of aggressiveness. I found myself at one time in my life excusing being short and irritable if I thought my blood sugar was low until I came under conviction that my excuse was not mentioned in Scripture. That just because my blood sugar or life balance was off did not give me the right to walk selfishly over others. Health issues are not a free pass. Money issues are not a free pass. Work issues are not a free pass. Walking in a manner worthy of our calling is something we must continue to strive to do no matter what the backdrop or what our personal story might be, we are to walk in a manner worthy of our calling.
I could spend some additional time to explain more about our calling from God, but one of the best pictures of our calling is when Jesus called Lazarus from the grave. Had anyone else called out to Lazarus, Lazarus would have remained dead and unresponsive. Only Jesus could reach his physically dead body and only Jesus can reach our spiritually dead souls. Just as Lazarus was never going to get himself up from the dead, so we cannot get ourselves up from the spiritually dead state we were in before Jesus called out to us.
Well, is all that easy? Are you kidding me? Walking in a manner worthy of our calling is not easy. But just in case you were thinking you are doing pretty well, now Paul gets in your face a little more. Sometimes, I think we need to put seatbelts in the pews because we are about to get into the rough territory now. We used to refer to things like this as a Class E ride.
Paul now moved into what I believe is his main point of this passage as he challenges us to be “diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” There are some specifics how to do that but look at the goal of this command with me for just a moment before we step back and discuss how to do this with humility, gentleness and patience.
What is the meaning of Unity? Well, once again Paul did an excellent job of qualifying what kind of unity. What does the passage call it? Unity of the Spirit. It is easy to see that this is not human unity, like we read about on the back of so many bumper stickers. This is the unity of the Spirit. And this is not the human spirit but the Spirit of God. What is the character of our objective? What are the traits of our unity? Paul is not calling for any kind of unity where we would work with those who cannot lay claim to the same truths we hold to be true. Remember, we are talking about within the church not our work and worldly acquaintances. The unity being discussed here is based on the previous three chapters of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. Not a unity that values togetherness over truth.
Since this unity is already owned by God, because it has His name on it and He is the One who created it, we must acknowledge that it is not ours to attempt to break or devalue. Only God’s Spirit can make this and we are called to preserve. Preserve it – as if it is a great treasure. And we are to stand guard over this treasure because it is always under attack. It is attacked by outsiders and insiders. One of the great objectives of Satan is to attempt to destroy the unity of the church. But let me say that when people are diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit, Satan fails.
Well, there’s another point. What does Paul mean to be diligent? Personally, I think it means to do something faithfully, but it goes beyond that in the sense of the word from the Greek. I am not a Greek Scholar but I read people who are. According to what I read this week, diligent has a sense of speed. It means to deal with things quickly.
And to preserve or to keep as some versions list this phrase means to guard something. We are never called to create unity or to find unity, but to preserve unity. You know you are never called to guard something that isn’t important. If you were in the military, I doubt you were ever stood on armed guard over garbage. When we put out our garbage, we don’t stand guard over that which we are throwing out. Here, God tells us to preserve or to guard the unity because it is valuable to God, because it is His unity. It’s His unity and He has assigned you and me to guard it, or preserve it.
And Paul recommends some rather interesting weapons with which to stand guard with. You would think if you were guarding something precious like Gold, or Silver, you might have some pretty aggressive weapons. Look at the tools Paul recommends to guard this precious unity. Guard this unity with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love. My grandson has an outfit that he uses like pajamas that is superman with some bigger than normal biceps and chest muscles. I’m sure you have seen those costumes. Makes me laugh to picture that in my head. But picture any little boy, with a superman costume bulging with muscles, standing in front of a group of really bad guys trying to come and rob a bank. Put that in your mind – makes you kind of smile but you also feel for the little boy. You think the poor little guy is going to get seriously hurt. That’s you – dressed with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love guarding God’s unity. But the biggest difference is that you have God on your side, keeping you safe from the Evil one, and later Paul will go on to point out that we are in a spiritual battle so our weapons are not of flesh and blood.
With all humility – The first trait that Paul mentions that lead us towards preserving the unity is humility. Humility does NOT mean that our perspective or input is less important than another person. That is sometimes called an enabler than humility. Someone who shows humility is someone who has “an attitude of the heart that recognizes love for and value of others and is willing to put other’s needs first.” Keep in mind that sometimes we serve others by fulfilling our God given roles. Would it serve a mother to ask a two year old if they want to go to bed now? Probably not. The mother knows what the child needs and she is actually serving the child when she sends it to bed or disciplines the child. Sometimes the same thing happens in a church, where we should be looking out for others and serving in such a way that it assists others to grow and develop. Now, I’m not suggested that elders go around and tell people when to go to bed, but there are times when leaders might well get in your way of doing something that could damage you for the rest of your life. You might not always like it, but some things never change. I didn’t like being told what to do when I was a child. But if you are about to make a mistake your church leaders recognize that, it is their humble duty to point it out to you. Humility isn’t helping something do something they want to do; it is serving you by assisting you to be who God made you to be.
The best example of humility that I can think of is Moses, who the Bible tells us was the most humble man on the face of the earth. If you are honest, you don’t picture a humble man confronting Pharaoh to free his people from slavery. You don’t imagine a man who is humble leading probably over 5 million people through the desert for 40 years. Moses was humble because he had met with God and continued to meet with Him on a continual basis. He knew who God was and he knew who he was. There was not any question about what God wanted him to do. This is the source of true humility. Moses knew who God was and he understood his role in God’s plan so he went about accomplishing huge things without pride or self-promotion. If you are seeking for humility, don’t pray for to be humble, but pray to walk close to God. In fact, pray this prayer in Chapter Three for yourself.
Gentleness, Next Paul writes of Gentleness. This word is also interpreted as meekness. It is not milk-toast but rather strength under control. People with gentleness will more often get angry about how others are treated than how they themselves are treated. Gentleness is what makes us want to provide an environment of safety for others, so that we can support and encourage one another. A gentle person might have the occasional insult hurled his direction but they will resist the desire to try to “get even” because that person knows how hurtful words can be and how destructive words can be. Gentleness is a trait of a spirit filled believer that preserves unity. What does it mean to (Luke 6:28closeLuke 6:28 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. (ESV) closeLuke 6:28closeLuke 6:28 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. (ESV) 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. (ESV) ) (NASB) “bless those who curse you, and to pray for those who mistreat you.” Gentleness. Lives marked by gentleness.
With patience, – other versions use the word long-suffering. This is by the way God’s character towards us. He is very patient with you and with me. If God were not patient, there would be no Bob or David or whoever. God’s character shows patience and Paul is calling us to show that same patience when we are busy protecting, guarding God’s unity. We live in a world where there is an obvious lack of patience. If you would like to know how true that is, next time you are at the front of traffic at a red light, when the light turns green just be looking at the radio and see how long people will wait. But if you do that in Seattle, you might want to buy some body armor first. If you know the forgiveness of the Lord, then you should by all means be showing patience towards your fellow believers. And that would include the people who live in your own home. Your wife, your husband, and your children and your parents. You and I will reflect the reality of our Christian walk by our relationships with others. If we have forgotten that we were forgiven, we tend to lack forgiveness for others. If we have forgotten how patient God is with us, we tend to forget to be patient with others. Once again, for those of you who are reading this page, We reflect the reality (or lack of reality) of our Christian walk by our relationships with others. Why do you suppose that we need patience? Well, because when we are surrounded by patient believers, maybe we’ll dare a little more, maybe we’ll be more real with each other, and maybe we’ll be more willing to fail? All I know is that we are commanded to live with patience and God didn’t put that in the passage to make sure that there were three points to this phrase.
Showing tolerance for one another in love – The next trait is showing forbearance – or loving tolerance. This is the idea of holding yourself up against something. In other words, you know that person that bugs you – that has the ability to really put you on edge. When you deal with that person in such a way, you are showing forbearance. We all have someone that rubs us the wrong way and seems to enjoy it. From God’s perspective, you are doing a good thing if you show forbearance towards such a person. Is it significant that Paul uses show forbearance rather than have forbearance? I am not sure. CS Lewis says to act like you have something until it becomes natural. Maybe we can’t all have forbearance but we can all show it.
When we are practicing these traits, we will be preserving the unity of the Spirit. Sometimes you might think, hey, I’ve preserved the unity enough, it’s so-and-so’s turn to preserve the unity now because I’m really ticked, or I’m having a really bad day. Well, this is where patience, humility and forbearance come into play, isn’t it? This unity that Paul is addressing is the unity based on the truths he has been writing about for the previous three chapters. It is a supernatural power that drives these traits in the believer. When we’ve reached the end of our horded resources, our Father’s full giving has only begun. Paul has written about the unity of a common access to the Father, and the way we all come to the Father by the same means. Paul has also written about how the Jews and the Gentiles are now unified, which was the subject of the great mystery. Now that he has established the fact that we are unified, he tells us we must be diligent to preserve that unity.
Paul goes on to tell the points that our Unity revolves around. This list here might well be his list of basic truths and there is no time to go over these with the depth they deserve.
Application to you and to me – What is the conviction I would expect a believer to face as we look at this passage? What is it that you have heard today that you will walk out and say: God hit me solidly in the solar plexus with that point?
Let me say you are either preserving unity or you are working against it. And if you goal is to preserve unity, it must be done God’s way. There is no good way to accomplish God’s work than by God’s path. Preserving unity with power or intimidation is not God’s unity.