Ephesians 4:1-3

“Therefore I, the prisoner in the Lord, urge you to walk worthy of the calling you have received, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love,making every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.”

We are now starting on the second half of Ephesians, where Paul writes about the practical application of what he has described in the first half of his letter. He spent quite a bit of time explaining to the church at Ephesus what their position in Christ was. He will now spend the rest of the letter explaining what the standards of the new church are to be. I love the way John Stott put it in his commentary. “So he turns from explanation to encouragement, from what God has done to what we must be and do, from doctrine to duty, from mind stretching theology to its down-to-earth, concrete implications in everyday living.”

Paul reminds his readers again that he is a prisoner of the Lord. He is loyal to Christ and bound to deliver the message he has been given. He is urging them to live a life worthy of the calling they have received. David Guzik writes in his Enduring Word commentary, “The idea is clear. We don’t walk worthy so that God will love us, but because He does love us. It is motivated out of gratitude, not out of a desire to earn merit.” They are to be a united people, holy and set apart. He will address this in the rest of the letter. He will start with unity (verses 1-16) and then move to purity for most of the rest of the letter.

The life worthy of our calling is characterized by five qualities. The first is humility. Being humble was looked down on in the ancient world. It wasn’t until Jesus came that true humility was recognized. Philippians 2:3 says, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility consider others as more important than yourselves.” We are also told to have the same attitude as Christ “who, existing in the form of God, did not consider equality with God as something to be exploited.Instead he emptied himself by assuming the form of a servant, taking on the likeness of humanity. And when he had come as a man,he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death—even to death on a cross” (Philippians 2:6-8). John Stott writes, “moreover, the word Paul uses here is tapeinophrosyne, which means lowliness of mind, the humble recognition of the worth and value of other people, the humble mind which was in Christ and led him to empty himself and become a servant.” Humility is necessary for unity.

The next characteristic is gentleness. The dictionary says this is the quality of being kind or tender. It is not a synonym for weakness. I also read that it is strength under control. Humility and gentleness go naturally together. Jesus describes himself as gentle and humble in Matthew 11: 29. “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”

Paul then uses the word patience. We must have patience toward each other. In 1 Corinthians 13, Paul says love is patient. 1 Thessalonians 5: 14 says, “And we exhort you, brothers and sisters: warn those who are idle, comfort the discouraged, help the weak, be patient with everyone.”  2 Timothy 2: 24-25a says, “The Lord’s servant must not quarrel, but must be gentle to everyone, able to teach, and patient, instructing his opponents with gentleness.”  I could have used that verse for gentleness also!

Paul says we must bear with one another.  David Guzik writes, “We need this so that the inevitable wrongs that occur between people in God’s family will not work against God’s purpose of bringing all things together in Jesus.”

And we are to do this with love! Love is what holds all of it together. Paul wrote all about it in his letter to Corinth. Love is patient. Love is kind. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Without love we have no hope of unity.

The last thing Paul writes in these three verses is “making every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.” Paul says “keep the unity.” He does not say create unity. That unity is already there because of the Holy Spirit. David Guzik writes, “we must endeavor to keep the unity- we do not create it. God never commands us to create unity among believers. He has created it by His Spirit, our duty is to recognize it and keep it.” Our unity is in the Holy Spirit. Today, we have many denominations, many different gatherings of believers, but we are still one church. As long as those denominations and believers ascribe to the essentials of the Christian faith, we can have unity as a body of believers. There is a saying: In essentials unity, nonessentials liberty, and in all things charity.

I think that today we are making the mistake of trying to ‘create unity’. We think that we need to accept everyone and every sin into the church. I am not saying that everyone is not welcome in the church. But what we are doing today is saying that you can come as you are as stay as you are. There is no need to change. We are to be set apart. We need to turn away from our old sinful ways (Ephesians 2:1-3) and live a life worthy of the calling we have received.

I will close today’s post with this quote from Ray Stedman. He was a pastor who preached this series on Ephesians during the 1960’s, right during the tumult of the Vietnam War and protests of that time. As I’ve been reading through his sermons, I am amazed at how timely they are for the age we are in now. He said, “The church crosses all the boundaries that men erect and all natural distinctions and gathers all kinds of people, without exception, into one body. There is no other grouping in the world that attempts to unite people from such widely variant origins and sources.” It is because of the unifying work of the Holy Spirit that we are one body. We will continue to explore this in the next couple of verses.

Grace be with you!


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