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“I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called…”
For the first three chapters of his letter to the Ephesians, Paul has led his beloved congregation into “the mystery of God’s will, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.” (Eph.1:9-10).
It’s like Paul has taken his congregation on a tour of the heart and the mind of God and invited us to come along too. It’s like the Transfiguration for everyone who wasn’t invited to the premier. After the first three chapters we’re ready to say, “and we beheld His glory.”
I’ve gleaned the main points that Paul has made in the first three chapters regarding the “mystery of God’s will which he set forth in Christ…”
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places.”
• Chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world.
• Predestined for adoption as sons and daughters.
• Heirs of his riches through Jesus Christ.
• Redeemed through the blood of Christ.
• Forgiven for all of our trespasses through His blood.
• Saved by grace through faith.
• Brought near to God by the blood of Christ.
• Fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God.
Paul says, “I pray that Father may give you the strength to comprehend… what is the width and length and height and depth” of how you are blessed by God in Christ. But then he says, “that surpasses knowledge.” It’s more than our tiny brains can handle.
I think that one of the most important things for you and me to “comprehend” about all of this is… that it’s about US – you and me.
• You are… Chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world.
• You are… Predestined for adoption as sons and daughters.
• You are … Heirs of his riches through Jesus Christ.
• You are… Redeemed through the blood of Christ.
• You are… Forgiven for all of our trespasses through His blood.
• You are… Saved by grace through faith.
• You are… Brought near to God by the blood of Christ.
• You are… Fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God.
And “I pray that the Father may give YOU the strength to comprehend… what is the width and length and height and depth” of how you are blessed by God in Christ, even though it “surpasses knowledge.”
And now we come to chapter 4. In the first sermon in this series on Ephesians we said that one of the characteristics of all of Paul’s epistles is that he spends the first half of the letter writing about doctrine and how God has blessed us in Christ Jesus, and the second half of the letter on how that doctrine should affect our life of faith.
So, just like the Transfiguration, you can’t stay on the mountain top forever. You’ve got to come down the mountain and live your daily life in this world where so much of that glory is hidden and not much of it is visible and life is lived by faith alone.
“I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called…’
When Paul writes, “I urge you…” he uses words that might better be translated, “I’M BEGGING YOU…” He’s pleading with his congregation to live like people who know the MYSTERY of GOD’S PLAN. We know where it’s all HEADED and that it will all be ACCOMPLISHED exactly according to PLAN, and in fact, already has been.
“Walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called…” That word “WORTHY” in the New Testament is “axsios.” It’s the word that we get “axis” from. The word comes from the market place where scales were used to measure out grain and produce. The scale needs to be ‘worthy,’ BALANCED on it’s AXIS. When God loads His blessings and benefits onto the one side of the scale, it should be BALANCED with FAITHFULNESS on the other side.
In chapter two Paul wrote, “for we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should WALK IN THEM.” (2:10).
God’s people do “good works” because that’s our CALLING. God has CALLED us to Himself in our baptism where He has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realm. Then He sends us out into the world with a CALLING – to do the ‘good works’ that He has equipped us to do.
“Good works” are “good.” But as we know, sin can spoil even that which is VERY GOOD. Take ‘every blessing in the heavenly realm’ and add the slightest speck of sin to it and all becomes like ‘filthy rags.’ We need to always remember and never forget the fact that we who are “blessed with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realm,” are still sinners.
So, as strange as this may sound, ‘good works’ can have a DIVISIVE EFFECT on a congregation.
Jesus warned of the danger of ‘good works’ in a familiar parable. “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ (Luke 18:10-12)
Two men in the same congregation with a ‘dividing wall of hostility’ running between them that has been built out of ‘good works.’
Let me remind you that this is a parable. Jesus could just as easily have put other words into the Pharisees’ mouth to the same end. “And the Pharisee, standing by himself said, “It’s always the group of people who do all the work around here.” “20% of the congregation gives 80% of the offerings does 90% of the work.” But “I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.”
‘Good works’ can have a DIVISIVE EFFECT on a congregation.
So, Paul writes to his beloved congregation, warning them of the danger and ‘begging them’ to ‘walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which they have been called with all HUMILITY AND GENTLENESS, WITH PATIENCE, BEARING WITH ONE ANOTHER IN LOVE, EAGER TO MAINTAIN THE BOND OF PEACE.”
We are to walk in “HUMILTY.”
In his epistle to the Philippians, Paul defines ‘humility’ like this, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility, COUNT OTHERS MORE SIGNIFICANT THAN YOURSELF.” (Phil.2:3).
The world of Paul’s day considered ‘humility’ to be a negative trait just as ours does. But when Jesus Christ ‘humbled himself,’ and ‘made Himself nothing,’ and ‘counted others more significant than Himself,’ He showed us the way of God. He led us into the “mystery of God’s will.” We strive to count others more significant than ourselves because that is the ‘calling to which we have been called.’
Can you imagine what it would be like if every member of the congregation treated every other member as ‘MORE SIGNIFICANT THAN HIMSELF’?
We are to walk in “GENTLENESS.”
“Gentleness” and “respect” both come from the same New Testament word. In his letter to Timothy, Paul contrasts gentleness with violence. “An ‘overseer’ of the congregation must not be violent but gentle.” (1 Tim. 3:3)
Peter writes to the church saying that we should “always be prepared to give a defense for the hope that is in us, but that we should do so with GENTLENESS AND RESPECT.” (1Peter 3:15)
“Humility” and “gentleness” go together and compliment each other. So it shouldn’t surprise us that they are found together in our Lord who says, “take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly of heart…” (Mat.11:29)
The ‘humility’ and ‘gentleness’ that we show each other here, spills over into our homes and husbands consider their wives as more significant than themselves and wives the same towards their husbands and gentleness abounds. Fathers and mothers PUT ON HUMILITY towards their children and are GENTILE with them and the children learn how to do the same. From the congregation to the home to the office and classroom and community – AND GOD IS UNITING ALL THINGS IN CHRIST.
We are to walk in “PATIENCE,” BEARING WITH ONE ANOTHER.”
“Patience” and “Forbearance” go together with each other just like “humility” and “gentleness.”
Every congregation, whether it be in Ephesus or Waterville, is made up of a mixture of people from all kinds of backgrounds and ages. Some have been raised in the faith and been taught how to be good stewards and set aside a certain portion of their finances and time for the sake of the mission of the church and the mutual welfare of their brothers and sisters in Christ.
Others may be newer to the faith and haven’t yet learned the corporate nature of our life together and how we all walk together and depend on each other as one body with many members in the one body of Jesus.
So, how do those who are more mature in their faith WALK TOGETHER with those who are still less mature in their faith? Paul says, “I’m begging you to be ‘patient’ and ‘bear with one another.’
To the Thessalonians, Paul writes, “We urge you brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, BE PATIENT WITH THEM ALL.” (1 Thess. 5:14).
Paul wraps our walk together in “all humility and gentleness, patience and bearing with one another” in the bond of “love.” As he writes to the Corinthians, ‘without love it’s all ‘noisy gongs’ and ‘clanging cymbals.’
So, back to the ‘scale’ for a minute. It’s obvious that all of our ‘good works,’ tainted with sin as they are cannot balance God’s blessings and grace for us. No, it’s Jesus on the other side of the scale – standing in our place with all of His ‘good works.’ Only in Him are we ‘worthy.’
So, why is this important? Why does Paul ‘beg’ his congregation to be “eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace?”
It’s because Paul knows the “mystery of God’s will.” God’s “plan for the fullness of time is to UNITE ALL THINGS IN CHRIST, things in heaven and things on earth.” If there’s one place in this world where that UNITY should be visible like a light in the darkness, it’s the Christian Church as it is lived out in the local congregation. When people come here they should get a ‘foretaste of the feast to come.’
Which certainly doesn’t mean that we compromise the doctrine for the sake of “unity” and “the bond of peace.” That’s a ‘fake’ unity and a ‘phony’ peace that does not reflect the “unity of the Spirit.”
We are bound to have disagreements and misunderstandings and we may even sin against one another. But because we are “eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace,” we work things out “with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love…”
Last question. So, why don’t we see this in the Christian Church and why is there so much ‘disunity’ and ‘division’ in the Church?
First, that’s a bad question. In fact, we do see brothers and sisters in Christ walking together in the “unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” It’s just that it’s far more rare than it should be.
Second, God’s plan to unite all things in Christ is ‘for the fullness of time.” And even though “the time has fully come,” the time is not yet FULL. We live in the “now but not yet.” But we know that the TIME will come, and we know what all of TIME is coming to. “One Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.”
But until that day comes, ‘I’m begging you, walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called.’