We come this morning to the second half of Paul's letter to the Ephesians. Paul now applies the doctrine he has been expounding for three chapters. Many commentators divide the book of Ephesians into two parts: chapters 1 to 3, and chapter 4 to 6. They look at chapters 1 to 3 as belief, and chapters 4 to 6 as behavior—1 to 3 as doctrine, 4 to 6 as duty. Or we could say the first half is exposition of what we believe, and the second half is exhortation to live a holy and godly life.
Some would say that it is erroneous to call this section of Ephesians practical because nothing is more practical than theology. And I would agree that theology is practical, and that is why Paul connects the last three chapters of Ephesians with the first three chapters. But I think that the division of this Epistle into doctrine and duty is substantiated by Paul's use of the imperative. In Ephesians he uses the imperative forty-one times; but only once in the first three chapters (2:11) and then forty times in the last three chapters. Clearly, the first three chapters concentrate on doctrine, and the last three on practice.
All through Paul's Epistles he lays down doctrine and then calls for believers to live in a proper manner. In Romans for eleven chapters Paul gives them doctrine, then in chapter 12 he calls them to duty:
Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. Romans 12:1 NASB
In the Epistle to the Galatians, he has four chapters of doctrine, and when he gets to chapter 5, he says:
It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery. Galatians 5:1 NASB
He does the same thing in Colossians. After presenting two chapters of great truth, chapter 3 begins by saying:
Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Colossians 3:1 NASB
So Paul's pattern is first doctrine and then duty. This is the problem with the church today, they're skipping the doctrine and going right to the duty. There is an absence of the teaching of theology in the church today, and as a result the church is filled with spiritual pygmies who don't know who Yahweh is or what He desires. If we are going to know Yahweh, we must know theology. Theology is to motivate us to proper living. Men live and act according to what they believe. Three points and a poem don't do much in teaching us doctrine.
Ruth Paxon said, "Ephesians chapter 1 through chapter 3 is how God sees us in Christ. And then in chapters 4 through 6, is how the world should see Christ in us." I like that.
We're going to look at the first three verses of chapter four this morning, and I want to start by looking at verse 3:
being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. Ephesians 4:3 NASB
Paul exhorts his readers to "preserve the unity of the Spirit.." This unity is not something that we must work to achieve. It already exists. It does not refer to organizational unity, but rather to the organic unity which the Holy Spirit produces when He baptizes us all into the one body of Christ:
For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit. 1 Corinthians 12:13 NASB
So the unity of the Spirit is the organic unity of the one body of Christ, consisting of all believers everywhere who have been regenerated by God's Spirit. We are all to be diligent to preserve this unity. With that in mind, let's go back to verse 1:
Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, Ephesians 4:1 NASB
This verse is a topic sentence that governs the rest of this Epistle. Paul will spell out in detail how we can walk in a manner worthy of our calling. But in these three verses he is stressing the importance of preserving the unity of the Spirit.
"Therefore"—the word "therefore" means that the writer, and indeed the Holy Spirit inspiring these pages, is coming from a subject and is wanting to build upon it. So when Paul says, "therefore," we can see that he is alluding and looking back to something that he has already said, and in this case it is to the previous three chapters.
The first three chapters are positional truth—the things Yahweh has done for us. What has He done? He has blessed us with all spiritual blessings. He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world. He made us to be holy, to be blameless. In love He predestinated us. He adopted us. He made us to the praise of His glory. He made us accepted in the Beloved. We saw that the Father selected us, the Son redeemed us, and the Spirit sealed us (1:3-14). Because of these blessings, Paul prays that the believers might know Yahweh and thus know the hope of their calling: Elohim's inheritance in the saints, and Elohim's power toward or in the believers (1:15-23).
He's made us alive who were dead. He has placed us in the heavenlies in Christ (2:1-10). He's taken us who are afar off, who are lost, who are cut-off and made us near. He has united Jew and Gentile into one New Man, He put us in one body called the church (2:11-3:13). Paul prays for Christ's strengthening love in order that the union would not only be true theologically, but also experientially among the believers (3:14-21). Then Paul says, "Therefore I implore you to walk worthy."
In the Greek oun "therefore" is actually the second word in this sentence; the first word is parakaleo, which is translated: "implore." Parakaleo, basically means: "to beg, to come alongside to call you to this." It means: "to encourage someone to do something or to exhort someone to action." In light of what we have learned in the last 3 chapters this is an astonishing word to come from Yahweh! From a God against whom we have sinned, and under whose judgment we were! He urges them in view of gratitude; he does not command them in view judgment. Paul is saying, "I beg you to walk worthy!"
"I, the prisoner of the Lord"—this is what he said in 3:1; why does he repeat it? Well if you remember back to chapter 3, we said that Paul was a prisoner because of his commitment to preach the unity of Jew and Gentile in one body. Preaching this unity cost him, and it may cost them. Walking worthy is worth being imprisoned for and worth dying for. Real, radical Christianity is risky and unpopular and dangerous as we hear about each week in the Voice of the Martyrs. Paul's point may be, "Walk worthy no matter what it costs."
As I said before, Paul didn't see himself as the prisoner of the Jews or the prisoner of Rome, but rather as the prisoner in the Lord. He understood and trusted in the sovereignty of Yahweh.
Paul is begging them to walk in a manner worthy of their calling. "Walk"—is the key word within the second half of this Epistle. We see it here, and in 4:17, "Walk no longer just as the Gentiles also walk." We see it in 5:2, "Walk in love." We see it in 5:8, "Walk as children of light," and in 5:15, "Be careful how you walk."
"Walk" is the Greek verb peripateo, which means: "to walk, live, conduct one's life." It literally means: "to walk about or around." While peripateo is used in the New Testament of one's literal walk, it is often used metaphorically of one's behavior, conduct, of the way one lives. The Christian life is compared to walking. Walking becomes a visual aid to teach us how to live. Throughout the Bible, we are exhorted to walk in a manner worthy of our calling.
And many peoples will come and say, "Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, To the house of the God of Jacob; That He may teach us concerning His ways And that we may walk in His paths." For the law will go forth from Zion And the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. Isaiah 2:3 NASB
The word "walk" is the Hebrew word halak. The Christian life is a journey that we are to walk on His paths. The word Torah is usually translated as: "Law," but to the Hebrew it meant: "the journey." To a Hebrew "command" is the direction for the journey. "Righteous" is traveling on the path. And "wicked" is lost from the path. We don't like commandments, they seem restrictive— "don't do this." But directions are helpful and beneficial—"go this way." If you want to get somewhere you must follow directions:
Your word is a lamp to my feet And a light to my path. Psalms 119:105 NASB
Yahweh has laid out the direction for the path in His Word. So we need to read it, study it, and follow it.
Paul is imploring believers, "Walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called"—the words "manner worthy" are the Greek adverb axios, which means: "worthily, in a manner worthy of, suitably." The word "axios" has the idea of weight balanced on a scale. Our English word "axiom" is derived from it, and it simply means: "to have equal weight, to have a balance." The idea is, on the one side is the glorious Gospel of God's grace towards us in Christ Yeshua. On the other side, our godly conduct should match this high calling, especially in loving behavior that preserves the unity of the Spirit.
Paul is not saying that we can become worthy of Yahweh's love and grace by our good works or manner of life. No matter how hard we might try, we can NEVER walk in a manner that MAKES us worthy of the Yahweh's love or salvation. I'm not talking about trying to EARN our way into heaven, that can not be done.
The way I see it is that human obedience is always a result and a response of Yahweh's grace. Human obedience, wherever we find it within the Word of God, always comes from the operation of the grace of God in a human life.
Yahweh urges us to live for His glory. It's not like in the Old Covenant where Yahweh said to His people, Israel: "If you will obey me, keep my Law, I will bless you." But now Yahweh says to His children: "I have blessed you with all spiritual blessings; now, out of gratitude, obey me".
The power to serve Yahweh is not found in us, in our own striving or strength. It is the power which Yahweh Himself provides in Christ and by means of His Spirit. Chapters 1-3 speak much of God's power, which is at work in us, enabling us to serve Him in a way that brings Him glory:
Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, Ephesians 3:20 NASB
We can only walk worthy when we are walking in dependance of His power.
Paul says that believers are to walk, "In a manner worthy of your calling"—over and over in Scripture we are called to walk in a worthy manner:
Only conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or remain absent, I will hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel; Philippians 1:27 NASB
Here we are called to walk worthy of the Gospel of Christ.
that you receive her in the Lord in a manner worthy of the saints, and that you help her in whatever matter she may have need of you; for she herself has also been a helper of many, and of myself as well. Romans 16:2 NASB
We are called to walk worthy of the saints.
so that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; Colossians 1:10 NASB
We are to walk worthy of the Lord.
so that you would walk in a manner worthy of the God who calls you into His own kingdom and glory. 1 Thessalonians 2:12 NASB
And we are to walk worthy of God. Learning to walk worthy is a matter of biblical instruction. It is neither natural nor innate. Without the Word, there is simply no way any of us are going to be able to walk as we should. We must first understand His Word, before we can walk worthy.
For this reason also, since the day we heard of it, we have not ceased to pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, Colossians 1:9 NASB
Paul says, "I want you to be filled with the knowledge of His will." That's the mind, the understanding. Now notice what he says next:
so that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; Colossians 1:10 NASB
"So that you will walk"—is an infinitive in the Greek text, which may point to either the purpose or result. It seems logical that the infinitive points to the intended result of knowing God's will. That this clause points to the intended result stresses a vital truth; without the knowledge of God's will, it is impossible to walk worthily of the Lord. The intended result of God's truth is a changed conduct.
So the worthy walk is predicated on knowledge. That's why we teach the Bible. That's why week after week after week I stand here and teach the Bible verse by verse. I don't spend a lot of time telling stories. I Don't spend a lot of time just trying to whip you into emotional frenzies. I just want to teach you the principles of the Word of God so you can live them out.
We are to live consistent with what we know, with what we teach, with what we preach, and with what we believe—this is integrity. We are losing all credibility today because we say one thing and do another. We live one way and preach another. We must walk worthy of our calling, or we destroy our effectiveness and become a group of hypocrites.
Remember, the only Bible some people will ever read is the one demonstrated by our lives. An unknown author has put it this way:
"You are writing a gospel, a chapter each day. By the deeds that you do, and the words that you say. Men read what you write, whether faithless or true. Just what is the gospel, according to you?"
Paul put it this way:
You are our letter, written in our hearts, known and read by all men; 2 Corinthians 3:2 NASB
When Paul talks about, "The calling with which you have been called"—he is speaking of the calling in the previous chapters:
I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, Ephesians 1:18 NASB
He is referring to the effectual call of the Gospel that saved us. He refers to this in:
and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified. Romans 8:30 NASB
He has chosen us in ages past. He has chosen us to be like Christ, He predestinated us toward that goal, and then He has made us accepted in the beloved by virtue of the saving work of the Lord Yeshua the Christ, He's brought us to faith in Him so that we have a righteousness that is acceptable to Him. We are accepted in the Beloved One, the Lord Yeshua the Christ:
He predestined us to adoption as sons through Yeshua the Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, Ephesians 1:5 NASB
Our calling is sonship! We are sons of the living Elohim. So we are to walk worthy of that calling. We are to walk as sons of Yahweh.
Believers, if Christianity was nothing more than a simple, personal choice, and that I was saved simply because I decided to be saved, then it matters how I walk because I have chosen to associate with Christianity. But on the other hand, if I am a Christian because Yahweh, the sovereign almighty God, who rules the universe, wrote my name in a book before the world began and said, "I, the eternal, holy, righteous Elohim of the universe, choose you to spend forever in my presence," that adds a tremendous sense of responsibility to how I walk.
So what does this worthy walk look like? Look at our next verse:
with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, Ephesians 4:2 NASB
Commenting on this verse, Gordon Clark writes, "The list of synonyms is merely a matter of emphasis, and commentators who say nice things about each one are simply wasting their space and time." Well at the risk of wasting space and time I want to look at each of these qualities, because to preserve the unity of the Spirit, we need to practice these qualities.
"Humility"—this is from the Greek word tapeinophrosune, it means: " humiliation of mind," i.e. modesty:—humbleness of mind, lowliness (of mind). This word is not found in any Greek writings before the New Testament, which means the New Testament writers invented this word. The adjective form, tapeinos (top-a-nos) was often used to describe the mentality of a slave. It conveys the idea of base, shabby, scummy, unfit, low, common, useless. Humility was never seen in the pre-New Testament world as a virtue. It was ugly and never to be sought.
In the Tanakh Yahweh extolled the virtue of humility, He chose the insignificant and humble for His work, He chose the lowly and meek:
Now the man Moses was very humble, more than any man who was on the face of the earth. Numbers 12:3 NASB
To the pagans, humility was a vise, and I believe it still is. The world encourages pride, the world says you are somebody, think highly of yourself, you're better than others. The sad thing is that this attitude is also prevalent in the church. Even though the Word of God clearly tells us to think humbly of ourselves:
You younger men, likewise, be subject to your elders; and all of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, for GOD IS OPPOSED TO THE PROUD, BUT GIVES GRACE TO THE HUMBLE. Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, 1 Peter 5:5-6 NASB
Grace is for the humble.
Tapeinophrosune's direct relation is to Yahweh alone, it is a recognition of our creaturely dependance upon Yahweh and our true condition in His sight. Humility is dependence upon Yahweh:
"You shall remember all the way which the LORD your God has led you in the wilderness these forty years, that He might humble you, testing you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not. "He humbled you and let you be hungry, and fed you with manna which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that He might make you understand that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the LORD. Deuteronomy 8:2-3 NASB
Man lives in dependance upon Yahweh, and understanding this is humility. Pride is self-sufficient. This will affect our attitude towards our fellow man, because if we are conscience of our entire dependence on Yahweh for all our abilities, we will not pride ourselves on them.
We Americans are proud of everything, we are proud of our looks, our social standing, and especially our financial standing. We boast and brag and parade around of our riches, displaying them, trusting in them, exalting ourselves and our accomplishment by parading what we've gained. That's pride. This is the pride that says, "Look what I have! I must be somebody to have what it takes to have this."
"But you shall remember the LORD your God, for it is He who is giving you power to make wealth, that He may confirm His covenant which He swore to your fathers, as it is this day. Deuteronomy 8:18 NASB
John Calvin, commenting on humility, wrote, "Now, if anything in our whole life is difficult, this is the worst. Hence it is not surprising if humility is so rare a virtue. For as one says, 'Everyone has in himself the mind of a king, by claiming everything for himself.' What pride! Afterwards from a foolish admiration of ourselves arises contempt of the brethren. And so far are we from what Paul here enjoins, that one can hardly endure that others should be on the same level; for there is no one that is not eager to be on top."
The Hebrew Wisdom Literature is quite helpful in exhibiting the true nature of pride and also calling us to avoid it:
"The fear of the LORD is to hate evil; Pride and arrogance and the evil way And the perverted mouth, I hate. Proverbs 8:13 NASB
When pride comes, then comes dishonor, But with the humble is wisdom. Proverbs 11:2 NASB
Through insolence comes nothing but strife, But wisdom is with those who receive counsel. Proverbs 13:10 NASB
"Insolence" here is the Hebrew word zadon, which means: "arrogance or pride":
Everyone who is proud in heart is an abomination to the LORD; Assuredly, he will not be unpunished. Proverbs 16:5 NASB
Pride goes before destruction, And a haughty spirit before stumbling. Proverbs 16:18 NASB
A man's pride will bring him low, But a humble spirit will obtain honor. Proverbs 29:23 NASB
The Scriptures have nothing good to say about pride. It is a very destructive, very damaging sin that is to be avoided. This teaching runs all through Scripture—Yahweh brings the proud low, but He exalts the humble. Yeshua taught this:
"Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled; and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted. Matthew 23:12 NASB
It is one principle with two sides. It is a promise of being brought low to those who exalt themselves, and it is a promise of exaltation to those who humble themselves. We know that the world works by inflating egos and encouraging pride. But pride has no place in the Christian life. Pride is the number one enemy of unity.
If you have any difficulty with humility, I suggest you read chapter 2:1-3 again and remember what you were: "You were dead in your trespasses and sins."
"Gentleness"—this is from the Greek word praiotes. The KJV translates this word as: "meekness" but the NASB translates it: "genteelness." This Greek word is difficult to translate with a single word. It has the idea of "strength under control." It pictures a person who controls his temper and does not retaliate or seek revenge. Secular writers used it of tamed animals. It is used 9 times in the New Testament, and it is difficult to gather its meaning from its usages.
It is closely related to humility. It is not weakness or spinelessness, but rather the willingness to suffer injury instead of inflicting it. The gentle person knows he is a sinner among sinners and is willing to suffer the burdens others' sins may impose on him.
Gentleness means not behaving harshly, arrogantly, or self-assertively, but with consideration for others. Yeshua used both humility and gentleness to describe Himself:
"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. Matthew 11:29 NASB
If these attitudes characterized Yeshua, then they should characterize His disciples:
the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked. 1 John 2:6 NASB
So, however He walked is how we're to walk. And if He walked in humility and gentleness, then that's the way we are to walk.
The world does not offer seminars on humility, but on self-esteem and self-confidence. The world does not teach gentleness, but does give instruction in assertiveness. The attitudes which Paul proposes are those which the world opposes.
"Patience"—this is the Greek word makrothumeo, which is a word that, almost on every occasion in the New Testament, conveys the idea of having an infinite capacity to be injured without paying back. It is used with regard to people, not circumstances. It is having a long fuse. The patient person is able to be inconvenienced or taken advantage of by a person and yet not be upset or angry. Chrysostom, the early church father, said, "It is a word which is used of the man who is wronged and who has it easily in his power to avenge himself, but will never do it."
Makrothumeo is the first-listed quality of love in 1 Corinthians 13.This love is very slow to anger or resentment, and it never retaliates. Love will cause us to bear patiently with the faults and shortcomings of others.
Humility is the prerequisite of patience. Proud people are not patient. The more highly you think of yourself the more quickly you will think you should be served. "Who do they think they are to keep me waiting like this!" But if you have a disposition of humility, it won't feel so inappropriate when you are not treated like a dignitary. To preserve unity, we must be patient with one another.
"Showing tolerance"—is from the Greek word anechomai (an-ekh'-om-ahee), which means: "to hold oneself up against, to put up with, bear with, endure." Bearing with one another means: "to endure, to hold out in spite of persecution, threats, injury, indifference, or complaints and not retaliate."
In our day tolerance has come to mean throwing out all absolute moral standards and not judging anyone for any sin. But "tolerance" in the right sense means: "bearing with someone's shortcomings or quirks." It means: "giving the other person room to be different in non-moral areas." Pride makes us think, "Anyone with half a brain could see that my way is the best way to do this." Tolerance says, "That's not my preference, but it's okay."
"In love"—don't just tolerate someone, do it in love. Love seeks the highest good of the other person. This keeps tolerance from turning into a grit your teeth and seethe on the inside kind of endurance. It also prevents tolerance from becoming indifference
Do you know what is really cool about the church? It is that we give each other plenty of opportunities to practice these virtues. Isn't that nice of us? I guess that you understand that you do not need these qualities when others treat you well. You only need patience and tolerance when someone is irritating you or being difficult to get along with. While it is easier just to avoid such difficult people, Paul's appeal that we practice these qualities implies that we are seeking to work through relational differences:
being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. Ephesians 4:3 NASB
Notice that he doesn't say, "being diligent to make the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace," but "being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace." So that he is not saying that we are responsible to make the unity, we are responsible to keep the unity. The unity has already been made.
Diligence implies deliberate effort. It gives us the impression that it is not an easy thing to do. Paul told the Romans:
So then we pursue the things which make for peace and the building up of one another. Romans 14:19 NASB
The word "pursue" is from the Greek word dioko, which is a strong verb, generally used for: "persecute, following hard after, as in hunting." Metaphorically, it has the idea of: "to seek after eagerly, earnestly endeavor to acquire, to zealously go after something as though a dog on the hunt." What is it that they are to pursue? Most importantly, the things which make for peace.
"In the bond of peace"—that is, that bond which is peace. The unity that has been produced by the Holy Spirt is preserved by our humility, gentleness, patience and tolerance. When we live this way, peace is the result.
Paul's point here is, although true unity among believers already exists because of the mighty work of the Sovereign Spirit, we must work hard to preserve it. Harmonious relationships will not happen automatically. At some point, your feelings will get hurt or you will hurt someone else's feelings.
The unity of the believers is critical. The first three chapters of Ephesians emphasized it. We are one New Man, one body, one family, one household, one habitation of the Spirit. We walk unworthy of our calling in Christ if we disregard the unity of the body and don't expend any effort to safeguard what Christ died to obtain. The worthy walk is characterized by humility, gentleness, patience, and tolerance. If all Christians lived like this, what kind of an influence would we have on the world?
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