Paul has written this letter to the Ephesians and God has preserved it for our reading so that we would learn who we are. God wants you to know who you are. You have an identity and that identity has been given to you by God. You have been called to a great calling. You have been called to something more than mundane living on this earth. Chapter 3 told us that we are to display God’s wisdom and glory. This is what we have been called to do. We are chosen, redeemed, predestined, adopted, heirs, saved, and reconciled so that God would be glorified and his wisdom would be on display. Ephesians 3:21 summarizes the calling. That God would be glorified through us (the church) and through Jesus for all generations forever and ever. God being glorified is our calling.
Walk Worthy (4:1)
Our purpose is that God is glorified by people for all generations. Therefore, Paul urges us “to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called.” If our purpose is to display God’s glory and God be glorified through us, then there is a particular way to live our lives for this calling. We do not get to be a Christian and act how we want to act or do what we want to do. That is not our calling. This walk is our response to all that God has done for us, which we read about in the first three chapters of Ephesians. We are to live lives reflecting this new identity. You have been called to something great and glorious. Walk worthy of it! In chapter 2 Paul condemned us because we were walking in a way that followed the ways of this world, following the plans of Satan, following the passions of our flesh, and carrying out the desires of the body and mind. That is the former walk. Now you have a new walk. The new walk is not to go back carrying out your desires in your body and mind. The new walk is not following your passions. Your new walk is not following the ways of this world. Now you are to walk worthy of the calling to which you have been called.
Now Paul says something subtle, but very important in this first verse. Paul says, “I therefore, a prisoner of the Lord.” Paul starts there before he tells us to walk worthy of the calling. Why does Paul bring up that he is a prisoner for Christ at this moment? Walking worthy is going to be costly. Paul urges to walk in this way understanding that the walk is costly. You will not fit in with the world. Understand that trying to walk according to our calling is countercultural. How you will now behave is the opposite of what the world thinks is right or good.
The Character Which Brings Christian Unity (4:2)
Now, consider what you think would be the first command for walking worthy. Of all the things that God could command us first to consider in walking worthy of the calling, what do you think that command would be? Read Ephesians 4:2-3 and notice that the first point Paul makes is for Christian unity. In verse 2 teaches us the character needed to maintain Christian unity. Verse 3 gives us the charge to maintain this unity. Are we surprised that the first quality Paul addresses for walking worthy is unity? Unity is very important to our Lord because a lack of unity cannot bring God glory. Disharmony wrecks God being glorified.
Paul begins with the attitudes necessary for unity. Too often there has been an attitude that we can have unity on doctrine alone. There is an attitude that as long as we agree that there is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one body, one Spirit, one hope, and one God and Father of all, then we can be ugly to each other, have poor attitudes, be rude, attacking, and the like and still have unity. I have seen and heard far too many times supposed Christians attempt to defend the gospel and defend the truth by being angry, vicious, slanderous, condescending, and sometimes even being deceitful. I unfortunately experienced this when I was training to preach. A preacher from another city decided that what we were doing was wrong, primarily because we met in homes for Bible study on Wednesday night rather than meeting at the building. The ugly, hateful attitudes and words were just shocking to me.
I want us to notice where Paul starts for Christian unity. “With all humility and gentleness with patience, bearing with one another in love” (Ephesians 4:2). There cannot be unity without these things. It does not matter how much doctrine we think we have correct. We have missed the gospel completely and do not know the calling to which we have been called when we are lacking humility, gentleness, patience, and forbearing. Jesus exerted the power of God and defended the teachings of Christ without resorting to being ugly or hateful. I think we can get the idea of how we are to behave when we read humility, gentleness, and patience. People are going to say things and do things that are simply not right and unscriptural. We are to respond with humility, gentleness, and patience. The other Christians in this room do not know what you know. They may not have studied the scriptures as long as you have. They may not be as smart as you think you are. They may be confused on some teachings. They may have adopted some ideas that others have taught but are not found in the scriptures. How are we going to handle these things? A correcting response must be with humility, gentleness, and patience. Some of you simply will not accept some of the concepts from the scriptures I have taught while I have been here. How should I handle that? Should I be angry? Should I be more forceful with you? Should I put you down? Should I intimidate you? Should I make slanderous comments about you to you or to others? No! When other Christians are speaking, we must remember humility, gentleness, and patience.
If this was not enough, Paul says that we are to bear with one another in love. We are to endure patiently with one another because we love the soul of the person. We love each other and will continue to work together without bitterness or anger. Think about how we talk to each other. Think about how we act toward each other. Think about these things especially when we are disagreeing. Why? Paul continues in verse 3.
The Charge To Maintain Christian Unity (4:3)
We are to be “eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” Some translations rightly read that we are to make every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. We are to desire unity and do all we can to continue it. Notice that we are not to create unity but to maintain it. We are to keep the unity that is already in existence that comes from the calling. We have been joined together in Christ. Be eager to maintain that unity. Be diligent to maintain this unity. Make every effort to continue together in unity.
Consider: We do not have unity if it cannot be seen. Unity is not something that is a concept. Unity is seen in behavior. A lack of unity in a marriage is evident. Unity in a marriage is evident. If we have unity in Christ, then it will be evident. Peace is the bond that holds this unity together. We will see peace in our relationships and behaviors. We desire unity and will make every effort to maintain that unity.
(Picture many links of chain not connected.) This is not unity. Too often we think this is unity. Occasionally all the links sit in the same room. But this is not a chain. They are not unified. There is no unity. We do not have unity unless we have participation and involvement. The purpose of our Bible studies is to facilitate unity. Too many are disgruntled by our Bible studies and community groups because we do not understand what someone is saying or do not agree. We are to exhibit humility, gentleness, and patience. We are showing we are not eager for unity when we avoid these opportunities. We can never come to unity if we are not together in the word of God. It can never happen. Then for us to intentionally miss these occasions because it is too early, too late, too far, too tired, or whatever shows that we do not desire unity. Where is the loving deference for one another when our attitude is that we do not need these things?
Too many of us get way too uptight about disagreement in Bible study. There is nothing wrong with us disagreeing as long as we are maintaining these attitudes during our disagreement. We have a false unity if the teacher is teaching and everyone just nods their heads like mindless drones. This is not about assimilation. This is not a cult. We are to think through the scriptures and discuss these things together. We should be excited about the opportunity that we can do this together. Don’t be upset if there is a massive disagreement in a study. Don’t think that something has gone horribly wrong. I am disappointed to hear people think that we can’t disagree. We are going to disagree. Paul and Barnabas disagreed. The beauty is that we can disagree, maintain unity, practice and worship together, and love each other all the while still not seeing “eye to eye” on various points. This is a great thing! We must not despise it. We cannot expect instant maturity out of people. You did not start there. You may not be there yet. There are many here who are not there yet. Instead, we must have patience, humility, and gentleness, bearing with one another in love. This is how we learn. This is how we grow. This is how we become a chain rather than remaining individual links.
We are to walk worthy of this glorious calling we have been given. Walking worthy means being eager and making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. As we make this walk with Christ, let us have a greater focus on unity.
First, let us be more patient with each other. Let us be more gentle with each other. Let us be humble, not thinking so much of our abilities or knowledge. Let us bear with one another because of the love we have through Christ.
Second, let us be eagerly maintaining the unity that is to be found in Christ. Unity is visible. Unity is not accidental. Unity requires us merging our lives in God’s word regularly. Otherwise we are individual links who have proximity to one another but are the united chain we are to be in Christ.