We share our opinions and insights at SBC Voices, but we believe that the Voice that matters most is the one that comes from God’s Word. We present these daily expositional devotions, beginning with a tour of Ephesians called, “Walk Worthy,” in hopes of encouraging our readers to remember to Voice above every voice.
4 Therefore I, the prisoner in the Lord, urge you to live worthy of the calling you have received, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 3 making every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to one hope at your calling— 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all. Ephesians 4:1-6 (CSB)
The rich doctrine of the first three chapters forms the foundation of the rich application that begins in Ephesians 4:1. God’s eternal purpose in Christ, Christ’s power over all rulers and authorities, the dramatic life-giving work of salvation, and God’s immense wisdom displayed in calling the church as one new people… These have all led to this turning point: Therefore, I urge you, Paul says. We have a responsibility to alter our lives and reflect all that God has done in Christ. We should see everything that’s come before in chapters 1-3 compressed and sealed in this one word.
What must we therefore do? We must live worthy of the calling we have received. Good thing Paul doesn’t set the bar too high, right? I mean we might be tempted to give up if he starts off too ambitious. That’s good Paul! Baby steps… wait WHAT?!?! Worthy of the calling we have received? You mean the calling you just told us about? The one through which God is making known his wisdom to the powers and authorities in the heavens (3:10)? The calling to grow into a holy temple in the Lord (2:21)? This cosmic redemptive plan that Christ is putting on display – we are supposed to live “worthy” of this calling?
We can’t live worthy of this calling in one sense. We’re just not able. We all stumble and fall in many ways. It’s far too easy to hate our enemy. We can’t keep our tongues in check (ironic example for a blog, right?). Be holy for I am holy. Sometimes God gives us commands that we are not going to be able to follow. Fully. But we strive toward them. We strive toward holiness knowing that it won’t ever be finally attained until God’s work of glorification. We strive, here in Ephesians 4, to live worthy of the incredible calling God has placed on our lives.
In fact, live worthy is Paul’s summary statement for most of what follows in Ephesians. The exportations and commands and ways he’ll plead with the church to be Spirit-armed warriors – all of it can be summed up in this two word phrase. Live worthy.
Let’s be careful here not to flip the gospel on it’s head: Chapters 1-3 are what God did for us and now chapters 4-6 are what we can do to pay God back. No! These are works that God has prepared in advance for us to do (2:10). Every step we take in a worthy manner is a gift of God’s grace and for the purpose of his glory, not ours.
So live worthy is the overarching theme of the following application. Let’s take a look at the specifics. As Paul thinks of a worthy life, what is the first theme that comes to his mind? Unity in the church. The manner of keeping this unity is what we see in verse 2, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love. He’s building up to the key instruction in verse 3: making every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit.
It’s really, really important to God that his church be unified. There’s a theological ground for it (verses 4-6: one body, one Spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all). The unity that we see displayed in the gospel, the unity that was purchased on the cross, tearing down the dividing barrier… How can this gospel be properly displayed in a church that’s divided with factions and bickering?
It’s really important and it’s really not easy. Our sinfulness tends toward division and seeking our own preferences. Why else would Paul need to tell us to make every effort (v.3)? This is going to take hard work. But we can’t ever give up. We have to purse this goal with all the energy we have and then still keep going. The Spirit has given us unity and we must fight against our sinful desires to maintain it.
What encouragement would I have as we embark on this difficult journey toward unity in the faith? I think exactly where we started is the key. Pursuing unity as one aspect of living worthy of our calling in the gospel. Tempted to gossip? No, I’ve got to live worthy. Tempted to insist on your point of view? No, God placed a higher calling on me. Fight for your preferences? No. Walk worthy of this calling.