I am sure I got salvation, how will I live my life is valuable as a Christian?
When Jesus saved us, he didn’t just save us for heaven. He saved us to live for him, to do works in his name, to rule with him, and many other things. Much of the teaching in the first half of Ephesians is about our calling. We were elected and predestined before time, redeemed, and forgiven. We were dead in our transgressions and sins, but now, we have been raised and seated with Christ in heavenly places.
How can we live in a manner worthy of all Christ did for us? In Ephesians 4:1, “live” can actually be translated “walk,” as in the NASB. “Walk is frequently used in the New Testament to refer to daily conduct, day–by–day living.”1 The Teacher’s Outline and Study Bible says this:
Walking requires us to be consistent. When we were born, walking was not an immediate skill we performed. It was something that had to be learned. The same is true in the spiritual realm. Walking with God is a practical skill that takes time to learn. And once you learn to walk as a Christian, you have a lifetime to practice and keep in top form.2
Christians must daily strive to walk worthy of their calling. John MacArthur’s comments are helpful in understanding the word “worthy.”
Axios (worthy) has the root meaning of balancing the scales—what is on one side of the scale should be equal in weight to what is on the other side. By extension, the word came to be applied to anything that was expected to correspond to something else. A person worthy of his pay was one whose day’s work corresponded to his day’s wages. The believer who walks in a manner worthy of the calling with which he has been called is one whose daily living corresponds to his high position as a child of God and fellow heir with Jesus Christ. His practical living matches his spiritual position.3
In addition, the root of the English word “worthy” is “worth”—how much something costs or is valued. The implication of Paul’s urging is that some, if not most, of the Christians in Ephesus were not living in a worthy manner. Throughout the rest of Ephesians, he addresses, in a deeper manner, how to do so. He addresses the believers’ speech, relationships, marriage, work, and even spiritual warfare. The first three chapters of the book are primarily doctrinal, while the last three are practical.
Believers must study the Word of God to understand their general calling.
A believer that does not live in the Word of God cannot live worthy of Christ’s calling. Paul teaches that the Word of God “equips the man of God for all righteousness” (2 Tim 3:17). This includes how to be a righteous child, spouse, parent, student, teacher, employee, or employer. If it is righteous, Scripture teaches us about it. This is called the “sufficiency of Scripture.” God’s Word both equips us for salvation and teaches us how to live righteously— the general calling of all believers. The more we understand Scripture, as applied to various situations, the more we can fulfill our general calling.
Believers must be intimate with God to know their specific calling.
Part of our calling includes specific things God has for us to complete. We are his workmanship created in Christ Jesus for good works (Eph 2:10). In order to know our specific calling, we must be intimate with God so we can hear his voice. Psalm 25:14 says, “The LORD confides in those who fear him; he makes his covenant known to them.” Those who are intimate with God hear his voice and can better discern his specific call on their lives.
Are you being intimate with God? Are you living in his Word and prayer? In order to walk in a manner worthy of Christ’s calling, we must know our call.
As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. (Ephesians 4:1)
No doubt when Paul mentioned his imprisonment for the Lord, he was challenging the Ephesians to walk worthy of their calling by being willing to suffer for Christ. Persecution of Christians was widespread in the early church. They were being shunned, beaten, imprisoned, and burned at the stake, and we can be sure that some fell away from the faith because of it.
As Paul writes from prison, he essentially tells them, “It is worth it!” In fact, Christ teaches that being willing to suffer is necessary for discipleship. In Matthew 10:34-38, he says,
Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn “a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law—a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.” Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.
Christ says that following him separates children from parents, daughters-in-law from mothers-in-law. Sadly, many Christians have lost family members over their faith. But Christ doesn’t stop there, he says that anyone who loves family more than him and does not take up their cross is not “worthy” of him. The cross in those days was a form of execution. When Christ says to take the cross, he is referring to any type of suffering that comes while walking with him, including death.
When Paul calls himself a “prisoner for the Lord,” he reminds these believers that willingness to suffer for Christ is part of their calling. Anybody who is unwilling is not worthy of Christ.
This should especially challenge Christians in societies where persecution is not explicitly overt. However, we must also recognize that overt persecution is growing very quickly. If you hold biblical views, you will be considered strange, hated, discriminated against, and harmed physically. Christians must be aware of this. In Matthew 24:9, Jesus says that Christians will be hated by all nations because of him. Since Christ’s death and resurrection, around 43 million Christians have died for the faith.4 It is estimated that approximately 400 Christians die daily for the faith.5
Again, if we are going to walk in a manner worthy of our calling, we must willingly suffer for Christ. Christ says this in Matthew 5:10-12:
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
Suffering for righteousness is a litmus test for our salvation—it proves we are part of the kingdom of heaven. But also, if we suffer for Christ, great is our reward in heaven. Let that encourage us, as we walk worthy of our calling in the face of persecution.
Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. (Ephesians 4:2)
Observation Question: What character traits does Paul call for the Ephesians to cultivate, and what do they look like in the life of a believer?
In order to walk in a manner worthy of our calling, we must practice godly character. Paul calls for the Ephesians to practice humility, gentleness, patience, and forbearance in love. We will look at each one separately.
- Believers must practice humility.
Paul calls for the Ephesians to be completely humble. What exactly is humility? William MacDonald and John MacArthur offer helpful insights:
Lowliness—a genuine humility that comes from association with the Lord Jesus. Lowliness makes us conscious of our own nothingness and enables us to esteem others better than ourselves. It is the opposite of conceit and arrogance…6
Tapeinophrosunē (humility) is a compound word that literally means to think or judge with lowliness, and hence to have lowliness of mind. John Wesley observed that “neither the Romans nor the Greeks had a word for humility.” The very concept was so foreign and abhorrent to their way of thinking that they had no term to describe it. Apparently this Greek term was coined by Christians, probably by Paul himself, to describe a quality for which no other word was available. …When, during the first several centuries of Christianity, pagan writers borrowed the term tapeinophrosunē, they always used it derogatorily—frequently of Christians—because to them humility was a pitiable weakness.7
The reason a believer can have lowliness of mind is because he judges himself in view of God and not men. Paul, though possibly the greatest Christian to ever live, calls himself the chief of sinners (1 Tim 1:15), the least of all God’s people (Eph 3:8), and the last of all the apostles (1 Cor 15:9). This type of mindset is developed as a believer constantly lives in the presence of God, and therefore compares himself to God. This creates a lowliness of mind. He knows that he is nothing apart from God, and that he falls far short of God’s glory. This leaves no room for boasting or for criticizing others. It is not that the person with lowliness of mind thinks less of himself; he just thinks less about himself. He continually thinks of God and others first.
However, the prideful person is the opposite. He refuses to live in the presence of God or to view himself in comparison to God. Rather, he compares himself to others, further cultivating the pride that is already in his heart. He is full of selfish ambition—a desire to exalt himself. But God opposes the proud and gives grace to the humble (James 4:6). In fact, God disciplines the proud so that he may become humble.
Are you completely humble? Let your words and thoughts always represent this reality, and if they do not, repent. Repent daily before God and ask for his grace so you may become completely humble, like Christ. Consider Philippians 2:6-9:
Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name
When Christ humbled himself, he did not become something he was not. Our God has always been humble. The incarnation only fully displayed this humility. That is why it is sinful for us to be prideful. How can we be prideful when God is not? We serve a humble God who became man and died for the sins of the world.
Are you walking worthy of your calling by being completely humble in word, thought, and appearance? Scripture says that God even hates a “proud look” (Prov 6:17, KJV).
If we are going to walk worthy of our calling, we must be completely humble. Let not a trace of pride be found in our lives.
- Believers must practice gentleness.
This is one of the harder Greek words to translate. It is often translated as “meekness”, “humility,” or “gentleness.” Gentleness is the “attitude that submits to God’s dealings without rebellion, and to man’s unkindness without retaliation.”8
Christ uses this word of himself 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.” Our Savior is gentle.
“Meekness” or “gentleness” in contemporary English is often associated with weakness, but it should not be. “In the Greek language, this word was used for a soothing medicine, a colt that had been broken, and a soft wind. In each case there is power, but that power is under control.”9
As mentioned, this character trait is clearly demonstrated in our Lord. Jesus used a whip and turned over tables in the temple because the people were being cheated and God’s house dishonored (John 2). However, when mocked and put on a cross, Christ was like a lamb to the slaughter. He was gentle in response to injustice done to him. But when it came to injustice done to others and God, Christ was like a lion.
The gentle person keeps his power under control. Instead of blowing up at the smallest problem, he is gentle and forgiving. This is clearly displayed in the life of David, who was a type of Christ. Very much a warrior, David killed a bear and a lion, slaughtered Goliath, and defeated armies. But when King Saul tried to kill him and David was presented with opportunities to slay his royal enemy, his response was, “I will not touch God’s anointed” (1 Sam 24:6, paraphrase). When mocked by Shimei after losing the kingdom to his son Absalom, David simply said, “Let him mock. Maybe God will see his mocking and repay me with good for the cursing I received today” (2 Sam 16:11-12, paraphrase). David was gentle and meek. His power was under control so he could use it to honor God and build God’s kingdom.
In contrast, Scripture says a man who cannot control his temper is like a city with broken walls (Prov 25:28). He is always open to attack, which ultimately leads to his destruction. Such is the fate of a man who does not have his power under control.
Are you meek? How do you respond when others mistreat you? How do you respond when God and others are dishonored? Lord, give us the meekness of your Son!
- Believers must practice patience.
The word “patience” can be translated “longsuffering” (KJV). It means the ability to suffer long under difficult circumstances or relationships. Scripture says that Christ was “a man of sorrows” (Is 53:3). He bore great pain and suffering, and those who follow him must be prepared to do the same. Trials are one of the ways that God matures us (cf. James 1:2-4). As we wait on God in our trials, we begin to see our weaknesses and learn to trust him more.
The implication of patience characterizing a worthy walk is that complaining, bitterness, anger, and self-pity are unworthy of our calling. Philippians 2:14-15 says, “Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe.”
When Paul says we “become blameless and pure, children of God” because we don’t complain or argue, he is not saying that this is what saves us. Rather, he is saying that displaying characteristics of God’s children manifests our true identity to others.
With that said, be careful about complaining and arguing. Discipline awaits those who cultivate such character in their lives (cf. 1 Cor 10:10). It is not fitting for a child of God.
How do we develop patience? We must develop our trust in God. The reason we complain and get upset is because we don’t trust God as we should. We don’t trust him in our trials or when dealing with difficult people. Trust, or faith, comes by hearing and obeying the Word of God (cf. Rom 10:17) and also by continually experiencing his faithfulness. The more we trust God, the more patient we become.
- Believers must practice forbearance in love.
The final character trait Paul says we must develop is forbearance in love. MacDonald’s comments are helpful:
Bearing with one another in love—that is, making allowance for the faults and failures of others, or differing personalities, abilities, and temperaments. And it is not a question of maintaining a façade of courtesy while inwardly seething with resentment. It means positive love to those who irritate, disturb, or embarrass.10
Do you love people who irritate, disturb, or embarrass you? First Peter 4:8 says, “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.”
Again, humility, gentleness, patience, and forbearance in love mark a walk that is worthy of the Lord, but pride, arrogance, impatience, and acting out of selfish anger are unworthy of Christ’s calling.
Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to one hope when you were called—one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. (Ephesians 4:3-6)
Next, Paul says to “Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.” The fact that he calls the Ephesians “to keep” the unity of the Spirit implies that the Spirit had already given unity—they just needed to maintain it. The unity of the Spirit is not something man-made; it is something given by God. Christ prayed for this unity right before going to the (John 17:20-21):
“My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.”
Christ prayed for God to make the disciples one, and also that they would be “in” the Godhead. God granted Christ’s prayer through the baptism of the Spirit. However, sadly, this has become a divisive doctrine in the church. Some believe it is a second work of the Spirit after salvation, where believers speak in tongues and are empowered to serve God. Those who believe this teach that all Christians should seek this experience. However, Paul teaches that every believer experiences the baptism of the Spirit at salvation, and it doesn’t have to be sought. First Corinthians 12:13 says, “For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.”
Instead of creating two separate types of Christians—Spirit baptized and non-Spirit baptized—the baptism of the Spirit creates the complete opposite. It makes all Christians members of one body in Christ. Paul stresses this throughout Ephesians—believing Jews and Gentiles are no longer separate, but one in Christ (2:11-15, 3:6).
Many seek to create a superficial unity by imposing uniformity. They require all to worship, pray, dress, or give in a certain way. However, unity and uniformity are not necessarily the same. In fact, the metaphor of the body tells us there will be great diversity in the church. A physical body, though one, is made up of feet, eyes, a chest, and legs. Similarly, in a local church body, there will be different cultures, customs, view-points, and gifts. The Corinthian church was noted for not lacking any spiritual gifts (1 Cor 1:7) such as tongues and prophecy, but none of the other NT churches were noted for that. God made each church different, and he made each believer different. We should celebrate this diversity because it glorifies God.
Paul does not tell us to create unity, but he does challenge us to “make every effort” to keep it.
Application Question: How should we “make every effort” to keep the peace?
- We make every effort by seeking to resolve conflict speedily.
“‘Make every effort’ comes from a root word which means to make haste, and thus gives the idea of zealous effort and diligence.”11 Paul says this later in Ephesians 4:26, “‘In your anger do not sin’: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.”
Paul says that if we are angry with somebody, we should make it right before the sun goes down. In other words, “Make haste!” The enemy wants to use that door to attack us and others, so we need to close it quickly.
We make every effort by doing as much as possible to resolve conflict.
“Make every effort in the Greek is emphatic. It can also be translated ‘spare no effort’ (NEB).”12 Romans 12:18 says, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” In sparing no effort, we forgive those who hurt us and reach out to those who are angry at us, but we also labor to help others reconcile. Paul says this to a member of the Philippian church in Philippians 4:3: “Yes, and I ask you, loyal yokefellow, help these women who have contended at my side in the cause of the gospel, along with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life.” In sparing no effort, we must do the same.
We make every effort by persevering and not giving up.
“Make every effort” is a “present participle, it is a call for continuous, diligent activity.”13 In churches or families where there is deep-seated conflict, we must not cease to pray, love, forgive, and pursue reconciliation. Christ says that if somebody hurts us seventy-seven times, we must still forgive (Matt 18:22). In making every effort, we must not give up. Galatians 6:9 says, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” God will bring the harvest in his timing if we persevere.
We make every effort by focusing on our God-given commonalities.
Typically, when division arises, it is partially because people focus on their differences instead of their commonalities. Like one trained in modern day conflict resolution, Paul calls for the Ephesians to focus on their spiritual commonalities. In Ephesians 4:4-6, he notes seven that all believers share: “There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to one hope when you were called—one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” Many scholars believe this was an early church confessional hymn.14
Observation Question: What are the seven spiritual commonalities Paul mentions in Ephesians 4:4-6?
Believers are one in Christ’s body.
Again, this refers to how the baptism of the Spirit made all believers—Jew, Gentile, male, female, slave, and free—one man in Christ. We are one in Christ’s body, so we should labor for unity.
Believers have one Spirit.
It is God’s Spirit who indwells believers (1 Cor 6:19), unifies them (1 Cor 12:13), and empowers them to perform Christ’s ministry on earth (Acts 1:8). Only believers drink daily from the Spirit—this should encourage us to preserve the unity he gave us.
Believers have one hope.
This hope refers to Christ’s second coming and all that awaits the believer at his coming—the bodily resurrection, freedom from sin, ruling with Christ, and much, much more. First John 3:2-3 says,
Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure.
While the world’s hope is earthly, ours is heavenly—we hope in Christ and his coming. This commonality should encourage us to work for unity.
Believers have one Lord.
This refers to Christ, our Master. First Corinthians 8:6 says, “yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live.” While those in the world follow their own desires and the desires of others, and worship false gods, we follow Christ.
Certainly, having the same Master should cause us to agree in the Lord (Phil 4:2).
Believers have one faith.
This refers to the body of doctrine passed down to us in Scripture. Jude 1:3 says, “Dear friends, although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt I had to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints.” We must contend for the truth and faithfully pass it on. Paul says this to Timothy in 2 Timothy 1:13-14:
What you heard from me, keep as the pattern of sound teaching, with faith and love in Christ Jesus. Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you—guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us.
It is this body of doctrine that teaches our unity and calls for us to preserve it.
Believers have one baptism.
This could mean either the baptism of the Spirit by which we become members of the body of Christ, or water baptism as a person confesses his identification with Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection (cf. Rom 6:4). It is essentially the believer’s wedding ceremony, as he publicly professes the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (Matt 28:19).
Believers have one God and Father of all.
The Believer’s Bible Commentary adds:
Above all—He is the supreme Sovereign of the universe. Through all—He acts through all, using everything to accomplish His purposes. In you all—He dwells in all believers, and is present in all places at one and the same time.15
In considering all our commonalities as believers, let us make every effort to preserve the unity of the Spirit.
How else should we make every effort to preserve this unity, as laid out in Ephesians 4:3-6?
- Believers make every effort by not compromising foundational truths.
An implication of Paul’s focus on these seven spiritual commonalities is the need to maintain the basic foundational truths of Christianity. Paul is not promoting unity at any cost, but rather unity based on truth and righteousness. When someone teaches a different Lord other than Jesus Christ, he is not a Christian and should not be accepted as such. The apostle John says, “But every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world” (I John 4:3).
Similarly, in Galatians 1:9 Paul calls for anyone who teaches another gospel to be accursed. Some think we should seek unity by all means necessary. However, this is incorrect. If professed believers teach a different Lord, a different God, or a different gospel, we should not unite with them. In fact, this is not only true when a professed believer teaches heresy verbally, but also when he teaches it by ungodly living. First Corinthians 5:11-13 says,
But now I am writing you that you must not associate with anyone who calls himself a brother but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or a slanderer, a drunkard or a swindler. With such a man do not even eat. What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside. “Expel the wicked man from among you.”
There can be no unity where foundational doctrinal truths or the practical righteousness resulting from them are compromised. This requires wisdom and discernment. It has commonly been said, “In essentials, unity. In doubtful questions, liberty. In all things, charity.”16