The Apostle Paul’s letter
to the church at Ephesus follows the same pattern as
his other letters. The first half of the letter
declares great doctrinal truths upon which he makes
applications for Christian living. He first states
the abiding principles and then draws from these
truths practical applications.
Behavior follows belief.
Your walk is the result of what you believe. We put
into daily practice our eternal position in Christ.
We act on truth.
After his great prayer
and doxology in Ephesians 3:14-21, Paul stresses
church unity. It is an appeal to live in a manner
worthy of the gospel. What we believe should affect
our daily life style.
The basic plea Paul has
in mind is to keep and continue to maintain the
spiritual unity of the church.
It is important to stress
that Paul is not referring to an ecclesiastical
organizational unity, but a unity in which the Holy
Spirit is the author. It is the work of the Spirit
of God sustaining the spiritual life of the church.
There is a unity by virtue of the very existence of
a church. We are unable to create unity. The Holy
Spirit did that when he created the church, which is
a spiritual body. Our responsibility is to preserve
church unity. In order to accomplish this Paul says,
LIVE WORTHY OF YOUR
The appeal of the apostle
comes from the operation of God’s grace in the
believer. He does not command the body to create a
church unity. He urges them from a heart that is
filled with the grace of God.
"I, therefore, the
prisoner of the Lord, urge you to live worthy of the
calling with which you have been called" (Ephesians
He was chained to an
elite Roman soldier because it was God’s will for
Paul to be there. He never says he is a prisoner of
Nero, or the Roman government, or as the result of
Jewish religious leaders’ persecution. He is "the
prisoner of the Lord." That brings eternity into the
picture. He lives above his circumstances. He is
there because God had called him to be a missionary
to the Gentiles. As a result of the imprisonment the
gospel was reaching the elite in the Roman Empire
(Phil. 1:12-14). With each rotation of guards a
different soldier would have the experience of being
chained to this little converted Jew. Take no pity
on the apostle Paul. Have mercy on the poor pagan
chained to a man who was "filled up to al the
fullness of God" (Eph. 3:19). He cannot escape
listening to the apostle of Jesus Christ praying and
singing such doxologies as: "Now unto him who is
able to do exceedingly abundantly super abundantly,
over and above and beyond all that we ask or pray or
think. To him be the glory in the church as in
Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever.
Amen." The poor imprisoned Roman soldier cannot
escape such a personal testimony of the Lord Jesus
Christ. As a result the gospel was spreading
throughout the empire as soldiers moved from command
The apostle is living
before these soldiers and a constant stream of
visitors the victorious life in Christ. He also
appeals to the church from a divine compulsion
through grace to live a life worthy of the gospel.
His life is a model for other believes.
The appeal is to be
conformed to the image of Christ. You respond to the
effectual call of the Holy Spirit and became a child
of God. God’s goal is that we be conformed to the
character of Jesus Christ (Rom. 8:29). Paul prayed
that every member of the church at Ephesus "be
strengthened with power through is Spirit in the
inner person, that Christ may dwell in your hearts
through faith" (Eph. 3:16-17). That is being
conformed to the likeness of Christ. We are to focus
on the living Christ dwelling within us. As he
lives, we live.
Paul appeals to the
believers to watch their behavior. "I . . . urge you
to live worthily of the calling with which you have
been called" (4:1 NET). Live like a child of God
should live. Live in a manner and life style in
which you are conformed to Christ. Put into daily
practice your eternal position in Christ. You were
dead in your sins and Christ has raised you from the
dead and lives within you. Live out your calling as
one in whom God dwells.
What are the
characteristics of someone who has experienced such
grace? It may surprise you that these are also the
characteristics of church unity in verses two and
There is no unity in the
church without true humility. Arrogance and
self-interests destroy any chances of unity.
Christian humility is
based on undeserved grace.
Let’s face it; humility
is not a worldly virtue. Humility is not the "in
thing" in our age. The worldview is "in your face,"
self-assertiveness, make your demands on society,
take advantage of humble people and anyone who gets
in your way. The person who dies with the most toys
is the winner in life.
How tragic when the
organized church has these carnal attitudes. God
does not determine success by the applause meter or
the popularity polls. He could care less about our
appearance, performance and status. He looks upon
the heart and sees the unseen. How much of Christ
can be seen in my life? Have I experienced His
The apostle stresses this
attitude in Philippians 2:3 and the context of
verses 1-5. Christ is the perfect example of such
humility. Paul appealed to the Philippians to "be of
the same mind, having the same love, being united in
spirit, and having one purpose. Instead of being
motivated by selfish ambition or vanity, each of you
should, in humility, be moved to treat one another
as more important than yourself. Each of you should
be concerned not only about your own interests, but
about the interests of other as well. You should
have the same attitude toward one another that
Christ Jesus had . . ." (Philippians 2:2-5 NET).
Paul illustrates the
humility of Christ in verses 6-8 by the fact that
Christ was truly God and by his incarnation became a
slave and "humbled himself, by becoming obedient to
the point of death—even death on a cross!" (NET).
The life of every true
Christian should be characterized by such humility.
True humility comes
through absolute dependence on Christ. Even the
Christian life is not in our own strength, but the
life of Christ lived in us. Jesus stressed to his
disciples, "I am the vine; you are the branches. The
one who remains in me—and I in him—bears much fruit,
because apart from me you can accomplish nothing"
(John 15:5 NET). This is why the apostle Paul
stressed, even from his prison chains, "I am able to
do all things through the one who strengthens me"
(Phil. 4:13 NET). The "all things" is emphatic in
Paul’s statement. It is Christ who strengthens him.
He had experienced God’s grand provisions in his
life (v. 19). Therefore Paul could boast in the Lord
alone (2 Cor. 10:17; 12:5-10). He had learned from
experience that "whenever I am weak, then I am
strong" (v. 10 NET). We live such a life from the
resources of our vital union with Christ.
We can summarize Paul’s
attitude in his own words in Romans 12:16; "Live in
harmony with one another, do not be haughty, but
associate with the lowly. Do not be conceited"
We could solve a lot of
dissension in our churches and maintain unity by
living in such a manner.
In addition to Christian
humility, Paul says "gentleness" or "meekness" is
another characteristic of unity.
Paul does not have in
mind someone being walked over, but strength or
power under control. This is the same word Jesus
used in Matthew 5:5 when he said, "Blessed are the
meek, for they will inherit the earth."
This "meek" or "gentle"
person does not go off in extremes, is balanced, and
under control. He has every instinct and every
passion under the control of the Holy Spirit.
This beautiful word can
be illustrated by the fierce, awesome power of a
wild, bucking stallion out of control. Before the
stallion is "broken" one rider after another limps
away because of the untamed power of the stallion.
However, after the animal has been broken in
properly a small child can climb upon the back of
the black beauty and ride off into a golden sunset.
Why? Because it is power under control.
Every one of us wields
power—physical, emotional, personal power—often it
is out of control. How different our churches would
be if every member lived every moment under the
control of the Holy Spirit.
An attitude of gentleness
would resolve many a church conflict. Wouldn’t it be
great if there were no more "power grabs" in
churches? "And do not get drunk with wine, which is
debauchery, but be filled by the Spirit" (Ephesians
5:18 NET). Yield to the control of the Holy Spirit
every instinct, thought, imagination, ambition, etc.
Paul has already said
members are to be "filled up to all the fullness of
God" (3:19). The Holy Spirit fills us with the
fullness of God. When we are under His control we
are Christlike in attitude and behavior.
Gentleness is a fruit of
the Spirit (Gal. 5:23). Jesus was gentle. Can there
be a better example of power under control?
We are to live a life
worthy of our calling by being humble, gentle and
We can preserve church
unity by being patient. If we exercised patience
with God and fellow believers we would cause less
dissension, frustration and friction in the body.
How often we rush in to
areas where angels fear to tread. Impatience gives
the rush of feeling that we are omniscient and
omnipotent, but the sad truth is we are neither.
Patience is an exercise
Tolerance is an exercise
Long tempered or patience
is the opposite of being short-tempered with people.
It is most helpful to
remind ourselves how patient God is with us (1 Pet.
3:20). God is extremely patient with us. "You are a
God of forgiveness, merciful and compassionate, slow
to get angry and unfailing in your loyal love . . ."
(Nehemiah 9:17b NET). God’s patience is
long-suffering with us. It is an expression of his
Thank God judgment did
not come before he saved us. God is patient with us.
His patience led to our salvation (1 Tim. 1:16).
The patient attitude does
not give up on people, and does not give in to
When we exercise patience
we refuse to retaliate when offended or take
advantage of a person or situation. We do not
exasperate when people manipulate us. Patience bears
with injury without becoming bitter. It is the
quality of a person who has the power to avenge
perceived evils done to him yet refrains from doing
We need to put off
judgment and action until we have all the
Patience is exercised in
putting up with one another over a period of time.
It restrains outbursts of anger. It is developed by
waiting and trusting God. Patience comes through
complete faith in God in all circumstances.
Our responsibility is to
preserve the unity in the church with all humility,
gentleness, patience, and "bearing with one another
Bearing with one
another in love
You could express the
same idea as "putting up with one another in love."
The outworking of this
attitude is seeking the highest good of the other
It is the opposite of
manipulating people to achieve our goals.
Manipulation and under the table tricks never
accomplish long lasting results. The negative
baggage is never worth the good accomplished. No one
likes to be around a manipulator. You always feel
like you "have been had." You are left with a
"dirty" "used" feeling. Unity is not the resultant
A better way is found in
Romans 12:14-21. The apostle Paul wrote, "Bless
those who persecute you, bless and do not curse.
Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who
weep. Live in harmony with one another; do not be
haughty but associate with the lowly. Do not be
conceited. Do not repay anyone evil for evil;
consider what is good before all people. If
possible, so far as it depends on you, live
peaceably with all people. Do not avenge yourselves,
dear friends, but give place to God’s wrath, for it
is written, "Vengeance is mine, I will repay," says
the Lord. Rather, if your enemy is hungry, feed him;
if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in doing
this you will be heaping burning coals on his head.
Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with
good" (NET). The bold type in the NET translation
indicates it is a quote from the Old Testament.
The apostle sums up these
characteristics of unity saying make "every effort
to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of
peace" (Eph. 4:3 NET).
I stress the emphasis of
Paul once again. We are not to make unity but to
keep the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace.
The Holy Spirit is the author of the unity.
It takes a continuing
effort with "eager earnestness to maintain" the
unity. The word translated "eager" suggests a
burning zeal and denotes a constant action to keep
under watchful care something that is already in our
possession. Are we "eager to maintain" the unity the
Holy Spirit has brought about when he created the
We should be eager to
guard and protect the spiritual unity God provided
by accepting true believers.
The "peace" the Holy
Spirit produces in the body results from love,
humility, gentleness and putting up with one
The apostle Paul is not
advocating "peace at any price" whereby we tolerate
immoral practices, heretical teaching, false
teachers, etc. That is clear form other passages of
However, we are to live
at peace with one another whenever possible. The
Holy Spirit always promotes peace, not divisions (1
Cor. 1:10). The indwelling Spirit is the means of
achieving this peace.
selfishness promotes contention, hostility and
grieves the Holy Spirit. Contention among the
brethren ought to be avoided like the aides virus.
The Holy Spirit is a
person, and he can be grieved just as any other
person. He sealed us until the day of our full
redemption when we see him in glory. Until then we
need to make every effort to keep an intimate
relationship with him. How do we grieve the Holy
Spirit? The apostle Paul says, "You must put away
every kind of bitterness, anger, wrath, quarreling,
and evil slanderous talk" (Ephesians 4:31 NET).
These are the attitudes and behaviors that grieve
the Spirit and prevent him from having full control
of our inner person.
The one who indwells us
is the basis for our unity. When every member is
under his control we enjoy a body life full of
spiritual power. Any sin against the unity of the
body is a sin against the Holy Spirit.
PRINCIPLES AND PRACTICAL APPLICATIONS
1. When we have
experienced God’s grace we want to live a life
worthy of our high calling and see God touch every
area of our personal life. We want to live like a
child of God should live.
2. When we are
living worthy of our calling we can see evidence
that we are being conformed to the character and
likeness of Jesus Christ.
3. When we realize
that we really do deserve to be in hell we begin to
appreciate the grace of God and are truly humble in
God’s presence and in the sight of other believers.
4. When we bring
every ambition, instinct, thought, reaction to
situations, etc. under the control of the Holy
Spirit we preserve the unity of the body of Christ.
Arrogance, pride, selfishness destroys body life in
a church. Remove it from our lives at all costs.
5. When we are
patient we see the hand of God in every aspect of
our lives and we refuse to retaliate or take
advantage of situations to promote selfish agendas.
When we have an attitude of patience we trust God to
meet all of our needs so we can build up the body of
6. When we realize we are
all on the same level—sinners saved by grace—we
learn to put up with one another to preserve the
unity of the church. Because we have experienced
God’s grace we want to seek the highest good in