Good evening. As always when we want to get to grips with the Bible’s teaching, we need God’s help. So let’s ask him for it. Let’s pray:
Heavenly Father, we thank you so much for your wonderful, powerful and life-changing word. Please help us by your Spirit to listen to it, understand it, take it into our hearts and lives, and be changed by it. In Jesus name we pray. Amen.
“He talks the talk, but he doesn’t walk the walk.” Isn’t that what they say about someone who’s behaviour doesn’t match up to what he says? Well, ‘Walking the Walk’ is my title this evening. And if you’ve got a Bible to hand in some form, then please have Ephesians 4.1-6 open in front of you. That’s our section of Scripture for this evening. That’s because we’re starting a new series covering the second half of the apostle Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians. I suppose you could sum up the whole of this short and extraordinary letter as ‘Here’s the talk, now walk the walk’.
So the first three chapters of Ephesians focus on the amazing gospel of grace – God’s cosmic plan to redeem a new people for his glory by grace through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ who died for our sins and was raised to rule all things for ever. Then the second half of the letter, Ephesians 4 4-6, spells out the implications of that first half for those who by faith in Jesus have come to belong to this new people, the church. That’s what we’re jumping into in this series.
This evening, then, we’re looking at Ephesians 4.1-6. And they begin like this Ephesians 4.1:
I therefore, a prisoner of the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called…
Let’s keep in mind as we study this Letter that the apostle means it literally when he says he’s a prisoner. And we know he doesn’t want us to miss the fact, because he makes mention of it repeatedly. For instance in 6.20 he describes himself as an ambassador in chains. It’s important that we know this is the urgent message of someone who’s walking the walk, and not just talking the talk. He’s not just telling us how to live. He’s living it himself. It’s not just his credentials as an apostle that give him credibility. It’s the witness of his life, laid down in our service, in imitation of his Lord. So he’s urging us to be like him, as he lives like Jesus, in the power of the Holy Spirit.
How, then, is he urging us to live? Well I have four simple headings. So, first, understand our calling in Christ. Secondly, be humble towards God. Thirdly, Be patient with one another. And fourthly, be eager for Godly unity.
1. Understand Our Calling In Christ
Look again at Ephesians 4.1:
I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called…
So he’s building on all that he’s being saying up to now. And that includes his prayer for them in 3.14-21, that they’ll grasp the immensity of the love of God in Christ, so that God will be glorified in the life of the church. And we’re included in his prayer! So he prays in Ephesians 3.21:
…to [God] be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations…
That means we too are swept up in his prayer. And how will we bring glory to God in our generation? By walking in a manner worthy of our calling. The point about a calling, as opposed to a hobby, or even a job, is that it catches up the whole of someone’s life. It can’t just be clocking on at 9 and clocking off at 5.
We’ve been marking the centenary of the Battle of Britain. What was the calling of those young Hurricane and Spitfire pilots? To do whatever it took to defend us from invasion. They threw themselves into it, body and soul, knowing full well that their lives were on the line. Last week it was the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center. What was the calling of the New York firefighters on duty that day? To do whatever it took to rescue people. They threw themselves into it, knowing full well that their lives were on the line.
What is our calling, as those who have found forgiveness and freedom through faith in Jesus who laid his life down for us? What is our calling, as those who have received the gift of the Holy Spirit, who guarantees our eternal inheritance? To do whatever it takes to bring glory to God by showing Jesus to the world by what we say and what we do, knowing full well that our lives are on the line. Back in Ephesians 1.4, Paul says:
[God the Father] chose us in [Christ Jesus] before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him.
And in Ephesians 2.8-10:
For by grace you have been saved through faith…For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
We need to understand our calling. And then we need to live lives that reflect that calling – or in Paul’s words, we need to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which we have been called. What, then, does that look like? The apostle spells it out in practical terms. So:
2. Be Humble Towards God
That’s there at the beginning of Ephesians 2. Walk ‘with all humility’. Why does he begin there? Because a proper humility is the root from which grows the fruit of all the other behaviour that he’s looking for in the church between fellow believers. And we need to be clear that humility is not something we work up in ourselves. It’s really just seeing ourselves clearly. And that doesn’t come from comparing ourselves to others. It comes from seeing ourselves in relation to God. So humility is really an experience of having our eyes opened to the truth about ourselves.
What truth? Two things. First, how great is our sin. And second, how deep is God’s love for us in Jesus. And we can’t see the second clearly, the love of God for us, without seeing the first, how great is our sin. Ephesians 1.7:
In [Christ] we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trepasses, according to the riches of his grace…
Only when we’ve grasped that, can we hear, really hear, what Paul says in Ephesians 4.32:
Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.
The Lord can sometimes use mothers to help with this. At any rate, he used my own mother. I remember when I was a teenager, excited about my new found faith and feeling as if our generation was the first to realise what Christianity is really all about. One day my mum was under a lot of pressure in the kitchen, and she asked if I could help. I was preoccupied with whatever it was that in my eyes was more important, and I made my excuses. As I turned to leave, my mum burst out, “You’re so selfish!”
Now my mum was and is her children’s number one fan. She didn’t say things like that normally. But her words pierced my soul like the sword of the Spirit, and in a moment stripped away layers of self-satisfaction, cutting to the bone of what I was really like. As you can see, I’ve never forgotten it. I began to learn a lesson that day. But above all, we learn this lesson of humility when we look at the cross, and see what our sin and our forgiveness cost God. So we need that spiritual experience of having our eyes opened to how great is our sin, and how deep is God’s love for us in Jesus. That’s what properly humiliates us. That’s what teaches us humility. So, first, understand our calling in Christ. Secondly, be humble towards God.
3. Be Patient Towards One Another
Back to Ephesians 4.1- 2:
…walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience bearing with one another in love…
We are to be gentle with one another, and patient, and bear with one another in love. And that flows from humility. The humility that sees ourselves clearly is the key that helps us to be patient towards one another. Look again at Ephesians 4.32, where Paul repeats his call in other words:
Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.
It’s a lot less difficult to bear with other people when we at least have some inkling of what God has to put up with from us. It’s a lot easier to be gracious towards others when we’ve seen the amazing grace we’ve needed and got from God. It becomes possible to forgive others, as we are commanded to do, when we understand how we ourselves are utterly dependent on the forgiveness that we receive from our heavenly Father.
One of the things I noticed about being a father is that it shifted my perspective when I was reading the Bible. I didn’t only read it with the eyes of a son. I also began to read it with the eyes of a father. When my children were testing my patience, I got a glimpse of what it must be like for my heavenly Father to have me for a son. Provoking. And yet how patient He is with us. How can we be any less with one another? So – understand our calling in Christ. Be humble towards God. Be patient towards one another.
4. Be Eager For Godly Unity
Let’s read on in what the apostle is urging us:
…walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
The picture of the church that’s uppermost in Paul’s mind in this part of the Letter is of the church as a body.
There is one body…
he goes on in Ephesians 4.4. That is, this unity that we’re to be eager to maintain is a unity that we have already been given by Jesus. We have been made members of his body. So we’re hugely diverse, as are all the various parts of the body. But we’ve been made one. And we have one head, Jesus himself. It was not always so. There was a time when we did not belong to Jesus. So Paul says in 2.12-13:
…remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of the promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who were once far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility…
Gentile and Jew are made one through faith in Jesus. So are Gentile and Gentile, Jew and Jew. In Christ, as members of his body, all of a sudden we have so very much in common. So Paul spells it out in Ephesians 4.4-6:
There is one body and one Spirit – just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call – one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.
Now because we are not only very different but also so deeply sinful, it’s a real battle for us to maintain this unity in the life of our church. But it’s a battle we must fight, for the sake of those watching us from outside, and for the glory of Jesus. We must, so to speak, fight for gentleness. We must fight for patience. Are there people in the church we find provoking? We must struggle patiently to bear with them, as they also have to bear with us.
And then, as we shall find out more next week, in the words of Ephesians 4.15, we shall…
…grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ…
So - understand our calling in Christ. Be humble towards God. Be patient towards one another. Be eager for Godly unity. Then we won’t just be talking the talk. We’ll be walking the walk. Let’s pray:
Heavenly Father, we praise you that by your grace, while we were sinners, you adopted us into your family, made us members of your body, united us with your Son Jesus who is our head. We praise you for the gift of your Holy Spirit who lives in all who put their trust in him. Thank you for the miracle of open eyes that see what we’re really like, and all that you’ve done for us. Thank for our calling. Teach us, we pray, to treat one another in a way that is worthy of the way you have treated us. For the glory of Jesus. Amen.