Summary: The Lord through Paul calls us to get along, even when it's hard. He says to be humble, gentle, patient, and forbearing with our fellow believers. And through our efforts to do so, God will be glorified in the world. We pursue unity because God is one.
Living Out Our Calling
Some people are really hard to get along with. (Can I get an amen?) I remember several times in our past Becky and I have had the thought, “Why does it seem that most of the time, when we have relational conflict, it’s with Christians!?! With fellow brothers and sisters in the Lord? Why do we seem to get along better with non-believers than we do Christians? (Now that has not been the case here, I assure you.) Maybe our expectations are higher for believers. Whatever the case, the Bible is clear that we must work hard to get along. We either enhance or damage God’s reputation in the world by the way we treat each other.
Today’s passage offers help. When we first started the book of Ephesians a month ago, I told you that Paul often spends the first half of his book talking about who you are and the second half talking about what to do with that information, in other words, how to live it out. Today is the turning point of the second half of the book: chapter 4 of six chapters. So let’s begin with the “what” question.
What are we to do with our lives, now that we better understand who we are? I want to focus in on some key words in verse 1. The first one is the little word,
You don’t see that in the NIV, but the first two words in the Greek are “I, therefore.” Paul has been telling us how we’re saved by grace, how we’re adopted into the family of God as if we had always been God’s child, how God chose us before the creation of the world. And now Paul says, “Here’s what you’re to do with that status.” Chapter 4 and on is about walking the talk, about living out your calling, about being the person God has called you to be. The MacArthur Study Bible says the word “therefore” marks the transition “from doctrine to duty, principle to practice, position to behavior” (NASB MacArthur Study Bible, p. 1777). We’re moving into actions now: how you live out your faith. The next word I want you to see is:
• “Live a life”
It may not look like one word in English, but in the Greek, it is one word: “peripateo,” meaning “to walk about.” Our grandkids were watching British cartoons for a while, and our youngest—age 3 at the time—would come up and say, “Let’s go on a walk about!” Not a walk, but a walk about. I thought that was great! The phrase here means to maintain a certain way of life. Maybe you’ve heard Christians say before, “How’s your walk?” Or, “My walk with the Lord isn’t what it should be.” They’re talking about the concept of peripateo. The Christian life is a lifestyle; your faith should inform every part of your life.
The Apostle Paul urges us, “therefore” (referring back to who we are in Christ) to walk or to live a life worthy of our calling or vocation. And that brings us to our last word:
I put a picture of an old-fashioned scale on your outline there, because this word in the Greek literally means to bring up the other beam of the scale. In other words, Paul wants us to align our actions with our identity: our actions need to be worthy of our identity, our calling, our vocation. Words are cheap on their own. Words and actions need to line up. We need to walk our talk. And that brings us to our next question:
2. How? (vv. 1-3)
How are we going to do this? By making every effort to protect the unity, to work hard at getting along with other believers. This is not always going to be easy. Have you ever met an EGR person? EGR stands for “extra grace required.” You know who they are: that person that just rubs you the wrong way! It’s like fingernails scraping on a chalkboard. That’s an EGR person. If you look around and don’t know any, maybe you’re the EGR person! But regardless, Paul says we are to make every effort to get along; we need to give it our best shot! He gives us four specific words to pursue as we seek unity among believers. The first is:
I found it interesting in my research this week that the Greek and Roman culture in Paul’s day really did not use this word at all. Humility was considered something second rate, as if you had given away too much. Yet, Paul and the other biblical writers latched onto the word as absolutely essential in living out the Christian life, in walking the walk as well as talking the talk. Humility simply means putting others first. Someone once said, “Humility is not thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself ... less.” You’re not putting yourself down, because Paul has just spent the first half of his letter telling you who you are in Christ. No, you’re simply not thinking of yourself so much because you’re thinking of others first. What do they need? How may I help them? That’s humility. Paul’s second word is...