Summary: In admonishing the believer to walk according to what God has called them, Paul lists the primary things that set the Christian apart (#11 in the Unfathomable Love of Christ series)
“I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, entreat you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing forbearance to one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”
As Paul moves on to the practical application of this epistle, the very first thing on his agenda is to make clear what sort of person a Christian should be. As we studied last week, he is exhorting the believer to a certain kind of walk. Now walking implies forward movement, first of all. It has been said that the Christian never sits still in his spiritual life. If he is not moving forward, he is sliding backward.
Now I have to say that I do not like to use the term ‘backslidden’, simply because it seems that over the years I’ve heard it used in so many ways by different folks, that I’m afraid if I use it in an assembly of people I will confuse some or give them the impression I’m saying something I am not.
So let me make clear from the outset that to me, saying a Christian is ‘backslidden’ simply means he’s not as far forward as he was previously.
Paul says our Christian experience is a walk. It is progression. And as we go, we are to strive to walk in a manner fitting with our heavenly calling with which God has called us.
Now we cannot separate verse one from the next two verses, because there is no period there. Verses 1 - 3 of Ephesians 4 comprise one sentence. So we must see that what Paul says in these next two verses is defining the mark of a true Christian.
There may be other marks you can point out; other behaviors and beliefs and activities that mark the Christian. But these things that come first to the mind of Paul, inspired by the Holy Spirit as he wrote, must be considered fundamental in identifying the Christian. So let’s consider them carefully today, and ask the Lord to give us light.
Before we go on I think we should first take another look at this unity that is being talked about in verse 3.
We have already had occasion to address it, when we covered passages back in chapter 2, where Paul emphasized that through the cross, Jesus has broken down the dividing wall of enmity between Jew and Gentile, and between men and God. How He bought peace with His blood, and gave us access by His Holy Spirit to the Father.
We talked then about this unity which is Spirit-wrought. He draws us to Christ, grants us repentance, regenerates us, and makes us one in Christ, with God and with one another.
I also addressed this topic in a sermon I delivered before the Uncompahgre association at their annual meeting last September, and if any of you have read a copy of that sermon that you might have picked up on the back table, then you may hear some familiar things today; but I think it is an issue that we need to address again, and even later on down the road. It is vital to our understanding of our role as Christians, and as a church, and it is one that because of our nature we have a tendency to forget.
And I think Paul would agree with me, because really, unity in and through the Holy Spirit has been the under girding theme of this epistle so far. The first three chapters were devoted to revealing to us, and praying that we would understand, this unity that has been purchased and brought to pass. So Paul, and of course the Holy Spirit through him, must have felt that it was a topic that should be addressed very thoroughly, and often.
Let me stress to you again then, that the reason I’ve called this specifically, ‘scriptural unity’, is so that I may make the distinction in your mind between this unity and what men usually mean when they use the word ‘unity’.
The world speaks of unity, and they really mean getting along and not warring against one another. They mean joining together for a certain purpose or cause and working like a team. But that is not scriptural unity.
Even in the church we are guilty of attributing to passages of scripture such as this one, a worldly sort of definition of the term, and it just can not work that way.
That’s why all this talk, especially since the terrorist attack of September 11, 2001, of religions of the world showing unity by gathering together and praying together and putting up a united front and setting an example that we can all get along, and be tolerant and not fight over our differences but celebrate our differences and just love one another, is all a bunch of malarky!