Summary: Verses 2-3 present a humbling description of what walking in a worthy manner looks like.
"...walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 3 eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace."
All of us can point to times that we have been moved by a speech. When I watch and listen to Kenneth Branaugh deliver the St. Crispin speech as King Henry to his troops, I’m ready to join the battle. I want to be with that happy few, that band of brothers. And when Aragorn says that this is not the day to forsake our friends but the day to fight, I am ready to charge with him. You have your favorites, I’m sure. Speeches which stir your soul as they lift your vision as to who you are, what you belong to, the cause for which you fight or serve. And if the speaker knows how to deliver, then the words have all the greater impact.
I hope the Ephesus church had such a reader. The Apostle Paul’s letters were read to churches. It is difficult to think of a more exhilarating, motivating speech than the first three chapters of Ephesians. The rehearsal of blessing after blessing, of glory and of power, of love that cannot be measured, then closing with that magnificent doxology: “Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, accord to t power at work within us, to him be glory in the church & Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever & ever. Amen.”
And then, the letter shifts gears. Now, in light of the power and the glory and the love of God in Christ, the Apostle Paul urges his listeners to “walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called.”
Imagine the anticipation. “Yes, Paul, yes! We are ready to go forth. Tell us what to do.” And they then hear the words: “…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.”
That’s it? Be humble? Be gentle? Be Patient? That’s the best Paul can come up with? It’s like being a soldier heeding the call to fight for his country, and as he is about to leave his mother takes him aside and says, “Now be nice to the other soldiers and mind your manners. Be respectful of your officers. And watch out for other boys who would get you in trouble.”
If I were writing this letter (and I’m sure you want to know what I would do), I would have gone straight to what Paul wrote in chapter 6 beginning with verse 10: “Be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” Now we’re talking! We are going to fight against cosmic powers. How cool is that!
Why does Paul start out the way he does? Maybe, like the great Coach John Wooden of UCLA, whose first lesson to his players was how to put on their socks and ties their shoes, he thinks he needs to start with the basics before moving to the battle. Or maybe, how we live is the battle itself. Keep that in mind as we look at these verses.
The first thing the Apostle Paul tells us about living a worthy manner is that it involves humility, indeed, “all humility.” The Greek term he uses might actually be one he himself made up – tapeinophrosyne. It is a compound word made up of two other words – tapeinos, which refers to lowliness, and phren, which refers to the heart or mind. And so the Greek compound defines humility for us – it is a heart or mind that thinks lowly of itself.
I say “made up” because there are no other found references to the word in Greek literature until it appears in the New Testament, where it appears seven times, five of them by Paul in Philippians and Colossians, besides this letter. Turn with me over to Colossians 3:12-13. Note the similarity to our own passage: “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another…”
What is odd about its occurrence here is that the same word is used negatively in the previous chapter twice, and, indeed, is translated with a different English word: (verse 18) “Let no one disqualify you, insisting on asceticism and worship of angels, going on in detail about visions, puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind”; (verse 23) “These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.”