Summary: As Paul moves to chapters 4-6 of Ephesians, he begins his "application" part of the letter. In 4:1-16, Paul talks about what it means to be called. What that looks like for life, your church life, and your serving.
As you know, for the last three weeks, we have been in the book of Ephesians. Paul has told us back in chapter one how we are blessed, adopted, chosen, and sealed in Jesus Christ. In chapter two, he told us about what we were like before Christ came, aliens and strangers to grace! Last week, we learned how we are heard in Jesus Christ. In chapters four to six, we see a shift or change in the book of Ephesians. In these last three chapters, we see the rubber hitting the road. We move from the classroom to the field. We see the truths go into practice. We see Law and Gospel in action. Paul takes the doctrinal truths of chapters one to three and puts them into context for Christian living. Today, Paul tells us about our call in Jesus Christ and what it means. For in Christ, you have been called.
Paul begins his teaching by picking his words carefully. He says, “I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy (or a better translation, appropriate) of the calling to which you have been called.” There is a famous war movie that ends with one soldier getting fatally wounded to save another. As the wounded soldier takes his final breaths, he tells the man who he saved these words: “Earn this.” The movie then flashforwards to when the saved soldier is old and grey in a graveyard of white crosses. The man falls to his knees at the grave of this solider, and crying, says, “I hope I have earned what you have done for me. I have remembered your words everyday.” The weight of the soldier’s words stayed with him his whole life. While the sacrifice was amazing, the weight of his words stayed upon the man and were much to live up to.
As Paul teaches, he choses his words carefully. He doesn’t want to burden us or use the Law. He uses his apostolic authority with care. Notice that Paul says, “I urge you” He doesn’t say, “you must do this” or “I’m forcing you” or “I making you” or “I’m playing the Apostle card.” No. He says “urge.” He is encouraging and pleading. He also carefully said, “to walk in a manner worthy, or appropriate to your calling.” He didn’t say “justify your calling,” or “prove it!” or “earn it!” Rather, live in response to what Christ has done for you. Paul encourages us to live in the calling that we have received. He wants us to walk in a way that is appropriate to it. The apostle encourages us to conduct our lives as people saved by Jesus Christ. We don’t have to earn or justify this calling. We don’t have to prove it. We live in it.
The Apostle then naturally moves onto some virtues to color and guide our walk in this calling. He encourages us to live our lives with all humility. We live with not a little bit of humility, or some. Rather, we live with all humility, and this is significant. In Paul’s day, humility was a despised virtue and characteristic. It was seen as a weak, servile, and ignoble quality. The Philosopher Aristotle didn’t even consider it among his virtues. People looked down on those who were humble. It is not too different today as our society exalts the self and is all about me. It says put yourself first and look out for numero uno. It is hard to be humble when we live in, breathe, and come into contact with this thinking constantly. However, this is the quality that Paul says we are to exhibit.
What is the opposite of humility? Pride. And what is in the middle of pride? “I.” Humility is the opposite of this. It places a greater value on others than oneself. It sees others as greater and more important. It puts them first. Humility is never below serving.
And Paul pairs this with his second virtue, gentleness. One commentator described it well by saying gentleness is a loving submissiveness. It is a patient yielding to others, even when provoked. It is a willingness to serve and share rather than to demand. It is the opposite of a self-assertive rudeness. This is the perfect companion for humility. It is humility in action.
Paul next moves to patience. The Greek has a helpful word picture of the word patience. It comes from the word macrothumia. The word macro means “long” or “big.” The word thumia is where we get words like thermostat or thermometer from. It means “heat.” Put it all together and you get “long heat” or “big heat.” To be patient is to be long on the heat. It is to have a long fuse. You don’t blow up over everything. It is a helpful and fun description of patience. It is also worth mentioning that this is the word that describes God’s patience towards sinful humanity. It is the patience that God has towards us! The apostle encourages us to be patient.