Ephesus is located on the Western shore of Asia Minor. Paul spent two and a half years there in a very fruitful ministry. Several years later, Paul found himself imprisoned, and he wrote the letter of Ephesians from behind bars. The letter divides quite easily: the first three chapters focus on principles and the final three chapters focus on practices. This shift from doctrine to application, from indicative to imperative, happens at the beginning of chapter 4.
The primary command of these six verses is given in verse one: “walk.” “I… beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called.” Paul is using the word “walk” as a figure of speech to mean “live.” Paul isn’t just talking about when you walk down a trail or when you walk through Walmart. Paul is talking about your whole life.
He will explain three truths about our walking, about our living. These will be three distinctive marks of a Christian, three factors that distinguish a Christian from anyone else. As if to remind us that the Christian life is not available for subjective definitions, he adds, “I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord…” (v.1). First of all, this clearly explains Who calls the shots in Paul’s life: Jesus. Secondly, this implicitly submits all earthly powers to Jesus. Paul was writing this letter from prison, which means a well-meaning Christian might read “the prisoner of the Lord” and think, “Now, hang on a second… I thought he was in Roman chains…?” Yes, Paul was imprisoned by Rome, but Jesus is Lord, and His jurisdiction extends even to mainland Italy. It is as if Paul wrote, “Caesar holds the keys to my cell, but who holds the keys to Caesar’s palace? Christ.”
A Hallowed Walk (v.1)
First, I want you to see that ours is a hallowed walk. A hallowed walk. Paul urges you to walk worthily. This is the word axios, meaning proper or fitting. It was used to describe the kind of punishment a criminal should face – lawbreakers should have axios punishments – proper, fitting punishments (Wisdom of Solomon 16:1; cf. Josephus Wars 6.433). This points to a standard. So, when Paul says that we are to walk worthily, we need to ask, “Worthy of what?” What is the standard by which our walk is to be judged? What does our life need to measure up against?
He says, “…worthy of the calling with which you were called.” Paul alluded to this calling in chapter 1 verse 18, “…the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints.” He says that it is God’s calling, and that it comes with hope. So what is this calling? It is the effectual call of God unto salvation. Peter described this calling: “…you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9). Jesus Himself illustrated this calling when He stood before the tomb of Lazarus and “cried out with a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, come forth!’ And he who had died came out bound hand and foot with graveclothes, and his face was wrapped with a cloth” (John 11:43-44).
That is the standard of your walk. That is the measuring rod by which your conduct is to be judged. You are to live the kind of life that can properly be labeled, “Called out of darkness and into light.” The authoritative call of God leaves a permanent impression on anyone to whom it is sent. People should be able to connect the dots between the Gospel you confess and the life you live. Walk worthy of the calling.
Therefore, the Christian life is a sacred thing. It is hallowed because of the miraculous way it begins. It begins with the miracle of spiritual resurrection. It culminates in the miracle of physical resurrection. So, our life is sacred, not because we are worthy creatures, but because God has sanctified and consecrated us by saving us. Immediately after God delivered the Israelites from Egypt, He gave them the ten commandments and said, “You can’t live like you used to anymore. You are to be holy as I am holy.” Salvation consecrates those who are being saved. There is nothing sacred about a bush, but when God comes to a bush and lights in on fire yet without burning it – that’s a miracle. And so Moses comes before that bush and he is told, “Remove your sandals for the place upon which you stand is holy ground.” In the same way, every Christian is a walking miracle, a sacred thing, and we should live like that. We should live with reverence towards the work God is doing in us, for His grace consecrates us to His service.
A Disciplined Walk (v.2a)
Second, I want you to see that ours is a disciplined walk. Ours is a disciplined walk. He says we are to walk “with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering” (v.2). These are qualities that must accompany our walking. More specifically, Paul is saying that these are essential prerequisites to walking. You cannot walk as a Christian without these things. The preposition “with” is from meta, which here denotes a point in time that closely follows. So, the Christian life closely follows lowliness, gentleness, and longsuffering, but it will not come before these things.
First, lowliness. Lowliness is humility, which is taking yourself out of the spot light. Some people confuse humility with self-humiliation, talking bad about yourself. Really this is just another type of pride. Pride is when you focus on yourself, whether in a good or bad way. Paul says that the Christian must have an opposite disposition: we are to consider ourselves as unimportant. We are to count our needs and talents as commonplace, as minor-league, as almost irrelevant. My life is not about me, my life is about God. My day is not about me, my day is about how I can serve someone else. Therefore, lowliness is heart-discipline. You long to be the center of attention, but you must discipline your heart to make others the center of attention.
Second, gentleness. Gentleness is suiting your abilities to a particular situation. It is the skill of tailoring your talents and capabilities to match what a particular context needs. Whether or not someone has gentleness is manifested when they begin to handle delicate objects. This may surprise you, but a baby is a good example of a lack of gentleness. A baby will use the same amount of force to pick up a toy and to pull your hair. He will cry just as hard if he has a dirty diaper or if he is just sleepy. In contrast to this, you need to discipline your strengths so that you can handle objects and people without breaking them. Jesus is the King of kings, but Isaiah says that He does not break bruised reeds. One man may have the strength of ten men, but he can should be able control that strength and pick up his little girl.
Third, longsuffering. Longsuffering is patience, which is prolonging something that you anticipate. This is the art of waiting. This is tolerating the inconveniences of postponed pleasure. Paul says in Romans that God endures “with much patience vessels of wrath” (9:22), and again that God has patience with us that we might repent of our sins (2:4). God could justly throw every person on earth into Hell right now, but He is tolerating sin in order that some will repent of their sin. God could have struck Adam dead the moment his teeth broke the skin of that forbidden fruit, but God chose instead to restrain His wrath for the sake of grace. In the same way, we must restrain ourselves. We must compose ourselves in self-control and learn the art of waiting.
Lowliness, gentleness, longsuffering – these are three prerequisites to your walk, and they are all disciplines. That’s why I said that ours is a disciplined walk. This means that you’re not going to come by these qualities randomly. You’re not going to stumble into patience. You have to learn it. If you live your life by your emotions, you will not learn these things. The sooner we learn that the Christian life is not about our feelings, the better. Feelings come and go. Emotions go up and down. But you don’t have to live your life enslaved to how you feel. Proverbs 16:32, “He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city.” Proverbs 29:11, “A fool gives full vent to his spirit, but a wise man quietly holds it back.”
The world gives itself to passions; it is hedonistic. The world prefers feeling before practice. Christians are to be the opposite. We are to submit our feelings to our practice. You will be surprised, I think, to see how tame emotions can become when you start telling them, “No.” I mean, really, emotions are like children. A child that always gets his way is a terror. But if there is structure around the child, if he grows up in a disciplined home, then you will find that his behavior is not so erratic and unpredictable. In the same way, you need to stop submitting to your emotions. Instead, submit your feelings to truth. Submit your feelings to the practices of lowliness, gentleness, and longsuffering. Tell your emotions to be quiet and submit to Christ.
A Unified Walk (vv.2b-6)
Third, I want you to see that ours is a unified walk. A unified walk. Lowliness, gentleness, and longsuffering are all prerequisites to walking, but now Paul identifies the substance of the walking itself. He is now going to tell you what the walking most fundamentally consists of. He does this by way of two participles: bearing in verse 2 and endeavoring in verse 3. You will notice as we complete this passage that these two activities have to do with the local church. That means that the way to walk the Christ is in the local church. How can you bear with one another if you are not in a local church? How can you endeavor to keep unity if you are not in a local church? Outside of the context of a local church, the Christian life makes no sense.
First, we have bearing. “Bearing” (v.2) means “to have patience.” A Christian is one who embodies patience. Paul makes plain what you are supposed to bear with: “one another.” You have begun to learn the art of disciplining your passions for the sake of longsuffering, gentleness, and patience, and now you are putting this into practice by bearing with brothers and sisters in a local church. What is it exactly that you “bear” with? You bear with their sin. Your sister in Christ sins, but you are stick it out with her. Your brother in Christ sins, but you are to endure his sin and love him through it. Bear with one another in love.
Second, we have endeavoring. “Endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (v.3). You are to strive for unity. You are to make an effort towards unity. You are to be diligent for unity. You need to understand a few things about this unity. First of all, Paul says that you are supposed to keep it. You keep the unity. You maintain the unity. It is your responsibility. But second of all, this unity is “of the Spirit.” It’s a fruit of the Spirit. So we have this remarkable statement that unity in a local church is something that we have to keep but that God has to give. Togetherness is a responsibility, but it is also a grace.
This is how it is with everything in the Christian life, is it not? We’ve already talked about love and patience and gentleness – which you must discipline yourself to walk in, but which Paul also considers fruits of the Spirit in Galatians. I think he said it best in Philippians: “…work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure” (2:12-13). And so, to the Ephesians, Paul writes, “keep the unity of the Spirit” (4:3).
Third of all, notice where this unity is kept, or where this unity resides – “keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” That is something different. You keep the unity, but you do not keep the bond of peace. This is a bond that exists whether or not you keep unity. You are simply instructed to keep unity inside of the bond. If you do not keep the bond of peace, then who does?
For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation, having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace, and that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity. And He came and preached peace to you who were afar off and to those who were near. For through Him we both have access by one Spirit to the Father. Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.Ephesians 2:14-22
Who makes peace? Christ makes peace. “He Himself is our peace, who has made both one… having abolished in His flesh the enmity” (vv.14-15). Who makes us members of the household of God? God does. You don’t do that. Who builds the church upon a foundation? God does. When Christ paid for the sins of His people, He created a bond of peace. That bond of peace is unbreakable. Years of slavery can’t break that bond. Critical Race Theory can’t break that bond. Communism can’t break that bond. Indwelling sin can’t break that bond. Ignorance can’t break that bond. Persecution, famine, war, heresy – nothing can break this bond of peace.
So Christ is the One Who creates the bond of peace. OK – but what does this peace consist of? He begins explaining that in the next verse: “keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all” (4:3-6). That is what the bond of peace consists of.
One body… Christians meet in separate local churches, but every Christian is part of the same, singular body that Christ redeems – and He has one bride. You cannot have any hope for salvation outside of the body of Christ. Do not look for salvation in the Mormon cult. Do not look for salvation in the Mosques of Islam. The church possesses the only saving gospel.
One Spirit… There are not multiple Holy Spirits; there is only One. That’s why we know that if anyone says they are being led by the Spirit, but they contradict Scripture, they must be wrong. Either they are ignorant or they are lying. Because the Spirit inspired the Scriptures, and there is one Spirit, and He will not contradict Himself.
One hope… The one Spirit calls us in “one hope.” There is no other Gospel. There is no other way of salvation. You don’t get to define your own Christianity. You don’t get to decide what it looks like for you to live the Christian life. No: there is one hope into which we are called. It is the same across time and space.
One Lord… Jesus is Lord, is He not? Caesar is not Lord. Jesus reigns, and He alone has all authority. That means that we all live in the same kingdom: the kingdom of heaven. We all have the same king, and so we are part of the same kingdom. And we live in that kingdom now, by the way. Christ said to pray, “Your kingdom come.” That means we need to be about the business of promoting righteousness on earth. You don’t get to throw up your hands in frustration at your culture and say, “Well, cleaning anything up in this country is just polishing brass on a sinking ship.” No, cleaning things up here is manifesting the kingdom of God on earth. Jesus is Lord of all.
One faith… This is not necessarily referring to faith in Christ, but faith as in “a set of beliefs.” There is one true set of Christian doctrine. So, does doctrine matter? Yes. Because there is such a thing as false doctrine.
One baptism… In other words, there is only one sign of the New Covenant, and every Christian is to receive that sign. This is the great equalizing marker. You receive the same sign of salvation that Charles Spurgeon did, that the Apostle Paul did, that Martin Luther did, that William Carey did. There is no special baptism for special Christians. There is not a baptism for women and one for men – no, there is one baptism.
One God and Father… Paul says that He is the God “of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all” (v.6). Now, this reference to “all” is referring to all who are in the church. Some people say that every human is a child of God, but that’s not true. Only Christians are children of God. And every Christian, Paul says, has the same Father. That means we’re all in the same family. We are all part of the same household. Paul told Timothy that a man who does not provide for his blood relative “has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever” (1 Timothy 5:8). If that’s true about blood relation, how much more is it true of the church, where we are united, not by our own blood, but by Christ’s blood?
These seven things already exist. They existed before you were born; they will exist after you are gone. They were established by Christ. You are to keep unity in this bond.
This means, among other things, that a Christian is never at a loss for “relatedness” to another Christian. I have no basis for looking across the Sanctuary and thinking, “I really don’t have anything in common with that guy,” or, “I am going to stay away from her because we are two completely different people.” Really? Nothing in common? How about the fact that you belong to the same body, that you are in-dwelt by the same Spirit, that you are propelled through life by the same hope, that you submit to the same Lord, that you confess the same faith, that you have received the same baptism, and that you have the same Father?
If that’s not commonality, then nothing is. Therefore, Christians never have a good excuse not to endeavor to keep unity. We don’t have to try and unite in a vacuum. We are to unite in the bond of peace. In other words, we are to unite since God has removed any significant differences among us. So, let us bear with one another, and let us keep the unity. If we are Christians, then we are part of the same eternal church, which means we are going to live forever together. We might as well start getting along now.