Living Up To Our Calling
Ephesians 4:1-6 (with thanks to Chris Bullard)  
By Paul Robison

“Alexander the Great conquered most of the then-known world by the age of 33.  One of the reasons for this conquest was the iron discipline that he insisted on among his troops.  That's why a young soldier was so terrified as he was hauled into Alexander's tent to answer for charges of cowardice and desertion in battle.  The general was seated at a table, and the accused soldier stood before him.  Alexander said, 'Soldier, you've been accused of deserting during a battle - guilty or not?'  'Guilty,' he replied almost inaudibly.  The general followed up then by asking, 'What's your name, soldier?'  The answer came back: 'My name is Alexander, sir.'  At that point, Alexander the Great leaped to his feet, reached across the table, grabbed the soldier by the collar and shouted, 'Either you change your life or you change your name'" (Ron Hutchcraft)!  Perhaps this story should help us as Christians to ask, “Are we living up to our name's sake?  Do our lives show that Christ is living in us?  Has imitating Christ brought about any changes in our relationships with others?” (Ibid). 

In the book of Ephesians, we have noted how the first three chapters describe the great spiritual blessings that God, Christ, and the Spirit have given to us as Christians.  In the opening chapter, Paul gives praise for God's blessings,
for God's election, for God's adoption, for God's acceptance, for God's redemption and forgiveness, for God's inheritance of eternal life, for God's gospel of salvation for all, and for God's gift of the Holy Spirit.  Then Paul prays that the members at Ephesus will be enlightened and better understand their hope, their blessings, and God's power.  Then, Paul explains how the brethren had been saved by God's grace from their wicked past and that now they had become great masterpieces to show good works done in Christ's name.  Then, Paul shows humanity's alienation and how Christ brings about reconciliation not only to God but also to members from various ethnic groups.  Then, Paul shows in chapter 3 how the church has been God's great mystery revealed!  Through the church, which has been God's eternal purpose, now all people can be united!  Then, Paul prays that the members at Ephesus might be empowered, and would be transformed from the inside out, would better comprehend the church's influence, would better understanding Christ's love, and would be more filled with God's fullness!  As we approach chapter 4, a shift takes place.  The first three chapters have been called Paul's focus on our identity as Christians (Danker).  Remember, that many people in Ephesus had probably been converted from the goddess Diana, so Paul wants them to know clearly who they are now in Christ.  He has been teaching in these first three chapters, giving explanation, describing the Christian's wealth, and showing beliefs.  Now, Paul is going to shift gears.  From chapter 4-6, Paul is going to focus on sanctity.  In other words, if chapters 1-3 tell who you are in Christ, then the next three chapters are going to help you to see how you should live up to your calling as a Christian.  We are going from explanation to exhortation, from the Christian's wealth in Christ to the Christian's walk in Christ, from the doctrinal foundation to the practical application.  Paul will give us a challenge and an interesting reality in the opening verse, then he provides several virtues that we will need in order to live up to the challenge that he gives us. 

Paul begins chapter 4 with these words: “I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called.”  Paul is a prisoner, but he's using this occasion to encourage others, and this makes his appeal even more urgent.  “We have been made spiritual billionaires, not by our own efforts, but at the invitation of God.  He has called us to participate in all the blessings He has prepared from the foundation of the world.  It is solely of His grace, at His bidding.  How did we get this calling?  Some folks think it comes in a mysterious way while they are plowing a field or driving a car.  Not so.  Paul says in 2 Thessalonians 2:13-14: “But we are bound to give thanks to God always for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God from the beginning chose you for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth, to which He called you by our gospel, for the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.”  One's calling came through the preaching of the Gospel, this is how one was called in the first century, and it is how one is called in the 21
st century!  When the Gospel is preached ..., God calls [people] into His grace and His kingdom.  Through the proclamation of a crucified and risen Savior, men are invited into fellowship with God.  In view of this calling we have received from God, Paul urges us to live up to the expectations [of our namesake] Who renewed our fellowship with [God]” (Bullard).  In an ancient letter written in Greek, when one got ready to get to the real meat of the letter, which was usually a request, you would write: “I beg you, or I implore you, or I beseech you.”  And this is exactly what Paul does.  “I beseech you to walk worthy ...”  Someone has rightly noted: “Under the New Covenant God declares: 'I have already blessed you with all spiritual blessings in the heavenlies!  Will you now please obey Me?'  Paul, as God's representative, pleads with his readers on the basis of three chapters of divine blessings to live worthy of the calling that they accepted in Jesus Christ” (Bullard).  “I beseech you to walk or to live worthy ...”  That word “worthy” is the challenge.  The word translated 'worthy' is axios, which has the root idea of weight.  This is the word from which we derive our English word 'axiom', which means, 'to be of equal weight.'  In an equation, the axiom indicates doing something to each side of the equation so it remains true.  Paul is saying we should try to live [Christ-like] lives equal to the great blessings described in chapters 1-3!  [You see, if these are the great blessings that God has given to us, then here are the great behaviors we need practice in order to try and balance the equation.  God, Christ, and the Spirit have already done their part, now we must live up to their expectations!]  We are to be like the man who said, 'Christ has done so much for me, the rest of my life is a just a p.s. to His great work!'”  The Ephesians were no longer to live in the wicked way dictated by the gods of our past, but in a worthy way as God, and Christ, and the Spirit are wanting them to live!

Now let's notice an interesting reality that Paul underscores in the rest of this verse: “I beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called.”  This can be more accurately translated: “I beseech all of you in the church to walk worthy of the calling with which all of you were called.”  The “you” in this verse is not singular but plural.  Members in Ephesus who had been converted from pagan worship, probably mistakenly thought:
“What can this new god do for me?  What can this new god get for me?” (Osburn).  Instead of having a selfish motivation, Paul wants these converts to ask, “What can I give to help the whole group?”  Now, this clearly teaches us that we can't walk worthy in God's sight if we try to walk alone in our Christian life!  We have already seen how Paul has stressed that the church is God's great mystery revealed, and it was His eternal purpose for all peoples to be united in it!  You can't live up to God's expectations for you and then write off or exclude the church.  You see, living up to God's expectations is something that we must all do together!  That is the interesting reality that we must never forget.  “Paul knew some [members in Ephesus] who practiced ... evil in their relationships.  But then they came to know Christ [and were seated with Him in heavenly places], and that meant their lives had to change.  Paul writes the Ephesians to remind these Christians that their old ways of living and relating to each other were over [because God's] purpose is to create of them a new community of people [united] in Christ Jesus in the Jesus' body, the church. ... God wants to bring an alienated and fractured humanity together in Christ, to be united in Him (2:14-22), to create a new community, where [all] people do not hurt each other and demand their rights, but as one body, [they] serve one another with the love of Christ. ... Failure to maintain the one body fragments the Spirit and defeats the hope of God. ... If we today are to be 'one in Him,' God's purposes must be our purposes.  Too often peripheral concerns, personal agendas, or petty issues side-track us, and we fail to reach the destination God intends for us. ... [Let us not forget that] this oneness is God's work, and we are not to spoil it through selfish and divisive behavior. ... [You know] siblings have disagreements, but they stick by each other because they are family, sharing the same DNA code.  With the same Father, [Son, and Spirit], Christians have a common 'DNA code'.  This gives us incentive to accept or to resolve our differences” (Griggs).  Did you realize that many modern Americans are like the ancient pagans of Ephesus in their outlook towards God and the church?  “Living in a age of 'radical individualism' makes [it] difficult [for them to see the great importance of the church as a group].  Today 'freedom' means maximizing one's self-interests.  Self-fulfillment in one's private life outweighs concern for the common good [of all members in the body]” (Griggs).  In fact, some researches on American culture made this observation: “Most Americans see religion as something individual, prior to any organizational involvement. ... For one thing, the traditional pattern assumes a certain priority of the religious community over the individual.  The community exists before the individual is born and will continue after his or her death.  The relationship with God is ultimately personal, but it is mediated by the whole pattern of community life. ... For Americans, the traditional relationship between the individual and the religious community is to some degree reversed.  On the basis of our interviews, we are not surprised to learn that a 1978 Gallup poll found that 80% of Americans agreed that 'an individual should arrive at his or her own religious beliefs independent of any churches or synagogues'” (Bellah, Madsen, Sullivan, Swindler, Tipton).  The individual is exalted over the congregation.  Someone else notes: “In the 'cocooning effect,' people retreat from community altogether to the safety of their own homes (cocoons)” (Griggs).  “Cocooning is a concept ... in the 1990s, describing the tendency, often fueled by security concerns, to live a home-centered lifestyle and to equip the home with gadgets and touches of indulgence to make it a more welcoming and inviting entertainment hub and haven”(Popcorn,  Home is a castle to lock out everybody else.  When such societal viruses [as radical individualism and cocooning] infect the church, the oneness of Christ's body is weakened” (Griggs).  We need each other in the body of Christ; every member in that body is important.  We must all work together and help each other to walk worthy of our calling that we received when the Gospel was preached to us!  We should ask, “What can I give to help the whole group?”  We can't live out the Christian life by ourselves!

he apostle Paul now explains in the next few verses some virtues that it is going to take in order for all of us to live worthy of our calling.  The first virtue is that of lowliness or humility.  In the original version, the text says, with all lowliness, with gentleness or meekness, and with long-suffering or patience.  Notice how all of these virtues are exercised in our relationships with one another!  “First of all, we are to be completely humble.  Humility does not mean thinking lowly of yourself; it means not thinking of yourself at all. ... Pride is excluded. ... True humility or lowliness means that you lay your life before God, accepting without reservation His direction for your life because you realize that without His help, you would be powerless to change your destiny.  To be lowly means that you keep your heart and mind on Jesus.  You no longer seek to direct your own life.  Rather, you seek His direction, His instruction.  Self is no longer on the throne; Jesus is” (Bullard).  There was once a congregation in Australia that was having some internal problems.  All the members got together to discuss the problems.  After a period of time in which no progress was being made, one man got up, filled a basin with water, and began to wash each person's feet.  He then said, “Brethren, we are no closer to a solution.  I suggest that we all go home and pray for God's help, and then try again tomorrow.”  The next day was amazing because in a very short time true solutions to the difficulties were found (Woodruff)!  You see, when each of us humbles ourselves before God and Christ, we learn to work together with each other to achieve His will!  So the first virtue is lowliness or humility. 

The next virtue is gentleness or meekness.
  “Biblical meekness is 'power under control'” (Bullard).  The idea comes from domesticating a wild animal.  A “broken” horse still has all the power that he ever had, but now that power is subject to the control of another.  “Spiritually-speaking, this is what must happen to each of us.  We were born into this world with drives, hungers, and ambitions that are self-satisfying.  Now out of absolute [submission], we must bring all these under the Lord's control.  When that happens, our conduct can begin to match our high call through the Gospel” (Bullard).  Notice again, when each of us submits ourselves to Christ and His control, we have a greater chance of coming together and understanding one another.  The second virtue is gentleness or meekness.

The third virtue is long-suffering or patience.
  “To be patient means you are slow in avenging yourself against others who have hurt you.  In fact, you are slow even to take offense.  Paul word literally means 'to be long-tempered.'  That is, you do not have a short fuse.  You do not 'blow up' easily at others.  The worthy walk means you bear insult, injury, persecution, and unfair treatment ... when that is the price for doing right.  It is accepting negative circumstances and the members who cause them without bitterness, without irritation, and without complaint.  ... If Jesus lived this way—and He did—then we are called to this quality of life as well” (Bullard).

The fourth virtue is bearing with one another in love
(4:2).  “To forebear does not mean that you are blind to someone else's faults or shortcomings.  Rather, it means that as you recognize that you are less than perfect, you recognize that others are not perfect either. ... In [Christ's love], you continue to minister to [and serve] that person, seeking his or her best welfare all the time.  In other words, this is [a virtue] of overwhelming love for another Christian that has room for failure as that individual also struggles to mature in the Lord's body” (Bullard).  Our children often do things that upset us, but we don't write them off and kick them out of our family because of their mistakes and sins.  Likewise, we learn to bear with other members who do things contrary to Christ's will, and we love and encourage them into doing better, just as we do with our own children!  Bearing with one another in brotherly love is the fourth virtue.

The fifth virtue is endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit
(4:3).  “Human beings cannot create [the Spirit's unity]; it is given to them, but [our] responsibility is to keep it, to guard it in the face of many attempts from within and without the church to take it away.  The Greek word conveys the idea of zealous effort and [diligent] care” (Foulkes).  “We are united in the sight of God because He has put all of us into one body.  The [virtue] of the worthy walk is that we give it all that is within us to maintain that unity ... in our daily relationships with one another.  We will spiritually bend over backwards to maintain our fellowship with each other.  There is no place for individualism and cocooning here!  That means we will be aggressive in confessing our sins against others, in making restitution, and in offering forgiveness, even before it is sought!  Could anything make us more like God than taking the initiative and making every effort to restore potentially broken relationships” (Bullard)?  The fifth virtue is endeavoring to keep the unity the unity of the Spirit. 

The sixth virtue is maintaining the bond of peace.
  “Life for so many in this world is like an elevator ride—everyone facing forward, no eye contact, no conversation or interaction—and then everyone rushes off to do their faceless endeavors” (Hughes). This may the description of an elevator ride, but it should not be a description of the church!  Christ has united all peoples from all races and nations in the strong bond of His peace, which breaks down all barriers that divide!  What diversity there is in the average church: different physical types, different mental abilities, different educational levels, different economic incomes, different backgrounds and upbringings, different political outlooks, different ways to do something.  There are huge differences among us, but when we put keeping the Spirit's unity and maintaining Christ's peace at the forefront of our relationships, we can overcome those differences, and we'll begin to see how teamwork under Christ can make God's dream of all people united in the church a taste of heaven in this life!  Let's be peace loving and strive to maintain the bond of peace, the sixth virtue. 

The last virtue is concentrating on the Godhead's oneness and the Gospel's oneness.
 In verses 4-6, the apostle Paul reminds us with these words: “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.”  “Why is it so important to live in a worthy way together and practice these virtues?  ... It is important because everything that God has done in human history has been done [for the purpose of unity]” (Bullard).  “What are the implications of our unity being rooted in the [Godhead]?  Simply this: our unity is eternal and unbreakable.  'The unity of the church is as indestructible as the unity of God Himself.  It is no more possible to split the church than it is possible to split the Godhead.'  You and I will never be separated [unless we chose to do so]!  Our unity is more solid that the Himalayas and more enduring than [the sun]” (Stott; Hughes).  We see that each Christian has the Gospel's oneness in common: we heard about the one faith, or body of teachings, that Jesus gave us, then we became followers of Christ through the one baptism of immersion for the forgiveness of our sins, then we were added to the one body, the church, and now we all have the one hope, the blessed return of our Lord Jesus Christ.  If we will concentrate on all that we have in common, this will help us to overcome some of our differences!  Someone has observed: [If we will remember what we have in common], “we are more likely to discuss differences rather than divide over them, to compromise rather than to clash, to submit to each other rather than to squabble.  The result?  The work of the kingdom can continue and prosper for the glory of God” (Griggs)!  The last virtue is concentrating on the Godhead's oneness and the Gospel's oneness. 

“Disunity is devastating at any time, but in the midst of the terrible storms of life, it can be deadly.  The evil one knows this and uses this to his own advantage; but though he plays on the disunity of others, he makes sure his own ranks stand united!  Didn't Jesus say: Matt 12:25-26 'Any kingdom that is divided against itself is being brought to desolation and laid waste, and no city or house divided against itself will last or continue to stand.  And if Satan drives out Satan, he has become divided against himself and disunified; how then will his kingdom last or continue to stand?'  If Satan and his forces can stand united, how come we, as believers, are so disunited? ... Bickering, backstabbing, negativity, disunity ... It's become the norm among Christians! Why?  Why can the devil promote unity among his evil demons and we, as Christians, cannot even exercise the love that Jesus showed us? ... Is it possible that this disunity exist among us because we put our OWN interests above the Lord's?  Is it possible that the encouraging words proclaimed in the New Testament have been replaced by condemnation and criticism because we haven't noticed that our own worst enemy is our selfishness?  The only way out of this is to become solely dependent upon Jesus; to act the way He acted while He was on the earth” (Chaffart)!

“Are we living up to our name's sake?  Do our lives show that Christ is living in us?  Has imitating Christ brought about any changes in our relationships with others” (Hutchcraft)?  Do you need to accept Paul's challenge, reality, and virtues?  You can't make it to heaven on your own; the church is that important!  Accept the one faith, practice the one baptism, be added to the one body, and have the one hope of eternal life right now!