The Expository Files


Worthy of the Calling
Preserving Unity  

Ephesians 4:1-6

As concluded his praise of Christ's work of grace and the result, the church of the Lord, he wrote,

"Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all" (Ephesians 4:1-6).

Paul's foremost plea is that Christians walk "in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called." Since he has said this more than once (1Thessalonians 2:12; Philippians 1:27; Colossians 1:10), it must be crucial. Yet we need to see is that our conduct reflects what we believe this call of grace in Christ is all about. Paul says, we "adorn the doctrine of God in every respect" (Titus 2:10). What we believe about the call itself will manifest itself in the walk we make.

Also, Paul says the worthy walk has the right attitude. As is the case with all worthy endeavors, how we perceive our place in it not only changes our appreciation of it but also are effectiveness in it. We'll walk the talk, as today's lingo might say, because we believe the talk. When we know the truth, our duty is to prove by our conduct we believe by this five characteristics:

All Humility. Humility is that characteristic acquired not by the swift or the powerful but by the heart who yields to the sovereignty of God. Then, humility was no virtue and according to MacArthur, 'Christians coined the word tapeinophrosune translated "humility" because it never appeared in classical Greek' (The Body Dynamic, 64). For a model of humility, you have only to look to Jesus (Philippians 2:5) who considered what others needed as more important than he did of himself. It is this kind of selflessness that will see itself clearly in the shadow of God's sovereignty. Comparing ourselves to others we may think "Isn't the world happy they have me", but humility compares ourselves to God and thinks, "I'm so glad I can be whole in Christ." Walk with all humility.

All Gentleness. Translated meekness in older translations, gentleness describes a behavior that responds to suffering without regret and without wickedness. It is grace manifested by a sweet spirit where personal rights are less important than human kindness. This is, of course not, insipid spinelessness. If God is maligned, faith demands we rise to shout out the truth. Yet when we suffer, like Jesus, we pray "forgive them for they do not know" (Luke 23:34). This submission will cause us to act kindly and gently with others as we aim to the goal God has for us all. Walk in all gentleness.

With Patience. Long ago, Albert Barnes wrote, "Makroyumei, denotes longanimity, slowness to anger or passion... patient endurance... It is opposed to haste; to passionate expressions and thoughts, and to irritability. It denotes the state of mind which can BEAR LONG when oppressed, provoked... and when one seeks to injure us" (NT Commentary, 1Cor 13:4). No matter how wronged we might feel, patience demands that we not retaliate but walk with patience.

Showing Tolerance. Translated elsewhere as "forbearance", the word suggests that we hold ourselves back from one another. This tolerance is the outworking of humility, gentleness and patience. In the face of slander, insult and abuse, Jesus "while suffering, uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously" (1Peter 2:20). The forbearing heart will leave room for people's mistakes and know how to "show it in love." The reason is that every Christian should know that if we love only perfection, then we don't have Christian love. And honestly, how could God love us? Walk in tolerance with love.

Being Diligent to Preserve the Unity of the Spirit. The objective of these attitudes are that Christians would walk diligently to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. We must exert effort - it just does not happen. So, when one decision will lead to discord and the other to unity, there should be no choice. Secondly, we must apply this diligence to preserve the unity. It is not a unity created by Ecumenical Councils, Papal decrees or Unity movements. It is not created by us at all. Rather, we preserve the unity the Spirit has brought. Already, God's Spirit made one body. Already, God's Spirit made one truth. Already, God's Spirit "has once for all handed down [the faith] to the saints" (Jude 3). It is our calling to preserve what God wants in Christians - not concoct new ways to keep us all together. That diligence makes us worthy of the calling.

So take time and take care in your walk - make your walk worthwhile by making it a worthy walk with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.


By Don Hooton
From Expository Files 13.6; June 2006