College & Career Class Lesson Summary, November 4, 2018
Ephesians 4:1 I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, 4:2 With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; 4:3 Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
In Ephesians 3:1, Paul also refers to himself as a prisoner of Christ. In Galatians 5:1 and 2Corinthians 3:17 we find Paul making such statements as to “stand fast in the liberty wherewith Christ has made us free” and “where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.” With this talk of freedom and liberty in Christ, why would Paul make such a statement that he is a the prisoner of Christ? Doesn’t imprisonment demand the opposite of freedom and liberty? However, remember that Paul is on house arrest in Rome – he is a prisoner of the Roman government, yet, in the shackles of human rulership, Paul understood he was captive to something far greater and far better. Paul was at liberty, having been apprehended by God and His grace and the captivity, as it were, that belongs to God far out matches the bondage Paul was under in Rome. In other words, a prisoner of Rome results in bondage, however, a prisoner of Christ is set liberty. It is a paradox to our minds to think of it this way, but if there is a captivity to be captive to, it is the captivity of God’s liberating grace.
Having been apprehended by grace, Paul makes a strong appeal to the Ephesians that they walk worthy of the vocation they are called in. The word ‘vocation’ comes from a word that means “calling”, and in fact, is translated “calling” everywhere else in the King James. There is a calling that these Ephesians received and Paul’s exhortation is that they walk according to this calling. As we’ve just read in chapters 2 and 3, these Ephesians were called into one body, by faith. They were called into one household, by faith. They were called into fellowcitizenship, by faith. By their faith, they responded affirmatively to the call of God and forever were secured by the boundless reaches of His grace.
Paul says to walk worthy of this. But, isn’t that kind of odd? After all, the calling was to the Ephesians who had no faculties to walk righteously enough for God – that’s why it was by grace through faith to begin with. The Ephesians fell short of God’s glory all the same. Yet, Paul is now saying to walk worthy of this calling? How so, Paul? How in the world could the Ephesians accomplish such a task – a task that they seemingly were ill-equipped for?
Remember Colossians 2:6,
Col 2:6 As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him:
Paul says that in the same manner we received Christ, we are to walk in him. We received Christ by faith and faith alone. In the same manner then, (by faith) we are to walk IN HIM. The Ephesians (and, by extension, you and I), had nothing of themselves to make themselves worthy to walk in the calling they had, but could simply yield themselves to faith and allow He who Is Worthy and Who they are are IN to be the source of their walk. A walk is only worthy of our calling if it reflects the source of our calling – faith.
2Corinthians 5:7 says that we walk by faith, not by sight. This walk is vital as it is the essence of our existence on earth. We do not look to the things that are seen, but rather rest in the hope of the things unseen.
A walk that is worthy is not defined by making promises and commitments to God, but is, by faith, recognizing the promises and commitments He has made to you and walking therein. It isn’t waking up each morning, laying out all that you plant to accomplish for God, but rather is just like Abraham, whom God put to sleep and God went to work and Abraham simply awoke to the blessing of what God had already accomplished. A walk that is worthy takes each step by faith, confident in what the Lord has and is and will accomplish.
We should also understand that we have this walk because we have already been resurrected to walk as such.
Romans 6:3 Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? 6:4 Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.
Being joined in union with the resurrected Christ affords us a reality that we HAVE newness of life and it is our choice to not only reckon that to be true, but also to walk therein. Newness of life isn’t something that was purchased and is sitting in heaven for the believer to receive at some point in the future, but is what we HAVE BEEN resurrected to. This is very important because it indicates the means by which we can walk worthy. We walk by faith and that faith teaches us that we have the newness of resurrection life already at work in us – it is the power, if you will, of a worthy walk.
By the way, have you noticed that a walk classified as “worthy” seems to keep focusing back on Christ? – who is Faith and is the Resurrection and the Life! A worthy walk isn’t focused on self.
Now, there are things that accompany a worthy walk for a worthy walk of faith will naturally produce these things. As verse 2 states – this worthy walk is a walk of humility and reservation – lowliness and meekness. It is a walk of patience and is a walk that seeks to hold up one another in love. Humility is having the self-awareness to understand that we never measure up to God. As Paul writes to the Romans,
Romans 12:3 For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith.
Everyone should take stock of themselves to understand that God has given them the same measure of faith (Jesus Christ) as the next believer. By this, our thinking can be considered sober. The mind that is focused on self-exaltation is a drunken mind and the thinking of a drunken mind is not sound, but is reactionary and irrational. The sober mind understands the measure of faith it has been given and doesn’t think of himself any higher than the recipient of faith (Jesus Christ).
Humility is not self-pity. It is not self-deprecation. It is the willful acknowledgement that He is Head and we are members one of another, therefore, walk as such. Humility is recognizing that we are members one of another and that we seek to hold each other up. Humility is not looking at some as worth supporting while others can just fend for themselves. Humility is emptiness and selflessness in action. But, we should be cautious – carrying one’s self as empty and selfless for the sake of appearing humble in the sight of men by no means fools God. Humility ultimately is an instilled instinct by the Spirit of God. By holding up one another in love, we endeavor to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
The unity that we are to have is a unity that flows from the Spirit of God. Unity in the body of Christ is a big deal, however, we should be careful to understand that the concept of Godly unity has its limits. There are those who would seek to unite Christ with the works of darkness and call it “Christian unity.” But, we should be careful to understand that true unity is a unity that emanates from the Spirit of God and nothing in union with the Spirit of God will contradict the Spirit of God. (By the way, this is why you had to be removed from Adam and put into Christ because Adam (the body of sin and death) was a contradiction to Christ (the body of righteousness and life).)
Here is an example of the unity that we SHOULD have in the body of Christ, yet, believers were dividing from one another nonetheless:
1Corinthians 1:11 For it hath been declared unto me of you, my brethren, by them which are of the house of Chloe, that there are contentions among you. 1:12 Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ. 1:13 Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul? 1:14 I thank God that I baptized none of you, but Crispus and Gaius; 1:15 Lest any should say that I had baptized in mine own name. 1:16 And I baptized also the household of Stephanas: besides, I know not whether I baptized any other. 1:17 For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect.
Folks in Corinth were creating false alliances based on who baptized them and it was becoming a source of contention and division among the assembly at Corinth. Paul doesn’t mince any words here – is Christ divided, he asks. He first takes their minds back to Christ and if Christ is not divided, then neither should they be. Second, he states that he is glad he didn’t baptize but a very select few so there wouldn’t be that many running around elevating Paul. If there is something to elevate – something to boast about, it is the message of the gospel.
Galatians 6:14 But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.
As I mentioned above, there are those who are creating divisions that have no reason to do so, but likewise there are those who are creating unities that have to reason to exist. Note Paul’s words in 2Corinthians,
2Corinthians 6:14 Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? 6:15 And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? 6:16 And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.
Believers are prone to making divisions because we keep our eyes fixed upon ourselves and our neighbors – not because we want to bear their burdens or encourage them, but because we want to make sure we are just a notch better than they are (in our own eyes). Believers also make divisions over the extent of their understanding. There isn’t agreement among what the “major doctrines” are. There isn’t even agreement on kind of [fill in the denomination] we should be, let alone what flavor of said denomination we should be. Thinking out loud, here are some things that a survey of 100 believers wouldn’t return agreement unanimously:
- The purpose of baptism
- The timing of baptism
- The mode of baptism
- The purpose of the Lord’s Supper
- The timing of the Lord’s Supper
- The attendees of the Lord’s Supper
- Which translation of the Bible one should use
- Which style of music the church should use
- Which songs a church service should sing
- What types of instruments should be in church music (and which should not)
- What kind of clothes should be worn in church
- If women should wear a hat to church, or not
- If men should wear a tie to church, or not
- The purpose of the church
- How often one should be at church
- The nature of the church service
- Should we tithe
- The role of church membership
- The handling of church finances
- Should women hold leadership in the church
- Should women say “amen” during the a church service
- Should a divorced man, yet remarried, be considered for the pastorate
Yet, Paul says we are to endeavor to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. The list above certainly isn’t exhaustive, but it serves to demonstrate that we are pretty bad at this unity stuff. Our minds get wrapped around defending what we’ve been taught or defending the teacher who taught us, or defending the creed, edict or official statement of beliefs of a church rather than simply yielding our minds to Christ and allowing the knowledge of Him to knit our minds together in harmony. Since the Godhead lives in harmony, they naturally desire that we live in and enjoy that harmony as well. Scripture seems to bear out this idea in multiple places:
Acts 2:46 And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart,
Philippians 2:1 If there be therefore any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any bowels and mercies, 2:2 Fulfil ye my joy, that ye be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind.
Philippians 4:2 I beseech Euodias, and beseech Syntyche, that they be of the same mind in the Lord.
Romans 15:5 Now the God of patience and consolation grant you to be likeminded one toward another according to Christ Jesus: 15:6 That ye may with one mind and one mouth glorify God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
2Corinthians 13:11 Finally, brethren, farewell. Be perfect, be of good comfort, be of one mind, live in peace; and the God of love and peace shall be with you.
1Peter 3:8 Finally, be ye all of one mind, having compassion one of another, love as brethren, be pitiful, be courteous:
Romans 12:16 Be of the same mind one toward another. Mind not high things, but condescend to men of low estate. Be not wise in your own conceits.
1Corinthians 1:10 Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.
Living in unity doesn’t mean we lose our individuality. God has placed every member in the body as it pleased Him because of what each of us could provide for the body. However, being of the same mind IN THE LORD means that while we have our individualities, we all have a commonality that our minds should collectively rally around – Jesus Christ.
Are there times when we should divide? Yes – when the commonality is no longer Jesus Christ.
Romans 16:17 Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them.
Notice – Paul says to mark them (make note of them) which are causing divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine they have learned and simply avoid these folks. In the book of Romans, Paul has been laying out the doctrines of Jesus Christ and if folks are coming along with their own doctrines, which are not of Jesus Christ, then Paul says to make note of these folks and avoid them. Note Paul does not say to publicly castigate these folks or to go on some crusade to expose people who may not have the same understanding that you do. Paul is referring to people who actively and unashamedly preach against Jesus Christ — Paul says to mark them and avoid them. When Paul wrote to Timothy, he mentions folks that are to be avoided. This was a personal letter to Timothy, yet bore the intention of identifying some folks that Timothy was to be aware of.
1Timothy 1:19 Holding faith, and a good conscience; which some having put away concerning faith have made shipwreck: 1:20 Of whom is Hymenaeus and Alexander; whom I have delivered unto Satan, that they may learn not to blaspheme.
2Timothy 2:15 Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. 2:16 But shun profane and vain babblings: for they will increase unto more ungodliness. 2:17 And their word will eat as doth a canker: of whom is Hymenaeus and Philetus; 2:18 Who concerning the truth have erred, saying that the resurrection is past already; and overthrow the faith of some.
If there is a Spiritual Unity that binds us in peace, then perhaps there are some chief pillars to this unity? And, indeed there are. In the next few verses of Ephesians chapter 4, Paul is going to lay out 7 concepts that are the foundation to the Unity of the Spirit.
Our story continues…