Walking In A Manner Worthy Of Our Calling

June 7, 2020 – Pastor Cliff Bergman

Ephesians 4.1 – 6

Paul began the 2nd half of Ephesians by urging us to walk in a manner worthy of the calling we received from the Lord when He saved us. We have a calling from God.

Ephesians 1:3–4 (ESV) 3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, 4 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him.

While our citizenship is in the heavenlies, our residency is on earth where we live out our calling to be holy and blameless, to become increasingly Christ-like in character.   We do so before the community of God’s people and the watching world. Paul knew that lofty goal is humanly impossible, it requires supernatural help. Consequently he sought the Lord to strengthen his readers with the Spirit, for Christ to dwell in their hearts, for them to comprehend God’s boundless love and for them to be filled with all the fullness of God. As followers of Jesus Christ experience and embrace God’s supernatural work in their lives, there will be evidence that is impossible to conceal. While there is a great deal of focus in some circles on the importance of speaking in tongues, or prophesizing, or some other manifestation, that someone is filled with the Holy Spirit, the Bible emphasizes transformed lives as evidence a person has been saved and is walking in the fullness of God. The conduct of Spirit-filled believers increasingly coincides with their calling.

In the verses following Paul’s appeal for us to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which we have been called, he highlights five traits which are characteristic of such a walk. The first four are listed in,

Ephesians 4:1–2 (ESV) 4 I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love,

1. Humility

The first of the traits is humility. The NIV translates it “Be completely humble,” the KJV,  “With all lowliness,” the NLT,  “Always be humble.” Similarly, in the ESV, we are told that we not only should be characterized by humility, but all humility. The quality is to be evident in who we are and how we conduct ourselves. Humility stands in sharp contrast to so much of what we witness in our world, but it was even more foreign in the Greek and Roman world of ancient times. They didn’t even have a word to express the quality of humility. Paul had to coin a new word for it. Humility is a trait that can be so elusive. John MacArthur says of it, “Humility is a virtue to be highly sought but never claimed, because once claimed it is forfeited.” [1]

It is little wonder, humility is the first trait addressed since humility is the foundational Christian virtue. The path to salvation demands humility. The natural inclination of people is to usurp for themselves the place belonging to God. They want to be in control and believe they are able to achieve their destiny on their own. Multitudes around the world push God to the margins of their lives believing they don’t need Him.  In the past, as well as in the present, governments try to stamp out God. The unmistakable evidence in creation of the existence of God is a universal invitation to people to humbly acknowledge God and bow their knee to Him.

Humility is also necessary to conclude we don’t have it all together and that we need help. The Bible makes it clear everyone is a sinner in need of a Savior.  The fundamental need for people is to come in humility and repent of their sins and receive the forgiveness Jesus offers to all. The need to acknowledge our sinfulness and our need for God’s intervention to save us distinguishes Biblical Christianity from the claims made by so many. Some claim humankind is inherently good and will succeed if they build upon that inherent goodness. The quality of humility was modeled by Jesus when He left the glories of heaven and came to earth where He clothed Himself with humanity for the purpose of providing redemption for us.

Philippians 2:6–8 (ESV) 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

Having raised this text in Philippians, given the manner in which some misunderstand what Jesus did, perhaps a few words of clarity are in order. When Jesus emptied Himself, He did not cease to be fully God in any way. Jesus retained all His attributes throughout His entire earthly sojourn; He was, and is,  both fully God and fully man. When Jesus clothed Himself with humanity it necessitated Him setting aside some of His divine privileges, or prerogatives. Consider the obvious!  While Jesus is the Author of creation, He arrived as a babe in Bethlehem making Himself dependent on the very humans He created for His care. Or while Jesus could have called 12 legions of angels to rescue Him from the mob that came to arrest Him and crucify Him, He didn’t. While that would have spared Him from indescribable pain, it would have ignored the reason for His coming. The apex of humility is evident when Jesus did not demand the rights and privileges that were legitimately His as the Son of God. He left the glories of heaven, despite the horrors He would face, because doing so was the only means in the entire universe by which people could be saved from a godless eternity in hell.

Matthew 11:29 (ESV) Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.

Using the example of Christ following His Father’s will, we too express humility when we set aside our own agendas for God’s agenda and His direction for how we should conduct ourselves. Victorious living as a Christian requires us to forfeit some of our personal wishes and preferences in order to serve the Lord. Christians give of the time, talents, and treasures entrusted by God to them for the benefit of others. In the following verses in Ephesians we are reminded of the interdependent nature of the Church and the need for each of us to exercise the gifts God has given us for the growth of others. That requires making others and their needs a priority to us.

It is the need for humility in our relationship with others that lies at the core of the discussions in 1 Corinthians over Christian liberty about what to eat or drink. (1 Corinthians 8.1 – 13; 10.23 – 11.1) For example, while there may be nothing inherently good or bad in what we eat or drink, demanding that liberty without consideration of how our choice might hinder another – Christian or not, is not a display of humility, nor love.

Humility is not to be equated with surrendering Biblical truth to accommodate others, but it is surrendering our desires and preferences for the benefit of others. Humility is characterized by an accurate assessment of ourselves – it is not self-deprecation and putting oneself down, nor is it elevating oneself above others; rather it is seeking to view ourselves and others as God does.

2. Gentleness

Gentleness or meekness, as it is sometimes translated, is the byproduct of humility. Meekness should not be confused with weakness or timidity.  Many have observed, meekness is power under control, namely under the control of God. Gentleness is also a fruit of the Spirit.

Galatians 5:22–23 (ESV) 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.

Thus, gentleness is Spirit endowed in every believer, but also requires us to embrace it, and nurture it, and apply it in our conduct.

As is the case with humility, gentleness isn’t synonymous with surrendering truth, but it is a necessary component in how we stand up for the truth. Several verses after identifying gentleness as a fruit of the Spirit, believers are told to exercise gentleness in attempting to restore a believer who has yielded to the temptation of sin, not in some high-handed way, or with an attitude of superiority, but with gentleness.

Galatians 6:1 (ESV) Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.

Such is the advice also given to Timothy when correcting those who had embraced false teaching.

2 Timothy 2:25 (ESV) correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth,

James pointed out the importance of meekness or gentleness when receiving the word of God and submitting to what it says when it exposes wrong conduct.

James 1:21 (ESV)  Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.

A gentle person doesn’t seek vengeance, nor is he vindictive or self-assertive, but is quiet, soothing and mild mannered.

3. Patience

The continuation of the coronavirus, and with no real end in sight, has become an opportunity to develop patience. Beverley and I have visited Costco several times in the past two or three months, and as has been the case for many of you, we immediately realized things had changed. Instead of being instantly welcomed in, we stood in line, one time for more than an hour. It requires patience not just to wait, but to adapt to some of the changes and requirements imposed on us. While we may question the necessity of following some restrictions, and while we may grow impatient with weeks of isolation, with God’s gift of supernatural patience, we can get through all of this victoriously.

Patience flows out of humility and gentleness; it is sometimes translated long suffering. Patient people respond to negative circumstances and delays with peace. Patience, like gentleness, is also a fruit of the Spirit. It is another of the qualities that is supernaturally given, but as with gentleness also needs to be nurtured, embraced, and applied.

Our face paced world where we can instantly text, or talk, or even video conference with people almost anywhere in the world, shapes our mindset. We expect things to happen quickly and we grow impatient when they don’t. When someone interferes with our agenda we become impatient. But the patient person, recognizes that at the end of the day God is in control and we are safe in His hands, even when our carefully planned agenda isn’t unfolding according to our timetable.

God’s timeframe is often longer than ours. Occasionally things happen in rapid succession, but more often they are interspersed with lengthy gaps. We often overlook that when we read our Bibles. Sometimes decades of time, or even more, are covered in a single page in our Bible, or even in a single verse of Scripture. Understandably we often compress events together as though they all happened one right after the other.

After God announced He was going to destroy almost all of humankind, Noah spent 120 years building the ark for protection from the coming deluge. As that happened, God waited patiently,

1 Peter 3:20 (ESV)  because they formerly did not obey, when God’s patience waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through water.

God could have destroyed the human race in a second, but chose instead to wait 120 years, for Noah to build the ark to save him and his family. Or consider God delivering on His promise to give a son to Abraham and Sarah who were already old. From the time Abraham was promised a son at age 75, Abraham and Sarah would wait 25 years until Isaac arrived. And that was followed by Isaac and Rebekah waiting 20 years after they were married until Jacob was born. There are numerous examples in Scripture where patience was needed. The condensed accounts of Bible characters obscures the fact that most of their lives were rather uneventful, they worked hard at often physically demanding tasks to provide for their families and children. They were characterized by faithfully and patiently walking in a manner worthy of the calling to which they had been called.

Waiting can be hard, but remember, God promises to care for us while we wait so that we might do so victoriously. Generally we can become impatient with things and get far more worked up over them, than is merited.

4. Forbearing Love

Forbearing love is the application of patience in the exercise of love for others. The extent of God’s love for people is expressed in

John 3:16 (ESV) “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

His forbearance is evident in,

2 Peter 3:9 (ESV) The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.

Because of God’s forbearing love for people He provides adequate opportunity for them to turn from their sins and embrace Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior.

We exercise forbearing love as we overlook people’s sins as they make progress in becoming Christ-like. There are times when fellow believers become entangled in sin that needs to be confronted, but many times the situation requires forbearing love of a believer as they mature. That is envisioned in The New Living Translation rendering of this the verse,

Ephesians 4:2 (NLT) Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love.

With that understanding in mind, John MacArthur describes forbearing love this way, “It throws a blanket over the sins of others, not to justify or excuse them but to keep the sins from becoming any more known than necessary.” [2]

There are times where it is wiser to overlook and dismiss some hurtful comment or slight and move on, and forbearing love, does that – it moves on, rather than remembering and accumulating those hurtful comments and slights which can turn into a root of bitterness. It isn’t only over the sins of others where we need to exercise forbearing love, but sometimes it is over the habits and behavior of others which aren’t sinful at all. It may be the people ahead of us in checkout line, or those who dawdle when the light turns green. Sometimes it is a person who takes forever to tell a story; he doesn’t want to leave a single detail out. It especially requires forbearing love if you have heard him tell it before. As soon as he begins you know it will be awhile.

The last of the traits Paul lists that give evidence of a walk worthy of the calling we have received is

5. Unity

Ephesians 4:3 (ESV) eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

In the NIV, it is translated, “Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.”

This verse makes it clear that it ought be the desire of every believer to do all he, or she, can do to maintain unity and peace within the Church body. We are to do absolutely everything we possibly can to preserve unity.

One of the worst things that can happen in the petroleum industry is for an oil or gas well to blow out. When that happens the well is completely out of control and there is no means to stop the escape of oil and gas from the wellhead. Often the well will be on fire, or if it is a sour gas well, it will be intentionally set on fire to burn the deadly hydrogen sulfide gas. The petroleum company I worked for in the 1970’s had a well go wild near Drayton Valley. When you have a sour gas well out of control and on fire it adds new meaning and intensity to the phrase, “Make every effort!” In those days making every effort meant first of all calling Red Adair who was the world’s expert at the time. You can be sure of this when a well is on fire, there was no thought about how much Red Adair would charge, or whether you could get a better deal on renting a track hoe elsewhere, or working out the vacation schedule of a worker. The well received undivided attention and every effort was made until it was capped.

I won’t bore you with the steps involved in controlling and capping a well, but I do want to leave you with an image of undivided attention and unlimited effort to deal with a calamity. Let that image shape the intensity with which each of us, as followers of Jesus, makes every effort we can to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace – don’t leave any stone unturned. It really begins with making every effort so the well doesn’t go out of control. We need to be attentive and alert to address things that threaten peace among the body of believers long before flames appear in the sky.

To emphasize the importance of unity in the Church, the following verses remind us of the inherent unity in the Body of Christ,

Ephesians 4:4–6 (ESV) 4 There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.

In order for the Church to experience the unity it is designed to, God has given us grace. Key ingredients to seeing and maintaining unity in the Church is the exercise of the first four traits of humility, gentleness, patience, and bearing with one another in love. Coupled with that there has to be a desire and a willingness for there to be unity.

For our closing song, I have chosen Refiner’s Fire written and sung by Brain Doerksen

[1] John MacArthur, The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: Ephesians, (Chicago: Moody Press, 1986), 120.

[2] Ibid, 127