“This is not a unity that is scared of speaking out but a unity that knows what it believes and where its loyalties lie and so knows when to be firm and when to be flexible.”
Title: A Life Worthy of the Calling (Ephesians 4:1-6)
By: Bert Amsing (1989)
As a prisoner for the Lord, then
I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.
Be completely humble and gentle.
Be patient, bearing with one another in love.
Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.
There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope (when you were called)
One Lord, one faith, one baptism,
One God and Father of all, who is overall and through all and in all.
The jetliner had just taken off and all the passengers had settled down. In the first-class section, a man sat next to a well-dressed matronly woman who was wearing a stunning diamond pendant.
He said to her, “Excuse me, but I couldn’t help noticing that beautiful necklace. It’s the most exquisite stone I’ve ever seen.”
She responded, “Well, thank you. It’s the Klopman diamond, you know.”
He looked puzzled, and said, “I’m sorry, but I don’t think I have ever heard of it.”
Her response was, “Well, it’s a lot like the Hope Diamond. It’s not as large, of course, but the clarity and beauty of the Klopman are the absolute equal. And, just like the Hope Diamond, it comes with a curse for the person wearing it.”
“That’s positively amazing! What kind of curse?”
Now that you have received in a sense a “diamond of a calling” in the church, you might be wondering what goes with it. Well, there is no curse connected to this diamond. There is only blessing.
As you well know, the work of an office-bearer can quickly become tiring and even irritating. No one wants to be a leader in a church full of bickering and fighting. No one wants to be a leader of a church that isn’t going anywhere but in circles. No one enjoys working with cranky or pushy people with their own agendas. An office-bearer has to invest a lot of time and energy in his work, too much time and energy to waste on a lot of quarreling.
I think we would all agree. Who wants to be part of that kind of church? It’s a good thing we aren’t that kind of church, although sometimes you get the odd flare-up. And the reason we are not that kind of church isn’t that we are too young as a church and just haven’t had a chance to get around to it yet.
Rather we understand something of what Paul is saying in Ephesians 4: 1-6.
This is one of those passages that really strikes to the heart. The whole section from verses 1 through 16 really should not be broken up. The theme is unity even though God gives us different gifts. A unity together with the spiritual gifts helps us to grow up to become like Christ.
Unity is what’s necessary for the elders and deacons to do their job well. Unity is what’s necessary for the church to fulfill its calling in the world. Unity is what’s necessary for us to all grow up to become, in character and example, like Jesus Christ.
Paul speaks here “as a prisoner for the Lord.”
He has some right to be heard when he says, “I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.” He urges, not commands. This life is rooted in grace, not law. Paul speaks as one who has been faithful and now is in prison for it.
He has lived a life worthy of his calling. He hasn’t been perfect. He hasn’t done everything right. Mistakes were made, and forgiveness was asked for. But he has dedicated himself earnestly to living a worthy life, a life that recognized his calling. He conducted his life in harmony with the responsibilities and blessings of a new relationship with God.
God has called the church to live in the Spirit and proclaim the gospel to the world. Paul has done that.
God has called Paul to be his adopted son. Paul has behaved in the manner in which adopted children are expected to live – believing what God says. Trusting His promises and obeying His desires.
“I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.” In other words, “Be what you are. You are children of God, act like it!”
In our day and age, women often mature sooner than men. It’s a common problem in the early years of marriage. A couple begins their marriage with great expectations only to find that one or the other, usually the man, has great difficulty in adjusting to this new situation, this new relationship. The role of husband and father seems strange.
The marriage counselor or Pastor usually ends up giving the admonishment, “Be what you are. You are married, act like it! You are a father, act like it! You are children of God, act like it!”
And Paul doesn’t mind using himself as an example. In Philippians 4:9 he says, “And whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me, put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.”
Office-bearers are chosen because the church recognizes the gifts that God has given them. Some of those gifts may need to be developed but they are there. Also, the church recognizes in these people a desire to live a worthy life. We must all have that desire but certainly, our leaders must have it.
Paul goes on to lay out what virtues are necessary to develop unity in the body. “Be completely humble and gentle. Be patient, bearing with one another in love.”
So, there you have it. The formula for unity in the church. Humility, gentleness, patience, forbearance, and love. Not always so easy to do. In Colossians, he adds compassion, kindness, forgiveness, and thankfulness. These are the fruit of a spirit-filled life.
But here in Ephesians, he uses only five virtues to emphasize what is necessary for the development of unity. It would be well for our office-bearers to meditate upon these virtues and to dedicate themselves to their use in their work in the church.
But Paul isn’t speaking only to office-bearers but us all. Unity isn’t developed from the top down. We must all work at it. Everyone has their faults and weaknesses. There will be times when we have to bear with one another.
Humility almost goes without saying, but, for some reason, it is the most important thing to say. It is so rare. Pride is the primal sin. Humility is the primal virtue. In life, it is always necessary but in leadership it is essential. And just a smidgen of humility is not enough. Paul says that we must be “completely” humble. We have been called to this office. We have been called to this adoption as sons and daughters of God. We did not deserve it. We did not work for it. We did not compete for it. We were called and therefore we must have a servant’s heart, always and in every situation.
Gentleness is a virtue that is sorely needed in our day and age. To be gentle is to be full of grace. That doesn’t mean that you are a pushover. Jesus was “full of grace and truth.” One doesn’t negate the other. In fact, grace is there to lead us to the truth.
Patience is a virtue that we need right now. Just kidding. Patience is also an expression of grace and recognizes that we are all in a process of sanctification. None of us have arrived. Sin needs to be dealt with over and over again. Addictions still maintain some power over us. Life is messy. Relationships are messy. The work of an office-bearer is to minister to people in that mess and point them to the cross. Patience is needed, both for themselves as well as for others.
Forbearance, or bearing with one another, is another way of saying that “love covers a multitude of sins.” It’s not that we don’t know that the sin is there but that we choose to forgive it and treat the person as they are in the Lord, not as they are in the flesh.
And love binds it all together in unity. Obviously, this unity is more than a matter of going to the same church. There is real affection here for one another.
But now a word of caution.
Some churches are so close-knit and affectionate to one another that they have no room for anyone new. The oneness that Paul talks about is not an end in itself. It is not a superficial desire for togetherness, fellowship, or connection.
As the song goes, “for your friends are my friends, and my friends are your friends, and the more we get together, the happier we will be.” That’s nice but that isn’t what Paul is talking about here.
This unity that Paul speaks about is a unity of the spirit. “Make every effort to keep the unity of the spirit through the bond of peace.”
This is a unity based on the work of Christ. “One Lord, one faith, one baptism.”
And it is expressed in the work of the Spirit. “One body, one Spirit, one hope.”
And it is dedicated to “One God and Father of all.”
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
This is not unity for unity’s sake. We do not support ecumenicity for the sake of political expediency or social acceptance. We do not want unity with those who deny Christ and his work. There is a time for discipline and firmness. This is not just some worldly, vanilla-type unity.
Paul speaks about the unity of the Spirit, a unity of calling to proclaim the good news, a unity of purpose in becoming like Christ. This is not a unity that is scared of speaking out but a unity that knows what it believes and where its loyalties lie and so knows when to be firm and when to be flexible.
That is what the church needs and what the leaders of the Church must promote. But it can only happen when all of us are dedicated to living a life worthy of the calling we have received.
Communion is a special time for us as a church. We celebrate our unity in Christ. We celebrate our calling. We celebrate the love the Father has for his children. In this celebration, we find the strength to live worthy lives.