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A life worthy of the Calling
As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received (Eph.4:1).
Written from prison in Rome, Paul’s letter to the Ephesians – with its inspiring peaks - sets out God’s universal Manifesto in Christ. It has been described as ‘The Switzerland of the New Testament.’ Ephesians 1: 9,10 provide the key sentence to the letter - emphasizing the ‘One-ness’ that is stamped upon the universe through Christ - ‘…. to bring all things in heaven and earth together under one head, even…. Christ’ (compare Colossians 1:19).
Chapter 4 brings us into practicalities. The apostle’s readers are now called to live a life worthy of the stupendous truths outlined to them:
1. KNOW IT! – Here is the emphasis on Confidence.
Paul’s readers were to take in the wonder of Christ’s ascended rule, his saving grace and his creation of a new community from both Jews and Gentiles. It is only the realization that Christianity is true that gives us the confidence to live a life worthy of such a universal calling.
2. LIVE IT ! – Here is the emphasis on Character.
‘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’ (Ephesians 4: 3)
The Greek word for ‘humble’ had only been associated with cringy weakness – until the universal and attractive model given it by Jesus.
What marks out the Christian believer is not the externals of Dress or Diet, but Christ-like living, for it is love that wins the world. Such living is to be mirrored in the unity between churches (v.3-6). The causes of division in the New Testament lay not in issues of church government and orders of ministry , but mainly in the sins of jealousy, conceit and competitive self-promoting tribalism (“I am of Paul…. I am of Apollos…. I am of Peter”).
3. BUILD IT! Here is the emphasis on Gifts
Verses 7-12 begin with a quote from Psalm 68: 18 – understood here as prophetic of Jesus – distributing gifts on those ‘captivated’ in the procession of his ascended triumph. Here the gifts take the form of callings – apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, teachers. Although today we do not have apostles of the status of John or Peter, every true church should be apostolic – based firmly on the apostles’ teaching, and also being a sending church! We do not today have prophets whose utterances get bound up into the inspired Scriptures, but every church should be prophetic – with something to say to the locality, if not to the world!
These gifts – but plenty more are listed elsewhere – are given ‘to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up’ (v.12). The exciting challenge is to discover and then have our Christ-given gifts to help build his Church.
4. GROW IT! Here is the emphasis on Maturity
Verses 13-16 outline how we are not to stay as ‘infants’ – rocked by passing fads – but are to become ‘mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.’
How hungry are we for this growth? That depends on the strength of the vision we have of ‘the very one who ascended, higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe’ (v.10). How can one Man fill the universe? The answer is that there is no part of the universe that is outside Christ’s reach and rule. It also means that there is no room for anybody else! The ‘gods’ of Paul’s day would all have to move aside, because Jesus has taken all the space. It also means that we live, not in a Christ-deserted world, but a Christ filled world. This inspires us never to write off any area, any tyrant, or any heathen opponent. All are redeemable, and all are reachable through brave, unflinching world-witness in the name of the one Head of heaven and earth.
4:1 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, 3 eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 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. 7 But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ's gift. 8 Therefore it says,
“When he ascended on high he led a host of captives,
and he gave gifts to men.”
9 (In saying, “He ascended,” what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower regions, the earth? 10 He who descended is the one who also ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things.) 11 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, 14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. 15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love. (ESV)