Sermon: Ephesians 4:1-6: Therefore, Walk Worthy

New Testament Reading: Ephesians 4:1-6

“I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— 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, ESV)


[Please excuse any and all typos and misspellings within this manuscript. It has been published online for the benefit of the saints of Emmaus Reformed Baptist Church, but without the benefit of proofreading.] 


We have now come to the second half of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians wherein he applies the truths that he established in the first half of his epistle. The word “therefore” clues us in to the transition. When Paul says, “therefore”  he means, now, here is how you should live given all that I have just taught you.

Doctrine is always practical, friends. Truth must always lead to application. 

It is important, therefore, that we not forget the truths that Paul established in the first half of his letter. What he is about to say here in this application portion is directly linked to the truths presented in the doctrinal portion. The application flows naturally out of the doctrine. So what did Paul teach us?

I will not review in detail the teaching of Paul found in Ephesians 1-3, for we have recently considered these passages. In brief, Paul taught that Christ has accomplished the Father’s plan for the redemption of his elect. Paul established the supremacy of Christ over all things. He taught that in Christ we have been blessed with every spiritual blessing in the high heavenly places. Both Jew and Gentile are reconciled to God through him. Though we were all by nature children of wrath, in Christ we have been adopted as sons. In him we have redemption, the forgivness of sins, and an eternal inheritance. Though the Jews were especially blessed and used by the Lord for ages — and though for a time the Gentiles were alienated from God and without hope in the world — now that the Christ has come, Jew and Gentile have together been  brought near to God. By God’s grace both Jews and Gentiles are saved through faith in Christ. They are together spiritual  stones in God’s Spirit filled temple, being built upon the foundation of the  Apostles and Prophets, with Christ as the cornerstone. Paul’s prayer for us is that we “may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God” (Ephesians 3:18–19, ESV). Truly, the theme of the first half of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians is “unity in God’s inaugurated new creation” (S.M. Baugh). 

With this in mind, it is no wonder that Paul then exhorts the believer to pursue unity within the church, and holiness in the whole life. If it true that in Christ we are stones in God’s new creation temple, then it follows that we must pursue unity within Christ’s church and holiness. God’s temple cannot be divided. And God’s temple must be pure. Much of the application that Paul presents in the Ephesians 4-6 is centered on these themes. 

Notice three things in our text for today.  One, Paul exhorts the believers to walk worthy. Two, he urges us to bear with one another in love. And three, he implores us to eagerly maintain unity within Christ’s church. All of this application flows from the truth that in Christ we have been reconciled to God the Father. 


Walk Worthy

First of all, let us consider the command to walk worthy, which is found in verse 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…” (Ephesians 4:1, ESV).

Notice that Paul again refers to himself as a “prisoner of the Lord”, just as he did in 3:1. Perhaps this is to remind the Ephesians that to follow Christ involves suffering — walking with Christ in this world requires humility — humility being a theme that he will soon develop. 

He then urges, or pleads, with the believer to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which they have been called. 

Walking is often used in the scriptures as a metaphor for the Christian life. It is a very appropriate metaphor, for the Christians life is a journey. We are sojourners. We are to live carefully in this world. We are to walk with constancy. 

Consider, briefly, Paul’s use of the work “walk” in Ephesians. 

Back in 2:2 Paul reminded the Ephesians that before they believed upon Christ they “were dead in the trespasses and sins in which [they] once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience…” (Ephesians 2:1–2, ESV). 

But in 2:10 Paul reminds the Christian that “we are [God’s] workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10, ESV). 

Everyone living in this world “walks”. All have a way of life. All are moving in some direction, being moved by something — having their sights set on something. This is true of those who are in their sin, as well as the redeemed. Paul is eager to show us in this epistle that in Christ, our walk is to be different. Whereas we once walked in sin and in death, following the course of this world, now, that we have been recreated in Christ, we are to walk in the good works that the Father has prepared for us beforehand. 

Here in 4:1 Paul exhorts us to “walk worthy”.

In 4:17 he will command us, saying, “you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds” (Ephesians 4:17, ESV).

In 5:1-2 we find this command: “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God” (Ephesians 5:1–2, ESV).

In Ephesians 5:8 Paul says, “for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light” (Ephesians 5:8, ESV). 

And lastly, in 5:15-16 we read, “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil” (Ephesians 5:15–16, ESV).

So how is your walk, friends? Do you walk with a Christ-like gate? Are you walking in a heavenly direction? Are you walking with God centered purpose, being moved by the Spirit, with an appetite for eternal things?

Here in 4:1 Paul begins to make application by simply urging the believer “to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which [they] have been called” (Ephesians 4:1, ESV). 

“Worthy” here means “fitting” or “proper”.  The idea is this: consider what God has called to out of, and consider what he has called you too — and walk in a way that corresponds to, or fits, that calling. Again, I will leave it to you to review what has been said in Ephesians chapters 1-3 which tell us all about our calling in Christ. It is a marvelous calling. In brief, I will simply say that you have been called out of death and darkness to be adopted as children of God. Now walk as children of God, for this is certainly right, fitting and proper. Stated negatively, it is most unworthy and improper for someone who bears the name of Christ to walk like a child of the evil one. Brothers and sisters, you are to “walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called…”


Bearing With One Another

This command to walk worthy has very broad and far reaching implications. By it Paul certainly means the that we are to live holy and obedient lives. He means that we are to walk in the light, and not in darkness. But notice how Paul specifies what a worthy walk looks like in this following verses. In particular, walking worthy in Christ, means walking “with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love” (Ephesians 4:2, ESV).

Please consider this before we go any further: though it is not explicitly stated, it is certainly implied — walking worthy in Christ means that we walk with Christ alongside other believers —  that is to say, in the church, and not as isolated individuals. Paul’s words wouldn’t make any sense at all if this were not so. The first thing that he says about walking worthily in Christ is that we be humble, gentle and patient with one another, bearing with one another in love. Stated differently (and negatively), if you profess faith in Christ but refuse to join yourself to a local church, you are not walking in a worthy manner.   

This should not surprise you at all if you have been paying attention to the teaching of Paul in this epistle. He has taught that those who have faith in Christ have been reconciled to one God, are adopted into one family, and are individual stones in one Spirit filled heavenly temple. God did not send the Christ to redeem isolated individuals, but to create a new humanity in him. 

This does not do away with the individualistic aspects of our redemption in Christ. Indeed, individuals were chosen by God in eternity past. The sins of individuals were atoned for by Christ. Individuals are reconciled to God and adopted as sons by faith. The names of individuals are written in the Book of Life. All of this is true. And never should we minimize these truths concerning the redemption of the individual. But neither should we neglect the corporate or collective aspects of our redemption. For it is also true that in Christ, God is forming a new family. He is creating a new humanity — and it will be this new humanity that fills his new creation. 

Friends, here is the thing that we must recognize: being a member of this new creation family of God, or of this new humanity is not a future hope only, but it is a present reality for those who have faith in the risen Christ. Those who have faith are adopted now, and they are citizens now in Christ’s kingdom. And where is this new creation family of God visibly manifest on earth today? Where do we see it? It is made visible in the local church! When the local church assembles for worship on the Lord’s Day we are given a small glimpse of God’s adopted new creation family. 

Now, I am not saying the local church is the new creation family of God. I am not equating the visible church with the kingdom of God. You know full well that the local church is not so pure. Indeed, there will always in be goats amongst the sheep, weeds amongst the wheat, and false believers amongst the true. This is how things will be until the Lord returns to make all things new. The church will remain imperfect and impure. Instead, I am saying that God’s new humanity is manafest in the local church whenever she assembles, impure as she may be. 

And this is why Paul is so concerned to urge us to bear with one another in love. Within the church there will be a mixture of true believers and false. But even amongst the true believers there will be immaturity, foolish behavior and sin. Bear with one another, Paul says. To bear with is to endure difficulty. To bear with is to patiently suffer hardship. And notice that Paul commands us to bear with one another. What does this say about the local church, then? Does this statement not imply that there will be trouble and difficulty within the local church? Indeed, it does! And this should not surprise us at all.

Have you read the scriptures, friends? Have you read of the trouble that Israel had with sin? Have you read of the difficulties that arose amongst Christ’s own disciples? Have you read of the troubles experienced by the first churches that existed even in the age of the Apostles? It is terribly naive to assume that church will be pure and without controversy. It is naive to assume to Christians will not struggle continually with sina s they sojourn in this world. Corruptions remain within us, friends! And therefore, it is a terrible excuse, to say, I love Jesus, but I cannot join the church, because of the hypocrites that exist within it. 

Now, I will grant that there are some churches that have so degenerated in doctrine and in life that they can no longer be called churches of Christ, but are in fact synagogues of  Satan. I am not saying that true believers should join themselves to congregations like this. But I am saying that even in the best of churches Christians must prepare to bear with one another in love. The church in Ephesus was a strong church, and even they needed to hear this exhortation from Paul to bear with one another in love. 

Peter said something similar to his audience. “Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:8, ESV). I do love that phrase — “love covers a multitude of sins”. Peter does not say that love ignores sin. God himself did not, and does not, ignore our sin. But he covers it. And so too never should we ignore our sin, or the sins of others, but we should be eager to cover it. This means that we should never exploit the sin of others. Never should we fixate upon it, or to hold on to it with un-forgivness. Instead, we should bear with one another in love, and be eager to forgive. 

This will require that we all walk in “humility and gentleness, with patience…”, as Paul says. Again, “I… urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love…” (Ephesians 4:1–2, ESV)

So what does it look like to “bear with one another in love”?

Well, first I will tell you what it does not mean. It cannot mean that sin is tolerated or ignored within Christ’s church. To ignore sin — to let it go unaddressed — would be to disobey the many other passages that call the church to address sin within her midst. There will be times when believers will need to confront one another. And their will be times when the eldership will need to lead in discipline, as Paul himself wrote to Timothy, “As for those who persist in sin, rebuke them in the presence of all, so that the rest may stand in fear” (1 Timothy 5:20, ESV). And to Titus he said, “give instruction in sound doctrine and… rebuke those who contradict it” (Titus 1:9, ESV). And again to Titus he said, concerning those who persist in sin, “rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith” (Titus 1:13, ESV). 

But friends, even sharp rebuke is to be delivered in “humility and gentleness, with patience…” as we bear with one another in love. In fact, I would argue that to deliver a firm rebuke to a sinning brother or sister is the hight of love. I suppose there are some who enjoy confrontation, but surely they are in the minority. Most dread confrontation. In my opinion, confrontation is terribly draining. And yet if we love one another, we will confront one another concerning unrepentant sin. Any fool can fly off the handle being driven by anger, but we are to walk in “humility and gentleness, with patience…” as we bear with one another in love. 

Bearing with one  another in love also  means that we are to be patient with one another’s immaturity. It means that we are to take the long view  as we remember that sanctification is a process for all of us. Don’t forget the great commission, friends. Christ commissioned his Apostles saying, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:18–20, ESV). I will draw your attention to phrase “teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” When someone is converted, baptized, and received into the church, the process “teaching them to observe all that [Christ has] commanded” has only just begun.  Sanctification is a process — sometimes it is a long and arduous process. Let us never forget it. 

Bearing with one another also means that we will put up one another’s quarks. Here I am refering not to sin, but to the differences in personalities and temperaments that will undoubtably exist within Christ’s church. The church is not a society of friends formed around common interests, compatible personalities, or shared attraction. Instead, our bond is wrought by the Spirit and rooted in Christ. And God has called a diversity of people to himself — rich and poor, male and female, black and white, introvert and extrovert, timid and bold — I could go on. The point is this, we should be prepared to bear with, what we consider to be, the quarks of others, to celebrate the diversity within Christ’s church, and to remember that just maybe we are the quirky one. 

Bearing with one another also means that we will respect the opinions of others. Some things are clearly revealed in the scriptures. Other things are less clear. And some things are a matter of opinion, falling into the realm of wisdom. We must learn to clearly differentiate between things essential and non-essentials, God law and matters of wisdom. And we should never quarrel over opinions. We must learn to humbly bear with one another in Christ, even where differences of opinion exist.   


Eager To Maintain Unity

And why would we “bear with one another” like this? Well, for many reasons. But in particular we “bear with one another” because we are  “eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3, ESV). That is what Paul says in verse 3: He commands us to walk worthy, bearing with one another, being “eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”

I have only a few brief observations to make about this verse:

One, this unity that Paul speaks of is not something that we are called to create, but to “maintain”. It is something that we are to cause to continue, to retain, and keep. This unity is not created by us. It is not something we bring about. Rather, it already exists. This unity is ours to maintain.  

Two, it is the Spirit of God who creates this unity, which is also called “the bond of peace”. Again, Paul says that we are to be “eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” Here is what binds us together — our shared peace with God. You are at peace with God, and I am at peace with God, we together being adopted as Sons.  And how was that peace secured? It was accomplished by Christ in his life, death, burial and resurrection, and it is applied by the Spirit through his effectual calling, regeneration, and sealing. For this reason Paul refers to our unity with one another as the “unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”

Three, Paul says that we are to be eager to maintain this unity. By this Paul means that we are to be zealous to maintain this unity. It is something that we are to pursue with intense effort. Maintaining unity within the local church and between churches is something that we are to work very hard at. 

Maintaining unity is hard work, friends. It is easy to be offended and to run off as a result. It is also easy to be offended and fly off the handle. Both are fleshly responses to offense within Christ’s church. But the spiritual response to sin and offense within Christ’s church is to go to your brother or sister, to speak with them humbly and gently, to listen carefully to them, to encourage them, to exhort and rebuke them, and to be persistent and patient in this. Time must be invested. Energy must be invested. All of these things must be covered in prayer. We must constantly examine our own hearts, motives and actions. We must prepare to speak. And when we speak, we must labor to controle the tongue. Brothers and sisters, I am telling you, this requires work. It takes effort. If we are not “eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace”, we will never make the investment.    


For We Have All Been Reconciled To God, Who Is One

There is a lot at stake, friends. We are here talking about maintaining unity within the church of Christ, which is an earthly manifestation of the new creation family of God. All division is terrible, but it is especially terrible when it is found within Christ’s church, for our unity is wrought by the Spirit, mediated by Christ, and rooted in God, who is one. And that is how Paul concludes this passage, by reminding us of the source of our union. 

Look with me briefly at verses 4-6. There Paul says, “There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all” (Ephesians 4:4–6, ESV). What a beautiful passage this is. Why should we be eager to main our unity in Christ? Because of its great depth and eternal significance. 

You know this to be true from experience. Division is tragic in proportion to the depth of the bond that is fractured. It is sad when a conflict drives acquaintances apart. But it is especially tragic when division separates close friends or those of family relation. But here I think that Paul demonstrates that the most tragic kind of division is division within Christ’s church given the depth of the bond. 

Here Paul reminds us that there is only one body, a reference, no doubt, to the church, which is elsewhere called the body of Christ. Furthermore, he says that there is one Spirit, refering to the Holy Spirit, by whom you are sealed if you have faith in Christ. Should Christ be divided? Should the Spirit be divided? No, for they are one. Paul also mentions our shared hope. You and I together have this in common — we hope in Christ, his promises, and in the new heavens and earth that he has secured. What a bond we have! He then says that there is one Lord, one faith, one baptism. Why are you in the church to begin with? Is it not because you have confessed that Jesus is Lord? You placed you faith in him and expressed these things through the waters of baptism. Is there more than one Lord? If there were, then I suppose we would be content with division within the church. Is there more than one faith? No, there is only faith — a body of doctrine that we have all received and confess to be true — a shared trust in the risen Christ. And is there more than one baptism? No! There is only one. Baptism into water is how each of us have made that public profession, signifying that our sins have been washed by the blood of Christ, that we have died to the old self and have been raised to walk in newness of life. If there were many faiths and many baptisms, then I suppose that divisions in Christ’s church would be acceptable. But there is only one body, Spirit and hope. There is only one Lord, faith, and  baptism. And Paul saves the best for last, saying, that there is only “one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all”. And here is the deepest source of our union with one another — we have been reconciled to God the Father, who is himself one. 

When Paul says that there “is one God and Father of all”, the all is in reference to “all” who have been reconciled to him and adopted as sons. The context of Ephesians makes this clear. All who are united to Christ by faith share this in common — we have God as Father. And God our Father is over all, through all, and in all. It is to this God — the one true God, who is himself simple and undivided — that we have been reconciled.

If I were to ask you the question, what is the unity that you have with your brothers and sisters in Christ rooted in, there would be many acceptable answers. You would be right to say that you are bound together because you are members of the same body and sealed by the same Spirit. It would also be right to emphasize that you have the same Lord, confess the same faith, have been baptized with the same baptism. All of those things ae true and very substantial. But nothing is deeper than  this — through faith in Christ and by the Spirit we have all been reconciled to God the Father, the one true God, “who is over all and through all and in all.”  


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