In Ephesians 3:20-4:3, the apostle Paul says this:
“Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, unto him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus unto all generations for ever and ever. Amen.
I therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, beseech you to walk worthily of the calling [with which] ye were called, with all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; giving diligence to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”
In this passage, Paul transitions from the more theological, or doctrinal, section of the letter to the Ephesians, to the more practical, or experiential section. How do I know this? Well, just look at the two sentences above, and you will see that the first is a praise of God, which is the conclusion of a prayer that he has just finished explaining, and the second begins with “therefore”, then has Paul beseeching, or imploring, the Ephesians to do things.
It’s the second sentence that I want to study in this article. It’s the first sentence of Paul’s application of the whole first half of the letter, as the word “therefore” indicates.
So, why does Paul use the word “therefore” to begin this sentence? Because he’s giving the practical implications of what has gone before. The sentence specifically follows his wish for God’s glory, which is certain to come to pass, since he’s writing Scripture, and he concludes his wish with “amen”, meaning “so be it”. Thus, Paul’s direct reason for beseeching the Ephesians to do the things that he lists is that God will have “the glory in the church [or literally ‘called out ones’]”.
However, as we see in most, if not all, of Paul’s other letters, the word “therefore” tells us that he’s basing his beseeching on almost everything that he has taught in the first part of this letter. But, for the sake of emphasizing what Paul emphasizes in this sentence, notice that Paul hints at specific things he’s referring to:
“I therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, beseech you to walk worthily of the calling [with which] ye were called . . .”
The hint I’m talking about is the fact that Paul specifically highlights that the basis for the Ephesians obedience to his commands is their “calling”. What does this refer to?
Paul tells us in 2 Thessalonians 2:13-14:
“But we are bound to give thanks to God always for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, for . . . God chose you from the beginning unto salvation in sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth: [to which] he called you through our gospel, to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
So, to what did God call the Thessalonians through the gospel? To salvation in, or through, sanctification from the Spirit and belief in the truth. So, what does this mean? Did God just tell them the gospel, and tell them to be saved, and to believe the truth? No, since Paul says that God chose them unto salvation, or chose them to be saved “from the beginning” of time, and that He called them to the obtaining of the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ, or to obtain it. That is, there was no possibility that they wouldn’t be saved, nor believe in the truth, nor obtain the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ. Why? Because God’s choosing and calling are all-powerful acts that accomplish exactly what He intends for them to accomplish. Thus, the Thessalonians were saved and believed the truth because they were called through the gospel. There’s simply no other way to consistently and logically understand these verses.
Therefore, what Paul means by “the calling with which ye were called” is God’s almighty power to cause the Ephesians to believe the gospel through them hearing it. Hence, we can limit our list of what Paul has in mind for the basis of the Ephesians’ obedience, to those things that are involved in their calling, or learning of the gospel so as to believe it. So, what things is Paul basing his beseeching on?
- the Ephesians are set apart for God and blameless before Him (1:4)
- they were adopted into God’s family (1:5)
- their trespasses were forgiven (1:7)
- God lavished His grace on them by giving them all wisdom and prudence (1:8)
- He made them know the mystery of His will (1:9)
- they obtained an inheritance (1:13)
- they believed the gospel (1:13)
- they were sealed with the Holy Spirit (1:13)
- they have hope (1:18)
- they have riches of glory in their inheritance (1:18)
- God’s power toward them is exceedingly great (1:19)
- God made them alive together with Christ (2:5)
- God raised them up with Christ (2:6)
- God made them sit with Christ in the heavenly places (2:6)
- they were saved from the wrath of God (2:8)
- they were created in Christ Jesus for good works (2:10)
- they were brought near to God (2:13)
- they were united with Jewish believers (2:14)
- they were reconciled to God (2:16)
- they were given access to the Father (2:18)
- they are fellow-citizens with Jewish saints (2:19)
- they belong to the household of God (2:19)
- they are a holy temple in the Lord, and a habitation of God (2:21-22)
- they were given boldness and confident access to God (3:12)
- they glorify God (3:21)
So, those are some of the things that Paul is basing his beseeching on in our passage. What is he saying with the word “therefore”? “Because you Ephesians have been called out of the world, and into Christ and the family of God, and called to be all that you are, and called to have all that you have, I beseech you.”
However, Paul doesn’t just base his beseeching on the spiritual blessedness of the Ephesians, but on who he is — “the prisoner in the Lord”. At that time, he was imprisoned by the Roman government “for the sake of . . . Gentiles”, or because he had preached to Gentiles, sparking the events that led to his imprisonment. In fact, some of the Gentiles to whom he had preached were the Ephesians themselves. Also, the very fact that he was in prison for preaching the gospel to Gentiles showed that he was truly a “sent one”, or “apostle” of Christ Jesus and God. Hence, he could use his imprisonment as evidence of his authority over, and love for, the Ephesians. Furthermore, he wasn’t just a prisoner, but a prisoner “in the Lord”, or “for the Lord [or Supreme Authority]”, so his beseeching came with the authority of the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. Finally, the fact that he had been imprisoned for walking “worthily of the calling” with which he had been called showed that he wasn’t being a hypocrite in telling the Ephesians to do the things he implored them to do.
But what does it even mean for Paul to “beseech” the Ephesians? The Greek word that’s translated “beseech” literally means “to call near”. So, it’s a call, or an urgent command. He’s begging, or imploring, the Ephesians to do the following things.
So, what is the first thing he implores them to do?
“. . . to walk worthily of the calling wherewith ye were called . . .”
What does he mean by “walk”? The term “walk”, when used like this in Paul’s letters, as well as others — such as 1 John — refers to daily living, or the style of life. So, what style of life does he command the Ephesians to live? Worthy of the calling with which they were called.
What does he mean by “worthily”? The word carries the idea of “fitting” or “appropriate”, as well as “of equal weight or significance”. Thus, he’s telling the Ephesians to live in such a way that is fitting for their calling out of the world, and into Christ, and to make their daily lives just as significant as their calling. In other words, their daily walk should match who they are in Christ, and what they have in Christ. There should be a correspondence between the two aspects of their lives. They ought to live in light of their blessedness in Christ, and show by their daily living that they have been “blessed with every spiritual blessing in Christ Jesus”, and called to be children of God.
But how are they to walk worthily of their calling? First, “with all lowliness”. Another way to translate the word for “lowliness” would be “humility”. What does this mean? Well, we can see by the first word itself that it has something to do with being “low”. This means recognizing who you actually are in reality, according to God’s Word. It means not to think too highly of yourself, but to see yourself as the person that God has said you are. As Philippians 2:3b-4 says, it means “. . . in lowliness of mind each counting others better than himself; not looking each of you to his own things, but each of you also [to] the things of others”. However, Paul doesn’t just tell the Ephesians to have humility, but all humility. That is, as much as possible, not having a single ounce of pride that is known, but being humble at heart.
Second, Paul tells them to walk with all “meekness”. This could be replaced with the word “gentleness”, and means “power under control”. It means being able to endure being wronged without thinking about getting back at the wrongdoer. Again, Paul qualifies this word with “all”, showing that it’s not just an outward display of gentleness, nor being gentle once in a while, but a gentleness of the heart that is part of a person’s lifestyle.
Third, Paul tells them to walk “with longsuffering”. Obviously, this literally means being able to suffer for a long time without retaliating. It represents great patience with those who wrong oneself.
However, Paul is not just telling the Ephesians to walk in these character traits, but to exercise all humility, gentleness, and patience while “forbearing one another”. What does this mean? It literally means “putting up with” or “showing tolerance for”. So, Paul is telling the Ephesians to put up with one another’s occasional failures and annoyances with humility, gentleness, and patience.
But, of course, Paul doesn’t stop with just putting up with one another. He tells the Ephesians to do it “in love”, or “through love”. In other words, the reason they ought to put up with one another is because they care about the spiritual and eternal well-being of one another, and want to benefit them in those respects as much as possible. And this can only be done if they put up with one another with humility, gentleness, and patience.
And what is the goal of all this?
“. . . giving diligence to keep the unity of the Spirit . . .”
So, keeping the unity of the Spirit is the purpose of putting up with one another in love, but what does Paul mean by it? First, he tells the Ephesians that they are to be “giving diligence” to do it. The word “diligence” comes from a Greek word that has to do with “urgency”, so it could also be translated “giving urgency”. In other words, Paul is telling them to have a sense of urgency in keeping the unity of the Spirit, and to be eager to do it. Of course, the word “diligence” itself tells us that he also means they are to set their minds on it, and strive to preserve it.
But what are they supposed to be diligent about? The word “keep” means “guard”, “protect”, or “preserve”. And what are they to preserve? The unity of the Spirit. The Spirit here, is, of course, God the Holy Spirit, and the unity is the oneness of the Ephesians in Christ. What does Paul mean by this unity? He has already told the Ephesians in verses 19 to 22 of chapter 2:
“. . . ye are fellow-citizens with the saints, and of the household of God, being built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the chief corner stone; in whom [the whole] building, fitly framed together, groweth into a holy temple in the Lord; in whom ye also are builded together for a habitation of God in the Spirit.”
Notice in whom they are “a habitation of God” — the Spirit. As a habitation of God, as citizens of one nation, as the household of God, and as a holy temple, they are united by the Spirit. And what does this unity entail? Being “fitly framed together” and growing “into a holy temple”. This is the unity that the Ephesians are to preserve. They are to stay “fitly framed together”, to keep growing into a holy temple, and are to continue to be built together as a habitation of God.
But how is this to be done? Paul tells us:
“. . . in the bond of peace.”
Why does Paul call this “peace” a “bond”? The Greek word that’s translated “bond” was used for ties that were tied around joints to “bond” them, or to hold them in place. In the same way, peace will preserve the unity of the Spirit.
But what does Paul mean by “peace”? Obviously, in the context, he means peace among the Ephesians — living at peace with one another. But how is this to be done? Paul tells us in Colossians 3:14-15:
“. . . put on love, which is the bond of perfectness [or completeness]. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to the which also ye were called in one body; and be ye thankful.”
So, again, the only way to live at peace with one another is to have love for one another, as well as letting Christ’s peace rule in the Ephesians’ hearts, and to be thankful.
To sum up Paul’s call, he implores the Ephesians to walk worthily of their calling, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, and in this way to be diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace with one another.
So, if you’ve been called through the gospel to believe it, and to be saved, are you walking worthily of the calling with which you’ve been called?
Do you have all humility?
Do you have all gentleness?
Are you patient with people who wrong you, or annoy you?
Do you show tolerance for people who wrong you or annoy you because you love them?
Are you being diligent to preserve the unity of the Holy Spirit through the bond of peace with your brethren in Christ?
If you don’t believe the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ, then you haven’t been called by God, you have no true humility, no true gentleness, no true patience with people, you can’t put up with people because you truly love them, and you have no part in the unity of the Spirit, nor any true peace. The reason for this is that you are an enemy of God who hates Him, and you are under His wrath. He has determined to send the Lord Jesus Christ very soon to earth to judge people like you, and to cast them into hell for eternity for their sins against Him. That’s why God sent His divine Son from heaven to become a man, the Lord Jesus Christ, to punish Him on a cross of death for our crimes against Him, thus paying for our sins, to rise from the dead, and to ascend into heaven as the King of the universe. He’s now commanding you to change your mind and to trust in the Lord Jesus Christ, His death for our sins, and His resurrection as the only terms of peace with Him, and the only grounds of His forgiveness of all of your sins. He promises that if you will trust in the Lord Jesus Christ, His death, and resurrection for His forgiveness, He will forgive all of your sins, and give you eternal life, and peace with Him. I beg you to change your mind and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ, or you will be eternally damned for your sins against your Creator.