|Series Theme: Meditations in Ephesians|
Meditation No. 29
Meditation Title: A Worthy Life
Eph 4:1-3 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.
Paul now goes on to make an appeal for a certain sort of life to be lived out. He makes his appeal on the basis of who he is: “As a prisoner for the Lord, then.” Previously when he spoke of being a prisoner he said, “Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus.” Now whether this present ‘for' means a literal prisoner in jail, or whether he means a prisoner for the purposes of Jesus Christ, is unclear. Either is possible, but the key point is that he is coming as one who considers himself a prisoner of Jesus and for Jesus and therefore he comes from a position of integrity that can be followed. The word ‘then' emphasizes this.
So now he makes his appeal: “I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.” He is going to go on and urge unity based on the truths that he has been expounding previously but immediately in these verses he is going to speak about the sort of attitude that is required for unity. This appeal is one that Paul uses a number of times: “conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.” (Phil 1:27) and “that you may live a life worthy of the Lord.” (Col 1:10) and “urging you to live lives worthy of God.” (1 Thess 2:12) and “as a result you will be counted worthy of the kingdom of God.” (2 Thess 1:5) and “we constantly pray for you, that our God may count you worthy of his calling.” (2 Thess 1:11)
When we speak of someone ‘being worthy' in this context we mean that they live up to the standard of, or matching the person or thing to which they are related. For example, we expect a person to live up to the standards of the high office that they exercise. We expect a member of the royal family or other national leadership to be an example, to be worthy of the role of leading a people. Thus here, Paul is saying, ‘I want you to live up to the calling that you have, of one called by God to be a light to the world. That is the basis for his appeal to a certain standard of behaviour. Do we check ourselves and think of the standard to which we should measure ourselves – God, His calling, the Gospel, the kingdom of God ? As Christians we are not able to just live as we think; our standard is not what we think is right, it is the Lord Himself and His calling on our lives to be citizens of His kingdom, indeed His children.
It is with this standard in mind, and all that he has spoken about previously in this letter, that he makes a specific appeal: “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.” Now this is a call to a way of thinking, an attitude and an outworking behaviour. The way of thinking is to “be completely humble and gentle.” Humility is about knowing who we are, really who we are – those who are sinners prone to getting it wrong and needing Christ's salvation to change us. When we truly realise that that is who we are, then we will be humble, rightly esteeming ourselves, and because we do that we will be gentle with others because we know that we are frail, inadequate and prone to making mistakes, just like they do.
Indeed when we do recognise that, left to ourselves, we are no better than anyone else, then we can “be patient, bearing with one another.” We know that we are just like them and therefore we, and they, need time to work things through, needing patience. Knowing what we are truly like, we will want others to treat us gently, putting up with us, coping with us as we struggle to work out our salvation or, as Paul puts it, we want others to ‘bear with' us. And what is his final objective? It is that they “Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.” It actually requires effort to over come the negatives that we find rising up within us about other people. Oh how easy it is to criticise other people when they don't match up to our standards, or when they don't do something as well as you know you can do. At such times it is so easy for criticism to rise up and, of course, at the heart of it, we are forgetting what we are like ourselves.
So do you see the sequence that we have been considering? Paul starts out by saying in effect, Look I'm sold out for Christ, I'm his prisoner, so I think I have some grounds to speak as I do. Look, he goes on, I want you to aim to live up to the standards of your high calling, called by God to be lights to the world, examples of the Gospel in action. You are Christ's body and the world needs to see that we are all one, so make sure you cultivate an attitude that enables that unity to operate, knowing who you are, being one with others, not looking down on others, but realising that you have the same weaknesses and tendencies for getting it wrong that your brothers and sisters in Christ have. Don't let any wrong attitude therefore divide you. Be one. Can we take on board this teaching – really take it on board and live it out so it has visible effect in our locality? May it be so!