“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; 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 – on Lord, One faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”
As I sit down to write a reflection on the first few verses of the fourth chapter of Ephesians I find myself wrestling with the richness of the doctrine which is contained here. With the simple word “therefore” the apostle brings in the glorious things he has just been writing about in the first three chapters of the letter. Those chapters focus upon the power of the Gospel which has taken us out of this world of darkness and brought us into the Kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ. This new kingdom into which we have entered is in fact the Church, or the Body of Christ. In Christ we have come to know a love that has completely transformed our lives. On the foundation of this life changing Gospel Paul then calls us to live a life which is worthy, or suitable, or becoming of our calling. In the rest of this letter we will read about just what such a worthy life is like. We are told how we are to actively pursue this life as Paul begins to use a series of present participles to move his argument forward. These participles describe earnest and continual activity of our part in response to the infinite and continuous action of the Spirit of God through the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. We must be submitting our lives to the powerful love of God which is being poured into us by the Holy Spirit.
In verses two and three we encounter these two participles, “to be enduring patiently with one another” and “to be making every effort”. Both participles call us to constant activity. Both push us along in a life that is truly Christ-centred. This is in fact the foundation for our transformed lives. The Lord Jesus Christ is the One who was crucified and raised for us. In Him we have life if we pick up our cross and follow Him.
Each us faces a constant challenge to this type of Christ-centred living. Our flesh does not die easily. Naturally we live lives which are conformed to the pattern of this world. Basically this means that we desire to put ourselves first in every situation. To this Paul calls us to live with “humility, gentleness, enduring patiently with one another.” We are to actively pursue this patience. In essence we begin to live out the long suffering sacrificial love that we have received from the Lord. How has He put up with us? What has He done for us? How far is He willing to go in order to redeem us? It is here that we find ourselves challenged as we see the ways our flesh shrinks back from really following the Lord into this cross centred living. We are not certain that we can pay the cost of such a life. In fact we are certain that we cannot. Before we move on to look at the resources that make us able to live in a way befitting the Gospel we need to look at the other participle in verse three. Paul says that we are “to make every effort to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” Again he calls us to constant and earnest pursuit of the unity of the Spirit. Our ambition is to share together with others in the Body of Christ the common life that we have been called to. Do we really catch the meaning of what Paul writes here? Have we confronted its challenge? Our flesh looks for ways to be self sufficient and separate from one another. The Gospel calls us to participate in the life of Christ together.
To be sure there are times when we must separate ourselves from those who do not share in this life of Christ. I question at times whether we do so too easily. It is in answering this question that we find our flesh being crucified. It is too easy for us to begin to build our own little self-centred kingdom. Paul calls us to Christ-centred, Spirit directed following of the one who redeemed us through the Gospel of the cross. As Paul describes it here in these chapters of Ephesians we find ourselves reflecting on something which is truly glorious because it is of God.