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. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.
I do not know how many of you are familiar with the name ‘Martyn Lloyd-Jones’?
There is a growing number of people who are testifying to the impact that he has had upon the English speaking world. Pastor Eric Alexander, has said, “There is little doubt, that Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones was the greatest preacher that the English speaking world has seen in the twentieth century.”
Martyn Lloyd-Jones, began his career as a renown physician and surgeon.
It shocked the medical community when he abruptly left that career to become a preacher.
Many wondered how such a gifted man, who had studied science and been so well educated, could leave the field of science to preach the gospel?
At that time, many had come to believe that the bible and its teachings was nothing but a myth.
One might wonder, what would cause Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones to do this?
The reason is described by Dr. Steven Lawson in this way, “Lloyd Jones came to the realization that in his medical practice, he was helping his patients to recover physically only to return to a decadent life spiritually.”
Martyn Lloyd-Jones began to see that there needed to be a more profound healing in people than he was able to accomplish as a physician and as a surgeon. He realized that they were dead in their trespasses and sins and they needed the spiritual life that came through repentance and faith. He realized that so many people needed to hear what the sinful woman heard from Jesus in Luke 7:50, “Woman, your faith has saved you, go in peace.”
Martyn Lloyd Jones struggled with the decision to leave the medical field and to become a preacher. Again, Steven Lawson writes, “He was so consumed with ascertaining the divine direction that it adversely affected his physical health, as he lost some twenty pounds from his already thin frame. In this search for the will of God, there was no rest for his troubled soul nor sleep for his weakening body.”
He made his decision to enter the ministry after a night at the theater with his wife, Bethan. As they walked out of the theater he observed a Salvation Army band playing hymns and giving a gospel presentation. He was immediately struck by their zeal and strong convictions for the Lord. Later Martyn said, “When I heard this band and the hymns I said, ‘These are my people, these are the people I belong to, and I am going to belong to them.”
In that brief statement, Martyn Lloyd-Jones sums up the heart of our text this morning. One of the greatest gifts that God has given to every believer is other brothers and sisters in Christ. And to the church God has bestowed great grace so that these relationships may flourish.
Not all of us have had an experience like Martyn Lloyd-Jones.
Some of us have attended church all of our lives but they may not be able to say with Martyn Lloyd-Jones, ‘These are my people, these are the people I belong to, and I am going to belong to them.’
Paul has spent three chapters pouring grace into our hearts and minds and he knows that this will result in a more profound love for Christ and for His church.
As we come to our text this morning, we will not witness a Salvation Army band or a street preacher on the busy streets of London. But we do get to see the apostle Paul, whose zeal and passion for Christ has landed him in prison. The apostle Paul, is continuing to minister so that we will be able to say, “These are my people, these are the people I belong to, and I am going to belong to them.”
It seems appropriate for Paul to begin with the words, ‘As a prisoner for the Lord’, while he is urging Christians to be humble, gentle, patient and to bear with one another in love. He could have made this command by speaking of his apostleship or by stressing his position as a minister but he doesn’t.
Dr. John Stott, gives some insightful words as he discusses this text and the graces of which Paul speaks of here. He says, “Meekness is the absence of the disposition to assert personal rights, either in the presence of God or of men. It is particularly appropriate in pastors who should use their authority only in a spirit of gentleness.”
This is precisely what we see the apostle Paul demonstrating here in our text this morning. Paul speaks to us in chains, from prison, while facing martyrdom; and yet, he displays humility, gentleness, patience and he is bearing the burdens of these Christians in love. We discovered this in Ephesians 3:1, “For this reason, I, Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus on behalf of you Gentiles.”
Paul has just written half of this letter about the grace that God has given to His people: to both Jew and Gentile. Now Paul writes to tell them how they are to respond with having received this grace. Paul says to them, ‘I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received’.
One commentator outlined the entire book of Ephesians in this simple way. He said, “Chapters 1-3 are written to show how God now sees believers through the work of Christ. Chapters 4-6 are written to show how the world is to see Christ through His church.”
Therefore, Paul urges believers to live a life, or to walk continually, in a manner that is worthy of the calling that they have received. I found it helpful to consider some other ways in which the term ‘urge’ is used in other translations.
Some translate it as, ‘I beg you to live a life worthy of the calling...’
The NASB translates it, ‘I implore you to live a life worthy of the calling...’
Paul is exhorting believers, that in response to this grace, that every believer is to walk in a way that is fitting and appropriate to the call that they have received.
When Paul says, ‘live a life worthy, of the calling that you have received’. The adverb ‘worthy’ means to take the grace of God and put it on the scale and consider its value. Paul wants Christians to consider the grace that we have just considered in Ephesians 1-3, and weigh the value of it. We are to calculate the worth of the grace of God and apply it to every area of our life.
This grace, is the most valuable possession that we have. The value of grace is seen in the fact that through it we have been given every spiritual blessing and every eternal promise.
The value of grace far exceeds any riches that anything in this world can offer. William Gurnall writes, “Heap all the riches and honors of the wold upon a man – they will not make him a Christian. Heap them on a Christian – they will not make him a better Christian. Again, take them all away. When stripped and naked, he will still be a Christian, and perhaps a better one.”
Later in the book, Gurnall writes these words which gets to the heart of our text today, “The great business of a saint’s life is to be doing things that enlarge the kingdom of heaven. Not only is he interested in his own welfare, but he eagerly recruits his friends and neighbors to join in his eternal enterprise.”
Paul is now teaching us that grace will produce fruit because it has changed our nature. In Titus 2:12 Paul says that grace “trains us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in the present age.” (Titus 2:12)
Jesus says in in Luke 6:43-45, “For no good tree bears bad fruit, nor again does a bad tree bear good fruit, for each tree is known by its own fruit. For figs are not gathered from thorn bushes, nor are grapes picked from a bramble bush. The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.”
How should the grace of God effect us?
How should it influence our actions?
What impressions should it make on how we think and live?
Paul’s first point is to say that this grace should effect our attitudes toward each other as brothers and sisters in Christ. Paul says this in Ephesians 4:2-3, “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.”
It is appropriate that Paul would begin with this because when he speaks of the calling that we have received, he is using a word that is always used in the context of a group of redeemed people. In the New Testament this word is used eleven times. Ten of the eleven times is used by Paul in his letters. (Rom.11:29; 1 Cor.1:26,7:20; Eph.1:18, Eph.4:4; Phil.3:14; 2 Thess. 1:11; 2 Tim. 1:9; Heb. 3:1; 2 Peter 1:10)
In all cases, without exception, our calling is to be lived out among other saints.
We are called into a new family in which we now have many brothers and sisters in Christ.
We are called to have fellowship with the saints who are continually maturing in their faith.
We are called to participate in the body of Christ where each uses their gifts to edify the church.
We are called to be with other believers where we are discipled and the gospel is expanding out for the benefit of others.
If you see people who are interacting and living side-by-side among other members of the body of Christ, the grace of God is present to maintain the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. Without this grace our fellowship together would have no chance to endure.
I have two friends that live in neighborhoods that most of us would envy. There was a time when the neighbors would interact often, have block parties, share bonfires and have pool parties. There was a time when they had nothing bad to say about their neighbors. In fact, to talk about these things always made them smile.
They are not smiling anymore. In fact, both of them have moved away and they would say that the primary reason they did was because of conflicts that they had with their neighbors.
There are four graces that Paul specifically brings out in Ephesians 4:2: humility, gentleness, patience, and bearing with one another in love. The grace of God will work to empower and produce these things in the heart of every believer.
Consider Acts 4:32-33, “Now the full number of those who believed were of one heart ans soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they shared everything they owned. And with great power the apostles were giving their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all.”
When God’s grace is working in the heart of someone they will inevitably have a humble disposition and opinion of themselves. God resists the proud, but He gives grace to the humble (James 4:6; 1 Peter 5:5).
The church in Corinth had begun to neglect the grace of God. As a result, they began to boast in themselves and others. Paul says to them, “For consider your calling, brothers, not many of you were wise according to worldly standars, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.” (1 Corinthians 1:26-29)
There is no reason for any Christian to be prideful or arrogant. Paul continues by saying, “Because of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, ‘Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.’” (1:30)
When grace is present in the heart of a believer they will be displaying gentleness and meekness. Meekness is seen in a person who has a strong personality but nevertheless is a master of himself and a servant to all. A meek person has opportunity to show their strength and display their power but this is never done at the wrong time, it is always done at the right time. (Mt. 11:29)A meek person will not say,
“I have Irish blood in my veins so you will just need to get used to my temper!”
“I’m at the age in my life where I can say whatever I want to whomever I want!”
This is the personality I have so your just going to have to put up with it!
A person who is maturing in the grace of God will be a patient and forbearing person. This is someone who can take the long-term view, especially when things go wrong.
It is easy to see how Jesus was this way in His ministry, however, Peter displayed this quality as he followed Jesus in ministry. For example, in John 6 a great multitudes heard a sermon that they did not understand or appreciate. As a result, everyone left Jesus. But Peter said, “Where are we to go, you have the words of eternal life.”
The disciples often had to be patient in the process of growing in discipleship. Jesus often said to them, ‘You do not understand these things now, but one day you will.” Discipleship is not an easy process. I wonder how many people have lost patience and now they are not growing in their faith.
We have to persevere with patience in our marriages, in our families, at work, and at church. We are admonished here to endure and remain steadfast when we interact with others. God’s grace can help us to become a patient and forbearing person.
Finally, we are to do all of these things in love – agape. By a decision of our will we will display charity to our brothers and sisters in Christ. The older I get the more I realize that agape love is not something that we can cultivate apart from the grace of God. Even though the world speaks often of love they really have no ability to live up to that ideal apart from the grace of God.
Consider Luke 6:32-36 as we consider our need for the grace of God to produce these things. Jesus says, “If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. And ‘if you’ lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to get back the same amount. But love your enemies, and do good, ad lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for He is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.”
This week you may be given the opportunity to call upon God for the grace to be able to be humble, gentle, patient, forbearing and loving. I would suspect that we do not really need to wait for such an opportunity to pray for that kind of grace. You probably need this grace now!
Even now we can see that we need the grace of God to love someone because we have been offended. Even now, we need grace to be charitable to those brothers and sisters in Christ who we have viewed more as an enemy than a friend.
Let us consider the LORD who is kind to the ungrateful and to the evil. Let us consider Him who is merciful and patient and seek to act in accord with the call that we have received.
Will each and everyone of us pray that God will give us the grace to say from the heart with Martyn Lloyd-Jones, “These are my people, these are the people I belong to, and I am going to belong to them.”
It would be so frustrating if all God did was to command that we join a church and to get along with everyone. He has done so much more than that. He has given us His Spirit and filled our hearts with all the grace that we need to say, “These are my people, these are the people I belong to, and I am going to belong to them.” And when one has that attitude, the whole church is blessed. That persons family will be blessed. That persons community will be blessed. (Psalm 128)