Ephesians 4:1 Live a life worthy of your calling!
Today we begin the second half of Paul’s letter to the church in Ephesus. Chapters 1-3 examined the theology of being a Christian. Read Ephesians 2:1; 2:4-5 to see what we were and what we have become in Jesus. Paul presented the glories of our redemption and one might think that was a good place to stop. Paul’s message, however, did not stop there because the message of the New Testament is not just about what God has done for us but includes what God wants us to do in return. Ephesians 3:1 includes the words “then, I urge you.” “Then” is the equilivent of the word “therefore” that we have seen often in Paul’s writing. It is a word that denotes that what is about to be said is based on what has already been presented. If the first 3 chapters detail all God has done for us, Ephesians 4-6 detail what our response to that should be. In a sense this reads, “Now that I have told you all that God has done for you, let me tell you what He expects of you in return.”
Read Ephesians 3:1. Paul began his appeal by noting that he was “a prisoner for the Lord.” Paul described himself that way in the opening verse of chapter 3. The interesting thing about the way Paul wrote that is that it expressed 2 different ideas, both important to Paul. Paul saw himself as both a prisoner of and a prisoner because of Jesus.
Paul was a prisoner of Jesus because he had totally committed himself to Him as a bond slave or servant so that his whole life was wrapped up in what Jesus wanted him to do. In addition, he was literally a prisoner in Rome because of his outspoken testimony to who Jesus was and what Jesus offers to mankind. It is that second aspect of his self-description that is important to his plea that Christians “live a life worthy of the calling.” Paul did not describe himself as a prisoner in Rome to either brag or gain sympathy but to point out a reality of seeking to “live a life worthy of the calling.” While the Christian life can be characterized asone whereby we enjoy the riches God showers upon us, it is also a demanding life that can bring with it a cost.
Paul was expressing the idea that following Jesus, while leading to an eternity of blessings, is at the same time demanding. For Paul 2000 years ago the challenge was and always will be to, as Paul wrote in Ephesians 4:1, “live a life worthy of the calling.” Paul knew that following Jesus can and probably always will be costly, but it is the life God wants us to live.
Notice that Paul did not suggest that as Christians we “live a life worthy of the calling” but he urged us to. Paul was literally begging his readers to live what they believe. The word and tense he used for urge implies intense feeling or a strong desire. Paul was about to set forth God’s standard of living. He was not giving us the option of take it or leave it but was insisting it was the standard expected of everyone who calls him or herself a Christian.
The responsibility of every believer is to challenge one another and certainly the challenge of every parent and grandparent to challenge their children. That challenge needs to go forth in a loving way, but it must be continually stressed.
The phrase “live a life” speaks for itself. Many translations use the word “walk” which in the New Testament always meant one’s daily life. In Ephesians Paul used the same word or “live” twice and in so doing noted the options we have. In Ephesians 2:2 he described our lives before we became believers and the way we “used to live when you followed the ways of this world.” Here in Ephesians 4 Paul used the word “live” to describe the way we are to behave as believers.
Think about what makes up life. Life is made up of a wide variety of parts ranging from our relationships to our work. Life is certainly what we do on Sunday morning, but it is also what we do on Saturday night. Life includes what we do for work, but it also includes how we interact with those we work with. Life consists of going out to eat but, life also consists of how we treat the waitress who serves us. Life includes how we relax, but it also includes what we watch and read. Life includes the opinions and commitments we have but life also includes how we treat those who differ with us. Life is made up of every detail of our daily existence. Life is action and attitude and even inactivity. Every part of every day is life.
Some parts of life are exciting, some of it mundane. Some of life is filled with blessings and some of life consists of hard times and losses. It is all life and every part of it should be lived in a way that is worthy of our relationship with Jesus.
When Paul wrote that we should seek to live a life worthy of our calling he used a word that seems to have lost its original meaning. The word Paul used was commonly used to describe scales that were used to weighed something out. These days we seldom use scales in everyday life, depending instead on everything being properly weighed out in advance with the weight properly listed on the product. In Paul’s day everyone had some sort of home scale used all the time to measure things. The weight on one side was to balance the product on the other side. Paul was urging the Christians to be sure their practice balanced their theology.
Of course, God doesn’t determine our eternal destiny by how our good balances out against our sins. God tipped the scales when He took all our sins and balanced them out with His death on the Cross so when we accept Jesus as Savior we are seen as redeemed.
As wrong as we know the thinking of our good balancing our wrong, we often fall for the lie that somehow that is how it works. Satan loves to tell us that is the way God views us. Satan says, “Ok, maybe you shouldn’t be doing that but, overall, you are trying and doing just fine. Most of the time you are kind to people so blowing up once in a while is understandable.” Know what that is? That’s suggesting that scales are important so what you put on one side is not important so long as the other side balances properly.
The picture Paul presents here is that there is a scale identified as “living worthy” but what we are to put on one side is all God has done for us, what he referred to as “the calling you have received.” On the other side we are to put the way we live “life.” Obviously, we can never equal or balance out the blessings we have received from God by the things we do, which is why Paul stresses the importance of grace. Our inability to balance out the life we live, and the blessings of God, does not negate our responsibility to recognize our responsibility to do all we can to balance them as closely as possible.
We are to do that because of “the calling you have received.” The word “calling” is in the passive tense in Greek, which simply means that we had nothing to do with it. Our “calling” was all God’s work, a truth we have noted several times already in this letter. Since God has called us unto Himself, He has the right to determine how we should live.
Paul’s letter to the Ephesians begins with the note that we have been called to be holy (1:1), truth repeated 3 more times in that 1st chapter (4, 12, 14). We have been called to be set aside as different for God and chapters 4-6 detail what that holy life should look like.
In Ephesians 1:18 we are told that we have been called to a “hope,” a hope described in that same verse as knowing “the riches of his glorious inheritance.” In Ephesians 2:20 we are told that we have been called to be “fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household.” Because we know the one in whom we believe and because we know He has redeemed us to spend eternity with Him, we have an assurance and peace the world can never know. Because we know we belong to a new family and a new community of believers we should want to behave in so far as possible the way that honors both being in the family of God and members of His church.
That’s Paul’s challenge to each of us as believers.