Sermon Notes • April 25

Ephesians 4:2 Characteristics of a Worthy Walk

Read Ephesians 2:1, Ephesians 2:4-5, and Ephesians 3:20-21 

“To Jesus be glory in the church throughout all generations, for ever and ever” is a message we need to always keep before us. Our individual lives as well as the activities of a church are intended to bring glory to the one who created us and then redeemed us when we sinned. Ephesians 4:1 reads, “I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.” 

Ephesians 4:2 is a transition. The chapter opened with a call to bring glory to God by the way we live. Verse 3 is a challenge to “Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.”  In verse 2 Paul listed some of the traits that characterize those seeking to bring glory to God will display but at the same time they are the characteristics essential to unity. Read Ephesians 4:2. Paul listed 4 characteristics that no matter where we are in our walk with Jesus, we can develop further. 

The first characteristic Paul listed was “Be completely humble.” The Greek word is made up of two parts that literally mean, “to think or judge with lowliness.” Many think Paul combined those words, coining a new word himself since there was no exact word for what Paul wanted to communicate in the Greek. There were some words that came close to it but they all carried the idea being mean or ignoble or a person of no repute. The Greeks not only did not have a word for humble, but they detested the very idea. To them it was unnatural to think of oneself in any way but with pride. Slaves were humble because they had no worth but everyone else was expected to be proud of who he was and what he had. The challenge to be humble sets the Christian apart from the world. Humility is a distinct Christian trait.

Not much has changed and probably will not as long as we live in a world temporarily controlled by Satan because he is all about himself. Our culture, just as that of ancient Greece and Rome did, pushes for that which corresponds to pride while minimizing and even disparaging of humility. People are supposed to be proud of themselves and what they have achieved. “Take pride in who you are and what you have done” is a theme of our culture. Winners are praised and losers looked upon as failures. And that attitude can find its way into the church where we brag that our church is larger or better than yours. Christians often think, even if they don’t say it out loud, I got more applause for my presentation than you did etc. 

Humility is a tough trait to define. The moment one declares “I’m humble and proud of it” one has forfeited it. It’s difficult to distinguish between satisfaction in a job well done and pride in what we have done. From a biblical perspective, in place of pride we should have thankfulness to the one who gifted us and enabled us to achieve. If all honor and glory are given to God, then it is difficult to take credit or be proud. Think often of what James was teaching us when he wrote in James 4:6, “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.”

Read I Corinthians 1:30-31 and Romans 12:3. 

For Christians, humility is at the heart of how we should view ourselves. Humility is seeing ourselves as God sees us, not as others see us and not even as we see ourselves. Humility is seeing ourselves not in comparison to others but in comparison to Jesus.

Humility was a characteristic of Jesus. Read Philippians 2:5-7.  Because Jesus is our example, it becomes essential that we seek to be humble like Him.  

Luke 9 details a discussion the disciples had among themselves as to who was the greatest. Jesus settled the argument by saying, according to verse 48b, “it is the one who is least among you all who is the greatest.”

The second characteristic of an individual who seeks to live worthy of all Jesus has done for them is “gentleness.”Many translations of that word render it “meekness.” Paul put “gentleness” or “meekness” together with humility because one cannot be both proud and meek at the same time.

Too often we associate “meekness” with weakness but in reality “meekness” or “gentleness”is power under control. “Gentleness”is self-control and is the opposite of flying off the handle or quickly becoming being angry. Once again, our example is Jesus. Read how He described Himself in Matthew 11:29 Meekness or gentleness does not mean we do not respond firmly to wrongs or injustice. The gentle Jesus turned tables upside down because the businessmen who were using them were robbing the people. Unlike Jesus, who could do that and not display a sense of pride, our firmness must always tempered with the realization that we too are sinners saved by grace and in no sense better than anyone else.

The Greek word that Paul used here had its primary use in describing a soothing medication that one would put on a sore to alleviate the pain or discomfort. It was also used to describe a soft, soothing wind, and in the training or domesticating of a wild animal. Paul used it in his second letter to Timothy to tell him that when he instructed those opposed him and the gospel that he must gently instruct them (II Timothy 2:25).

The third characteristic of one who is truly seeking to live worthy of our faith is patience. That word is sometimes translated as “longsuffering.” In I Corinthians 13:4 Paul described love as being patient. (In that same verse Paul added, “love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.” That covers most of the characteristics of walking worthy listed in Ephesians and walking worthy is a display of our love for Jesus.)

There is no area of life where more patience is not needed. 

If Paul had spelled patience out in more detail, I suspect he would have suggested we learn to count to 12 instead of 10, that we seek to develop a long fuse instead of a short one and maybe we learn to relax a little more in those circumstances that impact us negatively or when with people that annoy us. That should be the way every Christian is described. We are to have patience.

Paul’s final trait listed in Ephesians 4:2 that should characterize us when we are seeking to live worthy of all Jesus has done for us is “bearing with one another in love.” The Living Bible paraphrase translated this as “making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love.” The best explanation for that is the old acronym for JOY: Jesus first, Others second and You last. Bearing one another is taking the mixture of people we call church and making them truly family.

Paul’s challenge to, “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love” was his challenged the Christians in Ephesus because they were to live in a way that was worthy of the salvation Jesus provided and in living that way, they would bring glory to God and encourage a unity in the church that is essential for the world to see. It is the same for us today.