Whenever I preach or teach, I don’t like to spend time explaining what the Bible isn’t saying. I usually have a time limit or a word count, so I try to get right to the heart of the message. But there are some instances when I have no choice.
Here is one of those instances: "I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called..." (Ephesians 4:1)
Unfortunately, I think we have misunderstood and mishandled this passage. The common theme is, "It’s your job to live up to the standard of the Gospel." Once I heard someone basically preach, "Get your act together. If you don’t, you’ll bring shame to the name of Jesus."
If that’s the message of this verse, we’re in trouble. You and I have no ability to walk in a manner worthy of the Gospel. If you think you do, you’ve underestimated the power of indwelling sin.
A LIFE-CHANGING DISTINCTION
Don’t get me wrong – I firmly believe that the Bible calls us out of sin and into a radically transformed lifestyle of righteousness. We’re no longer free to do as our sinful hearts desire. We’ve been bought with a price and are called to glorify God with our actions (1 Corinthians 6:20).
That being said, the flow of Ephesians is not to "live up to" the Gospel, but rather "live out of" the Gospel. It’s an incredibly important distinction.
Instead of saying "Here’s the standard…now live UP TO IT" the Apostle Paul encourages the believer to "live OUT OF" the Gospel through the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit.
A few verses prior to 4:1, Paul says "according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being." (Eph. 3:16). In other words, because you've been strengthened by the Spirit, you can now live in a new and different way.
It doesn’t matter what command the Apostle Paul gives next. Because your inner being has been strengthened with power through the Holy Spirit, whatever the call to righteous living is, you have the ability to live it out.
You see, you're never left alone. You can say, “For ______ [insert your specific struggle], Jesus died. For ________, the Spirit has indwelt me. For ______, the power of God is available to me.” It doesn't matter what you fill in the blank with. You won't be alone.
The Bible never promises that it will be easy, but you can walk forward with courage and confidence because you know that Jesus is with you, Jesus is for you, and Jesus is in you. There's grace for your struggle.
FOR FURTHER HELP AND STUDY
Over the next five weeks, I’m going to examine the five commands that Paul gives in Ephesians 4:2-3: humility, gentleness, patience, forbearance, and unity.
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