Paul now shifts his attention to the new life the church has because of God’s saving grace and call to glorify Him by advancing the gospel. Today, we examine the way the church should act as they follow Jesus.
“I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”
Paul references the first three chapters. Because of God’s grace to us in Christ, because He has saved us from our sins, united us together by Christ, breaking down racial and social walls and has called us to glorify Him, and because God is able to do far more than we could ever ask or think….the church should be like Christ.
The call to be like Jesus all of a sudden looks like a given next to God’s work for us in Christ. Let’s examine what that looks like given Paul’s language in these first three verses.
“Walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called.” The “calling” Paul references is the calling to follow Jesus and live for Him. We will never live up to God’s expectations perfectly, but our desire is to do all we can to please God.
This means we care more about what God thinks than what our boss thinks. We care more about glorifying God than we care about being seen as popular or attractive or successful to our friends, coworkers, and even our families. As a single man, this is difficult to live out. I want to be married, and I’d honestly like that to come sooner rather than later. But Jesus calls me to be more concerned with being like Him than finding a wife.
We have an audience of one. We care what God thinks above all else.
We are also called to be humble and gentle, because Jesus is humble and gentle. He, though He is God incarnate, dies on the cross. He, though he is the King of Kings, washes sinners’ feet. How can we who benefit from His death and share in His life be anything less?
This means we are concerned with others who society would say is “less than us.” We care about the people on the side of the road. We care about drug addicts, victims of human trafficking, the orphaned, the abandoned. We understand that we are who we are by God’s grace, and we are not “above” anyone or any task.
Being gentle doesn’t come easy to me. I’m a Type A personality who often gets focused on tasks instead of people. God has done some serious work to change that, by reminding me that He is more concerned with me than He is my work, and I must be the same.
The church, then, while standing against sin, must be a place that sinners want to run to, not away from. We must agree with God’s Word, but that means condemning sin while offering grace in Christ to sinners who will trust Him in repentance and faith.
We are patient and bear with one another in love. The way we treat each other in the church is crucial. No one wants to join a church where people are grumbling, irritable and impatient. We are all sinners who have received salvation, but we’re still learning to live like it. So we must be patient as we encourage one another in Christ.
Paul tells the church to be “eager” in maintaining the unity of the Spirit. We’ve seen how the Spirit brings unity before, as the Spirit seals us in Christ (Eph. 1) and destroys the divide between Jew and Gentile, and other divisions, in Christ (Eph. 2). We cannot be so quick to abandon the unity we have in Christ. So, by the Spirit, we seek to be united.
This means we don’t get divided over things we ought not get divided over. We divide over the person and work of Christ. We divide on the inerrancy of God’s Word. We divide over salvation by grace alone through faith alone. But we cannot divide over worship styles, style of dress or what football team we cheer for. Those things (other than football) matter to an extent, but not enough to divide us.
We are bound by the blood of Jesus and God Himself in the Spirit—we cannot break those bonds without dishonoring God.
So what enables us to fulfill God’s command here?
We can do this because of who we are in Christ, and because we are united in Him.
We can be humble and gentle because Jesus is humble and gentle toward us. We can be patient because Jesus is patient with us. And we can maintain unity because God has made it possible in Christ.
“There is one body and one Spirit–just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call–one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.”
Paul gives further instruction here.
There is one body. We are all one in Christ. In the same way you hopefully wouldn’t do harm to your own body, you seek to help and build you the body of Christ. We are one, and we must move together.
There is one Spirit. We are not being led by eight different things, we are led by God Himself. We must walk by the Spirit together, and the Spirit equips us to do that.
We have one hope. We do not hope in presidents, or football, or jobs, but in the salvation found in Christ. Having the same hope brings us together for the same purpose: to trust Christ and glorify Him. We hope in His salvation and in His return, and we work for that end.
There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism: We follow Jesus. Paul talks about this issue in the first few chapters of 1 Corinthians, as the church is split over different leaders. Paul here says we have one leader, Jesus. We have one faith: Remember how we don’t divide? That’s because we are united in one faith. We hold to primary essentials to our faith because it binds us together. There is one baptism: The Bible calls us to be baptized to show our faith in and commitment to Christ. While there is difference in the modes of baptism (Baptists baptize by immersion, Methodists by sprinkling), there is one baptism of people who have trusted Christ showing that commitment by baptism.
God has called us together and made us together. We grow and change together. So let’s work together as the church to grow in Christlikeness and glorify God.
Lord, may the church be what you’ve called her to be. May we rest in your grace. May we trust in your will and pursue you. May we not be sidetracked by false hopes and false lords, but keep our eyes on you.