The Grace of God Changes the Church

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.

God bless,

Neal E.


The Grace of God Keeps Us Going

We’ve come to the end of Ephesians 3. Paul’s words in this chapter are all part of a sidebar for the apostle.

Ephesians 3 begins: “For this reason I, Paul, a prisoner for Christ on behalf of you Gentiles–”

Verses 2-13 are a sidebar, where Paul explains that the “reason” he mentioned, that being the inclusion of Gentiles in God’s plan of salvation, came as a result of God’s grace on him, an undeserving sinner, and that the church is called and equipped to take that message to the ends of the earth.

Now, Paul revisits that original statement in verse 14:

“For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named…”

Paul understands the Ephesians’ need to remember the “bigness” of the gospel. The gospel robs us of our self-righteousness, forces us to run to Christ for salvation and new life, and then says our enemies may also be saved in this way. Our enemies become our friends so we can go share the gospel with our enemies, all to the glory of the God who is now our Father. Woah.

So we see why Paul would pray to this great God that the Ephesians would remember all that He has done for them.

We are prone to forgetfulness. We forget who we are in Christ. We forget to treat others with the grace and mercy God shows us because we forget they are made in the image of God and are either our brothers/sisters in Christ, or they are in need of grace so they may become our brother or sister in Christ. We forget that we are forgiven and free, so we continue to sin. We forget that in Christ, God sees Him, not us, so we wallow in despair instead of worshiping our Redeemer.

Paul does not intend for this to happen at Ephesus. And we would be wise to not let it happen in our lives and in our churches. Remember the gospel. It will keep you going when times get tough.

“that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith…”

This passage highlights the work of the Trinity. God the Father strengthens us through God the Spirit so that God the Son may “dwell in our hearts through faith.”

The Spirit of God helps us and enables us to persevere in obedience. The goal of this strengthening is so Jesus may dwell in us. Now, Jesus dwells in us through His Spirit when we are saved. But as He bears fruit in our lives as we submit to Him, by the Spirit’s power, we grow in fellowship with God. We have more joy in God. We grow in holiness. And Jesus is glorified.

Seeing God’s work allows us to remember that our lives are not over when we stumble in sin or struggle through suffering. Seeing God’s work reminds us to keep moving.

So Paul prays that the people would persevere by seeing the work of God in their lives, by the power of the Spirit through the indwelling of the Son.

Paul also prays that they would be reminded of God’s love, as there is no maturity in the Christian life without the assurance of God’s love.

“that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with the fullness of God.”

Knowing the love of God leads to the fullness of God. As the Spirit strengthens us by God’s grace to live for God’s glory, and as Jesus dwells more richly, God consistently reminds us of His love for us and all that He has done for us. The gospel fuels good works, precisely because the gospel destroys our reliance on good works.

When you trust Jesus to save you and lead you, turning away from your self and sin, you are already forgiven and righteous, before any good works. But the Spirit of God reminds us of the love of God to call us to serve God by good works, out of love, not legalism.

Finally, Paul prays in remembrance of the truth that God is bigger than we are, and able to do amazing things.

“Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.”

God is not bound by our small prayers, so let’s pray big prayers. He’s not bound by those either. The God who overcame sin and the grave, and who plans to usher in a new kingdom that is free from sin and suffering is able to do what He wants to do in our lives, in ways we can’t even imagine.

Pray for the salvation of lost friends. Pray for victory over besetting, big sins. Pray for victory in memorizing large chunks of Scripture. Pray for deeper faith. And rest, knowing that God is able to do all this and more.

God’s grace not only saves us and unites us with those we normally wouldn’t associate with, but strengthens us to obey Him, to honor Him, and to remember His love that we may love Him all the more. Praise God!

Lord, may we remember your love. May we not forget the power of the gospel. May Christ dwell in our hearts richly through faith, that you may be honored, that we may be reminded to move forward in our walk with you, that people may be saved. May you do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think.

God bless,

Neal E.