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. 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.”
After wading through the deep theology of Ephesians 1-3, the first few verses of chapter 4 might feel like a welcome break. We have been struggling to understand the “mystery of Christ hidden for ages.” Now, Paul is urging us to “walk,” and giving us guidelines: Humility. Gentleness. Patience.
“At last! Here is what I am supposed to do!” we might say.
But wait! Before we set out with these marching orders, let’s make sure we know where we’re going. This call to be worthy of the gospel isn’t a command to measure up to a standard of behavior. God does not want something from us, but for us. This call to be worthy of the gospel is a command for enjoyment. We are invited to treasure a gift from our Father: to receive, steward, and take delight in all he has given us in Christ.
Paul described this gift in chapters 1 through 3. God’s plan for the fullness of time was to unite all things in Christ. This included us, who were dead and separated from God and one another.
What’s incredible is that Paul speaks of God’s plan in the past tense, as already accomplished (3:11). In Christ, we have become God’s “glorious inheritance” (1:18).
Now, God is at work to bring his treasure to light, to perfect and reveal its multifaceted beauty to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. God is doing something glorious in his church! This knowledge of who we are in Christ empowers us to obey God’s commands.
We obey with humility, the appropriate posture for those who once were “children of wrath.” We stand in awe of the fact that we have been adopted by the Father. Pride would keep us focused on ourselves, but humility reorients our vision, allowing us to enjoy the beautiful work God is doing in those around us. Humility frees us to serve one another because we desire to see the church built together into a dwelling place for God. (2:22)
We are gentle with one another in the same way we would handle a priceless, fragile gift. Our unity in Christ is something precious to be treasured. We want to steward this well. This stewardship is also the reason for our patience. Our human, natural reaction is to break fellowship with or simply neglect those who burden us, whether they irritate us through personality differences or weigh us down with overwhelming needs and pain. But God has made all of us—even those we find most difficult to love—into a temple, the body of Christ. As we endure the friction of relationships, as we bear one another’s burdens, God is bringing out the image of Christ in us. Therefore, we should be eager to “maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” We want to see God’s dwelling place revealed!
Perhaps most important to our understanding is the word Paul uses in verses 1 and 4. The same Greek word, klesis, is translated as “calling” and “call.” We might think of a “calling” in terms of a job to do, but this is not what Paul means—and it is not what God means for us, either. Klesis means an invitation. It carries the idea of being called by name. Our calling, our vocation, is not a set of duties to perform. It is a generous welcome addressed to us personally.
Our calling is an invitation to know the breadth and length and height and depth and the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge
It is a welcome into the glory of the dwelling place of God, and, as Paul says in verse 4, it comes with hope. God has accomplished his eternal purpose in Christ, and is displaying it in triumph over his enemies. We will fail in our pursuit of unity, but he will do it. He has done it.
Because of this, we can obey him not out of fear, but from joy. We can be humble, gentle, and patient with one another, not under compulsion, but from abundant hope. We have been invited. The King has called us in to join him at the feast. This is the calling of the gospel, the beautiful, generous welcome that Paul desires the Ephesians to know, and that our Father speaks to us, again and again, through his Word.