Some popular/favorite movies have been stories from a prison.
- Shawshank Redemption (Morgan Freeman)
- The Fugitive (Harrison Ford)
- The Green Mile (Tom Hanks)
- Escape From Alcatraz (Clint Eastwood)
- Cool Hand Luke (Paul Newman)
Personally, I have only been in prison3x (Leonardtown, Annapolis, Glen Burnie)… to visit others of course. Each time is always a little nervous:
- Like enduring TSA checks, what do I have on me that I’m not supposed?
- What happens if there is a jail break?
- Sadness and heartache for the person you’re visiting.
Paul is writing this letter of Ephesians from a prison cell.
- Paul was a prisoner the day he was blinded and bowed to Jesus.
- When in prison, not much else to do but think, pray, and write.
- Prison changes you. Social researchers say few prisoners are unchanged and unscathed by their experiences.
- Paul believed prison was God’s will and way to create in him a greater sense of urgency for the spread of the gospel.
- Today’s passage will explore how the gospel changes us as prisoners for the Lord.
EXAMINE Ephesians 4:1-16 / The Gospel lives
In light of gospel rioting, awakening and reconciling us to the Lord… now what. Ephesians moves from theology to practice, from doctrine to duty.
- BTW, too many Christians seek Bible studies for increasing information but no transformation. We have become educated beyond our obedience… Learn it – Live it – Give it!
The gospel calls us to integrity (Eph 4:1-6).
Paul gives a single command with four expressions.
Walk worthy of the calling
The Greek word for “worthy” is ἀξίως, where we gain our English word axiom. An axiom is an established true statement or principle. In mathematics, an axiom indicates an equal action on both sides of an equation. So, Paul is saying we should live in equal reflection to the value of God’s glory and grace through Jesus. All this is in light of salvation not earned by works that no one may boast, but effecting good works (Eph 2:8-10).
Illus: Johnny Hunt tells his testimony as alcoholic and pool shark, but getting saved. Immediately he evangelizes his friends. One friend tells Johnny that he was already saved. Johnny responds, “No you aren’t, because if you were you would be living differently, and further would have told me about the forgiveness offered by Jesus.” The Christian life is one of integrity before God – matching the words of our lips with the witness of our life. We are to be like the man who said, “Christ has done so much for me, the rest of my life is a P.S. to his great work!”
Christianity is a calling. The notion of calling can be confusing but described in three categories:
- Calling of Conviction: Every person’s calling is in their purpose to know and call upon God for salvation (cf Gen 4:26; Rom 10:9-10).
- Calling of Character: When a person or item is named, it is called or named according to its purpose. God “called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night” (Gen 1:5). Adam “called his wife’s name Eve, because she was the mother of all living” (Gen 2:23; 3:20). Antioch was the place followers of Jesus were first called Christians (Acts 11:26). Calling and naming reflects one’s identity.
- Calling of Commission: God calls individuals for certain tasks. He commissions them for a specific role to accomplish for His glory. Examples include Moses to lead Israel out of slavery (Ex 3:4), Bezalel for the art and architecture in the tabernacle (Ex 31:2), Disciples (Mark 3:13-14), Paul and other missionaries (Acts 13:2; 1Cor 9:16), Singlehood (1Cor 7:17-24), etc. Obedience to God’s calling of commission is the vocation context a person is carrying out Jesus’ Great Commission of making disciples.
Worthy with humility. Humility wasn’t valued in 1st C, and in many cases isn’t today. Humility was/is viewed as weak, and not able to work to achieve success. Yet, for Christians, humility is not only praised but expected because it reflects the character of Jesus (Php 2:4-10). Another classic example is John the Baptizer, who believed he was unworthy to untie the sandals of Jesus (John 1:27); and prayed “He must increase, I must decrease” (John 3:30).
- We walk worthy with humility so we can serve others rather than be selfish. We can do this through looking unto Jesus (not worldly leaders & celebs) and listening to others (cf. James 1:19).
- Washing feet may not be a specific action commanded by Jesus but it is a specific attitude commanded.
Worthy with gentleness. Meekness is the exercising of humility. The word is used of wild animals that are tamed; such an animal maintains its strength but is under control of its master. The meek person is confident in their identity that they don’t have to rush to self-defense, but trusts God for protection. Consider Jesus, who when soldiers sought to arrest Him and Peter drew his sword, responded, “Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels?” (Mat 26:53)
- We walk worthy with gentleness because people need the grace that God extends to us. We can do this through looking unto Jesus and treating others as we want to be treated (Mat 7:12).
- View others as “Fragile! Handle with care.”
Worthy with patience. The old English word is long-suffering or slow to anger, implying a long endurance. God is patient with us in not giving us what we deserve (merciful) but giving us what we don’t deserve (grace).
- We walk worthy with patience because we are not perfect to judge or condemn others. We can do this through looking unto Jesus (Psalm 103:8) and adding affirmation with every critique with others.
Worthy bearing with one another in love. Caring for others involves empathy to see from varying perspectives and extending abundant grace. This language in NT is often in context of exhorting persons in midst of sin (cf. Gal 6:1-2; Heb 3:12-14; James 5:16).
- We walk worthy bearing in love because it’s what we all need to persevere in life and relationships. We grow in bearing love by believing the good we want to see in others; our relationships and circumstances are often a reflection of our own investments.
The aim of walking worthy in this manner is to “maintain the unity of the Spirit.” Gospel unity does not need to be manufactured but maintained, because Jesus already established unity through the cross and resurrection (Eph 2:14-22). Paul further describes unity seven-fold:
- One body: Paul’s reference to the reconciliation of races as part of the same church family (Eph 2:16).
- One Spirit: Paul’s reference to the refining and refreshing role of God’s Spirit.
- One hope: refers to our longing for overcoming hate and division, waiting for heaven’s perfect harmony.
- One Lord: refers to our Master whom we must give an account.
- One faith: refers to our common bond of grace through faith.
- One baptism: refers to gospel providing forgiveness and fresh starts.
- One God and Father: refers to our Creator, who makes us all gloriously different.
Integrity is often defined as doing the right thing even when no one else knows; it’s inconvenient but worth it.
- If we are to walk worthy, we must do so in the bond of peace with others.
The gospel calls us to influence (Eph 4:7-16).
Paul expands on how Christians are to maintain unity, not just through integrity but also through their influence.
“But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift” (Eph 4:7).
Each believer – male and female, old and young, every race, has a grace gift from Jesus Christ. It’s like a Christmas present every day. Or, for parents, it’s like the day of birth for your child: you are happy but apprehensive; it’s an unforgettable experience, and all the responsibility and work has just begun. You have the privilege and pains of raising the child, learning how to maximize the child’s potential and see him/her blossom into the fullness of all they were created to be. Similarly, Jesus has put His Spirit into us to labor and love us to the fullness of His expectations (cf. Gal 4:19).
The diversity of gifts enriches the unity of the whole because not all believers have the same gift abilities or allotment of gifts (cf. 1Cor 12:4, 11; Rom 12:6). To note, the grace gifts are for the purpose of mission not selfishness.
à Influence increases with input. When we avoid accountability & feedback we miss our influence (Prov 9:8)
Paul quotes Ps 68:18 referencing the ascension of a victorious king returning from battle and bringing the spoils from war. So, our war with evil has been won in Christ, and as we continue the smaller battles, the weapons we use are exercising our spiritual gifts. Some of the gifts Christ has given are “apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherd-teachers” for the purposes of
- Equipping the saints for the work of ministry
καταρτισμός / katartismos = word means to restore something to its original condition; used for resetting of a bone (MacArthur) or refitting of a ship (Vincents).
- Equip with apprentices at every level.
- For building up the body for work of ministry.
διακονίας / diakonias = service.
- Attaining unity of the faith and knowledge of the Son of God to maturity…
- No longer children
- Not tossed to and fro by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine
- Speaking truth in love
- Grow up into Christ
In sum, Christian unity is shared mission (work of ministry), shared relationships (building up body), and shared hope (maturity in Christ). These are all seen in the early church (cf. Acts 2:42-47). Believing the gospel requires you to participate with the church of Jesus Christ. But too often we have a faulty view of God’s church. Some reasons why people don’t participate with the church:
- Ignorance: Viewing church as property but not understanding its impact on people; ignorant because they have never been taught.
- Indecisive: Viewing church as buffet and variety shop multiple churches for meeting your preferences. Staff and programs are only meant to make you happy or serve but not equip you to be a participant. You stay in the audience and never become part of the army. They give the least but expect the most.
- Indifferent: Lukewarm mindset – take it or leave it, isolationist mindset.
- Nov 25 / 28 Membership Orientations…
Depth of Christian integrity (character) and influence (impact) doesn’t start at 8 or 9 on way to 10. Some are starting at 0, and many others are 1-5. They key is to start where you are. Where are you?
 Peter O’Brien, The Pillar NT Commentary: Ephesians 4:7.