Do you believe God is who He says He is? How can you be assured of your eternity with Him without believing what He has said about Himself and you? When we try to explain God’s ways through human reason, we often are confronted by Scriptures that seem contradictory or are opposed to common sense; and, yet are true. From where we stand in the forest of life, we think something is either one way or another. From the heights of God’s throne, we haven’t even begun to conceive all the factors involved in bringing Christ’s bride home. It started in the garden, picked up speed at Christ’s first coming, and now as we celebrate Christmas with the world’s many issues, we look to His next appearing.
Press the play button to listen.
This study on how to walk worthy of the LORD’s calling is outlined as follows:
- Resolve that Sovereignty Determines, Permits, and Intervenes
- Maintain the Unity of the Spirit Within the Church through Peace (Ephesians 4:1 to 6);
- Recognize God Predestined Diversity (Ephesians 4:7 to 16);
- Yield to the Holy Spirit Who Has Equipped us To Love Each Other (Ephesians 4:17 to 29)
- Do Not Grieve the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 4:30 to 32). If you read nothing else in this blog, please read this last section.
Please do not blindly accept what I have observed. Search Scripture for yourself and pray. The Holy Spirit will guide you. We are each responsible to know what we believe and why. And with that, let’s get started with our first point.
Resolve that Sovereignty Determines, Permits, and Intervenes
Our LORD paid the price for the penalty of sin for all of humanity (once and for all); and, He has called many to repent and enter the kingdom of Heaven. But only those who walk worthy of His calling, are the ones who are chosen to enter the kingdom of God and His Christ at the end of the ages when Christ hands the perfected kingdom of heaven to His Father (1st Corinthians 15:24 and 28; Revelation 21:7 to 8).
Ephesians 4 begins the application portion of Paul’s letter to the church at Ephesus (which later was warned by Christ to repent and return to their first love or else…). In essence, chapters 4 to 6 help us understand how to ensure we possess what we profess. To put it bluntly, I can say I am thin and muscular repeatedly all day long, but until I maintain a lifestyle that achieves this state of being, I am merely talking the talk, but not walking the talk. There is a reason Scripture says:
- Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your (1) call and (2) election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble; for so an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. (2nd Peter 1:10 to 11)
The good news is that the Sovereign God of the universe is ultimately in control (Colossians 1:15 to 17, Daniel 4:35) although our limited view of reality and eternity cannot understand why He permits evil to accomplish that which is eternally good. Remember, everything’s continuance is based on God’s allowance. God’s Word teaches that He works all things according to the counsel of His will (Ephesians 1:11) which includes the evil that He DOES NOT originate. In His righteousness, He has permitted various “rulers” to have the dominion and authority of the earth and its atmosphere (within the confines of His plan) to bring about redemption (1st Corinthians 2:7 to 8) which was foreseen before creating humanity. It would be unrighteous for Him to usurp what humanity has chosen since He gave them the right to choose. But our Sovereign God intervenes when corrective action is necessary just as He did when God gave Christ the Revelation to show His servants, including the warnings to the Church at Ephesus (Revelation 2).
Just as control and latitude can be misunderstood, it is easy to overlook the distinctions between calling and election. Jesus said many are called but few are chosen (Matthew 22:14). The election of God is based on His foreknowledge (Romans 8:29); and, since we do not have foreknowledge, it is incumbent on anyone who wants eternal life in the kingdom of God to ensure full cooperation with the Holy Spirit who is completing in us the sanctification process (perfecting us, making us holy). God has already seen who will finish the race; and, He has sealed (or marked) us with the Holy Spirit.
- Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. (1st Corinthians 9:24 to 25 New International Version)
Here is the question we should ask ourselves: “If racing against mere men makes you tired, how will you race against horses? If you stumble and fall on open ground, what will you do in the thickets …? (Jeremiah 12:5 New Living Translation).
Here’s the first thing Paul tells us to do.
Maintain the Unity of the Spirit Within the Church through Peace (Ephesians 4:1 to 6)
- I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all. (Ephesians 4:1 to 6)
Let’s start by considering the main concept of these 6 verses.
- Firstly, this passage starts with the conjunctive adverb “therefore”. This joins the concept of the “revealed mystery” in chapter 3 to these verses.
- Secondly, the word “one” appears 7 times: one another; one body; one Spirit; one hope; one Lord; one baptism; and, one God. This suggests that while there is more than one person involved implicated in the term “one another”, there is unity through what is shared.
- Thirdly, the word “all” appears 4 times: Father of all; above all; through all; and in you all. The commonality shared between the individuals is God who originated new birth in them, flows in and through them, and is Sovereign over all.
- Finally, there is the instruction to walk worthy by continually applying certain qualities that we’ll explore later.
Because of all that Christ has done from the foundation of the world (including being the perfect willing sacrifice; quickening us to new birth; and, joining us to Himself and each other as a dwelling place for God) we are to walk worthy of this calling by treating each other in a way that maintains peace; peace with the Spirit and peace with each other.
Now, if the Holy Spirit is dwelling within you, and since He loves the other believer as much as He loves you, then He longs for each believer to have peace with each other; He is grieved when this is not the case. He doesn’t require sameness especially because the Godhead created diversity. He does however expect us to agree with His Word and therefore be united by Him based on Him.
Why would any Christian want to grieve the One who is our mark of salvation, our access, our guarantee, our revelation, our wisdom, and the One who is knitting us together? Why would we want to grieve the One who changed us, and is still guiding us?
I don’t know any true Christian that wants to insult our LORD, but I do know plenty who do not realize that this is exactly what we are doing when we do not have peace with those He has chosen.
Have you noticed that if you are at odds with another believer, you are troubled? I have had to work this out and I am certain that I will be matured by the Holy Spirit in this area increasingly. There can be many reasons for offence and in fact, Jesus said:
- … “It is impossible that no offenses should come, but woe to him through whom they do come! … “Take heed to yourselves. If your brother sins against you, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him. “And if he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times in a day returns to you, saying, ‘I repent,’ you shall forgive him.” (Luke 17:1 to 4)
In the book of Matthew, Peter asked our LORD how often should a believer forgive those who sin against them? Jesus responded with that parable of the unjust servant who was forgiven his debts but was unwilling to forgive another. Jesus ended this teaching this way:
- “Then his master, after he had called him, said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you begged me. ‘Should you not also have had compassion on your fellow servant, just as I had pity on you?’ “And his master was angry, and delivered him to the torturers until he should pay all that was due to him. “So My heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses.” (Matthew 18:32 to 35)
Jesus did not address what the offence was, nor did He qualify and quantify it. He simply stated, that we must forgive from our heart all trespasses, just as we were forgiven a debt we could never pay. This can be quite difficult because there are some horrific things people can do to each other. Since God is omniscient, He already knows all of our days, all of our sorrows, and He also knows what it will take to bring His child home. He knew the sum of our depravity before any of our days began and He knew what our journey of reconciliation to Him would include. Scripture says:
- You number my wanderings; Put my tears into Your bottle; Are they not in Your book? (Psalm 56:8)
- Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed. And in Your book they all were written, the days fashioned for me, when as yet there were none of them. (Psalm 139:16)
Regardless of everything that we have done and will do; and, regardless of everything that others do to us (whether intentionally or unintentionally), the word “therefore” in Ephesians 4:1 tells us to walk worthy of the calling because of what Christ has done, because of what the Holy Spirit is doing, and because of what God has promised.
Let’s take a look at the words “walk worthy” and “calling” to see what we can glean:
Peripatéō is the Greek word used for the saying “walk worthy”. It means to regulate one’s life, conduct one’s self, or pass one’s life in a certain manner. This term was used commonly by Paul and John and it is a Greek term for Hebraism used to describe a way of life.
- When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the LORD appeared to Abram and said to him, “I am Almighty God; walk before Me and be blameless. (Genesis 17:1)
In the books of John, 1st John, and Revelation it is used to express the following concepts:
- to make one’s way, make progress
- to make due use of opportunities
In the letter to the Colossians, it is stated this way:
- …walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; (Colossians 1:10).
In the letter to the Philippians, we understand that walking worthy is a willed action; one of determination.
- Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ, … that you stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel, (Philippians 1:27).
Let’s move on to the next term.
Klēsis is the Greek word that is transliterated as “calling”. Thayer’s Greek Lexicon states that the calling is “the divine invitation to embrace salvation in the kingdom of God, which is made especially through the preaching of the gospel”. Pertaining to Ephesians 4:1, it also states: “ is used of one whom God declares worthy of the calling which He has commanded to be given him, and therefore fit to obtain the blessings promised in the call”. In the King James Version, the word “vocation” is used.
It would seem that the calling is both (1) a privilege, and (2) a responsibility that requires an ongoing level of fitness or endurance to enjoy full benefits. Implicit in this are the actions required to remain strong.
- I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:14)
Therefore, walking worthy of the calling means that it should be our practice to make use of every opportunity to progress in the act of fruitfully embracing the kingdom of God.
What is the kingdom of God?
- … the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. (Romans 14:17);
- For the kingdom of God is not in word but in power. (1st Corinthians 4:20).
Righteousness, peace, joy and power (or might) are attributes of the kingdom of God that come only through acceptance of the good news of Jesus Christ’s fulfillment of prophecy (which was His birth, burial, death, and resurrection). And, it comes with an ambassador’s job is to fight the good fight of faith, endure, and witness.
- For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes…. (Romans 1:16);
- For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ, (2nd Corinthians 10:4 to 5);
- But you… pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, gentleness. Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, to which you were also called and have confessed the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. I urge you in the sight of God who gives life to all things, and before Christ Jesus who witnessed the good confession before Pontius Pilate, that you keep this commandment without spot, blameless until our Lord Jesus Christ’s appearing, which He will manifest in His own time, He who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone has immortality, dwelling in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see, to whom be honor and everlasting power. Amen. 1st Timothy 6:11 to 16.
Ephesians 4:2 to 3 tells us that when we: (1)humble ourselves; (2) keep the peace in the body (or avoid actions that cause disturbances); and, (3) are longsuffering with each other in love, we are walking worthy of our calling.
The LORD does not expect us to be successful where He has not equipped us. In fact, Jesus said that without Him we could do nothing (John 15:5). So, if His Word instructs us to do these things, then certainly He has armed us to be able to do so.
It is the Holy Spirit within us that gives us the power to abide in righteousness, peace, and joy. He is the one that produces the fruit when we yield to Him. Let’s take a look at cross-references.
- But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control…. (Galatians 5:22 to 23);
- Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. (Galatians 6:2)
- And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful. (Colossians 3:15);
- We then who are strong ought to bear with the scruples of the weak, and not to please ourselves. (Romans 15:1);
- Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do. But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection. (Colossians 3:12 to 14).
We typically quote the following passage at weddings, but we ought to remind ourselves that this is how God expects us to treat our siblings in Christ regardless of circumstances and differences. Now consider your local body, or even think about what you might be seeing through the internet. Ask yourself whether we are operating in love as defined by Scripture; and, consider what you are willing to change to do your job before God.
- Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails. But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away. … And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love. (1st Corinthians 13:4 to 8 and 13).
We are to put on love. It is a decision to treat each other this way even when we have been hurt, rejected, offended, or wronged.
How many Christians are treating each other poorly because of doctrinal differences? We know that God does not want the church to: (1) compromise the Word of God to be acceptable to the world; (2) tolerate immorality within His Church; and, (3) allow false doctrine. We do this if we turn a blind eye to sin in the church and avoid correction or confrontation; failure to act according to God’s Word is to embrace the world’s advance. God wants us to deal with these things within the Church!
- I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom: Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables. But you be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry. (2nd Timothy 4:1 to 5)
Now, how we do things is important! If we are to speak the TRUTH IN LOVE, we are to be confident in the Word and unwavering WHILE being kind, respectful, and patient.
We are to do it in such a way that does not war with other believers; not with flesh and blood. The next time there is a disturbance in the peace of the body of Christ, we need to pray something like this:
“LORD, I need your help to humble my thoughts and emotions, to obey the higher law of love. Help me to see my sibling as the chosen vessel of your love that I will spend eternity with. Help me to love them through this and to keep my peace. I need your strength and wisdom. And I surrender my fleshly desires to judge and punish them because I am not worthy to do so for you have forgiven my debts. Help me to see my actions from my sibling’s viewpoint. Give me wisdom on how to address this situation in all unwavering truth in the spirit of love.”
Now, I haven’t perfected this and believe that every single Christian has an opportunity to grow here.
Some err by avoiding confrontation and others have difficulty delivering truth in a peaceable manner. No two individuals are the same; and, communication is like art which is being received through varying interpretations. This is why it is important to be able to respond to a believer with Scripture which is also a good check for us. ((Hebrews 4:12; Colossians 3:16)
We need to allow the Word of God and the Holy Spirit to do the sanctification work. It’s not our job. Our job is to be humble, gentle, patient, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to keep the bond of peace while sharing the gospel. (Colossians 3:12 to 17 and Colossians 4:16).
With this said, please note that being gentle is an exercise of constraining one’s strength; it does not mean weakness nor passivity. Self-control is strength. Being humble does not mean lacking confidence; it means having the right perspective of oneself in relation to God.
Strong and bold Peter had been shown the grace of God and was called back into fellowship after he betrayed Christ. He later was corrected by the LORD about judging others so that He could become a defender of the grace of God that enables people to live righteously through the empowerment of the Holy Spirit. Peter said:
- “But the voice answered me again from heaven, ‘What God has cleansed you must not call common.’ (Acts 11:9).
Can our desire to be holy before the LORD cause us to treat other believers as common? If someone believes Jesus Christ is the risen Son of God and has confessed Him as LORD, they are in the process of being made Holy; and, only God knows the end of their journey. We may only be witnessing a tree budding with very little fruit; or, we may be observing a tree that has just been pruned. (John 15:2; Ephesians 2:8 to 9; 1st Corinthians 12:12; Ephesians 4:4 to 5)
Family of God, while there must be a change with the one who has accepted the LORD as their personal Saviour, let us not presume we have to right to judge God’s family or His election based on differences or time. I am asking the LORD to remind me of His parable of the workers in the vineyard because I do not want to be evil by judging my Saviour’s choosing and rewarding. Jesus said:
- ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong. Did you not agree with me for a denarius? ‘Take what is yours and go your way. I wish to give to this last man the same as to you. ‘Is it not lawful for me to do what I wish with my own things? Or is your eye evil because I am good?’ “So the last will be first, and the first last. For many are called, but few chosen.” (Matthew 20:13 to 16)
The next point is
Recognize God Predestined Diversity (Ephesians 4:7 to 16)
We frequently celebrate our individuality and long for everyone in the Church to celebrate diversity; but, at the same time frown upon various parts of the body that operate in another way or even interpret the application of Scripture differently.
If God determined the appointed times of my birth, dwelling places, salvation, and individuals in my life, certainly I must accept that He did so for each of the elect. He is more than capable of opening and closing any door.
It is written:
- “God… does not dwell in temples made with hands. “Nor is He worshiped with men’s hands, as though He needed anything, since He gives to all life, breath, and all things. “And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings, “so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; “for in Him we live and move and have our being, …”Therefore, since we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is… something shaped by art and man’s devising. “Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent, “because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead.” (Acts 17:24 to 31)
God raised the Son of Man, Jesus Christ, from the dead after fulfilling prophecy to assure us that everything Jesus taught was true. Jesus taught:
- … “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me. (John 14:6);
- “And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” (John 8:32);
- “A little while longer and the world will see Me no more, but you will see Me. Because I live, you will live also. (John 14:19);
- “Most assuredly, I say to you, the hour is coming, and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God; and those who hear will live. “For as the Father has life in Himself, so He has granted the Son to have life in Himself, “and has given Him authority to execute judgment also, because He is the Son of Man. “Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice “and come forth, those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation. (John 5:25 to 29);
- “Most assuredly, I say to you, if anyone keeps My word he shall never see death.” (John 8:51);
- “And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. (John 10:28);
- … “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. “And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25 to 26).
From this, we understand that the redeemed body of Christ is composed of those who have:
- been called by Jesus Christ;
- been regenerated by the Holy Spirit by believing Jesus Christ is the risen Son of God; AND,
- are actively keeping His Word with the help of the Holy Spirit within them.
Ephesians 4:7 says:
- But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift.
Let’s look at a few cross-references for this verse.
- But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all: … But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills. (1st Corinthians 12:7, 11)
- For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith. (Romans 12:3)
In reading these few verses from Acts, John, Ephesians, 1st Corinthians, and Romans, we can see that God has determined our appointed times, boundaries, the manifestation of the Spirit, and even the measure of faith we have. This is part of His sovereign election. So is the sanctification process. The thief on the cross did not live long enough to “work out his salvation” and the LORD had determined His path.
Our perspectives are based on our history and current position, and we cannot see the end of a person’s journey. If we can trust God with our fate, are we able to trust God with others’? Do we realize that He loves His children equally? Do we understand, that the author of our faith, is also the finisher of our faith? Do we understand that He uses each member of the body of Christ to build each other up? Sometimes this will be as iron sharpens iron.
Since it is God who orders the steps of a believer, then the path to sanctification is determined by Him. The steps on the path involve the believer’s participation and here there is some latitude. Even if one stops walking forward, one cannot stand in one spot indefinitely without fainting. If one faints, just by getting back up, another step is taken.
- The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD, And He delights in his way. Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down; For the LORD upholds him with His hand. … Depart from evil, and do good; And dwell forevermore. For the LORD loves justice, And does not forsake His saints; They are preserved forever, But the descendants of the wicked shall be cut off. (A portion of verses within Psalm 37:23 to 28)
It is said that George A. Young created the hymn, “God Leads Us Along”. The words of the chorus are:
If one who has come through the blood gets turned around, they will be redirected even if through fire. It is written:
- You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you, LORD, know it completely. You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain. (Psalm 139:2 to 6 New International Version)
Continuing in Ephesians 4, we observe Scripture dealing with our LORD’s descending into hell and His ascension in verses 8 and 9. In addition, these verses start with the conjunctive adverb “therefore” associating them with grace and Christ’s gift from verse 7.
Psalm 68:18 to 20 prophetically agrees with what is revealed in the New Testament:
- And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses, having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross. Having disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it. (Colossians 2:13 to 15).
Ephesians 4:10 states:
- He who descended is also the One who ascended far above all the heavens, that He might fill all things.)
Wow! If it wasn’t enough that He forgave of sins and has given us new life, He also will fill ALL THINGS. That’s you, me, and the “to be” purified universe!
Christ triumphed over every power, and He is currently interceding for us at the right hand of the Father until every last soul who will accept Him does so in the current dispensation of grace. Then, God, our Father will announce the time for Christ to catch us away. Oh yes, there will be more that will come to the kingdom of Heaven after the body of Christ, His bride, has taken off for her marriage supper; but these souls will come through great trials.
Taking a step back, let’s consider why the concept of descending and ascending is included in a passage of Scripture dealing with the unity in the Church and spiritual gifts. Since the Holy Spirit is the One who empowers the spiritual gifts, He had to be present broadly in the church. In the book of John, Jesus’s words about the effect of the Holy Spirit were recorded. He said:
- “He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive; for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified. (John 7:38 to 39);
- “Nevertheless I tell you the truth. It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you. … “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. “However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come. “He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you. “All things that the Father has are Mine. Therefore I said that He will take of Mine and declare it to you. (John 16:7, and 12 to 15).
When Christ died, He paid the penalty of sin. When He descended into hell, He freed the righteous captives who were waiting in Abraham’s bosom for their Messiah.
This is important: With the penalty paid by the value of His perfect shed blood (priceless and worth more than all sin), hell has no legal right to hold anyone who believed God’s Word and chose to abide by it. Jesus took the keys of death and hell (Revelation 1:18) and then ascended to the right hand of the Father to make intercessions for us (Hebrews 9:24; 1st Timothy 2:5;1st John 2:1).
Then on the day of Pentecost, those who were assembled in one accord were filled with the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:1 to 4) so that He could build His Church and flow through them. The Church would be built by diverse people with diverse skillsets as enabled by the Holy Spirit to share the good news about salvation through Jesus Christ (Acts 1:8, Luke 24:49).
What marvellous news! God had made the final sacrifice for sin, is providing eternal life to those who will accept Christ, and His Spirit dwells within them. With the victory won, the enemy does not have any authority over a believer!
Ephesians 4:11 to 12 lists the church’s governance gifts as apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers solely for two purposes: (1) to promote the growth of holiness and wisdom within the body of Christ and (2) to equip the saints for ministry. These gifts do not make the recipient more valuable to the LORD; and, God decides which gifts He gives to each person. I believe because the gift is a responsibility, both the recipient and those benefiting are equally sanctified by the gift.
God predestined the gifts we have and the works that we should do (Ephesians 2:10). Let’s take a look at some of the other gifts from various Scriptures in 1st Corinthians 12:
- There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are differences of ministries, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of activities, but it is the same God who works all in all. But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all: for to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, to another the word of knowledge through the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healings by the same Spirit, … For as the body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ. … And God has appointed these in the church: first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, varieties of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Are all workers of miracles? Do all have gifts of healings? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret?
In the next Chapter, Scripture tells us the greatest gift of all is love:
- Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing. (1st Corinthians 13:1 to 3)
So Jesus died, descended, rose to life again, ascended, and sent the Holy Spirit so that we could be transformed into His likeness which includes loving as He loves. To love as Christ loves takes: (1) a heart transformation; (2) knowledge and wisdom; and, (3) submission to the Holy Spirit’s instruction with perseverance.
Earlier we observed that the Holy Spirit will teach us what He hears from the Father and will only do that which glorifies Jesus Christ. The purpose of all gifts given to the body of Christ is so that:
- … we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head, Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love. (Ephesians 4:13 to 16)
When there are doctrinal differences, a discussion should occur and hopefully, believers will simply agree on what is written and refuse to belittle another as the enemy would. Was Jesus ever firm with His disciples? Absolutely, especially when they were demonstrating attitudes or attributes that were not fitting.
Please notice: He was in a loving relationship with them when rebuking them. They were not strangers.
Was Jesus strong with those who refused to come to Him? Yes, He was! But, He was the Son of God and knew their hearts (Matthew 9:4; Mark 2:8; Revelation 2:23). Since only the LORD knows another’s future, I believe the Holy Spirit would want us to exercise self-control towards all people. When our emotions get worked up over differences of opinions or even an offence committed to us, we need to be guided by this Scripture:
- “Be angry, and do not sin”: do not let the sun go down on your wrath, nor give place to the devil. (Ephesians 4:26 to 27);
- … do not be children in understanding; however, in malice be babes, but in understanding be mature. (1st Corinthians 14:20);
- Walk in wisdom toward those who are outside, redeeming the time. Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one. (Colossians 4:5 to 6).
Think about this. The value of Christ’s sacrificed life demonstrates the value of each believer; even the ones we disagree with.
Because God loves His Son and each of us so much, He has invested the Holy Spirit in us so that we can overcome and not be deceived. Jesus said:
- But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you. (John 14:26)
Colossians 2:9 states the fulness of the Godhead dwells in Christ. Scripture also tells us in Hebrews 1:3 and in Colossians 1:17 that all things are being held together right now by the power of His Word. With all the evil that exists, why didn’t He end it already? He certainly has promised to put an end to all sorrow, pain, and evil. Scripture says about the elect:
- The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance. (2nd Peter 3:9).
What love! Consider that we had no way of intimately knowing or experiencing any aspect of the Father until the Son redeemed us. The Son asked the Father to send the Holy Spirit to indwell us so that we could commune with God and know the truth. The Trinity made a way for us to be (1) reconciled into their unity; and, (2) declared blameless in God’s sight (Colossians 1:22).
I cannot fathom how our God can be three persons:
- The Father, who is a Spirit in eternity, is everywhere in and at all times;
- The Son, who pre-existed creation, incarnated at the appointed time to die, and then arose as a glorified eternal Human with the Devine Nature; and,
- The Holy Spirit, who is indwelling an individual, is distributed to all believers across the planet in time.
They share the same attributes, always work in complete harmony, and have shown up at the same time together (like at Jesus’ baptism). This is a perfect example of diversified unity; they are individual personas in one God and are completely united.
What I can understand is my personal experience. It is that God has accepted me into the beloved just because He wanted to. His presence in me is priceless, empowering, transforming, illuminating, and overwhelmingly loving. His inward witness tells confirms all Scripture is true.
He gave us a supernatural earthly family who will join the saints in glory when our time here is done. But the greatest part of all of this is that when we are free from the presence of sin and filled completely by Him, we the created will be like Him the Creator as it originally was (diverse individuals like Him in a face-to-face relationship).
Our next point is
Yield to the Holy Spirit Who Has Equipped us To Love Each Other (Ephesians 4:17 to 29)
So, since Jesus has done this for us, and the Holy Spirit is partnering with us to a measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, then we should:
- … no longer walk … in … futility … if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught by Him, as the truth is in Jesus: that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness. (Ephesians 4:17, 21 to 24)
What is the stature of the fullness of Christ? Jesus said:
- “Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me? The words that I speak to you I do not speak on My own authority; but the Father who dwells in Me does the works. (John 14:10)
Jesus taught us that God the Father dwelt in Him; dwelt in Him the Son of God; dwelt in Him the God-Man, the Son of Man. If we are to be like our Saviour, we are to speak and do what the Father wills by the empowerment of the Holy Spirit. We know we have heard from the Spirit of God when it aligns with His Word. His Word tells us what He expects from us. His Word also tells us about His attributes which will flow out of us like “rivers of living water’.
While we have not yet been perfected, we should be growing in the likeness of Christ.
Let’s take a look at the attributes of God that He has imputed and is developing in us during our earthly sanctification. We are:
- Declared Holy and Becoming Holy
- Declared Righteous and Learning to do Justly
- Learning to Love as Christ Loved Us
- Learning to be Merciful Regardless of Circumstances
- Learning to Exercise Self Control and Humility
- Granted Eternal Life
All other attributes of the Godhead are His alone.
It is written:
- He has shown you, O man, what is good; And what does the LORD require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God? (Micah 6:8)
When reviewing the beatitudes in Matthew 5 or the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5, it seems to me that they all stem out of these attributes God expects His image-bearers to manifest. Because the Holy Spirit is indwelling, if we obey His leading, these attributes will generate the right attitudes and produce the right fruit.
Paul was a devoted preacher of God’s grace; and, Paul’s revelation from the LORD included the sobering understanding that this union meant partnership. This is why Ephesians 4 includes our required actions of putting off and on. God has never forced automaton because He has always desired a mutually loving relationship.
Peter wrote by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit to be diligent to make your election certain to enter the everlasting kingdom. You see, while the Holy Spirit is the one who produces the fruit in us, it is clear from Ephesians 4 verses 21 to 24, that God expects us to do our part.
To me, this last point is the most important of all.
Do Not Grieve the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 4:30 to 32)
While the New Testament Church had the letters from the Apostles which are our Scriptures, Jesus made it clear to the churches that He expected them to overcome in order to inherit the kingdom of God. Let’s review these now:
To those who profess faith but did not keep love for Christ and each other as first place (or the main priority), Jesus said:
- “Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent. (Revelation 2: 4 to 5)
This was the Ephesian Church that received Paul’s instructions on unity.
To those who profess faith but are willing to teach wrong doctrine for personal gain at the expense of others, Jesus said:
- “But I have a few things against you, because you have there those who hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols, and to commit sexual immorality. “Thus you also have those who hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which thing I hate. “Repent, or else I will come to you quickly and will fight against them with the sword of My mouth. (Revelation 2:14 to 16)
To those who profess faith but permit sexual immorality and idolatry within their fellowship, Jesus said:
- “Nevertheless I have a few things against you, because you allow that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, to teach and seduce My servants to commit sexual immorality and eat things sacrificed to idols. “And I gave her time to repent of her sexual immorality, and she did not repent. “Indeed I will cast her into a sickbed, and those who commit adultery with her into great tribulation, unless they repent of their deeds. (Revelation 2:20 to 22)
To those who profess faith but have religion without a right and active relationship with Christ, Jesus said:
- “Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die, for I have not found your works perfect before God. “Remember therefore how you have received and heard; hold fast and repent. Therefore if you will not watch, I will come upon you as a thief, and you will not know what hour I will come upon you. (Revelation 3: 2 to 3)
To those who profess faith but were blinded by their self-sufficiency, relying on their own merits, Jesus said:
- “So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth. “Because you say, ‘I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing’ and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked. “I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich; and white garments, that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see. “As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent. (Revelation 3:16 to 19)
Now if Christ told someone to repent and do justly in order to overcome these failures (and thereby inherit what He promised them), but they chose not to, would you say they were cooperating with the Holy Spirit? I don’t think so. In some cases, one would wonder if some were called to the kingdom but not chosen to stay in the wedding celebration because they were there for selfish reasons. Maybe they joined the church, made a profession of faith but have not possessed the relationship with the LORD. They tick the boxes but do not love, obey and respect the King. Those who love the King are a part of His body so they share in His inheritance.
The new creation (or new species of humanity created in Christ Jesus and marked by the Holy Spirit) loves Jesus Christ and obeys Him. When erroring and corrected, this new breed immediately humbles themselves, seeks righteousness, and corrects the things the Holy Spirit is teaching them through the Word, the body of Christ, and inward impressions.
- And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you. (Ephesians 4: 30 to 32)
Now please consider this: Since the Holy Spirit seeks to glorify Christ, and values each member of Christs’ body equally, can you see how we offend the Holy Spirit when we allow our thoughts and mouths to defame our siblings whom Christ died for?
When we are not tender-hearted to another believer, we are actually ungrateful and insulting all members of the Trinity who are suffering long with our immaturity.
If we are treating the body incorrectly, it’s usually because we have not rightly estimated what God forgave us of. We may see our sibling’s imperfections as more grievous than our own. But I have to tell you, that’s not right! Jesus said:
- “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. “But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. (Matthew 6:14 to 15)
I realize this is a very sobering message. There is much in Ephesians 4 to celebrate about. The 3 prior chapters spell out the remarkable riches we have in Christ; and, chapter 4 starts to tell us how to be successful in inheriting those precious promises. Jesus warns us because He wants us to be successful. The Godhead is in full participation with us to get us home, and we certainly have everything we need to succeed.
In these interesting times, we can understand the book of Revelation more clearly with each passing day. While we do not know the day or the hour of our King’s “bride retrieval”, we can celebrate His commendation to the churches who are faithful to the LORD.
- “Do not fear any of those things which you are about to suffer. Indeed, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and you will have tribulation ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life. (Revelation 2:10)
- “Because you have kept My command to persevere, I also will keep you from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth. (Revelation 3:10)
About 2000 years ago, angels announced the incarnation of the Prince of peace saying: “Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!” (Luke 2:14). Just as the prophecies of His birth and the giving of the Holy Spirit were fulfilled in ways humanity and spiritual powers could not predict, the King of kings will fulfill His promise to receive us to Himself and resolve all that rebels against Him.
As we celebrate His birth and His soon return, let us remain prayerful, strong in the race and ready!