Main Text for Today: Ephesians 4:17-5:21
“I, therefore, ……………..beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called,………” (Ephesians 4:1 NKJV).
It is a wonderful day when a baby takes his or her first steps. The occasion may be captured in a picture and sent to family and friends. Soon the infant is learning how to walk. Walking is very important for life and growth. Indeed, parents will be very concerned if a child does not learn how to walk in a timely manner.
God’s grace has brought the child of God into a new life that involves a God-given and directed walk (Eph. 2:10). This walk is made possible by all that God has done for us in Christ (Eph. 1:3 – 3:21). Just as we receive the gift of salvation by grace through faith, we begin a walk by grace through faith. This walk, though, is described in a specific way in our text in Ephesians 4:1. This walk that we are called to - is to be a ‘worthy’ walk - as it reflects the work of God’s grace (His calling of us), not only individually but also corporately in the life of the church (Eph. 4:1-16).
A worthy walk involves living according to our understanding of God’s grace in Christ.
A worthy walk also involves living according to an understanding of who we are as part of Christ’s one body.
Therefore our walking (living) should be characterized by humility, “long-suffering” and love, leading to unity in the Spirit and maturity in Christ together with all God’s saints (Eph. 4:1-16).
A worthy walk, also, involves recognizing that the old way of walking (thinking, feeling and acting without Christ) is to be rejected and put off, having now learned “Christ” (Eph. 4:17-21).
Now being renewed from the inside out, we are to “put on the new man,” and this involves a new way of thinking, feeling, and acting. It involves a different walk (Eph. 4:22-24). So, this is a different walk compared to life outside of Christ. The former way of walking is described in some detail by the Apostle in Ephesians 4:17-19. The new walk is to be totally different as we will see.
I wonder if you have ever watched Olympic race-walking? Yes, it is a real Olympic sport, and one of the races is over thirty miles long! There are very specific rules that guide this type of walking that separates it from running. But that is not my concern here. Why I mention this type of race-walking is that it looks very different from casual walking. You could say that the different and distinct look of this kind of walking is due to the fact that the people walking are deliberately seeking to walk in such a way as to win a race. They need more speed than the average casual walker. So, they are walking deliberately and differently than the average walker. They have a race to win and that motivates the way they walk. If you put the regular walker next to the ‘race walker’ you will see the difference immediately.
The worthy walk we are considering is also a different walk. The walk IN Christ is different from the walk OUTSIDE of Christ. And this is due to the grace of God that has changed those in Christ and gives them a new motivation to live for Christ. So, the new walk IN Christ is a different walk. You could also say that it is a deliberate walk based upon the calling Christians have received in Christ.
Before we take an in-depth look at this new walk, it is worth emphasizing the impact that such a walk can have on a watching world. We should never underestimate the power of a changed life. Words need to be shared to present the gospel, and God uses words. But, God also uses the example of a changed life, a life that demonstrates the power of the gospel.
So many advertisements you see have some sort of “before and after” message. In other words, they show the difference that the product made by its “after-effect” in relation to what was before: it could be weight lost or gained, a carpet cleaned, a gutter fixed, a house re-modeled, a legal battle won, etc.
A testimony to a “difference made” is powerful. That is even more so when we are talking about a changed life and a changed way of life. Such a change points to the reality of the grace of God and the power of God in Christ. And this doesn’t just have to be a before and after testimony of a person saved later in life. It can be the testimony of someone who has been a Christian from childhood, but that person is different from the sinful culture around them. He or she has a deliberately different walk that has developed over the years.
This different and deliberate new walk is also impactful in the life of the church. Christians need to have a ‘worthy’ walk in order to strengthen the lives of others. Within the local church, each believer should be an example to other believers. There will be individual strengths and weaknesses, but we should be able to learn from one another through the examples that are set. For the local church to grow, individuals need to be walking in a ‘worthy’ manner, edifying one another. Most of all, this walk is to be pleasing to the Lord and accomplishing His will through character and conduct.
So, what does this walk look like? What is the nature or character of this new walk IN Christ?
In this next section of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, Paul presents specific practical exhortations and instructions that guide us in this “worthy walk.” A number of years ago, after minor surgery dealing with cartilage in my right knee, I was encouraged to do physical therapy. I remember one day at physical therapy realizing that I was being “coached” in how to walk correctly. It was humbling and even painful at times to be directed and corrected! But, I needed to be guided in how to walk in a new way that would promote healing, health, and strength. In a very real sense, that is what Paul is doing throughout the second half of his epistle.
One cannot divide Paul’s exhortation and instructions into isolated categories, but his contrasts in Eph. 4:25-5:2 culminate in the call to “walk in love.” Rather than sinful, hurtful, and destructive behaviors, the child of God is to imitate God’s behavior, especially as revealed in Christ’s sacrificial love for us. All the “to do” and “not to do” directives in this section can be viewed as choosing to “walk” in a loving righteous manner, rather than behaving in a sinful way that is devoid of true love.
I remember God using this list of behaviors to speak to a group of young people many years ago. Sometimes we need to draw a line between two ways of living (walking) and ask the question, which way describes you?
We do not want to live in a way that grieves God’s Spirit. The Holy Spirit was given to us as a seal for the day of redemption. He is a special gift to us! The new walk honors the Holy Spirit’s presence in our lives as we depend upon Him. When it comes to forgiveness, our forgiveness of others is just to be a mirror of what God has done for us. We forgive because He has forgiven us. Then, when it comes to the actual call to “walk in love,” what greater example could be given than Christ’s love for us?!
Christ gave Himself for us. His sinless life and His sacrificial death did what was necessary to save us. His love and sacrifice were totally pleasing to God the Father. In like manner, we are to please God with lives of sacrificial love for others. We obviously cannot offer ourselves for the sins of others, but we can give ourselves to the service of others. The new walk is ultimately a walk in love. The loving walk will be a blessing to those around us, and it will please God the Father.
The next section of Paul’s letter deals with separating from darkness and walking “as children of light” (Eph. 5:8). There is not a dividing line as such between love and light. They are both part of the “worthy walk” of the child of grace. Indeed, love and light are joined together in the life and behavior of the child of God, both being the fruit of grace and the Spirit’s work. I am just using these categories to help us grasp the Apostle’s teaching here.
Darkness and disobedience result in God’s wrath, and therefore the child of God, who is a child of light is to be separated from the behaviors that Paul lists (Eph. 5:3-7). The Apostle is very strong in his directives here. These sins are not even to be “named” among God’s people. These things are not “fitting” for saints. People who walk in these sins and in this manner are walking like “sons of disobedience.” Sexual immorality, impurity, covetousness, filthy or foolish talking are not part of walking in the light. So, people who practice these sins should not be presumptuous about some kind of heavenly inheritance in the kingdom, because they are living like people outside of Christ. Paul says, “do not be partakers with them.” There is a need to separate from practices of darkness, and from those who do such things. It is interesting that the contrast to a foul mouth in 5:4 is the giving of thanks. This is the only positive practice mentioned in these few verses (5:3-7). Thanksgiving is a good way to correct corrupt speech, and a constant life of thanksgiving can replace other sins as well (1 Thess. 5:18).
As we enter a new year, committing ourselves to expressions of gratitude would be a great resolve. We can only keep this resolve by seeking the Lord’s help through His indwelling Spirit. It is so easy to complain or just focus on the problems that we are facing. Yes, we need to deal realistically with life’s issues, but we need to see everything through the lens of our relationship with the Lord. We have an eternal relationship with the Lord based on grace alone and for His glory. Our lives are in God’s hands and we can trust Him even in the darkest circumstances. We can always give thanks for Christ and His grace, for who we are in Him, and for all the mercy and goodness that are ours in Him. We can thank Him for so much including the future that He has for us.
Walking in the light does involve avoiding certain behaviors and practices. At the same time, it involves living in a way that pleases the Lord, not fellowshipping with darkness but even exposing darkness for what it is (Eph. 5:8-14). Walking in the light means walking in Christ’s light, and demonstrating the righteousness and holiness that are characteristics of the “new man” in Christ (Eph. 4:24). Wouldn’t it be wonderful if our lives were more clearly and definitely characterized by “all goodness, righteousness, and truth” (Eph. 5:9)?
The quotation in 5:14 can be the basis for a prayer in order that we might walk in the light. For us to walk in the light, we need to be awake spiritually. We need to be awake from the dead and awake from the things of death and darkness. We need the light of Christ to shine on us, and to lead us in the way of light.
Romans 13:11-14 states these truths in a slightly different way:
“…..now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed. The night is far spent, the day is at hand. Therefore let us cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light. Let us walk properly as in the day, not in revelry and drunkenness, not in lewdness and lust, not in strife and envy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ and make no provision for the flesh to fulfill its lusts."
John teaches us in 1 John that God is light (1:5). Furthermore, we as God’s children are to walk in the light as He is in the light (1:6-7). What a blessing it is to know that if and when we sin, we have an Advocate, Jesus Christ Himself, who shed His blood for our cleansing (1:8-2:2). It is as we confess our sins that He is faithful and just to forgive our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1:9). So, even as we are called to walk in the light, there is provision to bring us into the light through the shed blood of Christ, and there is provision to keep us walking in the light.
In this section, there is a contrast between being foolish and being wise. Both ways of living still seem to be possible for God’s children, but being wise is what is required! The worthy walk is a walk characterized by care and attentiveness. The wise person seeks a redemptive use of time with an awareness of the evil context of our days. At the heart of the wise walk is “understanding what the will of the Lord is,” and therefore being able to live according to God’s will personally and practically. How important a “wise walk” is in our day! The challenges and evils of our day call for great discernment in the various arenas of life.
We should not waste time. The “wise walker” is seeking to live with God-shaped priorities and with a sense of purpose. We should live with a sense of “calling” upon our lives, desiring to make the most of every day and opportunity for God’s glory. Our work and witness are to be for Him.
Paul goes on to present another contrast that calls for an obedient response. The contrast is between being drunk and being filled with the Spirit (Eph. 5:18). The Spirit-filled life will be seen in praise, thanksgiving, and mutual submission (Eph. 5:19-21). The Spirit-filled life is not in contrast to walking in wisdom, rather as we noted they are directly connected. Indeed, the idea of being sober-minded, alert, and clear thinking is the opposite of being drunk. Being filled with the Spirit of God leads to the edification of others and the worship of God. Being filled with the Spirit leads to a God-centered life and a willingness to submit to others. So, as we come to the end of this section, we come back to the nature of life together in the community of God’s people: a voluntary mutual submission “in the fear of God” (Eph. 5:21).
When an internal problem developed in the early church (Acts 6), there was the need to address the issue. The Apostles decided that seven men needed to be selected to handle the problem. But, these men needed to have certain qualities. Among the characteristics of these seven men were that they were “….full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom….” (Acts 6:3). Being controlled by the Holy Spirit and being wise are really joined together in this verse. Careful truth-based decision making is needed in life. Wisdom is demonstrated in the details and difficulties of life. Those seeking to have a ‘worthy’ walk need to seek wisdom from God and then choose to walk in wisdom. Those seeking a ‘worthy’ walk need also to depend upon the Holy Spirit and seek His control of their lives.
Ideas, opinions, words, causes, and movements abound in our day. Spirit-led discernment based upon the eternal truths of God’s Word is sorely needed. It is needed in the local church especially and then reaching out to the world. Ultimately our passion should be to understand and do the will of God. Even though the will of God involves much more than in these chapters, walking in love, walking in light and walking in wisdom are all aspects of the will of God for us. Focusing on God’s will enables us to redeem the time and not waste time doing things that are not needful or ultimately important. And as we have mentioned already, doing His will goes hand in hand with being filled with the Spirit of God.
We have entered into a new year, 2021. On the practical level, regardless of our long-range expectations, we live only one day at a time as the Lord wills. Just as we live a day at a time, we also walk one step at a time. It may be helpful to ask the question, how could my walk improve today? More specifically, what needs to change in my life today? In order for my walk to be more like Christ’s walk, what does the Holy Spirit need to do in me today? How do my attitudes need to change today? How do my actions need to change today? How do my words need to change today? What else needs to change with the aid of the Holy Spirit today? Ultimately, the “worthy walk” we have considered is a pattern and pursuit of life-based on the calling and grace of God. So, we need to give attention to our walk regularly.
Praise God for the grace that calls us to this walk, and the grace that enables this new walk. We need to prayerfully seek to have a distinctive and deliberate Christ-like walk in this world, a ‘worthy’ walk. This walk will be different from a Christ-less walk. May our walk through this life be radically distinctive, demonstrating love, light, and wisdom that reflect God our Father, Christ our Savior, and the Spirit our enabler: the one true God to whom be glory, honor, and praise!