Glen Spencer is the pastor of Vernon Baptist Church in Tunkhannock, Pennsylvania.
“I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” (Ephesians 4:1-3)
I want to preach on this thought: A Worthy Walk. Paul said, “I... beseech you that you walk worthy of the vocation wherewith you are called.” That’s an important text. All of the Word of God is important. If God said this one time, it would be important, but two times Paul made the statement here and in Colossians that we are to be a people who would walk worthy. There is quite a bit involved in that. I think by the time we finish today you’ll agree with me that it’s a pretty heavy responsibility.
Praise God, I agree with Dr. Oliver Greene, “What God demands, God provides.” You and I are incapable of being for God what we ought to be, but God will help us if we’ll surrender ourselves to Him and ask Him to help us to His honor and glory. We can walk worthy of the vocation wherewith we are called.
#1. The call of a worthy walk. Look what he said. “I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called,” The word walk here in our text denotes a lifestyle. The Bible talks about walking in love and in truth; it speaks of walking in newness of life. It talks about walking in good works, walking by faith, walking in wisdom. Over and over through the Word of God, the Bible identifies our lifestyle as our walk. When somebody sees our lifestyle and how we live, that’s our walk before a lost world. Paul says it is extremely important that we walk right, that we not only stay on the same path, but while we are on that path we walk the right way. The whole idea is this. If we are going to be an example of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, then we are going to have to walk according to the vocation wherewith we are called. The lost world has to see that in us.
The etymology of the word worthy is very interesting. It comes from the bartering system of the ancient world. Actually it literally means to balance against the weight of another thing. If we think back to that bartering system by which the whole world lived and operated, when you walked into a shop and you wanted five pounds of flour, they had a balance there. They would put a five pound weight on one side of that balance and a bag on the other side and then fill the bag with flour until that balance evened out. They knew then that it was five pounds of flour over here. It was the same weight in flour that they had in the weight across from it. That’s the same word God is using. He is saying that if you profess with your lips the Lord Jesus Christ, then make sure that balances out in your testimony, that your life, not just your lips, matches up. The idea there is that our walk should match our talk. We would agree that there is a great need for that among God’s people in this day. There is a call to a worthy walk.
When we get to thinking about just this one thought, folks, think about this – the cost of our salvation. Think about the Son of God leaving Heaven and coming to this world and making Himself subject to His own creation and His own creatures, dying upon Calvary’s cross for our sins in our stead with our sin upon His back, so much so that God the Father had to turn His back on Him and He cried out, “...Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46) That just boggles my mind that God Almighty would turn His back on His only Son and He did that because of a great love for us, and because there was no other way in this world that you and I would ever know Jesus Christ, and know God and get to Heaven. That was an unfathomable investment, but then after that to send the Holy Spirit here to indwell us and to empower us and to carry us along, to comfort and guide and convict us of sin, and conform us to the image of Christ, which is on going even as we speak. When we start putting all of that over here on the balance, the call is to make sure that our walk adds up to the great investment that has been made in us. We see the call to a worthy walk.
We are all called. You say, “That’s fine for the preacher. That’s fine for the Sunday school teacher and the deacons certainly ought to have a worthy walk.” No, it’s for everyone. Every child of God is to have worthy walk. Every blood-bought child of God is to have a life that backs up what he says he is. We all are called to that. Not only a call to a worthy walk, but consider....
#2. the characteristics of a worthy walk. Paul lists them here in the text. He spells out some of the characteristics in verse two. Look at the first one – lowliness. You say, “Preacher, I want to have a worthy walk. I definitely want my life to add up to my profession, so what do I need?” Number one, he says, “Lowliness.” Webster defines lowliness as freedom from pride. Isn’t that a tough one? We have the tendency to become a prideful bunch sometimes, don’t we? The people who most ought to understand that we don’t have anything to be prideful about, somehow seem to get the most prideful. Lowliness of mind, freedom from pride, humility, humbleness. Lowliness is the opposite of pride. The Bible says, “Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time:” (I Peter 5:6) I want you to think about that for a moment. When we exalt ourselves, pride is at work. But when we are in a position where God can exalt us, then we are humble enough to be used.
In lowliness, Paul considered himself over in Ephesians chapter three he said that he was less than the least of all saints. I wouldn’t say that about Paul, but Paul said that about himself with all that he did and all that he accomplished. We get too biggity sometimes, since humility comes only from a consistent walk with God. This wasn’t a one time profession with Paul. This wasn’t brag-amony time. This wasn’t just something he said one time and let it pass. Over in I Corinthians 15:10, this verse is astounding. “But by the grace of God I am what I am:...” May we never forget that if we are anything, it’s by the grace of God.
We read the stories and sermons and biographies of men who were great soulwinners and had the power of God upon their lives. D.L. Moody was one of those men. You know the story of him walking up the street in Chicago with another preacher, and they passed by this guy that is literally just a drunk in the gutter, wallowing in his own vomit and he had it all over him. He stunk. It was a miserable sight. The preacher looked and said, “Isn’t that a shame?” Moody stopped and said, “But for the grace of God, there lies D.L. Moody.” Let us remember that anything that we are able to accomplish, anything that we are able to do for the Lord, it is because God has given us a great grace. We don’t want to forget that grace is important. One of the characteristics of a worthy walk is lowliness.
Look what he said next – meekness. How do I want to develop a worthy walk? Humility, but also meekness. The word meekness simply means mild, gentle. Fasten your seatbelts and hold on. It means softness of temper. That’s what Webster said about it. Understand something. Meekness is not weakness, nor is meekness a lack of power. Rather this is the best way to describe meekness. Meekness is power under control. You take an ox, buddy, he’s got power. You put him in the yoke, if he can be controlled, he can be turned wherever that guy wants him to go. He’s got just as much power as he ever had. It’s just under control. The same thing with a horse. A horse is a powerful creature. He can run fast. He can pull great loads. You put a bit in his mouth and reins on him and you can take him anywhere you want to take him most of the time. He’s got just as much power as he always had; it’s just power under control.
God is telling us to be meek. He’s telling us to take everything we have and put it under His control. We must have that. Jesus is a perfect example of meekness. He said, “I am meek and lowly in heart.” He was by no means a sissy. He was by no means weak. He is the One that spoke the worlds into existence, but it was power under control. He was meek. You and I are to have a meekness. Meekness is a requirement for reaching people, for helping people. The Bible says, “In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth;” (II Timothy 2:25) The idea is there you are dealing with somebody and they are trying you and testing you and you are trying to get something across to them, and you are coming to the conclusion that just nothing but an old fashioned whipping will make this work. Then the Holy Spirit convicts and you put all that power under His control. That’s the idea there. The Bible says, “Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.” (Galatians 6:1) We have to have this meekness, if we are going to walk a worthy walk. Meekness – power under control.
Notice he gave a third thing – longsuffering. I don’t know if you are noticing this or not, but the list keeps getting a little tougher for you and I. Longsuffering means to suffer long. It speaks of the ability to practice patience under provocation. When the devil is pushing every button you’ve got, he’s using someone in the church, or someone out in the world and he’s pushing every button you’ve got, and he is giving you all the trouble he can give you and you are still considering that whipping. Paul said, “When you get to that point, what the Holy Spirit wants you to do is practice longsuffering.” He wants you to suffer long even under provocation.
You say, “Preacher, I simply can’t do that.” Now you are getting it! You can’t do that. The depraved flesh doesn’t have the ability, but you know what the Bible says, “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” The whole idea of this thing is being under the control of God, of developing spiritual characteristics in our life. Longsuffering is a Spirit-produced virtue that enables us to put up with people that try our patience. When the flesh says, “Retaliate,” longsuffering says, “Just keep on loving them.”
This isn’t an excuse to be all mushy and not deal with sin. The Bible says, “Faithful are the wounds of a friend; but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.” (Proverbs 27:6) We still have to deal with sin, but the Bible does say, “Speaking the truth in love.” I tell people things sometimes and they don’t understand. “Why would you say that to me? You are mad at me.” No, I love you. Love demands that we speak the truth. Do it right, have a right spirit, but speak the truth.
That’s a characteristic of God, one of God’s great attributes. Listen to this verse and praise God for it. “But thou, O Lord, art a God full of compassion, and gracious, long suffering, and plenteous in mercy and truth.” (Psalm 86:15) How many times have you had to draw upon that? I have. Over and over and over in my life, I’ve had to go to the Lord and draw upon His longsuffering. I’m glad when I go to Him and He is dealing with me that He is longsuffering and compassionate, gracious and merciful.
Let me be a little transparent today and tell you something you’d probably never guess. I get a little hard-headed sometimes. Did you ever get hard-headed against God? Don’t sit there and lie. We all do sometimes. We hear a sermon and God will convict us and we’ll stay in that pew. We’ll be somewhere and God will say, “Give that guy a tract and tell him that I love him.” We are in too big a hurry for that sometimes. God will convict us and work on us and deal with us. He just keeps on, longsuffering, patient with mercy, dealing with us about what’s wrong in our hearts and lives. We’re talking about Almighty God in Heaven, who has every right to stomp us out of existence any minute He wants to. God could destroy us today and never make apology for it, but it is against His nature. That’s why we have the cross. That’s why we have Calvary. What happened is we have benefited from God’s longsuffering nature and God has suffered long and dealt patiently with us. Now we are to turn around and do that daily with other people. These aren’t things you can just order up and get. You have to work at these things and pray down these things. To be honest with you, these are character traits. You have to build these things in your life.
Nobody practiced longsuffering like Jesus. No one did. He’s the greatest example of longsuffering that we’ve ever seen anywhere in the Scripture. The Bible says that He could have called more than 12 legions of angels to His side. What’s amazing about that statement is He didn’t need the angels. He could have spoken the Word or thought the Word. If it had simply been His will, He could have destroyed everybody that was trying to nail Him to the cross, everyone that had come to arrest Him. If He had wanted it done, He could. He could have called 12 legions to His side and He did not do it. Instead He prayed, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” That’s longsuffering. That’s suffering long.
Paul is saying, “If we want a worthy walk, if we want people to be able to look at us and identify us with the Lord Jesus Christ, we must have some humility. We are going to have to be meek. We have to be longsuffering.
Then he says, “...forbearing one another in love;” The word forbearing here, Webster defines it as ceasing or restraining from action. Whether I have a case or not, whether I have just cause or not to retaliate, God says, “Cease from action.” “Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.” He said, “I’ll take care of this for you.” How many times have you ever gotten in on God’s work and decided to take care of something yourself? You make a bigger mess than ten people can fix. It just gets worse and worse and worse. The best thing to do is forbear one another in love. Sometimes it comes to a confrontation. Sometimes you’ve got to get somebody from the church and go talk and deal with them. You have to confront the sin. You have to deal with the thing, but there comes a time that you just simply forbear it. That’s what is meant when the Bible says that charity suffereth long.
Peter said, “And above all things have fervent charity among yourselves: for charity shall cover the multitude of sins.” (I Peter 4:8) Somebody messes up and they repent of it; that’s the end of it. We catch somebody gossiping about it; we deal with it. That’s just how we work things. Because there comes a time when it is dealt with, when there has been satisfaction, when there has been true repentance and that’s obvious, but it’s just nobody’s business from there on out. Anything from there would just hinder them from going on to serve God. So you better just deal with the thing like that.
Then look what he said. “...forbearing one another...” How? “...in love;” Love is another characteristic of those who walk worthy. Of course, it’s a love that comes from God. The Bible talks about the Christian’s love life. We are to love God with all of our heart and all of our soul. We are to love each other, too. He said, “...forbearing one another in love;” Think about that thing of love and look at the motivation behind God giving His Son. “For God so loved the world...” He didn’t have to save us. The greatest demonstration of love the world has ever seen is Calvary. “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” The idea here, folks, is this: if God was willing to give so much for us and if such a love is in us, shouldn’t we be kind, tender-hearted, loving one another, forgiving one another as God hath for Christ’s sake forgiven us, the Scripture says? As we develop that worthy walk, we’ve got to let the Lord demonstrate these traits in our life.
Jesus said this, “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.” (John 13:34) Then He said, “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” Whew! Think about what Jesus said there. Go back and search through the Mosaic law and the Bible made this statement back there, that you are to ‘love thy neighbor as thyself.’ In the Old Testament, I was commanded and duty bound by law to love this guy the way I love myself. That’s a pretty big order. I don’t even like myself sometimes. Does that mean that if I don’t like me much today, I don’t have to like him much? It said to love him the way I love myself. Maybe I can muster up enough strength and I could get enough momentum in the flesh even to love a guy as much as I love myself, and do what’s good for him like I do what’s good for me.
I can say I’ll try to fulfill that law and do it, but Jesus raised the standard. He said, “Let’s take it up a notch. You love him as I loved you.” That brings the thought of unconditional and unlimited love into it. No matter what he’s done, no matter how ugly he is, no matter how hard he is to deal with, you may even have to whip him, but love him. Jesus comes on the scene and He loves like no one ever loved. He demonstrated that upon Calvary, even while we were yet sinners, He went to Calvary’s cross for us and now He gives us this responsibility that we love each other the same way. In the family of God, in the local church, we are to love each other the way He loves us. It wasn’t a new commandment in the sense that He did away with one and gave us a new one, but it was new in the sense that He raised the standard, took it to a new level.
Then right after that He said, “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” The people out on the streets, and the people we work with, and the folks down at the grocery store and gas station, people we meet in all those places are going to form an opinion of God by how you and I treat each other. I don’t know if you were aware of this or not, but there is a lot of fighting going on in some churches. If that is what the world is seeing, the way believers treat each other, no wonder they don’t have a grasp on the love of God. Paul says that if you are going to have a worthy walk, love each other. Love one another just the way Jesus Christ loved us and that simply means unconditionally, without limits.
I want to stress this one more time. That doesn’t mean we wink at sin. That doesn’t mean we don’t deal with it in our church. We must deal with those things. It’s as much a commandment as it is to love them. But it does mean we deal with others in the way the Lord did with us. He showed us grace. He extended mercy. Mercy in Scripture is God withholding what we deserve. We deserve His judgment and He withheld that. Grace is God giving us what we didn’t deserve. While God is withholding what we do deserve in staying His judgment upon us by mercy, He at the same time is reaching forth His hand of grace, trying to do a work in our heart and our life that we don’t deserve. He says, “Treat each other like that.” A happy day it was when I figured out I don’t have to get even with anybody. We’ve seen the call of a worthy walk and the characteristics of a worthy walk.
#3. The closeness of a worthy walk. Look what he said in verse three. “Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” Paul declares that unity in the local church is hard work. He uses this phrase here, “Endeavouring to keep the unity...” I want you to notice something else here. He didn’t say endeavouring to attain unity; He said to keep it. If you are going to keep something, you already have it. “What are they talking about? What do you mean, endeavouring to keep the unity? Where did the unity come from?” The unity came from developing those five characteristics in our life to where we treat each other right and do each other right and we help each other and love one another unconditionally and we develop humility and throw pride out the door. What happens is as we do those things and develop that walk with God, a unity develops within the local body that is just precious. Heaven, help us! Thank God for business meetings when you can take something before a church and have a unanimous vote. Nobody is against it. That means there is some unity there. It means somebody is following leadership. It means that God is doing a work, and that people are going in the same direction, desiring the same thing.
The word endeavouring is a word, according to Webster, that means to make every effort. We have something precious. We have unity. We need to make every effort. We need to apply ourself to protecting that. It means to work hard at maintaining something. When he says, “Endeavouring to keep the unity...” we want to recognize that because we are walking with God, we have a special family. We have a unity in this church. We have a unity among God’s people, but we have to work at maintaining that unity. Because if there is one thing that the devil would do to this church and every other church that is accomplishing something for God and the Gospel in this country, it’s to get in there and sow discord among the brethren and rip it apart. It’s happening all across our country. Unity is important if we are to survive and thrive as a local church.
Paul said this: “Only let your conversation be as it becometh the gospel of Christ: that whether I come and see you, or else be absent, I may hear of your affairs, that ye stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel;” (Philippians 1:27) Striving together, that’s unity. That word striving is the word where we get our English word ‘athlete’ from. What do a bunch of athletes do? You get a ball team together, and what do they do? They work at teamwork and unity. They labor at it. They do everything they can to form one team. It is not a lone ranger set up. It’s not one guy with a little ministry over here and another guy with a ministry over here and another guy with a ministry over here. No, it’s a bunch of guys joined together to become one team under a leader and they are going to forge ahead and they come together and strive. They work at it, and they put themselves into it for one purpose. They want to defeat a common enemy and win the victory. Paul uses that word to describe what we are doing in the local church.
Charles Keen said, “This is not now, nor has it ever been, about us. It’s always about Jesus.” What we do is come together under Him, under His under-shepherd, and we strive together. Not only is there an enemy to defeat, but there is something to win here. If we can’t get along in here, we’ll never win souls. If we can’t get along in here, we’ll never win a crown. He talks about this thing of coming together.
Somebody said, “Teamwork is what makes the dream work.” That’s the idea here, to come together and get something done for the Lord. Without such cooperation, without such unity among believers, God’s work will suffer. “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!” (Psalm 133:1) The only place we are ever going to have real unity like the Bible talks about is within the walls of the local church.
We can’t yoke up with everybody and everything that comes down the pike. There can’t be any unity with some guy that denies the blood. There can’t be any unity with somebody that denies the Book. I never thought I’d see a time in my life where that we’d have people that claim to be among the ranks of fundamentalism that didn’t know this Bible was inspired. Twenty years ago you couldn’t have convinced me that a guy would have said that. Ten years ago you couldn’t have convinced me that a fundamental Baptist would have said that. We are having to fight battles today for this Book that good men of God already won years ago. Here is what I’m saying to you. We can’t yoke up with that foolishness.
I can tell you one place we can have the sweetness of God’s unity and that’s within the local body of believers. We can band together. We can strive together. We can be a team. We can develop the characteristics of a worthy walk, bring glory and honor to God and see the work done till Jesus comes. Right now He is tarrying His coming. Honestly, I don’t understand it. If I get up in the morning and He hasn’t come back, I’ll be surprised. But until He does come back, we’ve got to stay by the stuff.