“I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”(Ephesians 4:1–3, ESV)
A few days ago I spent some time laying out the biblical truth that salvation is by faith alone plus nothing, and that some in the churches of Galatia had taught that works must be added to the equation in order to gain salvation. For those peddling the heresy in Galatia, it appears that the rites and rituals of Judaism were what they prescribed, and especially circumcision. Paul and the rest of Scripture is clear that salvation is a free, unmerited gift of the grace of God apprehended through faith in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Although this is absolutely true, there are some who have pushed fromthe ditch of legalism across the road into another ditch–that of loose living, as if this is what freedom in Christ is about. But the Word of God rejects this idea:
“What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.”(Romans 6:1–4, ESV)
Paul is saying that by being identified with Christ through the baptism of the Spirit, we have also identified with his death, so that we are no longer living our former life, but a new life in Christ. This doesn’t mean we can’t sin, but that we are no longer enslaved to sin so that we must obey it as our master: “What then? Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness.” (Romans 6:15–18, ESV)
This fits in perfectly with what Paul is saying in Ephesian 4, where he identifies not as enslaved to sin, or traditions of men, but as the prisoner of/for the Lord. As such, Paul begins to speak about the outworking of the Christian life that he described as a gift of God in Ephesian chapters 1-3. In the last three chapters, Paul shows that justification leads to sanctification by the very nature of the new life.
For the Christian, there is still a remaining struggle with the flesh (as Romans 7 clearly describes), and will always be such until we are glorified with christ. But there are also divine exhortations throughout Scripture to pursue holiness and righteous living. In Paul’s words, “walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called.” As the first six verse of Ephesian 4 show, this desire for Christians to walk in the same direction of godly living results in greater unity in the church. Like the sound coming out of a blacksmith’s shop as the hammer strikes the anvil, the theme of unity thunders out: one body, one Spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father… (vv. 4-6). Christ has brought unity and Christian living resounds with these truths. When a Christian or multiple Christians live out os sync with godliness, they are reflecting a disunity that is not true and is at odds with their identity in Christ.
The Church of the Risen Christ should all be following the same drum beat of her Lord. In reality, we wander sometimes. We stop to check out another trail off to the side. We sit our for a while. We begin telling the other soldiers around us where they should go, forgetting we should keep our eyes on the Lord ourselves. We outright rebel and do our own thing for a while. Sometimes these happen.
But the blessing of having one another is greater. Christ leads, and he has given us one another, he has given us the teachings of the apostles and prophets, we have the gifted evangelists among us, and those that shepherd and teach us through Word and example how to follow Christ (Eph 4:11-16). We are so blessed because we are not alone on the narrow road. We have one another to encourage us along the way, help us bear our burdens, and to watch for the times when we might need to be exhorted along the path.
We are no longer on the broad path, so we aren’t to think like the unsaved think because their mindset is futile and dark (Eph 4:17-18). Therefore, may we live this new life on the path of righteousness for the glory of Jesus, not by ourselves or even for ourselves, but in true communion with the saints who walk alongside us. After all, all of us pilgrims will one day reach our home, and we will live together forever with our God. What a glorious day that will be!