As we are discovering through this powerful Epistle, being a Christian is wanting to fulfill whatever potential God has placed within you. The challenge is not to allow what’s going on around you to control your focus. The Holy Spirit of God is there to provide all the strength and guidance we need.
1 I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, 2 With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; 3 Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
Paul begins by taking a very practical, ‘if I can do it, you can do it’ approach. “With all lowliness and meekness” this humble Apostle wasn’t in the business of bossing people around, but showing them how it’s done as “the prisoner of the Lord”. At this time, Paul was an actual prisoner of Rome. Amazingly, we see he did not view his predicament as punishment or as any disadvantage. Normally, we would assume that the success of any mission work would be predicated on the missionary’s capability to travel freely. Yet in spite of the fact that Paul was limited by his bonds, the supernatural power of the Spirit of God within him could not be bound. Paul’s life “therefore” illustrates what he told young Timothy, that “godliness with contentment is great gain.” Seeing this level of surrender along with all of the responsibility Paul had as the Apostle to the Nations, we should be ashamed to ever think we are too busy or continue to make anymore excuses.
As we read these words let us remember, Paul isn’t addressing a group of preachers here, but an assembly of what would be considered common, everyday believers. According to Paul here, every Christian has the individual responsibility to “walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called”. This doesn’t pertain only to those who lead, preach, or teach, such as we’ve been taught by churches which apparently did not come far enough out of the evil influences of Roman Catholicism. In fact, we have Christ’s personal warning to the assembly at Pergamos against the Nicolaitans concerning this (Revelation 2:12-16). Paul is deepening and further reinforcing a theme of this Epistle – that each of us were foreordained to do something for God. To walk worthy then is the opposite of what most professing Christians are being led to do, which for the most part is just going through the motions.
As we see, each of us has the privilege of knowing for ourselves our “vocation” – Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance #2821, which is simply your own personal calling. Becoming what God wants you to be is His pathway forward for your life. Take those providential first steps of this worthy walk on the narrow road which leads to life (Matthew 7:13-14). This is the essence of letting the mind of Christ be in you, while no longer leaning on your own understanding (Philippians 2:3-7; Proverbs 3:5-6). The New Revised Standard Version puts it this way: “I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beg you to live a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called”. This should put the calling, your calling to serve God in a much brighter light.
We must rethink and when necessary, stop following man-made ideas of what it means to be a faithful Christian. From what we see in this Epistle, it does not come through nit-picking one another’s doctrine or conforming to external rules. What is it that should bring and hold us together? It is “the bond of peace” we have, as we are “Endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit” together. This almost automatically happens when each of us are making every effort to answer God’s call. Through “longsuffering” or patience and “forbearing one another in love” we can build something great for God. Paul goes on to explain the simplicity of doing it all God’s way:
4 There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; 5 One Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.
Pursuing godliness begins by, first of all, just wanting to understand what pleases God. “There is one body” which God wants us to do His ministry through – a called-out assembly of believers like the one Christ established during His earthly ministry (Matthew 16:18). We must learn to let the “one Spirit” Who lives within each Israelite guide and empower us. The “one hope of your calling” is accepting that you have one shot in this life to find out what God wants you to do and then accomplish it for His glory. Ultimately, we only answer to Jesus Who is our “One Lord”, the only One we are to follow. There is only one way we can please God, which is by embracing the “one faith”, by being singularly dependent upon the “One God”. The “one baptism” represents our voluntary immersion into the furtherance of the Gospel. We must never be ashamed and always be willing to sacrifice it all for Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection to reach our people, which the ordinance of baptism in water symbolizes.
This all brings us to the main truth, that there is only “One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.” He is “above all”, therefore, we are only to worship Him. He is “through all” in that He has a purpose for each of us and wants to work through us for His good pleasure (Philippians 2:13). And He is “in you all” – God is in every Israelite by His indwelling Spirit – “Christ in you, the hope of glory”, which is the mystery of godliness (II Timothy 314-16). This should be our main motivation for wanting to be godly because we are His sons.
7 But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ.
We’ve already seen how God predetermined an intended purpose for each of our lives before the world began (1:4-5; 2:10). Then it just makes sense that God would provide the grace we need to accomplish whatever He has called us to do. Scriptures like this are intended to take the weight and pressure off of serving God, once we’ve discovered our vocation and are willing to perform it with all of our hearts. God knows what we have need of before we ask Him and He would never call us to do something His grace is not sufficient enough for us to bear (Matthew 6:8; I Corinthians 1:13; II Corinthians 12:3). Part of becoming godly is being willing to do whatever God wants you to do.
Notice, God’s grace is given “according to the measure of the gift of Christ.” This “measure” is Strong’s #3358 – a limited portion. This is further evidence that God’s will has been narrowed down just for you. To contrast, the Only Begotten Son of God Himself was “full of grace and truth” (stated in John chapter 1) as He was to fulfill everything perfectly that was prophesied in the Old Testament concerning the Messiah. After Christ’s ascension, the time has come for us to assume our position as the sons of God, which means uniting together as the various parts of the body of Christ. We can trust His grace to provide everything we need to fulfill His perfect will. Then he goes into explaining when Christ gave the gifts:
8 Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men. 9 (Now that he ascended, what is it but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth? 10 He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things.)
In a general sense, what Paul quotes here is in reference to what Christ accomplished by His resurrection victory. Paul utilizes these quotes from victory songs found in the Book of Judges and in a Psalm of David to illustrate the immediate and long term benefits of Christ’s completed work of redemption for Israel. Though there are other ideas about what this could mean, what fits this particular context best is that it is a prophetic portrayal of King Jesus’ winning the victory as it took place with ancient, victory processions. After kings and their captains would win great battles, a procession of their armies would emerge through the gates of the city in triumphant victory before their citizens, transporting the spoils of war which they had gathered, along with long, lost prisoners of war. Here are these two references from the Old Testament:
12 Awake, Awake, Deborah: awake, awake, Barak, and lead thy captivity captive, thou son of Abinoam. 13 Then he made him that remaineth have dominion over the nobles among the people: the LORD made me have dominion over the mighty.
17 The chariots of God are twenty thousand, even thousands of angels: the Lord is among them, as in Sinai, in the holy place. 18 Thou hast ascended on high, thou hast led captivity captive: thou hast received gifts for men; yea, for the rebellious also, that the LORD God might dwell among them.
Many times, we see the Hebrew word Adonia (translated as “Lord”) used in prophetic reference to the Coming Messiah in the Old Testament, as is the case with this particular usage in Psalm 68. Paul’s placement of this quote at this juncture in his Epistle to these Greeks at Ephesus, sheds tremendous light on the meaning of these phrases – “lead captivity captive” in Judges, and “thou hast led captivity captive” found in this Psalm. Paul reveals the prophetic character of these verses, as they can only allude to the regathering of the dispersed, once “rebellious” Israelites. Prophetically, we see “the Lord is among them” to make reconciliation, not at “Sinai” with Moses, but through the shedding of His own blood, fulfilling the law on our behalf, in triumphant victory at a hill called Golgotha. Christ “ascended on high” and “led captivity captive” so “that the LORD might dwell among” us as His “one body” by His “one Spirit”, as the “One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.” All of this was the result for “He that descended” Who “is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things.”
Christ would foretell His Disciples what was to occur after His ascension to the Father in John chapter 16. He explained it to them, “Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you…. Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come… All things that the Father hath are mine: therefore said I, that he shall take of mine, and shall shew it unto you… A little while, and ye shall not see me: and again, a little while, and ye shall see me, because I go to the Father.”
Forty days after His resurrection, we find this in the opening verses of Acts chapter 1, just before He ascended to the Father that they were to preach the Gospel “in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.” We see then that it was God’s plan for Jesus to descend to this earth and accomplish His work. But it was also God’s plan for Jesus to ascend after His work was done, so that the next phase of God’s plan could go into affect, when he “gave gifts unto men” by sending the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. At this point, we see that some men are to fill certain offices and places of leadership, which He gave for a particular purpose:
11 And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; 12 For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: 13 Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: 14 That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; 15 But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ:16 From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.
Paul then continues by giving this list and then a detailed description of the “dispensation” he referred to in chapter 3, resulting after Christ’s ascension. This further outlines the framework of the Father’s business His sons are to be about. The only way that those Christ “gave” can be a gift to God’s people is for them to personally realize they are to be the most honest, respectable, and godly of all. The kind of man that believes he has been called to one of these offices and takes it more serious than anything else deserves to be appreciated, honored, and taken care of by those to whom he ministers (I Corinthians 9). Though there are a lot of exceptions, we shouldn’t allow bad experiences with hirelings to cause us to miss out on the blessings of helping those who are fulfilling these God-given leadership/ proclamation roles.
This “perfecting” is in reference to becoming spiritually mature as we’ve seen in prior lessons. God giving these men is for the primary purpose of Israel’s spiritual maturity and for training to do ministry – to build a wonderful work for God’s glory. How do we know when we are on the right track? When “we all come in the unity of the faith… unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ”. How can we know when we are not on the right track? If we are still wanting to argue with everybody, while being “tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine”. Recognize “the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness” of even them being overly obsessed with doctrine. Escape those who “lie in wait to deceive” you, by once and for all, concentrating on “speaking the truth in love”, that we all “may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ”.
It should be obvious that not a one of us has it all. However, none of us as Christians should ever think we can ‘come to the table’ empty-handed. Bring whatever God has blessed you with to contribute to “the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ”. Being a Christian isn’t about joining a group of stingy, contentious individuals who only want to condemn their brethren. It makes no difference how much truth you think you know, without love you cannot become a mature Christian (I John 4:18). Long to be an active part of a body of believers that is “fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.”
We should labor toward foreseeing this in our lives. Though we should want to worship God and enjoy His Word for the rest of our days, God intends for us to ‘grow up’ to a place of spiritual maturity way before we get too old to not be able to do anything. It is not the responsibility of those in the offices mentioned above to do it all, but to train everyone else how to do ministry by helping unlock people’s gifts, while finding God’s perfect will for their lives. That doesn’t mean that we’ll know it all, none of us do. But we at least should want to understand enough to do God’s will in a godly fashion. False teachers don’t care about this because they only want you to follow them, keeping you distracted from practicing “the knowledge of the Son of God” and fulfilling your own calling.
When we as parts of “the whole body” are all together on the same page, wanting to become godly in our walk, wanting to perform God’s perfect will, all of the petty, little problems that once tripped us up, no longer remain a factor. For when we focus on Christ within ourselves and in others, we don’t get caught up in all the selfish and childish games that unstable people end up playing in the Name of Christ:
17 This I say therefore, and testify in the Lord, that ye henceforth walk not as other nations walk, in the vanity of their mind, 18 Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart: 19 Who being past feeling have given themselves over unto lasciviousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness.
This is a serious call to godliness by Paul to the Ephesian Christians, “that ye henceforth walk not as other nations walk”. Though only Israelites can become Christians, being a Christian doesn’t happen at our physical birth, it is a “walk” or lifestyle we learn by following Christ from the heart. Those who claim Israelites are just ‘born with it’ in most cases, may talk a good game for awhile, but do not end up walking the walk. Until we repent and come to Christ by faith, an unconverted Israelite is still trapped “in the vanity of their mind” which may include wanting to scrutinize everyone else, while neglecting the condition of their own heart. What is it that causes this? “Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart”. Therefore, the change that needs to take place is on the inside, not just adopting some set of external rules or even, racial awareness.
When people think of you, even if they don’t agree with you, do they still think of you as godly? Stop deceiving yourself into thinking that the way for an Israelite to live is about anything other than this. For Israelites to do anything other than receive Christ by faith and spend the rest of their lives assuming their position as the sons of God is to continue to “walk… as other nations walk” still falling short of your Father’s intended purpose.
20 But ye have not so learned Christ; 21 If so be that ye have heard him, and have been taught by him, as the truth is in Jesus: 22 That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; 23 And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; 24 And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.
Though the salvation “Christ” purchased was only for Israel, Paul emphasizes in detail the necessity for each of us to produce evidence that we have been personally “renewed”. In a day when some are spuriously teaching that Whites are somehow just born Christians, the Bible clearly says otherwise (II Corinthians 13:5). Paul has already pointed out that we must first come to Christ by personally trusting in Him by faith (1:13). Then, according to Paul here, Christianity or following “Christ” is “learned”. Christianity doesn’t just consist of thinking through some subjectively tuned set of doctrines, but is learning to follow in the footsteps of our Messiah because “the truth is in Christ”. Those who live a godly life show undeniable proof that they have “heard him, and have been taught by him”. Those who are not in pursuit of godliness, either do not know Him or “have not so learned Christ”.
Remember, these saints at Ephesus do not have their own copy of the New Testament. So how can Paul say that they could “have heard” or could “have been taught by” Jesus? Because “Christ” was in them and “the truth” Paul taught them, brought it out. Therefore, we see then it wasn’t Paul’s or any other teacher’s job to come up with their own version of Jesus, but to just teach them what Christ Himself said and did, while depending upon the Spirit of Christ make each of us a “new man”.
“If so be” then, the only choice is to “put off concerning the former conversation the old man”. When we are converted and begin to learn Christ, He exposes within us that we are “corrupt according to the deceitful lusts”. Once you are convinced and have put off the old man, your pursuit of godliness and discovering Christ within you begins. Paul gives us a terrific definition of what godliness is – To “be renewed in the spirit of your mind; And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.” Becoming godly is renewal and transformation from the inside out to set you apart from the world to live by faith for the glory of God.
With Paul’s words, when we think of learning Christ, it is in relation to Him being in us and us learning to follow His mindset. Letting the mind of Christ be in you is the only way to become godly and achieve all you can for God. Anything outside of that falls short of genuine, Biblical Christianity and is a waste of your time. Thus far, if what you have spent your life learning in the name of Christianity has not equipped you to do God’s will and to live a godly life, something is bad wrong. He has invested far too much in us for us to go on playing silly, religious games that produce no real spiritual fruit.
What good is it to brag about being born one of His sheep, while no one can tell any difference between us and the rest of the world?! One may very well be a sheep and still be lost (II Corinthians 4:3). Only those who’ve been converted “put on the new man” and are inwardly “created in righteousness and true holiness” to live a godly life. We must “put off” what we once were, even our religion, seeing even it “is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; And be renewed in the spirit of your mind” by Christ within. Becoming a Christian is wanting to “put on the new man”. This “new man” is Christ in you, learning through His power the life God wants you to live for His glory. In a practical sense, here’s how we do that:
25 Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbour: for we are members one of another.
“Wherefore” we arrive at another section of application where Paul points out behavior we must change to become more godly Christians. Obviously, for one putting on the new man, “putting away lying” is the only option. It should be a given that lying is not godly. Concentrate always on just being honest with yourself and everyone else. As a son of God, place the highest value on the words that you speak, knowing that they contain power and will have consequences. For to speak any other way but truthful, will not only hurt others, but will only end up hurting you in the end.
Again, we are reminded that the only neighbor a White man can have is another White man as “we are members one of another” because we were born with the Spirit of God. If you recognize that someone professing to be a Christian can lie just as easily as one who doesn’t, he proves he is not a Christian at all. In that case, you may just have to put away the pretender himself.
26 Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath: 27 Neither give place to the devil.
Could this be a problem we need to deal with in our own personal experience? The way we handle our anger speaks volumes about how deep our Christianity really is and how godly we want to be. Unfortunately, anger is a part of life, especially if we are taking a stand for Christ in such an evil time. Failure to control our anger will “give place to the devil” in our homes and lives. Never let your anger go unchecked. Learn from your experiences without holding grudges and never let unresolved anger and bitterness toward others linger too long – it is the devil’s workshop.
An important consideration is the way we manage our personal anger concerning God’s enemies. When we first become racially awake, it is completely understandable that we become angry over all the lies we’ve been told, especially when the mask on the Jew is removed for us. The challenge though is to not allow it to consume us by applying this principle Paul prescribes here. God did not give us this truth to make our lives miserable. Recognize that the tendency to become way out of balance in your hatred and anger towards non-Whites and Jews actually undermines your faith by giving place to the devil. Refuse to allow ungodly men lead you down this road.
28 Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labour, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth.
As we are seeing, when Israelites genuinely repent and receive the Gospel of Christ, lifestyle changes are obvious. The way to repent according to the Bible, is to turn away from ungodly behavior and worldly character. Paul is giving examples of what is expected from one who claims to be a Christian, “Let him that stole steal no more” – but it doesn’t end there. He is to be “working with his hands the thing which is good” for the intent “that he may have to give to him that needeth.” Gospel repentance then isn’t just quitting the bad behavior, but then doing what “is good”.
This illustrates how practical and straightforward approaching godliness really is. To go from being one who steals to becoming one who willfully works and gives to help those who need it are clear fruits of repentance. One can’t help but think of the story of Zacheus (Luke 19:1-10). Taking something that is not yours is ungodly. Working to give someone else something that they need is godly. This is the essence of becoming someone God can use.
If you recognize God by His Spirit that is in you and your brethren, you realize that what you do to them, you are doing to yourself because you both are of the same Spirit. Stealing from someone else is only robbing yourself. Work so that you will have more to give “to him that” may need it. This is a progression of becoming godly through the power of the Gospel – it’s simple and it just makes sense. Christians are to spend their time being productive and making progress, rather than justifying ungodly behavior, making excuses, and staying the same.
Ministry is about meeting others’ needs. Godliness is reflected by how hard we work and by only wanting God’s best for ourselves and others. If we trust God while living in the direction of becoming who God wants us to be, He will provide more than we need so we can be a blessing to others. How can we minister effectively without God blessing us materially? We cannot. Thank God for those who get it, when it comes to freely providing what is needed for the work of the Gospel to be done (II Corinthians 9).
29 Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers. 30 And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption. 31 Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: 32 And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.
Paul immediately revisits the importance of our words. Many problems begin just by us not thinking before we speak, not considering the potential consequences of our words. How much would it help, if we could see these things put into practice? These are issues we must give our attention and take personal responsibility for in our own lives. As much as “communication” with one another is a part of our daily lives, should it not be of utmost importance that we “Let” this sink in? What comes “out of your mouth” is your responsibility. Being considerate of one another, especially when it comes to our talk, is obviously Christian. Whatever we do end up saying to one another shouldn’t be intentionally discouraging or “corrupt”, but to the “edifying… unto the hearers.” Why not build up your brethren with your words so “that it may minister grace unto the hearers”? God ministers His grace through us when we do everything we can to encourage others to pursue godliness and God’s perfect will for their lives.
In our day we are conditioned to be so careful not to offend anyone – except for God. Paul however, goes on to provide an actual list of some of the ways we “grieve” the indwelling “holy Spirit of God”. To “grieve” Him is Strong’s #3076 from #3077 – to distress… to be sad… be in heaviness. Obviously, letting “corrupt communication proceed” between White brothers grieves the Holy Spirit within us and within those who hear about it. We express our godliness (or the lack thereof) through what comes out of our mouths and how we treat others. By His “grace”, God even has the power to make what we need to hear into what we want to hear and say. The Holy Spirit only puts godly words in your heart to “proceed out of your mouth… that which is good to the use of edifying” your brethren, influencing them to pursue Christ in their lives.
We see “bitterness” mentioned first, as it comes from harboring unforgiveness and not trusting God. This is why even James instructed us to be “slow to speak”, avoiding unnecessary “clamour, and evil speaking”. Godliness leaves no room for lingering bitterness which must be “put away from” us, as well as any urge to retaliate in “wrath”. Though being “kind one to another” may seem insignificant, it reflects a godly approach to your relationships with others. Godliness begins by letting Christ come forth by loving your brethren. Just go ahead and forgive when others have sinned against you, “even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.” These are important keys which happen in our practical, every day lives. These things just can’t be learned through learning more and more theology, getting us all puffed up on knowledge. The more you place your focus on not wanting to grieve the Holy Spirit, the more you will be blessed now and in eternity.
Finally, we “are sealed” by the Holy Spirit which is Strong’s #4972 from #4973 – to stamp (with a signet or private mark) for security or preservation (literally or figuratively). In other words, we are God’s property from start to finish and that will never change, even “unto the day of redemption” when we get our glorified bodies. Now is your greatest opportunity to prove your love for God by wanting to become more godly in your life.
As we see, assuming our position as the sons of God and pursuing godliness are synonymous. This is a rundown of the daily, mental and spiritual maintenance we must do on ourselves. Never view yourself as above your brethren. Remember, the mind of Christ provides the needed balance to always view yourself as a servant, not as someone who should be receiving loads of praise for every little thing you do. Know and pursue God’s will in your life and be content within yourself like Paul. God puts us where we will glorify Him the most by serving our brethren. In turn, God will bless and honor you, while your brethren will be serving you as well.