Look with me, would you, in your Bible, at the fourth chapter of Ephesians. Ephesians chapter 4. We’re moving along much more slowly than we did about eight years ago, when we taught the book of Ephesians. So much more in my heart and mind about these truths that I just can’t seem to get along as fast as I used to. But I trust the Spirit of God is speaking to us as we go.
The first six verses of chapter 4 introduce us to the lowly walk of our high position. The first three chapters of Ephesians have let us know that we have a high position in Christ. We are exalted to the heavenlies. We are blessed with all spiritual blessings. We are recipients of the unsearchable riches of Jesus Christ. We are one with the Lord. We are citizens of His kingdom. Tremendous realities.
And because of who we are, this is how we are to live, chapters 4, 5, and 6. And so, the book is divided in the very middle, as we’ve seen.
Now, let me begin our study this morning by reminding you of a certain truth. Paul the apostle was a beggar. And I don’t mean that he was a beggar in terms of his profession, but I mean he was a beggar in terms of his passion. Let me show you what I mean by that.
Before Agrippa, in the twenty-sixth chapter of Acts, he said this, “I beg you to hear me patiently.” In the twelfth chapter of Romans, to the Romans he said – and to us – “I beg you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice.
To the Corinthians he said, in chapter 4, verse 16, “Wherefore I beg you, be ye followers of me.” To the Corinthians again, in 2 Corinthians chapter 2 and verse 8, he said, “I beg you that you would confirm your love toward Him.” In 2 Corinthians 5 and verse 20, he said, “We beg you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God.” In Galatians chapter 4 and verse 12, he said, “Brethren, I beg you, be as I am.” And in chapter 5, verse 1, he said, “For freedom Christ has set us free. Therefore, stand fast and be not entangled again with the yolk of bondage.” “Be as I am,” is what he was saying.
Now, just those few passages emphasize the fact that Paul was a beggar. That when he believed in a vital reality, when he was committed to some principle of divine truth, he didn’t mind begging that people respond to it. He didn’t mind beseeching and pleading and imploring and entreating people to act.
You know, I guess I identify with Paul being a beggar. Sometimes I say things to you that maybe sound a little pleading. And I suggested that maybe I needed – a few weeks ago, I suggested to somebody that maybe I needed to just really plead with you even more about certain responses that ought to be manifest in your life.
At the time, I was talking about coming to the Lord’s Table, and somebody said to me, “Well, you know, you don’t want to just beg people.”
And then I began to think about that, and then I began to look up all these Scriptures, and yeah, I guess I do want to beg people. In classic apostolic fashion, I have every right to beg you. I cannot approach the ministry with detachment or indifference. I think I have to be wrapped up and pleading with people, begging people.
I remember one time having the occasion to speak at one of the major Christian colleges of our land, to be a guest speaker. I was somewhat intimidated just by the occasion because of the faculty and the student body that were there, and several thousand of them. And I was assigned to speak in an expositional fashion. And so, I selected the text from 2 Corinthians chapter 5 to speak on the motivation of the apostle Paul, what motivated him to be the man of God that he was.
And I thought, “You know, these people get academics all day in their class, but maybe they need a little bit of fire and passion.” And so, I just decided I’d just preach my heart out. And I got the illustrations together and the points together, and I poured out my heart, and I preached the best I could. And, boy, I really – I got involved, and I was pleading with them to respond to the principles of the Word of God and to get out of that school and make a difference in the world.
And, boy, you know, I just was very impassioned with the whole thing. And I finished with prayer, and I felt like I had delivered my soul. And I walked out of the side of this great auditorium and down the walk, and a student confronted me. And he said, “May I speak with you a moment?”
And I said, “Certainly.”
He said, “Apparently you didn’t realize to whom you were speaking.”
And I said, “Well, perhaps not.”
And he said, “You see, you should have been informed as to the intellectual level of the students here at this school.”
I figured right away he was a freshman. And I said, “Well, that’s perhaps true.”
And he said, “You see, all of those gyrations, and all of that activity, and all those emotional stories, and all that display was very unnecessary. It was offensive. We are mature, intellectual people. You” – and I’ll never forget this statement – “You just lay out the facts, my friend, and we’ll judge whether they’re relevant or not for our lives.” Then I knew he was a freshman. “You just lay out the facts, and we’ll judge whether they’re relevant for our lives.”
Listen, you can’t do that when your heart is involved in your ministry. You can’t detach yourself like that. In the first place, you don’t believe for a minute that’s really true. Well, I got his name, and later I began to think about it. So, I wrote him a note, and I said to him – I think his name was Phil – “Dear Phil” – Phil somebody; I never saw him again. I said, “Thank you for confronting me, again, to make me think about my ministry, but I must remind you that my ministry is not an intellectual exercise. It’s something deep down in my heart. And if I’m a beggar and a pleader, then you’ll excuse me. But I stand in the apostolic succession to the apostle Paul himself.” I tried to point that out to him and love him.
Paul was a beggar, and you got to be that. Not because of anything external, but because it’s in your heart to do that. Paul pleaded with people; he begged people. As I showed you, in Acts 26:3, these are the things, first of all, running back through those Scriptures, that he begged. First of all, he begged for a man to hear the Gospel. There’s nothing wrong with you this week looking forward to next Sunday night and finding somebody and begging them to come and pleading with them to come. He begged Agrippa to hear.
And secondly, as we saw in 2 Corinthians 5:20, he begged people to be reconciled to God. He pleaded with them to come to Jesus Christ. And thirdly, in 1 Corinthians 4:12, he begged Christians to pattern their lives after his life, which was patterned after Christ. And then, in 2 Corinthians 2:8, he begged believers to love each other. And in Galatians 4:12, he begged people to stand in the liberty that Christ had granted to them.
You see, when it came down to the real issues of the spiritual world, he didn’t mind begging people; he didn’t mind pleading with people. And I can’t make an apology if I get a little bit exercised about some of the things that have concerned me about you. I don’t need to make an apology if I pour out my heart in a pleading fashion, imploring you to respond to the things of God. It isn’t a matter of just laying out some intellectual information and assuming that you’re going to respond to it if you determine, intellectually, that it’s logical and reasonable for you to do that.
The prophet of God, of the Old Testament, was a passionate man. The Lord Jesus Christ was a passionate man. He cried out. How many times do you read that Greek verb krazō, He cried out. And you see him weeping over the city, and you hear him, and you know that He cared. And you see Paul, and the tears are running down His face most of his ministry because he cares, and he’s pleading, and he’s begging, and he’s crying out in the agora, the marketplace, for people to respond.
You cannot approach the ministry with intellectual indifference. And as you look at Ephesians 4:1, you hear him begging all over again. Look at it. “I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beg you that you walk worthy of the vocation to which you’re called. He doesn’t just coldly say, “It is essential that you walk worthy.” He begs them. He begs them.
And, beloved, the reason is this, that until you walk worthy, God is not glorified in your life. You are not fully blessed, the church cannot fully function, and therefore the world cannot really see Jesus Christ. The worthy walk, Paul begs for it, and so do I.
Now remember last time? We talked about the fact that first we must know, and then we can do. Right? You have doctrine and then – what? – duty. You have position and then – what? – practice. You have theology and then comes right living. And we said last time that that’s why the Word of God again and again says you must know, you must know, you must know, you must be new in the – renewed in the spirit of your mind. You must put on the new man that is renewed in knowledge, that the eyes of your understanding would be enlightened.
In other words, we must know before we can do. You cannot function on what you do not know. And so, we emphasized to you last time how important it is for us to know the truth of God.
Now, I want to say two things about that. First of all, if you don’t know the Word of God, you can’t protect yourself from sin. David said, “Thy word have I hid in my heart that I might not” – what? – “sin against Thee.” The protective, the preventative, the defense against sin is the knowledge of the Word of God. It is the Word of Christ dwelling in you richly.
Let me illustrate it to you just in one simple illustration from the seventh chapter of Proverbs. Proverbs chapter 7. Now, Proverbs is all about wisdom. Proverbs was a book that was taught from fathers to sons. And, father, you can do no greater favor for your son than to teach him Proverbs.
Proverbs is all about wisdom, and you must have wisdom before you can live it. You must know before you can do. But watch what happens here in this illustration. Where there is ignorance, there is sin. Where you don’t know the Word of God, you have no defense. You cannot fulfill your Christian life, you cannot walk worthy, you cannot glorify God, you cannot adorn His nature, you cannot manifest Christ, you cannot function in the church in the manner you should; therefore, the church is harmed.
But let’s see, as an illustration, Proverbs chapter 7, verse 6. Verse 5 introduces the strange woman. Now, this strange woman, this foreign woman, is a woman who would come along in the society of Israel to seduce Israel, to seduce some Jewish man.
Verse 6, “For at the window of my house, I looked through my casement.” He looks out the window, and what does he see? “And I beheld among the simple ones” – now, here we are introduced to a simple person. The word is “naive.” Doesn’t know. He has no information. He’s devoid of knowledge. He has no understanding.
Now, watch what happens to a simple person who doesn’t know. “And I discerned among the youths, a young man void of understanding” – now, this is a desperate situation for a person to be in: he doesn’t know; he’s simple; he has no understanding – “passing through the street near her corner; he went the way to her house.” You know what happens to a simple person? In this case, he fell into the clutches of a harlot.
Here’s the story: “In the twilight, in the evening, in the black and dark night: and, behold, there met him a woman with the attire of an harlot, and subtle of heart (though she is loud and stubborn; her feet abide not in her own house, and now is she outside in the streets, and lieth in wait at every corner.)
“So, she caught him, and kissed him, and with an impudent faced said to him” – now, here comes the pitch – “‘I have peace offerings with me; this day have I paid my vows.’” Apparently there was going to be something to eat. “‘Therefore came I forth to meet thee, diligently to seek thy face, and I have found thee.’” What a song and dance. “‘I have decked my bed with coverings of tapestry, with embroidered works, with fine linen of Egypt. I have perfumed my bed with myrrh, and aloes, and cinnamon. Come, let us take our fill of love until the morning: let us solace ourselves with love.’” It sounds like a contemporary song, doesn’t it?
Here’s the real issue: “‘For my husband is not at home; he’s gone on a long journey. He’s taken a bag of money with him, and will come home at the day appointed.’” He’s got business to do. “With her much fair speech she caused him to yield; with the flattering of her lips she forced him. He goeth after her straightway” – but notice the next line – “as an ox to the slaughter, a fool to the correction of the stocks; till an arrow strike through his liver, as a bird hasteneth to the snare and knoweth not that it is for his life.” We’ll stop there.
You see, not knowing and being simple, and being void of understanding means you are defenseless. And that’s the negative way to say what I said in the positive last week. To know the truth of God, to know the Word of God in its deepest sense, to have it dwelling richly in you, to know it experimentally becomes the defense that enables you to say no to sin and yes to righteousness. To be simple and naive and void of understanding is to put yourself in the place of absolute vulnerability. And so, beloved, I say to you this, we must know before we can do. If we do not know, we will be victimized. And even a person who has put his faith in Jesus Christ and come to Christ, if he remains in his life, in biblical ignorance, if the Word of God is not constantly running through the front of his mind, if he is not ever conscious of the deep and rich reality of God’s eternal truth, will find himself entrapped in sin again and again and again and again.
And so, we must know. But there’s a further thing to say to you. There is an element of danger in knowing. That’s right. Even though we must know to defend ourselves against sin and to fulfill God’s will, there is a danger in knowing, because once we know, we become accountable for what we know.
Second Peter chapter 2 and verse 21, speaking here of an apostate who had the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ but went back to his former life, never really committing himself to Christ. It was in his head, not his heart. Commenting on that, it says in verse 21 – listen to this, and here is a divine principle – “For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them.” Did you get that? He says, “It is better that you never know than that you know and you turn away from it.” People, that is a powerful statement with unending ramification.
Somebody might say, “Well, call the missionaries home. Call them home. It’s better that those people never know than that they know and reject it.”
Yes. Yes, that’s true. But on the other hand, the Lord Jesus himself said to go into all the world and preach the Gospel to ever creature. Because better yet than knowing and not responding is knowing so that you can respond. Okay? The same is true of us.
You could say, “Well, if it says in James, ‘To him that knoweth to do good and doeth it not, to him it is sin.’ And it says this here, man, it’s better not to know the Bible, because if you don’t know it, you’re not quite as accountable.”
Listen, it’s better not to know it than to know it and not do it. But it’s best of all to know it and do it. That’s the point. And so, we say to you, “Seek to know and seek to do.” That’s how you fulfill God’s plan in your life. And by the way, the other alternatives are misery. To not know it and therefore not do it is never to know the blessing of God. To know it and not do it is ever to know the chastening of God. But to know it and do it is to constantly know His blessing.
And so, we say to you, “Learn the truth and obey the truth.” That’s what Paul is saying. You know it. It’s here for you in the first three chapters, now apply it. And I’ll tell you something, anybody who comes to Grace Church any length of time is going to know some of these things because the people here teach these things. And you’re going to be responsible, but at the same time, you’re going to be able to live a fulfilled life to God’s glory.
So, Paul invites us then to walk. No, he begs us to walk worthy because this is the standard, and the only standard. Colossians chapter 3, listen, if you then are risen with Christ, seek the things that are above. If you’re living in the heavenlies, set your affections on things above and not on things on the earth. If you have been exalted to be up there with God, then put to death the things on the earth.
You say, “Well, John, Paul’s begging us to walk worthy. Is it possible? I mean 1 John 2:6 says if we believe in Christ, we ought to walk as he walked. Can we do it? How can we do it? My position is exalted in heavenly. My position is in Christ. It’s so high; it’s so lofty; it’s so wonderful; it’s so incomprehensible. How could I ever live in that manner?”
Well, first of all, you got to know the principles and then respond.
You say, “Well, if I’m a Christian, and I’m so elevated, and I’m so exalted, and I’m so lofty, boy, I better live an exalted, elevated lofty life. Better stick out my spiritual chest and be somebody.”
That’s interesting. Jesus said, “Take my yoke upon you and learn of me, for I am” – what? – “meek and lowly at heart.”
You say, “You mean that the high position demands a lowly walk?”
That’s right. Look at verse 2, “With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” You see it there? You’re so high, and you’re so lofty, and you’re so exalted, blessed with all the spiritual blessings, and elevated to an eternal inheritance, possessors of Christ, possessors of the Holy Spirit, possessors of the fullness of God Himself, those who own the unsearchable riches of Christ. You’re so high that you really ought to walk very low. Very low. That’s what he’s saying. So that the high position demands a lowly walk.
Now, let’s look at the text, just verse 1 this morning, the call to the worthy walk. Then we’ll see the characteristics of the worthy walk and finally the causes of the worthy walk. But those last two for next time.
The call to the worthy walk in verse 1. He says, “I want you to walk – I beg you to walk.” The word “walk” I have to talk about for just a moment. Walk means daily conduct. It’s a very, very important New Testament word. And by the way, the whole theme of the last three chapters of Ephesians is walk. Walk, walk, walk. That’s the whole theme.
The first 16 verses, he says, “Walk in unity.” The end of chapter 4 is a unique walk, “Walk other than the Gentiles walk.” Chapter 5, it’s a love walk. Chapter 5, a light walk. Chapter 5 again, a wise walk. Chapter 5 and 6, a Spirit walk and finally a warfare walk. And the idea is a lifestyle. The word “walk” we would translate today as daily conduct, lifestyle. Let your lifestyle be worthy of the vocation to which you’re called. That’s the idea of what he’s saying.
Now listen, you say, “Can I do it?”
Yes. Yes, but only on this basis: chapter 3, verses 14 to 20, as you commit yourself to the Holy Spirit to be strengthened by His might in the inner man; as Christ looks at your life, and it’s purified and cleansed, and He settles down and is at home; and as His love penetrates your life, and as a result you’re filled with all the fullness of God and able to do exceeding abundantly above all you can ask or think according to the power that works in you; as all of that takes place, you are living in the resources that enable you to walk the worthy walk. You’ll never do it by just knowing the theology and then trying to crank it out. You must commit yourself to the power. And that’s 3:20, the power.
And when you see the power flow, as indicated in chapter 3, verse 20, in response to the yieldedness to the Holy Spirit of the sixteenth verse, when you see that begin to happen, then the power is there to walk the worthy walk.
Now, let’s see how Paul talks about it. First of all, he says, “I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord...”
“Now, Paul,” you say, “you just said that in chapter 3. Why do you keep talking about this prisoner bit?”
In chapter 3, verse 1, “I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ.” Something interests me. As I thought about this, I started looking around, and he always calls himself a prisoner of Christ. “Prisoner of Christ, prisoner of the Lord, prisoner of Jesus Christ.” And I thought to myself, “Isn’t it wonderful? He was really a prisoner of Rome, technically, but he never saw it that way.” And here’s a great truth for you to remember. The apostle Paul had the ability to see everything only in the light of how it affected Christ. Okay?
In other words, there’s only one way to live, people, and this is a great truth. There’s only one way to live, and that is interpreting everything with reference to the divine. You understand that? He never saw things in a mundane interpretation. He saw them always in relation to God. His first thought was immediately vertical. No matter what entered into his life, it immediately ascended to God in terms of its interpretation, “What does this mean, God? How does this affect you, God?” He never kept things on a horizontal level.
Now you can have a trouble in your life. You can have something happen in your life, and you can say, “Oh, poor me. Woe is me. I am undone. All these problems come to me, and how is this going to affect me? It’s going to mess up my bank account; it’s going to cost me money in the end. It’s going to (mumbles).” And you begin – you’re thinking all the time on the earthy level. But the man who has the Word of Christ dwelling in him richly, the man who has what Proverbs would call wisdom, the man who really functions in a divine frame of reference would respond to that same problem by saying, “Lord, what is it that this signifies? What is it that you’re saying in this?”
The average man, the man of the world, is going to go to his business, and he’s going to function in his business. He’s going to think about all the things that relate to him, how it’s going to make money, how it’s going to advance the business, etcetera, etcetera. Whereas the person who has the Word of Christ dwelling in him richly, the one who saturates his mind with divine wisdom, is going see that business only in interpretation in reference to the divine. How does it affect God? What does it mean to God? How does Christ fit in here?
You see, you can really tell, people, when you get to the place when your mind and heart are committed to the Word of God, you will find that you will refer the interpretation of every event in your life to its reference to God. That’s thinking through the divine grid, and it’s the only way to live.
And, you know, really when you talk about maturity, that’s what you’re talking about. When you talk about a mature Christian, you’re talking about a Christian who sees everything only in the light of the divine perspective. Therefore, he can handle everything because its definition is not dependent upon how it affects him. I hope you think like that.
You know, you can get to the place – and I can see myself growing to that place where everything that occurs in the whole wide world is interpreted in a divine manner, from the smallest to the greatest thing. And that’s the way to live, folks; that’s the way to live. Then you’re really God conscious. Then you’re fulfilling what David said – I love it so much – in Psalm 16, where he said, “I have set the Lord always before me.” Isn’t that great? No matter what happens, it’s God I see. “Therefore, my heart is glad, and my glory rejoices,” he says.
In other words, with God as my point of reference, with God as the very crux of my life, with God as the divine interpreter of every vicissitude in life, my heart is glad. And so, Paul sees himself in reference to the Lord.
But further, he says, “I’m a prisoner of the Lord, and I beseech you to walk worthy.” Now why does he put that here, this prisoner bit? Why does he have to bring it up again? Well, here’s the reason, I think. What he’s really pointing out is this: he’s saying to the people, “Now, I want you to walk worthy.” And by throwing in the little deal, “I, a prisoner of the Lord,” he is saying, “And that’s not easy for me to say in my circumstances, but I’m saying it anyway.” You get the point? The point is this: walk worthy no matter what it costs. He says, “I’m a prisoner, that’s about as bad as you can get in human circumstances. But I’m telling you, in spite of what’s happened to me, you walk worthy of the one who called you. You match your life to His character.”
You know that word “worthy” has a root in the Greek that has to do with equalizing the scales. And as a Christian, your life pattern ought to be equalized with your identity. You understand that? You – there ought to be a perfect harmony between who you are and how you live. And you ought to walk in perfect equity and balance with who you are. And even if you’re a prisoner, that shouldn’t affect it.
Somebody might say, “Well, that’s easy for him to say, ‘Walk worthy.’”
And so he throws this in just to remind you that it isn’t easy. It may lead to prison; it may lead to death, as it did for him, when his head was chopped off is neck, but it never changed his commitment to walk worthy. His appeal then – beloved, listen – is rooted in his own negative circumstance. Even though the circumstance is negative, the – there’s never a change in the commitment. And so, he begs, even as a prisoner, that everybody walk worthy.
Now listen, beloved, again, it is behavior based on right thinking. You know the truth; therefore, this is how you live. Let me show you an illustration of that. In the Old Testament – listen – God said this, “If you obey Me, I will bless you.” Remember that? “If you keep these commandments, I’ll bless you. If you obey this truth, I will bless you.” In other words, blessing was conditioned on obedience. How interesting.
Do you know what he says in the New Testament? “I have already blessed you with all spiritual blessings in the heavenlies. Now would you please obey me?” You see the difference? That’s the difference between law and grace. “If you do this, I’ll bless.” New Testament, “I’ve already blessed, now would you please do this?”
And so that we respond to God not out of fear but out of gratitude. Do you understand? Out of gratitude. We respond not to the thundering and the crashing and the lightning of Sinai, but to the grace of Calvary. See? And so, Paul says, “I’ve given you three chapters of God’s blessing. Now, would you just walk worthy?”
“And I beg you, walk worthy.” He uses the word parakaleō, to call to someone with intensity, to plead with someone. “I beg you,” he says. You know, people, Paul didn’t hesitate to beg because Paul was so concerned about people. You know, you can – you can perform in the ministry. I mean you can just get up and say, “Well, I preached a great sermon,” and go home and say, “That was just great.” And if you just make sure you talk to the right people, they’ll confirm that.
And you can live with the fact that you did a good performance. But that’s a long way from where it should be in the ministry, because the ministry is not my concern that my sermon is good, or my concern that my program is good, or my concern that people like me. The ministry is my concern that you be perfected in Jesus Christ. Do you understand?
There was, in the Minneapolis Tribune last week a series of articles called “The Clergy and Battle Fatigue.” And I was reading them the other night, and it was very interesting because it was talking about the fact that they had interviewed a whole series of men in the ministry. And the one major, common problem that brings to them tremendous depression – and by the way, people in the ministry are among the most depressed human beings in society, and the most depressing thing of all to these people was the constant fact that no matter what you did, you never did it all. And no matter who you helped, and who came along, there was some that you couldn’t seem to help, and they never moved along. And I know that’s the truth. I was reading that thing, and I was just saying, “Boy, this is it. This is it.”
And, you know, you can become jaded. You finally get tired of trying to help people who don’t respond, and you begin to look at yourself as a failure. And like one guy said, “Take your hands off me, lady, I’m not your Messiah; I can’t do it. I can’t do it. I’ve given it my best shot; I can’t do it anymore. Leave me alone. I’m not the Messiah; I can’t solve your problems.” You can become jaded.
And, you know, I’ll be very honest with you. There – this is the kind of ministry that we have – you elders have at this church. You don’t ever turn that off; you don’t ever go home and say, “We’ve don’t it men; we’ve done it. Let’s celebrate. It is done; it is complete. The saints are perfected.”
You know what you say? “I think I’ve found one who’s moving in that direction.” “He seems to be responding.” Oh, joy. See? You see, the reason Paul begged for people to walk worthy was because that was where his passion was; that’s what he cared about. There’s never a day that I ever go home from this church after a day of study and whatever I do. There’s never a day, that I go home and feel like it’s done. Never. Because it isn’t done. A sermon may be finished. A manuscript may be written. A problem may be solved. A solution to a biblical issue may have been discovered.
But you never go home without somebody saying to you, or you saying in your own mind, “You know, you really should have talked to so-and-so. You really should help so-and-so. You really should call on so-and-so. You should have written so-and-so. You should be taking care of this. These people aren’t responding. Did you hear about Mrs. So-and-so? That family’s falling apart, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.” You’re never done. Never.
And so, all our life, you just – you carry the care. And you know what Paul meant when he said, “Besides all the pain I have on the outside, I have the constant care of the churches inside.” But, you see, it’s the passion in the heart of the man of God that the saints be made mature that keeps that drive there. And that’s my great concern for you.
Paul says, “We preach to every man, and we warn every man; we teach every man, that we may present every man perfect in Christ.” He said in Galatians 4:19 – he said, “I have pain. I have birth pains until Christ be formed in you.” See, that was his great desire.
When I – when I look at a congregation, and I – in my heart I say, “I want these – every one of you precious people – I want you to know the fullness of a worthy walk; I want you to know that you can live the life that is in measure the equivalent of who you are in Christ, and I want that to happen in you.” I want it to happen for your sake. I want it to happen for Jesus’ sake. I want it to happen for the Church’s sake. I want it to happen for God’s sake that we can adorn His very nature. See?
So, that’s why I get loud and anxious and passionate and concerned and talk the way I do. And that’s why I beg you. And I’d crawl on my knees down the aisle to beg you.
People say, “Well, you’re so concerned about communion.”
Yes, I am. I don’t understand how somebody can say they love the Lord Jesus Christ and not come to His Table. I don’t understand how somebody can say, “I believe in Jesus Christ,” but not be baptized, when that’s what the New Testament asks you to do. I don’t understand how people can be committed to Jesus Christ and not obey His truths, not read His Word, not spend time in prayer, not long and hunger for souls that are lost. I don’t understand that.
But I do know this: they’re a little ways from being what they ought to be if that’s true, and we’ve got to get them there. And so, there’s the level of commitment. See? And so, Paul says, “I beg you to walk worthy. I beg you.” And I don’t hesitate to do the same. You know, I don’t hesitate to beg you to bring somebody next Sunday night to hear the gospel of Jesus Christ. I don’t hesitate to beg you to come to the Lord’s Table, to be baptized, to be obedient, to read the Word, to pray, to do the things that God would have you to do, to use your spiritual gifts to minister, to get involved, to give to the Lord’s work, because those are the things that give evidence of the maturing of the saints. So, spiritual maturity.
And, you see, perfecting of the saints, bringing them to the place of completeness is the goal of the ministry. So, when you see Paul say, “I beg you to walk worthy,” you’re hitting him right at the very nerve center of his commitment. The man was so committed to that, that he went night and day, night and day, night and day, weeping that it might be a reality. The servant of God, then, gives his life to the spiritual maturity of the flock. And if he’s ever satisfied with anything less, he ought to get out of the ministry, because that’s the only issue.
People say, “Oh, you know, you get so concerned when people don’t come, or when everybody doesn’t come for something, or when somebody says that so-and-so family is falling...”
Yeah, I do. I get very concerned. And I ask myself, “Where’s their commitment?” There are all of these – you dear people, many of you come on Sunday morning, and that’s the only time you’re ever here. I don’t know you; I see you not too well after about the fifteenth row, but I see you here, and I don’t know where you are spiritually. And, you know, it’s like a flock that’s too big to get my arms around; I don’t even have a fold big enough to handle all of you.
And I just pray for you, that God would deepen the area of commitment, that God would deepen the perfection in your life, that the Word of Christ would reach deep down into you so that you could equalize your living with who you are for the reason that God can be glorified and Jesus exalted, and they’re worthy. That’s the point. So, he says, “Walk worthy.”
And then the last little phrase of the Greek says, “calling to which you were called.” Of the calling to which you were called. Your walk and your lifestyle should be the equivalent of the calling to which you’re called.
Now, let me say it this way: what is this calling? Who called you? Who called you to Christ? Who was it? No man cometh unto me except the Father – what? – draw him. Romans 11:29, “For the gifts and callings of God are without repentance.” Romans chapter 8, “For whom He predestinated, them He also called. And whom He called, them He also justified. And whom He justified, them He also glorified.” Who called you? God did. Who chose you in Him before the foundation of the world? Who wrote your name in the Lamb’s book of life before there was a Lamb’s Book of Life before there was a world? God did. You have been called.
Jesus said to those disciples, “You have not chosen Me, but” – what? – “I have chosen you” - John 15:16 – “and ordained you.” And in 1 Corinthians 1:26 and 27, he says, “God has chosen you, the foolish things of the world, to confound the mighty, not many noble, not many mighty.” But God has chosen you.
Second Thessalonians chapter 1 and verse 11, “Wherefore we pray always for you that our God would count you worthy of His calling.” God has called you. Second Peter 1:10, “Make your calling and election sure.” Calling and election go together. And God is the one who chooses and calls.
Listen, beloved, if I just kind of checked around the world, and I looked at everything, and I checked out Buddhism, and Christianity, and just living a playboy lifestyle, or living for money or materialism, and I said, “Well, I think all things being considered, I’ll choose Christianity;” and if Christianity was nothing more than a simple, personal choice, and that I was saved simply because I decided to be saved, I would have some level of commitment to that. I would say, “Well, if I decided to do it, it’s worth doing.” Right?
It’s like I tell my children all the time, “If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing with all your heart.” I don’t care what it is. Anything from cleaning your room to studying the Bible; if it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing with all your heart.
So, I would probably make a commitment. But, on the other hand, if I am a Christian because God – sovereign, almighty God – who rules the universe wrote my name in a book before the world began, and said, “John MacArthur, I, the eternal, holy, righteous God of the universe, choose you to spend forever in My presence,” that adds a tremendous sense of response to my heart if He chose me.
I mean think of it this way, if you ladies went to a young man who – this is before you’re married; maybe it’s your husband now – imagine it – you said to him, “You know, I really like you.”
And he said, “Oh, you do?”
“Yea, yes, I do. There’s wonderful characteristics about you. I’ve checked out other men, and you seem to be preferable. Would you be interested in marrying me?”
“Well, I guess if you – if that’s – if you’ve thought it all through, and you think it would be a good thing, I’m open to that. Why not? Sure, I’ll marry you.”
Something missing. That’s a – seems reasonable. On the other hand, when I guy comes to you and says, “You’re the loveliest flower in the garden of the world.” He starts quoting to you Song of Solomon. Only not all of Song of Solomon or you’ll be very confused. And he says, “I have gone from one end of the world to the other, and I have beheld the beauty of many, but your beauty surpasses all. Your character, out of all this world, I choose you.”
Yeah, see, if you can magnify that to God’s perspective, it isn’t that we just wandered in and said, “Hey, God, could I get in on this?”
And He said, “Well, if you’ve thought it through, all right.”
No, out of all the world, He chose you. That’s a high calling, isn’t it? In fact, in Philippians 3:14, it’s called a high calling. First Timothy 1:9, it’s called a holy calling. Hebrews 3:1, it’s called a heavenly calling. High, holy, and heavenly. And such a calling, by such an infinite God, demands such a response, doesn’t it? Boy. Called to be a saint. Called to be His child. And I need to walk worthy of that calling.
Listen, beloved, only one thing matters in the whole wide world, that’s all. Only one thing matters from the moment you become a Christian, till the moment you see Jesus, and that is that you will walk worthy, right? That’s all that matters, that you live up to who you are. It doesn’t matter that you make money; it doesn’t matter that you dress nice; it doesn’t matter you have a nice house, nice car, get a promotion. It doesn’t matter that you buy that extra little thing that you need and want. It doesn’t matter what your education is. It doesn’t matter what your profession is. It doesn’t matter how many honors you get. Only one thing matters: walk worthy.
It doesn’t matter whether you missed the big game, missed the television programs, missed the little trips you want to take. It only matter that you walk worthy. That’s all that matters. It doesn’t matter how many times you come to church. It doesn’t matter how many calls you make on people. It doesn’t matter how you try to serve the Lord in the flesh; it only matters that you walk worthy. That’s the sum of it all, and that’s why verse 1 begins that way. That’s why I’ve taken some time to develop it. The rest of the whole book of Ephesians just explains verse 1. See? The whole book, 4, 5, and 6 – the rest of it explains verse 1: walk worthy.
If – listen to this, then I’ll close – if, when you became a Christian, the Lord instantly stamped on your forehead these words, “Watch me; I am a child of God,” and you weren’t allowed to have bangs or wear a hat, what would that do to your lifestyle? Well, I’ll tell you one thing, if I had that on me, or if I had to wear the proverbial sandwich board, “Watch me; I am a child of God,” and I really loved God, and I really loved the Lord Jesus Christ, and I knew that everybody knew that I was a Christian, I think it might change the way I live.
I wore a sign only once in my life, when I was a little boy. I got upset at a neighbor kid, and I bit him. I bit him good. My dad put a sign around my neck, “Don’t play with me; I bite.” He made me wear it every day for one week. I have never bitten anyone since that time. You know something? If we wear the name of Jesus Christ, don’t you think we should walk worthy of it? If we bear all the blessings of the Savior, don’t you think we ought to live up to it?
To Him who said in the Old Testament, “You obey Me and I’ll bless you,” we would have responded. But oh, how much more to Him who says, “I have blessed you already, will you obey Me?” Beloved, I beg you to walk worthy.
Father, thank You again for just this simple, straightforward, and clear word from You. And we pray, Lord, that as Epaphroditus prayed, that You would be found perfect and complete in all the will of God.
I pray begging, Father, that You work in the hearts of these people that they walk worthy. Oh, Lord, I was looking over the valley last night and thinking of the souls of men who are here, who need to see Jesus Christ and can only see Him in us. Neighbors, people we work with, family, friends. May we realize that we bear the blessed name of Christ. We are Christians, Christ’s ones. Father, help us to live up to that name, to walk a walk worthy of such a calling, that You would be exalted and lifted up and glorified. Help us to set our priorities.
We’ll thank You, Father, that you’ve already blessed us and will go on blessing us through all eternity, in Jesus’ name, amen.
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