“Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” (Ephesians 4:1-3)
One of the most significant words in Paul’s letters is the word “therefore.” Here, in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, he uses this word to connect what he has been saying in chapters 1-3 with what he is about to say in chapters 4-6. In other words, this “therefore” is designed to turn our minds back to all that he has said before in the doctrinal section of the letter. This transition is Paul’s way of saying, “Look, on the basis of all that I have said about God’s plan to reunite the world under Christ and to create a new society, this is how we are meant to live.”
Thus, Paul’s use of “therefore” at this point serves to remind us that Christian duty always flows out of Christian doctrine; our lifestyle (whether we realise it or not) is always rooted in our underlying theology. Paul never expects us to function on the basis of what we don’t know. His assumption is that our behaviour is always rooted in a prior belief.
Now the prior belief to which Paul is referring at this point is found in Ephesians 1:1 to 3:21. Here, Paul outlines God’s plan to recreate humanity and form a new society, which includes people from every nation, through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. This new society, which is the universal church, is a new creation. The church, therefore, is a totally new society comparable to what happened when God created the heavens and the earth. It has come about because God has done something amazing to forgive our sin and heal human hearts. And, make no mistake; it is the sin that corrupts our hearts that has left us hopelessly divided, at war amongst ourselves, and unable to create a perfect society in our own strength.
I know it’s popular today to think that we can pursue the goal of perfectibility through education and government. People on the Left have long held the conviction that we can create our own future by new forms of government. Marx thought he could create the new man through the proletariat; Lenin believed that the members of the Communist party constituted the new humanity, and Trotsky thought that the new man was anyone who anarchically rejected the structures and traditions of existing society. They were all wrong, including those on the Right, who think that a better world is the result of more personal freedom. The Bible, however, tells us that no one apart from God can perfect humanity.
Now since we are God’s new society and have become a habitation of God in which He dwells by His Spirit, we need to behave in a distinctive manner. That’s why Paul says that we must live up to our calling to which we have been called.
What is this calling? It is to be like the ‘new man,’ Christ Jesus. How? Paul tells us in chapter 3 that it’s not until we are renewed and strengthened by the Spirit that we begin to see the power of God in our lives. In other words, the Christian life starts from within where the Holy Spirit renews our hearts. So the beginning of the Christian life begins with a new birth. Have you been born again?