"Therefore" is a conjunction that bridges either to a command, a conclusion, an exhortation or perhaps, all three. Here it connects to a statement that has elements of all three, with exhortation being the strongest. Paul is appealing to us to make practical application of the things that immediately preceded the word "therefore."
He is referring to what appeared in the first three chapters, as they lay the foundation for what follows in chapter 4 and beyond, that is, what is necessary to produce unity. It does not matter whether it is in a family, church, government, or nation. Ephesians 5, for example, speaks of the unity of husband and wife, which sets the pace for the family and prepares for the Kingdom of God and unification with Jesus Christ for all eternity.
That the chapter breaks in Ephesians 4:1 is almost a disservice. Paul did not write it that way; he wrote it as a free-flowing letter from beginning to end. One thought flows right into another. If we would read it that way with understanding, it would have greater impact than it does in this form. Nevertheless, we tend to segment things because we desire order, so breaking it up like this makes possible a concordance and finding words and phrase relatively easy. Even so, sometimes those "helps" are misleading and a disservice. The break in continuity might have worked better elsewhere.
We need to understand that, with that word "therefore," Paul is telling us to do something! In light of all that appears in the first three chapters of this book, which provides the doctrinal base for unity, we ought to do something. If we believe it and put it into practice, we can have unity! But if we fail in this, unity will also fail.
So we need the guidance of the doctrines to know the direction to take and what to do along the way. But, if we do not go in that direction and do not do what it says, we have not listened to the "therefore." It is our spiritual business to put into practical application the doctrines explained at the beginning of the book.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Unity (Part 3): Ephesians 4 (A)
Ephesians 4:1 contains an interesting principle hidden within the Greek word translated as "worthy." The word includes a dimension that relates to health issues and is something we should strive for in our relationship with God.
D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, in his commentary on Ephesians, tells us the word has two basic ideas, and both are important to this subject. The first is that of "equal weight." Imagine a scale with objects of equal weight on opposite sides so that it does not tilt. The scale balances perfectly; it is "worthy." If it tilts, it is "not worthy." In context and in practical application in life, Paul is saying that doctrine must perfectly balance with practice for us truly to walk worthily of our calling. However packed one's head may be with truth, if it is not being used, he is unbalanced—he is not walking worthily. It is equally true that, if one says that Christianity is no more than living a good life and that learning other truths is not important, and thus he fails to search and expand his understanding of truth, he is also walking unworthily.
Hebrews 6:9-11 provides us with an example:
But, beloved, we are confident of better things concerning you, yes, things that accompany salvation, though we speak in this manner. For God is not unjust to forget your work and labor of love which you have shown toward His name, in that you have ministered to the saints, and do minister. And we desire that each one of you show the same diligence to the full assurance of hope until the end.
These people were in trouble because they were failing to maintain the balance. In this case, they had apparently been diligent at the academic level, but their practical application of truth had declined drastically. They had become unbalanced and poor witnesses of God and were falling away.
The second idea in the Greek word rendered "worthy" is the sense of "becoming." The translators could have translated Ephesians 4:1 as, "I . . . beseech you to walk in a manner becoming the calling with which you are called." The same word appears in the first phrase of Philippians 1:27: "Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ. . . ." The King James translates "worthy" as "as it becomes." The basic idea is of matching. It is similar to a person adorning himself with clothing or accessories that are suited to him or match.
Thus, Paul is saying that our doctrine and our practice must never clash, just as the colors or patterns in our dress should not clash. Much of modern music and art perverts this principle. The very heart of true beauty is the central idea of balance, harmony, and congruity. Things of beauty match; a cacophonous clash of discordant color or symbols jar the senses.
Titus 2:9-10 helps to demonstrate this principle: "Exhort servants to be obedient to their own masters, to be well pleasing in all things, not answering back, not pilfering, but showing all good fidelity, that they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior in all things." Paul's metaphor is that doctrine is the basic garment of God's way of life, and the way we live it is the adornment that complements it. Life has to match, be balanced and congruous with, the doctrine, making it attractive and causing people to admire it and gravitate toward it.
The vivid picture Mark 9:20-22 paints may help us understand:
Then they brought [the demon-possessed boy] to Him. And when he saw Him, immediately the spirit convulsed him, and he fell on the ground and wallowed, foaming at the mouth. So He asked his father, "How long has this been happening to him?" And he said, "From childhood. And often he has thrown him both into the fire and into the water to destroy him. But if You can do anything, have compassion on us and help us."
Herbert Armstrong, commenting on demon influence, said that demons reveal themselves by influencing people toward extremes of human behavior. He did not mean that the people were necessarily possessed but certainly influenced toward that manner of conduct.
This influence has affected all of us to some degree. Has this world influenced us to do certain things? If so, we have been influenced by demons. This is not God's world; Satan and his horde of minions created the system and govern it. They are the principalities and powers we wrestle against (Ephesians 6:12). Their influence permeates the entire system from top to bottom. Thus John warns, "Do not love the world or the things in the world. . . . the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—[are] not of the Father" (I John 2:15-16). This is why we must be so careful about who and what we are following.
Think of anything extreme, things that are foolish and unbalanced, unbecoming to God or man—and demons are behind it. They influence people to excesses of anger, violence, depression, paranoia, schizophrenia, asceticism, hermitism, alcoholism, drug addiction, voyeurism, fetishes, cannibalism, anorexia, bulimia, and any other form of behavior that is destructive of the self and divisive of relationships.
Demons, the principalities and powers of Ephesians 6:12, will do whatever they can to keep our life from matching the truths God has given us in doctrinal form. Working toward improving and maintaining our health is an effort toward balancing what we believe with what we do. It is an adornment to God and His way; it is a stewardship responsibility. Demons will attempt to convince us to do nothing. They will put discouraging thoughts like, "It doesn't really matter"; "There is so much information out there. It is so confusing"; or "My grandfather broke every law of good health and lived to be a hundred!"
There might be scores of such arguments, and every one of them is nothing more than pressure to accept this world's lies. Each of them essentially and completely leaves out of the picture God's leadership and influence to help our efforts succeed, which is the whole reason for the demons' efforts. Undeniably, God's Word provides the balance we need to walk worthily in this physical area of life, as well as in the spiritual.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Eating: How Good It Is! (Part Six)
As the elect of God, we must put on or clothe ourselves with longsuffering. By doing this in unity as a church, we rid ourselves of, or at least dramatically reduce, friction. To be loving and effective, a minister must correct, rebuke, and encourage with longsuffering.
Martin G. Collins
In Matthew 11:29, Jesus links meekness with lowliness: "Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle [meek, KJV] and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls." Ephesians 4:1-3 states:
I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness [meekness, KJV], with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
The King James version is correct, as the Greek text uses prautes. "Gentle" and "gentleness" are incorrect because in this context they are only an aspect of the meekness we should express in our dealings with others.
In Matthew 11:29, Jesus is explaining why we should embrace His way of life. As our Lord and Master, He is not harsh, overbearing, and oppressive, but gentle in His government. His laws are also reasonable and easy to obey; neither He nor they enslave. He emphasizes the gentle aspect of meekness toward others. From this, we begin to see why meekness must be a virtue of those who will receive the Kingdom and govern. Because God governs in meekness, His children must also.
Ephesians 4 teaches how to build and maintain unity within a more social context, and here, prautes appears with humility, patience, forbearance, and love. Paul demands that, for unity to be built and maintained, we should receive offenses without retaliation, bearing them patiently without a desire for revenge. We are, in short, to have a forgiving spirit. Without it, we will surely promote divisiveness.
The association of humility and meekness is natural, and is yet another facet of meekness. Whereas humility deals with a correct assessment of his merits, meekness covers a correct assessment of personal rights. This does not in any way mean a lowering of the standards of justice or of right and wrong. Meekness can be accompanied by a war to the death against evil, but the meek Christian directs this warfare first against the evil in his own heart. He is a repentant sinner, and his recognition of this state radically alters his relations with fellow man. A sinner forgiven must have a forgiving attitude.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fruit of the Spirit: Meekness
Notice carefully what Paul names as the reason for making unity and peace: the value we place on our calling. If, in our heart of hearts, we consider it of small value, our conduct, especially toward our brethren, will reveal it and work to produce contention and disunity. Thus John writes, "If someone says, 'I love God,' and hates his brother he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen?" (I John 4:20).
Paul next counsels us to choose to conduct ourselves humbly. Humility is pride's opposite. If pride only produces contention, it follows that humility will work to soothe, calm, heal, and unify. He advises us to cultivate meekness or gentleness, the opposite of the self-assertiveness that our contemporary culture promotes so strongly. Self-assertiveness is competitive determination to press one's will at all costs. This approach may indeed "win" battles over other brethren, but it might be helpful to remember God's counsel in Proverbs 15:1, "A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger." James declares that godly wisdom is "gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy" (James 3:17).
Then Paul counsels that we be patient; likewise, James counsels us to "let patience have its perfect work" (James 1:4). We often want quick resolutions to the irritations between us, which is certainly understandable since we want to get rid of the burden those differences impose. But we must understand that speedy solutions are not always possible. Interestingly, in Paul's letter to the Philippians, he does not use his apostolic authority to drive the two feuding women into a forced solution (Philippians 4:1). Some problems are deeply buried within both sides of the contention, so finally Paul admonishes us to forbear with each other in love. Essentially, he says to "put up with it" or endure it, doing nothing to bring the other party down in the eyes of others and vainly elevate the self. This is peacemaking through living by godly character.
Yet another aspect to the Christian duty of peacemaking is our privilege by prayer to invoke God's mercy upon the world, the church, and individuals we know are having difficulties or whom we perceive God may be punishing. This is one of the sacrifices of righteousness mentioned in relation to Psalm 4:5. The Bible provides many examples of godly people doing this. Abraham prayed for Sodom, Gomorrah, and probably Lot too, when the division between them and God was so great that He had to destroy the cities (Genesis 18:16-33). Moses interceded for Israel before God following the Golden Calf incident (Exodus 33:11-14). Aaron ran through the camp of Israel with a smoking censer (a symbol of the prayers of the saints) following another of Israel's rebellions that greatly disturbed the peace between them and God (Numbers 16:44-50). In each case, God relented to some degree. We will probably never know in this life how much our prayers affect the course of division or how much others—even the wicked—gained as a result of our intercession, but we should find comfort knowing that we have done at least this much toward making peace.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Beatitudes, Part 7: Blessed Are the Peacemakers
Walking worthily, humility, meekness, patience, and forbearance will lead to submitting to one another in the fear of the Lord.
"Walking worthy of our vocation" refers to the process of sanctification. Our vocation is our calling, and we are called to become holy as God is holy. Paul calls upon us to be balanced in our approach, effectively saying, "Never stop studying." We need to keep the vision alive constantly. This is our common cause—to keep the vision alive and constantly refine it by more and greater understanding.
The second part of Paul's admonition is, "Put it into practice." We must put the doctrines into practice because salvation consists, not only of believing truth, but also using and applying it so it becomes written into our very character. Doing this will require faith and setting the will, disciplining the self to follow the correct path in what we know to do.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Unity (Part 7): Ephesians 4 (D)
The part we have to play is to walk worthy of our calling, and as the apostle goes on to say, our calling is to be one: one body, one spirit, one faith, one baptism, one hope, just as we have one Lord and one Father. We are to be one bride of Christ. He is not a polygamist; He will not marry many brides but one united bride.
We in the church can be disunified if we fail to practice verses 2 and 3: Without lowliness (humility), without gentleness (meekness), without longsuffering (forebearance or patient endurance), without love and peace, we will never have unity. As long as we are proud, easily angered and offended, jump on every little thing, lack patience, and treat each other hatefully—as long as we cause strife—there will never be unity. Even with all that God does (I Corinthians 1:4-9), it will not happen. He will not force unity upon us if we show that we do not want it. The natural order of things is that we will disunify further if we fail to show Him that we are working toward it. So, without these virtues, even with God deluging us with His Spirit, we will not have unity.
Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Other commentary entries containing this verse: