The Worthy Walk in Christ
Paul has prayed that you would grow in the knowledge of what God is going in his infinite power to work out your complete salvation in Christ (a complete renewal and glorification). Further, he prays that you would be strengthened by the knowledge of the intimate access into God's holy presence which is rooted in God's limitless love for you and displayed gloriously in the breadth, length, height, and depth of Christ's love for you.
Now, Paul turns to encouraging you, the church, how you may thankfully live out this new work of salvation that is rooted in the eternal plan of God that is currently being worked out in summing up all things, things in the heavens and things on the earth, in Christ Jesus. You have been united to Christ Jesus so that God has blessed you with every Spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus. God makes the entire person and work of his Son your new life; the very realm in which you live, move and have your being.
The Spirit of God is the bond of this new union that makes the entire life of Christ your life, giving you complete access into the eternal presence of Almighty God. Now that you have Christ as your life, that new life will begin working in you (your inner man) to begin the process of glorification in Christ. The Spirit unites you to the body of Christ so that all that belongs to Christ begins the work of transformation from one level of glory to another until you fully grow up in the mature man, Jesus Christ, which comes only at the resurrection in Christ.
Paul begins the second half of the letter with the word "therefore" marking a transition from the indicatives of the gospel life to now laying before us the imperatives that supernaturally flow from the gospel of the first half of the letter. "I urge/implore you" tells us that we are now moving into the ethical or practical instruction that flows from our union with Christ. We are now told how we may joyfully live in response to the eternal plan of God that has been worked out for us in the life of Christ and how we may gratefully live and walk in that new life to the praise and thanksgiving of the glory of God's grace.
We see in Paul's letters that "right living" does not simply grow out of moral instruction and unending lists of laws and commandments, but out of "right doctrine." What God has done for us in Christ leads to a transformation of our new life in Christ. And it is not that God has simply done the work in the past and now leaves it up to us to respond in our own strength, but God's Spirit continues t unite us more and more to Christ, working through the means of grace, to remake and transform our lives into Christ.
Jesus Christ is the goal and summation of our life. But to reach that God, Jesus Christ is also our food and drink by which we might grow into that perfect image. The Spirit of God is working through the Word and sacraments as the means by which we are fed and nourished upon the body of Christ that we might grow up into Spiritual maturity in Christ. The ministry of the church is central to our Spiritual growth and God's Spirit is at work continually through that ministry to conform us into our predestined growth and maturity into the image of Christ.
Vv. 1-6 serve as the summary thesis statement for the rest of the epistle, which amplifies with each exhortation the manner in which you walk worthily of your calling in love and the unity of the Spirit. Following this summary statement, in vv. 7-16 Paul will reveal the instrument the Spirit uses to assist us in this worthy walk until the whole body attains maturity in Christ through the unity of the Spirit. That instrument in the ministry of the Word and sacraments which are given to the church as gifts from the ascended, glorified Christ, who is the head and source of all grace and into whom we are growing.
In v. 1, Paul uses "therefore" to connect everything that follows with the first three chapters of the book. On the basis of this mighty salvation in Christ, Paul "urges" or "implores" you to "walk" in a manner that is consistent with your new life in union with Christ. In fact, Paul even reminds us that he too sees the whole Christian life in light of our union with Christ: "the prisoner of the Lord." Paul has already reminded us that he is a prisoner for our sake (3:1) and that he is currently suffering trials and tribulations "on our behalf" (3:13). Paul is not only reminding us of his own costly commitment to Christ, that we too should emulate, but he sees even his current suffering as taking place within the realm or union with Christ ("prisoner of the Lord"). Paul is so committed to the unity of believers that he is willing to suffer on our behalf and therefore he calls us to be willing to count the cost for the unity of the body of Christ.
Paul calls us ("requests" -- note difference in cov. of grace) to "walk" or live our lives as disciples in relation to God's gracious saving calling in Christ. God's calling begins in eternity when he sets his eternal love upon us and predestines us to be called the children of God. He has called us out of darkness and into the light of the glory of the resurrected and ascended Lamb of God. He has reconciled us to himself so that we have become members of the household of God and the new temple of the Lord.
But what will this new "walk" or life look like? Very simply, it will look like Christ. Paul now contrasts our former walk (2:2) with our new life in Christ which is characterized by four graces: humility, gentleness, patience, and loving forbearance. Before we look at each of these graces, note that the goal of this walk is to "be eager/diligent to maintain/preserve the unity of the Spirit." Paul stresses the urgency, even a sense of crisis in the church, to maintain the unity of the Spirit. Note that the "unity" of the church body is the creation or work of the Spirit. It is the unity that he produces by uniting us all into one body, Christ. It is through the Spirit that we have "access" to God in Christ and who is the instrumental means to sum up all things into Christ. However, we are to be eager to "maintain" or "preserve" this Spirit-given-unity.
How do we do that? by walking in the Spirit (cf. Gal. 5:16ff). When Paul tells us to "walk in the Spirit" he is merely telling us to "walk" or live our lives in the fullness of our union with Christ. He is bone of our bone and flesh of our flesh. We do this by walking in faith of the gospel promises which are ours in Christ and by humbling placing ourselves under the means of grace, received by faith, so that God's Spirit will work through those means of grace to conform us into the fullness of the mature man, Jesus Christ (cf. vv. 7-16). When we walk by faith in Christ, where the gospel promises are constantly placed before us, the Spirit will produce the new life of Christ in us, what Paul calls in Galatians the "fruit of the Spirit." Now, notice the four characteristics of this new walk given in v. 2, each are also listed as the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such there is no law). Notice that Paul calls these the "fruit of the Spirit" and "against such there is no law." These characteristics are produced, not by man or the flesh, but by the Spirit. He is the "bond of our peace" with God and between one another. Fruit is the natural result of life. The Law cannot produce these characteristics in our life, Israel is a perfect illustration of this. The new life that grounds these characteristics is the life of Christ and the Spirit is taking from him and applying it to our lives through the means of grace.
What then will this new life in union with Christ look like? It will be a life that is characterized by first and above all: humility. Humility or lowliness is the opposite of pride which constantly plagues the heart of man. In fact, neither did the Romans or Greeks have a word for "humility" because they so despised it and would have never seen it as a virtue to pursue in life. But the life of Christ is a life that exudes humility in that he let loose all the glory that was due his name and became our servant unto death to give us new life. He came as one who was "meek and lowly" (Matt. 11:29) even going to the point of riding upon a low donkey to symbolize his mission. He humbled himself upon the cross not only to grant our new life but also to give us an example of how we are to humble ourselves before one another. Paul tells us in Philippians that we are to have the same mind of humility by "doing nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regarding one another as more important than yourselves" (Phil. 2:3). Paul says this is one characteristic of someone who is eager to maintain the unity of the body of Christ. The first step of maintaining unity is by having a correct view of ourselves and that is one of humility that realizes that in Christ we have all been humbled by his grace.
Second, because Jesus was a gentle Lamb who willingly laid down his own life then by being united to him we too will be known for our gentleness and meekness. Paul told the Galatians that it is by "gentleness" that we relate to one another, especially to brothers and sisters in Christ who have sinned (Gal. 6:1-2 -- "by bearing one another's burdens of sin we fulfill the law of Christ"). Gentleness will consider others as more important and therefore willingly waive one's own rights.
Next, Paul mentions "patience" and "showing tolerance for one another in love." "Patience" or "long-suffering" first characterizes the patience of God with his people. It is because of his "forbearance" with us that we show "forebearance/patience" to one another, just as Paul tells us to forgive one another because we have been forgiven of so much. "Patience" and "showing tolerance" is that long-suffering that makes allowance for one another's short-comings and especially endures or absorbs the wrongs of others toward you rather than responding in rage or desiring vengeance. If we are going to maintain right relationships to one another then we will respond to one another in humility, gentleness, patience, and showing tolerance towards one another in the love of Christ. In this way, we are wonderfully exhibiting the love with which we have been so perfectly loved. As Jesus taught, we will be the illustration or picture of a reconciled people before the watching world:
9 “Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love . . .34 “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. 35 “By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 15:9; 13:34-35).
In the midst of another's weaknesses and failures and especially when tensions and conflicts arise it is by mutually bearing with one another in love that we display a life that is most consistent with your divine calling in Christ. We show love to one another because we have been rooted and established in God's love and we are being strengthened by the fullness of Christ's love for us.
But Paul is not merely speaking of a unity and love at any price, but one that is consistent to our common confession of the fundamental truths of the gospel. This is why Paul now turns to the ground or motive of this unity based upon our "oneness" in Christ. There is an objective ground of truth that unites us together and Paul may be taking from creedal material to place before us the doctrines or truths of the gospel that unites our faith and life in Christ.
The one body refers first to the whole mystical body of Christ, the church invisible known only to God. But that one body visibly manifests itself in each local congregation where the Word and sacraments are faithfully administered. The one Spirit is the bond that unites each of these individual members into the one body of Christ. There is only one body and there is only one Spirit. It is through this Spirit union that the body joins together in one hope of our calling that just as Christ has been fully raised from death to life and ascended into glory that we too will soon follow. Our hope is assured because it is not rooted in anything found subjectively within us, but only objectively in the work of Christ alone. Assurance is of the very essence of faith because faith looks not to ourselves but to God's faithfulness in Christ.
This unity is also grounded in the one Lord, which was the title of Yahweh in the Old Testament, and has become Paul's favorite acclamation of Jesus as the Lord of lords. We are joined by one faith, which does not refer to our personal, subjective faith, but the objective faith or the body of belief that we all hold in common. It is through the one baptism that we have all been united to Jesus Christ and as Paul told the Galatians that it is through baptism that we have put on Christ (Gal. 3:27-28; cf. 1 Cor. 12:13).
Finally, Paul rounds out the Trinitarian work on our behalf by reaching the climax in the one God and Father of all and through all and in all. The Father is the one ultimate sovereign over the entire creation. He is God Almighty, maker of heaven and earth. He is over all, expressing his absolute transcendence, and he is in all and all, which expresses with all-pervasive imminence.
We have been granted so much that even when Paul now turns to the imperatives that flow from the gospel he cannot stop categorizing the amazing Spiritual blessings with which we have been so richly blessed. It is this new, gracious life in Christ that is now producing the life of Jesus in and through us. That life is characterized above all by the love with which Christ so amazingly loves us. Having been shown so great love, having been so wonderfully gripped in God's grace, now we have the joyful and grateful privilege of showing that great love to one another by loving one another as we have been loved. God has given us everything in Christ Jesus to live this worthy walk in Christ and now we may eagerly pursue this God-given unity by showing each other the grace that has given us a new life in Christ.