I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call—one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.
Ephesians 4:1-6 ESV
Paul’s epistle to the Ephesians is generally divided into two halves, the doctrinal first three chapters and the application-heavy last three chapters. As a marker of this transition, we will be calling this portion of our study Kingdom Life. Now that Paul has presented how the kingdom of God comes to us, he will further show what life inside God’s kingdom looks like.
WALKING WORTHILY // VERSE 1
I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you. Let us begin by turning our attention toward the word, therefore. The slogan for this word is often that we must ask what the word therefore is there for. It is a conjunctive adverb that connects together two chains of thought, two linking ideas. Particularly here, it is modifying the verb urge, and it is referring back to all of chapters 1-3. By placing this simple word alongside Paul’s urging, he is placing the force of everything written before into this command.
This means, therefore, that the division between Ephesians’ two halves should not be overstated. Certainly, there is a very clear switch into exhortation for these final chapters, but the apostle only wrote one letter. The two halves are necessary for one another. Proper doctrine must always lead to life application, and our behavior must always arise from the solid foundation of God’s Word. We cannot disconnect these two realities. Thomas Manton said, “The fruit of study is to hoard up truth, but the fruit of meditation is to practice it.” Paul has given us plentiful truth for study; we must now continue meditating upon it for practice.
In fact, Paul’s urging is for us to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, which is the riches of blessings that we have been given in Christ. We have been called out of death in sin to life with Christ. We have been called out of slavery to our transgressions and into adoption as the children of God. We have been called to know and experience the great mystery of Christ and the boundless reaches of His love. We have been chosen by the Creator almighty, the Lord of heaven and earth. We are jars of clay chosen as vessels for a treasure of greater value than all of creation put together.
Considering, meditating upon, this great calling, the apostle is right to urge us to walk in a manner worthy. Two hymns tell speak to us the same truth as here. “Jesus paid it all. All to Him I owe,” and “love so amazing, so divine, demands my life, my soul, my all.” The overwhelming force of chapters 1-3 has been to show that God has withheld nothing from us in Christ, and our proper response is to surrender, however small and insignificant, the entirety of our lives over to Him.
We must now make a distinction that will bear repeating in the coming weeks. This worthy walk or lifestyle is not primarily about morality; instead, it is a call to holiness. Holiness certainly encompasses morality, but it also extends vastly beyond its bounds. We are not called to be merely good people; we are called to be God’s people. We are called to a radical submission to the image, purpose, and design of God in every way.
This is a crucial distinction to maintain because it is not uncommon for many Christians to forego actual evangelism in favor of living a life of witness to the non-Christians around us. The problem being that we tend to associate witnessing for Christ with living morally, which repeatedly proves to be ineffective for a few reasons. By God’s common grace and common law, very few people are utterly depraved. Indeed, people have an innate moral law within their hearts (put there by God, after all) that they follow. Of course, without knowledge of the Lawgiver, all morality is untethered and, therefore, subjective to each person or society. Yet all of this is to say that most people see themselves as being generally good people, so it is atypical for someone to become persuaded by Christianity through a Christian’s ordinary ethics.
Furthermore, the lifestyle of many Christians looks nearly identical to the lifestyle of the world. Apart from a few hot topics that we may hold with either pride or embarrassment, such as abortion, how do we distinguish ourselves from the world around us? Again, the answer must ascend beyond basic morality. We must walk as those who belong to God, as children of light rather than darkness, as ones who have been rescued from futile thinking and falsehood, as wise instead of fools. We must live as those who have been raised to life from the dead. We must submit ourselves fully and daily to the One who saved us, not to an abstract concept of morality.
THE BOND OF PEACE // VERSES 2-3
Although walking in a manner worthy of our calling applies to the entirety of the second half of Ephesians, Paul specifically qualifies it with the following statements: with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
First, he calls us to walk with all humility and gentleness. Humility is the antithesis of pride. Pride views self as supreme, while humility sees self as secondary. Whereas pride promotes an exalted view of self, humility beholds self as it is, with both strengths and weaknesses. In fact, false humility is pride in disguise for precisely this reason. Although appearing to debase self, the overall goal is to place more attention upon self. Where pride often seeks praise, false humility often seeks pity, yet both are equally promotions of self-importance. Ultimately, the proud reject their own dependency upon God, while the humble gladly rejoice in the LORD’s provision of their very ability to do anything. Pride, in other words, asserts independence and autonomy from its exalted view of self, while humility understands our utter dependence upon the Creator and, thus, has an accurate view of self.
Gentleness, which is often also translated as meekness, is another essential virtue of the Christian life. To the Galatians, Paul included gentleness as a fruit of the Spirit’s indwelling work with us. Gentleness is not weakness by any means; rather, it is strength under control. The gentle man or woman knows the importance and power of reservation. Gentleness does not view people as obstacles to be broken through but instead as sheep in need of the Shepherd.
Indeed, both humility and gentleness bleed into the third virtue that Paul presents: patience. We are to show humility and gentleness to others because Jesus is both to us. “Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Matthew 11:29). Through His gentle and lowly heart for us, Jesus exhibits patience beyond comparison. As the eternal Word of God, “all things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made” (John 1:3). Even though He made us, knowing our ongoing rebellion against Him that was to come, it was still His eternal purpose to redeem us by His very blood. His patience toward us has no equal.
Next, all three of these virtues find their fountain in the phrase: bearing with one another in love. We are called to love one another, knowing that we are the church for whom Christ died. How can anyone claim to love Jesus without also loving His people, the object of His devotion? Yet this love is not always easy. In fact, as with many things in life, it is often difficult, which is why we must bear with one another in love. This act of bearing with one another requires the three virtues above. Humility gives us the proper perspective of self in order to bear with our brothers and sisters in Christ. Gentleness gives us the proper posture for interacting with one another. Patience gives us to proper disposition for viewing fellow members of Christ’s body. Being Jesus’ church together requires humble, gentle, patient love for one another.
And being the church is indeed our goal. As Paul concludes verse 3, we must be eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. Our desire for unity should be marked by eagerness. We should strive diligently to guard the unity of God’s people, who have been reconciled both to God and each other by the blood of Christ. By killing the hostility between Jew and Gentile, Christ created one new man, a united people for His own possession, binding us together by His Spirit of peace. “Unity is not an add-on to Christianity. It is at the very heart of our faith.” Unity, therefore, is not a matter to be taken lightly; rather, we must zealously guard it.
Yet also notice that we are not called to craft a unity within the church. We are not called to unite Jesus’ church; we are called to maintain its unity. Jesus’ death and resurrection became the means of uniting His church, but He petitioned the Father to do the work of unity (John 17:22-23). Therefore, just as Jesus is the ultimate builder of His church, so too is God the unifier of the church. Unity, brothers and sisters, is a fruit of the gospel. We must maintain unity, but only God can actually unite us together.
THE GROUND OF UNITY // VERSES 4-6
Of course, even while we must be eager to maintain it, unity is not always possible. Fortunately, Paul now also provides us with the ground of unity within the church. If the blood of Christ has made us one, these are the truths that we are united into and within.
First, Paul notes that there is one body. This is “the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all” (1:22-23). Although there are many local congregations of believers that are different from one another in practice and in doctrine, there is only one church. Across the globe and throughout all time, God’s people form one collective body of Christ upon this earth.
Second, there is also one Spirit. “Just as a human body has one spirit that animates it, so Christ’s body, the church, is enlivened by one Holy Spirit who enlivens Christians to eternal life.” As Paul wrote in his first letter to the Corinthians, “For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit” (12:12-13).
Third, we have one hope. Hope, in many ways, is faith in what is still to come. Just as faith is not a blind leap into the dark but rather a steady and reasonable evidence for what is not seen, so hope is not a kind of naïve optimism but a deep confidence in the future. So what is our one hope? According to Paul, we are even today “waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:13). Our hope is in Christ’s glorious return to make all things new.
Fourth, we have one Lord. This, of course, is Jesus Christ our Savior. Today, the basic confession of the Christian faith is the lordship of Christ, but one day, all tongues will confess its reality.
Fifth, we have one faith. Here, the apostle is not referring to the act of confidence and belief that we call faith; instead, he is referring to the tenets that form our belief. Jude used the word similarly when he found it necessary “to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3). In both passages, the Christian faith as a whole is being described rather than the act of faith.
Sixth, we have one baptism. Many debate over whether Paul is referring to water baptism or to the baptism of the Spirit that seals all believers in the faith. My answer is yes. Water baptism is an ordinance that points to and provides a visual symbol of the inward sealing of the Holy Spirit within the believer. Therefore, upon receiving Christ, we are baptized with the one Spirit into the one body, but also whenever we are physically baptized, we testify our unity with our brothers and sisters in the world and throughout time.
Seventh and finally, there is one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. The most basic confession for Old Testament believers is found in Deuteronomy 6:4: “Hear, O Israel: the LORD our God, the LORD is one.” This singular and supreme uncreated Creator is also now revealed to us as Father. He is the God of all, who is over all meaning that He has absolute, transcendent sovereignty over all His creation since He is its uncaused Cause. He is through all and in all as both immanent and omnipresent. He is both above and beyond us and nearer to us than the atoms from which we are built.
Finally, it should be noted that the divine Trinity is central to Paul’s discussion on unity. The Spirit is linked with the one body or church, which is called to one hope. The Lord is linked with the one faith the church professes and the one baptism it receives. Finally, God the Father is the one who supremely rules over all his creation and yet is intimately in it, working in and through all things.
Our unity, therefore, is not an end unto itself. While unity is an essential element of the church, true unity must be formed by the gospel and maintained upon a foundation of truth. For example, we rightly separate ourselves from Mormonism and Jehovah’s Witnesses because, while they would claim to believe these verses of our study, their ideas of the Father, Christ, the Spirit, baptism, the body, the faith, and our hope are all radically different from what the Scriptures collectively teach and what the church has historically affirmed. While we are eager to maintain unity, we must also remember the words of John regarding those who abandon sound doctrine: “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us” (1 John 2:19).
As recipients of God’s “great love with which he loved us” and ones who “have obtained an inheritance” in Christ, we should strive to live worthy of the gracious and lavish calling to which we have been called. And since we are walking together rather than alone, we must be eager to maintain the unity that we have by bearing with each other in love, humbly, gently, and patiently. Our unity in Christ is that we are one body, sealed by one Spirit, called to one hope, serving one Lord, confessing one faith, washed by one baptism, and adopted by one Father.
 Thomas Manton, Sermons Upon Genesis 24:53, 17:269 (as cited in David W. Saxton, God’s Battle Plan for the Mind, 47-48.).
 While the doctrine of total depravity does indeed teach that we are hopelessly depraved by sin, we are not utterly depraved, that is, we are not as absolutely corrupted by sin as we have the potential to be.
 Merkle, ESV Expository Commentary, 71.
 ESV Study Bible,
 Merkle, 70.