As we enter into this New Year I had some thoughts on how God would desire us to walk in a world that many times is hostile to the Christian gospel. Paul in his epistles has much to say about the Christian walk. We read in his epistle to the Ephesians these words: “I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, entreat you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing forbearance to one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” (Eph.4:1-3 NASB). The word “therefore” connects what Paul has been saying about Christian doctrine in the first three chapters of Ephesians with how we are to live in our current world. Because God has called us into a relationship with himself through His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, we need to have a walk that reflects that God is working and moving in our hearts and lives. Paul uses himself as an example as he is currently in a Roman prison for the gospel of Jesus Christ as he’s writing this epistle. He implores the believers of the first century as well as the 21st century that we walk in a manner worthy of the calling which we have in Jesus Christ. The word “entreat” is a word expressing strong desire and is not a simple plead but Paul’s intention that the Ephesian believers and you and I walk worthy of our calling. The word “calling” has reference to vocation and is an exhortation to the fact that God has called us into a relationship with Himself and our walk “in Christ” should affect every area of our lives. “Walk” is a word implying motion, direction or progress. The Christian walk is both a moral and spiritual walk and we need to be making progress in fulfilling the calling that God has given to us in Jesus.
Paul gives us the characteristics of a worthy walk in versus two and three of this passage. First he speaks of us maintaining a spirit of humility. Humility as a virtue was introduced into the world by the Christian faith, the pagan world of the first century understood humility as a vice and pride as a virtue. This is still very true in many parts of the Mideast. But one church father defined “humility as a virtue by which a man becomes conscious of his own unworthiness”. The word “humility” in this passage speaks of a humble recognition of our personal unworthiness before God. This is not a false modesty but rather an accurate self- perception which is the opposite of an inner spiritual pride and arrogance. Christ of course is the greatest demonstration of this kind of humility. We are told to have the same mind as Christ who humbled Himself even to the point of death on the cross. Paul writes in Philippians 2, “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceits, but with humility of mind let each of you regard one another as more important than himself; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others”, (v.3,4 NASB). He then goes on to share in the passage which speaks of Christ emptying Himself and humbling Himself and dying on the cross for our sins. Returning to Ephesians we see that the next characteristic is that of gentleness. The word “gentleness” carries the concept of meekness which is strength under control. It is not a weakness, timidity or cowardly but it is the cultivating a spirit of gentleness and kindness in our daily walk. This gentleness enables the believer to place the will of God before his own personal rights and is mentioned as a fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5.
This concept of humility and gentleness are found throughout the teachings of the New Testament and certainly modeled in the life of the Lord Jesus Christ. There must be a blessing that is attached with walking in humility because we are repeatedly instructed in the pages of Scripture to walk in that manner. In James we read, “But He (that is God) gives a greater grace. Therefore, it says, “God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble”, (Jas.4:6 NASB). We see the same concept stated clearly in Peter’s first epistle where he writes, “You younger men, likewise, be subject to your elders; and all of you, clothe yourself with humility toward one another, for God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble. Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you at the proper time”, (1 Peter 5:5,6 NASB). Jesus not only modeled humility by washing his disciple’s feet at the Last Supper and taking upon Himself the cross but He also taught it throughout his ministry. One of the very clear examples of this teaching is found in the 14th chapter of Luke’s Gospel. We read, “And he began speaking a parable to the invited guest when he noticed how they had been picking out the places of honor at the table; saying to them, when you are invited by someone to a wedding feast, do not take the place of honor, lest someone more distinguished than you may have been invited by him, and he who invited you both shall come and say to you, “give place to this man” and then in disgrace you proceed to occupy the last place. But when you are invited, go and recline at the last place, so that when the one who has invited you comes, he may say to you, ‘Friend, move up higher’; then you will have honor in the sight of all who are at the table with you. For everyone who exalts himself shall be humbled, and he who humbles himself shall be exalted”, (Luke 14:7-14 NASB). If we are to walk in humility in 2017 I don’t think that that is something that will happen by itself. Because of the human nature we tend to want to promote ourselves or our viewpoint or our ideas above other people’s ideas. We seldom think about serving in humility without having to get credit for any of the things that we serve in, but if we are to walk in humility than we must seek this character trait in a very diligent fashion. I hope to share some thoughts further on the importance of our walk in 2017 but let me suggest to you in conclusion that humility is not an optional add-on for the super spiritual. But it is rather something that should characterize our life and service for the Lord Jesus Christ. God has indeed in His Word promised to give us grace as we seek to humbly serve Christ. Let’s pursue that grace with the spirit of humility and unity in the spirit and allow God to direct our paths.
All praise to our great Savior,
Pastor Rich Sivo