Intro: Did you always come when your parents called you? Maybe I should ask your parents. But I can remember times when I was called home when I did not want to go. Not all calls to come home were the same. Some were prompted by my disobedience, and I had a good idea what was going to happen when I got home. Other calls were more appealing, especially if I was anticipating something good, like dinner, or a birthday celebration, or even a hug.
My point is this – You tell something about a calling by the attitude expressed in it.
The gospel is a divine calling. 2 Tim 1:9 – who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, 2 Thess 2:14 – He called you by our gospel, for the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. The incarnation, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus is an invitation (a summons) to come to Him. The Complete Word Study Dictionary of the New Testament defines this word “calling” in Eph 4:1 as “the divine call by which Christians are introduced into the privileges of the gospel.” It that draws men and women to express their faith in Jesus through obedience to His commands and become His people. It is an invitation to a relationship with God.
What is the attitude expressed in that call? Make no mistake about it, the call of the gospel is a call with an attitude. There are several passages, and even events, in the Bible that help us answer that question. One such is our theme verse for February:
- Ephesians 4:1-2 –I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, 2 with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love,
I. A Call with a Character: I originally entitled our theme for this month as the character of the calling (rather than attitude). A person’s character includes his attitudes, but it is more. It also is defined by his actions. Thus, character may express more inclusively all that this verse presents about the gospel call. The word “character” also depicts more comprehensively the imperative command of these verses. Notice that Paul is not directly describing the gospel here. He is pleading with the Ephesian Christians to walk (live consistently) worthy of the calling (gospel). That is the command. We have already concluded that this means to live in such a way that the worth (or value) of the calling is exhibited. It means that our lives must accurately reflect what the gospel is all about. We must reflect the character of the gospel.
A. The goal of Paul’s pleading is multi-faceted. It is not accomplished in a single act of obedience. Nor can it be restricted to a single part of our lives. This walk involves both outward activities and inward attitudes. It involves doctrine, worship, family life (how you treat your mate, and your children), how we respond to sin (our own) and the lost, how we treat our enemies, how we react to our culture and human government, and whether or not we respect the authority of God’s word in all things. To walk worthy of the calling is a call is more than mastering a few commandments. It is to develop a character (actions and attitudes) that is congruent with the character of the gospel. What does that mean? How do we do that? Paul’s words in this text give us the answers we need:
II. Walking with an Attitude: Notice that the apostle does not begin by telling these Christians what to do, but rather how to do it. He begins by describing for them the attitudes that correspond to walking worthy of the calling. Over the next few weeks we will notice 4imperative attitudes, or character mindsets, and one specific response that displays these attitudes in Eph. 4:2 – with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love: and the specific way these attitudes are displayed – bearing with one another.
A. “With all lowliness”
1. What is lowliness? The exact word in the text is a compound word from two words meaning humiliated or low and mind or thinking. So it means to be low-minded, or to think of oneself as low. Strong’s Dictionary says humiliation of mind, i.e. modesty. A perusal of the various translations shows that most translate this word as humility (be humble). One author said that this attitude is “a deep sense of one’s (moral) littleness.” It is the opposite of arrogance and pride.
a. Lowliness (humility) is a personal view of oneself. We will notice that it is connected in scripture with our response to God and His response to us (the humble obey God, and God blesses and exalts the humble), but lowliness is the accurate and practical self-assessment behind it all. Psalm 8:3-4 – When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, The moon and the stars, which You have ordained, 4 What is man that You are mindful of him, And the son of man that You visit him?
2. Many times a discussion of self-esteem or how we view ourselves leaves us conflicted. Does God want me to feel good about myself or not? After all we are created in the image of God, and we are His children. What does the call to be humble really require of us? I plan to explore the topic of self-esteem more closely in another lesson, but let me submit these relevant thoughts here:
a. Lowliness is not contrived or imagined. It is accurate to see myself as little. It is reality. Little is respect to God’s power and position: Isa 66:1-2 – Thus says the Lord: “Heaven is My throne, And earth is My footstool. Where is the house that you will build Me? And where is the place of My rest? 2 For all those things My hand has made, And all those things exist,” Says the Lord. “But on this one will I look: On him who is poor and of a contrite spirit, And who trembles at My word. See the picture: heaven (expanse of space) is God’s throne; (place where He sits); The earth is where he puts His feet. God asks, Now where was that house you were building for Me to live in? Where can I be contained?
i. But we are also little in a moral sense. God is Holy – I am not. In Isaiah’s prayer for Israel in Isa. 64 he describes all the righteousness of God’s people as filthy rags and an unclean thing (64:6). He pictures Israel as the clay, and God as the potter. He is big, they are little, and without God they are nothing. Isaiah was describing how it really was. Paul makes it clear in his defense of justification by faith, as opposed to law-keeping, that we have no place to boast in our own salvation. We saved through God’s mercy. Paul said He would only boast “in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world” (Gal. 6:14)
b. Human pride and self-exaltation are not wise: The proud person (self-assertive, aggressively ambitious) is pictured as one who will have trouble in life: Do you recognize these verses?
i. Prov 16:18-19 – Pride goes before destruction, And a haughty spirit before a fall. 19 Better to be of a humble spirit with the lowly, Than to divide the spoil with the proud.
ii. Prov 18:12 – Before destruction the heart of a man is haughty, And before honor is humility.
iii. In chapter 25 the wise man warns against exalting yourself in the presence of the king (boost your self-esteem) because he might demote you to a lower position after you have talked it up big.
iv. 27:2 – “let another praise you and not your own mouth.”
v. Prov 29:23 – 23 A man’s pride will bring him low, But the humble in spirit will retain honor.
vi. In Prov 30:32the wise man says if you have been exalting yourself, put your hand over your mouth!
c. In fact, pride, and selfishness, are the fiercest obstacles to the gospel message and our salvation. Man’s problem is not that he thinks too little of himself, but that his arrogance and pride keep him from submitting to the will of God. James 4:6 – …”God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble.”
3. The Gospel call reflects the place of lowliness or humility in God’s work of redemption. 1 Cor 1:26-31– 26 For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called. 27 But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; 28 and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, 29 that no flesh should glory in His presence. 30 But of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God — and righteousness and sanctification and redemption — 31 that, as it is written, “He who glories, let him glory in the Lord.” Paul is not describing an arbitrary choosing of individuals to salvation, and suggesting that God did not choose to call many wise, mighty or noble people. He is telling us that the gospel message and the attitude it conveys and demands is not very attractive to the proud and self-serving person. The gospel message does not promote the genius, ability, wisdom, or accomplishments of men. Nor do these things in which men are so proud produce the righteousness of God. In fact, these things are made worthless to those who come to God. Paul said he counted these things as garbage, that he might gain Christ. (Phil 3:8 – Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ)
B. Clothed with lowliness – 1 Peter 5:5 – 5 Likewise you younger people, submit yourselves to your elders. Yes, all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility, for “God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble.” The word translated humility in the same word in Ephesians 4:2 (tapeinophrosune (tap-i-nof-ros-oo’-nay) – lowliness. Peter says we must cloth ourselves with lowliness. I recently read an article written years ago by brother Russell Matthews, who some of you may remember. He preached and taught for many years in this area – a faithful and humble man. He connected Pater’s use of the verb “clothed” with the practice of the N.T. times of slaves wearing special aprons (outer garments) that would identify them as slaves, and were useful in the work they performed. Lowliness is our work apron.
1. It is useful to accomplishing the work we have to do – not many people respect the arrogant or self-righteous. We need humility to do God’s work – Jesus’ disciples struggled with that.
2. Humility identifies us as servants of Jesus. It is one of the essential attitudes of our calling because it is congruent to the attitude of Christ.
Tonight we will consider the lowliness (humility) of Christ.
Conclusion: Ron Edwards said a lot of powerful things about the responsibility of the Christian to live up to the calling. One thing I appreciated was, Jesus cannot be your Savior until you are will for Him to be your King. Are you willing to submit to the commandments of Jesus? Are you humble enough to set aside yourself and follow Him.
- Mark 16:16 – 16 He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.