The Christian’s duty
“. . . walk worthy of the vocation wherewith you are called . . .” (See Ephesians 4:1-6).
Ephesians is a book about both Christian doctrine and Christian duty. Christian doctrine without Christian duty is cold and lifeless. Christian duty without Christian doctrine is meaningless. The Christian’s duty as described in Ephesians 4 is to “walk worthily” of our calling in Christ. This walk is initiated by an experience of grace. The worthy walk is described as walking in “lowliness’ (humility), “meekness” (self-control), “long-suffering” (endurance), and “love”. It is also a call to walk in “unity and peace”. Christian unity is born of a relationship with Father (the “Father of all”), Son (“one Lord, one faith, one baptism”), and Holy Spirit (“one body, one Spirit, one hope”). An experience of grace is essential if we are to enjoy our Christian duty, if we are to be empowered for our duty, and if we are to endure in our duty.
The “worthy walk” involves an exercise of gifts. Jesus is the giver of spiritual gifts (7-10). Paul offers a partial list of the gifts in Ephesians 4. Here he mentions what we might describe as “officers” of the church – apostles, prophets, evangelists, and pastor-teachers. Elsewhere (Romans 12 and 1 Corinthians 12) he names other spiritual gifts. The goal of spiritual gifts is “the perfecting of the saints for the work of ministry” (12). Christian ministry belongs to the whole church, both laity and clergy, and God equips us for service. Gifts are not given to believers to make them superior individuals, but to allow them to contribute to the overall health of the church.
The “worthy walk” also implies an expectation of Christian growth. We are to move toward a “unity of the faith”. We are to grow in our “knowledge of the Son of God”. The ultimate goal is to become “perfect” (mature, complete), until we arrive at “the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ”. He is our model. What are the signs of this growth? Paul says that we can know we are growing in the right direction when we are “no more children” and no longer “tossed to and fro by every wind of doctrine”, and able to “speak the truth in love”. This, clearly, is a church goal as well as an individual goal (16). So, the Christian’s real duty is to experience the grace of God, to walk worthily of our calling, to exercise our gifts, and to grow in grace. God wants us to “grow up” (together) in Christ!
(Dr. Faught is Pastor of The LaFollette United Methodist Church.)