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The therefore in Ephesians 4

I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called Ephesians 4:1

The following observations are made on the first verse in chapter 4 of Ephesians, aided by the sermon of Alastair Begg on the same topic. [1]

  1. Chapter four marks a new division in the Letter to the Ephesians. As noted by Alistair Begg there is only one command in the first three chapters, and this is not a strong imperative[2]. However, chapter 4 brings forth a number of strong imperatives – it is the practical section of the letter; instructions for every believer in Christ.
  2. Arno Gaebelein points out that the Epistle to the Ephesians is about our walk being worthy as a Christian: "This marks the beginning of the second part of the epistle. It is obvious then, to walk worthy as a Christian, one has to know the calling wherewith God has called us. This calling, as we have seen, is revealed in the first three chapters." [3] Indeed Paul uses the illustration of walking six times – with the first linking our salvation through grace with the ‘good works’ God has prepared ‘beforehand’ (alluding to the practical aspect of predestination) for each believer.

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained [prepared beforehand] that we should walk in them. Ephesians 2:10

  1. We therefore are urged by Paul to walk, that is, to undertake these good works, not to gain salvation, but because of the love Christ has for each one of us. Thus a believer must set his or her life’s trajectory in a manner that is acceptable to the Lord (Eph. 5:10).
  2. The first division is doctrinal, the second division is practical. This is the way it ought be; the order is important and the association is paramount – they both belong together. In the first we learn the reality of the truth – what it means to be ‘in Christ’, in the second we learn the practical, how we are to ‘live for Christ’.
  3. From the very first verse of the letter Paul speaks of being in Christ – the faithful and therefore those that are saved through faith are in Christ. This is a fundamental doctrinal statement. In Christ we have been blessed (1:3) and as such we have been adopted as his sons (1:5). The great doctrinal statements of predestination are also found in the first half of Ephesians. We also find the great truths of salvation – it is, as it always was, through faith that we have salvation. This chapter contrasts "in Christ" with "in flesh".

Therefore remember that you, once Gentiles in the flesh… were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.
Ephesians 2:11a, 12[4]

  1. Chapter 4 commences the instructions of how we are to have our minds settled – we no long need to be ‘tossed to and fro’, unsure of the truth, being deceived with lies and other deceitful doctrines. But rather, the truth has been reveal – our all and all (Eph. 1:23) is in Christ. Our means to do battle is found in Chapter 6 where the whole armour of God is explained, and thus we can deal with the spiritual battles that long to derail our abilities to do the good works God has set forth for each child of His.

That we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, Ephesians 4:14

  1. Thus part two of the letter is to Christians, and Christians only. The works of chapters 4-6 cannot be used to gain salvation. Grace is undeserved favour – it is a gift as chapter 2 explains. Nor can our works be to validate or merit our salvation – the work of salvation is valid and sound, but the sole work of Christ; the Holy Spirit testifies to this. The commands of chapters 4-6 cannot be used to gain salvation or even maintain our state of salvation. That is, even if one keeps the commands of chapters 4-6 that person remains dead in their trespasses.

But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses…

For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. Ephesians 2:4, 8-9

  1. When Paul gets to chapter 4 he says, to paraphrase; "now I have provided you with the reality of the truth, that Christ died for our sins, and we are saved through faith and in doing so we are now the adopted son or daughter of Christ, we must therefore walk worthy of this new position." We can liken this to a prince who needs to act in a manner that does not bring disrepute to the King or Queen, or an employee who needs to behave in a manner that upholds the values and principles of the organisation they work.
  2. Thus the 'therefore' joins to two parts of the letter together – doctrine without action is dead. We are in Christ, therefore we must act, behave, conduct ourselves, speak and respond – that is walk having the privilege of being a child of Christ.

Therefore be imitators of God as dear children. Ephesians 5:1

[1] Alistair Begg 1 January 2017 Therefore…, Truth for Life, https://www.truthforlife.org/resources/sermon/therefore/  (accessed 22 January 2017)

[2] Therefore remember that you, once Gentiles in the flesh—who are called Uncircumcision by what is called the Circumcision made in the flesh by hands Ephesians 2:11

[3] Gaebelein A.C. (1970 revised 1985) Gaebelein´s Concise Commentary of the Whole Bible, Loizeaux Bros , USA , pp 997

[4] Be careful – don’t misinterpret this verse which vast numbers have. A Gentile saved is still a Gentile, albeit an adopted son of God. That person does not usurp the Jew – a Christian is in Christ; in reality he or she is neither Jew of Gentile (Rom 2:10, Rom 10:12, Gal 3:28, Col 3:11), but rather a saint of Christ. See how Paul calls the Christians whom he writes in Rome “To all who are in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Romans 1:7”. The Church is not Israel!

David L Simon
Posted: 22 Jan 2017