Sunday, February 21, 2010

Walking Worthy: Graced People Live Gracious Lives

The Royal Law of Christ is to love one another as He loves us (John 13:34). The apostles wrote to followers of Christ to help us understand what a life characterized by agape love looks like. The Apostle Paul writes the first half of a letter (such as Romans, Ephesians, Galations, etc...) to help us comprehend God's incredible love for us, and then he uses the last half of the same letter to give specific steps on how we can love others like Christ has loved us. Through Paul's writings we better understand the vertical love we receive, as well as the horizontal love we give--fulfilling both elements of the Royal Law of Christ (Christ's love for us and our love for others). For preachers who do not see the significance of the Royal Law of love, there is the potentential to misinterpret certain New Testament passages, and as a result, burden hearers with unnecessary laws and expectations. For example, read the following verse from Paul's pen, translated in the King James Version:

Ephesians 4:1 -- I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called ...
Most Southern Baptists will hear preachers wax eloquent about what it means to "walk worthy." Usually it is interpreted to mean that Christians are to have quiet times, read the Bible diligently, attend church regularly, tithe, share your faith, live "godly" lives, and do all things for Christ really well. In other words, to "walk worthy" is interpreted to mean DOING well the things a Christian is supposed to DO in terms of religious activities. But is that what "walking worthy" as a Christian really means?

No, it is not. Paul uses the Greek axios, which is translated "worthy" in this passage, but translated "consistent" or "as becometh" in other New Testament passages. For example, in Philippians 1:27 Paul writes "Only let your conversation be as it becometh (axios) the gospel of Christ." Axios is the Greek word from which we get the English word "axiom" or "axiomatic." An axiom is something "that is widely accepted on its own merits." What Paul is saying is clear: I beg you--live the kind of life and be the kind of person that when someone observes you there is no doubt that the calling of God is on your life.

Take a look again at Ephesians 4:1 ---
I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called ...
Anytime you see the word "therefore" in Scripture you should ask "what is it there for?" Therefore is a connecting word, and you will never understand what follows the word until you know what was written before it. In the first three chapters of Ephesians Paul has been describing God's effectual call of us. What is true about a our salvation? Well, if one reads Paul's words in the first three chapters, one learns that God's calling of sinners is all of grace! God loved us when we were unlovely, died for us while we were His enemies, and effectually calls and regenerates us when we had no desire for Him. His call is pure, unmerited grace. After describing this gracious call of God, making his customary transition to articulate how we are to live in relation to others by writing :

"Let your life be as gracious as the gracious call which you have received" (Ephesians 4:1).

A Christian without graciousness may very well be a person without grace. One may declare he is a Christian, or one may profess before the world that Christ is His Lord, and not know Him as Lord and Savior. The axiom that Christ has saved us is lifestyle that is consistent with His calling of grace. We, too, are gracious people. We are different from the world. To put it simply: Graced people live gracious lives. If you cannot be gracious to people, then more than likely God has not been gracious to you.

Paul describes gracious living in the next few verses of Ephesians 4. Graced people "endeavor to keep the unity of the Spirit" "Endeavor" could be translated "working hard," Notice, Christians are not called to create this unity, but to maintain it. Paul goes on to reveal five characteristics of a gracious Christian who endeavors to keep the unity of the Spirit:

(1). There is humility --- translated "lowliness" in the King James Version. Humility is the ability to be honest with oneself and about oneself. A humble person does not try to keep people from revealing his weaknesses, but is at the forefront of acknowledging his own faults and frailties.
(2). There is meekness --- could be translated "controlled strength." A meek person is one who has power under control. There is never any "exerting power" or "grasping authority," but rather, a spirit of servanthood toward people. Show me a pastor who is kind to the custodians, I will show you a pastor who isn't exerting authority.
(3). There is longsuffering --- could be translated "patient." This literally means a Christian should be willing to suffer long and be patient with others, in a manner similar to Christ's longsuffering for us.
(4). There is forbearance --- which means the willingness to "bear up" one another. When another Christian struggles we shoulder a burden for him .
(5). There is love --- the willingness to meet the needs of those around us with the kind of spirit that Paul describes in I Corinthians 13.

This is what it means to "walk worthy of your calling." God called you by His grace, and now you live consistent with your calling of grace. You live a gracious life. To be gracious does not mean you refuse to confront. You confront like Christ's confronts. You love like Christ loves. You care like Christ cares. You live unselfishly like Christ lives unselfishly. Your life, when observed, is an axiom of the truth of God's grace through Christ.

People see Christ in your life as much as your words.

In His Grace,



Aussie John said...


Am I allowed to loudly declare "Hallelujah"? There I've done it!

Great words!

Rex Ray said...

I like your explanation of the difference of “DOING well the things a Christian is supposed to DO in terms of religious activities” and being gracious to people.

It doesn’t matter how many times a person talks about their ‘quite time’ if they don’t treat others in a loving way.

A “loving way” is NOT blocking traffic by driving 15 miles under the speed limit.

A loving way is NOT yelling at those who thought they were doing right, but it upset your feelings.

Too often we carry our feelings on our sleeves instead guarding them with love.

An elderly lady in our church gave me this and it’s been in my billfold for years:

A load is light if you carry it right
Thought it weighs as much as a boulder
But a tiny chip is too heavy to bear
If you carry it on your shoulder

Wade, you mentioned “exerting authority”. Would you agree that would be correcting a person’s mistake in front of the congregation?

I also believe you’re right when you said, “To be gracious does not mean you refuse to confront.”

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ramesh said...


How the world would be different if each of us exhibits Christ's Grace?

Non-Christians yearn to see this in us.

Tom Kelley said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Rex Ray said...

Thy Peace,
Oh, I first thought you were agreeing with Kevin's conclusion.

Bob Cleveland said...

Thy Peace,

One minor point: IMO, the world does not yearn to see grace in us. "The world" is deep in sin and couldn't be happier in it. Seeing grace and righteousness in others would make them uncomfortable in their sin.

The world needs to see grace in our lives, and we really need to be what the world needs to see. Then they will know where to turn when the Holy Spirit does His convicting work.

Anonymous said...

T Kelley,

You are right. I should have saved my raw sarcasm for other of Wade's posts where beating up good men of God is acceptable. I deleted it. The grace of our Lord be with you as well. Amen. said...


As you know, the beating up of good men is never acceptable.

Thanks for deleting your comment. said...

The Bible declares: "It is the goodness of God that brings one to repentance."

I realize our Puritan friends believe that "the law" must first bring conviction, but I'm wondering if "the Spirit's conviction" of sin is universal (the world), so that there is no one who is actually "knee deep in sin" and happy.

I know the person without Christ wishes to continue the illusion of personal happiness, but I'm wondering if folks are miserable and unhappy because of sin--but don't know how to get out.

Until the goodness of God and His people illustrate the gospel.

Just wondering.

Dr. Mike Kear said...

Amen, Pastor Wade! Consider also Romans 2:14ff. There is a convicting "law" which does not come in the form of a written code.

Anonymous said...


This would imply salvation to all who hear the good news and receive it.

Oh wait, that is not what I meant to type. But it works with your theory.

I would be curious if you or anyone has a biblical underpinning though for the concept of a universal, specific calling by the Spirit on the heart of every child of Adam. I think there is a general call in special revelation, but that special revelation speaks not of a universal specific call.

Just wondering...

linda said...

Wonderful, deep teaching, Pastor!

Two books that have changed my spiritual life in untold ways: Christless Christianity and its' sequel The Gospel Driven Life, both by Michael Horton.

Moving from a "do more try harder" religion to an "it is done" faith has been truly freeing.

And oddly enough, living in the "done" rather than the "you must do" results in a natural desire to "do more" joyfully and freely.

Truly, a works based salvation is often preached in Baptist circles today.

Moving into the understanding that it isn't what we do, but what He did, now that is scandal.

But it is gospel.

Pure, refreshing, life changing, and yes, works changing gospel.

Normally I have experienced (last 20 years or so) church as place to go and be verbally beat up for not doing more, trying harder. Basically told I am pond scum.

Now I attend a church where I go and feast upon Christ. I go where the pastor expects to feed us richly on the gospel of "done", and then we take it to a hurting hungry world during the week.

What a truly soul refreshing difference. said...


I am including within general revelation a specific conviction of sin, more precisely, misery and guilt because of one's crooked nature and transgressional behavior.

Anonymous said...


Thanks for the clarification. Do we not already have a name for that? I think we call it "consequences."

Consequences are a result of the created order and natural law no doubt. Certainly the Spirit works within that predesigned sphere. But the question remains, did God intend for that to be an agent to draw men unto Himself?

Not to a saving knowledge for sure. We must also account for the unequal response to consequences. And for the fact that some lost men have it so good here on earth that the idea of needing anything is laughable. Yes, some lost men do have money, power, wisdom, and are quite personally and socially content. Why would they need God, except the Spirit tell them through the weight of the law of righteousness.

Not so much wondering anymore. :)

Bryan Riley said...

Love that letter to the Ephesian church. Great post. And oh that we would know Him better, and the full measure of His love!

Bob Cleveland said...

This could become a debate on Calvinism, but I don't want to go there.

To me, Christ isn't about making us happy, He's about making us holy. And the world is sure not looking for that.

If the lost world was not happy in their sin .. at least until the time they're convicted of their sin and death, then there wouldn't be such resistance to the Gospel, IMO.

We often tell folks that getting saved isn't the answer to your troubles, as the world will always hand you an ample supply of them. Particularly to a new believer. And we also explain that joy and happiness aren't the same.

But the bottom line is we NEED to be what the world NEEDS to SEE. They may not like it, but when the convicting power of the Holy Spirit comes on them, they sure need to know where to look to find the answer.

Or not. Just an opinion from a pew.

Paul Burleson said...


In keeping with the theme of your excellent post, I'm reminded of a comment I read once from one whom I cannot recall that said...

"God's purpose with us is not to alleviate our tensions, but the revealing of His glory. We are so often alleviation-minded rather than glory-minded, and so long as we remain in that condition, we will never be used to minister the life or word of God."

Darrell said...

Hey Brother, Keep it up! I may never have to write another sermon!!!!!!!!!!


Darrell said...

All kidding aside, this is a great article. Wish we would have had this type of teaching at seminary


Tom Kelley said...

I deleted my comment referencing your comment. Now everyone who comes after can wonder what both of us said.

Grace to you also.

Tom Parker said...


I find it hard to believe that the GCR advocates "storehouse giving."

It says:"" is the responsibility of local churches to challenge their people to walk
in obedience to God by honoring Him weekly with at least the first-tenth of
all income as well as additional offerings to our local churches. Christians
need to repent of the sin of not honoring God with at least the first-tenth of
their income...Stand on the authority of the Word of God and call the people
of God back to Him through the giving of the first tenth and additional offerings
to your local church. Remember, the only people who ever get offended with
the declaration of biblical stewardship are the ones who give little to nothing at
all to your church."

This is not Biblical from my viewpoint at all. It will not work with the people--they are smarter about the Bible than this.

Ramesh said...

Baptist Press > GCR Task Force releases progress report.

Muff Potter said...

Pastor Burleson,

Wouldn't it be more accurate to say that the Trail of Tears was not so much a product Federal malfeasance, as it was a result of Jackson abusing his executive power?

He did after all defy a Supreme Court ruling to leave the Cherokees alone. (Worcester v. Georgia 1832)

Bob Cleveland said...

Tom ... re: giving...

"This is not Biblical from my viewpoint at all. It will not work with the people--they are smarter about the Bible than this."

I'm not at all sure that money shortage is a result of people being too smart about the Bible to give. Bible knowledge will prompt believers to give, perhaps not in a storehouse tithe, but when the congregation follows the Spirit's leadership, the local body will have enough to carry out the ministry God wants.

Tom Parker said...


My reference to the people being smarter was mean to reference storehouse giving. They are not going to buy into having to give 10% to the local church. My hopes would be being led by the Holy Spirit to give more than 10% to the causes of Christ.