Holy Living In An Unholy World,

How To Act In Church

By Dr. Robert Jeffress

I’m not a health fanatic. But since I lost both of my parents fairly early in life, as most of you know, I do try to take care of myself, watching what I eat and getting regular exercise. Some of you are ground pounders out there running five, 10, 15 miles a day like people who ought to be locked up for the criminally insane. I know running is good for you, but I think I’d rather eat a chocolate-covered donut and take my chances than go running.

Some time ago, I came across an article about the advantages of walking versus running for exercise. Walking places less stress on your body, there is less risk of injury, and if you walk fast enough—5 miles per hour for 45 minutes or more—you can achieve as much as if you were running. The last sentence of the article particularly caught my attention:

“Walking is not a glamour sport. But at the right pace and with regularity, it can be the best thing you can do for your body.”

In many ways, the same thing can be said about living the Christian life. “Walking with God is not spiritually glamorous. Walking with God has none of the panache of, say, miraculous healings speaking in tongues or being slain in the spirit. Walking with God sounds so humdrum, so pedestrian. But done at the right pace and with regularity, walking with God can be the best thing you do for your soul.”

I think it is significant that in the second half of the letter to the Ephesians, Paul compares the Christian life not to a gallop or a mountain climb or a marathon to be run but to a walk. The Christian life, as Eugene Peterson describes it, is a long obedience in the same direction. No, walking with God is not always glamorous, but when done consistently, it will get us to our desired destination.

What does it mean to walk with God, and how do we do it successfully? 

1. The Command (Ephesians 4:1)

“Therefore”—any time we see the word “Therefore,” we should ask ourselves, “What is that, therefore, there for.” In light of all of the great things God has done for you—choosing you, predestining you, adopting you into his family, securing your future forever—I want you to walk—live your life—in a way that is worthy of the riches that have been entrusted to you.

Paul is able to make this appeal because, as an apostle of Christ, as he reminded the believers in Ephesus, he was “the prisoner of the Lord.” He had walked in the way he was about to encourage them to walk. It cost Paul his temporary freedom, but so be it. Obedience—faithfulness—in the Christian life is greater than our freedom.

The metaphor of wealth found in Christ Jesus was a key idea in the first half of Ephesians. Now, in the second half of the epistle, the key idea is found in a different metaphor—that of walking as an illustration of the Christian life.

The Greek word translated as “worthy” is axios, from where we get our English word axiom. It means to have equal weight. Imagine a balance scale. On one side of the scale, you place all of the things God has done for you described in Ephesians 1-3—his choosing you, redeeming you, adopting you.

On the other side of the scale is your conduct as a believer. Paul is saying your “behavior” should balance out or equal or be consistent with who you are in Christ.

2. The Call to Unity (Ephesians 4:2-3)

I think it is very significant that Paul begins his discussion of the Christian life by talking about—not our family life or morality—but our church life. You see we have this idea that church is a nicety, but not a necessity. Polls suggest that the majority of Christians think that you can have a strong relationship with God, apart from being involved in a local church.

The implication is that we can’t really hold fast to the faith without wavering or stimulating one another to love and good or encourage one another without the community of the church. Lone ranger Christians are easy to pick off.

Paul lays out his own reasons for the primacy of the church in Ephesians, focusing on unity.

  • The Importance of Unity 

The Church Serves As:

  1. Christ’s representative in the world. 
  2. The Christian’s source of energy in the world.
  1. Humility (Philippians 2:3-7a)
  2. Gentleness
  3. Patience
  4. Forbearance

3. The Catalysts For Unity (Ephesians 4:4-6)

  • One Body

In 1 Corinthians 12:12, Paul wrote, the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body, so also is Christ. The body of Christ represents the universal body of believers—everyone who has placed faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus, regardless of denomination or political position—in this present age.

  • One Spirit

How did we become a part of the Body of Christ? By the Same Holy Spirit. Paul goes on to say in 1 Corinthians 12:13 For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body. This is the same Spirit that indwells individual believers and indwells the universal body of Christ. 

Now, it is true the Holy Spirit works in different ways in different people’s lives. Some people are drawn to Christ early in life, others later in Christ. Some, as we will see next week, are called to serve as pastors and teachers; others are called to be laymen. Some are given the gift of giving, others serving. But it is still the same Spirit who is working in each of our lives for the same purpose—to glorify Jesus Christ.

  • One Hope

In our English language, the word hope means a wish or desire for something that is uncertain. But in the Bible, the word “hope” means assurance of something that is to happen. What is the hope of every Christian? Titus 2:13 says we are looking for the blessed hope and the appearance of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Regardless of what you believe about the rapture, the millennium, the regathering of Israel, and so on, the one hope that binds all Christians together is that Jesus Christ is returning visibly to earth to redeem and reward those of us who belong to him.

  • One Lord

Have you ever heard people say, well, the Jesus I serve would never condemn people, drive a Mercedes Benz, or listen to rap music, and on and on? The idea is that Jesus is whatever you imagine him to be, which is usually someone who believes like you do. But Paul says, not so fast. There are not many Lords; there is one. He is the Lord Jesus Christ, who is revealed in the Bible and is the head of the church.

  • One Faith

There are not many ways to God; there is only one way to God, through his Son Jesus Christ. Admittedly, that is politically incorrect to say today when tolerance is the celebrated virtue. We are told that everyone’s ideas are equally valid. That is ridiculous when you think about it. All beliefs are not equally valid.

Dr. Criswell traveled to Africa many years ago and said that he saw an entire section of the nation that had been wiped out by smallpox. Driving down the road, the host missionary said, “See that broom on the roof of that thatched hut? That means there is smallpox there, and they are driving the demon of smallpox away.” That is one idea of how to cure smallpox, even if it’s a futile one. 

Louis Pasteur had another idea. He discovered that smallpox was a bacterium, and one needed to be vaccinated against it. You have different ideas of how to deal with the disease of smallpox—are they both equally valid? In the same way, there is only one way to deal with the disease of sin; it is through faith in Jesus Christ. One faith placed in the Lord Jesus.

  • One Baptism

Paul is referring here to the baptism with the Holy Spirit that joins us in the body of Christ. There are not several baptisms with the Spirit; there is only one. One baptism, but many fillings. 

Water baptism is a picture of spirit baptism, and just as there is only one time you are truly baptized with the Spirit, there is one time you are truly baptized with water. If you were baptized before you trusted in Christ as your Savior, you have not experienced the one true baptism. If you were sprinkled instead of immersed, you have not experienced the one true baptism we are to experience as a symbol of our baptism with the Holy Spirit.

  • One God

The reason there is one body, one Spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, is there is only one God. “Behold the Lord your God is one God,” Deuteronomy proclaims.  And just as there is no division in God, there is to be no division among his church, which serves as his representative here on earth.” The unity of the church, like the unity of the Trinity, is indivisible and eternal. As John Stott wrote, “The unity of the church is as indestructible as the unity of God himself. It is no more possible to split the church than it is possible to split the Godhead.”

4. The Commitment To Unity

This message is not just a doctrine to be believed, but it is a conviction to be practiced. The phrase “being diligent” in Ephesians 4:3 means a holy zeal that requires complete dedication on our part.

It means that we have to get serious about this business of unity in this church and reaffirm some basic commitments:

  1. I will refrain from criticizing any member of this church without first going to him privately.
  2. I will refuse to engage in gossip about other believers in the church. 
  3. I will resist sharing confidential information that has been entrusted to me. 
  4. I will remember that the church’s progress is more important than my preferences.
  5. I will recommit to loving rather than condemning fellow Christians.

That’s what it means to be diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.


Full Passage: Ephesians 4:1-6