“Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience showing tolerance for one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:1-3)
Living in the Light of Grace
Paul never lost sight of how merciful God had been to him:
- “While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).
- “For I am the least of the apostles, and not fit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God” (1 Corinthians 15:9).
- “It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance, that Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all” (1 Timothy 1:15).
When we like Paul always remember the rich unmerited favor that was bestowed upon us, and how the blood of Jesus cleansed us of all our former sinners, it is much easier to practice humility, be gentle, and be patient with others. God gave all of us multiple second chances and richly forgave us when we approached Him seeking forgiveness through faith and baptism (Acts 22:16).
Being Motivated By Grace
Paul knew that he was completely unworthy of not only being an apostle but also of his own salvation. Yet instead of saying, “I am worthless and there is nothing I can do”, Paul’s attitude was the complete opposite. He would now live completely for Christ and throw all his energy and effort into pleasing God and saving others:
- “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me did not prove vain; but I labored even more than all of them, yet not I, but the grace of God with me” (1 Corinthians 15:10).
- “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me” (Galatians 2:20).
We see this attitude expressed as well in Ephesians 4:1. Obviously we are not worthy of Jesus to dying on the cross for us, yet we are to walk in a manner worthy. Unworthy as we are, we are to strive to follow Him as closely as we can (1 Corinthians 11:1; Ephesians 5:1-2).
How Grace Changes our Perspective
- 2 Corinthians 5:13 “For whether we are beside ourselves, it is unto God; or whether we are of sober mind, it is unto you”
Festus would accuse Paul of being mad (Acts 26:24), and the same charge was leveled against Jesus (Mark 3:21). “In this difficult verse Paul seems to be telling the Corinthians that they should gladly rally to his defense if only because, in all his dealings with them, he had never shown any sign of wishing to please himself. They had seen him in many moods. Sometimes, as he spoke at their meetings under the stress of great spiritual emotion. At other times he was quietly and soberly engaged in instructing and exhorting his converts but always for their benefit” (2 Corinthians, Tasker, p. 84). “Unto God… it is unto you”: “His friends therefore could answer his enemies thus: ‘Viewed in one aspect, Paul's life is wholly devoted to the glory of God, and viewed in another it is utterly sacrificed for us and our salvation’” (2 Corinthians, McGarvey, p. 196).
- 2 Corinthians 5:14 “For the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that one died for all, therefore all died”
“For”: The explanation of his activities and motives can be summed up in one phrase. “The Love of Christ”: Christ's love for us (5:15). “Constraineth”: “The idea is not urging or driving, but shutting up to one line and purpose, as in a narrow, walled road” (Vincent, p. 320). “So fully does he realize this love that he is limited to one course of action. He can turn aside neither to the right hand nor to the left for any selfish purpose” (2 Corinthians, Erdman p. 63). “Because we thus judge”: “Having concluded this” (NASV). “And this is the conviction we have reached” (Knox). Paul is telling us, that when he realized the love that Christ had for him, manifested in the crucifixion, such love forced him to reach the following conclusion. “That one died for all”: Christ died for all mankind (John 3:16; 1 Timothy 2:6). “For”: Paul means that Christ bore voluntarily a doom that should have been ours. “Therefore all died”: All who were living at the time Christ died, and all who would ever live, all of every race, culture and ethnic background. “As Christ had died as the head of the race, therefore all men had died with Him to their sins, and so were obligated to lead self-sacrificing, unselfish lives (Romans 6:1-11; Galatians 2:20; Colossians 3:3)” (McGarvey, p. 197).
- 2 Corinthians 5:15 “and He died for all, that they that live should no longer live unto themselves, but unto Him who for their sakes died and rose again”.
- 2 Corinthians 5:16 “Wherefore we henceforth know no man after the flesh: even though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now we know Him so no more”
“Wherefore”: Here is yet another conclusion that we are forced to reach, in light of such unselfish love. “Henceforth know no man after the flesh”: '”From now on we recognize no man according to the flesh” (NASV). “We refuse to regard anyone from the world's standpoint” (TCNT). “With us therefore worldly standards have ceased to count in our estimation of any man” (NEB). “His own judgments of men have been greatly influenced by his Christian experience. Since the beginning his new life in Christ, he has had little regard for mere human distinctions, or natural gifts and abilities, or outward and worldly advantages” (Erdman, p. 63). “He no longer judges things by the standards which the world uses. He no longer sets on things the values the world sets on them” (Barclay, p. 233). “Typical worldly distinctions, such as those of race, social status, wealth, and title, should no longer govern the Christian's estimate of his fellow-men (cf. Galatians 3:28)” (Hughes, p. 197).
“Even though we have known Christ after the flesh”: “Even if we once thought of Christ from the standpoint of the world” (TCNT). “Even though I once estimated Christ by what is external” (Mof). “In his pre-conversion days he had judged Jesus by external considerations in the light of the prejudices of his upbringing, and had concluded that it was impossible that one born in such obscurity, living in such restricted circumstances and dying such a humiliating death, could be the Christ that the Jews were expecting. Consequently, he had dismissed Him and persecuted His followers” (Tasker, p. 87). Paul still treated dignitaries with respect and understood the office they occupied (Acts 26:1-3), yet this same respect and courtesy was given to all men.
Treating Others Graciously: 4:3
- Not being suspicious and putting their words in the worst possible light.
- Giving a soft answer (Proverbs 15:1). Always seeking to diffuse the situation.
- Always being ready to forgive.
- Assuming the best when there is no clear evidence to the contrary (1 Corinthians 13:7 “love… hopes all things”. Giving people the benefit of the doubt.
- Making no judgments until you have heard both sides (Proverbs 18:13).
- Giving people credit where credit is due (Hebrews 6:10). Seeing where they are trying.
- Understanding, that without the light in the gospel, I would be in a very similar situation as they are (Titus 3:3).
- Pointing them to God and His solutions. Giving them hope.
- Being willing to invest your time and life into them (2 Corinthians 12:15).
- Having the time to hear their story.
- Understanding where others are vulnerable, where they have failed in the past, and not bringing up the past that has been forgiven and forgotten.
- Correcting people in the manner that I would like to be corrected (Matthew 7:12).
Mark Dunagan | firstname.lastname@example.org
Beaverton Church of Christ | 503-644-9017