“Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called,” (Ephesians 4:1, NASB95)
What a compelling term—“Prisoner.” Paul had just written about the incredible work that God had done and was prepared to do in them. With the beginning of chapter 4 he begins with the word “therefore.” This word has the meaning of response—because of what had just been explained the following is expected. Paul said that because of what God had done for him that he was now a “prisoner of the Lord.” This word “prisoner” (Greek: desmios) means to be in bonds or to be bound. It comes from a root meaning of being tied or chained, and it was used both to speak of being literally bound and also being under obligation. Paul reinforced this view of his position repeatedly in his letters, even pointing to Jesus as our ultimate example where we read in Philippians 2:5-8, “Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” (Philippians 2:5–8, NASB95) It is this term (bond-servant) that Paul used to introduce himself in the beginning of his letter to the Romans. “Paul, a bond-servant of Christ Jesus, called as an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God,” (Romans 1:1, NASB95) And it is in response to this that he encourages all of us to give ourselves back to God in Romans 12:1, “Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.” (Romans 12:1, NASB95)
Paul knew to whom he belonged. He knew that he had been bought with a price and that he no longer belonged to himself, but to Christ who purchased him with His blood. “For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body.” (1 Corinthians 6:20, NASB95) It was in light of this that Paul wrote words such as those that preceded 1 Corinthians 6:20 where we read, “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own?” (1 Corinthians 6:19, NASB95)
Belonging to Christ, Paul was committed to walking such that He honored His Lord and master—walking worthy before Him. Here in verse 1 of chapter 4 Paul begins imploring the Ephesians believers to walk in the same manner—the manner in which they had been called. As I read these verses my mind was drawn to a difficult decision that my wife and I recently made for our family. We had heavily invested ourselves in the Boy Scouts of America program as a good thing for our boys and as a means of reaching outside our church in service. I had grown up in it as a boy earning Eagle Scout myself, and we brought our older boys through the program. It had a long history, while not being a Christ-centered organization, of being an organization that held values consistent with our instruction of how we are to live as revealed in God’s word. This organization had been a fairly consistent model of and tool for character development in this country since its founding here in 1910. But something happened. Over the past years the top leadership began to adopt different standards and to accept values in conflict with the truths of God’s word. They began to adopt a moral code which was inclined to accept that which God declared immoral, calling it good and acceptable. Beyond that, they put in place policies that made this their national position—a position which we could not embrace. But we were not done yet. We have one more boy. He was part-way through the program. Do we continue or what do we do?
We decided to remain with it for a season under the protection of the church which chartered the unit and which provided our cover. But the stirring continued and we were far from alone. Around the country Scouters and others began to gather, and through the vision of a group of them a new organization was formed which was soon to align itself with another one that had responded similarly to actions by the Girl Scouts years earlier. I followed their progress, and when the opportunity was right I was invited by another person in my community to help start a new unit under this new organization.
The motto of this new organization is “Walk Worthy,” and it comes from Colossians 1:10 where we read, “so that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God;” (Colossians 1:10, NASB95) What had begun was a faith-based organization for boys (Trail Life USA) which was working hand in hand with another faith-based organization for girls (American Heritage Girls) to provide a Christ-centered alternative to both the Boys Scouts and the Girl Scouts, who while beginning well eventually proved that good works without a firm foundation is faulty at best.
Paul never lost sight of who owned Him and who directed His steps. He didn’t get lost in doing good, but did good as a response to the One he served. He had already said in this letter that we were saved for good works which God had prepared beforehand that we should walk in them (Ephesians 2:10). Beyond his own walk, Paul also knew that He was called by God as His instrument to declare this to others. He was given this by God, and he took the responsibility seriously. He even wrote to encourage those who he had discipled and those who had been called by God in positions of leadership to walk with the same sobering understanding.
I had just mentioned getting involved with Trail Life USA in a new unit chartered by a local church. We were given the privilege of selecting our own troop number. After considering several suggestions we selected 1910 (OR-1910). This is not only the year that Scouting began in the U.S. (1910), serving to me as a reminder of how easy it is to go wrong when Christ is not at the center, but it also incorporates the central verse for the program (Colossians 1:10) and the verse that precedes it (Colossians 1:9) Looking at them together we see that they really incorporate the same thing that Paul says here in Ephesians. “For this reason also, since the day we heard of it, we have not ceased to pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God;” (Colossians 1:9–10, NASB95)
Knowing who we are in Christ and what God has done for us we are called to respond by walking worthy (or rightly) before Him. Our walk does not save us, but it surely evidences that we have been saved. Our walk does not make us acceptable by God, but it surely demonstrates that we honor Him by doing what is good and acceptable and perfect. “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans 12:2, NASB95) Walking worthy is our reasonable response to our God who loved us, who drew us to Himself, and who is powerful to act far and above anything that we could ever ask or imagine.