My topic today is “living as Called people.” I believe that such a title raises so many questions and so before we go any further, let me clarify what this title intends to capture. “Living as called people” or as apostle Paul puts it “living a life worthy of your calling” is not primarily a call for you and I to pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps and prove to everyone that we are truly are living as called people. It is about that in one way but first and foremost this does not begin with us; it begins with God; who God is and what God has done for us and what God continues to do through us as a body of Christ in the world.
A quick look at Exodus 16:2-4 is reminder why this is not first about us. In the desert the whole community that had been liberated by God from the Egyptian bondage grumbled against Moses and Aaron. The Israelites said to them, “If only we had died by the Lord’s hand in Egypt! There we sat around pots of meat and ate all the food we wanted, but you have brought us out into this desert to starve this entire assembly to death.” Then the Lord said to Moses, “I will rain down bread from heaven for you. The people are to go out each day and gather enough for that day (Ex. 16:2-4).
This experience is a reminder of the human condition. They sound just like us but the difference comes from God. Although they quickly forgot the Egyptian bondage and their cry to God for deliverance because they were hungry, God rained down provision instead of fire to destroy the complainers. Like ancient Israel, we are sinful people who complain and question God all the time, however God’s mercy goes far beyond our capacity to be faithful to God.
In light of this, what does it mean to live as called people? Let me begin by referencing the resurrection hope. In Jesus, we live as a hopeful people. Jesus defeated death broke walls of hostility making us one body and empowers us through the Holy Spirit to grow to maturity being equipped for the works of service to build up the body to its full stature. This is not something we do alone; Jesus has given the church various gifts to equip the body to live as called people.
Having stated this upfront, let me also say that our faith matters and it is precisely because of that that Paul urges the Ephesians to live as called people.
In Ephesians 4, Paul reflects on his understanding of being called by God and proceeds to spell out the implications for how we are to live. What Paul meant by “our calling” here is not a specific ministry calling to an area of gifting or a specific role but rather the basic calling of the gospel which compelled you and I to believe in Jesus as the risen Lord and king and to give him complete and undivided allegiance for the rest of your life and mine. Paul had done exactly that but this total abandonment to Jesus landed him in prison. Sometime our idea of God’s call does not come close to Paul’s experience here or the experiences of other biblical characters.
Looking at Paul and the prophets not to mention Jesus himself, we learn that obedience to God’s calling does not always translate to easy life; it might actually make your life more challenging. Just think of it, if and when people discover that you are a Christian, things change very dramatically. If you are serious about your faith, you know that your faith lays certain claims on your life and as a result you must strive to live a life of witness failure to do so guarantees being label a hypocrite. Our Anabaptist forebears discovered the cost of discipleship; they were burnt at the stake because they believed that Jesus had called them to live differently. Dietrich Bonheoffer put it more bluntly, “When the Lord bids you come, he bids you come and die.”
Paul implores the Ephesian church and us as a prisoner for the Lord’s sake to live as God’s called people:
1. As called people we live as people with hope (v. 4)
One hope. A key part of this calling is living as people with hope. This hope is in the risen Lord. It is a hope that does not disappoint us. Jesus’ followers who give him their faithful allegiance are assured the same victory over death that Jesus had. No wonder Paul calls Jesus the “first born among many siblings” and Jesus’ resurrection as the “first fruits” implying a plentiful harvest yet to follow. This is the ‘calling’ to which the Ephesians and you and I ought to live up to. When we live in hope, we impart that hope to others who desperately need it.
It is that hope that spurred me on when my immediate sibling died in childbirth three years ago. I was wounded by her death and it was difficult to see past that pain and woundedness. It was by God’s grace that I was reminded of the hope of the resurrection then I experienced healing and lived in hope of the resurrection life; light went off in my spirit that death did not have the last word on my sister! I led her to Christ while I was in high school I was reminded by Paul that to be absent in this body is to be present with the Lord (2 Corinthians 5:8). As called people, we are to be a people of hope and should live as hopeful people.
2. Living as hopeful people is to live as humble and gentle people. We are Patient and bearing with one another in love and we are continually making every effort to maintain the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace. This is because, Paul says, we are members of the same body and sharers in the same spirit, the same Lord, the same faith, the same baptism, and the same God, the true God, the sovereign one, who stands over against all other gods and goddesses.
3. We live in unity. Paul stressed unity in chapter 2, where the emphasis was on the astonishing coming-together of Jew and Gentile in God’s new family in Christ. Paul instructed the Ephesian believers to guard and protect that unity. As sovereign and triune God, He has chosen us, redeemed us and sealed us with his unity by placing us together as the body of Christ, with the Lord Jesus as our head; we are united to one another. The old lines of division are done away with. In Paul’s day, it was the Jew-Gentile distinction. We must overcome, demolish and put behind us the things that still divide us. Our lives are to reflect that which God has done in Christ (making two one).
Gifting in the body:
Referencing (Ps. 68:18)- Paul sees Jesus as the new liberator who gives the gifts to the church because of his achievement; Like Moses at Sinai after the deliverance of the slaves from Egypt ascended on the mountain, now in a new exodus, which has come about as a result of Jesus’ death, and resurrection, which sets all people free from bondage to sin and death, Jesus ‘went up’ into the heavenly realm where he now reigns as Lord. But now instead of coming down with the law like Moses, Jesus reigns through the Holy Spirit showering the church with different gifts. Jesus reigns in the spirit; the same Lord is personally present in each of us. It is through the spirit that we continue to maintain unity. When we live like this, we are living as called people (perspective informed by N.T Wright)
The gifts given to the body are to help the body to grow to maturity(Eph. 4:11-13):
Failure to do so exposes the body to all kinds of vulnerabilities:
Paul uses three analogies to show the detriment to the body without maturity:
• We become like Babies; we are vulnerable and can be taken advantage of and be shaped by many different narratives such as consumerism, militarism etc hence my question, will our children have faith? Are we maturing and deeply being rooted firmly in the Lord or are we easily swayed by unsound teachings? Are we forming spiritual muscles to fend off such pseudo Christian faith such as moralistic therapeutic deism?
• We can be like a rudderless ship in the stormy sea: without maturity we can be tossed to and fro in the storm of world knowledge, experiences etc and we can loose our way
• We can be tricked by the enemy and the who come as angels of light but deep inside are bent on leading us a stray.
We must then grow to maturity looking to Jesus who is the perfector and the finisher of our faith. When we strive to maturity, we will;
• Learn to speak the truth of the Christian faith convictions in love and respect
• The body grows into Christ who is the head-being brought in line with Christ
• Acknowledge the different gifts in the body for the common purpose of bringing about maturity in the body.
The various offices or roles in the church are given by the Spirit so that every Christian can serve in the way they are called to do, for the building of the whole body and for the body to grow to maturity rooted in the hope of the resurrection of Jesus the Christ. This is the hope the world desperately seeks and which Christ has commissioned us to embody for the world!