Savannah is a wonderful city for walking. When my family and I lived here, we spent many hours walking the nature trails of this beautiful community, or walking downtown through the unique historic district. To commemorate our return this weekend, we walked down about a mile from our hotel to River Street. Savannah is all about walking.
When I pastor, oftentimes I like to get away from just counseling in my office or study. So I say to the one who has come to me, “Let’s take a walk.” It gets us away from formality, needed for my study, but gets us to a place of honesty where we can get at the problem.
The Christian life is also a place to walk. It is not good for sitting or standing around. It is a place to walk. And so Paul, in chapter four of Ephesians makes his typical turn from taught theology to applied theology. He wants the Ephesians to put legs on the truth and walk. So, let’s take a walk through this passage together:
The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever. Isaiah 40:8
Let us pray.
Lord, may the Words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be always acceptable in Thy sight, O Lord, our Rock and our Redeemer. And let me preach as if never to preach again and as a dying man to dying men.
Called on the Carpet
We all know the axiom, “You must walk before you run.” In the Bible, we might say “You must walk if you are to follow.” What do I mean?
There was a time in my life when I did not follow the Lord. I followed the things of this world. I followed the ways of the world and the desires of my heart. It led me to many bad things and many sad consequences. But having been reared in the Church, I thought I was a follower of Jesus anyway. You know, “Once saved, always saved” and I could pretty much do what I wanted. One time when I was in the Navy as a teenager, I was following the ways of the world and was called on the carpet by a Mormon. You see I was arguing with him about his religion and calling him a heretic and telling him that he was terribly mistaken. I do not doubt that I was right, though one may find better ways of sharing truth. But at any rate, this Mormon, who certainly practiced his religion, told me, “Mike, your life does not reflect your doctrine. You are not walking with the Lord. And until your walk matches your talk, I think I will keep my own religion, thank you.”
“Ouch.” Or should I say, “Touché!” He was dead right. And years later when I heard the Gospel of God’s grace in Jesus Christ, which showed me that I was a hypocrite and a liar and dead in my trespasses and sins and needing to be made alive in Christ by grace through faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself for me, I realized that you must walk after Jesus if you will follow after Jesus. Or to use my Mormon roommate’s words, “Until your walk matches your talk” you are not walking and therefore you are not following the Lord.
You must walk in holiness as you follow the Lord. And to walk and follow you need the Spirit to fall fresh on you. You will need, as Calvin said, to have experienced a change in your life. John Calvin wrote of these who could keep the law in His Institutes:
“[The] Law is written and engraved on their hearts by the finger of God, that is, …[so that] they are so influenced and actuated by the Spirit, that they desire to obey God.”
The third use of the Law is for believers whose hearts have been actuated by the transforming power of God in Christ through the action of the Holy Spirit. The matter before us is how to walk after this One who commands us to keep His law.
In Ephesians chapters four and five, St. Paul uses the world “walk” four times (4.1, 4,.17, 5.2, 5.8) as a signpost directing us how to walk after the Lord. So let us then follow Paul in these passages, following three of those signposts), and be instructed from Holy Scripture on how we must walk in order to follow.
Ephesians 4 and 5 helps us to see that we should be living out the Law daily in our lives for the glory of God and the good of our lives.
But how do we walk? How do we follow the famous third use of the Moral Law?
In Ephesians 4.1, Paul makes a turn from his amazing, far-reaching depiction of the glorious Bride of Christ. And he makes the turn by stating what is, for us, our first signpost:
“I therefore as a prisoner of the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worth of the calling to which you have been called…” and he goes on to say that our walk must be one that is “eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” for Paul says, “There is one body and one Spirit…”
So the first way we walk is this way:
1. Walk Together
If you recall, it is quite reasonable to believe that this epistle, which lacks any tone whatsoever of correction, is rich in doctrinal and thus practical instruction for not just Ephesians, but other churches on the Asia Minor circuit. If so, this “therefore” walk this way first great application in the Epistle would have special meaning for all the churches. They must walk together. But even if it were intended for Tychicus to deliver this epistle to only Ephesus, it still has meaning for unity within that one body.
How we need what Paul has to say in our churches today, as well as in the larger Body of Christ, the circuit of churches, say, in Savannah. How we need to hear that if we come to see our position in Christ (chapters 1-3), then we ought to walk together. How could there be any other way to walk?
For as Paul says, we have a high calling (verse 1). We walk together because we were called into the glorious Body of Christ, not into a privatized, this-is-my-pew-and-you-better-move Christianity! Even when we pray the Lord’s Prayer, we pray, not “My Father…” but “Our Father…” One of the joys of a conference like this is to gather Christians from all over and to come together to sing and praise and focus on God’s Word together. We have a high calling, and so let us walk together in that calling in Christ.
Paul will say that we walk together and exhibit that togetherness in a love that is seeking, as Bryan Chapel called it in a fine book on marriage, “Each for the Other.” Indeed, marriage, as we will see in Chapter Five is the perfect metaphor for this way of life. Each of us giving to each other. Look at the loaded phrases in verses 2 and 3! It looks like words that I would use to prepare a wedding sermon:
“Humility, gentleness, patience, bearing with one another in love, unity, peace.”
These traits are to shown in our spiritual walk, because there is only one Lord, one Faith, one baptism, one God, and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all.” Now why is he stressing this oneness theme? Because our lives flow from God and from His very Person and His Plan. If there is no Lord, one faith and one baptism, can there be twenty churches?
You know we have over 60 denominations present in our student body at Reformed Theological Seminary. Sixty! But, when I talk to students from these various ecclesiastical bodies do you know what I hear? One message. I hear the same questions about calling, about serving, about gifts, and about purpose and mission. Many gifts, Paul will say, but One giver. There are many parts but one body at our seminary, and so it is in all the Church.
Yet it is one thing to point to the need for unity in the body of Christ and another thing to do practice that unity ourselves. Once I knew there was a sticking point between myself and another believer in one of the churches where I was pastor. This man, a good man, was a man whose personality conflicted with my own (“naturally perfect!”) personality. One day he called me at my study. He asked if we could just take a walk together. He didn’t have any agenda. He just wanted to walk with me. In that walk together, we found we had more in common than not.
We who love the Lord, who love His Word, who receive Him by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone, according to the Scriptures alone, may disagree on some things, and see things differently, through this dark glass. But this one thing is for sure: when faced with death and Hell, we walk together, pray, work, and minister together, esteeming others as higher than ourselves.
How is your walk with those outside of your own church? Or dare I ask, How are you walking in faith with those who share your own name?
The third use of the Law involves walking together—and this speaks well to that Biblical goal.
Paul makes another move, another transition, when in Chapter Four he begins to focus, not just on unity, but on holiness. This is the second signpost for how we should walk after the Lord. We read:
“Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds.” (verse 17).
When we walk this way, the Biblical way,
2. Walk Away
The Psalmist wrote:
Blessed are those whose way is blameless, who walk in the law of the LORD! Psalms 119.1
To walk His way, we must walk away. This is what David is telling us as he is saying that the one whose “way”—whose “walk” if you will—is without “tamiym” in the Hebrew—“upright, with integrity, undefiled, without spot.”
My Aunt Eva used to tell me that when confronted with sin, with coarse jokes, with ungodly talk, with foolish plans, just “walk away.” I tell my son that when you see something that is going to lead to trouble just walk away. When I was a boy and played football, now and then a player would get it in an unlawful hit, or a cheap shot. My coach told me to just “walk away.”
We walk together when we follow the Lord in this glorious position we have in Christ. But we also walk away.
The Law of God requires that believers must walk away from old ways of thinking which are futile (17), useless, and good for nothing. We must walk away from the ignorance, which Paul says characterizes the old life (in verse 18). We must walk away because to walk in them again is to take part in the things that Paul says lead to a “callous” life (verse 19). Paul says “they became callous…” This is the judicial hardening of the life of one who turns away from God, in nature, but also one who turns from God in His Word. You have His Word. You have been taught. You have been called. You are part of the glorious Body of Christ.
You have been chosen in Him before the foundation of the world (4), so if you are His little child, how could you deny Him, we might ask a Christian in trouble, by your flirtatious relationship with the married man in the office which will lead to unimaginable pain and sorrow? Walk away. How, we might plead with an alarming number of men who claim Christ as Lord, can you continue to consume pornographic images into the mind that Christ is renewing in His Word? Walk away. You have been adopted by God through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace” (6) so how do you continue to gossip and speak ill of another believer? Walk away. You are redeemed through His blood (7) and “seated with Him at his right hand in the heavenly places” how can you ever entertain ideas that would deny the inerrancy of His Holy Word or the truths of the Gospel that your mother taught you as you sat on her lap as a child? Or that you heard prayed from the lips of your old father? How can you tolerate unbelief in your life? Walk away.
And in each charge I give you this day to “walk away” I connect your position in Christ to plea to repent. For Paul does this. This is not a moralistic hoop to jump through, this is a gracious appeal to hearts that have a relationship with Christ.
Why do we obey our parents? Because we love them. Love precedes law and empowers obedience. And so Paul prays for them as I pray for our lives today:
“I do not cease to give thanks for you, remember you in my prayers…”
“…that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints…”
Out of love, out of awe and wonder, walk this way: Walk away from the old way of life and into a new, more compelling, and beautiful, even dazzling, present and future with Jesus Christ.
I implore you by the wounds of Jesus to walk this way. To do so is to fulfill the Law of God in our lives today.
And I invite you to focus on this final way to walk in Ephesians chapter five:
3. Walk Forward
Walk forward into a way of life in which, as a child of the Father, you now show the family traits. The third use of the Law is as the Confession of faith says,
“Neither are the aforementioned uses of the law contrary to the grace of the gospel, but do sweetly comply with it: the Spirit of Christ subduing and enabling the will of man to do that freely and cheerfully, which the will of God, revealed in the law, requireth to be done.”
I was adopted. And they say that DNA is powerful and I am sure that it is. But in my life as I grow older, I have reflected more and more the traits of my Aunt Eva. Every now and then I will say something to John Michael and I will think, “That is exactly what Aunt Eva used to say to me!” I have found in my life and as a pastor that love is more powerful than DNA.
Christ’s love is the power to keep the law. We may have the DNA of original sin, but the love of Jesus has overpowered that lesser power. It must yield, through the exercise of the means of grace, to the power of love. And in love, an act of God’s grace towards us that brings about a new heart and mind, we respond to God. In short, we can only keep the Law, we must keep the Law, in love.
And so we can look in Ephesians 5.1 for one of the most touching passages in the entire Bible. This is our third “walk” signpost:
“Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ, loved us and gave himself for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”
Maybe this is so touching to me because I have used it so many times in weddings. That passage is connected not only to the passages that follow on a return to “walking away” admonitions, but also to “walking forward” images about marriage. Then, in 6.1-4, he applied this to parents and children. Finally, in verses 5-9, Paul applies the walk of Christ to the relationships of masters and slaves. And in all of this Paul is calling us to walk a new way in the future with all of our relationships. What does that walk look like? How do we “walk like this?”
We walk in God’s love as “Christ loved us and gave Himself for us…” This is the way you walk forward from now on with your wife—you give your life to her. This is how she responds in loving submission to her husband—because of love.
So too you walk out of the love of Jesus Christ that saved a sinner like you. Such love, Paul, says, is a “fragrant offering and is a sacrifice to God.” Such love diffuses a fragrance that is attractive to those who want to see what real love looks like. And even in marriage, even in our love of our parents, and our love of our children, even in the way we treat our employees, or the way we give our best for our employers, God’s love is diffused into this old world.
The law of God is thus doxological. The law of God is evangelistic. It is the way of a transformed heart that cannot bear but to follow.
And you can only love that way if you know that love. Do you?
The Big Chair Lesson
So over the span of Chapters 4 and 5 and the first part of 6, we have seen how to walk:
Walk together. Walk away. Walk forward.
Yet what is there that is keeping us from taking that walk?
There is a pastor who was once a professor—a very creative professor—at RTS in Jackson, Mississippi. One day he had the responsibility of leading the chapel service. Most of us prepare for chapel messages by Bible study and prayer. This professor prepared by not only those essential undertakings, but he went further. He built a chair to be used as an object lesson. This chair was an oversized chair. Not just a big chair to watch football in, but a big chair that was a caricature of a big chair! If any of you remember Lily Tomlin’s “Edith Ann” character, where she dressed in a rag doll outfit and sat in this massive rocking chair, well that is close. The professor climbed into the chair, and then turned around and situated himself. His feet dangled from the chair and he kicked them back and forth. Then he said, “Soon many of you will be pastors. You will get to sit in the big chair. You will begin to feel like the king.” He went on to show that a pastor who does that looks as foolish as he does. For Christ gave us another model, the model of a servant, no matter what furniture the church uses. We are just servants. And to walk the Christian life, we need to come down off of the chair:
- The chair of pride, in ourselves, our theology, our place, that keeps us sitting up there, dangling our feet, but failing to get down and reach out to others and walk together in Christ;
- The chair of a self-centered, proud and pompous doctrine that becomes an excuse for holy living, and allows lust to grow where we are crushed by the big chair, and then go and walk away from the old life of sin through the new life of Christ;
- The chair of isolation, that keeps us from applying the love of Jesus we have received to others, in our private lives, our marriages, our families, and our relationship with the world.
In other words it is time to come down from the chair. It is time to take a walk.
The journey begins today.
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
“Accordance Biblical Software 7.0.” 2010.
Chapell, Bryan. Each for the Other : Marriage as It’s Meant to Be. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Books, 1998.
John Calvin, Beveridge, Henry (Translator). “The Institutes of the Christian Religion.” (1947). http://www.ccel.org/ccel/calvin/institutes.txt.
Stewart, James. James Stewart: Walking with God, Edited by The Revd Gordon Grant. Vancouver, BC: Regent College Publishing, 2006.
Strong, James. The New Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible : With Main Concordance, Appendix to the Main Concordance, Key Verse Comparison Chart, Dictionary of the Hebrew Bible, Dictionary of the Greek Testament. Nashville: T. Nelson Publishers, 1984.
“The Westminster Confession of Faith.” (1646). http://www.reformedonline.com/view/reformedonline/WCF.htm.
 See Chapter XIX in “The Westminster Confession of Faith,” (1646). http://www.reformedonline.com/view/reformedonline/WCF.htm.
 See Chapter XIX.iii in Ibid.
 In James Stewart, James Stewart: Walking with God, ed. The Revd Gordon Grant (Vancouver, BC: Regent College Publishing, 2006), 133.
 See “The Westminster Confession of Faith.”
 See XIX.iii, iv in Ibid.
 Bryan Chapell, Each for the Other : Marriage as It’s Meant to Be (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Books, 1998).
 “From Strong’s number 8552” in the Hebrew Keys in “Accordance Biblical Software 7.0,” 2010; James Strong, The New Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible: With Main Concordance, Appendix to the Main Concordance, Key Verse Comparison Chart, Dictionary of the Hebrew Bible, Dictionary of the Greek Testament (Nashville: T. Nelson Publishers, 1984).
 Chapter XIX, point VII, “The Westminster Confession of Faith.”
- You Were Made For Ministry: The Place of Good Works in the Life of God’s Grace (Ephesians 2.1-10) (michaelmilton.org)
- The New Gospel of Today (thirdmill.org)
- Fundamental Structures (thirdmill.org)
- Election is Sanctification (thirdmill.org)
- David as Warrior – 1 Samuel 17: A Message Delivered to the Annual ARP Family Conference (michaelmilton.org)
- The True Believer’s Declaration of Independence (michaelmilton.org)
- “It’s a Growing Time” – Resting in God before Running in Ministry: A Convocation Message for the US Army Chaplain Center and School, Fort Jackson, SC (michaelmilton.org)