How doctrine should affect church life

  
In many of Paul’s letters, he would start with doctrine, and then he would pivot to Christian living.  And this is absolutely appropriate of course, because the Christian life must be founded on doctrine.  In other words, our love, our worship and obedience, is driven by what we know of God and what He requires of us.  

Paul follows this pattern in the book of Ephesians in which he pivots at chapter 4.  Before this, he has discussed salvation by grace through faith, he’s spoken about how the Christian is one in Christ, discussed the mystery of the gospel, and prayed for the Ephesians’ spiritual strength.  

Then, he pivots.  He says,

I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. – Ephesians 4:1-3

Notice that key word therefore.  In other words, “In light of all I’ve written thus far…”.  Paul calls himself a prisoner for the Lord.  He is literally in Roman imprisonment as he writes these words.  

So, in light of the doctrines that he had written about thus far, he urged them to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called.  

In other words, if you have been called out by God, which by the way is what the word we translate “church” means—the called out ones.  If you have been called out by God out of death and into life, out of darkness and into light, out of worldliness and into godliness, then live like it.  It’s what necessarily follows.  If you have truly had your heart changed, if you have truly come under conviction of your sin, if you have truly trusted in Jesus, your life will start to change.  Not perfectly, mind you, but increasingly.  

Those who have been called should walk in a manner worthy of that calling. 

Now, Paul expands on that throughout the rest of the letter, but he has something specific in mind for the occasion.  This is what it looks like:

with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. – Ephesians 4:1-3

Humility.  Gentleness.  Patience.  Forbearance.  Love.  Unity.  Peace.  And he’s speaking specifically about how the church, how the called out ones interact with each other.  This is talking about church life.  

Sadly, the church falls short of this often.  Even the first churches in history struggled with these virtues in church life.  Nevertheless, in light of the gospel, in light of doctrine, in light of knowledge, this is to be our aim.  

Now, it’s important to note that church unity does not mean that we should forsake doctrine.  At some point in recent church history, this falsehood has spread that doctrine is divisive and that we need to put it aside in order to be united together.  But that’s certainly not Paul’s intention. 

Later in this chapter, Paul speaks about how everyone should be using their gifts for the sake of building up the body, and here’s the goal:

so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.  Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, – Ephesians 4:14-15

In other words, what will hinder us from growing together in Christ and from being united is bad doctrine.  True Christian unity is not letting everyone believe what they want to believe.  On the contrary, true Christian unity is agreement on good doctrine and love, and so in order to squash bad doctrine in our church we must speak the truth in love.  Truth.  In love.  And humility.  And gentleness.  And everything else in this chapter.  

So, doctrine and church life cannot be divided.  In fact church life comes out of doctrine.  So, let us study the Scriptures, and walk together in a manner worthy of our calling.  

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