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Walking Worthy of Our Calling

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul
The Truth Network Radio
April 21, 2024 12:01 am

Walking Worthy of Our Calling

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul

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April 21, 2024 12:01 am

When Jesus saves people from their sins, He calls them out of their old life of rebellion to a new way of faith and obedience. Preaching from the book of Ephesians, today R.C. Sproul underscores the importance of bearing the spiritual fruit of our new life in Christ.

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R.C. Sproul (1939-2017) was known for his ability to winsomely and clearly communicate deep, practical truths from God's Word. He was founder of Ligonier Ministries, first minister of preaching and teaching at Saint Andrew's Chapel, first president of Reformation Bible College, and executive editor of Tabletalk magazine.

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Nathan W. Bingham is vice president of ministry engagement for Ligonier Ministries, executive producer and host of Renewing Your Mind, host of the Ask Ligonier podcast, and a graduate of Presbyterian Theological College in Melbourne, Australia. Nathan joined Ligonier in 2012 and lives in Central Florida with his wife and four children.

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The only way you're converted is by the regenerating power of God the Holy Spirit, and whoever is regenerated by God the Holy Spirit is a changed person, and that person will begin immediately to manifest fruit. If there's no fruit, that means no regeneration. If there's no regeneration, there's no faith. If there's no faith, there's no justification. What should the Christian life look like? There are a lot of people around the world who profess the name of Christ, but not all of them appear to follow Him.

Perhaps you know people like that. I know I have prayed what is often called a sinner's prayer a number of times without any change in my life years before the Lord graciously saved me. Hi, I'm Nathan W. Bingham, and welcome to the Sunday edition of Renewing Your Mind. We're currently in a short series with R. C. Sproul in the book of Ephesians, and it was Dr. Sproul's teaching in this book that was the foundation of his new commentary on Ephesians. You can own a hardcover edition when you give a donation of any amount at We're beginning today to look at the opening verse of chapter 4 of Ephesians as Paul clearly lays out what the Christian life should look like.

Here's Dr. Sproul. It's been said, of course, that the book of Romans is Paul's magnum opus, his systematic theology as it were, and that the epistle to the Ephesians is considered a mini-Romans because so many of the same doctrines that Paul expounds in the book of Romans he reiterates as well here in Ephesians. And if I can just direct your attention for a brief moment back to Romans to the 12th chapter, we see here in Romans 12 a point of transition from doctrine to duty, from saving grace to living faith. It answers the question of Christian theology, so what? If we understand the gospel, if we understand the doctrines that have been explained and revealed to us by God Himself, so what?

What's the significance for us in terms of our living? And that's what Paul does then throughout chapter 12 and forward, and he does the same thing now in chapter 4 of Ephesians. And he begins chapter 4 with these words, I therefore the prisoner of the Lord. It's fascinating here that he's writing from captivity in an imprisonment, and yet he considers himself not so much a prisoner of his captives, presumably Romans, but ultimately he is held not by pagans in this world, but he's been captured by the Lord Himself, and he defines himself here as a prisoner of the Lord. Now of course, that's a blessed captivity. To be a prisoner of Christ is to be in the ultimate state of felicity. There is no better prison in which to be held than that which is in Christ. But again, just as he said to the Romans, he's reduced now to pleading.

Therefore, I the prisoner of the Lord beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called. In that one sentence, Paul gives the summary of his entire teaching of the doctrine of sanctification. We understand the difference between justification and sanctification. The moment, the very second that we put our faith in Christ and in Christ alone, we are justified by God's declaration based upon the imputation of the merits of Christ to our account. And so we are reconciled and no longer alienated or estranged from God.

But the moment we are justified, the process of sanctification begins. Luther, at the time of the Reformation, gave his famous axiom simo jusis et peccator, that is that the believer is at the same time just and sinner. He's just by the imputation of somebody else's righteousness, namely Christ's righteousness, and in himself is not yet righteous. And he at the same time as he's declared righteous on the basis of Christ's righteousness, he remains a sinner. And that sin is not completely vanquished until we go to heaven and enter into the state of glorification, where at that point we are fully brought into conformity with the righteousness of Christ.

Luther used this analogy. He said, the moment you believe and are justified, you are not cured of the disease of sin. But the medicine that affects that cure is given to you along with your justification, so that the person who is justified immediately and necessarily begins that process by which he grows into maturity and is brought into conformity with Christ.

Now, I labor that point for this reason. In our day, even within evangelical circles, we've had this doctrine that has become pervasive that a person can be justified and never grow in sanctification. Or at least there may be a time gap between the time a person is saved or justified and the time when he begins the process of sanctification. And we are told that there are those who are truly saved, who are in a state of justification, but have not yet begun any change in the inward man who are called, quote, carnal Christians. Now, if we mean by carnal Christian a person who has vestigial remnants of the fallen corruption of our humanity even after we're saved, then in that sense we're all carnal Christians.

But if we mean by carnal Christian a person who is still altogether in the flesh, although he's already been born again, there is no such thing. I think that doctrine was invented to answer the question of why people go to evangelistic meetings and raise their hand or come to the altar and make a profession of faith and then afterwards show absolutely no evidence of having been converted. The evangelist takes some comfort in saying, oh, they're converted.

They just haven't yet started their sanctification. Now, the only way you're converted is by the regenerating power of God the Holy Spirit. And whoever is regenerated by God the Holy Spirit is a changed person. And that person will begin immediately to manifest fruit, albeit tiny and almost imperceptible, but will begin to manifest fruit of that conversion. Again, if there's no fruit, that means no regeneration. If there's no regeneration, there's no faith. If there's no faith, there's no justification. So the total absence of fruit would signal the total absence of justification.

I hope I'm not going too fast on that. But anyway, Paul now pleads that people would walk. That's the verb he uses, to walk. It comes from the form of the verb peripateo. We think back to ancient Greece with the philosophical school of Aristotle who was Plato's most famous student. Plato, you remember, had the academy on the outskirts of Athens. And his most brilliant student who was somewhat miffed when he wasn't appointed to be Plato's successor started his own school, Aristotle, which was called the Lyceum. But Aristotle was known as a peripatetic philosopher, meaning that he would teach his courses outside, not in a classroom with a chalkboard. But he would walk around, and as he walked around, his students would follow after him, giving attention to the lectures that the philosopher was given.

Now there was even a more famous peripatetic teacher in the ancient world than Aristotle. And his name was Jesus. And Jesus gathered disciples who followed him.

And that following was a literal following. Wherever he walked, they walked. They followed after him. Now he didn't just walk around peripatetically in circles in an aimless direction.

He walked in a definite direction. But while he was walking around, so to speak, he was teaching, and teaching to his disciples. And so Paul now goes back to this verb, to walk around, or walk along, in this plea for those who are receiving this epistle. I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called. Again, this is not the first time in this epistle that the apostle had talked about people walking. The walking that he is urging in chapter 4 stands in stark contrast to the walking that he describes in chapter 2. Let me refresh your memory about that walking where we read in the beginning of chapter 2, And you he made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked.

Here he's describing something of a zombie jamboree. He's describing people walking who are dead. They're not biologically dead. Their legs still function. They're able to walk around. But while they were walking, they were walking in a state of spiritual death. And they walked on a particular route.

They had a particular direction that they were going. They had a map that they were following, where Paul described it as this, that they walked according to the course of this world. Remember when we looked at this, that the world sets a course, a path, a road, a way to go that we in our fallen nature follow. But when Christ saves a person, He puts them on a new path, on a new road, on a new course, going in a new direction, following a new way. We remember that Christians were first called Christians at Antioch and that the original description for the followers of Jesus were that they were called the people of the way.

Jesus says, I am the way. And that way is that way that Paul is calling people now in Ephesians to follow, again in direct contrast to the way that we normally followed in our fallen condition, which was according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the Spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lust of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature the children of wrath, just as the others. Again, our previous walk, our former walk, was in spiritual death, following the course of this world, following the manner of Satan, and fulfilling the lusts of our flesh, just like everybody else being children of wrath.

Nobody, beloved, is born a child of God. By nature we are children of wrath, walking the walk of this world. Now, having taught that in chapter 2, now Paul calls the Ephesian believers to walk a different road. Again, I beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called. What does it mean to walk worthy of the calling? Now, none of us ever walks worthy of our redemption in the fullest sense. But what Paul is saying here in the English translation of the word worthy comes from the Greek word from which we get the English word axiom or axiomatic.

It has to do with value and has to do with a self-evident result or self-evident balance in the weight of various scales. What Paul is saying is there's a way to live that is a self-evident reflection of the balance between our calling and our behavior. In other words, Paul is saying walk in a way that is self-evidently a manifestation of what God has wrought for you and in you.

Walk according to the calling with which you were called. Now, what's Paul talking about? He's not talking about your vocation, your career, your path that you entered into in employment, nor is he talking about the external preaching of the gospel that you've probably heard many times before you acquiesced to it and embraced it in faith. Rather, he's talking about a particular kind of calling.

Again, the same kind of calling that he spells out in greater detail in his letter to the Romans, what we in Reformed circles refer to as the effectual calling of God. The effectual calling of God is very similar to what we describe with respect to rebirth or regeneration. If you are a Christian, that means you have been born of the Spirit. You're regenerate. You've been reborn.

Well, the question is how did that happen? How much did you contribute to your rebirth? Was your regeneration by the Holy Spirit a joint venture between you and the exercise of your will and the influence of God the Holy Spirit?

My response would be no, no, a thousand times no. As Paul labors in chapter 2, your rebirth, your regeneration came not after you were dead in sin and trespasses, and while you were in a state of spiritual death, began to stir yourself and come to faith and make a decision for Jesus. Dead people don't choose anything, let alone Jesus. What Paul is saying is that while you were dead, God in His mercy and in His grace called you out of the tomb just as Christ called the dead Lazarus out of the grave, just as God effectually called the universe into being. God didn't invite the light to shine and wait for the light to decide to obey the call. God's call, His divine imperative, let there be light, was utterly and completely, in terms of nature, irresistible. So is it for those who are dead in trespasses, whom God in His mercy and grace calls out of darkness into light, out of death and into life.

That's the effectual call, the call that works, the call that affects what God ordains and sovereignly decrees will come to pass. Now when we talk about your regeneration, your rebirth, we say that that action is monergistic. Now if you're not familiar with that term, let me take a minute to define it. You all know what the prefix mono means. You know what a monoplane is, a monorail. How many rails are there in a monorail?

One, thank you. The prefix mono means one and only one. And what is an erg, E-R-G? A unit of what? Of work.

We get the word energy from that same root. So monergism, or something that is monergistic, is a work that is performed by a single actor. It's not a cooperative activity where two or more people are involved.

It's not a joint venture. It is something that is accomplished singularly by one person. Now when we talk about rebirth or regeneration, there's only one actor, and that's God. That work of rebirth is affected by the power and the immediate power and the sovereign power of God the Holy Spirit doing something that only God can do. It's not like God does part of the work and you do the rest of the work.

God does all of the work. We see throughout the church and throughout evangelicalism, if you want to be born again, first you have to have faith. You believe in Christ, and as a result or consequence of your faith, you're reborn. So faith comes before rebirth. The problem with that order is that it has dead people believing without the effectual call of God. What the New Testament teaches I'm convinced is that the first step is regeneration. God the Holy Spirit, monergistically, unilaterally, sovereignly, and effectually changes your dead, cold heart and makes it alive unto faith, unto salvation, so that faith is a result of the Spirit's working of rebirth, not the cause of it.

You see the difference. All right, if that's true, and Paul's talking about that call by which you were called, that effectual call, that divine call, the divine initiative that God acted upon you and brought you out of death into life, now sets you up for what we would call a synergistic activity. Synergism means a co-working. If I say synchronize your watches, we'll put our watches together at the same place. The Jews used to gather in solemn assembly at the synagogue, the place of gathering together.

So that prefix sin, S-Y-N, or sin in the Greek, means a with, and synergism means a cooperative joint venture by two or more parties. Now elsewhere the apostles tells us to work out our salvation with fear and trembling. There's that erg word again, working. And he says, you were called to go to work. And how hard are you supposed to work about working out your salvation, casually, in a cavalier manner, now and again, giving attention to this task? No. When he says, work out your salvation with fear and trembling, he's calling us to an intense pursuit of godliness.

That was R.C. Sproul in Ephesians chapter 4, and he'll continue this section next week on Renewing Your Mind. As we pursue godliness, we should be spending more time reading, studying, meditating upon, and even praying Scripture, so that by God's grace, our lives are increasingly conformed to the word of God.

One tool to help you do that is R.C. Sproul's commentary on Ephesians. It's only recently been released, and you can walk through this beloved book of the Bible with Dr. Sproul line by line. Simply give a gift of any amount at, and we'll get a copy to you. Use this commentary for study or as devotional reading. Either way, add it to your library when you donate today at This offer ends at midnight, so be quick. As we pursue godliness, as we seek to walk worthy as we heard today, what does that look like? That's next Sunday here on Renewing Your Mind. .
Whisper: medium.en / 2024-04-21 02:34:18 / 2024-04-21 02:41:58 / 8

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