I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called …
A mentor of mine told me once that whenever you see the word “therefore” in Scripture, ask: ‘what’s it there for?’ The word “therefore” or related words appear over 600 times in the New Testament! (the word oun [oon] appears over 550 times and is translated as: but, now, then, so, or therefore; and dio [dee-oh] appears 50 times, translated as wherefore, consequently, or therefore). These are usually connecting words which attach an action to a prior condition. Perhaps the most classic example of the use of “therefore,” is in Romans 12:1, I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. The “therefore” (oun) here calls the sacrifice of Christian to worship God in light of the prior 11 chapters which lay the doctrinal framework for his faith.
Often “therefore” is a word that is used to connect the imperatives of Scripture (that is the commands that you are to do) to the indicatives (that which indicates what you are). In light of Christ’s finished work on your behalf, His grace, or His power, therefore live in a manner in keeping with your belief in the previously stated truth. For example: If I know myself to be an adopted heir of the King of the Universe, how therefore must I act – as a child of that King? If I know that God has elected me from the foundation of the world, raised me from spiritual deadness, adopted me, graced me with every spiritual blessing, and joined me together with Christ, what other response can there be but that of worship and obedience? We see examples of “therefore” being used in this way in Matthew 28:19, Romans 5:1, 6:12, 8:12, Galatians 5:1, and Colossians 3:5,12. As you look each of these verses up, find the therefore and then look before and after – to the left and to the right. To the left of the therefore, find the basis for the commanded behavior which appears right after the therefore.
Our text – Ephesians 4:1 is another example of this kind of use of the word. Here ‘therefore’ is a hinge point which connects the two main parts of Paul’s epistle to the Ephesians. The “therefore” calls the Ephesian church, and us, to a lifestyle in keeping with the grace revealed to us in the first 3 chapters – one of humility, patience, and gentleness. It also calls the church to “therefore” walk in unity and love because of the peacemaking work of Christ described in the earlier chapters.
On the left of “therefore” is doctrine; but doctrine, while essential to knowing the true Christ, does not in itself make one a Christian. One can be correct about all of the facts about Christ, and yet not be converted. 2 Cor 5:17 says, therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. This describes life to the right of “therefore” that is lived out by one who truly believes what is to the left of “therefore.” As a new creation, therefore, pride and contention must give way to humility and love; selfishness and self-reliance to unity and interdependence; anger and hatred to gentleness. Where there is no “therefore” there is no genuine Christianity, no matter how much one seems to know about God and Jesus Christ. And should one confesses to believe in Christ, with no “therefore,” you can be sure that the end of such a one will be as the proverbial dog who returns to his vomit.
Have you had a “therefore” in your life? – a time when Christ changed your heart, and opened your eyes? Now, as you learn all of the indicatives to the left of therefore, are you continuing to live to the right of “therefore?” Is your life and walk with Christ indicative of one who truly believes that you have been blessed with every spiritual blessing?
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