by The Rt. Rev. Daniel R. Morse
I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love. Ephesians 4:1, 2
The question "Who is the greatest?" was asked at the institution of the Lord's Supper when greatest unity should be seen—there is always a tendency instead to have the greatest division, self-exaltation.
I. The Greatest Person—Jesus Christ
A. Paul is in prison, but his eyes are on Christ, not Caesar—he is Christ’s prisoner (3:1). He doesn’t fret about his chains and limitations. He sees beyond the external circumstances. He looks not to the seen, but the unseen (2 Cor. 4:18). We do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.
Consider Jesus before Pilate (Jn 19:10, 11). What do you think of when trouble comes? People don’t like me.
B. Our calling is to reflect the character of Christ—Eph 1:4,22,23; 2:19-22; 3:9,10. We aren’t called to remain what we were before Christ took over our lives—that is, to live in accord with our own desires, old patterns, always trying to be accepted, get ahead, be the most important, be first. Now we are to submit to Christ. He is the greatest Person.
II. The Marks of Greatness
A. It is possible to make grandiose claims about displaying the character of Christ, while, in fact, we exalt ourselves at the expense of others. Why is there so little gentleness, but so much roughness? Is it not because we are always expecting our rights. The feeling is, you do something wrong to me, and therefore I have the right to do wrong to you. We should rather suffer wrong (1 Cor. 6).
B. Lowliness, meekness, patience—checks on sinful ambition and pride. God beats down all pride, and if he doesn’t, then we will never be able to help those in misery. We are to be kind, gentle, forgiving, thinking the best (Ro 12:14-21—Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. Be of the same mind toward one another. Do not set your mind on high things, but associate with the humble. Do not be wise in your own opinion. Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. Therefore “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; If he is thirsty, give him a drink; For in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
Col 3:12-15— Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do. But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection. And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful.
James 2:1-7— My brethren, do not hold the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with partiality. For if there should come into your assembly a man with gold rings, in fine apparel, and there should also come in a poor man in filthy clothes, and you pay attention to the one wearing the fine clothes and say to him, “You sit here in a good place,” and say to the poor man, “You stand there,” or, “Sit here at my footstool,” have you not shown partiality among yourselves, and become judges with evil thoughts? Listen, my beloved brethren: Has God not chosen the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him? But you have dishonored the poor man. Do not the rich oppress you and drag you into the courts? Do they not blaspheme that noble name by which you are called?
C. Are you satisfied to have your needs and desires met? To say that someone just doesn’t suit you, and that you are under no obligation to like them—much less show them the love of Christ? That you are within your rights to ignore them and spend your time with your comfortable circle of friends? That is what the Bible calls the sin of pride and is the source of strife in the church.
D. If people have trouble in the world, will they want a troubled church? Satan would love to stir up conflict—make us seek to be the greatest.