There is an interesting spiritual analog to this concept of a great three-part walk. Both the Old and New Testament scriptures refer to “walking” in God’s ways, and in the New Testament we find Jesus’ words about the “narrow way” leading to eternal life (Matthew 7:14), and Christianity itself is referred to as “the Way” (Acts 9:2; etc.). We all recognize this concept of the Way and our walk in it, but it can be helpful to think about it a little more deeply – to break down the walk of Christianity into its component parts.
The apostle Paul does exactly this for us in his letter to the Ephesians. In the fifth chapter of his epistle Paul refers to our walk three times – giving us three parts, as it were, to the Christian Way.
1) Love: “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us …” (Ephesians 5:1-2, emphasis added here and in the following scriptures). When Paul stresses love as the first part of our Christian walk, he is, of course, following the teachings of Jesus directly (Matthew 22:36-40). It is a teaching reflected by every writer of the New Testament and perhaps summarized most famously in the words of the apostle John: “And this is love: that we walk in obedience to his commands. As you have heard from the beginning, his command is that you walk in love” (2 John 1:6). After expounding on the walk of love with both positive and negative examples of what it is and is not, Paul moves on to the second part of our great walk.
2) Light: “for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true)” (Ephesians 5:8-9). Throughout the New Testament we find that light is synonymous with truth, and walking in the light and in the truth are the same thing. But in these verses Paul expands the analogy of light in equating light with those things that are “good and right and true” (vs. 9). Once again, Paul follows up his point in the following verses with positive and negative examples of what this means for our everyday lives, but his point is clear: light-truth-righteousness must be a major part of our walk with God and others. As John tells us: “If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another …” (1 John 1:6-7).
3) Wisdom: The final part of the three part walk that Paul describes may be somewhat surprising at first, but it is one that teaches an important lesson. “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise,” (Ephesians 5:15-16). In this final part of his explanation of what walking with God means – the final part of the three-in-one Way – Paul stresses that we must avoid foolishness and walk wisely. Yet again he gives positive and negative examples of what this means in the following verses, but the principle is summed up in verse 17 where he tells us “Do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.” For Paul, if we understand God’s true intent for us, we will be walking wisely and applying wisdom to the way we walk in love and in truth.
Paul understood that we can walk the walk of love yet still be without truth – or vice versa. But he also understood that without wisdom our overall walk in love or truth can be seriously affected. The responsibility lies on us individually to complete this part of our walk just as much as the other parts – to examine how we express love and truth in our lives and to ensure that wisdom is there, also.
Naturally, we can ask God’s help for all parts of our walk with him – for love (1 John 4:7), for truth (Psalm 119:18), and for wisdom (James 1:5). But Paul shows us that it is only when all three parts are in place that our walk is a complete one – the “Triple Crown” of our walk with God.