Ephesians 4:17-24, The Importance Of Being Who We Are In Christ
1.1. In our last study, we looked at verses 11-16 of the fourth chapter of the book of Ephesians.
1.1.1. Paul discussed in that study how that for the building up of the foundation of the church that the Lord called men to be apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers, and He gave spiritual giftings and ministries that continue today.
1.1.2. We looked at the purpose for the various offices in the church as well as the various gifts that exist in the body of Christ.
1.2. In our study today, we are going to look at verses 17-24 of chapter 4.
1.2.1. Paul in this study will begin to build an argument for the fact that because the believers in the church in Ephesus had come to know Christ as their Lord and Savior and as a result received new natures within themselves, that they were now to live their lives in such a way that is consistent with the new nature that now dwells within them.
1.2.2. Paul will first tell the Ephesians not to walk according to their previous, before Christ, lifestyle, which he will describe carefully and graphically, and then he will tell them to lay aside the old self and put on the new self.
2. VS 4:17-19 - 17 So this I say, and affirm together with the Lord, that you walk no longer just as the Gentiles also walk, in the futility of their mind, 18 being darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart; 19 and they, having become callous, have given themselves over to sensuality for the practice of every kind of impurity with greediness. - Paul tells the Ephesians to walk no more as the Gentiles walk, then he begins to describe how the Gentiles walk
2.1. Now that we are in this second part of the book of Ephesians where Paul, beginning in the fourth chapter, is now applying the truths that he wrote to them about in the first three chapters, we are in our third study in chapter four. Our previous studies in chapter four dealt with walking in a manner worthy of our calling and then a study of the offices and gifts or ministries within the church and how that all of these are to work together for the equipping of the saints for the work of service. Paul now in this study begins to become very practical in admonishing the church how they are to apply the truth of the scriptures to their lives. Unlike some preachers of the present and past, Paul is never content merely to expound doctrine and truth without also taking pains to see that the truth he shared is to be applied in believers lives. Doctrine and application must go hand in hand.
2.2. The first thing that Paul does here is to tell the Ephesians that what he is sharing with them is not his own opinion but rather he intends to affirm together with the Lord about these things. There is one time when Paul was writing to the Corinthians where he told them something in which he admitted that the Lord had not directly told him but rather it was his own opinion. Other than that one instance, Paul is careful in his writings in the New Testament to share only those things which the Lord had clearly and directly revealed to him. For this reason, whenever we read Pauls writings (as well as any of the other Biblical authors) we need to take what he has written as the word of God.
2.3. It is interesting here that Paul in his letter to the Ephesians is constantly addressing the Gentiles and that here he tells these Gentile readers not to act like the Gentiles. This would be equivalent to Paul saying to us here today, Since you Wisconsinites have become Christians and God has come into your life and redeemed you to Himself giving you a new nature, hope, and inheritance, that you act no more like Wisconsinites. What he is admonishing them to avoid is the lifestyle of sin lived by those who do not know the Lord.
Paul tells the believers in the church in Ephesus not
to walk like the Gentiles, and he knew firsthand what this was, having pastored
the Ephesian church for a couple of years prior to writing this letter. The people in the church had previously lived
sinful lifestyles after the pattern of the pagan people among whom they
lived. We have already discussed the
2.5. Paul next begins his second discourse concerning the nature of sinful men apart from Jesus Christ. In the first part of chapter 2, verses 1-3, we saw that Paul had described very graphically men apart from Christ saying, 1 And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, 2 in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. 3 Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest.
2.6. Describing the life of the Gentiles, those who represent all people apart from Jesus Christ, Paul states the following in these verses:
2.6.1. They walk in the futility of their mind.
184.108.40.206. This is a pregnant phrase that is loaded with meaning. First of all though, let me say that when Paul says that someone walks in a certain way this means that it is their habit to act in a certain way.
220.127.116.11. Martyn Lloyd-Jones brings out the fact that the term that the Bible uses most often to describe a person who is a non-believer is that he is a fool, as the following scriptures bring out:
18.104.22.168.1. Psalm 14:1, 1 The fool has said in his heart, There is no God. They are corrupt, they have committed abominable deeds; There is no one who does good.
22.214.171.124.2. Proverbs 10:21, 21 The lips of the righteous feed many, But fools die for lack of understanding.
126.96.36.199.3. Proverbs 26:4, 4 Do not answer a fool according to his folly, Or you will also be like him.
188.8.131.52.4. Luke 12:20, 20 But God said to him, You fool! This very night your soul is required of you; and now who will own what you have prepared?
184.108.40.206.5. Romans 1:20-24, 20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. 21 For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. 22 Professing to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures. 24 Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, so that their bodies would be dishonored among them.
220.127.116.11. A person is a fool regardless of their schooling or educational degrees if they do not believe in Jesus Christ for salvation and acknowledge the scriptures as the word of God. Many of the greatest fools in our world are heading our educational institutions and are considered experts in various fields. As a for instance, most experts in various fields believe in and espouse Darwinian Evolution. They do this in spite of the fact that Darwin himself said that if his theory were true that the fossil record would reveal millions of transitional species, species that were part bird and part mammal, for instance. These are species in the process of transforming to another new species. However, there is not in a single museum in the world a legitimate transitional species being displayed because none have been found. Those who espouse the belief in evolution are considered fools by the Lord because they deny the revelation He has made of Himself to mankind and willfully refuse to listen or hear the truth.
18.104.22.168. When Paul writes here of the futility of their mind this refers to things that come to nothing or are of no consequence. This is what the word translated here as futility means. The thinking of the people in this world apart from Christ is futile as they espouse the things that they believe in and their philosophies. For instance, a study of the history of Psychology reveals that there are about as many different views as to the origins of peoples problems and the consequent treatment that they should receive as there are authors. Having rejected any absolutes from the scriptures men in their own minds try to reason truth and yet time reveals the futility of their speculations.
2.6.2. They are darkened in their understanding.
22.214.171.124. This phrase reflects both the reality of the state of the lack of understanding of the unbeliever as well as sources that aid their lack of understanding.
126.96.36.199. The sources that aid the lack of understanding that unbelievers have are two-fold:
188.8.131.52.1. The Devil.
184.108.40.206.1.1. The blindness of all who do not know Jesus as their Lord and Savior: 2 Corinthians 4:3-4, 3 And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, 4 in whose case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.
220.127.116.11.1.2. The blindness of the Jews to the truth of scripture: 2 Corinthians 3:14, 14 But their minds were hardened; for until this very day at the reading of the old covenant the same veil remains unlifted, because it is removed in Christ.
When people refuse to believe the truth about Jesus
Christ and the scriptures, eventually the Lord Himself confirms them in their
decision. This is taught for instance in
2.6.3. They are excluded from the life of God.
18.104.22.168. The life of God that Paul mentions here is not the life that people in our world normally think about. In the Greek language in Pauls day they had a word for the life that people in our world think about and it referred to that which we consider biological life. However, the Greek word used in the New Testament to refer to the eternal life that people receive when they accept Christ as their Lord and Savior is zoa. This word refers to a quality of life that is associated with God and therefore it is a quality of life, one which we would call a heavenly quality of life. Zoa is the word that is used here.
22.214.171.124. The people of this world do not experience or understand the spiritual life that we who know Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior experience. They typically think of Christianity as a religion of rules and laws and it sounds very boring and uninteresting to them. The life that the people of this world experience is limited to their four senses for as Paul said in chapter two they are spiritually dead, or walking zombies. People in this world have a sense of something beyond themselves and they search for what it is and yet they never achieve it. Born with a sinful nature they continually commit sin and then their conscience bothers them because of realizing that they are doing wrong, however they have no remedy for a guilty conscience. Life itself becomes difficult, dry, and unsatisfying, and a heavy weight weighs down upon them. They desire a higher spiritual life of some kind and yet they do not have any way to achieve such a thing.
2.6.4. They are this way because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart.
126.96.36.199. Here we see the root cause of the whole problem, it is a heart problem. People in this world harden their hearts against the Lord and refuse to hear the truth and their ignorance of the truth is willful ignorance. All of us in the church once were this way before coming to salvation in Christ.
188.8.131.52. People in this world who do not know Jesus as Lord and Savior are completely ignorant pertaining to spiritual things and thus they persist in living in transgressions and sins walking according to the Prince of this world and according to the course of this world.
2.6.5. They are callous.
184.108.40.206. When a person goes against what his conscience is telling him is wrong, then he begins to become hardened in his conscience. Over time doing this a person eventually becomes callous in his sinning and rebelling against the Lord.
220.127.116.11. In 1 Tim. 4:1-2, Paul wrote to pastor Timothy about what people will be like in the last days, and he mentions to him a similar hardening of the conscience that deceivers at that time will have, 1 But the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons, 2 by means of the hypocrisy of liars seared in their own conscience as with a branding iron.
2.6.6. They have given themselves over to sensuality for the practice of every kind of impurity with greediness.
18.104.22.168. People in this world who reject Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior live their lives for themselves and make no bones about looking out for number one first of all. Having become callous in their consciences because of the hardening of their hearts against the Lord, they begin to do whatever they feel like doing, and thus they live for their own fleshly desires or inclinations. Thus, they are given over to sensuality. They become callous to God and also to others.
22.214.171.124. Strongs Greek Dictionary has the following entry for this word translated here as impurity :
ἀκαθαρσία [akatharsia /ak·ath·ar·see·ah/] n f. From 169; TDNT 3:427; TDNTA 381; GK 174; 10 occurrences; AV translates as uncleanness 10 times. 1 uncleanness. 1a physical. 1b in a moral sense: the impurity of lustful, luxurious, profligate living. 1b1 of impure motives.
126.96.36.199. The person who is living in sensuality and for the fulfillment of his fleshly desires, regardless of what Gods will for his life may be, is greedy. He desires to do more and more because sin never satisfies him and in desperation he begins to do more and more that is wrong in order to find that fleeting sense of satisfaction that he desires in his sin.
3. VS 4:20-21 - 20 But you did not learn Christ in this way, 21 if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught in Him, just as truth is in Jesus, - Paul tells the Ephesians that they did not learn Christ in this way
3.1. This is an interesting phrase that Paul uses here. He tells the Ephesians that they did not learn Christ in this way. This phrase seems to indicate that Paul is trying to impress upon the Ephesians that everything that Christ did and taught involved the fact that a person should not live his life in such a way as the Gentiles lived, like those who are living their lives apart from Jesus Christ. Christ lived his life by forsaking every sinful way, and His teaching always involved turning away from unrighteousness and living a holy and righteous god-fearing life.
3.2. There are pastors and church leaders today who teach that a Christian does not need to live his life any different than a non-believer lives his life, this is the antinomian philosophy:
3.2.1. Some teach this way because they are so afraid of being legalistic that in their minds they think that if you are to tell people not to do certain things that this is to tell them to depend upon their works to be righteous and accepted by the Lord.
188.8.131.52. Paul and the early church faced this same problem with the Gnostics. Some of the Gnostics taught that Pauls gospel message was correct however he was not telling people the whole truth for they said that if a person accepted Christ as his Lord and Savior that he did not need to live his life any different than anyone else in this world. In Romans 6:1-4, and other places, Paul refuted this false Gnostic teaching, 1 What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? 2 May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it? 3 Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? 4 Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.
184.108.40.206. When we simply read the epistles of the New Testament we see that the Lord gives us negative commands as well as positive encouragement. Sometimes the Lord tells us plainly not to do certain things or act in a certain way because it is sinful and dishonoring to Him and destructive to ourselves and others.
3.2.2. Others in the church teach this way because they are liberal in their theology and do not believe that the Bible is the inerrant and infallible word of God.
3.3. Paul challenges the Ephesians to take heed to what he is writing and whether these things are really true when he writes, if you have heard Him and have been taught in Him, just as truth is in Jesus. It is as if Paul is saying, Are you really saved, then you must understand the importance of what I am saying, otherwise doubt your salvation.
4. VS 4:22-24 - 22 that, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, 23 and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, 24 and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth. - Paul tells the Ephesians to lay aside the old self, put on the new self, and be renewed in the spirit of their minds
4.1. In 2 Cor. 5:17, Paul wrote, Therefore if any man is in Christ, the old things have passed, behold all things have become new. When a person becomes a Christian, he is a brand new person. He has now been born again to a new regenerated life and received a new heart, new mind, and a new will. Whereas before the person could care less about the Lord and pleasing the Lord, now he has turned over control of his life to the Lord and because of receiving the incredible grace of God in the forgiveness and atonement for his sins, he now has holy desires to please and serve the Lord in his life. He may not understand a whole lot about what obedience to God consists of but now he desires to serve and obey the Lord.
4.2. There is no such thing as receiving part of Christ, being partially forgiven of ones sins, being regenerated to a certain extent, etc. Its an all or nothing kind of thing that occurs in a persons life. You are either a new creation in Christ or you are still living in the old stuff and on the broad road that leads to eternal destruction and suffering away from the presence of the Lord.
4.3. Paul writes here about two different selves or natures which exist within every born again Christian, and he calls them the old self, and the new self.
4.3.1. A non-believer possess only one nature since he has not been born again and regenerated. He knows only the sinful nature that he inherited from Adam, or what we referred to earlier in our study as that which originated from original sin. When Adam sinned we sinned, for he is our federal head, and thus we receive from him the sinful nature that he received when he sinned. Because of having this sinful nature our tendency is to sin.
4.3.2. The Christian has been placed into Jesus Christ, the second Adam, and he has received this new nature through the regeneration of life of the resurrected Christ. He is not now in the old Adam and in the new Adam, he is completely in Christ, and Christ alone. However, after a person comes to salvation through Christ there is left behind the remnants of the sinful life that he once lived. Old patterns of behavior as well as thinking still remain in the Christians brain and he now needs to unlearn just about everything that he had come to know before becoming a Christian. Thus, Paul admonishes the believers here to be renewed in the spirit of your mind. The mind of a Christian must be filled with Gods word so that new patterns of thinking and behavior can be established and that he/she can begin to act and live in accordance with the new life that he/she has received in Christ. The renewing of the mind occurs through reading and studying prayerfully Gods word.
4.4. Paul tells the Ephesians here that they need to lay aside the old self and put on the new self using language that refers to the taking off of a garment and the putting on of a new garment. The Christian is now to begin to live in the new nature and act according to the principles of that new nature.
As an illustration of this truth, the other day I was
reading about a city who was involved in getting the homeless hobos off of its
streets. The story reminded me of what
happens in a persons life when he becomes saved and then begins to walk in
sanctification. This city would take a
man and wash him up, cut his hair and beard, and totally disinfect him. This reminded me of what coming to salvation
is like for a person. The Lord cleans
and washes us up, cuts our hair and beard which were unkempt from our filthy
life of sin, and then He disinfects us giving us power over sin in our
lives. Then, this city would give the
person a brand new change of clothes to put on, and they would then burn the
persons old clothes. It was hoped that
by getting cleaned up and a completely new change of clothes that this would
encourage the person to see himself in a new light and begin to live a new life
and make a new start. Evidently, this
program has been working for some of the citys hobos. Putting on this new change of clothes and
burning the old clothes reminds me of the experimental work of sanctification
in a believers life and is exactly what Paul is telling the Christians in
4.6. When Paul writes here of laying aside the old self and putting on the new self the Greek grammar indicates that he meant that this should be a once for all type of thing. This does not mean that if a person backslides and puts back on those old smelling and foul clothes that he wore before coming to Christ that he does not need to yet again lay aside the old for the new. As often as a person turns back to living in the old he needs to apply this teaching and lay aside the old taking up the new, however whenever he does so he needs to view this as a once for all type of experience. This is what repentance for a Christian is to be like. Whenever we Christians realize that we have sinned we need to repent, or turn away, from our sin and again vow to live completely for the Lord, we need to lay aside the old self and put on the new self that we have been made in Christ.
4.7. Paul tells us here that the remnants of the old sinful nature that still remains within us as Christians is not getting any better and that in fact as often as we give into it we see that it is being corrupted or getting worse.
4.7.1. It is certainly true of the non-believer that they are just continually getting worse. People in this world apart from Jesus Christ are spiraling down spiritually and morally. One compromise of sin and conscience leads to another and this is all in accordance with the diminishing returns of sin. A person has to continually go farther in his/her sinning in order to receive any kind of satisfaction that the sin will momentarily give to him, but that satisfaction that sinning gives to a person is very momentary and leaves the person more empty than ever.
4.7.2. Notice here that Paul describes the old self which is under the process of becoming further corrupted all of the time as being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit. There are a few things that we can learn from this phrase, including:
220.127.116.11. Lusts are great desires that we as people have. Desires in and of themselves are not sinful, and we as people have many desires including that for food, water, sex, etc. However, the Lord does expect us as Christians to not act upon sinful desires when we are tempted to do so. We as Christians are to reckon our old sinful nature as being dead and choose not to act upon desires that are opposed to Gods revealed will from the scriptures.
18.104.22.168. There is a deceiver upon this earth who is called the Devil, and he and the hordes under his control attempt to tempt and deceive Christians into sinning. The name Devil means deceiver and this is how he is described in many scriptures:
22.214.171.124.1. He was more subtle than any beast of the field when he deceived Eve by lying to her when she was tempted and ate of the forbidden fruit causing the fall of mankind.
126.96.36.199.2. Jesus called the Devil a liar and the father of all lies.
188.8.131.52.3. Revelation 12:9-10, 9 And the great dragon was thrown down, the serpent of old who is called the devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him. 10 Then I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, Now the salvation, and the power, and the kingdom of our God and the authority of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren has been thrown down, he who accuses them before our God day and night.
184.108.40.206. Temptations and lusts are deceitful.
220.127.116.11.1. Whenever we Christians are tempted we are being deceived. Often temptations come into our lives through the flattery of others, causing us to be deceived. The adulteress in Proverbs is a deceiver and she deceives men by dressing all up, putting on makeup, and acting in such a way that a man thinks that she is much more attractive than she really is. Temptations to commit sexual immorality and adultery come about from deceit and flattery in this same way.
18.104.22.168.2. Temptations always come promising a certain satisfaction as a result of committing some sin, however as was mentioned after a person has committed the sin there is no lasting satisfaction that occurs and the person is left more empty than ever.
22.214.171.124.3. When we follow through with a sin we do not really think about the real consequences for our actions. The one thing Satan tries to keep us as Christians from doing is thinking seriously. Whenever we are tempted to sin the one thing that will avert us from going ahead with the sin is if we simply think about the long term consequences for our sin.
4.8. Notice here that Paul tells us also that the new nature that Christians have received having come to a saving faith in Christ has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth. The new nature that we receive is a holy and righteous nature, one just like that which the Lord Jesus had when He was upon the earth.
4.9. With the new (or divine) nature that a Christian receives when he comes to salvation are new desires and capabilities.
4.9.1. New desires.
126.96.36.199. The Christian now for the first time truly appreciates the holiness of God. Before coming to salvation the highest thought he could have of Gods holiness would be one of fearfulness and dread. Now however, the Christian loves and worships the Lord perhaps most of all because of His holiness and righteousness.
4.9.2. New capabilities.
188.8.131.52. The Christian also now has the ability to truly be holy. Before coming to salvation, the non-believer is described as being a slave to sin but now he is a slave to righteousness. Paul wrote about this in Rom. 6:16-19, 16 Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone as slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin resulting in death, or of obedience resulting in righteousness? 17 But thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed, 18 and having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness. 19 I am speaking in human terms because of the weakness of your flesh. For just as you presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness, resulting in further lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness, resulting in sanctification.
184.108.40.206. In these verses we are studying, Paul tells us to do something assuming that we have the power and ability to do it, that is, to lay aside the old self and to put on the new self. If we Christians had not the ability to do what he commands us to do here it would cruel and foolish for Paul to admonish us to do these things.
4.10. In Romans chapter 6:1-12, as well as in other places, Paul writes that we as Christians have already died to sin and been made alive to God. Now here Paul is telling us to lay aside the old self and to put on the new self. Isnt there a contradiction here?
4.10.1. Not at all. We as Christians are new creatures and the old self is dead and we have received the new self, however now we are told that we are act on this truth. Because we have in fact died to sin we are now able to lay aside or put to death the old nature, for we have the power to do so through Christ and the indwelling Holy Spirit. And, we Christians must also realize that the Lord will not just automatically do this for us, He will not kill the old self for us. The Lord has given certain responsibilities to Christians and one of them is right before us. The Lord expects us to lay aside the old self and to put on the new self, to die once and for all to the old way and manner of life we had before coming to Christ, and to begin living completely in the new life and with the new self.
5.1. As we consider this study and how we ought to apply it to our lives, we need to first of all see ourselves as what we are in Christ. Do you see yourself as a new creation? Is everything new in your life now that you have become a Christian? Do you see yourself as having a new nature, heart, mind, will, etc.? If Christ is in you this is true of you
5.2. Lets commit ourselves to living our lives in accordance with what Gods word says is true of us. Lets commit ourselves to laying aside the old self and put on the new self. Lets take off the old clothes and put on the new, and vow that this a once for all experience for us.
5.2.1. If we need to lay aside the old tomorrow and put on the new, lets commit ourselves to doing that also.
5.3. We need to recognize that in order us to continue to forsake the old and live in the new that we need more than anything for our minds to be renewed. Do you spend time in Gods word every day? Are you renewing your mind on a daily basis? This must be our commitment for our mind will direct our actions just as the bridle directs the movements of the horse.