John T. Willis

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Put Away the Old Self; Put on the New--Ephesians 4:17-5:2

Having emphasized the importance of maintaining the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace (Ephesians 4:1-16), Paul now stresses the importance of becoming more and more like God through Jesus Christ in the Holy Spirit. The next paragraph, Ephesians 4:17-5:2 develops a contrast between the "old self" and the "new self." The structure of this paragraph is A [4:17-22]--B [4:23-24]--A [4:25-31]--B [4:31-5:2]. Let us follow Paul's thinking here.

I. Put Away the Old Self. Ephesians 4:17-22.
A. God's instructions through Paul here are IMPERATIVE. Paul says: "I INSIST ON" what follows. 4:17a.
B. God's people must no longer live like GENTILES. Note that most of the Christians at Ephesus are Gentiles. But NOW, they are Christians. By God's miraculous grace through faith, God CREATED "one NEW humanity" (2:8-10, 15). Physically, they are certainly still Gentiles; but spiritually, they are "no longer" Gentiles. So they MUST LIVE differently. 4:17b.
C. Paul enumerates four main characteristics of Gentiles--of all sinners:
1. They are "darkened" in their understanding. Satan is their master and lord. He drags them down into the "darkest" possible sins of human beings.
2. They are "alienated from God" because of their ignorance and hardness of heart. Many "brilliant" people are NOT REALLY knowledgable. Rather, spiritually they are ignorant. By repeated sins, gradually, they have hardened their hearts. They are cold to the needs and qualities of genuine human beings.
3. They have lost sensitivity. They are capable of thinking, speaking, and acting the worst possible sinful activities.
4. They have abandoned themselves to licentiousness, greedy to practice every kind of impurity.
Bad or Sinful Habits eventually drive a person into a cold, hardened, calloused, insensitive way of life. Everything now focuses on "ME." Such a person can harm anyone, near or far. 4:18-19.
D. But God through Jesus Christ has changed things. God "taught" us the way of life, and we "learned" CHRIST--not "about" Christ or "information" concerning Christ, but Jesus Christ the PERSON. REAL TRUTH [not abstract facts] is IN JESUS. 4:20-21.
E. And WHAT God "taught" us is to "PUT AWAY our former way of life, our old self." That old self was "corrupt" and "deluded by its lusts." Temptation is very strong, and leads us to believe that sinful things are great and fulfilling and rewarding. But this is not true. Hence--Put away the old self. 4:22.

II. Put On The New Self. Ephesians 4:23-24.
A. This requires first "RENEWAL." This renewal can occur ONLY in the inner spirit of the mind. This cannot happen first externally. This is a heart issue. 4:23.
B. This requires "clothing one with the new self." We cannot accomplish this ourselves. It is the result of God's miraculous "CREATION." Paul has emphasized through this letter that God works spiritually by his CREATION--Note especially
2:10, 15. God creates us "according to the likeness of God in TRUE righteousness and holiness." God is the pattern, the model, the standard. We must follow his likeness. We must strive to be "like" God. 4:24.

III. Put Away the Old Self. Ephesians 4:25-31.
A. Paul now returns to his thoughts in 2:17-22. Here he enumerates six specific sinful acts which Christians MUST put away.
1. Falsehood or Lying. Godly people must "speak the truth to their neighbors," because we are members of one another. Hence, we cannot, we must not be "false." 4:25.
2. Control anger. Some anger is justified. The Bible teaches that God himself become angry. But often, human anger is self-centered and uncontrolled. God demands that we control our anger. The devil would love that we lose our anger. 4:26-27.
3. Do not steal. All of us are self-centered. We often desire what others have. We yearn to steal from others. This continues to be a major problem in human life. God requires that we refrain from stealing anything from others: possessions, information, time, etc. The Christlike goal is to work honestly with our hands in order to be able to help other people in need. 4:28.
4. Do not speak evil. The tongue is a little member of the body, but very hurtful. James 3:1-13. God gave each of us a tongue to use it positively to encourage and support others. Hence, Paul encourages God's people to avoid speaking any kind of evil. 4:29.
5. Do not grieve the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is God's gift to use in our hearts. We can grieve the Holy Spirit by living in an ungodly, unholy, unrighteous manner. 4:30.
6. "Put away" all bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander and malice. This is a heart and tongue issue. Others wrong and persecute and harm us unjustly. But through God's love, we must respond in love. 4:31.

IV. Put On the New Self. Ephesians 4:32-5:2.
A. Finally, again, Paul returns to God's admonition to put on the new self, which he described in 4:23-24. First, Paul specifically states that we must "be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another." God in Christ is the example of this in that he has forgiven us already. A kind, tender, forgiving heart changes the attitudes and lives of others. 4:32.
B. Be imitators of God. This is a great challenge. God has set the example. He has given his laws or instructions or precepts. But before and behind this, God has set the example. As we study and reflect and pray on God's mighty works and teachings and nature, this will set the example we need to follow. 5:1.
C. Live in love, as Christ love us, and gave himself up for us. Christ is the example of love. True love is measured in terms of giving. Christ showed us how to love by giving. True love is a heart matter. Out of the heart, only gifts to others can flow. 5:2.

There is much to ponder in this marvelous text. I hope this passage inspires and motivates YOU. Share YOUR ideas with others. Let me hear from YOU.

John Willis


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