In Ephesians Chapter 4, the apostle Paul called for believers to respond appropriately to their blessed privileges as God’s redeemed people. These privileges were highlighted in Chapters 1-3. Paul began by exhorting them to walk worthy of their calling: “I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called” (Eph. 4: 1).
In our article last week, we considered Paul’s instructions on how we, like the Ephesian Christians, might walk worthy of our high calling as Christians. We are not to live like the non-believers who grope in darkness and are slaves to sin because they have no knowledge of the true and living God: “This I say therefore, and testify in the Lord, that ye henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind, 18 Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart: 19 Who being past feeling have given themselves over unto lasciviousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness” (vv. 17-19).
Continuing on this blessed theme of a worthy walk, the apostle provided further instructions:
o We have been taught differently (vv. 20-21)
“But ye have not so learned Christ; If so be that ye have heard him, and have been taught by him, as the truth is in Jesus” (vv. 20-21)
Christians must distinguish themselves from those who do not know the Lord. According to commentator Albert Barnes: “You have been taught a different thing by Christ; you have been taught that His religion requires you to abandon such a course of life.” Having been delivered from the darkness and bondage of sin , we now walk in the light for we have not only been saved by Christ but taught by Him through His Word, His Holy Spirit and His ministers (v. 21).
We have also “learned Christ” through His perfect example. During His earthly ministry, our Lord demonstrated love and compassion to the crowds who came to Him.
He graciously healed the sick, the lame and the blind. He dealt mercifully with the woman taken in adultery. When the crowd called for her death by stoning, the Lord caused her accusers to disperse (Jn. 8: 6-9); He then forgave her with these words: “Go, and sin no more” (Jn. 8: 11).
We thank God for the privilege of being taught by Christ. We should then live differently from the people of the world. Having “so learned Christ”, let us take heed to His instructions and walk in them. May our daily conduct reflect our knowledge of Christ and distinguish us from the non-believers.
o “Put off” and “put on” (vv. 22-24)
“That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; 24 And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness” (vv. 22-24)
Using metaphors, the apostle used the picture of a garment to denote the process of sanctification in our Christian life. To “put off concerning the former conversation the old man” is to mortify our depraved nature including self-will, sinful habits, worldliness and deceitful lusts. As God’s redeemed people, we are no more to live according to the dictates of our old corrupt nature: “Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin” (Rom. 6: 6).
As we abandon our old sinful lifestyle, we assume a new one with new affections, values and desires by putting on “the new man which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness” (vv. 23–24). It is not enough to shake off sinful habits and corrupt principles – we must replace them with new ones that are well-pleasing to God.
Brethren, let us lay aside all that pertain to our “former conversation” or our fallen nature. Albert Barnes explains: “Everything that proceeded from sin; every habit, and custom, and mode of speech and of conduct that, was the result of depravity, is to be laid aside. The peculiar characteristics of an unconverted man you are to put off, and are to assume those which are the proper fruits of a renewed heart.”
May the Lord grant us grace to “put off” all sinful tendencies – anger, hatred, pride, bitterness – and “put on” the fruits of a renewed heart – love, humility, grace, meekness.
(… to be continued on 12th April 2015)