Lesson 10: "Put off...the old man...be renewed...put on teh new man"
Paul's Prison Epistles. This is lesson # 10. Beginning in Eph. ch. 4 and v.17; please put your eyes on it. You read as I read. We're going to read 4:17-32. We read down thru v.16 in our last lesson. We'll begin this reading in v.17 and finish the chapter (ch. 4). Are you ready? Here we go! Beginning in v.17. "This I say therefore, and testify in the Lord, that ye henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their minds, 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: who being past feeling have given themselves over unto lasciviousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness. 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: that ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; and be renewed in the sprit of your mind; and that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness. Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbor: for we are members one of another. Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath: neither give place to the devil. Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labor, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth. Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers. And grieve not the Holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption. Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamor, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: and be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you."
Alright, we said in our last lesson: that Paul began to admonish the Ephesian brethren to do it right (in ch. 4-5-6). Paul knew the hearts of his brethren at Ephesus where Paul had spent three years. Paul had disputed in the school of one Tyrannus, daily for a space of two years, we learned in Acts 20:9. By the seven "ones" discussed, here, in v.4-5-6 (of ch. 4) and the spiritual gifts discussion that we looked at in our last lesson which follows that in v.7-16 (ch. 4); Paul was probably reminding his Ephesian brethren of many sermons and lessons that Paul had taught there, back when he was with them. In Paul's address to the Ephesian elders (recorded in Acts 20:17ff), we have a sample (and somewhat of a summary) of Paul's lessons there. After Paul departed, they had carried on in Paul's absence by means of spiritual gifts which were discussed in our last lesson. However, one of the things you need to grasp, as you study the N.T. is simply this: it doesn't matter much where you are (or where you have been) spiritually. The thing that really matters is where you go from here, i.e. spiritually and obedience-wise. Today is the day of salvation (II Cor. 6:2). Paul said, as he wrote to the Philippians: "this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before..." (Phil. 3:13), i.e. get it right here and now and get it right in the future. Thus, Paul doesn't spend much time discussing the rumors and the intelligence, no doubt, Paul had received. His point is simply! Look, you know what to do..'.do it! "Walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called." Incidentally, Paul used that word "walk" seven times in the book of Ephesians. What does Paul mean by "walk," here? "Walk" here refers to conduct or behavior, i.e. simply doing it right or not doing it right. A form of the word first appears in Eph. 2:2, "in time past ye walked according to the course of this world..." Do you remember? That had to do with their past conduct. Then speaking of God, down in 2:10, Paul said: "we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them", i.e. God gave the rules and we are to walk by the rules. In 4:1, Paul got back to that thought with: "walk worthy!" Then, here in v.17, Paul said: "walk not as other Gentiles walk." In the next chapter (5:2), Paul said very simply: "walk in love!" Then down in 5:8, Paul said: "walk as children of light." In other words, conduct yourselves as enlightened people; or (to say it another way): according to the rules that God has given. In 5:15, the apostle said: "walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil." WALK CIRCUMSPECTLY! Do you know what that means? Look in all directions! Not only are we to walk in the light, i.e. conduct ourselves according to God's rules; we are to be aware of all that is around us. Do it right! It's like defensive driving: don't just operate your car and lookout for yourself; look out for the other fellow also...his welfare may be at the mercy of your driving. I can remember some 40 years ago, when I was a young tike in the military. Another soldier and I drove all night, through the hills of West Virginia, on our way home. As we passed car after car on those curves and narrow roads as they existed in those days; very few people dimmed their lights. As a passenger, I was appalled; so I said to my buddy, if they won't dim, just leave your lights on bright.. .play their game. I'll never forget what he said. He said: No sir! Not me! I want them to see me and be able to get around me even if I can't see them. You know! When you help somebody else, you help yourself. It doesn't always come through to us; but, it's true. There are times when it is hard to see the value in God's rules. Do unto others, AS YOU WOULD HAVE THEM, do unto you. There are times: you may feel that is going against the grain. But, it's still the best way FOR YOU! God didn't set up those rules for himself. God gave those rules for OUR BENEFIT, not his benefit. God's way is the best way. A lot of people haven't figured that out yet; but, it's true.
After Paul had mentioned the seven ones and called their attention to the gifts and the measure of the gifts the Ephesians had received; Paul said in v.17: "henceforth," i.e. from here on, from this point forward: "walk NOT as other Gentiles walk..." (middle of v.17, get your eyes on that). Most of the Ephesians were Gentiles; but, these (Paul was speaking to) were Christian Gentiles, i.e. non-jews who had obeyed the gospel. However; they, as Christians, should not conduct themselves as the general population; i.e. as other Gentiles around Ephesus conducted themselves. Well, how did the rest of the Gentile population conduct themselves, Paul? The answer is at the end of v.17: "in the vanity of their mind." Do you see that? What does that mean? Vanity means: empty, senseless, arrogant and proud. Do you get the idea? The NEB says, "with their good-for-nothing notions." Are you aware of any of those good-for-nothing notions around you, today? In v.18-19, Paul elaborates: "Having their understanding darkened..." I think that means: not very smart, to put it in Kentucky vernacular. "Alienated from the life of God," i.e. completely foreign to God. That means: they are lost, to put it very plainly. New, it's not very polite to say it that way...the way most people look at it, today. However, in Paul's thinking, it was just down right "ignorance." How DO YOU READ v.18 and v.19? Then the contrast starts in v.20, "ye have NOT so learned Christ." That is NOT the truth in Jesus (v.21). Then, in v.22-32, there must be a thousand sermons. And yet, I don't know anything I can say that might help you in understanding those passages. It's about as plain as can be written. Just let me touch a couple things and we'll move on, O.K.? In v.23, how is one "renewed?" Look at it close. "In the spirit of your mind." Notice that word "spirit." It's a little "s", i.e. the human spirit. You are in control. Christianity has to do with the mind first and foremost. Call it the heart, the inner man, or whatever. Get your mind right and your conduct will come out all right...we will walk worthy (4:1). But, it starts with the mind. A pure heart, Jesus said in Matt. 5:8, one of the beatitudes: "blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God." And then, compare what Paul said here (4:23) about being "renewed" with what Paul said to the Romans (Rom. ch. 6). Especially look at that part about the "old man" and about how to "reckon ye...yourselves" (middle of Romans ch. 6). And then take a look at v.30 (here in Eph. ch. 4). "Grieve not the Holy Spirit of God." Have you ever been grieved? Do your parents and your brothers and sisters and your spouse and your children sometimes grieve you? i.e.. cause you sorrow, pain and distress? Paul is saying that when Christians do all those things mentioned here: i.e. that are not becoming of a Christian (v.24), lying (v.25), anger and wrath (v.26), giving place to the devil (v.27), stealing (v.28), corrupt communication (v.29), i.e. foul language and evil thoughts. These things grieve the Holy Spirit of God (v.30). Then, don't miss that part about, "whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption." The day of redemption (here) is a reference to Christ's second coming. This passage teaches that after one's conversion; they are sealed or set apart in someway by the Holy Spirit. Born of the Spirit, (capital "S") as Jesus said to Nicodemus (John 3:5), i.e. "born...of God," as the apostle John said it in his prologue (John 1:13). We become adopted children and receive "the Spirit of adoption." (Rom. 8:15). Paul said to the Ephesians: God.. ."predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself..." (1:5). Or to use another Bible illustration, our names are changed in the book of life. (Rev. 3:5). Paul said to the Corinthians, "know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?" (I Cor. 6:19). Then in v.31-32 (here), Paul more or less summarizes by saying: "Let" this and this and this "be put away from you." The things Paul reiterate here, as I said before are more or less a summary of the foregoing. He mentions bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, evil speaking, and malice. Then in contrast to that (v.32), DO THESE THINGS: "be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you." David Lipscomb said in his commentary: "To forgive is to hold and treat an offender as though he were not guilty." And then he added: "A man cannot hold one as innocent until he repents of his sin, ceases to sin, and corrects his wrongs so far as possible." Jesus taught the apostles and disciples following the model prayer (you will remember): "If ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: but if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses." (Matt. 6:15).
Alright, now, as I have said: Paul's instruction here is how to live the new life in Christ. Baptized believers, children of God, disciples of Christ (if you will); are expected to conduct themselves THIS WAY. Put off these things concerning the "old man" (v.22); put on the "new man" (v.24). Put away lying and all that list of evils (in v.25-31). And then, do it like this: "be kind one to another" and the rest of that do-it-right list follows (in v.32). Now, ch. 5 is really just a continuation of how we are to "walk", i.e. conduct ourselves as Christians. Very plain talk. One need not have a PhD degree to understand these passages. We're going to read v.1-21, i.e. ch. 5:1-21. Please put your eyes on the text. Listen close! "Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children: and walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweetsmelling savor. But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not be once named among you, as becometh saints; neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting, which are not convenient: but rather giving of thinks. For this ye know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. Let no man deceive you with vain words: for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience. Be not ye therefore partakers with them. For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light; (For the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth;) proving what is acceptable unto the Lord. And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them. For it is a shame even to speak of those things which are done of them in secret. But all things that are reproved are made manifest by the light: for whatsoever doth make manifest is light. Wherefore he saith, Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light. See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is. And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit; speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord; giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ; submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of the God."
O.K.! How do Christians conduct themselves? "Walk as children of light." (v.8). Those who want to understand these things don't have much trouble with these passages. I believe it might be wise for us to go back and touch on a few of the terms; just in case someone has an honest question on terminology. However, if you have an eye on the clock; it's obvious we cannot sort through this in the minutes we have left. So, for the time we have: try to get an over-view. Beginning in Ch. 4; Paul said "walk worthy" of the vocation...i.e. the Christian life. WALK WORTHY! Notice, Paul touched on the Christian doctrine with the seven ones (4:4-6), spiritual gifts (v.7-16). How to walk in the New Life...putting off the "old man" and putting on the "new man" (4:17-32). Then in ch. 5, "follow...as dear children." "Walk in love" (v.2). Then in 5:3-13 Paul gets very personal with respect to our private conduct. Then with a couple "wherefores" at the beginning of v.14 and v.17; Paul summarized these things with sweeping thoughts on how to do it right and what not to do. Then beginning in a big long sentence in v.18-21; Paul extends the thought even into their worship services. Then beginning in v.22, (that we have not yet read); Paul began to direct this discussion to several classes of people. Notice (v.22), Paul began with "wives." In v.25, he got down to "husbands." Do you see that? Then his comments are to "children" begining in v.1 of ch.6; followed by instruction to "fathers" (6:4), then, how servants (or slaves) are to conduct themselves, beginning in v.5. He also had some words for masters (i.e. slave owners) begins in v.9 of ch. six. Then with the phrase: "finally, my brethren" (6:10); Paul ties it all together and closes out the book with a very fitting illustration. We'll get back to this in our next lesson. Until then, have a good day!