INTRODUCTION: Ephesians 4:17-32
Paul had a great burden that the new believer’s testimony would reflect what Jesus Christ had done in them. The new birth, salvation, is a revolutionary event in a person’s life. Paul had written a very powerful statement to the believers in the churches of Galatia concerning how a believer’s life drastically changes upon their salvation. It is more than a new suit. It is living out the life of Christ who lives in the Christian.
(Galatians 2:20) “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.”
In the Ephesian letter, he goes on to describe the impact of Christ’s living presence in the life of the Christian.
I. PAUL’S CHALLENGE TO BELIEVERS TO WALK DIFFERENT. Vss. 17-19.
The life of a believer is to be radically different than the life of an unbeliever. Something is not right when a professing Christian is living like a lost person. It would be like having an engine that not running on all cylinders but you change the engine and it is still won’t run right.
A. THE CALL TO BE DIFFERENT THAN THE LOST. Vs. 17A. “Walk not as other Gentiles walk ...”
How did other Gentiles walk in Ephesus? To understand the seriousness of Paul’s challenge to the Christians in the city it will help to understand the city itself.
The population of Ephesus was more than 250,000 in the 1st century BC, which made it one of the largest cities in the world. The culture of the city was a mixture of Greek and Roman influence. The city was famous for the Temple of Artemis (Diana) which was finished around 550 BC. It was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. The worship of Diana was wicked to say the very least.
The Apostle Paul spent two years preaching and teaching in Ephesus. Ephesus the base from which the Gospel was preached throughout Asia. We read in Acts 19 about the uproar that arose over the huge impact the preaching of Christ had made in this wicked city. A silversmith, named Demetrius started a riot against the Christians because so many people were getting saved that it seriously cut into the business of making little silver shrines with the image of Diana in it.
I want to ask us all a question that has seriously convicted my heart during my preparation for this message. How much impact with the life-changing gospel of Jesus Christ are we making in Fort Worth? Lord, please use us as salt and light in our own city.
B. THE CATALOG OF THE LOST’S BEHAVIOR. Vss. 17b-19. 1. HIS MIND IS DEPRAVED. Vs. 17b.
The word vanity has to do with the absence of truth. Where there is a vacuum of truth, that which is perverse, inappropriate, depraved and useless will fill the vacuum.
The faculties of the lost man have no ability to biblically comprehend spiritual truth. It has no ability to discern things from God’s perspective.
We do not have that ability until we know Christ.
(1 Corinthians 2:14) “But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.”
The lost mind scoffs at biblical truth. It cannot understand and so rejects and mocks it.
2. HIS UNDERSTANDING IS DARKENED. Vs. 18a.
Education and the extension of knowledge have never been as available as it is today. There is a world of information literally at our fingertips with the internet. Unfortunately, along with that which is useful there is a world of iniquity available too. Just as in the days of ancient Greece our society prides itself on its understanding of the sciences, literature, technology and so on.
The truth of the matter is our society is described by the words that Paul wrote two thousand years ago in 2 Timothy 3:1-7.
The condition of man’s understanding and sin go hand in hand. They are inseparable. Regardless of the amount of knowledge a person may have if they are without Christ, it is all futile. His understanding is darkened.
3. HIS IGNORANCE OF TRUE LIFE IN GOD. Vs. 18b.
The word ignorant means to have a lack of knowledge, especially as it applies to the things of God. It is amazing to us but the majority of people would rather be called a sinner than to be told they are ignorant.
4. HIS HEART IS CALLOUSED. Vs. 18c.
The word “blindness” means to be covered with a callus. It describes having a dulled perception. The heart or the seat of man’s being is hardened over by sin.
5. HIS CONSCIENCE IS HARDENED. Vs. 19.
The lost man does not sense or feel the prick of conscience. He is past feeling. He perception of his sinfulness is numb.
Why is immorality rampant? Why is it that perverse behavior has become the norm? Why is it that lying and cheating are generally accepted. Because the conscience of a lost man is inactive. Our hearts broke yesterday as we heard about another horrible shooting in El Paso. The lost world blames an inanimate piece of steel for the insanity rather than a depraved heart with a hardened conscience.
Where a society, even a lost society teaches right and wrong there will be to some measure a social conscience of that right and wrong. But when that is absent society quickly degenerates to the basest of behavior with little moral sense.
Man in his fallen condition does not comprehend his sinfulness and his behavior displays that. Paul calls upon the believer to not walk, to not live as the world lives.
With this backdrop, Paul gives the Ephesian believers an important challenge.
II. PAUL’S CHALLENGE TO BELIEVERS TO PUT OFF THE OLD MAN. Vss. 20-22.
A. BELIEVERS ARE TAUGHT BY CHRIST. Vss. 20-21.
Paul uses the negative to make his point. “But ye (believers) have not so learned Christ.” The Christian’s life is clearly and unmistakably different than the lost man’s life.
What do we learn from Christ? Might I suggest just a few things that we learn from Him?
1. LOVE FOR THE BRETHREN. (John 13:35) “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples if ye have love one to another.”
2. OBEDIENCE TO GOD. (Matthew 7:21) ) “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.” 3. DESIRE FOR THE THINGS OF GOD. (Matthew 6:33) “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” 4. MERCIFUL TO OTHERS. (Matthew 5:7) “Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.” 5. PURITY OF HEART. (Matthew 5:8) “Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.”
What is the point? We are to emulate what we learn from Christ. How did He live? He lived emulating these things and more. Just as He lived so should we.
B. BELIEVERS ARE TO PUT OFF THE OLD MAN. Vs. 22.
Paul echoes his words to the believers in the Colossian church. Please listen to his plea.
(Colossians 3:8-10) “But now ye also put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth. 9Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds; 10And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him”
What we are (or were) by our first birth is to be put off, laid aside. We may protest and declare that everything we did as a lost person wasn’t bad. But when we examine our hearts, the motives we had with even the best of what we did before Christ saved us was mostly self-centered. Paul describes those as “deceitful lusts” or lying desires.
III. PAUL’S CHALLENGE TO BELIEVERS TO PUT ON THE NEW MAN. Vss. 23-24.
A. THE BELIEVER’S THINKING IS BEING RENEWED IN CHRIST. Vs. 23.
Paul’s challenge describes a process not a one time and finished thing. It would be nice if at the moment we received Jesus Christ as our Savior we were made completely Christlike. But, that is not the way it works.
We have Paul in this passage and in Colossians challenging us concerning the putting off of the wicked old man and putting on the new man in Christ. That tells us that this is something we need to surrender ourselves to. It is something that we are to open ourselves to the ongoing work of God’s Spirit in our lives.
B. THE BELIEVER IS A TRULY NEW MAN. Vs. 24.
Here is the other side of this. This putting on of the new man is the outworking of what God has already done in us. “The new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.”
Dear ones, please get this, you are not becoming a new creation in Christ, you are a new creation in Christ.
(2 Corinthians 5:17) “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.”
CONCLUSION: What is the conclusion? We as new creatures in Christ are challenged to live out what God has done in us. It is more than a new suit put on the old man. We are to be manifesting with our words, works and wonder what God has done in us. We have Christ living in us but we are not to keep Him hidden within, but have Him manifesting Himself in everything that we are and do.
Friend, do you need Jesus Christ to make you a new person? Do you need the cleansing forgiveness of God in your life? Jesus died to give you that forgiveness. Receive Him right now. Don’t stand there come right now and how that can be a reality for you.