Sunday, August 22, 2010

The New Nature of the Christian

New Nature of Christian

Ephesians 4:17-5:2
"This I say, therefore, and testify in the Lord, that you should no longer walk as the rest of the Gentiles walk, in the futility of their mind, having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart; who, being past feeling, have given themselves over to lewdness, to work all uncleanness with greediness. But you have not so learned Christ, if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught by Him, as the truth is in Jesus: that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness. Therefore, putting away lying, "Let each one of you speak truth with his neighbour," for we are members of one another. "Be angry, and do not sin": do not let the sun go down on your wrath, nor give place to the devil. Let him who stole steal no longer, but rather let him labour, working with his hands what is good, that he may have something to give him who has need. Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamour, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you. Therefore be imitators of God as dear children. And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma."

The theme suggested for this passage is Renewal as in 4:23 where Paul tells the Ephesians “you must be renewed”. This renewal, moreover, implies a complete, basic change, a detachment from the world which they have formerly served, and an attachment to Christ, their newly confessed Lord and Saviour. In Paul’s own words, it is putting off the old man and putting on of the new man (vv 22, 24). Now the idea of this spirit-born total transformation governs the entire section (4:17-6:9). Throughout what Paul is saying is “Be done with the old and adopt the new”. He is continually contrasting these two kinds of disposition and behaviour. Thus he urges that falsehood be replaced by speaking the truth (4:25) sinful anger, by that which is not sinful (4:26); stealing, by sharing (4:28), corrupt speech; by edifying words (4:29) ; bitterness, anger, and wrath, by kindness, tenderness and love (4:31-5:2); filthiness and coarse wittiness by the expression of thankfulness (5:3-4).

We had in our earlier talks (4:1-6 and 4:7-16) given a picture of the growth of the Christian and the growth of the Church in Christ. But such Spiritual growth is possible only when the old godless way of life is rejected. That life led step by step in a certain direction – away from God, away from the truth. The Christian must walk towards God. Previously his life was guided by selfish desires. This way of life is to be put off as a person puts off old ragged clothes, throws them away, and never takes them up again. The new life he is to put on like a new set of clothes.

In verses 17-22 a few key words demand our attention. One thing is sure, Paul is speaking “in the Lord” and he is telling the Lord’s will to all who name the name of Christ.

1. Futility (v.17): ‘Futility’ or ‘vanity’ is the key thought of the book of Ecclesiastes in the Old Testament as it describes the life that has not found its purpose in God. Without Christ, life is empty and purposeless. Apart from the desire to know and do God’s will, everything is vain and profitless. When we are in Christ, that is so no longer. We are set free from aimless living. “And if you call on the Father, who without respect of persons, judges according to every man’s work, pass the time of your sojourning here in fear; for as much as you know that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your father” (1 Peter 1:17-18) We are given purpose and direction, and must never again go back to the vain, godless life.

2. Darkness (v.18): When we did not know God, we were in the dark. We did not see the truth or understand it. Now we have been called “out of darkness into His marvellous light” (1 Peter 2:9) We are in darkness no longer, and we must never turn from the light that we know, or we will surely stumble and fall like those who try to walk about in the night without light.

3. Alienation (v.18): One nation can be on friendly terms with another, or the two may be alienated. This Epistle has already in Chapter 2:1-3 shown very clearly that by our sin we were alienated from God and from the life He intended us to have. But when we receive the mercy and forgiveness of Christ (2:4-8) we are no longer alienated. Never must we go back to the ways that make us rebellious subjects with hearts hardened against His loving will. We are His children (1:5); and the Lord Jesus Christ says also to us, “You are my friends if you do what I command you” (John 15:14)

4. Uncleanness (v. 19): When the light of God has been shut out, and everything means vain and empty, then there is no feeling for what is beautiful, good and true. A person does what he wants to do; God’s law is rejected. Uncleanness of word and action, and impurity of sexual relationships often result. Greediness describes the kind of life that follows. A person says “I will have what I want, and I do not care what anyone else thinks”. The old godless life led in that direction; but for the Christian the direction is changed – no longer can there be uncleanness and greediness. The door has been shut on them forever.

About all these things, the Apostle says, “you did not so learn Christ”. You have come to Him. You have heard His voice. You have been taught by Him. You live in Him. So the old nature – lifeless, valueless, deceitful as it were, must be put away. It must be treated as dead, and knocked back every time it tries to lift its head. (Romans 6:11) No longer evil but good; no longer darkness but light; no longer enemies but friends of God; no longer I but Christ; this is the Christian’s rule.

Let us stop here for a moment and think – think of our society and our standard of life. Think of our Church and its impact on that society and its standards. Think of your own very self. How has your own life influenced the general society beginning with your closest neighbours? or would it be said of you “he still lived like the gentiles?”

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