We note from 1 Timothy that the Ephesians had problems with letting go of the old life. These seemed to carry the baggage of their society and of what they once were before they were saved:
Status of women in Ephesus and the religion of Diana of Ephesians, with it’s prostitute priestesses. The religious dominance of women within the religions of Ephesus were perhaps carried into the assembly, and had to be addressed in 1 Timothy:
“But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence” (1Timothy 2:12)
The way women dressed was perhaps too a carry over from the surrounding pagan society of Ephesus. Leading to the exhortation:
“that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array.” (1Timothy 2:9)
Drunkenness, a further echo of the old preconversion life is referenced in : “Not given to wine,” (1Timothy 3:3)
Deceit and lies had to be left too in the past (1Timothy 4:2).
Gossip whilst accepted perhaps by society at large had no place in the Christian church, “And withal they learn to be idle, wandering about from house to house; and not only idle, but tattlers also and busybodies, speaking things which they ought not” (1Timothy 5:13)
Natural desires and the priorities of a materialistic culture were at loggerheads with their new found joy and satisfaction in Jesus: “For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows” (1Timothy 6:10)
1 Timothy – The habits of the, “old man” bring them down collectively
Ephesians chapter 4 – The habits of the, “old man” bring them down individually
Ephesians chapter 4 is realistic in its portrayal of a Christian under tension.
See the portrayal of a Christian as he chooses between 2 paths or 2 ‘walks’ that of the, “old man” (v22) or the “new man” (v24).
The believer above and beyond all men is undoubtedly a man under tension. He is constantly pulled in 2 directions and often feels the tension of his spiritual condition.
It is way much easier when in the world alone and unconverted! To be under the control of the world, the flesh and the devil (Ephesians 2:1-3) is a far simpler state. Satan said, “jump,” we said, “how high?”
Now that we are saved, it’s different, now we have a choice we never had before.
Choose between Satan & God (1Jo4:4)
Choose between Sin & Righteousness (Rom6:12-16)
Choose between Flesh & Spirit (Rom8:1)
There are choices to be made, and with it there is now the power to make those choices by strength of the indwelling Spirit of God, power to “put off” and to “put on.”
This is the practical meaning of Ephesians 2:5-6, (3 fold “sun”- words), the 3 fold identification of the believer, “together with,” Christ in:
His Resurrection (v5)
His Ascension (v6)
His Session (v6)
These are past events with present consequences (note the significance of the aorist or point tense here).
By virtue of our standing, “in Christ,” we are already partakers of His victory, raised above the sphere of the world & the, “Prince of the power of the air,” (Eph2:2)
We are “Sealed,” with the Holy Spirit (1:13) individually and ‘gifted’ by the same Holy Spirit (4:7) particularly. The new nature is produced by the Holy Spirit (4:17ff) internally.
The believer is in a whole different situation from the man or woman lost in the world. The believer has a real choice to make, and a real will to surrender, and very real flesh to subvert.
The believer does have the power to make that choice, by the indwelling Spirit of God and to live a victorious Christian life.
One of Satan’s lies is that we are powerless & helpless to resist every urge to sin. That was the case before we were saved, but it is not now.
In Ephesians chapter 4 we are encouraged to: ‘Nurture the New Nature.’ We say ‘nurture,’ it and not ‘produce it.’
The nature is already created by God and in the image of God (v24)
This new nature is not the product of self-effort, it is a work of God created in us (Ephesians 2:10).
“And that ye put on the new man…” (v24)
It is worth noting that practically what we mean here, is putting on the character of Christ, as we see it in vs 25ff, eg verse 26 and 1 John 2:16ff
Christ is the teaching (v20)
Christ is the teacher (v21)
It is worth bearing in mind, that as we listen to the word of God expounded accurately and truthfully, we listen to Christ and are consequentially responsible to Him for how we act upon His word.
The extent to which we minister the word of God accurately, is the extent to which you are responsible to Christ personally.
Christ is the sphere or school of teaching (v21).
To “put on” the “new man” is to “put on” Christ, but not just Christ as an example or pattern, we would be powerless to live such a pattern out. It is Christ who is the power for this new life (Ephesians 2:5-6; 4:23).
Christ as: “The Way”
Recall John 14:6, Christ claimed to be objectively, “the way, the truth and the life.” In response to the statement of doubting Thomas; “we know not whither thou goest; and how can we know the way?” (John 14:5).
Christ is “the way,” objectively & absolutely. The way to God in heaven.
In Ephesians chapter 4 Christ is “the way” – personally, subjectively, and practically; that is Christ as, “the way,” we live out our Christian life. ‘How do you walk?’ (4:17). You walk in the way you have learned in Christ (v20)
Christ as: “The Truth”
“the truth is in Jesus,” (4:21)
As the “way” and the “truth” are worked out there is “life” (4:23)
We are exhorted to “put off … put on the new man…” (v22, 24)
We have noticed already that we are exhorted to, “put on” something which is already “created”; created in the image of God (v24). By this the fall of Adam in Genesis is now overcome (Genesis 1:27).
Scholars debate the translation; it could be translated, “since you have put off…since you have put on…” cf. Colossians 3:9-10.
The Greek text seems to favour the Authorised Version; it is an instruction rather than description; the context also favours instruction (4:25-31).
The main thought is that of behaviour; there is a nature to be nurtured “put off concerning the former conversation the old man” (v22). Putting on and putting off practically what we already are (Colossians 3:9-10).
What about the, “new man” we’ve to, “put on.” What’s he like?
You would notice that he was different in his:
Walk (4:17) – He walked not as other gentiles walked
Words (4:25,29) - A conversation with him would stick out in stark contrast to the many conversations we have each day, on the telephone, down the street. Unlike other conversations you might have, a conversation with this, “new man” would, ‘build you up,’ (v29) not, pull you down – morally, spiritually nor personally. Every conversation was a ministry meeting in itself. Both an absence of, “lies,” as well as the positive presence of “truth” (v25); there was nothing “rotten” (v29) here.
If you had the pleasure to work with him in an office, on the factory floor, or in the building site, you would notice a special diligence in what he did; he was working for the Lord! He had given up thieving. He was no longer taking of others possessions, nor of employers time and goods. Nothing ever went ‘missing’ from his office nor building site. He worked hard, he “laboured” to feel fatigue; and by it became wearied, (v28).
The way he handled things was different:
This man gave rather than took (v28). He realised that only riches laid up in heaven had any abiding value and so when he found need he gave liberally, to the Lord’s work, to the Lord’s poor & for the Lord’s sake.
Wrath (4:31); he put it away (v31)!
He was a man in control: not so much of his life; he didn’t know what another day would bring forth (Proverbs 27:1) and not of his destiny; he had committed that to another (2 Timothy 1:12), rather he was in control of things other men were not in control of:
Temper (4:26); he started each day with a clean slate (v26), either by:
forgiving and forgetting (Matthew 18:21; Ephesians 4:32) or by confronting and hammering out the problem; not the person mind you but the problem (Matthew 18:15ff)
Because he was in control of his temper this prevented an:
Objective problem of sin against God (v26); consider Cain in this respect.
Subjective problem of Satan getting in and bringing about “bitterness” (v31).
Tongue (4:29) – Nothing “rotten”
It would be great to know a man like that!
Maybe you do know a man like that! It’s you we’re speaking of!
Perhaps then if we “put off” and “put on” these things the Spirit of God will move ‘ungrieved’ and unhindered in our life (v30). The environment will be right for the Spirit of God to move, we will have ‘nurtured the new nature.’
A message from our systematic bible study through Paul's letter to the Ephesians.
Audio recording below for free download or listen online as you study the book of Ephesians with us.
Yours by Grace in Christ
Dr J Stewart Gillespie