In the fourth chapter of Ephesians, Paul urged the Christians to “put off your old self” and “put on the new self.” He was telling them that they needed to have a different way of thinking about life and how it was to be lived as the children of God. They needed to start thinking and living as they had learned Christ.
Those who are addressed were, for the most part, Gentiles. They had grown up being immersed in pagan culture, shaped and molded by pagan, idolatrous Greek philosophy which taught them to live in a very base, immoral way. They were exhorted to no longer conduct themselves in the way the rest of the Gentiles lived. Of these Paul said…
“They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity.” (Ephesians 4:18-19).
The condition described in these verses is the inevitable consequence of leaving God out of our thinking. This is the same process Paul described in the 1st chapter of Romans where he tells of the fall of the people who refused to retain God in their knowledge. They sank into unbelievable degradation and all kinds of vile sin.
Paul reminds these Ephesian brothers that they had not learned this kind of thinking and living from Christ. (Ephesians 4:20). They had been forgiven of their sins. They were now the redeemed people of God. (Ephesians 1:7). They were being built together as a holy temple for the habitation of God in the Spirit. (Ephesians 2:21-22). In other terminology from the scriptures, these people had been born again.
That simply meant that they had been enabled by God to have a second chance at life. They needed to learn to think and act as a child of God. They had to leave their old way of thinking behind and learn to think as a new man – as one who had been taught about Jesus, the Christ. The old way of thinking belonged to their former corrupt life and had no place in their present new reality since they had been purified from sin by the forgiveness that is in Jesus.
Paul told them that they needed “to be renewed in the spirit of your minds.” How does one do that? Paul says that it was by putting on the “new self” which was “created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.” (Ephesians 4:23-24). Whatever change we experience in life must come as a result of our own change of mind. The Christian must learn to think differently from the people of the world or from how he thought before becoming a Christian. He must learn to think like Jesus, his Lord and Master.
What does that new self or new man look like? What does one look like who has been created in the likeness of God? We are told in the next several verses. From his description we see that the way we are made in the likeness of God is in character, not physical appearance – which of course is obvious. In fact, when one becomes a child of God by the new birth there is absolutely no physical change whatsoever. We look exactly the same as before being saved. And there is no miraculous change in our thinking. We still have the same likes, desires and preferences we had before our salvation. The only thing that has changed about us is our relationship with God. Whereas we had been apart from him, now he accepts us on the basis of our obedient faith.
In the remainder of this chapter Paul, in mentioning a number of things that must be “put on” gives us a glimpse into the character of the new man. The first thing he mentions is that the new man is truthful.
“Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another.” (Ephesians 4:25).
One who is like God does not deceive others, deliberately misleading them into believing something that is not true. Usually one who lies does so for some gain or advantage for himself. The Christian does not do this because he or she realizes that they must not hurt or use others for their own gain. The liar not only hurts others by his lies but he hurts himself most of all. He proves himself to not be trustworthy. Relationships between people are built on trust. If we can’t trust one another to tell the truth we can’t trust them with anything else. Where there is no trust we can never have a good relationship.
This would include repeating gossip or rumors. Human beings, being as we are, are more inclined to believing the bad or the sensational. this is why we hear very little good news on television newscasts or in newspapers. Bad news sells. Sensational news draws attention. We come to the point that that is what we want to hear. And knowing we will find a ready audience for some juicy tidbit, are quick to tell whatever we have heard. Before repeating everything we have heard over the backyard fence or read on Facebook or Twitter, etc., we need to check our facts because there is no difference in making up a lie and in repeating one someone else has made up – it is sin either way!
Indeed, the new life of a Christian is radically different from that of the old life of the sinner. It takes a lot of getting used to to reach the point where we are at ease in the new life. At first it just doesn’t seem natural because it is so different. That is why we have to make such an effort to get rid of the old way of thinking. We have taken on a new identity. We are not living under an assumed name – an alias – this is our true identity now. The old man is dead. Let him be buried and forgotten. Let the new life be to the praise of God!
Part 2 tomorrow.