10 March 2008

Verse-by-verse through Ephesians (4:17-4:27)

Ephesians 4:17-27

17 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, 18 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; 19 who, being past feeling, have given themselves over to lewdness, to work all uncleanness with greediness.

20 But you have not so learned Christ, 21 if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught by Him, as the truth is in Jesus: 22 that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, 23 and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, 24 and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness.


25 Therefore, putting away lying, “Let each one of you speak truth with his neighbor,” for we are members of one another. 26Be angry, and do not sin”: do not let the sun go down on your wrath, 27 nor give place to the devil.


Paul has just finished telling us that Jesus Himself gave certain offices to the church in order that He may be glorified on earth, that the weak may be strengthened, the lonely comforted, and that we may all grow into the unity of the Holy Spirit, into the oneness of Christ.

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…Futility of mind.” Better, “perverseness, depravity.” The KJV renders it “vanity.” But even that rendering does not do justice to the weight of this word. For our minds are not “useless” or “empty.” They are depraved. They are bent on foolishness and selfishness. These minds that we are born with are programmed to do one thing: seek the fulfillment of our flesh. The mind we are born with does not seek God, and does not want anything to do with God. Romans 8:7-8Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be. So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

So what do we do? If we can do nothing to please God using the minds we were born with—can we grow a new mind? No. Our natural, carnal mind is dead to God. Therefore, it is God who must renew our mind to look for the things of God. This we will examine when we get to verses 22-24.

…having their understanding darkened… We only understand what we want to understand. We do not want to accept the things of the light while we walk in our darkness. Consider the words of our Lord Jesus as He counseled Nicodemus. John 3:19-20“And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed.” The word “understanding” is translated from the Greek dianoia (dianoia). This is a compound word from dia (dia), “deep” and nous (nous)—“The capacity for spiritual truth, the higher powers of the soul, the faculty of perceiving divine things, of recognizing goodness and of hating evil.” Our minds are blind to the fact that what we think is good is evil, and what we think is uselessness or foolishness is the truth of God. And we do not, in our carnal mind, want to have our eyes opened because we would have to deny ourselves what we want. And we do not want to come to the light, lest we see how shameful our deeds really are.
…being alienated from the life of God… We are dead to God because of our trespasses and sins. We were strangers from the commonwealth of Israel, and we had no hope of pleasing God (Ephesians 2:12). Consider the rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31). The rich man was a stranger to God. This was a man whose sole purpose in life was attaining wealth. Who did not care to share it with the poor. he thought his life of ease in this age would carry him into some everlasting paradise after this life was over. Fool! He was alienated from the life of God because his understanding was darkened and he did not want to know of the true light. Thus we have a picture of the righteousness and impartiality of God’s justice.

…because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart… Notice how Paul builds this picture of the lost. Our minds are depraved. Because of this, our understanding of—and desire to seek—God is darkened, and we only desire the darkness. Thus, we are strangers and foreigners to God. And we are strangers and foreigners to God because we are ignorant—agnoian (agnoian), literally, “no knowledge.” Because of the “non-knowledge” that was in us. And we have this “non-knowledge” because our hearts are blind. See how Paul makes the full circle, and shows us why salvation has to begin with God? It’s because there is no way possible that we would ever have the desire to seek after Him—much less deny ourselves and follow Him.

Let me stop right here. “Blindness” is not the best way to translate porosis (porosis). It literally means, “To cover with a callus.” A callus is a protective coating your body develops when tissue is damaged, such as in a bone break. The body develops an “external callus” to protect the bone. That way the materials needed to finish the healing are kept in, and foreign matter is kept out. Much like the heart which is suffering from porosis. It keeps all of its desires inside, not giving itself to God, and not letting God inside. And if left to ourselves, we too would be past feeling, having given ourselves 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. Jesus is the Truth (John 14:6). And if we have indeed heard and followed the true Christ, there can be no deceit in us. if we have been so taught by Christ, and have had our eyes opened to the truth, and are indeed a follower of Christ and a child of God, then we can no longer walk in darkness. We can no longer seek the fulfillment of our own wants, our own desires which are contrary to God. If we belong to Christ—and by belonging to Christ we belong to God—then we have denied ourselves and taken up our cross to follow Him (Mark 10:21), we have been crucified with Christ (Galatians 2:20), and we have put to death the works of the flesh (Colossians 3:5)

Now, about the new mind that we have if we are in Christ. We must first put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts… Grows corrupt. This is interesting because when we are born we are already “corrupt.” Actually, “grows” should not really be there. It should read more like the KJV, “is corrupt,” or “is being corrupted.” It is present tense (happening continually), passive voice (it was being done to us). We did not corrupt ourselves. We were being corrupted by the old man—the man that only wanted what seemed right to him, but which end was destruction (Proverbs 14:12). This was the cause of the civil war that ensued amongst the tribes of the nation of Israel in Judges 19-21. And it is the way that will lead to death for so many who hear the truth but who have a callus built up around their heart that they may not do the truth.

…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. Be renewed. “BE renewed.” Not, “renew yourself.” Literally, “be in the act of being re-formed.” How? In the spirit of the mind. Here’s the word we came across in verse 17. The ability to know and understand and serve God. That spirit of the understanding of God must BE renewed by someone other than us. It must be renewed by One who is familiar with God, and who understands everything about God. I wonder who that might be.

…put on the new man… This is something we must do. God opens our eyes, He gives light to our understanding. Then we must get rid of our old thoughts, old desires. And we must put on a new set of clothing. We are no longer to wear the old rags of sin. We are to wear the white raiment of a saint. Revelation 3:5“He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment.” Why would we want to hold onto those old, filthy garments after we have seen the glorious white raiment that awaits us when this body falls asleep? Because that’s who we are. When we hear about the glorious marriage supper of the Lamb, we think, “Nah, I’m happy eating these rolls.” Again, the KJV is the better rendering of the aorist ktisqenta (ktisthenta)—“which IS created.” And again, this is passive voice—the new man is put on us.

By putting on the new man, we are renewed in the spirit of our mind. Psalm 37:4Delight yourself also in the LORD, and He shall give you the desires of your heart. This does not mean that if you ask God for a million dollars, He’ll give it to you. What the Psalmist is saying is that if—IF—you make your delight in the LORD, and if your delight comes from doing and seeking His will, then whatever you ask in faith He will give you. In other words, ask God to give you what you need in order to do His will—that is what He will give you. When we put off Adam and put on Christ, our minds are renewed, we are no longer so concerned about the things of the earth, but rather we set our minds on things above (Colossians 3:2).

…in true righteousness and holiness… Two very separate ideas. “Righteousness” means being pure from sin in the eyes of God. “Holiness” refers to being separated from everything else. The new man we are to put on is created by God. It has to be. If it is created by ourselves, or if our new conduct is only what we think it ought to be, it will be no different than that which the world says it should be. But out righteousness and holiness is not anything the world can imagine. The righteousness and holiness we are to walk in must be that which comes from above, from the Father of Lights.

Therefore, putting away lying, “Let each one of you speak truth with his neighbor,” for we are members of one another. Have you ever thought of the implications of the fact that we can lie to ourselves? And we can make ourselves believe these lies? Even after knowing the truth, even after giving our lives to Christ, even when we strive every day to take up our cross and follow Him, even while we seek every day to put to death the deeds of the flesh, there may come a time when our hearts seek after something we know we should not be seeking after. And we will twist the truth and make His word say something it doesn’t in order to placate ourselves and make ourselves feel okay about doing it. This ought not to be so. Because just as we are one with our own self, we are one with our brothers and sisters in Christ. And being one with our brothers and sisters, we are also one with Christ. We are the bride of Christ. And is not the bride of one flesh with the bridegroom? When we lie to one another, are we not failing to submit to the one who made us His bride?

“Be angry, and do not sin”: do not let the sun go down on your wrath, nor give place to the devil. Anger is natural. When someone wrongs us, our feelings get hurt. But what else gets hurt? Our pride. And even after we know the Lord, do we not still have a bit of that old pride residing inside of us? Paul is saying here, “OK, you can get upset about it. But don’t let it lead you down the path so far that it causes you to do something that is not pleasing to God.”

He tells us to not let the sun go down while we are still angry. Why? Because if we let that anger fester inside us, and we don’t do anything about it, and we “sleep on it,” it won’t seem so bad when we wake up the next day. We may even be happy about our anger. By holding on to that bitterness, it gives us time to invent new ways to be unhappy with that person, and devise new ways of “evening the score.” Of course, we never want to “even the score.” We always want to “even things up” plus some. Whatever we seek to do to the person who wronged us is almost always worse than what that person did to us. Therefore, let go of that anger, put those thoughts out of your head, confess those thoughts to the Lord and seek His forgiveness.

What will happen if you don’t? You give the enemy an opportunity to deceive you and cause you to bring shame to our Lord. We are not to allow that anger to fester inside of us, nor give place to the devil. Who would most like to enjoy watching you take your anger out on the person who wronged you? And when are we most apt to sin? When our pride suffers some type of damage. And when we allow our pride to dictate our feelings to us instead of taking joy in the fact that we belong to God—a privilege all too many people do not enjoy—we allow Satan to begin whispering in our ear and giving us ideas about how best to “get back at” that person.

This is how we are to walk. Differently from those who do not know the Lord. With a mind that is not depraved and wicked. A mind that is clear and open to hearing from the Lord. A heart that is soft, pliable, able to be molded and shaped and conformed to that of Christ, not giving in to lewdness and greed. For we have not learned this from Christ, but from this fallen world of corruption. We are to allow God to renew our minds, that we may put off the old habits, thoughts, and desires. If we do, we can put on the white raiment of righteousness in Christ so we may always be honest with one another, not letting our anger lead us into temptation, and never giving the enemy a chance to use us for his evil purposes.

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