Let go of the sinful man

In Ephesians 4 we learn how Paul emphasizes that those who know the Lord Jesus Christ must live like new people.

by rev. Jan-Louis Lee

In Ephesians 4 we read about how Paul describes the lives of the Gentiles. In contrast, we then read how he points out to them that they are living in a wrong manner. He emphasizes that God has revealed to them everything about himself, and that they have no excuse to live in that manner. Then he tells them how to live and that they must take off the sinful man like clothes and start a new life. We can each see anew from this passage how we should live as Christians. Paul says that we should live as new people.

The Gentiles Reject God

When Paul writes his letter to the Ephesians, he has a lot to say about the dark, unrepentant way of life of the Gentiles which leads to death. Ephesians 4:17 says that the Gentiles walk in the “futility of their minds”. That word means pointlessness, almost uselessness. Verse 18 explains: “They are darkened in their understanding.” It comes down to the fact that the mind of the Gentile is dazed, and that in ignorance he rejects God and his grace. But it is not by accident that they reject God. It is not that they have an excusable lack of knowledge. God reveals himself to all. Paul affirms this in Romans 1:19, “For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them.” He goes on to say that there is no excuse when someone rejects God, because: “For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse,” (Romans 1:20). God’s existence is as clear as daylight.

The path of the heathen

One often thinks that the time in which one lives is the evillest time, but the immorality of the Gentiles – especially in Ephesus – was legendary. In Ephesians 4:18-19, Paul describes the Gentiles’ way of life. Their hearts are hardened, they are callous and have surrendered to the wickedness. This is the downhill path where you think that no human, not even God, can bind you. This is not how you get to know Christ.
Paul affirms in Ephesians 4:20 that they did not learn about Christ nor taste the joy of salvation, only to then continue to live as senseless Gentiles. He goes on to say, “assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus,” (Ephesians 4:21). We must fully realize what the point of this argument is, for it is especially important: The Almighty God of heaven and earth has given them faith through his Spirit; by God’s grace the Holy Spirit daily bends their will so that it is aligned with God’s will; they are followers of Christ and no longer followers of the temptation that leads to death. That is why Paul says to them in Ephesians 4:22:

… to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires …

The Christian testifies

With the message of Ephesians 4:20, with all that we know about Christ, we can say the following:

  • Christ’s blood was not shed for me so that I could continue in an unholy life, but rather that I could overcome it by his grace.
  • Continuing to live in the misery of sin is to trample on Christ’s grace.
  • Living in unholiness, unrecognizable as a believer and rather more like a conformer of the world is to nail Christ to the cross on Golgotha all over again.
  • I cannot just listen to God if and when it suits me. Then I regard Christ’s sacrifice as meaningless or even powerless.

The way of the Christian

The Bible describes this act of repentance as taking off a dirty garment. Throw away the wrong way of life, like a dirty garment that is thrown aside. You are dead to the way of life that leads to destruction. Take it off, toss it aside. Let it die off. Let go of whatever has become your idol, that which separates you from God. We must realize what our sin is. However, the Lord does not demand a feeling of guilt from us, but sincere renewal of mind and steadfast repentance. This is the wonderful news that each of us must hear from Ephesians: The Lord works in the hearts of his children. He guides them, gives them repentance, and forgives them fully of their sins. In contrast to those hardened hearts of the Gentiles, the Lord gives hearts of flesh, new hearts, which are pure and holy.

… and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.

Paul says here in Ephesians 4:24 that we must put on the new man. Christ’s righteousness is ‘put on us’. Thereupon we boast. On it we build, as heirs of full righteousness, set apart as God’s property that continues to strive every day and awaits the Second Coming.

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