Ephesians 4:17-32 The New Life In Christ
In our last study of Ephesians 4:7 to 16, Paul discussed the spiritual gifts that are placed upon every believer for equipping the saints for the ministry of presenting Christ to the world as well as building up the church into unity, into the fullness, into the stature of Christ. Now, we will turn to Ephesians 4:17 to 32 where Paul discusses the new life in Christ.
For we Christians to understand this new life in Christ, it is important that we understand a very important truth brought out in the New Testament, especially by the apostle Paul. The New Testament in its original language uses two words for life. The first word is our natural life which is the basis of all our performance and our works. That word is "biosis" from which we have the word biography. Now, the word "biosis" is basically the life that lives and does things from the natural man. In fact, every heathen religion is based on "biosis." Man's religion is trying to transform or to modify that "biosis" so that it becomes pleasing to God. That is why every human religion is a religion of salvation by works. Christianity, on the other hand, is not based on man trying to modify his old life. It is receiving a new life in exchange for the old.
Two things were accomplished at the cross. (1) Our "biosis" came to an end. (2) In exchange, God gave us the life of His Son. In fact, this is God's supreme gift to mankind at the cross. If we look at 1 John 5:11, we are told that this is the record that God has given us life and this life is in His Son. He who has Christ has this life and this new life that we have from Christ is called "Zoe." We read about this in the gospel of John. In John 1, as John introduces Christ, the Word of God, he makes this statement in verse 4: "In him (Christ) was life (zoe) and this life was the light of men." Then in John 10, Jesus says that the thief does not come except to kill and to steal and to destroy. "I," says Jesus, "have come that they may have life and that they may have it more abundantly." This is what a Christian receives when he experiences the new birth. The new birth is not a modification of the old but receiving a brand new life that comes from God through the Holy Spirit. Now, having received this life through justification by faith, Paul is telling the Ephesians and through them, us, in Ephesians 4:17 to 32 how this new life should control us, should dominate us and how it should change our mode of living, both its motivation and its performance. Paul calls this "the new man" in contrast to the old life which he calls "the old man."
Listen to what Paul says beginning in verse 17 where he is addressing believers, born-again Christians: "This I say, therefore, and testify in the Lord." Notice the phrase "in the Lord." This is what we are in Christ. "That you should no longer walk as the rest of the Gentiles walk in the futility of their minds, having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them because of the hardening of their hearts." Paul is saying here that unlike every other human religion, Christianity is not a modification of the old life but Christianity is walking in the Lord with a new life that we receive with the new birth experience. He is saying that this new life is in complete contradiction to the way of the world. The apostle John in 1 John 2:15 and 16 tells us that the basic drives of the worldly, the unconverted man, even the religious man, is the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life. This is the life, the "biosis" life that we were born with.
But Galatians 5:24 tells us that for us to produce the fruits of the Spirit which is love, joy, peace, long-suffering is only possible as we Christians realize that we have crucified the flesh, identified ourselves with the cross of Christ and all its passions and desires. So Paul is saying here in Ephesians, "Do not walk as you used to and as the Gentiles." Here the word "Gentiles" does not refer to the non-Jew but rather to the unbelievers. He says, "Do not walk as the unbelievers who (1) are ignorant about the "zoe," the new life that we have in Christ and (2) whose hearts are darkened because they have rejected or they refuse to believe in the good news of salvation. Please remember what Paul tells us in 2 Corinthian 5:17: "If any man be in Christ he is a new creation, the old is gone." The "biosis" has been crucified with Christ or it is surrendered to the cross by our faith obedience to the gospel and in exchange, we must let the new life live in us.
Paul goes on in verse 19 saying, "Who (that is, the Gentiles, the unbelievers) being past feeling, have given themselves over to licentiousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness but you have not so learned Christ." Our Christian living must be a complete contradiction to the worldly people. Nothing of the world must creep into the church . Between the world that is under Satan and the church that is under the banner of Christ stands the cross of Christ and God wants nothing of the world to creep into the church. Our lives must be a contradiction to the life of the world. We are the salt of the earth; we are the ones who must reflect Jesus Christ. Paul says in Ephesians 4:21 onwards: "If indeed you have heard him and have been taught by him as the truth as it is in Christ, that you put off concerning your former conduct the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lust and be renewed in the spirit of your mind and that you put on the new man which was created according to God in righteousness and true holiness." Remember the meaning of your baptism. Baptism is always into Christ Jesus and Paul in Romans 6 explains what that is. He says that we who were baptized into Christ have been baptized into his death. His death was to sin. (Romans 6:10) Because we have submitted in baptism by faith to this death, we must consider ourselves dead to sin. As Paul says in Romans 6:6, "The old man has been crucified, the old life, the "biosis" has been crucified with Christ and in exchange a new life has been accepted." Remember that the old life is dead only by faith. In reality, it is still in us and given the chance, it would like to raise its ugly head up so that it may live above and overrule the work of the Spirit in our lives. Paul's admonition is "Do not allow that to happen, Put off the old life; remind yourself daily who you are as a Christian." Every Christian must remind themselves daily that they are crucified with Christ; that we are still living but it is no longer we that must live but it is Christ who lives in us.
Paul continues in Romans 6:20 The believer has only one nature and that is the flesh. With that flesh, with that "biosis" life, he is capable of doing two things (1) Live a life of sinful acts or (2) Live a life of self-righteousness which in God's eyes, is filthy rags or iniquity because it is polluted with self. But a Christian, above and over what he has by nature, also has a new life, a new nature. Peter tells us that we have become partakers of the divine nature through the new birth experience through which we must escape the corruption that is in the world. The old life, the "biosis" is still in us but daily we must allow the Holy Spirit to control us.
These two natures both want to control the mind because without the will, without the decision of the mind, neither nature can control us. The "desire of the flesh" is to walk in the flesh; the desire of the Spirit is for us as Christians to walk in the Spirit and the battle is constantly raging in our minds. Paul is saying, "Put off the old man; put on the new man and therefore, by doing that put away lying, each one speak truth with his neighbor, for we are members of one another." (verse 25).
The "biosis" life is a life of individuality. In other words, the "biosis" life lives for self, what is best for me, what is good for me, what is most interesting to me, that is what the "biosis" life aims for. But there is no self in the life of Jesus Christ which we have received through the new birth experience. The new life is a life dominated, controlled by this wonderful, self-emptying love of God. In 1 Corinthians 13:5, Paul tells us: "God's unconditional love seeketh not her own." There is no self in God's unconditional love. When this life controls us, we will put away lying; we will speak the truth.
But there is one more thing. Because there is no self in this new life, the Christian church is described as the human body. The human body is a perfect unit. We have different members; we have hands, we have legs; we have eyes; we have ears, each doing its own function but our human body is in perfect unity. When the stomach is hungry it speaks to the head saying, "I am hungry." Then the head speaks to the legs saying, "Go to the refrigerator and get some food for the stomach." The legs do not say, "I am not hungry. Let the stomach go and get food if it wants some." There is perfect submission to the head. Likewise, when Christians are controlled by the love of God and self is crucified, we will be of one heart and one mind because we have been bonded together by the life of Christ. We have become one body. In 1 Corinthians 13, Paul talks about the love of God but in 1 Corinthians 12, he talks about the unity of the body through the Spirit. When one suffers, all suffer; when one grieves, all grieve because we feel for each other. The love of Christ controls us. Then in verse 26, Paul makes a statement which is rather difficult to understand. He says, "Be angry and do not sin." There is such a thing as righteous indignation. When Jesus cleansed the temple because of the moneychangers, that was righteous indignation. Paul is saying in verse 26, "Do not let righteous anger, which is acceptable, turn into sin." In other words, "do not let your unselfish anger which is fighting for the cause of truth or upholding the truth become a means of self-justification or venting your own personal feelings, your selfish anger. That is, do not let righteous anger be turned into sinful anger." Since we are sinful human beings, if there is any disagreement between two believers; if two believers have a quarrel, he says in the second half of verse 26, "Do not let the sun go down on your wrath. Make up before the day is over because we are one in Christ." Give no place to the devil. He has no right over you. You have been redeemed from this world and from the hands of Satan. Verse 28: "Let him who stole steal no more but rather let him labor, working with his hands what is good that he may have something to give him who has need." I realize we are living in a greedy, selfish world and that people will come to you who actually can work but, because of your love and kindness as a Christian will take advantage of you but remember that Paul says in 2 Thessalonians 3:10 "He who does not work, doesn't eat." So we must use our judgment. What Paul is saying here is that Christians should not take advantage of others but should work for their living. Don't take advantage of the kindness of others; do more than working for your living. Work so that you may have an excess to help others who are in genuine need.
Then in verse 29 Paul says, "Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth but what is good for necessary edification that it may impart grace to the hearer." In Philippians 4:8, Paul says it beautifully, : "Whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy-meditate on these things." In other words, a Christian is a person who lives a life that reflects the love of Jesus Christ which was revealed in Jesus Christ, which was revealed in His earthly life. He went about doing good. He spoke about love. There were times when He had to rebuke the Pharisees which was righteous indignation but as a whole, Paul is saying that our life must reflect the life of Christ. Then in verse 30 he makes a very important statement, "Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God by whom you are sealed for the day of redemption."
Now, we must not confuse grieving the Holy Spirit with blaspheming the Holy Spirit which Jesus spoke about in Matthew 12:31 and 32. There are many Christians who feel that because they are born again they are born into the kingdom of God that they cannot leave that kingdom of God. Friends, God has created you with a free will. He will not force you into the kingdom of God, neither will He force you to remain in the kingdom of God. It is possible Christians for you to blaspheme the Holy Spirit in the sense that you turn your back to God and go back to the world. Paul in writing to Timothy said that Demas who was a co-evangelist with Paul had forsaken the truth and had gone back to the world. In Hebrews 6:4-6 , the writer of Hebrews makes it very clear that it is possible after having heard the gospel, after having accepted the gospel, after having experienced the new birth and becoming a child of God and having tasted the good things to come, to turn your back to God and crucify Christ afresh. As Jesus said in Matthew 10:22, only those whose faith endures unto the end will be saved. Or as Hebrews 10:28 and 29 says, the just shall live by faith but if any man draws back; if any man turns his back to God and gives up Christ and goes back to the world, God says, "My soul shall have no pleasure but we are not those who draw back but believe unto the saving of the soul." When you and I become Christians; when you accept Jesus Christ as your Savior, not only do you have a change of status from condemnation to justification, from death to life but you also have a change of kingdoms. Before your conversion, you belonged to this world; you were part of this world under Satan but now that you have become a Christian, you no longer are of this world. Jesus told the disciples in John 15, "I have chosen you out of this world; that is why the world hates you."
In 1 John 5:19 we are told that the human race is divided into two camps. We Christians belong to God but the whole world is under the evil one and here is a problem. Christians belong to the kingdom of heaven but are still living in the world. In other words, we are still living in enemy territory. We need to be on our guard. We must not allow the devil to take over through the flesh. That is what Paul is saying in verse 30, Do not grieve the Holy Spirit by whom you are sealed for the day of redemption. Stop listening to the flesh and walk in the Spirit. Let the Spirit control your mind so that you may live the life that God wants you to live.
What does Paul mean by grieving the Holy Spirit? To grieve the Holy Spirit is to act contrary to His leading, to His direction. As mentioned earlier, the flesh wants you to go its way; the Spirit wants you to go His way and the battle is in the mind. As Paul tells us in Romans 12 we must renew our minds daily; we must have the mind of Christ. We must not grieve the Holy Spirit; we must not disappoint the Holy Spirit; we must not turn our backs to the pleading of the Holy Spirit because if we do that eventually the devil will pull us out of Christ and we will commit the sin of blasphemy. Paul goes on to tell us that it is the Holy Spirit, the first fruits of our salvation, that has sealed our redemption. But that seal can be broken. Friends, the New Testament is clear. That is why the Christian life is a battle and a march. We must fight this battle of faith against the flesh that is part of our very nature. Your greatest enemy in the world is not your neighbor or some other enemy in the world. Your greatest enemy in the world is your own flesh and daily we must surrender the flesh to the cross that the Holy Spirit may take over and produce the life of Christ in us.
Therefore, Paul concludes Ephesians 4 by these words, "Let all anger's, wrath, clamor and evil speaking be put away from you with all malice." What a wonderful instruction Paul gives us. Then in verse 32 he adds, "And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another just as God in Christ also forgave you." Friends, justification by faith is not simply a ticket to heaven. Justification by faith is not simply God declaring you forensically righteous. Thank God it is that but justification is also "Not I, but Christ." Justification by faith always produces works. In Ephesians 2:8, Paul tells us we are saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ and not by works. But then in verse 10 he goes on to add that we have been created in Christ Jesus unto good works.
Then when you go to Titus that book to that Gentile young man, Paul says to Titus in chapter 2:11-14 that Christ redeemed us from all iniquity so that He may produce a people who are zealous unto good works. Then in Titus 3:5, he reminds us that we are not saved because of righteous works we have done but by His mercy He saved us and by renewing of the Holy Spirit. Then in verse 8 he says we must be constantly reminded that we who believe must do good for this is profitable, not to us, but to others. Why? Because men and women must see Christ in us dear friend. Jesus, in John 14:12 says, "He who believes in me, the works I do he will do because I go to the Father." What has Christ going to the Father to do with our good works? John 16:7 is the answer to that question. Jesus had to go to the Father in order to give us the Holy Spirit that He may dwell in us; that He may lead us, guide us, strengthen us and reproduce in us the wonderful character of our Lord Jesus Christ that the world may see no longer us but they may see Christ in us, the hope of glory. This is what Christianity is all about. On the one hand we have peace with God; we have the assurance of salvation. We know in whom we believe and therefore we have a future that is wonderful. On the other hand, we have a flesh that is opposing our new life and we must learn to walk in the Spirit and let Christ be revealed in us that the world may no longer see us but Christ. When they see Christ in us, they will admit they will realize, they will admit that the gospel is the power of God unto salvation. This dear friend is my prayer for each one of you that you will know this truth and this truth will set you free. Amen.
The New Life in Christ