Weds 16th August - Ephesians 4:17-32
Meditation on Ephesians 4:17-32
17 So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. 18 They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. 19 Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, and they are full of greed.
20 That, however, is not the way of life you learned 21 when you heard about Christ and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. 22 You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; 23 to be made new in the attitude of your minds; 24 and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.
25 Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbour, for we are all members of one body. 26 “In your anger do not sin: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, 27 and do not give the devil a foothold. 28 Anyone who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with their own hands, that they may have something to share with those in need.
29 Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. 32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.
In these last 3 chapters, Paul is challenging us to think about our lifestyle. He has told us about the wonderful blessings of God upon us which should affect our lifestyle. We have thought about the new framework in which we now live as children of God. Within that framework we are challenged to think about our new behaviour.
In his commentary on Ephesians, John Stott, refers to these verses as ‘A new set of clothes’.
- DON’T GO BACK TO YOUR PAST LIFE Verses 17-19
This takes us back to the exodus when God brought His people out of Egypt. But it wasn’t too long into that journey before they grumbled, not once but several times.
Exodus 16:2-3: ‘In the desert the whole community grumbled against Moses and Aaron. The Israelites said to them, “If only we had died by the Lord’s hand in Egypt! There we sat around pots of meat and ate all the food we wanted, but you have brought us out into this desert to starve this entire assembly to death.”’
Exodus 17:3: ‘But the people were thirsty for water there, and they grumbled against Moses. They said, “Why did you bring us up out of Egypt to make us and our children and livestock die of thirst?”’
Do we want to go back to the lifestyle we had before we came to Christ?
Just stop and think about how that lifestyle affected us.
- our minds – ‘the futility of our thinking’
- our understanding – ‘darkened in our understanding’
- our hearts – ‘due to the hardening of our hearts’
- our sensitivities – ‘having lost all sensitivity’
- our spiritual life – ‘separated from the life of God’
This takes us back to Paul’s letter to the Romans when he outlines those characteristics in us before we came to Christ – Read Romans 1:18-32 to get the whole picture.
Back to Ephesians – Paul summarises the end-product of such a lifestyle in verse 19: ‘they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity and they are full of greed.’
This is how the Living Bible translates these challenging verses.
Let me say this, then, speaking for the Lord: Live no longer as the unsaved do, for they are blinded and confused. Their closed hearts are full of darkness; they are far away from the life of God because they have shut their minds against him, and they cannot understand his ways. They don’t care anymore about right and wrong and have given themselves over to impure ways. They stop at nothing, being driven by their evil minds and reckless lusts.’
- CLOTHE YOURSELVES WITH YOUR NEW LIFE Verses 20-24
What Paul has just written is not ‘the way of life you have learned’.
Having pointed out the negatives, he now turns to the positives.
- ‘you heard about Christ’
- ‘you were taught about Christ’
- ‘you know the truth in Christ’
Jesus is the focus of your new life – it’s not so much what you know but you know.
Paul doesn’t leave us in a vacuum, wondering how we are going to measure up to these challenges. He brings out the contrasts. He doesn’t leave us with spaces as if in a vacuum – cf. verses 22 and 24: ‘put off your old self…put on the new self.’
Notice the effect of both.
The old self – ‘being corrupted by its deceitful desires…’
The new self – ‘created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.’ This will bring positive effects to your mind.
As Paul says to the Romans, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” Romans 12:2
- BE CAREFUL HOW YOU BEHAVE IN YOUR NEW CLOTHES Verses 25-32
‘Therefore…’ takes us back to what Paul has just been saying about our new life and links it with what he is about to say about how we now live.
He introduces five contrasts, each time giving the reason for each. Each affects our relationships with God and with each other.
(There is a sixth but that will come in our next meditation.)
- Stop telling lies. Speak the truth. Why? Because we belong to each other.
- Don’t lose your temper. Let your anger be righteous anger. Why? Because the devil is on the prowl and he is a liar and the father of lies - cf. John 8:44. Therefore, don’t give him any opportunity.
- Don’t steal. Be usefully occupied. Why? Because by working (‘doing something useful’) you can help other people who are in need.
- Don’t use bad language. Speak what is good and helpful. Why? We want to build people up and not disappoint them. In addition, we don’t want to ‘grieve the Holy Spirit’. He is our guarantor.
- Don’t be hurtful (Paul is very specific - ‘bitterness’; ‘rage and anger’; ‘brawling and slander’; every form of malice’).
Be kind and compassionate towards others. Be forgiving towards others. Why? Remember that you have been forgiven by God.
As Paul says in chapter 5:15 – ‘be careful how you live, not as unwise but as wise.’
God help me to live and behave as a follower of Jesus, who has set me an example that I should follow in His steps.