The Gospel Observer

"Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations...teaching them to observe all that I commanded you, and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age" (Matt. 28:19,20).
August 12, 2012


1) Ephesians 4:16-24 (Tom Edwards)
2) News & Notes


Ephesians 4:16-24
by Tom Edwards

In our last bulletin, we closed with the need for the Christian "to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ" (Eph. 4:15).  Paul then goes on to say in the next verse, "from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love" (v. 16).

Though each Christian has a responsibility in doing his or her part toward the upbuilding of the body of Christ, it is ultimately God who can be praised for that.  For Paul declares that the entire body "grows with a growth which is from God" (Col. 2:19).  Unfortunately, however, that same verse also shows that some had been guilty of "not holding fast to the head" and, as a result, had veered from Christ and fell into things contrary to His word, such as self-abasement (which has been referred to as a "mock humility" that pleases self, as in self-imposed sufferings for one's own gratification; and, therefore, a humility that is artificial instead of genuine), the worship of angels, personal visions, and being "inflated without cause by his fleshly mind."  

Every saint is a member in the body of Christ; and each one, therefore, must maintain his or her function in order to benefit the entire body.  For as Paul shows, it requires "the proper working of each individual part" (Eph. 4:16); and when that is carried out, the body will grow and increase in love for God and one another.  

In addition, love is also what the Christian becomes "rooted and grounded in" (Eph. 3:17).  And as Paul explains, "...love edifies" (1 Cor. 8:1) -- so it in itself helps toward the spiritual development of Christians and the building up of the body of Christ.  

In Ephesians 2:21, the church is depicted as a building, fitted together and growing into a holy temple in the Lord; but can you think of a better way to express the oneness between Jew and Gentile -- and brethren in general -- than to describe the church as a body and each member as a part of that body?  For we view our own body as being one, but yet we realize the importance of each individual part that makes it up.  For example, have you ever imagined if you had to lose one of the parts of your body, which one it would be?  You probably would not want to lose any part -- even a little toe or a little finger. We realize how important each part is, and that also well illustrates how important each member of the body of Christ is -- even though we might have different talents, abilities, and functions.    Paul makes this very clear in 1 Corinthians 12:12-27.  Also, to the Romans, Paul declares, "For just as we have many members in one body and all the members do not have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another" (Rom. 12:4,5).  

In Ephesians 4:17-19, Paul exhorts the brethren to not resort to their former ways -- which was a life of sin and futility.  He says: "So this I say, and affirm together with the Lord, that you walk no longer just as the Gentiles also walk, in the futility of their mind, being darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart; and they, having become callous, have given themselves over to sensuality for the practice of every kind of impurity with greediness."

Paul speaks of these Gentiles as having lived in vanity or futility.  Why was that?  Because their understanding was "darkened," which resulted in their exclusion from God.  Doesn't that pretty much sum up the vanity Solomon speaks of in Ecclesiastes? A main message of that wisdom book is that life without God is vain or incomplete -- so let's reverse that by fearing God and keeping His commandments.  For that is "the conclusion, when all has been heard" -- "the whole duty of man" (Eccl. 12:13).  

Paul also points out to the Ephesians that the Gentiles' exclusion from the Lord was because of their ignorance, which had also been the case with many of God's people during the Old Testament times, as Hosea 4:6 shows: "My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge...."  

But as we read on in that passage, we see what their problem was that led to that. It says that they had "rejected knowledge" and had "forgotten" God's laws.  So they didn't have to be ignorant, but they brought it upon themselves.  

Similarly, the Gentiles who were excluded from God (because of their ignorance) is explained as also having been "because of the hardness of their hearts" (Eph. 4:18).  And as Paul shows in verse 19, it was because of that callousness that they then gave themselves over to "sensuality for the practice of every kind of impurity with greediness."  So, again, we are made aware of a people who had no one to blame but themselves for their spiritual depravity.  

Corresponding to that, note what Paul says about the Gentiles in Romans 1:21-32: "For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened.  Professing to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures.  Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, so that their bodies would be dishonored among them. For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.  For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural, and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error.  And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper, being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice; they are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, without understanding, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful; and although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them."

Paul then goes on to show in Ephesians 4:20-22 that the way of Christ involves ceasing from one's former life of sin: "But you did not learn Christ in this way, if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught in Him, just as truth is in Jesus, that, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit...."

The implication in the phrase "learn Christ" involves not merely learning about Jesus as a person, but also that which He taught and putting those things into practice. Compare this to what John declares in 1 John 2:3-6: "By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments.  The one who says, 'I have come to know Him,' and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him; but whoever keeps His word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected. By this we know that we are in Him: the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked."

The Christian is to "lay aside the old self" (Eph. 4:22).  The KJV refers to the "old self" as the "old man"; and laying aside the old self begins at baptism, according to Romans 6:6: "knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin...."  For that verse also ties in with verses 3,4, which shows that "...all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death...so that as Christ was raised from the dead...we too might walk in newness of life."  

Since that "old self," therefore, has been crucified for the Christian with Christ, we don't want to resurrect it again by yielding to temptation.  Paul also speaks of this in Colossians 3:9: "Do not lie to one another, since you laid aside the old self with its evil practices...."

In the phrase, "That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man..." (Eph. 4:22, KJV), "former conversation" means more than merely a verbal communication. Rather, it denotes one's "former behavior" or "former manner of life," as the NASB renders it. The Greek word for it is "anastrophe"; and, in the thirteen times it is used in the New Testament, it never refers to only verbal communication; but, instead, one's entire conduct.  The NASB translates it throughout the New Testament as "behavior" (6 times), "conduct" (4), "manner of life" (2), and "way of life" (1).  

It appears that some of the Ephesians were slipping back to their old, sinful ways, so this admonition was needful for them.  

Some years later, according to Revelation 2:1-4, it was the church in Ephesus who had been guilty of having left their first love.  They are, therefore, exhorted in verse 5 to remember from where they had fallen, repent, and do the deeds they had done at first.  

One of the things which Paul shows had characterized the former life of the Ephesians was the "lusts of deceit" (Eph. 4:22) -- or, as the KJV renders it, "deceitful lusts."  Commenting on this, David Lipscomb writes, "The lusts are deceitful because they promise happiness if gratified, when they always bring misery."  We can also add that even if deceitful lusts do not bring misery right away, they eventually will -- and for all eternity, if not repented of.  As Romans 6:23 states, "For the wages of sin is death...." And that is a spiritual death that leads to an eternal separation from the love, mercy, and blessings of God -- and to that far, opposite realm of hell itself, which will be the greatest misery of all.

So we must be aware (by looking to the Scriptures) of all that God views as being sin, of its dangers, and of its penalty.  For sin can be deceptive and make the heart callous toward spiritual things.  This is why the Hebrew writer gives the following warning in Hebrews 3:12-14: "Take care, brethren, that there not be in any one of you an evil, unbelieving heart that falls away from the living God.  But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called 'Today,' so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.  For we have become partakers of Christ, if we hold fast the beginning of our assurance firm until the end...."

In the Bible, we often find the positives and the negatives -- the do's and the don'ts.  For instance, Paul not only shows what we need to put off, but also what we need to put on in the next passage: "and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth" (Eph. 4:23,24).  

Notice what renewing our mind will also do for us, according to Romans 12:2: "And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect." So, first of all, renewing our minds will transform us from worldliness to spirituality; and, secondly, renewing our minds will fill us with the knowledge of God's word (from which our spirituality comes).  

In Ephesians 4:24, Paul shows that the "new self," which we are to put on and maintain, is in the "likeness of God."  This also parallels with Colossians 3:10: "and have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him...."   So, the more we develop the new self, the more we become Christ-like; for He is the one we are to pattern our lives after, as Peter also indicates: "For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps" (1 Pet. 2:21).  And corresponding to this, John instructs that "the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked" (1 Jn. 2:6).  So we look to Jesus as our greatest of all examples.  

Of course, we can also strive to emulate others who are serving the Lord in their lives. For instance, the apostle Paul certainly set forth a good example in this; and, as a result, was able to say, "Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ" (1 Cor. 11:1).  

The "new self" begins at our baptism, and this can be seen by coupling 2 Corinthians 5:17 with Galatians 3:27.  For the former verse says, "Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come."  And in the latter, Paul shows one of the necessary steps toward getting into Christ: "For all of you who were BAPTIZED INTO CHRIST have clothed yourselves with Christ."

This connection between baptism and the new life is also seen in Romans 6:4: "Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life."

And that "newness of life" is a life that is to be maintained, as we can conclude from 2 Corinthians 5:15: "and He died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf."  Living for Jesus is a continual action.  

As we see this relation between baptism and the new life, doesn't it also remind us of what Jesus teaches in John 3:3-5?  The passage states: "Jesus answered and said to him, 'Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.'  Nicodemus said to Him, 'How can a man be born when he is old? He cannot enter a second time into his mother's womb and be born, can he?'  Jesus answered, 'Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.'"  To be "born again" is to be "born anew," as it is also translated in the American Standard Version and various other translations.  So here, again, we see the connection between water and the new birth, and that water is pertaining to the need for baptism (immersion), as the New Testament makes clear in many other passages.

So let us do as God instructs to lay aside that "old man" of sin and become that "new man" through our obedience to the Lord's gospel plan of salvation; and then ever strive to maintain that new self to become more and more conformed to the nature of Christ.  For that will not only help us throughout this life, but also for the eternal life to come, which we who are Christians now have the great hope of and the motivation which that hope provides.


News & Notes

We extend our sympathies to the family and friends of Clyde Jackson, who passed away August 15.  There will be a graveside service at the cemetery in back of the Seale Funeral Home in Denham Springs at 9:00 AM this Friday (8/17).  Let those of us who are Christians be praying for all his family and friends. 

Let us also be remembering Linda Lefort (Harris Lefort's sister-in-law) in our prayers.  Her throat cancer has become worse by spreading to other locations. 

Bill Barfield can also use our prayers.  He is Virginia Fontenot's brother who was admitted to ICU last March and has been in a step-down unit ever since.

Let us also continue to remember Cheryl Crews, Jean Calloway, and Shirley Young in prayer, due to their health problems.

The Steps That Lead to Eternal Salvation

1) Hear the gospel, for that is how faith comes (Rom. 10:17;  John 20:30,31).
2) Believe in the deity of Christ (John 8:24; John 3:18).
3) Repent of sins (Luke 13:5; Acts 17:30).
4) Confess faith in Christ (Rom. 10:9,10; Acts 8:36-38).
5) Be baptized in water for the remission of sins (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; 22:16; Rom. 6:3,4; Gal. 3:26,27; 1 Pet. 3:21).
6) Continue in the faith; for, if not, salvation can be lost (Heb. 10:36-39; Rev. 2:10; 2 Pet. 2:20-22).

Park Forest

9923 Sunny Cline Dr., Baton Rouge, LA  70817
Sunday services: 9:00 AM (Bible class); 10 AM & 6 PM (worship)
Tuesday: 7 PM (Bible class)
evangelist/editor: Tom Edwards (225) 667-4520
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