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In Ephesians 4:17-19, Paul is writing to the gentile believers in the Ephesian church. He gives a contrast between them and the rest of the gentiles who walk in the futility of their mind, with their understanding darkened and alienated from the life of God. They are ignorant and have no feeling for the things of God. They have given themselves over to lewdness and the resulting uncleanness and greediness.
Paul then gives a contrast of the believers new life in Christ and their former way of living, saying:
Ephesians 4:20 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:
These Ephesian believers were blessed because they had heard and responded to the gospel. They were now new creations in Christ, old things having passed away and all things having become new (2Co. 5:17). When they met Jesus, they recognized that His words were eternal truth. Thus they didn’t think the way they used to think, nor did they go to the same places that they used to go to. They adhered to the Lord’s instruction to be a separated people who would not touch the unclean thing (2Co. 6:17).
Ephesians 4: 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,
Now that they had become partakers of God's divine nature they had escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust (2Pe. 1:4). They were no longer conformed to this world but had been transformed by the renewing of their minds. Because of this they were able to prove what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God (Ro. 12:2).
Ephesians 4: 24 and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness.
Even though these believers had left the world of sin, Paul found it needful to to remind them that true holiness requires constant vigilance. Just as much for us as for them. True holiness is simply reflecting the life of Christ within us. We read the description of the lewdness of the gentile world of that day and realize that things haven’t changed much, except for the worse. Everyday we are confronted with in your face coarseness and lewdness and rebellion against the things of God. This is just as the word says it would be.
It has been said that we have become accustomed to the dark, and I believe this is true. We don't bat an eye at a lot of things that once bothered us greatly. When the movie Gone With the Wind was released in 1939 there was a national outcry because of one mild profanity. What does it take to shock us now?
While we don't like the old legalisms that some of us were raised with, I believe the pendulum has swung too far in the other direction. I believe that good advise for practical holiness is what we learned in Sunday School. Don't say or do anything that Jesus wouldn't say or do, and don't go anywhere that we couldn't take Him along. I think nowadays they call it W.W.J.D. (What would Jesus Do).
Thus the admonition to the Ephesians to forsake their former conduct and to be renewed in the spirit of their mind applies to each and every one of us. For this we have a pattern. His name is Jesus. Although He was God, He walked in this world as a servant. His obedience to the will of His Father led Him to the cross of Calvary. He never sinned ( 1Pe. 2:22) and He never complained (Php. 2:5-8). He was a friend to the outcast without ever partaking of their sin (Lu. 7:34).
Here is one of my favorite scriptures:
Galatians 2:20 I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.
As we put off the old and put on the new, we do so with the help of Jesus who resides in our hearts. Our life isn't what it used to be. People can see a change. They see us exercise our faith in Christ and see His life shining forth from us. May it ever be so.
"Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved."
"Morality is moral only when it is voluntary."
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