Summary: Paul’s contrast between the old self and the new self
Changing Clothes - Eph. 4:17-24
Steve Simala Grant
We have had quite a week. Last Sunday, on thanksgiving, I talked about how
visiting Allan Vail had brought me encouragement as I saw the faith that Allan had and
how Allan was ready if God should choose to call him home. And at 1 lam last Sunday,
right around the time I was talking about him, God called him home. Yesterday we
gathered and celebrated his life, and praised God for our friend. In the meantime, Joanne
and I spent a few days in the hospital with Thomas, again fighting a flare up of his
bronchial infection. Noelle passed on an email from Trevor with some preliminary
results of his MRI, which were not as positive as we had hoped and prayed. And there
are a number of other circumstances in different families and individuals that I am aware
of that are really difficult.
I have never been the type of person to see every circumstance or event in a
hyper-spiritual way - like seeing a stalled engine as a demonic attack to keep me from
being on time. But our study of Ephesians has reminded me that we are in a spiritual
battle. We will come to chapter 6, which lays this battle out plainly, where the summary
statement is vs. 12 "For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers,
against the authorities, against the powers of this dark word and against the spiritual
forces of evil in the heavenly realms." And to anticipate our study there, let me say that
the bottom line is that we are instructed to stand. To plant our feet, dig in our heals, and
stand against these forces. We can do this only because we know that God has already
won the battle. The devil is defeated. Even death has lost its sting because of Jesus.
And so before jumping into this week’s passage, Eph. 4:17-24,1 want to pause for
prayer together. We are going to praise God in prayer, thank him for the battle’s He has
won, claim His victory, and ask for the strength for us to stand firm in obedience to what
He has called us to do.
We can divide Eph. 4:17-24 into two sections. The first section, 17-20, talks
about the past - our state before coming to Christ and the state of those currently living
without Christ. »READ.
The second section, 20-24, paints the contrast. It details a 3-step process to
becoming Christlike, putting off the old self, being renewed in our minds, and putting on
the new self. READ.
There is a third section, vss. 25-5:2, that is part of the same basic unit of thought.
It gets specific in talking about some of these things that need to be put off- some
particular sins which we need to be aware of and consciously "put off by the power of
God. I was planning on walking through this section along with the first two, but decided
instead to save this for next week so that we could look at it in more detail..
Lets look at each of these first two in turn.
2. No Longer Live as the Gentiles Do (4:20-24):
Paul begins with some strong language - "I tell you... and insist on it in the
Lord...". And then he starts talking about our lifestyles. Up until now in the book of
Ephesians, Paul has laid out for us a series of incredible spiritual truths about who we are
in Christ - how God has brought us from our hopelessness and despair and slavery to sin
into a place of forgiveness, adoption, wholeness, and unity. And now Paul begins to get
specific, and says, in effect, "If this is who you are, then this is how you must live.*,
This section lays out the first part of the contrast. Paul describes those outside of
a relationship with God as living "in the futility of their thinking." He says they are
"darkened... separated from God." And because of this state, vs. 19 tells us that they
have 1. Lost all sensitivity; 2. Given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in
every kind of impurity; and 3. Have a continual lust for more.
1. Lost all sensitivity. This was a common expression in Paul’s day, vividly depicting
an image of losing the capacity to feel shame or embarrassment. The phrase literally
referred to skin that had become so callous that it could no longer feel pain. It is a picture
of becoming so hardened that nothing could produce feeling any longer. F. F. Bruce
describes this as the vice which "throws of all restraint and flaunts itself, ’unawed by
shame or fear,’ without regard for self respect, for the rights or feelings of others, or for