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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.


1. Overview:

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

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