6-Week Series: Against All Odds

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Summary: NEVER THE SAME (EPHESIANS 4:20-32)

NEVER THE SAME (EPHESIANS 4:20-32)

Longfellow could take a worthless sheet of paper, write a poem on it, and make it worth $6,000 -- that is genius.

Rockefeller could sign his name to a piece of paper and make it worth millions -- that is capital.

Uncle Sam can take gold, stamp an eagle on it, and make it worth $20 -- that is money.

A mechanic can take material worth $5.00 and make an article worth $50.00 -- that is skill.

An artist can take a fifty-cent piece of canvas, paint a picture on it, and make it worth $1,000 -- that is art.

God can take a worthless, sinful life, wash it in the blood of Christ, put His Spirit in it, and make it a blessing to humanity -- that is salvation.

There are two sets of sharp contrasts describing the character of “men” or people in the Bible. Jesus contrasted a good man to an evil man (Matt 12:35) and Paul contrasted the “old self/man” (v 22) with the “new self/man” (v 24). Three words are unique in the book of Ephesus – the word “former” (v 20) make its only appearance in the Bible, the phrase “old self/man” (v 22) makes its debut in the Bible, and the phrase “new self/man” occurs only in Ephesus (2:15, 4:24).

What are the characteristics of a disciple of Christ, one who is converted, cleansed and consecrated? What are some differences and difficulties a disciple face? How can he or she conquer the former way of life, change from the old to the new, and contribute to the transformation of others?

Be Transformed and Triumphant

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.

When native converts of the island of Madagascar used to present themselves for baptism, it was often asked of them, “What first led you to think of becoming Christians? Was it a particular sermon or address or the reading of God's Word?” The answer usually was that the changed conduct of others who had become Christians was what first arrested their attention. “I knew this man to be a thief; that one was a drunkard; another was very cruel and unkind to his family. Now they are all changed. The thief is an honest man; the drunkard is sober and respectable; and the other is gentle and kind in his home. There must be something in a religion that can work such changes.”

There are seven NOTs or NEVERs or NO LONGER (V28) altogether in the passage. The first prohibition is a soft NOT (ouk) in verse 20 about what NOT learned (v 20), heard or taught (v 21). The true way to learn or to be a disciple, which shares the same root word with “learn,” is (1) to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires (v 22), (2) to be made new in the attitude of your minds (v 23), and (3) to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness (v 24). To put (apotithemi) off is to remove, to be made new (ananeoo) is to redo, and to put on (enduo) is to replace.

The first (put off) in verse 22 is also translated as cast off (Rom 13:12), putting away (Eph 4:25), lay aside (Heb 12:1) and lay apart (James 1:21). The classic example is Herod “putting” John away in prison for rebuking his marriage to his sister-in-law (Matt 14:3). It is to close the door, lock the bolt and throw the key. This refers to deeds of the old man that is corrupted (1 Cor 3:17 defile, destroy; 2 Peter 2:12 perish) by our desires.

To be made new or renew (ananeoo) is to be forever young, change to new or to be new repeatedly in Greek. The verb makes its debut and bow in the Bible. New could mean young (Luke 15:12). This refers to the spirit (pneuma) of your mind (nous).

To put on is translated as clothed (Mark 1:6), wear (Luke 8:27), endued (Luke 24:49) and arrayed (Acts 12:21). The last refers to righteousness and holiness. The first is to do right and the second is to be holy.

The three purposes in verses 22-24 are best explained by their corresponding prepositions in the three verbs: off (apo), made new (ana) and put on (en). The first is out, the second is again, and the third is in. or middle is repeat and the last is dress.

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