Summary: As we live as a body, we should help each other to be well dressed, to look our best. Let’s be dressed to impress – impress the world that God is our God, that we are his people, that we are Christ’s body!
Sermon by Rev George Hemmings.
Over the last three weeks, I’ve been to three weddings. They’ve all been very different, but they’ve all presented the same challenge – What am I going to wear? The first was Ellen and Jamin’s wedding. I thought I was pretty safe and had my outfit all figured out. But then, that morning I realized that the tie I had planned on wearing was gone! I’d forgotten that I’d lent it to someone!
The next wedding, which was later that same afternoon posed the same problem. It was an outdoors wedding, and the invitation said ‘More smart than casual’. Who knows what that means! I decided to wear the same suit, without changing a thing. However, when we arrived it was clear I’d misjudged things. I was clearly overdressed! I think I was even more dressed up than the groom! Slowly over the afternoon the jacket came off, then the tie, then the sleeves went up.
Working out the right thing to wear is difficult sometimes isn’t it? Getting it wrong can be embarrassing, or worse. I have to say, that as much difficulty as I had working out to wear, Sarah had a bit more trouble and had to borrow dresses. But she looked stunning!
In the passage we’re looking at today, Paul gives us some fashion advice. He’s concerned that we dress the right way. But as we’ll see he’s not so much thinking about our material clothing, but how we clothe ourselves. Paul starts out by telling us what not to wear. We’re not to ‘dress’ like those around us;
Eph. 4:17 Now this I affirm and insist on in the Lord: you must no longer live as the Gentiles live,
The Christians at Ephesus had been Gentiles.
2:11at one time you Gentiles by birth, called “the uncircumcision” by those who are called “the circumcision”—a physical circumcision made in the flesh by human hands— 12remember that you were at that time without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.
Like us they weren’t of Jewish heritage. But now, in Christ, they’d been brought near, included in God’s people. So in mentioning the Gentiles here, Paul’s now referring to those who remain outside of God’s people, outside of the church, outside of Christ. Paul warns us that we’re not to live like we used to, like those around us still live. He’s calling us to be counter-cultural in our lives.
For those around:
17live, in the futility of their minds. 18They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of their ignorance and hardness of heart.
Back in chapter 1, Paul had prayed that God
may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him 18so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened.
He prayed that the church would grow in the knowledge of the hope, the riches and the power of God. He prayed that the church might become enlightened.
But those around them had become darkened. Their minds were shut off to God. And it wasn’t just an intellectual darkness. They’d become alienated from God and the life He wanted for them. They were ignorant of God, of his love and his desires for them. Paul says this was because of their hardness of heart. They’d shut themselves off from God, not wanting to let him in to their lives.
The result was obvious in how they lived. Verse 19 could be translated as callous. They’d become insensitive and hardened. So they couldn’t see, or didn’t care, that they’d fallen into licentiousness, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. Paul says this is the way the world around us is dressed. There are some areas in our society were this is very obvious! But the reality is that whenever people choose to live their own way, no matter how ‘religious’ or ‘good’ they might be, they’re doing just this!
This is not how to dress! This is not how to live! Paul is very emphatic in verse 20! This is not what we’ve learnt in Christ! We’ve learned a new way! We’re to be dressed differently, if indeed you have learnt about Christ!
Paul’s not just talking about knowing the facts about Jesus life. He’s says we’ve not heard ‘about him’, but were taught in him! Last week we looked at Matthew 28. Remember the mission that Jesus gave his disciples? They weren’t just to tell people about what Jesus had done, but to make them disciples, followers of him. They were to teach them to obey everything that Jesus had said! We know him in a relational way, knowing how he wants us to live.