The Epistle To The Ephesians
“This I say therefore, and testify in the Lord, that ye henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk in the vanity of their mind, having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart: who being past feeling have given themselves over unto lasciviousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness. But ye have not so learned Christ; if so be that ye have heard Him, and have been taught by Him, as the truth is in Jesus: that ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man. which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; and be ye renewed in the spirit of your mind; and that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness” (4:17-24).
Converts to Break from Old Ways: The expression “the old man” used in this passage, does not exactly mean Adam, who was “the first man,” but is the reproduction in us of the character of fallen Adam, and is called “our old man;” it is what we were characteristically, what we were before we knew the Lord. But this character has been “put off,” it is “the old,” it is not what we are, for we have put on “the new man,” as those who have “learned Christ.” Of course, it is the same identical persons who are in view, whether considered as they formerly were or as they now are. We see, therefore, that, as a people taught by Christ, the Apostle called upon these Gentile converts to walk in ways that were in contrast with their former lives in idolatry. That was a system of unbridled passion with “greediness” that pampered lasciviousness and sanctioned uncleanness; it continually stirred the foul depths of sinful flesh. The cause of this has been elsewhere explained by the Apostle. It was because mankind “did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient” (Rom. 1:28). But those who were now Christians were to “walk not as other Gentiles walk.”
Perhaps it may be thought that, however true such a description may have been of heathendom, it has a comparatively feeble application to us. Well, it is true that the effect of the gospel of God in Christendom has raised the standard of conduct; although we fear that some may be unaware of their obligation to it in this respect. But it is greatly to be deplored that there is in these last days of the Christian epoch a very manifest departure from the faith, already we behold the reappearance on a large scale of unrestrained passion, which will increase in the proportion in which divine control is disavowed.
The Ways of Christ: After depicting the ways of ignorance in an idolatrous setting, the Apostle can say to the Ephesians: “But ye have not so learned Christ.” What they had been taught was that “having put off the old man” (N.T.), which is “corrupt according to the deceitful lusts” and, as renewed in the spirit of their mind, they had “put on the new man” which after God is created “in righteousness and true holiness.” They could say that at the cross of Christ “our old man is crucified with Him, that the body of sin (sin in its totality) might be destroyed (annulled), that henceforth we should not serve sin” (Rom. 6:6). The new man is characterized by the ways resulting from a new life and nature. This is presented to us in the Scriptures as a great fact to be accepted by faith, so that by the Spirit given to all who believe, it may be put to use in practical deliverance from the ways of the flesh.
Deeds Of The New Man
“Wherefore putting away lying, speaking every man truth with his neighbour: for we are members one of another. Be ye angry and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath: neither give place to the devil. Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labour, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth. Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace to the hearers. And grieve not the Holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption. Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: and be ye kind one to another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you” (4:25-32).
Guidance: As “members one of another,” the telling of lies would be a practical denial of such membership, and would affect the entire body in a very hurtful way. As in our natural bodies all the limbs are in sympathy with each other, so we can see that by reference to our membership with each other the Apostle supplies a very intelligible motive for uprightness among Christians. This leads very naturally to another question respecting what might prove to be very disturbing to the membership, it is in reference to the entrance of anger among them. And it is shown how it is possible to be angry without sinning. There are sometimes causes for righteous indignation at evil. Zeal for the right may be so aroused as to justify anger. We have an example of this when the zeal respecting His “Father’s house” stirred the Lord to cast out “all them that sold doves,” saying: “It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves” (Matt. 21:12, 13). We are told that on one occasion He “looked round about” on His audience “with anger, being grieved for the hardness of their hearts” (Mark 3:45). But with us there is ever a possibility that even righteous anger may allow a mixture of motives in it that, unless discerned and brought under control, will develop into sin. The anger may become too personal, so that one is overcome by evil which he ought to have overcome; his anger may even develop into a chronic thing. Had the Apostle not warned the Ephesians of this there might at some time have developed some case that would have given “place to the devil,” opening a door to him who knows so well how to utilize such an opportunity. Surely we can see that the exhortation “Let not the sun go down upon your wrath” is the very best counsel.
We are also apprised that a converted thief who was now in the Christian company in Ephesus was not only to be an honest man who paid his bills, but would be expected to become a benefactor to society. He was to work “with his hands the the thing that is good,” in contrast with his former dishonest ways, and to work so that “he may have to give to him that needeth.” For Christians are spoken to in this way: “Let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith” (Gal. 6:10).
“Corrupt communication” such as formerly proceeded out of the mouth was to give place to language calculated to build up by ministering “grace to the hearers.” Doubtless if we realized the sensitiveness of the Spirit of God, whereby we are sealed unto the day of redemption, our language would always be “with grace, seasoned with salt,” that which was gracious having that seasoning in it that maintained what was righteous. Finally, we are told, all heated and malicious language was to be disallowed.