Ephesians Bible Study ~ Week 7

What exactly does “putting on the new self” look like? According to Ephesians 4, it looks like speaking the truth, letting go of anger, helping others in need, building each other up with your words, being gentle and sensitive with each other, and forgiving as thoroughly as Christ forgave you. Can we do it? When we are in Jesus, Yes We Can!

Ephesians 4: 17-32

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A.      “Two Ways” form of instruction

Examples: Plato, Deuteronomy 30:15-20; Galatians 5:16-25

1.       Puts 2 ways of living in stark contrast, one positive and the other negative.

a. Three required components

  • Dualistic introduction
  • Lists of virtues and vices
  • Eschatological warning (eschatological = “end times”)

b. Based on the notion that conversion leads to moral renewal (Perkins, 1997)

  • Ephesians is reminding Gentiles about a proper lifestyle for a Christian
  • Presumably so they can “walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which [they] have been called…” (4:1)

B.      The Text

Parenesis (4:1-6:20) – advice or exhortation

Unity and Diversity: a call to maintain Christian unity (4:1-6) and the goals of Christian diversity (4:7-16)

A “Two Ways” form (4:17-5:21)

The Two Ways form: Part I (4:17-32)

General exhortations (vv 17-24)

  • What not to do (vv 17-19)
  • Why not to do it (vv 20-21)
  • What to do (vv 22-24)

Specifics of a New Life (vv 25-32)

  • 5 specific exhortations regarding specific behaviors

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[17] Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. [18] They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. [19] They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity.

What are Christians not to do? (vv 17-19)
• “Walk as the Gentiles do” (cf I Pet 4:3-4)

In other words, do not have the lifestyle of an unsaved Gentile that is marked by:
• futility of the mind (cf I Pet 1:18)
• darkened understanding (cf Rom 1:21)
• alienation from the life of God because of ignorance (cf Eph 2:12)
• hardness of heart
• callousness
• given up to sensuality, greed, and every kind of impurity (cf Rom 1:24)

[20] But that is not the way you learned Christ! – [21] assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus,

Why should Christians not live as the Gentiles do? (vv 20-21)
• the (unsaved) Gentile lifestyle is at odds with the walk that Jesus embodied (Talbert, p 123)

Note in v 20 that what is learned is a person.

Talbert notes that this would not have been an unusual concept for the Ephesian culture, as they viewed rulers as “the living law” (eg, Caesar). One learned the right way of living by observing the ruler in power.
Paul is referring to “learning Christ” as the totality of the Christ paradigm (Talbert, p 123).
• One learns Christ
• One is taught by means of Christ
• The truth resides in Christ

[22] to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, [23] and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, [24] and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.

What are Christians to do? (vv 22-24)
• Undergo moral transformation

How?
• put off the old self
• be renewed in the spirit of [our] minds (cf Rom 1:1-2; Col 3:10)
• put on the new self

Picture the image of changing garments. The new garment (or self) is created “in true righteousness and holiness.” (v 24)

“In Jesus one sees the norm of all values. This vision produces righteousness and holiness, not debauchery and a greedy desire to practice all kinds of uncleanness.” (Talbert, p 124)

[25] Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another.

What does this “new self” look like?

Exhortation 1: stop lying and speak the truth

Why? Because “we are members of one another” (cf I Cor 12:12, 14, 18)

The Message: “What this adds up to, then, is this: no more lies, no more pretense. Tell your neighbor the truth. In Christ’s body we’re all connected to each other, after all. When you lie to others, you end up lying to yourself.”

[26] Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, [27] and give no opportunity to the devil.

Exhortation 2: stop holding on to your anger

Why? Because this gives opportunity to the devil, or “opens one to the influence of the evil powers” (cf 2:1-2)

The Message: “Go ahead and be angry. You do well to be angry-but don’t use your anger as fuel for revenge. And don’t stay angry. Don’t go to bed angry. Don’t give the Devil that kind of foothold in your life.”

[28] Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need.

Exhortation 3: stop stealing and do honest work instead

Why? So that you will have something to share with those in need (cf 2 Thess 3:6-11)

The Message: “Did you use to make ends meet by stealing? Well, no more! Get an honest job so that you can help others who can’t work.”

[29] Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. [30] And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.

Exhortation 4: watch your words and what you say to each other.

Why? So that your words will only benefit one another, and so that you will not grieve the Holy Spirit.

The Message: “Watch the way you talk. Let nothing foul or dirty come out of your mouth. Say only what helps, each word a gift. Don’t grieve God. Don’t break his heart. His Holy Spirit, moving and breathing in you, is the most intimate part of your life, making you fit for himself. Don’t take such a gift for granted.”

[31] Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. [32] Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

Exhortation 5: let go of bitterness, revenge, anger, slander, and malice and instead be tender and forgiving of one another.

Why? Because this is how Christ first acted towards us.

The Message: “Make a clean break with all cutting, backbiting, profane talk. Be gentle with one another, sensitive. Forgive one another as quickly and thoroughly as God in Christ forgave you.”

C.      The Major Issues

1.       Putting off the “old self”

a. Why does “Paul” discuss these issues at this particular point in the letter to the Ephesians?

  • An attempt to eliminate common vices that divide people
  • To further the theme of harmony and unity in the body of Christ

b. Does this passage apply to modern‑day Christians?

  • Do we see these vices in ourselves and in our own congregations?
  • How would addressing these vices help us to live in community and “do life together”

Homework for Week 8:

Read Ephesians 5:1-21 and consider the following questions:

  • Ephesians 5:1 tells us to “be imitators of God.” What does this mean to you? How do you think the original Gentile readers would have understood this exhortation in their culture and time in history?
  • The last portion of Chapter 5 and the first portion of Chapter 6 have specific examples of relationships where we can be “imitators of God” (wives and husbands; children and parents; slaves and masters). How do you think becoming “imitators of God” can help us to fulfill these roles?
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