2. We Are New [Ephesians 4:17-32] - Milo Wilson




#BetterTogether Series 
  • We all know life is richer and more meaningful when we're connected yet for centuries tensions exist in society due to terrorist activities, racial divisions, fearful economics, and the seeming futility of "success." Relationships have deteriorated all around us. We believe God has planned more for His people, don’t you? Come with us as we study Ephesians...together!
2. We Are New [Ephesians 4:17-32]
  • When you know who you are, then you know what to do. The old is gone; the new has come!
Sermon Preparation Guide
  • Importance - What are the central ideas of this text?
    • In Christ, our lives have been changed. (Ephesians 4:20-24)
    • The old, “pre-Christ life” ways of living and thinking are to be “put off.” (Ephesians 4:17, 22) 
    • The new “post-Christ life” ways of living and thinking are to be “put on.” (Ephesians 4:23 & 24)
  • Implications - What questions should the listener be asking?
    • How have you been changed by believing in Christ for salvation?
    • What ways of living and thinking do you have to “put off?”
    • What ways of living and thinking do you have to “put on?”
Talk it Over Discussion Guide 
  • Interpretation - What is the text telling/showing us?
    • Why must believers “no longer walk as the Gentiles do?”
    • Describe the Gentile walk (i.e., the walk of anyone who has not put his or her faith in Jesus for salvation)?
    • How does one “learn” Christ, and what does that mean for one's day to day life?
    • What does “futility of their minds” and “darkened in their understanding” mean? Where does such a state come from? What results from such a state?
    • What is the “new self” to look like? How has God designed it?
    • What does it mean to be “renewed in the spirit of your mind?”
    • List the characteristics of the old life from the text, then right next to each item, list the corresponding characteristics of the new life that replace the old life characteristics.
    • What is the impact of the new life on the body of believers in your church? What do these new life characteristics have to do with the life and health of the body?
    • How are we able to put on these new life characteristics?
    • Who is our model for the new life?
  • Implementation - What should the listeners response be?
    • As a follower of Jesus, how are you not to live? Why not?
    • Describe the focus of your life without Jesus. How have you changed? What do you see now that you didn't see before?
    • What is your responsibility as far as living the new life?
    • How can you be “renewed” in the spirit of your mind?
    • How can you put on the new self?
    • Describe the new life. What is the essence of the new life; in other words, what are the essentials of the new life?
    • How are you doing on putting off the old life actions and attitudes? What do you need to work on?
    • How are you doing on putting on the new life actions and attitudes? Do you work hard at it (you should)?
    • What are you going to do differently in your life after studying these Notes and answering the questions? In other words, how are you going to apply the lessons of this text from Ephesians? Commit your conclusions to the Lord and ask for His help in carrying them out.
Sermon Teaching Notes (as prepared by Pastor Dick Murphy)
  • Investigation - What's generally going on in this area of scripture?
As noted in the prior Notes, this Series focuses on how we as the Church are to live together within the body to carry out God's plan, all the while reflecting to the watching world in our “together life” the glory that is God and inviting others to answer God's call to join His family in Christ. We saw last time that the Church is one body, with each individual piece of that body knit together in love, walking in Christlikeness, seeking to preserve the unity that is already present in the Spirit, and doing his or her part in the work of the whole. All this is part of the building of the Church on the foundation of Jesus Christ, the cornerstone in whom we “are being build together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.” (Ephesians 2:22) Starting in verse 17 of chapter 4, Paul gets down to the “nitty gritty.” Now that he has set the big picture that we – the Church – are “in Christ,” and are united and building up together, with each individual piece contributing his or her part of the work, Paul is about to say “our lives need to show it, that there needs to be a change or a makeover, as it were, that our individual lives and our life together must show forth in the everyday “stuff” of life that we are united in Him, that we are new creations attaining to the “measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ.” (Ephesians 4:13b).

So Paul starts by writing, “Now this I say and testify in the Lord ...” (Ephesians 4:17a). By those words, Paul is saying that he writes with the authority of an Apostle of Jesus Christ (cf. Ephesians 1:1) and affirms that his words, his admonitions, and his exhortations, are as from Jesus Himself. The New International Version translates the phrase as follows: “So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord ...” Another translation called “The Message” puts the phrase this way: “And so I insist—and God backs me up on this ...” No matter the translation, the point is that there is no option; the new life in Christ is mandatory, and living the new life is a matter of obedience to the Lord Jesus, the One in whom the Church has its being and life; the One who is the Head. (cf. Ephesians 1:22; 2:20; 3:17; 4:15) Thus, the ensuing verses are literally commands to be followed, but followed with the knowledge that because we are new creations, we are empowered by the Spirit to be able to carry out these commands. (cf. Ephesians 3:16; Philippians 2:12 & 13)

What is the old way that is to be discarded? Paul likens it to living life “as the Gentiles do.” (Ephesians 4:17b) Paul is not hammering the Gentiles per se, but is using them as the picture of people without God who live not knowing God's way and who are therefore “darkened in their understanding” of the right way to live which is God's way as followers of Jesus. (Ephesians 4:18) Pauls' writing audience were primarily Gentiles who had turned to Christ and been saved; who were now included in God's plan (Ephesians 2:19). Thus, they would know what Paul means when he writes of a life “alienated from God.” (Ephesians 4:18) Such individuals become callous, which means heartless, uncaring, unfeeling, insensitive and hard, and which is certainly opposite of a life committed to others and unity; and in such overt individualism and self-centeredness, they give themselves up to sensuality, greed (referring to the insatiable desire for more of anything), and impurity (Ephesians 4:19). Here's how The Message puts these verses:

And so I insist – and God backs me up on this, that there be no going along with the crowd, the empty-headed, mindless crowd. They’ve refused for so long to deal with God that they’ve lost touch not only with God but with reality itself. They can’t think straight anymore. Feeling no pain, they let themselves go in sexual obsession, addicted to every sort of perversion. (Ephesians 4:17-19. The Message translation)

The common thread in this description of what we will call “the former life” is a selfish, prideful exclusion of God which results in Godless life practices. “But that is not the way you learned Christ!” Paul writes. (Ephesians 4:20). In other words, Paul knows his readers were schooled in the way of Jesus after they came to faith; after all, he himself had preached and taught in Ephesus for two years (Acts 19:8-10). And what had they learned? That they were to “put off” their old selves – that which is now past and which was deluded into believing that satisfaction of self is the goal of life – and instead to “put on” the “new self” which was “created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.” (Ephesians 4:22-24) Putting off and putting on are a picture of radical change; they the ripping off of filthy clothes and, having been cleansed from the inside, putting on beautiful new, clean clothes. Again, the translation of The Message brings this concept home:

Since, then, we do not have the excuse of ignorance, everything—and I do mean everything—connected with that old way of life has to go. It’s rotten through and through. Get rid of it! And then take on an entirely new way of life—a God-fashioned life, a life renewed from the inside and working itself into your conduct as God accurately reproduces his character in you.

The beauty of the foregoing is that we are already new, even as we are becoming new. Paul writes that this new self is already “created after the likeness of God.” (Ephesians 4:24) It's a done deal, and thereby we are able to put on the new clothes of the new self. And not to leave the point in a “big picture” generality, Paul goes on to list some specifics, all of which have to do with the individual, but all of which relate to the individual in relation to others, and thus to the entire body of Christ. Here's the list of the “old clothes” that are to be taken off:

falsehood (Ephesians 4:25);
nursed anger (being provoked to irritation. Ephesians 4:26);
stealing (Ephesians 4:28);
corrupting talk (elsewhere translated “unwholesome words” and meaning words that are cynical, sarcastic, accusing and destructive) (Ephesians 4:29);
grieving the Holy Spirit (by any action or attitude that causes sorrow and distress to the Holy Spirit) (Ephesians 4:30)
bitterness (the harboring of resentful feelings) (Ephesians 4:31);
wrath (sudden rage) (Ephesians 4:31);
anger (lingering rage) (Ephesians 4:31);
clamor (confrontation and quarreling) (Ephesians 4:31);
slander (intentional speaking of untruth with intent to damage another's reputation) (Ephesians 4:31); and
malice (evil intent towards another) (Ephesians 4:31).

And here's the list of the “new clothes” that are to be put on:

speaking truth to one another (Ephesians 4:25);
not letting the sun go down on nursed anger (Ephesians 4:26);
honest work to enable one to share with those in need (Ephesians 4:28);
words that build up, encourage and give grace (Ephesians 4:29);
pleasing the Holy Spirit (by implication from not grieving) (Ephesians 4:30);
kindness (literally “doing good”) (Ephesians 4:32);
tenderheartedness (Ephesians 4:32); and
forgiving (Ephesians 4:32).

Notice that the above “put off” list includes both actions and attitudes, and how all of them relate to others and to community. Those things to be put off are harmful to others and to the community; they divide and destroy; they give opportunity to the devil; and they undermine the purposes and mission of the community. Conversely, the above “put on” list also includes both actions and attitudes; they are beneficial to others and to the building up of the community and the accomplishing of the mission of the community. And as those in the Church live out and practice the “new self life,” that new life witnesses to the world of the transformative aspect of the gospel – that Jesus changes us, gives us life and life in a community, and enables us to show to the culture around us how to live that life which reflects who God is.

So, who are we in Christ? We are entirely new creations (II Corinthians 5:17), formerly dead in our sins (Ephesians 3:1) and now made alive in Christ (Ephesians 2:4-6), God's workmanship created in Christ for good works (Ephesians 2:10); we were buried with Christ in His death (Romans 6:4a) and raised with Him to “walk in newness of life.” (Romans 6:4b). In short, the “former life” we lived when we were dead in sin is gone! That is our “position in Christ. But that is just the start; we now have to appropriate our position into the practice of our lives, getting rid of the old habits and adopting the new ways of Christ. It is a wholesale change of lifestyle clothes; and we don't get to keep on some of the old clothes. Nope! It's a 100% proposition, and it's to be done now, with full effort and setting of the mind to the task, every hour of every day, all the way. That is how Paul's audience learned Christ; that is how we learned Christ. The old is gone; the new has come!