Friday, December 19, 2008

Ephesians 4:20-24

20You, however, did not come to know Christ that way. 21Surely you heard of Him and were taught in Him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. 22You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; 23to be made new in the attitude of your minds; 24and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.

In v20-21, Paul reminds his audience of Christians that they did not learn Christ by living like pagans. Rather they learned Christ, as the subject, by Christ, as the teacher. Jesus Christ is both the content and the One who applies the content to you. And He does it in your intellect from within you! Vincent Cheung says, “God’s power rescues us from futile thinking and continual lust, not by a divine encounter or experience, but by the teaching of Christ, or Christian doctrine, applied to the mind by divine power.” This is a great objection to today’s common thought that we come to Christ by exercising our free will in our depraved nature. But, as Paul says, “You did not come to know Christ that way,” referring to living as a pagan and exercising your worldly wisdom. Paul’s tirade from v17-19 reveals what happens when man is left to his free will. Thank God that He sovereignly intervened and called us out of darkness into light!

Notice that the whole of the Christian life is inseparably connected to Jesus Christ. We learn Jesus in Jesus through Jesus by Jesus for Jesus. And there’s no room for a pagan lifestyle while united to Christ by grace through faith. Jesus is the content of the truth, the conveyor of the truth, and the context of the truth. Ligon Duncan says, “Jesus delighted to do His Father’s will, and Paul is reminding the disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ that if you’re really a disciple of Jesus Christ, if you’ve really come to know Jesus Christ, you, too, will delight to know the Father’s will and delight to do the Father’s will, because Jesus delighted to do the Father’s will. And if all of your life is connected to Jesus, then you’re going to recognize that there is a moral component to Christian teaching.”

There is a moral response to the gospel of grace, and we are reminded of it in v22. Grace teaches us to put off our old selves. They are corrupt and growing more so. That’s repentance! The first response of one who comes to genuine saving faith is repentance. There is a moral transformation that comes with being a Christian, in which we are morally different from the world around us. We don’t be good to be saved; we are saved to be good. And we see that in v23-24; after putting off the old – repentance – we are taught to “be made new in the attitude of our minds, and to put on the new self.”

This transformation is not superficial. It’s from the inside out, from our innermost being, from our eternal soul, and it works outwardly, so that thoughts, words, and deeds conform to those wrought by Christ (Romans 8:29; 12:1-2). God has renewed us. John calls it regeneration; Paul calls it resurrection. Both pictures emphasize that we can’t do them. Notice the new self. It’s created (by God) “to be like God in true righteousness and holiness,” which Calvin and even Plato see (Luke 1:75) as second-table laws relating to our man-ward relationship (righteousness) and first-table laws relating to our God-ward relationship (holiness). God does that in us! Cheung says, “To paraphrase, Paul is saying to his readers, ‘You don’t have to be like the non-Christians, because you have been taught something else. You have been taught the truth of Jesus Christ, that is, the Christian worldview. Moreover, you can live consistently with this Christian worldview because God has regenerated you and His power is at work in you. By renewing your mind with biblical teaching, you can put on the new self, form new thinking patterns and moral habits, and conform to true righteousness and holiness.’” Our transformation is not the cause of God’s love for us, but the consequence of God’s love for us. But still, what does that look like?

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