Ephesians – Wayne Barber/Part 58

By: Dr. Wayne Barber; ©2000
The apostle Paul explains to the Ephesians Christians, and therefore to us, that now that they have become members of God’s family, they are no longer to walk in their former ways.


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Ephesians 4:20-24

A Brand New Way – Part 2

It is amazing to me as human beings, as believers, how quickly we forget what has caused us so much pain. How quickly we forget! Paul has spent three and a half chapters telling us who we are, what we have in Jesus Christ, and how we can appropriate it. He talks about how we can preserve the unity of the Spirit when all of us walk that way. Then he comes down to verse 17 of chapter 4 and takes a turn. He gives them a stern warning.

You see, Ephesus was a very pagan city. They had a big cathedral there for the goddess Artemis at the top of the hill. Paul knows these Ephesian believers have to work with these people. They live with these people. He says to them, “Listen, guys. Don’t go back. Don’t go back. Don’t ever think there is anything waiting on you living the way you used to live.”

So in verses 17-19, he tells them first of all how not to walk. He says in verse 17, “This I say therefore, and affirm together with the Lord, that you walk no longer just as the Gentiles also walk, in the futility of their mind.” Remember he is writing to Gentiles, and he is telling these Gentiles not to live as Gentiles. What is the point in this? If you will look back in 1:13 you find that these Gentile believers were different than the other Gentiles that he is talking about here. It says, “In Him [Jesus], you also, after listening to the message of the truth, of the gospel of your salvation—having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise.” You see they are different. Yes, they are Gentiles, but not in the sense of the context he is talking about Gentiles. He is talking about the pagan world. He says, “You used to be of them, but now you have believed. You don’t live like them now. You live a different way.”

There has never been a nation on this earth that has honored God. When you read the book of Revelation you will find the beast coming up out of the sea of nations and on his head were certain names, blasphemous names, representing all the nations of this world. Every nation has dishonored God. It started with Adam and then in Genesis 11, when God scattered the people and confused their languages, every nation from that point on, birthed out of pride, birthed out of rebellious hearts towards God, has gotten worse and worse and worse.

So when he mentions Gentiles here, he means the pagan nations of the world. He gives two descriptions of them. In verses 17 and 18 he says they are mentally darkened. In other words, they have no capacity to understand God. He says, “This I say therefore, and affirm together with the Lord, that you walk no longer just as the Gentiles also walk, in the futility of their mind, being darkened in their understanding, excluded [or alienated] from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart.” God didn’t decide one day, “I think I will just darken the Gentiles minds.” We have learned from other Scriptures that they would not, so now they cannot. In other words, they didn’t want God. When they knew the truth, they wouldn’t acknowledge the truth, Romans tells us in Chapter 1. So therefore, the plague of nations is the sin in their hearts. They have rejected God and for that reason they have a futility of mind and thinking, empty minds. They don’t understand the moral­ity of God. They don’t understand the spiritual things of God.

I Corinthians 2 tells us the natural man does not understand or comprehend the spiritual things about God. It has gotten worse and worse. We can see man in our world today. It is the same thing. The world is out there. You work in it every week. You live in it in a neigh­borhood. Everywhere we go people with empty minds cannot understand God. Man can put another man on the moon. Man can make a computer that will boggle the mind. Man can do all kinds of unreal things, but man can’t even solve the basic needs of man. He doesn’t even understand how to solve the moral needs of man.

Not only does he have a darkened mind, but he has a depraved morality. Verse 19 says: “and they, having become callous.” The word “callous” there means painless. In other words, they don’t experience pain any more. You know, the most dangerous time in the world is when we don’t experience pain. You might think, “I don’t want any pain.” No. Pain serves us. It causes us fear and caution when we need it. A leper has lost all the feeling in his hands and can do much damage to himself. He can’t feel anything anymore. When he is burned, he can burn himself tragically. He is hurting himself, but he doesn’t feel it any­more. There is no pain.

That is what Paul says the world has become. They have such darkened minds they don’t even recognize it, but out of their own greed, they continue to pursue the very thing that is hurting them and they don’t even feel that pain. They are numb to it. Do you realize that all of us lived that way at one time? Look in Titus 3:3 for just a second. Paul says to Timothy: “For we also once were foolish ourselves, disobedient, deceived, enslaved to various lusts and pleasures, spending our life in malice and envy, hateful, hating one an­other.” How quickly we forget what brought us so much pain. Paul is saying, “Listen, you are living in a pagan world.”

Verse 19 goes on to say this pagan world has been given over to sensuality: “have given themselves over to sensuality, for the practice of every kind of impurity with greedi­ness.” In other words, they covet this kind of thing. It is a pleasure-oriented world, but not a thing in it is what you are looking for. Don’t go back and live this way anymore. This is how you are not to live. Don’t walk as the Gentiles walk.

Then he goes on to show them the positive side. He starts telling them how they ought to live. How then should we live if we are not to live like them? We have to live in a world where they are. How are we to live? How do we bring this down to practical terms so we can understand them?

First of all, Paul tells us in verses 20-24 that living as a believer is much like putting on a brand new set of clothes. A set of clothes is what people see. Paul is saying something profound to us. He is saying, “Folks, you don’t have to wear old clothes. As a matter of fact, you are not supposed to wear the old clothes that you used to wear.” You see, wearing your clothes, putting on the garment, has to do with a way you live. It is a lifestyle. He is saying, “In Jesus Christ you have a brand new set of clothes and you are going to have to learn how to wear them.”

He uses two phrases. One is in verse 22: “lay aside.” That has to do with taking some­thing off. Then he says in verse 24: “put on.” That word “put on” also has to do with clothes. One you take off, and one you put on. It is dressing and undressing. How are you sup­posed to live as a believer? You are supposed to be dressed the right way. Let me show you. First of all, let me show you in Acts 7:58 how that word “lay aside” has to do with taking something off. In verse 58 of Acts 7 it says, “And when they had driven him out of the city [speaking of Stephen, the martyr], they began stoning him, and the witnesses laid aside their robes at the feet of a young man named Saul.”

So you have a picture of somebody taking something off. That word is used several times. In Romans 13:12 we get a little bit clearer picture of what Paul is saying in Ephesians even. Paul uses the word and the phrase. We begin to realize that when you put off this garment, this old man as we are going to see later, it has to do not so much with just the old man itself, but the way he used to live. It is a lifestyle. Romans 13:12 says, “The night is almost gone, and the day is at hand. Let us therefore lay aside the deeds of dark­ness and put on the armor of light.”

Paul uses the word again in Colossians. It gives us a little clearer picture. Colossians 3:8 says, “But now you also, put them all aside: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive speech from your mouth.” Everything he mentions has to do with relationships. When we are rightly related to Christ, when we are letting Jesus be Jesus in our life, when we are being strengthened in the inner man by the spirit of God, we are putting on the garment of a brand new lifestyle. The first place it is going to show up is in relationships. When you have divided relationships all you have is somebody wearing the wrong garment. That is all there is to it. Somebody is not at peace with somebody else. We are to be at peace with all men, to wear the right garment.

Look in Hebrews 12:1: “Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses sur­rounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance, and the sin which so easily en­tangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.” Take it off like a garment. Get it out of your life. Lay it aside.

There are two words that are used for that. One means away from, and the other means to place, to get it away from you. Put it away from you. Take it off. Peter uses it in I Peter 2:1: “putting aside all malice, “ then he mentions the words “guile,” “envy,” “hypocrisy” and “slander.” He said, “Get these garments off of you. You don’t live that way anymore. Put that off. That is the old. Now you are to wear the new.” So the word “laying aside” means to take off something like you take off a garment.

Let’s look at the next word. Verse 24 of Ephesians 4 says: “and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.” You can immediately see the fabric of this new garment. It is created in righteousness and holiness of the truth. There is something contrasting to the old way I used to live and the new way I am supposed to live.

I want to show you how the word is a simple word. Acts 12:21 reads, “And on an ap­pointed day Herod, having put on his royal apparel.” Paul takes that word and uses it in an analogy of how we are to live as if we are putting on a garment, for others to look at, for others to see. In Ephesians 4, it is a garment. In chapter 6 it is armor. It is the same thing. When you put on Christ, He is your garment. When you put on Christ, He is your armor against anything the devil ever puts in your life. In Ephesians 6:11 he says, “Put on the full armor of God, that you may be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil.” Verse 14 says, “Stand firm therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness.”

Now this is interesting to me. I am to put on. Every day I get up and put on. Every mo­ment I move, put on, put on. But wait a minute. When did I get the garment? Look in Colossians 3:9-11. We are going to find that we have already put it on. That is interesting. He says “put it on” in Ephesians while Colossians says, “Wait a minute, you have already put it on.” Colossians 3:9 says, “Do not lie to one another, since you laid aside the old self with its evil practices, and have put on the new self.” Here is what I want you to see. It’s in the aorist middle. Aorist means there has been a time, a certain time when you have put it on. But it also middle voice: you chose to do it. You understood what you were doing when you put on the new man.

I can hear some of you thinking, “Wait a minute. God chose us.” It has nothing to do with that argument. That is not what Paul is saying. Paul is saying, “You understood what you were doing when you bowed before Jesus Christ. You may not have had much understanding then, but you understood that the old garment was a product of a sinful nature and that you, being in Adam, could not save yourself. You understood that, because repentance is taking a garment off and turning and putting a garment on.” We did that at salvation. We put the garment on at salvation. We turned around, sick of the old and put on the new.

“Now, I don’t understand. If I have already put it on, how come I have to put it on?” When we put it on, we put it on inwardly. Now we have to wear it outwardly. Folks, it is the same thing Paul is saying in Philippians when he says work out your salvation. In other words, get what is on the inside on the outside. Put it on. Aorist is also punctiliar: put it on, put it on, put it on. But it is a conscious choice in doing it.

I want to show you the very thread of that new garment. Paul does something in verse 20 of Ephesians 4. He does not link us to a creed or to a code. He links us to a person and shows us that the very thread of the garment we are to wear is the Lord Jesus Himself. It is putting on Christ. It is letting Jesus be Jesus in your life. Verse 20 says, “But you did not learn Christ in this way.” You didn’t learn a creed or a code. We are not tied to a set of rules. We are tied to a person. As we put Him on, then everything He has commanded us to do strengthens us in the inner man with an ability to do and to be beyond what we have ever been or we have ever done. It is Christ in us. That is all it is. It is the same thing as being filled with the Spirit. It is the same thing as walking in the light. The Bible doesn’t say seven different things. It says one thing several different times. We are to surrender, and when we do, we are taking off something and putting on something. Not only will it be real to us on the inside, but it will be real to others on the outside.

Can I ask you a question? What garment do you have on? Have you put the old back on? You know, some people enjoy the rags of the old. It is kind of like Lazarus when he came out of the grave. They said, “Loose him and set him free. Take those grave clothes off of him.” He can’t walk. He can’t witness. He can’t worship. Everything about him is all bound up. But you know, some people like to take some of those rags and stick them in their pockets and say, “You know, I kind of like some of that old stuff. I’d rather wear this garment than the garment of Christ in my life. I don’t want to bow. I kind of enjoy my self-pity. I kind of enjoy my bitterness. I kind of enjoy my lust. I don’t want to bow. I enjoy being covetous. I enjoy dividing people. I would rather wear the old.” The Scripture says, “No, you put on the new. You have no option. Wear that garment you got when you received Christ.” Remember, you understood at that time what was causing you all the pain. Don’t go back to what caused you all the pain.

Well, the second thing I want you to see is before I can put on the new, as he says in verse 24, I have to put off the old. I want to talk about that old garment just for a little bit. In verse 22 it says, “that, in reference to your former manner of life.” The word there is anastrophe. It always means “everything you do, think, and say. We are in regard to that. He says, “you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of the deceit.” Remember, that word “accordance with” is not “out of.” It is “in accordance with.” You mean as evil as the flesh can be, it is being corrupted? That old man is getting worse and worse and worse.” That is exactly what I see that it saying in Scripture.

Let’s walk through it a second. The “old self” there translated in the New American Standard is really “old man.” The word literally is new man and old man, not old self and new self. This man of old, which you used to be, that which was in Adam, needs to be taken off because now you have been placed into Christ. Take that old man off. But I tell you what, if you are not sick of the old man yet, you will be when I finish this verse.

Let me show you what I get out of that verse. Paul is trying to show you how rotten the old man is. It is the picture of something that is very putrid and is in the process of rotting. The idea of this word is of a dead corpse or cadaver that is now rotting and decaying and stinks and it is getting worse all the time. If you want to go back and put the old garment on, help yourself. But I want to tell you, when you do, you are going to smell up relation­ships. There is going to be an odor about you that is going to be putrid and rotten. Hebrews says don’t ever let a root of bitterness develop among you because when it comes up, it is going to defile men.

If you take a barrel of apples and throw a rotten one in it, you’ve got exactly the picture right here. People who won’t put on the new garment are the people who are causing all the rot in the body of Christ. This is pretty heavy stuff. You know the Holy Spirit inspired this. The Holy Spirit doesn’t mince any words, does He? He just tells you what the old life is like. Folks, we have been saved out of that. Thank God we have been saved out of it. Don’t think for a second that there is anything there for you when you go back and put on that old garment.

Paul uses the term “old man” three times. In Romans 6, in Colossians 3 and in Ephesians 4. I want you to go back to Romans 6 and see if I can explain it. Just like the new man, I have put him on. Now I have to put him on. I have to choose to put him on. It is my responsibility. I have put him on, positionally. Experientially, I choose to do it every day. The same is true about the putting on of the old man. Romans 6:6 says, “knowing this, that our old man [or self as it is translated] was crucified with Him, that our body of sin might be done away with that we should no longer be slaves to sin.”

In God’s reckoning, the old man died with Christ on the cross. In that death, God put an end to the old creation in Adam and now replaces it with a new creation in Christ. It de­pends on which side of the cross that you are on. If you have been taken out of Adam, you have been put into Christ. The old man is dead. He is powerless in the believer’s life. How­ever, it’s mark is left on us in the lust of our flesh. So even though it has been put off, we must now choose to put it off. The way we do it is by choosing against what our flesh wants and choosing what the Lord God desires in our hearts. It is the same idea of putting on and putting of. We have put on and now we need to put off. It has been put off, but now we need to put it off in our life.

So therefore, we reckon ourselves to be dead to sin. Do you realize that you don’t have to lust, men? You don’t have to be in bondage to that immorality. You don’t have to be that way. You are a new person in Christ. It has been rendered powerless in your life. The only reason it has any power over you at all is because you choose to let it do so. That is all.

You don’t have to covet. You don’t have to throw rocks at your house every time you go home because you want a bigger one. You don’t have to live that way any more. You can be content wherever you are. You don’t have to live under that bondage anymore. If you are bitter and it is ruining relationships around you and other people know about it, you don’t have to live that way. You have been set free, redeemed by the blood of the Lamb. You are no longer to be held hostage to sin anymore. It doesn’t have to rule over you.

My encouragement to you is wear the right garment. When you go to a restaurant the waitress who walks over to you may be deceived and blind in sin, as Titus 3:3 says. You don’t know that but maybe you sense that there is no life in this person. Remember you used to be that way. But now that you have come out of it, God sends us back into that world to put a brand new garment on to show them that there is another way that they can live if they know Christ, the Christ that you know.

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