by Jeff Dominguez
Ephesians 4:17-32 – Put On the New Self
In the previous chapters, we learned that the church is made up of Jews and Gentiles. And as we mentioned in the previous article, these are people who come from different backgrounds. Because of that, the chances of conflict are highly possible. That’s why in part 1 of chapter 4, Paul taught them that they should maintain the peace between them. In addition, he also taught them the key techniques to help them achieve this such as humility, gentleness, patience, and love. But in the continuation of chapter 4, Paul will reveal another concept that is perhaps, the best way to achieve peace: and that is by putting on our new selves.
I. Put On The New Self (vv17-24)
“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. 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. They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. But that is not the way you learned Christ!— assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.”
Before we proceed to the explanation of this passage, let us first take a look at this verse:
“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” – Galatians 3:28
This verse from Galatians is essential to understand what Paul is saying in Ephesians 4:17-24. According to him, the distinction between Jew and Gentile no longer exists within the church. As he stated, we are “all one in Christ Jesus.” This means that Christians shouldn’t cause division in the church, especially regarding racial background. Now, in this passage from Ephesians, Paul further expanded this concept. And according to him, since Christians are no longer viewed as Jews or Gentiles, they should stop acting and living like one (v17).
“With the Lord’s authority, I say this: Live no longer as the Gentiles do, for they are hopelessly confused.” – v17, NLT
To clarify, Paul is referring to the unbelieving Gentiles. Paul described them as being darkened in their understanding, alienated from God, having hardened hearts, and having given themselves to sensuality, greed, and every kind of impurity (vv18-19). And then Paul followed this up by saying that this is not what they’ve learned from Christ (v20). Let us remember that a Christian is a “new creation” (2 Cor. 5:17). Aside from the new spiritual identity in Christ, this also means that Christians should have a new way of living. They cannot call themselves Christians or Followers of Jesus and continue in their old, sinful way of life. As Paul said, Christians should “put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness” (v24).
II. Godly Manners and Attitude (vv25-32)
“Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another. Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil. 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. 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. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”
So what does this “new self” look like?
In the following verses, Paul provided some specific manners and attitudes that characterize a godly person. Although not exhaustive, this passage encompasses a wide range of traits such as being truthful and honest with our neighbors (vv25, 28) and not holding grudges against them (vv26-27). It also includes small acts such as the way we talk (v29). He also taught that Christians should let go of all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, slander, and malice (v31). Instead, they should be kind to each other, tenderhearted, and forgiving to one another (v32). Lastly, Paul taught that whenever a Christian lives in an ungodly manner, it grieves the Holy Spirit. That is why he taught that Christians shouldn’t grieve the Holy Spirit (v30) but must walk with Him instead (Gal. 5:16).
Peace is not an easy thing to achieve. It requires hard work and cooperation. And as we can observe, peace is hardly present in this world. Wherever we go, conflict and violence are present. That is why if Christians are to be the representatives of Christ in this world, then they should be the first ones to demonstrate peace. How can they inspire others to peace if they are divided and in conflict with one another?
Again, achieving peace is not easy. But with God’s help, and our willingness to achieve peace, it can be accomplished.
God Bless!! 🙂