Week 6 - Commentary (Ephesians 4)



This week, we will make the turn in Ephesians from the first three chapters which are heavily doctrinal to the last three chapters that are primarily practical.

As we turn this corner, I’d like to bring to our attention the fact that there is  a beautiful symmetry in Ephesians. Chapters 1-3 and Chapters 4-6 “mirror” each other in remarkable ways. For example, while the Spiritual Wealth of the believer is shown in the doctrinal portion of the book, the Spiritual Walk of the believer is expounded upon in the practical portion. In the first part of the letter, we are told that when God looks at us, He sees Christ - we are IN CHRIST. The second portion of the letter tells believers that when the world looks at us, Christ should be seen IN US. Our blessings are enumerated in 1-3, and in 4-6, our behavior is discussed. We are also shown our privileges mirrored by our responsibilities. Our heavenly standing is contrasted with our earthly walk. It really is remarkable how tightly woven together this little letter is. I happen to see this as evidence not only of a brilliant human author but more importantly of a Divine God of order and beauty who took hold of Paul’s pen and did something glorious through these words.  

We’ve been discussing for weeks the magnificent kindness of God’s redemptive plan. As we enter Chapter 4, we will see Paul shift gears. Instead of expounding upon the truths of God and the glory of who we are IN CHRIST, he now will give instructions to the Church as to how (in light of our magnificent standing in Christ) we are to live because Christ is IN US. Let’s take a look now at these "guidelines for Christian living" that Paul gives us but remember - this is not a checklist, a to-do list, or an “earn God’s favor” list. This is an “IN LIGHT OF GOD’S GRACE - LIVE LIKE THIS” list.


Paul starts this section in this way: “I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling which you have received.” Those words are crucially important to our understanding of living the Christian life. We are to live a life that reflects the glorious gift of redemption that our Heavenly Father has poured out on us.

I don’t know about you but I wonder... Do you think that many times we get this backwards? Do we live a life trying to redeem ourselves? Trying to earn God’s favor? We are not called to live good and moral lives so that we will be accepted by God. We are to live godly lives BECAUSE we have already been accepted by God! THAT IS A HUGE DIFFERENCE, FRIENDS! Nothing that we do (or refrain from doing) earns us any more of God’s love than what we already have in Christ Jesus. NOT ONE THING THAT WE DO OR DON’T DO EARNS US OR TAKES AWAY GOD’S LOVE FOR US. God loves us because HE CHOSE TO LOVE US. (Remember, Paul has just spent the last three chapters - and we have spent the last several weeks - belaboring that point!) He is not urging them here to “live a life worthy of the love of God” NO!  He is urging them to LIVE A LIFE WORTHY OF THE CALLING THAT THEY HAVE RECEIVED. I hope that you can feel the glorious difference there and delight in it.

And, just to review, what exactly *is* the call that we have received? We have been
called out of the world, ransomed out of the kingdom of darkness, chosen to be in His family, redeemed out of our empty way of life. I would ask that we stop here and take a moment to ask ourselves this vital question: Do we feel like the Bible tells us “live a good life SO THAT we are worthy of the love of God?” or do we see the beautiful truth that we ARE loved by God and BECAUSE He loves us, we are to live a life that is swimming in, overflowing with, brimming over with thankfulness and FULL of the radiant beauty of one who has been redeemed from the pit?

False doctrines abound - They did in Paul’s day and they do in ours.  (Paul would even refer to this in his letter to Timothy in which he says that in the latter times, many will be persuaded by “doctrines of demons” - This false demonically inspired teaching encourages adherents to deny themselves certain things  - not because they were desiring to “walk worthy of their calling”  - but rather to live outwardly “pious” lives so as to “attain” something from God. This is something that I believe as Christians we MUST ask ourselves: Have we been led to believe that by “living clean” we become clean? Or that by living “good” we somehow become good in God’s eyes? If after examining our hearts we see that we are trying to earn ANYTHING from God, we must STOP and take another long hard look at Chapters 1-3. The teaching that we must “be good to earn God’s favor”  is in total opposition to what Paul has told us in the earlier, doctrinal portion of this book.

Paul has been very clear that we become TOTALLY WITHOUT FAULT AND BLAMELESS IN THE EYES OF GOD when we trust in Christ. We don’t get our act together and then attain righteousness. We are MADE righteous by God - we do not BECOME righteous by our deeds. Because we are “IN CHRIST” (and therefore are seen by The Righteous Judge as sinless - without sin in God’s eyes) we can have COMPLETE confidence before the throne of God. THIS IS THE GOOD NEWS OF THE GOSPEL!

Serious confusion and even distortion of truth comes in when the practical living instructions that Paul gives in chapters 4 - 6 are taught out of the context of the doctrinal truths of chapters 1-3. The exhortations that he is about to give are ONLY rightly understood in the context of the fact that we have been RESCUED because GOD WANTED TO RESCUE US and so now we are to live lives as ones who have been transferred from the kingdom of darkness into the Kingdom of Light!

So, Paul says, IN LIGHT OF ALL THAT... Live a life worthy of the calling which you have received! I pray, dear ones, that you see the FREEDOM in these words, that we will embrace the LIFE GIVING message that resides here.  We are not called to live a life that will earn us God’s love, we are called to live a godly life because we have been MADE children of God! Rest in that, Saints. You are to live holy lives BECAUSE you have been made holy, not so that you can become holy! {Oh how He loves you and me!}


Now that we have established the reason for these instructions (again, not to earn God's love but BECAUSE of God’s love), let’s see what Paul says that this godly walk will look like.

Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.”

He is urging them to UNITY. They are one family IN CHRIST and they have been called to ONE HOPE. Jew and Gentile alike: our hope rests in Christ. Through the power of His Spirit, they can be humble and gentle and patient and BEAR WITH ONE ANOTHER even though that is contrary to our human (Adamic) nature that we all enter the world with. IN LIGHT OF the information that he has given them about their fallen nature and their being called out of that, he is encouraging them that they CAN act in ways contrary to the old man and this is to be an act of worship to God! We act "right" because we have been made righteous! Our holy, consecrated, set apart, purified lives are an act of worship that brings glory and praise to God. We have His spirit residing in us and we can rise above our old nature.

The fallen natural man is out for himself and would not naturally be humble and patient and gentle and put up with others who were different than them if it did not benefit them in some way but since we have been given new natures, we CAN do these things. It is important to notice something here. Paul does not say that the Holy Spirit is going to magically come in and take them over and make them humble and gentle.  They are to BE humble and gentle (through the power of His spirit) and they are to MAKE EVERY EFFORT  (by the power of God’s Holy Spirit that is at work in their new Christlike natures) to keep the unity in their fellowship.

This is a word in due season for us, friends. Those of us who claim the name of Christ MUST bear with one another and be loving and patient and humble and gentle toward each other! What is one complaint that the unregenerate masses have with Christianity, with “the Church”? Do we love one another or are we arrogant toward one another? I confess that I have been guilty of this myself  (thinking that my view of something is more “right” than another believer’s view and allowing it to separate me from them). Now, I’m not saying that doctrine does not matter. We MUST stand firm on the truth of scripture - YES - and if someone is a false teacher and is preaching something that is contrary to the truth of Christ’s atoning salvation we must refute that BUT... There are issues that should NOT divide us! We can have our preference of where and with whom we congregate but we must stand firm on the truth that the Church is ONE body united in Christ. Our understanding of how end time events will unfold, our preference for music styles, our thoughts about what clothes we should wear, our preferences for children’s programs versus family integrated services, etc. MUST NOT lead us to take superior attitudes toward one another! We are ONE FAMILY. We have one Lord, one Faith and we have been baptized into one body and while there is absolutely nothing wrong in your choosing to go to this church or that church because of your PREFERENCES, we should never allow those non-salvific preferences to allow us to take a position of arrogance toward our brothers and sisters in Christ. If you will remember back to the beginning of this study we saw that Paul commended the Ephesians for the way that they LOVED ONE ANOTHER. Does the world know that we are Christians BY OUR LOVE? We should because Jesus said that’s how the world should know us.

In verse 17, Paul circles back to give some more directives on the Christian walk and he uses some pretty strong language to start off this final part of Chapter 4.

Here are various translations of Ephesians 4:17a:
  • “This I say therefore, and testify in the Lord...” (KJV) (ESV)
  • So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord” (NIV)
  • “With the Lord’s authority I say this...” (NLT)

With these words, he is saying ”Listen up - this part is important! The Lord Himself wants you to know this!” He then gives specific practical instructions for walking in this newness of life that they have been called to. We will also gain some further insight into the spiritual state of those who have not yet been rescued from the kingdom of darkness. Let’s look at what he is INSISTING on.

The NIV reads this way: “You must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. They have lost all sensitivity and they have given themselves over to sensuality and now they indulge in every kind of impurity, and they are full of greed.”

The Greek word translated as futility can mean “that which is devoid of truth and appropriateness; that which is perverse (which means distorted, disfigured, not being used for it’s original purpose) EMPTINESS. He goes on to tell us WHY the life of the unredeemed is frail, depraved and empty of truth: They have been darkened, separated, hardened.

What has hardened their hearts? Their sinful state. What separates them from and hardens them toward God? Their Adamic nature. There is essentially a blindfold over their spiritual eyes and they are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the hardness of their hearts that comes as a result of their sin nature.

I think it’s interesting to note that the Greek word here for hardened is pṓrōsis. (You may recognize that from the word “osteoporosis” which means the hardening of the bones.) Porosis is used today in medical terminology today to refer to the formation of a callous in response to (or in the body’s attempt to repair) a fractured bone. In the Greek is can also denote numbness, deadness, lack of feeling. Paul is showing here that because of their BROKEN nature (their Adamic nature, their SIN nature that separates them from God) they have been hardened toward God and because of this hardness they have been betrayed (or handed over) to a life of sensuality, greed, and corruption. It is vital to note the order of things here: The sensuality, greed and corruption did not lead to their hardness toward and separation from God but rather the opposite is true; Their sin nature separates them from God and that makes them numb and their numbness leads to sensuality, greed, and corruption which is simply the outworking of the Sin that exists in their hearts.

So... after telling them how NOT to live, he now tells them how TO live. These are things that the believers are now to practice IN LIGHT OF their salvation.

  • Put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through (by way of, because or, due to) deceitful desires.

    Just as we saw earlier, Paul tells them that they are to
    DO something. They are to actively PUT OFF their former manner of life and they are fully capable of doing this BECAUSE the same spirit that raised Christ from the dead lives in them and they have been given a new nature.

    Also important to notice in this verse in the reference to “
    deceitful desires”. Paul says here that our old self, our former nature was corrupt (broken, decaying, dead) and it became that way through deceit. Genesis 3 shows us the origin of THE LIE - the origin of deceitful desires.

    The entire human race was made corrupt through a desire that was stirred in mankind
    by way of deceit. Adam and Eve were deceived. The serpent came to them and said “Did God say...” and THEN he said something that God DIDN’T say! He twisted God’s word and tempted them to think that God was keeping something from them.The crafty cunning of the enemy led them down a path of desiring something more than what God had given and assuming something about God that was not true. The primary lie that Satan comes to us with is that God is not who He really is. Though he is cunning and crafty he is not very creative. His temptation of us ALWAYS starts with the distortion of God’s Word and God’s character and he tempts us through deceit to believe that there is something greater for us than what God desires for us.  

  • Be renewed in the spirit of your minds.
    We must continually allow the Spirit to renew (to make new) our thoughts. Our actions begin in our spirits and with the thoughts of our minds and the intentions of our hearts. If there is to be an
    outward change in the way we walk - in how we PUT OFF our former way of living - there must first and continually be an inward renewal in our minds. This renewal begins in our spirits. Just as sin manifests itself in corrupt actions, salvation will manifest itself in redeemed and godly actions. We must have minds that are renewed! As Paul would tell those in Rome whom he would write to, we are TRANSFORMED by the renewing of our minds.  This re-forming of our spirits and minds enables us to know what God’s will is so that we can confidently go against the pattern of the world and not be like the world.
  • Put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.
    Again, WE HAVE THE POWER TO DO THIS. We are to put off the old man and PUT ON the new.
  • Therefore, because you having put away falsehood, (Again, referring to THE lie - the deceitful desires that were in our old Adamic nature) let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another.
    Another reference to dwelling in TRUTH and UNITY with our fellow redeemed brothers and sisters.
  • Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger and give no opportunity to the devil. Not only do we get good sound advice on Christian living but we see here that NOT following this advice opens us up to spiritual warfare! (About which he will go into much more detail much Chapter 6). We all get angry. Though our spirits have been made new, our bodies remain in a state of decay. We live in a body of flesh. We live in a fallen world. We will be angry. We will encounter injustice and we will be at war with our flesh. Paul essentially says "look, when that happens - when you become angry - DON’T SIN! And by all means, don’t STAY angry! Anger leads to bitterness and bitterness takes root in your heart." Most importantly here he tells us that DOING THIS GIVES THE ENEMY AMMUNITION AGAINST US! We learn from Ephesians thatthe spiritual forces in the heavenly realms” are very real and the war is in full swing. We have been ransomed from the kingdom of darkness but there’s a battle raging. Our enemy HAS ALREADY BEEN PRONOUNCED THE LOSER but he was prideful enough to think that He could ascend to God’s throne, he is prideful enough to think that he can drag us back to the pit! (He is WRONG but he is waging war nevertheless.) When we hold on to anger and bitterness, we strengthen his position against us. We must not let Paul’s warning about the spiritual world go unheeded: We give Satan an opportunity to attack us when we hold on to anger. DO NOT GIVE THE KINGDOM OF DARKNESS AN ADVANTAGE IN THE WAR!  
  • 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. I love that Paul’s admonition to honest and ethical work is tied to generosity. Taking from others generally leads to someone getting just enough for themselves. Working honestly allows one to have an abundance so that we can be a blessing to others.
  • 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. / 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. When Paul speaks of “corrupting talk” he is not only referring to words that are “unclean” but also to speech that is “unfit for use.” The Greek word is “sapros” which means “rotten, worthless, putrid” as in a vegetable that is overripe and good for nothing. Our words matter. Our inward thoughts matter. What are we saying to ourselves? What are we saying to others? Are our words life giving or are they rotten and useless? Do our words give grace? Do they build up and bring life? Or do they tear down, make dirty and kill? And do they fit the occasion? Remember - he told us earlier to put away falsehood and speak the truth. We are certainly to come against any heretical teaching about Christ but we are to do it IN LOVE and in a way that builds up the believer. I think this also is very practically applied to the media that we expose ourselves to. Are the things that we are watching, listening to and thinking about corrupting us? (Making our minds and our thoughts dark, rotten and dead?) Again, we don’t avoid these things so that God will love and approve us. We avoid speaking and listening to corrupt words BECAUSE we are loved by Christ and have a new nature!We are also told to PUT AWAY bitterness, clamor, wrath and anger and be KIND, TENDERHEARTED and FORGIVING - In the same measure that Christ forgave us. That’s a tall order but once again - we ARE capable of doing that BECAUSE Christ’s Spirit lives in us and we now have HIS nature.
  • Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.
    can cause deep emotional pain and distress to The Holy Spirit. As used here lupeo means “to afflict one with sorrow”. How do we grieve the Holy Spirit? I think the answer is found in the verse above. When we do not love Christ’s body, we grieve the Holy Spirit. When we use rotten, decaying, putrid and unkind words of death towards one another (or toward ourselves in our thoughts) we grieve The Holy Spirit. When we deny the glory of the power of the one who redeemed us, we grieve the Holy Spirit. We grieve the Holy Spirit by not forgiving, not being tender or kind. Also, as we saw in the verse above, in our grieving of the Holy Spirit (by holding onto anger) we give ammunition to the UNholy and UNgodly spiritual forces that are at war against us.

    Remember: The Holy Spirit has SEALED us and is our GUARANTEE that our Bridegroom IS COMING FOR US! We should be exceptionally loving and kind and thoughtful toward Him! If we can grieve Him by being unloving toward Christ’s body then the opposite must be true: We LOVE Him by LOVING the body of Christ. The Spirit is our “mark”, our seal, our “proof of purchase!” We grieve Him when we believe the lie, when we deceive others and ourselves and when we don’t walk in a way that is worthy of our calling.

    As we finish up Chapter 4, let us take this practical advice from the apostle seriously. We are to build ourselves (and one another) UP in the truth of the Gospel. By God’s Spirit and
    because of the atoning blood of Christ that has been applied to our account, we have a new nature and we are destined for an eternity of ruling and reigning with Christ. We are seated with Him in the heavenlies and BECAUSE OF THAT, we are to live a life worthy of this calling. We live this way not to earn God’s favor but because we have his favor. We have been given a new spirit and now we are charged with living according to or in light of that glorious truth. May we, through prayer and the study of His word, be transformed day by day into the likeness of the one who loved us gave Himself for us.

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