Part 23 of a series through the New Testament book of Ephesians
You can listen to this sermon here.
"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" (4:17-24).
In Ephesians 4:17-24, Paul says that for the Christian, there was an “old self,” and there is now a “new self.”
In 4:1 Paul said, “I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called.” Now in verse 17 he writes, “You must no longer walk as Gentiles do.” Our “walk” is our lifestyle. Paul is saying that the Ephesians should no longer live as they used to live.
Conversion should result in lifestyle transformation.
Christians have “put off [the] old self” (v. 22) and “put on the new self” (v. 24). The “old self” is who I was before my conversion. The “new self” is who I am after my conversion. My “new self” has a different “walk.”
The Old Self
The old self was “alienated from the life of God” (v. 18). The root cause of separation from God is “hardness of heart” (v. 18).
There isn’t a contradiction between verse 19 (“they have given themselves up”) and Romans 1:24 (“God gave them up”). “There are two stages: (1) people exercise their perversion of free will and give themselves over to sin, and (2) God’s response is then to give them over to the sin which will continue to enslave them” (Harold Hoehner, Ephesians: An Exegetical Commentary, p. 590).
The lifestyle of the old self is a lifestyle of futility, not freedom.
People who reject God “walk…in the futility of their minds” (v. 17). Paul says, “They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity” (v. 19).
The New Self
The new self has been “created after the likeness of God” (v. 24). Humanity was originally created after the likeness of God (Gen. 1:27). That likeness was distorted by the fall. But now “if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (2 Cor. 5:17). We “have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator” (Col. 3:10; cf. 1 Cor. 15:49).
The lifestyle of the new self is a lifestyle of reflecting God’s character.
Paul mentions two of God’s attributes that we are to reflect: his “righteousness and holiness” (v. 24). Why is it so important that we live out this new lifestyle? Here are three reasons: (1) reflecting God’s character brings glory to God; (2) reflecting God’s character is befitting of our calling (cf. 4:1); and (3) reflecting God’s character is beneficial to ourselves and others (cf. 4:18-32).
Living Like the New Self
It’s easy to fall back into bad habits regarding eating and exercising. The same is true in the spiritual realm.
Every Christian has the desire to live lives of righteousness and holiness. We have not become “callous.” But that doesn’t mean it’s not easy to fall back into the sinful habits of the old self.
When trying to lose weight, it helps to think of the outcome of your decisions. I hardly ever want to do an exercise workout, but I never regret doing it once I’m done. And most times I feel like eating a bag of potato chips, but I’m never happy about doing it once the chips are in my stomach.
As Christians, we need to constantly “be renewed in the spirit of [our] minds.” It helps to remind ourselves of the outcome of a lifestyle of righteousness and holiness: this lifestyle glory to God, it befits our calling, and it is beneficial to ourselves and others.
We always regret living like the old self. We never regret living like the new self. May you and I live lives that reflect God’s character.