Monday, May 19, 2014

The Life of the Body, pt. 1

In the first part of Ephesians 4, we see an anatomy of the body of Christ (aka the Church). In the second
part of Ephesians 4, we see a glimpse of what the life of this body looks like.

In verses 17-24, believers are collectively called to a new way of life. There are three key aspects to this new way of life...

Put off the Old Self

In verse 22, Paul urges the Ephesians "to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires."

You are now children of the Most High - so cast off the filthy clothes of a slave! You were the walking dead,  spiritual zombies mindlessly following the desires of the sinful nature, but now you are alive in Christ - so rid yourselves of any trace of that old rotting flesh! You were godless pagans, but now you are in Christ - continuing in that old lifestyle is not even an option! And here is ammo in the war against sin: when temptation holds out the carrot of sinful pleasures, remind yourself that those sinful desires can never satisfy. They are attempting deceive you, and you no longer have ignorance as an excuse.

Put on the New Self

In verse 24, Paul instructs the Ephesians to "put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness."

God is transforming us into his masterpieces, created to do the good works he's prepared for us to do. So we need to get after it and live in a manner worthy of our calling: a life of righteousness (right relationship to God and others) and holiness (a lifestyle set apart to God)! Note that it's not enough to merely rid ourselves of the old way of life; we must replace the bad with something good. And also note that here we catch a glimpse of the ultimate triumph of God in our redemption: just as we were originally created in his image and likeness before we marred that through the Fall, so we are being restored to his likeness through Christ. In other words, God wins!

Be Renewed in the Spirit of Your Minds

In between these the "put off" and the "put on," Paul tells the Ephesians "to be renewed in the spirit of your minds."

This really is the crux of the matter, without which the other two easily become moralism and/or legalism. While "put off" and "put on" are actions we carry out, "be renewed" is something that happens to us. See, the instruction of verses 22 and 24 is worthless if divorced from the gospel truths that have preceded this point in the letter. We are renewed in the spirit of our minds as the Spirit of God applies the reality of the gospel to our lives. That is why we must continually steep our souls in the depths of the gospel, not just in our personal devotion, but also in community as we "speak the truth in love" to one another and so build up the body of Christ (see verses 15-16 in this same passage, and also note that he says "minds" plural, i.e. all of you together being renewed). And as we are renewed in our minds by the gospel, we see and hate every vestige of the old self that was dead in trespasses and sins, and we eagerly embrace the new life we have been given in Christ as we seek to imitate God and become conduits of the love and grace he's lavished on us.

In part two we'll look at some specific examples from verses 25-32 of what it looks like to "put off" old self behaviors and "put on" new self behaviors as the gospel renews the body of Christ.

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