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ES010. Ephesians 4:17-5:14

Ephesians  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  30:15
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Ephesians 4:17–5:14 NIV
17 So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. 18 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. 19 Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, and they are full of greed. 20 That, however, is not the way of life you learned 21 when you heard about Christ and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. 22 You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; 23 to be made new in the attitude of your minds; 24 and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. 25 Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbor, for we are all members of one body. 26 “In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, 27 and do not give the devil a foothold. 28 Anyone who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with their own hands, that they may have something to share with those in need. 29 Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. 32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. 1 Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children 2 and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. 3 But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. 4 Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving. 5 For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person—such a person is an idolater—has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. 6 Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God’s wrath comes on those who are disobedient. 7 Therefore do not be partners with them. 8 For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light 9 (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) 10 and find out what pleases the Lord. 11 Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. 12 It is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. 13 But everything exposed by the light becomes visible—and everything that is illuminated becomes a light. 14 This is why it is said: “Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.”
Today’s passage is separated into two parts which are verses
17-24 Putting off the old life and self
25-5:14: Putting on the new life.
Putting off the old life is about what we were before we were believers, well, allegedly.
We are no longer to live as the world does, hence the allegedly. We are no longer of the world therefore we should not think, act and speak as those of the world. Being a Christian should affect everything we are.
So, what does Paul mean when he says that the unbelievers’ minds are futile?
“It refers to the capacity to think, plan, and make moral judgments and lifestyle choices” (2010, 281) Brown, D. R., Custis, M., & Whitehead, M. M. (2013). Lexham Bible Guide: Ephesians. (D. Mangum, Ed.) (Eph 4:17). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.
Their minds are empty of anything worthwhile in things pertaining to God.
If our thinking about God is not right then the rest of our thinking cannot get aligned to think right about other things. The fact is, that Theology used to be called the Queen of Science. There was good reason for that because God is the author of creation and therefore what we can learn about creation in the various forms of science has, first, to give its nod to God. You’ve heard me say before that it is an illusion to say that ‘God and science’ or ‘the Christian religion and science’ are at odds with each other. Science exists because of God: He is the source of science. But our understanding of science, whether chemistry, physics and so on can only be properly understood if we put God in His right place. Put God below science as if He is a servant of it or ignore Him completely then your science is going to be based upon assumptions which would never be considered if God is understood to be the creator. These assumptions can only lead astray which then leads to the false assertion that God and science are at enmity, which is absurd.
This kind of reasoning leads to the futility of their minds and because of their ignorance of God or deliberate ignoring of Him it blinds also their hearts and they give themselves to sensuous living getting more and more depraved, as indeed we are seeing in our time. After all, if science is your god then you are just an animal anyway, why not behave as one! If God does not exist then let is eat, drink and be merry and do whatever else we want for there is no-one to answer to anyhow. We should not be surprised at what is happening in our nation and others. If there is no God there is no need for morals. I do not understand those who don’t believe in God and say they have a strong moral compass. Why bother at all? It is every person for themselves for it is survival of the fittest. Where do morals come from if God is not there? They have answers which do not stand up. Fools, they are indeed! Their moral compass comes from the very God they deny! And this was our state before we came to Christ ourselves. We were blind and ignorant but the light of the gospel shone through.
What is even more shameful is that we who know Christ should know better. The truth is in Jesus and we acknowledge this. We have learned the new way. The way we lived or perhaps still do needs to be left behind. We still do things we ought not being deceived and tempted by various lusts. How do lusts deceive? By making us those who are not contented with what we have. We are not satisfied. Do you know what this means? It means that we do not trust God to supply everything we need. We need to be renewed in our minds and the best way for that to happen is to know Scripture and to do it.
The Church is meant to be distinct, or peculiar as the King James puts it, not acting and behaving the same as the rest of the world. We are to stand out from the crowd. We are not of the world for this is the devil’s domain as we heard this morning. It is not only Paul who speaks of this but Peter too:
1 Peter 2:11–12 NKJV
Beloved, I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul, having your conduct honorable among the Gentiles, that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may, by your good works which they observe, glorify God in the day of visitation.
We are to put on the new man for we are new creations from the new birth for it is there that we are made righteous and holy.
How do we put on the new man?
Here, Paul gives us some practical points: stop lying, don’t let anger overcome you past the end of each day, don’t steal, be careful about your words but instead speak the truth, forgive, work to be able to give to others, and build others up in encouragement. Words easily corrupt us. Trump spoke some unguarded words with someone else on a bus when he thought no one was listening, the kind of banter that many of us have engaged in in the past. Are any of us truly guiltless in this matter? Are we speaking of others behind their back instead of kind words, the kind of things we want others to say about us. We are to forgive just as we have been forgiven. Bitterness will gnaw at our souls and destroy us if we let it and destroy others, too. Bitterness produces harsh and hard opinions of others. The opposite is to be tenderhearted. Putting on the new, then, is more to do with living the life of God who lives in us. This would seem to indicate that this is all about our effort but it is not - it is something done in us by the death of Christ…it is He who dresses us as the new man.
How is it possible to grieve/sadden/distress/sorrow the Holy Spirit?
Paul says that it is possible for us to grieve the Holy Spirit who lives in us and guarantees our redemption so that we genuinely belong to God. The Holy Spirit is not some force as found in Star Trek but He has a personality: He teaches, intercedes and speaks and can also be hurt by our actions and frustrated by our sin. We are to submit to His working in our life. We are being changed from the inside out. But let me note for those who are concerned that they have grieved the Holy Spirit. We all have. But He has stuck with us through thick and thin. We are still His. But let us not continue to grieve Him. Repent!
We are to imitators of God. We are to mimic Him. We are to imitate the Father and Christ in their love for each other. Why? Because we are the King’s kids. We are His beloved children and in the way that He has loved us we are also to love. In giving ourselves for God and for others we are making ourselves a sweet-smelling aroma to God. After all that He has done for us the last thing we want to smell of is rubbish. We can be imitators of God because we have Jesus to follow. The more we know Him the more we are able to be like Him.
In fact, Paul goes on to say that there are certain things that make us smell bad: sexual sin, coveting, foolish talk and so on. Paul says almost exactly the same thing in another of his letters:
Colossians 3:5–7 NKJV
Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. Because of these things the wrath of God is coming upon the sons of disobedience, in which you yourselves once walked when you lived in them.
Most of us, if not all, already accept that sexual behaviour outside of marriage is not right but what of these other words: what of covetousness? The desire to have the things that someone else has. Coveting is synonymous with greed. It is to be too earthly rather than heavenly minded. To covet is to crave for power and possessions. Is this a repeat of this morning’s sermon?! Is this something recognisable in us? Is this not the Western disease? Aren’t our political systems built on greed? Of course there are no worldly system that stands up to the scrutiny of God.

A story is told of a king who was suffering from a mysterious malady and was advised by his astrologer that he would be cured if the shirt of a contented man was brought for him to wear. People went out to all parts of the kingdom looking for such a person, and after a long search they found a man who was really happy. But he did not even possess a shirt.

But how caught up in the world are we? Paul says to be covetous is to be an idolater. We have put something else in the place of God. This is something we have to tear down from our hearts - or as Paul put in Colossians: Put it to death. Be content with what God has given you.
And what of our speech? This is hardly perfect yet for if we controlled our tongue we would be perfect. We have to watch our jokes and jesting and swearing and the answer to these is thankfulness, especially towards God and for each other.
When you go to God in confession and name the specific sin, it restores fellowship with Him. These sins are sins that believers drop into sometimes. When they do, they are to confess them to God.
Fenelon puts it like this:
Tell God all that is in your heart, as one unloads one’s heart, its pleasures and its pains, to a dear friend. Tell Him your troubles, that He may comfort you; tell Him your joys, that He may sober them; tell Him your longings, that He may purify them; tell Him your dislikes, that He may help you to conquer them; talk to Him of your temptations, that He may shield you from them; show Him the wounds of your heart, that He may heal them; lay bare your indifference to good, your depraved tastes for evil, your instability…(and so on…). If you thus pour out all your weaknesses, needs, troubles, there will be no lack of what to say. You will never exhaust the subject. It is continually being renewed.
[McGee, J. V. (1991)]
Once we have made our confession let us leave off doing the things we have told God about. We are to change. We have to change. We hear it said that once an addict always an addict or once a thief always a thief - but this is true of the world - but in Christ the truth sets us free.
Now we come to the contrast. Those who are still unbelievers, Scripture says, are darkness. Before we were Christians this was what we were. This is pretty stark. Most of the world is literally darkness. But when we came to faith in Christ we were transformed. We are no longer darkness; we are light. Just as Jesus is light of the world we, who have His Spirit living in us, are also light. Therefore, do not live in darkness but in the light. That is, walk in the light, in the doing of good, right and truthful things. As we get to understand God’s Word we will also discern what things are pleasing to the Lord. The Psalmist understood this:
Psalm 119:11 NKJV
Your word I have hidden in my heart, That I might not sin against You.
We do have to be clear about what is right and what is wrong. We live in a world where those lines are blurred. We are to condemn works of darkness. Notice we are not called to condemn people but what they do. And that also means what we do when it is not God’s standard. But there is only One who can condemn people and that is God however He is rich in mercy if they and we but come to Christ.
What do we take away from all this today?
We are called to a way of life that reflects God’s character imitating Him. All this in response to all that He has done for us. There are plenty of ways of how not to live especially in relation to sexual conduct, greed and the things we say. We are different and our lives should reveal this. We were darkness. Now, we are light. The old is gone. The new is come. Therefore allow God by His Spirit help us walk in the light. This will cause those who are unbelievers to be convicted and, who knows, may come to faith not only by our words but also by our practice. Amen.


2 Corinthians 5:17 NKJV
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.
Jude 24–25 NKJV
Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, And to present you faultless Before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy, To God our Savior, Who alone is wise, Be glory and majesty, Dominion and power, Both now and forever. Amen.


Boles, K. L. (1993). Galatians & Ephesians. Joplin, MO: College Press.
Brown, D. R., Custis, M., & Whitehead, M. M. (2013). Lexham Bible Guide: Ephesians. (D. Mangum, Ed.). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.
Lincoln, A. T. (1990). Ephesians (Vol. 42). Dallas: Word, Incorporated.
McGee, J. V. (1991). Thru the Bible commentary: The Epistles (Ephesians) (electronic ed., Vol. 47). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.
Muddiman, J. (2001). The Epistle to the Ephesians. London: Continuum.
Scofield, C. I. (Ed.). (1917). The Scofield Reference Bible: The Holy Bible Containing the Old and New Testaments. New York; London; Toronto; Melbourne; Bombay: Oxford University Press.
Exported from Logos Bible Software, 13:59 11 March 2017.
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