Faithlife Sermons

Ephesians 4:17-32

Ephesians  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  31:06
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Good morning everyone, and to anyone watching or listening online good morning to you as well! Last week we began to look at chapter 4 of Ephesians and we saw a couple important things within the passage. We saw how our individual life, our individual walk, affects the unity of believers. We are supposed to live our life worthy of Christ’s calling on our lives, which means to be humble, gentle, patient, bear with one another in love, and keep the unity of the Spirit through peace. Paul then explained how we should have unity in our ministry, as each one of us has a role to play in sharing the gospel, and finally how we have unity in our growth. As a church body we grow together in spiritual maturity.
Paul goes on with the practical application of how Jesus changes the way we live our lives in the rest of the chapter. The first part of chapter four describes the believers relationship to the church, but in our section for this morning, Paul is going to talk about the believer’s relationship with the world. This morning we are going to be reading from Ephesians 4:17-32 so if you have your Bibles, go ahead and open them. We will read our passage then spend some time in prayer asking God to be our teacher.

Ephesians 4:17-32



Just a few weeks ago there were some big award shows going on. (I’m not sure what they were, because I don’t watch them) But one thing that happens at all of these award shows, whether it is for movies or music, is the running commentary that happens on what the people are wearing. Who made this person’s dress or suit, how much does it cost, does it look good… The conversation about these outfits goes on for quite some time. But fashion and clothing isn’t only talked about when it comes to famous people. For all of us, there is a part of our day where we have to decide what we are going to wear. And eventually, when clothes no longer fit or they get enough tears and holes in them, we have to get new clothing. Getting clothes is a bit of an exciting experience for some people. We’ve all seen ads or shows where someone gets a new outfit, maybe their hair done, and they look like a totally different person. We see that and want some part of that for ourselves at times. I remember when we would go shopping for clothes before a new school year and it always felt like a big deal. What kind of clothes am I going to wear? How will what I wear affect my school year? (It never did, but it sure felt like an important decision.)


However, there is still something about putting on a new outfit. It feels good, it has this ability to improve our mood for some reason. Our passage here in chapter four talks about putting on the new self. As believers, we have this divine outfit, if you will, that will really change your life. It changes your life more than what a new suit or dress can, more than a new outfit for school. We have this divine outfit that we can begin to wear now that will never go out of style. Clothing that is this heavenly, eternal style. Paul instructs us on what we need to remove from our selves and what we need to put on in order to be properly dressed.

Ephesians 4:17-24

Ephesians 4:17–24 NIV
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. 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. 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. That, however, is not the way of life you learned when you heard about Christ and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. 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; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.

Don’t Live Like Unbelievers

Paul describes what the old wardrobe used to look like before the people were believers, how they used to live before Christ. It is not the most pleasant description, but it consists of four parts. It begins with a hardening of the heart. The Greek word that Paul uses here for hardening comes from the root Greek word “poros” which meant “a stone harder than marble.” This is where we get the term, “a heart of stone.” In our passage then, Paul is using it to describe people’s inability and unwillingness to respond to the truth of Jesus. From this hardening of the heart comes darkness. This is darkness in terms of spiritual understanding. Before Jesus we lived our lives in the dark, we were lost to our sin, lost in darkness. It makes sense then, that the people should not go back to living how they used to live. They used to live in darkness, they used to be trapped within their sin, so stop living like that. Instead, live in the light of life that comes from Jesus. Living in their old ways also meant that they were living in death. Verse 18 tells us that living this way meant they were separated from the life of God. This separation is what makes sin a harsh reality for our world. When we live separate from God we are living according to death, to sin. The last part of the former way of living is recklessness. When hearts are hardened, when they are in darkness, and in death, recklessness begins. We give ourselves over to our sinful selves and do whatever, whenever we want despite if it is sin. This doesn’t paint a great view of ourselves or our world, but it isn’t the end of what Paul is talking about. Paul goes on and presents what this new kind of life should like like in Christ. He presents our new outfit, our new self.

Instead, Live according to What You Have Been Taught

“That, however, is not the way of life you learned when you heard about Christ and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus.” Notice what Paul is reminded the people. He isn’t saying “Remember how you were taught to love one another, or to be good people.” He reminds them and us a key truth about our faith. Christianity isn’t about learning morals. The goal of Christianity is not to be a good person, it is not to just learn morals and good vs right. The goal and purpose of Christianity is to know a person, is to know Jesus. Remember when you learned about Jesus, remember what you were taught about him. This is then were we get this kind of “change your clothing” idea from the passage. Put off your old self. That old version of you, before you knew Christ, get rid of it, take it off. If your clothes were covered in mud and all kinds of nastiness you wouldn’t stay in them. In the same way then, you wouldn’t continue to wear your old self that Paul described earlier. Paul challenges all of us to put off this old style of life. Now, scripture and life experiences point out to us that we will never be absolutely perfect in this. It isn’t like one day we wake up, put on our Christian self, and then go out into the world and never fall into sin again. No, it is a constant process, something that must be examined on a regular basis.
And you know one truth about old clothes, it is that they are comfortable. I have an old shirt of my grandpa, this great Cub’s one, but almost every time I wear it Amy asks me the same question. “Why on earth do you still wear that?” Now, I could say that it is purely for sentimental reasons, but if that was the case I could do something else with the shirt, frame it, make it a or pillow case. I don’t do that though. You know why? Because it is one of the most comfortable shirts that I own. Our old self, our sinful ways, we can get so used to them that they become the more comfortable option. This is why we have to routinely examine our hearts. Some of our old self might still be in our life, but we refuse to acknowledge it because it is more comfortable, it is easier to continue on with it.
In between taking off the old self and putting on the new self we read that we are supposed to “be made new in the attitude of your minds.” This happens first and foremost when we recognize who Jesus is. We cannot, on our own, make ourselves have this new attitude. But because of what we have been taught and what we have heard about Jesus, our attitude is able to be made new. This also isn’t a one time fix though. We continually have this new attitude when we spend time in God’s word and asking the Holy Spirit to bring about constant renewal within us. Why do we read scripture in the service? Why do we read it throughout the sermon? Because God’s word speaks to us, it molds us, shapes us, renews us. God’s word continues to transform our mind. Paul then tells us to put on our new self which is created to be like God in righteousness and holiness. Going back to the illustration of clothing, if you are told to take off your dirty clothes and put on clean ones, what are the steps involved? First you have to take off the dirty clothes right. Easy. Simple. But then you have to put clean clothes on. This is where I think it is easy for us to get stuck. We’re told to take off the old self, we don’t want to live in our sin. However, we forget to put on the new self. We think, “Well, I’m not habitually lying anymore, I don’t say mean things to people, I don’t look at things online that I know I shouldn’t, I’m good.” Those are part of the new self yes, but not completely. We aren’t just called to take off the old, we are called to put on the new. And we see some of what the new self looks like in the last part of chapter four.

Ephesians 4:25-32

Ephesians 4:25–32 NIV
Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbor, for we are all members of one body. “In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold. 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. 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. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

Putting on the New Self

Once again, we see the use of the word “therefore.” Therefore, here is how we can put on the new self, here is a sampling of what a transformed life looks like.
Speak truthfully
First, we are supposed to speak truthfully. Chances are we know this, we know we are supposed to lie, we aren’t supposed to gossip and spread rumors, yet still, if we are honest with ourselves, we all continue to do it. Like putting off the old self, putting on the new self is a reoccurring process. Each day we should seek to speak truthfully to one another. Speaking truthfully applies to all areas of our lives. Speaking truthfully sets us apart from others, even in the little lies that we might get comfortable saying, we should be different in how we speak to others.
Do not sin in anger
Second, we are told to not sin in our anger. Paul doesn’t say that anger is a sin here, there are going to be times in life when we get angry. Sometimes it might be over small silly things, but other times it might be more important parts of life. But, whatever the reason behind the anger, we are told to not sin because of it. In our anger we often do things, we say things, that do not reflect this new self, that do not reflect a life changed by Christ. It is important then, that we think when we are angry. Stop, think about what is making you angry and then respond in a way that is without sin. We even see that anger should not last within our hearts. “Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry.” Even when we are angry, don’t let it consume you, don’t let it be what you fall asleep thinking about.
Share with those in need
Third, share with others in need. This comes along with the command that we should already know of not stealing. If we are able to work, if we have something that can help others, we are supposed to share with them. We aren’t supposed to just hoard money and things to ourselves, we are supposed to share with others who are in need, others who need a helping hand. If you find that you are not in need, if you have plenty, count it as a blessing from God and then use that blessing to be a blessing to others.
Build others up
Fourth, Paul tells us to not let unwholesome talk come out of our mouths, instead, only speak what is helpful for building others up. Just like the first point, we see that our words can cause harm in our lives. Do you use your words more for tearing people down or for building them up? I think this is easy to implement in our lives with people we get along with, but how about with those we have trouble getting along with? How do you use your words with people who you disagree with? How do you speak of others that you have difficulty with when they aren’t around? Our words can show us what is within our hearts, and all of us likely have a problem with this. As followers of Jesus our words should be different.
Do not grieve the Holy Spirit
Fifth, we are to not grieve the Holy Spirit. What exactly does this mean? First, we have to know that the Holy Spirit is a person of the Trinity, it is who lives within believers of Christ. The Holy Spirit is a divine being who is fully personal. This is what makes it possible for us to grieve the Holy Spirit. Like the other persons of the Trinity, the Father and Son, the Spirit loves us intensely. A believer doesn’t willingly grieve the Holy Spirit because our hearts are drawn to him. But we grieve the Spirit when we sin in our lives. Like a parent doesn’t want their child to make poor choices, so the Spirit desires for us to live according to this new self.
Be kind and compassionate
Sixth, we are told to be kind and compassionate as part of our new self. Part of this is when we get rid of all “bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.” It is rather hard to be kind and compassionate if we are hanging on to bitterness, anger, and all of these other harmful things. Holding on to those limit our ability to be kind and compassionate, which in turn limit how we are putting on our new self. Our world, our communities, need us to be kind and compassionate. So often people aren’t treated kindly and compassionately, and if you don’t believe me just scroll online through social media. Part of the new self means that we show kindness and compassion where the rest of the world won’t.
Forgive each other
Finally, we are told to forgive one another as God forgave us. Notice how radical our forgiveness ought to be. We are supposed to forgive as God forgives. We often will forgive people for small grievances, but in other circumstances we refuse to forgive. Where in your life have you refused to forgive someone? I’m not saying that forgiveness is easy or that forgiveness takes away the sin of what someone might have done to you. But we are called to forgive radically. To forgive as much as God forgave us. If God can forgive us, sinners who are lost in the darkness, sinners who willingly go against him, then we ought to forgive one another. We don’t forgive out of our own capacity for forgiveness, but out of God’s capacity.


This week then, each day as you get dressed, remember how you have been called to put on your new self. Reflect on how you might be tempted to stay living as your old self and instead seek out the new self that is possible through Jesus.


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