Welcome to Expositing Ephesians

THIS BLOG IS DEDICATED to one of the chief passions of my life and ministry, The Epistle of Paul to the Ephesians. I believe this epistle is at the very core of the Christian life. I spent years in the study of it and then three and one half years expositing it from my pulpit. I hope this blog will be a blessing to you as I share that exposition. I also hope you will tell others about this blog. Please check for new posts each Monday .

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Taking Off Stealing to Put On Laboring (3)

Concluding Paul’s challenge in Ephesians 4:28—Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labour, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth—having considered the negative consideration, we now see the positive.

First, notice that a man must labour, working with his hands. How amazing the Word of God is! In a single statement, Paul addresses issues that plague society 2,000 years later.

The “get rich quick” mentality—winning the lottery, the latest system for buying real-estate, the newest “pyramid scheme”—is not the mentality of the New Man. There’s certainly nothing wrong with riches, for it’s only “the LOVE of money [that] is the root of all evil” (I Tim. 6:10, emphasis added), not money itself. And it is, indeed, this love of money that drives the “get rich quick” mentality.

In contrast, the mentality of the New Man is that he “labors” and “works.” Labour is kopiao, which speaks of “exertion and toil,” “the process of becoming tired,” and the “consequent fatigue and exhaustion.” Peter used this word, for example, when he told the Lord that he and his companions “toiled” all night fishing and had caught nothing (Lk. 5.5). It’s also used of the duty of a pastor to study the Word of God: “Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honour, especially they who labour in the word and doctrine” (I Tim. 5:17). In contrast to today’s tendency to stay out of the “Pastor’s Study,” Paul makes it clear that the responsibility of a pastor is to exhaust himself in the study of the Word of God.

 Working (ergazomai) speaks of work in general, such as working “in a field (Matt. 21:28) or at a trade (Acts 18:3),” or even “to do business” (Matt. 26:16).” Not only are we working to the point of exhaustion, but we’re doing it systematically, doing it every day in our field, trade, or business.

At the very foundation of society is the necessity of work. Even before the fall, man was required to work (Gen. 2:15), which then became even more necessary, and much more difficult, after the fall (3:17-19). So foundational is work that Paul told the Thessalonians that “if any would not work, neither should he eat” (I Thess. 3:10). Every Jewish rabbi was taught a trade, for as the rabbis said, “If you do not teach your son a trade, you teach him to be a thief.” As always, Jesus is our model—He was carpenter. What a principle that is in our day when so many people have no work ethic, when many young people are not being taught how to work.

Indeed, the concepts of “entitlements” and “welfare” were creations of political Liberalism, which is by definition Socialism, “the redistribution of wealth.” There are certainly cases when people need help, such as I Corinthians 16:1-3, where the needs of people in the Jerusalem church were met by the Believers in the churches in Galatia, but the welfare system in our society is horribly abused. People who work support millions who can but won’t. Not only does Scripture declare it, but even common sense tells us that if a man can work, he works, or he does not eat. Biblical principles always have practical reasons.

Second, Paul says that a man’s labour must be good. A Christian must work at a job that is honest and God-honoring and cannot work anyplace where he must violate God’s commands. This would include anything from doing something dishonest to an employer who demands that a Christian working on Sunday was the rule instead of the exception.

Third, and most important, Paul’s main thrust is that we work in order that we may have to give to him that needeth, that we can give to others. Oh, that Christians would see this! Humanism says we work to get; God says we work to give. This includes not only giving to our families, but it goes much further. It involves giving to God and giving to other Believers. It’s easy for Christians to be drawn into the world’s philosophy: “Let the insurance company take care of it,” or, “Let the government do it.” But such attitudes contribute not only to the decaying of our society but to Christianity. Instead of ministering to other believers, we shift the responsibility and thereby not only disobey God but also contribute to growing Socialism. Christians should be concerned about the needs and burdens of fellow Christians. If we see a need, we should do what we can to help meet that need. Sometimes it might not be much, but God will use it.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Taking Off Stealing to Put On Laboring (2)

Continuing Paul’s challenge in Ephesians 4:28—Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labour, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth—how often do we steal from God? There are two basic ways we do this.

We first steal money from Him. Unlike the Old Testament practice of “tithing” (ten percent), the New Testament nowhere speaks of it. In dramatic contrast, I Corinthians 16:2 declares that the basis of giving our financial support is: “Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him, that there be no gatherings when I come” (emphasis added).

While voluntary giving was practiced in the Old Testament (see Ex. 25:1-2; 35:5, 21; Prov. 3:9-10; 11:24), tithing was demanded because it was this that paid for the operation of Israel’s government. In fact, the prophet Malachi condemned the people for their failure to pay these “taxes” that supported the Levites who ran the nation. Tithing, then, had nothing to do with “giving,” which implies freewill offering, rather it was required payment.

Obviously, then, tithing is nowhere New Testament. Just as the Israelites gave “tithes” to support the Divinely ordained government under which they lived, we today are required to pay taxes (Rom. 13:6). While we are sometimes appalled at what our tax money pays for, we are to pay it anyway. As corrupt and perverted as the Roman Empire was, our Lord still commanded, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s” (Mk. 12:17).  So in I Corinthians 16:2, no longer is stewardship based upon demand; it’s based upon grace.

Briefly, such “grace giving” involves four things. First, realize that 100% belongs to God. He has entrusted us with all we possess and will hold us accountable for how we use it. Second, weigh how much you give against how much you keep for yourself. There is nothing wrong with buying things, but often we confuse needs, wants, and indulgences. Third, don’t “give to get.” Many today are teaching a philosophy of prosperity that says if you give to God, He will bless you materially. Old Testament Jews were promised material blessing, but no such promise is made to New Testament believers. Fourth, give as the Spirit urges you. This does not mean giving out of impulse or emotion, rather through prayer and Holy Spirit urging give as God has prospered.

I once read a book (by an unfortunately obscure author) in which the author told of a tract that came into his hands. On the cover of the tract was an illustration similar to a pie. A thin slice of the pie, which represented ten percent of it, was labeled, “10% for God.” The remainder of the pie was labeled, “90% for yourself.” In the author’s own words: “I simply cannot express the loathing in my heart to this legalistic and loveless lie. Nowhere are Christians taught that they can discharge their stewardship on such a basis. If I am God’s, then all that is put in my hands is God’s! Does it startle some of you to learn that God is going to make His stewards give an account of 100% of all that He gives them? I urge ministers and teachers to forsake Old Testament ground and start teaching New Testament doctrine relative to stewardship” (Edward Tracy, Babylon The Great Is Fallen, Is Fallen [published by the author in San Francisco, California, 1960], p. 81).

Dear Christian, God wants us to give as He has prospered us, to give according to the grace He has shown toward us.

A second area in which we steal from God is time. All our time belongs to God. Like everything else (money, possessions, children, etc.) God has made us stewards of time. In our study of Ephesians 5:15-17 we will learn that one of the characteristics of true wisdom is “redeeming time,” that is, using time wisely and advantageously. We are to use our time to glorify God. How unfaithful we are in their attendance to the local church, in our daily witness of Christ, and in our service to others. This is no more and no less than stealing from God!

Monday, December 1, 2014

Taking Off Stealing to Put On Laboring (1)

Ephesians 4:28 declares, Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labour, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth. Here is the third of five sins that can easily creep back into the Christian’s life.

The negative consideration is found in the words, Let him that stole steal no more. The Greek behind both stole and steal is klepto (English, “kleptomania”) and “emphasizes the secrecy, craft, and cheating involved in the act of stealing” (in contrast, lestes “includes the element of violence”). In other words, it’s not armed robbery, rather burglary.

At first this might seem to be an odd admonition; after all, would a Christian secretly steal? Well, Paul’s admonition must again be viewed in light of the society of that day. As commentator Albert Barnes points out, “Theft, like lying, was, and is, almost a universal vice among the heathen . . . Hence as the Christian converts at Ephesus had been long addicted to it, there was danger that they would fall into it again.” William Barclay adds that theft was rampant in that day and most “common in two places, the docks and above all in the public baths. The public baths were the clubs of the time; and stealing the belongings of the bathers was one of the commonest crimes in any Greek city.”

Additionally, many believers then were slaves. Since slaves were often not well cared for, a lot of pilfering from the master went on. In fact, Paul wrote Titus and told him to admonish Christian slaves not to “purloin” (2:9-10). The Greek (nosphizomai) was applied by ancient Greek writers to the embezzlement of public treasures, and therefore means “to embezzle, keep back something which belongs to another.” This is the word used for Ananias and Sapphira when they “kept back part of the price” of what they sold after they said they would give it all. Some modern translations render it “pilfer” (NASB, RSV), but that doesn’t quite capture the original as well as “purloin,” “to appropriate wrongfully and often by a breach of trust” (Webster).

Citizens of that day, however, not just slaves, practiced petty theft because it was not wholly condemned by popular opinion. The attitude then was much like that of today that says, “Everybody does it,” or “It’s all right as long as you don’t get caught,” or, “They have plenty and won’t miss a little.”

Of course, we’re all aware of what blatant theft is. Our society is full of robbery, burglary, shop-lifting, embezzlement, and the like. In the mid 1990s, the U.S. Commerce Department reported some astounding figures concerning shoplifting. About four million people are caught shoplifting each year, but it is estimated that for every person caught, 35 go undetected. If the estimates are accurate it means that 140 million shoplifting incidents occur. The result is that shoplifting tends to raise prices. Additionally, thefts from hotels and motels reached 500 million dollars a year. Hotel managers count on one of every three guests stealing something. In a recent year, 4,600 Bibles were lifted from New York City hotel rooms.

Certainly no Christian would be guilty of these—or would he? Think a moment of things that few people define as stealing: employees pilfering items from the company, reporting more hours than were actually worked, “hiding” during working hours to avoid work, not paying a debt that is owed, an employer not paying someone fair wages, a false insurance claim, overestimating when bidding on the cost of a certain job, jacking up the price of a repair or service because the insurance company will pay for it, and keeping what a sales clerk overpays you in change. All of that is stealing!

We should also ask, “How often do we steal from God?” We’ll consider that next time.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Taking Off Unrighteous Vengeance to Put On Righteous Anger (2)

Considering again Ephesians 4:26-27—Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath: Neither give place to the devil—the New Testament speaks first of righteous anger.

Second, the New Testament also speaks of unrighteous anger. Paul adds another imperative, and sin not, which provide us with a check and a restraint, a test to show whether our anger is truly righteous. When is anger sin? Obviously, anger is sin when our anger is not directed at things that are sin against God. In short: Sinful anger is when our anger is motivated out of personal reasons, that is, when someone has offended us, not God.

How often is our anger selfish instead of Godly? How often do we get angry because we have been wronged instead of getting angry because God’s Word has been violated? Even if someone’s action is itself sinful, we also sin if our anger is motivated out of self, if it is motivated out of personal offense or “hurt feelings?”

And what horrendous destruction comes as a result of personally motivated anger! The story is told of a women who tried to defend her bad temper by saying to preacher Billy Sunday, “Although I blow up over the least little thing, it’s all over in a minute,” to which Sunday replied, “So is a shotgun blast! It’s over in seconds, too, but look at the terrible damage it can do.” Consider the results of so-called “crimes of passion,” where out of momentary anger someone is stabbed, shot, or just defamed by words.

The famous 1st Century B.C. Roman poet Horace wrote, “Anger is momentary insanity” (Epistolae). How true! “Insanity” is a loss of mental capacity and reason, and that is what uncontrolled anger is. That is not how the Christian is to live. The Christian doesn’t go insane, doesn’t “get stupid,” doesn’t fly off the handle, doesn’t “lose it,” doesn’t get enraged over the least little thing. When there is anger, it is for the right reason and is controlled.

This leads us to the positive consideration, that is, the deeper motive, namely: let not the sun go down upon your wrath. The word wrath comes from the Greek parorgismos, meaning embitterment or personal resentment. even righteous anger can degenerate, so Paul added this admonition. Kept too long, even righteous anger against sin can turn into resentment toward the person. It, therefore, must be dealt with before the sun [goes] down; that is, don’t take it to bed with you, deal with it, get it resolved. Again, be angry at the sin but don’t resent the person. Why? Because when we have resentment for someone, we cannot then be of help to them. Yes, we get angry at their sin, but our goal should be to bring them back to what is right by being a witness to them.

Why, then, must we not allow unrighteous anger? Because it will give place to the Devil. The Greek for give place exactly is another Present Imperative, a command. Give is didōmi, a common word found 416 times in the New Testament and means “to give of one’s own accord and with good will.” Luke records the words of our Lord when he said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35). The idea, then, is to say, “Here you go. I’m happy to give this to you. Take it. All power to you.”

Place, then, is topos (English, “topography”), which when used literally refers to “any portion of space marked off from the surrounding territory,” such as a spot, space, or room. Used figuratively, it speaks of an “opportunity, power, [or] occasion for acting.”

Finally, the Devil is tō diabolō, which because of the definitive article (the) refers specifically to “Satan, the great accuser, the prince of the demons or fallen angels, who is the great opposer of God and seducer of men, against whose schemes we are commanded to be constantly on our guard” (Charles Hodge).

So Paul is telling us that nothing gives the Devil a quicker foothold in our lives than anger, and we must, therefore, never give him any space to work, any room to maneuver, any opportunity to take advantage of our anger. It’s a medical fact that anger blinds a person’s mind; it obliterates a person’s judgment and rational thinking so he will do things he would not normally do. When anger comes, it opens the door to Satan and gives him an opportunity to work, and nothing opens the door faster or wider. Again, we can look at society today and see the devastation that has been caused by anger running amuck with “crimes of passion,” “road rage,” and the like. It’s far more tragic when such anger is allowed into the life of the Christian and into the Body of Christ.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Taking Off Unrighteous Vengeance to Put On Righteous Anger (1)

In Ephesians 4:26-27, the Apostle Paul writes, Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath: Neither give place to the devil. Next to lying (v. 25), unrighteous anger is the most prevalent sin in human behavior. The human nature is, if nothing else, a volatile thing. There are those exceptional people who seem not to get angry no matter what. Most of us, however, have a breaking point. In my own younger days, I had a problem with anger, which God worked on through His Word. To understand anger, we must look at two things that are brought out in our text.

First, the New Testament speaks of righteous anger. There are those who believe and teach that spiritual behavior demands that we suppress all anger, that all anger is sin. As almost all commentators recognize, however, the text clearly does not say not to be angry at all. If Paul that’s what wanted to say, surely he would have just written, “Never get angry.” Rather, what he says is, “In your anger, don’t sin.” In fact, the clause be ye angry is a Present Imperative in the Greek, that is, a command to be continuously angry. That, of course, doesn’t mean we go through life always angry, rather there will be times throughout life that we are to get angry.

May we also interject that one reason for the teaching that we must never be angry is no doubt due to today’s “touchy-feely,” syrupy sentimentality and false love that comes from liberal teaching. It’s really nothing but a resurrection of the philosophy of the ancient Stoics (300 B.C.), who condemned all anger because they believed that man should live rationally and in harmony with nature, and we hear the same nonsense from the New Agers and mystics.

Such teaching must in the end conclude that we aren’t even to get angry at sin. We submit, however, that there’s something dreadfully wrong with any Christian who is not angered at the some one-and-a-half million babies that are slaughtered in their mother’s own womb every year in America. There’s something terribly awry with “Christian” leaders who are not righteously indignant with the compromises that are being made to the Gospel and the wholesale abandonment of absolute Truth. As beloved J. Vernon McGee puts it, “No believer can be neutral in the battle of truth.” Amen! Tragically, however, some believers are actually on the wrong side these days as they refuse to “earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints” (Jude 3).

What, then, is Paul saying? He is telling us that there is an anger that is settled and right. Just as not all sex is sinful, but only the wrong kind (that which is outside of marriage), likewise only the wrong kind of anger is sinful.

So what kind of anger is right?—righteous anger. Simply put: Righteous anger is a settled state of mind in which there is an indignation and hatred of that which is offensive to and sinful against God and a desire for God’s justice. No, we do not seek revenge, for, “Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord” (Rom. 12:19); rather we are commanded to a continuous, enduring anger against sin and look forward to God dealing with sin in His judgment. The Christian can, and should, get angry at immorality, ungodliness, apostasy, disobedience, unfaithfulness, rebellion, unyieldedness, and all other sin against God’s will and commands. While we certainly are to be concerned for the sinner, and will witness to him concerning coming wrath, at the same time we look forward to God’s judgment on those who reject His Word and blaspheme His name.

One Greek authority offers a tantalizing consideration. He says that it is quite possible that the thought here in our text is that our anger is actually “to be understood as participation in the anger of God.” In essence, then, “our” anger is not really ours, but God’s. What a challenge! Let us each ask ourselves, “Do I get angry at the same things at which God is angered?” All sin is sin against God, as David realized in Psalm 51:4—“Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight”—so sin should, indeed, anger us.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Taking Off Lying to Put On Truth (6)

Continuing our examination of Ephesians 4:25 to take off lying to put on truth, why do we shun lying and desire Truth? For three reasons. First, lying brings the judgment of God. Second, we shun lying because Truth is the most foundational principle of Christianity.

Third, there is a superlative reason we shun lying. An even deeper motive for speaking the truth is that all believers are members of the same body. Here is a fascinating picture! As Paul has emphasized many times in Ephesians, he again gives us the picture of a body.

To illustrate, our eyes do not deliberately try to deceive the brain but try to send truthful information, that is, the way things really are, which is what Truth means. The brain, for example, does not deliberately try to deceive the feet into walking in the wrong direction or the hand to pick up a red hot iron. In short, if our body parts were constantly lying to one another, our body would soon destroy itself.

Paul’s point, then, is simply this: lying is diametrically opposed to the doctrine of the Church. The Church, whether the universal Church or a local church, is a body, and a body must have unity and harmony. But how can there be unity and harmony without honesty? Oh, may we please realize that a lie damages the whole body. When a Christian exaggerates, cheats, betrays a confidence, makes an excuse, or just tells an outright whopper to cover up his sin, he (or she) hurts all the members of the Body of Christ. There is no such thing as “a little white lie” because every lie hurts the body as a whole.

As commentator Kent Hughes writes: “A lie is a stab into the very vitals of the Body of Christ. This is so because a lie is a sable shaft from the kingdom of darkness . . . There is no place in the Christian ethic for the well-intentioned lie. In the moral behavior which Christ inspires, the end never justifies the means.”

Notice the word neighbor. The Greek (plēsion) refers to one standing near, a neighbor, a fellow man. While the context obviously shows that Paul is talking about fellow Christians, Scripture also teaches the deeper principle that a neighbor is anyone near to us, a fellow-man of any creed or nation, and even our enemies, as our Lord made clear in Matthew 5:43-44 and in the Parable of the Good Samaritan. Truth, then, must characterize our dealings with every individual, whether Christian or non-Christian.

So, Paul tells us to speak every man truth because mutual trust is absolutely necessary for fellowship, and because of this trust we can speak openly with one another.

Lying is indeed the easiest thing in the world to do. During the weeks I was preaching these messages on the New Life, I ironically encountered a sales clerk at Wal-Mart whose name is Alethea. I did a double-take when I read her nametag, so I asked her, “Did you know that your name is the Greek word for truth?” With a smile, she answered, “Yes, and sometimes it’s very hard to live up to.” Indeed it is.

So the Christian “puts off the garment of lying” and “puts on the garment of truth.” The reason a lie is despicable is because it’s a perversion of Truth. God created Truth, but when we lie we are trying to turn falsehood into Truth. How ugly that is! Dear Christian, the next time you are tempted to tell a lie, which might be in the next few hours or even minutes from now, just stop and think about how despicable a thing it really is. And may we always be aware of the subtle forms that lying takes. May we truly [put] away lying, for when we do all that is left is Truth, and that must be our sole desire.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Taking Off Lying to Put On Truth (5)

Having taken a close look at the negative, let us turn to the positive. Paul goes much deeper than just “thou shalt not lie” in Ephesians 4:25: Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbour: for we are members one of another. Rather, he here (and in the other four sins he lists) gives a deeper motive. What a challenge this is to parents, pastors, and all leaders. Teaching motives is much more valuable than teaching commandments. Why doesn’t God want us to lie? Why do we shun lying and desire Truth? For three reasons.

First, lying brings the judgment of God. This is not only graphically demonstrated in Jeremiah 5, but Scripture makes it clear that liars are condemned. Speaking of the glories of Heaven, Revelation 21:27 declares, “And there shall in no wise enter into it any thing that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie: but they which are written in the Lamb’s book of life.” Likewise, speaking of the New Jerusalem, Revelation 22:15 says, “For without are dogs, and sorcerers, and whoremongers, and murderers, and idolaters, and whosoever loveth and maketh a lie.” Who are under God’s condemnation? Those whose life is patterned after sin, of which lying is a chief pattern. It’s just that simple; liars are on the same level as the most heinous of sinners and not part of God’s Kingdom. What is their end? “But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death” (21:8).

Second, we shun lying because Truth is the most foundational principle of Christianity. As we carefully examined way back in Ephesians 1:13, Truth (alētheia) is that which is real, what really is, what is factual. And as we examined in 4:15, it is the mandate of the Church that we “[speak] the truth,” that which is absolute, reliable, and unchanging.

The word Truth appears 235 times in the King James Version, even more often than “grace” (170). The Psalmist, for example, declares, “For the word of the LORD is right; and all his works are done in truth” (33:4), and that “all [His] commandments are truth” (119:151). Likewise, the Apostle John declares, “Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth” (Jn. 17:17). Most significant of all, our Lord declared of Himself, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life; no man cometh unto the Father, but by Me” (Jn. 14:6). The Lord Jesus is TRUTH ITSELF; apart from Him there is no Truth. Therefore, since the essence of Christianity is Truth, every Christian is commanded to “speak the truth.”

For this reason, commentator Albert Barnes writes these insightful words: “Nothing is more important in a community than simple truth—and yet it is to be feared that nothing is more habitually disregarded. No professing Christian can do any good who has not an unimpeachable character for integrity and truth—and yet who can lay his hand on his breast and say before God that he is, in all cases, a man that speaks the simple and unvarnished TRUTH?”

Indeed, how vital it is that we speak the truth, but how often do we do so with absolutely no hint of untruth? This is the challenge to us all, a challenge that we will face every single moment of every day: guard the Truth with jealous, passionate tenacity.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Taking Off Lying to Put On Truth (4)

Last time we closed with a mention of the Cretan poet and reputed prophet Epeminides, whom Paul quotes in Titus 1:12: “One of themselves, even a prophet of their own, said, The Cretans are always[s] liars, evil beasts, slow bellies.”

Fascinatingly, in the very same era as Epeminides but in a different part of the world, the prophet Jeremiah labored, and we see lying as a way of life even among God’s chosen people. Jeremiah 5, in fact, is the most graphic Biblical example of what exists in our society today. Historically, the Northern Kingdom, Israel, has already been taken into captivity by the Assyrians (722 B.C.) and only Judah, the Southern Kingdom, remains. God has, however, been telling them that they too will be judged harshly for their sin unless they repent. In verse 1, God sends Jeremiah scurrying through the capital city Jerusalem seeking anyone who “executeth judgment, that seeketh the truth” and promises to “pardon” the sins of the entire nation if he can find a single person. But there was not one.

Think of it! Not one person, whether rich or poor, whether citizen or leader (vs. 4-5), told the truth. Even though they mouthed the words “the LORD liveth,” in reality “surely they [swore] falsely” (v. 2). Verses 11-12 go on to say that they “dealt very treacherously against [God]” and lied to Him. Verse 27 paints the picture, “As a cage [was] full of birds, so are their houses full of deceit.” Verse 31 records that even the “prophets [prophesied] falsely” and that the people loved it. Like today, people loved what was preached even though it was not true! Honesty, integrity, veracity, genuineness, and truthfulness were not virtues to be encouraged, but weaknesses to be avoided. They are not only bad for business but even bad for ministry. People do not want to hear the Truth.

To illustrate further, may I interject that while the foundational approach to child-training is obedience, the foundational principle is Truth. A parent must never allow a child to get away with a lie. Further, the punishment for lying should be more severe than for anything else. Why? For two reasons, not only because of how important Truth is, as we’ll detail later, but for the practical reason that a good liar is capable of any other sin, no matter how bad. Lying rarely, if ever, stands alone; it usually hides other sin. If a person is good at deception, he can hide anything else. Verses 7-8, for example, reveal that adultery and fornication permeated the nation, as did idolatry in verse 19.

Verse 3 is especially instructive: “They have refused to receive correction: they have made their faces harder than a rock; they have refused to return.” The imagery here is unmistakable. They are stubborn, adamant, and even obstinate in their lies. A liar will fight and do anything to cover up the truth. Why? Because to admit one lie opens the flood gates to all the others and everything pours out in a deluge, and the liar is exposed.

In contrast, a person who loves truth avoids other sin that he would be compelled to admit if found out. Love for truth will keep us from sin.

Jeremiah later foretells of the coming judgment of the Babylonian captivity and destruction of Jerusalem (vs. 14-17; chs. 20-21) if the people continued in their sin. Did the nation heed Jeremiah? Did the people repent of their sin? Indeed not. They rejected what he said, struck him, and imprisoned him (20:2-3). When that didn’t shut him up, they threw him into a muddy dungeon without food or water and waited for him to die (38:6). A liar hates the one who exposes his lies.

We can’t help but wonder if God is asking of America today, “Are there any who tell the truth?” And we can’t help but wonder what judgments are to come. As in Jeremiah’s day, we are a generation of liars. We have no interest, much less desire, for truth. We weave, dodge, and duck the truth like a boxer avoids being hit.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Taking Off Lying to Put On Truth (3)

Continuing our examination of Ephesians 4:25 to take off lying to put on truth, another illustration of how impeded lying is in our nature philosophy is found in the ancient Greeks, who supposedly prided themselves on the search for Truth. That’s simply another lie propagated by many a philosophy professor, however, for in reality the ancient Greek considered lying a necessity. In the 4th Century A D, philosopher Proclus asserted that “good is better than truth,” a philosophy we are hearing today even among evangelicals in the form of statements such as, “It’s much better to be loving than to tell the whole truth and offend people.”

Some 800 years before that, and 400 years before Christ, Plato allowed lying as needed, as long as it was at the proper time. He wrote, “To the rulers of the state then, if to any, it belongs of right to use falsehood, to deceive either enemies or their own citizens, for the good of the state: and no one else may meddle with this privilege” (The Republic, Bk. 3, Sec. 389.) What a horrendous political philosophy! (In light of his numerous lies, some even on national television, we can’t help but wonder if Bill Clinton read Plato.)

Titus 1:12 is a fascinating verse that actually refers to Greek culture 200 years before Menander: “One of themselves, even a prophet of their own, said, The Cretans are always[s] liars, evil beasts, slow bellies.” Paul here quotes the Cretan poet and reputed prophet Epeminides; to the Greeks, a prophet was a interpreter of the gods who explained the obscure responses of the oracles and saw future events. While certainly a pagan, Epeminides was one of the wisest of the ancient Greeks and was very much unlike his countrymen in behavior. His three accusations are significant.

First, he said the Cretans were “always liars.” As an ancient proverb put it, “To act the Cretan, is a proverb for to lie.” In the same way that to be “Corinthianized” meant that one had stooped to the grossest immorality and drunken debauchery common in Corinth, to be called a “Cretan” was the same as being called a liar, a term used even in the literature of the day. The word “always” indicates that this was not the exception but the rule, the general moral character, “the national sin” (John Gill) of the Cretans.

Second, Epeminides called them “evil beasts,” not gentle animals like sheep, but wild, ravenous predators who were unrestrained in their indulgence and passions.
Third, Epeminides called them “slow bellies.” The Greek here is argos gastēr. Argos literally means “without work” and describes someone who is not at work only because he chooses to be idle. Gastēr (English “gastric”) refers to the belly, particularly the stomach. Used figuratively, as it is here, it means “appetite” and “excessive eating.” Another ancient Greek term was gastrodouloi, “slaves of their stomachs.” So the Cretans were “lazy gluttons,” “slothful stomachs.” In short, they wanted to eat without working for it.

Does this not remind us of America’s own out of control welfare system? Countless people who can work refuse to do so but still expect to eat, in direct contradiction not only to II Thessalonians 3:10—“If any would not work, neither should he eat.”—but also simple common sense. Not only was this principle set down by God in Genesis 3:9—“In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground” (cf. 17-19)—but the same principle is “found in Homer, Demosthenes, and Pythagoras” because it was “founded in obvious justice.”

And what was at the very root of the Cretan’s passions and slothfulness? Their lying character, their indifference and contempt for Truth. Again it reminds us of our welfare system. How many people lie about their ability to work? How many lie when asked, “Are you actively seeking employment?” At the core of our passions and laziness is lying. We will again continue next time.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Taking Off Lying to Put On Truth (2)

Continuing our examination of Ephesians 4:25 to take off lying to put on truth, is lying something that should surprise us? Not at all. Even the briefest examination of mankind reveals that nothing is more characteristic of his wrong behavior, nothing more typical of the “Old Man,” than lying. It’s as natural for a person to lie as it is for the sun to rise—it’s a given, an axiom of human behavior. Psalms 58:3 makes this clear: “The wicked are estranged from the womb: they go astray as soon as they be born, speaking lies.” Notice it doesn’t say “as soon as they can talk.” Coherent speech is not needed to lie. Every parent knows that even an infant can feign needs and deceive.

The very first sin of mankind, in fact, was the result of a lie, Satan’s lie. Remember that Satan “deceived” Eve and deception is part of the definition of a lie. He deliberately deceived her with the words, “Ye shall not surely die,” not to mention all the other things he said to delude her mind and mislead her. Furthermore, Satan not only lied, but he even called God a liar. May we always remember, Satan is a liar and is the “father of lies” (Jn:8:44).

Proverbs 6:12 says that “a wicked man, walketh with a froward [i.e., perverted, twisted, crafty] mouth.” Four verses later, the second of seven abominations to God—second only to pride—is “a lying tongue” and again the sixth is “a false witness that speaketh lies.” An “abomination” is something disgusting and abhorrent, which is probably why this truth is repeated in Proverbs 12:22: “Lying lips are abomination to the LORD: but they that deal truly are his delight.” A lie is disgusting to God!

The sad fact is that our entire society is based on lying. One could almost call it an “art form,” because of those who are so talented at it. Have you ever wondered what would happen if everybody told the truth all the time? What if every advertiser and salesman told the truth about his product? What if every politician told the truth about his platform, supporters, and voting record? What if every lawyer told the truth about his clients? What if every doctor told the truth about whether a test or procedure was really necessary? What if every business told the truth about how it got its money? What if every non-profit organization told the truth about what donator’s money was used for? The result of such a scenario would collapse our society because lying is not only acceptable, it’s expected. Truth simply is no longer important or even prudent. It’s just not “good for business.”

After Paul writes the well-known words, “There is none righteous, no, not one” (Rom. 3:10), the characteristic sin he mentions in verse 13 is lying: “Their throat is an open sepulchre; with their tongues they have used deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips.” As mentioned earlier, when our Lord said to the Pharisees, “Ye are of your father the devil” (Jn. 8:44), He says it with the backdrop that Satan has “no Truth in Him . . . for he is a liar, and the father of it.” To lie, then, is to align oneself with Satan, never God, because God cannot lie (Titus 1:2), for He is “the God of Truth” (Ps. 31:5).

Again, nothing is more characteristic of man’s fallen nature and behavior than lying. Eve lied (Gen. 3:3), Satan lied (v. 4), Adam lied (v. 12), Cain lied (4:9), Abram lied (12:13), Rebekah and Jacob lied (27:1-40), Laban lied (29:25), Joseph’s eleven brothers lied (37:32), and Potiphar’s wife lied (39:14). And that’s just the book of Genesis and only ones that are recorded! By nature, man hates the Truth because it makes him responsible, so the way to avoid both is to lie. We’ll continue next time.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Taking Off Lying to Put On Truth (1)

It’s interesting, and extremely significant, that the sin of lying is listed first. Why? For two reasons. First, because, as we’ll see, lying is the most prominent sin of mankind. Lying permeates our being and our society. Lies are told to cover up other sins, making lying the “catch all,” so to speak. Second, because, as we’ll also examine, Truth is the most essential characteristic of Christianity, and therefore the Christian life. The reason we do not lie is because we cherish the Truth.

As I studied this principle in great depth, I was profoundly touched by it. Lying is, far more than people realize, so imbedded in our being, and therefore so entrenched in our practical living, that it takes the very power of God alone to break its hold. We will, therefore, take more time than usual to deal with it (six installments). I pray that what follows will truly shake us to the marrow of our bones, that we will see how essential Truth is and that it must never be shaded or tinted by a lie.

The Greek behind lying is pseudos, where we get our English “pseudo,” as in “pseudonym” (a false name). It occurs “in Greek from the time of Homer” (8th–7th Century B.C.) and means “the antithesis of truth, alethei,” which, as we’ve seen several times speaks of that which is not concealed, that which is absolute, incontrovertible, irrefutable, incontestable, unarguable, and unchanging. Writing from Ephesus the Apostle John wrote to churches in Asia Minor that they knew “the Truth” and “that no lie is of the truth” (I Jn. 2:21). There is not even the slightest bit of truth in a lie, no “gray areas” as is commonly believed. Even the smallest lie negates the truth.

A lie, therefore, is defined as, “A statement that is contrary to fact offered with the intent to deceive.” There are, of course, two parts to this definition. A statement that is contrary to fact is not necessarily a lie. For example, if I tell someone that I will meet them at a certain time but then am late due to car trouble, I didn’t lie because I wasn’t trying to deceive them. But if I said I’d be there at a certain time, knowing that I would be late, then that would be a lie.

Such things as kidding, fictional stories, figurative language, and not saying something out of politeness are not lying. There are many things, however, that are lying: blatant falsehoods, exaggerating or embellishing a story, cheating (because you’re saying you did something on your own when you didn’t), betraying a confidence, making excuses for wrong conduct, telling a half-truth, plagiarism, boasting, flattery, false humility, hypocrisy, false promises, and tragically much more. In short, when we say anything that is not true in its entirety, it’s a lie.

Even more significant is the fact that a lie doesn’t have to be spoken. We can lie without uttering a single word. We can lie by allowing something to be said that we know to be untrue and therefore be in complicity with it. We can even lie with a look, a gesture, or even the most subtleness facial expression.

Further, a lie travels fast and permeates everything it touches. As Spurgeon put it, “A lie travels around the world while Truth is putting on her boots.” Further still, The destructive power of lying is incalculable. Ralph Waldo Emerson was right when he said, “Every violation of truth is not only a sort of suicide in the liar, but is a stab at the health of human society.”

Think back to the years leading up to World War II. How on earth could a gutter rat who lived in a home for tramps in the slums of Vienna, a man who had failed at everything he’d ever tried, rise to lead Germany in the horrors that she would inflict upon the world? The answer is: through lies. Taking advantage of the bungled “Treaty of Versailles” that ended World War I, the economic misery of the people caused by paying war reparations and the devalued German mark, followed by the worldwide Depression of the 1930s, Adolph Hitler came to power through animal magnetism, fanatical speeches, political intrigue, and violence. And what were his two underlying arguments, the two basic lies that ultimately resulted in the deaths of an estimated fifty-five million people, both military and civilian of all countries, plus another six million in the Holocaust? First, that European Jews were to blame for all of Germany’s problems and had to be removed, and second, the preaching of Lebensraum (“living space”), the belief that Germany had to expand her territory if she were to survive. In Mein Kampf Hitler wrote, “The great mass of people . . . will more easily fall victim to a big lie than to a small one.” We’ll continue this important subject next time.

Monday, September 15, 2014

The New Life

Having looked at the “Old Man” and the “New Man,” we come now to the “New Life” that we have in Christ, as the Apostle Paul details in Ephesians 4:25-32. Here is the practical consideration of walking in purity. We find here, in fact, one of the most vitally important sections of living the Christian life to be found in the Scriptures.

The importance of this passage cannot be overemphasized. For decades well meaning men have come up with various lists of “dos and don’ts” for conduct. Pastor Ray Stedman recalls as a young Christian hearing a little jingle from what he calls the “thou shalt not variety” of Christianity: “Rooty-toot-toot! Rooty-toot-toot! / We are the boys from the Institute. / We don’t smoke, and we don’t chew. / And we don’t go out with girls that do.”

Legalistic Christian living has been around for countless years, and different teachers dub various things as being “worldly” and therefore forbidden for the Christian, including: smoking, drinking, dancing, gambling, going to the theater, television, playing cards, pants on women, makeup, and so forth. “Doing” and/or “not” doing are then the gauges of spirituality. I’ve seen some churches, in fact, that demand prospective members sign an agreement not to do such things before being allowed to join the church, but I’ve yet to find a verse in either Acts or the Epistles that teaches such a rule.

The problem with such lists, of course, is that they are man-made, and because of that, one man’s list is different from another man’s list. We are, therefore, left with no absolutes for conduct; we are left with relative guidelines that are generated by men’s opinions, personal preferences, and often just plain self-righteousness. More important, such lists miss the point of true spirituality, namely, it’s not the outside that matters as much as the inside. “But doesn’t being a Christian mean that there are certain things we won’t do?” it is asked. Of course, but it is not men’s job to define what these things are.

What we find before us, therefore, is one of “God’s lists for conduct.” There are other such lists in Scripture—the one in Proverbs 6:16-19, for example, perhaps being the most exhaustive and all-encompassing—but the list here is unique in its specific application to the Christian. Again, Paul is merely elaborating on and applying the general principles he has already laid down in his discussions concerning the “Old Man” and the “New Man.” As we study this vital passage, we should notice two principles.

First, Paul gives us the negative, that is, what each sin is and what it involves. There are actually four major sins listed here—lying, unrighteous vengeance, stealing, and corrupt speech—and then an additional summary statement. This list is unique because these sins are the most common sins to be found in human behavior and are, therefore, the ones most likely to creep subtlety back into the Believer’s life. These are the things we are continually putting away (Greek apotithēmi, “taking off and discarding like an old garment”).

Second, Paul then gives us the positive, the reason and motive for keeping each of these sins out of our lives. Yes, the main reason for this is because they are sin, and God says get rid of them Paul goes deeper, however, than just “thou shalt not,” which would be little more than legalism. Rather with each one he gives a greater motive. We see here, then, five contrasts: (1) Taking off lying to put on truth (v. 25); (2) Taking off unrighteous vengeance to put on righteous anger (vs. 26-27); (3) Taking off stealing to put on laboring (v. 28); (4) Taking off corrupt speech to put on good speech (v. 29); (5) Taking off natural reactions to put on spiritual actions (vs. 30-32). This will outline studies to come.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

The New Man’s Moral Decency

Once again, the characteristics of the New Man are the exact opposite of those of the Old Man: intellectual ductility, spiritual durability, and moral decency.

Ephesians 5:24b declares that third characteristic: which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.

What a contrast this is with the “moral depravity” of the “Old Man” (v. 19)! Consider three manifestations of the “New Man’s” moral decency.

First, there is righteousness. This refers to our dealing with our fellow men. Verse 19 says that the “Old Man” is “past feeling,” that men can do things to one another without feeling any remorse or guilt. But the “New Man” treats others rightfully. As we’ll see down in verse 32, in directly contrast to being “past feeling” the “New Man” is “tenderhearted.” In place of a heart of stone is a heart that is tender.

Second, there is holiness. This refers to our relationship with God. Instead of the lascivious and unclean life of the “Old Man,” our behavior is now pure and godly.

Third, there is “truth.” The word true is not an adjective in the Greek, rather a noun; it literally reads “in righteousness and holiness of the truth” and is in direct contrast to the word “deceit” in verse 22. What is it that characterizes the “Old Man?”—deceit. What characterizes the “New Man?”—TRUTH. It is Truth that produces righteousness and holiness. As our Lord declared in His High priestly prayer: “Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth” (Jn. 17:17). How are people sanctified? Is it through making them feel good, appealing to their “felt needs,” or entertaining them? No, they will be sanctified only through truth.

To conclude our study, it is sweet to think of a man named Lazarus and how he illustrates the principle that is before us (Jn. 11-12). Lazarus was dead; he had been dead, in fact, for four days. He even had on the “evidences of death”—the grave clothes. But our Savior came to the tomb and, after raising Lazarus from the dead, said to those present, “Loose him and let him go.” What a picture! “Take off the evidences of death; take off the evidences of the grave!” This is what happens to the one who comes to Christ. Having removed the grave clothes of the “Old Man,” we put on the “grace clothes” of the “New Man.” In the verses to follow (25-32), we’ll see more of what living this new life involves.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

The New Man’s Spiritual Durability

The characteristics of the New Man are the exact opposite of those of the Old Man: intellectual ductility, spiritual durability, and moral decency.

The Old Man is indeed corrupt, and, as we said in our last chapter, a characteristic of the Old Man is “spiritual debility” (weakness, feebleness). But, as Ephesians 4:22 declares, it is this is, as well as our former conversation (Old English for “previous behavior”), that we put off at salvation because it is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts. As one commentator observes, the tense of the verb for which is corrupt (Present or Passive Participle) yields the idea of “corrupting himself,” that man is “working steadily at his own ruin and destruction.” Of course, most people do not deliberately desire to destroy themselves; people don’t, for example, step in front of a moving train. But while they do not do this consciously, they are doing it nonetheless.

It is for that reason that we are to put off any resemblance to the Old Man. The expression put off (apotithēmi) is taken from the picture of taking off a garment and is in the Aorist Tense showing a once-for-all putting off of the Old Man. As we would take off old worthless clothes and never use them again, we take off the Old Man. Verses 23 and 24a go a step further to show that when we take off the old, we put on the new. The Old Man is corrupt, worn out, and moth-eaten, but the New Man is unique, whole, and complete. We are then to be renewed in the spirit of [our] mind.

The word renewed is ananeoō. The word new in this passage is kainos, which refers to something new in quality, not neos, new in time. Here, however, ananeoō, which appears only here in the New Testament, is a form of neos, so the idea is “to make new in time again,” that is, as commentator and Greek scholar John Eadie puts it, “restoration to some previous state—renovation.” Further, the verb is a Present Participle and should be translated “being constantly renewed.” The same truth is found in Romans 12:2; we are to be “[continually] transformed by the [continuous] renewing of the mind.” The words in the spirit [i.e., attitude] of your mind remind us that the first two characteristics of the Old Man, as we saw in our last study, both involved the mind. The same is true of the New Man. What gives us spiritual durability? What gives us spiritual strength? A CONSTANT RENEWING OF THE ATTITUDES OF THE MIND.

As theologian and commentator Charles Hodge puts it: “The spirit of your mind, therefore, is its interior life—which the mind, heart, and soul are ways of showing. Therefore, that which needs to be renewed is not merely outward habits or ways of life, not merely transient tempers or dispositions, but the interior principle of life, which lies behind everything that is outward, phenomenal, or transient.”

It cannot be emphasized enough that God wants our minds. Our minds are the most important part of us, for the mind controls everything else. Tragically, the number of Christians that live in the emotions is growing exponentially. Much of Christianity today appeals to the emotions, “felt needs,” and, frankly, the flesh. How then is the mind renewed? It can only be renewed by one thing—a constant involvement with the Word of God.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

The New Man’s Intellectual Ductility (2)

The characteristics of the New Man are the exact opposite of those of the Old Man: intellectual ductility, spiritual durability, and moral decency. God wants the believer to be “ductile,” capable and willing to be formed and fashioned into the image He desires. Ephesians 4:20-21 picture “the Schoolhouse of Christ”: But ye have not so learned Christ; If so be that ye have heard him, and have been taught by him, as the truth is in Jesus. With Christ as the center, we see three principles of education: He is the Subject, the Schoolmaster, and . . .

Third, He’s the Surroundings, the context, the environment, in which all this teaching occurs. Specifically, this environment is the truth [that] is in Jesus. God is the source of Truth, and Truth cannot be found outside of His revelation. Truth is in Jesus, as our Lord Himself declared in John 14:6. Think of it! Truth is the environment for learning, and Jesus is Truth. Why are children and young adults learning evolution, Humanism, and other such philosophies? Because they are being taught not in an environment of Truth but an environment of lies. Only in an environment of Truth can we learn Truth.

There’s a subtlety here that is often overlooked. We should notice that Paul uses the name Jesus here in a way he has not done before in the entire letter. He just used the title Christ in verse 20, so why Jesus here? Additionally, while he uses Jesus elsewhere in the letter, it’s always in conjunction with other titles, such as “Lord Jesus Christ” (1:2) or “Christ Jesus” (2:6-7). While some commentators see no importance in this and just call it a “stylistic variation” that has no “theological significance,” that is an error. The change in title is simply too obvious not to be deliberate.

So why the change? Greek authority Kenneth Wuest explains it this way: “Jesus is used rather than Christ; the historical rather than the official name. The life of Christianity consists in believing fellowship with the historic Jesus, who is the Christ of prophecy.”

Great expositor Martyn Lloyd-Jones, however, said it best: “Paul is really say that we must not think of salvation in loose, vague terms; we must not talk about some great cosmic Christ who exerts an influence upon men in this world; we must not hold on to salvation merely as an idea and as a concept and as a thought. Not at all! The Apostle says we must think it all out in terms of Jesus. Now this Apostle of all men is fond of using the full term the Lord Jesus Christ, but here he says, ‘as the truth is in Jesus.’ And for this good reason, that the Christian is not saved by a philosophy of redemption; he is saved by that historic Person, Jesus of Nazareth, Son of God!”

 I was especially struck by that last statement: “the Christian is not saved by a philosophy of redemption.” Indeed, it’s not a philosophical concept or even a theological doctrine that saves us, rather the person of Jesus. Every philosophical school and every religious system is built merely on ideas. Christianity is found on the person of Jesus.

May we also add, there have been countless attacks through the ages on the person of Jesus. His Deity and humanity have always been battlegrounds. Countless cults and heretics by the hundreds have denied the “Historical Jesus,” and they’re still doing it. But the New Testament mentions the name Jesus by itself some 612 times (KJV). Why? Because It is the name of salvation. Jesus (Iesous) is the human name of our Lord and means “Savior,” that is, “He shall save His people from their sins” (Matt. 1:21). The Greek (and Latin) Iesous corresponds to the Hebrew Jeshua, which is equivalent to “Joshua,” and means “the Lord is salvation.” That is why men must attack and destroy Jesus; with Him intact, they must deny themselves, deny their religion, deny their works, and trust Him alone for salvation. And that they will not do.

So, the first characteristic of the “New Man” is Intellectual Ductility. We now have a new mind. We have learned Christ because of the “New Man,” because of God’s Word working in the mind. God wants to mold our minds because the world today is working overtime to try to mold them into its image.

We’ll see more of this in our next point.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

The New Man’s Intellectual Ductility (1)

Recall a moment the characteristics of the Old Man from our last few studies: intellectual deficiency, spiritual debility, and moral depravity. The characteristics of the New Man are in direct contrast and are the polar opposite of those of the Old Man: intellectual ductility, spiritual durability, and moral decency.

What in the world does “intellectual ductility” mean? Ductility means “capable of being fashioned into a new form, capable of being molded or worked.” God wants the believer to be “ductile”; He wants us capable and willing to be formed and fashioned into the image He desires.

Ephesians 4:20-21 picture what we might call “the Schoolhouse of Christ”: But ye have not so learned Christ; If so be that ye have heard him, and have been taught by him, as the truth is in Jesus. These verses provide us with three principles of education with Christ at the center: He is the Subject, the Schoolmaster, and even the Surroundings.

First, Christ is the Subject of study. Verse 20 is in strong contrast to verses 17-19. The words ye have not so learned Christ literally say, “You didn’t come to know Christ in this way.” The term learned Christ appears only here in the New Testament and refers not to learning things about Christ, but knowing Christ personally. We can, for example, learn much about any historical figure, such as George Washington or Abraham Lincoln, by reading books about them, but we could never “learn them” because they are dead. In contrast, we can actually “learn Christ” by a personal relationship.

To illustrate, when we say a person learns a trade, he doesn’t just learn about it, he learns it. He learns its history, practitioners, principles, and fine points, those little “tricks of the trade.” The result is that he knows that trade. Likewise, to “learn Christ” is to learn Him, His life, His ways, His purposes. Paul is, therefore, saying, “You didn’t come to know Christ through the characteristics of the Old Man. It’s impossible to know Christ personally while living the life of the Old Man; the two are incompatible and contradictory.”

Christ, then, is the subject of all our learning; to know Him is ultimate knowledge. May we all fully grasp the thrust of Philippians 3:10: “That I may know him.” Let us remember Paul’s great knowledge, not only spiritual but secular. Through the revered rabbi Gamaliel (Acts 22:3), Paul would have received a thorough education, including the classics (note Titus 1:12, where he refers to Epeminides). But he never lifts up such knowledge as important. Rather, after years of education and then thirty years of ministry, he declares, “That I may know him.” In the surrounding context (v. 8), he says everything else is “dung” by comparison. Nothing can equal the knowledge of our Lord. This should be the desire of every believer, and if it is not, there is something dreadfully wrong. This leads to the deeper truth of verse 21.

Second, Christ is the Schoolmaster because ye have heard him. Several modern translations seriously err here. The NIV is clearly wrong with “you heard of him,” and the NRSV and NLT read “you have heard about him” (NLT, “all about”), as does the ESV. The words “of” and “about” are wrongly inserted with no Greek support whatsoever. Our KJV translation renders exactly what the Greek says in good English, ye have heard him (“Him ye heard” in the Greek text)—not about Him or of Him, but Him—that is, we have heard Him speak. What a thought! There is a vast difference between hearing of Him and hearing Him.

What Paul is clearly saying, then, is that while the Ephesian believers had not been taught by Christ in person, that is, while he was physically present, He was no less their Teacher as He speaks through His Word by the power of His Spirit. Christ is, indeed, the Schoolmaster, still teaching us from Heaven through His indwelling Spirit. “But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you” (Jn. 14:26). What a truth! Through His Word and Spirit, our Lord Himself continues to teach us.

Monday, August 11, 2014

What is “The New Man”?

We have all seen “before and after pictures,” where the before picture is, for example, an overweight or bald person and the after picture is the same person now slim and trim or with a thick head of hair. The pictures, of course, are designed to sell us a new diet pill or fitness machine, a magic formula for hair restoration, plastic surgery, and so forth. My son once made the observation concerning an “overweight” commercial that it always seems that in the after picture the person is also beautifully tanned; I’m not sure how that applies to the product their selling.

While the Apostle Paul isn’t trying to sell us anything, he does show us dramatic “before” and “after” pictures in Ephesians 4:17-24. As examined in our last several installments, in verses 17-19, Paul shows us what we were before Christ came into our lives: our understanding was darkened, we were alienated from the life of God, ignorant, spiritually blind, past feeling, and were living in lasciviousness, uncleanness, and greed. Not a pretty picture. That was the “old man.” “Old” is palaios, which means “old in the sense of worn out, decrepit, useless.”

In verses 20-24, however, we see a truly beautiful “after picture.” Using the same approach as in our last few studies, let us now gaze upon the New Man (v. 24). First, then, we must understand what the New Man is.

New translates a very significant Greek word, kainos. Another word translated new is neos, which “refers to something new in time, to something that recently has come into existence.” In contrast, kainos “refers to something new in quality,” as it would be distinguished from something that is old and worn out. This word is used, for example, to refer to the “new tomb” in which Joseph of Arimathea laid the body of Jesus (Matt. 27:60). It was not a new tomb that had recently been hewn from the rock (which would be neos, new in time), rather one that had never been used and was therefore new in the sense of quality.

The New Man, then, is something that has not existed before. Using a descriptive Latin word, one commentator writes that the New Man “is more than a new habitus, it is the life principle itself which produces the habitus.” Habitus (English, “habit”) describes condition, character, dress, or appearance, so the New Man is more than that, more than a new habit, dress, or appearance; he has been inwardly transformed, which is what produces the new character and new habits.

A key verse to understanding this truth is II Corinthians 5:17, which we have referred to several times throughout this exposition: “Therefore, if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature; old things are passed away; behold all things are become new.” As one would expect, new is again kainos. The Christian is, therefore, a “new creature,” not new in the sense of time—as in the date he received Christ as Savior—rather new in quality, a creature that has never existed before, a creature with a new character.

Ponder a moment what things become new. First, and foremost, there is a new meaning to life. Before Christ came into us, there was no meaning to life, nothing to live for because spiritual death awaited. I once heard someone sum up life this way, “Life is hard and then you die.” What a depressing view of life this is, but it is accurate for the unbeliever. Only Christ can give us meaning to life. There are countless other things that become new: desires, purposes, loves, motives, goals, values, relationships, attitudes, activities, knowledge, will, and on it goes. The old ways are not “reformed,” rather they are done away with and replaced with the new ways.

Monday, August 4, 2014

The Old Man’s Moral Depravity (3)

Looking one last time at Ephesians 4:17-19, the true Christian no longer conducts himself (or herself) like the non-Christian. Paul lists several characteristics that can be summarized by three traits. First, the Old Man is characterized Intellectual Deficiency (v. 17b), and, second, Spiritual Debility (v. 18). Third, which we now conclude, is Moral Depravity (v. 19). Who being past feeling have given themselves over unto lasciviousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness. The latter part of the verse describes the practical outworking of moral depravity; one is Lasciviousness.

2. Man work[s] all uncleanness. Work is ergasia, which speaks not only of the effort of work itself, but also of a business, occupation, or trade. It appears in Acts 19:25, for example, where due to Paul’s preaching, the angry silversmith Demetrius was loosing money because people were no longer buying shrines of Diana, and therefore “called together with the workmen of like occupation” to do something about the problem. Putting all this together, we could humbly translate verse 19: “Who having ceased to feel pain or grief, have given themselves to unrestrained self-indulgence and make a business of filth.

While society today has not reached the proportions of the wickedness of the ancient world, it certainly is running to catch up, is it not? Besides the perversions of that day, technology has provided us more opportunity. Not only has it aided prostitution, but it has given pornography a quantum leap. According to Forbes Magazine (5-25-01), pornographic magazines gross $1 billion annually, the Internet another billion, Pay-Per-View movies $128 million, and adult videos add between $500 million and $1.8 billion, yielding a total of $2.6 to $3.9 billion per year. May we add, if that is not enough to appall us, how about the complicity of local and state governments that gather sales tax on such perversion? After all, many argue, “It’s just another business,” or, “We can’t regulate morality.” Indeed, we are past feeling.

3. Finally, with greediness describes the attitude that brings on all this uncleanness. Man’s underlying motive is greed, covetousness, lust, and self-gratification. As I Timothy 6:10 declares, “For the love of money is the root of all evil.” Take any issue, any practice, and just begin to trace it back. As you peel back the layers, you will ultimately uncover greed. Colossians 3:5 tells us that covetousness is actually idolatry, the worship of a false god. How true this is of man. He worships himself. He is his own god. Again, as Paul outlines in Romans 1, man has suppressed the truth (Rom. 1:18), disregarded God, (vs. 21, 28), and worships himself (v. 25). As a result, his behavior is vile and unrestrained (vs. 26-32).

Why has Paul gone into all this? To remind us, as he declares in verse 17, that this is not the way the Christian walks. Most of us can recall how we lived before Christ saved us and that we no longer behave that way. The Christian walks in purity, far above such vile behavior. He walks as a “new man,” a “new creature,” (II Cor. 5:17), as we’ll now study in verses 20-24.

May we not be like the canary that was put in with the sparrows. A little boy mixed these together thinking the sparrows would learn to sing. But in a few days, the canary was chirping like the sparrows. Likewise, we must be careful that the world doesn’t have us chirping right along with it. How easy it is to chirp like the world, to have the same attitudes and actions, the same values and virtues. “But [we] have not so learned Christ,” Paul goes on to write (v. 20), for we have been “renewed in the spirit of [our] mind” (v. 23).

Monday, July 28, 2014

The Old Man’s Moral Depravity (2)

The Apostle Paul tells us in Ephesians 4:17-19 that the true Christian no longer conducts himself (or herself) like the non-Christian. He then actually lists a few characteristics that can really be boiled down to three traits. First, the Old Man is characterized Intellectual Deficiency (v. 17b), and, second, Spiritual Debility (v. 18).

Third, which we started last time, the Old Man is characterized by Moral Depravity (v. 19). Who being past feeling have given themselves over unto lasciviousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness. The latter part of the verse describes the practical outworking of moral depravity: Consider three characteristics.

1. Lasciviousness (aselgeia) speaks of unrestrained self-indulgence, especially in sexual sin. The Greek root behind uncleanness is katharos, which means clean or pure, so with the prefix (a) added (akatharos), it forms the opposite: “the whole realm of uncleanness, ranging from menstruation to moral pollution through wrongdoing.”
Actually, in fact, that is putting it delicately. The debauchery of the ancient world was beyond comprehension. As one scholar comments: “The refinements of art too often ministered to such groveling pursuits. The naked statues of the goddesses were not exempted from rape, and many pictures of their divinities were but the excitements of sensual gratification . . . There was a brisk female trade in potions to induce sterility and barrenness. In fact, one dares not describe the forms, and scenes, and temptations of impurity, or even translate what classical poets and historians have revealed without a blush.”

One such poet was the famous 1st and 2nd Century Roman poet Juvenal, whose sixteen Satires, especially the Sixth, were graphic depictions of and scathing attacks on the moral perversion of the Empire. In one place he wrote, “What neighborhood does not reek with filthy practices?” Satire ii, 8). Another poet of the day, Martial, wrote, “Long have I been searching the city through to find if there is ever a maid to say ‘No;’ there is not one” (Ep. iv, 71.). Worse, homosexuality and sodomy were considered acceptable and normal behavior. Is it any wonder that the Roman Empire fell and why our own nation is following suit?

The same was true of the Greeks, as the Ephesians were quite aware. Due in part to the fact of the pagan temple of Artemis (or Diana), Ephesus was a leading city in debauchery and sexual immorality. Some historians view it as the most perverted city of Asia Minor. The rituals and ceremonies merely justified the perversion of the people’s hearts. Every indulgent sexual practice was common and condoned. Artemis was, in fact, a goddess of sex, which was served by thousands of temple prostitutes, eunuchs, singers, dancers, priests, and priestesses. Even the pagan 5th Century B.C. Greek philosopher Heraclitus referred to Ephesus as “the darkness of vileness. The morals were lower than animals and the inhabitants of Ephesus were fit only to be drowned.”

The general behavior of the Greeks was equally wretched. Theft was dishonorable only when the thief failed to conceal it. In other words, “It’s okay as long as you don’t get caught.” While they prided themselves in philosophy, and professed to desire truth, Truth was, in reality, not a priority. 4th Century B.C. poet Menander lays down the general rule “that a lie is better than a hurtful truth.” The so-called great Plato allows us to lie as needed, as long as we do it at the proper time. 600 years later, this philosophy remained unchanged. 2nd Century philosopher Maximus Tyrius asserted, “There is nothing decorous in truth, save when it is profitable, and sometimes a lie is profitable, and truth injurious to men.” In the 4th Century, philosopher Proclus likewise asserted that “good is better than truth,” a philosophy we are hearing today even among evangelicals. During the same period, historian Herodotus records the common teaching of the day that, “When telling a lie is profitable, tell it!” These examples are more than sufficient to justify Paul in his condemnation of the crimes and corruptions of the heathen world. So important is this, in fact, that He returns to it later in verses 22 and 25-32, as will we. We’ll conclude next time.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

The Old Man’s Moral Depravity (1)

The Apostle Paul tells us in Ephesians 4:17-19 that the true Christian no longer conducts himself (or herself) like the non-Christian. He then actually lists a few characteristics that can really be boiled down to three traits. First, the Old Man is characterized Intellectual Deficiency (v. 17b), and, second, Spiritual Debility (v. 18).

Third, the Old Man is characterized by Moral Depravity (v. 19): Who being past feeling have given themselves over unto lasciviousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness. This trait is, indeed, the result of the first two. 

What happened in man’s mind now expresses itself in his behavior. He is, indeed, past feeling. This term is among the most graphic in Scripture. The Greek used here (apalgeo) appears only here in the New Testament and means to cease from feeling pain or grief. Men, women, and even adolescents can do unthinkable things to other people—murder, torture, mutilation, abortion, and more—but feel absolutely nothing. I have heard police officers say that they have seen adolescents do such things but see not a glimmer of guilt or remorse in their dead eyes. This develops over time, a little at a time.

One commentator writes: “[It could be translated] ‘having got over the pain.’ How expressive! When conscience is first denied, there is a twinge of pain; there is a protest that can be heard. But if the voice is silenced, presently the voice becomes less clear and clamant; the test is smothered; the twinge is less acute, until at last it is possible to ‘get over the pain.’”

Indeed, every person starts out feeling guilt when wrong is done, but the sin gets easier and easier until they finally “get over it” and no longer feel anything. Writing concerning the sin of Israel, Jeremiah declared, “Were they ashamed when they had committed abomination? nay, they were not at all ashamed, neither could they blush” (Jer. 6:15). How true that is today! Recall the immorality of former president Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinski. Graphic sexual terms were talked about in the evening news and few people seemed to care. Indeed, society has lost the ability to blush.

Another commentator writes: Unmoved by the approaching judgment of God, whom they offend, they go on at their ease, and fearlessly indulge without restraint in the pleasures of sin. No shame is felt, no regard to character is maintained. The gnawing of a guilty conscience, tormented by the dread of the Divine judgment, may be compared to the porch of hell; but such hardened security as this—is a whirlpool which swallows up and destroys.”

Famous 19th Century Presbyterian minister and lecturer Thomas Dewitte Talmage recounted the time he was taking a tour of a medical museum in Philadelphia with a very learned surgeon of that day. The surgeon pointed out glass cases containing splintered bones, and the cancerous protrusions, and fractured thighs, and he said: “What beautiful specimens they are.” Talmage’s thought was that if that man had to endure the agonies that those things suggested, he would not have thought they were such splendid specimens. Likewise, men are past feeling; they have become detached from that which should affect them deeply.

The rest of the verse graphically describes the practical outworking of such depravity: they have given themselves over unto lasciviousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness. We’ll examine these next time.