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, 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).