Theses verses supply the doctrinal heart of an intensely practical section of ‘Ephesians’. The entire range of individual, yet inter-connected, exhortations to follow find their basis in this radical change that is conversion. I read on one occasion that in the early church, when someone was going to be baptized, they took off an outer garment before going into the water. When they came up out of it, they put on a clean white robe. This was emblematic of taking off the old life and putting on the new. Note three things about the new life in Christ:
The new life is all about Jesus (20, 21).It starts with hearing about Him (21) and coming to know Him as a real Person (20). Part of this involves hearing the truth about Jesus, and the truth Jesus Himself taught. It also entails following the truth that Jesus is (21; see John 14:6). You may remember from yesterday that Paul’s insistence that we should live a new life was ‘’in the Lord’’ (17), and it is because we are ‘’in him’’ (21) that we can do so. Just as a bird is at home in the air, and a fish in the sea, so we believers are at home in Christ. He is our supernatural habitat; the very atmosphere that surrounds us. We can follow the truth of Christ’s life and obey the truth of His teaching because of this vital union with Him (John 15).
The new life begins with repentance – a change of mind leading to a change of behaviour (22, 23). I believe Paul, in today’s passage, has in mind something that not only happened at conversion, but which must continually happen as we live the Christian life. It’s a day by day, and even moment by moment, thing. But he is in particular looking back to that decisive beginning of the life of discipleship in which someone makes a clean break with sin. One preacher said to the congregation at the end of his sermon, ‘I want to invite you to make a step of commitment and come down to the front of the church building to give your life to Christ. But don’t come out here unless you’re prepared to leave your favourite sins behind you in the seat where you’re sitting!’ In our pre-Christian existence we all had a problem in the area of our ‘’thinking’’ (17) so something radical has got to happen in our ‘’minds’’(23). (By the way, our minds will still come under assault even after we have turned to Jesus and will require constant protection. Think about chapter 6 verse 17a in this connection. It is important to always remember that these temptations are ‘’deceitful’’ (22). They tell you lies. They are expert liars, and they find us only too willing to swallow them.)
The new life is about the restoration of God’s image (24; see also Colossians 3:5ff.). God doesn’t just want to forgive our sins, as marvellous as that is, but to restore in us the image of Himself that was marred and defaced at ‘the fall’. His purpose in sanctification is to glorify us (Romans 8: 30). It is to make us exactly like Him. As we are in this process of being made like God, we are exhorted to copy Him even now (See 5:1). C.S. Lewis observed that if you could see your ‘brother’ now appearing as he one day will, you would be tempted to fall down and worship him! God is going to make him so like Himself and cover him with glory.
Finally, the language of ‘putting off’ and ‘putting on’ implies that conversion is not something that is just done to us, but that which we are actively involved in. Everything we do is only done by the grace and power of God. We know this. We couldn’t do it without Him. Nevertheless we have to decide to turn away from sin and embrace Christ’s way. It is a choice we must continue to make every day of our lives.
Prayer: Thank you Lord that I’m a new creation in you, called and enabled to live a new life.