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Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth (2 Timothy 2:15)
Established November 2008 Published Weekly on Friday AM
This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men (and women) to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. (1Timothy 2:3-4)
Welcome to HBS, one and all.
HBS statistics show new people visiting the website daily and some of those are sticking around, so I want to thank God for each visitor and especially the folks who “stay the course.” Our Apostle Paul described the Believer’s life in terms of athletic metaphors. His goal was to win the race. Before his death, Paul stated, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith” (1 Corinthians 9:23-27; Philippians 3:12-14; 2 Timothy 4:6-8). Despite the daily pressure (stress), trials, and tribulations he faced daily, Paul “stayed the course.” Even Satan’s direct attacks did not thwart his devotion to God and his love for the saints everywhere. I pray each true Believer will faithfully run the race God set before them, and as the end of their race draws nearer be able to confidently state, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith” to God's glory.
We’re making headway through Ephesians chapter 4 where our Apostle Paul is addressing each Believer in the Body of Christ imploring them to walk worthy of the calling for which you have been called… (4:1).
Prior to this Paul had described the Ephesian saint’s previous state, or their position “outside” of Jesus Christ:
And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air (i.e. Satan), of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest (Ephesians 2:1-3).
This passage reveals how God views lost humanity. Paul said everybody begins their life “dead in your trespasses and sin…” People aren’t merely ailing; Paul said they are spiritually dead to God. God has provided the Remedy for mankind’s malady but the majority of people find this truth and others hard to swallow (absorb), so they reject it in unbelief (4:17-19).
I remember a couple of instances of being very sick as a child and the doctor prescribed medication for me. This liquid was very distasteful, so to make it palatable my mother added a tsp of sugar to each dosage. She learned this from her loving mother who went out of her way to make the Castor Oil taste less harsh. But here’s the thing, God doesn’t sugarcoat His hard-hitting truths. He doesn’t water-down His Word to make it palatable. God simply tells it like it is and He expects mankind to believe it and act upon it. Obedience is required (Deuteronomy 29:29; Hebrews 11:6).
Paul wrote, “walk no longer just as the Gentiles also walk, in the futility of their mind (4:17-19). The Ephesian saints had been made alive in Christ Jesus through faith (alone) in the gospel (1 Corinthians 15:1-4), and were “raised up together with Him to walk in newness of life.” Our Apostle Paul, speaking for the risen Lord, urges them to renounce the world, its dominion over them, and its futile ways.
People become what they believe, so Paul’s saying these Believers need to renew their mind and this will bring about a change in their heart or their behavior.
Jesus said, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also,” or wherever your mind wanders your heart is sure to follow (Matthew 6:21). So Paul encourages these Believers to lay aside (put off) their old self and put on the new self (new man). Paul is about to describe the changes which being “in Christ” requires (Ephesians 4-6:9).
Let’s refresh our memory before we go any further:
In verses 17-19, Paul explains how unbeliever’s walk, implying they are not to “enter the world’s race.”
In verses 20-21, Paul reminds them that in coming to faith in Christ they learned or should have understood (if indeed you have heard Him…) a new way of life through Him who is the essence of all truth (John 14:6).
In verses 22-24, Paul describes the true Believer’s relationship to the flesh, their old self.
Please open your Bible again at Ephesians 4:17-19. We’ve returned to this passage so you can see, one more time, how God views unbelievers; the children of wrath.
So this I say, and affirm together with the Lord, that you walk no longer just as the Gentiles also walk, in the futility of their mind, being darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart; and they (the unsaved Ephesians), having become callous, have given themselves over to sensuality for the practice of every kind of impurity with greediness (4:17-19; Romans 1:21-32).
Paul just explained to the Ephesians (and us), in general terms, how pagans currently live, using the unsaved Ephesians (Gentiles) as examples of what not to do.
Walk no longer just as the Gentiles also walk - the term no longer is from the Koine Greek adverb Meketi (may-ket’-ee), Strong’s Greek #3371, meaning: any longer, anymore; no more. Paul’s saying at one time you walked as the unsaved Ephesians also walked, but now you are to walk in accordance with what you have learned.
…in the futility of their mind - the word "futility" here is from the Koine Greek noun Mataiotes (mat-ah-yot’-ace), Strong’s Greek #3153, which means: "the inability to reach the intended goal." In the beginning, the man was created an eternal being, in commune with the Creator God (Jehovah). He possessed the ability to comprehend the LORD God’s spoken word. But due to his fall from grace not only is an unsaved person unable to communicate with God, they are unable to comprehend His revelation, no matter how clearly it is spoken or written.
But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised (1 Corinthians 2:14; Isaiah 59:2; John 9:31).
18: being darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart;
In verses 17-18, Paul describes a series of cause and effects. If we reverse the order, it reads like this: the hardness of their heart toward God caused their ignorance. Their ignorance concerning God and His expressed will caused them to be excluded from the life of God. Their alienation causes their minds to be darkened, which caused them to walk in the futility of mind.
Paul said “We walk by faith not by sight.” As true Believer we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal (2 Corinthians 4:18).
The Gentiles rebellious spirit caused them to become callous, hardhearted, chasing after those things that in this life are only temporary, greedily seeking to please the senses continually. Paul described this as moral impurity:
…and they, having become callous, have given themselves over to sensuality for the practice of every kind of impurity with greediness (Ephesians 4:19).
Paul’s words describe a person who exercises no restraint and has no regard for God’s commands, i.e. His moral standards (Exodus 32). Because of the sin of unbelief they are excluded from the life of God. In their natural state they will walk meaninglessly through the world, in the futility of their mind (not producing anything of eternal value), oblivious to God and His truths (John 16:7-11).
In verses 17-19, Paul described the covetous and impure heart and mind of the unbeliever. This is how they Ephesians were not to live. Then from verse 20 to the end of chapter 4, Paul explains how they are to live (walk worthy). In effect, Paul’s saying, “The place to start in living the life of a true Believer is to recognize you must think differently than the unsaved do.” Since every sin begins with a thought (in the mind), Paul urges these folks to mind their conduct because being in Christ Jesus requires it. This isn’t new news. They’ve heard it before and from him.
The problem of sin is in man's thinking, which is why God said the problem is in the heart—in the mind. Humans are limited in their thinking or what is in their minds. If we take God's Word to heart, and permit the Holy Spirit to empower us then there is a good chance our minds will begin to change; we’ll begin to act differently, becoming holy as God is holy. A person who is not set apart (holy) will not understand God because they are by choice alienated from Him. So, until the individual repents (accepts change), their hardened heart and mind will remain unchanged. The change which is required of those who are in Christ begins by taking in the Word of God daily and applying what we learn to our lives (Deuteronomy 29:29).
…for in Him we live and move and exist, as even some of your own poets have said, 'For we also are His children' (Acts 17:28; I Thessalonians 4; 1 John 2:6).
This verse properly leads us into the next section.
Living According To What You Have Learned
But you did not learn Christ in this way if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught in Him, just as truth is (where) in Jesus, (4:20-21). The words to learn Christ appear here only. They are found nowhere else in Scripture. Note Paul did not say, “You did not learn about Christ.” He said, “You did not learn Christ in this way.” Paul employs the usage of three verbs in this passage to teach the importance of agreeing with and yielding to God’s expressed will.
You did not learn Christ in this way - the Koine Greek word for learn is Manthano (man-than’-o), Verb, Strong’s Greek #3129. It means: to increase one’s knowledge, to hear, be informed, to learn by inquiry or observation. Paul taught this church in Ephesus the gospel and sound Church Doctrine for three years (Acts 20:31). Consequently, their knowledge of Jesus Christ will not lead them to live as the unsaved Gentiles lived.
Paul preached “Christ Crucified” a Person, not an opinion or idea, but the Creator God Himself (Colossians 1:13-17; Hebrews 1:2). So when they entered a right relationship with Him, His life and His words gives them an understanding of what is acceptable behavior and what is not. Paul’s point here is the Ephesians can walk worthy consistently, even in this darkened world, because they have learned Christ, because the Father has regenerated each of them, and the power of the Holy Spirit is at work in them.
…if indeed you have heard Him – the Koine Greek word for heard is Akauo (ak-oo-o), Verb, Strongs’ Greek #191; meaning: to hear. However, because Paul used this word with an object (Him), it means “to hear with perception.” Some Bible translations employ the word “about” in this verse to teach the Ephesians had merely heard about Christ. But the following record of Paul’s achievement in Ephesus reveals this isn’t the case.
The Ephesian Church had already known the Savior for 3 years, at least.
Paul's lengthy stay in Ephesus included twelve men he led to Christ (Acts 19:1–7)
3 months of speaking at the synagogue (Acts 19:8)
He taught for two years in the hall of Tyrannus (Acts 19:9–10)
Everyone in the area, Jews and Greeks alike, "heard the word of the Lord" (Acts 19:10).
After many people in the city burned their books of magic arts, Luke noted, "So the word of the Lord continued to increase and prevail mightily" (Acts 19:20).
Paul eventually left town due to persecution, leaving a sizable congregation who had been well trained in the gospel. Before Paul, these folks had no perception of sin; they didn’t know right from wrong. But Paul didn’t leave them as he found them. Put another way, they did not learn Christ in a way which promoted sin. Paul's words here reminded them to live distinctly different lives from their unsaved peers.
…have been taught in Him – the phrase, “in Christ,” “in the Lord” and in Him” occur 164 times in the N.T. and you’ll only find them in Paul’s letters. The phrase "in Him" sums up Paul's view of what it means to be a Believer, in Christ. We are who we are and what we are because of our faith in Jesus Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:1-4). Paul begins to explain this fact in chapter one:
“…the saints who are faithful in Christ Jesus" (1:1)
“…who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ (1:3).
“He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him”(1:4).
"In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace” (1:7)
“He made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His kind intention which He purposed in Him" (1:9).
"We have obtained an inheritance…” (1:10-11)
"In Him you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation – having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise” (1:13).
God's almighty power towards us was revealed "in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places” (1:20)
These are just the references to being "in Christ" in chapter 1. The blessings we possess are ours now because we are "in Him” So, Paul strongly contrasts the sinful practices of unbelievers with what the Ephesians have been taught. Paul's instructions to the Ephesians make it clear Believers are not meant for a life of sin and shame. He has just discussed the spiritual failures and the current state of unbelievers. Therefore, the separation between what these saints once were and what they’ve become in Christ Jesus are profound. Paul’s says this change must be reflected in their lives.
Paul strongly contrasts the sinful lifestyles of unbelievers with what the Ephesians have been taught. If they follow Christ Jesus, then they will begin to walk worthy of the calling with which they have been called.
Putting Off the Old and Putting On the New
that, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth (4:22-24).
Here our Apostle Paul gets down to the “nitty gritty” of this matter, as he challenges these saints to put off their former manner of living, “the old man,” and put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and holiness. In other words, they are to replace “the old man,” with the new man - “Out with the old, in with the new” kind of thing. Throughout Scripture, when God takes something away (removes it) He always replaces it with something better.
For instance, one of the things the book of Hebrews is known for is a comparison of those things written in the O.T. to “the better things” revealed in the New Covenant. It clearly lays out the present priestly ministry of Jesus Christ in the life of the Believer. His priesthood is superior to the O.T. priesthood of Aaron, because only through Jesus Christ do we receive the blessing of salvation (Hebrews 4:14-16, 5:1-9). The Lord Jesus Christ became the permanent and perfect High Priest by going far beyond all other priests by offering Himself as God’s Perfect Sacrifice for the sins of all (Hebrews 7:24, 9:28).
Paul referred to the flesh as our “old self,” in the text. You’ll also find the term the “old man” in some Bible translations. Both terms work. In Romans chapter 8 this “old self” would be synonymous with the “mind set on the flesh” (Romans 8:6-6). The “new self” would be our new “inner man” (Romans 7:22; 2 Corinthians 4:17; Ephesians 3:16), and the “mind set on the Spirit” (Romans 8:6).
In Galatians 5:19-21 Paul provides a list of our old nature or sinful things we are all capable of: Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these,
The Ephesians understood the old man is corrupt and in this state cannot please God: Paul emphatically explains “just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God” (5:21b).
One of the most important absolutes in scripture is:
And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him (Hebrews 11:6).
nevertheless knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, so that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the Law; since by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified (Galatians 2:16).
Prayer may be the key to God’s throne room, but only faith unlocks the door.
(To be continued)
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GJ Heitzman’s Ministry
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