Sermon Text: Ephesians 4:17-19
Sermon Title: “Don’t Walk That Way”
The text for this morning begins the third and final division of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. The first division of the book is primarily doctrinal in nature. The Apostle has written in detail about God’s eternal plan and purposes and how the believer has become a part of them.
God’s plan began in eternity past long before time as we understand it came into existence. In eternity an agreement was made between the members of the Trinity whereby the Son would be sent by the Father to be born of a virgin, to be raised in an ordinary family working along side Joseph in the carpentry shop. The extraordinary thing about the life of Jesus was his total and complete obedience to the will of the Father. His obedience allowed him to make atonement for the sins of the elect.
Through repentance of sin and faith in Christ those who had been chosen before the foundation of the world would be blessed with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places (Ephesians 1:3) they would be adopted by the Father (Eph. 1:5) and placed into the new society that God was creating. A new society designed to show the immeasurable riches of the Father’s grace.
The second division in the book begins in chapter 4 and verse 1 where Paul begins the application of the doctrine he has taught in the first three chapters. The focus of this second division is to aid our understanding that every believer is a part of the body of Christ and that the Lord Jesus gave to the body gifted men to first establish and ground the body on the right foundation and then through the ministry of the pastor-teachers equip the members of the body to do the work of the ministry which results in the body being built up as each member exercises their spiritual gift for the good of the body.
In the second division of the book (Ephesians 4:1-16) Paul sets before us, before the believer the general guidelines as to how those who are now in Christ should live. He writes in verse 1 “I therefore a prison for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called,” He then provides them with the attitudes that characterize the worthy walk, attitudes such as humility, gentleness, patience, bearing with one another, doing whatever is necessary to maintain the unity of the Spirit and to grow up into Christ and to become mature in Christ.
Now as we enter the third and final division Paul moves from the general to the specific. He is going to spell out in detail how the believer must conduct themselves now that they are in Christ.
Paul again makes the direct connection between doctrine and practice, as he always does he links the two together.
Our conduct as believers must always be dictated, must always be controlled by what we believe. You will not consistently behave in a manner worthy of Christ apart from understanding who you are in Christ. Your practice must be founded upon and flow from doctrine. Belief governs behavior! Profession should lead to practice.
Christianity is not a code or a set of principles that we try and live up to. Sadly, that is how many thinks of Christianity. For instance, they read the Sermon on the Mount and think to themselves, wouldn’t the world be a much better place if everybody would just live this way and so they try and do their part. What happens? They fail miserably.
Why because trying to live out the principles outlined in the Sermon on the Mount apart from regeneration, apart from being born again is nothing more that trying to be a good moral person. But they can’t be a good moral person because they are as Paul is about to describe darkened in their understanding and alienated from the life of God. Therefore, they can not live out the precepts of God apart from the life of God apart from the power of God.
In this final division of his letter Paul shows us that the Christian life is a life to be lived. And as Dr. Jones points out it is lived out in the details. If we don’t live out the details, we are effectively denying the truth we say that we believe.
The Christian life is a life that is lived out in every one of our actions, in every one of our decisions. In all of our attitudes.
Knowledge brings responsibility! If we do not apply the truth we know (such as what we have learned about spiritual gifts and discipleship) then when we stand before the Lord Jesus one day we will have to give an answer as to why we failed to apply the knowledge we have received. Listen to the last sentence in Luke 12:48
Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more.
Therefore, we must take prompt action on the knowledge that we have been blessed with because we will be held responsible for what we did with that knowledge. We need to take the words of James seriously….
“But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.”
(James 1:22, ESV)
SOMETIMES ITS GOOD TO REMEMBER
He begins by reminding them of their prior lifestyle. Notice how he begins verse 17 “Now I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do…” The implication is that he is about to describe is their old way of living. He is reminding them that this was how you lived indeed how all live apart from Christ; but now that you are in Christ you must not live that way anymore.
Because they are in Christ they are new creations (2 Cor. 5:17) and because they are new creations the old has passed away and the new has come. The moment a person comes to faith in Christ the moment they are born again everything about that person becomes new. Do you want to know if you are saved? Did you change? Has everything about you become new?
John MacArthur writes: “Salvation is not a matter of improvement or perfection of what has previously existed. It is total transformation. The New Testament speaks of believers having a new mind, a new will, a new heart, a new inheritance, a new relationship, new power, new knowledge, new wisdom, new perception, new understanding, new righteousness, new love, new desire, new citizenship, and many other new things—all of which are summed up in newness of life (Rom. 6:4)”
Paul’s emphasis in 2 Cor. 5:17 is that the believer has not received something new that is added to the old, no the believer has become new. His exact words are “behold the new has come.” Everything is new!
Why then do we – believers – keep on sinning if the new has come? Paul helps our understanding. He writes in Romans 7:17-18
“So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out.” (Romans 7:17–18, ESV)
What is Paul’s answer? The reason we still sin as Christians is because of the sin that still indwells us, resides in us. We sin because our flesh, our bodies have not yet been redeemed and it is that remaining sin that keeps us from experiencing in this life the fullness of the new nature we now possess.
Believers are not perfect people; all believers must deal with temptation, they must deal with the constant pull of the old lifestyle. That is what Paul begins to deal with. Notice verse 17.
“Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds.”
He begins with the word “now”. In other translations it says “therefore”. I like the ESV translation of now because it gives the sense of “ok now you are ready to hear this. Now that you have the right foundation, now that I have given you the proper doctrine now and only now can you begin to properly practice what I’m about to say. Now that you have been given the doctrine now your behavior can be dictated by your belief.”
Now he is ready to begin addressing their new lifestyle that will identify them to pagan culture that surrounded them that they were now a part of the body of Christ.
Remember as we began our study of Ephesians we learned what a wicked evil place Ephesus was. MacArthur in his commentary on Ephesians quotes a Greek philosopher who himself was known for his paganism he described the city of Ephesus “as the darkness of vileness. The morals were lower than animals and the inhabitants of Ephesus were fit only to be drowned.”
But these Ephesians now that they are in Christ must no longer live that way. They must be aware of the constant siren call of temptation, they must be aware of running into their old party buddies who would undoubtedly urge them to come and just hang out with the guys, hang out with the boys for just one night, after all what harm could one night do?
Paul says, no don’t be fooled, don’t be pulled back into that lifestyle. You must no longer live that way. Because they were Christians they were to live like Christians.
The situation the believers in Ephesus found themselves in mirrors our own today. Our culture is out of control morally. Our culture bypassed moral bankruptcy decades ago and the same temptation rages on for believers today to go back to the old ways, to go back to their old lifestyle. The culture places tremendous pressure on believers, young Christians are pressured by their peers, by their professors and teachers. All believers face a constant onslaught of our culture to conform to the culture instead of conforming to Christ.
But just as the believers in Ephesus were to be known for their distinct lifestyle so too today we as believers who are living in our own “darkness of vileness” are to be known for the distinctiveness of our lifestyle. Let’s be honest with ourselves it’s hard to live for Christ. It’s hard to live in distinction from the world. But brothers and sisters that is what your Lord has called you to. He has saved you from the “darkness of vileness” and brought you into the light of the glorious gospel. Hard yes, difficult certainly. Impossible no! Remember “I can do all things through Him (Christ) who strengthens me.”
Jesus said in Matthew
“In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”
Why are our lives to be different? Why are our lifestyles to be radically different from the culture around us? Because when the unbelieving world sees our lives, sees the distinctiveness of our lives our distinctiveness brings glory to God.
Now is the time to start living out your faith. You are right where the Ephesians were at when they first read Paul’s letter. We have spent months carefully working our way through the doctrinal portion of his letter. Which means you like the Ephesians have been doctrinally prepared so that your beliefs can dictate your behavior. Your life can be congruent with your doctrine.
WHAT ABOUT YOU?
You may be here this morning and wonder what it is I’m really going on about? It doesn’t seem to make much sense. Could it be that the reason it doesn’t make sense with you is because you are not yet in Christ, you have never been saved. Your way of thinking about spiritual things is futile, your mind and your understanding is darkened because of the blindness and the callousness that sin creates. Yet there is something going on that you can’t quite put your finger on, a little alarm bell is going off, the warning light of your conscience is flashing.
There is only one way to escape the darkness and the futility of sin and that is through the light of the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ. You have been exposed to the light today. What should you do? Act! The Bible says “Today is the day of salvation, today if you hear his voice – act! Repent of your sin, turn from you sin and turn to Christ and cast himself on His mercy. Urgency do it now!