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Sermon #53 — Ephesians Sermons
Title: Living for Christ
Text: Ephesians 4:17-32
Subject: The Believer’s walk in New Life
Date: Tuesday Evening — November 15, 2016
Readings: Larry Brown and Merle Hart
I want to talk to you about Living for Christ. — Living for Christ — That is the title of my message. — We are admonished in the Scriptures to do all things for the glory of God. And we want to do so. It is our joy, as believers, to seek the honor and glory of God our Savior.
In all things, we want to glorify our great God, to be led by his Spirit, to the honor of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to adorn the doctrine of God our Savior, living soberly, righteously, and godly in this present evil world.
You can’t live for Christ if you do not know him. I know that some of you are yet lost, without life, without faith in Christ, without God, without Christ, without hope. I urge you to trust the Lord Jesus Christ. You cannot honor God, you cannot live for God without faith in Christ. — “Without faith [it is] impossible to please [him]: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and [that] he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him” (Hebrews 11:6). You cannot live for God if you do not trust Christ.
Live for Christ
If you trust the Lord Jesus Christ, if know him, if God has saved you by his grace, if you are washed in the precious blood of Christ, if you are born of God, if God the Holy Ghost has given you faith in Christ, I am sure of this: — Nothing is more important to you than living for him. You know that you are not your own. You’ve been bought with the price of Christ’s precious blood; and you want to live for him.
Message for You
Is that right? Do you desire to live in this world for the glory of God? Do you want to live for him who loved you and gave himself for you? If you do, I have a message from God for you. You will find it in Ephesians 4:17-32 — Living for Christ — That’s my subject. My text is Ephesians 4:17-32.
When Paul wrote to his son, Timothy, he was very anxious that the young preacher should know how to conduct himself as Christ’s servant. He said, “These things write I unto thee…that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.” Paul’s concern for Timothy was very much the same as that which he expresses for the saints at Ephesus in our text.
Remember, Paul’s purpose in this chapter. — He is trying to secure the unity of the saints. He has urged us to “walk worthy of the vocation wherewith we are called.” In the first part of the chapter, Paul carefully showed us that all true believers are indeed one in Christ. We are members of that one glorious body, the church, of which Jesus Christ is the exalted Head. The purpose for which the gospel ministry was established is the edification of the church, so that all the members of Christ may grow up on him and in him in the unity of faith and love.
Š This is the prayer of our Lord Jesus himself — “That they may be perfect in one.”
Š And this was the great desire of Paul’s heart.
He knew that carnal divisions in Christ’s kingdom were dishonoring to Christ our Head, grieving the Holy Spirit of peace, and dishonoring to our heavenly Father.
In verses 17-32, the Apostle continues with the same exhortation, “that we walk worthy of the vocation wherewith we are called.” He has shown us the foundation for our unity. — We are one with Christ and one in Christ (vv. 4-6). God’s elect, all of them, are one with Christ and one in Christ.
(Ephesians 4:4-6) “There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; (5) One Lord, one faith, one baptism, (6) One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.”
We are one with Christ and one in Christ. That is the foundation upon which Paul tells us we must build. In verses 17-32, he teaches us how to build upon that foundation. In the verses before us, Paul is calling upon each of us to conduct ourselves in a manner which will promote unity. Here the divinely inspired apostle tells you and me how to live for Christ in this world. He carefully tells us what we should avoid and what we should practice, if we would live for Christ, live for the glory of God, and live for the benefit of God’s people in this world. This is how we promote the unity of the body of Christ.
Proposition: As believers, our behavior toward one another should be governed by the example of Christ, love for our brethren, and the glory of God.
Divisions: There are four things in this passage by which Paul shows us how to live for Christ our Savior.
1. We must not live like other men (vv. 17-19).
2. We must always remember who we are and whose we are (vv. 20-24).
3. We must follow the example of Christ (vv. 25-29).
4. We must seek the glory of God (vv. 30-32).
1st —If you would live for Christ, if we would “keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” — We must not live like other men (vv. 17-19).
(Ephesians 4:17-19) “This I say therefore, and testify in the Lord, that ye henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind, (18) Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart: (19) Who being past feeling have given themselves over unto lasciviousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness.”
Throughout this world there is the prevalence of strife, division, and chaos among men. It seems impossible for two men to be together for long without division. This was God’s judgment at Babel. He sent confusion to our fallen race. And it continues to this day. The reason for the terrible confusion of men is the depravity and sinful pride of man’s heart. If we have been born-again, if we would honor God in our lives, if we would be useful to one another, we cannot live like the men and women of this world.
“This I say, therefore, and testify in the Lord, that ye henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk.” — The word “therefore” connects this exhortation to all that has gone before it. It is as though Paul were saying, “Because of your high calling and your responsibility to edify the body of Christ, you should no longer conduct yourselves as mere worldlings.”
“This I say and testify in the Lord.” — Paul speaks as God’s messenger, with the authority of the Lord. His testimony is in the interest of Christ’s cause.
We are no longer like other Gentiles, therefore we must not walk like them. — Though we are Gentiles physically, by nature, we are now made fellow citizens with the saints. We are new creatures in Christ. We are the Israel of God. Let us live as those who are princes with God.
Š Lay aside your former manner of life.
Š Do not imitate the unregenerate people among whom we live.
There is a good reason for us to avoid the conduct of unregenerate men and women. — The men and women of this world live as though there were no God; and their lives are governed by the lusts of their depraved hearts.
All men, since the fall, are practical atheists. They are alienated from God. And they are naturally inclined to evil. Every time we are reminded of the wickedness of the world, let us be reminded that our God has snatched us from this world, as brands from the burning.
The very thoughts of the ungodly are vain. Their minds are fruitless. The mind of fallen man produces nothing that can satisfy. All those plans whereby the wicked would attain happiness end in disappointment. Their lives are a long series of mocked expectations. They pursue, but never achieve. All this striving for fun, fame, and fortune is nothing but striving for the wind.
Š Their ambitions are vain.
Š Their religion is vain.
Š Their thoughts are vain.
Š “Vanity of vanities! All is vanity, saith the Preacher!”
The understanding of man is darkened, so that he is without the knowledge of God and his righteousness.
Š Men have a God consciousness by creation, but they have no saving acquaintance with God.
Š They are ignorant of their sin and its consequences.
Š They are ignorant of God’s holiness and justice.
Š They are ignorant of the substitutionary atonement of Christ.
Š This ignorance came upon our race by the sin of our father, Adam.
Š It is increased by our personal transgressions.
Š Sometimes men’s minds are darkened and given over to the ignorance of superstition and idolatry by the judgment of God upon them (2 Corinthians 4:3-4).
(2 Corinthians 4:3-6) “But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: (4) In whom the God of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them. (5) For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord; and ourselves your servants for Jesus’ sake. (6) For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”
Because of this spiritual ignorance, all men are alienated, or separated from the life of God.
Š They are spiritually dead.
Š They are strangers to Christ, the Fountain of Life.
Š They are enemies to God and his gospel.
Š They are utterly unacquainted with the pleasures and sweetness of life with God in Christ.
Their hearts, the very center of all moral and physical life, have become hard and callous.
Š There is a natural hardness of heart.
Š There is also a voluntary hardness of heart. Men harden their hearts against the very goodness of God.
Š And there is a judicial hardness which God sends upon many who will not believe on his Son (Romans 11:7).
Those who go on in their trespasses and sins, against every warning of God in the law, in providence, and in the gospel, have their consciences seared as with a red-hot iron (v. 19). — They are “past feeling!” How sad! What a curse!
Š They have no conscience to prick their hearts. God judicially takes from them all feeling that ought turn them to him. They have no feeling of their sinfulness. They have no sense of their misery. They have no sense of their danger.
Š When men’s consciences are seared, there are no bounds to their sin. They are entirely given over to the evil of their own hearts.
Oh, that God would yet be gracious to you who hear my voice! Repent this moment. Do not be so foolish as to reject God’s goodness another moment. — “Harden not your heart, as in the day of provocation” (Psalm 95:8). — “He that hardeneth his heart shall fall into mischief” (Proverbs 28:14). — “He, that being often reproved hardeneth his neck, shall suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy” (Proverbs 29:1).
Whose We Are
2nd — If we would live for Christ — We must always remember who we are and whose we are (vv. 20-24). — “Ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). — That is what Paul tells us in verses 20-24.
(Ephesians 4:20-24) “But ye have not so learned Christ; (21) If so be that ye have heard him, and have been taught by him, as the truth is in Jesus: (22) That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; (23) And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; (24) And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.”
We should not live like others, because we are not the same as others. We’ve been taught of God and made new creatures in Christ. — “But ye have not so learned Christ.” — That which makes the believer different from other men is that he has been taught by Christ himself. — “If so be that ye have heard him, and have been taught by him, as the truth is in Jesus.”
(John 6:45) “It is written in the prophets, and they shall be all taught of God. Every man therefore that hath heard, and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto me.”
We have heard the voice of Christ speaking to us by the gospel. We have been taught by Christ himself, who dwells in our hearts as a Prophet to teach us the things of God. All who hear Christ and are taught of him learn by him.
Š We have learned who he is. — God Over All and Blessed Forever — The Lord and Heir of All Things — The Alpha and the Omega of the Covenant of Grace — God’s Gift to Fallen Men — The Savior of Sinners.
Š We have learned what Christ has done. — He died as the sinner’s Substitute. He intercedes for us in heaven. — He forgives all sin. — He gives us acceptance with God. — He loves us. — He teaches us. — He protects us.
Š We have learned his truth. — God has but one truth. Christ is the Truth! The truth of God resides in Christ, but more. — Christ is Truth! Apart from Christ there is no truth. Christ is saving truth. The truth is the gospel of substitutionary redemption by, in, and with the Lord Jesus Christ.
Since God has so graciously revealed himself to us in Christ, while others are left hardened in their sins, we should live as new men. We should live as new men because we are new (vv. 22-24).
The old man within us is unchanged, as evil as ever. Having put off that old man, we must continually put him off (v. 22).
(Ephesians 4:22) “That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts.”
Paul uses the illustration of changing a garment. The sinner who is washed in the blood of Christ hates the very garments that are stained with sin.
The old man is our own sinful nature. He is not dead, but dying. He is not buried, but crucified. The old nature is still with us. The old man is never sanctified. He only gets more wicked with age. We must always be aware of his presence, but refuse to allow him dominion.
The lusts of this old man within us are still corrupt and deceitful.
Š They promise pleasure and profit; but they give pain and poverty.
Š They promise liberty, but bring bondage.
Š They promise satisfaction, but end in destruction.
Š Sometimes the lusts of the old man assume a religious face, filling men with pride and conceit, who think themselves to be something, when they are nothing.
The way to avoid the deceitful lusts of the old man is to have your mind constantly renewed in Christ Jesus (vv. 23-24).
(Ephesians 4:23-24) “And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; (24) And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.”
This putting off the old man and putting on the new is God’s work, altogether God’s work. This renewing of the spirit of our minds is God’s work, altogether God’s work. — You know that.
Š He made us new creatures, giving us a new nature, a new heart, a new will, and a new mind.
Š He put Christ in us, making us “partakers of the divine nature!”
Š Who but God the Holy Ghost, who formed Christ in Mary’s womb, could create him in us, “a new man which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness?”
This is God’s work. God alone can do it. As John Gill put it…
“He only who renews the face of the earth year by year, can renew us daily in the spirit of our minds.”
This is a revival of spiritual light and knowledge, of life and strength, of joy and comfort. — “Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me” (Psalm 51:10). This is the gracious work of the Holy Spirit within us; and we must seek it from him.
What Paul is talking about here is the life of faith. Christ is the new man Paul is talking about (Jeremiah 31:22), “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27). His righteousness (Romans 13:14) is a garment pure and spotless, which must be put on by the hand of faith. While we live in this world, as long as we live in this world, we must constantly look to Christ, trust Christ, and put on Christ with the hand of faith, putting off the old man, saying no to the deceitful lusts of the flesh. As we do, as we are enabled of God to put off the old man and put on Christ, we are renewed by his Spirit in the inner man.
(Romans 12:1-2) “I beseech you therefore brethren, by the mercies of God that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God.”
God the Holy Ghost here teaches us, as he does throughout the Inspired Volume of Holy Scripture, that the righteousness of God’s elect is not the ceremonial righteousness of the law, but the real righteousness of Christ. Our holiness is not the pretended holiness of the Pharisees, but a genuine holiness of heart.
Š Christ is our Righteousness in justification.
Š And Christ is our Holiness in sanctification.
Š What a great motive our Divine Comforter here gives us to live for Christ!
3rd — Let us beware of the vices of the ungodly. If we would walk worthy of our holy vocation and promote the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace, if we would live for Christ — We must follow the example of Christ (vv. 25-29).
The godliness Paul speaks of in verses 25-29 has nothing to do with meat and drink. It is not determined by the length of your hair, the observance of days, sabbath keeping, or any carnal, material thing. It has to do with following the example Christ has given us, being conformed to his image. Here Paul tells us some things by which we should adorn the doctrine of God our Savior, as we seek to live for him. — We must learn to live for the benefit of others, for the service of our brothers and sisters in Christ, as he did (John 13:1-15). The most difficult part of that is learning to use our tongues for the good of our brethren.
(Ephesians 4:25-29) “Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbour: for we are members one of another. (26) Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath: (27) Neither give place to the devil. (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. (29) Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.”
4th — If we desire to promote the unity of the saints and walk worthy of the vocation wherewith we are called, if we would live for Christ, if we would live for the glory of God in this world — We must seek the glory of God in all things (vv. 30-32).
(Ephesians 4:30-32) “And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption. (31) Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: (32) And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.”
“Grieve not the Holy Spirit of God” (vv. 30-31). It is a grief to any parent to see their children at odds, mistreating one another. And God the Holy Spirit is grieved by us when we are at odds and mistreat one another.
Š He has called us by his power.
Š He has sealed us as the heirs of heaven.
Š In spite of everything evil in us and every ungodly thing done by us, he has sealed us and keeps us until the day of redemption!
O Spirit of God, give me grace to avoid those things that grieve you, those things so natural to my flesh and dishonoring to my God, by which others are injured!
Š Bitterness is the disposition of a person with a razor sharp tongue.
Š Anger is fury, a strong sense of rage.
Š Wrath is settled indignation against someone.
Š Clamor is the malice of person stirring up strife and discord. It is another word for brawling.
Š Evil speaking is slander, gossip, and criticism.
Š Malice is the spirit of hatred and revenge, delighting to inflict pain on someone.
Would you live for Christ? Would I? Would we really? I will tell you exactly how to do so. — In all things, treat one another like God has treated, and treats us, for Christ’s sake (v. 32; Colossians 3:12-13).
(Ephesians 4:32) “And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.”
(Colossians 3:12-13) “Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering; (13) Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye.”
Let me read one more short passage of Holy Scripture. I will leave it to my God to apply these lessons to each of our hearts (1 John 4:10-11).
(1 John 4:10-11) “Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. (11) Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another.”