Ephesians Chapter 4, Part 4
by Karl Kemp
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Part 4 continues where Part 3 ended.
I'll also quote part of what G. R. Lewis said in his article on "Paradise" ("Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible," Vol. 4 [Zondervan, 1975], pages 598, 599). First I'll give an excerpt from what he said under the heading "In later Jewish thought." "Stewart D. F. Salmond helpfully summarizes this material. 'In the Rabbinical literature the term [Paradise] has various senses.... Sometimes it is the general abode of the righteous dead; sometimes the happy side of sheol; sometimes the home of the specially privileged few, the abode of those who have never seen death, the place where Messiah Himself waits for the time of His manifestation."
Now I'll quote part of what Lewis said under the heading, "In the NT." He is speaking regarding Luke 23:43. "What meaning of 'Paradise' did Jesus intend the thief to understand? Alford, following Grotius, suggested that Jesus spoke to the thief in terms of the Jewish belief in a portion of Hades for the righteous dead, but spoke with a fuller meaning knowing that the same day he would open paradise at God's right hand. ...and some little time after on the same day was with the thief in the presence of God." I don't believe we should think of the believers being taken from Hades/Sheol/Paradise to heaven before Jesus was resurrected on the third day. Matthew 27:53 shows that a select number of saints were resurrected bodily after Jesus was. (Surely Jesus was resurrected first [cf. 1 Cor. 15:20-23; Col. 1:18: Rev. 1:5; and Rom. 8:29]). Most of the believers dwelling in Hades/Paradise were not resurrected bodily at that time (they're still waiting, along with the Christians who have died the past two thousand years, for the resurrection at the time of Christ's return), but I believe (in agreement with many) that they were taken to Paradise in a higher sense. They were taken to heaven, to the place where true Christians go at death (cf. 2 Cor. 5:1-8; Phil. 1:21, 23; and 1 Thess. 4:13, 14). Hebrews 11:39, 40; 12:23 are important verses that help confirm that the believers from Old Testament days have now been taken to heaven through the victory gained by Christ Jesus. On these verses from Hebrews, see pages 166, 167 of my book, "Holiness and Victory Over Sin."
I'll also quote from Lewis' last heading, "Doctrinal significance." "In defense of the view that paradise was originally a portion of Hades, Louis Sperry Chafer argued that 'An illustration of this belief is given by Christ in the account of the rich man and Lazarus' (Luke 16:19-31). That it [Paradise] was removed from Hades to the presence of God, he taught was indicated by Ephesians 4:8-10 ("Systematic Theology" VII, 247, 248). The note on Hades at Luke 16 in the original Scofield Bible distinguished between Hades before the ascension of Christ (which had a compartment called paradise, or Abraham's bosom) and Hades after the ascension. ... ...paradise has been removed from Hades and 'is now in the immediate presence of God.' It is believed that Ephesians 4:8-10 indicates the time of the change." I have already commented on Eph. 4:8-10 in this paper.
EPHESIANS 4:17-32. These verses, especially when coupled with Ephesians chapters 5 and 6, constitute one of the more significant passages in the New Testament exhorting Christians with the enablement and requirement (which is a great privilege!) to walk in righteousness and holiness with the victory over sin through salvation in Christ Jesus.
"So this I say, and affirm together with the Lord, that you walk no longer just as the Gentiles also walk [The apostle Paul was writing this epistle to Gentiles who had now become Christians (cf. Eph. 1:11-13; 2:11-3:8). The non-Christian Gentiles were, of course, walking (living) in sin.], in the futility [or, "emptiness, vanity"; cf., e.g., Rom. 1:28; 1 Pet. 1:18] of their mind [[or, "way of thinking." Many Christians wrongly think that the words "mind" and "thinking" in the Bible are limited to something that man does with the head (the brain). That's a rather serious error. These words typically include something that man does with the heart/inner man/spirit/soul, not just with the head. See under Rom. 8:5-7 on pages 118, 119 of my book, "Holiness and Victory Over Sin" (including note 32), and see below under Eph. 4:18, 23 (4:23 uses the same Greek noun [nous] used here in 4:17).]], (18) being darkened in their understanding [cf. Rom. 1:21], excluded from the life of God [cf. Eph. 2:1] because of the ignorance that is in them [cf. Acts 17:30; 1 Pet. 1:14], because of the hardness of their heart [Compare Mark 3:5; 2 Cor. 3:14. These words confirm that man is responsible for his sin. The sin problem originates in the heart of man (cf. Mark 7:20-23). (In a more general sense the sin problem originated in the fall of Satan; then mankind followed Satan in his rebellion against God.) From the heart man must submit to God in faith; in the heart the priorities, attitudes, and motives are established. What we think about God in our hearts, including our priorities, attitudes, and motives constitute a big part of our important thinking.]; (19) and they, having become callous [Their consciences have become insensitive. The NIV has, "having lost all sensitivity." Compare 1 Tim. 4:2.], have given themselves over to sensuality for the practice of every kind of impurity with greediness [or, "insatiableness, covetousness." Colossians 1:21 speaks of the former (pre Christian) status of Paul's Gentile readers as being "alienated and hostile in mind ("dianoia"), engaged in evil deeds." If we think wrong in our hearts, we will live wrong.]. (20) But you did not learn Christ in this way [What they had learned about Christ and salvation through Him, and in Him, put the emphasis on the fact that God sent His Son to solve the sin problem through forgiveness, redemption from the kingdom of sin, and righteous and holy living in union with Christ through the indwelling Holy Spirit.], (21) if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught in Him, just as truth ["the truth" NIV] is in Jesus [Compare John 14:6; Eph. 1:13; and Col. 1:5. Significantly, Eph. 4:24 demonstrates that the truth includes righteousness and holiness.], (22) that, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self [[I would translate "old man," with the KJV and NKJV. On the old man, which speaks of what we were before we became Christians, see Rom. 6:6; Col. 3:9 (both of these verses specifically mention the "old man"); Gal. 5:24; and Col. 2:11, 12. Romans 6:3, 4 teach that the old man has died and been buried with Christ, and Rom. 6:6 teaches that the old man was crucified with Christ (the emphasis of these verses is on dying to sin [Rom. 6:2]). Colossians 2:11 says the body of the flesh (which is comparable in meaning with the old man) has been removed by the spiritual circumcision we received through Christ, and 2:12 says we were buried with Him (which, as Rom. 6:3, 4 show, goes with dying with Christ). Galatians 5:24 speaks of the same end result from a little different point of view, "Now those who belong to Christ have crucified the flesh [which is comparable with crucifying the old man] with its passions and desires." Colossians 3:9 communicates the same message as Gal. 5:24, using a different figure of speech, with the words, "you laid aside the old man with its evil practices." Ephesians 4:22 communicates the same end result but from a slightly different perspective. This verse doesn't assume that the old man has been fully laid aside. Paul writes from the point of view that anything that remains of the old man (which, in the ideal case would have already been dealt with) must now once-for-all be laid aside (or put to death).
Many verses in the New Testament confirm that it's not uncommon for Christians to still have sinful things, things that are part of the old man, that still need to be put off. The New Testament (and the experience of all Christians) makes it very clear that the old man isn't automatically laid aside or put to death. The old man will continue to live (and the result will be sin for the Christian) to the extent the Christian doesn't walk after the Spirit through faith on a continuous basis, thereby keeping the old man from living (from expressing itself in sinful ways). And it's true, of course, that Christians can't have faith to walk above sin unless they know for sure that this is what they are called to in the New Testament. THIS WIDESPREAD LACK OF KNOWLEDGE AND FAITH IS A BIG PART OF THE PROBLEM IN OUR DAY.
Ephesians 4:25, which uses the same Greek verb as 4:22, is an important cross-reference. There the apostle Paul exhorts his readers to lay aside falsehood. (The KJV, NKJV have "putting away lying." See Rev. 21:8; 22:15.) Laying aside falsehood/lying is just part of what it means to lay aside the old man. Also, as Paul continues with Eph. 4:25-31, he lists some of the other sinful things that must be once-for-all laid aside by all Christians. The apostle certainly didn't exhort them to gradually taper off falsehood/lying (or any other sin) over the next few years or throughout their remaining years on the earth. Note "put away from you" (using a different Greek verb) in 4:31. Compare Col. 3:8; Heb. 12:1; James 1:21; and 1 Pet. 2:1.]], which is being corrupted [I prefer the translation of the KJV, "which is corrupt." I'm not denying the fact that, in some ways, the world is becoming more corrupt all the time, but I doubt that Paul incorporated that idea here.] in accordance with the lusts of deceit [[There's a strong contrast in these verses between the truth of God and the lies/deceit/deception of the devil and the world. The KJV and NKJV have "according to the deceitful lusts"; the NIV has "by its deceitful desires." Note that the words truth and lies/deceit/deception all relate to the mind/way of thinking. The mind/way of thinking of the Spirit (when we walk by the Spirit, which includes thinking by the Spirit) always lines up with the truth, which as Eph. 4:24 shows, includes righteousness and holiness. When people lust after/desire wrong (sinful) things it is because they have been deceived and led astray by sin and Satan (this started with Eve); they have been led away from God and His truth, righteousness, and holiness. This doesn't mean, of course, that people have an excuse for their sin. Hebrews 3:13 exhorts Christians "to encourage one another day after day...so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin."], (23) and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind [[This verse is extremely important but (in my opinion) typically not well translated, or well understood. I refer the reader to what I said above under Eph. 4:17, 18, including the references to my book, "Holiness and Victory Over Sin." I'll quote a key paragraph from endnote 32 (pages 138, 139) of that book: "I would translate Eph. 4:23 as follows: 'and be renewed by the Spirit in your mind (or thinking).' ((I had a lengthy footnote here that goes on into the fourth paragraph: This way of understanding these words isn't the majority view, but many agree with this viewpoint. Andrew T. Lincoln ("Ephesians," "Word Biblical Commentary," Vol. 42 [Word, 1990], pages 286, 287) doesn't agree with this viewpoint, but he acknowledges that "The majority of recent commentators [and he lists quite a few] opt for a reference to the divine Spirit [here]...." Lincoln quoted J. L. Houlden ("Paul's Letters from Prison" [Penguin, 1970], who translated the words, "Be renewed by the Spirit in your mind."
As far as I can remember, I came to this understanding of these words on my own (by the Spirit of God, and after I learned Greek) before I first saw this viewpoint in print (about 1972) in the commentary on Ephesians by Ralph P. Martin in the "New Bible Commentary: Revised" [Eerdmans, 1971], pages 1117, 1118. I'll quote what Martin said under Eph. 4:23. "The summons to put off the old nature as a suit of clothes is shed may sound like a counsel of despair, for fallen man is in helpless plight. But Paul's appeal is to Christians who have known the renewal of the Spirit which, begun decisively at conversion, is a process to be continued. Hence the present tense ["present tense" of the infinitive translated "be renewed" in the Greek] of his admonition which calls upon his readers to be renewed in their minds (answering the need stated in vv. 17, 18) by the action of the Holy Spirit."
I agree with what Martin said here except for his speaking of a "process" of renewal of the mind/thinking by the Spirit. I agree, of course, that Christians will continue to grow (which is a process) in their thinking, but, if I understand Paul, he was speaking here (in an ideal sense) of a once-for-all renewal, a renewal that goes with the once-for-all putting off of the old man (Eph. 4:22) and putting on of the new man (Eph. 4:24). I believe that the "present tense" Martin spoke of conveys the idea of Christians continuing to abide in a renewed state of thinking right by the Spirit (and in accordance with the Word of God), not of their being in a process of renewal. Otherwise they couldn't once-for-all put off (or crucify) the old man or put on the new man.
Paul demonstrates this same once-for-all viewpoint in Rom. 8:5-7; 12:1, 2 (we will discuss these verses as we continue with our discussion of Eph. 4:23) and often in his writings. It seems clear to me that it isn't good enough to exhort Christians to gradually begin to think right and to gradually put off sins with the understanding that they will necessarily continue to sin throughout their lives on earth, as it is commonly taught.)) This verse explains, in large part, how Christians are to be once-for-all transformed from their former sinful state (Eph. 4:17-19, 22). Significantly, in Eph. 4:17 the apostle says: "This I say therefore, and affirm together with the Lord, THAT YOU WALK NO LONGER JUST AS THE GENTILES ALSO WALK, IN THE FUTILITY OF THEIR MIND [my emphasis]." The NIV has, "in the futility of their thinking." The Greek noun "nous," which is translated "mind" by the NASB in Eph. 4:17, is also used here in Eph. 4:23.
The Holy Spirit enables Christians to be renewed in their minds/in the way they think. See under Rom. 8:5-7 [pages 118, 119 of my book, "Holiness and Victory Over Sin"]. He enables us to have right priorities, attitudes, and motives, and to think (and live) in line with the truth of God. This is all part of having a renewed mind. (The mind/way of thinking is not at all limited to the head. Our most important thinking takes place in the heart/spirit.)." For us to be renewed in our minds/in the way we think, we must submit (in faith) to the Word of God (where we learn the truth of God; especially the truth of the gospel of salvation in Christ Jesus [cf. Eph. 4:20, 21]) and to the Spirit of God.
I'll quote another paragraph from endnote 32 of my book. "Romans 12:2 says: and do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewing [Greek "anakainosis"] of your mind ["nous"].... The Greek noun nous, which is used in Eph. 4:17 and 23, is also used in Rom. 12:2. The Greek noun anakainosis is only used in the New Testament in Rom. 12:2 and Titus 3:5." It would be better yet to translate "the renewal," with the BAGD Greek Lexicon, than "the renewing." The word renewal fits better with the once-for-all renewal pictured in Eph. 4:17-32; Rom. 8:1-14; 12:1, 2; and in many other passages. I discuss this once-for-all renewal (as contrasted with a lifelong process of gradually beginning to think right and gradually putting off sin, but never really attaining a state of holiness) frequently in my teaching. For a start, see the last paragraph of endnote 32, the endnote that I have been quoting from. As that paragraph mentions, I'm not denying that Christians should continue to grow throughout their lives in Christ, but in the ideal case there will not be a continual growing out of sin (because we will be living in an abiding state of holiness with the victory over all sin).
Throughout our Christian lives we should (we have the privilege to) be holy, and we should be growing (growing in knowledge and wisdom, growing more like the Lord Jesus Christ, growing in the fruit of the Spirit, etc.) This is good news! If we rightly respond to God's Word (with humble faith) it will bring transformation, not condemnation. And if we should slip into sin, God (who knows our hearts) knows if we are making Him and His Word top priority. I'm sure that He finds it rather easy to forgive and to sanctify those who are making Him and His Word top priority, and who are quick to repent.]], (24) and put on the new self ["man." We can't stop with putting off the old man; we must also put on the new man (cf., e.g., Col. 3:10 [which specifically mentions putting on the new man]; Rom. 6:4; 7:6; 12:2; 13:14 ("But put on the Lord Jesus Christ [cf. Gal. 3:27], and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts"); and 2 Cor. 5:17).], which in the likeness of God [[I could live with the translation of the NASB here, but the Greek more literally reads, "in accordance with (or, according to [NKJV]) God," which probably includes other ideas in addition to the new man's being in the likeness of God. Instead of being in accordance with sin and the lies/deceit/deception of the devil, the new man in Christ is in accordance with God. Taken in their fullest sense these words could include all the following ideas: The new man has been created by God (cf. Eph. 2:10); it is in the likeness of God; and it is in accordance with the will of God and His truth, which includes His righteousness and holiness. (When we think of man's being in the likeness of God, we think of Gen. 1:26; 5:1; and 9:6, but it must be understood that God's new creation in Christ takes man to a much higher place than what Adam had before the fall [cf., e.g., 1 Cor. 15:44-50]. [I had a footnote: Most of the glory of what it means to be a son of God in union with Christ Jesus, the Unique Son, is reserved for the (near) future, but we have already entered into the preliminary phase of that glory.]) When Christians are thinking right and living right through salvation in union with Christ Jesus (being indwelled by the Holy Spirit), which is what Christians are enabled and required to do, they are living in accordance with God - they certainly aren't sinning.
Ephesians 4:22-24, and especially 4:24, demonstrate how the apostle can exhort Christians to "be imitators of God, as beloved children" in Eph. 5:1. That's quite a challenge (and it certainly includes victory over all sin, doesn't it). Along this same line, compare, for example, Matt. 5:48; 1 Cor. 11:1; 1 John 2:5, 6; and 3:1-10. Ephesians 5:1 undoubtedly builds on Eph. 4:32 (and the preceding verses); that is, when Christians do the things spoken of in 4:32, they are imitating God (by His enabling grace).]] has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth [It is very important to know that God's truth includes His righteousness and holiness. Walking in God's truth includes walking in His righteousness and holiness.]. (25) Therefore, laying aside falsehood [See under Eph. 4:22.], SPEAK TRUTH [which is the opposite of "falsehood"] EACH ONE OF YOU WITH HIS NEIGHBOR, for we are members of one another. [The fact that we are members of one another in the body of Christ makes it all the more imperative for us to speak truth to one another. The NIV has, "Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body."] (26) BE ANGRY, AND YET DO NOT SIN [Psalm 4:4]; do not let the sun go down on your anger [Most agree that Paul is not exhorting his readers to be angry here, but cautioning them to make sure that anger doesn't lead to sin. As James 1:19 cautions, we must be "slow to anger." It's possible for Christians to be angry without sinning (cf. Mark 3:5), but anger can be sinful, and it can lead to great sin (cf. James 1:20; Eph. 4:31). That's why the apostle cautions believers to quickly deal with the cause of the anger and to not let the sun go down on their anger. Sometimes we can get issues quickly resolved, before the sun goes down. On those occasions where the issues can't be resolved quickly, or resolved at all (for one thing, we can't act for the other person(s) who may be involved), we can take our concern to (cast our care upon) the Lord and leave it there. He'll take care of the details; they'll be in good hands; we can stay in peace and rest. See Rom. 12:17-21. What a privilege!], (27) and do not give the devil an opportunity [literally, "a place." Compare John 14:30; James 4:7. We don't have to, and we must not, give the devil any place in us. We would give him a place in us, for example, by allowing anger to abide in our hearts. We give the devil a place in us when we allow things that aren't true (including false doctrine), or any sin (including stealing [Eph. 4:28], speaking unwholesome words [Eph. 4:29], etc.) to have a place in us/our lives.]. (28) He who steals must steal no longer; but rather he must labor, performing with his own hands what is good [cf. 1 Thess. 4:11; 2 Thess. 3:6-15], so that he will have something to share with one who has need [cf. Luke 3:11; Titus 3:8, 14]. (29) Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth [cf. Eph. 5:4; Col. 3:8], but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment so that it will give grace to those who hear [cf. Eccl. 10:12; Rom. 14:19; and Col. 4:6. The NIV has, "that it may benefit those who listen."]. (30) Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God [Compare Isa. 63:10. All sin (including accepting false doctrine) grieves the Holy Spirit. We must make God and His truth, righteousness, and holiness top priority, and if we should slip into false doctrine or any other sin, we must be quick to repent.], by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. [The Holy Spirit sealed us when He came to dwell in us. See under Eph. 1:13 in the verse-by-verse study of Ephesians chapter 1 on this site. The "day of redemption" will begin when Christ returns. At that time all true Christians will be glorified; they will be caught up into the fullness of eternal life; they will begin to reign with Christ.] (31) Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice [cf. 1 Pet. 2:1]. [This is part of the once-for-all laying aside of the old man mentioned in Eph. 4:22.] (32) Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you. [This is part of the once-for-all putting on of the new man mentioned in Eph. 4:24. The Bible strongly warns Christians that they must forgive if they expect to be forgiven and to maintain their forgiven status before God (cf. Matt. 6:12, 14, 15; 18:21-35). It's also true that there are many situations where something more than forgiveness (e.g., repentance, restoration) is required (e.g., Matt. 18:15-20; 1 Cor. 5:1-13; and 2 Thess. 3:6-15).]
Ephesians chapters 5 and 6 continue with the strong exhortation for Christians to walk as they are called (and enabled) to walk in truth, righteousness, holiness, humility, etc. These important chapters were briefly discussed above (and there were references to full discussions for many of the verses from these chapters) under the heading "A Discussion on the Overall Teaching of the Book of Ephesians Regarding How Long It Should Take for Christians to Become Holy/Spiritual (by the Spirit)/(Relatively) Perfect."
May God's will be fully accomplished through this paper!
© Copyright by Karl Kemp
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