Converted

Converted – Ephesians 4:20-24 01/26/2020

Our passage today is Ephesians 4:20-24, which I invite you to look up. This passage is a portion of a direct exhortation from Paul regarding what’s appropriate and inappropriate in the believer’s life. Notice that it opens with Paul’s famous contrasting conjunction, “but” (δέ). This sets up a contrast between what we used to be (and what many of our neighbors still are), and what we now are in Christ. What we used to be is described in Ephesians 4:17-19; it’s not pretty.

We’ve been changed, the word is converted. The contrast with the readers’ previous lifestyle begins forcefully with (ὑμεῖς δὲ οὐχ …,) literally, “but you not.…” This speaks to a conversion that must take place in the life of every believer. When we come to faith in Jesus Christ something, both miraculous and mundane, takes place. We are converted. If we’re going to wrap our minds, and our lives, around this “Christian living,” we need to consider the nature of our conversions, which at the end of the day is just a 0.25¢ word for “change.”

Our passage opens with a somewhat cryptic statement; “But you have not so learned Christ,…” The expression, “learned Christ,” is unique. This expression implies more than simple doctrinal instruction. Since Christ is a living Person, learning Christ involves not only learning about Him, but also being shaped by Him as the source of a new life. The gist of all this is that the content of Christian truth is summed up in Jesus. Both what we learn about Him, but also what we experience of Him through faith.

This will unavoidably result in a change of conduct, which is first described negatively in Ephesians 4:22, “put off.” The imagery used here creates a sense of


Andrew T. Lincoln, Ephesians, vol. 42, Word Biblical Commentary (Dallas: Word, Incorporated, 1990), 289


J. Vernon McGee, Thru the Bible with J. Vernon McGee: Volume V, 1 Corinthians – Revelation, (Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, TN.: 1983), 257.


Andrew T. Lincoln, Ephesians, vol. 42, Word Biblical Commentary (Dallas: Word, Incorporated, 1990), 279.


The New King James Version (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1982), Eph 4:20.


A. Skevington Wood, Ephesians, in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Volume !!, Ephesians – Philemon, gen. ed., Frank Gaebelein, assoc. ed., J.D. Douglas, NT eds., James Boice and Merrill Tenney, manuscript ed., Gerard Terpstra, (Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids MI.: 1978), 62.


1 Andrew T. Lincoln, Ephesians, vol. 42, Word Biblical Commentary (Dallas: Word, Incorporated, 1990), 280.


2 J. Vernon McGee, Thru the Bible with J. Vernon McGee: Volume V, 1 Corinthians – Revelation, (Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, TN.: 1983), 257.


3 Andrew T. Lincoln, Ephesians, vol. 42, Word Biblical Commentary (Dallas: Word, Incorporated, 1990), 279.


4 The New King James Version (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1982), Eph 4:20.


5 A. Skevington Wood, Ephesians, in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Volume !!, Ephesians – Philemon, gen. ed., Frank Gaebelein, assoc. ed., J.D. Douglas, NT eds., James Boice and Merrill Tenney, manuscript ed., Gerard Terpstra, (Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids MI.: 1978), 62.


6 Andrew T. Lincoln, Ephesians, vol. 42, Word Biblical Commentary (Dallas: Word, Incorporated, 1990), 280.


7 Andrew T. Lincoln, Ephesians, vol. 42, Word Biblical Commentary (Dallas: Word, Incorporated, 1990), 280.


decisive change taking place. At conversion a dramatic renunciation of practices and attitudes contrary to God’s ways is to be expected.

Sin is a corrosive in our lives, it causes corruption, and when unchecked, will end in destruction. Because of this, we are called upon to make some decisive changes, even as God is actively changing us. Paul’s not just dealing with particular vices, the entire “old person” is to be put off because that “old man” (ladies, don’t get too comfortable, here “man” is used in the inclusive sense of “person”) which had a life dominated by sin is incompatible with our new natures in Christ.

When we “put off the old man” it sounds negative, it sounds hard, and it may well be. In spite of what it sounds like, the reality is this old life, that old person, the old way of living, is in a process of disintegration. To continue to live in this way is comparable to being tied to a rotting corpse and carrying it around rather than ridding ourselves of it. In the end, it’s corruption will destroy you.

A change, a conversion, is required. However, we’re not commanded to just stop doing some things, we’re also positively commanded to start some things. In our new lives, this putting on is another way of expressing our call to walk in the Spirit that we find in Galatians 5:16-17. The contrast between “what we were,” and “what we are,”


8 Andrew T. Lincoln, Ephesians, vol. 42, Word Biblical Commentary (Dallas: Word, Incorporated, 1990), 284.


9 Ralph Martin, Ephesians, Colossians, and Philemon, Interpretation: A Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching, ed., James Mays, NT ed., Paul Achtemeier, (John Knox Press, Louisville, KY.: 1991), 57.


10 H. D. M. Spence-Jones, ed., Ephesians, The Pulpit Commentary (London; New York: Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1909), 152.


11 A. Skevington Wood, Ephesians, in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Volume !!, Ephesians – Philemon, gen. ed., Frank Gaebelein, assoc. ed., J.D. Douglas, NT eds., James Boice and Merrill Tenney, manuscript ed., Gerard Terpstra, (Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids MI.: 1978), 62.


12 Ralph Martin, Ephesians, Colossians, and Philemon, Interpretation: A Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching, ed., James Mays, NT ed., Paul Achtemeier, (John Knox Press, Louisville, KY.: 1991), 57.


13 Ralph Martin, Ephesians, Colossians, and Philemon, Interpretation: A Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching, ed., James Mays, NT ed., Paul Achtemeier, (John Knox Press, Louisville, KY.: 1991), 57.


as well as what we did and what we do, is supposed to be stark. With conversion, this is a call to radically quit the old life.

Notice that action is required of us; this is not automatic. We’re commanded to put off, and we’re commanded to put on, in very much the same way we would change our old dirty clothes and put on new clean clothes. When we come to Christ we are not simply adding something to our lives, we’re discarding that old life for something completely new and different.

Now, apart from Christ, handing you a list of things you need to stop doing and start doing is nothing more than moralizing. We could easily end up making Christianity into something so much less than what Christ intended; we try to lay the burden of a new set of laws on each other.

Here’s the catch, we cannot do it. This will never be accomplished through self-effort, nor will it be accomplished by seeking to imitate the Lord and His conduct. Instead, we are to be in a perpetual state of renovation as we’re changed, “renewed,” the passage says; Ephesians 4:23. It is at this point that I’m admittedly and intentionally meddling. Our new lives must reflect the reality of the new person we’ve become.

The new person is qualitatively different from what we were before encountering Christ, this required divine intervention to create, while at the same time, the process of renewal involves both God’s intervention and human cooperation. Regardless of the state of our outward being, we are being renewed inwardly, progressively being


14 Mark Holmes, Ephesians: A Bible Commentary in the Wesleyan Tradition, gen. publisher, Nathan Birky, gen. ed., Ray Barnwell, snr. ed., David Higle, managing ed., Russell Gunsalus, ed., Kelly Trennepohl, (Wesleyan Publishing House, Indianapolis, IN.: 1997), 134.


15 Ralph Martin, Ephesians, Colossians, and Philemon, Interpretation: A Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching, ed., James Mays, NT ed., Paul Achtemeier, (John Knox Press, Louisville, KY.: 1991), 59.


16 J. Vernon McGee, Thru the Bible with J. Vernon McGee: Volume V, 1 Corinthians – Revelation, (Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, TN.: 1983), 258.


17 A. Skevington Wood, Ephesians, in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Volume !!, Ephesians – Philemon, gen. ed., Frank Gaebelein, assoc. ed., J.D. Douglas, NT eds., James Boice and Merrill Tenney, manuscript ed., Gerard Terpstra, (Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids MI.: 1978), 62.


18 J. Vernon McGee, Thru the Bible with J. Vernon McGee: Volume V, 1 Corinthians – Revelation, (Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, TN.: 1983), 258.


19 A. Skevington Wood, Ephesians, in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Volume !!, Ephesians – Philemon, gen. ed., Frank Gaebelein, assoc. ed., J.D. Douglas, NT eds., James Boice and Merrill Tenney, manuscript ed., Gerard Terpstra, (Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids MI.: 1978), 62.


20 Andrew T. Lincoln, Ephesians, vol. 42, Word Biblical Commentary (Dallas: Word, Incorporated, 1990), 286.


transformed. Ultimately, these new person will be fully reinstated in the new creation to perfectly bear the image of God.

When we come to God, we come in very much our old natures. But God wants more for us, He desires to see change. He asks us to become something new, to no longer be what it was that placed us under the wrath of God in the first place. This is not a simple matter of dusting off who we are, or of fixing ourselves up to be respectable. This change comes within our natures and is produced by outside forces.

This is a step of faith as we live in the presence of God and are transformed from the inside out. This is to bear the image of God, which for every single one of us, is a conversion, a change. In essence, the command is to be what you have become.


21 F.F. Bruce, The Epistles to the Colossians, to Philemon, and to the Ephesians, The New International Commentary on the New Testament, gen. eds., Ned Stonehouse, F.F. Bruce, and Gordon Fee, (William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, MI.: 1984), 358.


22 A. Skevington Wood, Ephesians, in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Volume !!, Ephesians – Philemon, gen. ed., Frank Gaebelein, assoc. ed., J.D. Douglas, NT eds., James Boice and Merrill Tenney, manuscript ed., Gerard Terpstra, (Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids MI.: 1978), 62.


23 Mark Holmes, Ephesians: A Bible Commentary in the Wesleyan Tradition, gen. publisher, Nathan Birky, gen. ed., Ray Barnwell, snr. ed., David Higle, managing ed., Russell Gunsalus, ed., Kelly Trennepohl, (Wesleyan Publishing House, Indianapolis, IN.: 1997), 135.


24 Mark Holmes, Ephesians: A Bible Commentary in the Wesleyan Tradition, gen. publisher, Nathan Birky, gen. ed., Ray Barnwell, snr. ed., David Higle, managing ed., Russell Gunsalus, ed., Kelly Trennepohl, (Wesleyan Publishing House, Indianapolis, IN.: 1997), 135.


25 Mark Holmes, Ephesians: A Bible Commentary in the Wesleyan Tradition, gen. publisher, Nathan Birky, gen. ed., Ray Barnwell, snr. ed., David Higle, managing ed., Russell Gunsalus, ed., Kelly Trennepohl, (Wesleyan Publishing House, Indianapolis, IN.: 1997), 135.


26 Mark Holmes, Ephesians: A Bible Commentary in the Wesleyan Tradition, gen. publisher, Nathan Birky, gen. ed., Ray Barnwell, snr. ed., David Higle, managing ed., Russell Gunsalus, ed., Kelly Trennepohl, (Wesleyan Publishing House, Indianapolis, IN.: 1997), 135.


27 Mark Holmes, Ephesians: A Bible Commentary in the Wesleyan Tradition, gen. publisher, Nathan Birky, gen. ed., Ray Barnwell, snr. ed., David Higle, managing ed., Russell Gunsalus, ed., Kelly Trennepohl, (Wesleyan Publishing House, Indianapolis, IN.: 1997), 135.


28 F.F. Bruce, The Epistles to the Colossians, to Philemon, and to the Ephesians, The New International Commentary on the New Testament, gen. eds., Ned Stonehouse, F.F. Bruce, and Gordon Fee, (William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, MI.: 1984), 357.

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