Living the New Life

November 19, 2005

Read: Eph 4:17-32

Comments on Eph 4:17-32: In 4:17 Paul turns to focus on the Christian’s social conduct. Actually, 4:17-5:20 forms one unit of text unified by repeated admonitions to “live” (4:17; 5:2, 8, 15) in a moral way that is variously specified. Also both 4:17-32 and 5:1-20 repeat warnings about “impurity” and “greed” near the beginning of each passage (4:19; 5:3-5). Since such dispositions were particularly associated with the Gentile lifestyle in general, it is not surprising that they get repeated.

In 4:17-24 the exhortation centers on describing this former lifestyle in detail admonishing to put it away and “put on” (literally: clothe oneself with) the new person that has been created in the likeness of God in righteousness and holiness. This new creation is expressed in the language of Genesis 1. Also, the references to righteousness and holiness once more resonate with the O.T. covenant. In fact, one of the central features in the meaning of holiness in the O.T. is “separateness.” It defined God as different from other gods. It required that the Israelites be different from the surrounding world of people. As such, this fits will with the admonitions to part with one’s former life with its values and practices.

In 4:25-31 the exhortations of “putting away” continue with a major emphasis on anger and wrath and their products, i.e. wrangling, slander, malice. The emphasis is highlighted not only by the repetition but by it being place near the beginning and end of the passage in 4:26 and 4:31. Besides these vices, falsehood, stealing and evil talk are also warned against. Instead of these one should concentrate on constructive behavior. There is also the warning not to “grieve the Holy Spirit” which is again referred to as marking the Christian with a seal for the day of redemption (cf. 1:13).

In 4:31 kindness, tenderheartedness, and forgiveness are presented as the Christian alternative to wrath and anger with their derivative behaviors.

Questions to think about: What does it mean to be alienated from “the life of God” (4:17)? Is it life “from” God? Divine life? Life characterized by association/fellowship with God?

In 4:17-24 there are several references to pre-conversion “futility of…mind,” being “darkened in…understanding,” “ignorance,” and being formerly “deluded by…lusts.” Why is the mind so involved even in what would be regarded as “carnal” behavior? What sort of ignorance is involved in this? Is the solution information as such? Or is there some other kind of knowing/knowledge that is necessary? What does “spirit” refer to in the expression, “be renewed in the spirit of your mind”?

In 4:26 some anger is apparently called for, but one should not harbor it or it will be sin. In 4:30 is there any connection between the warning not to grieve the Holy Spirit and the focus in the context of 4:25-31 on not harboring anger and wrath? How would such behavior go against the functions of the Holy Spirit expressed by Paul here and elsewhere?

In what sense would one’s words be able to “give grace to those who hear.” Is this simple gracious, kind speech or is there a deeper meaning? Can Christians “mediate” God’s grace in word and action? What would it mean to be the lips, hands, and feet of God’s grace?

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