By Rev. Lance Filio
We are united by God’s love and in love, he builds us up with his gifts. As result, we walk according to his ways. As God’s people, we living under God’s new creation. We leave behold our former way of life and adopt a new way of living.
This is the what we will hear preached today. How can we live under God’s rule? What does it mean to be godly? Our sermon divides into two major points: (1) The Old Way of Life; (2) The New Way of Life.
The Old Way of Life
Verses 17-19: “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. They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity.”
Paul moves now from Christian doctrine to Christian ethics and provides a framework for us to view the relationship between the two. For Paul, doctrine is for life. Our beliefs affects our behavior. Right thinking leads to right living. Verse 17 commands us not to walk in darkness like we use to. Our theology demands we change our ways. We are called to walk in the light of the gospel.
How? By learning Christ and his ways.
Paul emphasizes the importance of a renewed mind by contrasting for us how the mind works between an unregenerate and a regenerate person. Regeneration changes the mind, heart and will of person. It is a work of God. The work happens when we are united to Christ and begins with the illuminating work of the Holy Spirit to change our darkened minds.
Verse 18-19 reminds us how the unregenerate mind works. Paul considers the fallen mind comes with the hardness of the heart. A rotten heart controls the depraved mind. We are totally depraved because of sin. We love darkness instead of light so we foolishly settles for ignorance. We parade the darkness of our understanding and show off our alienation from God. We don’t know better. As a result, we’ve become insensitive towards moral living and follow every inordinate sinful desires our hearts. We purse sin and it leads to our eternal death.
This is our old way of life. We live in sin and purse a path of destruction. No one is neutral. No one is inherently good. No one is capable of living for God.
Reformed Christians are often considered morbid for insisting on this truth. Today while this doctrine of sin is considered to be true, no one seems to care and preach it to its full understanding. It is considered impolite to tell everyone we are sinners and depraved in our core. But why do we insist on this? Simply because Scripture teaches it and it is true. There is no point of contradicting God and his Word. Paul wrote for us clearly here our depraved state and how it leads to our death. We need to hear this truth again and again until we die because forgetting it leads to our death. We sin because we are sinners. Our depraved minds causes us to lead sinful lives.
The New Way of Life
Verses 20-24: “But that is not the way you learned Christ!— assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.”
But now we know better. When we are united to Christ by faith, we are also united to God by the Spirit. The work of Spirit to illuminate our deprave minds begins by conforming us to the image of Christ in true righteousness and holiness. We have begun to way in this new way of life. Our justification by faith in Christ grounds us to the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit.
Verses 20-21 informs us of this new way of living. Paul exhorts us to learn Christ. But how do we learn Christ?
This is a question alerting us to consider how the exhortation was framed. Paul what us to learn Christ. But how can we learn a person? Surely we can learn about him. Paul assumes we have heard about him when we receive him as our Savior. We also received instructions about his person and his work of redemption for his people. Yet the term Paul uses here is learn Christ. He wants us to learn directly the person of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Verses 22-24 defines for us the work of Christ in our sanctification. Paul describes them in three distinct ways. First, we are called to put of the old man. Second, we are exhorted to renew our minds by the work of the Spirit. Third, we are called to put on the new man. Put off, Renew, and Put on. (Repeat until memorized)
Let us qualify what this means by eliminating some misunderstanding when contrasting our lives between old and new. First, the oldness and the newness is not only an individual reality. It is not about our personal testimony about our pre-conversion and post-conversion. In a highly individualistic view, the division between old and new is marked by the person’s “spiritual” birthday or the time when they “accepted Christ as their personal Lord and Savior.” This static the old and new division considers only the application of redemption by time it becomes a reality to the person. It is far more than that. Second, the old and new is just the division between the period before and after Christ’s death. This historical reality did change the world. It is an important reality for those who are saved by it but again, this once and for all atoning work it not what Paul focuses here.
The division between old and new here pertains to the eschatological reality inaugurated by Christ in his resurrection. It is the division between creation with Adam as its representative and new creation with Christ as its head. It points to our federal relationship between Adam as the old man and Christ as the new man. Adam brought us to sin and death while Christ delivers us from sin by dying for us and giving us eternal life. It is on-going reality we live under. It our lives between Christ first and second coming.
In sum, the division is not individualistic but federal, eschatological not just linear history.
What does it mean for us? First, our sanctification comes with our relationship with Christ and in communion with the saints. There is no lone Christian. This is why church membership is important. We need the ministry and members of the church. We belong to the covenant of grace in order to receive the graces and blessings that comes only for our justification but also with our sanctification. Second, our sanctification is on-going process living under the on-going reality of our union with Christ. This is what it means to learn Christ. It is not a one time event but an on-going work until we die. The ability to put off, renew, and put on is exercised by Christ in us through the Spirit. We purse holiness by the exercising these graces brought about by our relationship with him.
ZCRC(Imus), we are now living under the reality of God’s new creation. We are called to put off our former ways of living when we were still under Adam but now, Christ is our head. And since we are united to him through faith and by the Spirit, we are conformed to his image. May the Lord continue to call us and regenerate us. Amen.
Rev. Lance Filio is a minister of the Word and Sacraments at Zion Cornerstone Reformed Church (Imus). He finished his Bachelor Degree in Electronics Engineering at Mapua Institute of Technology and He is currently taking his Master of Arts in Theological Studies (MATS) at MINTS. He lives in Taguig City, Philippines with his wife and three children.