By Rev. Lance Filio
We learn Christ and his ways. His yoke is easy; his burden is light. Under the new covenant, we receive God’s law from the hands of Christ. Paul exhorts us to exercise the work of Christ in sanctification by putting off the old man we inherited from Adam, renewing our minds by God’s Word and Spirit, and putting on the new man which the Second Adam we receive by our union with him in faith and repentance.
We learned last week how Paul points us to view God’s work of taking his people towards holiness as federal and eschatological. It is an on-going work living under an on-going reality between Christ first and second coming. It is this life where believers live between two overlapping ages. It happens when God transfers us from death to life, from dying to living, from old to new, from Adam to Christ. And we how behave according to who are in Christ and not who we were in Adam. This is what it means to live for the glory of God in Christ.
Closing off our topic from Ephesians chapter 4, we will review what it means to learn Christ by act of of putting off and putting on. And finally, we will delve in the specific commands Paul gave to his congregation as examples of behaviors expected from them now they are believers in Christ. Our outline for this morning is: 1) Put Off and Put On; 2) Life Under God’s New Creation.
Let us pray…
Put Off and Put On
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.
Paul, by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, wrote for us instructions for godly living. We may consider “putting off and putting on” as a simple principle to live by. It is not complicated nor rocket science. But this seemingly quite simple command takes a lifetime to apply. So before going to much details, let us first lay down two general principles about it.
First, we define what it practically means to put off the old self and to put on the new self. Simply put, we displace the old man and his ways and replace new man and his ways. Whatever belongs to sin we mortify and what belongs to God, we vivify or apply. Notice how the act of putting off and putting on makes no room for passivity. While our Triune God works for us and in us, he makes us willing to do his bidding. God command us and promises to provide what he commands. He exhorts us to obey and enables us to it.
Our catechism this makes clear in the gratitude section of the Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Day 33. It speaks of this work of as mortification and vivification:
Q 88: What is the true repentance or conversion of man?Ans. It is the dying of the old nature and the coming to life of the new.
Q 89: What is the dying of the old nature?Ans. It is to grieve with heartfelt sorrow that we have offended God by our sin, and more and more to hate it and flee from it.
Q 90: What is the coming to life of the new nature?Ans. It is a heartfelt joy in God through Christ, and a love and delight to live according to the will of God in all good works.
In this section, Ursinus defines our conversion or sanctification in negative and positive terms. Negatively, we are to die with the old nature and positively, we are to live with the new nature. He defines dying as hating and fleeing from sin and living as loving and delighting to obey God’s will. And to concretely lay down the principle of living in accordance to God’s Word, he dedicated a large part of this gratitude section detailing and exposing the ten commandments. This leads us to our second general principle.
Second, we define what practically it practically means to live according to our new nature. Simply put, we obey God’s law. We demonstrate our love for God by loving him and our neighbors. Concretely, we use the law to guide believers to holy living. This is what the reformers call the third use of the law. God’s law in God’s Word is the regulative principle for God’s people. God commands us to love God and man in thought, word and deed. To learn more about it, let us proceed to our final sermon point.
Life Under God’s New Creation
verses 25-32: Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another. Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil. Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need. Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.
To obey these commands mean to become who we are in Christ. We do not make ourselves holy by simply doing these deeds but because we are holy in Christ, we become like him. We are not anymore under Adam but under Christ. We follow Christ and behave like him. How?
First, we rid ourselves of all kinds of falsehood. Negatively speaking, we do not bear any false witness. This is the 9th command. Paul begins with this because logically, we were delivered from falsehood by exposing them in the light of the truth of the gospel. We are saved by truth and we are called to live in this light. We apply truth telling in all aspect of our lives. In our family, we encourage honesty in our relationship with others. In our work, we live with integrity. In our church, we learn how to become transparent with others about our struggles and weaknesses. Our theology puts a premium to truth. God is truth and his Words are true. We live accordingly like those in the light and not in darkness. Let our yes be yes and no as no. Let us be truthful to ourselves and to everyone.
Second, we exercise mental and emotional self-control. Anger consumes us like fire burning profusely. While getting angry in of itself is not sin but it often leads us to sin. Jesus warns us about harboring ill thoughts about our neighbors. He considers slander in thought as murder which is the 6th command. Here Paul warns against anger that leads to sin. He exhorts us not to allow the devil gain any foothold in our minds and hearts. We rid ourselves daily of any consuming thoughts against anyone by exercising self-control over our mental and emotional states.
Third, we replace stealing, which is the 8th command, with generosity. While some of us might think we never really steal because we consider it as a petty crime but it speaks more than just stealing some small items. Our catechism considers abuse and squandering of God’s good gifts as stealing. Negatively, when we withhold helping others is also considered as stealing. Paul exhorts us to be generous with others. As a person who receives grace, we serve other with gratitude. We contribute rather than horde; we help others rather than become a burden to others.
Fourth, we practice godly speech instead of corrupting talk. It is command against vain speech which is the 3rd command. We are called to lead godly lives in though, word and deed. We exercise grace when we daily practice godly speech. Paul grounds his exhortation with the reality of God’s indwelling presence by the Holy Spirit. By the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, he inscripturated for us the proof of his personality. Here Paul considers corrupt talk as grievous sin that quenches the Holy Spirit. By the way of reference, he establishes the personality by attributing to him a grief as a personal way of dealing with our sins. Paul here looks back to Psalms 63 where the psalmist speaks of Israel grieving the Holy Spirit because of their rebellion against their God. The Holy Spirit grieves when we sin and we quench Him by refusing to obey.He acts personally with us by dwelling in us. God in his being grieves unlike any man for he is immutable and impassible. Yet nevertheless, Scripture teaches us here the personality of the Holy Spirit. He is holy and personal. His grief implies he is not dispassionate about sin but in his affections towards us he is always personal. We practice godly speech because the Spirit delights in encouraging his people. We lift people us in our speech because the Spirit is our comforter and helps us help other people by building them up in our speech.
Lastly, we replace covetousness with kindness. Kindness towards others proves we are forgiven people. We live in gratitude towards God and act with kindness towards God’s people. We practice hospitality instead of snobbery. We act with generosity by sharing our lives with others. Practically speaking, while the depth of our knowledge about God helps establish God’s truth, the kindness of our actions demonstrate God’s love. The 10th command warns us against coveting because God wants us to live in kindness with others. We cannot be kind to others if we are rudely and secreting coveting against them in our hearts. Let us be kind to one another; let us bear one another.
ZCRC(Imus), we learn Christ by putting off the old self and putting on the new self. We become who we are in Christ. We behave in accordance to the new reality his Spirit brings. We glorify the Father by living our lives under God’s new creation. Amen.