“So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, with a continual lust for more. You, however, did not come to know Christ in that way. Surely you heard of Him and were taught in Him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus.”
“If it feels good, do it!” If there is a slogan that describes our times this is it. We live in a time which is dominated by our feelings. In the past we may have spoken about what we thought, but now we speak about how something feels to us. A number of years ago as I was listening to a Newscast about Hurricane Sandy and its impact upon the East Coast of the United States I was startled to hear the Reporter use the Word feel in place of think. We really are a people dominated by feelings. To be sure it is a sign of good mental health to be in touch with our feelings. We love to be around people who are genuine in their feelings of affection, especially when those feelings are under control and expressed appropriately. The Apostle Paul, although being a person of warm affections was not a man dominated by them. His feelings we under the control of his thinking as can be seen in his application of the doctrine of the unity which the Gospel creates when it brings us into the Body of Christ.
Paul has called the Ephesians to be diligent in maintaining the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. (Eph. 4:3) He then digresses into a very important exposition of the doctrine of the Body of Christ and the giftedness through which God in Christ, by the power of the Holy Spirit maintains and builds us up in the love of Christ. Paul wants us to understand here with our minds the principles upon which the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ are built up. These are biblical principles which bring us Godly wisdom on which our lives together as Christians are advanced. With the help of the Holy Spirit we are called to understand and apply this Wisdom to our lives. After establishing the doctrine clearly here Paul then turns back to the application of this truth to our lives. Unity in the Spirit is maintained through thousands of obedient actions on our part as we live out the Christian life. This is Paul tells us the thing that he is constantly testifying to as he leads the Churches into ever deepening discipleship.
Paul points out that this involves us in putting off our sin (Ephesians 4:17-19), in order that we might put on Christ (Ephesians 4:2032). What we are to put off it a nature which is enslaved by sin and its characteristics. What we are to put on is a new nature which is characterized by the Righteousness of the Lord Jesus Christ. This is done through, faith filled, obedient, thoughtful obedience to the characteristics of the life of Christ that has been given to us. What this means is that we put off a lifestyle dominated by slavery to our feelings. We put on a brand new way of living which is dominated by the Biblical Wisdom which we find embodied in the Lord Jesus Christ. This is a creation of God’s grace which comes from something new being created in the attitudes of our minds (Ephesians 4:23).
Perhaps this can be best illustrated by looking at Zechariah 3 where the prophet is given a vision of Joshua the High Priest as he is being accused by Satan. He is standing before the Angel of the Lord dressed in filthy rags, symbolic of his, and his people’s sin. The Lord acts to cleanse him, symbolically removing Joshua’s filthy clothing and replacing them with clean garments. The Lord tells him that the meaning of this is that the Lord has taken away his sin. Looking ahead the Lord gives the meaning of this vision. When the Messiah comes He will fulfill this vision by taking away the sin of the land in a single day.
This is exactly what God does through the cross of Christ. The calling upon the lives of those who are thus cleansed is to put off their old way of living which was to be in slavery to their inner lusts which lead them away from the life of God so that they can put on the righteousness of Christ which has been given to us by God in Christ.