24 October 2012

Ephesians 4:17-32

"Now this I affirm and insist on in the Lord: you must no longer live as the Gentiles live, in the futility of their minds. … That is not the way you learned Christ!" (vv. 17, 20)


The writer of this letter is now speaking very directlyabout 'new life in Christ', urging readers to turn their lives around and to live in a completely new way. Gentiles were those who were not Jewish. Many early Christians were, in fact, Jews who had become followers of Jesus Christ - they had the experience of the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20) and the Torah, which is the law as given to Moses in Old Testament times. Gentiles neither followed the Ten Commandments nor the Jewish law.

The Gentile way of life is pictured as being very far from what God wants - because of ignorance mainly. But the readers of the Letter to the Ephesians have learned a different way and have to be committed to following it.

There are three particular commands in this passage: 

  • 'put away the old ways of behaving' (v. 22) - examples are provided of what those are
  • "be renewed" (v. 23) - through the power of Christ
  • "clothe yourselves with your new self" (v. 24) - in other words be as God wants you to be.

It is all an enormous challenge, but it is what Jesus has taught and shown in his life. What follows is a list of examples of just how Christians are expected to behave (verses 25-32): be truthful; don't let anger go on for ever; don't steal; be careful what you say; say what is good; and be kind and thoughtful to each other.

The writer of this letter is keen that Christian faith and belief must lead to Christian behaviour - that is abundantly clear!

To Ponder

  • Do you ever feel tempted to slip into behaviour that is not what God wants? In what ways does that happen?
  • How do you get the strength to live in the 'new life in Christ'?

Bible notes author

The Revd Stephen Burgess

Revd Stephen Burgess is chair of the York & Hull District of the Methodist Church. He initially trained as a chemist and after some years in industry and teaching served in two school chaplaincy appointments before becoming superintendent of the Cambridge Circuit and then moving to Yorkshire.