Walking in Newness of Life

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Walking in Newness of Life

Ephesians 4:17-24

The great church father Augustine lived a very promiscuous life prior to his conversion. Not long after he was converted, he was walking down the street and one of his old mistresses recognized him. She called out to him, “Augustine! Augustine!” He ignored her and continued down the street. Again she called out, “Augustine, it is Claudia!” He replied, “But it is no longer Augustine,” as he continued walking. Augustine was walking in newness of life and refused to answer the call of his old life.

In Ephesians 4:1, we are exhorted to walk in a manner worthy of our calling in Christ. In other words, we are to live in a fashion that is fitting for those who have been redeemed by Jesus Christ. We have noticed that this involves walking in unity in vv. 1-6. We also noticed that it involves walking toward maturity in vv. 7-16. In vv. 17-24, we discover that a worthy walk is to walk in newness of life.

Paul develops this theme by a contrast between the old, unredeemed life and the new life in Christ. Paul utilizes terms that deal with wardrobe. The old life is to be put off like a dirty garment. The new life is to be put on like a desirable garment. The controlling idea is that those who have been saved by grace and are the new creation of God must demonstrate that change in their lifestyle.

I. New people must not live the old lifestyle (vv. 17-19).

            A. Stop walking like the Gentiles.

                        1. Gentile is not being used here in terms of race or


                        2. Rather, it points to those who are unconverted. We

                            might use the term “pagan” or “unsaved.”

                        3. Note the urgency and authority in the exhortation.

            B. The old lifestyle is spiritually bankrupt.

                        1. It is a mindset of emptiness. Futility of thinking does

                            not mean the unsaved have no intellectual power.

                            It means that their whole mindset is one of emptiness

                            and folly since they deny God. It is the idea that the

                            intelligence of the unsaved is employed to no end. To

                            take a mind-set that denies and ignores God is to find

                            yourself pursuing intellectual emptiness – a dead end.

                        2. It is a mindset of darkness. Though a different Greek                        term is employed for understanding, the focus is still

                            on the reasoning, thinking, deciding of the lost. Their

                            thought processes, though active and capable, are

                            conducted in spiritual darkness. Like a person who

                            has working eyes but cannot see in the dark.

                        3. It is an alienation caused by ignorance. They are

                            excluded from the life of God because of willful

                            ignorance. They choose to ignore God and His

                            truth and so they are cut off from the life of God.

                        4. It is an ignorance caused by hardness of heart. The

                            ignorance of God flows from a hard which is hard

                            toward God. This is not a person who doesn’t know.

                            It is a person who knows and rejects the truth. It is a

                            person who stubbornly rejects the truth of God.

                        5. It is spiritual insensitivity. The word callous refers to

                            skin which has become hard and no longer feels pain.

                            By continual rejection of truth, the conscience no

                            longer functions normally. As one author said, they

                            “lose the capacity to feel shame or embarrassment.”

                        6. It is unrestrained immorality. The term sensuality

                            refers to vice which throws off all restraint and

                            flaunts itself without regard for decency. This moral

                            chaos is expressed in “every kind of impurity.” This

                            impurity is pursued with greediness. This doesn’t

                            refer to greed as another category. It refers to the

                            insatiable desire for more and more impurity.

ILL/APP: This description sounds familiar doesn’t it. Look at Romans 1:18-25. Do you see the pattern? A world view which suppresses the truth of God leads to empty speculation and darkened, foolish hearts. This gives rise to unrestrained desires for impurity which is practiced without restraint.

This is the spiritual equivalent of a person dying of thirst gorging himself with salt water. Many people marooned at sea have died from dehydration because they kept drinking the salt water. Thinking they would relieve their thirst, they got thirstier and thirstier and eventually died of dehydration. That is what happens to humanity when people ignore and suppress the truth of God. They are self-deceived in their sin. Sin sounds satisfying. They indulge their sinful attitudes and practices more and more. Yet, they are spiritually dying of thirst.

This is the old life. It is the unregenerate life. It really cannot be properly called life at all. It is a living death. And those who are made new in Christ must no longer live this way.

II. New people must live a new lifestyle (vv. 20-24).

            A. New people have learned a different way centered in Christ.

                        1. You learned Christ. Believers have learned Christ.

                            O’Brien states it, “Learning Christ means welcoming

                            Him as a living person and being shaped by His

                            teaching. This encompasses both conversion and

                            basic discipleship.

                        2. Two subsequent phrases clarify the idea of learning


                                    a. You heard Him. Some translations say “of

                                        Him.” Literally, it is you heard Him. This

                                        refers to the time when they heard the call of

                                        Christ through the gospel and responded to it

                                        in saving faith – conversion.

                                    b. You have been taught in Him. This refers to

                                        the instruction they received about Christ and

                                        the life of following Christ : discipleship. The

                                        content of their teaching was the truth in


            B. New people must live renewed lives.


There are three phrases here that describe the change that must characterize believers. In v. 22, we are told to lay aside the old self. In v. 23 we are told that we must be renewed in the spirit of our minds. In v. 24 we are told to put on the new self.

Let’s look more closely at these phrases. I want to begin with the laying aside of the old self and putting on of the new self.

            1. Lay aside the old self.

                        a. Refers back to our former manner of life. That is,

                            the person we were prior to our conversion. The life

                            characterized by the things in vv. 17-19.

                        b. Put off is in a verb form of completed action. It

                            pictures an event done at a point in time.

                        c. The old self is the old life which is being corrupted

                            by the desires of deceit. It pictures the corruption of

                            sin which is ongoing in the old self.

            2. Put on the new self.

                        a. The new self is created. This is important. This text

                            is not about cosmetic reform. It is about radical

                            renewal through the creative act of God. God creates

                            the new person in Christ.

                        b. The old self was characterized by the decay of sin

                            brought about by desires which deceive us. The new

                            self is characterized by righteousness and holiness of

                            the truth.

                        c. Once again, put on the new self is in a verb form that

                            refers to an act which is complete.

I think the best way to understand this is to see the laying aside of the old self and the putting on of the new self as something that occurs at conversion. Now, I am not saying that these actions have no significance in the present. I am simply saying that I think these two acts are two sides of the coin of conversion. When we are saved, we are making a clean break with the past. We are laying aside the old self characterized by the things in vv. 17-19. When we heard and were taught in Jesus and learned Him, we learned that coming to Christ involves the putting off of the old self and the putting on of the new self. The effects of this will continue in a process of renewal.

Now, sandwiched between the two phrases which describe the event of conversion is the phrase “be renewed in the spirit of your mind.” Let’s look at this phrase.

                        3. Be renewed in the spirit of your mind.

                                    a. This phrase is in a verb form which refers not

                                        to a completed act, but an ongoing process.

                                    b. The spirit of the mind is a reference to the

                                        inner thought patterns. One translation has

                                        “attitude of your mind.” One scholar refers

    it as the “pattern, motivation, and direction

    of our thinking.” It is an echo of Rom.12:2.

                                    c. The verb is in the passive form so it refers to

                                        something being done in us, not by us. This

                                        renewal is done by the Holy Spirit.

Now when we take these three phrases together, I think this is what it means. When we are called to believe in Christ and converted, in that moment we understand that to follow Christ is to put off our old self which is sinful and decaying. It also means to put on the new self which is created by God in righteousness and holiness of the truth. The implications of this one-time break with the past are realized every day as we are continually being renewed in the spirit of our minds. So, the one time act of conversion has ongoing implications in the process of renewal.


A changed life is evidence of salvation. There is an inescapable conclusion here that a new life leads to a new lifestyle. You claim to know Christ? How is your life changed and changing? Do you think differently now than before? Has your vocabulary changed? Have your desires changed? Do you now hate some of the things you once loved?

A changed life is the result of God’s grace, not your grit. We must be careful that we don’t misunderstand Paul here. Some would turn this passage into a kind of moralistic, legalistic self-reformation. This text does not invite us to change so that God will accept us. This text is not telling us that the gateway to spiritual reward is our ability to reform our lives. This text tells us that true believers are inwardly new by the creative act of God. Because of this, there is to be a corresponding new lifestyle. Salvation produces change. Not the other way around.

A changed life begins on the inside, in the mind. Look back at this text again. Note how both the old life of sin and the new life in Christ are described in terms of the inward life. The unconverted have futile thinking, darkened understanding, and hardened hearts that leads to moral chaos. By the same token, the believer has “learned Christ” been “taught the truth as it is in Jesus” and is “being renewed in the spirit of his mind.”

The means that God uses to renew our minds is the Word of God – the truth. As we read, meditate, study, and understand Scripture, the Holy Spirit uses that truth to change our thinking. New values replace old ones. A new mindset replaces old patterns of self-deceit and begins to bring every thought captive to Christ.

Beloved, how much attention are you paying to your inward life? What is shaping your thoughts and values? TV? Romance novels? Fox News? Talk radio? Sports?

Two things are working against the process of spiritual renewal in your life. First, there is your own flesh. The old sinful influences are pulling on you from the inside. Do you feel them? I sure do. The deceitful desires and lies are constantly present. Second, you have the influence of a godless culture which is saturated in godless messages. On the billboards, on TV, in the magazines, in the literature, on the radio, all around us are these unbiblical, misleading messages.

If we think that one hour of truth in a week is sufficient to do battle against these influences we are kidding ourselves. If the only time you open your Bible is on Sunday, you are already in trouble. The spirit of our minds will not be renewed without exposure to and intake of the truth. If you desire to see spiritual renewal in your life, you are going to have to get the truth into your mind.


If someone looked at your spiritual wardrobe today, would they say you are a new creation in Christ or that you are living the old life of the unsaved? Do you need a wardrobe change? It begins with being in Christ. If you do not know Jesus Christ as Lord, you cannot live the new life. If you do know Jesus Christ as Lord, you must live the new life. Put on in your experience what you are in Christ – a new person.

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