Behavioral change—old man vs new man

Behavioral change—old man vs new man (4:17-6:9)


Walk not as Gentiles (4:17-19)

Walk not as other Gentiles walk…greediness (4:17-19)

“Walk” deals with our conduct as the believers. Both Chapter 4 & 5 begin with the word “walk”“walk worthy of the vocation” (4:1) and “walk in love” (5:2). But here in 4:17-19, Paul first describes the walk of the Gentiles and tell us not to follow.

Several points regarding the life of the Gentiles:

  1. vanity of the mind—meaning empty illusion, thinking of things that have no advantage at all.

  2. understanding darkened—no understanding of moral values.

  3. ignorance of godly behavior.

  4. blindness of the heart—no good intention in heart.

The end result is:

  1. “alienated from the life of God”—separated from God.

  2. “given themselves over to lasciviousness”“licentiousness” (NRSV), indulging oneself as he desires.

  3. “work all uncleanness with greediness”—do all the wicked things with selfish desire.

Put on the new man (4:20-24)

Life of a believer—change from old to new

But ye have not so learned Christ…ye have heard him…have been taught by him (4:20-21)

We believers are to learn from the life of Christ and from his teachings through the apostles.

Put off concerning the former conversation the old man (4:22)

Other translations for this verse include:

“Put away your former way of life, your old self” (NRSV);

“Put away, as concerning your former manner of life, the old man” (ASV).

Paul simulates getting rid of the former life as putting off an old garment, which is already “corrupt”. Our old life is a corrupt life because we keep on following our “deceitful lusts”.

Be renewed in the spirit of your mind; And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness. (4:23-24)

Notice that our old man can never be eliminated in our earthly life. Nevertheless, we can control ourselves from following the old man’s lusts so that the corrupt old life will cease functioning. Instead, our old lustful mind should be replaced by our spiritual mind—“be renewed in the spirit of your mind.” That is to say, our old man is replaced by a new man that pursues God’s righeousness and holiness. This is a reflection of the life of God, in contrast to the life of a Gentile.

We cannot wear old garment and new garment at the same time. If we are wearing the new garment, the old garment is already put aside. Likewise, if we are living like the new man, the old man stops working automatically—and, sadly, vice versa. Nobody likes to stay with you if you are wearing old ragged clothes like a beggar. However, if you are wearing a new and beautiful garment you just bought, people will like to stay with you much longer. So, if we can put off our old man and put on our new man more often (if not all the time), we will be welcomed by everyone.

Deeds of conversion (4:25-5:21)

Do’s and Don’ts (4:25-32)

Now Paul enters into the practical side of our Christian life—the outward behavior. He mentions things not to do and substitutes them with the things that we ought to do.

    1.  Don’t lie / [Do] Speak truth (v25)

“putting away lying”—Many places in the book talk about lying: ‘deceive’ 4:14, 5:6, ‘deceitful lusts’ 4:22.

“speak…truth”—Places that talk about truth: “speak the truth in love” 4:15, “the truth is in Jesus” 4:21. 

    2.  Don’t sin in anger. Don’t keep anger. Don’t give devil any chance. (v26-27) 

    3.  Don’t steal / [Do] Work hard (v28). 

    4.  Don’t speak destructive words / [Do] Speak constructive words. (v29) 

    5.  Don’t grieve the Holy Spirit. (v30)

The Holy Spirit will not depart from us when we sin, because “ye are sealed unto the day of redemption.” Yet our sins can break our fellowship with Him. God was silent for 13 years when Abraham offended Him by taking his Egyptian maid Hagar as his second wife. (Gen 17:1)

    6.  Don’t harbor wrath and malice / [Do] Be kind and forgiving (v31-32)

As God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you (4:32)

This is the grounds God set for the believers to forgive others. In Matt 6:14-15, Jesus said, “For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” When Peter asked Jesus how many times he is allowed to forgive his brother who sins against him, Jesus used a parable to teach them that there is no limit of forgiving someone. (Matt 18:21-35) Just think that we have sinned against God for millions of times in our lives, yet He forgave all of them for Christ’s sake.

Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children (5:1)

Paul first reminds us of our status and identity and then tells us what we ought to do and ought not do. As regards status, we are “followers of God, dear children” (5:1), “saints” (5:3), “light in the Lord, children of light” (5:8), “wise” (5:15). We are not “whoremonger, unclean person, covetous man, idolater” (5:5), “children of disobedience” (5:6),  "darkness” (5:8), “fools” (5:15), “unwise” (5:17).

Walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweetsmelling savour (5:2)

Similar to 4:32 about forgiveness, Paul spells out the grounds for us to love others—Christ offered himself to God as an expression of his sacrificial love toward us.

But fornication…giving of thanks (5:3-4)

No "fornication" (adultery, 通奸), "uncleanness", "covetousness" (greed) are done or talked about on our lips.

No "filthiness" (dirty stuff), "foolish talk" (impure talk), "jesting" (foul jokes) should come out of our mouths. Instead, speak thankful words to God.

"Whoremonger" (‘fornicator’ NRSV) is the adulterer. Paul gives the reason why we should not practice fornication, uncleanness, covetousness—no inheritance in Christ’s kingdom. Heavenly inheritance is our hope—“the earnest of our inheritance (得基業的憑據) until the redemption of the purchased possession.” (1:14) We ought to consider the serious outcome of being a person like that.

The wrath of God upon the children of disobedience (5:6)

Instead of receiving heavenly inheritance, the evil doers are to receive God’s judgment.

Be not ye therefore partakers with them…in the fear of God (5:7-21)

Not be “partakers” in 5:7 is the same idea as “have no fellowship with” in 5:11. We believers are

  • not to deceive each other with vain words (5:6),

  • not to get involved in any unfruitful work of darkness (5:11),

  • not to get drunk with wine (or ‘spirits’ 酒精) (5:18). Children of darkness depend on wine to temporarily get rid of all the troubles. They are actually escaping from reality.

Instead, “saints” (5:3) are those set apart to do “the will of the Lord” (5:17), “what is acceptable unto the Lord” (5:10). We believers are to

  • walk in light—walk in “all goodness and righteousness and truth” (5:9). We are to “reprove” those walking in darkness. How? We do not simply rebuke them because they may not listen and change their sinful behavior. We are to walk in light, to make them feel ashamed of their shameful acts. These sinners are described as sleeping and dead (“dead in trespasses and sins,” 2:1). Their souls need to wake up and confess their sins before they can be saved from the death of sin by the true light of Christ. (5:14)

  • walk “circumspectly” (5:15)—meaning “prudently”.

  • understand the Lord’s will (5:17). Paul is saying that we ought to sense the urgency of the time and put God’s will in first priority. This is what a wise man will consider but a fool simply won’t care about this. By understanding and walking in the will of the Lord, we know that we are not wasting our precious time but filling our time with the works that are pleasing to the Lord.

  • be filled with the Spirit (5:18). To be filled with the Spirit means that our minds are possessed and controlled by the Holy Spirit. This is not just concerned with emotional involvement internally but expressed in the form of our walk—an outward behavior. All the above mentioned walk is “the fruit of the Spirit” (5:9)—the behavior of a Spirit-filled believer. Other evident doings of being filled with the Spirit are mentioned here in 5:19-21.

          -- Singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs (5:19);

          -- Giving thanks to God always is a consistent form of Spirit-filled character (5:20);

          -- Submitting to one another in fear of God (5:21). We are to honor and respect each other like husband and
              wife, as exemplified in the following passage.

Wives and husbands (5:22-33)

Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord (5:22)

Submission is required of the wives, not of the husbands, especially "in every thing" (‘let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing’ v24). This may not be a pleasant hearing for today’s wives. It may even be obtrusive to them in this era of strong women rights. Even in Paul’s days, he has to explain the teaching of ‘submission’ by illustrating it with the yielding relationship of church to Christ. Without this concept in mind, it is hard for the wives to digest the message of submitting in everything.

Since Christ is the savior of the church, it is natural for the church to submit to Him willingly. Both already have a ‘love and faith’ binding relationship to each other. Paul is talking to the wives of a willing subjection to someone who truly loves his wife.

Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it (5:25)

Paul balances the command by demanding the husbands to love their wives if they want submission from them. Which is more difficult to do now, love or submission? Without love, there is no submission. The more love is offered, the higher the degree of submission anticipated. This is evident in the subjection of church to Christ. The more we understand Christ’s love of us, the more we are willing to subject to Him.

Christ also loved the church…without blemish (5:25-27)

Christ loved the church not simply by his mouth but by his action.

First, he ‘gave himself for it.’ (v25)

Second, ‘he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word.’ (v26) He only did sacrifice himself in the past. He is still showing us his love by sanctifying us. Our rugged lives need to be mended throughout the entire life—‘every branch that beareth fruit, he (the Father) purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit.’ (John 15:2) After pruning the branches, ‘now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you.’ (John 15:3) We are made clean by his word. That’s why we have to keep reading the Bible in order to live a clean and holy life.

Third, ‘he might present it to himself a glorious church.’ (v27) Christ has a dream or goal in mind for us, to present us as an unblemished offering before the Father’s altar some day in future. When God was about to strike Egypt with the tenth plague, God told the Israelites to keep the Passover and said, ‘your lamb shall be without blemish’ (Exo 12:5). Undoubtedly, Paul has the lamb offering in mind when he said the holy church is to be presented without "spot", "wrinkle", and "blemish".

So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies (5:28a)

Paul just explained the way Christ loves the church to show how husbands should love their wives. Now, he explains why husbands should love their wives, because their wives belong to a part of their bodies. The reason why Christ loves the church is because “we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones” (v30). When Paul said that “no man ever yet hated his own flesh, but nourisheth and cherisheth it” (v29) with his use of
“flesh” and “bones” in our relationship with Christ, he has the creation of woman out of man’s bones and flesh in mind. After God took one of his ribs and made the woman, Adam said, “This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh.” (Gen 2:23a) Then Paul quoted the next verse (Gen 2:24) to prove his point: “For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh.” (v31) Since the two become one flesh, “he that loveth his wife loveth himself” (v28b). You don’t need anyone to tell you why you should love your own body. If the husband can treat his wife as his own flesh, he should know why and how much love he should give to his wife.

This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church (5:32)

Referring to Gen 2:24, “they shall be one flesh,” Paul perceives more than the one-body relationship between husband and wife. He sees the one-body relationship between Christ and the church, which he has been exploring in Ephesians—“…may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ, from whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted…” (4:15-16).

5:33 is the conclusion: let the husband love his wife as himself, and let the wife respect her husband. This conclusion makes a balance of Paul’s exhortation concerning couple relationship.   

Children and fathers (6:1-4)

Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. (6:1)

Obey your parents “in the Lord.” There are different interpretations for “obeying in the Lord.” Some take this kind of obedience as a limitation, and subject to the condition that parents’ command is not inconsistent with the doctrines of the Scripture. Peter’s saying in Acts 5:29 is a supportive statement for such claim—“We ought to obey God rather than men.” We must not disobey our heavenly Father in order to obey our earthly parents; for our obligation to God is superior to all others.  

Another view for “obeying in the Lord” is a rather simple understanding of it: we obey our parents only for the simple reason that it is the Lord’s command. “For this is right” indicates Paul’s view that it is the order of nature for the children to obey their parents. What’s more for God’s children! He then quotes the fifth commandment ("Honour thy father and mother; which is the first commandment with promise", quoted from Exo 20:12) to prove his point of view. I John 4:20b says, “he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?” By the same token, if we do not obey our earthly parents, how can we obey our heavenly Father? Shall we obey our parents in all circumstances? Of course not, as stated above. Just that obeying our parents is a general rule of conduct. Even the fifth commandment about honouring our parents does not affix any condition.

Fathers, provoke not your children to wrath (6:4a)

As parents, we should not abuse our power when our children are commanded by God to obey us. When we counsel them or reprove them, we are told to do it in such a manner as not to provoke them to anger. We should try to convince them of our judgment with acceptable reason rather than solely relying on authority or in the worst case by force.

As the head of the family, fathers cannot avoid the responsibility of disciplining the children. Here Paul is especially instructing the Christian fathers to nurture their children with the instructions of the Lord. There is a famous saying in Proverbs 22:6, “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” (「教養孩童,使他走當行的道,就是到老他也不偏離。」)

Servants and masters (6:5-9)

Servants, be obedient to…your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart, as unto Christ. (6:5)

Paul is talking to the working class. However, servants are literally “slaves”; so Paul may probably be referring to the slaves in a family. Paul is trying to tell the slaves that although they become freemen after becoming Christians, they have to keep on obeying their earthly masters. This rule of conduct applies to all sorts of workers. Paul has a higher calling for them—honour their masters with the same honour they grant their Lord. “In singleness of heart” means that they should be loyal and faithful to their masters for no other motives. They should “fear” their masters not because of punishment but with the attitude of fearing God and Christ.

Not with eye-service, as men-pleasers; but as the servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart…as to the Lord, and not to men. (6:6-7)

It is never easy for us to treat our bosses as our Lord because there is extreme difference in terms of goodness and love between our boss and our Lord. If we keep on making that kind of comparison, we may convince ourselves that our bosses do not deserve the kind of respect we have toward our Lord. “With eye-service” means working hard only when the boss’ eye is watching us. In that sense, if we only offer eye-service to our bosses, we are nothing different from the non-believers. We are pleasing men only but not pleasing God. But Paul here is saying that when we are performing our earthly duties, we should not forget that our aim is to please God, not men.

Knowing that whatsoever good thing any man doeth, the same shall he receive of the Lord (6:8)

The way we treat our bosses is “deemed as” the way we treat our Lord, especially if the bosses are our Christian brothers. If we “pretend” to be good workers, our pretense cannot be hidden from God’s eyes. On the other hand, if we serve our bosses like “doing the will of God from the heart” (v6), we will receive reward not just from our bosses but also from our Lord. The principle is: what we are doing to people, we are doing to the Lord. A perfect illustration is the parable of the goats and the sheep in Matt 25:31-46.

Ye masters, do the same things unto them, forbearing threatening. (6:9)

Paul tells the masters not to abuse the authority given them and to threaten their slaves regarding their work. The masters cannot take advantage of the lowly slaves. They are equal in the eyes of the Lord. They share equal respect toward each other. They have the same Lord and Master in heaven, since they both are Christians. A practical example is in the Book of Philemon, where Onesimus once was the slave of Philemon but ran away. As he decided to return to his master, Paul “beseeched” (懇求) Philemon to accept him “not now as a servant (slave), but above a servant, a brother beloved” (Philemon 1:16).