Week 5 Assignment: Read pages 181-191 in MacArthur and Eph 4:25-32 and comment.
In my last post we looked at where the old nature came from, the Fall of Adam, and, how the image of God is restored at conversion, which includes a new nature. Now we will consider the battle between the old and new natures and the defeat of the old so we no longer live like the unsaved. Not everyone believes there is a battle.
I love the story of Charles Spurgeon when he “was a speaker at a conference along with another man, who publicly proclaimed that Christians could reach a place of sinless perfection where they no longer struggled with sin or had any desire to sin because they were perfected in the love of God. The speaker went on to suggest modestly that he had realized this in his own life. Spurgeon said nothing, but the next morning, at breakfast time, he crept up behind the man and poured a jug of milk on his head. He quickly discovered that the man still had his sinful nature!” (Gary Inrig. Hearts of Iron, Feet of Clay. Chicago: Moody Press, 1979, page 158).
Just as the totally depraved nature of the unsaved “old man” in 4:17-19 produces a sinful lifestyle, so the converted “new man” with a new nature or renewed spirit produces a righteous and holy lifestyle in 4:25-32.
The new nature, however, by itself is not enough to overcome the sin nature. Paul asked “who (not “what”) shall deliver me from the body of this death” (Romans 7:24). The answer is the Holy Spirit that Paul clearly describes in Romans 8:1-4. The Holy Spirit has two ministries that enable us to overcome the old nature.
1. The Holy Spirit regenerates and places the new nature in the believer. In Titus 3:5, the Holy Spirit not only regenerates the lost and places a new nature in the believer but continues to renew. We received our old nature at our first birth; we receive our new nature at our second birth.
2. This ministry of the Holy Spirit to renew the new nature is what Paul prayed for in Ephesians 3:16. Having the “inner man” or new nature is not enough. The Holy Spirit must “strengthen” and work through the new nature.
a) When the Holy Spirit energizes the new nature, Paul in Ephesians 3:17 said, Christ can “dwell in your hearts by faith.” No longer is the old nature like an unwanted quest taking over the owner’s house against the owner’s wishes. Now Christ, our permanent resident, enjoys fellowship with us.
b) When the Holy Spirit energizes the new nature, we are no longer slaves to the old nature (Romans 6:6-17). We become slaves to Christ when we take three important steps in these verses. The first step is to “know” that our obligation to obey our former master has been put to death (Romans 6:6). Next, we must not only know but believe this truth (Romans 6:11). And lastly, because the old sinful master wants to recapture us, haul us back to the plantation and dominate our lives, we must yield the members of our bodies to the Holy Spirit who will enable us to overcome the old sinful nature. In our own strength we cannot defeat our old slave master.
c) When the Holy Spirit energizes the new nature, with the armor of God (Ephesians 6:10-17), we defeat the old nature that is “warring against the believer’s mind” (Romans 7:23). We have the “helmet of salvation” for our minds, where the battle is won or lost, and “the Sword of the Spirit” for our temptations.
Paul in Ephesians 4:25-32 describes what the lifestyle of a Christian looks like in whom the Holy Spirit is strengthening the new nature. Paul chose five areas of the unregenerate’s life that the Holy Spirit energizes the new nature to overcome: Lying, Anger, Stealing, Corrupt Speech, and Bitterness. In these five areas, Christians do not live like the unsaved. In each area Paul follows a similar pattern: A negative command, a positive command, and a reason for the positive command.
1. Lying (4:25)
a) Negative command: “Put away lying.” Habitual liars, unbelievers, will not go to heaven (Revelations 21:8).
b) Positive command: “Speak truth.”
c) Reason for the positive command: “For we are members one of another” in the Body of Christ. Paul has already challenged us to “speak the truth in love” for there to be unity in the Body of Christ. Because our “Head, Christ is truth” (Ephesians 4:15, 21), His body should and can be truthful when the Holy Spirit through our new nature conforms into His image.
2. Anger (4:26-27)
a) Negative command: Don’t sin by being wrongfully angry. Because God can be angry at sin (Deut. 9:20) so can believers be righteously ticked. Believers, however, should not only be angry at sin in others, (Psalm 139:19-22), which is right but not enough. Even the Pharisees were hypocritically angry at sin in others (Matthew 23:24). Even the unsaved get angry at injustice in the world. Believers should get angry at sin in their lives (Psalm 139:23-24).
b) Positive command: “Do not let the sun go down on your wrath.”
c) Reason for the positive command. If anger, even righteous anger is prolonged, it may give the devil an opportunity to move us to take vengeance in our own hands (Romans 12:17-21).
3. Stealing (4:28)
a) Negative command: “Steal no more.” “Grand larceny, petty theft, taking some of your dad’s money off the dresser, reneging on a debt, not paying fair wages, or pocketing what a clerk overpays in change are all stealing. There is simply no end to ways we can steal, and whatever the ways are and whatever the chance for being caught, stealing is sin and has no part in the new walk of the new man in Christ” (MacArthur. Ephesians, page 186).
b) Positive command: “Labor” in God honoring work. There is dignity in hard work (Exodus 20:8-11).
c) Reason for the positive command: “That he may have to give to him that needs.” Instead of selfishly stealing, work hard so you can share unselfishly with others. Paul had practiced at Ephesus what he was now preaching to the Ephesians (Acts 20:33-35).
4. Corrupt Speech (4:29-30)
a) Negative command: “Let no corrupt or unwholesome word proceed out of your mouth.” “Corrupt” means rotten as in rotten fruit in Matthew 7:17-18. “Unwholesome language should be as repulsive to us as a rotten apple or a spoiled piece of meat. Off-color jokes, profanity, dirty stories, vulgarity, double entendre, and every other form of corrupt talk should never cross our lips” (MacArthur. Ephesians, page 187).
b) Positive command: We may not be guilty of the rotten language just mentioned but as Christians are our daily conversations “edifying”? Are the people we talk to and about built up or torn down?
c) Reason for the positive command: “That it may minister grace to the hearers and grieve not the Holy Spirit.” When we tell people the truth in love, even if it is a rebuke of their sin, grace or spiritual strength can be ministered to them if they accept our words. Jesus spoke “gracious words” in Luke 4:22 to his enemies who turned on Him; nevertheless He spoke graciously. Not only should our words as Christians strengthen others but not grieve the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is not only deity but personality with feelings.
5. Bitterness (4:31-32)
a) Negative command: “Let all bitterness…. be put away.” These sins from bad interpersonal relationships begin internally with bitterness and anger and if not confessed become outward outbursts. Like a boiling pot of water which spills out all over the kitchen doing all kinds of damage. There are some people if you accidently bump them you will get scalded.
b) Positive command: “And be kind one to another tenderhearted, forgiving one another.” Just as God is unconditionally kind to us (Luke 6:35b), tenderhearted or compassionate and forgiving of us so should we be to others who have hurt and disappointed and even betrayed us. For all of these offences have we committed against God.
c) Reason for the positive command: “Even as God in Christ has forgiven you.” God has forgiven us unconditionally; We should forgive without first exacting a pound of flesh. God has forgiven us eternally. Therefore, we should forgive and not hold grudges. God has forgiven us completely. Thank God, He is not keeping records. “Love doesn’t keep records” in 1 Corinthians 13:5. If we keep bringing up someone’s fault against us then we have not forgiven. The unsaved get even. Believers forgive like our Savior who on the cross prayed for His enemies, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.” Is there someone for whom you need to pray this prayer and act like Christ rather than getting even like unbelievers?
We began this sermon in part one with the results of Stetzer’s research on how to reach the unchurched young adults from 20-29 years old. The young adults rightly demand authenticity which our text is all about. That spoke to my heart. Stetzer also addressed the SBC and further challenged us on how to reach our culture. I am including the Youtube here.