One of the greatest evidences of true Christianity is a changed life. One of the greatest proofs to a skeptical world is a changed life. One of the greatest hindrances to the world is the absence of a changed life. One opponent of Christianity said, “Scratch a Christian and you will find a pagan.”
Michael Duduit, editor of Preaching Magizine interviewed missiologist Ed Stetzer about his new book Lost and Found. In this book Stetzer tells us how to reach the young unchurched. Stetzer said among the unchurched 20-29 year olds that he surveyed, 81% believed in God or a higher power and 57% believe that there is only one God, the God of the Bible. But this same group said the church was full of hypocrites and not helpful to their spiritual growth. Preaching and living the book of Ephesians,with its doctrine of the church, can be a remedy.
In Ephesians 4-6, Paul is showing us what the changed life looks like.
1. Ephesians 4:1-16 “Wherefore Walk” in Unity. Christianity is a lifestyle where God’s people humbly co-operate by using their spiritual gifts unselfishly for the good of others.
2. Ephesians 4:17-32 “Wherefore Walk” not as the Unsaved. Christianity is a lifestyle different from the unbelievers.
Paul first described what the unsaved lifestyle, “the old man,” with his old, sinful nature looks like in 4:17-19. It is totally depraved.
Next, Paul explained that the believer is now a “new man” with a new nature in 4:20-24.
Finally, Paul described what the new lifestyle of “the new man” with his new nature looks like in day to day living in 4:25-32.
There is a constant 24 hours a day battle between the old and new natures in a believer as Paul described in Galatians 5:17: “The flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary the one to the other.” Paul calls this struggle a war in Romans 7:23. Have you experienced this 24 seven conflict. The alarm goes off in the morning, and what does the flesh say? “Don’t move. This feels too good just to get up and read the Bible. Hit the sloth, I mean, snooze button.”
John MacArthur rejects the terminology of the old nature in a believer: “The new nature is not added to the old nature but replaces it….Sin is still resident in the flesh….Biblical terminology, then, does not say that a Christian has two different natures. He has but one nature, the new nature in Christ. The old self dies and the new self lives; they do not coexist. It is not a remaining old nature but the remaining garment of sinful flesh that causes Christians to sin (page 164)….It (sin) is still present in the flesh, the body, the unredeemed humanness that includes the whole human person’s thinking and behavior…Paul summarizes the dichotomy with these words: ‘So then, on the one hand I myself with my mind [synonymous here with the new self] am serving the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh [synonymous here with unredeemed humanness contained in our sinful bodies] the law of sin (Rom. 7:25)” (Ephesians, page 179).
What some theologians call the “old nature” MacArthur calls “flesh,” “remaining garment of sinful flesh,” “the body, the unredeemed humanness that includes the whole human person’s thinking and behavior.”
Renald E. Showers wrote an entire book on this subject called The New Nature in which he defends the terminology of old and new natures in believers.
1. There is a board definition of “nature:” “A nature is a complex of attributes” such as human nature and divine nature. Jesus was one person with two natures: Divine and human (The New Nature, page 16).
2. There is a narrow definition of “nature:” “A nature is that inherent disposition of a person that affects his conduct and character (page 17.”)
The sinner has an old sinful nature or disposition (narrow definition) in his human nature (board definition).
The believer has an old and new nature or disposition (narrow definition) in his human nature (board definition).
Before The Fall
Before the Fall, Adam had only a human nature with a favorable to God but unconfirmed disposition. When Adam was tempted by Satan, Adam choose to rebel against God and lost his favorable disposition and was confirmed with an unfavorable, sinful disposition or nature of enmity against God. Therefore Adam no longer met daily with God (Genesis 3:8) (page 24).
After The Fall
Every person is born with a sinful nature in his human nature (Psalm 51:5).
1. That sin nature is called “sin” in Romans 6:2, 7, “carnal” (Romans 7:14), “flesh” (Romans 8:5-7; Galatians 5:17). Paul in Romans 7:14 said, “I am carnal, sold under sin.” Paul was not carnal or fleshly like the Corinthians in 3:2, but he had a fleshly nature 24 seven. “Certain types of criminals were executed by the Romans with special brutality. Sometimes if the man had committed a murder, he was bound hand to hand, face to face with the corpse of his victim and then thrown out into the heat of the Mediterranean sun. As the corpse decayed, it ate death into the living man and became to him, in the strictest literal sense, ‘a body of death’” (John Phillips. Exploring Romans, Chicago: Moody Press, 1969, page 119). What that dying corpse was to the murderer, the old nature was to Paul and every believer, a reality we can not rid our lives of in this life.
2. The sin nature in the sinner is like a slave master that rules his life (Romans 6:6), an unwanted guest who takes over the owner’s house against his wishes (Romans 7:17), and an armed soldier that wages war against the believer’s mind (Roman 7:23) (The New Nature, page 63).
3. Theologians call this sinful condition “total depravity.” Paul describes total depravity in Ephesians 4:17-19. Totally depravity means that the Fall of Adam totally affected every fiber of our being.
a) Our minds were totally affected or depraved because of the Fall: “vanity of the mind,” “understanding darkened,” “ignorance that is in them” and “blindness of the heart” which includes the mind.
b) Our emotions were totally depraved: “who being passed feeling.” The unregenerate person has no shame or sensitivity to God concerning their sin.
c) Our wills were totally depraved: “Have given themselves over to lasciviousness” or sexual indecency “to work all uncleanness” which is sexual impurity according to Galatians 5:19, and “greediness” or covetousness or idolatry in Colossians 3:5. The same language is used in Romans 1:24, 26, and 28 when Paul says, God “gave them over.”
First, the sinner gives himself over to sin (Ephesians 4:17-19) in his total depravity.
Then, God gives him over to the consequences of his sin (Romans 1:24, 26, 28).
1. At conversion, “the old man” is “put off” in Ephesians 4:20-22. At salvation, the believing sinner ceased being “the old man” or the unregenerate man who was corrupting, deceiving, and lustful. The same word is used in Acts 7:58 to describe the members of the Sanhedrin who “laid down” their outer garments to more easily stone Stephen. MacArthur illustrates this word and action: “Many rescue missions have a delousing room, where derelicts who have not had a bath in months discard all their old clothes and are thoroughly bathed and disinfected. The unsalvageable old clothes are burned and new clothes are issued. The clean man is provided clean clothes” (Ephesians, page 179). Conversion is even more drastic than this experience.
2. At conversion, we gain a new nature in Ephesians 4:23. Not only is the believer no longer unregenerate, but has the resource to live for God by being continually renewed in the spirit of his mind or new nature (Romans 7:23). Whereas the putting off of “the old man” is final the renewing of the new nature in ongoing. The mind of the unregenerate is empty, darkened, ignorant and blind, but the mind of the believer is renewed by the process Paul lays out in Romans 12:1-2.
3. At conversion, “the new man” (the regenerate man) is “put on” in Ephesians 4:24. The believing sinner put off the unregenerate life, and he put on the regenerate life “which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.” God created Adam after His image which was marred at the Fall but not completely destroyed (Genesis 9:6). What was lost in the Fall of Adam, however, has been regained by Christ at our salvation as a new creation of the likeness of God “in righteousness and true holiness” (Colossians 3:10). Paul put this blessed truth concisely in one verse in 2 Corinthians 5:17: “If any man be in Christ, he is a new creation, old things (the unregenerate old man) are passed away and all things (the regenerated new man) are new.”
In my next post, I will continue with the ministry of the Holy Spirit through our new nature to produce righteousness and true holiness in our lives as believers.