Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians, Part Six

In our sixth post about Paul’s letter to the Ephesians we continue looking at how Paul applies the Gospel to our everyday lives. One thing we notice about Paul applying the Gospel to our everyday lives is that when he does so he never strays far from the Gospel. The reason for this is because the Gospel is the motivation for serving the Lord. We are not motivated by fear or guilt. That has all been taken away by the Gospel. We are now free to serve the Lord happily and joyfully.

You may have heard people talk about applying the Gospel to our lives but they never talk about the Gospel itself. That simply does not happen with Paul. Whenever he applies the Gospel to our lives he never strays far from the Gospel.

With this mind, let’s look at some examples.

[17] Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. [18] They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. [19] They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. [20] But that is not the way you learned Christ!—[21] assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, [22] to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, [23] and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, [24] and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. (Ephesians 4:17-27, ESV)

Here Paul is talking about our behavior as individual Christians. We are not to walk as the Gentiles do in the futility of their minds, darkened in their minds, given to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. It was a whole mindset of doing evil.

The Gospel-motivated alternative is to “put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.” One of the most beautiful images of the Gospel is that we filthy sinners are now clothed with the pure righteousness of Christ. One of the most memorable passages telling of this is in the seventh chapter of Revelation:

[14] These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. [15] Therefore they are before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple; and he who sits on the throne will shelter them with his presence. (Revelation 7:14-15, ESV)

Another Gospel-motived passage, this time applying to our relationships with others, is verse 32 of Ephesians 4: “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” (ESV) We are kind and forgiving to one another because God, in Christ, has forgiven us.

Then there are verses one and two of Ephesians 5: “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” (ESV) We walk in love because Christ loved us and gave himself up for us.

So whenever Paul applies the Gospel to our lives, teaching us how to live, he never strays far from the Gospel.

This is what Jesus does in the Sermon on the Mount recorded in Matthew, chapters 5-7. In these three chapters he gives very direct instructions about how to live but he never strays far from the Gospel. He does so by continually referring to heaven. “This is how you are to live here on earth because you know, through the Gospel, that you will someday be living in heaven,” Jesus basically teaches.

Speaking of the Sermon on the Mount, in this sermon Jesus also teaches very clearly that life under the Gospel is way more than an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.

In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus says such things as turn the other cheek and go the extra mile. In one section he talks about how God sends the rain on the righteous and the unrighteous, God makes the sun shine on the righteous and the unrighteous. So we, like God, should be good to all people.

Here in Ephesians Paul has his own way of telling us we must go above and beyond.

First, when it comes to anger, “Do not let the sun go down on your anger.” (4:26) We can’t avoid getting angry – even God does sometimes – but, motivated by the Gospel, we are to put away our anger as quickly as possible.

Second stealing: Not only are we not to steal, but we are to labor, doing honest work with our hands so that we may have things to share with those who are in need. (4:28)

Finally, our words: Not only is no corrupting talk to come out of our mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, is to come out of our mouths. (4:29)

And so, motivated by the Gospel, with no threat of punishment or guilt, we strive to go above and beyond what the world expects from us.

Now this is not to say there is no room for an eye for an eye. An eye for an eye still applies in the worldly kingdom, the government. The government must still strive to mete out punishment that fits the crime. But here in the kingdom, because we have been graciously forgiven by the Lord, we need to go beyond eye for an eye, tooth for tooth.

Whenever we talk apply the Gospel to our everyday lives we must never stray far from the Gospel. Because of the exceedingly gracious love and mercy we have been given in Christ, because the Gospel removes all guilt and threat of punishment, we are motivated to walk in love and to be tenderhearted and forgiving toward others.

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