Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Learning Christ

When Paul switches gears in Ephesians moving from orthodoxy to orthopraxy (big words I know) it seems that he introduces the second half of his letter with a summary statement that melds and mingles the two; he connects thought to practice, theology to action in 4:1-20. In other words, instead of making a clean break and just starting into the "so this is how you are supposed to live" he connects the two. (He does a similar thing with Romans 11:30-12:2)
His summary idea, so to speak, in connecting theology to practice is found in 4:20 But that is not the way you learned Christ! For Paul, "learning Christ" is the action which leads the disciple towards sanctification. It is what Christians "do".
He first of all defines "learning Christ" in the negative. Learning Christ is not: walking as pagans with their futile-darkened-alienated-ignorant minds (v.17-18), it is not callousness, has nothing to do with sensuality, greed or impurity. So what is it? What does it mean to "learn Christ." How do we grow as Christians?

In beginning to explain Christian living Paul moves from generalities to specifics:
In general he states that those who have heard about Christ and were taught Christ (the truth is in Jesus), to them the Christian life consists of three things:
  1. Putting off the old self, which belongs to the former manner of life, corrupt through deceitful desires (4:22)
  2. Becoming renewed in the Spirit of the mind (4:23)
  3. Putting on the new self, after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. (4:24)
Specifically, "putting off", "become renewed by the Spirit", "putting on" manifests itself in a variety of ways. It is a work of the Spirit after all.
  • "Put off" lying and falsehood (4:25)
  • When you are angry "put off" sin (4:26)
  • "Put off" the devil, don't give him opportunities (4:27)
  • "Put off" stealing; instead "put on" hard work and generosity (4:28)
  • "Put off" corrupt speech; instead "put on" gracious, encouraging speech (4:29)
  • "Become renewed by the Spirit" (4:30)
  • "Put off" bitterness, anger, malice, wrath, slander, clamor (4:31)
  • "Put on" kindness, tender-heartedness, and forgiveness (4:32)
The last encouragement comes with and continues with this caveat... remember that when you are kind, when you are tender-hearted, when you forgive you are imitating God in Christ Jesus and by implication (and v. 30) we accomplish this not on our own power but in the power of the Holy Spirit.

Paul summarizes before continuing on with encouragement toward right practice... Imitate God just as Christ did.
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. 5:1-2

It's not as simple as WWJD? to grow in grace and Learn Christ. In a real way we also have to turn our backs on or "put off" the sin that so easily entangles us. WWJND? (What would Jesus not do?). But, and praise God, that it's even simpler than that... because, in reality my soul has not inherent ability to answer either question. WWJD? WWJND? My soul is "dead in it's trespasses and sins" (Ephesians 2:1) and by the accomplishment and the grace of this same Christ who I am "learning" His Spirit empowers, renews, regenerates, and brings to life in me a renewed mind that now wants to love what Jesus love and wants to hate what Jesus hates. My life is seeking his have his passion through His Spirit.

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