Many churches throughout the world use a Bible reading schedule called a "lectionary." It's just a fancy word meaning "selected readings." Posts like this reflect on the readings for an upcoming Sunday or other Church holiday, as found in the three-year lectionary.
Our reading from Ephesians 4:17 and following draws a sharp distinction between Christians and unbelievers. The Ephesians are not like the other Gentiles. They have been taught to know Christ. They are no longer given over to their own desires, which the apostle recognizes as sinful and ultimately self-destructive.
In verse 22-24 Paul reminds his readers to take off their old ways of life and to put on the new person, created in Christ. The suggestion is that our lives are very much like garments. But what’s important to realize is that the clothing someone has worn, through most of human history, is an important part of that person’s identification. Modern Western people usually have a lot of clothes, varied and with different uses, occasions for wear, etc. In my closet, for instance, I have a pile of clothing that is designated “yard clothes.” They are suitable for doing messy work outside, work where they will be torn, stained, and finally destroyed. I wouldn’t want to try donating them to the thrift store by the time I’m done with them. Other clothes are my “civilian” clothes, of various levels of dress. Then I have my “pastor” clothes, which are essentially a uniform. We don’t see that very much at all in antiquity. Today work boots are a fashion statement for some. The fact that someone is wearing some work boots doesn’t mean he or she actually engages in manual labor that would require such foot protection. Some years ago, it did mean exactly that. People were identified by the clothing they wore.
What kind of identity do the Ephesian Christians have? They are not in the self-destructive self-governing Gentile unbeliever camp any more. They don’t wear the personal identity that they had before. They have been brought into God’s kingdom through faith in Christ. So they take off the personal lifestyle trappings of their old life of bondage and death. They put on the personal lifestyle of the Christian, one who has been set free from sin and death. Their lives will be characterized by truth, honesty, kindness, forgiveness, and grace. Do they still wear the same clothes they wore before? Yes, the stonecutter, the silversmith, the lawyer, and the baker still look like people from their occupations. But they act differently. The tools of their personal life are instruments of righteousness for building others up.
Likewise, Christians in every culture put off their former lives and put on Christ. This is the timeless principle of God’s kingdom. He has given us life. We then go and live like it.
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