Ephesians 4:17 - 5:2.
E. L. Bevir.
Christian Friend vol. 19, 1892, p. 53.
This exhortation is upon the basis of the new creation. We find in it the new man created after God in righteousness and truth of holiness (new in the sense of never having existed before), and it also takes account of the possession of the Holy Spirit. It is full of energy and power; and this can be understood by the fact of the Holy Spirit of God being in the saints, and in an ungrieved state. They are exhorted (v. 30) not to grieve Him.
The state of the Gentiles at the beginning of the passage is very terrible. It is not merely their horrible practices, as in Romans 1, but the moral state of their heart and mind. It has very often been pointed out that the blindness of the heart is the cause of the darkening of the understanding. Some of the brightest and most powerful Gentile intellects give sad proof of being thus darkened. Strangers to the life of God - that life which we see in Jesus, God manifest in the flesh - they have nothing in common with it. Here it is the state of the Gentile walk generally - the understanding clouded because of the affections being utterly wrong, and the result in verse 19.
But the saints are on an entirely new footing; the ye is emphatic in verse 20. There is the putting off of the old man, and putting on of the new. It is not merely a change of practice (that we shall see in what follows), but there is a thorough setting aside of the old corrupt man; the fresh spirit of the mind, and putting on of the new man (new kainon) created after God in righteousness and holiness of truth. It is no modification or "better ways," as people say, but a new creation; and we have taken this place.
Now comes out the character of righteousness and holiness in all the excellent energy of the Holy Ghost, and that not only in the putting away of evil, but in the production of positive good. It requires the power of the Spirit to speak truth one to another, on the ground of being members one of another; the present power of the Holy Ghost for entering into and answering to the truths of the one body is but little understood. This is really the unity of the Spirit, not merely the bare fact that there is one Spirit, but His power known in the one body.
Verse 26 refers to righteous anger. The new man rebukes iniquity; but again, what power is needed here! It is the reverse of indifference to evil; righteous wrath is called out by certain expressions of evil. One cannot be silent; but what danger of going too far! How often it has ended in sin, through our not being under the full control of the Holy Spirit! The. Christian ends his day with an unchafed mind! I recollect once asking an aged Christian how he had been able to live so long, having been so frequently unjustly attacked; and his reply was that for forty-five years he had been able daily to leave everything with the Lord in deep repose of mind, notwithstanding the indignation often called forth by so much iniquity. Occasion is thus taken away from the enemy, who has often taken advantage of a chafed spirit. We find in all this part of the Word the Holy Ghost in the saints, and Satan in the children of disobedience.
Verse 28 has often been spoken of as showing the true energy of Christianity. The thief becomes a giver; and not only a giver who gives of his abundance, but one who labours to acquire the means of giving to others. What a wonderful transformation! It required spiritual energy in Paul to sit up making tents for his own needs and for those of others; and he had not been a thief before his conversion. The Holy Ghost alone can produce positive virtues, and true devotedness, the very contrary of what had preceded.
Then (v. 29) it is not only that corrupt communication is stopped, but positive good, edification according to the need. Not only good language, but good for the occasion; and this evidently supposes the Holy Spirit's power. We have often said things, in themselves good, that were not needed for the occasion; as I recollect to have seen a philanthropist giving away food and medicines (excellent in themselves) without regard to the state of the recipients.
"And grieve not the Holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed for the day of redemption." This is fully in keeping with our subject, and may we walk thus till the end of our course on earth!
Verses 31, 32, and Eph. 5:1, 2 go together, and as we have had righteousness, holiness, and truth, so now we find love and grace. It is not merely that bitterness and wrath, etc., are to be put away, with all malice (there is nothing malicious in the new man), but love practically shown, with the imitation of two divine models, in the power of the Holy Ghost. It is a most wonderful passage.
To be kind and compassionate to one another, even as God hath forgiven us in Christ! The manner in which the prodigal was received has been much spoken of, and, with the memory of His forgiveness ever fresh, we are exhorted to imitate God. (It is no sign of progress to have forgotten the forgiveness of one's sins, but quite the contrary.) To be imitators of God, as dear children, is the very highest aspect of grace, and can anything be more surprising than this company of beloved children walking thus, with such a model, in the midst of a world like ours? "And walk in love, as Christ hath loved us," etc. There is another aspect of a divine model. Our blessed Lord in all His life down here showed the same untiring interest, the same love, to His own to the very end, when He gave Himself for us, a perfect Holocaust, to God. If we really have Him before us, and His patient ways with His disciples, though they often showed so little interest in Him (John 16:5, 6), we shall walk in love, seeking to maintain our happy relations with the beloved children of God. This is the real imitation of Jesus Christ.
We have thus the new man, and the Holy Ghost a new power - righteousness, truth, holiness, and love made good in a walk conspicuous for its beauty, "not as the other Gentiles"; a new man, divine strength, and a divine model. May the Lord give us to walk thus! E. L. B.
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The more intimately we know the Scriptures, the more simple and distinct is the truth that, though Son of Man, Christ is the Jehovah of the Old Testament.