Christ-Shaped Lives and Spirit-Inspired Speech

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(Ephesians 4:17-32
Lesson Number: 

Lesson 8

Christ-Shaped Lives and Spirit-Inspired Speech

(Ephesians 4:17-32)

Copr. 2023, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D. Scripture quotations are from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved. Suggested answers are found within parentheses. If you normally receive this lesson by e-mail, but it is lost one week, you can find it by clicking on this link: Pray for the guidance of the Holy Spirit as you study.

Introduction: Were you a Christian your entire life? If so, some of what is written to the Ephesians today may be difficult to align with your life. Imagine that you grew up worshiping idols. Your moral compass would be completely different than that of those who grew up accepting the Bible as truth. In our study this week Paul gives us a guide on Christian living. He emphasizes the significance of transformation from our old selves to our renewed selves in Christ. This shift doesn’t just influence personal development; it extends to our relationships, notably in the church and our homes. Let's delve deep into understanding the heart of this transformation and how it builds unity among believers!

  1. The Old Self
    1. Read Ephesians 4:17. What does Paul mean when he says that we must change our “walk?” (We need to change the direction of our life.)
      1. What causes the Gentiles to be off course? (There is something wrong with their thinking. Their minds are not operating correctly. Their thinking is distorted and inadequate.)
    2. Read Ephesians 4:18. Are the Gentiles innocent victims of ignorance? (It doesn’t sound that way because it says their ignorance is due to their “hardness of heart.” Plus, the words “darkened” and “alienated” are words reflecting movement towards the dark side of things.)
    3. Read Ephesians 4:19. What is the goal of these Gentiles? (They desired to “practice every kind of impurity.”)
      1. Why do they have this goal? (They have “given themselves up” to this way of life. This paints a picture of giving in to impurity. Again the phrase “have become callous” shows movement to the dark side.)
      2. Imagine a church in which these “old” traits represent the current attitudes of members. How would this create division or challenges within the community of believers?
        1. What if one group of “old” trait members took pride in their traits?
      3. How important to our transformation is it to acknowledge these traits and understand their consequences?
  2. Embracing the New Self
    1. Read Ephesians 4:20-21. What is essential to a new self? (Education. Notice all the words that reflect learning: learned, heard, taught, and truth.)
      1. What role do those essentials suggest for the church and its members? (We need to be in the business of teaching about Jesus. As Paul writes “you learned Christ.”)
    2. Read Ephesians 4:22-24. What do you think Paul means when he asks us to “put off” and “put on?” (One commentator calls this “practical religion.” We make decisions every day about how we should think and live. This is a continuous, conscious decision in our Christian journey.))
      1. How are righteousness, holiness, and truth involved in this?
      2. How does the Holy Spirit play a role in this? (It seems very difficult for me to change my desires. That is why Ephesians 4:23 speaks of being “renewed in the spirit of your minds.”)
      3. How does this goal impact unity in the church? (Can you imagine a weight-loss meeting in which half the group wanted to gain weight and half wanted to lose weight?)
    3. Both Ephesians 4:22 and Ephesians 4:24 seem to equate changing the old self for the new self with changing clothing - a purely external issue. Is our clothing a purely external matter? (I am positive, based on personal experience, that how you dress influences what people think of you. I also think it influences how we think about ourselves.)
      1. Our goal is not to focus on clothing, but rather the idea that we make the changes that we can which will begin the transformation of our attitudes. Is what I just wrote consistent with righteousness by faith? Is it consistent with the work of the Holy Spirit? (The power is in the Holy Spirit. But the decision is ours. Our decisions are continuous.)
  3. Practical Steps to the New Life
    1. Read Ephesians 4:25. Why do you think in our goal of putting on the new self Paul mentions telling the truth first? (Telling the truth is foundational to having a solid relationship with others. Adam Clarke’s Commentary on this verse says “truth was but of small account among many of even the best heathens.”)
      1. How do you react to people who habitually lie to you?
      2. Notice the phrase “we are members one of another.” What do you think that means and why is it relevant to truth? (Recall our discussions about unity? We are part of the body of Jesus. How would your body operate if one part of the body was deceiving another part?)
    2. Read Ephesians 4:26. What kind of anger is not sinful?
      1. Read Mark 3:5. What kind of anger is Jesus showing here? (The context shows that the Jewish leaders were looking to see if Jesus would violate the Sabbath by healing a man with a withered hand. Jesus was angry with their attitude (“their hardness of heart”) that it was improper to do good on the Sabbath.)
      2. Read Mark 3:6. What does this teach us about the nature of their hard hearts? (They thought it wrong to heal on the Sabbath, but it was permissible to plot on the Sabbath to kill Jesus.)
        1. What did the attitude of these religious leaders say about the character of God?
        2. Consider again the attitude that made Jesus angry. Was it just about His doing good on the Sabbath, or was it misrepresenting the character of God, or something else?
      3. Why is there a time element to anger? Why should it be resolved in one day? (If we harbor anger it turns to malice and resentment. In other words, it gets worse.)
    3. Read Ephesians 4:26-27. I thought it best to read both of these verses together. Are they related? If so, how? (By nursing a grudge, by becoming bitter, we open the door to greater sins.)
    4. Read Ephesians 4:28. Begging in the United States is uncommon outside of the larger cities. Whenever When I see able-bodied people (mostly men) begging it irritates me. My irritation is partly that the beggar is lazy, and partly guilt over my refusal to give the beggar money. Perhaps, despite appearances, he cannot work. Perhaps he is mentally ill. What does this text say about the benefit of working? (It gives you a sense of self-worth and allows you to share with those in need.)
      1. Should the point about working to help others make me feel even more guilty? (I trust Paul’s primary point is that you change from someone who is taking from others to someone who gives to others.)
    5. Read Ephesians 4:29. The verse uses two words that take some contemplation to connect. The words are “corrupting” and “building up.” How would you relate them in this context? (If you corrupt someone else by your words you harm them. If you encourage someone or educate someone with your words you help them. Paul tells us to use speech that helps others.)
    1. Read Ephesians 4:30. Is “grieving” the Holy Spirit like lying, getting angry, or stealing? (Read John 16:13. The work of the Holy Spirit is to lead us to truth. When we fail in the practical living that Paul advocates, the Holy Spirit is frustrated in its work. Paul tells us to encourage the Holy Spirit by right living.)
      1. Why does Paul mention in Ephesians 4:30 being “sealed” by the Holy Spirit. (We have previously discussed that the presence of the Holy Spirit with us today is God’s guarantee of our eternal life with Him. If we keep this in mind we will be more conscious of doing the right things.)
    2. Read Ephesians 4:31-32. Can you summarize these two verses? What is the common theme? (We need to treat each other with kindness and not malice.)
      1. Why? (Jesus forgave us. We need to have a forgiving spirit towards each other.)
    3. Friend, you are saved by grace alone. It is not based on your works. Being saved means that you are different than you used to be. It means that you are leaving the old life behind and walking in accord with the will of the Holy Spirit. Will you determine today to live a life consistent with being saved?
  1. Next week: Living Wisely.