A Commentary by John Stott
Ephesians: A new set of clothes. Conclusion.
What is the theme which has run right through chapter 4 and spilled over into chapter 5? These chapters are a stirring summons to the unity and purity of the church; but they are more than that. Their theme is the integration of Christian experience (what we are), Christian theology (what we believe) and Christian ethics (how we behave). They emphasise that being, thought and action belong together and must never be separated. For what we are governs how we think, and how we think determines how we act. We are God’s new society, a people who have put off the old life and put on the new; that is what he has made us. So we need to recall this by the daily renewal of our minds, remembering how we ‘learned Christ… as the truth is in Jesus’, and thinking Christianly about ourselves and our new status. Then we must actively cultivate a Christian life. For holiness is not a condition into which we drift. We are not passive spectators of a sanctification God works in us. On the contrary, we have purposefully to ‘put away’ from us all conduct that is incompatible with our new life in Christ, and to ‘put on’ a lifestyle compatible with it.
Two words stand out as summarizing this theme. In 4:1 Paul begs us to lead a life that us *worthy* of God’s call, and in 5:3 he tells us to avoid immorality, ‘as is *fitting* among saints’. It is most unfortunate that the word ‘saints’ has come to be used, if not for the heroes of the church who have been canonized, then at least for exceptional and often eccentric people who are distinguished from others by their pallid countenance, heavenward look and invisible halo. But ‘the saints’ are all God’s people who have been reconciled to him and to each other. Therefore, certain kinds of behaviour are ‘worthy’, or ‘fitting’, being appropriate to who we are, while certain others are ‘unworthy’ or ‘unfitting’, being inappropriate.
Let no-one say that doctrine does not matter ! Good conduct arises out of good doctrine. It is only when we have grasped clearly who we are in Christ, that the desire will grow within us to live a life that is worthy of our calling and fitting to our character as God’s new society.
Tomorrow: Ephesians 5:5-21. More incentives to righteousness.