Ephesians 4:22


These words describe the method, not the substance, of Christian teaching; the latter is adverted to in the next verse. The historical name, "Jesus," instead of the more common official name, "Christ," indicates that this teaching is given through the life of our Lord on earth. We come to the knowledge of truth by hearing him, by being taught of him, by seeing it as it is in him.

I. THE KNOWLEDGE OF TRUTH IS OF SUPREME IMPORTANCE TO US. The means is proportioned to the end. If the life of Christ is necessary for the revelation of truth, the truth thus revealed must be of first moment. Emotion without truth is vapid sentiment; and action without truth can have no moral character, and is as likely to be hurtful as useful. It is a blind man's groping. We can dispense with a superfluity of dogma. We have too many words about truth. But truth itself, the living spiritual reality, is the very breath of our souls. To know ourselves and our vocation, to know God, his love and his will, to know the spiritual order of things as far as it touches our own lives and conduct, is of vital interest.

II. TRUTH IS REVEALED IN CHRIST. Truth is written on the great book of creation, but in obscure hieroglyphics, for nature is an inarticulate prophet. Truth has also come through the inspiration of thought and conscience in poets and seers. But then it is always in words; and words make it but a clumsy garment hiding its finer beauty and, at best, speaking at second hand. In Christ we see truth intelligible, powerful, touching. It is revealed in his very self and in his words and deeds as they are the outcome and signs of his character and nature. Christ is the truth. He has but to be and to be seen and heard for truth to be revealed.

III. THIS REVELATION OF TRUTH IN CHRIST IS OF A DISTINCTIVE CHARACTER.

1. It is human. Truth is seen in Jesus just because he is a real and perfect Man. As man is made in the image of God, the very being of a perfect man must be a manifestation of Divine thoughts.

(1) Therefore any dogmas that are contrary to humanity are false.

(2) Therefore, also, we need not fear truth. She has a human countenance.

2. It is living. Truth in words is cold and dead, though it may be clear and beautiful. Truth in Jesus is alive, revealing itself in action, putting teeth energy, responding to our sympathy.

3. It is spiritual. Truth of religion and of conduct is what we see in Jesus, not reminiscences of secular history nor anticipations of material science. The highest truth concerns God and the soul, duty and the unseen world. 4. It is beautiful. Christ's glory was full of grace and truth. In his face truth has no terrors, but the most winning attractions and the most moving loveliness.

IV. SUCH A PRESENTATION OF TRUTH CALLS FORTH DUTIES ON OUR PART.

1. We have to "learn Christ." That is the one lesson for our souls. We may learn all systems of theology and yet know nothing of the highest truth, if we do not know Christ. They who sit at the feet of Jesus drink from the deepest fountains. As Christ is best described to us in the four Gospels, these Gospels are the chief source of Christian knowledge. Yet inasmuch as the apostles interpret the mind of Christ, we may learn Christ from the whole of the New Testament But we must also come to a personal communion with Christ in order to know him aright.

2. We have to Trove how we have learned Christ by our conduct. This knowledge is to shape our actions. Fidelity, purity, and charity of life must make men see what truth we have found in Jesus. - W.F.A.







That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts.
A Christian life, here, is regarded as it were from the latent similitude of raiment. As a beggar puts off his rags — his tattered and torn habiliments — and is clothed like an honoured man; so we are to put off the old man and his deeds — clothing, as it were — and put on the new man, created in righteousness and true holiness. Or, as one that has been in an infected port must lay aside the garments that have in them the seed of disease, and be clothed afresh, so that he shall neither carry it for himself, nor contagion for others; so we are to put off the old, and put on the new. But you will observe that there are in this passage which I have read inculcations of certain fundamental morals, as precedent to the full work of God in the soul. Truth, in opposition to lies; honesty, in opposition to craft and stealing; purity, in opposition to all manner of corrupt desires; general integrity and uprightness — these are inculcated as the indispensable prerequisites of Christian life. Taking them in their inverse order, by "purity" I understand the dominance in the soul of the higher affections and sentiments over the lower appetites and passions. It is the term that antagonizes with a life of lust and of salacious desire. We mean by "purity," the predominance of the affections and of the moral sentiments. By "fidelity," one means, in a general way, the absolute faithfulness of men to trust reposed in them — that tendency in a man which makes it sure that he will be faithful in his relations to others, and in all his trusts. By "honesty," I mean righteous, equitable dealing in all relations between man and man — not what the law requires, but what is, according to man's best light, right between man and man. By "truth," is meant the inward love of that which is, and the disposition to use the truth of fact and the truth of relation, just as they are, in all our representations among men. These qualities must exist in controlling strength in every worthy character. As it is in the matter of truth, so it is in the matter of honesty. "Is he an honest man?" Oh! I do not think he would steal." "But is he an honest man? Would he knowingly take advantage?" "Well, it is not for me to say." It's for you to say. You have said it. Not to be able to say the contrary is to say that. And are there not hundreds of thousands of men who hold their heads up very well as they move in society, who are for the time being prosperous, and of whom those that know them say, "They will take every advantage they can; they need watching; they need all that the Church gives them, and all that the customs of society give them, to keep them from dishonesty." A man's reputation always tracks him, and follows him; and if it is in him to be dishonest, it is in ether people to know it. Your reputation is only the shadow that your character throws. Now, on character and reputation a man's prosperity depends in this world, largely. The man who has the goodwill and the good nature of the men among whom he lives, of the society in which he dwells, is like a craft that has the wind astern, and is helped thereby. Truth, honesty, fidelity, and purity win confidence. And there is this capital for a young man. These qualities, too, simplify the working forces of life. A crafty, plotting man always has a tangled skein in his hand. He has to think, "What did I say yesterday?" and he forgets. He has to think, "Let me see; did I, or did I not, cheat on this or that occasion?" A dishonest man has to keep a journal, or he will be perpetually running across his own tracks. No man's memory is good enough journal for such a purpose as that. Men are made safe, too, by these simple and sterling virtues. He certainly is safe, who, whether he be at the top or at the bottom, alike is prosperous; but when a man's prosperity turns largely upon his actual manhood, his manhood does not depend upon his relative position in regard to wealth. There is the man of the Island, Garibaldi, just making the ends meet; just gaining his raiment and food; refusing bribes, refusing gifts, refusing all overtures of greatness that are in the lower sphere; a man that lives with a magnificent ambition of patriotism and a perpetual sacrifice of himself. When all the stuff that we can call men in our day — the buyable, the bribable, stuff — is washed away in the sewer, such men as these will stand, and their names shall be held in everlasting remembrance. The memory of the wicked shall rot. The name of the righteous shall shine brighter and brighter until the very perfect day. In application of these views and reasonings I remark —

1. How few can stand an examination on these fundamental points, if they take the law of God as their light and their test!

2. Not, less, perhaps more, is required of women than of men. Their relations to society, their relations as wives and mothers, make it peculiarly desirable that they should be fountains and models of virtue.

3. These simple moralities, in our circumstances in life, and under the temptations which are brought to bear upon us, will necessitate a determined battle. Some men conquer easier than others. I believe in hereditary tendencies. Men like gilded characters and silvered characters; but they do not like gold nor silver in character. And there is a prevalent impression that a man stands in his own way if he is too rigorous. You shall hear it said, "What does a man want to be such a fanatical fool for, as to always tell the truth? What is the use of a man's breaking his own back by being so honest as that? Great are the forces that are ready to pull you down; but if you did but know it, greater are they that are for you than are they that are against you."

(H. W. Beecher.)

I. THE APOSTLE'S DESCRIPTION OF HOLINESS. It is putting off the old man, or the corrupt nature so called, which hath spread its influence throughout the whole man, the soul (Ephesians 4:17-20), and the body (Romans 6:13, 19); and which, like a man, consists of various parts. The deeds of the old man are very vigorous and strong, though old: mighty deeds (Galatians 5:19-22; Ephesians 4:25-29); each member acts its part: unbelief, like the heart causing the blood to circulate through the whole body, influences all the other members: pride produces contention, contumely, strife, etc.; self-will leads to murmuring, disobedience, presumption, etc. This must be put off: the metaphor is borrowed from an old worn-out or unclean garment, which we would cast off with abhorrence. We must also be "renewed in the spirit of our minds," in the faculties of the soul, by obtaining an enlightened understanding, rectified will, pure and well-regulated affections. We must "put on the new man," a new creature: so called because it influences the whole man, soul and body (text, and 1 Thessalonians 5:23; 1 Corinthians 6:20). And it consists of different parts — the soul in which God dwells, and which He animates, influences, directs, actuates, commands (1 Corinthians 6:19; 2 Corinthians 6:16; Ephesians 2:22; Romans 8:9-14; the body and its members (Colossians 3:12-17; Galatians 5:22); holiness, righteousness, viz., faith, humility, self-denial, love, meekness, gentleness, patience, etc. The deeds of the new man, are all vigorous, strong, active. It is "the image" of God, "created" by Him, "renewed in knowledge." This must be put on as a "robe of righteousness."

II. THE IMPORTANCE OF TAKING THIS ADVICE OF THE APOSTLE. If we take it not, our Christianity is but a name or profession, and will only render us more guilty. We cannot glorify God, as being unlike to Him, and at enmity with Him. Nor can we set a good example, and thereby edify others, for the corrupt tree will "bring forth corrupt fruit." We cannot be happy ourselves, for this old man is corrupt, like an old, threadbare, ragged, and dirty garment, which cannot cover us, which exposes us to shame, and is offensive, hurtful, encumbering, and entangling. All the evil dispositions of it are productive of misery. Its lusts or desires are foolish, unreasonable, violent, insatiable, deceitful; promising, but not yielding satisfaction. We are not fitted for, and cannot enter heaven without the new man.

III. HOW TO ATTAIN THIS HOLINESS. It is the gift of God: He "creates" it; but not without our cooperation; He works on us as upon rational creatures, not superseding but directing and assisting us in the use of our faculties, and has appointed certain means to be used by us. We are to "hunger and thirst after righteousness"; and in order to this, should consider frequently, nay continually, the nature and necessity of it, our want of it, the great worth of it, God's willingness to give it, and cultivate a spirit of prayer.

(J. Benson, D. D.)

That ye put off the old man
I. CHRISTIAN LIFE BEGINS WITH RENUNCIATION. "Put off concerning the former conversation — the old man" — the corrupt self that has been fostered under the influence of worldly, carnal views.

1. This renunciation must be profound. "The old man," i.e., our former unconverted self. We must be careful that we do not confound this personal repudiation with any ecclesiastical rite or relationship. The purity demanded of us is inward, spiritual, moral. It is one thing to stand right with the Church, to be blameless concerning its ordinances, to be acknowledged by its authorites, to be fortified by its sacraments; it is another thing to renounce sin and embrace righteousness before Him who is a Spirit, and who judgeth not according to the outward appearance, but according to the heart.

2. This renunciation must be complete. The "old man" is the personification of our whole sinful condition before regeneration, and the "old man" is not to be maimed, some fragments of the mutilated personality to be rejected, some to be retained, but he must be crucified, killed, put away once and forever. There must be, as we have seen, the thorough rejection of evil in our heart, even the evil we have loved longest and best. People sometimes say, "Well, there is nothing wrong in the thing itself; no harm in the thing itself." Now "the thing in itself" is a fine theme for metaphysicians, but such a phrase may seriously mislead in practical life. What do we know about things in themselves? The theatre, intoxicating drink, cards, music, fiction, and a hundred other things — we know nothing of these things in themselves; we only know them relatively, the company into which they bring us, the influence they exert upon us, the habit of mind they tend to foster. Do not stay to determine what things are in themselves, inquire only what is their influence upon you, direct and indirect, and if that influence be not altogether pure and helpful, let such things go; be more afraid of sin than of puritanism.

3. This renunciation must be immediate. Daniel said to the king, "Break off thy sins by righteousness" (Daniel 4:27). Our sins are not to be tapered off, or rounded off, but broken off short and sharp. It may be a dangerous thing suddenly to change our physical habits, but there is no danger in suddenly changing our bad habits for good ones; the danger is not to change them suddenly.

II. THE SUCCESS OF OUR CHRISTIAN LIFE LARGELY DEPENDS UPON THE THOROUGHNESS OF THE RENUNCIATION IN WHICH IT BEGINS. Putting off comes before putting on, and we can only put on the new man in the measure of the depth and determination with which we have put off the old. If there is any defect in our renunciation, it will infallibly betray itself, and greatly hinder us.

1. On the completeness of such renunciation depends our future health and soundness of spirit. If our repentance does not go deep, if the grace of God does not search and purify the very grounds of our life, we shall never enjoy soundness and strength. If any of the vicious element is left, it will work and spoil the sweetness of our soul.

2. On the completeness of this renunciation depends our future freedom and happiness. It is essential to the freedom and peace of our life that we should break utterly with the world.

3. On the completeness of this renunciation depends the full attainment of spiritual beauty of character. Stephen Grellet, the Quaker preacher, said once to an assembly of his brethren, "You are starched before you are washed." That is a bad thing indeed, for however much starch may be used, the original dirt will show through and disgrace the well-got-up robe. It is thus with character, as the graphic preacher taught. Some do not in conversation get rid of original weaknesses of character, and these show through raiment that the cleverest fuller has done his best to make dainty.

4. On the completeness of this renunciation largely depends our future safety. We all know people who have contracted vicious habits, who have suffered deeply in social respect, who have become linked in with a set they cannot renounce, and such people often feel, and their friends feel, that if they are ever to recover themselves and lead a new life, they must leave this country altogether and begin again with new scenes and associations; so these unfortunate ones often succeed in putting the ocean between themselves and the scene of their fall and misery, and so doing ofttimes proves their social salvation. So the safety of the new convert depends upon putting a whole ocean between his regenerate self and his old self. Whether we go to America or Australia or not, let us be sure, by God's grace, that a great gulf is fixed between our present spirit and our past, between our new manner of life and our past, between our new manner of life and our past conversation. It has proved a fatal error to thousands not to have put away the old man as thoroughly as might be.

(W. L. Watkinson.)

How often do we see a tree well covered with the early shoots and young leaves, but yet with many of last year's dead leaves still hanging on to the branches, intermixed with the latest and best of the summer growth, as if to remind one that even this tree, fresh in the glory of its summer clothing, was but a little while ago unsightly with dead and useless leaves. Nor will the tree rid itself of these till the full tide of sap has filled the branches with full-grown verdure, when the old leaves will drop to the earth, and no longer be cumbersome. The Christian, like the tree, bears fresh leaves of a new heart, and even the good fruit of a godly life, and seems at first to be all but faultless; but how often, on nearer view, do evil ways, bad habits, and wicked passions, come to view, and disfigure the beauty of the Christian man or woman, so that companions are reminded of the late winter of an unrenewed life, of the remainders of evil old leaves not yet all stripped off or blown away by the breath of the Divine chastisement. Nor will the Christian stand in perfect clothing, and without any evil thing, till the Divine influence has permeated every part of the soul, and driven from it the remaining traces of the old Adam.

( Austen.)

Some years ago, the great country of India was in a ferment of wild rebellion against British rule. During that time of rebellion most sad evils were introduced into the nation; the national spirit and sentiment were debased, and vile passions let loose for rioting. That rebellion was crushed; our Queen was set upon the throne, and peace was proclaimed. But the evils which that rebellion had brought in have not even yet been removed. It has taken the direct labours of a succession of India's governors, and the indirect efforts of a multitude of India's friends, to root out some of those evils, and restore to their power some of the old obediences and virtues. It is thus with our nature. The rebellion of the soul brought evils upon it and into it; and when, for any one of us, the king of grace is restored to His throne, there is yet hard work to do to crush out these relics of evil, and free our natures from their degrading influence. And this is the work to which we are called upon the admission of our allegiance to the Lord Jesus Christ.

(R. Tuck, B. A.)

By this figure we understand the depravity of man.

I. HIS DWELLING place. Sin has its seat in the heart. Every disposition to evil comes directly from the heart. The body is but the machine of the man" Depravity is in us, dwells in the secret place of the temple.

II. HIS DISPOSITION. Loves darkness, thirsts after the gratification of every evil desire; hates the light, turns with loathing from the light of purity, whether seen in man or God. And he is subtle — deceives those in whom he dwells, so successfully that they disbelieve in his presence.

III. HIS INFLUENCE. Pervades every part of the man. Sears the conscience, affects the will, defiles the passions, perverts the mind, hinders the body.

IV. HIS ACHIEVEMENTS. At his instigation every vile deed was done that defaces the page of history.

V. HIS LONGEVITY. In the hearts of some he will dwell forever. The lost sin on, although they suffer as they sin. In the case of believers, though put off, still he will seek to gain his old ascendency, or be the cause of bitterness until they reach the grave. In conclusion: Let each ask(1) Who is this "old man"? He is your former self — the self that loved sin and hated God.(2) How can I put him off? Ask God to give you a new nature, and then the "new man" will struggle with the old, and at last triumph.

(R. A. Griffin.)

These lusts are "lusts of deceit," inasmuch as they seduce and ensnare under false pretensions. And they are numerous, for present gratification is the absorbing motive of the old man. There is the lust of gain, sinking into avarice; of power, swelling into ruthless and cruel tyranny; of pleasure, falling into beastly sensualism. These lusts have the mastery of the old man, and, whether more gross or more refined, they are not the less the manifestations of moral corruption. Every strong passion that fills the spirit to the exclusion of God is a "lust." It may be a lust of proficiency in mental, physical, political, or mechanical science, but if it engross the soul, it is a result and characteristic of the old man. Alas I this deceit is not simply error. It has assumed many guises. It gives a refined name. to grossness, calls sensualism gallantry, and it hails drunkenness as good cheer. It promises fame and renown to one class, wealth and power to another, and tempts the third onward by the prospect of brilliant discovery. But genuine satisfaction is never gained, for God is forgotten, and these desires and pursuits leave their victim in disappointment and chagrin. "Vanity of vanities," cried Solomon, in vexation, after all his experiments on the summum bonum. "I will pull down my barns, and build greater," said another, in the idea that he had "much good laid up for many years," and yet, in the very. night of his fond imaginings, his soul was required of him. Belshazzar drank wine with his grandees, and perished in his revelry. The prodigal son, who for pleasure and independence had left his father's house, sank into penury and degradation, and he, a child of Abraham, fed swine to a heathen master. Chalmers felt literary ambition to be in itself a lust of the old man, and a hollow vanity, till it was chastened and sanctified by the grace of God. The pretentious delusions of the old man must be weighed in the balances of the sanctuary.

(J. Eadie, D. D.)

As the beggar puts off his rags, as the master puts off his bad servant, as the porter puts off his burden, as the serpent his slough, or as the captive maid, when she was to be married, put off the garments of her captivity (Deuteronomy 21:18).

(J. Trapp.)

It hath many secret ways of insinuating; it is like a Delilah; it is like Jael to Sisera. Sin is a sweet poison, it tickleth while it stabbeth. The first thing that sin doeth is to bewitch, then to put out the eyes, then to take away the sense and feeling. As Joab came with a kind salute to Abner, and thrust him under the fifth rib, while Abner thought of nothing but kindness, so sin comes smiling, comes pleasing and humouring thee, while it giveth thee a deadly stab.

(Anthony Burgess.)

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