The Two-Volume Biography of Believers
The whole of human history can be written in a two-volume book of the Adam's Families ‑ the book of the generations of the First Adam (Genesis 5:1, “This is the book of the generations of Adam.”), and the book of the generations of the Last Adam (Matthew 1:1, “The book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.”).
As believers, we all are included in a two-volume biography. The first describes our person, position, and practices BC - before coming to Christ. The second describes our person, position, and practices IC – in Christ.
Our text refers to the two volumes as being the accounts of the old self and new self, or old man and new man (Ep. 4:22,24).
The point of this section of scripture that we’re considering today is to emphasize how believers are called to live out of volume two of their new “in Christ” identity with a lifestyle that is different from the world and different from their pre-Christian past.
I. Volume One - The Vain Record of the Old Man
- The Identity of His Features – 4:24, “that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts,” The old man is not an old nature within us or a sin-principle within, but the old me – all that we were in the first Adam. They (and we) were lost, living vainly or with no true meaning to life; loathing spiritual, biblical truth; loving sin, lusting for material prosperity, leaning to our on understanding.
- The Deformity of His Faculties - 4:17-19
- The Pervasiveness of Sin’s Ruin - Sin, as passed down from our fallen father, Adam, didn’t deprive the old man of any faculties, but deformed them all. It left us all totally depraved. This doesn’t mean that we all were as bad as we could be, but as bad off as we could be. Augustine described our condition by nature as “incurvatus in se”. This is a Latin term that means to be turned or curved inward on oneself, rather than outward toward others or toward God. Remember, SIN, is selfish, independent, negation of the will of God.
In Eph. 4:17–19 we get the surgeon's report on the human heart.
a. Hardness of heart – 4:18c, “…due to their hardness of heart” – First, the deepest problem is hardness. My deepest problem in life is that apart from the free and sovereign grace of God giving me a new heart via the new birth, my heart is hardened against God. I am like a stone toward all that is spiritual. It does not move me, attract me, or delight me. This is a far deeper problem than ignorance and is the cause of ignorance.
b. Darkness of mind – 4:18a, “…They are darkened in their understanding…” - There is in the old man, what were by nature, a deep darkness that swallows up our understanding, and keeps us from seeing the glory of the gospel or the excellency of Christ. Look at Eph. 5:8: "Once you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord; walk as children of the light." Before the Lord shined in my heart, I was darkness (2 Cors 4:4–6). There was no light in me. And Jesus said in John 3:20that I would not come to the light because I hated the light. And this is true whether I am a college professor or an illiterate native.
c. Deadness of soul – 4:18b, “…alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them…” - John Piper says this is a DEEP ignorance, for there is a superficial knowledge in the darkened mind of man. Apart from spiritual light I can know ten thousand things, but I can't know the true meaning of anything—not one thing. Because to know the meaning of a thing is to know why it exists. But Colossians 1:16says, "All things were created through Christ and for Christ." So until I know in my heart that every molecule in this universe exists for the sake of Jesus Christ, I don't know the final meaning of anything. I misunderstand everything, until the darkness of my mind is taken away.
d. Recklessness of life – 4:19, “have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity.” The Greek word translated sensuality is “aselgeia”, which means, “unbridled lust, excess, licentiousness, lasciviousness, wantonness, outrageousness, shamelessness, disrespect.”
e. Uncleanness of lifestyle – 4:19b, “…greedy to practice every kind of impurity.” Their covetousness drives them to pursue practices that in God's eyes are impure.
Paul’s description of culture 2,000 years ago is very up to date in describing our contemporary Christless culture - unhindered lust, unbridled promiscuity, and uncontrolled self-indulgence. Author Kent Hughes describes it well: “Our culture is hell-bent in its cavalier, reckless pursuit of sin, and it makes psychopaths its martyrs and drag queens its models.”
Sexual perversion, especially homosexual practice, isn’t simply an alternative lifestyle. It’s the final stages of cultural burnout. It’s intensified rebellion against God: I will decide who I am, what I am, what I’m doing, and with whom I’m doing it. It’s not the greatest sin, but it’s clear evidence of a society’s defiance of God.
Having read the surgeon's report in verses Eph 4:17-19, we know that the cancer of hardness, darkness, ignorance and decadence has spread everywhere. The bad news is that we will never be healed or escape from futility by means of a psychological quick fix or a superficial, up-beat seminar on how to change our attitude. The only remedy is in the good news of the gospel.
II. Volume Two - The Virtuous Record of the New Man
The second volume for believers is the story of the new man we become in Christ. In volume one, in the First Adam, we were lost as to true identity, real security, heavenly dignity, and to ultimate destiny. In Volume Two, in the Last Adam – Jesus the Christ, we’re saved, safe, relocated, redeemed. We can reign in life, overcome in life and live forever enjoying and being employed in extending the glory of God!
1. Incisive Illumination – 4:20, “But that is not the way you learned Christ.” Literally, verse 20 reads: “You did not learn the Christ this way.” No parallel exists for learning a person. More is intended than mere learning facts about Christ.
What does it mean to “learn Christ”? It underscores the fact that Christianity is focused in a person. This person teaches us how to live. This person exemplifies what he teaches. This person is also someone with whom we have a living relationship. We “learn Christ” by coming to know him through faith. We “learn Christ” by communing with him. We “learn Christ” by living life as part of his body. The essence of the Christian life is not a moral system constructed by a fine moral teacher. Rather, it is life in Christ: trusting him, knowing him, following him, loving him, being created anew in him, learning from him, imitating him, sharing in his work.
2. Decisive Renunciation – 4:22, “to put off your old self (close volume one of the life of the old man), which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires,”
a. Put off the Old Man - After having heard the voice of Christ and being made alive and brought to faith in him, we become disciples who enter into his school of discipleship where he begins to teach how to live. The first thing he says to you is: "change your clothes." Take off the old man or person and put on the new man or person.
b. Put on the New Man - Eph 4:24, “and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.” When it says in 4:24 that we are to “put on the new self, created to be like God,” this is not only a new individual identity but also a new relatedness, a new participation in Jesus Christ and his united people who are the “new humanity.”
3. Progressive Cooperation - Eph 4:23, “and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds,”- If the Gentiles’ core problem is a distorted mind, the solution can only be a renewing of the mind, which is exactly Paul’s understanding of salvation (cf. Rom. 12:2). The verb “be renewed”, is present tense, which suggests an ongoing process. Though while it is true that when we put our faith in Christ, we put off the old self and put on the new self, the work of internal renewal must still continue.
If the old ways are to be abandoned, renewal is called for, and this must be an inward renewal. The new life is not to be regulated by conformity to some external standard; its wellspring lies within, “in the spirit of your mind.” So Paul exhorts the Roman Christians: “Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewal of your mind” (Rom_12:2). This inward renewal involves a cooperative work of you and the Holy Spirit. As we work out our salvation (Philps 2:11-12), we’re being progressively transformed into the image of Christ, “from one degree of glory to another” (2Co_3:18).
Where are you situated? In the old man, the First Adam – then you are lost to true identity, to real security, to heavenly dignity, and to ultimate destiny? In the Last Adam – Jesus Christ? Then you are saved, safe, redeemed. You can reign in life, overcome in life and live forever enjoying and being employed in extending the glory of God!
All who come from Adam need the last Adam. There is only one, Jesus Christ. There is no other way for us to get right with God but through God's one remedy: the righteousness of Jesus Christ, and the power of his Spirit through faith. No other religion teaches this remedy besides biblical Christianity. God has revealed to us the diagnosis and God has revealed the remedy. He showed it to us. He has made us love it and rejoice in it. It is plain what we should do. Tell this good news to all the world and delight in the spread of Christ-exalting joy.
What volume are you living in?
other sermons in this series