By Christine Hoover
Beginning in Ephesians 4:17, Paul gives his readers instructions that can only be understood in light of what he has laid out previously in the book–that God has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in Christ, we’ve been sealed with the Holy Spirit as a deposit of the inheritance to come, and all of this has come to us by grace through faith and not of our own efforts. So many times, we think of instructions in Scripture as what to do and what not to do, which is well and good, but Paul begs us to receive his instructions in light of our identity, specifically who we were before Christ and who we now are because of Christ.
“Therefore”, he says, or in light of what Christ has done, don’t walk according to your former identity–this is not who you are anymore–but walk according to the new identity you’ve put on in Christ. Give yourselves to these things, live to the new creation God has made you. Or as we might say to our children, live up to your name.
Who are we now that we’ve joined God’s family and taken his name? We are truth-tellers, so we must not lie (vs. 25). We are not wrathful and angry people, so we must not sin in this way (vs. 26). We are not thieves, but hard workers who are generous with what we earn (vs. 28). We are grace-speakers, so we must be careful to use our words to edify others (vs. 29). We belong to the Holy Spirit, so in order that we not grieve the one we love, we are kind rather than bitter, tenderhearted rather than clamoring, forgiving others rather than speaking evil of them (vs. 30-32). So that we might not forget these aren’t bullet points for our checklists, Paul again reminds his readers that we do and are all these things because this is who God is and he’s shown an example of himself so tangibly in Christ. We are his and we show it by imitating Him (4:32-5:2).
Paul calls us “saints”. This is our identity in Christ. Saints have no business participating in the actions and words of non-saints, primarily because it dishonors our Father’s name and grieves him, but also because it doesn’t fit us anymore, and we shouldn’t be deceived to think otherwise (5:3-7).
Therefore, as saints, we are “in the light of the Lord”, and we should seek to bring every square inch of our lives into this bright, exposing light (5:8-14). Paul encourages believers to shun the darkness and reach constantly for Christ, who gives light to the dead and redeems evil days. In this, we are who we were made alive by Christ to be.
Paul makes such a distinction between who we were and who we are, between saint and non-saint, between darkness and light. This passage begs us to consider if we are running into the darkness or into the light. Are we acting as the saint we were made alive to be?
Christine Hoover (@christinehoover) is a church planting pastor’s wife and stay-at-home mom to their three boys. She is the author of three books: The Church Planting Wife, Partners in Ministry: Help and Encouragement for Ministry Wives, and From Good to Grace: Letting Go of the Goodness Gospel. She enjoys helping women learn to live and lead from grace through her blog, GraceCoversMe.com.
You, too, can help support the ministry of CBMW. We are a non-profit organization that is fully-funded by individual gifts and ministry partnerships. Your contribution will go directly toward the production of more gospel-centered, church-equipping resources.