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14. Be Different from the World

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So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, with a continual lust for more. You, however, did not come to know Christ that way. Surely you heard of him and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. (Ephesians 4:17-24)

Why should believers be different from the world?

Often Christians are no different from the world in the way they think, talk, dress, and entertain themselves. Clearly, this was a problem with the Ephesian Christians, as well. Paul writes to them and says that they must no longer live as the Gentiles.

This exhortation to them to be different from the world was particularly important, considering the ungodly culture of Ephesus. John MacArthur shares some very telling insights:

Ephesus was a leading commercial and cultural city of the Roman empire… But it was also a leading city in debauchery and sexual immorality. Some historians rank it as the most lascivious city of Asia Minor… The fifth–century B.C. Greek philosopher Heraclitus, himself a pagan, referred to Ephesus as “the darkness of vileness. The morals were lower than animals and the inhabitants of Ephesus were fit only to be drowned.” There is no reason to believe that the situation had changed much by Paul’s day. If anything, it may have been worse.1

The temple of Artemis (or Diana) was located in the city, along with thousands of temple prostitutes who promoted her worship. Many in the church at Ephesus previously worshiped Diana and indulged in her immorality. This small, despised community of believers was constantly tempted to compromise and imitate the rest of the pagan world.

Here, Paul teaches them why they must be different. In this study, we will consider four reasons for believers to be different from the world.

Big Question: Why must believers be different from the world according to Paul in Ephesians 4:17-24?

Believers Must Be Different Because God Commands It

So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. (Ephesians 4:17)

When Paul says, “I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord,” he is saying the following instruction is God’s command and not his own.

God called believers to be different from the world throughout biblical history. When he called Israel to be his people out of all the nations, he said this to them through Moses:

“Speak to the Israelites and say to them: ‘I am the LORD your God. You must not do as they do in Egypt, where you used to live, and you must not do as they do in the land of Canaan, where I am bringing you. Do not follow their practices. You must obey my laws and be careful to follow my decrees. I am the LORD your God. (Leviticus 18:2-4)

Later, in Leviticus 19:2, he said, “Be holy, because I, the Lord your God, am holy.” Essentially, while the pagan nations worshipped many gods, and were known for promiscuity, dishonest business practices, etc., Israel was called to be different.

In fact, he gave the Israelites over 600 laws to distinguish them from the pagan nations, and also to teach them how to worship him. This applies to us as well. We live in a society that is perverse, ungodly, and full of sin, and we must be different because God commands it. He commands us to be like himself—separate, holy, and righteous.

When Paul calls unbelievers “Gentiles,” he is not referring to their race. Jews used this word in two ways: “first to distinguish all other people from Jews and second to distinguish all religions from Judaism… Gentiles here represent all ungodly, unregenerate, pagan persons.”2 The Ephesian Christians previously lived like pagans, but God called them to turn away from that lifestyle.

Similarly, Peter said this to scattered Christians throughout the Roman Empire:

For you have spent enough time in the past doing what pagans choose to do—living in debauchery, lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing and detestable idolatry. They think it strange that you do not plunge with them into the same flood of dissipation, and they heap abuse on you. (1 Peter 4:3-4)

And Paul said this to the Corinthians:

Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. (1 Corinthians 6:9-11)

The Ephesians, Romans, and Corinthians were saved out of a sinful lifestyle to worship the living God, and God called them to not go back. Similarly, many of us were saved out of all kinds of sin: drunkenness, sexual immorality, deceit, pride, rebellion, and selfishness—and we are called to not return.

Is your life different from the world? If not, remember that God delivered you from worldliness so you could know him and live for him.

Application Questions: In what ways has God delivered you from worldliness? How do you guard yourself from falling back into it?

Believers Must Be Different Because the World Rebels against God

So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, with a continual lust for more. (Ephesians 4:17-19)

Ephesians 4:17-19 is very similar to Romans 1:18-32, where Paul describes the consequences of the pagan world denying God. They suppress the knowledge of God because of sin (Rom 1:18) and therefore live in sexual immorality, homosexuality, idolatry, and all kinds of wickedness (18-32).

This was true of Ephesus. They rebelled against God, and the consequence was a lifestyle of depravity.

Observation Questions: In what ways does Paul describe the world’s rebellion against God, and what do these descriptions represent?

1. The world is futile in their thinking.

Paul says that people of the world live in the “futility of their thinking” (v. 17). The word “futility” means “waste”, “emptiness” or “vanity.” The problem with the world is wrong thinking—wrong thinking about God, which ultimately affects everything else. It affects how people view life, death, success, parenting, marriage, money, etc.

The Greek word for “futility” is translated “vanity” thirty-six times in the Septuagint version of Ecclesiastes.3 Throughout the book, Solomon describes how he tried money, knowledge, women, pleasure, etc., and how everything was “vanity of vanities”—a grasping of the air. This was the version of the Old Testament Paul commonly quoted in his epistles, so he probably chose this word intentionally to describe the vain thinking and pursuits of the world.

Isn’t this a true description of the world? The world tries to find success and happiness through money, education, sex, entertainment, and pleasure, and yet continually find themselves empty. When Solomon described his journey in Ecclesiastes, he called it “life under the sun” (2:17)—essentially, life without God.

As believers, our thinking should be different from that of the world—we need to consider what is above the sun. We must consider God when it comes to education, marriage, success, and purpose. The world’s thought process is vanity—just a grasping of the air—but the believer’s thought process must be saturated with God.

2. The world is darkened in their understanding.

Paul also says that people of the world are “darkened in their understanding” (Eph 4:18). In what ways is the world’s understanding darkened? Paul is primarily referring to the knowledge of God and the things of God. We see this taught throughout Scripture. First Corinthians 2:14 says, “The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned.”

To the man without God’s Spirit, a world created by God in seven days is laughable. A life defined and guided by the Word of God is simply a crutch. A God who becomes a man and dies for the sins of the world is utter foolishness. Indeed, the world is darkened in their understanding.

Romans 1:22 says, “Professing to be wise, they became fools.” They worship created things instead of the Creator (v. 25). They exchange natural relationships between men and women for perverse relationships between men and men, and women and women (v. 26-27). They call this wise and progressive, and the biblical view ignorant and archaic. That is the darkness of the pagan world—without God and lacking true understanding.

Now, the pagan world has much knowledge. In fact, the Greek world Paul wrote to in Ephesus was known for their advanced knowledge in philosophy, art, politics, and science. Greek slaves were highly sought after by Romans and other nations as tutors for their children.4 The Greeks were academics, and yet Paul calls them “darkened in their understanding.” It is no different today. We obtain degree after degree and have access to unlimited information on the Internet, but our world is still without true understanding because it rejects God.

3. The world is separated from God.

Paul says the world is “separated,” or “alienated,” from “the life of God” (Eph 4:18). In Ephesians 2:1, Paul describes the Ephesians as “dead” in transgressions and sins. Death really means separation. In the same way that physical death means separation of the body from the spirit, spiritual death means separation from God because of sin.

This is the problem with the world. Because God is holy and perfect, we cannot commune with him because of our sin (cf. Heb 12:14). Instead, we are under his wrath (cf. John 3:36, Rom 6:23). It is for this reason that Christ died on the cross for our sins—to pay our just penalty and to reconcile us to God (Rom 6:23).

Because of sin, the world is separated from God and dead to spiritual stimuli.

4. The world is “ignorant.”

The word “ignorant” in the Greek means “without knowledge” (Eph 4:18). It comes from the Greek word from which we get the English word “agnostic.”5 The world is alienated from God because they are ignorant of him.

Why is the world ignorant—without knowledge—of God? It is because people reject his revelation. Consider again Romans 1:18-21:

The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse. For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.

Paul describes two ways God reveals himself to man. He makes himself known through creation. The sun, moon, stars, earth, plants, animals, and humanity all boast of a Creator (cf. Psalm 19:1). They tell us that the Creator is powerful and divine (Romans 1:19). When man worships animals or claims to be God himself, he denies general revelation (revelation given to everyone). If God created the earth, then he must be greater than any created thing. He cannot be a cat, a dog, a cow, or a human. He is divine. That’s what general revelation tells us.

But God also reveals himself to man through the conscience. Romans 1:19 (NASB) says, “because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them.” Many scholars believe this evidence “within” man refers to the conscience. God has given man an innate knowledge of him, and of right and wrong. In Romans 2:14-16, Paul says that the Gentiles, who never received the Old Testament law, will be judged based on their conscience.

God has revealed himself to all, but the world has chosen to reject his revelation. People reject general revelation through creation and the conscience, and also special revelation (revelation given only to specific people) through Scripture and the historical person of Christ. Therefore, the world is “ignorant” by choice. They don’t want to know or obey God. They willfully reject his revelation.

Why do they do this? The apostle John says,

This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. (John 3:19-20)

People reject the light of God that shines through creation, their conscience, Christ, his Word, etc.—because they love sin. That is a description of the world—willfully ignorant of God.

5. The world is hardened and calloused to sin.

Ephesians 4:18-19a says: “They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. Having lost all sensitivity.”

Paul describes the hearts of unbelievers as hardened and having lost all sensitivity. Kent Hughes says this about the word “hardened”: “The Greek word for ‘hardening’ is porosis, which comes from the word poros, which originally meant ‘a stone harder than marble.’ In our own terms we might call this ‘a heart of stone.’”6

“Having lost all sensitivity” can also be translated “calloused.” It literally means to be “past feeling” or “having arrived at a condition of freedom from pain.”7 This again refers to a man’s conscience. It bothers him for a time when he rejects God’s law and practices sin, but as he continues to do so his conscience hardens like a rock and he no longer feels convicted. This happens to all of us to some extent when we rebel against God. Eventually, our conscience stops working.

First Timothy 4:1-2 gives an example of this in false teachers. It says,

The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron.

False teachers live hypocritical lives. As they reject God’s ways, their consciences become seared and hardened, and this opens the door to deception by demons and demonic doctrines.

This is what happens to people in the world. Their conscience becomes hard by accepting sin in their entertainment, education, relationships, and other aspects of their lives. They curse, fornicate, lie, steal, and sometimes kill, and yet feel no conviction or pain. And without the protection of a conscience, they are totally susceptible to deception.

Because of this, there are no concrete ethics or absolute truths in the world. What used to be right is now considered wrong and what was wrong is now considered right. The prophet Isaiah says, “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter” (Isaiah 5:20).

To be honest, I hate watching movies where the bad guy wins because it’s really a picture of the direction our world is heading. Bad is good and good is bad. This is also seen in how gangster rappers, who make music about their crimes—selling drugs and killing people—become multi-millionaires because everybody, including Christians, buys their records. Our world is backwards because it has hardened hearts and seared consciences.

6. The world is consumed with sensuality.

As Paul says in Ephesians 4:19, “Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality.” “Aselgeia (sensuality) refers to total licentiousness, the absence of all moral restraint, especially in the area of sexual sins.”8 It is the “vice that throws off all restraint and flaunts itself.”9

Again, this is a picture of the pagan world described in Romans 1:24-27:

Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen. Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion. 

A disregard for God led to the sexual revolution, as the hearts of men and women were given to sexual impurity—degrading their bodies with one another. It also led to what Scripture calls “shameful lusts,” referring to homosexuality—men burning in passion for one another, and women for women. Paul describes the world culture as sexually crazed.

In the Roman Empire homosexuality and bi-sexuality were normal. In fact, I read one historical article that said it was considered strange for a man to prefer one sex over the other. This was normative for the pagan world, as rejection of God leads to sexual immorality and shameful lusts.

7. The world is greedy for sin, and therefore makes an occupation of it.

Ephesians 4:19 can also be translated, “They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity.” The world is “greedy” for sin (the NIV translates this word as “indulge”)—it has an uncontrollable lust for more. This uncontrollable lust leads people to make an occupation of sin.

“Ergasia (practice) can refer to a business enterprise, and that idea could apply here.”10 When a person starts a law firm, it is called a practice—a business. This also describes our contemporary culture and how it makes a profit from sin. I read that pornography makes more money than the NFL, NBA, and MLB combined in the US.11 It is one of the biggest businesses, if not the biggest, and it’s the same with trafficking, drugs, etc., in many nations. The world practices sin as a business.

Paul essentially says, “Believers, you must live differently than the world because God commands it, and also because the world is in rebellion against God. Don’t live like the world!”

Application Question: What specific characteristic(s) of the world, as described by Paul, jumped out to you and why?

Believers Must Be Different Because They Know Christ

You, however, did not come to know Christ that way. Surely you heard of him and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. (Ephesians 4:20-21)

Observation Question: What teaching terms does Paul use in reference to Christ in Ephesians 4:20-21 and what do they represent?

The next reason Paul gives for being different from the world is the believers’ relationship to Christ. He says, “You, however, did not come to know Christ that way.” It can be translated literally as, “You did not learn Christ.” This is very unique terminology. James Boice says,

The reason this is “extraordinary” is that the idea of learning a person, rather than a mere fact or doctrine, is found nowhere else in the Greek Bible. Nor has it been found in any other pre-biblical document.12

Paul could say that they learned “about” Christ, but he doesn’t. Why not? Because Christianity is a relationship with Christ. This is very similar to Christ’s teaching about salvation in John 17:3: “Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.” Salvation is knowing God the Father and God the Son.

Paul uses pedagogical (teaching) terms. The phrase “you heard of him” should actually be translated as “you heard him”—”of” isn’t in the original language. This is special. As the majority of these Asian believers had never heard Christ teach in person, Paul is saying that any time they heard Scripture, Christ spoke to them. This is very similar to Ephesians 5:25-27:

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.

Paul describes Christ washing the church with the Word of God to make it a pure and blameless bride. When does this happen? It happens every time we hear the preaching of the Word of God. It happens when we study and meditate on the Word. Christ is involved in every biblical transmission of Scripture to his people. He is present to give us understanding and to help us apply it.

But this is not all. Christ is the subject, the teacher, and the classroom. We were taught “in him” (Eph 4:21). This refers to our union with Christ, which happens at salvation. First Corinthians 12:13 says that we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body. As believers, we are the body of Christ—forever connected to him. Throughout Ephesians, Paul mentions this reality many times. Believers are the faithful “in Christ” (1:1). We have every spiritual blessing “in Christ” (1:3). We were chosen “in him” before the foundation of the world (1:4). God has given us his grace “in the One” he loves (1:6). “In him” we have redemption through his blood and the forgiveness of sins (1:7). In Christ we have so many wonderful blessings, and it is in this dynamic union that he teaches and changes us day by day.

Finally, Christ is not only the subject, the teacher, and the classroom, but also the truth. Paul says, “Surely you heard of him and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus” (Eph 4:21). Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but by him (John 14:6). When speaking to Pilate before his death, Christ said he came to “bear witness” to the truth (John 18:37, KJV). There are many ways claiming to be true and the way to God; however, Christ is the truth and the only way to a relationship with God.

Essentially, Christians should be different because they are in the school of Christ. At some point, they became disciples of Christ, and now they daily sit at his feet—listening to his voice and conforming to his image. James Boice adds this about Paul’s reason for focusing on Christ’s training of believers:

It is because in the previous verse he has described the condition of the secular or gentile world as due chiefly to ignorance. He was pointing out that the depravity of the gentile world was due to its willful ignorance of God. The world has hardened its heart against God and so is alienated from him intellectually and in every other way. It follows, then, that when Paul speaks of the difference Jesus makes he does so in exactly parallel terms. The world is ignorant of God, but Christians have come to know him. The secular mind is hostile to Christ’s teaching, but the believer joyfully enrolls in and continually makes progress in Christ’s school.13

Application Question: How should we apply the reality of the teaching we receive from Christ?

1. We must be eager learners.

Our Savior wants to teach us, and therefore, we must wake up every morning ready to learn. When young Samuel heard God speak to him, Eli, the high priest, told him to say, “Speak, LORD, for your servant is listening” (1 Sam 3:9). We would do well to say the same thing to our Lord every day. Speak, LORD, your servants are listening.

Are you an eager leaner?

2. We must be obedient learners.

James said, “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says” (1:22). What are they deceived about? They are deceived about their faith. They are not truly Christ’s disciples. Only those who hear and obey God’s Word are truly born again. Christ says, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven” (Matt 7:21). Only those who do the Father’s will enter the kingdom of heaven.

Are you an obedient learner?

Application Questions: What have you been learning recently in the school of Christ? Is Christ calling you to make any changes to be a better student?

Believers Must Be Different Because They Are New in Christ

You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. (Ephesians 4:22-24)

Paul explains some lessons every believer learns in the school of Christ. He says,

You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. (Ephesians 4:22-24)

When Paul uses the phrases “put off” and “put on,” these were commonly used of taking off or putting on clothing (cf. Acts 7:58). There is some controversy about the interpretation of this passage. Some believe these phrases should be interpreted as commands (as in the NIV), and others believe they should be in the past tense. In my study, I’ve found that most commentators, including John Stott, Martin Lloyd-Jones, and John MacArthur, believe they should be translated as past tense since the verbs are in the “aorist middle.” Because of this, the Holman Christian Standard Bible translates the passage like this:

You took off your former way of life, the old self that is corrupted by deceitful desires; you are being renewed in the spirit of your minds; you put on the new self, the one created according to God’s likeness in righteousness and purity of the truth. (Ephesians 4:22-24 (HCSB))

If this is true, Paul is describing the new identity of believers. When Christ saves us, we become new creations in him—old things pass away, and all things become new (2 Cor 5:17). We are born again through the Spirit of God.

Observation Question: How does Paul describe the changes in believers?

1. Believers put off the old self.

The “old self” refers to what believers were before salvation. It refers to the sinful life we lived before following Christ. When born again, our old self (in the sense of its power over us) dies. Romans 6:6-7 says, “For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin—because anyone who has died has been freed from sin.” On the cross, Christ crucified our old self so that it might be done away with.

Well, why do we still struggle with sinful urges, some might ask. The answer is that we still have a sin nature; however, its power over us has been broken. Before, we sinned and lived like the world because we had to—we were slaves to our urges. But now we are not slaves of sin, but of Christ and righteousness (cf. Rom 6:13, 18).

This is important to understand when one feels bound to some habitual sin, addiction, or stronghold. Christ is our abolitionist. He has set us free. John 8:34 and 36 says, “Everyone who sins is a slave of sin… but if the Son makes you free, you are free indeed.”

Paul wants believers to understand their freedom. Since they previously were slaves of sexual lusts, lying, selfishness, and discord as unbelievers, why would they run back to their slave master after being set free? We should enjoy our freedom in following Christ, and not run back to slavery to sin, the world, and the devil.

2. Believers received a new mind.

Paul says, “to be made new in the attitude of your minds.” “The word new (kainos) does not mean renovated but entirely new—new in species or character.”14 First Corinthians 2:16 says, “But we have the mind of Christ.” In salvation, we repent of our former ways and choose to follow Christ. “Repentance” really means “a change of mind.” God gives us the mind of Christ—a desire to follow and obey God.

However, this does not remove the need to continually renew our minds. Romans 12:2 says: “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” John Stott says this about the renewal of the mind: “If heathen degradation is due to the futility of their minds, then Christian righteousness depends on the constant renewing of our minds.”15

Application Question: How do we renew our minds?

Philippians 4:8 says, “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”

In order to think on what is good and thereby renew our minds, we must do two things:

  • We must reject the ungodly.

This is where many Christians fail. It is not that they don’t think on what is good; it’s that they still think on and enjoy the bad. This includes ungodly music, books, TV, and conversation. We renew our minds by rejecting what is ungodly.

  • We must think on the godly.

Whatever we think on, we will eventually do. The world lives in an ungodly manner because of the “futility of their thinking” (Eph 4:17). However, believers live godly lives by redeeming their minds from the foolishness of the world. They develop a biblical worldview by meditating on and obeying God’s Word.

3. Believers put on the new self.

Peter says believers participate in the Divine nature (2 Peter 1:4). God not only gives us a new mind at salvation, but also his very nature, including new affections and desires. Jonathan Edwards calls these “religious affections.”

True believers desire the Word of God, and God’s righteousness. Jesus says, “Man does not live by bread alone but by every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matt 4:4). We desire God’s Word and the righteousness that comes from obeying it. Christ says, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness for they shall be filled” (Matt 5:6). True believers desire to see people saved, discipled, and daily conforming to God’s image. They have a new self—a new nature from God.

Paul says, “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” (Gal 5:22-23). These will be in our lives to some extent if God’s Spirit lives in us.

However, with all this said—believers having put off the old self and put on the new self, and also having a new mind—we still need to apply these realities daily. Colossians 3:9-10, a parallel passage, says: “Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.”

Paul emphasizes this in the following verses and throughout the rest of Ephesians. In 4:24, he says we were “created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.” Every day we must make it our aim to fulfill God’s original purpose in saving us—to be like him. We must get rid of sin, renew our minds, and practice righteousness.

Do you know your new identity? We must be different from the world because of how Christ changed us. We are new—created for righteousness (Eph 2:10).

Application Questions: Why is knowing our new identity in Christ so important? How is God calling you to apply your new identity today?


Why should believers be different from the world?

  1. Believers must be different because God commands it.
  2. Believers must be different because the world rebels against God.
  3. Believers must be different because they know Christ.
  4. Believers must be different because they are new in Christ.

Copyright © 2016 Gregory Brown

Unless otherwise noted, the primary Scriptures used are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version ®, Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by the International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. All rights reserved.

Scripture quotations marked (ESV) are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®) Copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. All rights reserved.

Scripture quotations marked (NASB) are from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972,1973,1975,1977,1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

Scripture quotations marked (NLT) are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Scripture quotations marked KJV or AKJV are from the King James Version or Authorized (King James) Version of the Bible.

All emphases in Scripture quotations and commentators’ quotations have been added.

1 MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1986). Ephesians (p. 166). Chicago: Moody Press.

2 MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1986). Ephesians (p. 165). Chicago: Moody Press.

3 Accessed 9/8/2015 from 

4 MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1986). Ephesians (p. 168). Chicago: Moody Press.

5 Accessed 9/8/2015 from

6 Hughes, R. K. (1990). Ephesians: the mystery of the body of Christ (pp. 140–141). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.

7 Hendriksen, W., & Kistemaker, S. J. (1953–2001). Exposition of Ephesians (Vol. 7, p. 210). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.

8 MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1986). Ephesians (pp. 170–171). Chicago: Moody Press.

9 Hughes, R. K. (1990). Ephesians: the mystery of the body of Christ (p. 141). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.

10 MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1986). Ephesians (pp. 171–172). Chicago: Moody Press.

11 Accessed 9/8/2015 from

12 Boice, J. M. (1988). Ephesians: an expositional commentary (p. 160). Grand Rapids, MI: Ministry Resources Library.

13 Boice, J. M. (1988). Ephesians: an expositional commentary (p. 161). Grand Rapids, MI: Ministry Resources Library.

14 MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1986). Ephesians (p. 178). Chicago: Moody Press.

15 Stott, J. R. W. (1979). God’s new society: the message of Ephesians (p. 178). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

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