Ephesians 4:17-24: Put off the old self and put on the new self

Ephesians 4:17-24 (a word of organization, the blog is not keeping my formatting, so the outline is not organized well, and the program is not cooperating)

Put off the old self and put on the new self

TRCC, my great desire for you is that you would see and savor Jesus Christ in all things. That end drives my preaching.

Everything I say is intended to drive you away from the rebellion, the curse and it’s fruit and drive you to see the majesty of King Jesus and his kingdom.

Today’s message particularly has that thrust to it.

Paul is instructing the Ephesians on the practices that come from the unifying work of the gospel.

We are to walk worthy.

We walk worthy by supply all that King Jesus has gifted me with for the church

Now, Paul is going to instruct us that walking worthy looks like putting off our old selves and putting on the new humanity.

After an initial insistence that the readers put behind them their former Gentile way of life (17), this (instruction) is painted in dark colors (18–19; cf. Col. 1:21; 3:7) to provide a sharp contrast with what they have heard in the gospel about Christ (20–21). He is the pattern for the new-creation humanity, and Paul reminds his readers that the gospel therefore included teaching on the need to put off the old sinful humanity, and put on the new (22–24; cf. Col. 3:8–10).[1]

So, we are to live out this mysterious gospel of the kingdom in unity by putting off the old self, which is corrupted, and put on the new self. This new self is what we are to be in the church and in the age to come of the new heaven and the new earth.

A quick outline of the points from the text looks like:

  1. Paul is going to tell us what not to do, 2. who we are and 3. what to do.

Before we launch into our text, please be reminded, it is easy to highlight certain truths and ignore complementary truths as they are presenting in the Scriptures.

We emphasize the justifying work of the gospel here well. We often don’t emphasize the complementary reality that the justified work out their salvation with fear and trembling.

Today, we are going to see the necessary reality that we are to work out what we say we believe.

  1. What not to do: Do not live like what you used to be, an unbeliever! v. 17-19

If Paul has to remind us to not act like what we used to be, then the propensity to act like that must still be real.

Here is the reality of the gospel. When Jesus justified us, we died with him, but we also have at the root of our being the curse of sin that Paul calls the “flesh” that we war against. Romans 7 is clear that Paul had to war against the easiness of sin and war harder to do what is right even though he wanted to do what is right.

Sin came easy. Doing right came hard.

Colossians 1:21 “And you, who were once alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds,…”

Colossians 3:7 “In these you too once walked (what is earthly: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness which is idolatry v. 5), when you were living in them.”

As Paul reminded one church, he is reminding another church that the manner of their life can’t be what they once were, which will be so easy for them to do.

     A. Don’t live in a darkened understanding v. 18a

Due to a futile mind (v. 17c), unbelievers live in a darkened understanding.

To put it another way, they are not capable of thinking on the truth. Truth does not rule them. They are in the dark. Lies rule them

We must be constantly evaluating if we are living in and making decisions according to lies

We must strive to be applying truth in every sphere of our existence

     B. Don’t live alienated from life due to ignorance stemming from a hard heart v. 18b

Paul gives us second in this list the primary cause of the darkened understanding and ignorance. That primary cause is the hard heart. Paul’s parallel statement about the heart is made in 2:1 when he calls us dead.

Ultimately, darkened understanding and ignorance are due to the dead man walking.

Due to dead and hard hearts, man lives alienated from God and thus life.

Paul is reminding them to not return to dead living that is alienated from God.

You may ask: can I even do that?

Paul’s answer is a resounding: YES!

Don’t hear: loss of salvation.

Hear: Never been transformed by the gospel.

Paul tell us here that we must not go back to living like unbelievers because we will be evidencing that we are unbelievers.

Can an unbeliever really act as though they believe? See Judas.

C. Don’t be callous, given up to sensuality, greed and impurity v. 19

With a calloused heart, we will live according to our senses not by faith and that will lead all kinds of greed and impurity.

  1. Don’t live according to your senses. They are not trust-worthy.

Being driven by felt needs lends itself to being a wave tossed around by every wind of doctrine.

For us, this is warning. It’s sobriety. It’s a litmus test to see what we are.

Paul will now move from what not to do to a reminder of who the Ephesian believers are.

  1. Who we are: We have learned Christ! v. 20-21

Colossians 2:6-7 “Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.”

     A. We have heard v. 21a

Paul does not simply mean physical hearing. Paul has in mind effective and transformational hearing. Hearing that results in change.

“He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” (Matthew 11:15)

This is Job 42:5 kind of hearing, “I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you.”

     B. We have been taught in Christ because the truth is in Jesus v. 21b

The connection between truth teaching and truth here is unmistakable.

As we have known Christ, we have known truth and it’s source.

“…and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus.”

In other words, all true teaching emanates from the knowledge of the Godhead.

  1. We know that God himself is our source of truth
  2. We reject all other claims to truth
  3. We stubbornly hold on to reality from God’s perspective (truth)
  4. We live in the community of the kingdom seeking to rescue others by bringing them into this truth
  5. We are willing to die for this truth                                                                                                                                                                             C. The primary truth communicated here, is that in Christ we can do point  3

This is our identity now. So, what do people with the knowledge of Jesus do?

  1. What to do: In truth found in Christ, put off the old self and put on the new self! v. 22-24                            A. Put off your old self v. 22

Quick summary:

  1. Don’t live like an unbeliever
  2. Discover, hold on to the truth as found in Jesus
  3. Now, put off the old self


Let me be clear. I can’t say this better than John Owen and John Piper. So, I’m going to let them speak for me and to me for a minute.

Maybe as I preach to me, you will hear too.

“Do you mortify; do you make it your daily work; be always at it while you live; cease not a day from this work; be killing sin or sin will be killing you.” – John Owen

Romans 8:13 “For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.”

John Owen goes on to say… “…First, believers who are free from the condemning power of sin, out to make it their daily work to mortify the indwelling power of sin; (Part of doing the mission, being and producing radical followers of Jesus, is killing sin so that we living worthily before those we seek to bring into the kingdom)[2] second, only the Holy Spirit is sufficient for this work; (you have to walk in relationship with Father, Son and Spirit: Up: Communion with God)[3] and third, the life, vigor, and comfort of the believer’s spiritual life depends much upon this work of mortifying sin.”

“Your being dead with Christ virtually, your being quickened with him, will not excuse you from this work. And our Savior tells us how his Father deals with every branch in him that bears fruit, every true and living branch. He purges it, that it may bring forth more fruit (John 15:2). He prunes it, and that not for a day or two, but while it is a branch in this world (continuously)[4]. And the apostle tells you what was his practice: I keep under my body and bring into subjection (1 Cor. 9:27).”

“He was killed for your sin (There is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus Rom. 8:1). You were killed in him and died to sin (You have died and your life is hidden in Christ with God Col. 3:3). Therefore, kill in yourself every quivering of that corpse of sin, lest you find him to be no corpse, but a captor, and yourself dead.” – John Piper

It is our work in walking worthy to be about the work of putting off the old self that will seek to grumble and rise from it’s dead state to kill us.


When Isaiah was besieged with the death of king Uzziah, his greatest need was not a strategy to ease their vulnerability.

Isaiah’s greatest need was to see who the real king is.

“In the year that king Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on the throne.” Isaiah 6:1

Your greatest need to fight sin this morning is not our strategy first. There is some strategy. We’ll give you nine of them next week.

Right now we need to see the Lord and behold his glory.

Psalm 147:1 “Praise the LORD! For it is good to sing praises to our God; for it is pleasant, and a song of praise is fitting.”

[1] D. A. Carson, R. T. France, et al., eds., New Bible Commentary: 21st Century Edition, 4th ed. (Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press, 1994), 1239.

[2] Parenthesis Mine

[3] Parenthesis Mine

[4] Parenthesis Mine

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