The Believer and his identity in union with Christ
Ephesians 4: 20-22 and some reflections
Dr. G. Ernesto Johnson
Rio Grande Bible Seminar
New personal reflections in summary
My personal studies of Ephesians have given me a new, more balanced perspective of the wonder of God's grace in the life of the believer. Of course, grace has always been the foundation of my belief. But I already understand more of the depth and the height of that grace. In the Trinitarian doxology I was very struck: "He blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, so that we would be holy and without blemish before him" (Ephesians 1 : 3.4). There can be no place left for our merit or achievements.
The trinitarian doxology
In that blessed doxology, God the Father chooses us (vv.3-6) and in Great Designation is realized in Christ (vv.7-12) and we believe and the Holy Spirit that seals us (vv.13, 14). And the slogan of eternity resounds time and again: "for the praise of the glory of his grace" (vv 12, 14). With all this, the doxology of a fervent prayer that God gives us the knowledge of him, the hope of our call and the riches of our inheritance and "what is the supereminent greatness of his power for us who believe, according to the operation of his power "(v.19).
Grace in full development
In Ephesians 2: 1-3 Paul establishes the reality of our sins, but with quick sequence and adds the divine initiative in giving us life, in resurrecting us, in sitting in heavenly places to show the abundant riches of his grace in his goodness. "Because by grace you are saved (sanctified) by faith, and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God, not by works so that no one can boast "(vv.5-9). In order to put an end to all meritorious deeds, she says: "For we are his work (his poem), created in Christ Jesus, for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them" (v.10).
Take note of the range or spectrum that from 'before the foundation of the world "to the" works prepared in advance "exalts sublime grace and leaves us stunned by the grace of God. It allows us nothing less than "through faith" – a faith that flows from the Word of God and the work of the Holy Spirit (Romans 10:17). Where our best intentions and service come before the God of so much grace!
In Ephesians 3 Paul marvels at his divine call for being the instrument of preaching to the Gentiles the wonder of grace in constituting the Church, the Body of Christ "to create in both of them a single and new man, making peace, and through the cross, to reconcile with God both in one body, killing in it the enmity "(vv.15,16).
The practical impact of grace in action
As the first chapter began with a doxology and a prayer, the first half of the letter ends with another beautiful prayer and doxology. "That Christ may dwell by faith in your hearts, so that, rooted and grounded in love, you may be fully able to understand with all the saints what is the width, the length, the depth and the height and to know the love of Christ, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God "(vv.17-19).
Faced with this dazzling development of God's grace for us, who could ever put "I" or human pride in our salvation, in gifts or talents received from God, or in education or "assumptions"? "Achievements of the years of faithful Christian service? Let us be stunned and absorbed in his grace and the love of God
We will return in Ephesians 4 to see how this abundant grace puts the seven units of faith our faith (vv.4-6) as the basis of the Church; then it constitutes the four ministries of the Body of Christ, apostles, prophets, evangelists and pastors / teachers (v.11). Above all, it places Christ as the dynamic of the walk of the new identity of the believer (vv.12, 13).
Life in Christ is not based on our best and most sincere intentions to read the Bible, pray and serve others. So many times we try to "do our part" to do the fighting and to strive and be frustrated like the Apostle Paul when he put himself under the Law and not under grace in Romans 7:24, 25 "Wretched of me! Who will deliver me from this body of death? "But little by little," Thank you I give to God, through Jesus Christ our Lord. "
Paul is already in the middle of the epistle of grace and is about to deepen in depth the reality of the new identity that the believer has. He not only explores that identity in union with the Crucified from regeneration, but now challenges the believer who walks by faith and has received the Spirit. The believer is trusting, affirming and obeying the truth that is in Christ.
To give scope and impact to the believer, Paul solemnly commands: "This, then, I say and require in the Lord that you no longer walk like the Gentiles, who walk in the vanity of their mind" (Ephesians 4:17). Again I emphasize the importance of the small conjunction "pues". The role he plays in where he frequently appears is very important because he looks back on a key argument that has already been established beyond doubt. That argument in the context (vv.13-16) is "walking modeling the truth in love" (v.15) until the Body of Christ grows in its full maturity. Such is the Great Designe of Ephesians (Ephesians 1:11).
To stand out in sharp contrast to the past identity in the First Adam, the Apostle to the Gentiles describes in no exaggerated but true terms the absolute depravity of the previous life. But they, their readers, are no longer "gentiles" before God but their own children. But these Ephesians have to realize this radical change. They have ceased to be "Gentiles", those of the First Adam, but they are already only children of God in full possession of everything that such a new identity gives them in full grace. This will be clearly seen in his own being and in his walk. In the rest of the epistle Paul will make shining this transformation on the basis of his new identity in Christ. The phrase "In Christ" has been Paul's motto. It appears about 40 times in his writings.
The practical axis of the application in the walk of the believer Ephesians 4: 20
For clarity we went to the Dictionary of the Royal Spanish Academy to define the "axis", the fifth figurative definition: "Fundamental idea in a reasoning; predominant theme in a writing or speech; main support of a company; final design of a behavior. "
The most faithful translation into Greek is: "but you did not learn Christ like that" (v.20). So many times our Spanish version replaces the present perfect tense instead of the aorist / past tense that identifies a final and decisive event. The verb in the perfect present suggests that such an act already past is still in force. But it does not leave us with all clarity the very key aspect of that definitive moment in the past and that can not be repeated.
When was that key moment in Paul's life? Of course it was when he met Christ on the road to Damascus. "But for this reason I was received with mercy so that Jesus Christ might show me first all his clemency as an example of those who would believe in him for eternal life" (1 Timothy 1:16). In our case it was when the Spirit regenerated us or when Christ came to us as our sufficient redeemer. The most important thing is the instantaneous work when the Spirit sealed us and when "thus we learned Christ" precisely as the text tells us (v.20).
We have been giving more emphasis in that critical moment in which we receive the forgiveness of sins and we gave beginning to the Christian life. But with that more común and present emphasis, we lost the radical aspect that it was merienda "that's how we learned Christ." At that moment God touched us, he made us suddenly merienda and for all new creatures in every way, not in degrees or slow stages of maturity.
"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; old things happened; behold, all are made new "(2 Corinthians 5:17). The last prayer that Paul wrote at the end of the Epistle to the Galatians was the apex of the whole epistle. "For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision avails anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature" (Galatians 6:15).
In Ephesians 2 Paul gives us an immediate summary of the totality of the redemptive work. Before him in grace "he gave us life together with Christ (by grace you are saved), and together with him he raised us up, and also made us sit in the heavenly places with Jesus Christ, to show in the centuries to come the abundant riches of his grace in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. Because by grace you are saved (sanctified) by means of faith; and this not of us, then, it is a gift of God; not for works, so that no one can boast "(Ephesians 2: 5-9).
Take note that Paul in this portion suddenly embraces in a single sentence the entire path of salvation from that first intervention of God, before the "foundation of the world" to "the works prepared beforehand for us to walk in them" This portion It gives us the picture from the exclusive perspective of God who did it in grace and keeps us through the Holy Spirit who is the only dynamic of the Christian life, not our efforts to read the Bible, pray, serve and tithe.
But we need to take much more into account God's point of view and what is already done in his Son. When Jesus said from the Cross: "It is finished," that encompassed every aspect of salvation and thus in him he made us "new creatures." This biblical perspective will radically change our concept before what corresponds to us in our walk only by faith.
Henceforth the Christian life will be based NOT on the sheer force of our human will, on our best intentions and efforts, but on what God did in that initial "learning" (Ephesians 4:20). Our faith allows the Spirit to do the work who came to take hold of Christ and reveal it to us. "He will glorify me; for he will take what is mine and will declare it to you "(John 16:16:14). Christ will be seen in us only for leaving him the preeminence in everything.
The sufficiency of the single grace in every aspect of the Christian walk Ephesians 4:21
May God enlighten us by the Spirit of Truth. In the High Room discourse, Jesus four times describes the Spirit as the Spirit of Truth (John 14:17, 25; 15:26; 16: 13). Paul confirms again what was said in v. 20: "But you did not learn Christ like that" (a more accurate translation than that of the '60 version). The negative statement gives double emphasis to the sharp contrast with its previous condition. To emphasize three times the most important thing says: "Yes 1) in truth, you have heard him, and 2) you have been taught by him, according 3) to the truth that is in Christ. As for the past way of living, get rid of the old man. . . "(Vv.21-22).
Let us examine the sacred text more closely because our King James Version of '60 gives a común sense, but does not faithfully translate the nuance of Greek only in the absence of linguistic differences of languages. But we lose the key nuance of the diferente. Throughout my Christian life I have taught "despojaos" as an order, a mandate in the imperative way that I have to do on my part. It seemed to be according to Spanish grammar as an order addressed to the believer.
But now here comes my new more balanced perspective. The dynamic is not my effort, sometimes frustrating, but the power of the new identity that I already have in Christ. He dwells and resides in me (Ephesians 3:17). Instead of being a duty, it is a wish, a rest in Christ. Now the Christian life is a walk by FAITH and only by FAITH resting on what He did on the Cross (Matthew 11: 28-30, Hebrews 4: 9).
Now I can live in the flesh the truth of Romans 6: 11-in effect it is the best brief theological definition of the victorious life. "So also consider yourselves (counted) dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord." Take note of our new identity in the name of the dignity of the most complete title of Jesus. Thus Paul challenges us to possess by faith all the resources and ours in Christ.
Consider the phrases in hallarse 21: "Yes indeed. . . "He is a literary figure who urges one to respond and confirm a rhetorical word. "It is a first class condition with the indicative aorist (1)" In the Spanish translation of ours the series of affirmations of the verbs of vv.20, 21- "you have not learned, you have heard, you have been taught by him" (vv. 20, 21) are translated as if they were in the imperative mode, present tense; They seem to be orders or mandates but they are not.
Rather, in the diferente it is an aorist infinitive, not imperative; the infinitive reveals the indicated action without taking into account the time, but the aorist affirms something past or decisive aspect. (I apologize for the grammar because 60 years ago I teach Spanish and English grammar and exegesis and hermeneutics demand the indispensable value of grammar).
What does all this mean?
This change from the imperative / order to the aorist infinitive has many repercussions in preaching. Of course there are orders that correspond to the believer in the proper context, but here in this key portion the basis of the victorious life is found in our identity in Christ from the moment of our salvation The dynamic is in the one who lives in us and by faith we let it manifest.
"Believers have been made new in the attitude of their mind; they are no longer futile in their thinking, nor darkened in their understanding and ignorant (vv.18, 19). These are not orders / commands, because the construction here (and in the parallel passage in Colossians 3: 9,10) is not the imperative way. (Emphasis mine) It is the facts or the reality that the believer has learned as seen in Romans 6: 2-10 and 2 Corinthians 5:17. Believers are new people in Christ and therefore can not continue living as Gentiles. "(2)
This quote from Dr. Harold Hoehner clearly states that the verbs in Ephesians 4: 20,21 and those in Colossians 3: 9,10 are not orders but the consequences or results of our new identity. It is not a matter of my effort; It is a matter of letting Christ who resides in me and who manifests. Of course it is a progressive process (sanctification) and requires the affirmation of our faith, but victory in Christ is precisely the exclusive work of the Spirit.
It does not depend on my best efforts in serving God, reading the Bible and praying and tithing, such good works can be products of the flesh and even result in "spiritual" pride or pride that God will not tolerate before the Court of God. Christ. I believe in the disciplines of the Christian life-reading the Bible, meditating on it and memorizing it, serving God, but they are the results of our identity and not the means to achieve such a victory. There is a very big difference.
Our identity in Christ gives us pleasure in reading the Word of God, praying and walking in obedience in the power of the Holy Spirit, all for the glory of the Triune God.(1) A.T. Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament (Boardman Press: Nashville, TN). Vol.V1,1931, p.540. (2) Harold W. Hoehner cited in The Bible Knowledge Commentary-A Exposition of the Scriptures by Dallas Seminary Faculty, Edition of the New Testament (Victor Books: Wheaton, Il), 1983. pp.636.637./(My translation) Author: Gordon Johnson
is recognized in Latin America as a lecturer. He has served as a professor at the Rio Grande Bible Seminary, Texas since 1954, being president of the institution for many years as well. He has several degrees among which he received a Masters in Latin American Studies and a PhD in Missiology.. (tagsToTranslate) articles