June 8 – A Christ–Centered Life

You have not so learned Christ, if indeed you have heard Him.

Ephesians 4:20–21

As Christians, we are no longer controlled by a self–centered mind; we learn from Christ. Christ thinks for us, acts through us, loves through us, feels through us, and serves through us. The lives we live are not ours but are Christ living in us (Gal. 2:20). Philippians 2:5 says, “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus.” An unsaved person walks in the vanity of his own mind, but a saved person walks according to the mind of Christ.

God has a plan for the universe, and as long as Christ is working in us, He’s working out a part of that plan through us. Paul noted that He “is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us” (Eph. 3:20). Every day should be a fantastic adventure for us because we’re in the middle of God’s unfolding plan for the ages.[1]


4:20 How different all this was from the Christ whom the Ephesians had come to know and love! He was the personification of purity and chastity. He knew no sin, He did no sin, there was no sin in Him.

4:21 The if in if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught by Him is not meant to cast doubt on the conversion of the Ephesians. It simply emphasizes that all those who had heard Christ and had been taught by Him had come to know Him as the essence of holiness and godliness. To have heard Christ means to have heard Him with the hearing of faith—to have accepted Him as Lord and Savior. The expression, taught by Him, refers to the instruction the Ephesians received as they walked in fellowship with Him subsequent to their conversion. Blaikie remarks: “All truth acquires a different hue and a different character when there is a personal relation to Jesus. Truth apart from the Person of Christ has little power.” As the truth is in Jesus. He not only teaches the truth; He is truth incarnate (John 14:6). The name Jesus takes us back to His life on earth, since that is His name in Incarnation. In that spotless life which He lived as a Man in this world, we see the very antithesis of the walk of the Gentiles which Paul has just described.[2]


20. In principle, however, the people whom Paul addresses belong to a different category. This had been the case ever since Christ entered into their hearts and lives. Hence, Paul continues: You, however, did not so learn Christ. In the original the sentence begins with the word you, on which, accordingly, great emphasis is placed, as if to say, “You did not learn Christ so as to continue to live as the Gentiles are doing.” To learn Christ is more than to learn about Christ. Not only had the Ephesians received a body of teaching, namely, about Christ, and not only had they observed in the lives of those who brought it what this doctrine was able to achieve, but in addition, they themselves by an act of Spirit-wrought faith had welcomed this Christ into their hearts. Joyfully they had received the sacrament of holy baptism. And by constant and systematic attendance upon the means of grace, by prayer and answers to prayer, by daily living in accordance with the principles of the truth of the gospel, they had learned Christ, yes, Christ himself in very person.

Paul here presents the appropriation of Christ and of salvation in him as the result of a learning process, a learning with heart and mind. Believers, in other words, are not saved at one stroke. They do not become completely transformed all at once. They learn. There was the basic change wrought by the power of God. This was followed by a constant progress in sanctification, constant but not necessarily uniform. In one person it had been more clearly evident than in another. At one time the progress had been by leaps, but at another time at snail’s pace. At times, in all likelihood, there had been reverses, retrogressions. The point which the apostle emphasizes, however, is that whatever had been their degree of advance in learning, they had definitely not learned Christ as an advocate of sin and selfishness, of lewdness and licentiousness. No longer were their minds futile, no longer was their understanding dark. Continued: 21.… for surely you heard of him and were taught in him. Justification for this translation—“for surely,” where A.V. and A.R.V. have “if so be”—was offered in the explanation of 3:2 where a similar “for surely” occurs. Many of the Ephesians had been taught by Paul himself during his lengthy ministry at Ephesus (Acts 19; 20:17–35). The apostle had been able to reach not only those who were actually living within the city of Ephesus but also people from the surrounding territory. Many had flocked to the city to attend feasts, for business, or for other purposes. Some, no doubt, had gone there for the very purpose of seeing and hearing Paul. But in addition there had been other multitudes, in surrounding cities and villages, who heard the gospel from the lips of those who had received it from Paul (Acts 20:17). It should be borne in mind constantly that this epistle is, in all probability, a letter addressed to a vast multitude of people, many of whom did not live in Ephesus. It was probably a circular letter. See Introduction, pp. 58–61. The addressed, then, had heard of Christ and had been taught not only about but “in” him; that is, the entire atmosphere had been Christian. Christ, speaking through his ambassadors, was the teacher. He was also the theme. Continued: just as it is in Jesus that truth resides. The truth with reference to man’s fall into sin, his desperate condition by nature, the salvation procured by Christ, the necessity of faith working through love, principles of Christian conduct, etc.: all these doctrines had Christ as their very center. In Christ’s suffering and death by crucifixion the addressed had been able to read how deeply fallen they were, necessitating the death of God’s only-begotten Son, a death both painful and shameful. In his triumphant resurrection, ascension, and coronation they had received proof positive that salvation had been achieved. In Christ’s constant emphasis upon the fact that men must come to him and rely on him completely, they had been given a lesson in the necessity of faith as appropriating organ of salvation. The Master’s marvelous example in humility, self-sacrifice, love, etc. had been given for their instruction. Moreover, had not Jesus himself said, “I am the way and the truth and the life”? (John 14:6). Was not he the very embodiment of the truth, the truth in person? Were not “all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” hidden in him, hidden in order to be revealed? (Col. 2:3). Was not he the active and living truth, the truth that sets men free (John 8:32; 17:17), the very answer to Pilate’s question (John 18:38)?[3]


Christ–centered

But you did not learn Christ in this way, (4:20)

After reviewing the evils of the pagan world and the self–centered, purposeless, standardless wickedness that both comes from and leads to spiritual darkness and ignorance, Paul declared to believers who had fallen back into such degradation, But you did not learn Christ in this way. That is not the way of Christ or of His kingdom or family. “You are not to have any part of such things,” He insisted, “whether by participation or association.”

You did not learn Christ is a direct reference to salvation. To learn Christ is to be saved. While it is true that the verb manthanō can be used in reference to the process of learning truth (see Rom. 16:17; Phil. 4:9), it can also mean “to come to know” (Walter Bauer, A Greek–English Lexicon of the New Testament. Translated and edited by W. F. Arndt and F. W. Gingrich. 5th ed. [Chicago; U. of Chicago, 1958], p. 490), as a one–time act, particularly when the verb is aorist active indicative, as in this case. The aorist is also used in John 6:45, where Jesus spoke to those who had “learned from the Father”—indicating a reference to the saving act of faith under the Old Covenant which would lead them now to Him.

In Matthew 11:29, Jesus offered one of the loveliest of all salvation invitations: “Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me” (KJV). This use of manthanō is also in the aorist tense, indicating a single unrepeated act.

Both the context and the use of the aorist tense of the verb “to learn” in these passages lead to the conclusion that this learning refers to the moment of saving faith.

“Friendship with the world is hostility toward God” (James 4:4), and the person who makes a profession of Christ but makes no effort to break with his worldly and sinful habits has reason to doubt his salvation. “The one who says, ‘I have come to know Him’ and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him,” and “If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him” (1 John 2:4, 15).

The ways of God and the ways of the world are not compatible. The idea, promoted by some who claim to be evangelicals, that a Christian does not have to give up anything or change anything when he becomes a Christian is nothing less than diabolical. That notion, under the pretense of elevating God’s grace and of protecting the gospel from works righteousness, will do nothing but send many people confidently down the broad way that Jesus said leads to destruction (Matt. 7:13).

From the human side, salvation begins with repentance, a change of mind and action regarding sin, self, and God. John the Baptist (Matt. 3:2), Jesus (Matt. 4:17), and the apostles (Acts 2:38; 3:19; 5:31; 20:21; 26:20) began their ministries with the preaching of repentance. The very purpose of receiving Christ is to “be saved from this perverse generation” (Acts 2:40), and no one is saved who does not repent and forsake sin. Repentance does not save us, but God cannot save us from sin of which we are unwilling to let go. To hold on to sin is to refuse God, to scorn His grace, and to nullify faith. No Christian is totally free from the presence of sin in this life, but in Christ he is willingly freed from his orientation to sin. He slips and falls many times, but the determined direction of his life is away from sin.

One of the first things a Christian should learn is that he cannot trust his own thinking or rely on his own way. “They who live should no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf” (2 Cor. 5:15). The Christian has the mind of Christ (1 Cor. 2:16), and Christ’s is the only mind on which he can rely. The obedient, faithful Christian is the one for whom Christ thinks, acts, loves, feels, serves, and lives in every way. He says with Paul, “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and delivered Himself up for me” (Gal. 2:20).

Because we have the mind of Christ, we are to “have this attitude in [ourselves] which was also in Christ Jesus,” who “humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Phil. 2:5, 8). Although Christ was one with His Father, while on earth He did absolutely nothing but His Father’s will (Matt. 26:39, 42; John 4:34; 5:30; 6:38; etc.). If the incarnate Lord sought the mind of His heavenly Father in everything He did, how much more should we? The mark of the Christian life is to think like Christ, act like Christ, love like Christ, and in every possible way to be like Christ—in order that “whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with Him” (1 Thess. 5:10).

God has a plan of destiny for the universe, and as long as Christ is working in us He is working out a part of that plan through us. The Christ–centered life is the most purposeful and meaningful life conceivable—it is part of the divine plan and work of God!

Knows God’s Truth

if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught in Him, just as truth is in Jesus, (4:21)

Instead of being ignorant of God’s truth, the Christian has heard Christ and is taught in Him. Both verbs are in the aorist tense, again pointing to a one–time past act, and in this context referring to the time when the readers were taught and came to believe the gospel—here called the truth … in Jesus. These terms describe the moment of salvation–conversion. When a person receives Christ as Savior and Lord, he comes into God’s truth.

If indeed you have heard Him and have been taught in Him (cf. Matt. 17:5) could not possibly refer to hearing Jesus’ physical voice on earth, because there is no way that could have been true of all the believers in Asia Minor to whom Paul was writing. It must refer to the hearing of His spiritual call to salvation (cf. John 8:47; 10:27; Acts 3:22–23; Heb. 3:7–8). Many New Testament references speak of this hearing and being taught as the call of God (see, e.g., Acts 2:39). En autoi (in Him) means in union with Christ and further emphasizes the fact that at conversion we received the truth embodied in Christ, because we came to be in Him.

Life without God leads to cynicism about truth. The ungodly person may ask rhetorically with Pilate, “What is truth?” (John 18:38), but he expects no satisfactory answer. The Christian, however, can say, “The truth of Christ is in me” (2 Cor. 11:10) and “We know that the Son of God has come, and has given us understanding, in order that we might know Him who is true, and we are in Him who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ” (1 John 5:20).

The truth that is in Jesus, then, is first of all the truth about salvation. This idea is parallel to 1:13, where Paul says hearing the truth and being in Him are synonymous with conversion: “In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation—having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise.” The truth … is in Jesus and it leads to the fullness of truth about God, man, creation, history, sin, righteousness, grace, faith, salvation, life, death, purpose, meaning, relationships, heaven, hell, judgment, eternity, and everything else of ultimate consequence.

John summed up this relationship with truth when he wrote: “And we know that the Son of God has come, and has given us understanding, in order that we might know Him who is true, and we are in Him who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal life” (1 John 5:20).[4]


Jesus, the Great Divide

Ephesians 4:20–24

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.

Have you ever thought how significant it is that in the Western world we do not reckon time from some fixed point in the past to which we add on year by year but from a midpoint from which we figure both forward and back? The Jewish calendar begins from what it regards as the date of creation and moves on from that point. So does the Chinese calendar. But not the Christian calendar! We begin with an approximation of the year of the birth of Jesus Christ and then number in two directions—backward in a receding series of years, which we call b.c. (“before Christ”), and forward in an increasing accumulation of years, which we call a.d. (anno Domini, “in the year of the Lord”). By this strange reckoning we testify that Jesus of Nazareth is the dividing line of history.

Jesus is the great divide in more than a historical sense. He is also a personal dividing point for everyone who has been saved by him. This is what Paul has in mind as he moves in his treatment of practical Christian conduct from the gentile world, as it was (and is) apart from Christ, to the new standards of Christianity. Having described the world in its darkness, alienation, and futility, Paul now exclaims, “You, however, did not come to know Christ that way” (Eph. 4:20).

This is Paul’s introduction to what is going to be an extensive description of the Christian life. So it is important to notice that it begins with a reference to Christ himself and not to anything that might be supposed to come out of the depraved hearts or futile efforts of mere human beings. Some people think that a new life or a new beginning in life can emerge from self-discovery. The human potential movement, visible in such organizations as EST, Mind Dynamics, Lifespring, and Scientology, teaches this. Some think that a change can be found through personal enlightenment. They seek it through mysticism and the newly resurgent religions of the East. Still others retain belief in the nineteenth-century notion of inevitable progress.

Real change comes in none of these ways. The only truly transforming power that has ever come into the world is that of the person and teaching of Jesus Christ, and the only true and lasting changes that ever take place in an individual life take place through believing in and learning from him.

Jesus is the great divide, not only historically but also in the lives of countless people.

The School of Christ

As Paul begins to explain this he uses three verbs, all having to do with education, and he follows them with a reference to “the truth that is in Jesus.” Together they create an image of what we might call the school of Jesus Christ. The way these verbs are used is interesting. Marcus Barth calls them “baffling” in his excellent treatment of them and considers them examples of “an extraordinary use of language.”

The first verb is emathete. The phrase in which it occurs should be rendered literally “you learned Christ” (niv, “came to know”). 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. What does it mean? Well, it probably means more than merely learning about the historical Jesus or becoming acquainted with his doctrines. It is probably to be taken along the lines of Jesus’ words when he said in his great prayer to the Father, recorded in John 17, “This is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent” (v. 3). It means that Christians are Christians because they have entered into a personal relationship with the living Lord Jesus Christ. It is a learning of him that changes them at the deepest possible level.

The second verb is ēkousate and occurs in the phrase “you heard him.” The New International Version says, “you heard of him,” but “of” is not in the text and at this point the niv is probably in error. The point is not that we have heard of Christ but rather that we have heard him speak. How so? How have we heard Jesus? The answer—though this is perhaps also a bit baffling—is that we have heard him in Scripture, particularly as it has been expounded to us by preachers of the gospel. I emphasize preaching because this is the way the Ephesians, to whom Paul is actually writing, must have heard Christ. As Paul preached Jesus, they heard Jesus himself through Paul’s exposition.

This is hard for the world to understand. The minds of this world’s people are clouded and their eyes blinded, as we saw in the story about William Pitt the Younger and Wilberforce. Yet Christians know exactly what this means. You read the Bible or hear the Word of God preached and, suddenly, sometimes quite unexpectedly, you are aware that Jesus is talking to you personally. This is not mere subjectivity; it is supernatural. For Jesus does speak. He speaks to change the life and thinking of his people.

The third verb is edidachthēte. It is a heightened form of the common Greek word for instruction and occurs in the phrase “you … were taught in him.” The puzzling thing about this expression is the words “in him.” Normally we would expect the sentence to say “taught by him,” or “taught about him,” But it actually says “in him,” and it probably means that Jesus is the atmosphere within which the teaching takes place. We might say that Jesus is the school, as well as the teacher and the subject of instruction.

Some years ago Marshall McLuhan popularized the phrase “the medium is the message.” He used it in reference to forms of communication such as television. In Christ’s school we have a case where the Medium really is the Message—and the environment too. Christ is everything. John Stott says in his comments on this passage, “When Jesus Christ is at once the subject, the object, and the environment of the moral instruction being given, we may have confidence that it is truly Christian. For truth is in Jesus. The change from his title ‘Christ’ to his human name ‘Jesus’ seems to be deliberate. The historical Jesus is himself the embodiment of truth, as he claimed.”

Notice that although Paul is speaking of the knowledge of Christ and his ways in the deepest, most personal, and most profound sense, it is nevertheless in terms of knowing or learning of Christ that he speaks. Why is this? 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.

What is the Difference?

We come to specifics now and ask in concrete terms precisely what difference the coming of Christ and his revelation mean to us. How shall we describe the geography to the right and to the left of this great historical divide? I suggest the following five alternatives.

  1. God and atheism. I am aware, of course, that there are many religions in the world other than Christianity, and I would even argue that they exist because of the God of Christianity. Not knowing the true God has left a vacuum at the center of the human personality which people everywhere try to fill with religion. But religion itself is empty—“vain” is Paul’s word—and it leads to frustration, the kind of thing Edward Gibbon meant when he described the religions of the ancient world either as “equally true” (in the minds of the common people), “equally false” (in the minds of the philosophers), or “equally useful” (in the minds of the magistrates). Mere human debate on this issue leads at best to skepticism and at worst to outright disbelief or atheism. Christ shows that there is a God and that the true God is the God of the Bible.

I am impressed with the fact that in his early apologetic writing this is the place where Francis Schaeffer starts. He starts with the existence of God, and his classic statement of this foundational point is that “God is there, and he is not silent.” It is evident why we must start at this point. If God exists and we can know he exists, then everything else follows from that premise. The Bible begins this way: “In the beginning God. …” Everything else follows that. If God does not exist or if we cannot know he exists, then nothing follows except chaos.

Jesus shows us that God exists and that this God, the true God, is the God of the Bible. This is the God he himself believed in and about whom he taught. He taught that God is all-powerful, and he declared that after he had died, this God, the God of the Old Testament, the God of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob, would raise him from the dead. This was a stupendous claim, a seemingly impossible claim. But the God of Jesus stood the test. He did raise Jesus from the dead, and thus both by his teaching and by his resurrection we know that there is a God and that the God proclaimed by Jesus is that God.

  1. Plan or accident. Is life part of an important, divine plan, or is it just an accident? That is the second issue that hinges on the person of Christ. The proponents of atheistic evolution, of whom there are many in our day, argue that everything that exists, including ourselves, has come about entirely by chance. There has been no guiding Mind or plan. It just happened. One day, for no real reason, certain inorganic compounds (like hydrogen, water, ammonia, and carbon dioxide, which were existing for no real reason) united to form bio-organic compounds (like amino acids and sugars). These bio-organics united to form bio-polymers, which are large molecules such as proteins, and these in turn became the first living cells, like algae. From this point life just progressed upward.

This is an utter absurdity, of course. “Chance” is no thing. It can “form” nothing. So if the choice is between a plan and an accident (or chance), there is really no choice. There must be a plan, and in order for there to be a plan there must be a Planner, who makes it.

The world does not see the absurdity of tracing everything to chance, and therefore in this area as in others Jesus is the point of division.

If there is no plan and everything is the product of mere chance (whatever that may be), then nothing at all has meaning. The world itself is meaningless. History is meaningless. You have no meaning, and neither do I. Everything is just an accident, and whether we live or die, achieve or fail to achieve in this life, is irrelevant. Moreover, since the universe does not care, there is no reason why we should care either. People do not want to acknowledge this, of course. After all, regardless of their world-and-life view (or even the absence of one), they are all nevertheless made in the image of God and therefore sense that they have meaning anyway.

But my point is that it is only in Jesus Christ that we know this. Otherwise we might as well say, as the ancients did, “Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die.” This is precisely the manner in which many of our contemporaries are living—and they have empty lives to show for it.

  1. Truth or ignorance. When I mentioned Francis Schaeffer’s statement, “God is there, and he is not silent,” it was for the sake of the statement’s first part: God is there. Now I return to it for the second part, which tells us not merely that God exists but that we can know he exists and that we can know many other things besides. We can know because of God’s authoritative speaking or revelation.

Without the knowledge of God in Jesus Christ the world cannot know anything with real certainty. This must have seemed particularly strange to the Greeks of Paul’s day. The Greeks had produced nearly all the great philosophers, and the ancient world prided itself on their wisdom. Still, the best philosophers knew (at least in part) how ignorant they were. Plato said somewhat wistfully, on one occasion, “Perhaps one day there will come forth a Word out of God who will reveal all things and make everything plain.” But the Greeks did not know where that Word was—until the early preachers of the gospel told them. They remained ignorant. And our world, which has heard the Word proclaimed but has rejected him, has moved in the direction, not of increasing certainty about absolutes, but of uncertainty.

I have frequently said that in our day people no longer even believe in truth, strictly speaking. They speak of truth, but they mean only what is true for me (but not necessarily for you) or what is true now (but not necessarily tomorrow). This means that in the final analysis there is no truth. A philosophy like this is the opposite of revelation, and the ignorance that results is so deep that it does not even know it is ignorance.

  1. Life or oblivion. What is in store after death: eternal life or personal oblivion? Here too Jesus Christ’s coming into the world has made a difference.

What is the one great fear of men and women apart from Jesus Christ? It is death. People fear death for two reasons.

First, they do not know what stands on the far side of that dark portal, if anything. They are ignorant. Francis Bacon was thinking of this when he said, “Men fear death as children fear the dark.”

Second, in spite of their willful ignorance of God, they sense deep in their beings that he is there, that they have offended him, and that beyond the door of death they must give an accounting to him. I think this is what bothered Samuel Johnson when he described his horror at the death of a friend: “At the sign of this last conflict I felt a sensation never known to me before: a confusion of passions, an awful stillness of sorrow, a gloomy terror without a name” (The Rambler, no. 54).

But let me say: Of all the fears people have in the face of death the least to be feared is oblivion—to die and be no more. The reality of facing God is far worse. To face God apart from Christ is to face judgment. Only in Christ can we pass over the dividing line between the kingdom of wrath and condemnation to that of life and light.

  1. Blessing or cursing in this life. I have been speaking of the difference Jesus makes for eternity, but I end by saying that Jesus makes all the difference in this life too. Do you remember that great scene in the book of Joshua in which, in obedience to the remembered command of Moses, Joshua gathered the people of Israel at Mount Ebal and Mount Gerizim? The area between the mountains was a natural amphitheater, and the people were to stand on the opposing mountains while the law of God, containing blessings and cursings, was read to them. Mount Ebal was to be the mountain of cursing, and as the curses of God upon all who break his law were read, the people were to say, “Amen.” Mount Gerizim was the mountain of blessing. From this mountain the Levites read the blessings of God which were to be upon all who loved him and kept his commandments.

How were the people to keep them? They had no strength to do it. What were they to do if they did break the commandments? How were they to escape the curses of God which hung over them? In the bottom of that amphitheater, between the two mountains, there was an altar which pointed to the atonement to be made one day by Jesus Christ. That is what would deliver them from the curse and keep them in blessing. Christ alone could do it. Christ alone can bring blessing.

I do not fully understand how he does it, but he does. What was our life b.c. (before Christ)? Wrath and disaster. What is it a.d.? It is the way of mercy and blessing. What a Savior![5]


20 With this verse, we begin a new paragraph with the adversative conjunction “but” (de; NIV, “however”). Such behavior does not characterize you (emphatic hymeis) who have come to “know Christ.” The kind of expression Paul uses here, literally “to learn a person [namely, Christ],” is unparalleled in Greek literature, though its import is clear enough. Paul points his readers back to their initial entry (perhaps the inceptive use of the aorist tense of “learn”) into the way of Christ and thus what it means to be a Christian. Paul implies that they learned that becoming “Christ’s ones” involved a complete break with their former lifestyle. Christians no longer act as they did when they were Gentiles.

21 Expanding what it means to learn Christ, Paul uses a Greek first-class condition—one that assumes the reality of its premise, though it may imply a teasing irony. In other words, if it is true, and surely it is, that they have heard and been taught the truth in Jesus, then they need to acknowledge and live out the instructions they received about living as Christians. At the very least, Paul’s words should lead to a crucial introspection: if they have embraced the way of Christ, are they living it? Why does Paul use the phrase “the truth that is in Jesus”? He said earlier that truth is embodied in “the gospel of your salvation” (1:13; cf. Gal 2:5, 14; 5:7). He assures them that what they learned is the truth and that it resides “in Jesus,” the one who is Truth. As Paul envisions the down-to-earth behavior for those in Christ here, he employs the human name “Jesus” (its only occurrence by itself in the letter), perhaps suggesting the lifestyle of the earthly, historical Jesus as the example to follow. They must no longer live in the ignorant state of “the Gentiles.” Now they must live as Jesus did and as the gospel of Jesus teaches they should.[6]


[1] MacArthur, J. (2001). Truth for today : a daily touch of God’s grace (p. 177). Nashville, Tenn.: J. Countryman.

[2] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 1938). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[3] Hendriksen, W., & Kistemaker, S. J. (1953–2001). Exposition of Ephesians (Vol. 7, pp. 211–213). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.

[4] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1986). Ephesians (pp. 173–175). Chicago: Moody Press.

[5] Boice, J. M. (1988). Ephesians: an expositional commentary (pp. 159–164). Grand Rapids, MI: Ministry Resources Library.

[6] Klein, W. W. (2006). Ephesians. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Ephesians–Philemon (Revised Edition) (Vol. 12, pp. 125–126). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

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