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Studies in Ephesians — Chapter 4:17-32

Dressing The Part

On his way to the rural Christian Day School, the eight-year-old lad was dragging his feet in reluctance, blushing with shame. His mother had insisted that he wear some dressy “knickers.” Dressing the part, as she saw it. But the boy knew that all of his male schoolmates would be fitted out in bib overalls with brass buttons hooked over the shoulder and pant legs rolled back a neat three folds. That was dressing the part for those who looked to the day when they would be driving the family John Deere.

The knickered lad survived the friendly snickers. But it was not an easy way to learn the importance of dressing the part.

Checking Our Wardrobe

To help us, the Apostle gives a model for how we might learn to “dress the part” as the “followers of God as dear children” (5:1). Wonderful counsel, especially for parents and Christian educators as they guide their charges into righteous paths.

Here is how it is done without resorting to faith-destroying legalism and moralizing!

Step 1: Reminded of What We Were

All of us by our very nature once walked as the rest of the world walks. “In the futility of their mind . . . darkened in understanding . . . alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardening of the heart; who, being past feeling, have given themselves over to licentiousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness.”

We know all of those vile inclinations, don’t we? They’re in tune with our old man, that cruddy sinful nature that clings to us like a scab until we finally depart in peace. Oh, yes, we know and understand that death-prone world. Like our old man, it “grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts” (think dying).

The point is: Would you want, even a minute, to play that part? God forbid!

. . . And What We Are

Contrast that with what we are, by God’s grace: “You have not so learned Christ! (If indeed we have heard Him and have been taught by Him, as the truth is in Jesus).”

Not only have we learned Christ, but by Him and through the agency of the Spirit we have been given a new man, a new nature. And remember this amazing fact about that new nature: it “was created according to God, in righteousness and true holiness”!

Could a serious Christian not want to play that part–to walk in that lifestyle? God forbid! That new man is a glorious creation of God. Let us glory in it. Let us put it on, as one might happily play the character of some revered role model. That model, of course, is Jesus Himself (vv. 20-21) who walked in perfect righteousness and true holiness (v. 24).

Choosing The Wardrobe

Muddled and befuddled as we often are by our “old man,” we do need help in knowing what clothes to put on to dress the part.

  * Lying? Throw it out. Put on truth (v. 25).
  * Road rage? Out! Put on control even over your righteous 
    anger (vv. 26-27).
  * Dipping the till? Out! Put on diligence at work with a high, 
    unselfish purpose (v. 28).
  * Foul mouthing? Out! Put on good talk that edifies and gives 
    grace to others (v. 29). Not to do so grieves the Holy Spirit of 
    God (v. 30).
  * Bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and all malice? Away with all 
    of it, suited as it is to the old man. Be clothed with the simple 
    grace of kindness, tender-heartedness, and forgiveness (v. 32). 
    That's how God shows Himself to us.

“Therefore be followers of God as dear children” (v. 5:1)!

Of course, you will look different, child. That happens when you dress the part we have in Christ!

–Rollin A. Reim