RESPONSIBILITY OF THE EPHESIAN BELIEVER
Paul sets the tone of this passage at the onset of Ch. 4; he points out that it’s the responsibility of the Ephesian believers to walk worthily of their calling (Ephesians 4:1). This is necessary to establish a principal concept for the subsequent sections, the call in Ephesians 4:1 encompasses not only Gentiles, nor just the Jews, yet in this verse Paul speaks to the entire church at Ephesus. Here the apostle establishes that one of the manners in which one can build unity is for the Gentiles to disconnect themselves of their pagan past, therefore creating a new character within themselves rooted in Christ, and also in their fellow believers (Ephesians 4:4-6).
To help disengage Ephesian believers from their previous mindset, Apostle Paul in verses 17-24 uses the word “Gentile” to mean “non-believer”. This purposely aids the newly added members of the Ephesian church, establish their character and identity in their new faith. This does not now signify that the new, gentile believers are tied down to the ceremonial customs and laws of the Jews, but that they now are rooted in a new community. This concept is additionally fortified in verse 25 of chapter 4 as Paul writes “for we are members of one another.”
APOSTLE PAUL’S USE OF IMAGERY
In the passage found in verses 22-24, apostle Paul uses the image of of unclothing or undressing, and the vulnerability that comes with these actions to resonate with the new non-Jewish believers. Earlier in the letter to the Ephesians, Paul uses the symbolic imagery of being resurrected; here he uses the imagery of being clothed in the contaminated, old self, and having to redress and put on a new self, distinguished by holiness and righteousness.
Sociologically, the new, non-Jewish believer would no longer would be participants in the old pagan communities that they were used to, now their new faith brought them a new community and spiritual family along with it. In the following verses, Paul establishes principles that do not only aid in establishing a relationship with Christ, but also deepening relationships with their new spiritual family in the Christian faith.
PAUL’S PRACTICAL ADVICE TO THE EPHESIANS
The Ephesians being remade in Christ signified that their daily practices would be completely changed. Figuratively putting on a new person (identity) (4:24) was not just only a spiritual phenomenon, but also a practical reality. Paul begins his next section (Ephesians 4:25-5:2) by creating a space for anger. A anger that simply reflects personal displeasure at the things that offend God and his Word is acceptable, but anger that drives a believer to offend God should not be allowed. Uncontrolled anger can become a space where Satan creates a foothold, therefore in verses 25-26 of Ephesians chapter 4 Paul teaches the Ephesians to deal with one’s anger before the end of the day (do not let the sun go down on your anger).
Likewise, Paul instructs the Ephesians that their actions can affect everyone in the community. He repeats one of the Ten Commandments, and teaches anyone who used to steal to no longer be a thief and live a life of honest work. The concept of work is valued highly in the New Testament mirroring the Old Testament. If one works and receives a salary it allows you to help a person in need (v.28). Along with the basic foundations that Paul shares for new believers to live by, this passage contains guidance on guarding their relationship with God, and guarding their relationships within their new faith community (Chapter 5:2-20). He establishes to the Ephesian believers that if we live for Christ, we foster better relationships with all those around us.