A Remarkable Change (Ephesians 4:17–19)

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Doug Van Meter - 2 Oct 2016

A Remarkable Change (Ephesians 4:17–21)

Ephesians Exposition

The disciple of Jesus Christ follows in the footsteps of his Master. This requires regeneration and repentance—ongoing repentance. The result is an ongoing reformation of life. And the change is remarkable. Christians desire to change. The Holy Spirit, who dwells within us, is concerned with holiness. There is a battle that rages within us as the flesh wars against the Spirit and the Spirit against the flesh. In Ephesians 4:17–24, Paul lays a doctrinal foundation that undergirds our ongoing transformation as a community of faith. As these verses reveal, we have experienced a remarkable change from a grotesque condition, by a gracious conversion, to godly conduct.

From Series: "Ephesians Exposition"

This series comprises the sermons preached at BBC during an exposition of the book of Ephesians.

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Several years ago, a man was converted through the ministry of our church. His life underwent a dramatic change. Some months later, I was invited to attend an event by this man, in which his entire family was involved. He later told me that his father was glad that he had invited me, because he wanted to meet the man who had caused such a change in his son.

Sadly, his father has actually not yet, at the time of writing, met the one who really so changed his son. Nevertheless, it was significant that his father had recognised such a remarkable change in his son.

The change was obvious for all to see. People therefore remarked about this. He had undergone and was undergoing (and he continues to undergo) a remarkable change. And so had these believers in Asia Minor, with particular reference to those in Ephesus. According to Acts 19, the change was so remarkable that the economy was affected!

Every Christian desires a life of remarkable change. We desire to change for the simple reason that we are indwelt by the Holy Spirit. And the Holy Spirit is concerned with that which is holy (1 Corinthians 6:19–20). By the indwelling Holy Spirit, we are given the assurance of sanctification because, by His ministry, we experience “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27). By the Holy Spirit, we experience the reality that “it is God who works in you both to will [desire] and to do for His good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13).

The battle rages within us because “the flesh lusts against the Spirit and the Spirit against the flesh” (Galatians 5:17).

This theme is on the heart of the apostle Paul as he begins to apply the doctrine of the church to the church.

Having laid down the doctrine that, in Christ, all those who have believed the gospel form “one new man in Christ” (2:15), Paul expects for them to live like this. As we who believe and belong together seek to live balanced lives together, we as a community of faith are built up together as a holy temple (2:21) as evidenced by our behaviour. We undergo a profound change, together. Such change is spelled out for us from 4:17 through the end of the epistle.

In vv. 17–24, Paul lays a doctrinal foundation that undergirds our ongoing transformation as a community of faith. We are called of God to change, and we know that we can change because, by God’s grace and power, we have been changed—fundamentally so. Paul is at pains to make us aware of this. He has already made this point in the opening chapters, particularly in chapter two. But here he drives it home again.

The Remarkable Life Requires Doctrine

It is so important that we grasp the importance of doctrine. If we will live a dynamic life of faith, and experience the transformation that such a life manifests, we must know the why of this kind of life. The Christian life, the walk of the disciple of Jesus Christ, is not merely that of self-will and of self-discipline to change. No, it is rooted in truth; it is rooted in doctrine. We need to know what God reveals about why we do (and why we don’t do) certain things. Knowledge is vital to living. We must know ourselves, we must know our God. Therefore we must know our Bibles. We must know this passage.

It points us to the remarkable change from a grotesque condition by a gracious conversion unto a godly conduct.

A Grotesque Condition

First, in vv. 17–19, Paul reminds his readers of their formerly grotesque condition:

This I say, therefore, and testify in the Lord, that you should no longer walk as the rest of the Gentiles walk, in the futility of their mind, having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart; who, being past feeling, have given themselves over to lewdness, to work all uncleanness with greediness.

(Ephesians 4:17–19)

It is essential that we appreciate how messed up we were before we heard the call to Christ. As this passage reveals, our condition was grotesque. What I mean by this is that our lives were grossly distorted from the way God created us to be.

Paul has appealed to these believers to leave behind their former life. He tells them that they “should no longer walk as the rest of the Gentiles walk.” Clearly, they have changed, and so the expectation is that they will continue to change.

We must never lose sight of the fact that the Christian life is all about change. It is unrelenting. That is why the Christian life is pictured so often as warfare. As J. C. Ryle put it, “A true Christian is one who has not only peace of conscience, but war within.”

The Christian life is pictured as a long-distance race. We persevere in changing. We listen to our Coach, who exhorts us to keep on, to lay aside that which hinders us from change.

The Christian is one who hears the call to change and, rather than chafing against it, is challenged by it and aspires to change. Such aspiration is proof of regeneration. “Don’t get mad, get glad.” There is hope.

It is essential that we appreciate what we were if we will appreciate what we are and what we will be.

We need the negatives if we will appreciate the positives, the before pictures in order to appreciate and to delight in the remarkable after pictures.

As we begin, it is important to recognise that the description given here is, to some degree, true of everyone who is not a Christian. By God’s grace, some do not reach the same depth of depraved living, but the seed is there.

Mindless Existence

Our former existence was a mindless existence (vv. 17–18a). Paul writes, “This I say, therefore, and testify in the Lord, that you should no longer walk as the rest of the Gentiles walk, in the futility of their mind, having their understanding darkened.”

“Futility” speaks of vanity, uselessness, emptiness, wastefulness (cf. Romans 8:20; 2 Peter 2:18). The “mind” is that which perceives, thinks, wills—even that which feels. It refers to the intellect, to that which decides and that which purposes. It describes the soul of a person—the real you.

The problem is that the mind has become futile, wasteful and useless, precisely because it is empty of factoring God into the equation of life.

Our minds are a mess. Though we are so clever, fallen man is clueless. And the proof is that, in his mind, he rejects God and His authority. This is foolish (Psalm 14:1). It is stupid (Proverbs 30:1–5). This is grotesque and it results in grotesque living.

I use the word “grotesque” deliberately, because our former life was a complete disfiguring of life as it is meant to be. When Cain murdered Abel, he did that which was contrary to the way God intended life to be. When Lamech boasted in killing a young man, he did the same.

The way we treat one another bears witness to this truth. Human history is filled with war, political assassinations, rape, plunder, murder, terrorism, marital infidelity, selfish living, lying, stealing, road rage, corruption, caste systems and all forms of racism and false religion.

The point is simply this: It is vital that we grasp the source of the troubles in our world, and in our own lives. Troubled minds do terrible things. A major transformation is required. A miraculous transformation. And the gospel can do this!

Romans 1:16 speaks of the power of the gospel, and the context that follows is overwhelmingly moral. The gospel saves from the immorality that follows.

The futility of the mind is continually manifested by the futile efforts to change the world apart from the mind of God.

I have been deeply saddened in recent months by the #FeesMustFall campaign that has gripped South Africa. I am convinced that there are economic arguments to be heard, but surely protestors would gain a better hearing if they did not act criminally. Fighting injustice with injustice seems so foolish.

The American elections have shown a similar mindlessness, with the mindless rhetoric of both major parties aiming for the presidency. The candidates seem to be doing little more than playing on people’s fears.

The approach to assisted suicide in countries like Belgium is another example. Back in the 1970s, Francis Schaeffer was warning that the assisted suicide laws then enacted, which allowed only for assisted dying in cases of terminal illness, would not stop there. Before long, he warned the floodgates would open and assisted suicide would be allowed for any condition or no condition at all. As it turns out, Schaeffer was speaking prophetically. Without submission to absolute truth, there are no limits to which the wickedness of men will stoop.

Or consider the murderous approach to the real problem of unwanted pregnancies. The South African head of Marie Stopes recently argued, “If you are old enough to get pregnant, you’re old enough to have an abortion.”1 No parental consent is required for young teenagers seeking abortion. In other words, if you are old enough to have a baby, you are old enough to murder your baby.

The world is foolish. But that is to be expected from a futile world—one that rejects the wisdom of God; particularly the ultimate display of the wisdom of God in the cross.

So, let me ask: How is your mind? Has it been changed or is it still empty? The first indication of a changed mind is that it is changed! Those who have been changed by the gospel have been given a mind that is useful, not useless.

David Powlison is a Christian counsellor for whom I have a lot of time. He studied psychology at Harvard for four years. He did an internship for several years as a psychiatrist, and then God saved him. Almost immediately, he recalls, there were three things that caused him to give up secular psychology.

First, he realised that all the psychiatric theories that he was espousing contradicted each other. There were no absolute standards and therefore no settled way to help people. God’s Word, on the other hand, was an absolute, which made far more sense.

Second, working with patients showed him how deeply people needed the kind of help that God offers. One day, while working at a hospital, a woman was rushed in who had cut her wrists. As the attending physicians were bandaging her wrists, she kept crying, “I need someone to love me! Who will love me?” The despair that he heard in her voice made him realise that there must be something more hopeful than what psychiatry could offer.

Third, as he dealt with patients, he realised that he shared many of their problems. They may have exhibited themselves in a different way, but at root they were the same problem. And since the problem was fundamentally the same, the solution must be fundamentally the same: the gospel of Jesus Christ.

He testifies that, when God saved him, He really changed his mind, and so now his approach to helping people is radically different. He is now more compassionate and more helpful because he gets to the root of the problem.

Before we converted, our mind was darkened. There was a futility of mind, which could not understand the truth of God. There are no doubt some very intelligent unbelievers, but their minds are nonetheless darkened so that they unable to grasp the truth of God in Jesus Christ.

Such a mindless mind is to be pitied. As believers, we dare not think that we are inherently better than unbelievers. Instead, we must realise that there, but for the grace of God, would we go too. The unbelieving mind needs grace. A changed mind requires a changed heart.

The very believers to whom Paul was writing used to be like this. They could not speak down to unbelievers. They would have been in the same boat apart from God’s grace.

Society is often grotesque. This will grieve the Christian. But is should also drive us to be gracious. Grace conquers the grotesque.

The unbelieving mind is misty because the unbelieving “understanding” is “darkened.” The reason for a futile mind is simply that the unbeliever cannot see the light and so it gropes in the darkness. Unbelievers just do not get it—they cannot get it—just as we could not get it before we were converted.

Martyn Lloyd-Jones tells the story of driving somewhere with a friend. His friend told him that if he looked in a certain direction, he would be able to see Scotland in the distance. They pulled over to get out the car and view Scotland, but as they did so a mist descended. His friend insisted that, if he just looked hard enough, he would be able to spot Scotland, but try as he might, he could not see through the mist. Scotland was there, he knew, but he couldn’t see it for the mist.

By God’s amazing grace, we who were once lost are now found, and we who were once blind can now see. Listen to how Paul described it to the Corinthians:

But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.

Therefore, since we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we do not lose heart. But we have renounced the hidden things of shame, not walking in craftiness nor handling the word of God deceitfully, but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God. But even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them. For we do not preach ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord, and ourselves your bondservants for Jesus’ sake. For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

(2 Corinthians 3:18–4:6)

It is not a matter of spiritual or moral cleverness but rather of sovereign grace; covenantal love.

We are no longer to walk in a spiritual, moral fog, for light has shone in the darkness. We no longer love the darkness. We are children of light (5:8).

Because we are enlightened, we reject evolution. Because we are enlightened, we embrace biblical sexuality—sexual relations only in the marriage of a male and female. A recent news article told of how the South African Anglican community stood firm in resisting same sex marriage. In the same article, however, an Anglican bishop expressed hope that this would not be the end of the discussion; that it could be reopened in future synods. That is evidence of a foggy mind.

Because we are enlightened, we reject abortion. Because we are enlightened, we reject the darkness of racism. Because we are enlightened, we reject the anti-authority mood of our age (of all ages!) and we rather happily submit to the authorities that God has placed in our lives. Because we have been enlightened, we reject the grotesque language of hate that seems to flood our land—and the world. Because we are enlightened, we embrace the Word of God while at the same time rejecting the lies of the godless and autonomous seeking culture. Because we are enlightened, we reject the arguments that the church is outdated and that corporate worship is a thing of the past, and totally irrelevant. Because we are enlightened, we reject the idolatry of sport. Because we are enlightened, we reject the fear-mongers who seek to manipulate how we spend our money and who seek to prognosticate the future of our country. Because we are enlightened, we reject the fear-mongers who tell us that the climate is going to be destroyed by man. Because we are enlightened, we reject the arguments of those who tell us that we are wasting our lives by serving God, by sending missionaries to heavily Muslim-dominated areas. Because we are enlightened, we reject the lies that those who are in darkness will never see the light! Because we have been enlightened, we love those who live lives that are grotesque and we seek to help them to live a life empowered by God’s grace. Because we have been graciously enlightened, we reject the lifestyle that is ungraciously grotesque. And we do all of this to the glory of God. He is glorified in an otherwise grotesque world by changing us by His grace. Let’s show them! Let’s live remarkably!

A Materialistic Existence

Second, we see in v. 18b that our former existence was a materialistic existence: “being alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart” (v. 18b). Our existence was “materialistic” because it was controlled by what can be seen and felt.

Paul speaks of unbelievers being cut off, of “being alienated from the life of God.” This is the consequence of the mind that is opposed to God. To be excluded from the life of God is the worst of the consequences of the fall.

The word translated “life” is used in Scripture to speak of spiritual, not biological, life. Those who have not experienced change through the gospel are spiritually dead; they are cut off from the life of God. There is no relationship with the God of the universe. That is a grotesque way to live.

As Paul said in 2:12, unbelievers have “no hope” and are “without God in the world.” Man will always worship, but without the knowledge of the true God, all worship will be idolatrous. It will be monstrous—the worship of the creature rather than the worship of the Creator. That is why the worship of Artemis (Diana) was so widespread in Ephesus.

Note that this is not only saying that man in sin is alienated from God, but from “the life of God.” This means that man is cut off from that which gives ultimate meaning to life, for as Jesus said, “Man shall not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds from the life of God” (Matthew 4:4). After all, God is not the God of the dead but of the living (Matthew 22:32).

This is the explanation for the so-called “absurdity” or “meaninglessness” of life that so many speak and write about. What a travesty! What a futile and grotesque way to live—to live only in accordance with things material. (This was the mindset behind the trick question put to Jesus in Matthew 22 above.)

How grotesque to live for cars and houses and boats and diamonds and clothes. But materialism is not only the sin of the wealthy. Those without anything are also guilty of materialism. And though they set their sights much lower, ultimately they are driven by the same godless and grotesque philosophy which says, “Let us eat and drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die.”

Augustine of Hippo was one who understood what a grotesque life looked like, and he said, “Our hearts are restless until they find their rest in Thee.”

Of course, this means that those who have been converted are no longer estranged. We are alive to God (Romans 6:11). Our lives must exhibit this. Because we have the life of God we are hopeful, we have meaning, we have purpose—even (especially?) when life is filled with pain Because we have the life of God we live a life of true beauty.

But Paul continues to speak of the fact that the lost mind is clueless. He speaks of “the ignorance that is in them” and “the blindness of their heart.” This is all related to the life of alienation. The grotesque life is the consequence of a mind that is ignorant of God and is spiritually obtuse.

The biblical truth is that this kind of mind is the result of judicial blindness. Isaiah was witness to this truth. When he volunteered to do God’s bidding, the Lord told him,

“Go, and tell this people: ‘Keep on hearing, but do not understand; keep on seeing, but do not perceive.’ Make the heart of this people dull, and their ears heavy, and shut their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and return and be healed.”

(Isaiah 6:9–10)

This is such a sad description of man in sin; of those who have not experienced the power of the gospel. They are blind to the glory of God, to the glory that surrounds them! Isaiah himself had such a glorious vision of the Lord in the same chapter, but the lost were completely blind to that glory.

The tragedy is that even now there are some here no doubt who can make no sense of our joy, of our praise, of our submission to this glorious God. What a tragic, and even grotesque, way to live. But you don’t have to live like this. Rather, even in the midst of others whose hearts are hardened and who minds are blinded, you can be made whole.

One things of the man with the withered hand in Mark 3. The Pharisees were watching closely to see if Jesus would heal the man on the Sabbath. When he did, they were angry and sought to kill him. The man himself rejoiced that Jesus had healed him, but the unbelieving Pharisees were blind to Christ’s glory in that incident.

This example highlights the danger of becoming hardened to the truth by exposure to truth—if you do not respond to it. The same sun that melts the wax does indeed harden the clay. Be careful. “He who is often rebuked, and hardens his neck, will suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy” (Proverbs 29:1).

William Wilberforce had a friend name William Pitt, who served as Prime Minister of Britain. Pitt was a nominal Christian, and Wilberforce wished to reach him with the gospel. Wilberforce had a favourite preacher, and one day he invited Pitt to attend a service with him to listen to this preacher. Wilberforce recalls coming away from that service enamoured by one of the greatest sermons he had ever heard. As they walked away together, Pitt said to Wilberforce, “I have no idea what that man was talking about.”

How said that the same gospel can enlighten some while others are kept in the dark.

Are we living in the light of our privilege or do we live as though we are blind? We must open our eyes to the glory all around us!

A Miserable Existence

Third, in v. 19, we see that the unbelieving existence is a miserable existence. Paul speaks of unbelievers “who, being past feeling, have given themselves over to lewdness, to work all uncleanness with greediness.”

The word translated “past feeling” speaks of being callous or apathetic. The root means “to hurt,” but Paul adds a prefix which makes it mean “to hurt no longer.” One can picture a seared conscience (1 Timothy 4:2).

At one time, sinful behaviour made one’s conscience sting, and so rather smartly we stopped. But as time went on, we stopped listening and the pain dulled. But the absence of pain does not mean the absence of trouble. In fact, the more we become numb to an otherwise painful conscience, the more danger we are in.

Some time ago, I was getting ready to head to the road for a run. As I was leaving the house, my wife asked me if my foot still hurt. I told her that it did, and she asked me why I was then running. I told her that, after a few kilometres, the foot numbs and I don’t feel the pain anymore. In no uncertain terms, she told me how foolish I was being. Ignoring the pain can result in irreparable damage.

This is precisely what Paul is saying. As we become apathetic to the voice of conscience pointing us to God’s unalterable standard of righteousness, we soon find ourselves surrendering to behaviour and even a lifestyle that is perverse, twisted and, in the end, grotesque—a complete distortion of the way God intended us to live.

The description of the lifestyle is grotesque by any sane person’s definition: “lewdness,” “uncleanness” and “greediness.”

“Lewdness” speaks of sensuality, of being unchaste, of lustful desires and actions. It refers to licentious living with no moral restraint at all. It is almost always used to refer to sexual immorality. It describes one who is addicted to sexual misbehaviour (see 2 Peter 2:10–12).

“Uncleanness” refers to impurity. Again, it carries a sexual connotation.

The phrase preceding it—“to work”—can literally be translated, “to trade in.” The idea seems to be that the Gentile culture out of which these believers had been saved was one where people made their living trading in sexual perversion. This would include, but not be limited to, such things as prostitution—both male and female; as well as child prostitution. Sex for money, or sex and money, may be the idea here.

There is a horrible cost to such corrupt living. Someone has written, “‘Free porn’ is a misnomer. Pornography always costs somebody something. And it’s the women and girls in our culture, surrounded by boys and men with porn expectations, who often end up paying the highest price.”

This adds some light to the final phrase: “with greediness.” This speaks of “unbounded covetousness” or “uninhibited lust for what one desires.” (MacArthur) It pictures the process where one act of lust leads to two, two leads to four, and four leads to an all-consuming desire. Its appetite is never satiated.

Does this description sound familiar? Paul is describing our culture—estranged from God, a culture that is characterised as desensitised to pleasure, sensitised to lust, and crippled in willpower.

The society of which Paul was writing was an addicted, because alienated, society. A mindless, materialistic society will result in a miserable society that will be mastered by that which seeks to mask the emptiness. The mask takes the form of addition: drug addiction (we are the most highly medicated society in history), alcohol addiction (we are a drunken society), and sexual addiction (ours is an aggressively sexualised society).

It is this kind of life from which we have been delivered. It is this kind of grotesque perversion of God’s wonderful gift of sexuality that we have been freed. But why does Paul, here and elsewhere, focus on sexual sin?

It would seem that sexual sin becomes more prevalent where the knowledge of God is the least prominent. And perhaps this is the case because to the degree that a society, or an individual for that matter, pushes the knowledge of God to the periphery, to such a degree shame is lost. And where shame is lost, sensuality rushes into the vacuum—without any restraint.

This is an important matter, for the days in which we live are certainly filled with much grotesque perversion of God’s good gift of sex. Pornography is such a huge part of most nations’ GDP that if it was removed from society the economy would feel its jolt. The problem of pornography is epidemic. Listen to what Playboy writer Damon Brown says: “It seems so obvious. If we invent a machine, the first thing we are going to do—after making a profit—is use it to watch porn.” In the last 150 years, pornography has ridden on the heels of new technology, from the photograph to the film projector, from VHS to DVDs, from the World Wide Web to smartphones. “You name it,” Brown says, “pornography planted its big flag there first, or at least shortly thereafter.”

Unfortunately, those who should be a remarkable exception—believers in the church—are sadly anything but. I have no doubt that there are smart phones in our auditorium any given Sunday that would cause great embarrassment—and, I hope, shame—if they fell into the hands of someone other than the owner. Christians are not immune to the grotesque behaviour indicated in this text. The church needs to wake up to this and to repent of it.

This is one reason why I am deliberately and repeatedly using the word grotesque in this study. I am not trying to be sensational, but am rather trying to help us to see that the ugly lifestyle that God has saved us out of—or, as the case for many, from.

But this is not a moralistic attempt at being “scared straight.” Rather, more to the point, when we see the ugliness of what God has saved us from, we are better able to appreciate God’s love and mercy and grace to us. And as Paul wrote to the Romans, “the goodness of God leads to repentance” (2:4).

This brings us to our final consideration.

A Gracious Conversion

Paul next describes the gracious conversion of those who have been brought to believe in Christ: “But you have not so learned Christ, if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught by Him, as the truth is in Jesus” (vv. 20–21).

“But” is a wonderful word of contrast in Scripture. We have encountered such a contrast already in 2:4 and 2:13. What we were, thank God, is no longer what we are! We were mindless, materialistic and miserable. “But” we “learned Christ.” That is, we not only heard about Him, but we actually heard Him (see John 10). We were “taught by Him”; and as we obeyed His voice, He led us out of the muck and mire of the world to paths of righteousness. He changed us. He put us in our right minds, and He made us spiritual by the new birth (1 Corinthians 2:9–16). He took our misery and gave us mercy—literally. You see, “the truth as it is in Jesus” is the truth of the gospel. Paul is saying that what made the difference—and what continues to make the difference—is the gospel that we heard and that the Holy Spirit enabled us to truly hear and to believe (1:13–14).

So, what was it that we “heard” in the gospel? What did we learn from Jesus? What is it that Jesus is still teaching us through His gospel? That, by His grace, we are no longer enslaved to grotesque living precisely because He became grotesque for us. Let that remarkable truth sink in. When it does, then, first, if you are not a Christian you will see that you have no excuse not to be; and, second, if you are a Christian you will see that you have no excuse but rather you have every encouragement to live remarkably rather than grotesquely. Let me explain as we bring this to a close.

The Bible teaches us that Jesus Christ, God’s Son, died for every sinner who will be saved. The Bible says that, when Jesus did, this God “made Him to be sin” for us so that “we might become the righteousness of God” in Him (2 Corinthians 5:21).

This means that Jesus suffered for every kind of sin, including sexual sin, committed by all of those whom He saves. I say this with fear and trembling, yet out of fidelity to Scripture, that Jesus Christ became that sin. He did not commit the sin, but He was treated by the Father as though He had. It was because of this substitutionary act on Jesus’ part that He was in a position of being cursed by God (Galatians 3:13; Deuteronomy 21:23). Jesus was treated by the Father as though He had broken God’s law. He was treated like an unbeliever. He was treated like “the other Gentiles” that Paul writes of in this text. And how does God respond to law breakers? By condemning them (see Deuteronomy 27:11–26).

I tremble to even think this, and to say it, but it is true: Jesus Christ was treated by the Father as though He was morally grotesque. Let that sink in.

When He hung on the cross, He did so for every sinner who would be saved. And you and I know a lot of those. We know ourselves. There is not a sin that you can think of for which Jesus did not, as a substitute, suffer God’s wrath. Think about this. As Jesus suffered God’s condemnation for these sins, heaven responded, “Amen.”

Jesus suffered for the sins of adultery, fornication, homosexuality, bestiality, pornography of all kinds, child molestation, rape, murder, idolatry, blasphemy, racism, and hatred of all kinds. The Father turned His face away because He could not look upon His Son who, for those three hours, was grotesque to Him.

Think about that. But then think about why this was so. It was because God so loved the world. He loved the Gentiles in all of their moral and spiritual grotesqueness. He loved the Jews in all of their self-righteous grotesqueness. Are you saved? Then He loved and He loves you.

Do you desire to be saved from your sins? Then cry out to Him for mercy, relying on Jesus Christ alone for forgiveness and from deliverance from your guilt. Confess the grotesqueness of your sinful, godless life, and trust Him that He suffered its penalty for you. Then bask in His love.

But how do I know that He will forgive? How do I know that He is able to do so? Because, after three hours of suffering for my grotesqueness, He was no longer viewed as grotesque. He said, with great faithful relief, “It is finished” (John 19:30). Then He bowed His head and gave up His spirit to the Father, who gladly accepted it. And we know this because, three days later, He rose from the dead. It was the Father’s declaration, “Grotesque no more!”

He who is full of grace and truth was exalted to the Holy of Holies at the Father’s right hand, where He sits and intercedes today to save all who come to Him.

Unbeliever, believe today. He will save you; He will save you now.

Christian, come to Him today and enjoy cleansing from any grotesque behaviour for which you are guilty. Hear Him again today as He once again declares His gospel to you.

An author addressing Christian men struggling with pornography helpfully and hopefully writes,

As far as God is concerned, you are already His. God’s love for you cannot be overstated. The God and Father of our Lord Jesus loves you with an endless love, and you have done nothing to merit it or deserve it. He loves you despite all your unlovability, despite your lingering sinful desires. Though in your sin you are undeserving and undesirable, He loves you when your mind disavows it, your heart dodges it, and your soul dismisses it. He loves you right now as you are, not as you think you should be. This, the New Testament says, is the key to unlocking God’s power for change. It is not God’s wrath that affects deep repentance in us, but rather, God’s kindness (Rom. 2:4). Being filled with all of God’s fullness happens not by knowing God’s power but by comprehending the breadth and length and height and depth of His love—a love that “surpasses knowledge” (Eph. 3:19). (Gilkerson)

Thanks be to God for delivering us from such a grotesque manner of life and graciously converting us to a remarkable manner of life. His grace remains available and sufficient to continue to deliver us from the frequent temptations which seek to draw us into this graceless, grievous and grotesque walk.

Show 1 footnote

  1. Aayeshie Fridie, “Do you have to tell the dad you’re having an abortion? The law says NO in SA,  https://goo.gl/ZkpPXQ, retrieved 26 September 2016.