“Go On Walking as Children of Light”
“Put on the new personality which was created according to God’s will in true righteousness and loyalty.”—EPHESIANS 4:24.
1. With what are worshipers of Jehovah blessed? Why?
JEHOVAH GOD is “the Father of the celestial lights,” and “there is no darkness at all in union with him.” (James 1:17; 1 John 1:5) His Son, Jesus Christ, said of himself: “I am the light of the world. He that follows me will by no means walk in darkness, but will possess the light of life.” (John 8:12) True worshipers of Jehovah, the followers of his Son, are therefore blessed with enlightenment—mental, moral, and spiritual—and they are “shining as illuminators in the world.”—Philippians 2:15.
2. What contrast between God’s people and the world was foretold?
2 Long ago, the prophet Isaiah was inspired to foretell this contrast: “Look! darkness itself will cover the earth, and thick gloom the national groups; but upon you Jehovah will shine forth, and upon you his own glory will be seen.” In fact, all humanity alienated from God is spoken of as being under the power and influence of “the world rulers of this darkness.”—Isaiah 60:2; Ephesians 6:12.
3. For what reasons are we keenly interested in Paul’s timely counsel?
3 The apostle Paul was very much concerned that his fellow Christians remain free from such darkness. He urged that they “no longer go on walking just as the nations also walk” but that they “go on walking as children of light.” (Ephesians 4:17; 5:8) He also explained how they could succeed in doing this. Today, the darkness and gloom that cover the nations have grown thicker. The world has sunk deeper into the mire of moral and spiritual bankruptcy. Worshipers of Jehovah have an increasingly formidable battle to wage. Therefore, we are keenly interested in what Paul had to say.
Learn About the Christ
4. What did Paul have in mind when he said: “You did not learn the Christ to be so”?
4 After describing the unprofitable pursuits and uncleanness of the world, the apostle Paul turned his attention back to his fellow Christians in Ephesus. (Please read Ephesians 4:20, 21.) Paul had spent about three years preaching and teaching in that city, and he must have been personally acquainted with many in the congregation. (Acts 20:31-35) Thus, when he said, “You did not learn the Christ to be so,” he was expressing his personal knowledge that the Ephesian Christians were not taught some permissive, watered-down version of the truth that condoned the types of gross misconduct that he had described in verses 17 to 19. He knew that they had been properly and accurately taught the true Christian way of life as exemplified by Jesus Christ. For that reason, they no longer walked in darkness as the nations did, but they were children of light.
5. What is the difference between being in the truth superficially and having the truth in us?
5 How important it is, then, to “learn the Christ” in the proper manner! Are there wrong ways to learn the Christ? Yes, indeed. Earlier, at Ephesians 4:14, Paul had cautioned the brothers: “We should no longer be babes, tossed about as by waves and carried hither and thither by every wind of teaching by means of the trickery of men, by means of cunning in contriving error.” Evidently there were some who had learned about the Christ but who still walked in the ways of the world and even tried to persuade others to do so. Does this show us the danger of just being in the truth, as some use the expression, in contrast with having the truth in us? In Paul’s day those who had only a superficial understanding were easily and quickly swayed by others, and the same is true today. To prevent this, Paul went on to say that the Ephesians needed to have ‘heard Christ and to have been taught by means of Jesus.’—Ephesians 4:21.
6. How can we learn, hear, and be taught by the Christ today?
6 The expressions “to learn,” “to hear,” and “to be taught” used by Paul all imply a process of study and instruction, as in a school. Of course, we cannot hear, learn from, or be taught directly by Jesus himself today. But he is conducting a worldwide Bible educational campaign by means of his “faithful and discreet slave.” (Matthew 24:45-47; 28:19, 20) We can “learn the Christ” properly and accurately if we regularly take in the timely spiritual food provided by the slave class, study it diligently whether personally or in a congregation, meditate on it, and put into practice what we learn. Let us make sure that we fully utilize all the provisions so that we can truthfully say we have “heard him and were taught by means of him.”
7. What significance may be seen in Paul’s words, “truth is in Jesus”?
7 It is interesting that at Ephesians 4:21, after emphasizing the learning process, Paul added: “Just as truth is in Jesus.” Some Bible commentators call attention to the fact that Paul rarely used the personal name Jesus by itself in his writings. Indeed, this is the only instance of such usage in the letter to the Ephesians. Is there any special significance to this? Perhaps Paul was calling attention to the example set by Jesus as a man. Recall that Jesus once said of himself: “I am the way and the truth and the life.” (John 14:6; Colossians 2:3) Jesus said: “I am . . . the truth” because he did not just speak and teach it but lived and personified it. Yes, true Christianity is not just an idea but a way of life. To “learn the Christ” includes learning to imitate him in living the truth. Do you pattern your life after Jesus? Are you daily following his steps closely? Only by doing so can we go on walking as children of light.
“Put Away the Old Personality”
8 To show how we can successfully “learn the Christ” and walk as children of light, Paul went on to say, at Ephesians 4:22-24, that there are three distinct steps we must follow. The first of these is: “You should put away the old personality which conforms to your former course of conduct and which is being corrupted according to his deceptive desires.” (Ephesians 4:22) The expressions “put away” (“put off,” Kingdom Interlinear) and “put on” (verse 24) invoke the mental picture of taking off and putting on a garment. This is a metaphor that Paul used quite often, and it is an effective one. (Romans 13:12, 14; Ephesians 6:11-17; Colossians 3:8-12; 1 Thessalonians 5:8) When our garment gets soiled or spotted, such as during a meal, we change it the first chance we have. Should we not be equally concerned about any soiling of our spiritual state?
9. In what way does one put away the old personality?
9 How, then, does one put away the old personality? The verb “put away” in the original language is in what is called the aorist tense. It indicates an action that is taken just once or once and for all. This tells us that the “old personality” (“old man,” Kingdom Interlinear), along with our “former course of conduct,” must be put away with a definite and decisive action, thoroughly and completely. It is not something about which we can successfully deliberate or even hesitate. Why not?
10. Why must one be resolute and decisive in putting away the old personality?
10 The expression “is being corrupted” shows that “the old man” is in a continuous and progressive course of moral degradation, going from bad to worse. In reality, because of rejecting spiritual enlightenment, all mankind is on a downward spiral. This is the result of “deceptive desires,” Paul said. Fleshly desires are deceptive because they may appear harmless, but they are ultimately ruinous. (Hebrews 3:13) If unchecked, the end will be defilement and death. (Romans 6:21; 8:13) That is why the old personality must be put away, stripped off decisively and completely, the way an old, dirty garment is taken off.
A New “Spirit of the Mind”
11. Where must spiritual renewal begin?
11 A person who gets up out of a mud puddle needs not only to take off his dirty clothes but also to wash himself thoroughly before he puts on something fresh and clean. That is exactly what Paul outlined as the second step to spiritual enlightenment: “You should be made new in the force actuating your mind.” (Ephesians 4:23) As he pointed out earlier, in verses 17 and 18, the nations are walking “in the unprofitableness of their minds” and are “in darkness mentally.” Logically, the mind, the center of perception and understanding, is where the renewal must begin. How can this be done? Paul explained that it is by making new the force that is actuating our mind. What is that force?
12. What is the force actuating the mind?
12 Is the force actuating our mind, referred to by Paul, the holy spirit? No. The phrase “the force actuating your mind” literally reads “the spirit of the mind of you.” Nowhere in the Bible is God’s holy spirit spoken of as belonging to a human or to a part of a human. The word “spirit” basically means “breath,” but it is also used in the Bible “to designate the force that causes a person to display a certain attitude, disposition, or emotion or to take a certain action or course.” (Insight on the Scriptures, Volume 2, page 1026) So “the spirit of the mind” is the force that activates or actuates our mind, our own mental tendency and inclination.
13. Why must our mental inclination be made new?
13 The natural tendency and inclination of the imperfect mind is toward physical, fleshly, and materialistic things. (Ecclesiastes 7:20; 1 Corinthians 2:14; Colossians 1:21; 2:18) Even if a person puts away the old personality with its bad practices, his sinful mental tendency if unchanged will sooner or later compel him to return to what he abandoned. Is this not the experience of many who have tried, for example, to quit smoking, overdrinking, or other bad practices? If they made no effort to be made new in the force actuating their mind, a relapse was almost unavoidable. Any real transformation must involve a thorough making over of the mind.—Romans 12:2.
14. How can the force actuating the mind be made new?
14 How, then, does one make that force new so that it will incline one’s mind in the right direction? The verb “be made new” in the Greek text is in the present tense, expressing continuous action. So it is by continuing to study God’s Word of truth and by meditating on what it means that the actuating force can be made new. Scientists tell us that in our brain, information in the form of coded electrical or chemical signals travels from neuron to neuron, crossing many connections called synapses. “A memory of some type is created at the nerve synapse when the coded signal passes through, leaving behind its individual imprint,” says the book The Brain. When the same signal passes the next time, the nerve cells recognize it and respond more quickly. In time, this creates a new pattern of thinking in the individual. As we persist in taking in wholesome spiritual information, a new thought pattern is being built up, and the force actuating our mind is being made new.—Philippians 4:8.
“Put On the New Personality”
15. In what sense is the new personality new?
15 Finally, Paul says: “[You] should put on the new personality which was created according to God’s will in true righteousness and loyalty.” (Ephesians 4:24) Yes, a Christian puts on a new personality. “New” here refers, not to time, but to quality. That is to say, it is not new in the sense of being the latest version. It is a completely new, fresh personality “created according to God’s will.” At Colossians 3:10, Paul used similar language and said that it is “being made new according to the image of the One who created it.” How does this new personality come about?
16. Why can it be said that the new personality is “created according to God’s will”?
16 Jehovah God created the first human pair, Adam and Eve, in His image and likeness. They were endowed with moral and spiritual qualities that set them apart from and far above the animal creation. (Genesis 1:26, 27) Even though their rebellion plunged all mankind into sin and imperfection, we, as Adam’s descendants, still have the capacity to demonstrate moral and spiritual qualities. God’s will is that those who exercise faith in the ransom sacrifice should do away with the old personality and enjoy “the glorious freedom of the children of God.”—Romans 6:6; 8:19-21; Galatians 5:1, 24.
17. Why are righteousness and loyalty outstanding characteristics of the new personality?
17 True righteousness and loyalty are the two qualities singled out by Paul as characteristic of the new personality. This emphasizes further that the new personality is being made new according to the image of the One who created it. Psalm 145:17 tells us: “Jehovah is righteous in all his ways and loyal in all his works.” And Revelation 16:5 says about Jehovah: “You, the One who is and who was, the loyal One, are righteous.” Truly, righteousness and loyalty are essential qualities if we are to live up to being created in God’s image, reflecting his glory. May we be like Zechariah, the father of John the Baptizer, who was moved by holy spirit to praise God for granting His people “the privilege of fearlessly rendering sacred service to him with loyalty and righteousness.”—Luke 1:74, 75.
“Go On Walking as Children of Light”
18. How has Paul helped us to see the ways of the world as they really are?
18 Having considered in detail Paul’s words at Ephesians 4:17-24, we have much to think about. In verses 17 to 19, Paul helps us to see the ways of the world as they really are. Rejecting knowledge of God and hardening their hearts toward him, those still in the world have cut themselves off from the true source of life. Consequently, without true purpose or direction, their endeavors end up in folly and futility. They are sinking ever deeper into moral and spiritual bankruptcy. What a pitiful situation! And what a powerful reason for us to be determined to go on walking as children of light!
19. What final encouragement do we have from Paul to go on walking as children of light?
19 Then, in verses 20 and 21, Paul emphasizes the importance of learning the truth in earnest so that we are not just associated with the truth but live it as Jesus did. Finally, in verses 22 to 24, he exhorts us to strip off the old personality and put on the new—decisively, resolutely. Meanwhile, we must keep channeling our mental tendencies in a wholesome, spiritual direction. Above all, we must look to Jehovah for help as we go on walking as children of light. “For God is he who said: ‘Let the light shine out of darkness,’ and he has shone on our hearts to illuminate them with the glorious knowledge of God by the face of Christ.”—2 Corinthians 4:6.
Do You Remember?
□ How can we “learn the Christ” today?
□ Why must the old personality be put away decisively?
□ What is the force actuating the mind, and how is it made new?
□ What qualities mark the new personality?
[Picture on page 15]
Jesus said: “I am the way and the truth and the life”
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“Strip off the old personality with its practices”—wrath, anger, badness, abusive speech, obscene talk, and lying.—Colossians 3:8, 9
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“Put on the new personality . . . created according to God’s will in true righteousness and loyalty.”—Ephesians 4:24