Monday: A Dramatic Change of Clothing

In retelling the story of the conversion of his audience, what essential main point is Paul getting across to them? (Ephesians 4:20-24).

Having described their former, Gentile existence (Ephesians 4:17-19), Paul does not say, “That is not the way you learned about Christ.” Instead, he exclaims, “That is not the way you learned Christ!” (Ephesians 4:20, ESV).

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Noting that the addressees “heard Him” [Christ] (NKJV), and were taught “in him” (Ephesians 4:21, ESV) or “by Him” (NKJV), Paul further advocates the adoption of a Christ-shaped life with the phrase “as the truth is in Jesus” (Ephesians 4:21). For Paul, coming to faith centers on a personal connection with Christ, one so vivid and real that it may be described as “learning Christ.” We acknowledge that the risen and exalted Jesus is alive and present with us. We are shaped by His teachings and example and exercise loyalty to Him as our living Lord. We open our lives to His active guidance and direction through Spirit and Word.

Paul tells us that the adoption of a Christ-shaped life requires three processes, which he expresses through clothing imagery: (1) to “put off” or turn away from the old way of life (Ephesians 4:22); (2) to experience inner renewal (Ephesians 4:23); and (3) to “put on” the new, God-like pattern of life (Ephesians 4:24). Paul’s metaphor reflects the use of clothing in the Old Testament as a symbol for both sinfulness (e.g., Psalm 73:6Zechariah 3:3-4Malachi 2:16) and salvation (e.g., Isaiah 61:10Ezekiel 16:8Zechariah 3:4-5).

In ancient times, men wore a knee-length tunic as an undergarment and a cloak or mantle to offer protection from the sun. Similarly, women wore a tunic and a robe. The cultures reflected in the Bible were subsistence ones. Garments were precious and expensive, and were kept for a long time. It would have been unusual to own more than one set of clothing. The quality and style of those garments signaled identity and status markers about the wearer. To change one’s clothes, exchanging one set of clothes for another, was an unusual and important event (rather than the trifling occurrence it is in many cultures today). Paul imagines the change in life to be as noticeable as exchanging one set of clothing for another would have been in this first-century context.

What is the difference, the crucial difference, between learning about Christ and learning to know Christ?

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