JohnSWilson3 Blog

“But you have not so learned Christ…”
December 31, 2010, 3:21 pm
Filed under: P Letter to the Ephesians

After Paul having essentially summed up the eternal purpose of Christ and how the church, under Christ’s headship, “attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ” is the goal Paul now focuses more about how the body of Christ is “fitted together and being brought together,” (1) “grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.” What does “growing and building itself up” mean? This is not meant to be some curriculum that we take, this is not some series of studies that we do. This is not about attending “worship services,” “Sunday School classes,” “Bible studies,” “prayer meetings,” “revival meetings,” “retreats,” working in a “homeless shelter,” etc.

If it is not about where we meet, programs, events, or clergy, then how does the Lord fit brothers and sisters together? How are brothers and sisters brought together? How do we become “humble and gentle; being patient, bearing with one another in love”? How do we “make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace”? How do we “(arrive) unity of faith and in the full knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ”? We could ask question after question from the writings of the all of the apostles in the New Testament.

There is only one way. We must learn Christ. We must hear Christ and be “taught by him” because “truth is in Jesus.” While I have a “measure of the gift of Christ” in me, Christ is my life, I cannot fully know Christ without my brothers and sisters and the “measure of the gift of Christ” in them. It is about “the body of Christ” being “built up” not my ego. Paul is talking to the church in this letter, not just to me individually. The body of Christ must learn Christ, hear Christ, and be taught by Christ together, because “truth is in Jesus” (2). Because Christ is our life, He is our indwelling Lord, this is the quintessential aspect of the body of Christ when it gathers. If we are being like “infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming” then we “have not so learned Christ.” If we do not speak “the truth in love” then we “have not so learned Christ.” If we are not participating in helping build the body of Christ “up in love” then “we have not so learned Christ.”

Paul describes to the church in Ephesus how the pagan world around them, those that are not in Christ, acts and says “So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, with a continual lust for more.” If anyone who claims to be in Christ lives like what Paul said here, like the world, then “you have not so learned Christ.” Paul is describing the normal behavior, the normal conduct of someone who is “separated from the life of God,” someone who is not in Christ. If your conduct is what Paul describes then “you have not so learned Christ.” You do not understand the reality of being in Christ, who is our life. We learn Christ by hearing Him and being taught by Him because “truth is in Jesus.” Jesus told His disciples “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” Christ is our way, our truth, and our life. That is why Paul says that in order for the body of Christ to truly “grow up,” to become the expression of Christ to each other and the world around us, “the manifold wisdom of God,” then Christ must be Head of His body. Perhaps there are many churches, like the church in Corinth who are struggling to keep or have lost Christ as their head, someone or something else has replaced Christ as Head. Then Paul’s words must become more than something we read off the pages of Scripture, more than a mantra, we must learn Christ, hear Him, and be taught by Him, He must be our Head. Let us not be hasty and say we must have more Bible studies, more Bible reading, more praying, more teaching about Jesus, more this and that. Any person, whether they are in Christ or not can do that.

I do not what to learn about Christ, I want to learn Christ Himself, I want to hear Christ Himself, I want to be taught by Christ Himself together with my brothers and sisters. Let us not make Christ a program or curriculum. This can only happen when, like Paul told the church in Colosse, we realize that we have “died with Christ to the basic principles of this world,” that we have “died” and our “life is now hidden with Christ in God.” Christ is our life. God made us “alive with Christ,” “He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross.” In practically every letter that Paul wrote to a church he used an analogy to describe this learning Christ together: putting off dirty clothes and putting on clean clothes. It is about learning to put off the old man, our flesh, who is already dead by the way, and putting on the New Man, Christ Jesus. This is done in daily life of living together, in face to face participation in the body of Christ.

Remember Paul’s prayer: “I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge – that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” God’s intent “was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms.” Learning Christ is about becoming “a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.” It is not about being deeply religious, which is totally contrary to what our Lord taught, but it is a deeply spiritual matter, it is having spiritual sight to know Christ better. Hear Christ and be taught by Christ who dwells within you. He is our life! As we hear Christ together and are taught by Christ together, we well learn Christ together. You will be called to lay down some dirty clothes in the process and put on some clean clothes, Christ Jesus our Lord. The result is God’s eternal purpose, the manifestation of His Son, “who fills everything in every way.”

(1) Literal translation from Alfred Marshall, The Interlinear KJV-NIV Parallel New Testament in Greek and English, 1975, The Zondervan Corporation, 569.
(2) Ibid. The literal translation of Ephesians 4:20 is “ye But not so learned – Christ, if indeed him ye heard and by him were taught as is truth in – Jesus.”


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