You Have Not So Learned Christ
Robert Wurtz II
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. (Ephesians 4:21 NKJV)
Under the New Covenant we have the promise that it will not be like the Old Covenant when God took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt (Jeremiah 31:32). You will recall Lot in the days of Abraham living in Sodom lingering and not really wanting to leave though fire and brimstone judgment was pending. We read, the men laid hold upon his hand, and upon the hand of his wife, and upon the hand of his two daughters; the LORD being merciful unto him: and they brought him forth, and set him without the city. (Genesis 19:16) This is outward leading. The New Covenant would be different in that God would work in those that were partakers of this covenant by working in them both to will and to do His good pleasure. It is an inward working.
The Gentiles Walk
The context of our passage above deals with the manor of life that a Christian is to lead as contrasted with the gentiles. Paul describes them, Who being past feeling have given themselves over unto lasciviousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness. (Ephesians 4:19) Past feeling is a Greek word denoting the inability to feel pain. They have become numb to their sinfullness and feel no conviction of sin or pain of conscience. We might say their conscience was seared to the point where they sin as if it’s normal. Our word for lasciviousness in the KJV is translated sensuality in the newer versions. The Gentiles have given themselves over to the desires of the body until they have become ungodly lusts and are utterly controlling their lives. Paul then goes on, But ye have not so learned Christ (V. 20). If we are in Christ, walking in Him, then the truth that was in Him when He walked the earth (His manor of life) will be the truth that is in us. Why? Because that is what He teaches us inwardly. Many people claim to be Christian and live like the Gentiles. This is why Paul qualifies his remarks, if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught by Him. There is emphasis here in the Greek, If YOU have heard Him and been taught by Him.
The Truth is IN Jesus
I want to carefully transition in our discussion into an area of concern in our times. In the broader context of Ephesians 4, Paul moves on and deals with being angry, working, and our communication as believers. He tells us to be angry and sin not, let not the sun go down upon your anger, neither give place to the Devil. Think about how the churches of God were persecuted in the 1st century when these words were penned. Leaders like Caligula, Claudius , and Nero (that had his own mother executed) ruled Rome during these terrible times. How did Christians respond? What did they learn of Christ? We know that they loved to the end, even as we have in the example of Stephen. Believers were respectful to others, and to leaders as was Paul when he went before Festus and Agrippa. They never lost their testimony before the world. Keep this in mind.
As Christians we are at great risk in modern times of being angered by the unrighteous behaviors that go on in society and among leaders just as would have been the Christians that watched their fellow believers burned to death under Nero or the lewd awful behaviors of a Caligula. We risk being lured into a bad spirit that would not please God. Our passage was useful to the Ephesians and the epistles broader audience and it still applies to us today. What complicates the situation is that some believers begin to feed into various worldly means that spread anger, such as talk-radio and television, until they get a bad spirit. Not knowing that these people are not friends of the Gospel simply because we share what some would call a ‘common enemy’, they begin to listen to the talk and get angrier and angrier. I think we already know this, but conservatism is not the same thing as Christianity. They may share some common views, but Christianity originates in a different Kingdom, not of this world. To participate in a voting process is one thing, but to transgress Godly principals and fail to move in the person of Jesus Christ is never acceptable. Everything you and I do in this regard we need to stop and ask ourselves, “Did I learn this from Christ?”
You Have Not So learned Christ
What happens? Rather than praying for our leaders as we are told in 1 Timothy 2, we see believers start to mean-mouth and mock, just shy of cursing our leaders. Beloved, this ought not so to be. Answer? But you have not so learned Christ. Anger is a valid human emotion under the right circumstances. Yet we are also told that the wrath of man does not work the righteousness of God. (James 1:20) That is no straw statement. God’s ways are not our ways unless we are moving in the mind of Christ. If we allow the world to press us into its mode of thinking (Romans 12:2), even when there may be a common agreement in a few areas, we risk losing the whole of our testimony. Is it wise to think we can fight fire with fire? Can we fight anger with anger? What did Paul say? Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers. (Ephesians 4:29)