“But ye have not so learned Christ; If so be that ye have heard him, and have been taught by him, as the truth is in Jesus.” —Ephesians 4:20-21
How Do We Learn Christ?
In Ephesians 4:20, the apostle Paul tells believers that they have “learned Christ.” He declares that they have both heard Him and have been taught by Him. Since they had obviously never met Jesus while He walked on this earth, these words may seem to be in error. But Paul is stating a truth that should be applied to every human being who has ever accepted Christ as his Lord and Savior.
The ability to comprehend spiritual truth is granted to all who encounter the born-again experience. It is here that the Holy Spirit reconstructs the inward man and takes up residence within the newly constructed heart. He becomes the instant author of truth to the new convert and immediately begins to reveal Christ and the nature of God to the believer. He also grants the power to change whatever action or attitude is not in line with the nature and character of God. It is true that every believer starts his Christian experience by internally “learning Christ.”
Identifying The Need To Change
In our text, Paul is exhorting the Ephesian believers to continue the learning process. As previously stated, the believer has the capability of learning directly from the Holy Spirit. But God has also placed gifts in the body of Christ in the form of preachers and teachers to aid the Christian in the growth process. If these gifts are operating properly, they are speaking the truths of Christ to the believers who sit under them.
Christians may also learn from their friends, their spouses, and others who know the Word of God. While it may not be popular, not everything that we need to hear is complementary. Those who genuinely care about our spiritual condition may recognize and see something in our lives that needs to be addressed. If they truly love us, they will let us know what they see. Before you can be changed, you have to identify that which needs to be changed. The voice of the Holy Spirit, the voices of family and friends, or the voices of our pastors and teachers may sometimes be used to say things that are hard for us to hear or receive.
Paul did this very thing in Ephesians 4:25-31. We must recognize the evil or the ungodly characteristic of any attitude or action. Then we must look to the Lord for deliverance from it. In this way, we continue to learn Christ.
Learning To Rely On Christ’s Finished Work
Once the believer identifies what needs to be changed, the believer must also accept and submit to how change can come. In Ephesians 4:22, Paul says that we are to put off our “former conversation,” which refers to our former lifestyle.
He describes this lifestyle as one that dominated us before our conversion experience. The term old man refers to a person being dominated and influenced by indwelling sin or the sin nature. The sin nature had infiltrated and corrupted our moral center with deceitful lusts. We experienced strong desires that promised us life and happiness, but they stole life from us rather than provide a higher quality of life. These wrong influences produced a lifestyle that we should now recognize as harmful and improper.
Next, we must rely on and submit to God’s process of change. The believer should understand that it was our union with Christ that freed us from the influence of sin. It is only through our maintaining faith in Christ crucified that freedom from old tendencies in our new life can be eliminated. God’s grace, one aspect of the Holy Spirit’s work, can remove the unwanted action or attitude.
Only faith and grace can provide the means to freedom from sin. Only Calvary and what Jesus did there for humankind supplies us with the capability of leaving the old life behind and embracing a new way of living. This too is part of learning Christ.
The Renewing Of The Spirit Of The Mind
Finally, there is a need to remove the thought processes that accompanied our former lifestyle. Paul tells the believer that he needs to be “renewed” in the spirit of his mind. This statement declares that the born-again believer needs a renewal of his inner man. The word for mind here is nous. The use of this word indicates that Paul is pointing to a renewal of the entire “moral center” of man. Renewal is not just a change of thought but also includes a change of heart.
What we think, how we think, how we feel—all of this needs to be adjusted in the renewing of the spirit of our minds. Another truth that is evidenced by the Greek grammar is the fact that the one being renewed cannot accomplish the task of renewal himself. In the Greek language, the idea of being renewed is in a passive tense. This means that the subject being renewed is receiving the capability of renewal from a source outside himself. Being renewed in our moral center must be the work of the Holy Spirit. How do we allow or cause the Spirit to do this work?
By ever keeping our faith centered in Christ and what He has done for us. Then we will discover that our inner man is being consistently conformed to match the nature and character of our heavenly Father. This is far more than just the addition of information through reading or education. The renewal of the mind is a work of the Holy Spirit that impacts our entire moral center as our faith remains centered upon Christ and His finished work. As this occurs, we learn Christ.
The final goal of Paul’s instruction is to have believers put on the attributes and characteristics of the new man. This indicates an individual who is constantly being freed from their former conversation or lifestyle. It describes one who is constantly being renewed in the spirit of his mind. It describes someone who is willing to listen to others as they correct and guide them regarding proper attitude and action. If we will embrace these processes, we are certain to learn Christ and display Him in our present world.