Ephesians 4:20
But you have not so learned Christ;
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(20) Ye have not so learned Christ.—Better, ye did not so learn the Christ. To “learn Christ” is a phrase not used elsewhere; but easily interpreted by the commoner phrase to “know Christ” (see John 14:7; John 14:9; 2Corinthians 5:16; Philippians 3:10), which is still nearer to it in the original, for the word used for “to know” properly means to perceive or “come to know.” It would seem that the name “the Christ” is here used emphatically, in distinction from the “Jesus” of the next verse. “To learn the Christ” is to enter into the true meaning of His office as the Anointed Priest, Prophet, and King, or, in one word, as the Mediator, in whom we as Christians escape from the guilt and bondage of the sins described above. Such learning—like the “knowing” of 2Corinthians 5:14—is not “after the flesh,” by the mere hearing of the ear, but “after the Spirit,” writing Christ upon the heart.

EPHESIANS

CHRIST OUR LESSON AND OUR TEACHER

Ephesians 4:20-21The Apostle has been describing in very severe terms the godlessness and corruption of heathenism. He reckons on the assent of the Ephesian Christians when he paints the society in which they lived as alienated from God, insensible to the restraints of conscience, and foul with all uncleanness. That was a picture of heathenism drawn from the life and submitted to the judgment of those who knew the original only too well. It has been reserved for modern eulogists to regard such statements as exaggerations. Those who knew heathenism from the inside knew that they were sober truth. The colonnades of the stately temple of Ephesus stank with proofs of their correctness.

Out of that mass of moral putridity these Ephesian Christians had been dragged. But its effects still lingered in them, and it was all about them with its pestilential miasma. So the first thing that they needed was to be guarded against it. The Apostle, in the subsequent context, with great earnestness gives a series of moral injunctions of the most elementary kind. Their very simplicity is eloquent. What sort of people must they have formerly been who needed to be bade not to steal and not to lie?

But before he comes to the specific duties, he lays down the broad general principle of which all these are to be but manifestations-viz. that they and we need, as the foundation of all noble conduct and of all theoretical ethics, the suppression and crucifixion of the old self and the investiture with a new self. And this double necessity, says the Apostle in my text, is the plain teaching of Jesus Christ to all His disciples.

Now the words which I have selected as my text are but a fragment of a closely concatenated whole, but I may deal with them separately at this time. They are very remarkable. They lay, as it seems to me, the basis for all Christian conduct; and they teach us how there is no real knowledge of Jesus Christ which does not effloresce into the practice of these virtues and graces which the Apostle goes on to describe.

I. First, Christ our Lesson and Christ our Teacher.

Mark the singular expression with which this text begins. ‘Ye have not so learned Christ.’ Now, we generally talk about learning a subject, a language, a science, or an art; but we do not talk about learning people. But Paul says we are Christ’s disciples, not only in the sense that we learn of Him as Teacher-which follows in the next clause-but that we learn Him as the theme of our study.

That is to say, the relation of the person of Jesus Christ to all that He has to teach and reveal to the world is altogether different from that of all other teachers of all sorts of truth, to the truth which they proclaim. You can accept the truths and dismiss into oblivion the men from whom you got them. But you cannot reject Christ and take Christianity. The two are inseparably united. For, in regard to all spiritual and to all moral truth-truth about conduct and character-Jesus Christ is what He teaches. So we may say, turning well-known words of a poet in another direction: ‘My lesson is in Thee.’

But that is not all. My text goes on to speak about another thing: ‘Ye have learned Christ if so be that ye have heard Him and been taught.’ Now that ‘If so be’ is not the ‘if’ of uncertainty or doubt, but it is equivalent to ‘if, as I know to be the case,’ or ‘since ye have heard Him.’ Away there in Ephesus, years and years after the crucifixion, these people who had never seen Christ in the flesh, nor heard a word from the lips ‘into which grace was poured,’ are yet addressed by the Apostle as those who had listened to Him and heard Him speak. They had ‘heard Him and been taught.’ So He was Lesson and He was Teacher. And that is as true about us as it was about them. Let me say only a word or two about each of these two thoughts.

I have already suggested that the underlying truth which warrants the first of them is that Jesus Christ’s relation to His message and revelation is altogether different from that of other teachers to what they have to communicate to the world. Of course we all know that, in regard to the wider sphere of religious and Christian truth, it is not only what Christ said, but even more what He did and was, that makes His revelation of the Father’s heart. Precious as are the words which drop from His lips, which are spirit and are life, His life itself is more than all His teachings; and it is when we learn, not from Him, but when we learn Him, that we see the Father. But my text has solely reference to conduct, and in that aspect it just implies this thought, that the sum of all duty, the height of all moral perfectness, the realised ideal of humanity, is in Christ, and that the true way to know what a man or a nation ought to do is to study Him.

How strange it is, when one comes to consider it, that the impression of absolute perfection, free from all limitations of race or country or epoch or individual character-and yet not a vague abstraction but a true living Person-has been printed upon the minds and hearts of the world by these four little pamphlets which we call gospels! I do not think that there is anything in the whole history of literature to compare with the impression of veracity and historical reality and individual personality which is made by these fragmentary narratives. And although it has nothing to do with my present subject, I may just say in a sentence that it seems to me that the character of Jesus Christ as painted in the Gospels, in its incomparable vividness and vitality, is one of the strongest evidences for the simple faithfulness as biographies, of these books. Nothing else but the Man seen could have resulted in such compositions.

But apart altogether from that, how blessed it is that we have not to enter upon any lengthened investigations, far beyond the power of average minds, in order to get hold of the fundamental laws of moral conduct! How blessed it is that all the harshness of ‘Obey this law or die’ is by His life changed into ‘Look at Me, and, for My love’s sake, study Me and be like Me!’ This is the blessed peculiarity which gives all its power and distinctive characteristic to the morality of the Gospel, that law is changed from a statuesque white ideal, pure as marble and cold and lifeless as it, into a living Person with a throbbing heart of love, and an outstretched hand of help, whose word is, ‘If ye love Me, keep My commandments, and be like Me.’

Christian men and women! study Jesus Christ. That is the Alpha and Omega of all right knowledge of duty and of all right practice of it. Learn Him, His self-suppression, His self-command, His untroubled calmness, His immovable patience, His continual gentleness, His constant reference of all things to the Father’s will. Study these. To imitate Him is blessedness; to resemble Him is perfection. ‘Ye have learned Christ’ if you are Christians at all. You have at least begun the alphabet, but oh! in Him ‘are hid all the treasures,’ not only ‘of wisdom and knowledge,’ but of ‘whatsoever things are lovely and of good report’; and ‘if there is any virtue, and if there is any praise,’ we shall find them in Him who is our Lesson, our perfect Lesson.

But that is not all. Lessons are very well, but-dear me!-the world wants something besides lessons. It has had plenty of teaching. The trouble is not that we are not instructed, but that we do not take the lessons that are laid before us. And so my text suggests another thing besides the wholly inadequate conception, as it would be if it stood alone, of a mere exhibition of what we ought to be.

‘If so be that ye have heard Him.’ As I said, these Ephesian Christians, far away in Asia Minor, with seas and years between them and the plains of Galilee and the Cross of Calvary, are yet regarded by the Apostle as having listened to Jesus Christ. We, far away down the ages, and in another corner of the world, as really, without metaphor, in plain fact, may have Jesus Christ speaking to us, and may hear His voice. These Ephesians had heard Him, not only because they had heard about Him, nor because they had heard Him speaking through His servant Paul and others, but because, as Paul believed, that Lord, who had spoken with human lips words which it was possible for a man to utter when He was here on earth, when caught up into the third heaven was still speaking to men, even according to His own promise, which He gave at the very close of His career, ‘I have declared Thy name unto My brethren, and will declare it.’ So, though ‘He began both to do and to teach’ before He was taken up, after His Ascension He continues both the doing and the tuition. And, in verity, we all may hear His voice speaking in the depths of our hearts; speaking through the renewed conscience; speaking by that Spirit who will guide us into all the truth that we need; speaking through the ages to all who will listen to His voice.

The conception of Christ as a Teacher, which is held by many who deny His redeeming work and dismiss as incredible His divinity, seems to me altogether inadequate, unless it be supplemented by the belief that He now has and exercises the power of communicating wisdom and knowledge and warning and stimulus to waiting hearts; and that when we hear within the depth of our souls the voice saying to us, ‘This is the way, walk ye in it,’ or saying to us, ‘Pass not by, enter not into it,’ if we have waited for Him, and studied His example and character, and sought, not to please ourselves, but to be led by His wisdom, we may be sure that it is Christ Himself who speaks. Reverence the inward monitor, and when He within thy heart, by His Spirit, calls thee, do thou answer, ‘Speak, Lord! Thy servant heareth.’ ‘Ye have learned Christ if so be that ye have hearkened to Him.’

II. Secondly, mark the condition of learning the Lesson and hearing the Teacher.

Our Authorised Version, in accordance with its very frequent practice, has evacuated the last words of my text of their true force by the substitution of the more intelligible ‘by Him’ for what the Apostle writes-’in Him.’ The true rendering gives us the condition on which we learn our Lesson and hear our Teacher. ‘In Him,’ is no mere surplusage, and is not to be weakened down, as this translation of ours does, into a mere ‘by Him’ but it declares that, unless we keep ourselves in union with Jesus Christ, His voice will not be heard in our hearts, and the lesson will pass unlearned.

You know, dear brother, how emphatically and continually in the New Testament this doctrine of the dwelling of the believing soul in Christ, and the reciprocal dwelling of Christ in the believing soul, is insisted upon. And I, for my part, believe that one great cause of the unsatisfactory condition of the average Christianity of this day is the slurring over and minimising of these twin great and solemn truths. I would fain bring you back to the Master’s words, as declaring the deepest truths in relation to the connection between the believing soul and the Christ in whom it believes:-’Abide in Me, and I in you.’ I wish you would go home and take this Epistle to the Ephesians and read it over, putting a pencil mark below each place in which occurs the words ‘in Christ Jesus.’ I think you would learn something if you would do it.

But all that I have to say at present is that, if we would keep ourselves, by faith, by love, by meditation, by aspiration, by the submission of the will, and by practical obedience, in Jesus Christ, enclosed in Him as it were-then, and then only, should we learn His lesson, and then, and then only, should we hear Him speak. Why! if you never think about Him, how can you learn Him? If you seldom, or sleepily, take up your Bibles and read the Gospels, of what good is His example to you? If you wander away into all manner of regions of thought and enjoyment instead of keeping near to Him, how can you expect that He will communicate Himself to you? If we keep ourselves in touch with that Lord, if we bring all our actions to Him, and measure our conduct by His pattern, then we shall learn His lesson. What does a student in a school of design do? He puts his feeble copy of some great picture beside the original, and compares it touch for touch, line for line, shade for shade, and so corrects its errors. Take your lives to the Exemplar in that fashion, and go over them bit by bit. Is this like Jesus Christ; is that what He would have done? Then ‘in Him,’ thus in contact with Him, thus correcting our daubs by the perfect picture, we shall learn our lesson and listen to our Teacher.

Still your passions, muzzle your inclinations, clap a bridle on your will, and, as some tumultuous crowd would be hushed into silence that they might listen to the king speaking to them, make a great silence in your hearts, and you will ‘hear Him’ and be taught ‘in Him’.

III. Lastly, the test and result of having learned the Lesson and listened to the Teacher is unlikeness to surrounding corruption.

‘Ye have not so learned Christ.’ Of course the hideous immoralities of Ephesus are largely, but by no means altogether, gone from Manchester. Of course, nineteen centuries of Christianity have to a very large extent changed the tone of society and influenced the moral judgments and practices even of persons who are not Christians. But there still remains a world, and there still remains unfilled up the gulf between the worldly and the godly life. And I believe it is just as needful as ever it was, though in different ways, for Christians to exhibit unlikeness to the world. ‘Not so,’ must be our motto; or, as the Jewish patriot said, ‘So did not I, because of the fear of the Lord.’

I do not wish you to make yourselves singular; I do not wish you to wear conventional badges of unlikeness to certain selected evil habits. A Christian man’s unlikeness to the world consists a great deal more in doing or being what it does not do and is not than in not doing or being what it does and is. It is easy to abstain from conventional things; it is a great deal harder to put in practice the unworldly virtues of the Christian character.

There are wide regions of life in which all men must act alike, be they saints or sinners, be they believers, Agnostics, Mohammedans, Turks, Jews, or anything else. There are two ways of doing the same thing. If two women were sitting at a grindstone, one of them a Christian and the other not, the one that pushed her handle half round the circle for Christ’s sake would do it in a different fashion from the other one who took it from her hand and brought it round to the other side of the stone, and did it without reference to God.

Brethren, be sure of this, that if you and I do not find in ourselves the impulse to abstain from coarse enjoyments, to put our feet upon passions and desires, appetites and aims, which godless men recognise and obey without qualm or restraint, we need to ask ourselves: ‘In what sense am I a Christian, or in what sense have I heard Christ?’ It is a poor affair to fling away our faithful protest against the world’s evils for the sake of receiving the world’s smile. Modern Christianity is often not vital enough to be hated by a godless world; and it is not hated because it only deserves to be scorned. Keep near Jesus Christ, live in the light of His face, drink in the inspiration and instruction of His example, and the unlikeness will come, and no mistake. Dwell near Him, keep in Him, and the likeness will come, as it always comes to lovers, who grow to resemble that or those whom they love. ‘It is enough for the disciple to be as his Teacher, and for the slave to be like his Lord.’Ephesians 4:20-24. But ye — Believers at Ephesus; have not so learned Christ — Or Christianity; that is, ye cannot act thus, now ye are acquainted with Christ and his gospel, which, you know, allows of no sin. If so be — Or rather, seeing that, as ει γε, it seems, should be here rendered; ye have heard him — Teaching you inwardly by his Spirit, as well as outwardly by his word; and have been taught by him — Have been instructed in his religion; as the truth is in Jesus — According to his own gospel, and not in that imperfect and adulterated form, in which some presume to deliver what they call his doctrine: that ye put off — Entirely lay aside; concerning — Or with respect to; the former conversation — That is, those sinful habits and practices to which you were accustomed in your heathen state; the old man — Your old nature and character; or the whole body of sin: which old nature is corrupt — Depraved in every part, so that its dispositions and actions are directed, not by the rules of right reason, or by the word and will of God, but according to the deceitful lusts — Which generally prevail in the unregenerate, and once prevailed in you. Observe, reader, all sinful desires are deceitful, promising the happiness which they cannot give, and deceiving men. And be renewed in the spirit of your mind — That is, in all the faculties of your souls, by seeking and obtaining an enlightened understanding, a rectified will, and holy, well-regulated affections. And that ye put on the new man — That ye apply to God for, and receive from him, a new nature; which after God — That is, after a conformity to his image; is created — For it is his workmanship, see Ephesians 2:10; in righteousness — Toward your fellow-creatures; and true holiness — Toward God. He says true holiness, in opposition to that which is only ceremonial or external, and in appearance. The dispositions of the mind are in Scripture compared to clothes, for two reasons: 1st, Because they render persons beautiful or deformed, according to their nature: 2d, Because they may be put off or on, while we remain in a state of trial, according as we yield to and obey, or resist and reject, the truth and grace of God. 4:17-24 The apostle charged the Ephesians in the name and by the authority of the Lord Jesus, that having professed the gospel, they should not be as the unconverted Gentiles, who walked in vain fancies and carnal affections. Do not men, on every side, walk in the vanity of their minds? Must not we then urge the distinction between real and nominal Christians? They were void of all saving knowledge; they sat in darkness, and loved it rather than light. They had a dislike and hatred to a life of holiness, which is not only the way of life God requires and approves, and by which we live to him, but which has some likeness to God himself in his purity, righteousness, truth, and goodness. The truth of Christ appears in its beauty and power, when it appears as in Jesus. The corrupt nature is called a man; like the human body, it is of divers parts, supporting and strengthening one another. Sinful desires are deceitful lusts; they promise men happiness, but render them more miserable; and bring them to destruction, if not subdued and mortified. These therefore must be put off, as an old garment, a filthy garment; they must be subdued and mortified. But it is not enough to shake off corrupt principles; we must have gracious ones. By the new man, is meant the new nature, the new creature, directed by a new principle, even regenerating grace, enabling a man to lead a new life of righteousness and holiness. This is created, or brought forth by God's almighty power.But ye have not so learned Christ - You have been taught a different thing by Christ; you have been taught that his religion requires you to abandon such a course of life. 20. learned Christ—(Php 3:10). To know Christ Himself, is the great lesson of the Christian life: this the Ephesians began to learn at their conversion. "Christ," in reference to His office, is here specified as the object of learning. "Jesus," in Eph 4:21, as the person. But ye have not so learned; so as to walk as other Gentiles walk, in the vanity of your minds, &c.

Christ; the doctrine of Christ, or rule of life prescribed by him. But ye have not so learned Christ,.... Some distinguish these words, and make two propositions of them, "but ye not so", or "ye are not so, ye have learned Christ"; the first of these propositions has respect to what goes before, and suggests that regenerate persons are not as other men: they do not walk in the vanity of their minds as others, their minds are not empty and vain; but are filled with God, with a saving knowledge of God in Christ, with the fear and love of God, and with Christ, with a spiritual knowledge of him, with faith in him and love to him, and with the Spirit, with his graces and fruits of righteousness; and though there is a great deal of vanity, instability, treachery, and sinfulness in them, yet their walk and the course of their conversation is not according to this: nor are their understandings darkened as others; they are enlightened to see their lost state and condition by nature, the plague of their own hearts, the insufficiency of their own righteousness, the way of life and salvation by Christ, and that salvation from first to last is all of grace; they have some light into the doctrines of the gospel, and have some glimpse of glory; and their light is of an increasing nature: they are not alienated from the life of God as others, but live a life of communion with him, a life of faith upon him, and a life of holiness according to his mind; they are not past feeling as others, they are sensible of sin, and are often pressed down with the weight of it, and groan, being burdened by it; they cannot sin with that delight and pleasure as others do, nor will they plead for it, but confess it with shame and sorrow; nor do they give up themselves to it, and continue in it, and in an insatiable pursuit of it: the reason of all which is, they "have learned Christ": so as to know him as God over all blessed for ever; as the Lord and heir of all things; as the Alpha and Omega of the covenant of grace; as intrusted with all that is near and dear to his Father; as the Father's free gift to men, and as the sinner's Saviour; as the way of access to God and acceptance with him; as the church's head and husband; as the saints' prophet, priest, and King, and as the only Mediator between God and men; and so as to receive him, believe in him, and commit their souls unto him; and so as to embrace his truths, and submit to his ordinances: and this lesson they learn, not in the book and school of nature, nor of carnal reason, nor of the law; but in the book of the covenant, and of the Scripture; and in the school of the church, and under the ministry of the Gospel; for the ministers of the Gospel are the instructors, the instruments of teaching; though the Spirit of God is the efficient cause, the anointing which teacheth all things, and leads into all truth, as it is in Jesus: and this lesson being truly learnt, will teach men to walk differently from others; to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts, and to live soberly, righteously, and godly. {13} But ye have not so learned Christ;

(13) Here follows the contrary part concerning men who are regenerated by the true and living knowledge of Christ, who have other principles by which they act that are very different, that is, holy and honest desires, and a mind completely changed by the power of the Holy Spirit, from which proceeds also like effects, as a just and holy life indeed.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Ephesians 4:20. Ὑμεῖς δέ] opposed to the unconverted Gentiles.

οὐχ οὕτως ἐμάθετε τὸν Χριστόν] but ye have not in such manner (so that this instruction would have directed you to that Gentile conduct of life, Ephesians 4:17 ff.) learned Christ. Observe the litotes in οὐχ οὕτως (quite otherwise, comp. Deuteronomy 18:14). The proposal of Beza: “Quid si post οὕτως distinctionem adscribas?” is, although adopted by Gataker and Colomesius, quite mistaken, since Ephesians 4:21 contains the confirmation not of the mere fact ἐμάθετε τὸν Χριστόν, but of the mode in which the readers have learned Christ, hence οὐχ οὕτως must necessarily belong to ἐμάθετε τὸν Χριστόν.

ὁ Χριστός does not mean the doctrine of Christ or concerning Christ (so most expositors before Rückert; but see Bengel and Flatt), nor does μανθάνειν τινά mean to learn to know any one, as it has usually in recent times been explained (by Rückert, Holzhausen, Meier, Matthies, Harless), wherefore Raphel wrongly appeals to Xen. Hellen. ii. 1. 1 (ἵνα ἀλλήλους μάθοιεν ὁπόσοι εἴησαν, comp. Herod. vii. 208, where it means to perceive); but Christ is the great collective object of the instruction which the readers have received (Galatians 1:16; 1 Corinthians 1:23; 2 Corinthians 1:19; Php 1:15, al.), so that they have learned Christ. This special notion is required by the following εἴγεἐδιδάχθ.Ephesians 4:20. ὑμεῖς δὲ οὐχ οὕτως ἐμάθετε τὸν Χριστόν: but ye did not thus learn the Christ. ὑμεῖς, in emphatic contrast with the ἔθνη yet unconverted. The οὐχ οὕτως is an obvious litotes, suggesting more than is expressed. Meyer compares Deuteronomy 18:14. The phrase ἐμάθετε τὸν Χριστόν has no precise parallel except the following αὐτὸν ἠκούσατε. The nearest analogies to it are the phrases which speak of preaching Christ (κηρύσσειν τὸν Χριστόν; Galatians 1:16; 1 Corinthians 1:23; 2 Corinthians 1:19; Php 1:15), the γνῶναι αὐτόν in Php 3:10, and the παρελάβετε τὸν Χριστὸν Ἰησοῦν τὸν Κύριον in Colossians 2:6. It cannot = “ye learned the doctrine of Christ”; nor can it be taken as = “ye learned to know Christ”; for there are no relevant examples of such usages. Χριστόν must be taken as the object of the learning, and the form τὸν Χριστόν, especially looking to the following Ἰησοῦ (Ephesians 4:21), probably indicates that the official sense is in view here. The aor. further points to the definite time of their conversion. The Christ, the Messiah, He personally—that was the contents of the preaching which they heard, the sum of the instruction they received and the knowledge they gained then.20. ye] Emphatic by position.

have not … learned] Better, did not learn; at their conversion.—“Learn” implies the instruction then received in the Lord’s precepts, and in the holy bearings of His work. For a similar reference to the first apprehension by new converts of Gospel purity of principle, cp. 1 Thessalonians 4:7; “God did not call us on terms of impurity.”

Christ] Who is the Subject-matter of His own message.Ephesians 4:20. Ὑμεῖς δὲ οὐχ οὓτως ἐμάθετε τὸν Χριστὸν, but you have not so learned Christ) The same form of expression is found at Deuteronomy 18:14-15, σοὶ δὲ οὐχ οὕτως ἔδωκε Κύριος ὁ Θεός σου· προφήτηναὐτοῦ ἀκούσεσθε. Christ is one,[68] says Paul (comp. 2 Corinthians 11:4); as then you have heard Him, i.e. so you ought (in conduct) to represent (copy) Him. As [Ephesians 4:21, καθώς ἐστιν ἀλήθεια ἐν τῷ Ἰησοῦ], which afterwards occurs, is to be referred to [ye have] not so [Ephesians 4:20]; not so is opposed to uncleanness, Ephesians 4:19; if so be that, etc., to vanity, Ephesians 4:17-18.—τὸν Χριστὸν, Christ) He uses the name Jesus, more expressly denominating the Lord, in the following verse. Jesus, most perfectly and brilliantly completed the idea of Christ.

[68] i.e. If there were some other Christ, whom you could serve and yet obey your lusts, ye might walk still as in past times. But there is only one Christ, and He, one that requireth holiness, 2 Corinthians 11:4.—ED.Verse 20. - But ye did not thus learn Christ. "But" emphatic - a great contrast, that must come home to the conscience of every Christian, and to his whole heart and soul. The expression, "learn Christ," is a pregnant one, corresponding to "preaching Christ" (Acts 8:5) - all about Christ, Christ in all his offices, and in all his influence. He that learns Christ appropriates him in the efficacy of his atonement, in the power of his Spirit, in the force of his lessons, and in the spirit of his influence, and finds the whole to be diametrically opposite to the godless world. Have not learned (οὐχ ἐμάθετε)

Rev., giving the force of the aorist tense, did not learn; at the time of your conversion, when you were instructed in Christ's precepts. The phrase learn Christ occurs nowhere else. Christ does not stand for the doctrine of Christ; but Christ is the subject of His own message. See Ephesians 4:21.

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