This is the first of a series of posts where I am going to directly tie in to the idea of the #1010Life (see the explanation of that here). In John 10:10 Jesus says he has come to bring life to the fullest, a promise filled with intrigue and possibility. But it’s also a promise that can be confusing, and tends to provoke a number of other questions. What does the 10:10 Life look like? How do I know if I am on the right path? If its not a reality that I am currently experiencing, then what can I do differently?
I am teaching through the book of Ephesians at River City and there was a passage that brought a refreshing perspective to this question. The Apostle Paul taught on the important topic of spiritual transformation in a number of places, but this text is considered one of his most potent and comprehensive treatments on the topic:
17 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. 18 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. 19 Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, and they are full of greed. 20 That, however, is not the way of life you learned 21 when you heard about Christ and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. 22 You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; 23 to be made new in the attitude of your minds; 24 and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. (Ephesians 4.17-24)
The approach he uses here is a familiar one in the book of Ephesians. He regularly contrasts who we were apart from life in Christ (in this case using the generic term “Gentiles”) with who we now are through the grace extended to us by God through Jesus.
I did some intense study and reflection on this passage as I prepared to speak on it, and one of the things that jumped out was the unusual grammar used in V20/21. In English we read it as this: “That, however, is not the way of life you learned when you heard about Christ and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus.”
What almost every commentator first noted was that the English translation is much wordier than the original. What Paul said in Greek was simply this: That is not how you “Learned Christ” (if you want to get fancy and look at the original language, use this helpful tool).
The purpose of adding more words in English is to make it a less awkward sentence. Scholars point out that nobody ever talked like this in 1st century Greek – you were never told to learn a person. To learn about a person made perfect sense. But it is strangely intimate to use language like this.
Yet that is exactly what Paul does. He says that the key to transformation is to Learn Christ. Not just learn about Christ.
Just to make sure the point is not missed, he adds the more expected language on the second half of the verse: “…and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus.”
That’s an interesting sentence, isn’t it? We are to learn Christ… and the truth that is in Jesus. The second half of that sentence sounds logical. We need to learn the truth that is in Jesus – his teachings, his parables, his miracles, his exemplary life. Paul wants to assure us that those are important as well. But as important as those are, they remain accessories to that which he most clearly wants to communicate: the need to learn Christ.
This is the language of intimacy, of experience, of awareness to the presence of Jesus Christ in our language. It is beautiful, mystical, and central to the reality of spiritual transformation.
According to the Apostle Paul there is an “old self” that we are learning to put off, and a “new self” that we are learning to put on. The key?
To learn Christ.