The Tabernacle Scroll

Issue 131

“Therefore, each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbour, for we are all members of one body. 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; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.”[Ephesians 4:25, emphasis mine].

In the earlier part of this chapter, Paul presents unity and maturity as goals for the church. Here he emphasizes the need for purity. So he distinguishes between the old self (i.e., the person before conversion) and the new self (the person one becomes after conversion). The former is characterized by a sinful lifestyle, brought about by deceitful desires and with no understanding of God’s ways. The latter is characterized by one of repentance (that is, a change of thinking and acting with regard to sinfulness) and a desire for holiness. It is a radical change.

We can understand what purity involves from some events in the early church. The apostles had made no effort to establish an ecclesiastical organization. They met in private houses to partake of the Lord’s Supper, to have social fellowship and to provide for those in need. The one condition of their fellowship was love and loyalty to their master, and because they had this one mind in common, they lived without division in equal brotherhood, sharing their possessions so that no one was in need. It was in this holy environment that God demonstrated that he takes falsehood and hypocrisy seriously. In the book of Acts (Ch.5), we read the account of Ananias and Sapphira. In contrast to Barnabas’ true generosity, Ananias sold a piece of property, and with the connivance of his wife, kept back part of the money he received and brought the rest of it and laid it at the Apostles’ feet, as if it were all the money they received. Peter charged Ananias with the sin of lying “not to men but to God”. At these words Ananias fell dead. His wife suffered the same fate a little later. Their sin was not in retaining part of the money received, for they had a perfect right to do this, but in pretending that the part which they offered was the whole. In doing this they were seeking to gain unmerited reputation for liberality. Calvin commented about Ananias this way: “So it happens that he rather honours the feet of the Apostles than the eyes of Jesus".

We too can ‘keep back a part of the price’. We can bow before the Lord in an attitude of prayer, as though we were offering Him our all, and it is only a seemly offering, for we are keeping back our minds and our souls. The psalmist says “O Lord you have searched me and you know me” (Ps.139). Purity isn’t an option.



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