Ephesians 3:20, Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly
beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us ...

Virtually all the Christians receiving Paul's letters in our New Testament were first generation Christians. What does that mean? They did not grow up in Christian homes with Christian fathers and mothers. They were the first Christians in their families.

In Jewish families, Christian ethics and morality were quite familiar. [Ethics concern principles for determining right and wrong. Morality applies the principles to lifestyle behavior.] Old Testament Judaism and New Testament Christianity agreed God must be reverenced and people must be treated properly. For the devout Jewish adult, the big issue did not involve basic questions of Jewish/Christian ethics or morality. The big issue involved Jesus' identity. Was Jesus God's promised Messiah, the Christ?

For people who grew up in pagan families, it was quite a different matter. Often idolatrous ethics and morality seriously contrasted with Christian ethics and morality. Among pagan people there was a genuine clash with Christianity (a) about right and wrong and (b) about lifestyles [behavior]. For many idol worshippers, becoming a Christian involved major lifestyle changes [not minor lifestyle adjustments!].

Paul's letters to congregations primarily were to pagan people. Since the resurrected Jesus gave Paul a ministry to non-Jews (Acts 9:15, 16; Galatians 2:8-10), that is understandable. Paul had the God-given mission of reconciling people to God who did not know God.

A common method Paul used to show pagan converts the distinction between the lifestyle of a person who does not know God and the lifestyle of a person who belongs to God can be called the "before and after" method. What is that? Paul often said, "This is who you were and how you lived before you were Christians. This is who you are and how you must live as Christians."

Consider Ephesians 4:17-32. This is a statement of "you do not live as you used to live, but you now live as people who belong to God"--a clear "before and after" statement.

Some of the pagan "baggage" they injected into Christian lifestyle was lying, anger, stealing, anti-godly speech, bad attitudes, and hate (Ephesians 4:25-32). This lifestyle could not continue. These practices must be replaced with truth, concern for people, helping those in need, encouragement, kindness, and forgiveness. Their new role model for godly lifestyle and Christian behavior: God as reflected in Jesus.

What a change! What power this change involved! Where can this "power to change lifestyles" be found? In God! God always has been the power source for godly lifestyle changes--even for us! How well does your behavior model Paul's "before and after"?

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Bulletin Article, 27 July 2003

 Link to next article

 Link to other Writings of David Chadwell