Ephesians 4:17-24

Ephesians 4:1 was a pivotal point in Paul's epistle to the Ephesians. It was introduced by the word "therefore." Up to that point, he had spent three chapters telling the Ephesians what God had done for them. Now, on the basis of all that he had said, he called them to walk in accordance with that calling. In the verses which followed, he set forth what that calling was to be.

The result of that calling was that believers might be built up in love through the working of the body to become like Christ.

This has been the big picture - the bird's eye view. But now it is time to get practical. It is time to ask, "How do I fit into this big picture?" And in this section, Paul presents a series of personal conclusions of how we are to live as a result of our position in Christ.



This I say therefore, and affirm together with the Lord, that you walk no longer just as the Gentiles also walk, in the futility of their mind (Ephesians 4:17).

Paul is speaking to a primarily Gentile group. They had formerly lived a lifestyle of paganism. They had been involved in all of the vices that afflict our society today. But Paul does not place their former life on a plane any lower than his own.

And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, 2 in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. 3 Among them we too ALL formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest (Ephesians 2:1-3).

Do you see it in verse 3? He says, "We ALL formerly lived that way." Jew and Gentile, religious and pagan, it makes no difference. Before you came to Christ, you lived in a way that pleased you. You were the lord of your life and the captain of your soul.

But now there has come a change. You have sworn allegiance to another. You have proclaimed Him both Savior and Lord.

Because of that, you are now called to live differently than the rest of the world. This is no easy task. It is not easy because you still live in the world. But the solution is not getting the world to live like Christians, it is in getting Christians to stop living like the world. You do that and then you will begin to impact the world.



...being darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them... (Ephesians 4:18a).

What is darkness? It has no quality of its own. Darkness is simply the absence of light. In this passage, light and darkness are being used as symbols for knowledge and ignorance. When you go into a dark room, there may be all sorts of wondrous things there, but you cannot see them. It is only when you turn on the lights that you can see. Darkness brings about ignorance.

Light, on the other hand, reveals. It is when the lights are on that you can see things as they really are. There is less chance of walking into something and hurting yourself.

This tells me something about spiritual living. In order to be right, we must think right. What you think about is what you will soon become. There is a connection between thought and life.

I've lived most of my life in south Florida. Big cities that never sleep. Streetlights. At night it is never really dark. But there have been occasions where I've visited the open country. I used to have family in the Ozark Mountains of northwestern Arkansas - twenty five miles from the nearest city. You go out at night and the sky is FILLED with stars. Thousands of points of light. What happens in the city? The stars are still there, but they are so dim in contrast to the lights of the city that they are invisible.

There is a lesson here. It is that when it is dark enough, a even little light will do. Are you the only Christian in your workplace? That is too bad. No, that is good! Because your little light can now be seen in the darkness. Are your neighbors all pagans? Drinking beer on Saturday night and mowing their lawns on Sunday? They can see your little light by way of contrast. Are you the only Christian in your family? Facing relatives that think you've become some sort of religious fanatic? Be encouraged; your little light is making a difference.



...because of the hardness of their heart; 19 and they, having become callous, have given themselves over to sensuality for the practice of every kind of impurity with greediness. (Ephesians 4:18b-19).

I used to play the guitar quite well. In those days, I would practice several times a week. In doing so, the fingers on my left hand became calloused. The skin on my fingertips became hardened to the touch of the strings. It is a good thing when your fingers get hardened. It is a bad thing when your heart gets hardened. How does it happen?

When you sin, it results in a pricked conscience. You know that it is wrong and you know that you ought to do right. And your sense of "ought" screams out at you. At this point, you have one of two options. You can either...

a. Listen to your conscience.

b. Ignore your conscience.

If you listen to your conscience, it will remain tender and open and ready to operate in the future. But if you ignore your conscience, then the next time it will not bother you so much. Here is Paul's point. It is possible to be so hardened that your conscience no longer troubles you, even though you might engage in the most vile sin imaginable.



But you did not learn Christ in this way (Ephesians 4:20).

Notice how Paul turns this phrase. He does not speak of how you learned ABOUT Christ. He speaks of how you learned Christ.

There is a lesson here. Christianity is more that a mere series of theological points. Christianity involves a PERSON. Don't get me wrong - theology is important. But much more important is the person of Christ. It is possible to learn all sorts of things ABOUT Christ without ever learning Christ. What does it mean to "learn Christ?" It means to be like Him.

It is the language of an actor. An actor is one who takes on the role of another. He plays a part. And to play the part, you have to learn the part.

I once watched Matt Turner, one of our deacons, do a characterization of presidential candidate Ross Perot. It was quite funny. In doing so, he had learned to mimic Mr Perot. We are called to mimic Jesus Christ. Indeed, Paul is going to say this very thing in the next chapter: "Be imitators of Christ" (Ephesians 5:1). How do you do that? By learning Christ. Study Him. Get to know Him. As you get to know Him, you will come to love Him. And as you come to love Him, His very character will be reproduced in your life.



But you did not learn Christ in this way, 21 if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught in Him, just as truth is in Jesus (Ephesians 4:20-21).

Paul has been speaking to the members of the Ephesian church as though they are Christians. I have been doing the same thing to you. And yet, we are not to presume upon the grace of God.

You are a Christian IF you have...

Paul warns believers to "test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves that Jesus Christ is in you - unless indeed you fail the test" (2 Corinthians 13:5).

At the same time, you should realize that this conditional clause assumes the integrity of those who hear. In the Greek language, it is possible to say, "if" and mean four different things. There are four different types of conditional clauses in Greek.

a. First class condition: Assumed to be true.

"If" and it is true. Satan says this to Jesus: "If you are the Son of God..."

b. Second class condition: Assumed to be false.

"If" and it is not true. Satan uses this one of Jesus: "If you will fall down and worship me (but you won't)..."

c. Third class condition: Assumption of uncertainty.

"If" and maybe it is true and maybe it is not: "If you confess your sins (maybe you will and maybe you won't)..."

d. Fourth class condition: Assumption of desire.

"If" and it is not true, but it is desired to be.

It is the first class condition that is used here. Paul assumes that they ARE believers. He takes their faith at face value.

You see, it is not my job to judge your heart. That is your job. You are to consider yourself as to whether you are truly in the faith. You ask yourself if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught in Him.



That, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, 23 and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind (Ephesians 4:22-23).

Notice the realm of your renewal. It is in the spirit of your mind. This takes in the whole man. It is not just his mind - it is more than mere intellectual assent. But it is also more than a spiritual renewal which does not impact your thinking or your daily lifestyle. It is a complete renewal.

There are two possible extremes to which we can go. They are illustrated in this chart.

Charismatic Extreme: Only our emotion is renewed but it never reaches our mind.


Either extreme is wrong


Reformed Extreme: Only our mind is renewed but it rarely reaches our heart.

A conversion which has touched your mental faculties but which has not touched your heart is no conversion at all. And a conversion which has played with your emotional heartstrings but which has not been founded upon the propositional truths of the gospel will give no foundation upon which to build.



...that, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit... 24 and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth. (Ephesians 4:22, 24).

Do you remember the story that Jesus told of a wedding feast? The story is told in Matthew 22:1-13. It is a story of a king. This king was going to throw a wedding for his son. The invitations went out for all the guests to attend. But instead of guests, the king received excuses. And they were not very good excuses. People were just to busy to be bothered with affairs of the kingdom. And to make matters worse, some of the messengers of the king were mistreated and even killed. And so, the king extended the invitation to all who might attend. The down and out. The bad and the good. Whosoever will was permitted to come.

But then a curious thing happened. As the king came to the feast, he spotted one particular guest who had come without a wedding garment. It was a formal affair and he had attended in cutoffs and a t-shirt. It was an insult to the honor of the king. And the man who so insulted the king was bound hand and foot and cast into outer darkness.

Here we see a corresponding call. It is not couched in the language of wedding garments. But it is given in that which you take off and that which you put on. There are two type of garments.

The Old Self

The New Self

Your former manner of life

The new life in Christ

On its way to destruction

Created anew

Rotting under the power of lust

Increasing under the power of God

Controlled by lust

Controlled by truth

Notice that Paul does not merely state this in terms of the negative. He does not say, "Take off the old self" and leave it at that. We are not called to remain spiritually naked. There is no neutral position.

That is the call of the world. The world likes to claim for itself neutrality. I hear parents say, "I am not going to teach my child about God because I want him, when he is older, to make his own decision." Such a decision is not neutral - it is a stance in atheism. There is no neutrality when it comes to Christ. You are either for Him or else you are against Him.

Just as the king in Jesus' parable demanded a wedding garment of all who were in attendance, you are called to put on the new self. Here is the point.

1. Jesus DEMANDS the new garment.

2. Jesus IS the new garment.

How do you receive this garment? How do you put it on and wear it? It is by FAITH. You might be thinking, "John, my faith isn't all that strong." That is okay. You take what faith you have to Him and ask Him to increase it - like the man who said, "Lord, I believe; help Thou my unbelief!" You take your faith to Him. And then look, not at your faith, but at Jesus.

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