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Summary: Verses 17, 18, and 19 give us the picture of the unregenerate and we are NOT to walk as they walk. By nature the unregenerate has a mind filled with vanity. His understanding is darkened. The heart of the unregenerate is blind. He has no feeling . . .

Commentary on the Book of Ephesians

By: Tom Lowe Date: 8/29/17

Lesson 18: Negative Example: Pagans (Ephesians 4:17-19)

Ephesians 4:17-19 (KJV)

17 This I say therefore, and testify in the Lord, that ye henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind,

18 Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart:

19 Who being past feeling have given themselves over unto lasciviousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness.

Introduction

In 4:1-16 Paul has dwelt upon those responsibilities which pertain especially to our relationships within the body of Christ. At verse 17 he turns to discuss duties, mostly of a moral nature, which concern our relation not only to fellow believers but more especially to the world around us.

Born again believers, members of the body of Christ, are new creations. A believer is a new man; therefore, we are to put off all the clothing, the garments (the life), of the old man [This is the lost man, the unbeliever, called ‘Gentile’ in this passage], and put on the new (born again) man. The Apostle Paul tells us that we are NOT to live like “Gentiles,” and then in 1 Corinthians 2:14, he tells us why unbelievers CANNOT live like believers do, that is, in a spiritual sense. “But the natural man (called here “Gentiles”) receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Corinthians 2:14). The unregenerate man CANNOT receive the things of God because his heart is dead, his mind is blinded by the god of this age, and he cannot receive the things of the Spirit of God.

Verses 17, 18, and 19 give us the picture of the unregenerate, and we are NOT to walk as they walk. By nature, the unregenerate has a mind filled with vanity. His understanding is darkened. The heart of the unregenerate is blind. He has no feeling toward God; he is given over to lasciviousness (sexual desires), uncleanness and self-indulgence.

Commentary

17 This I say therefore, and testify in the Lord, that ye henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind,

In these three verses Paul summarizes the teaching he gives at greater length in Romans 1:18-32. It is sobering conscious-probing analysis. It describes the true nature of the world apart from Christ. It is a catalog of what we all are by nature. He puts a spiritual stethoscope to our hearts to let us hear that its beat is out of control.

The use of the words “therefore” and “walk” points us back to the same words in 4:1{1]. “Testify,” a strong word of solemn appeal, means to insist or implore. The phrase “in the lord” suggests that Paul is conscious of such a connection with the Lord, that he speaks in the Lord’s name and feels that his words are clothed with divine authority. The appeal itself is stated both negatively and positively. The negative part concerns the “walk” of the Gentiles (17-19) [Gentiles, as used here, refers to those who have never had the special revelation of grace]; the positive part revolves around the concept of “truth [as it] is in Jesus” (20-24).

Paul insists that his readers must “no longer walk as the Gentiles walk.” He was saying to the recipients of this letter that they were no longer to live like the Gentiles. They were now “fellow citizens with the saints” and a part of “the household of God.” Their daily walk must conform to their new relationship. “No longer” implies that once they lived as the Gentiles. Now, however, they must renounce the life and wicked ways of their heathen neighbors, and make a clean break with the old bad ways of paganism.

The apostle proceeds to enumerate some of the significant features of pagan life in the first century—vanity, darkness, alienation, ignorance, hardness, loss of feeling, lasciviousness, uncleanness, greediness. It is a grim and revolting picture which he draws, and in many respects it parallels the statement of Romans 1:18?“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness.” The life of the Gentiles, which had once been theirs, is one of spiritual “futility” with “vanity of vanities” written all over it.

First, Paul speaks of “the vanity of their mind” and their being “darkened” in “the understanding” (18). “Vanity” suggest emptiness, futility, and purposelessness—life with no real meaning, no goal. The thought is not that unregenerate minds are empty. It is that they are filled with things which lead to nothing. To have “the understanding darkened” is to be without the faculty of discernment, to be unable to distinguish right and wrong.

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