VERSES 17-24:   We have presented the NEGATIVE side of our Christian.
Paul encourages the Ephesian believers not to turn again to their former pagan way of life.  He now points out the chief characteristics of what not to do as a believer.

VERSES 17-18:  A call for Christians to walk worthily of their calling.

VERSE 17:  Vanity of non-Believers
“This I say therefore, and testify in the Lord, that ye henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind,”

Paul points out the vanity (literally:  futility) of their former lives.  He shows that their former manner of living was full of futile (empty) things that really amounted to nothing because their minds had been darkened.

“This I say therefore, and testify in the Lord,”
Literally:  “therefore, I say this, and testify in {the} Lord”–Now, after the statement of the great principles named in vv. 3-16, Paul returns to the exhortation of vv. 1-3.

        THEREFORE:  (Gr.-oun)–After what he has just said, Paul now picks up what he started in v. 1.

        IN THE LORD:  (Gr.en Kurôi)–What Paul is saying is that he is ministering by God’s authority.

The object of this is to exhort them to walk worthy of their high calling, and to adorn the doctrine of the Savior. With this in view, he reminds them of what they were before they were converted, and of the manner in which the heathen around them lived. Paul now comes to press the Ephesians to the practice of particular duties.

“that ye henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk,”
Literally:  “that you no longer walk even as the rest {of the} nations walk”– This is the first of the cares which the Christians recently converted from being heathens should take notice.  Having come out from the heathen and abandoned all their sins they are never to consider returning to their previous life.    

         The Christian life being often in the Scriptures compared to a journey. In this and the two following verses Paul gives a most awful account of the conduct of the heathens who were without the knowledge of the true God. 
         In the preceding verses we are told that we should, “Walk worthy of the vocation wherewith” we are “called, with all lowliness and meekness, with long-suffering, forbearing one another in love; endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace."  Now Paul sets certain things before us which we should not be doing.

        OTHER GENTILES:  (Gr.-loipa ethnê)–Literally:  “rest {of the} nations.” This is referring to unregenerate (unsaved) people. 

         Paul now goes ahead and reviews the characteristics of the walk of “other Gentiles,” which apply to every unregenerate man or woman, regardless of talents or culture.  There is a negative side of the believer’s life, which is important to understand.  There is not enough emphasis put on it.   Scriptural prohibitions for the new man are different from some of the prohibitions that people, or churches, set up.  However, some Christians insist upon a number of these man-made prohibitions which are not found in Scripture.
        God’s prohibitions for the new man are the negatives of His Word.  We have had too much on the power of positive thinking today.  We need a little of the power of negative thinking.

         “in the vanity of their mind”
         Literally:  “in {the} vanity of their mind”–Vanity of mind means what is a waste of life. 
Following their own imaginations, and not any revelation from God, in the matters of his worship. This means the empty illusion of the life that thinks there is satisfaction in sin.

1.      Immoral life styles is one such illusion.
         Young people have been taken in by the promoters of immorality as a life style.
2.      Drinking cocktails is another such illusion
        Too many alcoholics have been started down their downward path by such examples of “social drinking.”
3.      Egotism--strutting around as though we were something when we really are nothing is another such illusion.

        The “natural man” walks according to the vanity of his mind.  He is guided by that mind rather than by the revelation of God in His Word.  That is why unregenerated men make such fools of themselves when they talk about spiritual things, and why they can believe such strange things.  The fairy tale of evillution and other such myths which ensnare hearts and souls are the products of the minds of men who live by their heads rather than by their hearts.  “The natural man 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” (I Cor. 2:4).
         In the foolishness of their mind; minds that are bereft of genuine wisdom is what Paul is referring to, and it was through this that the Gentiles became addicted to every species of idolatry; and as a result their minds were filled with thoughts that they could obtain help from gods which were the work of their own hands!  Here their foolishness was manifested.
         The ways of mental folly.  What Paul means by this he specifies in the following verses. The word “vanity,” in the Scriptures, means more than mere emptiness. It denotes moral wrong, being applied usually to those who worshipped vain idols, and then those who were alienated from the true God.

VERSE 18:  Petrified Hearts
“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:”

“Having their understanding darkened”              
Literally:  “having been darkened in the intellect”– Meaning that the lost man has lost his perception of moral values.

That is exactly what is being promoted in our day: a loss of perception of moral values.  The unsaved man does not have even a spark of divine life in him. Having no means of knowledge, the heart, naturally dark, became more and more so by means of habitual transgression; everything in the Gentile system having an immediate tendency to blind the eyes and darken the whole soul.  Paul points out how the Gentiles walk in vanity. They are in darkness, unenlightened by the gospel because they were alienated from the true God, and particularly because of “the blindness of their hearts.”
         Paul does not say that this was a “judicial” darkening of the understanding; or that they might not have perceived the truth; or that they had no ability to understand it. He speaks of a simple and well-known fact–a fact that is seen now as well as then–that the understanding becomes darkened by indulgence in sin.
1.      A man who is intemperate has no just views of the government of the appetites.
2.      A man who is unchaste has no perception of the loveliness of purity.
3.      A man who is avaricious or covetous has no just views of the beauty of benevolence.
4.      A man who indulges in low vices will weaken his mental powers, and render himself incapable of intellectual effort.

         An American traveler in Italy has noted how fully the demoralizing frescoes of Pompeii account for the downfall of Rome.  It was not lava but lewdness that buried Pompeii.  Unblushing obscenity and infamous orgies of lasciviousness became a stupefying opiate, under which the sense of shame vanished. This is the second reason enumerated by Paul of the degradation of the Gentiles. 
         Indulgence in vice destroys the intellect as well as the body, and unfits a man to appreciate the truth of a proposition in morals, or in mathematics, or the beauty of a poem, as well as the truth and beauty of Christianity. Nothing is more obvious than that indulgence in sin weakens the mental powers, and renders them unfit for high intellectual effort.

This is seen all over the pagan world today as it was among the pagans to whom Paul preached. Understand this one all-important point:

both morally and intellectually.  

The missionary who goes among the pagans has almost to create an intellect for them, as well as a conscience, before the gospel will make an impression. It is also to be seen in all the intellect of the bar, the senate, the pulpit, and the medical profession, that is ruined by intemperance, and in the intellect of multitudes of young men wasted by licentiousness and drunkenness. Therefore,  a large part of the efforts to get men saved must consist in patient instruction. This shows the necessity of schools at missionary stations.

“being alienated from the life of God”
Literally:  “having ben alienated {from} the life of God”– This is a picture of all mankind without Christ–he is alienated from God; he is spiritually dead.  This is the rebellion of Adam which is inherited by all his descendants.  What a picture this gives us of “homer saps” today.

1.      He thinks he is living, but he really is alienated from the life of God.
2.      He has no communication with God; he is dead in trespasses and sin.
        Such a man is ignorant of the advantage of a relationship with God.  The result is a hardened heart.

         In Isaiah 1:18 we read where God says, “Come now, let us reason together, saith the LORD:  though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.”  Note that God did not say, “though they be black,  or blue or some other color.  Why like crimson?  Because crimson cannot be bleached out.  Dyers have no acid or chemical which can bleach out crimson, or even blot it out.  Paper is made of old rags.  They are sorted, all colors placed in one pile, except red, for they cannot be bleached for use in making white or light paper.  Red rags are used to make red blotters.  There is only one thing that can remove the crimson color of sin from a heart.  It is the blood of Christ.

The original design of God was to live in and with man.  This basically describes holiness as the life of God.
1.      It is the life which God requires of us.
2.      It is the life which God works in us.
3.      It is the life of God in the soul of man.
        This was that by which God intended to make man happy, and without which true happiness was never found by any human spirit.

ALIENATED:  (Gr.apêllotriômenoi)–Their moral state became so wretched that they are represented as abhorring everything spiritual and pure. 

And if they had no correct knowledge of the true God they could have no religion; and if no religion, no morality.  They abhorred everything that had a tendency to lay any restraint on their vicious passions and inclinations.  This so correctly describes the thoughts of Americans today, especially those who are in positions of leadership and the so-called “news-media.”

“through the ignorance that is in them”
Literally:  “because the ignorance being in them”–That is, ignorance of the true God, and of what constituted virtue.

A reprobate mind (Rom. 1:28) may hear the Gospel, but is still unreceptive of it.  This reprobate mind may acknowledge, or give assent to, the truth, but this cannot result in the changing of his life. Paul is telling these Ephesian believers they would prove that they both understand and received the truth of God. A consistent walk in righteousness is the only outward evidence that one has been born again.

           THROUGH:  (Gr.-dia)–Literally:  “on account of.”  On account of, or because, of their ignorance.  Namely their ignorance of God

        “because of the blindness of their heart:”
        Literally:  “on account of the blindness of their heart”–The idea is a willful blindness. 

Willful ignorance in the first instance, their fathers not “choosing to retain God in their knowledge.” This is the beginning point of their misery (Acts 17:30; Ro 1:21,23,28; 1Pe 1:14).

        “And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men everywhere to repent” (Acts. 17:30).
        “Because of this, when they knew God they glorified {Him} not as God, neither were thankful, but becoming vain in their imaginations and their foolish hearts was darkened”
        “And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and four footed beasts, and creeping things”
     “And even as they did not like to retain God in {their} knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient”
(Rom. 1:21, 23 28).

        “As obedient children, not fashioning yourselves according to the former lusts in your ignorance” (I Pet. 1:14).

Because of the callousness of their hearts.  Callous signifies a thickening of the outward skin of any particular part, especially on the hands and feet, by repeated exercise or use, through which such parts are rendered insensible.  This may be metaphorically applied to the conscience of a sinner, which is rendered stupid and insensible by repeated acts of iniquity.  In I Tim. 4:2 Paul also describes such people as “having their conscience seared with a hot iron,”–or as if their conscience were covered over with scar tissue.

         BLINDNESS:  (Gr.-pôrôsis)–Literally:  hardness.  A medical term (Hippocrates) for callous hardening. Hardness and perversity. Only other N.T. examples are Mark 3:5; Rom. 11:25.  Referring to the hardening of the skin so as not to be sensitive of touch. Hence a soul's callousness to feeling (Mark 3:5). Where there is spiritual “life” (“the life of God”) there is feeling; where there is not, there is “hardness.” Their ignorance then is sinful, because it has a sinful cause.

        “And when He had looked around about them with anger, being grieved for the hardness (pôrôsis) of their eharts, He saith unto the man, ‘Stretch forth thine hand.’  And he stretched {it} out; and his hand was restored whole as the other” (Mark. 3:5).
        “For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your conceits; that blindness (pôrôsis) in part is happened to Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles be come in” (Rom. 11:25).

The unsaved man’s condition of mental darkness and spiritual death leaves the sinner in a state of degradation.

“Who being past feeling have given themselves over unto lasciviousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness.”
In this verse Paul uses two different Greek words to describe the manner of living of the non-Christian.  In this verse we see that he says they have abandoned themselves to every kind of unclean conduct in their insatiable lusts and shameless wantonness.

“being past feeling”
Literally:  “having cast off all feeling”–From the Greek word (Gr.-apalgein).  Literally:  “to cease from feeling pain;” hence:  to be apathetic.

1.      To throw off all sense of shame, and to be utterly devoid of pain, for committing unrighteous acts.
2.      To be desperate, having neither hope nor desire of reformation; in a word, to be without remorse, and to be utterly regardless of conduct, character, or final blessedness.
Paul’s meaning is that they have become insensible to moral and spiritual impressions. “Who having cast off all feeling.”  To be “past feeling” is to wear the mark of the beast and be sealed as the devil’s own, among those in whom a seared conscience has completed its work. 

         A life that is wholly hardened in sin. Paul also describes such people as having calloused over consciences–“having their conscience seared with a hot iron” (I Tim. 4:2).  There is a total lack of all emotion on moral subjects. This is an accurate description of the state of a sinner. He has no feeling, no emotion. He often gives an intellectual assent to the truth, but it is without emotion of any kind: the heart is insensible as the hard rock–having trampled his conscience under foot until it is calloused. Having silenced its admonitions, they give themselves over to licentiousness and evil. This description is not overdrawn. Purity of life was not even considered a virtue among the Gentiles of that period.
         The sinner’s continuance in the state of moral ineptitude brings him down to the level where he has no feeling of wrongdoing.  There are many people like this today. We call such people sociopaths. They are apathetic.  The resultant condition is to plunge further into immorality and lasciviousness.  This vicious cycle leads to a desire to go even deeper into sin.

        “As it is written, ‘There is none righteous, no, not one”
        “There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God
        “They are all gone out of the way, they are togather
become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one” (Rom. 3:10-12).

“have given themselves over unto lasciviousness,”
Literally:  “gave themselves up to lust”– Unbridled lust as in II Cor. 12:21; Gal. 5:19. 

         GAVE THEMSELVES OVER:  (Gr.-paredôkan)–This indicates complete surrender. This verb is frequently used of Christ giving Himself for the world (5:5, 25;Rom. 4:25; Gal. 2:20). 


         They have done it voluntarily. Lasciviousness is seen here personified; and the Gentiles in question are represented as having delivered themselves over to her jurisdiction.  This is a trite picture of the Gentile world: uncleanness, lechery, and debauchery of every kind flourished among them without limit or restraint.  Almost all their gods and goddesses were of such character.
         In Rom. 1:24 it is, “God gave them up to uncleanness.” Their giving themselves to it was punished in kind, God giving them up to it by withdrawing His preventing grace; their sin thus was made their punishment. They gave themselves up of their own accord to the slavery of their lust, to do all its pleasure, as captives who have ceased to strive with the foe. God gave them up to it, but not against their will; for they had already given themselves up to it.

         LASCIVIOUSNESS:  (Gr.-aselgeia)–Literally “wantonness” or unbridled lusts. So it is translated in Rom.13:13; II Pet. 2:18. It does not necessarily include lasciviousness; but it means intemperate, reckless readiness for it, and for every self-indulgence. “Lawless insolence, and wanton caprice.”

         Plato described aselgeia as “impudence” and another writer described it as “preparedness for every pleasure.”  It was defined by Basil the Great, who was the Bishop of Caesarea Mazaca in Cappadocia (modern day Turkey) in the early Fourth Century,.as a “disposition of the soul incapable of bearing the pain of discipline.”
         Bad people usually try to hide their sin, but someone with aslegeia does not care how much public opinion is shocked as long as that person’s desires are gratified.  Sin can get such a hold on people that they become lost to decency and shame.  They are like alcoholics who have become such slaves to alcohol that they do not care who sees them drunk.  Likewise, people can be so controlled by their sexual desires that their only concern is to satisfy their desires.

“to work all uncleanness with greediness.”
Literally:  “to the working of all uncleanness with greediness”–Men in sin are never satisfied with sin. They become abandoned to sin.  If you paint the town red tonight, you need a bigger brush and a bigger bucket of red paint tomorrow night. 

         The Greek implies, “with a deliberate view to the working (as if it were their work or business, not a mere accidental fall into sin) of uncleanness of every kind.” This is what it means in Romans chapter 1 that God gave them up to all uncleanness through their own lusts.  The sinner can reach the place where they are an abandoned sinner; where God will no longer deal with them.  The final, awful result of such a way of life is to be found in Rev. 22:11, “He that is unjust, let him be unjust still, and he that is filthy, let him be filthy still…”
        This is a complete finish of the most abandoned character; to do an unclean act is bad, to labor in it is worse, to labor in all uncleanness is worse still; but to do all this in every case to the utmost extent,) with a desire exceeding time, place, opportunity, and strength, is worst of all, and leaves nothing more profligate or more abandoned to be described or imagined.

        GREEDINESS:  (Gr.-pleonexiai)–Literally: one who always wants more whether it be money or sexual indulgence. The Greeks defined this word as, “arrogant greediness”; that is, as the unlawful desire for the things which belong to others.

        It has been described as the spirit in which people are always ready to sacrifice others to their own desires. It may even be defined as the irrestible desire to have what one has no right to possess.”  The two vices–lust (aslegeia) and greediness (pleonexiai) are often connected in the N.T.  In the unsaved world Paul saw three terrible things:
1.     He saw human hearts so turned to stone that they were not even aware they were sinning.
2.     He saw people so dominated by sin that all sense of shame was lost and decency was forgotten.
3.     He saw men and women so much at the mercy of their cravings and desires that they did not care whose life they injured and whose innocence they destroyed as long as they satisfied their desires.

These are the same sins of the Christless world that we see manifested today.  They are stalking our streets continuously. 

“But ye have not so learned Christ”
Literally:  “But you have not so learned the Messiah”–In sharp contrast to pagan life.  You are Gentiles by birth, like those just described, but you have learned to be otherwise from the Messiah.  Notice that Paul does not say, “you have learned about Christ; on the contrary, he says, “You have learned Christ” Himself.  You have been taught that He requires you to abandon such a course of life as just named in the previous verse.

         To know Christ Himself, is the great lesson of the Christian life: this the Ephesians began to learn at their conversion. Christ in reference to His office, is in this verse specified as the object of learning while “Jesus,” in v. 21, as the Person.
         Here is the contrast with the life of the Gentiles.  If anyone is not listening to Jesus, then Jesus must not be his Savior.  The Lord Jesus is the Shepherd and His sheep hear His voice.  If you haven’t heard His voice, then it means you are not one of His sheep.
1.      You have received the doctrines of Christianity, and therefore are taught differently.
2.      You have received the Spirit of Christ, and therefore are saved from such disposition.

         Nothing curbs sin and nothing cures sin in a licentious sinner like the doctrine of Christ as revealed in the gospel.  No moral precepts from the school of the heathens, which some so much magnify and applaud, can compare with this which lays open the root of this accursed disease, and leads us to the remedy which the wisdom of God has appointed for its cure, even the blood of his own Son. Then blessed be God for revealed religion!     

“If so be that ye have heard Him, and have been taught by Him, as the truth is in Jesus:”

         “If so be that ye have heard Him,”
         Literally:  “If indeed you heard Him”– “If indeed.” Condition of first class with Greek aorist indicatives here, meaning  something assumed to be true. 

           HIM:  (Gr.-auton)–The “Him” is emphatic: meaning “heard Himself,” not just heard about Him.  

        Paul is not expressing a doubt that they had heard and been taught by Christ. The idea is: If you have heard, etc., as I know you have, you have been taught the truth in Jesus.  Seeing that, since indeed, you have heard us proclaim His eternal truth; we have delivered it to you as we received it from Jesus.       
        If you have listened attentively to His instructions, and learned the true nature of His gospel. There may be a slight and delicate doubt implied here whether they had attentively listened to his instructions. Doddridge, however, renders it, “Seeing ye have heard him.”

“and have been taught by Him”
Literally:  “and were taught in Him”– By His Spirit, or by the ministers whom He had appointed.

         He walked in conformity to the will of the Father; He did the things that pleased His Father during the days of His earthly life.  We are to walk as He walked.  As we read His Word and hear His voice, we receive strength to do those things that please Him.  You will never be able to walk like Him if you neglect the daily reading of the Word of God.

“as the truth is in Jesus”
Literally:  “as {the} truth is in Jesus”–“even as is {the} truth in Jesus”–Some people wonder why it is that they are so weak when temptation faces them and why they find themselves without sufficient strength to walk as they know they should as Christians. The reason is they go for weeks, even months, without opening their Bibles.  What physical invalids we would be if we treated our bodies the way that we treat our spirits!

Although His life on earth cannot be imitated by anyone, the very life of Jesus is an example to the believer.  Jesus is the One who has been the pioneer.  He is the example of life here on earth.  He is the One who also went through the doorway of death for us.  There is no reason for any believer to be in the dark today or to be ignorant or to be blind.

        TAUGHT:  (Gr.-edidachthête)–Translate in connection with taught;”–“And in Him have been taught, according as is truth in Jesus.” There is no article in the Greek.         

        TRUTH:  (Gr.-alêtheia)–“Truth” is therefore used in the most comprehensive sense, truth in its essence, and highest perfection, in Jesus; “if according as it is thus in Him, ye have been so taught in Him;” in contrast to “the vanity of mind of the Gentiles.”  In John 14:6 we are told that Jesus said, “I am…the Truth.”

It is not clear what Paul's particular point is here. The Cerinthian Gnostics did distinguish between the man Jesus and the aeon Christ.  Paul here identifies Christ (verse 20) and Jesus (verse 21). At any rate he flatly affirms that there is truth in Jesus. 

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