Ephesians 4:17-24 Exploring the Passage

Below are some preliminary questions to assist in the study of this passage. For a comprehensive study of the passage, download the Study Guide (PDF download).

1. How does Paul describe the people of the world (the Gentiles) in verse 17 (printed below?)

Therefore, this is what I tell you, and solemnly urge you by the Lord, namely, that you must no longer walk like the Gentiles who walk in the futility of their mind. (Ephesians 4:17)

The people of the world are described as walking in “the futility of their mind.” That is to say, their life is ultimately one of purposelessness and meaninglessness; they do not know from where they came, to where they are going, or why they are here; there is restlessness of heart and suppressed guilt. All this is in striking contrast to the knowledge possessed by the child of God in Christ (note Ephesians 1:7-10, especially verses 9-10).

2. What accounts for the world’s present state of futility? See Ephesians 4:18 (printed below)

They are darkened in their understanding; they are separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardness of their heart. (Ephesians 4:18)

What accounts for the world’s present state of purposelessness and futility? Paul says it is due to the fact that they have become “darkened in their understanding.” The Greek term translated “understanding” is referring to the reasoning capability; it literally means “to think through something;” it is the process of reasoning. The Gentile world—the world apart from Christ—has a mind that is functioning in the dark— they have become “darkened in their understanding,” they are carrying out the process of reasoning in the dark. Why is their understanding darkened? Because they are “separated (or, “alienated”) from the life of God.” By way of illustration: they are trying to assemble a great jigsaw puzzle—the “puzzle” that reveals the answers to life—in the dark.

3. How does Paul describe the lifestyle of the world in verse 19 (printed below?)

Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity with the lust for more. (Ephesians 4:19)

Paul further describes the men of the world as having become callous—they have “lost all sensitivity.” There comes a time when a man or a society may move beyond the point of being spiritually ignorant to becoming spiritually callous: then the conscience becomes so de-sensitized that it can no longer exert a restraining influence on the conduct and can no longer provide conviction that may lead to repentance. When that spiritual point is reached and that line is crossed, and the man or the society passes over to the state of callousness, the lifestyle described in verse 19 becomes rampant and dominant.

4. What does the apostle exhort the Christian to do in verses 22-24 (printed below?)

I exhort you, with regard to your former way of life, to get rid of the old “person” who was corrupted by the deceitful passions. (23) And being renewed in the spirit of your mind, (24) put on the new “person” that has been created to be like God in righteousness and true holiness. (Ephesians 4:22-24)

Paul exhorts the Christian to get rid of the “old person” who was morally and spiritually corrupt. In other words, as Christians we are to no longer live like the world as it is described in Ephesians 4:19. Now, as the apostle goes on to exhort us, we are to put on the “new person.” This “new person” is described as having been “created to be like God in righteousness and true holiness.” Paul is telling us that we must now live the lifestyle of the kingdom of God; or, as he phrases it in Ephesians 2:10, we must now carry out the good works that God prepared in advance for us to practice.

5. How is it possible for the Christian to comply with the apostle Paul’s exhortation given in verses 22-24? Note Romans 6:2b-4 (printed below)

We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? (3) Or do you not know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death. (4) We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we, too, may live a new life. (Romans 6:2b-4)

As a Christian, you can take off and lay aside the old sinful conduct and lifestyle, because you were spiritually joined to Christ in His crucifixion. As we seek to state this great spiritual mystery, we may say, when you gave your sinful heart to Christ, He “took it back to Calvary,” causing it to be united to Him in His crucifixion. Furthermore, as a Christian, you can put on the new and live out a godly lifestyle, because you have been spiritually joined to Christ in His resurrection. When you gave your heart to Christ, He not only “took it back to Calvary” to be joined with Him in His crucifixion, He also carried it with Him into His resurrection, so that it now shares in His resurrection life. As Christians, we are commanded to put off the old and put on the new, by the renewing of our mind (Romans 12:1-2). We are to be ever conscious of and remind ourselves of the new life we now share with Christ by virtue of His crucifixion and resurrection. We must ask Christ to apply His victory to our lives as we face the specific areas of transformation presented in the following verses of Ephesians 4 and 5, passages addressing specific behavior with regard to integrity, anger and sexual conduct.