Waking with The Word | Ephesians 4:17-19
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. (KJV)
In the first 16 verses of chapter 4 Paul is telling us how to walk with Christians. Now from 4:17 up to 6:9 Paul is going to instruct us in how to walk with Christ. He, under the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, has been giving us all the knowledge as to why we should and now he is going to move to the practical instruction. He contrast many times between the old man and the new man, between right and wrong and gives us practical things that we should and should not do. So is this walk with Christ, all of the Christian life is not spiritual and heavenly. It’s true that it is rooted in heaven and in The Spirit but that root will bring forth fruit in the earthly realm. Much like a tree, our root system is hidden and cannot be seen but it keeps us grounded and brings life giving vitality to the branches and ,in their season, bring forth fruit. Paul for 3 chapters was giving us our roots, the knowledge and beliefs that we should be grounded in. Now he moves from the root to the fruit of this Christian life. Things that will hinder our walk and things that will help our walk. What to “Put on” and what to “Put off.”
Many commentators point out the word therefore and henceforth and for good reason. It refers to the idea of being rooted and therefore being fruited. When we see the word therefore it points us back to what has been previously said and tells us that what is about to be said is rooted in what has already been said. Henceforth speaks of the action that should be taken from here on out. Therefore points backwards to the root of your action and henceforth points forward to the fruit of your action. Henceforth says from this point forward or from now on, let this be your conduct.
Paul says “Henceforth walk not.” Many times He will move from the positive to the negative or vice versa. He starts out on instructions of what not to do, how not to walk. Not as others gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind. These are gentiles that Paul is writing to and I imagine the vast majority of who will read this today are also gentiles except for a possible few. These were people who grew up in a heathenistic way, Ephesus was a place of Idol worship. In Acts 19 we read the account of how all the people shouted “Great is Diana of the Ephesians.” These Christians were first generation Christians and had not been raised to worship the one true God as the Jews had and certainly didn’t know anything about the being a Christian. They were raised to worship idols and even within the worship of these false gods was immoral and wicked behavior. Now, Paul acknowledges the fact they are gentiles but he tells them to “walk not as other gentiles.” While it is true that they were gentiles, they were not like all the other gentiles in Ephesus, they had been called out they had something that the rest of these Ephesians did not. What was that you may ask, Paul answers that question in the first 3 chapters. They have a New father, they have a new nature, they have untold riches in Christ, they have Christ and to have him is to have everything. Therefore they should henceforth walk not like the other gentiles. The same is true for us today. You may have grown up in a American household and maybe you didn’t worship idols but your whole family and life was dedicated to the vanity of this world. Few Americans bow down to traditional idols like that of Diana of Ephesus but there are other things of this life that people bow down to. Some of us grew up and were told to chase the American dream, get a house, a car, a good job, put money in the savings account, make sure you get a good education so you can be successful and have lots of money and toys and you can spend your life in ease. Vanity of vanities! How we have walked in the vanity of our minds. Everything under the Sun is vanity and vexation of spirit is what the wisest man that every lived said in the Book of Ecclesiastes. What shall it profit a man if he gain the whole world and lose his soul?! You may not have grown up bowing down to gods and goddesses but how we walked in the vanity of our minds! In the “Pursuit of happiness” as if the ultimate goal of this life is happiness. They may have been heathenistic in Ephesus but we grew up hedonist in America and most of the western world. Here in Africa we have people in our congregation that grew up worshipping idols and sacrificing to gods and goddesses, and often times people from the western world will look down their nose at people of that sort. As if what they’re doing is any different, women abort their babies for the sake of their careers, men sacrifice their families for an affair. We all were lost! Whether in heathenism or hedonism we were all gentiles and far from God. Thank God that we are no longer like that, we have been called out, we have a Father in Heaven, an Advocate on the Throne and an indwelling Spirit that gives us a new nature. Therefore let us walk not as other gentiles in the vanity of our minds.
Verses eighteen and nineteen expound on the degraded nature of a man with out Christ and such were some of us. Paul tells us of the blessings we have in Christ in the first 3 chapters and they are a stark contrast to what is said about the life of a person without God. “The eyes of our understanding being enlightened” is what Paul said about the us in 1:18, which stands in direct contrast to what is said here in verse 18 “Having their understanding darkened.” “Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God;” is what he said about us in 2:19, which stands in direct contrast to what is said about a lost man in 4:18 “Being alienated from the life of God.”
“Being past feeling they have given themselves over to work lasciviousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness” stands in stark contrast to what is said of us in Ephesians 2:1-6
1 And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins; 2 Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: 3 Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.
4 But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, 5 Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;)
Paul is reminding them, and us as well, that although we may, in the earthly sense, have been gentiles we are not like other gentiles. We have our eyes opened, we are no longer foreigners and aliens to the promises of God, we are no longer dead in our trespasses and sins. Therefore, let us henceforth walk not as other gentiles.
According to the riches of His Grace!!