Ephesians 4:17 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.
Godly instruction is very important. Godly instruction is also very powerful. However, Godly instruction must also be received by the hearers. In verse 17 God directed Paul to strongly urge the saints to yield to the Godly instruction given to them. Spiritual babes cannot grow if they will not apply God’s truths to their hearts. Christians cannot be passive. We cannot take the attitude that says: “if God wants me to change He will have to convince me of that need.” If God’s Word says something and you claim to be saved, then God has already declared His truth. As we move on in this chapter we see that there are actions that God expects His children to take because they are His children.
The saints are challenged here not to walk any longer as other Gentiles walk.
In the Bible the term “Gentile” is used to speak of those who are not Jews. In that sense it is used as an ethnic term. It is also used, at times, to refer to those who are unsaved. It is this second way that it is being used here. The lost walk in the vanity of their mind. The word “vanity” means: “perverseness and depravity.” Lost people do all kinds of wicked things.
Those who work in the labs to design animal viruses to be able to infect humans are walking in the vanity of their minds. It is perverse to try to develop something that is designed to kill people indiscriminately. Those who plot and plan robberies are also perverse. They want other people’s things without working for them. Those who walk in the lust of the flesh are perverse. Anyone that is walking contrary to the law of God is perverse.
The saints have been redeemed. They need to become a part of a true local church and they need to be taught how to walk as Biblical saints. God changes the nature of the true child of God. The true child of God has the ability to grow and also has the desire to grow. He or she can reject their former ways and they can walk in newness of life. The problem comes in when the saved person desires the things of the world. God tells us over and over again that this cannot be.
Verse 18 further describes the lost. Their understanding is darkened.
Ephesians 5:8 For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light:
The lost do not have any light. They may be able to build houses and farm and fix cars, etc. but they have no light. They cannot see what is of real value.
Matthew 6:19 Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal:
20 But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal:
21 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.
The lost cannot see real value. They see only what they can see with the naked eye.
II Corinthians 4:3 But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost:
4 In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.
Lost people are not so blind that they cannot be saved, however as lost people they walk in a depraved manner. They are comfortable committing a multitude of sins and they do not see them as sin. In their conscience they know there is something wrong, and that is why there are so many distractions that the lost get involved in to try to silence their guilty conscience. The liquor business is a booming business because lost people want to get away from their guilt. The gambling scene is another diversion, as is rock music and a multitude of other things. Lost people stumble from one form of bondage to another. They cannot find their way out of the mess they are in. They just dig their hole deeper and deeper.
In verse 19 we see further their nature. The longer a person remains lost, the harder they harden themselves against the truth. Eventually they do not even have any feeling of guilt. They do not just dabble in sin. They give themselves over to sin.
Lasciviousness refers to “unbridled lust”. Nudity is becoming more and more common place in today’s society. Immodest dress is becoming more and more revealing because the depraved are becoming more and more depraved. Dress standards that used to be applied to the harlot are now becoming common place for many. Sadly this standard is also common in many churches and nothing is said about it.
God tells us this unbridled lust is part of the lost, but cannot be a part of the saved. The lost work all uncleanness with greediness. The lost cannot get enough of the shameful depravity they are in. These verses are not very encouraging verses. They are verses that some might wish to skip over. However, God has them here to remind those who are saved that their former life cannot be their present life if they are saved. The leaders He has given in verse 11 have been raised up to teach and preach His Word. God’s Word is absolute. God’s Word is full of doctrine. Doctrine is “right teaching.” Those that are saved have the desire in their hearts to follow after God. However, the flesh is still there and wants to hinder the spirit from doing what is right. The saved have the power to say no to sin and they must exercise that power to turn away from their past and follow that which is right and good.
Lost people think they should be free to live and do as they please. They can do that. God allows them to defile themselves if they so choose. The problem is that one lost person says he can go and steal from another and that should be alright. The one who was robbed wants the law to go after the thief. Yet the thief is just living out his evil plans. He or she is just walking in darkness just like all other lost people are. God shows us how to walk in such a way so that we do not need to have regrets and we can be a blessing to others rather than a curse.
Some years back we had a neighbour who decided to have a party in his back yard. He invited his friends and they had a bonfire going and I suppose they got into the booze as well. They had their rock music playing. Night time came and we went to bed. However, they did not. At 2:00 in the morning they were still out there partying. We did not want to get involved in their mess and we called the police to come and ask them to shut their party down. The police came and they phoned us and told us there was no noise out there. I told them that was not true. It was still noisy and it was now close to 4:00 am. When I told them that, they went to the neighbours and asked them to tone it down. After the police left, the noise increased again until they were good and ready to leave. Saved people do not behave that way. Saved people would never have the booze there and they would not need the rock music to make their day. Saved people seek to glorify God first of all and they also show respect for others. The depraved mind puts himself first and foremost. He believes that he has the “right” to have a “good” time. He thinks others need to get a life and “enjoy” life. He is in darkness and cannot see the foolishness of what he is doing. He is headed for the lake of fire and cares nothing about it.
In these verses God shows His love in telling those who are saved not to walk as other Gentiles walk. Christians ought not to bring shame upon their Saviour’s name. They ought to walk in the love of God. That way they can help others to also know His love and peace in their hearts. That is so liberating!