This week I have been spending time with seven verses – it was one of those “stop you in your tracks” moments as I was reading Ephesians. The seven verses are Ephesians 4:17-24. I would like to start out looking at verse 17 and part of 18 with a question at the end for the reader to consider. After considering this question I will pick-up again at verse 18b.
Although the headings in various Bible versions are not Holy Spirit inspired, they do offer a short summary of what a given section of Scripture is about. Here are some headings given for this section of Scripture:
ESV: The New Life
NKJ: The New Man
NIV: Living as Children of Light
NASB: The Christian Walk
If we summarized these headings it may read:
“Living the Christian life, as children of Light, a new life, as a new man”
Now this I say and testify in the Lord,
The NIV uses the word “insist”, and the NASB uses the term “affirm together”
After three and half chapters of crucial doctrine, Paul seems to be raising the bar of required focus for his readers. Paul is hammering home the reality that what he is about to say is non-negotiable, it is required. In addition, Paul reminds his audience that this is not his opinion, the Lord affirms what is about to be said.
What is this that Paul (and the Lord) are drawing such urgent attention to?
Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do,
Walk: daily conduct, the way you live
Gentiles: by definition, a Gentile is a non-Jew; however, in this context, a Gentile is an ungodly person, a pagan, a non-believer
So, the urgent plea from Paul is:
YOU MUST NO LONGER LIVE YOUR LIFE AS THE UNGODLY DO!
The fact that Paul uses the words “no longer” points to the reality that there was or is a way we live or lived that was ungodly. This is the same point Paul made in Ephesians 2:1-2 when he said, “and you were dead in your trespasses and sins in which you once walked”.
How do Gentiles walk?
Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds.
Futility: pointless, useless
All four Bible versions referenced above use the word “futility”. There is a way a godless person thinks, a way of thinking, that is pointless and useless. That way of thinking is either a mind that does not consider God, has made a wrong conclusion about the God of Scripture, or has been convinced to follow a false god. In some cases, this false god might be a god of a false religion, in other cases it might be a god they have created in their mind. Whether a person’s mind has landed that there is no God, or they are convinced of a false god, either way, their thinking from an eternal perspective is pointless and useless.
Why is their thinking useless?
They are darkened in their understanding,
It is not that a person believes they are without understanding, it is that their understanding is darkened. In a simple analogy, it is like trying to walk through a big, strange house void of light – you will stumble and not be able to navigate where you are going. But, this analogy breaks down because when you stumble in a dark house you know you stumbled – when your understanding is darkened you have no idea you are wrong, instead, you are convinced you are right.
What are some ways non-believer’s understanding of God is darkened?