Paul Kretzmann Commentary - Ephesians 4:17 - 4:24

Online Resource Library

Commentary Index | Return to | Download

Paul Kretzmann Commentary - Ephesians 4:17 - 4:24

(Show All Books | Show All Chapters)

This Chapter Verse Commentaries:

An admonition to spiritual renewal:

v. 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,

v. 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 he art;

v. 19. who, being past feeling, have given themselves over unto lasciviousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness.

v. 20. But ye have not so learned Christ,

v. 21. if so be that ye have heard Him and have been taught by Him, as the truth is in Jesus;

v. 22. that ye put off, concerning the former conversation, the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts,

v. 23. and be renewed in the spirit of your mind,

v. 24. and that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.

The apostle here takes up the thought of v. 1 again, which contains the fundamental admonition for the entire second part of the letter, namely, that the Christians should lead a life worthy of the calling wherewith they were called. He here brings out the contrast between the moral purity of the Christians and the social impurity of the Gentiles: This, then, I say and testify in the Lord, that you no longer lead your lives just as the Gentiles live theirs, in the vanity of their minds. It is a solemn protest and warning that Paul here issues in the Lord, for his exhortation was made in the interest of Christ and the Church, an earnest declaration and injunction in the nature of an appeal to God. As members of Christ's body the Ephesian Christians should no longer have anything in common with their former companions, the members of their own race and nationality. For that is the characteristic of the unbelievers, the heathen of all times, that they walk in, that their entire conduct reveals, the vanity of their minds. The inner life of natural man, his thinking, willing, desiring, is vain, useless, purposeless, altogether without reality and worth before God. No unbeliever can have a conception of real moral values, for his mind is centered in nothingness.

This idea is now unfolded more completely: Being darkened in their understanding, estranged from the life of God by reason of the ignorance that is in them, by reason of the hardening of their hearts. The terms used by Paul presuppose a former, more enlightened condition of man. As God created man, his reason and mind were highly enlightened, especially also in their understanding of God and of things divine. Moreover, man, as created by God, had a blessed knowledge of God as of the heavenly Father. All this has been changed by sin. It is true of the Gentiles, as of natural man in general, that their minds, their thinking, their judgments, are darkened. Their understanding, their feeling, their desiring, is in such a condition as to make the distinction between good and evil impossible to them. And as far as their will is concerned, they have become alienated, estranged, from the life in God. They have no idea of the life which is from God, in and with God. Not a spark of fear, love, and trust in God is found in natural man. This condition is due to the inherited depravity of mankind; it is found in men because of the ignorance which is in them by birth and nature, because of the hardening of their hearts. They have been mentally and morally hardened against every influence for good, they have become blind, callous, insensible to everything that is truly noble and divine. This depraved condition of mind becomes evident in the lives of the Gentiles: Who, as men past feeling, have given themselves to lasciviousness, to the working of all uncleanness with greediness. They are no longer sensible to any higher moral influence, they have become abandoned to a state of heart without conscience. They have willingly yielded themselves, by their own guilty choice, to wantonness, to shameless, outrageous sensuality, to a reckless, unbridled behavior. So completely have they surrendered themselves in this respect that they make it their business to indulge in every form of uncleanness, together with greed or covetousness; for both vices are self-seeking. Paul purposely paints a picture from which the converted Gentile will turn with horror.

With this fact in mind the apostle now turns again to his readers: You, however, have not so learned Christ, if indeed you heard Him and in Him were instructed, as the truth is in Jesus, that you should put off, as regards your former way of life, the old man. There is a clear-cut, irreconcilable difference between the unregenerate and the regenerate person. The Ephesian Christians did not study the glorious news of their salvation through Christ in such a way as to suppose that they could continue in the sins which characterized the Gentiles. With delicate tact the apostle adds: If, as I assume it to be the case, as I take it to be a fact, Christ was indeed the subject, the sum and substance, of the preaching which you beard. As a matter of fact, they not only had heard Christ in the preaching of the Gospel, but had also been instructed in Him; as they received the instruction and progressed in the knowledge of their Savior, their union with Christ became ever more intimate, in their fellowship with Christ their knowledge of Him increased, as the truth, sound morality, and righteousness is in Christ. Jesus, holy and righteous in His person, gives to His disciples both the example and the proper instruction in holy life. He that has entered into the sphere of Jesus as His disciple is thereby under obligation to conduct himself in his entire life as Jesus walked.

The apostle now specifies a few points in the instruction which the Ephesians received: That you put off, as regards your former way of life, the old man, which becomes corrupt according to the lusts of deceit. The Ephesian Christians, at the time of their conversion, had renounced the devil and all his works and all his pomp. Still, the admonition is necessary that they, so far as their former manner of living is concerned, in order that their old heathenish conduct might definitely be put behind them, should put off the old man, the natural sinful corruption, the inherited evil inclination. As man is born into this world, not only are there a few objectionable traits in him, but his whole nature is absolutely and entirely perverted and corrupt, all his thoughts, imaginations, desires being directed against God and upon the vain things of this world. This old evil nature is found even in the regenerated Christians, for which reason it is necessary to exert eternal vigilance and to put off the old man, like a filthy garment, whenever he attempts to perform evil. The sinful words which rise to the tongue, the evil thoughts and intentions that desire to break forth out of the corrupt heart, must be brought into subjection and crucified before they find gratification. This is all the more a matter of necessity, since, if the old evil nature continues to rule in the heart of a person, the entire man, with body and soul, will share the fate of the old Adam, that of eternal damnation. For the lusts and desires of the old man are deceitful; they seem to promise happiness, joy, life, while in reality they ruin a person that follows their guidance, both in body and spirit, until he is lost forever.

The other side of the picture drawn by the apostle is more cheerful: That, on the other hand, you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and that you put on the new man, who after God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth. The putting off of the old man and the putting on of the new is done at the same time; the two events are simultaneous. In and by his conversion a person begins an entirely new life; he enters into a new existence so far as his spirit and mind are concerned. This regeneration must be continuous and steady, lest the old sinful nature once more gain the ascendency. It is a necessary part of Christian sanctification for a Christian always to begin anew, always to renew his spiritual youth, with every new day to withdraw with his heart and mind from the vain matters of this world. At the same time, therefore, he is also daily clothed anew with the new man, that state of mind, that moral habit which accords with the will of God. The new man is the sum total of all Christian virtues, the entire number of God's moral demands in realization. To put on this summary of virtues, like a new, splendid garment, to be clothed and decorated with it at all times, to follow at all times the best thoughts and impulses of the new man, that must be the aim of every Christian. And this is possible for him, because the new man, in conversion, is created after God, in the image of God, Col_3:10, in the righteousness and holiness which are characteristic of true morality. In the same proportion as the Christian puts on the new man, gives evidence of his power in his entire life, in that measure the image of Christ, the image of God, makes its appearance in him.