Ephesians 4:17-24 English Standard Version (ESV)
17 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. 18 They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. 19 They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. 20 But that is not the way you learned Christ!— 21 assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, 22 to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, 23 and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, 24 and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.
1) Who is Paul referring to when he says “Gentiles” in verse 17?
2) What are the characteristics of the way the Gentiles walk and what is the cause?
3) What does it mean to be “renewed in the spirit of your minds”?
4) According to these verses, how do we go about putting on the new self?
A trip to www.studylight.org is in order here.
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The Findings for Original Intent
1) Although “Gentiles” often refers simply to non-Jews, here we know that this letter was written to the church in Ephesus—a church made up of non-Jews. So “Gentiles” here is not a term referring to race or ethnicity; it is a spiritual term. It refers to non-believers.
2) Non-believers minds are futile, their understanding is darkened, they are alienated from God, they are ignorant and callous, greedy, impure, and given over to sensuality. To sum it up, they can’t think correctly and they act selfishly. Verse 18 tells us that this is because of their hardness of heart. This is exactly where everyone is without the power of God in their hearts. None of the “good” is possible without Jesus!
3) This phrase deals with how we think—after all, that is what the mind is for! It also mentions the “spirit” of our minds, which goes beyond simply our human capacity to think and brings in the spiritual element. A renewed mind is one that thinks spiritually, rather than in the futility of thinking that belongs to those who don’t know Christ. Cross-references take us to Romans 12:2, which says “be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern the will of God.” In Psalm 51:10, the Psalmist asks God to renew a right spirit within him. It seems that by seeking after God, yearning to know Him better through His Word, and by asking Him, He will renew our minds through the Holy Spirit within us.
4) There are three commands here: 1) put off the old self, 2) be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and 3) put on the new self. The old self is characterized by corrupt, sinful desires. The new self is characterized by righteousness and holiness. Renewing our minds is how we get from the old self to the new self. But verse 21 contains the key: “you have heard about Him and were taught in Him, as the truth is in Jesus.” Study Jesus! He is the truth! And the truth leads to a renewed mind, which leads to putting on the new self.
Some Applications for Our Everyday Lives
1) This passage tells us the way Christians live in contrast to the way non-believers live. There is a big difference! Does my life reflect this difference? Could a non-believer notice a difference between the way I live and the way they live?
2) We see that the non-believer’s behavior is a result of their messed-up thinking, which is a result of their hard hearts. Christians’ behavior also follows our thoughts, which also follows our hearts. Lord, please give me a soft heart, and help me to quickly repent when I harden my heart toward you!
3) Although we have been given the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:16), it is easy to slip back into our old way of thinking, and sometimes, we don’t even recognize it. Pray this week that you will be able to discern when your thoughts are futile, rather than spiritually renewed. (Hint—those thoughts of comparison that we read about yesterday are pretty futile!)
4) If truth is what renews my mind, is there something untrue that I need to quit listening to? What am I doing to saturate my mind with the truth?
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