Ephesians 4:17-32, Walking in Newness, pt1:

  • Here we move onto more detailed commands given to individual believers, but which are also applied to entire congregations! So to sum up where we are heading, our section begins with a fervent request that the Ephesians no longer live as the Gentiles (4:17).
  • This leads into a short description of the ignorant and immoral nature of Gentile living (4:17–19) that contrasts sharply with the way of life we learn in relationship with Jesus Christ (4:20–21). From him, we were taught to “put off [our] old self,” to “be made new” on the inside, and to “put on the new self” (4:22–24).
  • Outline:
  • 1) The Call to Newness, v17-19
  • 2) The Way of Newness, v20-24


  1. The Call to Newness: (v17-19)
  • Paul writes, “Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do…” Interestingly, Paul tells them to no longer walk as the Gentiles do, but they are Gentiles (see 3:1). Paul is not referring to their cultural stance, but to their new identity.
  • They haven’t become Jews, but these believers in Christ are not really Gentiles anymore either. They have become a new category of people, defined by their relationship to Christ and his people.


  • In addition, there is a note on their way of thought. ‘In the futility of their thinking’ (4:17). You see, how they act is a reflection of how they think. They lead empty and immoral lives because of “the futility of their thinking” (4:17). It means “emptiness, worthlessness, purposeless.” The Gentiles are living futile lives because they are thinking futile thoughts.


  • Paul adds another note about their thoughts, ‘they are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God’ (4:18). The word translated as “separated” appears in 2:12, referring to being “excluded from citizenship in Israel.” And in 4:18, where the separation is from God’s own life. Why is this the case?
  • Well, our verse continues to say; ‘because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts’ (4:18). This refers to a willful resistance to God and His truth. A classical example of this is seen in Pharaoh’s opposition to God in Exodus 7–14.


  • The question that I have is, why is there separation from God? Separation from God comes from not knowing God truly. This is a result of ignorance that comes from choosing not to know or serve God. This is the darkness blocking ones understanding.
  • And so the problem continues in verse 19, ‘They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity.’ Becoming callous suggests a loss of feeling, “feeling no pain.” It teaches us that this way of living is characterized by being so used to sinning, that one no longer senses conviction.


  • We also read that they ‘have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity.’ These actions could refer to a depraved desire for material gain, or even worse, to the greedy desire for immoral sexual behavior.
  • So in summary, this way of living is not just about doing the wrong things, it refers to a deeper problem, these actions reflect wrong thinking which leads to the willful rejection of God. And by living in such a state, one loses a godly conviction of sin! Therefore, we have a call to newness in verse 17, which is now described in our next section.
  1. The Way of Newness: (v20-24)
  • This new way of living comes through Christ (4:20–24). Paul writes, ‘that is not the way you learned Christ!’Again, this expression could refer to a “way of life” commended by Christ. And how do we do that? We “learn Christ” by communing with him. We “learn Christ” by living life as part of his body.
  • The essence of the Christian life is not a moral system constructed by a fine moral teacher. Rather, it is life in Christ: trusting him, knowing him, following him, loving him, being created anew in him, learning from him, imitating him, sharing in his work.


  • In the next verse we read, ‘when you heard about Christ and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus (4:21). Paul’s readers did not know Jesus in the flesh. They “heard” about him from those who preached the gospel and “were taught in him” by the pastor-teachers mentioned in 4:11.
  • Our learning “in Christ” is therefore, connected to the teachings, actions, death, and resurrection of a real human being. Paul provides an example of “the truth that is in Jesus” a few verses later when he calls us to walk in the way of love, “just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us” (5:2).


  • What were they taught? Verse 22 continues, to “put off [our] old self” and “put on the new self” (4:22, 24). Our old-self connects us to the first man, to Adam and his sinfulness, “being corrupted by deceitful desires” (4:22), that is, by desires that promise joy but deliver pain. Our new-self links us with Christ the new man and his righteousness.
  • In addition this newness refers to our minds, (4:23). Two grammatical points are important to note here. The Greek verb “to be made new” is in the passive voice, indicating that we do not renew ourselves. Rather, the agent of our renewal is God. Yet in some sense we cooperate with God in his renewing work. Second, the verb is a present infinitive, which suggests an ongoing process.


  • Though while it is true that when we put our faith in Christ we put off the old self and put on the new self, the work of internal renewal must still continue. “The attitude of your minds” renders the Greek phrase “the spirit.
  • According to Paul, we learned from Christ himself to put off the old man, be renewed, and put on the new man. Therefore, Paul’s clothing imagery is another perspective on the classic call to repentance, which includes a radical change of life and heart.