Ephesians 4:17-32


vs. 17-24 - A Comparison of Gentile (heathen) and Christian Character


What the apostle had presented before in the preceeding chapters was a

very high standard of Christian privilege – now he presents an equally

high standard of Christian duty!


There was all but utter extinction of spiritual light in the heathen mind.

There was no saving knowledge. The god of this world had blinded their

minds, (II Corinthians 4:4) and their growing apostasy entailed a judicial

blindness which issued in utter darkness.  It arises out of moral estrangement

from God by “being alienated from the life of God” – v. 18


that ye ….walk not as other Gentiles walk” – first – what they are

            not to be  - “be not conformed to this world” – Romans 12:2


Four ways different from Gentiles:


(1) “vanity of their mind” v. 17 - The allusion is to their frivolous, empty aims in

life, and their unfixed, unsettled impulses. The Gentiles were chasing shadows,

blowing bubbles, doing anything to make time pass agreeably; not considering

or knowing either what they were, or whence they came, or whither they were going. 

They looked for happiness in riches, honors, and power.  They pursued

wicked courses in an effort to attain these objects of their desire.  The end of

such a walk must always be disappointing.


(2) “having the understanding darkened” v. 18 - ignorant of God, of the way

of salvation, of the love of Christ. Even at best the natural understanding

cannot discover these things, and especially when it is not only imperfect but

darkened — made more obscure than ever by sin. There was all but utter

extinction of spiritual light in the heathen mind. There was no saving knowledge.

The god of this world had blinded their minds, (see II Corinthians 4:3-6) and

their growing apostasy entailed a judicial blindness which issued in utter



(3)  alienated from the life of God(moral estrangement from God)  v. 18 –

Two causes are given for their alienation, viz. ignorance, and hardness of

heart, this last being the ultimate cause. Through worldly living, their hearts

have become hard, callous, insensible to spiritual influences, perceiving no

beauty in Divine things, no preciousness in Divine promises, no excellence in

the Divine image; this makes them ignorant, careless, foolish; and such being

their state of heart, they are alienated from the life of God, can’t bear vital

religion, and hate the very idea of spiritual and holy service.


v. 19 – “Who being past feeling” - Without sense of shame, without conscience,

without fear of God or regard for man, without any perception of the dignity of

human nature, the glory of the Divine image, or the degradation of sin.


There is a PROGRESSIVE MORAL DESINTEGRATION, which is inconsistent

 with the life of God or the happiness of man. The MORAL NATURE GOES TO

PIECES under the action of this corruption. Then it finds its natural development in”

lusts of deceit.” These lusts are deceitful, for they promise pleasure and bring pain;

 they promise liberty and bring bondage; they promise secrecy and bring shame;

they promise impunity and bring retribution. Christians are well taught to put off this

old man.


(4) “have given themselves over to lasciviousness to work all uncleanness” -

This is the climax —heathenism in its worst and fullest development, yet by no

means rare. The sensuality of the heathen was and is something dreadful. Many

of them gave themselves to it as a business, worked at it as at a trade or

employment.  Details, such as even the walls of Pompeii furnish, are unfit for the

public eye.  (Compare Hollywood, the pornography industry and musical

entertainment today – the obsession with covetousness as one could never

be satisfied with sinning but seek out new and perverted ways to express



with greediness” - With greediness, Pleonexi>a means the desire of having

more, and has reference to the insatiable character of sensual sins.  Compare

the sin of Jerusalem in Ezekiel 16:28 – “Thou has played the whore also with

the Assyrians, because thou was unsatiable; yea thou has played the harlot

with them, and yet couldest not be satisfied



v. 20 – “But ye have not so learned Christ” – this godless world is diametrically

            opposite to Christ.


v. 22 – “That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man”


Like the putting of clothes off and on.  The change is very decided and very

complete. It is emphatically personal; not a mere change of opinions or of

religious observances, but of life, habit, character; not altering a few things,

but first putting off the man as we put off a garment. “It is a change which

brings the mind under the government of truth, and gives to the life a new

aspect of integrity and devoutness.”











“Put on the new man,” and especially encourage and seek to have developed

these two features of the new creation — righteousness and holiness.

Righteousness, including integrity, honest, true, fair, open dealing; doing justly

out and out, in every place and in every relation — in the house, the market, the

counting-house, the shop, among neighbors, among strangers, everywhere and at

all times. Holiness of truth, including high reverence for God and all that is Divine,

sympathy and congeniality of heart with God, cleanness of nature, purity of soul,

conformity to theimage of Christ, who is the Image of the invisible God. No

professing Christian can be exempted from this rule of life. Nor should any assume

too readily that he is thoroughly conforming to it. “Let him that thinketh he

standeth take heed lest he fall.” – (I Corinthians 10:12) Christianity in its practical

relations is very searching and thorough. It demands a high standard of life and



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which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts”


Which is rotting according to the lusts of deceit. The present participle,

fqeiro>menon, indicates continuance or progress in corruption. Sin is a

disintegrating dissolving thing, causing putridity, and in all cases, when

unchecked, tending towards it. Deceit is personified; it is an agent of evil,

sending out lusts which seem harmless but are really ruinous — their real

character is concealed; they come as ministers of pleasure, they end as

destructive tyrants. Lust of power, lust of money, lust of pleasure, have all

this character; they are the offspring of deceit, and always to be shunned.


v. 23 – “be renewed in the spirit of your mind”


v. 24 – “put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness

            and true holiness” - The idea  presented itself to the apostle in the

 abstract — there has been a creation of a  new man; but concretely, we have to

conform to the Divine creation, in respect of righteousness and holiness;

righteousness denoting personal uprightness and fidelity to all social duties;

holiness, the state of the spirit toward God. The last words, “of truth,” denote

the relation of righteousness and holiness to the truth.  The words are opposed

to “of deceit” in ver. 22. Lust is bred of deceit, but righteousness and holiness

of truth. They never deceive, never disappoint, are solid to the end.



The “new man” is a creation just as Adam was a creation at the beginning.

We are “God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus” – ch. 2:10





vs. 25-32 – The Rags of the Old Man and the Robes of the New.


The Christian Ephesians somewhat resembled Joshua the high priest,

(Zechariah 3:1-4) when standing before the angel of the Lord, and when

Satan was standing at his right hand to resist him. Joshua was clothed with

filthy garments, and the angel spake to those that stood before him, “Take

away the filthy garments from him. And unto him he said, “Behold, I have

caused thine iniquity to pass from thee, and I will clothe thee with change

of raiment.” Rags of the old man still hang about these Ephesians, disfiguring

their persons and giving them a very different appearance from that which

befits the regenerated sons of God. The apostle is giving directions to take

away each filthy rag and substitute for it the fair raiment of the new man.


The rags of the old man to be put off are lying, anger, stealing, coarse

language, bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, evil-speaking, and malice.


The robes of the new man to be put on are truthfulness, honest industry,

edifying speech, kindness, tenderness of heart, forgiveness, imitation of

God, and the loving walk which becomes his followers.


In this day of “designer clothing-  to most men rags are most repulsive. To

wear literal rags — to appear shabby, dirty, untidy, is very unpleasant. How

much more, in the eyes of God and the saints and angels, to wear moral rags!

Many a one clothed in purple and fine linen wears the filthiest rags of the old

man; and some, on the other hand, in the plainest and coarsest attire, have put

on the beautiful robes of righteousness, and shall be crowns of glory in the hands

of the Lord and royal diadems in the hands of their God.


We ought to put on these new robes because not only has Christ provided them

for us, but He loved us, and died for us forgiving  us our sins.  He “hath given

Himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet smelling savor” –

ch. 5:2


v. 25 – “Wherefore, putting away lying, speak every man truth with

              his neighbor”


Lying or falsehood is pre-eminently a heathen vice – it is an attribute

of humanity.


A lie is a breach of the social contract. It tends to make society

impossible, for society only exists through the trust that man exercises in

man. It turns that instrument of speech, which God has given us for our

mutual comfort, into a means of estrangement. Therefore “the righteous

man hateth lying” (Proverbs 13:5).



God the Father, is “a God of truth” (Deuteronomy 32:4), who “is not a man

that He should lie” (Numbers 23:19), who gave oath and promise as “the two

immutable things, in which it is impossible that God should lie” (Hebrews 6:18);

to that Savior who is the Truth as well as the Life — “the faithful and

true Witness” —having “no guile found in his mouth;”and to that Holy Spirit

who is the Spirit of truth (John 14:17), and has given us the Scriptures of truth.


“The wicked are estranged from the womb:  they go astray as soon

as they be born, speaking lies”  - Psalm 58:3


Not only is it God’s will and command that we speak the truth, but it

is peculiarly incumbent on Christians as children of the light, as followers

of Him who is the Truth, as having renounced the devil, who is the father

of lies.  “Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will

do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the

truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he

speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it.” – John 8:44


for we are members one of another” – Falsehood is always designed to

mislead:  but to deceive our own members is emphatically wicked!


v. 26  We are not to allow the irritations and exasperations of life to

            become the occasion of sin!


“Be ye angry and sin not” -Anger, the feeling and expression of

displeasure, is not wholly forbidden, but is guarded by two checks. Our

Lord did not make anger a breach of the sixth commandment, but being

angry with a brother without cause. The first check is to beware of sinning;

to keep your anger clear of bitterness, spite, malevolence, and all such evil

feelings. The second is, “Let not the sun go down on your wrath”; examine

yourself in the evening, and see that you are tranquil.


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To go farther, it is especially becoming in men, when about to sleep the

sleep of death, to see that they are in peace and charity with all men.


v. 27 – “Neither give place to the devil” – giving the devil the opportunity

            and room to work and act through you.  I saw this on a church

            marquee in Hopkinsville“Give the devil a ride and he will end

            up wanting to drive!


The devil is in full sympathy with a “resentful spirit”.


Special vigilance and self-control are needed in dealing with him.  My

daily prayer is “Lord, help me to overcome the devil and to overcome

myself  - This, of course, can only be done through Jesus Christ, living

in me and you!


All Christians are liable to fall under Satan’s influence.  We are taught

in I Peter 5:8 – “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil,

as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour:

Whom resist steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions

are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world.”


v. 28 – “Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labor,

            working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may

            have to give to him that needeth”.


If men would heed God’s will, they would understand that the Eighth

Commandment says “Thou shalt not steal” – Exodus 20:15


Thievery is often the result of idle habits and a dislike for hard work!


The world has a great hold upon the heart that can plan this deed of



Idleness is inconsistent with Christian life and leads to many dangers.

Idleness occasions poverty, brings men to want, increases their

necessities; and then they betake themselves to indirect and unlawful

means to supply them.


The remedy is work!  God told Adam that “in the sweat of thy face

shalt thou eat thy bread” - (Genesis 3:19) - Labor is honorable; Christ

calls us to work, not for this reason only, but in order that we may have

something to give away. Paganism would rob others of what is rightfully

their own; Christianity leads me to give to others what is rightfully my own.   

We are to look out for the needy, and give for their relief.


v. 29 - “Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth” –

            not the heathen only, but many living today of whom better

            things are expected!  How sad it is in some circles to hear

            the obscene and profane talk, the allusions inferred, the

            content of songs, is but to feed, as it were, on “moral garbage”?


Corrupt speech is a fearful perversion of the noble faculty of speech

which God has endowed us.  I marvel at speech!  A word has changed

a character and a character has changed a kingdom!




From Christian mouths no such talk should ever issue.  James 3:2-10



“For in many things we offend all. If any man offend not in word, the

same is a perfect man, and able also to bridle the whole body.

Behold, we put bits in the horses’ mouths, that they may obey us;

and we turn about their whole body.  Behold also the ships, which

though they be so great, and are driven of fierce winds, yet are they

turned about with a very small helm, whithersoever the governor listeth.

Even so the tongue is a little member, and boasteth great things.

Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindleth!  And the tongue is a fire,

a world of iniquity: so is the tongue among our members, that it defileth

the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire

of hell.  For every kind of beasts, and of birds, and of serpents, and of

things in the sea, is tamed, and hath been tamed of mankind:

But the tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly

poison.  Therewith bless we God, even the Father; and therewith curse

we men, which are made after the similitude of God.  Out of the same

mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing.  My brethren, these things ought

not so to be.”


but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace

unto the hearers


We are to be lights and beacons for Christ and not stumbling blocks!


v. 30 – “And grieve not the Holy Spirit of God” -Very solemn and

emphatic counsel. The name is given with unusual fullness, in order to

show the magnitude of the sin — to< Pneu~ma to< a[gion tou~ Qeou~, “The

Spirit, the Holy Spirit of God.” ……when His work is obstructed, when

sin is trifled with, when Deity is treated carelessly, when place is given to

the devil, when the spirit of the world is cherished……..When the Holy Spirit

would urge consecration, separation from the world, holy exercises, active service,

our indolent and worldly hearts are liable to rebel and vex him. To grieve a

parent heedlessly is a great sin; HOW MUCH MORE TO GRIEVE THE HOLY



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whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption” – this passage

implies our perfect security (eternal salvation) till the day of judgment.

Redemption will be the rejoining of body and soul in their changeless





To grieve the Spirit is to  help to obliterate the seal, and thus weaken the

evidence of our redemption!


v. 31 - Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger” -not only in speech,

but in mind, disposition, habit.  These five forms of evil are inconsistent

with that worthy walk which belongs to the vocation with which we are

calledch. 5:1 and are opposite of the nine graces mentioned in Galatians

5:19-21  - “love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith,

meekness, and temperance”


and clamor and evil speaking be put away from you” -  “clamor is

equivalent to the loud noise of strife, the excited shouting down of

opponents; “evil-speaking,” the more deliberate habit of running down

character, exciting an evil feeling against them in the minds of others.


With all malice” -  equivalent to wishing evil, whether in a latent

and half-conscious form or more pronounced in words and deed!


v. 32 – “And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one

another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.”


Opposed to bitterness, wrath, and anger.   Kind, sweet, amiable in

disposition, subduing all that is harsh and hasty, encouraging all that

is gentle and good; tender-hearted, denoting a specially compassionate

feeling, such as may arise from the thought of the infirmities, griefs,

and miseries to which more or less all are subject; these emotional

conditions are to bear the practical fruit of forgiveness, and the forgiveness

is to be mutual, as if under the feeling that what you give today you require

to ask tomorrow, not being too hard on the faults of others, remembering

that you have your own.


even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you”


The example of God revealed by Jesus Christ is “He is kind to the

unthankful and to the evil” – Luke 6:35


The LORD is gracious, and full of compassion; slow to anger, and of great

mercy.  The LORD is good to all: and His tender mercies are over all His

works.  – Psalm 145:8-9









Remember the words of Christ:


For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will

also forgive you:  But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither

will your Father forgive your trespasses.”  Matthew 6:14-15


forgive and ye shall be forgiven” – Luke 6:37


How miserable we would be without forgiveness!  God angry with us,

hell under our feet and the very blessings of life a curse unto us!