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
(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
entertainment today – the obsession with covetousness as one could never
be satisfied with sinning but seek out new and perverted ways to express
their LAWLESS DESIRE)
“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
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” –
v. 25 – “Wherefore, putting away lying, speak every man truth with
Lying or falsehood is pre-eminently a heathen vice – it is an attribute
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
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
SPIRIT OF GOD?
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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
called – ch. 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!