17 Don’t walk as the Gentiles walk in the vanity of their mind: How did the Gentiles walk? They took on the day, their jobs, their relationships, their daily activities, with no consideration of God. So then, what was their mind focused on? Their own selves, their own wishes, impulses and lusts. All of these things are transient and useless in the grand scheme of things. With all the talk of being politically correct, it is interesting to read how ‘black and white’ and direct Paul was with the Christians in Ephesus. ‘Don’t do as they do’ can be perceived as unloving and unkind. Yet, that is exactly what Paul wrote in this letter.
18 Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God…: When our mind is focused on the transient and inutile, it is not enlightened. ‘Understanding’ takes place in the brain and it requires space and time to process. Not only does the wrong mental focus not allow for the time to ‘understand’, but it ultimately darkens the ‘understanding’. Seeing with God’s eyes is not possible when replaced with seeing with our own eyes. The darkening is spiritual and dangerous because it leads to separation from God’s gift of life. Because life has a spiritual component, when our thinking is darkened, it leads us to spiritual death.
…through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart: An insensible heart and a numbness of feelings cause a lack of ‘understanding’. When the intention is to self-absorb, the mind follow suit and is absorbed by all things not God related. All things are derived from the heart. The exercises of the mind are subject to our intent and motives in life.
19 Who being past feeling have given themselves over unto lasciviousness: The natural course of a mind that is un-focused on the things of God is to fall into lusts, indecencies and other capricious behaviors. Lewdness and wantonness will lead to unclean acts that are justified by a desire to have one’s own way, to be in an advantageous position in one own eyes. It is all about the ‘self’.
to work all uncleanness with greediness: Greediness is a tendency to want to possess more material goods and relationships that are not God’s best for us. It is a desire to possess certain things or people, without the inclusion of God in any of it. In this context, a person who is indulging in their own lusts, will end up being spiritually unclean. Even with such leprosy and death within, the ungodly man is greedy for more to continue to satisfy the ‘self’. A depraved mind is on a downward spiral leading to death. A mind focused on God is the only one that can receive life.
20 But ye have not so learned Christ: All of this (above) isn’t what Jesus has taught His children. This way of thinking is contrary to Christ’s teachings and instructions for life.
21 If so be that ye have heard him, and have been taught by him, as the truth is in Jesus: If we listen to Jesus, we are listening to the truth. When the Word says that a mind focused on God gives life and a mind focused on self brings death, it is not poetry or vain theology. It is a reality which we’d better listen to and comply with. Obedience to Christ is critical as we work out our own salvation; it is the evidence of a surrendered life.
22 That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts: We should not speak as we once did; we should not behave as we use to. All outward speech and manners must be driven by the inner life that is focused on God. Our former self was corrupt, as we were willing to be dishonest with the goal of personal/financial gain. Since we have been transformed and not focused on our ‘self’, there is no need to be dishonest any longer. Such behavior would be disobedience to His Word and could not bring honor to His name.
23 And be renewed in the spirit of your mind: Jesus Christ offers renewal. If a kitchen appliance breaks, we get it repaired. We don’t necessarily replace the appliance unless it is beyond repair. God had to renew and is continuously renewing our way of thinking because the carnal mind is beyond repair. He is not piecing together an old way of thinking, talking and behaving with a new way of thinking, talking and behaving. We don’t get to keep our old ways. If we are His, then we must let go completely of our old thinking and allow Him to replace it with brand new thinking. We simply don’t get to keep our old ways if we want a sanctified life.
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: the old has gone, the new is here!” II Cor 5:17
24 And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness: Putting on the ‘new man’ is an action taken up by each one of us. It is a decision we make to do away with the ‘old’. God created us with a free will, which gets challenged daily, even hourly. At all times, we get to choose what way we want to go, either the path of lust and destruction, or the path of righteousness and holiness.
‘True holiness’ infers that there is ‘fake holiness’, otherwise the adjective ‘true’ would not need to be used. The Holy Spirit living in the heart of the regenerated man is the only way by which true holiness can be made manifest. Counterfeiting the works of the Holy Spirit, imparting others with man’s wisdom and passing it for God’s, pretending to be an exclusive spokesman for Christ on earth, all of these represent ‘fake holiness’.
25 Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbor: for we are members one of another: Here again, God is asking us to actively put away lying and to share the truth instead. This requires a daily commitment and must be an ongoing motivation in our heart.
God tells us that we, humans, are all connected to each other. When we look at our enemies, those who hate us and back stab us, can we turn around and forgive them immediately? At the epitome of hatred, mockery and betrayal, Jesus turn to His Father and asked to “forgive them for they know not what they do” Luke 23:34. And even after He forgave, they continued to mock Him, throwing dice to see who would get torn pieces of his garments. In light of that, how does that girl at work compare? Does her eye rolling behind your back even compare with the cloth of vinegar? And how does your boss taking credit for your work compare with Judas’ betrayal of Jesus?
26 Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath: Our circumstances can be hurtful, embarrassing, damaging, even life altering. When angry, let us remember to give it all to Christ. “For we have not a high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.” Hebrews 4:15. He knows, He understands and He overcame…. And so can we, because of the Holy Spirit in us that help us to conquer anger.
Before going to sleep, let us remember to give it all to the Father. Let us forgive them and turn to Him and be cleansed of our own sins. It is risky to fall asleep with unforgiveness in our hearts. Furthermore, letting anger fester within us for days and nights is like allowing a spiritual cancer to grow within. There are many coping mechanisms to manage anger which the world offers, but none are as effective as God’s instruction to let go and let God take over and heal us.
27Neither give place to the devil: The spiritual cancer we allow within us can only grow if not dealt with. Anger and wrath will open the door for the devil to come and make himself comfortable in a part of our life. Note that this letter is addressed to the Christians in Ephesus, which leads us to believe that Christians can be influenced by the devil and can end up with a part of their life controlled by him. We must be very vigilant and not allow that to happen under any circumstance.
28 Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labour, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth: Our old ‘self’ tried to take what belonged to other people. It expected from others more than it gave to others. Often our former generosities were out of selfishness and in expectation of something in return. We, Christians must stop thinking that what we wish for is ours to have, as is being taught through the ‘name it and claim it’ movement today. We cannot approach the Father as if He is our banker obligated to give us money, or our healer obligated to restore our body. God is able to do all things and desires the best for us. But He doesn’t always respond to prayers that put ‘self’ and ‘easy living’ above His will being done in our life no matter at what price.
Our focus must shift to a life of giving. God gives His children the awareness of others with much greater needs than ours. If we are not currently in a position to help, let us labor and work hard so as to be able to provide for others who do not have.
29 Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers: We are told to not allow any rotten, corrupt, depraved, useless words come out of our mouth. We are asked to use our mouth as a tool of service. Just like our hands should be used to labor so as to not be a financial burden on others, our mouth should be used as a tool to edify and minister grace to those who are willing to receive. We do not need to wait for a good act or a kind word to respond to in kindness. The ministry of grace is not triggered by one who is deserving, but one who is not. How often do I open my mouth to bless the ones who have persecuted me, insulted me, mocked me, or back stabbed me? If they are hearers, we can offer kind words to them. If they are not, being quiet may be better until such time that they are ready to hear.
30 And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption: There are ways to grieve the Holy Spirit who was sent to guide and counsel us. Him taking up residence within our hearts came at a great price. His presence within is a daily reminder of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. With a sacrifice such as this, we should never take God’s Spirit for granted. He is here to teach us, talk to us, give us strength and help us believe. Do we not listen? Do we not learn from Him? Do we not obey? Do we place ourselves in compromising situations and refuse to ‘yield’? Let it never be so.
We are SEALED until the day of redemption, the day of freedom from sin and evil. Through His Holy Spirit, God has given us a token of His commitment to save us. It is like an engagement ring that God gives the bride of Christ, and a promise to marry her when the time finally comes.
31 Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: All of these are ways by which the Holy Spirit is grieved. When we do not yield to the Holy Spirit, we end up acting according to the flesh and indulging in negative emotions and feelings, just as the world does. The temptation to revert back to sinful behavior is always present in the flesh. But we are called to rise above all of that. We must strive to be less carnal and more spiritual every day, by the power of the Holy Spirit in us and with faith in the much greater promises of God.
32And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you: The behavior of a spiritual man is exactly the opposite as that of the carnal man. Here again, we are asked to forgive one another. Christians hurt each other all the time. But it is important to forgive. On what basis should we be forgiven of our own lies, gossip, anger and strife, if we cannot do the same for others? Because of Jesus, God forgives all of our disobedient acts. Because He is merciful and not because we’re special, He chooses to remember our sins no more. Therefore, what right do we have to not forgive those who have hurt us?
“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” Romans 3:23