Ephesians 4:17-24

Sunday Morning Bible Study

May 28, 2006


They say life is about making choices …

As the crowded airliner is about to take off, the peace is shattered by a five-year-old boy who picks that moment to throw a wild temper tantrum. No matter what his frustrated, embarrassed mother does to try to calm him down, the boy continues to scream furiously and kick the seats around him. Suddenly, from the rear of the plane, an elderly man in a Marine uniform is seen slowly walking forward up the aisle. Stopping the flustered mother with an upraised hand, the white-haired, courtly, soft-spoken Marine leans down and, motioning toward his chest, whispers something into the boy’s ear. Instantly, the boy calms down, gently takes his mother’s hand, and quietly fastens his seat belt. All the other passengers burst into spontaneous applause. As the Marine slowly makes his way back to his seat, one of the cabin attendants touches his sleeve. “Excuse me, sir,” she asks quietly, “but could I ask you what magic words you used on that little boy?” The Marine smiles serenely and gently confides, “I showed him my pilot’s wings, service stars, and battle ribbons, and explained that they entitle me to throw one passenger out the plane door, on any flight I choose.”

Today I’m going to talk about who you ought to throw out the plane door …

:17 This I say, therefore, and testify in the Lord, that you should no longer walk as the rest of the Gentiles walk, in the futility of their mind,

therefore – Paul has been talking about the unity of the Jews and the Gentiles in the body of Christ. Jesus has torn down the wall separating Jews and Gentiles. As Christians, it no longer matters whether you’re a Jew or not, all that matters is that you trust in Jesus.

Paul is talking to Gentiles believers.

The section started back in:

(Eph 4:1 NKJV) I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called
…His was encouraging them to walk in unity.

testifymarturomai to cite a witness, bring forward a witness, call to witness; exhort solemnly

Paul has some pretty serious stuff to share. It’s stuff that the Lord wants to share.

walk – Now Paul stops to talk about how “not” to walk.

the rest of the Gentiles

Paul is talking to Gentile believers. He doesn’t want them living their lives like Gentile non-believers.

futility (of their mind)mataiotes what is devoid of truth and appropriateness; perverseness; frailty, The word speaks of lack of attainment.

(The Message) …the empty-headed, mindless crowd


Have you noticed how mindless the world is? Have you noticed the kinds of stupid things people do now a days?

I look at some of the “Real TV” shows and wonder what people are thinking. Those “Fear Factor” shows where people are asked to do things like eat raw bugs, the Survivor Shows where people are voted off the island, or the “Bachelor” shows were men compete for to win a beautiful girl …

Three handsome male dogs are walking down the street when they see a beautiful, enticing, female Poodle. The three male dogs fall all over themselves in an effort to be the one to reach her first, but end up arriving in front of her at the same time. The males are speechless before her beauty, slobbering on themselves and hoping for just a glance from her in return. Aware of her charms and her obvious effect on the three suitors, she decides to be kind and tells them “The first one who can use the words “liver” and “cheese” together in an imaginative, intelligent sentence can go out with me.” The sturdy, muscular black Lab speaks up quickly and says “I love liver and cheese.” “Oh, how childish,” said the Poodle. “That shows no imagination or intelligence whatsoever.” She turned to the tall, shiny Golden Retriever and said “How well can you do?” “Um, I HATE liver and cheese,” blurts the Golden Retriever. “My, my,” said the Poodle. “I guess it’s hopeless. That’s just as dumb as the Lab’s sentence.” She then turns to the last of the three dogs and says, “How about you, little guy?” The last of the three, tiny in stature but big in fame and finesse, is the Taco Bell Chihuahua. He gives her a smile, a sly wink, turns to the Golden Retriever and the Lab and says........... “Liver alone. Cheese mine.”

:18 having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart;

darkenedskotizo to cover with darkness; Paul uses a “perfect” tense, giving the idea that this darkening is something that has happened in the past and still continues. They are living in the dark.

alienatedapallotrioo to estrange; to be shut out from one’s fellowship and intimacy

Our life comes from God, but for the unbeliever, they are shut out from that life.

ignoranceagnoia lack of knowledge, ignorance; not just intellectual ignorance, but ignorance of divine things.

blindnessporosis – from poroo to cover with a thick skin, to harden by covering with a callus; dulled perception; the mind of one has been blunted;


Mahatma Ghandi walked barefoot everywhere, to the point that his feet became quite thick and hard. He also was a very spiritual person. Even when he was not on a hunger strike he did not eat much, and he became quite thin and frail. Furthermore, due to his diet, he ended up with very bad breath. So what do we have here? A “super callused fragile mystic plagued with halitosis!”

Actually, what we’re talking here is quite serious. Paul is describing a person who has a callus on their heart. There heart no longer feels what it used to.

:19 who, being past feeling,

past feelingapalgeo to cease to feel pain or grief; to become callous, insensible to pain, apathetic

One of the jobs of the Holy Spirit is to bring “conviction”:

(John 16:8 NKJV) "And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment:
The Holy Spirit is constantly at work in our world making people aware of their sin, of their lack of righteousness, and warning them of the judgment that is going to come.
Some people like to try and take over the job of the Holy Spirit and try and do the convicting for Him. There is a place for us to be reminding people of their sin and what God has for them. But for the most part, conviction is the Holy Spirit’s job. You really don’t have to work too hard for people around you to become convicted.
Conviction doesn’t feel good. Conviction feels bad.

When you learn to play the guitar, it also doesn’t feel very good. And for the first week or so, it’s hard to play for very long because the steel strings hurt your fingers. But if you keep practicing, you will build up calluses and after a couple of weeks you will no longer feel the pain of the steel strings.

When a person is convicted by the Holy Spirit, it hurts their heart.

God’s desire when a person experiences conviction is for them to stop what they’re doing and turn to God.

But the more a person experiences conviction without giving in to God, the more calluses build up on their heart.

Until a person gets to the point where they no longer feel the pain of conviction.

That doesn’t mean that the Holy Spirit no longer is trying to bring conviction, it just means they don’t feel it as much.


After Dr. Donald Barnhouse, the classic preacher from a generation ago, shared a message about the repercussions of sin, a young man approached him and said, “I sin, but it doesn’t seem to matter at all. I’m not haunted by it. I don’t get depressed about it. It doesn’t bother me a bit.” Dr. Barnhouse looked at him and said, “Tell me, son, what would happen if I dropped an eight-hundred-pound weight on the body of a dead man? Would he feel it? Would he be in pain? Would it bother him?” “Of course not,” said the young man. “That’s the point,” said Dr. Barnhouse. “If you don’t feel the weight of sin, if it’s not heavy upon you, if it’s not having an impact on you, it’s because you’re spiritually dead.”

Be careful about saying “no” too many times to God. Look what it will lead to …

:19 have given themselves over to lewdness, to work all uncleanness with greediness.

given themselves overparadidomi to give into the hands (of another); to betray

lewdnessaselgeia unbridled lust, excess, licentiousness, lasciviousness, wantonness, outrageousness, shamelessness; the fundamental thought is the acknowledging of no restraints, doing of whatever crazy idea comes into one’s head.


Calvin Miller defines unbridled lust as “A cannibal committing suicide by nibbling on himself”

to workergasia a working, performing; to perform a trade

uncleannessakatharsia in a moral sense: the impurity of lustful living

greedinesspleonexia (“more” + “to have”) greedy desire to have more

:20 But you have not so learned Christ,

learnedmanthano to learn; this is the root word that “disciple” comes from.

:21 if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught by Him, as the truth is in Jesus:

if indeed … - literally, “If as is the case …”

Jesus is the teacher. He is also the subject of the learning.

Note:  He does not say, “but you have not so learned about Christ …”

He says, “But you have not so learned Christ”

Jesus doesn’t just wanting us to know about Him. He wants us to know Him. And He wants to teach us personally.

How are you “taught” by Jesus?

I can think of no better way than to spend time with Him each morning.  Read His Word.  Ask Him to teach you.  Ask Him about the Scriptures that you are reading.  Ask Him about how these things might apply to your life.

What follows are three things that Paul says is a part of “learning Christ” …

:22 that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts,

that … this is what they had been taught …

put offapotithemi to put off or aside or away

conductanastrophe (“again” + “to turn”) manner of life, conduct, behavior

oldpalaios old; no longer new, worn by use, the worse for wear, decrepit, useless

The description of the “Gentiles” in verses 17-19 is the “old man”. It’s not just about pagan unbelievers.  We’ve all been there.

grows corruptphtheiro to corrupt, to destroy; in the opinion of the Jews, the temple was corrupted or "destroyed" when anyone defiled or in the slightest degree damaged anything in it

Here the idea is that our “old man” continues to grow more and more corrupt as we make the wrong choices in our lives, as we choose to follow our lusts.

We can make a choice as to what we do with our lusts:


There is a story of two monks walking in a drenching thunderstorm. They came to a stream, and it was swollen out of its banks. A beautiful young woman in a dress stood there wanting to get to the other side but was afraid of the currents. With compassion, one of the monks said, “Can I help you?” The woman said, “I need to cross this stream.” The monk picked her up, put her on his shoulder, carried her through the water, and put her down on the other side. He and his companion went on to the monastery. That night his companion said to him, “I have a bone to pick with you. As monks, we have taken vows not to look on a woman, much less touch her body. Back there by the river you did both.” The first monk said, “My brother, I put that woman down on the other side of the river. You’re still carrying her in your mind.”

lustsepithumia desire, craving, longing, desire for what is forbidden, lust; It denotes any natural desire or appetite, usually with the implication that it is a depraved desire.

deceitfulapate deceit, deceitfulness; from apatao to cheat, beguile, deceive

Lust is so deceitful.  Some of us might think of that last “monk” story and go out and look for stranded girls to rescue …


One author (Craig Brian Larson) writes,
As a kid, I saw a movie in which some shipwrecked men are left drifting aimlessly on the ocean in a lifeboat. As the days pass under the scorching sun, their rations of food and fresh water give out. The men grow deliriously thirsty. One night, while the others are asleep, one man ignores all previous warnings and gulps down some salt water. He quickly dies. Ocean water contains seven times more salt than the human body can safely ingest. Drinking it, a person dehydrates because the kidneys demand extra water to flush the overload of salt. The more salt water someone drinks, the thirstier he gets. He actually dies of thirst. When we lust, we become like this man. We thirst desperately for something that looks like what we want. We don’t realize, however, that it is precisely the opposite of what we really need. In fact, it can kill us.


The “put off”

On the cross, Jesus did something for us:
(Rom 6:6 NKJV) knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin.

Somehow, our old nature was crucified with Him.

The potential for victory over sin became possible at the cross.

But now that the door has been opened for us to walk away from sin, we have to take advantage of it.


The story is told of an old godly seminary professor in his seventies walking down a city street with a young student. As an attractive, perfumed, and well-groomed lady passed by the two men, the seminary student took the characteristic masculine double take. Then, realizing his esteemed professor did not even bat an eye or acknowledge she was there, the student asked, “Sir, do you finally reach a point in your Christian life where you are no longer enticed or have problems with lust?” The wise senior professor smiled and answered, “My boy, the flesh never gets better, it just gets deader!”

We have to keep taking advantage of Jesus’ death on the cross for us. We have to continue to count ourselves as dead to sin.
(1 Cor 10:13 NKJV) No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.

God promises that with every temptation you encounter, He will provide a way of escape.  He will provide an “exit”.


There was once a man on a diet who prayed, “Lord, if you don’t want me to go get donuts, then let there not be any parking spots at Krispy Kreme Donuts.” But he had to give in to the donuts because sure enough, when he got there, there was a parking spot right in front of the door … after his twentieth time around the block.

There will always be an “exit” somewhere in the situation. The question is, will you take it? Or just drive around the block?

:23 and be renewed in the spirit of your mind,



Paul writes,
(Rom 12:1-2 NKJV) I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. {2} And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.
How do we “renew” our mind?
There’s an old computer programmer’s term, “GIGO”, or, “Garbage In, Garbage Out”.

We like to blame our computers for all the problems they cause us, but really it’s not the computer’s fault, it’s what you put into the computer that causes problems.

I think one of the best ways of renewing your mind is making sure you are not putting garbage into it, but putting God’s Word into it.
(2 Tim 3:16-17 NKJV)  All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, {17} that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.
(Rom 15:4 NKJV)  For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope.

:24 and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness.

put onenduo to sink into (clothing), put on, clothe one’s self

righteousnessdikaiosune – the state of him who is as he ought to be, the condition acceptable to God

holinesshosiotes piety towards God, being faithful to do what God wants

truealetheia (“not” + “hidden”) – truth – not hiding

Our “lusts” (v. 22) are “deceithful”.  But “truth” is in Jesus (v.21)

The word here is in the genitive case, “of the truth”. The word order in the Greek is “in righteousness, holiness, of the truth”. So the phrase could be translated “put on the new man which was created according to God - in righteousness and in holiness of the truth”

The idea is that the “truth” contains two things, righteousness and holiness.
If you put on “truth”, then you will find yourself putting on righteousness and holiness.


The “put on”

You face a choice every day of what clothes you are going to “put on”.
God’s desire is that you choose to put on the “new man”.
God’s hope is that you choose to put on truth.
And if you choose to put on God’s truth, then you will find yourself wearing righteousness and holiness.
Remember the Marine (beginning of message)?  We too have a choice of who we are going to throw off the flight we’re on.  The old man or the new man?