What does Ephesians 4:17 mean?
ESV: Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds.
NIV: So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking.
NASB: So I say this, and affirm in the Lord, that you are to no longer walk just as the Gentiles also walk, in the futility of their minds,
CSB: Therefore, I say this and testify in the Lord: You should no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thoughts.
NLT: With the Lord’s authority I say this: Live no longer as the Gentiles do, for they are hopelessly confused.
KJV: This I say therefore, and testify in the Lord, that ye henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind,
In Ephesians 4:1–16, Paul focused on Christians living lives worthy of our calling by God. Now Paul transitions to a new section in verses 17–32. He contrasts the new life believers have in Christ, as opposed to the "old life" of the world. Paul's introduction notes how directly and seriously he intends these instructions to be taken. The reference to speaking "in the Lord" makes his words stand out.
Paul instructs the Ephesians not to share in the kind of immoral lifestyle which non-believers follow. The Ephesian Christians were mostly Gentiles, in the sense of being non-Jewish: they were not descendants of Israel. Symbolically, "the Gentiles" mentioned in this context are those people who are separated from God. They are the unsaved. As saved believers, the Ephesians were once "spiritual" Gentiles, but no longer. Paul's point here is that believers cannot continue to live as unbelievers and expect to please God.
Unbelievers have a very different mindset from those who are saved by Christ. Paul describes that approach as "futile." Ultimately, the goals of unbelievers have no point or purpose. In contrast, believers live with a clear purpose: to glorify God through making disciples. This includes personal spiritual maturity (Ephesians 4:13), serving others (Ephesians 4:12), evangelism, and worship. These activities are not designed only for individuals but for the church as a family.
The ancient mindset was more collective than individualistic as in Western cultures today. Most activities were centered around families and groups, including spiritual growth.
Ephesians 4:17–32 is a valuable, highly practical explanation of how to live out a Christian life. Paul notes the difference between a life wallowing under the power of sin, as opposed to a life thriving in the power of Christ. Christians are called on to ''put away'' the things which entangle unbelievers. This includes sins such as malice, slander, commotion, and bitterness. Instead, we should demonstrate a Christ-like attitude of love and forgiveness.
Truly understanding saving grace, as Paul explained in prior chapters, is the Christian's first motivation for living a godly life. Here, Paul encourages believers to live in way which honors that gift. All saved Christians are part of a single, unified family, part of the ''body'' of Christ. At the same time, different believers are given different talents. Some are called to positions of leadership and authority. All Christians should turn away from the ''old self'' we were prior to being saved. Paul's explanation of the ''new self'' includes some basic, practical steps.
The first half of Ephesians focuses mostly on doctrine, setting up ideas related to the Christian faith. The last half, beginning in chapter 4, puts those theories into practice. Paul begins by emphasizing the ultimate unity of all Christians, regardless of individual spiritual gifts. Paul also begins to explain how knowledge of the truths should translate into action. Chapters 4, 5, and 6 feature specific, real-world applications of Christianity to daily life.
Ephesians follows a theme common in Paul's writings: connecting theory with practice. In this book, however, he goes into greater depth before making the transition. As a letter meant to be read by more than just the believers at Ephesus, this is an important look at how Christian belief should translate into Christian action. The first three chapters lay out spiritual ideas, the last three chapters show how these truths should be applied in the life of a mature believer. Paul focuses heavily on love, the unity of the Christian church, and the incredible value of our salvation through Christ.
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