Ephesians 4:17-24

Former Life (17-19): Since we are to attain to the fullness of Christ, we must maintain a clean break from the former pagan lifestyle.[1] Paul begins this new section with His witness to Christ’s teaching,[2] i.e., that we steer clear of our previous pagan conduct.[3] He points out that the root issue of pagans is their mind. Our minds were spiritually empty (“futile”), darkened (as to His truth), and excluded from “the life of God.”[4] We were ignorant of the Lord’s teaching, not only in knowledge (“ignorance”), but also in our unwillingness to obey (“hardness of heart”). Our callousness to God’s righteous standards was seen in our moral choices. We gave ourselves to impurity with a greed for more.[5]

Christ’s Teaching (20-24): What Christ taught us was contrary to all of this.[6] He taught us to lay aside[7] our former godless and morally bankrupt lifestyle (“the old man”). He also taught us to be renewed in our mind,[8] and to strive after God’s righteousness and holiness.[9] This is what Christ taught us. No one who pays attention to the words of our Lord can possibly say otherwise. He called us to turn away from sin and pursue true worship, love for God, love for man, humble service, kingdom alertness, good works for God’s glory, etc.[10]

[1] “So/Therefore [oun (οὖν)]” points out that true repentance is necessary for the church to attain to maturity.

[2] “Affirm” is literally “testify [mar-tu-ro-mai (μαρτύρομαι)].” Paul firmly stands by this truth, lit. “in the Lord.”

[3] Christ commanded us to avoid pagan patterns: Matt. 5:47; 6:7-8, 32-33. This is the old self, lit. “old man.”

[4] This is the new life lived in holiness and in fellowship with God (2:5; 1 John 1:6-7; John 8:12).

[5] Pagan immorality in the first century world was much like today’s (2:3; Rom. 1:24; 1 Thess. 4:5; 1 Pet. 4:3).

[6] “In this way” is literally “thus.” This refers to hearing Christ and being taught in Him.

[7] In the Greek, “lay aside,” “be renewed” and “put on” are infinitives. “You were taught in Him to lay aside…” that is, to repent: Matt. 4:17; 7:21; 11:20-21; Lk. 5:32; 13:3-5; 24:46-47; John 3:20-21; 5:14; 2 Pet. 3:2, 9, 11.

[8] Learn from Him and His words: Matt. 7:24; 11:29; 16:23; 17:5; 22:37; Luke 8:15; 11:28; 24:45; John 8:31-32.

[9] “of the truth” refers to Jesus’ message (1 John 1:5). He called us to be like God (Matt. 5:44-45, 48; Luke 6:36) and to pursue His standard of righteousness (Matt. 6:33; cf. 5:20). The language of old/new man is Paul’s, but the call to repentance and to live as kingdom people set apart from the world is Jesus’ (Matt. 4:17; 5:13-16).

[10] Cf. John 4:24; Matt. 15:8-9; 22:37-39; Mark 10:44-45; Matt. 24:42; 25:13; Matt. 5:16.