Wednesday in the Fourth Week of Ordinary Time

Ephesians 4:17-20

We Must No Longer Live as the Pagans Do

No matter how much theology precedes, how much reveling in God’s love and grace, Paul rarely writes a letter where he does not include warnings about how the Christian is NOT to live.  This particular passage is rather brief compared to others.  It mirrors much of what he says in Romans 1:18-23 where Paul addresses the source of sin as well as the sins.  And that source is man’s natural hardness of heart with which he is born, which yields a darkened mind from which he cannot escape, that is, apart from the regenerating work of God.

So Paul begins saying “that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do.”  You see that I have inserted the word, “pagan,” for “Gentile,” as we understand Gentile today to simply mean, “non-Jew,” which although true then as now, still included all the unsavory sins (e.g., idolatry, sexual immorality, strife) associated with paganism, now as then.  And how do the pagans walk?  In the futility of their minds.  And why is this?  Because they are darkened in their understanding and alienated from the life of God.  But why are they so?  Because they are ignorant of God, His law, and ways.  And the final reason given for this is their hardness of heart.  So Romans 1:18-23 tells us that the reason for all of this is that natural man (man without God, born into the state of nature as all men are) suppresses the knowledge of God that screams at him from both the natural world and, we may add, his own human nature having been created in God’s image.  And this natural sinful, pagan state is not something any man can avoid; it is our lot from the first man.  And so being, men turn to sensuality and impurity, and all the while becoming more calloused as they live their lives.  In this state, God may do one of two things: give them up (Romans 1:24, 26, & 28) or send His Spirit to convict, convince, and save (John 16:8-11). 

But in describing the pagan way of walking, Paul admonishes the Ephesians, “But that is not the way you learned Christ!”  Fortunately, Paul talks more about how the believer walks than the pagan, and we shall take up those passages in the next few days.  But we note two things: 1) The desperate situation in which we are born full of ignorance and hardness of heart; and, 2) We must “learn” Christ if we will walk like him.  This learning begins with our regeneration—being born again of the Spirit—then studying our Lord’s life as the Bible presents it, and then imitating that life as the Holy Spirit empowers us to do so.  So Christ is to be learned and lived.  And in this way, we grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Author: The Reformed Baptist

My name is Stephen Taylor, ordained Baptist minister of eighteen years pastoral experience with a Ph.D. in Historical Theology from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. Better than that, I am married to a godly woman, Karla, who has been very patient with me since 1989. I have two daughters, both of whom I homeschooled for extended periods of time, who became godly young women, and who ran off and married godly young men, all of which is very proper. The oldest daughter has even seen fit to bless me with a grandson and a granddaughter, and my youngest daughter with a grandson, all three of whom are bundles of exceeding joy. As you can see, I am quite blessed. This website is dedicated to helping people grow in the wisdom and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ through the gift of writing that the Lord has given to me. It is specifically about helping His people grow in godliness, the theme you see repeated above. I write devotions with this aim and hope that they might be of some help to God’s people. Full disclosure: I am of a Reformed bent, meaning that my understanding of Scripture is primarily informed by the Reformers and their successors of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. However, as a student of church history and theology, I strive to remain true to that teaching handed down once for all unto the saints through every age of the Church. I like to think of myself as a “catholic” Christian, as the Reformers thought of themselves. At any rate, feel free to read, pray, and contact me if you wish, or correct me if need be. As you can see, I tend to follow the church year. Of course, I make no special claims about these devotions. I know very well that others have written better and plumbed the depths of God’s word with greater insight. But if my musings help someone draw closer to the Lord, well then, I have my reward. Blessings to you and may the God and Father of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ speak to you that word which He knows you especially need to hear. Grace & peace, Stephen Taylor

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