Ephesians 4:17
This I say therefore, and testify in the Lord, that ye henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind,
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[5.Practical Exhortation (Ephesians 4:17-21).

(1) THE NEW LIFE; first, taught in Christ and learning Christ; and secondly, regenerate in Him to the image of God (Ephesians 4:17-24).


(a)Falsehood (Ephesians 4:25);

(b)Passionate anger (Ephesians 4:26-27);

(c)Dishonesty (Ephesians 4:28);

(d)Foulness of word (Ephesians 4:29-30);


(a)Bitterness and malice, unworthy of the love of Christ (Ephesians 4:31-32, and Ephesians 5:1-2);

(b)Fornication and lust, unworthy of the light of Christ (Ephesians 5:3-14);

(c)Recklessness and drunken excitement (Ephesians 5:15-21).]

(1) In Ephesians 4:17-24 we enter on the practical section of the Epistle, which, indeed, appears to begin in Ephesians 4:1, but is broken in upon by the magnificent digression of the doctrinal summary of Ephesians 4:4-16. It opens with a striking contrast of the past and the present—the life of the heathen in its “vanity,” with the two-fold result of blindness and callousness of soul; and the Christian life, which has in learning Christ found the secret of regeneration.

(17) This I say therefore.—The phrase “This I say” seems to be used by St. Paul in returning (so to speak) from some lofty aspiration or profound reasoning, in which some might not be able to follow him, to a solid, practical ground, which all may tread. (See, for example, 1Corinthians 15:50.) Here he is not content to use this phrase simply, but he enforces it by the solemnity of the adjuration “I testify” (comp. Acts 20:26; Galatians 5:3), which properly means, “I call God to witness the truth of what I say”—a phrase found in express terms in Romans 1:9; 2Corinthians 1:23; Philippians 1:8; 1Thessalonians 2:5. Nor was even this enough, for he adds “in the Lord”—that is, in the name, authority, and spirit of the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. The whole form is therefore one of peculiar force and solemnity.

The vanity of their mind.—In these words St. Paul describes the fundamental condition of heathenism. The “mind,” that is (as in Romans 7:23; Romans 7:25), the “inner man”—the spiritual intuition of invisible principles of truth and right, which is the true humanity—has become “subject to vanity” (Romans 8:20),—the vanity of which the Book of Ecclesiastes so often speaks. In losing the living conception of a living God, it has lost also the conception of the true object and perfection of human life; and so wanders on aimless, hopeless, reckless, as in a dream. With what absolute fidelity St. Paul describes the heathen world of his day, its history and its literature alike testify. Compare with the whole passage the picture drawn in Romans 1:21-32, “They became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened,” &c. The difference is that in the latter passage the prominent idea is mainly of “judicial blindness,” sent by God as a penalty on wilful apostasy from Him, whereas here St. Paul rather dwells on self-chosen blindness and hardness of heart.

Ephesians 4:17-19. This I say, therefore — For your further instruction, how to walk worthy of your calling; (he returns to the subject which he began, Ephesians 4:1;) and testify in the Lord — In the name and by the authority of the Lord Jesus, that ye, being now happily brought into the Christian Church, and made partakers of all the privileges and advantages belonging to its members; henceforth walk not as other Gentiles — That ye live no longer as the unconverted heathen; in the vanity of their mind — Amused with the empty trifles of this world, and enslaved to low and mean pursuits, utterly unworthy of their rational and immortal nature; having the understanding darkened — With respect to all spiritual and divine things, which is the source of all foolish desires and pursuits; see Romans 1:21; being alienated from the life of God — Being estranged in affection, as well as in practice, from the divine and spiritual life, from all union with, and conformity to, the living and true God; or, from that noble principle of all piety and virtue, the life of God in the soul of man, forming it to the love, imitation, and service of him by whom it is implanted; through the ignorance — Of God and his will, and of their duty and happiness; that is inherent in them — Or natural to them, as fallen and depraved creatures; because of the blindness Την πωρωσιν, the callousness, or insensibility; of their hearts — This is explained by Chrysostom, Whitby, and some other commentators, as referring to their Gentile state; but though there is no doubt but it partly refers to that, yet there can be no sufficient reason to limit such a description to dark and ignorant heathen; it is but too just a representation of all unregenerate men. Who being past feeling — The original word, απηλγηκοτες, is peculiarly significant, properly meaning, past feeling pain, or void of distress — Pain urges the sick to seek a remedy, and distress, the distressed to endeavour, if possible, to procure relief; which remedy or relief is little thought of where pain and distress are not felt. Thus, those who are hardened against all impressions of grief on account of their former sins, are not excited to seek either for the pardon of them or deliverance from them. Some MSS. read απηλπικοτες, hoping for nothing. These wicked men, disbelieving the resurrection of the body, and the immortality of the soul, have no hope of any happiness after this life, and therefore they have given themselves over — Have abandoned themselves freely, of their own accord; to lasciviousness — To wantonness, to unchaste imaginations and desires, words and actions; to work all uncleanness — Impurity of every kind; with greediness — The word εν πλεονεξια, thus rendered, is commonly used to denote covetousness; because the more the covetous man possesses, the more he desires. Hence the word is used (2 Peter 2:14) to denote inordinate desire in general.

4:17-24 The apostle charged the Ephesians in the name and by the authority of the Lord Jesus, that having professed the gospel, they should not be as the unconverted Gentiles, who walked in vain fancies and carnal affections. Do not men, on every side, walk in the vanity of their minds? Must not we then urge the distinction between real and nominal Christians? They were void of all saving knowledge; they sat in darkness, and loved it rather than light. They had a dislike and hatred to a life of holiness, which is not only the way of life God requires and approves, and by which we live to him, but which has some likeness to God himself in his purity, righteousness, truth, and goodness. The truth of Christ appears in its beauty and power, when it appears as in Jesus. The corrupt nature is called a man; like the human body, it is of divers parts, supporting and strengthening one another. Sinful desires are deceitful lusts; they promise men happiness, but render them more miserable; and bring them to destruction, if not subdued and mortified. These therefore must be put off, as an old garment, a filthy garment; they must be subdued and mortified. But it is not enough to shake off corrupt principles; we must have gracious ones. By the new man, is meant the new nature, the new creature, directed by a new principle, even regenerating grace, enabling a man to lead a new life of righteousness and holiness. This is created, or brought forth by God's almighty power.This I say therefore, and testify in the Lord - I bear witness in the name of the Lord Jesus, or ministering by his authority. The object of this is, to exhort them to walk worthy of their high calling, and to adorn the doctrine of the Saviour. With this view, he reminds them of what they were before they were converted, and of the manner in which the pagan around them lived.

That ye henceforth walk not - That you do not henceforth live - the Christian life being often in the Scriptures compared to a journey.

As other Gentiles walk - This shows that probably the mass of converts in the church at Ephesus were from among the pagan, and Paul regarded them as Gentile converts. Or it may be that he here addressed himself more particularly to that portion of the church, as especially needing his admonition and care.

In the vanity of their mind - In the way of folly, or in mental folly. What he means by this he specifies in the following verses. The word "vanity" in the Scriptures means more than mere "emptiness." It denotes moral wrong, being applied usually to those who worshipped vain idols, and then those who were alienated from the "true" God.

17. therefore—resuming the exhortation which he had begun with, "I therefore beseech you that ye walk worthy," &c. (Eph 4:1).

testify in the Lord—in whom (as our element) we do all things pertaining to the ministry (1Th 4:1 [Alford]; Ro 9:1).

henceforth … not—Greek, "no longer"; resumed from Eph 4:14.

other—Greek, "the rest of the Gentiles."

in the vanity, &c.—as their element: opposed to "in the Lord." "Vanity of mind" is the waste of the rational powers on worthless objects, of which idolatry is one of the more glaring instances. The root of it is departure from the knowledge of the true God (Eph 4:18, 19; Ro 1:21; 1Th 4:5).

This I say therefore, and testify in the Lord; I beseech or adjure you by the Lord: see the like, Romans 12:1 Philippians 2:1.

That ye henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind; their minds themselves, and understandings, the highest and noblest faculties in them, being conversant about things empty, transient, and unprofitable, and which deceive their expectations, and therefore vain, viz. their idols, their worldly enjoyments, &c.

This I say therefore and testify in the Lord,.... These words may be considered either as an assertion, and so a testimonial of the different walk and conversation of the saints at Ephesus, from the rest of the Gentiles; or as an exhortation in the name of the Lord to such a walk, the apostle here returning to what he stirs them up to in Ephesians 4:1

that ye henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind; every natural man walks in a vain show; the mind of man is vain, and whoever walk according to the dictates of it, must walk vainly: the phrase is expressive of the emptiness of the mind; it being naturally destitute of God, of the knowledge, fear, and grace of God; and of Jesus Christ, of the knowledge of him, faith in him, and love to him; and of the Spirit and his graces; and it also points at the instability and changeableness of the human mind, in which sense man at his best estate was altogether vanity; as also the folly, falsehood, and wickedness of it in his fallen state: and the mind discovers its vanity in its thoughts and imaginations, which are vain and foolish; in the happiness it proposes to itself, which lies in vain things, as worldly riches, honours, &c. and in the ways and means it takes to obtain it, and in words and actions; and the Gentiles showed the vanity of their minds in their vain philosophy and curious inquiries into things, and in their polytheism and idolatry: to walk herein, is to act according to the dictates of a vain and carnal mind; and it denotes a continued series of sinning, or a vain conversation maintained, a progress and obstinate persisting therein with pleasure: now God's elect before conversion walked as others do, but when they are converted their walk and conversation is not, at least it ought not to be, like that of others: the Alexandrian copy, and some others, the Vulgate Latin and Ethiopic versions, leave out the word "other", and only read, "as the Gentiles", &c.

{12} This I say therefore, and testify in the Lord, that ye henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk, in the {z} vanity of their mind,

(12) He descends to the fruits of Christian doctrine, and reasons first upon the principles of conduct and actions, setting down a most grave comparison between the children of God, and those who are not regenerated. For in these men all the powers of the mind are corrupted, and their mind is given to vanity, and their senses are darkened with most gross mistiness, and their affections are so accustomed by little and little to wickedness, that at length they run headlong into all uncleanness, being utterly destitute of all judgment.

(z) If the noblest parts of the soul are corrupted, what is man but solely corruption?

Ephesians 4:17. That οὖν, like the Latin ergo, here resumes Ephesians 4:1 (Hartung, Partikell. II. p. 22 f.; Klotz, ad Devar. p. 718), is rightly assumed; since the exhortation begun Ephesians 4:1-3 is really interrupted by the digression, Ephesians 4:4-16, and the duty now following μηκέτι περιπατεῖν κ.τ.λ., is but the negative side of the ἀξίως περιπατῆσαι κ.τ.λ. of Ephesians 4:1. Theodoret aptly observes: πάλιν ἀνέλαβε τῆς παραινέσεως τὸ προοίμιον.

τοῦτο] to be referred forwards: What follows then (now to return to my exhortations) I say and asseverate, etc.

μαρτύρομαι] does not signify obsecro, but I testify, i.e. I asseverate, aEphesians Ephesians 4 :See on Galatians 5:3. Since, however, there lies in this expression and in λέγω the notion of exhortation and precept, there is no need of supplying δεῖν to the following infinitive. See Kühner, ad Xen. Mem. ii. 2. 1; Buttmann, neut. Gr. p. 235 [E. T. 273]; also Heind. ad Plat. Prot. p. 346 B.

ἐν κυρίῳ] not per Dominum (Theodoret: ὑπὸ μάρτυρι γάρ φησι τῷ κυρίῳ ταῦτα λέγω, so already Chrysostom and most expositors, including Koppe, Flatt, Holzhausen), which would be πρὸς κυρίου (comp. on Romans 9:1), and with μαρτύρομαι would have to be denoted by τὸν κύριον (I call the Lord to witness, Plat. Phil. p. 12 B; Eur. Phoen. 629; Soph. Oed. Col. 817); but rather, as at Romans 9:1, 1 Thessalonians 4:1 : in the Lord, so that Paul expresses that not in respect of his own individuality does he speak and aver, but that Christ withal is the element, in which his thinking and willing moves,—through which, therefore, the λέγω and μαρτύρ. has its distinctively Christian character.

μηκέτι] after that ye, from being Gentiles, have become Christians.

καθὼς καὶ τὰ λοιπὰ ἔθνη κ.τ.λ.] The καί has its reference in the former walk of the readers. These are no longer to have such a walk, as was, like their previous walk, that also of the other, i.e. the still unconverted (comp. Ephesians 2:3; 1 Thessalonians 4:13) Gentiles.

τὰ λοιπά] for the readers, although Christians, belonged nationally to the category of Gentiles.

ἐν ματαιότητι τοῦ νοὸς αὐτῶν] (not αὑτῶν) is the subjective sphere, in which the walk of the other Gentiles takes place, namely, in nothingness (truthlessness) of their thinking and willing (νοῦς), which, however, neither denotes, after the Hebrew הֶבֶל, idol-worship (see, in opposition to this, Fritzsche, ad Rom. i. 21), nor is it to be referred, with Grotius, especially to the philosophers (comp. 1 Corinthians 3:20), but is to be understood of the whole intellectual and moral character (comp. 2 Peter 2:18) of heathenism, in which the rational and moral principle (the νοῦς) is theoretically and practically estranged from the truth (Ephesians 4:18), and subject to error and the service of sin (Ephesians 4:19). We may add, that the ματαιότης is not an inborn one (Zanchius, Calovius, and others; comp. Calvin), but (Romans 7:7 ff.) one that has come to pass, although it has come to pass φύσει (Ephesians 2:3). Comp. Romans 1:21; Romans 2:15.

Ephesians 4:17-24. A paragraph which takes up again the practical address begun with the first verse of the chapter, but interrupted at Ephesians 4:4, and contains solemn exhortations to withdraw from all conformity with the old vain pagan life.

17–24. Practical Results: a spiritual revolution of principle and practice. The Old Man and the New

17. testify] A word of solemn appeal occurring elsewhere in N. T. only Acts 22:26 (St Paul speaking) and Galatians 5:3.

in the Lord] As myself being “in Him,” and as to those who are in the same union. Cp. Galatians 5:10 (“I have confidence towards you in the Lord,” Gr.); below, Ephesians 6:1 (“obey in the Lord”); &c. The phrase “in the Lord” occurs 45 times in St Paul; “in Christ,” or closely kindred phrases, nearly 80 times.

henceforth, &c.] More lit., no longer walk. At their conversion “old things were passed away” (2 Corinthians 5:17) as to principle. Let this be now realized, continuously and ever more completely, in practice. On the metaphor “walk,” see above on Ephesians 2:2; Ephesians 2:10.

other Gentiles] Read, probably, the Gentiles. (On the word see above, on Ephesians 2:11.) In a spiritual sense the Ephesians were no longer “Gentiles,” for they were spiritual “Israelites” (Galatians 6:16); hence the true form of the phrase here.

vanity of their mind] “Vanity” here is not self-conceit, which would require another Gr. word. It is the “emptiness” of illusion, specially of the state of illusion which sees pleasure in sin. In Romans 8:20 the word is used of evil, whether physical or moral, regarded as (what all evil ultimately proves to be) delusion and failure.

Of their mind:—the “mind” sometimes denotes specially the reason, as distinguished e.g. from spiritual intuition (1 Corinthians 14:14-15). Sometimes (Colossians 2:18) it apparently denotes the rational powers in general, as in the unregenerate state; and again those powers as regenerate (Romans 12:2). Here the unrenewed “Gentile” is viewed as living on principles which reason can approve only when the eternal facts are hidden from it.

Ephesians 4:17. Τοῦτο αὖν λέγω, this I say then) He returns to the point with which he set out, Ephesians 4:1.—μηκέτι ὑμᾶς περιπατεῖν, that ye henceforth walk not) This is an antithesis to Ephesians 4:1.—ἐν ματαιότητι, in vanity) The root of such walking, departure from the knowledge of the true God, Romans 1:21; 1 Thessalonians 4:5 : in (ἐν) is to be construed with they walk [ἔθνη περιπατεῖ, not with ὑμᾶς περιπατεῖν]. Vanity is explained at large in Ephesians 4:18; walking in Ephesians 4:19.

Verses 17-24. - CONSTRASTED PRINCIPLES OF GENTILE AND CHRISTIAN CHARACTER. Verse 17. - This I say therefore, and testify in the Lord. There is no sign of the apostle, when he comes to the practical part of his Epistle, deeming it of less importance than the doctrinal. The formula is very expressive; the apostle sinks his personality, and brings forward Christ as the Exhorter. That ye no longer walk as the rest of the Gentiles walk. First, he indicates what they are not to be. "Be not conformed to this world." In four particulars they are to be different from Gentiles. The first of these is in the vanity of their mind. The allusion is to their frivolous, empty aims in life, and their unfixed, unsettled impulses. The Gentiles were chasing shadows, blowing bubbles, doing anything to make time pass agreeably; not considering or knowing either what they were, or whence they came, or whither they were going. Ephesians 4:17This - therefore

Referring to what follows. Therefore, resuming the exhortation of Ephesians 4:1-3.


Solemnly declare. Compare Acts 20:26; Galatians 5:3.

Other Gentiles

Omit other.

Vanity of their mind (ματαιότητι τοῦ νοὸς αὐτῶν)

For vanity see on Romans 1:21; see on Romans 8:20. For mind, see on Romans 7:23.

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