4. The practical application of oneness, 4:1-6:9

ii] No longer old but new


In preparation for his ethical instructions, 4:25-5:14, Paul reminds his readers of their old pagan life, a life alienated from God, unable to make moral judgments, or discriminate between good or evil, v17-19. He then reminds them of their new standing in Christ. A walk in holiness rests on the fundamental truth, that in Christ a believer has put off the old self and put on the new - we have died with Christ and are risen with Christ, alive in Christ through the renewing power of the Holy Spirit, v20-24. Given that "in Christ" (in union / relationship with Christ) we have put off the old self and put on the new, Paul goes on to explain, in the next passage for study, how to be what we are. We are to cast off our old way of life, just as we cast off a worn-out coat, "you must put off falsehood ......", v25ff, and we must put on the new way of the Spirit, "be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you", v32ff.


i] Context: See 4:1-16.


ii] Background: See 1:1-2.


iii] Structure: No longer old but new:

The old self, v17-19;

No longer like the old self, v17;

The nature of the old self, v18-19.

The old self and spiritual renewal, v20-24.

The renewal they "learned" from Christ, v20-21;

The nature of spiritual renewal - what they "learned", v22-24.


iv] Interpretation:

Given that we are one together in Christ (oun, "therefore", v17), we are no longer godless pagans, unbelievers lost in the futility of a corrupt mind, v17; in that life we were dead, v18-19. The reason is provided in v20-24, namely that by being in Christ we have put off the old self and put on the new.


What is involved in putting off the old self and putting on the new? The putting off of the old self is often understood in the terms of ethical renewal (taking the infinitives "to put off", v22, "to be renewed", v23, and "to put on", v24, as imperatives, rather than indicative statements of what "you were taught"), so Hoehner, Mitton, ...., but v20-24 is all about receiving rather than doing. The instruction (what "you were taught") entails seeing oneself dead to sin and alive to God in Christ, cf., Rom.6:11. Paul is reminding his readers of their being "in Christ", the old man put off and the new man put on (v22 / 24, aorist infinitives, the action is perfective / complete), in which state they are being renewed (v23, a present infinitive, the action is imperfective / durative / ongoing). So, Paul is presenting an indicative fact, that Christ died and rose again for our salvation, such that in our union with Christ we have put off the old man (died with Christ) and put on the new man (raised with Christ), and this through our identification with Christ. This indicative fact will empower the imperatives found in 4:25-5:14, which imperatives amount to be what you are.

In response to the indicative, the old self put off, the new put on, we look to cooperate with the renewal of our beings by the indwelling Spirit of Christ. In Colossians 3:9-10 Paul tells his readers to put away immorality because they have put off the old man with its evil practices and have put on the new man which "is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator." It is this renewing with which we cooperate. As we cooperate with the renewal of our beings by the indwelling Christ, so we begin to be what we are. Law / Biblical instruction / New Testament ethics, guides this renewal, and to this end, Paul instructs his readers: "therefore (dio) put away falsehood .......", v25, ........ "be kind and compassionate ....", v32. It is then that righteous living begins to be shaped in our lives; we begin to become what we are.


v] Homiletics - Western woes

Alan Dupont, writing in the Australian Newspaper, 8/7/2017, identifies six elements in the West's strategic crisis. In his last point he notes the "the eclipse of Christianity" as a major structural change in the West which robs it of its "cultural and political identity", draining it of its "moral capital." "Without transcendent belief, there is no ultimate philosophical obstacle to the pursuit of power as the highest human purpose." Western societies are drifting from a Christian world view, drifting from an other-person-centered morality focused on family and community, the good-old what can I do for my country? attitude. The drift is toward a narcissistic what's in it for me individualistic world which doesn't really work. We are moving from suburban cottages open to the street with unlocked front doors to family compounds surrounded by 3 meter concrete block walled / gated communities. The consequential downside of the collapse of Christianity in Western societies is ignored, if not denied. As former Australian Prime Minister Paul Kelly recently wrote; "The reality is staring us in the face. Yet it cannot be spoken, cannot be entertained, cannot be discussed because there is no greater heresy and no more offensive notion than that the loss of Christian faith might have a downside."

The West's march toward paganism / atheism evidences all the elements of the walk Paul asks his readers to no longer live in, v17-19. Idolatry associated with power, wealth, pleasure, .... blinds humanity to the true purpose of life, v17. Alienated from God, people are controlled by ignorance, unable to make moral judgments or discriminate between good or evil, v18. The modern pagan becomes focused on self, on selfies, "look at what I had for breakfast", rather than make sacrifices for the good of the wider community, eg., to have my tax raised, or my benefits cut to control the national debt. Having lost moral sensitivity, public decency is depreciated, v19. "I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Pagans do."


vi] Exposition: A simple exposition of this passage may be found in the linked pew-level Sermon Notes.

Text - 4:17

Walking in holiness, v17-24: i] The walk of the old man, v17-19. a) Paul begins by reminding his readers that they are no longer godless pagans, v17. Before detailing his ethical exhortations, Paul will give a short description of his readers' old life in paganism, v18-19, and then provide the doctrinal ground upon which his exhortations are based, v20-24, ie., establish first that in Christ they are holy, before moving on to 4:25-5:14 in order to instruct them be holy - be what you are!

oun "so [I tell you]" - therefore [i say]. Drawing a logical conclusion from the previous section, although Hoehner thinks it only references v1-3, so also Best, ...

touto pro. "this" - Probably cataphoric / forward referencing, what Paul is about to teach, but possibly referring to what he has already taught, anaphoric; "All this being so", Cassirer,.

en + dat. "in [the Lord]" - [and testify] in [lord]. Local, expressing space, metaphorical / incorporative union; Paul testifies / declares the following words on the basis of his connection with the Lord. It is though, a widely used phrase by Paul that sometimes drifts toward an idiomatic sense, "as an apostle under the Lord's authority", even "as a believer."

peripatein (peripatew) pres. inf. "live" - [no longer you] to walk. "Walk", in the sense of "conduct yourself, live." The infinitive may be viewed as epexegetic, specifying touto, "this", so Larkin, or recitative, introducing a dependent statement of indirect speech expressing what Paul legw, "says", Merkle. Either way it may serve as an indicative statement, or an imperative. It is usually treated as an imperative, as NIV; "I order you to stop living like stupid godless people", CEV. These notes suggest a statement of fact; the Ephesians no longer live like the Gentiles in the futility of the mind, darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God ........" The accusative uJmaV, "you", serves as the subject of the infinitive.

kaqwV "as" - as [also the gentiles walk]. Here expressing a characteristic quality, rather than a comparison; not like a Gentile sinner, but as a Gentile sinner.

en + dat. "in" - Local, expressing sphere; the sphere in which the mind of the godless operates. In describing pagans as bound in the "futility of their thinking", Paul identifies the cause of their evil living. They do not know God, and therefore, they have little understanding of ethics.

tou nooV (ouV oV) gen. "[the futility] of [their] thinking" - [the futility, empty, lacking content] of the minds [of them]. The genitive is adjectival, attributed, "futile mind", Arnold.


b) The nature of the old self, v18-19. In describing pagans, Paul says, "they are darkened in their understanding." Not knowing God ("separated from the life of God", cf., Col.1:21) only corrupts an understanding of the truth, of ethics, and so prompts evil living. This "ignorance" of the truth increases with the "hardening of their hearts." As the conscience is slowly desensitized, so it is increasingly unable to convict.

The function and relationship between the three participles and the two prepositional phrases in this verse is unclear and so makes for difficult exegesis. Larkin, p87, offers a credible approach, but Mitton, Best, Lenski, Lincoln and Hoehner, should not be discounted. Larkin suggests that the first participle, eskotwmenoi, "having been darkened", is adverbial, causal, modifying peripatei, "[do not walk/live as also the Gentiles] walk / live", v17. The second participle, o[nteV, the verb to-be, "being", is causal, modifying the first participle, while the third participle, aphllotriwmenoi, "having been alienated from", is adjectival, serving as the predicate of the second participle. The prepositional phrases introduced by dia, are causal, each independently explaining the participial constructions as a whole. "Now this I say .... that you no longer walk as indeed the pagans walk ........ because they have been darkened in their understanding, since they have been alienated from the life of God, because of the willful ignorance that is in them, [and] because of the hardness of their hearts", Larkin.

eskotwmenoi (skotow) perf. part. "they are darkened" - having been darkened. "[Because] they live blindfolded in a world of illusion", Phillips.

th/ dianoia/ dat. "in their understanding" - in the understanding, mind, thought. The dative is local, sphere = in the sphere of their understanding, or possibly reference / respect, "with respect to ...." The word is interchangeable with "heart" and means "the center of human perception", O'Brien.

o[nteV (eimi) pres. part. "-" - being. See note above, although Merkle classifies it as periphrastic. Expresses "forcibly the persistence of the .... state of things", BDF.

aphllotriwmenoi (apallotripiow) perf. pas. part. "separated" - having been alienated from, estranged, separated from. See note above. The perfect tense expresses the sense of having entered a continuous state. "Their minds are darkened and they are alienated from the life of God", Barclay.

thV zwhV (h) gen. "from the life" - of the life. Genitive of direct object after the apo prefix verb "to be separated from."

tou qeou (oV) gen "of God" - [the life] of god. The genitive is probably ablative, expressing source; "the life that comes from God."

dia + acc. "because of" - because of, on account of. Causal.

thn pwrwsin (iV ewV) "the hardening" - the hardness, stubbornness. The "ignorance" of the Gentiles is due to "the progressive inability of their conscience to convict them of wrongdoing", Bruce. "They no longer have any feelings about what is right", CEV.

thV kardiaV gen. "of [their] hearts" - of the hearts [of them]. Wallace classifies this genitive as adjectival, attributed, where the lead noun limits the genitive noun "heart"; "hard hearted." An ignorance due to a hardened heart aligns with the more modern idea of dullness of mind.


Continuing with the idea of the "hardening of their hearts", Paul restates the phrase in different words: "having lost all sensitivity". As the skin can become callous and less sensitive, so can the conscience. The result is that a pagan tends to hand themselves over to evil; they give themselves to "sensuality", often called "debauchery" - the flaunting of sexuality without shame. They also give themselves to "impurity", which is again some form of sexual misconduct. Also to "lust", or more rightly "covetousness". Of course, saying to his readers You are no longer this person, Paul is well aware they can be, given that sin is a human problem, not a pagan problem. It is for this reason that Paul follows up his indicatives with imperatives.

aphlghkoteV (apalgew) perf. part. "having lost all sensitivity" - [who] having put away remorse, feelings. The participle is adverbial, probably causal, Hoehner; "they have given themselves over to sensuality because they lost all sensitivity." They have lost all feeling of shame", TEV.

oi{tineV pro. "they" - who. Functioning as a substantive, subject of the verb paredwkan, "gave"; "who, having lost sensitivity, gave themselves."

paredwkan (paradidwmi) aor. "have given [themselves] over" - gave, delivered over [themselves]. Usually the scriptures have God doing the abandoning, but here the pagans "have abandoned themselves to shameless immorality", Barclay.

th/ aselgeia/ (a) dat. "to sensuality" - to vice, uncleanness, filthiness, sensual behavior, extreme immorality, debauchery. Dative of indirect object.

eiV + acc. "so as to" - for [work, gain, practice]. Here expressing purpose; "for the business of impurity", Moffatt.

akaqarsiaV (a) gen. "impurity" - of uncleanness. The genitive is verbal, objective, so Larkin. This word often has sexual overtones.

en + dat. "full of" - in [covetousness]. The preposition is adverbial here, expressing manner, Hoehner; "greedy to practice every kind of impurity", ESV. "Greed" is often related to idolatry, a desire for this world's things that transcends a desire for God. But possibly here just a lust for evil; "in their greed for the things which no man has a right even to desire", Barclay.


ii] The spiritual renewal of the old self, v20-24. Paul now speaks of the nature of the new man, making the point that his readers were taught that they have put off the old man and put on the new, and are being renewed in the attitude of their minds such that the pagan life is certainly not what they learned from Christ. In the Gk., these verses form a 1st. class conditional clause where the condition is assumed to be true. The protasis, the "if" clause, consists of v21-24 (or possibly v21a), with the apodosis, the "then" clause, formed by v20; "if indeed, as is the case, you have heard about him (Christ) [..........???] then (v20) you did not in this manner (ie., the evil behavior of the pagans v18-19) learn Christ. Caird says of this sentence that it is "chaotic".

de "however" - but/and. Transitional, indicating the next step in the argument, here contrastive; "but that is not the way you learned Christ", ESV.

ouJtwV adv. "that way / [is not] the way of life" - [you did not] thus, so. Here establishing a comparative contrast. "This is not how Jesus has taught us to live."

emaqete (manqanw) aor. "come to know [Christ] / learned" - learn [christ]. The Greek expression is unclear, but the sense seems obvious. Paul's readers were taught about Christ's will on matters of ethics and they know that none of the above evils are sanctioned. "You have learned nothing like that from Christ", Phillips.


When the Ephesians became believers they "learned Christ", v20, ie., they welcomed him as a living person and were shaped by his words, so O'Brien; in simple terms this means that they learnt about Christ and assimilated his teaching. The statement "learned Christ" is now explained: the Ephesians "heard about / of Christ" and they were "taught in him."

ei ge "surely" - if indeed. Introducing a 1st. class conditional clause; see note above, v20. The ge is probably emphatic; "if indeed." Of course, the Greek does not imply doubt, but rather the opposite; "given that you have heard ...." As noted above, this is a somewhat complex conditional clause.

auton "[you heard] [of him / about Christ]" - you heard [him]. As Best notes, if the sense is that the Ephesians heard "about Christ / about him", then a genitive, rather than an accusative would be expected. "Heard about him" is widely accepted, but Best opts for "heard in those who proclaim him." The language only "makes sense when it is assumed that Christ himself speaks in those who proclaim him", Barth. "I have no doubt that you have been instructed in the way of Christ."

edidacqhte (didaskw) aor. pas. "were taught" - were instructed. It is quite possible that "you were taught" begins a new sentence which runs through to the end of verse 24. The infinitives in v22-24 would serve as the objects of this verb. The NIV develops this structure by repeating "you were taught" at the beginning of v22, but see the introductory note on the conditional clause in v20. The teaching is most probably the form of instruction given to a new believer. We call this catechistic instruction. The comment seems to indicate that the readers were not Paul's own converts. This is to be expected, given that it is likely that the letter to the Ephesians is a general letter to a wider group of people.

en + dat. "in" - in [him]. Not instrumental, "by him", but expressing sphere, incorporative union; "in communion with him", Meyer.

kaqwV "in accordance with" - as, just as [truth is]. Possibly causal, "you were taught in communion with him (Christ) because the truth is in (embodied in) Jesus", although more likely comparative, "just as." The point is simple enough; "you heard about him and learnt about him", CEV.

en + dat. "in [Jesus]" - in [jesus]. Local, sphere; Jesus is the embodiment of truth.


b) The nature of spiritual renewal - what they "learned", v22-24 (see "Interpretation" above). They were taught, says Paul, that they have put off their old corrupted self. When a person believes in Jesus the old sinful self is cast off like a worn out coat, it is put to death, it dies with Christ. In their identification with Christ, the old sinful self is buried with him and is replaced by his perfect righteousness, thus creating a new self. As already noted, translations often treat the three infinitives in v22-24, "to put off", "to be renewed", "to put on", as if imperatives, rather than the indicative objects of edidacqhtye, "you were taught." This is unlikely to be Paul's intent.

kata + acc. "You were taught, with regard to [your former way of life]" - according to [the = your former way of living]. Here probably expressing reference / respect, "with respect to ...", rather than expressing a standard, "in accordance with." The NIV approach to the arrangement of this sentence is widely supported, but it is possible to read the Greek as "you were taught to put away your former way of life", NRSV, but it is surely "you were taught to put off the old man."

apoqesqai (apotiqhmi) aor. inf. "to put off" - [you were taught] to put off, put away, remove. The infinitive most likely serves as the object of the verb edidacqhte,"you were taught", v21 / dependent statement of indirect speech stating what they were taught. The teaching is often regarded as a command / exhortation; "you were taught that you must put off your old self ...", so Hoehner. Sometimes translated as a straight imperative, although an imperative infinitive is probably an invalid classification; "Get rid of your old life (without Christ)", TEV. Yet, as already indicated, it seems more likely that it is indicative, rather than imperative, "you were taught that you have put off the old man ....", so O'Brien, along with most of the oldies, Eadie, Ellicott, Moule, ...., although most are unable to completely let go the imperative - the is / aught dilemma. The teaching the Ephesian believers received is that through faith in Christ they have died with Christ and are risen with Christ, the old man is dead, the new man alive, and in that state they are being renewed daily be the indwelling Spirit of Christ.

ton fqeiromenon (fqeirw) pres. pas. part. "which is being corrupted" - [the old man] the one being corrupted. The participle is adjectival, attributive, limiting / describing the "old man." "The old man", the old sinful self, is subject to corruption, ruin and decay, and this as the durative present tense indicates, is an ongoing condition. Although the old man has died with Christ, he twitches until deposited in the grave, and to this end, Paul will follow up with a series of moral instructions, 4:25-5:14.

kata + acc "by" - according to. As above, although Hoehner opts for standard, and O'Bien argues for ground / basis.

thV apathV (h) gen. "deceitful [desires]" - [the desires, lusts] of deceitfulness. The genitive is adjectival, attributive, limiting "desires", as NIV, but possibly source, "desires out of deceit", so Arnold. "Lusts wrought by deceit", Cassirer.


They were taught, says Paul, that they are being made new in the attitude of our minds - a present and ongoing renewal through the Spirit.

ananeousqai (ananeow) pres. pas. inf. "to be made new" - to be renewed (to cause something to become new and different, with the implication of becoming superior, to make new, renewal*). Again, the infinitive forms a dependent statement explaining what "you were taught", see above. The present tense expresses ongoing action, as distinct from the aorists used for putting off the old man and putting on the new. The verb may be middle, with the sense "renew oneself", but better passive in that in Christ we are being renewed (through the Spirit???). "Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day", 2Cor.4:16. We are being "transformed", Rom.12:2, cf. Col.3:9-10.

tw/ pneumati (a atoV) dat. "in the attitude" - in / by the spirit. The dative is instrumental, expressing means, or reference / respect. Paul's words may be a reference to the renewal of the mind by the Holy Spirit, which action the Spirit does perform. Yet, is the Gk. saying "in/by the spirit / Spirit"? The "spirit" may mean our "human spirit", our "inmost being," "Mentally and spiritually remade", Phillips, or the "Holy Spirit", "Let the Spirit change your way of thinking", CEV. Many modern commentators lean toward "the Holy Spirit", so Schnackenburg, Houlden, ..... while others opt for "the human spirit", so Abbott, Meyer, Lincoln, O'Brien ("The sphere of this renewing work ... is the person's inmost being" - the inner person), ......

tou nooV (oV) gen. "of [your] minds" - of the mind [of you]. The genitive is adjectival, epexegetical, so Larkin, although Hoehner suggests it is a genitive of place, so "in your mind." Bruce suggests that "spirit" and "mind" are in apposition to each other; "it involves spiritual renewal, the renewal of your minds."


They were taught, says Paul, that they have put on the new self, that they are righteous as Christ is righteous, holy as Christ is holy. Given that we have put on this new self, put on Christ, let us strive to be what we are in Christ. In the next passage for study Paul will outline an ethical response to our standing in Christ.

endusasqai (enduw) aor. mid. inf. "to put on" - [and] to put on, clothe [the new man]. The infinitive serves as the object of "you were taught" / dependent statement of indirect speech expressing what they were taught. As noted above, we are inclined to think in terms of putting on morality, although putting on Christ through our identification with Christ, is more likely. For a believer, the ethical imperative addresses what we are already in Christ. It is when we are dressed "in true righteousness and holiness", that we can strive to image Christ-likeness in our day-to-day life.

ton ktisqenta (ktizw) aor. pas. part. "created" - the one having been created. The participle is adjectival, attributive, limiting the "new man/self"; "which is created in God's likeness", TEV.

kata + acc. "to be like [God]" - according to [god]. Expressing a standard / comparative, "in accordance with God / similar to God, God-like."

en + dat. "in" - in [righteousness]. Here probably adverbial, reference / respect; "created after the likeness of God with respect to righteousness and holiness" This prepositional phrase most likely modifies "created" and therefore describes the "new man", rather than "God".

thV alhqeiaV (a) gen. "true" - [and holiness, sanctity] of the truth. The genitive is probably ablative, expressing source / origin, "a righteousness and holiness that originates from / comes out of truth", although note NIV which treats it as adjectival, attributive. Righteousness and holiness originates from "the truth", ie., "from God himself ... who is the truth", O'Brien. You were taught to put on the new self, "which was divinely created, and which shows itself in that justice and holiness, which are the products of the truth", Barclay.


Ephesians Introduction



[Pumpkin Cottage]