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.
(Ephesians 4:17 ESV)
Yesterday Paul encouraged his readers to speak the truth in love – they were to present sound doctrine to each other, as well as to non-believers, in a compassionate and loving way. Today he is going to practice what he’s been preaching; he is going to give them some advice.
Paul tells the believers in Ephesus to stop living like they used to (“walk as the Gentiles do”). Paul’s use of the term “Gentiles” refers to those who do not know Christ (he is not using it as an ethnic term). The Ephesians were Gentiles. But the Ephesians believer’s lives were not to look like the lives of the Ephesians who didn’t believe.
Apparently some of the members of the church in Ephesus were having trouble making this transition. They were still living in the same manner as the rest of the city that did not believe. Similarly, those of us who are born-again believers who live in the United States should not live like our fellow citizens who do not believe. Our lives should be different.
One obvious difference is we should be attending church regularly, praying regularly, and studying God’s word regularly. The rest of America does not do this. But we should also be different in other ways including the way we talk (we should not use foul language or gossip), how we entertain ourselves (certain movies and TV shows, if not all of them, should be off limits), and how we spend our spare time (possibly volunteering to help others) to name just a few.
On the other hand, non believers live according to the futility of their thinking. They think there is no God to hold them accountable so they do whatever they think is right. They chase after things that don’t matter and have no lasting (eternal) value [2 Corinthians 4:18]. Like a child who chases after a soap bubble, someday they will find their pursuits futile.
Some non-believers do live to help others. But even their efforts, as noble and successful as they might be, will amount to nothing. There is no question that curing cancer or bringing peace to the world are important earthly pursuits. But someday this earth will be gone and we’ll all be in a different place and even these important things won’t matter.
Anyone who ends up in hell will not be at all concerned that they had cancer while on earth. They will only be lamenting the fact that they didn’t believe in their need to be forgiven by God of their sins. More than anything else, people need God’s forgiveness.
How children of God live is extremely important, which is why Paul testifies to it – it is an absolute fact. We must demonstrate to the world the importance of living for eternity. As the wise king Solomon writes in the entire book of Ecclesiastes – everything on earth amounts to nothing. The only thing that matters is having a relationship with God.
Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post.