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,
To walk in a literal way is to move at a pace slower than a run. To walk in a metaphorical way is to conduct one’s life, for good, or for bad.
There is a blessing for the person that walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, but in the way of the Law of the Lord (Psalm 1:1-3). The Royal Command comes. “Do not walk in the way of the Gentiles.”
The word “Gentile” in Scripture is a term of reproach. It is a term of condemnation. It is a word associated with those who are unconverted, and outside a covenant relationship with the living God. It is a word that speaks of wickedness, immorality, and utter destruction.
Paul’s message to every Christian in the Church of Ephesus was this. “You may be a Gentile by birth, but you can be like Christ by way of the new birth. You may be a Gentile by nature, but you do not have to walk as other Gentles because you have a new nature, the Holy Spirit in your heart, and Christ as your example.”
If sovereign grace does not redeem the soul, it shall be left to walk in wickedness and spiritual blindness, all the while being without eternal life. The Biblical revelation of the condition of the natural man is designed to humble him by showing his desperate state of abject despair.
Paul describes the state of the Gentile, the natural man, the person outside the covenant of God. He addresses their understanding of spiritual matters, and describes it as a state of darkness.
18 Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart:
As a result of the Fall from grace in the Garden of Eden, individuals are born physically alive, but spiritually blind and deaf. Their minds are darkened by sin, and their hearts are naturally corrupt and evil.
Secular Sociologist may debate whether or not the evil that people do is based on nature, or nurture, but the Evangelical Christian does not have to engage in the debate. The answer is given in the Word of God. People are by nature sinful. The honest heart will confess and say, “I have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23). The Psalmist said, “Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me” (Psalm 51:5).
The Doctrine of Natural Depravity might assault human dignity, and a person’s self-esteem, but it is the truth. The Natural Man, the Unconverted, the “Gentile” has no understanding of God, sin, salvation, and the Bible. The understanding is darkened. The mind is not uninformed, but the understanding of the mind is darkened.
The mind of the unbeliever can comprehend an intelligent discussion of theology, but it does not embrace it as truth, and so the natural person remains alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them. This ignorance is a natural ignorance, but it is also a willful ignorance. When a blind man is told that there is hope for sight based upon certain conditions, and those conditions are willfully rejected, then the transgression is all the greater.
When the natural man is told there is spiritual sight and understanding to be enjoyed by repenting of sin, confessing what has been done wrong, and in humility ask Jesus to be their Lord and Savior, and that way of salvation is refused, then the prolonged darkness is willful, as well as natural ignorance.
19 Who being past feeling have given themselves over unto lasciviousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness.
When the Gentile, the Natural Man, the Unbeliever, persists in natural and willful ignorance of the gospel, not only do they remain alienated from the life of God, they grow past feeling, they grow insensitive to that which is morally right and wrong. The natural outgrowth of this is a willingness to embrace lasciviousness, or excessive wickedness, in order to engage in every form of moral uncleanness and sensual perversion with greediness, or a ready mindset.
If you have ever wondered how intelligent men and women can be so foolish as to risk money, heath, a good home life, their jobs, and careers, for fleeting moments of passion and frantic pursuit of passion, here is the Biblical answer. Ideas have consequences. The consequence for rejecting God on His covenant terms is to be released to entertain every wicked imagination of the mind which in turn will stir up the passions of the body, which enflames and controls the will, leading to the death of self-respect, trusted relationships, and perhaps even life itself as one disease after another takes hold of the body.
In the end, the only feelings the natural man will suppress are those connected with the goodness of God that would bring the soul closer to the Divine will.
20 But ye have not so learned Christ.
In contrast to other Gentiles, in contrast to the Natural Man, in contrast to the unconverted and the person outside the covenant of God is the Christian of whom it can be said, “You have not so learned of Christ.”
What the Christians has learned is to say, “Yes!” to holiness. The Christian has leaned to say “Yes!” to the will of God, and to His convicting, and convincing Spirit.
The Christian has not learned to be sophisticated in sin, but has learned to be like Christ in sanctification, and to walk as Jesus walked. Consider, then, how a Christian is to walk.
The Christian is to walk by faith. “For we walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Cor. 5:7). “Faith does not operate in the realm of the possible. There is no glory for God in that which is humanly possible. Faith begins where man’s power ends” (George Muller). In order for faith to be tested, we must be in a position where there is no possible human solution. This is a God moment.
The Christian is to walk in the Spirit. “This I say then, walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh” (Gal. 5:16). To walk in the Spirit is to be conscious of His presence and depend upon His power, wisdom, and direction. When a person walks in the Spirit, others will notice.
The evangelist D. L. Moody was scheduled to have a campaign in England. An elderly pastor protested, “Why do we need this ‘Mr. Moody’? He is uneducated, inexperienced, and uncouth. Who does he think he is anyway? Does he think he has a monopoly on the Holy Spirit?” A younger, wiser pastor rose and responded, “No, but the Holy Spirit has a monopoly on Mr. Moody.”
The Christian is to walk in love. “And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling savour” (Eph. 5:2).
In his book Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis wrote, “Do not waste your time bothering whether you ‘love’ your neighbor; act as if you did. As soon as we do this, we find one of the great secrets. When you are behaving as if you loved someone, you will presently come to love him. If you injure someone you dislike, you will find yourself disliking him more. If you do him a good turn, you will find yourself disliking him less” (Our Daily Bread).
The Christian is to walk in good works. “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them” (Eph. 2:10). To walk in good works is to perform them often. “The hardest thing about milking cows,” observed a farmer, ” is that they never stay milked.” The hardest thing about walking in good works, is that there are more good works that need to be done.
The Christian is to walk in wisdom. “Walk in wisdom toward them that are without, redeeming the time” (Col. 4:5). Dr. J. I. Packer believed that “wisdom is the power to see and the inclination to choose the best and highest goal, together with the surest means of attaining it.” That is a good definition of wisdom.
The Christian is to walk in newness of life. “Therefore, we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life” (Rom. 6:4).
For some, to walk in the newness of life might mean being more cheerful, and less critical. It might mean being more gracious, and less demanding. It might mean be patient, and longsuffering, rather than impatient, and sharp. It might mean changing some questionable habits, and giving up ungodly friends. The Lord will guide every step in the new life.
The Christian is to walk worthy of the vocation [invitation] to which he has been called. “I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called” (Eph. 4:1).
To walk worthy of the Great Invitation to which the Christian has been called is to live according to fixed principles.
What are you willing to do for $10,000,000? Two-thirds of Americans polled would agree to at least one, some to several of the following:
Would abandon their entire family (25%)
Would abandon their church (25%)
Would become prostitutes for a week or more (23%)
Would give up their American citizenships (16%)
Would leave their spouses (16%)
Would withhold testimony and let a murderer go free (10%)
Would kill a stranger (7%)
Would put their children up for adoption (3%)
James Patterson and Peter Kim, The Day America Told the Truth, 1991.
The Christian is to walk in the light. “For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light” (Eph. 5:8). It is possible to have a secret life that would be shocking if made public. “But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin” (1 John 1:7).
The Christian is to walk worthy of the Lord. “That ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God” (Col. 1:10).
The Christian is to walk honestly. “Let us walk honestly, as in the day; not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying” (Rom. 13:13).
The Christian is to walk in truth. “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth” (3 John 4).
The Christian is to walk in wisdom. “But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption” (1 Cor. 1:30).
The Christian is to walk as Jesus walked. “He that saith he abideth in him ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked” (1 John 2:6).