Ephesians 4:17–19 (NKJV)
This I say, therefore, and testify in the Lord, that you should no longer walk as the rest of the Gentiles walk, in the futility of their mind, having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart; who, being past feeling, have given themselves over to lewdness, to work all uncleanness with greediness.
This is the conclusion of all the preceding logic and doctrine. Starting in 4:1, Paul writes that we are to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called … There is one body … But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift … And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers … that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine … but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ.
So here he concludes, you should no longer walk as the rest of the Gentiles walk. Even though this should be obvious by this point, Paul hammers the point home by busting on the rest of the Gentiles. They walk in the futility of their mind, having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart; who, being past feeling, have given themselves over to lewdness, to work all uncleanness with greediness.
Gee Paul, tell us how you really feel.
But this isn’t all that over the top. Paul is inspiring the Christian Ephesians to make the kind of big lifestyle changes that were the hallmark of early Christianity. He uses a dramatic sales pitch – trying to gross them out so that they will flee the lifestyle they once knew.
But he’s also writing this to us. If you believe, then act like it.
The real keeper here is Paul’s dramatic portrait of how the rest of the Gentiles walk. While he’s specifically writing about Ephesian non-believers, it’s still a general description of the destructiveness of sin. Does this apply to our age?
You bet it does, particularly the phrase, “being past feeling.” The NIV translates this as, “Having lost all sensitivity.” The ESV says, “They have become callous.”
Paul is describing what modern medicine calls desensitization, or in the case of recreational drugs, tolerance. In their pursuit of pleasure, people need more and more sex or drugs or whatever to achieve the same high.
Paul Revere and the Raiders, in their 1966 classic Kicks, nailed this perfectly with the line, “Kicks just keep getting’ harder to find, and all your kicks ain’t bringin’ you peace of mind. Before you find out it’s too late, girl, you better get straight.”
Paul Revere had it right, but Saint Paul had it first.
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