Practice Holy Living


Sunday School Lesson for April 28, 2002


Ephesians 4:17-32


What We Were in Sin (4:17-19)


In this section of chapter four, Paul presents the graphic picture of a person who is outside the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.  Particularly, he is describing his brothers and sisters in Ephesus from the perspective of what they once were before the grace of God saved them.  The term “Gentiles” is employed as a metaphor for all those who are lost and excluded from the kingdom of God.  Paul’s ultimate purpose is to motivate the Ephesian believers to press forward in their pursuit of holiness and sanctification.


In verses 17-19 we find a sobering depiction of Gentile depravity:




Romans 8:5-7

Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. 6 The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace; 7 the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God's law, nor can it do so.


2 Corinthians 4:4

The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.




What We Are in Christ (4:20-24)


This second section of our lesson passage presents the truth that believers in Christ have experienced a radical transformation that has consequences for every dimension of life.  Fundamentally, the new life in Christ is diametrically opposed to what the believer was in his/her sin.  This radical contrast is set forth with the statement, “You, however, did not come to know Christ that way (v. 20).  That is, the Ephesians were nothing at all like what they used to be! The remaining verses of this section display how the transformation took place.





already put off the old man and put on the new man, namely, when they had given their hearts to Christ, and had professed him openly at the time of their baptism.  But basic conversion must be followed by daily conversion.  Even though in principle the believer has become a new creature . . . he remains a sinner until he dies [italics his]. (214).



What We Should Strive to Be (4:25-32)


Finally, Paul argues that the inner transformation resulting from a saving encounter with the resurrected Christ will be manifested in outward acts of holiness and Christ-like conduct. Seven character traits are listed as evidence of the new birth and life in Christ.










Major Questions for Application and Discussion


One:  How might Paul’s teaching concerning the moral and intellectual depravity of the lost man (4:17-19) enable us to better evangelize?  In other words, what do we learn about or lost friends, family members, and acquaintances that might help us better communicate the gospel to them?



Two:  The “domino effect” of sin is apparent from Paul’s comments in 4:19. What is the starting point for such a downward spiral?



Three:  In practical terms, what does it mean to “lay aside” the “old self”? How often should this happen and how?



Four:  In practical terms, what does it mean to “put on” the “new self”? How often should this happen and how?