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NEW MIND—NEW MAN – Ephesians 4:17-24

Posted by Pastor Greg Allen on May 31, 2017 under AM Bible Study |

AM Bible Study Group; May 31, 2017 from Ephesians 4:17-24

Theme: Being renewed in mind, we are to conduct ourselves in true newness of life in Christ.

(All Scripture is taken from The New King James Version, unless otherwise indicated).

Back in Ephesians 4:1, Paul had begun the practical section of his letter. He looked backward at all the theological truths he had declared to his brethren in Chapters 1-3 about the blessings of their position ‘in Christ’; and at the beginning of Chapter 4—as a natural consequence of it all—he writes, “I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called …” Our “walk”, in this case, is a figure of speech for our daily conduct. And after having explained the ways that the Lord Jesus has equipped His church for this walk in vv. 2-16, he now goes on in verses 17-24 to urge that the believer take up this walk in an experience of genuine life transformation in Christ.

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The Christian life is to be a transformed life. And indeed, true, genuine, powerful life transformation is available to all in Christ. But it’s important to understand the process by which this happens. Assuming that we have been redeemed by faith in Christ, our lives are transformed first through a renewal of the mind. The process of transformation in the life of the believer looks like this:


First, the redeemed person’s mind is brought into conformity to the truth of God’s word; and then his or her will (or volition) chooses to submit in obedience to that word; and finally, the feelings (or passions or desires) are brought under subjection to the will.

The unredeemed person’s experience, however, is reversed, with the feelings or passions or desires placed first:


He or she—under the sway of the devil—is controlled by sinful feelings or passions; and the unregenerated will then submits actively to those passions as authoritative; and in the end, the mind accommodates the sinful will and constructs reasons to justify the gratification of the passions.

The unredeemed person—because of the effects of the fall on the human mind—simply cannot live the life that pleases God. Only someone who has been set free by Christ to choose the right path, and who is now capable of having their mind renewed through the grace of regeneration in Christ and enabled by the Holy Spirit, can then go on to have victory over sinful passions and to live a life that is transformed into a willingness to obey the truth. Only they can, with Christ’s help, bring their passions under subjection to the word of God.

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In helping us to understand, then, how to go on to conduct ourselves in a truly worthy, truly transformed walk in Christ, Paul first affirms that …


He writes, “This I say, therefore, and testify in the Lord, that you should no longer walk as the rest of the Gentiles walk …” (v. 17a). For Paul to affirm that he ‘says’ this suggests that he is exercising his authority as an apostle. But for him to also ‘testify in the Lord’ may also speak of his experience. He himself was ‘the chief of sinners’ whose own transformed life shows us that no other, lessor sinner is ever going to be beyond the transforming power of Christ (1 Timothy 1:12-16).

How does the ‘rest of the Gentiles’—a figure for those who are outside a covenant relationship with God through faith in Christ—”walk” (or conduct their lives)? Their lives are lived under the influence of an unredeemed mind; or, as Paul puts it, “in the futility of their mind” (v. 17b). Theologians often speak of the poetic effects of the fall—that is, the effect that the fall in Adam had on the unredeemed human mind (noeō; Greek for ‘understanding’ or ‘mind’). Paul says that unbelieving people walk in the futility of their mind “having their understanding darkened” (v. 18a). The ‘god of this age’ has ‘blinded’ them (2 Corinthians 4:4); therefore they are blinded “being alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart” (v. 18b). There is no relationship with God in them; and therefore, there is no capacity to assess spiritual truth (1 Corinthians 2:14-16). Paul describes their dreadful condition in Ephesians 2:1-3—a condition we all once were in apart from Jesus.

What’s more, their unregenerated way of thinking leads them to fulfill the sinful passions of the flesh. Paul speaks of them as those “who, being past feeling, have given themselves over to lewdness, to work all uncleanness with greediness” (v. 19). Operating in the order in which feelings are placed first—willingly fulfilling those desires as ‘authoritative’, and reasoning-out justifications for their actions afterward—their consciences, over time, become “seared with a hot iron” (1 Timothy 4:2). They no longer hear the voice of conscience, nor feel the sting of its rebuke. Without restraint, they habitually give themselves over to the principle, “If it feels good, do it.” Romans 1:18-32 is a horrifying description of this downward spiral of degenerated passions, will and mind.

How grateful we should be for the regenerating power of Christ! Paul urges that we are n longer to walk that way. Instead …


Paul asserts, “But you have not so learned Christ, if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught by Him, as the truth is in Jesus …” (vv. 20-21). Paul assumes that the readers have indeed heard the gospel and believed it; and now have a relationship with Jesus by faith. No one can be transformed in any other way; but all who are in Him can and will be transformed!

Those who are in Jesus have not been taught to put their feelings and passions first. That’s the old way of walking. Now—with a relationship with Him in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge (Colossians 2:3), they are taught three things—all put in such a way by Paul as to be in ongoing, progressive cooperation with one another:

– First, “that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts” (v. 22). We have been resurrected in Christ; and just like taking off and setting aside the old grave clothes, we are to now set aside the old behavior patterns of the old man—no longer following the lead of the deceitfulness of sin (Hebrews 3:13).

– But it is not enough to simply cease old behavior patterns. There must also be a transformation of the thinking. Paul writes, “and be renewed in the spirit of your mind …” (v. 24). It’s not just the mind itself, but the whole “spirit” of the mind—that is, its whole inner-orientation and attitude. As Paul writes in Romans 12:2, “do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” How is this done? We renew our bodies by taking in good food; and similarly, we renew our minds by taking in the word of God’s truth (2 Timothy 3:16-17).

– Finally, along with putting off the old man, and being renewed in the spirit of our mind, Paul writes, “and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness” (v. 24). The ‘new man’ is “renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him” (Colossians 3:10). We ‘put on’ the behavior patterns of Christ Himself.

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Look ahead to how Paul goes on to describe specific life changes in verses 25-32—each following the pattern of putting off the old, renewing the mind, and putting on the new. This is the process of real life transformation in Christ. And this, dear brethren, is how we are to walk!

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