Pastor David B. Curtis


Media #709 MP3 Audio File Video File

Paul Teaches Calvinism

Ephesians 4:17-19

Delivered 06/08/2014

Regarding the title, now I am aware that Paul is not teaching Calvinism, but I hope you understand what I'm saying. Calvin actually taught Paulism. But what we see in this passage would be referred to by many as Calvinism. What we see here is the Total Depravity of Man.

After finishing his discourse on unity, Paul goes back to the subject of the Christian walk that began this chapter:

Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, Ephesians 4:1 NASB

Worthy of what? "The calling with which you have been called." By this he is speaking of the calling in the previous chapters. He is referring to the effectual call of the Gospel that saved them. Believers are to walk worthy of their identity that has been delineated in chapters 1 thru 3.

How do believers walk worthy? Paul is going to spell that out beginning at 4:17 through the end of the book. The rest of this chapter is divided into two parts: negatively, how a believer should not walk (verses 17-19); and then positively, how a believer should walk (verses 20-32).

So this I say, and affirm together with the Lord, that you walk no longer just as the Gentiles also walk, in the futility of their mind, Ephesians 4:17 NASB

"So this I say, and affirm together with the Lord"—the Greek word used here for "say" is "lego." It is used 1,343 times in the New Testament and is translated a variety of ways. However, it usually referred to speaking in a "systematic or set discourse," according to Strong's Concordance. That is the way Paul used it here. Ephesians 4:17-19 describes the thinking and actions of the unbeliever in an orderly progression.

"So" is from the Greek "oun" and is better translated as: "therefore," which I think takes us all the way back to the beginning of this Epistle. Paul is saying, "Therefore, in light of everything I have been teaching you, I want you to do this." In light of their identity:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Yeshua Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love Ephesians 1:3-4 NASB

They have been chosen by Yahweh and every spiritual blessing is theirs. They were dead and He made them alive in Christ. They have the righteousness of God; they are accepted into the Beloved One; they are the possessors of eternal life; they are the priests of Yahweh; they belong to the family of Yahweh, they have been brought into the corporate body of the One New Man. Because of this, they are to walk worthy.

"Affirm together with the Lord"—affirm means: "to bear testimony" or "to serve as a witness." It is used elsewhere in the New Testament only by Paul. In every instance Paul employs this term to convey a sense of importance and urgency. It shows that Paul isn't giving some helpful hints that you may want to try if you feel like it. He is giving the Lord's commandments for how His people must live. "Together with the Lord" should be translated, "in the Lord." It points to Paul's source of authority—the Lord Himself—and to the sphere in which both he and his readers now live.

"That you walk no longer just as the Gentiles also walk"—who is the "you"? It is believers, specifically Paul's first century audience of believers, but it wasn't only the first century believers that Yahweh wants to not live as the unsaved do. Paul is saying, "Believers don't live any longer like the unsaved do." As believers do we need to be told how to live? How will we know if we are not told?

"Walk"—is the Greek verb peripateo, which means: "to walk, live, conduct one's life." It literally means: "to walk about or around." While peripateo is used in the New Testament of one's literal walk, it is often used metaphorically of one's behavior, conduct, of the way one lives. Yahweh has laid out the way believers are to walk in the New Testament, we need to read it, study it, and follow it.

Yahweh cares about how His people live, whether in the Tanakh or the New Testament, the children of Yahweh are to live differently than those around them:

How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, Nor stand in the path of sinners, Nor sit in the seat of scoffers! But his delight is in the law of the LORD, And in His law he meditates day and night. He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, Which yields its fruit in its season And its leaf does not wither; And in whatever he does, he prospers. The wicked are not so, But they are like chaff which the wind drives away. Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, Nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous. For the LORD knows the way of the righteous, But the way of the wicked will perish. Psalms 1:1-6 NASB

Yahweh's children are not to "stand in the path of sinners," we are to be different.

The present infinitive "peripateo," with the adverb indicates that the believers in Asia were not to live as they had in the past. The present tense denotes that they are to make a habit of avoiding the way Gentiles walk.

"No longer"—the adverb meketi implies that the Ephesians at one time did walk as the Gentiles, but they are now to renounce and reject it. Paul's command is to cease living the way they used to live and to live in a way that glorifies Yahweh.

"Just as the Gentiles also walk"—Gentiles here is "ethnos." What do you think of when you hear the term, "Gentiles"? I think that most Christians today view "Gentiles" as referring exclusively to a non-Israelite, but it's use is much broader than that.

"Gentiles" is a bad translation. It is an English language substitution for the Hebrew words, "goy" (singular) and "goyim" (plural) and the Greek words, "ethne," (singular) or "ethnos," (plural). This word is best translated as "nations," representing sometimes the nation of Israel, sometimes the dispersed ten northern tribes, sometimes non-Israelites, sometimes those who do not know Yahweh, and sometimes everybody, as in "all nations."

Ethnos here has no reference to the distinction between Jews and Gentiles, it refers to anyone who is outside of Christ, anyone who does not know Yahweh:

not in lustful passion, like the Gentiles who do not know God; 1 Thessalonians 4:5 NASB

Here ethnos is those who don't know Yahweh, and this is how it is used in our text.

Why didn't Paul command the Ephesian saints not to live like the unbelieving Jews? Because these Gentile saints were a part of the Gentile culture. If Paul had been writing to believers living in Jerusalem, I think he would have said, "Don't live like the Jews."

Consider where at least some of these Christians were living—Ephesus. Some felt it was the most evil city of all in Asia Minor, it was really a religious center, there were multiple temples and idols and all of that kind of thing. In Ephesus was the temple of Diana or Artemis. So Diana is also known as Artemis. The Temple of Diana was the 7th wonder of the world.

Diana was worshiped as a sex goddess, Artemis the same. Her temple was packed with eunuchs who were made eunuchs in order to accommodate that kind of activity. There were thousands of priestesses and temple prostitutes, singers, dancers, and a whole great big orgy occurred. One writer says the worship was a kind of hysteria where the people with shouts and music worked themselves into frenzies of shameless sexual activity including self-mutilation.

Heraclitus said the temple was, "The darkness of vileness. The morals were lower than animals, and the inhabitants of Ephesus were fit only to be drowned." Sounds like a great place to raise a family.

So to believers living in Ephesus Paul says, Stop living like the Gentiles! In other words, they must stop living like non-Christians, and live like Christians. Why does Paul tell them to live like children of Yahweh? It is because as Christians we need instructions, we need directions for the path we are to walk. Because without directions we will stray from the path.

John MacArthur writes, "When you received Jesus Christ, when you were born again, when you enter into God's kingdom a tremendous change takes place in your basic nature. You are a totally different individual."

My basic nature is human. Did that change? This kind of teaching causes believers to doubt their salvation. He is saying they are a "totally different individua,l" but they don't experience that, they are still prone to the same sins. And this causes them to doubt if Yahweh really saved them. If I am a totally different individual, why are there so many instructions in the Bible about how to live? If my nature is new, and I'm totally different ,why do I need to be told how to live?

If living righteously came automatically once you were saved, why are there so many commandments in Scripture? Why does Paul give so many instructions to believers? All he should be doing is telling them how to get saved, if the rest is automatic. No, Paul is constantly telling believers how to live because we need instruction on living holy lives. So if we don't have the instructions, will we live holy lives? How will we know what holy is?

If trusting Christ changes our nature and makes us totally different people, then most people who say that are Christians are not. Numerous polls over the years have shown that anywhere from one-third to almost one-half of Americans claim to be born again Christians. But the same polls indicate that there is no appreciable difference between the way that professing born again Christians live and how the rest of the culture lives. So believers today are not following Paul's instruction to not live like the unsaved do.

Christians, including Christian leaders, have an atrocious rate of sexual immorality, whether viewing pornography on the Internet or actually engaging in sexual sin. Evangelical Christians actually have a slightly higher divorce rate than the rest of the American population!

Why are we not living differently than unbelievers? A survey done in 2001 may answer that question. The survey indicated that two-thirds of adults who attend conservative, Protestant churches question whether absolute moral truth exists (from "the" web site)! If there is no moral truth, then there can be no morals.

So Paul tells these believers to no longer walk like the unsaved do "In the futility of their mind"—the word "futility" here is from the Greek noun mataiotes, which means: "the inability to reach the goal of its intended design." It cannot achieve what it was intended for. It is not able to fulfill its purpose. It can't be what Yahweh intended it to be.

The word "mind" here is nous, which means: "intellect, understanding." You have to see that Paul emphasizes the mind in these verses: mind (4:17, 23); understanding, ignorance (4:18); learn (4:20); taught (4:21).

So the mind of the unsaved man is unable to fulfill its purpose. The original purpose of the mind was to be able to comprehend Yahweh's revelation, but do to the fall a person's mind is unable to accomplish this goal. So "futility of their mind" conveys the idea of not being able to perceive the revelation of Yahweh for which it was designed.

Futility is the same word that is used 36 times in Ecclesiastes (LXX) translated: "vanity." "'Vanity of vanities,' says the Preacher, 'Vanity of vanities!' All is vanity" (1:2). It comes from a Hebrew word meaning: "breath or vapor." It refers to anything transitory, frail, or lacking in substance.

Solomon had tried to find meaning through knowledge, through wealth and all that it affords, and through the pleasures of music and art and women. He had houses and lands with beautiful gardens and ponds. But none of it brought meaning to life. He observed that even if you have all of these things, you live a few years and then die. It is all futility, striving after the wind (Eccl. 2:17).

So Paul is saying, "The place to start in living as a Christian is to recognize you must think differently than the world does." The Christian life does not start with actions. Paul starts with the thought-life, with the mind, and he declares that the world's thinking is futile, it is unable to reach the goal of its intended design. The dominant thought here, as we find elsewhere in Ephesians, is that doctrine determines conduct. What we believe affects the way we behave.

being darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart; Ephesians 4:18 NASB

"Being darkened in their understanding"—is a perfect participle, it simply means: "to make blind." And a perfect participle means something that happened in the past with always continuing results. The word "understanding" is translated from the Greek verb "dianoia," which means: "deep thought." This word is specifying more than just thought; it is referring to comprehension, discernment, and judgment. It conveys the idea of a clouded or darkened mind in contrast to an illumined mind.

When Adam sinned, he plunged the human race into mental darkness and alienation from Yahweh. People's minds were cut off from knowing Yahweh. They became incapable of reasoning through things from Yahweh's perspective. They were not able to understand spiritual truth. Yeshua said to the Jews:

"Why do you not understand what I am saying? It is because you cannot hear My word. John 8:43 NASB

The word "hear" is akouo and has the idea of understanding. They heard what Yeshua said, but they did not get it. Notice what Paul wrote:

And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, in whose case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. 2 Corinthians 4:3-4 NASB

They couldn't understand the Gospel because their understanding was darkened.

Even though we inherited this spiritual darkness from Adam, we are responsible for it. We can't blame Adam! We can't blame Yahweh, who decreed that Adam's sin would be imputed to the entire human race. If you say, "That's not fair," you are sinning with incredible arrogance to accuse the Sovereign Yahweh of the universe of being unfair! And, the fact is, if you had been in the garden instead of Adam, you would have done the same thing that he did. So, each person is responsible for his own spiritual darkness.

Not only are unbelievers darkened in their understanding, but also they love it! Yeshua said:

"This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. John 3:19 NASB

So the biblical picture is not that sinners are crying out, "O, if only I could see!" No, they're partying in the dark and don't want the light to expose their sin.

Scripture continually uses these terms, "light and darkness," as metaphors for truth and ignorance. Truth is light; ignorance is darkness. There is a lie that is taught in some so called Christian theology that teaches that there is a divine spark in the soul of every human being, and that all you need is the Gospel or the grace of God to blow wind on the innocent soul and it will come to life. This is not what the Scripture teaches, man's understanding is darkened.

"Excluded from the life of God"—excluded is in the perfect tense stressing a completed action with continuing results in their present state of alienation from God.

Being "excluded from the life of God" further explains why unbelievers walk in the futility of their minds. They are dead in their sins:

And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, Ephesians 2:1 NASB

They lack spiritual life from Yahweh. Becoming a Christian is not a matter of eliminating sinful behavior and replacing it with moral behavior. Becoming a Christian is a matter of receiving life from Yahweh.

In a letter to E. Stanley Jones, the psychologist Carl Jung wrote:

Those psychiatrists who are not superficial have come to the conclusion that the vast neurotic misery of the world could be termed a neurosis of emptiness. Men cut themselves off from the root of their being, from God, and then life turns empty, inane, meaningless, without purpose. So when God goes, goal goes. When goal goes, meaning goes. When meaning goes, value goes, and life turns dead on our hands.

Yahweh is the truth; Yeshua is the way, the truth and the life. And if you are alienated from Yahweh, you can't know the truth; you can't know it because you're dead to God's dimension, you're like a corpse. A corpse doesn't hear a conversation in a mortuary. Nor does a spiritually dead individual hear Yahweh.

"Because of the ignorance that is in them"—ignorance is translated from the Greek word agnoia, from which we get our word, agnostic. It means: "to be without knowledge." This speaks of ignorance of Yahweh's revelation and will. This explains why unbelievers are alienated from the life of God. They are without knowledge of Him.

For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him. Colossians 1:16 NASB

This verse tells us that "All things were created through Christ and for Christ." So until I know in my heart that every molecule in this universe exists for the sake of Yeshua, I don't know the final meaning of anything. I misunderstand everything until the darkness of my mind is taken away.

"Because of the hardness of their heart"—the word "hardness" is from the Greek word porosis. It comes from a root word proos, which means: "a stone harder than marble." And it was used in medical terms for the kind of callus that forms around a broken bone, which is harder than the bone itself. It has reference to something that is hard, paralyzing. It is used in some extra-biblical medical source to refer to the kind of thing that forms in joints, like calcium forms so that the joint ceases to function.

Notice what we read about the Pharisees who wilfully blasphemed against the Holy Spirit, who was revealing to them their Messiah:


Notice what the inspired Word of Yahweh says, "They could not believe"! Now don't try to change it to "would not"—you're not allowed to change it to fit your theology! They could not believe!

This word porosis translated: "hardness" is used by Paul in:

For I do not want you, brethren, to be uninformed of this mystery—so that you will not be wise in your own estimation—that a partial hardening has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in; Romans 11:25 NASB

"That a partial hardening has happened to Israel"—"partial" here is adverbial and modifies "has happened," not hardening. It should read, "A hardening has happened in part to Israel." The hardening isn't partial, it is that it has happened to part of Israel. The remnant is not hardened. This is what Paul said in:

What then? What Israel is seeking, it has not obtained, but those who were chosen obtained it, and the rest were hardened; Romans 11:7 NASB

Please notice that the "elect" obtained it, and the rest, which is Israel, were hardened. So only part of Israel is hardened, and that part is the great majority of them. He's just saying that the hardening is not complete. There are some who have been saved out of their total depravity and brought to the knowledge of the Lord Yeshua the Christ. But the rest of Israel were hardened.

This word "porosis" is also used by Mark in:

He entered again into a synagogue; and a man was there whose hand was withered. They were watching Him to see if He would heal him on the Sabbath, so that they might accuse Him. He said to the man with the withered hand, "Get up and come forward!" And He said to them, "Is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the Sabbath, to save a life or to kill?" But they kept silent. After looking around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart, He said to the man, "Stretch out your hand." And he stretched it out, and his hand was restored. The Pharisees went out and immediately began conspiring with the Herodians against Him, as to how they might destroy Him. Mark 3:1-6 NASB

With their own eyes they watched Yeshua heal a man with a withered hand, then, rather than glorifying Yahweh because of the work of Yeshua, instead began to plot to kill Him. The problem was not their knowledge; they saw Yeshua heal the man before their very eyes! The empirical evidence was there. A person without a hard heart would have seen and believed and followed. They could not plead ignorance. Instead of ignorance being the cause of their unbelief, Yeshua points to their hard hearts—"He looked around at them with anger, grieved at their harness of heart..."

Man's deepest problem in life is that apart from the free and sovereign grace of God, his heart is hardened against God. He is like a stone toward all that is spiritual. It does not move him, attract him, or delight him.

In these two verses (17-18) we see a series of cause and effects. If we reverse the order, we see this: The hardness of their heart toward God caused their ignorance. Their ignorance concerning God and His will caused them to be alienated from the life of God. Their alienation causes their minds to be darkened, and their darkened minds caused them to walk in the futility of mind.

and they, having become callous, have given themselves over to sensuality for the practice of every kind of impurity with greediness. Ephesians 4:19 NASB

"Having become callous"is from the Greek apalgeo, which is a rare word that appears only here in the New Testament. It has the idea of: "to be despondent, to despair" or "to cease to feel pain, become callous, insensitive." Spiritually, it is to "lose the capacity to feel shame or embarrassment."

"Have given themselves over to sensuality"—this is the word aselgeia, which is a familiar word in the New Testament, it means: "shameless wantonness, unblushing obscenity." Its primary reference being with sexual obscenities. It refers to the person who casts off all restraint and has no regard even for public decency. It is to be openly, shamelessly in violation of Yahweh's moral standards.

Remember that this is Ephesus Paul is writing to. The temple prostitutes were rampant here. Sexual sin was all around, and Paul says that the Gentiles here "gave themselves to the sensuality" that was presented to them.

"For the practice of every kind of impurity with greediness"—the word "practice" is very interesting, it is "ergasia," which is a word that can mean: "actually business, they make a business out of impurity." Impurity refers to moral impurity of all kinds. In this context, impurity with greediness probably refers to an insatiable appetite for sexual sin.

"Greediness"—this compound noun literally means: "I want more." It conveys the idea of covetousness. The reason Christians are not to be covetous is because they must believe that Yahweh supplies their needs, and that they have no need for what Yahweh has given to someone else.

These three words "sensuality, impurity, and greediness" are used to describe the unbelievers as those who are totally consumed with themselves. The selfishness in which they are immersed is in direct contrast to Christ who gave Himself for us a sacrifice to Yahweh. It is love of self in contrast to love of others.

The sense of the passage seems to be that when a person is ignorant of the true meaning of things, and the true values of life as God sees them, that person will make his goal in life something other than Yahweh. It may be the gratification of his body in sex or drink or drugs or food. Or it may be the gratification of his ego with more refined intellectual and cultural pursuits—anything but Yahweh, and everything apart from Yahweh. The heart that is hard and dark and ignorant of Yahweh will also be a impure and covetous heart.

These three verses that we have looked at this morning give you the reason why we live in a society where evil is called good and good is called evil, where dark is given for light and light is given for darkness. It is because men and women outside of Christ are blind!

Now doesn't Paul seem to be teaching Calvinism in this text? Paul says that fundamentally men are hardened with respect to the truth. They are blind also, Paul says this same thing in:

But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised. 1 Corinthians 2:14 NASB

So, he is both blind, and he is hardened. He is, as the result of the fall, the recipient of a willful dullness, and that's the way he responds to truth. As a result of that, he has ignorance. And as a result of that, he is alienated from the life of God. He does not possess the life of God. To use the terms of theology: "Man is totally depraved."

The doctrine of "Total Depravity" does not mean that people are as bad as they can be. Rather, it means that sin has tainted every part of our being. It corrupts our minds, our emotions, our will, and our bodies. But because of His grace, God restrains the evil of the fallen human heart, so that unbelievers may be kind, loving, and responsible people.

It also means, and this is extremely important, it means that a man cannot, of himself, please God. It means that a man cannot, of himself, turn to the Lord. A man cannot, of himself, believe. If he could, of himself, believe, if he could, of himself, turn to the Lord, he could do the greatest thing of all. And thus, he would not be, as Paul says, ignorant, alienated, blinded, hardened, because he would have that capacity. So the Bible speaks of total depravity in the sense of total inability to respond to the things of God.

So, bound up in the "Doctrine of Total Depravity" is total inability to respond to the truth of God. Therefore, the "Doctrine of Free Will" is in opposition to the truth of the grace of God.

If man could of his own free will turn to the Lord, then he would have he ability to do the thing that pleases God. But the Bible says:

and those who are in the flesh cannot please God. Romans 8:8 NASB

That is so plain. But man doesn't like to be told that we cannot turn to the Lord, and we must be the recipients of divine grace in order to respond. We don't like to be told that. We like to be able to have just a little bit of credit ourselves.

We don't say that. We say, "No, I believe in salvation by grace (I just believe I can, of my own free will, turn to the Lord)," not realizing you're contradicting yourself when you say that.

If it is true that men are totally depraved, they cannot turn to the Lord. If they cannot turn to the Lord, then the "Doctrine of Election" that is biblical must be unconditional election. It must be election based on God's determination out of His good pleasure to save certain people.

If it is conditional upon our faith, then we can do something, and we're not totally depraved. But if men are totally depraved, then you must believe in the bondage of the will: Total Depravity, Unconditional Election, Definite Atonement, Efficacious Grace, and the Perseverance of the Saints. They all move together as one doctrine.

Paul says in Romans chapter 8:

because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so, Romans 8:7 NASB

Notice carefully what Scripture says, "It is NOT EVEN ABLE to do so."Do you get it? The mind of man is NOT ABLE to be subject to the Law of God. Then Paul says:

and those who are in the flesh cannot please God. However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him. Romans 8:8-9 NASB

Christians are NOT in the flesh. Notice verse 8, "Those in the flesh cannot please God." Now let me ask you something: "Does faith please God?"

And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him. Hebrews 11:6 NASB

Without faith, it's impossible to please God. With faith, He's very pleased. If they that are in the flesh cannot please God, they cannot believe while they're in the flesh. That is plain teaching. So what do we need? We need a work of God. And that is exactly what salvation is, a work of God:

even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), Ephesians 2:5 NASB

After telling us about the total depravity of the unbelieving Gentiles, Paul says:

But you did not learn Christ in this way, if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught in Him, just as truth is in Yeshua, Ephesians 4:20-21 NASB

The "you" here is believers. So believers are to walk differently than the unsaved. Just how are we to walk? Paul will spell that out in the rest of this Epistle. But let me give you the short version:

the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked. 1 John 2:6 NASB

That's it! We are to walk like Yeshua walked. What marks you and I out as being the children of God? In the eyes of others, how can they tell that we are the children of God? Our walk should distinguish us!

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