VAIN MINDS AND BLIND HEARTS
Ephesians 4:17-19 This I say therefore, and testify in the Lord, that ye henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind, 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: who being past feeling have given themselves over unto lasciviousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness.
The lesson text contains Paul's exhortation to the Ephesian Christians that ye henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk. Although this admonition of Paul took place many years later, Jesus, during His public ministry, had this to say about the Gentile's manner of life. After telling His disciples the importance of spiritual needs, He said to them, Therefore, take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you (Matt. 6:31-33).
How did the Gentiles walk? Here are two descriptions. First consider the quotation of Jesus. Gentiles were totally given to the physical things of life - obtaining food, drink, and clothing. From this, we can assume, other worldly things were equally sought after, such as land, homes, cattle and other livestock, gold, silver, jewelry, entertainment, social status, etc. Along with this desire for the worldly things came a covetous manner of life that led to lasciviousness, and greediness. Lasciviousness is characterized as the expression of lewdness, or a wanton manner of life, that tends to excite lustful desires. Also, a person filled with greed has the desire to acquire or have more than one needs or deserves, which often leads to other types of uncleanness, such as envy, covetousness, stealing, or any of a number of other unscrupulous deeds, in order to fill their lustful desires.
Jesus' description of how Gentiles walk, is a very good introduction to Paul's description found in his lesson to the Ephesians. Paul says that the covetous lifestyle, or walk of the Gentiles, was a vanity of their minds. They led a life of futility, totally failing to understand the true happiness of eternal salvation, found in following Jesus, and walking as a faithful Christian. Paul describes the result of their avaricious greed for worldly things as having their understanding darkened. Eternal salvation is found in God, through Christ. The Gentiles could not understand this because, due to their lustfulness, they did not know God (1 Thess. 4:5). By devoting their minds totally to satisfying the physical body, the needs of their spiritual souls were ignored, being alienated from the life of God. To the Romans, Paul explained this truth by telling them thatthe carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God (Rom. 8:7-8).
Speaking to the Colossian saints, Paul said that, although they were reconciled with God through Christ, they were once aliens and enemies of God because of their wicked works (Col. 1:21). They were once ignorant of God's will but were now enlightened. Their ignorance was overcome when they heard, believed, and obeyed the word of God that Paul, being commissioned by Jesus Christ, and inspired by the Holy Spirit, brought to them. In his defense before King Agrippa, Paul related this mission, as it was assigned to Him by Christ Jesus, on the road he was traveling to Damascus. He said that Jesus sent him, to the Gentiles, To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in Me (Acts 26:18).
Spiritual ignorance is curable unless blindness is made permanent by an unreceptive heart and mind. Just as hands and feet can become dull and insensitive to touch and pain, due to callousness of repetitive use, so can the mind of a person become insensitive and unreceptive to God's word, through their repetition of participating in the sins of the world. In the lesson text, Paul refers to this spiritual condition of the mind as being past feeling. Paul describes the unreceptive mind to Timothy as having the conscience seared with a hot iron (1 Tim. 4:2).
How sad it is to witness a person refusing to hear, believe, and accept God's word - a person having a mind that is past feeling. How sad it is, and how helpless it makes one feel, to have friends, neighbors, and relatives totally unreceptive to the will of God, having vain minds and blind hearts! Sadder still are those that walk after them!