In Eph 4:17-19, Paul wrote, “henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk.” Thus, to walk worthy of our vocation [Eph 4:1] and to walk in love [Eph 5:1], we must not walk as other Gentiles walk. In other words, to walk the way Christ wants us to walk, we must abstain from walking the way that he doesn’t want us to walk. Paul gave us a negative instruction here. When you see the way other Gentiles walk, don’t walk their way.
Henceforth walk not:
In the vanity of your mind – Eph 4:17 – God has given us his words to guide our lives. Concerning any matter in life, we can go to the word of God and find God’s wisdom on the matter. We have his instructions on what to think about it, what to do about it, and how to deal with it. It’s all right in the Bible. Other Gentiles, on the other hand, refuse to believe God and follow his words. Thus, they walk in the vanity of their minds. When they think about anything that is contrary to God’s words, their thoughts are worthless and vain. Nevertheless, Christians are tempted to walk as other Gentiles walk just like Israel “went after the heathen that were round about them,” 2 Ki 17:15. We can’t do that or we’ll end up just like them.
Having your understanding darkened – Eph 4:18 – Ps 119:130 says, “The entrance of thy words giveth light; it giveth understanding unto the simple.” Other Gentiles, who don’t believe the words of God, have no understanding. They walk in darkness, Prov 4:19. We, on the other hand, are to walk in light, Prov 4:18. We can walk in wisdom and understanding, Prov 4:5-7. There is nothing that a sinner will ever gain by walking with his understanding darkened that can compare to the happiness and wealth we derive from finding wisdom and understanding, Prov 3:13-18. Don’t let vain Gentiles get you off track.
Alienated from the life of God – Eph 4:18 – Jesus said, in Jn 10:10, “I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.” The eternal life we have in Christ is abundant and so unlike the temporal life of sinners without Christ. They are completely estranged from the life of God. They are willfully ignorant of all the blessings God bestows on those who have his life. If they would turn away from their vain temporal pleasures, they would find a joy and satisfaction in the life of God that is unattainable in the world. But they’ll never have this until they turn to Jesus by faith.
In the blindness of your heart – Eph 4:18 – Unfortunately, there are many Christians who turn away from the life of God to pursue the vain pleasures of the world. Their hearts are blind to the life of God, just like sinners who have never known the Lord Jesus Christ. Just like Peter said in 2 Pet 1:9, if a Christian isn’t adding the right things to his faith because he’s walking like the other Gentiles walk, “he… is blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins.”
Given over unto lasciviousness – Eph 4:19 – early on, sinners whose understanding is darkened, who are alienated from the life of God, who are ignorant of God and his words, and who are blind in their heart, feel an emptiness inside. They know God is missing in their lives. They believe that there is something better than what they have. And this will help them seek for the Lord and to respond to him when they hear about him. But if they quiet this inner feeling by sin, they will get “past feeling” the emptiness inside and their conscience becomes seared, 1 Tim 4:2. At this point, it can be very easy to give “themselves over unto lasciviousness.” Lasciviousness is looseness, irregular indulgence of animal desires, wantonness; lustfulness.
Working all uncleanness with greediness – Eph 4:19 – Lasciviousness is what paved the way to this hedonistic, immoral culture in which we live today, where nearly every abomination with God is now legalized, promoted, and protected. And those who are involved don’t understand. They don’t want to understand; they are ignorant and blind. If it’s unclean, they are greedy for it. That is, they have an ardent desire for unclean things. I was thinking recently, “Why is it that when societies turn toward sin and away from God, they go after abominable sins?” The answer is found in this text. If you don’t walk with God, and you walk with other Gentiles, instead, you get on a path that leads you to greediness for uncleanness. What Christians, in this day and age, get into when they walk as other Gentiles walk would absolutely shock you if you knew it all. I know some of it. And I’m shocked.
Conclusion: Don’t think that just because you are saved something like this could never happen to you. Paul would not have been led by the Lord [v.17, “testify in the Lord”] to write this passage if it weren’t possible for a Christian to walk like other Gentiles walk and get into the messes they get into. If you have been recently saved, henceforth walk not this way. If you have been saved a while and have started walking as other Gentiles walk, stop right now. You are heading in a direction that ends in catastrophic consequences. Henceforth, walk not that way.