In Ephesians 4:17, Paul gives the following command: “Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do…” Paul is an apostle, so he is Jesus’ official representative on the earth. He is also writing under the control of the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:20-21). As an apostle, directed by the Holy Spirit, Paul is testifying (or insisting) in the Lord. That means Jesus insisted and still insists that His people no longer walk like the Gentiles.
What does Paul mean when he says not to walk like Gentiles? Are we to watch our stride lengths and patterns? Not quite. Paul’s use of the word “walk” is a metaphor. He is using it to refer to all of life. Jesus’ people, the saints, are to no longer live their lives like Gentiles do.
Who are these Gentiles? The word “Gentile” can refer to ethnicity. Gentiles are individuals who are non-Jewish. Everyone who is not a Jew is a Gentile. The New Testament also referred to them as Greeks (Romans 1:16). There is another way that the New Testament uses the word “Gentiles.” In 1 Thessalonians 4:5, the word “Gentiles” refers to people who do not know God.
Paul is speaking to the church, God’s new people. This church body contains Jews and Gentiles who have turned to the Lord Jesus Christ alone to rescue them from sin. They are no longer Jew or Gentile. They are a new people in Christ (Galatians 3:28). They must no longer live as the Gentiles do. They were people who did not know God, but now they do know God through Jesus Christ.
Believers in Jesus, we are no longer who we were. We are now in Christ. We are new creatures, with a new identity and citizenship (2 Corinthians 5:17; Ephesians 2:10, 19). We are God’s people, the saints, holy ones. We have been set apart by God for Himself from Satan, sin, and the God-opposing world system. We are now to live as people who know God, because we do know Him.
This train of thought is clearly seen in the outline of Ephesians. Ephesians 1-3 discusses a believer’s position in Christ. Believers in Jesus Christ are saints. We are God’s called out, set apart people. In Ephesians 4:1, Paul moves from our position into our practice. We are called upon to live in a way that matches our calling in Jesus Christ. You and I are saints, so we are expected to live as saints.
That is exactly the point in Ephesians 4:17. Believers in Jesus should no longer live as people who do not know God. We do know God through faith in Jesus Christ alone. We were once far away from God and His people. We have been brought near to God and His people through Jesus’ death for our sins (Ephesian 2:13). Since we know God, we should live like it.
Believers, we must no longer live like those who do not know God, because we do know God through faith in Jesus Christ.
If you are curious what it means to know God through trusting in Jesus Christ please visit the “Good News!” page or click here.
In Jesus’ Service,
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