By Dennis C. Abernathy
We must realize that there is a great chasm between the course of Christianity and the course of this world. When we follow the course of this world we are off course!
The word “walk” is expressive of the whole round of one’s activities. It expresses one’s actions and deeds. It describes what one does or how one lives. Hence, to “walk in newness of life” means to live a new life. 2 Corinthians 5:7 says, “For we walk by faith, not by sight” which means we live a life of faith as Paul explained when he said: “That life which I now live in the flesh I live in faith” (Gal. 2:20).
In this article we will look at several different passages which discuss the term “walk” with regard to the Ephesians. This will not be an exhaustive study due to space, but it is hoped that it will whet your appetite for further study of this theme.
1. In the Past the Ephesians Had Walked According to the Course of This World (Eph. 2:1-3). Before their conversion to Christ, they had lived according to the world’s standards and values. They had been “conformed to this world” (Rom.12:1-2). They had allowed the world around them to squeeze them into its own mold (See The N.T. in Modern English by J.B. Phillips.) How true this is of many today, even some Christians. You can’t tell the difference between the world and the church. They follow the world’s standards and embrace its values instead of God’s.
We must realize that there is a great chasm between the course of Christianity and the course of this world. When we follow the course of this world we are off course! For example, Christ teaches forgiveness of those who sin against us — love, even for our enemies. He stresses that true greatness is in serving others. He lays down a very high and rigid moral standard. But, on the other hand, the way of the world is retaliation, lust, selfish pride, and shifting standards of right and wrong.
Before their conversion to Christ they had walked ac- cording to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience (v. 2). They lived according to the Devil’s will and so they possessed the same spirit or disposition that works in the children of disobedience. What spirit is it, you ask? It is the spirit of rebellion and disobedience! It is for this reason that they are called the children of disobedience. Such is their character.
In the past they lived according to the lusts of the flesh (v. 3). The word “lusts” is a general word for desires. It speaks to us of the desire for that which is sensual and transitory. The flesh is the enemy within that opens the gate to the world and to Satan. But Paul also mentions lusts of the mind, which deals with the intellect, emotions, thoughts, and purposes. When Paul listed the works of the flesh in Galatians 5:19-21, he spoke of such sins of the mind as hatred, variance, emulations as well as adultery, fornication, and murder. We must never emphasize the fleshly sins to the exclusion of the sins of the mind.
It is sad to admit, but sometimes Christians give vent to the desires of the flesh and mind. They wink at social drinking, gambling, lascivious dancing, immodesty, filthy literature, immoral movies, vulgar music, nasty talk, and sordid sexual escapades. Many exhibit hateful and hurtful attitudes, become so absorbed with material things such as worldly possessions that they become covetous, pursue business and recreation to the extent that God is pushed out of their busy lives. Brethren, these things ought to be relegated to the past (1 Pet. 4:3)!
Paul said that before their conversion they were “by nature the children of wrath.” It can be said without fear of contradiction, that one can develop a natural tendency to sin. These Ephesians were the children of wrath because of their sins and not sinners be- cause they were by nature the children of wrath! They had been dead in trespasses and sins and not dead in inherited depravity as the Calvinist would have one believe. They had followed the world and were disobedient and not totally depraved because of heredity! Thus, their “nature” had developed from the course of their life or walk, which was by their own choice in the matter.
2. The Ephesians Were God’s Workmanship and Were to Walk in Good Works (Eph. 2:10). “Workmanship” refers to anything that is made, especially in the creative sense. This word might refer to any finished product; i.e., a painting, a piece of sculpture, or a piece of literature. God created man (Ps. 100:3). The finished product of God’s spiritual creation is to be found in Christ.
This verse says the Ephesians were created “in Christ Jesus.” In 2 Corinthians 5:17, Paul said: “If any man be in Christ he is a new creature (creation), old things are passed away, behold all things are made new.”
The purpose of God’s workmanship is “unto good works.” Paul said in Titus 3:8, “This is a faithful saying, and these things I want you to affirm constantly, that those who have believed in God should be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable to men.” In verse 14, he said, “Our people must learn to de- vote themselves to (maintain) good works (to doing what is good) and not live unproductive (unfruitful) lives.”
How do we determine what works are good? The answer is found in 2 Timothy 3:16-17. One cannot have a “good work” without first having the “good word.” Thus, it is God who defines what good works are and not we ourselves. We understand perfectly well that our own works or efforts cannot save us, but we also understand perfectly well that we cannot be saved without doing God’s works.
Many in the church and out are devoted to “works” but not having the good Word for such, they are not good. Thus performing these works only leads to unproductive lives!
3. The Ephesians and We Are to Walk Worthy of Our Calling (Eph. 4:1). Paul here beseeches the Ephesians to conduct themselves as children of God ought to! We need to remember that we have been called to a high and noble vocation. Paul has shown that we are elected, redeemed, sealed, made alive, and reconciled unto God. Therefore, we ought to walk worthy of these honorable appellations in keeping with these wonderful truths.
It is by the gospel that we are called (2 Thess. 2:4). It follows then, that we are to “walk worthy of the gospel” (Phil.1:27). Really, Paul is here admonishing us to remember who we are. In Ephesians 2:19, he reminded the Ephesians that: “Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household.” The apostle John reminds us of our high standing before God. “How great is the love the Father hath lavished on us, that we should be called children of God and that is what we are” (1 John 3:1, NIV ).
The word “worthy” comes from a word which means “having the same weight.” The idea is that of a balance or of a pair of scales. Paul has revealed the Lord’s teaching concerning what God has done for us, and now we are exhorted to balance that with our daily conduct.
The life to which we have been called is described as a “vocation.” This heavenly calling is to be our main occupation. It appears that some Christians view it rather as an avocation, sideline, or hobby. With others it is viewed more like a vacation (they attend services of the church and serve at other duties about that often!). But, to walk worthy of the vocation or calling of God is to “walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God” (Col. 1:10). It is to “walk worthy of God who calls you into His own kingdom and glory” (1 Thess. 2:12). This involves maintaining proper attitudes and endeavoring to maintain unity while we seek God’s kingdom and his righteousness first (Matt. 6:33).
4. The Ephesians Were Not to Walk in the Vanity of Their Minds (Futility of Their Thinking) (Eph. 4:17). Not all pagans (Gentiles) were as immoral as those described in verses 18-27, but this was the norm! The Ephesian saints had once lived this kind of life, but now they are called upon to live as would be expected of one who professed Jesus as Lord. Remember the circumstances of these Ephesian Christians. They lived in a pagan city glutted with idolatry and immorality. It took great courage to live in the shadow of the temple of Diana and refrain from the immorality that permeated their society.
Is it any different today, brethren? Does it not take a lot of courage to live in our society and culture that is given over to alcohol, recreational drugs, pornography and lasciviousness and refuse to be swept along with the tide of this world? It is no easy task to be a faithful Christian. In fact, it is difficult! (See Matt. 7:13- 14) Young people face a tremendous challenge and faithful young people are to be admired.
People in the world who do not know Christ walk in the vanity of their mind. Their thinking is vain, empty, and futile. Their philosophy of life leads to no real worth-while purpose as far as eternity is concerned. Society is constantly bombarded with “Eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow you die” — “You only go around once in life so live it with all of the gusto you can.” Empty slogans for an empty life!
Countless millions live for pleasure and for this world. They do not know God and could care less about his revealed will. Their thinking is futile and leads to nothing but an aimless, hopeless life.
The Christian’s outlook is different from the world. His values are different, his goals are different, and his philosophy of life is different. He has learned about Christ. Verse 20 says the Ephesians had not so learned Christ, as advocating spiritual darkness and moral lewdness. Christ changes lives. Peter said: “Knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things like silver and gold from your aimless conduct (empty way of life) . . . but with the precious blood of Christ” (1 Pet 1:18). We must learn that becoming a Christian demands a radical change in life and conduct. The old man with his deeds must be put off and the new man who is molded after the likeness of Christ is put on (Col. 3:5-10).
We must renew our inward man day by day (2 Cor. 4:16). We must be transformed by the renewing of our minds (Rom.12:1-2) — keeping our hearts with all diligence, feeding our souls on the word of God, and thinking on things that are true, honest, just, pure, lovely, and of good report (Phil. 4:8).
5. The Ephesians and We Are to Walk as Children of Light (Eph. 5:8). Paul thought being a Christian should make a difference in one’s behavior, a difference as great as light and darkness. The difference between the life of a Christian and that of the world is as much a difference as there is between daylight and dark. He said they were “sometimes darkness” and not that they were “in dark- ness,” although that was also true. He refers to their lives and not their environment. Ignorance and sin had so saturated their minds and lives that they were the very epitome of darkness. Darkness was characteristic of their lives; they were displaying it. Darkness was in them and they were in darkness!
Remember that Paul had described the walk of the unbelieving Gentiles as being “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” (4:17-18).
“But now”. . . (Read Eph. 2:11-13, for emphasis). “But now . . .” What a great difference those words make! “But now you are light in the Lord.” Light is in the Lord! Christians are not simply in the light, they are light (Matt. 5:14). As Jesus was the light of the world (John 8:12), so it is that Christians reflect that light by walking in his commandments. They are vitally connected with him, thus they are spiritually enlightened. Outside of the Lord there is no light — only darkness. Thus, due to our relationship with the Lord who is the light of the world, we are light. To the Thessalonians Paul said: “Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness” (1 Thess. 5:5).
What responsibility does this enjoin? “ To walk as children of light.” To let our lights shine in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation (Phil. 2:15). It enjoins following the Lord. Jesus said: I am the light of the world. Whoever follows Me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (John 8:12).
It involves having “no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather exposing them” (v. 11). The word “fellowship” refers to having communion, sharing, or participation. Therefore, we are not to participate in, or to share in, the unfruitful works of darkness. Thus, we are not to encourage, approve, or endorse such works (see 2 John 9-11). It is not enough just to refrain from the works of darkness (the live-and-let-live attitude so prevalent today), but we must actively oppose, expose, and reprove it.
Verse 13 says, “But everything exposed by the light becomes visible.” When you walk into a dark room and hit the light switch, all in the room becomes visible or is made manifest. Philips paraphrases this: “For light is capable of showing up everything for what it really is.” In other words, God wants men to see sin for what it really is. Thus, Paul is saying: “You are light, and it is your responsibility to reprove and expose things for what they really are. Christians reprove and expose the unfruitful works of darkness by turning on the light of God’s revelation.
6. The Ephesians and We Are to Walk Circumspectly (Eph. 5:15). Paul is saying to us “to look carefully then how you walk. Show that you are not fools, but wise to observe your steps and to seize your opportunities in these evil times — days so perilous that you need your best wisdom and knowledge of God’s will to save you from fatal stumbling” (The Expositor’s Bible).
“Walk circumspectly” (KJV ). The ASV uses the word “carefully.” This word comes from two Latin words meaning “to look around.” The Greek word means: “with precision and accuracy.” Paul is saying: “Be careful where you step. There is danger. All is not safe There are snares. There are enemies and pitfalls. Be careful!” For example, the tight rope walker is careful to walk accurately and with precision. Also, I remember in basic training, before going to Viet Nam, that we had to learn to “night walk.” We would be put out in the boonies with a compass and had to reach a certain destination that night. There were enemies and traps all over, so we had to be very careful how we walked. Walking in the woods at night can be very noisy if one does not know how to walk. In Vietnam there were boobie traps, land mines, snares with trip wires, and punji stakes. You learned to walk circumspectly!
Why be careful? Because it is the wise thing to do. The wise person does not drift aimlessly through life. A wise person works out his course with great care. As the sailor charts his course, the traveler studies his road map, and the builder follows the blueprint, the wise Christian will plan his life in view of his desired destination!
Life is short! The wise will “redeem the time” because it is precious. There’s not much of it so we must make the most of it. To waste time is to waste life for time is what life is made of. We cannot redeem the time in the sense of buying back wasted hours and days, but only in the sense of buying up the opportunities. I like the NIV, which says: “Be very careful, then, how you live — not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity.” Because the days are evil. In life we face pain, tribulation, immoral- ity, temptations, and sorrow at every turn. Can we really say of this world that “the days are good”? There will be some good days, but not all. The true Christian really is a stranger, pilgrim, and sojourner here.
Finally, because God has mapped out our way and has given us the ability to read and understand the map (Eph. 3:2-6), he has given us intelligence and he expects us to use it. Let us study his Word and meditate upon his