Epistles: Ephesians 4:17-32 – The Call to Good Conduct in Christ

Key text: “So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking… You, however, did not come to know Christ that way. Surely you heard of him and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus” (Ephesians 4:17, 20-21).

Lesson objective: To understand that every believer is called to the same high standards of conduct worthy of their honored position in Christ. True believers are to “walk the talk” and bind belief with Christian moral conduct to God’s glory.

Introduction: Changes in one’s routine of life are among the most stressful times in any person’s life. Even joyous occasions, such as planning a wedding, or a newborn’s arrival into the family, are difficult adjustments. Stress points are added when a person leaves home and when one takes on a new job or changes careers in mid-stream. Also, times are hectic when one buys a home or has to move to another area. Of course, there are the more challenging times, when one loses employment or when divorce is imminent or when a loved one passes on. Certainly more can be added to the list, such as loss of health, etc. But among the most mysterious and wondrous changes of all is a person’s conversion to Christ. It is remarkably joyous but stressful as well.

A person’s philosophy of life and personality are often radically altered upon conversion. One was traveling 100 miles per hour in one direction and is suddenly pulled in the opposite direction. An encounter with the living Christ is a life-altering event. In Ephesians, Paul reminds his readers of that fact (4:17-24). They are not who they used to be! In the world today, the philosophy of life seems to be “take what you can get and roll over anyone who gets in your way” or “use persons to your own advantage and whenever they become a liability, dump them!” But this kind of thinking is futile, short-sighted, and in the end can only spell disaster. It matters not how much power, sensuality or wealth you accumulate or how you did it, in the end it is all staying behind! There is no hope without Christ. For this reason, Paul urges believers to leave the “old self” behind and be clothed with the “new self” in Christ.

Believers in Christ speak the truth, seek out reconciliation and share what they have received, while the world thrives on falsehood, anger and stealing in one form or another (vv. 25-32). A true Christian is known by his or her good speech and kindness toward others, while many today spew out foul language like a turned-on fire hydrant, and they are not even aware of it! It should be no surprise that this world is plagued with ever-increasing hatred and animosity among nations, races and even religions! For the disease is in the sinful condition of a heart that knows not Christ.

God’s plan in Christ is to bring every believer’s moral conduct in line with the high position in Christ to which he has called the person. And this means living out the Christian life in the here and now, no matter what the stress! Our philosophy of life is to treat others as we would like to be treated (Matthew 7:12), even when they treat us badly! And we believe Jesus when he said: “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35). And while none of us will be perfect in this life, for Christ is our perfection, yet God has set a goal of godly moral conduct for the sanctification of the members of his church; he has changed their lives through the cross and via the Holy Spirit, to his glory!

Questions for Bible study

Read the following verses and respond to the questions:

1. Romans 1:18-32

a. In this passage regarding the Gentile world of Paul’s day, what is said of God’s wrath (righteous indignation) toward sins of the Gentiles? vv. 18-20. Why?

b. What was the Gentiles’ attitude toward the one true God? vv. 21-23. Has the disposition of the Gentile world improved since Paul’s time? Explain.

c. What is God’s first response to the unbelieving Gentiles’ rejection of the one true God and their own corrupt conduct? vv. 24-25. What specific sins did they practice? How about today?

d. What is God’s second response to the vile corruption taking place within the Gentile community? vv. 26-27. What sins did they practice? How much have matters improved today?

e. What is God’s third response to the continual rejection of the one true God and to the Gentiles’ depraved conduct (which is a consequence of their own making)? vv. 28-32. Give examples of the ongoing truth of Paul’s claim, such as the pornographic use of the Internet and political and corporate scandals, etc.

2. Ephesians 4:17-24

a. What does Paul emphatically insist that his readers not do? v. 17a. What is the main problem with them? v. 17b. Which do you believe — that right conduct leads to right thinking, or that right thinking leads to right conduct? Why?

b. What has happened to the Gentiles’ thinking (mind, emotions and will)? v. 18. Explain why.

c. What are the practical results of the Gentiles’ wrong thinking? v. 19. Who is responsible for their condition: themselves or God? Read the text of verse 19 carefully.

d. What does Paul remind his readers about in negative terms? v. 20. Why do you suppose he needs to remind them?

e. What does Paul remind them about in positive terms? v. 21. Who is the foundation or bedrock of the truth that they were taught?

f. What were they taught to do concerning their former life as unbelieving Gentiles? v. 22a. Why is this necessary? v. 22b.

g. What are they taught to do concerning their present condition as Christians? v. 23a. What new disposition does God create in believers? v. 23b. Why? Explain what happens when only the old is discarded without applying the new. See Luke 11:24-26.

3. Ephesians 4:25-32

a. What does it mean to put on the “new self”? v. 25. Is this the standard of conduct among the members of your local church? If not, why not? Comment constructively.

b. What is the practical meaning of Paul’s standard of Christian conduct in this verse? v. 26. What can happen when we fail to do what Paul is saying? v. 27. See 2 Corinthians 2:9-11.

c. What admonition does Paul give to those who once lived as thieves? v. 29. Why? See 1 Thessalonians 4:11-12.

d. How does our false conduct affect the Holy Spirit? v. 30. What kinds of negative conduct affect him? v. 31. Explain.

e. What same conduct in Christ has God called all believers to? v. 32. Is this the standard of conduct that your local church lives by? What percentage is in theory only, and how much is in practice?

Contemporary interaction:

Respond to the following questions:

1. What is your philosophy of life, that is, your daily attitude and conduct toward life, both publicly and privately? Does being a Christian make a difference?

2. What is the primary stress that you are undergoing right now? In what way does your faith make a difference in how you handle yourself?

3. Most polls taken today concerning the moral conduct of the church in Western society show very little difference in behavior between professed Christians (even evangelicals) and the rest of our society. What is your assessment of this information?


God has called every believer to the same higher standard of conduct in Christ. He has given us the Holy Spirit, although at times he is grieved by our misconduct. May the Lord lead his church in paths of righteousness for his glory!

Author: Lorenzo Arroyo

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