17This, therefore, I say and testify in the Lord, that you no longer walk after the way the Gentiles walk, in futility of their minds. 18They are darkened in their understanding, separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, because of their stubbornness of heart. 19They have become callous, having given themselves to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity—20but that is not how you learned Christ!—21Assuming you heard Him and have been taught in Him, as the truth is in Jesus…22to put off the old man according to the former way of life, that is corrupted according to the deceitful lusts, 23to be renewed in the spirit of your minds 24and to put on the new man created according to God in true righteousness and holiness.
In this section, Paul is NOT trying to come up with a comprehensive list of ethical rules to be obeyed by Christians. Rather, he is contrasting the former life before Christ with the new life in Christ, and showing the Ephesian Christians how this might look. Despite the fact that he’s writing to a Gentile audience, it is interesting that he tells them that they should not “walk” (περιπατεω) like Gentiles walk. What do we make of this? They are not becoming ethnic Jews. But neither are they Gentiles any more; rather, they are now a new category created by Christ. This has major implications for racial reconciliation in the church today. To walk (or live in an ethical sense) like they did in their former lives would be a life of stubbornness, which is a life of self-indulgence. The self is more important than the other. This leads to the mentality of one that is “feeling no pain” (ἀπηλγεω), which leads to sensuality. He argues to the Ephesians that if they’ve heard Christ, there are certain things they will have been taught. Let’s stop and pause right there a minute: note the equivalence between “hearing Christ” and “being taught in Him?” For the thousandth time, we are learning that no one is hearing Christ on his own. There is a process of teaching and learning. And what, specifically, will the Ephesian Christians have learned if they have truly heard Christ? They will learn to put off the old man and put on the new one that God is creating. This is a process of mind renewal. It is a constant status, not a one-time punctiliar moment.
Sometimes, we Christians feel like “holding the line.” Standing still and catching our breath. But the Christian who has truly heard Christ is engaged in a constant motion: a putting off of the old man and a putting on of the new. The Christian who has truly heard Christ is engaged in a constant mind renewal process—begun by the Spirit, buried in the Word, ensconced in the community of faith. The Christian who has truly heard Christ is being taught in Him regularly.
You are no doubt quite familiar with how much of the “old man” in your life is still an influence. You are probably keenly aware of how consistently you’re putting on the “new man.” But are you engaged in being taught in Him? Are you engaged in the daily process of the walk? It is through this process that the Spirit does His most spectacular work.