Darkness and Ignorance

“They are darkened in their understanding…” (Ephesians 4:18)

Bible Reading: Ephesians 4:17-18

It has been said that Paul wrote this letter to the Ephesians “to expand the horizons of his readers” so that they might understand God’s purposes and high goals for his church.   

We have seen that one of those “goals” is the unity of the church and its growth to maturity as its different members each play their part in building up one another through the truth. Now, the apostle highlights the importance of Christians living lives that are radically different from their pagan past.

“Now this I say and testify in the Lord,” he writes, “that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do…” (Ephesians 4:17). What he has to say not only has the force of his own authority behind it but the will of Christ. His words are in fact a “testimony” or a witness to what the Lord has said. Clearly, he assumes that his readers had at one time lived like the unbelieving Gentile world (see also 2:1-3). But they are to do so no longer.

The general character of their former life is described as being “in the futility of their minds” (v. 17). That is to say, in the emptiness, waywardness, and uselessness of their thinking. For Paul, the root of human rebellion lay in the minds and hearts of people (see also Romans 1:21-23). Here he speaks of the understanding of the Gentiles being “darkened,” and of them being “separated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them due to their hardness of heart” (v. 18).

To have a “darkened” understanding is to be without the light of spiritual and moral truth. People in such a condition know neither that which is good nor true. The absence of such light, according to what Paul writes in Romans 1:21, is not because of its unavailability, but because of the stubbornness of people who in their hearts are intent on living wickedly. “Ignorance,” in other words, is both voluntary and wilful making humans “without excuse” (Romans 1:20).

A consequence of this is that people are “separated from the life of God” (Ephesians 4:18). That is, they are cut off from life-giving fellowship with God.  As we shall see, by nature, people live according to the desires of the sinful nature rather than the will of God. And in such a condition, it is impossible to know and enjoy intimate fellowship with God.

All of this highlights again the importance of the truth God has made known through Christ and his apostles and prophets. The only way for us to get right with God is to have the light of the knowledge of his glory in Christ break into our hearts (2 Corinthians 4:4-6). That’s what happens when we hear and believe the gospel through the power of the Holy Spirit.

And it is something that must continue as we grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ (2 Peter 3:18).         

Closing Thoughts:

  • Do you agree that the way we live is shaped by the way we think?
  • Are you continuing to have your mind renewed by the truth revealed in Christ?

– Andrew Young