17 “Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. 18 They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. 19 They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity.” (Ephesians 4:17–19 (ESV)
The Apostle Paul encouraged the Ephesian believers to no longer live the way they used to live. To do so is living with a futile mindset that is not befitting of a regenerated believer in Christ. Paul then goes on to more fully describe the fallen world and the spiritual condition of unbelievers.
He continues by saying, “They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. Let’s unpack this verse.
They are darkened in their understanding. By using the phrase they are, Paul is describing a present active state of being for the unbeliever.
They are darkened in their understanding. Darkened (σκοτόω; skotoo) means incapable of perceiving and unable to understand. Understanding (διάνοια; dianoia) refers to one’s capacity to learn and disposition of one’s mind. Unbelievers cannot perceive and are incapable on understanding the truth of the Gospel by their natural mind, or capacity to think.
It is not that unbelievers are unwilling to believe, as many affirm. Rather, they are incapable of believing in the Gospel. They lack the spiritual ability to trust, depend, commit and honor the Lord Jesus Christ. The ability to believe is as much a gift from God as is the salvation and the Savior who is the object of one’s belief or faith. What is required is the work of the Holy Spirit in the unconverted deadened soul of the non-Christian (John 3:1-8; I Corinthians 2:14; Ephesians 2:8-9).
I remember all too well the way my life was prior to my conversion. I was unable to intellectually grasp or understand the Gospel. I had been exposed to religion all my life. However, in spite of religious training in my local church, as a child and teenager, I was spiritually lost, blind, deaf and dumb. It was not until the Holy Spirit quickened my dead soul and gave me the ability to believe the Gospel, that I was no longer lost but found, no longer blind but seeing, no longer deaf but hearing, and no longer dumb but thinking the thoughts of God.
My conversion was a miracle. It was a monergistic, or independent, work of God. I did not cooperate with the Holy Spirit in my fallen condition. Rather, I was regenerated and this new birth (John 3:1-8) enabled me to believe in the person and work of Jesus Christ for my justification.
Perhaps at this very moment, the Holy Spirit is doing in your soul what He did in mine, and in so many countless others. If so, repent of you sin and trust Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior. To God be the glory for the things He has done.
Soli deo Gloria!