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.
The unconverted are darkened in their understanding concerning God and the Gospel. Unbelievers cannot perceive and are incapable on understanding the truth of the Gospel by their natural mind, or their capacity to think. It is not that unbelievers are unwilling to believe, as many affirm. Rather, they are incapable of believing in the Gospel.
Paul goes on to say that the unconverted are also alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. What exactly does the apostle mean by this statement?
To be alienated (ἀπαλλοτριόω; apallotrioo) means to be estranged, or even a foreigner. In other words, it means to be excluded. What are unbelievers excluded from? Paul’s answer is succinct: from the life originating and sourced only in God. Paul is obviously not speaking of physical life, because even unbelievers can experience physical life on earth. What Paul is referring to is eternal or spiritual life which is sourced only in Jesus Christ.
The reason for this alienation is because of their unconverted ignorance which is in their soul. Ignorance (ἄγνοια; agnoia) is a lack of knowledge or information (Acts 3:17; 17:30; Eph. 4:18; 1 Peter 1:14; 2:15; 2 Peter 2:13).
The reason for this ignorance is the unbelievers’ hardness of heart. Hardness (πώρωσις; porosis) refers to an unwillingness to learn, a mental stubbornness, and a close mindedness to the Gospel. This originates in their heart (καρδία; kardia), inner self, or soul.
Dr. John MacArthur writes, “Unbelievers are spiritually separated from God, thus ignorant of God’s truth (1 Cor. 2:14), and their willing spiritual darkness and moral blindness is the result (cf. Rom. 1:21–24; 2 Tim. 3:7). They are blind, or “hard” like a rock.”
Do you know someone that fits this description? Were you someone that fit this description? Are you someone that presently fits this description? My prayer is that the Holy Spirit will change your heart of stone into a heart of flesh (Ezekiel 11:19; 26:26; Jeremiah 31:33; Hebrews 8:10).
Soli deo Gloria!