These small group studies of Ephesians contain outlines, cross-references, Bible study discussion questions, and applications. Visit our library of inductive Bible studies for more in depth inductive studies on this and other books of the Bible you can use in your small group.
Ephesians 4:17-32 Inductive Bible Study – Small Group Discussion Questions
I. The old way of life (17-19)
II. The new way of life (20-24)
III. Aspects of the new nature (25-32)
1. Speak truth (25)
2. Be angry, but don’t sin. Solve problems quickly (26-27)
3. Be diligent. (28)
4. Be edifying in speech (29)
5. Do not grieve the Spirit (30)
6. Don’t be rude (31)
7. Be kind (32)
I. The old way of life (17-19)
- How do the Gentiles walk?
- What does “Gentile” mean in this context?
- Why would Paul use the word like this?
- Explain the phrase “no longer walk”.
- Explain each phrase. Darkened? Excluded? Ignorant? Hard? Callous? Given themselves over?What is controlling this group of people? Why?
1 Corinthians 6:9-11 – Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.
2 Corinthians 4:4 – The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.
Romans 1:21-23 – For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles.
Galatians 4:8 – Formerly, when you did not know God, you were slaves to those who by nature are not gods.
John 3:19-21 – This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.
1. Walk – In Ephesians 4:1, Paul commanded the Ephesians to “walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which” they had been called. Walking is an action verb which denotes the fact that the believer’s life is one of action. Being a follower of Jesus does is not only about what you believe or think. It is about what you do. Saying we are to “walk” in a certain way means we are to live that way. Believers are to live out the teachings of Jesus each day in their everyday life. At home. At work. At school. In private. In public.
2. Gentiles – In this context “Gentile” refers to the pagan, to the unbeliever. In general, most Gentiles were both pagan and unbelievers. Note that “Gentiles” does not always mean “unbeliever,” but in this case it does.
3. Futility of their mind/darkened in their understanding –
Unbelievers think they are very smart, rational, and logical. In their mind, this was why the Greeks didn’t believe in Jesus and Him raising from the dead. It is why people don’t believe in God today. Their logic and reasoning, which they are so proud of, takes them away from God, not to God.
They become prideful in their thinking, and focus their mind on devising schemes chasing after money and power.
Romans 1:20-22 – For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse. For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools.
People without God claim to be wise, but they are really fools and become futile in their speculations. It sounds strong to say that, but the most foolish thing a person can do is deny his Creator. God has given us a mind and rational thinking ability to use it wisely for His glory, not for our own ends. We should use the academic and creative, gifts He has given us to serve Him better, not ourselves.
5. Excluded – We saw a couple of chapters ago that the Gentiles were excluded from God’s family, strangers and foreigners. Why? Because they didn’t know God. They had no relationship to Him. The little knowledge they had of God through creation, they rejected and hardened their hearts. Hardened refers to moral insensitivity.
Pharaoh hardened his heart and refused to listen to God’s command to let the Israelites go. It is the willful rejection of doing right and accepting the truth. Notice that the hardening and callousness directly leads to all kinds of evil deeds. In Romans 1, we see that people don’t just dabble in it, but give themselves fully over to it, step by step getting further from God.
First sin is tolerated. Then it is legalized. Then it is accepted. Then it is celebrated. Then it is promoted. Then those who speak against it are persecuted.
6. Verses 18-19 are a clear picture of the old way of life. It is separate from God, foolish, hardened to sin, and given over to sinful desires. It is depraved both in the mind and in behavior. This is a bleak picture for the human race. But there is hope. This is the old way of life, but there is also a new way of life.
II. The new way of life (20-24)
- How can we lay aside the old self?
- Do we have two personalities, two beings?
- Explain the friction/battle between the old/new self.
- How can we have victory in this area? How can we ensure that the new self wins the battle regularly?
- What does it mean to be renewed in the spirit of your mind?
- How can we do this?
- How to put on the new self?
- What “old self” habits do you struggle with since you became a believer?
- Do you notice a changed life?
- What practical ways can you wage war against those old self habits?
- Where does our new self come from?
Titus 2:11-12 – For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age.
Romans 12:2 – Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
Psalms 51:10 –Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Titus 3:5 – He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit.
2 Corinthians 5:17 – Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!
1. Verse 20. But. Once again there is a very key, “but”. This kind of life is not the kind of life Christians should be living. The way of Christ is a different way. There is hope. We do not have to stay in the situation described in verses 18-19. Christ offers us a new way of life.
2. Lay aside. Before trusting in Christ, we don’t have the ability to do what’s right. Try as hard as we can, we cannot have victory over sin. You may have tried to lay aside your sin a hundred times, but failed.
But after believing in Christ, we have a choice. We have the power from God to change our habits, to say “no” to sin, and to live transformed lives. But notice that it is still a choice we have to make. It doesn’t happen automatically.
We have to make the choice to lay aside the old self, as if one is taking off a set of clothes. In the last passage I gave an example of a beggar who was adopted as a prince. That prince can make the decision to lay aside his beggar clothes and wear the ones of a prince. Or he can go back and become a beggar. After his adoption, he has a choice every day about who he wants to be. When he was a beggar, he did not have the choice. He was a beggar and could not through sheer will power choose to be anything else.
Application: What is one thing you need to cut out from your life? Is there a habit you have had for a long time that you need to change?
3. We can renew our mind through the spiritual disciplines of prayer, Bible reading, worship, fasting, and fellowship. All of these things help us to focus on God and put aside our sinful thoughts and temptations.
I live a city that is very hot and humid in the summer. After a simple day out, I will be hot and sweaty. Every night before going to sleep I need to take a shower. It washes off the dirt, smell, and stickiness. After that, I feel so refreshed…until the next day. It is necessary to repeat that same process every day.
In similar manner, we must regularly renew our minds in God’s Word. The world is full of temptation and negative influences. If we do not have that regular time of renewal then the grunge of the this world will stick on us and get thicker and thicker.
Application: What is is one way you can improve in your regular devotion times with God?
4. Put on the new self. Most biblical commands come with a negative and a positive. Here it is the same. The prince will not just take off his beggar clothes and go around with no identity. He will also put on the noble clothes. As believers, we take off the old, but replace it with the new. If we don’t replace it, the old will come back again.
We have to make a conscious effort to not do wrong things, but we don’t just do nothing. We must also do the right things. The new self comes from God. It is by His grace we can do what is right. If we don’t have a relationship to God, it will be impossible no matter how hard we try.
Application: What is one new attitude or character quality which you need to put on? How will you get the strength to do this?
III. Aspects of the new nature (25-32)
- How do verses 25-32 relate to the old and new self topic we just discussed?
- Are the commands given negative or positive (both, one negative, one positive for each issue)?
- How does this show the correlation between the old/new self conflict?
- In what cases is a believer permitted to lie?
- In what cases are you tempted to lie?
- How about white lies?
- Is being angry sin?
- Why or why not?
- Why does the Bible tell us we should be angry?
- In what cases should we be angry?
- What should we do when we are angry?
- Why should we not let the sun go down on our anger?
- What does this tell us about how to solve problems in relationships?
- What will the result be if we do stay angry over an extended period of time?
- What Christian virtue is espoused in verse 28?
- What qualification does it give for the work that we are to do (good)?
- What should be our motivation for being diligent?
- Is work good or bad? Why?
- How can we know what word is good for edification according to the need of the moment?
- How can we keep other words from leaving our lips? What kinds of words give grace and edify? Give some examples.
- What does verse 30 have to do with the rest of this passage?
- How much should we forgive each other?
Proverbs 12:19 – Truthful lips endure forever, but a lying tongue lasts only a moment.
John 8:44 – You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.
Ephesians 4:15 – Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.
Romans 12:19 – Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord.
James 1:19-20 – My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.
Proverbs 19:11 – A person’s wisdom yields patience; it is to one’s glory to overlook an offense.
Colossians 4:6 – Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.
James 3:2-12 – This passage teaches us about the importance of bridling the tongue.
Romans 12:10 – Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.
Colossians 3:12-13 – Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.
1. These verses discuss the negative, what not to do, and the positive, what to do, of many aspects of Christian life. Paul often first tells us the general principle and then gives the specific applications. The general principle is to “put off the old self and put on the new self.” And in this passage that follows are many specific applications.
2. Lying – When people think of lying, they often think of something obvious and public like Bill Clinton’s declaration of innocence before the Supreme Court, when he was proven to be a perjurer. But there are actually many forms of lying. What are some common forms of lying that most people probably don’t consider lying?
- White lies
- Betraying a confidence
- Breaking a promise
- Falsifying paperwork
- Evading taxes
- Covering up the truth
As you can see, there are many forms of lying. Some of these are commonplace. My wife and I watched a movie about a family who agreed together to tell their mother a white lie. She was diagnosed with cancer. In Asian countries, it is normal for family members to decide whether or not to tell the elderly about such cases. And many families agree together to tell them a lie that “everything is OK.” However, this lie was tearing the family apart.
Someone may think he is doing others favors by telling a white lie, but he is not. God did not give any conditions, loopholes, or exceptions for a reason. The reason is that every lie is sin, no matter the motivation.
Of course most lies are not told with a good motivation. Either gaining a benefit or avoiding a punishment are the most common motivations.
Application: Discuss common and accepted forms of lying in your culture. How should Christians face these issues? What is one area you need to take a stand for truth?
Take note that believers are not only commanded not to lie, but Paul tells us to “speak the truth.” Being silent when one should speak is also wrong. Is there a time when you knew you should speak out, but didn’t? What did you do? Why?
3. Be angry, but do not sin – Did you know that believers are commanded to “be angry?” There are two kinds of anger, righteous anger and selfish anger. Selfish anger is far more common. Here are a few examples of selfish anger:
- Getting upset when someone cuts in line
- Honking in anger at others’ rude driving habits
- Complaining about our boss behind his back
- Yelling out our spouse in the midst of an argument
- Retaliating verbally to those who insult us
Selfish anger is always sin, 100% of the time. You cannot be angry about the above or like situations and not sin. A person who has selfish anger is focused on themselves.
They have been wronged, insulted, or mistreated and so they react. People who get angry for these things are concerned primarily with their own rights and feelings.
Righteous anger is different. A person who has righteous anger is upset when God’s moral code is violated. Generally his anger is stirred up when the weak and defenseless are mistreated. Here are some examples:
- Jesus angry at the people doing business in the temple
- Citizens angry at the Nazis for killing Jews
- Incensed at the treatment of orphans
- Anger at the perpetrators of human trafficking
- Angry that abortion is tolerated, legalized, and promoted
- Standing up for a woman who is being domestically abused
A person who has righteous anger is concerned with others. A person who has righteous anger is concerned with God’s glory and God’s law, like Jesus was when He cleansed the temple. From this standpoint, God wants us to be angry. The opposite of righteous anger is apathy. Many people suffer from an apathy toward others. Those who are apathetic are preoccupied with themselves and too busy to think or care about helping the weak and innocent.
I read a story about a little girl who was hit by a vehicle. Laying on the side of the road injured, bleeding, and crying, person after person passed her by. Later camera footage showed fourteen people walking by her. Many were looking at their phones or turning away. They were apathetic. Such a scene, should make us angry. Angry at the driver who left. Angry at society that is too busy surfing social media to reach out and help someone in need.
Application: What kind of things make you angry? Give an example of an area you have shown selfish anger. Give an example of an area you have righteous anger.
4. Do not sin and do not let the sun go down on your anger –
Paul qualifies his statement to “be angry.” Even when you have righteous anger, you should not remain in that state and you should restrain some of your impulses. Righteous anger should move you to action, but not any action which crosses God’s line. There have been some cases of people who blew up abortion clinics. Perhaps at the beginning these individuals had righteous anger. But instead of directing that toward something positive, they let those feelings fester. Over time they grew until they reacted with vengeance.
Do not let the sun go down on your anger – Before my wife and I got married one respected couple shared this verse with us, suggesting that we make it our own and agree to never go to sleep angry with one another. In the thirteen years since, we have tried to keep this verse. At times we have had arguments and disagreements. Laying in bed at night, we have not wanted to talk, preferring to brood in silence. In the end, we have forced ourselves to face the problem and deal with it, as late as 2 or 3 AM. And we are grateful that we have followed this advice. Problems have been solved before they could grow and simmer. And after discussing and solving the problems, the sleep that follows is so much sweeter.
Allowing anger to reside in your heart is giving the devil an opportunity to sow discord in your marriage and in any other area of your life.
4. Activity – Go through the following areas one by one. Each person pick one area where they need to grow. Share what challenges you face in this area. Decide on a specific application of a way you can improve this week. Write it down. Keep that paper all week and check off each day whether you did it or not, how you succeeded or how you failed. Also pray for that area each day. At the end of the week, evaluate your progress and share with your partner. Finally, pray for each other.
- Stealing (Note that stealing is not only robbing from a bank. Falsifying paperwork, claiming tax deductions you don’t deserve, taking sick days off when you are not sick, and many other dubious practices can fall into this category.)
- Corrupting talk
5. Be kind to one another – Paul concludes this section with a positive command. Through our words and actions, we are to pass on God’s kindness to those around us. In a family, each member is a sinner. The same is true in God’s family. When you take a lot of people and put them together into a small space, one thing is sure to happen. People’s toes will be stepped on. In the church you will have your toes stepped on. Brothers and sisters will sin against you. That is why forgiveness is necessary. Do not respond with selfish anger. Do not respond with hurtful words. Do not give the devil an opportunity. Forgive and forget. Christ as forgiven us much. WE should forgive others too.
Application: Who is one person you need to forgive? Should you reach out and tell them that you forgive them?
E-book: If these notes are helpful you can download the entire Ephesians E-book study guide to use on any device or print the entire series.
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