Ephesians 4:17-32

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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

Outline:

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)

Discussion Questions:

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 separated. Darkened? Excluded? Ignorant? Hard? Callous? Given themselves over?
What is controlling this group of people? Why?

Cross-References

1 Corinthians 6:9-11 – The wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God, but you have been washed and sanctified.
Galatians 5:16-23 – Works of the flesh and of the spirit contrasted.
Colossians 3:5-10 – Put to death the old nature; rid yourselves of those things. Put on the new self.
2 Corinthians 4:4 – The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers.
Romans 1:21-23 – Although they knew God, they did glorify Him and their foolish hearts were darkened.
Galatians 4:8 – When they didn’t know God, they were slaves of false gods.
John 3:19-21 – Light came into the world, but men hated the light because their deeds were evil.

Key Points:

1. This wasn’t just Paul’s idea; he had the authority from the Lord to give this command.

2. Walk, goes back to the walk worthy of the calling with which you have been called. Live out day by day.

3. Gentiles. In this context refers to the pagan, to the unbeliever. In general, most Gentiles were both pagan and unbelievers.

4. 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. They devise schemes and plans chasing after money and power. All the time, the best course is to simply humble ourselves and accept what God says. It is similar to what Paul says in Romans where they think they are wise, but they are really fools and become futile in their speculations. 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 themselves to do sin. Hardened refers to moral insensitivity. Pharaoh hardened his heart and refused to listen to God’s command to let the Israelites go. It the willful rejection of doing right, of the truth. Notice that the hardening and callousness directly leads to all kinds of evil deeds. They didn’t just dabble in it, but gave themselves fully over to it. That requires a long process, step by step giving in to sin. Give the fence example. They become completely desensitized to sin, having no moral barometer. Romans depicts the final conclusion of this as people not only giving themselves to sin, but encouraging others to do the same thing.

6. This is 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 their 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)

Discussion Questions

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?

Cross-References

Romans 6:6-14 – Old self has been crucified so that we don’t need to be slaves of sin. Count yourselves dead to sin, but alive to Christ. Do not let sin reign in your mortal bodies.
Titus 2:11-12 – The grace of God teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly lists and to live self-controlled, upright lives.
Romans 12:2 – Do not be conformed to the pattern of the world; be transformed by the renewing of your mind.
Psalms 51:10 – Create in me a clean heart and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Titus 3:5 – He saved us by the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit.
2 Corinthians 5:17 – If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has gone; the new has come.

Key Points

1. 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. If a person actually knows Jesus they won’t live like that.

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. 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. It’s like what we talked about last week, about the beggar made a prince. That prince can make the decision to lay aside his beggar clothes and wear the ones of a prince. Before he was adopted into the king’s family, he didn’t have this choice.

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.

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 (the demons to the empty house).

We have to make a conscious effort to not do wrong things, but we don’t just do nothing. We must 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.

III. Aspects of the new nature (25-32)

Discussion Questions

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?
For each issue as we go over it, identify the negative and the positive command.
In what cases is a believer permitted to lie? In what cases are you tempted to lie? What should you do when you face these situations? 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? How can this verse be used to disspell the “believers have their mind in the clouds waiting for God to help them; they are not productive members of society” argument? 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?
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?
Can we hold on to just a little bitterness in extreme cases? Can we slander just a little bit? Why not?
Explain tender-hearted.
How much should we forgive each other?

Cross-References

Lying/Truth

Proverbs 6:16-17 – The Lord hates a lying tongue.
Proverbs 12:19 – Truthful lips last forever, but a lying tongue only lasts for a moment.
John 8:44 – Satan is the father of lies.
Ephesians 4:15 – Speaking the truth in love.
Exodus 20:16 – The commandment of the ten commandments about lying.

Anger

Romans 12:19-21 – Do not take revenge. God will repay. Help your enemy and overcome evil with good.
James 1:19-20 – You should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry.
Proverbs 19:11 – A man’s wisdom gives him patience; it is his glory to overlook an offense.
John 2:13-16 – Jesus cleanses the temple.
Stealing – What leads to stealing?
Exodus 20:15 – You shall not steal.
Exodus 20:17 – You shall not covet.
Luke 19:8 – Zacchaeus repents and pays back four times what he took.

Speech

Colossians 4:-6 – Let your words be seasoned with salt, to give grace to those who hear.
James 3:2-12 – Passage on the tongue.

Kind/Tenderhearted

Romans 12:10 – Honor one another above yourselves. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love.
Colossians 3:12-13 – Clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another.

Key Points

1. These verses discuss the negative, what not to do, and the positive, what to do, of many aspects of Christian life. Just as last week we first read to live in a manner worthy of the calling and then a bunch of specific applications, this week we first read to put off the old and put on the new. Then we read a number of specific ways to do this in our everyday life.

2. Lying. When people think of lying, they often think of something like Bill Clinton’s testimony before the Supreme Court. But there are actually a lot of forms of lying. What are some common forms of lying that most people probably don’t consider lying? Discuss white lies, deception, misleading, exaggeration, false excuses, cheating, betraying a confidence, breaking a promise, covering up the truth etc. How should we speak the truth? In love.

3. Go through each quality one by one with cross-references, questions, applications, and discussion.

4. Think what area of these you are weak in. Decide on a specific application of a specific way you can improve this week. Write it down now. 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.

Study Ephesians 5:1-14

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