This is a directive from Paul, through the Holy Spirit. The directive is to NO LONGER do something. No longer implies, and in this case correctly implies, we used to do “this thing” or still do “this thing” that he is about to tell us not to do.
The thing we are not to do is “to walk” a certain way. DO NOT WALK THIS WAY. DO NOT WALK THE WAY YOU USED TO. It seems clear in Scripture that there are a few words and phrases used to define “walk”: practice, deliberate continuance, do.
When you think about walking we would agree that it is something most of us are blessed to be able to wake up in the morning, put our feet on the floor, and do without too much thought or effort. So, could we rightly say that Paul is saying, “do not continue to do ‘this thing’ without thought or effort”?
It seems that if we are not to walk “this way” any temptation to stray “that way” should be met by thoughts of conviction and an effort to resist; rather than a deliberate yielding to the temptation to “walk this way”. The world wants you to walk this way and God is saying DO NOT DO IT.
So, what is “this way”?
Ephesians 4:17 says “no longer walk as the Gentiles do”. In this context Gentiles are those WITHOUT Christ in their life, those that are non-believers. How do non-believers walk? They walk exactly like we did before we were born again, “in the futility of their minds”, their understanding is darkened, they are hostile to and separated from God “because of the ignorance that is in them”.
Why are they like this? Paul answers that in verse 19; their heart is hardened and they have become callous. When I see the word callous I immediately think of the callous’ on my hands when I used to workout a lot. Over time the callous’ got bigger and harder making that area of my hand almost completely without feeling to touch. God’s Word says that this is how those without Christ become as they “give themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity.”
When we hear the word “greedy” most of our minds immediately go to financial wealth, but that is not what Paul says here. Ephesians 4:19 says “greedy to practice every kind of impurity”. Without Christ in our life we are like spoiled children consumed with getting what we want when we want it. Only this greed is not for a toy or a cookie, this greed is to practice sin and drink up that sin like water. Unless God causes us to be born again this will not change.
Even those that are born again battle the temptation to return to that which consumed them before they were set free in the Blood of Christ. That is because our battle is not of flesh and blood, it is a spiritual battle and we have an enemy that hates us and will stop at nothing to destroy us. Victory over our impurity, sin, addiction (whatever you chose to call it); ultimately victory over our enemy comes by abiding in Christ. True victory does not come by “white knuckling” it in the flesh and hope you are strong enough. Victory comes by growing in the wisdom and understanding of God through the study of God’s Word, through continual prayer and fellowship, protecting what goes in to your mind, and preparing your mind for action.
Read Ephesians 4:17-5:21 and carefully consider how the Word says we should and shouldn’t walk:
Ephesians 4:17-5:21 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. 20 But that is not the way you learned Christ!– 21 assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, 22 to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, 23 and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, 24 and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. 25 Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another. 26 Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, 27 and give no opportunity to the devil. 28 Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need. 29 Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. 32 Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. 5:1 Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. 2 And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. 3 But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. 4 Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. 5 For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. 6 Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. 7 Therefore do not become partners with them; 8 for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light 9 (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), 10 and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. 11 Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. 12 For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret. 13 But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, 14 for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says, “Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” 15 Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. 18 And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, 19 addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, 20 giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, 21 submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.