Ephesians 4:18 MEANING

Ephesians 4:18
(18) Having the understanding darkened.--Of this vanity the first result noted is the intellectual. They are "darkened in the understanding," and so, "by the ignorance in them alienated from the life of God." The phrase "the life of God" is unique. It may, however, be interpreted by a similar phrase, the "righteousness of God" (Romans 1:7), i.e., the righteousness given by God. What the life given by God is, we know by our Lord's own words (John 17:3), "This is the life eternal, to know Thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom Thou has sent." So far as the understanding is concerned, this alienation signifies the loss of the central light of Truth in God, and with it the loss, partial or complete, of the vision of other truths in their right proportion and harmony.

But the second result is moral. St. Paul attributes the alienation from God, or (possibly, though less probably) "the ignorance which is in them," to the hardness of their heart--for the marginal reading is correct; the word used signifies, almost technically, "callousness" and insensibility. To make his meaning clearer still he adds, "who (or, inasmuch as they) being past feeling, have given themselves over to lasciviousness." There is precisely a similar current of thought (noting, however, the characteristic difference referred to above) in Romans 1:24-32, where St. Paul draws out, as consequences of the same vanity, first lusts of uncleanness, next unnatural sin, and at last breaks out into a fearful enumeration of the signs of the reprobate mind. On this side, therefore, "the alienation from the life of God" is the loss of the grace by which He dwells in the soul, and by indwelling gives it the moral and spiritual life.

Verse 18. - Being darkened in their understanding (second point of difference), and thus blind to all that is most vital - ignorant of God, of the way of salvation, of the love of Christ. Even at best the natural understanding cannot discover these things, and when it is not only imperfect but darkened - made more obscure than ever by sin (see after) - its guidance is altogether defective. It has been said truly that the youngest scholar in a Sunday school that has been taught the elements of the gospel has more light than the wisest of the heathen. Alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart (third point of difference). Two causes are given for their alienation, viz. ignorance, and hardness of heart, this last being the ultimate cause. Through worldly living, their hearts have become hard, callous, insensible to spiritual influences, perceiving no beauty in Divine things, no preciousness in Divine promises, no excellence in the Divine image; this makes them ignorant, careless, foolish; and such being their state of heart, they are alienated from the life of God, can't bear vital religion, hate the very idea of spiritual and holy service.

4:17-24 The apostle charged the Ephesians in the name and by the authority of the Lord Jesus, that having professed the gospel, they should not be as the unconverted Gentiles, who walked in vain fancies and carnal affections. Do not men, on every side, walk in the vanity of their minds? Must not we then urge the distinction between real and nominal Christians? They were void of all saving knowledge; they sat in darkness, and loved it rather than light. They had a dislike and hatred to a life of holiness, which is not only the way of life God requires and approves, and by which we live to him, but which has some likeness to God himself in his purity, righteousness, truth, and goodness. The truth of Christ appears in its beauty and power, when it appears as in Jesus. The corrupt nature is called a man; like the human body, it is of divers parts, supporting and strengthening one another. Sinful desires are deceitful lusts; they promise men happiness, but render them more miserable; and bring them to destruction, if not subdued and mortified. These therefore must be put off, as an old garment, a filthy garment; they must be subdued and mortified. But it is not enough to shake off corrupt principles; we must have gracious ones. By the new man, is meant the new nature, the new creature, directed by a new principle, even regenerating grace, enabling a man to lead a new life of righteousness and holiness. This is created, or brought forth by God's almighty power.Having the understanding darkened,.... Not that the natural faculty of the understanding is lost in men, nor the understanding in things natural and civil, and which is quick enough, especially in things that are evil; but in things spiritual it is very dark and ignorant, as about the nature and perfections of God, his holiness and righteousness; about sin and the consequences of it; about Christ, his person, office, and work, and salvation by him; about the Spirit, and his work of grace upon the soul; and about the Scripture, and the doctrines contained in it; and so it came to be by sin: the understanding of man was at first filled both with natural and divine knowledge; but man was not content with this, and being ambitious of more, even of being as God, lost what he had; for on account of his sin he was banished from the divine presence, which brought not only a darkness upon him, but upon all his posterity; and which is increased by personal iniquity, and oftentimes by Satan the god of this world, who blinds the minds of men; and sometimes men are given up in just judgment by God, to a judicial blindness and hardness of heart; and which issues in utter darkness, in blackness of darkness for evermore:

being alienated from the life of God; not that which God lives in himself, but that which he lives in his people; nor that natural life which men receive from him, but a spiritual life, a life of grace, faith and holiness; and which may be called the life of God, because it is infused by the Spirit of God, and the word of God is the means of it, and it is supported and secured by the power of God, and is according to the will of God, and is directed to his glory: now wicked and unconverted men are alienated from this life; they are estranged from God the fountain of it; and go astray from the law, the rule of an holy life; and are entirely destitute of a principle of life, from whence men can only act and are utterly unacquainted with the pleasures and sweetness of the life of faith and holiness; nor do they approve of such a life, but have the utmost aversion to it:

through the ignorance that is in them; every unregenerate man is an ignorant man, and especially the Gentiles were very ignorant of God, and of divine things; ignorance is natural to men, it comes by sin, and is itself sinful, and is sometimes the punishment of sin, and also the cause of it, as here of alienation from the life of God; for where is ignorance of God, there can be no desire after him, no communion with him, no faith in him, had dependence on him; no true worship of him, or living according to his will, and to his glory: and this ignorance is,

because of the blindness of their hearts, or "the hardness of it"; there is a natural hardness of the heart, the heart is naturally stony, and so it remains till grace takes away the stony heart, and gives an heart of flesh; it is insensible and inflexible, and not susceptive of any impression; and there is a voluntary hardness of it, men willingly harden themselves against the Lord, and make their hearts like an adamant stone, all sin is of an hardening nature; and there is a judicial hardness, which God gives up men unto; and when and where this is the case, in either sense, it is no wonder men should be so ignorant of God, and so alienated from the life of him: , "blindness of heart" (c), is a Rabbinical phrase.

(c) T. Bab. Cetubot, fol. 105. 1.

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