The Third Race Reality: The Contrasted reality of a true Christian life versus the sensual or traditional-religious lifestyles

In the next section of Ephesians 4, Paul continues his focus on individual Christian responsibility. He does this by contrasting the lifestyle of a Christian with two unsaved lifestyles - the Gentiles and the Jews. As dispossessed citizens of Heaven, we will no longer live in our old lifestyle. The worthy walk of Christians in our culture will be radically obvious and distinct.


These verses outline 4 characteristics of the worldly and religious races in our culture. They remind us of what we are not to be. We don’t walk like the Gentiles because we’ve been made new. Salvation is not simply the addition of a new nature to contend with the old. It is a transformation, through the miracle of God’s grace on your heart, that makes you a new person. Everything in your life becomes obviously and completely different by the working of God’s miraculous and transformational grace.

Paul reminds us of what we used to be, so that we remember what God has saved us out of. There should be no fear that we are on the verge of slipping back. This lifestyle should be a distant temptation, with no desire in the Christian’s heart for it to control your life anymore.

“Futility of their Mind” - Egocentric Mind (verse 17)

The first characteristic of the unsaved is the idolatry of their own mind. They worship self, pursuing self-interest above all else. This idolatrous living leads to irresponsible behavior.

Everything an egocentric person does is to seek some benefit for themselves. One author said, “Even unsaved people who serve others often do it for their own benefit.”

There is no real purpose behind the unmitigated pursuit of self-interest. The truth is that anything one achieves is the result of God’s gifting, with an eternal purpose - to win souls to Christ in whatever sphere your success gives you influence.

“Darkened in their Understanding” - Hardened Mind (verse 18)

The unsaved walk around in a continual mental fog since the day of their birth. Contrary to what we would hope, the unbelieving mind gets worse and worse as time goes on, until it cannot navigate with any spiritual sense.

The unbeliever being “excluded from the life of God” hearkens back to Ephesians 2:11-12. A spiritual fog is the result of living under the blinding influence of the god of this world (2 Corinthians 4:4). This is the description of the life of an unbeliever navigating through a dense fog on the dangerous roads of life. They cannot see and cannot change their condition.

The unbeliever is further characterized by hardness of heart. When a bone has been broken, it heals harder than it was before. Similarly, it is more difficult for adults to repent and simply trust Christ than it is for children. But praise God that by His grace, even this condition is not irreversible!

“Having Become Callous” - Insensitive Mind (verse 19a)

The next step in this downward progression is insensitivity to all spiritual things. The unbelieving mind comes to the place where it is beyond feeling. It doesn’t care about spiritual things at all.

A mind in this condition is shameless and doesn’t care about shocking people. They have no understanding of standards and no response to moral stimuli, even that which is common to secular culture. As one author said, “Their consciences are so atrophied that sin registers no stab of pain; they have abandoned themselves to every form of vice.”

“Given Themselves Over” - Reprobate Mind (verse 19b)

At this last phase, a sinful mind becomes good for nothing. This phase is characterized by sexual excesses that lead to complete mindlessness. The unbeliever is totally preoccupied with satisfying their desires, and nothing is “too far.”

All kinds of sin are pursued with greediness, showing a mind that always gets and never gives. Another author described it as “a mind with the determination to gratify self-interest at all costs, regardless of the rights and the susceptibilities of others.” This is a completely undisciplined life.

Romans 1:18-32 outlines a similar declension in the unbelieving mind. This is where people finally end up when they don’t respond to wooings of the Holy Spirit in earlier phases. At the end, God turns them over to a “reprobate mind.”

This is a pretty dark picture. Thankfully, there is a joyful truth for those who have been saved, coming in verse 20: we have been supernaturally transformed! Since God has so miraculously saved us, why would we want anything of these 4 characteristics to be influencing our lives? God’s grace compels us to move away from that lifestyle having any place with us.

Application Points

  • Is the Holy Spirit convicting you of any of these “old nature” characteristics? Something in this sermon will and should bother you because we still struggle with sin. But if any of these characteristics is in you, it needs to change! These characteristics still present a slippery slope for the believer, and you don’t want to go any farther down this path.
  • It’s never too late to do right. Stop, repent, confess, forsake, and then prosper in right living.
  • Do you constantly struggle to live a worthy walk? If this is the case over years, maybe you haven’t had the opportunity to be personally discipled. Talk with a pastor who can pair you up with a mentor, so you can be taught from Scripture what God’s will is for your worthy walk.

Tools for Further Study

Cross References to Explore
  • 1 John 4:4 - We have every reason to succeed in our walk more than we fail.