Saturday, 17 September 2016
…having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart; Ephesians 4:18
This is a somewhat difficult verse unless the parallelism is understood. There are four separate clauses. The first and the third are connected as are the second and the fourth –
1 having their understanding darkened
3 because of the ignorance that is in them
2 being alienated from the life of God
4 because of the blindness of their heart
The words are speaking of “the rest of the Gentiles” of the previous verse. There is an ignorance of God which is found in the unregenerate man. This is especially so because as the ages have passed, man has lost more and more of the knowledge of God which was originally known. There was a time when a Messiah was anticipated. As the nations spread out, that knowledge was replaced with other forms of worship which were based on works rather than the anticipation of One who would restore all things.
Eventually, their understanding became darkened “because of the ignorance that is in them.” They could no longer perceive any of the things of God. If one understands that God has a plan, then they will, at least in part, trust that the plan is being worked out. However, if life is just a thing which we must suffer through, and if God is “out there” but not working a good end for all things, then the understanding becomes more and more darkened.
Every possible religious expression will come about as people make stuff up in order to satisfy the empty void of the thought of a life without hope. Muslims made up a system of submission which supposedly offers a free ticket to paradise and 72 awaiting perpetual virgins for any who die in the cause of their god. Hindus made up a system of reincarnation, and the worship of 340 million different gods. The list goes on and on. The true knowledge of God is darkened from their understanding because of the ignorance that is in them.
As a result of this, they are “alienated from the life of God… because of the blindness of their heart.” The term, “the life of God” is unique in the Bible, but it is based on the truth of Jesus Christ – a thought which permeates Scripture. In John 1:4, “the life of God” is revealed –
“In Him was life, and the life was the light of men.”
It is the promise of the Messiah that kept the ancients directed toward the life of God. They had hope in the fact that God was working out a plan. They trusted that God was just, fair, and righteous. In this, they understood that He would do the right thing. Their faith in what was coming kept them in His favor. Chapter 11 of the book of Hebrews shows us this. People from both inside the covenant line and from without, such as Rahab the harlot, understood that God had a plan. They trusted it and were deemed faithful; their hearts were not blinded to this “life of God.”
However, there were those who were, and are, alienated from it. Their hearts are blinded though a lack of knowledge. In this lack of knowledge, they cannot exercise faith in God. This is the state of those who simply live out their existence, making stuff up or following made up stuff, and perishing apart from God. It is a life of death leading to death. Paul will explain the result of such a life.
Life application: The words here follow along very well with the words of Romans 1, especially starting in verse 18. Take time to read these two passages side by side and think on how perfectly they reflect the sentiments of the people of the world. The Bible is God’s “instruction manual for mankind.” As this is so, it should perfectly reflect the world around us… and it does. Pay heed! God is speaking to us so that we can learn. In that learning, we can then have knowledge to hopefully pull others out of the blinded, hardened life in which they exist.
Lord God, Your word reveals to us the state of man and the reason we act the way we do. It explains why the perversion which surrounds us is growing almost exponentially. It also explains why the truth that You have revealed to us is becoming more and more despised by those who are caught up in this perverse cycle. Help us to be faithful to You and to Your word as we face greater and greater enmity from the world around us. It may not be long before our faith in You is tested in a terrifying way. Give us strength to endure the challenges set before us. Help us to be faithful to You through whatever comes. Amen.