Ephesians 4:25-32

“Therefore, putting away lying, speak the truth, each one to his neighbor, because we are members of one another. Be angry and do not sin. Don’t let the sun go down on your anger, and don’t give the devil an opportunity. Let the thief no longer steal. Instead, he is to do honest work with his own hands, so that he has something to share with anyone in need. No foul language should come from your mouth, but only what is good for building up someone in need, so that it gives grace to those who hear. And don’t grieve God’s Holy Spirit. You were sealed by him for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness, anger and wrath, shouting and slander be removed from you, along with all malice. And be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving one another, just as God also forgave you in Christ.”

We ended the last section with the verse that says to put on the new self, the one created according to God’s likeness. Today, we are going to look at the practical application of that. All the examples that follow concern our relationships. Each example is a negative prohibition followed by a positive command. We are taking off the old self and putting on the new. And Paul gives or implies a reason for each of the commands.

As we look at each of these commands, it is important to note a couple of things. Christ has put our sin to death on the cross. I shared Galatians 2:20 last time. It says that I have been crucified with Christ. I like the way Ray Steadman said it in his sermon. “It means that this process of putting off and putting on is based on the reality of what Christ did for us in the cross and the resurrection. We simply make it ours in experience, but it has been done already.” Another thing to note, this way of walking is a matter of practice. We take off the old, put on the new. Galatians 5:16 says, “I say then, walk by the spirit and you will certainly not carry out the desires of the flesh.” Stedman goes on to say, “But it is not knowledge that does the trick, it is practice. “Truth known does not help anyone, it is truth done which delivers.” Let’s start looking at each one.

The first command is to put off lying and to instead speak truth to one another. The reason given is that we are members of one another. John Stott writes, “For fellowship is built on trust, and trust is built on truth. So falsehood undermines fellowship, while truth strengthens it.” When we lie, we not only hurt each other but we also do damage to the reputation of the body of Christ. We make it hard for others to trust all Christians when we lie.

Next, Paul says to be angry and do not sin. I think we have the mistaken idea that as Christians we are never allowed to be angry. But here Paul is saying that we can be angry. When is it OK to be angry? I looked up times that Jesus was angry. He was angry at the moneychangers in the temple. He was angry at the hardness of the Pharisees heart when he healed the man’s withered hand on the Sabbath. He called the Pharisees snakes and broods of vipers on another occasion. He was not angry at anything done to him but of their treatment of others. His anger was righteous. Paul is saying here that we can get angry as long as it is not a prideful anger. Stott writes, “In the face of blatant evil we should be in indignant not tolerant, angry not apathetic. If God hates sin, his people should hate it too. If evil arouses his anger, it should arouse ours also.”

We must be careful to be on our guard though. Our pride often gets in the way. We need to make sure that we are angry with what God would have us be angry with and not something done to us. There are three warnings. First, do not sin. In other words watch for warning signs of wanting revenge, having prideful thoughts, and feeling antagonism. The second is not to let the sun go down on our anger. Paul is saying not to hold on to your anger. Don’t hold a grudge. We shouldn’t let anger be the emotion that guides us day to day. The third warning is not to give the devil an opportunity. It is far too easy to go from righteous anger to unrighteous anger. We need to be careful not to cultivate an attitude of anger.

Paul goes on to say that the thief should no longer steal. He should do honest work so he has something to share with those in need. In this command, Paul goes beyond a negative prohibition and a positive command. They should no longer steal (negative prohibition) and do honest work with their own hands (positive command). He then goes on to say that they will then have something to share with anyone in need. This is completely the opposite of stealing! Where we might think at first the opposite was the working, the reality is the thief has turned their life completely around by now helping those in need.

Next is no foul language should come from your mouth, but only what is good for building up. Paul gives the reason so that it gives grace to those who hear. We should not use our mouths for evil but for good. James 3:3-12 warns us about the damage that we can do with our words. Proverbs 12:18 says, “There is one who speaks rashly, like a piercing sword: but the tongue of the wise brings healing.” When we are new creations, we want to use our words to help, not harm.

The next verses can be confusing. Paul writes, “And don’t grieve God Holy Spirit. You are sealed by him for the day of redemption.” I have talked to people who have confused this verse with what Jesus was talking about in Matthew 12:31-32 where he talks about blasphemy against the Holy Spirit being unforgivable. That is not what this verse is saying. When we bring disunity or impurity to the body of Christ (notice that this verse is sandwiched between foul language and the next verse which talks about bitterness, anger, etc.) it causes him grief. Stott writes, “One might add that because he is also the ‘Spirit of truth’, through whom God has spoken, he is upset by all our misuse of speech, which has been Paul’s topic in the preceding verse.” Spurgeon wrote, “He is grieved with us mainly for our own sakes, for he knows what misery sin will cost us; he reads our sorrows in our sins… He grieves over us because he sees how much chastisement we incur, and how much communion we lose.”

Paul’s last command is to let all bitterness, anger and wrath, shouting and slander be removed along with all malice. He says that instead we are to be kind and compassionate to each other and we are to forgive each other. The reason is simple. God forgave us. Colossians 3:12-13 says, “Therefore, as God’s chosen ones, holy and dearly loved, put on compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another if anyone has a grievance against another. Just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you are also to forgive.” Paul again is using the analogy of putting on. We are to put on compassion and kindness, and we are to forgive one another.

I will close with this. Too often we only focus on the taking off the old self. Then the world gets a negative impression of Christianity. They see the “do not do this” and “do not do that”. We need to remember to put on the new self! We need to speak the truth. We need to be working so that we can share with those in need. Our language should be used to build each other up, and we need to be kind, compassionate, and forgiving. We still may not be liked by the world, but at least it won’t be for the wrong reasons. 1 Peter 3:13-17 says:

“Who then will harm you if you are devoted to what is good? But even if you should suffer for righteousness, you are blessed. Do not fear them or be intimidated, but in your hearts regard Christ the Lord as holy, ready at any time to give a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you. Yet do this with gentleness and reverence, keeping a clear conscience, so that when you are accused, those who disparage your good conduct in Christ will be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil.”

I saw this quote today from Monique Duson of the Center for Biblical Unity. “You can be winsome when you present the truth, but you still won’t be able to win some. Speak the truth to error anyway.”

Grace be with you!


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