Ephesians 4:17-32

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. 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. They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. But that is not the way you learned Christ!— assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.

Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another. Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil. 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. 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. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

 

Observation

  • Paul is saying these things in the Lord
  • These are the Lord’s commandment through Paul.
  • The Ephesians were not to live as the Gentiles did.
  • Gentiles live in futility.
  • Gentiles have their own minds.
  • The Gentiles minds are futile.
  • The Gentile do not understand the things of God.
  • The Gentiles are alienated from God.
  • The Gentiles are alienated from God and lack understanding because they are ignorant.
  • The Gentile are ignorant because of their hardness of heart.
  • The Gentile became calloused.
  • The Gentiles have dedicated themselves to sensuality.
  • The Gentiles horde and accumulate all types of impurity.
  • The Ephesians did not learn about Christ through sensuality and impurity.
  • The truth is in Jesus.
  • The Ephesians were to not be the way they were.
  • The way the Ephesians use to be was part of their former lives.
  • The Ephesians former lives were corrupt.
  • The Ephesians former liver were corrupt through deceitful desires.
  • The Ephesians were to be new.
  • The new selves were created in the likeness of God.
  • The new selves were truly righteous.
  • The new selves were holy.
  • The Ephesians have put away falsehood.
  • Each of the Ephesians were to speak individually truth to his neighbor.
  • We are members to each other.
  • It is possible to be angry without sinning.
  • The Ephesian were allowed to be angry.
  • The Ephesians were not sin in or with their anger.
  • The Ephesians were not to hold a grudge.
  • The Ephesian were not to be angry more than a day.
  • Holding a grudge gives the devil an opportunity.
  • The Ephesians were not to give the devil an opportunity.
  • The thief was to stop stealing.
  • The thief was to work.
  • The reason the thief was to work was so he may have something to share.
  • Thief was to do honest work.
  • The thief was to work with his hands.
  • The thief was to share with anyone in need.
  • The Ephesians were not to allow corrupt talk to come out of their mouth.
  • The Ephesians were only to allow talk that was good for building up.
  • The Ephesians’ talk was to fit the occasion.
  • The way the Ephesians could give grace to others is only allowing talk that builds up to come out of their mouth.
  • The Ephesians were not to grieve the Holy Spirit.
  • The Ephesians were sealed by the Holy Spirit.
  • The Ephesians were sealed for the day of redemption.
  • The Ephesians were to put away:
    • Bitterness
    • Wrath
    • Anger
    • Clamor
    • Slander
    • Malice
  • The Ephesians were to be kind to each other.
  • The Ephesians were to be tenderhearted.
  • The Ephesians were to forgive each other.
  • The Ephesians were to forgive as God forgave them.
  • God forgave the Ephesians in Christ.

Interruption

Paul opens chapter 4 by telling the Ephesians to live a life worthy of their calling with humility, gentleness, patience and supporting each other in love. In this passage, Paul continues the theme. The Ephesians are to live a life worthy of their calling by no longer living as they once did. He reminds the Ephesians that they are new beings, created in the image of God. They are no longer what they once were. Those who have not been made new creatures are ignorant of God and alienated from Him. Those who have not been regenerated do not know or understand. Not because of their intelligence. They are ignorant because of the hardness of their heart. They simply do not want to know.

Since the unregenerate do not know God, the only thing they have is themselves. Therefore, the only thing they can do is give themselves over to themselves. They are deceitful, greedy, and yielding to sensual desires or impure. And why should they not be? That is all they know. It makes perfect sense. If you do not know God there is nothing of any value outside of yourself. These are the characteristics of the lives of those who do not know Christ and have not been made new creatures.

Paul admonishes the Ephesians to not be as the unregenerate. In the last paragraph of this section, Paul talks about what the new creator looks like. He starts off by talking about anger. Paul does not say being angry is wrong or sinful. In fact, there are examples of Christ’s anger throughout the gospels. The most famous of these is the driving the money changers from the temple. Remember, Christ was without sin. What Paul says is we are not to hold a grudge. We are not to hold on to our anger. This gives an opening to the devil. The opening is not an opening to cause the saved to become unsaved but to steal or reduce the glory that belongs to God.

Paul now turns his attention to the thief. Stealing is a direct violation of the eighth commandment. Rather than stealing the thief should do honest labor. A thief steals for himself. There is no thought of others. Paul says to work so you not only have enough for yourself but can share with those in need.

Paul concludes this section by talking about our language. Paul says not to let corrupt talk come from us only words that build up. Word of faith teachers and positive thinking proponents have twisted this verse to suit themselves rather than read it in context.

This passage does not say, “Only say positive things,” “Only speak words of encouragement,” “If you cannot say something positive and encouraging don’t say anything at all.” That is a complete twisting of this passage. It ignores the phrase, “as fits the occasion.” Anyone who has been involved in building anything knows that in order to build up errors and mistakes need to be torn down. If a foundation is poor the proper thing to do is not build on it, but tear it out and pour it again. If a brother or sister is in error it would be extremely cruel to allow them to remain out of God’s revealed will and therefore suffer the God’s judgment. Sometimes words of condemnation are required in order to allow building up. In context, this idea is tied back to anger. It is in the middle of a section on anger. Paul talks about anger and malice both before and after this sentence. To understand what Paul is saying we did to understand the context. Words spoken in anger do not build up.

Paul concludes the idea of not holding a grudge with verse 32. This verse is a restatement of a consistent and reoccurring theme throughout scripture. We are to forgive as God forgive us, that is, an undeserved, unmerited forgiveness. In the Sermon on the Mount, Christ goes so far as to say we will only be forgiven as we forgive. “For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. (Matthew 6:14-15)  Let that the sink in. When you realize the import of it, it can be a little scary.

Application

We are commanded to live a life worthy of the calling we have received. That is easy to say, but difficult to do. In fact, it is impossible to do on our own strength. The answer is not to simply try harder. The answer is to run, not walk, to the cross. Christ renews our mind and creates us new and matures us as we study the scriptures. What does Christ say through the His Holy Scripture? Let Christ live through you. The old former life is gone. It is replaced, replaced with a life made in the image of God. The former life was ignorant of God. We find God’s will for service to Him not by looking inside of ourselves. We find it by listening to God. He speaks through His holy scriptures.

Learning and thorough study of scripture is the means by which God changes a person. I do not intend to imply salvation through knowledge. Paul in chapter 2 made it clear salvation is by grace alone through faith alone. But our sanctification is a process as God reveals himself to us. And He reveals himself through His holy word.

How do you walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called? Know Jesus! How do you know Jesus? By diligently study His word. If you are saved, you are to grow in your knowledge and maturity in Christ. That is, know, by knowing Him better and better. We know God the way know anyone better and better. By spending more and more time with them, and listening to them. God speaks through His word. Spend time with God and listening to Him by spending time in His word.

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