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.

Understanding And Applying the Text

Paul continues the theme of living a life worthy of their calling. The Ephesians were to live with humility, gentleness, and patience. And They were to support each other in love. The Ephesians were to no longer live as they once did. He reminded the Ephesians they were new beings. They were now in the image of God. They are no longer what they once were. Those God has not made new creatures are ignorant of God and alienated from Him. The unregenerated have no knowledge or understanding. It is not because they lacked intelligence. They were ignorant because of the hardness of their heart. They simply did not want to know.

Since the unregenerate do not know God, the only thing they have is themselves. So, 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. These are the characteristics of those God has not remade.

Paul admonished the Ephesians not to be as unregenerated. In the last paragraph of this section, Paul talked about what the new creator looks like. He started by talking about anger. Paul does not say being angry is wrong or sinful. 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 turned 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 said to work so you not only have enough for yourself but can share with those in need.

Paul concluded this section by talking about our language. Paul said not to let corrupt talk come from us. We are to only utter words that build up. Word of Faith teachers and positive thinking proponents have twisted this verse. They make it fit their desires rather than reading it in context.

This passage does not say, “Only say positive things.” It does not say, “Only speak words of encouragement.” Nor did Paul say, “If you cannot say something positive, don’t say anything at all.” Those are a complete twisting of this passage. It ignores the phrase, “as fits the occasion.” Whenever we build up, we must tear down errors and mistakes. If a foundation is poor the proper thing to do is not build on it. We must tear it out and pour it again. If a brother or sister is in error it would be cruel to allow them to remain out of God’s revealed will. For we would allow them to suffer God’s judgment. There are times we must condemn. To allow someone to build on a poor foundation so their house falls on them and their family is cruel. But let us be sure and place this in context. Paul tied this to anger. It is in the middle of a section on anger. Paul talked about anger and malice both before and after this sentence. Words spoken in anger do not build up.

Paul concluded 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 forgives 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 sink in. When you realize the importance of it, it can be a little scary.

God, though Paul, commands us to live a life worthy of the calling we have received. That is easy to say, but difficult to do. It is impossible to do on our strength. Trying harder will not fix the problem. The answer is to run, not walk, to the cross. Christ renews our minds, 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. God has replaced it with His image. The former life was ignorant of God. We find God’s will, 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 how 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 studying 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 listen to Him. Spend time in His word.

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