Ephesians 4:17-32, Walking in Newness, pt2:

  • This portion of Scripture leads into a short description of the ignorant and immoral nature of Gentile living (4:17–19) that contrasts sharply with the way of life we learn in relationship with Jesus Christ (4:20–21). Previously we looked at:
  • 1) The Call to Newness, v17-19
  • 2) The Way of Newness, v20-24

 

  1. The Call to Newness: (v17-19)
  • This point refers to the Gentile pagans becoming a new people in Christ. Where their thoughts were previously “empty, worthless, and purposeless,” they think things through differently. Their thought life was ‘darkened and separated from the life of God’ (4:18).
  • This is due to a willful resistance to God and His truth. And so the result is that ‘they have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity.”

 

  1. The Way of Newness: (v20-24)
  • Secondly, there is a new way of living which comes through Christ (4:20–24). In addition this newness refers to our minds, (4:23). According to Paul, we learned from Christ himself to put off the old man, be renewed, and put on the new man.
  • This is where we pick up from today!

 

  1. The Practice of Newness (25-32)
  • Now we’ll continue by looking at the practical examples of what this newness looks like in our daily walk with the Lord. You’ll notice that most of these examples reflect the twofold form of “put off/put on” by beginning with a negative (don’t do this) and ending with a positive (do this instead).
  • So firstly, speak the truth! (v25). The Greek original echoes Zechariah 8:16, saying we are to “speak the truth” with our neighbor. This means more than just not lying; we are also to speak “the truth,” that is, the truth of God’s grace in Christ, the truth of God’s uniting all things in Christ, the truth of God’s story in Ephesians 1–3. Thus, 4:25 reiterates 4:15–16; we grow in Christ by speaking the truth in love.
  • The reason for why such truth speaking is required is: “For we are all members of one body.” This verse does not say we should speak the truth “because it is right” or “because God commands it.” But the foundation for truthfulness among Christians is the reality of our oneness in Christ, a unity forged by God through the cross and by the Spirit.

 

  • Secondly, withhold from sin in your anger. Verses 26–27 do not follow the put off/put on pattern found in most exhortations of this section. Rather, we find three prohibitions in a row. The first is a citation of Psalm 4:4. The ancient Greek translation of this verse from Psalms uses the same language as the Greek in our text, which reads, “Be angry but do not sin.” Anger often precipitates sinful words or deeds that hurt others. We should not say or do them.
  • The last two prohibitions are connected. We must not let our anger last longer than a day, lest it fester in our hearts. Why limit anger to a day? Because rotting anger gives the devil a “foothold.” The Greek word can also mean “space, room, opportunity.” Unresolved anger opens up a place for the devil to dwell in us and in our relationships. Smoldering anger provides a foundation for Satan to do his work of dividing, distressing, and distracting us.
  • This passage shows that anger is itself not wrong. The Gospels show us that our Lord became angry at times (Mark 3:5; 10:14; 11:15–17). Often in Scripture, God is angry over sin and injustice (for example, Ps 90:7–11; John 3:36). So if Jesus, the Son of God, can be angry, and if God the Father can be angry, then anger must not be fundamentally wrong.
  • But we must recognize that anger easily leads to sin. When we’re angry, we often hurt people, embrace unforgiveness, or plot revenge. Thus if we’re angry, even righteously angry, we should always beware because sin is crouching at the door of our hearts.

 

  • Thirdly, do not steal; but work for reward! (4:28). This verse affirms one of the Ten Commandments, “You shall not steal” (Exod 20:15). But we have an addition here. Those who have been stealing, “must work, doing something useful with their own hands.” Many folks walk around with the delusion the work is part of the Fall.
  • However, the centrality of work to human life is made clear in Genesis 1–2. So why should we work? Ephesians 4:28 says: “That [we] may have something to share with those in need.” Rather than taking what is not ours, we should give what is ours to those who need it. So work is valuable not just because it makes possible care for the poor but also because it can do good.

 

  • Fourthly, encourage others. (4:29). The Greek word translated as “unwholesome” can mean “rotten, of poor quality, bad, or harmful.” It shows up in a saying of Jesus: “Every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit” (Matt 7:17). As Christians, we need to put away “bad” words that harm and hurt others, words that tear down rather than building up.
  • By contrast, we are to use our language positively. Our words should be “helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen” (Eph 4:29). Saying what is good is similar to speaking the truth (4:15, 25).
  • According to this text, there are two ways we can use the power of words for good. First, our words can build up people in reference to their needs. Second, our words can “benefit those who listen.” Therefore, our words can be a source of grace to others.

 

  • Number five is to not grieve the Holy Spirit. (4:30). The placement of verse 30 links it to verse 29. Verse 30 expands upon the danger of unwholesome talk mentioned in verse 29. The verb translated here as “grieve” means “to cause severe mental or emotional distress.”
  • And since the Spirit forms the community of God’s people, and since the unity of God’s people is central to God’s cosmic purposes, anything we do that divides this community distresses the Spirit. On the contrary and by implication, we can please the Spirit when we use our words as part of making “every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit” (4:3).

 

  • Lastly, put off an unloving attitude & put on a loving one. (4:31–32). These verses form the last of the “put off/put on” pairs in this section. The word “bitterness” refers literally to that which has a sour taste. “Rage” and “anger” are close in meaning. “Brawling” in this context is verbal, not physical. “Slander” is any speech that degrades another, whether or not it is true. Bitterness, rage, and anger are the negative feelings that give rise to brawling and slander, which are two among many forms of “evil”.
  • But in contrast, we are to “be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave [us]” (4:32). Kindness (chrēstos) is attributed to God in the Old Testament: “Taste and see that the Lord is good [chrēstos]” (Ps 34:8). God acts in kindness (chrēstos) to all (Ps 145:9). Thus to be kind is to express goodness and grace by imitating God.
  • The Greek word translated “compassionate” literally means “good bowels”. Another translation is “tenderhearted”. The significance is that tenderhearted people allow the feelings of others to touch their own souls. When people around them grieve, compassionate people feel sad. When people are needy, tenderhearted people sense that need.

 

  • Yet no matter our intentions, there will be times when we wrong each other. When this happens, forgiveness is required. Paul says we must be “forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you” (4:32). We are to give grace to people in the form of forgiveness when they wrong us.

 

Application:

  • The last phrase in 4:32 provides both a motivation and a model for forgiveness. We are moved to forgive not because we’re such nice people or because the one who wronged us is worthy but because God has forgiven us in Christ. We learn how to forgive by watching the model of God in Christ.
  • According to Ephesians 1:7–8a, “In [Christ] we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us.” Forgiveness flows from God’s grace, mercy, and love. As we receive these gifts, we are to give them away to others.