Part 24 of a series through the New Testament book of Ephesians
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"Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members of one 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, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you" (4:25-32).
The Christian's Lifestyle
In this passage, Paul gives his readers five exhortations. Each of these exhortations has three parts: (1) a negative command (what they should not do), (2) a negative command (what they should do), and (3) a reason for obedience.
The Christian life includes both rejecting what is sinful and doing what is right.
“Each of these exhortations has to do with personal relationships within the body of Christ (v. 25). In particular, they are intended to foster unity within the people of God, that unity of the Spirit which the readers have been urged zealously and energetically to maintain (v. 3)…” (Peter T. O’Brien, The Letter to the Ephesians, p. 334).
(1.) “Having put away falsehood, let each of you speak the truth with his neighbor” (v. 25a). Why? “For we are members of one another” (v. 25b).
(2.) “Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger” (v. 26). Why? So that you “give no opportunity to the devil” (v. 27).
(3.) “Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands” (v. 28a). Why? “So that he may have something to share with anyone in need” (v. 28b).
“The believer, then, is to sense real need and then share the fruit of diligent labor. In this instance as in other NT passages (Acts 2:45; 4:35; Rom. 15:25-28; 1 Cor. 16:1-4), those who benefit by such sharing are fellow believers. This is in agreement with verse 25 where the neighbors are considered fellow believers because they are members of one another. It does not mean that Christians are never to help the needy who may not be believers but their primary responsibility is to those who are of the household of faith. This will demonstrate a love for one another and the world will know that they are his disciples (John 13:35)” (Harold Hoehner, Ephesians: An Exegetical Commentary, p. 627).
(4.) “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion” (v. 29a). Why? “That it may give grace to those who hear” (v. 29b).
Before you say something, ask yourself, “Will my words build others up or tear others down?”
(5.) “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” (vv. 31-32a). Why? Because “God in Christ forgave you” (v. 32b).
We must get rid of what destroys relationships (lying, stealing, corrupting talk, bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and slander). We must practice what strengthens relationships (honesty, reconciliation, sharing, encouraging speech, kindness, compassion, and forgiveness).
The Best Motivation
Our sin causes the Holy Spirit to “grieve” (v. 30; cf. Isa. 63:9-10). (Some people believe the Holy Spirit is merely a force. But if he can be grieved, he must be a person.) In 4:25-32, the Holy Spirit’s grieving is connected with “corrupting talk” (v. 29). “The Spirit is grieved when God’s people continue in any of the sins that divide and destroy the unity of the body” (O’Brien, The Letter to the Ephesians, p. 346).
Every believer is “sealed” by the Holy Spirit (cf. 1:13; 2 Cor. 1:22). To seal something means to secure it (e.g., the tomb of Jesus, Matt. 27:66). Believers are secured until “the day of redemption” (cf. 1:14), which is the day of Christ’s return. Elsewhere Paul refers to it as “the day of the Lord” (1 Thess. 5:2; 2 Thess. 2:2; 1 Cor. 1:8; 5:5; 2 Cor. 1:14) or “the day of Christ” (Phil. 1:6, 10; 2:16).
Our redemption has two phases: (1) deliverance from the punishment for sin through the death of Christ and (2) deliverance from the presence of sin at the return of Christ.
The sealing of the Holy Spirit is our guarantee that we will experience this final phase of our salvation. In his letter to the Philippians, Paul writes, “I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Phil. 1:6).
Do you want to grieve the Father who sent his Son to redeem you? Do you want to grieve Christ who willingly died for your sins? Do you want to grieve the Spirit who has sealed you until the day of redemption?
The best motivation for obedience is the desire to avoid what grieves God and to do what pleases him.