Devotional # 105. 10/6/14. Ephesians 4:17-32.
Intro. Remember last week Paul encouraged us to not be like little immature children being tossed back-and-forth by every Bible teaching that comes along? Instead we were supposed to “speak the truth in love” so that we, and the rest of our brothers and sisters, could mature in Jesus – since Jesus is who created us for unity and supplied us with strength and is growing us to edify each other in love. This week we’ll be talking about how we’ve spiritually killed our old man of sin and have been transformed into a new man of light. Paul will also give us an interesting teaching on how we can keep from grieving the Holy Spirit.
vv. 17-19. Paul simply asks the question ‘if you are a Christian shouldn’t your life look different than a non-Christians?’ The word “Christian” means “Christ-one” (as in “owned by Christ) or “little Christ.” Was Jesus different from the world around Him? Absolutely yes! If God the Son was really our hope for going to heaven and had the power to heal people from every sin, has that changed? No. So if you’re going to call yourself a Christian than you have to draw a line in the sand. You’re not allowed to be a hypocrite, going to church on Sunday and talking about God when it’s convenient but living in sin the rest of the time. If you don’t want to be a Christian then don’t be! No one is twisting your arm. But if you have decided to follow Jesus, to deny yourself and take up your cross daily (Luke 9:23), then start living like it. Quit dragging Jesus’ name through the mud. There’s a reason Jesus gave the picture of lambs and goats (Matthew 25:31-46) and the Depart-from-Me-I-never-knew-you “servant” and the well-done-good-and-faithful “servant” (Matthew 7:21-23 & Matthew 25:21). Going back to that line in the sand, I remember being in high school and the kids in my youth group asking how far they could go with their boyfriend or girlfriend and still be a Christian. The answer is instead of asking “how far can I go” you should ask “how far can I go to please God?” Picture that line in the sand in-between the world and Christianity, run as far from that line as possible. That’s the direction of truth and God’s will!
So here Paul explains: those who don’t know the truth of Jesus (“Gentiles”) are fools. They literally have a lid on the jar of their mind. Reality can’t get in so they focus on only what they can see or what makes them happy. They will admit to you that they’re focused on sex and anything else dirty, trying to fulfill their greed. I’ve been there and I’m sure you have too. Were you fulfilled? Was it satisfying? Of course not. We know that, so why is it still so appetizing?
vv. 20-24. It’s still so appetizing and enthralling because we’re still in a body of flesh. But you’ve asked the Holy Spirit to come in and illuminate truth -to show you reality. There’s a war going on inside of you.
Although Paul tells us not walk as unbelievers (v. 17) he now gives us reasoning no one can argue with. He tells us that we have not been taught in this way about Jesus. Because, in fact, it is Jesus who teaches us and since Jesus is truth we have been taught the proper way to live a Christian life. Paul tells us to “put off the old man.” What does that mean? Have you ever heard someone say “that was the old me”? What they mean is that they’ve changed, and although they are still the same person, they are different mentally, spiritually and/or sometimes physically. So Paul isn’t saying it’s like when a snake sheds it’s skin; instead with Christians there is a noticeable difference in the heart. It’s such a contrast from what they were to what they are becoming that he calls the “old man” a “dead man” in Romans. The comparison must be made to Jesus dying on the cross. Henry points out that Jesus died a slow death but it was a sure death (Source 1). It is absolutely the same for us! If we’re living for Christ we’re dying to the old man and it may take some time…it can’t be overnight…but it is a for sure thing. That old life will loose its luster and will be put to death…one whipping, nail piercing, agonizing, asphyxiating breath at a time.
But we all know what we were like before Jesus so what does the “new man” look like? Our new man “was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness” (v. 24). A Christian who has been transformed by God has the Holy Spirit dwelling inside of them so they know and live rightly (“righteousness”) and have Jesus’ purity and set apart ways (“holiness”). Notice that this is God’s “true” rightness and “holiness.” Non-Christians will determine their own right and wrong (if any) and Satan will present false “holiness” but they are no match and are easily seen as poor, failed frauds. For more on the old/new man see Romans 6:5-11.
v. 25. Why is it that right after Paul tells us to stop our old lifestyle that he tells us not to lie? Is it just because lying is part of our old way of life? Although that’s true I don’t think that’s all of it. Is it because lying contrasts the truth which is in Jesus that he just talked about? Again, true but I don’t think that’s the whole meaning. It seems like he’s getting back to the Church’s unity. He’s telling Christians not to lie to each other. Not to smile on a Sunday morning and say everything’s fine. But to be honest, to ask for prayer, to rebuke, to exhort (read 2 Timothy 4:2-5). Here Paul is actually quoting from Zechariah 8:16, and the context is God blessing His people who have been brought together in unity (“house of Judah and house of Israel“, 8:13, 15) because He is “determined to do good” (8:15). But He tells them what to do, and the first thing is to “speak each man the truth to his neighbor” (8:16).
v. 26. Paul next quotes from Psalm 4:4, but what does “be angry, and do not sin” mean? We have to look at the context in Psalm 4. David was living in “righteousness” but surrounded by sin. “With the ungodliness around him, David had reason to be angrybut he had no reason to sin” (Source 2). We know from Jesus’ example when He cleansed the temple (John 2:13-22) that it is OK to be angry (and even act on that anger), not based on sin but when it’s a righteous anger out of respect for God. It is a good rule to live by not going to bed angry. When you wake up in the morning you may not have slept well and you have let resentment settle in and set-up like cement. If you forgive someone the damage is minimized and the next time you see them it’s not awkward. This verse applies to us because Paul is telling us how we have given up our old life and reminding us what the new will look like. Our witness to non-Christians and our commitment to the Church’s unity will be strengthened if we live by this.
vv. 27-28.There are two things here. We realize that when we think foolishly, allow ourselves to be lewd, to “work all uncleanness with greediness”, be lustful, lie, sin in anger, steal, speak corruptly, be bitter, are wrathful, clamor, allow “evil speaking” and are malicious it actually gives Satan a hand-hold in our life. I like the saying that you can’t stop a bird from landing on your head but you can keep it from making a nest there. It means that a bad thought will pop into your mind but you can stop it from becoming sin by consciously getting rid of it instead of letting it make its home there.
And second, there is a principle of fair work. A Christian isn’t supposed to steal. We might tell ourselves that we wouldn’t steal money from our work but do you ever take a couple minutes longer than you should on break or lunch? Do you ever borrow some supplies like paper or pens? Really it extends beyond that because we work for the Lord and since each of us is given a ministry with non-Christians and a ministry with believers, we should also be mindful of how we might affect the Church’s unity. Put in an honest day’s work in both your workplace where you collect a paycheck and in your workplace of the world.
v. 29. Paul’s point here is that the tongue is a mighty weapon and we should use it wisely (James 3:1-12). Let’s look at the Greek words Paul uses for the phrase no “corrupt word.” The word “corrupt” is sapros (G# 4550) meaning “rotten, worn out, worthless” (Source 3). And “word” here is logos (G#3056) meaning “speech, or the act of speaking” (Source 4). So this is regarding worthless speech in general. Stott says, “when applied to rotten talk, whether this is dishonest, unkind or vulgar, we may be sure that in some way it hurts the hearers” (Source 5, p. 188). Obviously by context here a “corrupt word” is opposite of “edification”. To edify someone means to build someone up, to help them and encourage them. I am a sarcastic person by nature but that doesn’t mean that it’s a good thing. Just because it is easy for you to cut a person down doesn’t mean you should. And if you’re a nice person it doesn’t mean that you get away with tolerating people or being fake with them. As always God is interested in the heart behind what you say and do. Read Matthew 12:34-37 for how Jesus says out of the mouth comes what’s in the heart. We’ve spent enough time in these devotionals that it should be pretty easy for us to grasp that if we’re Christians than we’ve had a change of heart and if our heart is different than the way we act and speak towards people should be changing for the better also. We’ll see God’s hate for using bad words (cursing, cussing, swearing – whatever you want to call it) in the following chapter.
vv. 30-32. Remember that when we were talking about putting on the “new man” we said that it was the Holy Spirit, living in your heart, working in your life that produced “true righteousness and holiness” (vv. 20-14, above)? If you and the Holy Spirit have come to the agreement that He wants to live in your heart and you have invited and asked Him to take over, then why would you go back on your word, why would you want to cause Him suffering?
The Living Bible translates verse 31 like this, “Stop being mean, bad-tempered, and angry. Quarreling, harsh words, and dislike of others should have no place in your lives.” Instead we’re to forgive each other as Jesus forgave us. All of these sins go back to an improper view of ourselves and of Jesus. When we tell ourselves ‘it’s OK to be selfish’, or ‘So-and-so deserved it’, or ‘I can’t help cussing’, we are actually saying, “Jesus doesn’t have the power to change my life.” But Jesus wouldn’t tell us to do something that was impossible. The biggest mistake we make is to think that we’re supposed to make these changes on our own. If the example given is Jesus dying on the cross for our sins why would we be expected to stop sinning on our own?
Conclusion. My prayer for this devotional isn’t that you resolve to put on the gloves and step into the ring because that will fail. My prayer is that you take 10 minutes alone and ask God to reveal some areas that you have been making excuses on. If you can honestly admit that Facebook is taking time away from God, if you can ask Jesus to help you stop gossiping because that’s exactly what you’re doing. If you can agree with God that the grudge that you wont let go of is actually eating you up. If you do that, then I believe God’s word from Paul to you, won’t be going out void. I believe that God will work so mightily in your life and you will see such a positive change that you won’t want to go back.
Lord, help us to throw off the old man and to be comfortable in our new skin. When we give up the struggle of trying to straddle the fence we are free to be used by You. Amen.
Source 1: Matthew Henry, Matthew Henry Commentary on the Whole Bible, NT, p. 565.
Source 2. David Guzik: http://www.blueletterbible.org/Comm/guzik_david/StudyGuide_Psa/Psa_4.cfm?a=482001
Source 5: John R.W. Stott, The Message of Ephesians, 1979.