Paul established (see 4.17-24) that the Christian life is putting off/putting on (baptism) and renewal (daily). In the following verses (4.25-32), he will get intensely practical concerning how this new life is to manifest in the believer. This is Christianity; this is a walk worthy of our calling!
A Different Walk
Living with Christ means Christians walk different than the world.
25Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another.
Therefore…falsehood: Since Christians put away once-for-all the old self including falsehood…
Let each…his neighbor: See Zechariah 8.16. Our present habitual practice must be to speak truth to our brethren (v.15). Here neighbor is understood as brother due to the next clause.
For we…of another: The motivation for dealing truthfully with our brother is the body bond. Our fellowship is undergirded by love and truth; lying is detrimental to that bond of peace & unity.
For starters, a Christian should not lie. Lying is harmful to Christ’s church. “Without openness and truth, there can only be disunity, disorder and trouble in human community” (Foulkes 140). So the Christian is to reject what would destroy the body and promote what edifies the body.
26Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger,
Be angry and do not sin: See Psalm 4.4. “Paul’s concern is the prevention of sin, not the obligation of anger” (Snodgrass 250). In fact, believers do not handle anger well so get rid of it (v.31).
Do not…your anger: So if & when the Christian gets angry, deal with it quickly.
27and give no opportunity to the devil.
Give no opportunity to the devil: An imperative with the force “Stop giving the devil opportunity,” implying they were. Given the chance Satan will destroy the church with anger.
What begins as “righteous indignation” (anger against sin) can fester and simmer and grow to bitterness, resentment, pride, and whole host of other things directed toward the church (anger toward brethren). Carrying anger into the next day only allows further opportunity for the devil to tempt us to sin. So handle it while it is still day, for night is coming. Read Psalm 4.4 – how are we going to silently ponder in our beds when we are full of anger? Answer: you can’t. You’ll toss and turn, unable to sleep because of this thing in your brain. There is an old Latin proverb: “He who goes angry to bed has the devil for a bedfellow.”
Someone might say, “Well, Jesus got angry!” Sure He did; and He handled His business that day too! Solomon knew that “anger lodges in the bosom of fools” (Ecc 7.9). “We are not to harbor resentment or keep it rankling in our bosom, lest it should change into downright hatred or revenge” (PC 170).
28Let 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 the thief no longer steal: Another imperative indicating that some of the recipients were 1) from this background formerly or 2) still engaged in this behavior though a Christian. That is old self behavior and must be abandoned. No longer links this with the preceding section (v.17).
But rather…his own hands: New self behavior is honest work with [one’s] own hands. Indeed, hard work is the duty of all Christians (2 Thessalonians 3.10-11).
So that…anyone in need: The motivation for abandoning a lifestyle of theft and adopting a lifestyle of honest work is not merely to provide one oneself or one’s own, but to share with the needy.
Notice the progression: It is good not to steal; it is better to engage in honest work. What is best to no longer steal and work so that we might have something to share with someone in need. Or unnatural behavior is to steal; natural behavior is to not steal and work. But supernatural behavior is to not steal, work, and share with those in need.
29Let 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.
Let no…your mouths: Corrupting carries the idea of “rotten, putrid” like fruit or fish. This is the kind of talk that is moral garbage. “All empty, shallow, thoughtless talk” (Lenski).
But only…the occasion: The opposite of corrupting talk are good or “helpful” (NIV) words. Good words edify others which is the aim of the Christian. Cf. Prov 15.23 for a fit word.
That [He]…who hear: Through our words, God is able to impart grace. Like our Lord, Christians should be people who have “gracious words” on their lips (Luke 4.22; Col 4.6).
The words which come out of our mouths are a clear indicator of what is in our hearts. This is what Jesus said: “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks” (Matt 12.34). Corrupt speech out of the mouth indicates a corrupt heart. Rotten talk indicates a rotten heart. No, Christians have been revived, refreshed and so our speech should be “good” and pure. Our speech should be life-giving, enlivening others to higher, nobler goals.
Christians should major in communication. That is, we need to be lifelong learners of what to say and how to say it. This will enable us to impart grace in our speech to those who hear. “The Christian should never lose sight of the sad fact of a world lost in sin, without the Lord, needing some word, some ray of light, some word of grace that will point to the Lamb of God that takes away sin” (Coffman).
30And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.
Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God: See Isa 63.10. Christians grieve the Holy Spirit when, like the people of Israel of old, they rebel & refuse to obey the word of the Lord. Contextually, when we express anger wrongly or do not deal with it appropriately; return to behavior characteristic of the old self or avoid behavior of the new self; use corrupt language or fail to use gracious words; or are unkind and fail to forgive (v.32), we offend God’s Holy Spirit.
All sin grieves God. Not just those listed here in Ephesians 4, but every sin is cause for God to sorrow. Specifically, when it comes to the Holy Spirit, we can resist Him (Acts 7.51), lie to Him (Acts 5.3), blaspheme against Him (Mark 3.29), and a host of other sins. All of it saddens God.
By Whom…redemption: cf. 1.13. The sealing takes place at baptism (aorist tense). When a person hears and obeys the gospel, God gives him/her some of Himself in the person of the Holy Spirit. This anticipates the coming day of final redemption when we are fully delivered from sin.
31Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.
Let all…from you: The impetus for obeying this command is the presence of the Holy Spirit in the believer. Bitterness is “sharpness of temper” fueled by resentment; wrath is outbursts of anger whereas anger is the lingering, simmering feelings; clamor (“brawling” NIV) is face-to-face heated confrontation whereas slander is harmful speech spoken behind someone’s back. Put away all these; that is, make a clean sweep of the house. Pick all these up and take them out to the trash!
Along with all malice: Several commentators see malice as the root of all the foregoing. This is a settled disposition “always looking out for opportunities to revenge itself by the destruction of the object of its indignation” (Clarke).
From Jamison, Fausset, Brown adapted from Chrysostom: “Bitterness” begets “wrath”; “wrath,” “anger”; “anger,” “clamor”; and “clamor,” the more chronic “evil-speaking,” slander, insinuations, and surmises of evil. “Malice” is the secret root of all: “fires fed within, and not appearing to by-standers from without, are the most formidable”
32Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.
Be kind…tender-hearted: We must never seek to bring needless pain to others & should have a heart of pity and compassion toward each other.
Forgiving…forgave you: How did God forgive us in Christ? To the uttermost! Totally!
“If we are to attain to the kingdom of Heaven, it is not enough to abandon wickedness, but there must be abundant practice of that which is good also. To be delivered indeed from hell we must abstain from wickedness; but to attain to the kingdom we must cleave fast to virtue” (Chrysostom).
“Forgiving” (present tense) is the habitual practice of the Christian toward his/her brethren. In kindness and from a heart full of compassion we keep on forgiving one another. The standard for our forgiving one another is none other than God Himself: “as God in Christ forgave [aorist] you [emphatic pl.].” And how has God forgiven us in Christ? As Albert Barnes puts it:
(1) “freely” – without merit on your part – when we were confessedly in the wrong.
(2) “fully;” he has forgiven “every” offence. [Even those we don’t even know about]
(3) “Liberally;” he has forgiven “many” offences, for our sins have been innumerable
To borrow the Golden Rule: Do unto others as God has done unto to you!
The church is the perfect bride of Christ composed of imperfect people. Sometimes old self behavior crops up in brethren. This may have been what was happening with these Christians. How we react when this happens is important. Let us be gracious people, patiently forbearing with one another, mindful that we too are imperfect with our flaws, forgiving as God in Christ forgave us.