"Morality and the Present Life in Christ" Page 1 of 4 (series: Lessons on Ephesians)

by John Lowe
(Woodruff, S.C.)

Commentary on the Book of Ephesians

By: Tom Lowe Date: 10/6/17

Lesson 20: Morality and the Present Life in Christ (Eph. 4:25-32)

Ephesians 4:25-32 (KJV)
25 Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbour: for we are members one of another.
26 Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath:
27 Neither give place to the devil.
28 Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labour, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth.
29 Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.
30 And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption.
31 Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice:
32 And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you.


Introduction
Paul has just been saying that when a man becomes a Christian, he must put off his old life as a man puts off a coat for which he has no further use. Here he speaks of the things which must be banished from the Christian life.

To be a Christian means to be united to the risen and exalted Christ. We now share in the new creation of which He is the first fruits. As Christians we have put off the old man and have put on the new man. We no longer live as we once did (4:17{3]) because the person we once were—united to Adam—is no more.

The powers of a new age have been released into our lives. We are no longer living in the domain where sin reigns but in Christ where grace and righteousness reign! As part of God’s new creation we now possess a new identity reflecting the righteousness and holiness of God―”And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness” (4:24).

Paul famously makes the same point in 2 Corinthians 5:17: “If any one is in Christ—new creation!” It is not only that I am inwardly renewed as an individual; rather a whole new order of reality has arrived. The dawn of the new age has come over the horizon from the future. I am no longer living in death and the dominion of sin but in life and the reign of grace. The implications of this are monumental.

It is to these implications that Paul now turns. They follow the logic that always marks his teaching on growing in holiness. Our new identity has come through union with Christ in His death and resurrection. The new life, which flows from it, involves putting away or putting to death (Colossians 3:5) everything which is unlike Christ, and putting on or developing graces, which reflect the resurrection power of the Lord. We are being gradually transformed into His likeness and image―“Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering;” (Colossians 3:12).


Commentary
25 Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbour: for we are members one of another. Truth must replace falsehood!

“Lying”—the word includes every kind of deception—is one of the chief characteristics of the old man. It is preeminently a heathen vice, as missionaries from pagan lands abundantly testify. Unfortunately it is not confined to pagan lands. People in a so-called Christian culture also need to be warned about this point. We see on every hand dishonesty in personal relations, unscrupulous practices in business, and corruption and deception in government.

There must be no more lies. There is more than one kind of “lie” in this world:
1) There is the lie of “speech,” sometimes deliberate and sometimes almost unconscious. The unconscious lie comes more from carelessness about truth than from intentional lying; such as saying, “There is so much dishonesty in the world.” Truth demands a deliberate effort.
2) There is also the “lie of silence,” and maybe it is even commoner. It may be that in some discussion a man by his silence gives approval to some course of action which he knows is wrong. It may be that a man withholds a warning or rebuke when he knows quite well he should have spoken up.

The Apostle Paul gives the reason for telling the “truth.” It is because we are all “members” of the same body, in Christ. We can live in safety only because the senses and the nerves pass “true messages” to the brain. If they were passing “false messages,” if, for instance, they told the brain that something was cool and touchable when in

fact it was hot and burning, life would very soon come to an end. A body can function healthfully only when each part of it passes “true messages” to the brain. If then we are all bound into one body in Christ (Ephesians 2:16{4]), and have been called to maintain the unity already ours in the union we share together in Christ. A lack of integrity in the body inevitably causes it to malfunction. Lies, pretense, hypocrisy—these are all viruses against which our fellowships need protection. They must be resisted. That body, any body, can function properly only when we speak the “truth.” It is especially important that we speak truth with our “Christian neighbors,” our fellow believers; “for we are members one of another,” one spiritual being is our Head, and therefore, we are “vitally” related to each other, with an absolute obligation to serve each other’s good. SO GLORIFY GOD WITH A TRUTHFUL TONGUE.

26 Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath: Anger that is righteous—must replace anger that controls us.

When the apostle says, “Be ye angry,” you may be confused because we are taught that it is wrong to be “angry” at anyone. But the truth is, “there must be anger in the Christian life, but it must be the right kind of anger.” Anger is expressed righteously only when it does not dominate us, or become an obsession to us. A bad temper and irritability are without defense or excuse; but there is an anger without which the world would be a poorer place. The world would have lost much without the blazing anger of Wilberforce against the slave trade or of Shaftesbury against the labor conditions of the 19th century. It is right to get angry about some things, but it is wrong to remain angry.

Dear Christian brother and sister let me tell you this; there are times when I am watching the news that I get very angry at the abortion crowd, and those who are advocating legalizing drugs, and those who commit carnage such as rioting, vandalizing, looting, at murderers, bank robbers, liars, cheaters, etc. I am “angry” at those men, at those things; but I would gladly put my arm around any one of them and lead him to Jesus if he would give me the chance. We can be extremely angry—and yet not sin. We cannot be angry at souls who need Jesus. I mean become angry at sin . . . because of the fruits of iniquity. We need the ability to become righteously indignant—and yet “not sin.” He is quoting psalm 4:4: “Stand in awe, and sin not . . . ” The Christian must beware of letting his temper lead him into sin, because it easily can.

Sinful anger must be controlled and subdued. There is a place for anger of a certain sort in the Christian life (Mark 3:5{5]). But this permission concerning anger is strongly qualified by two additional statements. It must be carefully guarded so as not to pass into sin. Anger that is selfish, undisciplined, and uncontrolled is always sinful. What starts out as righteous indignation all too easily degenerates to this level. In Galatians 5:19-21{6] it is clearly taught that anger is the working of the flesh—but that is another kind of anger . . . Not righteous indignation.

There were times when Jesus was terribly and majestically “angry.” He was angry when the scribes and Pharisees were watching to see if He would heal the man with the withered hand on the Sabbath day (Mark 3:5{5]). It was not their criticism of himself at which he was angry; he was angry that their rigid orthodoxy desired to impose unnecessary suffering on a fellow creature. He was angry when he made a whip and drove the changers of money and the sellers of victims (animals for sacrifice) from the Temple courts (John 2:13-17).

Paul goes on to say that the Christian must never let the sun set upon his “wrath.” In other words, it is right to get angry about some things. But remaining angry when the sun goes down (i.e. at the end of the day) is a sign that instead of expressing right judgment, anger has mastered us. If wrath is necessary (and it sometimes is, as long as wrong is in the world), see to it that it is unsinful wrath, which reigns in the line of God’s will, pure displeasure at evil, not bias for self. And where there has been failure of patience, be prompted to return to love; “let not the sun go down upon your wrath”; lay all grievances at the Lord’s feet, before you go to bed for the night. There was a Jewish Rabbi whose prayer was that he might never go to sleep with any bitter thought against a brother within his mind.


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