"Morality and the Present Life in Christ" Page 2 of 4 (series: Lessons on Ephesians)

by John Lowe
(Woodruff, S.C.)

Paul’s advice is sound, because the longer we postpone mending a quarrel; the less likely we are to ever mend it. If there is trouble between us and anyone else, if there is trouble within a church or a fellowship or any society where men meet, the only way to deal with it is at once. The longer it is left to fester, the more bitter it will grow. Anger must not be cherished: “Let not the sun go down upon your wrath”—never go to bed resentful. Anger that is not speedily deposed soon takes deep root in the heart. When this happens, the devil—“slanderer” is the meaning of the Greek word—gains “room to act,” a foothold from which to exploit us (27). If we have been in the wrong, we must pray to God to give us grace to admit that we were wrong; and even if we have been right, we must pray to God to give us the graciousness which will enable us to take the first step to put matters right.

27 Neither give place to the devil.

The Greek version of this phrase can equally well mean two things. It can mean:
1) “Don’t give the devil his opportunity.” Opportunity is literally “room.” It is the hot fit of anger that gives the devil his chance; therefore we must give him no “room” in which he can work. An unhealed breach is a magnificent opportunity for the devil to sow dissension. Many times the church has been torn into factions because two people quarreled and let “the sun set upon their wrath” (26).
2) The word for “devil” in Greek is “diabolos”; but “diabolos” is also the normal Greek for a “slanderer.” Luther, for instance, took this to mean: “Give the slanderer no place in your life.” It may well be that this is the true meaning of what Paul wishes to say. No one in this world can do more damage than the slanderous tale-bearer. There is a little saying that expresses this same thought: “Alas! They had been friends in youth; but whispering tongues can poison truth.”

Notice Paul’s underlying concern here—believers must not allow the devil a foothold in their relationships with one another. The more we allow alienation to fester in our anger the more opportunity we give Satan to twist hearts, spread rumors, stimulate self-justification and spawn party spirit (factions). Unlike our Lord, Satan has many things in us on which he can land and engage in his destroying work (contrast John 14:30). Wherever the devil finds a heart SHUT to Jesus Christ, he finds a door OPEN, and he knows all too well how to use it to fill the inner chamber with his dreadful presence, and to cause the man to hate his brother: “But he that hateth his brother is in darkness, and walketh in darkness, and knoweth not whither he goeth, because that darkness hath blinded his eyes” (1 John 2:11)—from sin to sin

There are reputations murdered every day over the way persons dress etc.; and when a man sees a tail-bearer coming, he would do well to shut the door in his face.

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.Generosity must replace theft.

A third vice which has no place in the Christian life is “stealing.” Paul had in mind the person who was a thief before his conversion and may have been in danger of falling back into his old ways. Instead of this, he is encouraged to engage in honest work so that he not only meets his own needs but may have something to share with those less fortunate than himself.

The man who was a thief must become an honest working-man—“let him put a quiet, decisive close to the whole habit in every form, working with his hands the thing which is good,” making gains by honest pains, in order that he may not merely “recover his character,” but by “working with his hands the thing which is good, he may have enough “to give to him that needeth.” This advice was necessary, because in the ancient world thieving was rampant. It was very common in two places, at the docks and above all in the public baths. The public baths were the clubs of the time; and stealing the belongings of the bathers was one of the commonest crimes in any Greek city.

The interesting thing about this saying is the reason Paul gives for being an honest workman. He does not say: “Become an honest workmen so that you may support yourself.” He says: “Become an honest workman so that you may have something to give away to those who are poorer than yourself.” Here is a new idea and a new ideal—that of working in order to give away.

In modern society no man has so much more than they need that they are willing to give others less fortunate than themselves the excess, but we would do well to remember the Christian ideal is that we work, not to amass things, but to be able, if need be, to give them away.

We share the tendency of the man who asked Jesus to identify the “neighbor” whom God’s law commanded him to love (Luke 10:25). He wanted to place limits on his responsibility. We imagine that so long as we do not commit theft we have kept the law. But God is concerned about the goal of the commandment: giving generously, as those who have received generously. The lot is given a deeper dimension in Christ—for He has shown us what it means to give not only generously but sacrificially.

Everything Adam and Eve had in the Garden of Eden was a gift from God, to be enjoyed and shared. But rather than receiving, sharing, and giving, they wanted more—fruit that did not belong to them.

The key here is to learn that nothing is our own; all is the Lords. We are not owners of anything but stewards of everything.

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.The language of blessing must replace that of cursing.

Paul forbids all “foul-mouthed” speaking (corrupt communication), the index of a dirty mind; and then goes on to put the same thing positively. The Christian should be characterized by words which help his fellow men, so “that it may minister grace unto the hearers.” As Moffatt translates it, Eliphaz the Temanite paid Job a tremendous compliment. “Your words,” he said, “have kept men on their feet (Job 4:4). This is the kind of words that every Christian ought to speak.

Words can poison and thus be corrupting. We must abstain. For some it is not difficult to refrain from cursing. But it is a greater thing to know how to use words for encouragement, just as it is good to building up rather than tear down. Grace teaches us how to say the helpful thing at just the right time

It is out of the heart that the mouth speaks (Luke 6:45). The new heart given to us by the Holy Spirit will come to expression on our lips, for a heart’s desire to serve others works hard to find the right words. But such language as this had likely been “habitual” with many of Paul’s readers before their conversion. It is unbecoming for a Christian and must be completely renounced. The suppression of bad language, however, is not enough. Conscious effort is to be made to use language that will edify and minister grace unto the hearers.”

Verse 31 says that bitterness, wrath, anger, clamour, and slander grieve the Spirit, and should grieve our spirits too, if we are in tune with Him.

30 And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption{2].

Paul urges us, as well as the believers at Ephesus, not to “grieve the Holy Spirit” by the words that come from our lips—words marked by criticism, cursing and expressing a complaining spirit. The Holy Spirit is the guide for our life. When we acted contrary to the counsel of our parents when we are young, we hurt them. Similarly, to act contrary to the guidance of the “Holy Spirit” will “grieve the Spirit, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption,” and hurt the heart of God, the Father, who, through the Spirit, sent His word to us. This expression is one of the clearest indications in the New Testament that we are to think of the Spirit in personal terms—he is someone who can be grieved.

Someone may ask, “Why does our sin grieve the Spirit?” Because we have been “sealed” with Him, with a view to our final salvation (1:13{7]). A seal denotes proprietorship. God’s Spirit within us is the sign that we belong to Him, and that one day He means to redeem us fully. To live as though that were a matter of indifference to us is to wound Him deeply. He has united us to Christ in whom God has “blessed” us. If the Father through the “Spirit,” has spoken his blessing on us in his Son, how perverse we are if we do not speak well of one another (James 3:9-10{8]). How grieved the Spirit must sometimes be!

Paul begs the believers at Ephesus “not to grieve the holy spirit of God.” It is possible for a believer to “grieve the Spirit.” It is possible for us to quench the Spirit. Paul tells us, “Quench not the Spirit” (1 Thessalonians 5:19). We should realize and recognize the Bible fact that our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit, and we should be careful how we treat Him. He is a person just as surely as God the Father and God the Son are persons. God the Father is a person, God the Son is a person—and in like manner the Holy Spirit is a person. He can be “grieved,” he can be “quenched.” We should be very careful how we treat the “Spirit” who abides in our bosom.

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