"Morality and the Present Life in Christ" Page 3 of 4 (series: Lessons on Ephesians)

by John Lowe
(Woodruff, S.C.)

Let me give you a brief outline of the Holy Spirit’s part in our redemption and in our journey to the Pearly White City:
1) First, we are drawn to God by the power of the Holy Ghost (John 6:44; John 16:7-11).
2) The “Holy Spirit” “borns” us into God’s family (John 1:11-13; John 3:5-7). The Holy Spirit is the attending Physician at the spiritual birth which occurs through the Word (John 5:24; Ephesians 2:8-9).
3) At the time of the new birth the Holy Spirit baptizes us into the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:12-13).
4) The Holy Spirit of God “seals” us until the day of redemption (Ephesians 4:30). The Holy Ghost puts upon our heart the stamp of God’s ownership and the seal remains until the Holy Spirit performs His last work in our journey from redemption to the Pearly White City.
5) The Holy Spirit leads us into the paths of right living (Romans 8:9; Romans 8:14).
6) When we allow the Holy Spirit, he fills us (Ephesians 5:18-20).
7) We shall be quickened by the Spirit in the first resurrection, which will occur at the rapture of the church: “But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, HE THAT RAISED UP CHRIST FROM THE DEAD SHALL ALSO QUICKEN YOUR MORTAL BODIES BY HIS SPIRIT THAT DWELLETH IN YOU” (Romans 8:11). This answers two questions, which may arise; “How are the dead raised up” and “With what Body do they come.” It appears from this and the verses below that Paul may have anticipated those questions:
• “It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body” “And so it is written, The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening spirit” (I Corinthians 15:45).
• “For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit” (1 Peter 3:18).
• “Behold, what manner of love! . . . it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is. (1 John 3:1-3{1])

In the first resurrection (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, 1 Corinthians 15:51-55) the bodies of the saints who have died will be quickened (made alive) by the power of the “Holy Spirit.” The living bodies will be changed by the Spirit in the twinkling of an eye . . . In the fraction of a split second. The Holy Ghost will see us safely inside the Pearly Gates.

Verse 30 is to be taken in the closest possible connection with what has been said in the preceding verses. The point is that lying, resentment, stealing, and especially the use of filthy, unedifying language by Christians grieve the indwelling Spirit. This fact explains the misery of many believers; for it is precisely by reason of permitting such practices that they have lost the joy, peace, and blessings that they once knew.

31 Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: Kindness must replace animosity.

Paul ends this chapter with a list of all the unlovely and unchristian qualities which must be removed from life (31, 32):
1) There is “bitterness.” The Greeks defined this word as the Spirit which refuses to be reconciled. So many of us have a way of nursing our wrath to keep it warm, of brooding over the insults and the injuries which we have received. Every Christian might well pray that God would teach him how to forget.
2) There are outbreaks of passion (“wrath”) and long-lived “anger.” The Greeks defined these outbreaks of passion as the kind of anger which is like the flame which comes from straw; it quickly blazes up and just as quickly subsides. On the other hand, they described a type of anger which becomes habitual. To the Christian the burst of temper and the long-lived anger are both forbidden.
3) There is a loud talking (“clamour”) and insulting language (“evil speaking”). A certain famous preacher tells how his wife used to advise him, “When you’re in the pulpit, keep your voice down.” Whenever, in any discussion or argument, we become aware that our voice is raised, it is time to stop. The Jews spoke about what they called “the sin of insult,” and maintained that God does not hold him guiltless who speaks insultingly to his brother.

It would save a great deal of heartbreak in this world if we simply learned to keep our voices down and if, when we had nothing good to say to a person, we did not say anything at all. The argument which has to be supported in a shout is no argument; and the dispute which has to be conducted in insults is not an argument but a brawl.

So, the apostle’s instruction is very important, because it came from the Holy Spirit who then revealed it to Paul, and from his lips it went to the Ephesians and ultimately to all believers. Christ wants us to put aside “all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking,” and we are to put away “all malice.” “Let it all be taken away from you,” lifted clean out of your lives, as a thing utterly incompatible with a Christian’s first rules of conduct. Let it be handled with holy intolerance; in the Lord’s name take it away, bid it farewell; give it over to Him who knows how to lift it out of your spirit and your practice, and to place Himself where it was.

We are to be kind to each other, and we are to follow His steps. We are to be Christ-like if we advertised to the world that we are Christians. Insofar as is humanly possible, we are to live as our Christ lived when He was on this earth. We should have a forgiving spirit—because . . . “God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.”

“Bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking” are emotions or expressions of hostility; the opposite of “kindness.” Paul hints that kindness is not something that can be fabricated, certainly not in the long term. For being kind comes from a tender heart. Kindness to others is rooted in our own sense of how much we have needed the kindness of God and received it from Him (2:7{9]). We have been forgiven, we should learn to forgive.

The Lord Jesus was kind; he has been kind to me. My refusal or failure to be kind to others would be a sure sign I had never really tasted His kindness. If I had, I would want to pass it on.

32 And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you.

So Paul comes to the summing up of his advice, listing the qualities which should replace the unlovely and unchristian qualities related in the previous verse. He tells us to “be kind.” The Greeks defined this quality as the disposition of mind which thinks as much of its neighbors affairs as it does of its own. Paul has learned the secret of looking outwards all the time, and not inwards. He tells us to forgive others as God forgave us. So, in one sentence, Paul lays down the law of personal relationships—that we should treat others as Jesus Christ has treated us.

As always, Paul grounds Christian conduct in Christian doctrine: “forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you”—in that sublime “accomplished fact” of pardon. It was done in eternity from one viewpoint; it was done at Calvary from another; from yet another it was done on your personal coming into union with Christ by faith; but from all points of view it was an act toward you of immeasurable and holy unmerited mercy, which must forever give tone to all your thoughts when you have to consider the duty of forgiving. Yes, it calls you to an open “imitation” which shall penetrate to the very springs of life, and shall always find its possibility in the fact of your own salvation.

The vacuum created when these vices we have been discussing are ejected from the heart is to be filled by the lovely virtues of kindness, tenderheartedness, forgiveness, and love. The Greek word translated “kind” means useful or helpful. To be “tenderhearted” is to have a compassionate feeling toward the weaknesses and mysteries of others. “Forgiving” is the rendering of a word of unusually rich content. Being built on the same root as the word for “grace,” it first means “to give freely,” then “to pardon” or “forgive.” The supreme example as well as the sacred incentive for this attitude is that which God has done for us—as Paul puts it, “even as God for Christ’s sake literally, “in Christ,” i.e., acting in Christ hath forgiven you.”

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