8 March 2020
Series: Ephesians
Topic: Holy living

Ephesians 4:25-5:2 Specific Ethical Directions

Speaker: Andy Yip

Last week Neil taught us from the Letter of Ephesians that we need to take off the old, sinful life like an old garment and put on the new life in Christ that is holy and righteous. But how do we practically taking off the old life? That is today’s topic.

1) Do not tell lies or lose your temper

When we live like the new person after we have fellowship with God through Jesus, we need to incorporate some strict and specific actions into our daily lives. We do so to display our true identity in Christ.

First, Apostle Paul told the Ephesians to “put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbour, for we are all members of one body”. This is an old testament quote from Zechariah 8:16 “Speak the truth to each other, and render true and sound judgment in your courts;” Falsehood belongs to our old self of sin. As one body of Christ, so in our relations with in the world in general Christians should have a reputation for truthfulness. To be taught the truth in Jesus means to make truth telling a habit of life. We are to stop lying. We cannot attempt to fool or deceive one another as pagans do. We must create unity in the body with one truth because we are members of one another.

I remember I used to lie when I was young. Even my daughter Kara who is only six years old, if I saw her did something naughty when I asked her did she do it? Her default answer is always a ‘no, daddy’. You don’t need someone to teach you lying. Everyone that I knew has spoken lies in a certain degree sometime in their lives. Especially in the marketing sector or being a politician, if you cannot lie, you cannot survive in those sectors. Most of the TV ads that we see every day have some kinds of deception in it. Seriously, when you buy a burger in certain “M” brand of fast food restaurant, does you cheeseburger looks like it is on the TV? Or do you trust every promise that the politicians say before the election?

No, we are all sinful. We are all liars under God’s judgement. But as Christians who have been redeemed by the grace of God through Jesus Christ, shall we continue to sin in lying? No! Paul says, “put off falsehood and speak truthfully”.

Today we live in this sinful secular world; we are so enculturated that many lie without even knowing they are doing so. It’s an unconscious survival technique. There are also members of the Christian community who consciously lie – and find some subtle justification for it. But none of this should exist among believers of Jesus Christ, who is the truth. Lying is a sin against God; it is also a sin against the Body of Christ. Lies among the members of Christ can render the Body of Christ dysfunctional. Any “white” lies? Are we currently lying? These are great sins against Jesus and his Body. If it is true of us, may we repent and ask God to make us truthful persons.

Secondly, Paul urges his readers that “in your anger do not sin.” (Ephesians 4:26a) Jesus warned his disciples that “everyone who is angry with his brother shall be liable to judgment” (Matthew 5:22). Everyone has been angry sometimes. And Christians may legitimately become angry for righteous reasons. Even Jesus would be upset when merchants buy and sell and do money transactions in the Jerusalem temple. In the time of anger, we must be extra careful how we act, for anger gives no excuse to sin. To sin in anger would include doing things like saying unkind words or acting in harmful ways toward others. We may not always be able to keep from getting angry, but we can keep from sinning when we are angry. When we do get angry, we should deal with our emotions before the day is through. What Paul means is that when we allow our anger to become sin, or when we allow ourselves to keep our anger for a long time, more than a day, it will allow the devil to gain control over our minds, our attitudes toward others. The devil could have control over our actions and our relationships. It gives the devil a foothold to lead us into greater anger and more sin.

This is particularly true to the couples who are married and live with each other. In the Alpha Marriage Preparation Course, which is one of the most popular Christian marriage preparation course in the U.K. It spends an entire chapter on anger and resolving conflict. Every couple must expect conflict because we are different, we are all naturally selfish, and we have moved from independence to interdependence in a relationship. Its studies explain no matter it is exploding anger or burying anger, anger is damaging to our relationships and ineffective ways of resolving conflict.

So, the golden rule for this passage: ‘Never go to bed angry’ is a good rule for marriage enrichment.

As followers of Christ, we must learn to keep our anger in check. If one is legitimately angry, caution must be taken that it does not become the cause for such sins as pride, hatred, or self-righteousness.

As it is written in Colossians 3:13, “Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.”

2) Do not steal or use your mouth for evil

Next, Paul said, “do not steal”. That is the eighth command of the Ten Commandments. Those who became Christians but who continued their former practice of stealing are told to end it and work instead. Thieves seek to enrich themselves at the expense of someone else’s labours. Individuals practising this sin are to work, doing something useful with their own hands.

Here is a compelling story of the salvation of a serial bank robber in the 80s; his name is Ken Cooper. Now Ken had a 13 years career as a bank robber. In his last robbery in 1982, when the police shot him in the chest, and he ended up into jail. When Ken was in prison, Jesus has opened his heart to receive the Holy Spirit and the Gospel. On that day in his cell, Ken fell to his knees and prayed, “Jesus, I am a horrible sinner. Please come into my heart and change me. I’ve made a terrible mess of my life – and the lives of others.” And on that day, Ken Cooper was a changed person. After he was released from prison four years later, Cooper co-founded five prison ministries, which have sponsored more than 2000 men coming out of prisons who give their lives to Jesus. Cooper said, “A hundred times a year, my wife and I conduct worship services and discipleship classes in prisons where we share the good news that God will save and deliver ‘a wretch like me’ through Jesus Christ.” Ken no longer steal or rob what is not belonging to him.

After he repented, Ken is a servant of Christ, and he worked hard with his hands sharing the Gospel. This is the power of Jesus. This is the power of the Gospel. Everyone who has come to know Jesus should never steal again but work hard with his own hands.

Working rather than stealing has three benefits:

  • It is good for a person to meet his own needs and the needs of the family.
  • It allows a person to be able to give something to others who have needs
  • It allows a person to support financially for the advancement of the kingdom of God.

Paul raises the motive of work to a higher level, more than just earning for your own spending or saving money. Rather, Paul says that those who labour honestly will be able to fulfil their corporate duty to share with those in need. The biblical motive for possessions is not personal or selfish gain. But it is for providing the opportunity to assist others, helping those who are in need. Our ultimate goal for work is to have something to give away. The readers of Paul’s letter are to share in that concern for humanity. If we practice this, then we are doing what Jesus had commanded us, and loving one another as fellow human beings and neighbours.

The fourth advice from Paul is that the use of our mouths. He wrote in verse 29, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”

As Christians, we are to speak only words that build up and encourage others. Words of a mature Christian seek to help the listener, not harm him. So the ministerial gifts of Christ’s grace achieve their purposes, and the unity of the body Christ is preserved and enhanced.

Jesus said, “Make a tree good and its fruit will be good, or make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad, for a tree is recognized by its fruit. You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good? For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of. A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him. But I tell you that everyone will have to give account on the day of judgement for every empty word they have spoken.” (Matthew 12:33-37)

Our words reveal what is in our hearts, and Jesus said we certainly will have to give an account on judgement day of every careless word we have uttered.

Remember, the Holy Spirit’s concern that our speech is constructive, not destructive. As imitators and followers of Jesus, we are to speak in such a way that our speech communicates something about God’s grace to others. Our talk must maintain and elevate others. We are encouraged to make a positive contribution to the life of the body of Christ by graceful speech so that we will behave as being worthy of our inheritance of redemption.

Paul warns us “not to grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.” (Ephesians 4:30). Evil speech grieves the Holy Spirit, who

works through our good words, so be very careful in how we use our tongues.

I have tried to work hard in this area throughout my 23 years of being a Christian. The first thing I tried to hold my tongue was the swear words out of my mouth. I used to swear a lot, and it was tough, but it is worth it for Jesus’ holy name’s sake. When I couldn’t do it, I prayed and asked God to change me, drawing strength from him. I am still a learner today, to try my best to communicate God’s grace to others in speech. It might be a long journey to some of you too, if you have a lousy mouth, and bad-mouth like me. I recommend a technique that a Christian mentor of mine taught me years ago. Before we speak, wait for 5 seconds. Think it through first. Ask yourself if it is graceful words. Or will it tear people down? Does it communicate Christ or God’s grace? Is it helpful for the person who hears it? Wait for 5 seconds before letting the offensive words out. This technique helped me many times in the past, and it is still helping me today. Pray and think first before letting things come out of the month. I hope it will help you in building up one another at church as well.

3) Do not be unkind or bitter, but be loving and kind

Finally, Paul gives a summary of the proper conduct of holy living at verse 31: We are to put away five things: “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.“

  • Bitterness comes from hoarding resentful feelings
  • Rage is a bitter outburst of anger
  • Anger is resentment that lingers in our lives, a passive hostility
  • Brawling is the over the top face-to-face confrontation
  • Slander is abusive and evil words spoken about someone, especially behind their backs, and so defaming their reputation.

Every form of malice is a bad feeling of every kind—all types of hatred, nastiness. If we keep these kinds of vices and poisonous feelings in our hearts, we will grieve the Holy Spirit who dwells in us, when these bad things from our hearts manifest themselves in our lives. There is no way that we can live a peaceful and joyful life with one another if we let these monsters to come out. It will hurt others and hurt ourselves in the body of Christ.

Instead, we should “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:32) As Christians, we need to display God’s kindness towards other people, even the ungrateful and the selfish people we meet in everyday life. We also have to be compassionate, tenderhearted toward one another in Christ’s body, and forgiving each other, acting in grace towards one another like the way Christ has forgiven us, and be gracious to us. As imitators of God, the beloved children of God, like children copy their parents, so we are to copy our Father God, as Jesus himself told us to do. As Christ is with us, self-sacrificial love is a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. We need to display the same type of godly characters to those who have wronged us, so that we will shine like Jesus, giving out light of Christ. Such self-giving for others is pleasing to God our Father.

If we follow Paul’s instruction closely, we will notice that Paul’s ethic is God-centred. It is natural for him that all three Persons of the Trinity, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are all mentioned in this passage. He tells us to copy God, to learn Christ, and not to grieve the Holy Spirit.

In summary, Paul’s teaching is constant with the teaching of Jesus. The free grace of our Heavenly Father’s forgiving love is the pattern for his children so that we can imitate in our forgiveness of one another. So let us all practice these virtues this week and beyond, and be more like Jesus. Let us ask God to give us the hearts of forgiveness and sacrificial love so that we can live for Him.

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