The essence of the Christian faith, is understanding what God the Father has done for us through His Son Jesus Christ. Never forget that, meditate on that, find your joy, your strength in that reality.
A key phrase is what God has already done for us.
As we’ve previously seen Paul has made reference to actions that have taken place in the past. Specifically the completed actions of putting off and putting on. We have put off the old man as Paul describes it and we have put on the new man which Paul described as being created in true righteousness and holiness. These actions took place when God redeemed us.
When God brought us to faith in Christ several wonderful changes immediately take place. One of the changes that God effects in our lives is He removes our old nature and replaces it with a new nature. He puts off the old man and replaces him with the new man which was created in true righteousness and holiness.
It’s imperative that we understand that. Why is that so? Understanding that Paul is referring to completed actions makes the “therefore” of verse 25 make sense.
In other words as a result of what has already happened to you therefore this is not only what you should be able to do, you are now able to do them.
Because the old man has been put off, you can now begin to act like the new man that you truly are.
How then should we live now that we have put on the new man?
The new man should be characterized by truth telling
Eph. 4:25 ¶ Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another.
Notice how Paul begins this section. “Therefore, having put away falsehood…”
Once again he makes reference to a completed action. Falsehood has been put away. What is falsehood? Simply put it is the opposite of telling the truth, it is lying. The new man should not be a liar, he should be a man who is characterized by telling the truth.
Think about the culture that we live in. It is a culture of deception and half truths. Unless the lie that you are caught in is really a whopper no one really cares.
We don’t have to look any farther than the average politician to see this in action. The politician doesn’t always outright lie, but they are very skilled at telling their version of the truth or telling half truths.
Telling falsehood takes many forms. I know this will be hard to believe, but advertisers don’t always tell the truth. Such as you can loose weight by taking their pill, or if you wear their suits you will undoubtedly look good, the suit may look good but you are what you are. It’s like putting lipstick on a pig, you may change it’s appearance but it is still a pig.
Not reporting all your income is lying, saying you worked more hours than you actually did and getting paid for it is lying.
Lying is characteristic of the old man it just comes naturally. You don’t have to look any farther than kids to see this in action. Mom notices the number of cookies in the cookie jar keeps getting smaller, and so she asks Johnny have you been eating the cookies from the cookie jar? And he looks up to mom with crumbs on his chin and says ” No, I’ve not eaten any cookies momma!”.
You have to teach children a lot things but one thing you don’t have to teach them to lie, it’s a part of the old man, it is a characteristic of the natural man.
Therefore when you put on the new man, you put away lying you should now be characterized by telling the truth.
First of all Paul tells me who I am to be speaking the truth to. Paul instructs me to tell the truth with my neighbor. Who is Paul referring to? He is talking about the people who live next door to me? Or does Paul have someone else in mind?
Well as a Christian, I’m not to lie to anyone. But specifically I as a Christian must not lie to the other members of the body, I must not lie to those who I am to be the closest too, and that is the members of my church. In it’s most basic form neighbor means one who is close to you, it means nearby. Who is closer to you than the members of the body of Christ?
We are to tell the truth to all people but especially our fellow members in the church. We are to be truthful with one another. Paul says I must not lie to my neighbor because we are members of the same body. If I lie to my neighbor, I lie to my fellow church members. Its like lying to myself.
Does a lie ever help? No! Does a lie hurt? Always. Therefore when we lie to our neighbor we are hurting ourselves.
The New Man Should Not Be Characterized By Anger
Eph. 4:26 Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger,
Anger as it is used here is a deep seated, determined conviction. Not momentary rage that suddenly boils over or explodes.
Not all anger is sinful. In fact as Christians we should probably express more anger than we do. When is it right as a Christian to be angry?
It is right for us as a Christian to be angry when God’s glory is at stake.
Psa. 69:9 ¶ For zeal for your house has consumed me,..
If we would be angry and not sin (says one), we must be angry at nothing but sin; and we should be more jealous for the glory of God than for any interest or reputation of our own. One great and common sin in anger is to suffer it to burn into wrath, and then to let it rest; and therefore we are here cautioned against that. “If you have been provoked and have had your spirits greatly discomposed, and if you have bitterly resented any affront that has been offered, before night calm and quiet your spirits, be reconciled to the offender, and let all be well again: Let not the sun go down upon your wrath. If it burn into wrath and bitterness of spirit, O see to it that you suppress it speedily.’ Matthew Henry
Remember how Jesus responded when he went into the Temple and found that His Father’s house had been turned into marketplace selling sacrificial animals at inflated prices?
What was the Lord’s reaction to what he was witnessing? Did he simply shake his head at what was going on? No, his response was a little bit stronger than that. He made himself a whip, drove out the animals and chased out the extortioners!
Did Jesus sin when he responded that way? NO! Absolutely not!
The Scriptures make a clear distinction between anger that is sinful and anger that is righteous. What Jesus was expressing was righteous anger, emotion that was stirred because the glory of God and His house were being abused, and his people had to overpay just to pray.
Of course God’s glory is a big umbrella. All sin is an attack on His glory. Therefore we should be and it is right to be angry over sin. Sin is the cause of the pain, the abuse, and the suffering that exists in the world. We should as Christians be angry over those who try and drag others, sometimes vulnerable people into sin.
But even righteous anger can become sinful. That’s why Paul tells us to not let the sun go down on our anger.
If we don’t properly handle our anger, even righteous anger it has the potential of turning into bitterness. It has the potential of poisoning our souls, and poisoning our relationships.
The anger that is sinful, is anger that is selfish and self serving. Let’s be honest many times we are angry because of what someone has done to us, what someone has said about us. Many times we are angry because we didn’t get our way, or things don’t go the way that we planned.
Do you want to know how selfish and self centered we are just reflect on what it is that makes you angry.
Regardless of the type of anger we’ve experienced during the day Paul tells us to deal with it each day. We should turn it over to the Lord with confidence that He has promised to deal with the situation, that He will ultimately deal with each person, and each situation that we have expressed anger towards.
Remember what Paul wrote to the church at Rome:
Rom. 12:19 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”
Why should we not let the sun go down on our anger? Paul explains why in verses 27
Eph. 4:27 and give no opportunity to the devil.
The word opportunity literally means place, make no place for Satan to work in your life.
Anger that is not dealt with, especially anger that is sinful creates an opening, provides an opportunity, opens the door that the devil may try and exploit.
The new man should be characterized by honesty
Eph. 4:28 Let 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.
Here is another example of the put on, put off dynamic in Scripture. As I’ve said previously it’s not enough to stop the wrong activity, you must also start the right activity.
As Jay Adams says when is a thief no longer a thief? When he stops stealing? No, a thief is no longer a thief when he stops stealing and begins working, when he begins to do honest labor.
When does a liar cease to be a liar? When he begins to tell the truth. The key to changing a habit, a sinful habit, is to replace it with a holy habit, with a righteous habit.
Habits are a gift that God has given to us. We couldn’t function very well in life without habits. We drive our cars out of habit, we don’t have to stop and think about all the little things required to drive a car, if we did we would never get anywhere. No we drive our cars primarily by habit.
But as we all know we easily take Gods good gifts and turn them into negatives. So over our lifetimes develop sinful habits, ungodly habits. The key to stopping the sinful habits isn’t by simply trying to break the habit through willpower the key to breaking a sinful habit is to replace it with a Holy Spirit empowered habit.
That is the put off and put on dynamic at work, that is one of the methods that God uses to change us, to conform us into the image of Christ.
As I was thinking through this verse I realized there is another way that we as Christians can be guilty of stealing. Consider this I as a Christian can steal from God when I don’t make a commitment, when I don’t put out the effort to fully exploit the gifts and the talents He blesses each one of us with.
Just as we have not because we ask not, perhaps we are not more used by God because we don’t diligently apply ourselves to using the gifts and the opportunities that God has blessed each one of us with.
That may or may not be true of you but it is certainly something to think about.
The New Man Is Characterized By Wholesome Speech
Eph. 4:29 Let 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.
The word corrupt means bad, harmful. It was used to describe rotting and decaying fruits and vegetables. Corrupting talk is unwholesome talk. Corrupting talk is dirty talk.
That kind of talk, that kind of language should never come out of the mouth of a Christian. Christians shouldn’t be cursing like a drunken sailor in a bar fight.
There are those today who say we have to cuss and swear in order to communicate with our culture, we have to talk like them in order to reach out to them.
Even some very popular pastors are known for their colorful vocabularies. I’ve read some sermons where the language made me blush and was completely inappropriate. Frankly when I hear a pastor or even another Christian use that kind of language I wonder if the have forgotten what the scriptures teach about how we are to talk. The Bible does say that out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. A dirty mouth comes from a dirty heart.
The Scriptures repeatedly remind us of the power of the tongue. Remember that James wrote
James 3:6-10 And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell. For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so.
The psalmist recognized the power of the tongue he wrote
Psa. 141:3 ¶ Set a guard, O LORD, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips!
The old man, the old self was characterized by a corrupting tongue, by a foul mouth, a mouth that tore others down.
In our day and age there are numerous ways that we can express our corrupting mouths, facebook, twitter to name some. If you shouldn’t say it you shouldn’t write it.
The new man, the new self should be characterized by speech that does just the opposite, the language of the Christian should always be building others up instead of tearing others down.
We should use our words to build others up, to encourage them, to enrich their lives, to leave them better off after every conversation we have with them. We should use our words to express a positive outlook, we as Christians shouldn’t be characterized as Zig Ziglar says “Stinkin Thinkin”.
Notice also that Paul says that our speech should fit the occasion.
What does that mean? It simply means the right words spoken at the right time. Have you ever found yourself in a situation where you’ve said the wrong thing? It’s one of the worst feelings.
Paul says that regardless of the situation we find ourselves in the word we speak should be constructive one, words that are appropriate to the time and the place. Words that are helpful, not harmful.
We should aim to do as Proverbs 15:23 says…
To make an apt answer is a joy to a man, and a word in season, how good it is!
Our words should be words of grace. Rightly or wrongly Christians are oftentimes characterized as all law and no grace. But that is not what the Bible wants us be known for.
This doesn’t mean that we can’t or shouldn’t have difficult conversations with people because we should and indeed at times we must. But even in those difficult times a difficult conversation should be characterized by grace.
Listen if you’re a Christian you don’t have the right to go about dispensing raw truth all the time. People who say whatever they feel, are not being gracious. A Christian who adopts the attitude that I’m just going to tell it like it is is not living out who they truly are. They are not obeying God, they are not building others up, they are not speaking with grace.
The Result Of Your Sin
Eph. 4:30-32 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.
What is the result, what happens when you and I as a believer continue to act like the old man, like the old self, rather than acting like who we are? Paul says we grieve the Holy Spirit. Grieve means exactly what you think it does, it brings pain to Him.
I don’t know about you but I find that to be an incredibly powerful and sobering statement. Through my sin I grieve, I bring pain to the one who has redeemed me. I hurt the one who has literally done everything for me.
All sin has consequence and when we sin and grieve the Holy Spirit we also run the risk of quenching the Holy Spirit’s work in our lives, which can cause us to miss out on the power and the blessing of the Holy Spirit in our lives.
Finally Paul closes this section by summarizing much of what he has already said. He tells us to put off bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor and slander. Those are all attitudes, and actions that are not fit for the new person that God has made us.
In fact those things are the direct opposite of being kind to one another, or being tenderhearted, and forgiving each other.
I hope you’ve noticed a pattern as we have worked our ways through these verses. Each action and attitude Has a direct impact on how we relate to one another. Your Christianity is not worked out in isolation, it is always meant to be worked out in community, in relationship.
Our actions either effect our relationships positively or negatively. If I lie to you that has a negative impact. But if I tell you the truth I have a positive impact on you.
If I steal from you is that positive or negative? Obviously that’s negative. If I work hard so that I have something to give to you that’s a positive.
When God redeemed us He put away, He put to death the old person that we were, and He made us a new person, a new creation. Therefore we should begin to live out who we are. And we do that not in isolation, but in relationship, we do that both in the Christian community and outside of our Christian community.[/sws_author_bio_ui]