Ephesians 4:25-32 Put off so you can Put on!
Paul began this section of Ephesians by writing, “I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.”In the verses surrounding that statement Paul wrote about the changes that ought to be a part of every life that is seeking to live worthy of a life in Jesus. Paul was noting that we have been redeemed so we can have fellowship with God and to enjoy that fellowship we need to reflect His character. That character is, according to Galatians 5:22-23, the Fruit of the Spirit. A life still lived as the Gentiles or non-Christians do, means that the Holy Spirit has failed in His task of transforming us. Failure via an improper lifestyle grieves the Holy Spirit as noted in Ephesians 4:30.
Beginning in verse 25, Paul listed 5 areas of everyday life where we ought to reflect our walk with Jesus. Paul noted areas that we should avoid and then gave the counter part that should be seen in each of us.
In verse 25 Paul wrote, “put off falsehood” and then noted, “speak truthfully to your neighbor.” In other words, “stop lying and start being a person whose word can be counted on.”
In verses 26-27 Paul wrote, “In your anger do not sin” and went on to note that when we exhibit righteous anger, we must not hold onto that anger long enough for it to “give the devil a foothold.” If you have legitimate cause to be angry, be sure that anger does not fester to the point where it lashes where it should not.
In verses 28 Paul wrote that Christians should “steal no longer,” with the counterpart being, “work, doing something useful with their own hands.” In other words, honestly work so you can earn sufficient income that you do not need to steal to meet your needs.
In verse 29 Paul wrote that “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths” and instead speak “only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” In other words, useyour ability to communicate in a way thathelps and encourages others.
Finally in verses 31-32 Paul wrote, “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.” Instead of that, Paul’s admonition was to “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” The contrast there is obvious.
Paul’s first “Put off so you can put on” is found in verse 25. The word translated “falsehood” would be better understood as “lie.” The stronger command is to “speak” and the word “truthfully” is actually just “truth.” The phrase “speak truth to your neighbor” is a quote from Zechariah 8:16.
We live in a culture that sees little wrong with lying if it is done supposedly for the right reason. Over and over, we hear things like, “Everyone does it.” In thinking about what we call a “little white line” we hear it justified as, “It was the kind thing to do. Americans feel it is legitimate to tell any lie that seemingly allows one to avoid anything that may seem unpleasant.
While Americans minimize the importance, God does not. Read Revelation 21:8. Why is God so concerned about lying? Keep two truths in mind. First, remember that God is the God of truth. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” To follow Him is to be truthful. Read Proverbs 6:16-17.
Second, remember what Jesus said about those who tell lies. Read John 8:44. Satan is a liar and those who habitually lie are following him. Recall that in his first encounter with mankind he lied to Eve, telling her that even if she ate of the forbidden fruit, she would not die as God had said she would. When you tell the truth, you are imitating your Heavenly Father whereas when you lie you are imitating Satan.
When one becomes a Christian, he switches his loyalty from the father of lies to the one who is in every way true and therefore one should always seek to tell the truth. Read Colossians 3:9-10. Lying often seems like the easier way out or even the right thing to do but in the end, it is always wrong.
Lying, of course, involves far more than simply declaring something that is obviously not true. Lying includes the deliberate decision to not declare that which we know to be true. That is especially true when we are withholding information in a deliberate effort to deceive or mislead someone. Lying includes exaggeration intended to convey an idea that is not true. Lying includes making promises we have no intention of keeping. Often lying and stealing go hand in hand so one lies on a tax form to get more back or lies on an application of a resume to get something he should not have. Lying can come in the form of silence when silence conveys the idea that you approve of something you do not.
What we call white lies are often the most difficult to deal with. We assume that the truth will do more harm than good, so we lie and convince ourselves it is the lesser of two evils. The reasoning seems correct but since when is doing evil, even the lesser evil, acceptable?
Two side issues. Being truthful does not mean you have to tell everything when that everything includes things told in confidence nor does it require you to unload your feeling about someone under the guise of just being truthful. In addition, speaking the truth in the wrong way is not acceptable. Read Ephesians 4:15.
Read Ephesians 4:26-27. Again, there are lots of implications to this but let me suggest an area that too many of us seem to fall short in. I know there are Christians who have anger problems and fly off the handle at a neighbor, at the driver in front of them, even at family. We all know that is wrong and I suspect all of us have had to go to someone and apologize for our actions or words we have. On occasions I have had people tell me they have a right to be angry and I would be also if I knew the whole story and what someone once did to them. Good news, you are half right, some things definitely deserve vindication or revenge. The half where one is wrong there is in thinking he has the right to take that revenge upon himself. Read Romans 12:19.
I would like to point out, however, that while there is an anger that is wrong, anger by itself is not necessarily wrong. In fact, we read examples in Scripture when God became angry. Jesus displayed His anger at the moneychangers in the temple area, at His disciples when they were hindering children from coming to Him and at the Pharisees when they objected to Him healing on the Sabbath.
Anger that is vindictive, undisciplined or stems from bitterness according to verse 31 is wrong and we know that. There are, however, areas where Christians should be angry and are not. Christians should be angry at injustice, unrighteous acts, racism etc. The attitude of live and let live has no place in the attitude of a Christian toward evil. There is a real danger that as Christians, while we do not accept many of the sins of our society as being right, we have not become angry enough about them to stand up and act. It is easier to be silent when an off-color joke is told instead of objecting. It is too easy to ignore racist comments or actions instead of speaking up. Sin of any kind should upset us.
But there is a caveat to even righteous anger. Paul wrote, “Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry.” Why did Paul write this? Because it is far too easy to let even righteous anger morph into bitterness. Be angry at sin, not the sinner and move on. Speak out against sin but then calm down and act rationally.
Paul’s challenges are to be honest is our speech and to deal with improper anger while showing legitimate anger at injustice.
Can others depend upon our word and do they know we hate sin while loving the sinner?