Ephesians 4:11 begins discussing diverse roles we can fill in a church, and the scope of these verses is the church at large. Ephesians 2 begins establishing the fact that Jew and Gentile are one in Christ. Imagine coming to the conclusion that Jesus can save you from your sins, but you will be working with those who hold you in contempt. Many Jews and Gentiles felt this way about each other in the first century. Conversation may have become hostile at times as their differences would come to a head, but Paul, in Ephesians 2:15, reinforces that Christ brings peace. He calls them fellow citizens, and he calls them one body in the next chapter.
Chapter 4:1-3 emphasize an attitude of humility that leads to unity in the church, and the makeup of the Ephesian congregation would have possibly had a hard time accomplishing this. Paul reminds them that they are no longer of the world, no longer Jews or Gentiles but new creatures. In Ephesians 4:25, Paul begins to discuss the conduct that should be reflected in these who have put on spirituality.
Four Principles of Godly Communication
Ephesians 4:25 is often applied to our speech – our language, lying, etc. While these are good applications, Paul is addressing some principles of communication in these verses. This passage outlines how we are to interact with our brothers and sisters.
Ephesians 4:25 tells us to put away falsehood and to deal honestly with one another. This is for the sake of unity. Nothing divides Christians more than partisanship, misrepresentation, and suspician. While we may not have a problem with outright lies, we may have issues with misrepresentations. We may skew facts or events to cast ourselves in abetter light.
Think of Ananias and Sapphira who misrepresent the percentage of their finances that they give. God treats this as a lie. Think of the life of Jesus where the scribes and Pharisees would incite the people against Him by misusing and misrepresenting his words. In the book of Romans, Paul deals directly with others taking his words out of context to make him look like he was saying something untrue.
We may utilize hyperbole: “Everyone thinks that…;” “I’ve always seen…” We may exaggerate. We may leave facts out. We are a spiritual family, and we should avoid getting caught up in these kind of subtle falsehoods. Our goal should be unity, and that is accomplished through honesty, fairness, and openess in our conversations with one another.
In verses 26-27, Paul entreats us to avoid sin in our anger. There are things that happen, things that are said, that hurts our feelings, hurt our pride, and make us angry. Ephesians 4:1-2 calls for us to be long-suffering and to exercise forbearance. Do we hold on to our anger? Do we let it fester? Do we stew over our frustrations? Paul says we can be angry, after all.
In this passage, Paul may be quoting Psalm 4:4 which makes the same appeal, calling on us commune with our hearts and be still. In Ephesians, Paul warns us against letting the sun set on our wrath. Our moments of anger should only be brief. Psalm 4:5 says to worship God after we deal with anger, and Matthew 5:23-24 records Jesus telling his listeners to reconcile with those they’ve wronged before worshipping God.
When we dwell in anger, we open a door to the devil according to Ephesians 4:27. Anger is little more than wounded pride, leading to resentment and animosity. What if the Grecian widows of Acts 17 had held on to their hurt and continued to revisit it? What affect would that have had on the Jerusalem church. What if Philemon held Onesimus’ flight over his head instead of forgiving him? What if Peter and Paul had been unable to get past the events of Galatians 2? We must learn from the past, but we cannot use it as a weapon.
Address the problem, not the person.
In Ephesians 4:29, Paul speaks of corrupt speech, and the only other times this Greek word is used is in the gospels of Matthew and Luke, speaking of rotten trees and fruit. It is defined as something unprofitable and worthless. We may say some rotten things toward each other, and it can be hard to separate what is said from who said it.
We can disagree without being disagreeable, and verse 30 encourages to use speech that is edifying, spiritually beneficial, and gracious. When we attack each other, we grieve God’s Spirit. Our actions can actually bring grief to deity. Rather, we should patient with each other as God is patient with us.
Act; don’t react.
This takes serious self-control. Seldom do we speak of reacting to something in a positive light. We seldom think about our words or measure our actions when we are busy reacting. Proverbs 29:20 condemns the one who is hasty in his words, who is reactive, as hopeless. Proverbs 18:13 calls it shameful to give answer without listening to the other side.
We want to be quick in inserting our arguments into a discussion. However, Ephesians 4 tells us this type of conduct brings about bitterness, wrath, and anger. Negative reactions give birth to more negative reactions, so Paul says to put these qualities away in Ephesians 4:31. In verse 32, he asks us to put on kindness, forgiveness, and tenderness. Unlike the reactive qualities, these take effort and initiative.
Walking In Love
Ephesians 4:32-5:2 reminds us that we are imitators of God, and that we should be walking in the love of Christ. We are one in God’s eyes. In our group settings and private settings, we should look at Ephesians 4 and ask if we are conducting our relationships as God would have us. We can build each other up in how we interact with each other, patient and loving toward each other, helping each other toward our spiritual home.
lesson by Tim Smelser