15. The Divine Wardrobe of BelieversRelated Media
Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body. “In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold. He who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with his own hands, that he may have something to share with those in need. 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. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. (Ephesians 4:25-)32
What type of clothing should believers wear and not wear?
In Ephesians 4:22-24, Paul describes what happens at conversion. He says,
You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.
Most commentators believe that “put off your old self” and “put on the new self” should not be translated as a command, but in the past tense. One of the things that happens at salvation is that our old self—who we were before Christ—dies, and God gives us a new self—a new nature that loves God and wants to obey his Word. Second Corinthians 5:17 says, “He who is in Christ is a new creation, all things are passed away and behold all things have become new.” Just as there is a specific uniform expected of a police officer, a soldier, and others in specific professions, Christians have appropriate “clothes” as well—referring to attitudes and actions.
In Ephesians 4:25-32, Paul leaves the believer’s position in Christ to focus on his practice. Our old nature died and we received a new nature in Christ. “Therefore” (Ephesians 4:25), we must daily take off old clothes—attitudes and actions—that no longer fit our position, and put on our new clothes.
Are you wearing the right clothes? Or, are you still wearing the clothes from your old self? In this study, we will consider the contrasting clothes of the old self and the new self. This will help us strive daily to look more like Christ and less like the world.
Big Question: How should believers respond to their new position in Christ according to Ephesians 4:25-32?
Because of Our New Position in Christ, We Must Stop Lying and Tell the Truth
Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body. (Ephesians 4:25)
First, Paul says that we must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to our neighbors. Falsehood “includes every form of dishonesty, whether it is shading of the truth, exaggeration, cheating, failure to keep promises, betrayal of confidence, flattery, or fudging on income taxes.”1
Interpretation Question: Why do believers (and people in general) practice lying, even though it is harmful?
- We lie in order to make ourselves look better (a little exaggeration makes a story better).
- We lie to protect ourselves from consequences (often to cover up a failure).
- We lie to gain something we want (like a good grade, a promotion, or tax benefits).
These are old and filthy clothes—not appropriate for believers to wear.
Scripture says that Satan is “a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44). When we lie, cheat, or exaggerate, we mimic our old father, Satan. It was his lie in the Garden that led to the fall. In fact, as ruler of this world, he built the entire world system on lies. Success is this, beauty is that, marriage is this, etc. The world is built on lies. The enemy lies to pull people further away from God, and further away from God’s plans for their lives. This is exactly what Satan did in the Garden to lead Adam and Eve away from God, and he does the same to people today.
When Christians lie, they not only mar the image of God, but also push themselves and others farther away from God. The world says, “If this person is a Christian, then I want nothing to do with Christ.” When we lie, cheat, and deceive, we open the door for the devil to work in and through us.
In addition, Revelation 22:15 says, “Outside are the dogs, those who practice magic arts, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idolaters and everyone who loves and practices falsehood.” This doesn’t mean that we are saved by our works, but our works do prove if we are saved. Those who practice a lifestyle of lying are not saved. Yes, a believer may stumble in this area, and if he does, he must confess and repent. But if this is his continual practice, then he may not be born again.
Paul says something similar in 1 Corinthians 6:9-10:
Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.
A swindler is a person that lies and deceives people. Paul says such people will not inherit the kingdom of God.
Has God changed your relationship with lying and deception?
Application Question: How should believers speak the truth to their neighbor?
When Paul refers to speaking truthfully, he does not just mean to stop telling lies, he means many other things as well:
1. Believers speak the truth by speaking God’s Word.
In John 17:17, Jesus prays, “Sanctify them by your truth, your word is truth.” As believers, we must speak the Word of God to one another. When God called Joshua to lead Israel into the promised land, he told him never to let the Word depart from his mouth, but to meditate on it day and night (Josh 1:8). Joshua was called to always speak the Word of God to others, and we must do likewise.
2. Believers speak the truth by exposing lies.
Many times, by standing quietly while others lie or believe lies, we implicitly take part in the deception. No! Speaking the truth includes exposing lies, as Paul later clarifies in Ephesians 5:11: “Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them.”
Sometimes the need arises to expose falsehood in an interpersonal or business relationship. When Christ went into the temple (John 2), he exposed cheating by speaking the truth. In the majority of Paul’s letters, he combats lies by teaching truth. We must do the same in our personal, church, and work relationships. We do this because it protects people, and because it honors God.
3. Believers speak the truth by challenging people in sin.
A common lie propagated in the world is that it’s polite, and therefore preferable, to be untruthful if the truth would upset somebody or make them angry. Scripture teaches the opposite. Proverbs 27:6 says, “Faithful are the wounds of a friend, but deceitful are the kisses of an enemy” (paraphrase). One of the ways that we speak truthfully is by lovingly challenging people in sin or who are falling away from God. This is what a true friend or neighbor does. Paul tells us how the church grows in Ephesians 4:15: “Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ.” When we lovingly speak the truth to one another, especially when one member is sinning, the body grows.
Interpretation Question: Who is Paul referring to when he says “neighbor” in Ephesians 4:25?
Now, honesty is a duty that believers owe everybody; however, in this passage, Paul specifically refers to our Christian neighbors—the church. This is clear from the rest of the verse, “speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body.” Paul’s argument is that lying to a member of the church is as foolish as the eye lying to the brain. It is like lying to ourself. It is both illogical and dangerous.
However, let us also consider that Paul probably says this to the Ephesians because they were still lying to each other. They were still wearing the old clothes of deception, and we often are as well.
Application Questions: In what situations are you most tempted to lie or embellish the truth? What type of lies are you most prone to? How is God working in that area of your life?
Because of Our New Position in Christ, We Must Control Our Anger
“In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold. (Ephesians 4:26 )
The next clothing believers must take off is unrighteous anger. Paul quotes Psalm 4:4a, “In your anger do not sin.” Most versions translate this as, “Be angry and do not sin.” It reminds us that there is a righteous anger every believer should have. Sometimes, it is even sinful for us not to be angry. Psalm 7:11 says, “God is a righteous judge, a God who expresses his wrath every day.” God expresses his wrath at sin every day, and we should as well.
There should be a righteous anger in the lives of believers. Anger, as part of the image of God, is meant to motivate us to correct what is wrong. Holy anger leads believers to get rid of sin, including their own. Matthew 5:29-30 says,
If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.
Many times, habitual sin lingers in the lives of believers because they are not righteously angry about it. In that case, they should hear the words, “Be angry.” They should also consider Christ’s admonition to be so angry that we will cut off things dear to us in order to be holy and not fall again.
Righteous anger in a believer should not only be about his own sins, but also the sins of others. No doubt, we see this anger in Christ. Again, when he saw people stealing and cheating in the temple, he used a whip and turned over tables, declaring, “‘My house will be a house of prayer’; but you have made it a den of robbers’” (Luke 19:46). When God was dishonored and others were hurt, Christ became angry.
Through Christ’s example, we can learn a great deal about unrighteous and righteous anger. Unrighteous anger is typically selfish and vengeful. John MacArthur says, “Anger that is sin, on the other hand, is anger that is self–defensive and self–serving, that is resentful of what is done against oneself. It is the anger that leads to murder and to God’s judgment (Matt. 5:21–22).”2 Righteous anger, on the other hand, is primarily concerned with offenses against God and others.
Application Question: How can we be angry and not sin?
1. When angry, we must evaluate the reason for the anger.
Is this anger selfish—rooted in pride, and a response to personal injustice? Or is it about sin against God and others? If our anger is rooted in pride and a response to personal injustice, we must confess our sin to God (and others if we sinned against them) and repent.
2. When angry, we should probably take time before responding.
It is possible to be righteously angry and still sin in response. In fact, righteous anger can lead to cursing, physical violence, and many other sins. Nehemiah provides a good example of taking time before responding to a report of gross injustice:
When I heard their outcry and these charges, I was very angry. I pondered them in my mind and then accused the nobles and officials. I told them, “You are exacting usury from your own countrymen!” So I called together a large meeting to deal with them (Nehemiah 5:6-7)
After hearing of the charges, Nehemiah didn’t respond immediately— he “pondered” them. This can be translated literally as, “I took counsel with myself.” Similarly, one of the ways that we keep ourselves from sinning in anger is by taking time to reflect, pray, and get counsel before responding.
3. When angry, we must seek to resolve it as soon as possible.
When Paul says, “Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry,” he probably just means to resolve the situation as soon as possible.
Application Question: How should we seek to resolve our anger quickly?
- To quickly resolve anger, we should always forgive the offender.
Christ says we should forgive seventy-seven times (Matt 18:22). Whether the person repents or not, our duty is to forgive as Christ forgave us. This is the first way to resolve our anger.
- To quickly resolve anger, sometimes when a person sins against us or others, we should biblically confront them. Matthew 18:15-17 says,
“If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector.
(1) Without talking to others first (gossiping), approach the offender one on one. When doing this, speak gently to not offend. Proverbs 15:1 says, “A gentle answer turns away wrath.” This one on one meeting is important because the problem may be a simple misunderstanding. Or, if the offender has sinned, the private confrontation might lead to repentance. (2) If he doesn’t respond, take another person to help challenge him, and also for a witness. (3) If he still doesn’t respond, bring the matter before the church. (4) Then if he still doesn’t respond, the church should discipline him with the hope of his eventual repentance.
This is not often practiced in the church, and for that reason, many continue in sin. This method applies to a person stealing, committing sexual immorality, being abusive to his or her spouse, gossiping, etc. It is especially important for struggling married couples to consider. God’s method of reconciliation for divided homes is through the church—his body. It is not, “Let’s keep our struggles a secret.” We should handle righteous anger when it involves the sin of others by seeking restoration through biblical confrontation.
- To quickly resolve anger, sometimes, instead of confronting the person, we should cover their failure, especially if it is not a moral issue or if it resulted from ignorance.
First Peter 4:8 says, “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.” This is probably how God would have us respond to most situations. We should forgive and let go of small and big injuries. Love covers sin and doesn’t hold a record of wrongs (1 Cor 13:5).
How else can we be angry and not sin?
4. When angry, we must remember the demonic consequences of unbridled anger.
Finally, Paul says, “‘In your anger do not sin’: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold” (Eph 4:26).
When we handle anger inappropriately, we open the door for Satan to attack us and others. Christ says that anger is the root of murder (Matt 5:21-22), and that Satan was a murderer from the beginning (John 8:44). Satan’s only desire is to steal, kill, and destroy (John 10:10). When unrighteous anger is found in a Christian, Satan fans it into flame. He cultivates the burning embers of anger in an upset person in order to destroy his relationships—both with God and others. Satan fans anger and unforgiveness in church members to cause splits. In many churches, grudges and feuds linger for years, opening doors for the enemy to wreak havoc.
Christ gives the disciples a stern warning against unforgiveness, which is often rooted in anger: God will hand them over to torturers if they don’t forgive others from the heart (Matt 18:34-35). Who are these torturers? I believe they are demons (cf. 1 Cor 5:5). The unforgiveness and anger that people choose to cultivate allow the devil to torment and tempt them. They often struggle with anxiety, depression, irrational thoughts, and sometimes sickness all because they opened the door to the devil many years ago by not forgiving somebody. Therefore, Satan launches all-out assaults against them and others from the beachhead of their unforgiveness.
One of the reasons we must rid ourselves of anger is because of the demonic consequences associated with cultivating it. Satan works through anger to steal, kill, and destroy.
Application Questions: In what ways do you still struggle with the old clothing of anger? How has God called you to work on taking it off?
Because of Our New Position in Christ, We Must Stop Stealing, and Work to Help Those in Need
He who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with his own hands, that he may have something to share with those in need. (Ephesians 4:28)
Believers must take off the clothing of stealing and instead work to help others in need. It might seem strange to say this to Christians, but no doubt, the Ephesians committed theft, as Christians often do today. The early church membership included a large population of slaves. This is clearly seen by all the admonitions to slaves in the New Testament (cf. Ephesians 6:5, Colossians 3:22, Titus 2:9). Warren Wiersbe says this about slaves in the ancient world:
Stealing was particularly a sin of the slaves in Paul’s day. Usually they were not well cared for and were always in need, and the law gave them almost no protection. When he wrote to Titus, Paul urged him to admonish the slaves not to “purloin” but to be faithful to their masters (Titus 2:10).
However, in this text Paul is not referring to slaves in particular, but to the church in general. Stealing could mean grand larceny, nonpayment of debts, using false measurements, etc. No doubt, there were acceptable forms of stealing in the ancient world, just as there are today. Illegal downloading, watching bootleg movies, stealing supplies from employers, and wasting the employer’s time are considered normal by many in our society, and many Christians are guilty of them.
But, Paul says these old clothes must not be part of the Christian’s wardrobe—for we have put off our old nature and put on the divine nature of Christ. Therefore, we must seek to dress like Christ, our Savior.
Paul tells the Ephesians not only to stop stealing, but also to work. It must be remembered that work is not part of the curse. God gave Adam and Eve the Garden to tend before sin came into the world (Gen 2:15). It was always his plan for people to work, and to glorify him through the work. Colossians 3:23 says, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men.”
It is interesting to consider that many of those God used greatly in biblical history were working when he called them. “Moses was caring for sheep; Gideon was threshing wheat; David was minding his father’s flock; and the first four disciples were either casting nets or mending them. Jesus Himself was a carpenter.”3
Good (Useful) Work
It is God’s will for us to work and to glorify him through it. But Paul does not just command the Ephesians to work, he commands them to do “useful” work (Eph 4:28). The word “useful” can also be translated “good.” The implication is that some jobs are unuseful and immoral, and therefore unfit for Christians. If an occupation requires dishonesty, tempts people to sin, or dishonors God, a Christian should not participate in it. Everything believers do should honor God and build his kingdom—including our occupation.
And since work is one of the primary time commitments people have (typically at least forty hours a week), Christians should pray hard and long about the type of work they commit to. Work should not be their god, keeping them away from church and caring for family. Some companies essentially demand disobedience to God—as people are expected to neglect their faith and their families. Sometimes Christians may need to accept a lesser job or career in order to be faithful to God. Paul could be alluding to this by commanding the Ephesians to do useful work with their “hands.” “Greeks despised manual labour; they saw it as an occupation fit for slaves.”4 Christians, however, must make sure their career is useful and honoring to God, even if it is despised by the world.
Help Those in Need
Observation Question: Why does Paul tell Christians to work to support those in need?
In addition, one must notice the reason Paul tells the Ephesians to work. It is not just to meet their needs and to provide a stable living for themselves. He says that a Christian “must work, doing something useful with his own hands, that he may have something to share with those in need.”
This is radical. Typically, people work to make more money, and with that money, they get a bigger house, a better car, a better entertainment system, and a better phone. However, one of the reasons Christians should work is to meet other people’s needs. This means they save not just to give their tithes and offerings, but also to help someone struggling financially, to support missionaries, to fund seminary students, etc. This is the clothing of a Christian.
While I was attending seminary, I was told how many of my professors used the same accountant. This accountant really struggled with how they used their money: It wasn’t all about their portfolio and saving for a comfortable retirement. These seminary professors put so much money into missions and other charitable ministries that the accountant was really challenged, and eventually gave his life to Christ. He must have reasoned, “Their lives are too different. There must be something to Christianity.”
In Luke 16:9, Christ says, “I tell you, use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings.” He teaches his followers to use their money to make friends in heaven—meaning to use their money to lead people to Christ by supporting missions and helping those in need. Then, when they enter heaven, many will welcome them because of their financial ministry.
Every Christian should ask himself, “Do I have a financial ministry?” “Am I using my money to see people saved and to build God’s kingdom?” This is the clothing of Christians—our divine wardrobe. The clothing of greed, selfishness, and stealing often demonstrated in the world is not fitting for Christians. Believers follow a Savior that gave up everything so others might become rich (2 Cor 8:9), and therefore, their lives should be full of sacrificial giving.
Application Questions: In what ways do Christians commonly practice stealing? How has God challenged you to develop a financial ministry?
Because of Our New Position in Christ, We Must Rid Ourselves of Ungodly Talk and Speak God’s Words Instead
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. (Ephesians 4:29)
The next clothing believers must take off is ungodly speech. Paul says, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come of your mouths.” The word “unwholesome” is used in Matthew 7:17-18 to refer to “bad fruit” or “rotten fruit.” It refers to “that which is worthless, bad, or rotten.”5 MacArthur’s words on this are instructive:
Corrupt speech generally means conversation that is filthy and suggestive; this would include off-color jokes, profanity, and dirty stories. But here it probably has the wider sense of any form of conversation that is frivolous, empty, idle, and worthless. Paul deals with obscene and vile language in 5:4; here he is telling us to abandon profitless speech and substitute constructive conversation.6
A believer’s speech should not only be void of filthy or suggestive language, but also idle words. Christ says that we will be judged for every idle word we speak (Matt 12:36). Man is made in the image of God, and God created the earth with his speech. Therefore, our speech is also powerful. Proverbs says that the power of life and death is in the tongue (Prov 18:21). If our speech is this powerful, then it is not to be used in an idle or worthless way.
Paul then describes how Christians should speak.
Observation Question: How does Paul positively describe the believer’s speech?
1. The believer’s speech should be “helpful for building others up” or “edifying” (KJV).
This means that the believer’s speech should encourage and instruct. Proverbs 12:18 says, “Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.” The mouth of a believer should be used for healing, not destruction.
With that said, helpful speech also includes rebuke. Proverbs 25:12 says, “Like an earring of gold or an ornament of fine gold is a wise man’s rebuke to a listening ear.” Proverbs 27:6 (KJV) says, “Faithful are the wounds of a friend.” Good friends edify one another, and sometimes that includes causing injury so that the other can become truly healthy.
2. The believer’s speech should be “according to their needs” (NIV), or “as fits the occasion” (ESV).
Knowing the right words to say is important, but knowing the right words to say at the right time is more important. Proverbs 15:23 says, “A man finds joy in giving an apt reply—and how good is a timely word!” Not only does the hearer have tremendous joy in receiving the right word at the right time, but so does the giver.
How can we say the right words at the right time?
Proverbs 17:27 says, “A man of knowledge uses words with restraint.” Many times in counseling a person, I know exactly what to say, but I can also discern they are not yet ready to receive it. And, often there is too much to try to fix at once. It is better to just listen and pick the most important battle. We must wisely discern the occasion in order to best use our words.
3. The believer’s speech should “benefit those who listen” (NIV), or “give grace to those who hear” (ESV).
“Grace” means “unmerited favor.” This means that it doesn’t matter how mean or undeserving a person is; our words should bless him. Christ teaches that even our enemies should be blessed by our speech. In fact, we are called to bless those who curse us and pray for them (Luke 6:28).
Is your speech gracious? Colossians 4:6 says, “Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” Gracious speech is like salt—it preserves and cleanses people from what is sinful and distasteful.
Application Question: How can a believer be more effective at speaking godly words instead of ungodly words?
1. Our words must be both filled with and guided by Scripture.
Scripture is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness so the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work (2 Tim 3:16-17). If our speech is going to be helpful, we must know and use Scripture.
2. Our words must be guided by the Holy Spirit.
We should pray over our words. We should ask the Lord what to say, when to say it, and how to say it. In Ephesians 6:19, Paul said, “Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel.” Lord, give us the words that will honor you and bless your people.
Application Questions: What are the primary ways you struggle with unwholesome speech? In what ways is God challenging you to grow in this area?
Because of Our New Position in Christ, We Must Put Off All Acts that Grieve the Spirit, and Produce the Fruit of the Spirit Instead
And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. (Ephesians 4:30-32)
These verses seem to be a summary statement of the previous exhortations. Sin in the life of a believer grieves the Holy Spirit. We are called to put off all sinful acts, and to produce the fruit of the Spirit instead.
Interpretation Question: What does Paul’s admonition to “not grieve the Holy Spirit” tell us about the Holy Spirit?
- The Holy Spirit is a person, not a force. Only a person can be grieved.
- The Holy Spirit loves us. Only a person who cares about others can be grieved by them.
- The Holy Spirit’s role is to make us holy, and that is why sin grieves him.
- The Holy Spirit sealed believers till the day of redemption.
Interpretation Question: What does it mean to be sealed by the Holy Spirit?
1. The seal of the Holy Spirit speaks of ownership and authenticity.
In ancient times, owners put their personal seal on their property, including slaves and animals. God does the same with us through his Spirit. Romans 8:9 says, “You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ.”
The Spirit of God is a sign that proves to us and others that we belong to God. Romans 8:16 says, “The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.” The way he testifies to our spirit is by changing us and giving us new desires—holy affections for God. Romans 8:15 says that by the Holy Spirit we cry, “Abba, Father.” He works in us to pray, to read the Word, to serve, to worship, and to obey—in short, he makes us holy. If we do not have the Holy Spirit and his work in our lives, we are not his.
But, he does not just testify to us that we are God’s, but also to others. Jesus says, “They will know you are my disciples by the way you love one another” (John 13:35). This love is a supernatural work of the Holy Spirit. Romans 5:5 says the love of God was shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit. The Spirit of God is our mark, our seal. He proves to us and others that we belong to God.
Is there proof in your life that you belong to God? Is the Holy Spirit making you holy—changing your life? This work is so important that when Paul met some Christians in Acts 19:2, he asked them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” They responded, “We didn’t even know there was a Holy Spirit” (paraphrase). Paul believed that the work of the Holy Spirit was unmistakable. If the Spirit is changing us, we will notice and so will others.
2. The seal of the Holy Spirit speaks of preservation.
Again, Paul says, “And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption” (Eph 4:30). One of the uses of a seal was to keep and protect something. When Christ was buried, the guards sealed the tomb to make sure his body couldn’t be taken out (Matt 27:66). A contemporary example is that of sealing food to preserve it. When we buy food or drink and the seal is broken, we know something is wrong with it. Similarly, God seals every true believer till the day of redemption—the redemption of their bodies.
Jesus says that he puts believers in his own hand and in his Father’s hand, and that “no one can snatch them out” (John 10:28-29). God seals believers till the day of redemption.
Interestingly, Paul uses the eternal security of a believer as an encouragement not to sin. Those who believe one can lose their salvation often teach the very opposite. They say, “Don’t sin because you will lose your salvation!” Paul says, “Don’t sin, because God eternally saved you.” Out of thanksgiving to God for his great eternal salvation, a believer should not grieve the Holy Spirit.
Vices to Put Off
Observation Question: What vices does Paul call for believers to get rid of in this passage?
Next, Paul shares some vices that grieve the Holy Spirit. “Though it is not possible to distinguish each one precisely, the overall meaning is clear:
- Bitterness—Smoldering resentment, unwillingness to forgive, harsh feeling.
- Wrath—Bursts of rage, violent passion, temper tantrums.
- Anger—Grouchiness, animosity, hostility.
- Clamor—Loud outcries of anger, brawling, angry bickering, shouting down of opponents.
- Evil speaking—Insulting language, slander, abusive speech.
- Malice—Wishing evil on others, spite, meanness.”7
Paul seems to be describing a pathway of evil. First a person is bitter, leading to outbursts of wrath. Wrath leads to a settled anger. Anger leads to brawling or clamor—loud yelling and potentially a fist fight. Brawling leads to slander—evil speaking. Finally, slander leads to malice—a desire to injure or inflict harm. These clothes are not fitting for believers. Obviously, if we are going to stop from going down the path to brawling and malice, we must stop it at the heart level. We must repent of bitterness—feelings of resentment that lead to wrath and anger. Again, Christ taught that anger is the seed that leads to murder (cf. Matt 5:21-22).
Are you bitter or angry? Repent before God and ask him to give you a right heart—one that loves him and people.
Virtues to Put On
Observation Question: What virtues does Paul call for believers to put on, and what do they mean?
Next, Paul describes virtues a believer must put on. Ephesians 4:32 says, “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”
- “Kindness—An unselfish concern for the welfare of others, and a desire to be helpful even at great personal sacrifice.
- Tenderheartedness—A sympathetic, affectionate, and compassionate interest in others, and a willingness to bear their burden.
- Forgiveness—A readiness to pardon offenses, to overlook personal wrongs against oneself, and to harbor no desire for retaliation.”8
“Forgiving one another” can be translated literally as, “acting in grace.”9 In the same way that God extended grace to us in dying for us and forgiving us, we must extend grace towards others. We must forgive as Christ forgives—not holding failures against others but extending unmerited favor towards them.
Are you still harboring bitterness, grudges, and unforgiveness towards others? Those are old clothes that Christ put to death on the cross and buried in the grave (cf. Rom 6:1-11). Therefore, put on the new clothes of the resurrected life—kindness, compassion, and forgiveness. Instead of grieving the Holy Spirit, allow him to bear his supernatural fruit in your life (Gal 5:22-23).
Application Questions: Who is the Holy Spirit? Why should the Holy Spirit’s ministry of sealing encourage us to put off ungodly vices and put on godly virtues?
At salvation, Christ put to death our old nature and gave us a new one. Therefore, each day we must put off old attitudes and actions, and put on godly ones which fit our new nature.
- Because of our new position in Christ, we must stop lying and tell the truth.
- Because of our new position in Christ, we must control our anger.
- Because of our new position in Christ, we must stop stealing, and work to help those in need.
- Because of our new position in Christ, we must rid ourselves of ungodly talk and speak God’s words instead.
- Because of our new position in Christ, we must put off all acts that grieve the Spirit, and produce the fruit of the Spirit instead.
Are you wearing your divine wardrobe?
Copyright © 2016 Gregory Brown
Unless otherwise noted, the primary Scriptures used are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version ®, Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by the International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. All rights reserved.
Scripture quotations marked (ESV) are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®) Copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. All rights reserved.
Scripture quotations marked (NASB) are from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972,1973,1975,1977,1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.
Scripture quotations marked (NLT) are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.
Scripture quotations marked KJV or AKJV are from the King James Version or Authorized (King James) Version of the Bible.
All emphases in Scripture quotations and commentators’ quotations have been added.
1 MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (pp. 1938–1939). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.
2 MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1986). Ephesians (p. 185). Chicago: Moody Press.
3 Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). The Bible exposition commentary (Vol. 2, p. 42). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.
4 Morris, L. (1984). 1 and 2 Thessalonians: An introduction and commentary (Vol. 13, p. 86). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
5 Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). The Bible exposition commentary (Vol. 2, p. 42). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.
6 MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1986). Ephesians (p. 186). Chicago: Moody Press.
7 MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 1940). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.
8 MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 1940). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.
9 Stott, J. R. W. (1979). God’s new society: the message of Ephesians (p. 191). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
Related Topics: Christian Life