THE CHRISTIAN MUST REJECT HARMFUL BEHAVIOR (WHICH DESTROYS COMMUNITY) AND IMITATE THE LOVE OF GOD (WHICH BUILDS COMMUNITY)
Harold Hoehner: To review, Paul has exhorted the Ephesians not to walk as the Gentiles do. He described the lifestyle of the Gentiles as walking in the futility of the mind resulting from darkened minds and alienation from the life of God. Consequently, they have lost all moral sensitivity and have given themselves over to impurity based on selfishness (vv. 17–19). He then explained that they were taught they had put off the old person and had put on the new person (vv. 20–24). Now he is going to give practical applications of how the new person in Christ lives day to day (vv. 25–32). The structure of 4:17–32 is as follows:
(1) description of the lifestyle of the old person (4:17–19);
(2) statement regarding having put off the old person and having put on the new person (4:20–24); and
(3) exhortation on living a new lifestyle in accordance with being a new person (4:25–32).
Klyne Snodgrass: The concern in this section, as in much of the New Testament ethical teaching, is to reject what destroys community and promote what builds community.
Grant Osborne: Paul has just established the way in which the new, corporate body of Christ becomes part of Christ’s new creation, continuing the challenge he gave the Ephesians in 4:1 to walk worthily of their calling. Now he presents specific ethical advice on how they are to move from the “old Adam”/“old self” to the “new Adam”/“new self.” This is Christian behavior in its essentials, presenting concrete vices to avoid and virtues to emulate. This list is obviously not exhaustive but representative of the ways in which we forge proper relationships within the new community, both with God and with our fellow saints. The pattern of verses 25–30 is paraenetic (ethical exhortation) at the core, providing three aspects of each vice: the prohibition against the dangerous practice (lies, anger, stealing, filthy talk) followed by a corresponding virtue that will negate the vice and a motivation clause that tells us why we should follow this exhortation. This passage continues with lists of five vices to avoid and three virtues to follow (4:31–32) before concluding with a discussion of the primary virtue—love—through which we imitate God, with Christ as the model (5:1–2).
Frank Thielman: The specific, practical admonitions in 4:25–32 are sandwiched between the reference to believers as created in God’s image and the summary statement that they should be imitators of God’s love. They illustrate the meaning, then, of living out one’s new existence as a re-created human being in relationship with others.
Clinton Arnold: Because God has created the church to be a community of believers growing together to maturity, the development of social virtues is of paramount importance. Therefore, Paul exhorts believers to rid themselves of vices that are detrimental to community life and to cultivate virtues that build up the community. The most important and summarizing virtue is love—defined by the Father’s love in giving his Son and by Christ’s love in sacrificing himself.
I. (4:25-27) REJECT LYING AND SINFUL ANGER
A. (:25) The Christian’s Commitment to Integrity – Members of One Body
- Negative Exhortation
“Therefore, laying aside falsehood”
Grant Osborne: The issues of truth and falsehood were central in 4:14–15 with respect to the danger posed by the false teachers, and now Paul presents the issue generally for all Christians, exhorting us to speak truthfully at all times.
Harold Hoehner: Having established the believer’s position as a new person, the inferential conjunction διό points to the desired application of this position. The lifestyle of the old person is integrally tied to the person and so the lifestyle and the position of the new should be integrally bound together. Once the new person had been put on at conversion, one’s subsequent life should reflect what he or she is. This inference is seen not only in the conjunction but also in the aorist middle participle (ἀποθέμενοι), which is the same word, tense, and voice as the infinitive in verse 22 that describes the laying aside of the old person. This is an excellent demonstration of how conduct is closely connected with position.
- Positive Command
“speak truth, each one of you with his neighbor”
Note: It is never enough to just cease the negative; you must replace it with the corresponding positive trait.
Clinton Arnold: Although this is a community responsibility, it must begin with each individual member. Thus Paul uses the distributive pronoun (ἕκαστος) to bring out individual responsibility. He characterizes the members of the community as one’s “neighbor” (πλησίον). This is determined, in part, by the fact that this entire clause is a quotation from Zech 8:16, which calls for the remnant of God’s people to speak the truth “to [one’s] neighbor.” This is a prophetic text that looks forward to the time when God will dwell with the remnant of his people. In this eschatological setting, Jerusalem will be called “the City of Truth” (8:3) after God has saved his people (8:13) and manifests his presence with them (8:23).
“for we are members of one another”
Harold Hoehner: Certainly in this context it is talking about members in the body of Christ. He uses this figure to portray the close-knit relationship with other members of the body. It is interesting to observe that this word μέλος is never used of members of an organization but always of members of an organism. In other words, members of an organization may not necessarily have a relationship to other members, but members of an organism demand a close-knit relationship to the other members and they are accountable to one another. The concept of a close relationship is enhanced by the use of the reciprocal pronoun ἀλλήλων, “one another.” In order for this body to function smoothly and efficiently, truth must be expressed among the members. Deception by one member not only harms that member but the whole body suffers as well and in the end self-destruction occurs.
Andrew Lincoln: The neighbor of the exhortation, who in Judaism would have been a companion in the covenant, now takes on the specific shape of a fellow member of the body of Christ. In this body, which is a paradigm of harmonious human relationships, there is no room for lies which poison communication and breed suspicion instead of mutual trust. As Mackay (God’s Order, 185) puts it graphically, “a lie is a stab into the very vitals of the body of Christ.” The point has already been established a little earlier in 4:15, where the writer insists that the essential means of building up the body of Christ is speaking the truth in love.
B. (:26-27) The Christian’s Anger Management – Aware of Satan’s Schemes
- Positive Command
Martin: If you are angry, be sure it is the kind of anger that is not sinful… Even a righteous wrath by overindulgence may pass all too easily into sin”
Grant Osborne: Stop Being Angry and Gain Control –
Paul realizes that in a fallen world there will always be anger. There are times when anger is necessary; the wrath of God against sin is a constant theme throughout Scripture, and Jesus felt anger at the stubborn hearts of the leaders (Mark 3:5). There is a need for righteous indignation on our part as well when we experience human depravity, but we must gain control of it and use it redemptively in situations that call for it. Handling anger well is so critical that Paul will revisit the issue in verse 31, below. There it is one of the six sins (with the others related to it) of which we must rid our lives if we are to follow the Lord. Here he introduces the topic by quoting from Psalm 4:4. The next verse of the psalm goes on to speak about the “sacrifices of the righteous,” describing how God’s servants are to act when they trust Yahweh. The meaning is clear: anger must not be allowed to linger and fester, for it can turn into resentment and then bitterness.
Harold Hoehner: It is necessary to acknowledge that anger is not intrinsically sinful. As mentioned above, God expresses anger. What causes God to become angry? When wrong has been done against a person or against God himself. However, when God is angry, he is always in control of his anger. Unlike God, however, people have a tendency to allow anger to control them. Hence, the second command “do not sin” is necessary. This agrees with the concept of πραΰτης, “gentleness,” discussed at 4:2 where a believer who is controlled by the Spirit is angry at the right time and never angry at the wrong time. For example, when someone in the body of believers has been wronged, it is correct for one to be angry but not to be consumed by that anger.
Clinton Arnold: some have contended that the imperative should be understood as having a conditional or concessive force and thus translated, “if you get angry, do not sin.” Lincoln, for instance, paraphrases the meaning of the text, “Anger is to be avoided at all costs, but if, for whatever reason, you do get angry, then refuse to indulge such anger so that you do not sin.” As we have already suggested, it is best, however, to interpret this imperative as a command. Although the conditional use of an imperative is possible, it is rare in the NT.
- Negative Exhortation
“and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger”
“and do not give the devil an opportunity”
Grant Osborne: The term topos (“foothold”) means “place,” and the picture is of letting the devil into our house and allowing him to inhabit a room. A similar term is used in Romans 7:8 for sin as an invading army that seizes the opportunity (aphormē) to gain a foothold in our lives. Aphormē is a military term for a bridgehead from which forays may be sent out to attack the enemy. This metaphor has much the same force. We do not want to permit Satan the opportunity to use our anger to gain control over us. Rather, we must gain control over our tempers.
II. (4:28-32) REJECT STEALING AND HARMING OTHERS
A. (:28) The Christian’s Work Ethic — Intended to Help others
- Negative Exhortation
“Let him who steals steal no longer”
- Positive Command
“but rather let him labor”
Harold Hoehner: In classical literature κοπιάω had the idea “to be tired, grow weary.” Later, the same sense “to tire” referred specifically to warfare but could also allude to great efforts or “to wear out in work.”. . . The point is that the labor exerted is exhausting. In this context the stealer used to obtain things with little effort, but with the acquisition of the new person all things are acquired with labor that requires much effort.
- Clarification (Nature of Christian work)
“performing with his own hands what is good”
“in order that he may have something to share with him who has need”
Harold Hoehner: The purpose (ἵνα) for work is not self-indulgence but to benefit those who are in need. The infinitive is from μεταδίδωμι and means “to give part of, to give a share,” as Greek cities shared in the use of a temple or shared in the benefits of the constitution. It can also mean “to communicate,” which is the sharing of information. This word is used seven times in the LXX (only twice in the canonical books) meaning “to impart” (Job 31:17; Prov 11:26; Wis 7:13; 2 Macc 1:35; Bar 6:27) or “to communicate” (Tob 7:10; 2 Macc 8:12). In the NT the word appears five times, four times in Paul, only here in Ephesians. It can be used of sharing spiritual things, as when Paul shared a spiritual gift to strengthen the Romans (Rom 1:11) or of sharing the gospel (1 Thess 2:8). Also, it can be used of sharing material goods. For example, a person with two coats is to share with one who has no coat (Luke 3:11; cf. also Rom 12:8). In the present context Paul is talking about sharing materially the good that has been gained with hard labor. He uses this term instead of δίδωμι, “to give,” in order to avoid the idea that all that is earned must be given to others, but rather some earned good must be shared with others. This is a mean between two extremes. One is neither to hoard nor recklessly give all away.
Andrew Lincoln: The motive for work is not individual profit but rather communal well-being. This is different from the explicit reasons given for working in the discussions in 1 and 2 Thessalonians, namely to retain the respect of outsiders and not to become dependent on others, and is perhaps more directly related to the ideal of Christian love.
B. (:29) The Christian’s Speech — Intended to Edify
- Negative Exhortation
“Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth”
cf. sitcoms today on TV — difficult to fine a 2 minute segment without an unwholesome word or sexual innuendo
Grant Osborne: Paul has in mind primarily slander and backbiting, using our tongue to abuse and put down others. Paul is picturing nasty people, and there are plenty of those in our time as well.
- Positive Command
“but only such a word as is good for edification”
cf. how the world thinks it is funny to try to outdo one another on putting other people down
“according to the need of the moment”
not some canned, rote presentation
“that it may give grace to those who hear”
Frank Thielman: In Ephesians, however, the expression “give grace to” has a specific theological meaning: it refers to a gift that enables the recipient to accomplish the task God has given them (3:2, 7, 8; 4:7). Since Paul has just spoken of building up another where the need exists, it seems probable that this purpose clause carries the thought even further and speaks of enabling needy people to function in the way God intended them to function in the body of Christ (cf. 4:16).
Clinton Arnold: The final clause specifies even further how believers can minister to one another according to their need. Paul says that they are to provide grace (ἵνα δῷ χάριν) to one another. The resurrected Christ has bestowed grace on every individual member of the body (4:7). Now the obligation is to pass it on. This takes place not only in utilizing one’s giftedness in service, but also in spoken words. This expression is best interpreted to mean that believers are called to “impart a blessing” to those in need. This can happen through timely, well-spoken words that are appropriate to a difficult situation. But it may also extend to praying with and for believers in the midst of their trouble, that is, calling on the one who has the power to intervene with divine resources. This kind of ministry is not reserved only for those with specialized giftings; it is a form of service that Paul expects all believers to practice regularly.
C. (:30) The Christian’s Sensitivity to the Holy Spirit
- Negative Exhortation
“And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God”
John Stott: Re what grieves the Holy Spirit — Since he is the ‘holy Spirit’, he is always grieved by unholiness, and since he is the ‘one Spirit’ (2:18; 4:4), disunity will also cause him grief. In fact, anything incompatible with the purity or unity of the church is incompatible with his own nature and therefore hurts him… For the Holy Spirit is a sensitive Spirit. He hates sin, discord and falsehood, and shrinks away from them. Therefore, if we wish to avoid hurting him, we shall shrink from them too. Every Spirit-filled believer desires to bring him pleasure, not pain.
Harold Hoehner: The coordinating conjunction καὶ is the first in this section, which would suggest that this is not a new and separate injunction but is to be added to the last exhortation. It could be linked ad sensum to the immediately preceding purpose clause so that it would be a second motivation for speaking that which is beneficial. However, it is better rendered as a coordinate to the negative imperative in the previous verse. Therefore, it would read, “let no unwholesome words come from your mouths . . . and do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God.” Both imperatives are in the present tense which portrays the action as an ongoing process. . . In the present context then, unwholesome words are forbidden for two reasons: first, they impede spiritual growth of fellow believers; second, they grieve the Holy Spirit.
Grant Osborne: The sins of Israel brought pain to Yahweh, and this precipitated his anger. This is even more strongly the case here, because God’s saving work has intensified in Christ, and we are even more responsible than God’s Old Testament people to live for him. The holiness of God will not tolerate sin. The divine justice is first of all terribly hurt and then filled with wrath, which leads to divine judgment. The four sins Paul has listed (and others) will not only cause the Spirit to grieve but will bring down divine retribution on the unrepentant.
“by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption”
Klyne Snodgrass: This verse marks the incongruity of grieving the one who is proof we belong to God and are destined for his future salvation. Why live contrary to him whose ownership seal we wear and in violation of our destiny? Here eschatology is brought to bear on ethics, and once again the double focus on present (now) and future (not yet) is expressed. This verse stands in marked contrast with what is said of the devil in verse 27. No room is to be permitted for the devil, but through the Spirit God is at work in us. The personal character of the Spirit is assumed.
Clinton Arnold: The “day of redemption” (ἡμέραν ἀπολυτρώσεως) is an equivalent expression to “the day of the Lord” and refers to Christ’s return to bring judgment on the ungodly and full and final salvation to his people (see Rom 13:11–12; 1 Cor 5:5; 1 Thess 5:1–11; 2 Thess 2:1–2). This is an additional indication that the new identity in Christ involves a seal of ownership and belonging that cannot be broken until Christ comes and claims his people as his own at the end of time.
D. (:31-32) The Christian’s Spirit of Kindness and Graciousness
- Negative Exhortation
“Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be
put away from you, along with all malice.”
Harold Hoehner: To summarize, first noun “bitterness” in verse 31 deals with attitude. The next two nouns “anger and wrath” deal with disposition, and the last two “shouting and abusive” refer to the manner of speech.
Grant Osborne: The order of these five vices increases in intensity, from bitterness to rage to fighting to slander, all of them fueled by malice. The descent into the maelstrom of hatred begins with “bitterness,” a term that denotes growing resentment as our hurt hardens into a settled animosity directed against the other person. This is followed by “rage and anger,” two terms (thymos kai orgē) that are usually synonymous in both the Old and New Testaments. Their presence together here emphasizes the deep rage that results when we give vent to our hurt and allow it to fester. This is why Paul counseled in verse 26, “Don’t let the sun set on your anger.”
Bitterness and rage (internal attitudes) give way to “fighting” or “brawling” (external behaviors); the latter term suggests yelling and screaming over someone or something that has triggered an eruption of our temper. In the midst of this conflict between ourselves and the people we have grown to dislike, our screaming issues in “slander” (literally, “blasphemy”). We broadcast our anger, often reverting to unfounded and malicious rumors, in order to turn others against the objects of our wrath. Undergirding all of these actions is “every form of malice.” Each of the five forms of wrath has resulted from a studied malice that cares nothing about the truth of the situation but just wants to get even. The desire to hurt the other has removed from our consideration all reason or logic. There is no desire for reconciliation but only for vengeance.
- Positive Command
“And be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other”
Harold Hoehner: It is interesting to notice that some English translations render this word “to forgive one another.” Although this is a legitimate translation, it is not the normal rendering of the word. There are three reasons to render it “being gracious to one another.”
- First, “to be gracious” is not only the normal meaning of the word, but it is the most suited to the context. Graciousness is the antithesis of bitterness, anger, wrath, shouting and abusive speech. In other words, bitterness is counteracted by a gracious attitude, anger and wrath are counteracted by a gracious disposition, the shouting and abusive speech are counteracted by gracious speaking.
- Second, the participle functions as a circumstantial participle of manner, describing how they are to be kind and compassionate to one another.
- Third, this concept is broader than forgiveness and, in fact, includes forgiveness.
Hence, in this context “to be gracious to one another” is a better and more natural rendering of the verb.
- Why? The Standard is Christ
“just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.”
III. (5:1-2) IMITATE GOD’S LOVE
Based on the example of God in Christ forgiving us …
Closely tied to ending verses of Chapter 4; yet this word is used in Ephesians to introduce new topics (cf. 4:1, 17, 25) … so it serves as a good transition here to the new topic of walking in purity and walking in the light (next message)
Klyne Snodgrass: The chapter division at 5:1 is unfortunate, for the commands to imitate God and to love as those who have been loved in 5:1–2 continue the idea of forgiving as God has forgiven in 4:31. Ephesians 5:1–2 is best seen as the conclusion of this unit in the letter.
Frank Thielman: The οὖν signals that Paul is now drawing his admonitions in 4:25–32 to a close by stating clearly the principle he has been developing. The previous section has ended with the statement that his readers’ re-creation in God’s image should motivate their behavior (4:24), and the new section began with a διό (dio, therefore) showing that Paul intended to explain what this meant with specific examples (4:25). Now at the close of this section, Paul summarizes his admonitions by returning to the thought that, in their behavior, his readers should be “imitators” (μιμηταί, mimētai) of God.
A. (:1) Following the Example of God Our Father
- Imitate the Love of God
“Be imitators of God“
- Reproduce Your Family Character
“as beloved children“
B. (:2) Following the Example of Christ Our Savior
1. Imitate the Love of Christ
“and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you“
Harold Hoehner: it is a love given quite irrespective of merit and it seeks the highest good in the one loved. That highest good for anyone is the will of God. This command to walk in love is reminiscent of Christ’s command to his disciples in his farewell discourse where he tells them to love one another as he has loved them (John 13:34; 15:12, 17). Paul shows next the kind of love we should have.
Klyne Snodgrass: Living in love sums up 4:25 – 5:1. Love is the sphere in which the believer lives. The standard by which Christian love is shaped and energized is the self-giving love of Christ on the cross. This verse is an important soteriological one, for it focuses on Christ’s giving himself rather than on God’s giving or sending his Son, and on the death of Christ as a “sacrifice” (see also 5:25). Christ gave himself for us or on our behalf. As Ernst Käsemann stressed, Christ’s death for us always covers two ideas: in our place and for our benefit.
Frank Thielman: In a way similar to the movement from 2:1–3 to 2:10, Paul has taken his audience from the futility, darkness, estrangement, ignorance, hard-heartedness, and despair of Gentile life apart from Christ (4:17–19) to a life of kindness, compassion, forgiveness, and love in Christ (4:32 – 5:2). . .
The love of God and the love of Christ provide the models for individuals within the church to follow in their relationships with one another. The specific ethical instructions of 4:25–32 are practical examples of how the church, as God’s re-created humanity, can fulfill the mandate implied in its creation in God’s image (4:24) and in its status as the body of Christ (4:13–16). The love of believers for one another should imitate the richly gracious and self-sacrificing nature of God’s love in Christ for them.
Andrew Lincoln: The language of walking in love had been used by Paul in his exhortation in Rom 14:15. Here, walking in love is the way in which one imitates God. The stress on the necessity of love is similar to that at the beginning of the paraenesis in 4:2, 15, 16 and reflects the emphasis it is given in Col 3:12–14, the text on which the writer draws. Certainly the sacrifice of one’s own interests out of concern for the welfare of others is the quality above all that fosters harmony in the community.
- Remember the Sacrifice Made by Christ
a. Sacrificed Himself for Our Benefit
“and gave Himself up for us“
b. Offered Up Himself as a Sacrifice to the Father
“an offering and a sacrifice to God“
c. Ultimate Example of Pleasing God
“as a fragrant aroma“
Harold Hoehner: In the past, even when properly prepared, God did not receive every sacrifice as a fragrant aroma because the offerer had a wrong attitude and a heart far from him. In contrast, Christ willingly gave himself to be offered and he did it to be a pleasant aroma to God. Likewise, we as believers should walk in sacrificial love so that we may be a pleasant aroma not only to God but also to fellow believers (2 Cor 2:14–16).
Grant Osborne: There are two primary themes that run through Ephesians: the exalted Christ, who is Lord of all, and the unity of the church as a new creation in Christ. This section relates to the second. In it Paul tells us how to keep the harmony and unity of God’s people in the living relationships within the body of Christ. Vices fracture relationships and disrupt the church, while virtues maintain peace and bring people together as the family of God. In every area we seek Christlikeness, emulating the grace and love of God and Christ in our interactions with one another.