In this last section of Ephesians 4 Paul gets down to serious talk about sins that he has seen or heard of among the believers. He mentions lying or speaking untruthfully with each other. Anger that is not righteous but rooted in resentment, hostility or jealousy. Also some had been thieves prior to becoming believers, and Paul tells them they must work and be useful so they will have things to share with those in need. He mentions gossip or unwholesome talk, saying things that bring others down instead of building them up. He straight out tells them to get rid of bitterness, rage, anger fighting, backbiting, slander, and any and all kinds of malice. All of these things are undesirable and incompatible with a life given to Christ.
Several verses jumped out at me in this section, Ephesians 4:26, 30 and 32. 26 “Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger,” This verse is frequently said, “don’t go to bed angry”. Anger that is rooted in sin is filled with resentment, jealousy, bitterness and even hatred. Paul is saying, anger is a valid emotion but do not let it be for the wrong reasons. Jesus was angry with the money changers buying and selling in the temple and threw them out (Matthew 21:12). He was angry with the Pharisees for wanting to trap him and keep a man from being healed on the Sabbath (Mark 3:5). Both of these were cases of righteous anger. They were not rooted in self but in wrongs done towards God. When we harbor or coddle our anger, it will fester and grow. Paul is telling us to not let that happen as the results will be harmful to us and to those around us.
30 “And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.” What does it mean to grieve the Holy Spirit? As a believer, Jesus’ Holy Spirit lives within us. When we deliberately sin- steal, lie, cheat, act with wrong motives in anger, harbor bitterness, etc, it grieves the Holy Spirit that is within us. God hates sin and doing sinful acts gives His Spirit grief, or makes His Spirit sad over our sin. Paul reminds us that when we received Christ, we were sealed by God’s Holy Spirit forever. That is a wonderful privilege and honor, and we should love Jesus enough to desire to not deliberately sin against Him.
32 “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” I love this verse as Paul lays it out directly for us as to what kinds of actions should characterize a believer. These will bring delight to our Savior. They should be our response to His marvelous forgiveness and grace.
Because Christ died on the cross and rose from the dead, we are made for righteous actions and thoughts towards ourselves and others which bring joy to God.
Focus today on right living, good thoughts and actions towards others, putting away all bitterness, jealousy, anger ….. Don’t let yourself fall into anger over your current circumstances, but look for the good and seek to see how you can ‘be Jesus’ to each one you speak with today.
Full text in the New Living Translation:
25″ So stop telling lies. Let us tell our neighbors the truth, for we are all parts of the same body. 26 And “don’t sin by letting anger control you.” Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry, 27 for anger gives a foothold to the devil.
28 If you are a thief, quit stealing. Instead, use your hands for good hard work, and then give generously to others in need. 29 Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them.
30 And do not bring sorrow to God’s Holy Spirit by the way you live. Remember, he has identified you as his own, guaranteeing that you will be saved on the day of redemption.
31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. 32 Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.”