In our study this morning we find ourselves at the end of Paul's list of exhortations that began back in verse 17:
So this I say, and affirm together with the Lord, that you walk no longer just as the Gentiles also walk, in the futility of their mind, Ephesians 4:17 NASB
Paul told us that we have "put off the Old Man, and have put on the New Man, who is created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness."
Ephesians 4:17-32 is all about changing. It is about those changes which God has made possible, and which we, by His grace, are to implement in our lives. Paul is introducing a new pattern of thinking and living to his readers. They may no longer live like the non-Christians, because they have been chosen, changed, and converted in Christ. They are now to walk in a manner worthy of their calling. This is just as important for us today as it was for them. To NOT live in a holy manner is to grieve our God:
Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Ephesians 4:30 NASB
I titled our study last week "Grieving Yahweh." Why did I call it that when this verse is clearly referring to the Holy Spirit? It is because the Spirit is Yahweh. In verse 30 Paul is quoting:
But they rebelled And grieved His Holy Spirit; Therefore He turned Himself to become their enemy, He fought against them. Isaiah 63:10 NASB
In context this verse is referring to the time of the Exodus. The presence of Yahweh is interpreted in this passage in terms of the Holy Spirit. But the Exodus narrative makes it plain that Yahweh Himself led His people through the desert and gave them rest:
And He said, "My presence shall go with you, and I will give you rest." Exodus 33:14 NASB
Yet Isaiah unequivocally asserts that it was "the Spirit of Yahweh who gave them rest":
As the cattle which go down into the valley, The Spirit of the LORD gave them rest. So You led Your people, To make for Yourself a glorious name. Isaiah 63:14 NASB
So who was it that gave them rest, Yahweh or the Holy Spirit? Yes! The Holy Spirit is Yahweh! Yahweh is the one true God and He exists in three persons. The Trinity is not just Christian theology, the Tanakh taught this also. Let's look at Isaiah 63, the passage that Paul quotes from in Ephesians 4:30.
I shall make mention of the lovingkindnesses of the LORD, the praises of the LORD, According to all that the LORD has granted us... 9 And the angel of His presence saved them; In His love and in His mercy He redeemed them...10 But they rebelled And grieved His Holy Spirit... 11 He who brought them up out of the sea with the shepherds of His flock? Where is He who put His Holy Spirit in the midst of them...14 The Spirit of the LORD gave them rest. So You led Your people, To make for Yourself a glorious name. Isaiah 63:9-14 NASB
Here we see Yahweh, the Angel of Yahweh, who is the Son, and the Holy Spirit. So here we have all three members of the Godhead. Psalm 78 is a recounting of the same event as in Isaiah 63, notice what it says:
How often they rebelled against Him in the wilderness And grieved Him in the desert! Again and again they tempted God, And pained the Holy One of Israel. Psalms 78:40-41 NASB
The verbs "rebelled and grieved" used in Isaiah 63:10 of the Holy Spirit are used here of Yahweh-the Holy One of Israel. Yahweh and the Holy Spirit are One in essence.
And in the New Testament we learn that the Spirit and Yeshua are one in essence also:
They passed through the Phrygian and Galatian region, having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia; and after they came to Mysia, they were trying to go into Bithynia, and the Spirit of Yeshua did not permit them; Acts 16:6-7 NASB
The Spirit is Yahweh, the Son is Yahweh, and the Father is Yahweh. Ezekiel gives us the same picture:
It came about in the sixth year, on the fifth day of the sixth month, as I was sitting in my house with the elders of Judah sitting before me, that the hand of the Lord GOD fell on me there. 2 Then I looked, and behold, a likeness as the appearance of a man; from His loins and downward there was the appearance of fire, and from His loins and upward the appearance of brightness, like the appearance of glowing metal. He stretched out the form of a hand and caught me by a lock of my head; and the Spirit lifted me up between earth and heaven and brought me in the visions of God to Jerusalem... Ezekiel 8:1-3 NASB
So we have Yahweh in verse 1, then in verse 2 we see a divine man, then in verse 3 we have the Spirit. These three figures are co-identified as Yahweh. The Jews were monotheistic, they served one God who was Yahweh, but they realized that Yahweh was the God head made up of more than one Divine being.
Some times Preterists ask if the Holy Spirit is still with us today. Yes, of course, the whole God head is with us. We dwell in the presence of the triune Yahweh. So when we grieve the Holy Spirit we also grieve Yeshua and the Father. And we grieve them when we live like the unsaved, we grieve them when we don't tell the truth, when we let our anger control us, when we steal and are selfish, when we tear others down with our speech instead of building them up. And now in verse 31 and 32 he adds more attitude and actions to put off and put on. Paul uses six terms to describe the old, sinful behavior that we must put off. Then, he uses three terms to describe the new, godly behavior that we are to put on. Finally, he gives us the motive or reason why we should adopt this new behavior.
Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Ephesians 4:31 NASB
Paul begins our passage with a command—he lists six things, from emotions to the reactions that come from them that we are to "put away."
"Put away"—is from the verb airo, which means: "to lift with a view to carry," but also means: "to take away, remove." "Put away" has the sense of a word picture, some commentators believe, of a landlord putting out an undesirable tenant.
The word "all" is used twice in this verse, at the beginning, "all bitterness," and at the end, "all malice." He repeats the word "all" twice for emphasis. All of these evil dispositions are to be "put off"—every one of them, with no exceptions.
Literally it says, "Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be taken away from you." The verb is passive. This is a hint that we cannot do this ourselves.
Paul moves from a resentful inner attitude (bitterness) through its outward expression in outbursts of rage and seething anger, to yelling abusively (clamor). Then he mentions spreading our anger by slander. He concludes with a catch-all term that covers all forms of anger, namely, malice.
"Bitterness"—is from the Greek word pikria, and can refer to a bitter taste of plants, and with reference to temper may mean: "bitterness or resentment." Phillips renders this word "resentment" and the New English Bible translates it: "spite." Barclay defines this as: "long-standing resentment," "a spirit which refuses to be reconciled." In effect, bitterness is the bearing of a grudge against another because of some wrong we believe they have committed against us or another.
We need to realize that Paul's commands here imply that you have been mistreated. You wouldn't be bitter if everyone treated you right. You wouldn't be harboring malice if others had been nice towards you. You wouldn't need to forgive if others had not wronged you. So, Paul is showing us how to respond in a godly way in an ungodly world where people wrong us.
To be bitter is to be resentful, envious, or jealous. Bitterness develops over time as we nurse our anger and tell ourselves that we have good cause to be angry. Bitter people keep score. But loving people don't:
does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, 1 Corinthians 13:5 NASB
The words, "does not take into account..." are the Greek verb logizomai, which implies keeping a record. It is a bookkeeping term that means: "to calculate or reckon, as when figuring an entry in a ledger." You keep a record when you don't want to forget something. Love doesn't keep records of the wrongs done to it. Do you know people who are keeping a record of everything that someone has done to hurt them? Why do they keep a record of wrongs done them? So they won't forget the wrongs, so they will be sure that person gets the justice that is due them. There are times when it pays to have a bad memory.
"Wrath and anger"—wrath is from the Greek thumos. The NIV translates it: "rage." It is derived from a word meaning: "to boil." It refers to outbursts of anger, when someone boils over. It is used to describe the people in the synagogue in Nazareth, whose rage at Yeshua drove them to try to throw Him over the edge of a cliff:
And all the people in the synagogue were filled with rage as they heard these things; Luke 4:28 NASB
It is used of the rage of the mob in Ephesus that led to the riot against the Christians (Acts 19:28).
Anger—is from the Greek word orge. Thisis the same word that Paul used to refer to anger (4:26) where it is said, "Be angry." It is used of Yeshua's righteous anger (Mark 3:5). It is used of God's wrath (John 3:36; Rom. 1:18; 12:19), which is His settled hatred of and opposition to all sin. With reference to sinful human anger, wrath and anger are largely synonymous. If there is a nuance of difference, wrath is the sudden outburst of temper, whereas anger refers to a more settled attitude, often with the purpose of revenge.
We are all aware of the problem of wrath and anger in our society. We frequently read about road rage, sometimes to the extreme where one angry motorist shoots and kills another motorist over some minor frustration.
We would be naive to think that Christians are exempt from anger. Angry people often split churches, usually under the pretense of maintaining doctrinal purity. Christian homes are often torn apart by anger.
You may be thinking, "How can Paul say, 'Be angry' and then five verses later say put away anger?" It is assumed that in verse 26 Paul commands us to be righteously angry. Some things should make us angry. This mention of anger as something that is bad without qualification, so soon after verse 26, suggests that to be angry without sinning is as rare as it is difficult. But the distinguishing mark of sinful anger is selfishness: "I didn't get my way and I want my way! I didn't get my rights and I demand my rights!"
At the instant you begin to feel angry, you must deal with how you think. You must stop long enough to think, "God is sovereign and He has allowed this difficult situation for my training in righteousness. Any anger that I express towards the other person is really anger towards God, who has providentially caused this.
Anger causes disunity and discord, thus disrupting the church, its unity, and its ministry:
An angry man stirs up strife, And a hot-tempered man abounds in transgression. Proverbs 29:22 NASB
"Clamor"—is from the Greek word krauge. It refers to loud, angry words, where people are screaming at each other. It includes cursing and calling someone abusive names. It comes from a word that means: "to scream." I'm sure none of you know any thing about this experientially!
"Slander"—is from the Greek blasphemia, from which we get our word blasphemy. This Greek word is also used for blasphemy against God, but here it refers to speaking evil about someone to someone else who has no need to hear it. This is speaking against another person to cause injury to their reputation. When bitterness has moved outward into wrath and anger, and they have moved outward into clamor, clamor often moves into words that attempt to injure or destroy the other person.
"Malice"—is from the Greek word kakia, which is a general term for wickedness or ill-will towards another person. It is the desire to harm the person, either emotionally or physically. When coupled with slander, the intent is to harm the person's reputation or his relationships with others by smearing him.
Paul commands us to remove all six of these sinful attitudes and actions. They characterize unbelievers, but they have no place with those who have been conformed to the image of Yeshua the Christ.
Paul's pattern here is not only to have us stop doing the evil behavior, but also to begin practicing godly behavior. We are to replace lying with telling the truth (4:25). We are to stop stealing and instead work hard and give to those in need (4:28). We are to stop using unwholesome words and instead use words that build up and give grace (4:29). So here, sinful anger is to be replaced with kindness, tenderheartedness, and forgiveness.
Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you. Ephesians 4:32 NASB
The Greek word translated "be" means: "to become." It is a present imperative verb, indicating an ongoing process. The process begins when you choose to accept responsibility for your sin, rather than to blame others. At that point you begin trusting the Spirit to strengthen you to be a kind person.
"Be kind to one another"—the Greek word for "kind" is chrestos, it means: "to show oneself useful, to act benevolently." The verb itself speaks of activity, active good will, being useful for somebody else's good, always trying to do what is helpful to the other person, even if it involves sacrifice.
This word, "kind," was the rallying attribute for Christians in the early church. One reason was that the word, chrestos, looked and sounded like the word Christ— Christos. And kindness was the overwhelmingly evident attribute of our Lord, Himself. He said of Himself, "My yoke is easy," easy is the same word used here for "kind" by Paul.
Kindness is not just a feeling. Kind people are easy to take, not harsh. In the New Testament, the verb appears only in 1 Corinthians 13:4, but the noun and the adjective for kindness occur repeatedly in Paul's Epistles:
Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, 1 Corinthians 13:4 NASB
Here Paul tells us that the loving Christian is patient and kind. In our cruel and unkind society we have unlimited opportunities to show the world love through our kindness.
Clement of Rome wrote an Epistle to the Corinthian Church in which he quotes a saying of Yeshua that has the same Greek verb: "As you are kind, so will you be shown kindness."
How often is it that when we act unkindly toward others, the unkindness comes right back to attack us? The writer of Proverbs puts it this way:
A gentle answer turns away wrath, But a harsh word stirs up anger. Proverbs 15:1 NASB
A soft answer would be responding to a person with kindness. Harsh words would not be kind and would stir the other person to act unkindly also. Actress Vivica A. Fox once worked at a fast food place and gives this advice. "If you're not nice, you never know what they're gonna do to your food."
The New Testament has much to say about the kindness of Yahweh, and as His children, we are to imitate Him:
"But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men. Luke 6:35 NASB
Here the Greek word chrestos, is translated: "kind," and in Romans 2:4, the same word is translated: "good." Kindness and goodness are so closely related that they are often used interchangeably. We could translate "kind" as "good." The kind person does good, they are useful to all. In 1 Peter this word is translated: "kindness":
if you have tasted the kindness of the Lord. 1 Peter 2:3 NASB
Yahweh is kind; He does good, useful, helpful, gracious things for people. We are called to be like Yahweh, we are also to be kind to all:
So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; Colossians 3:12 NASB
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, Galatians 5:22 NASB
These all use the same Greek word, chrestos, we are to be kind to one another, we are to be good to each other, we are to be gracious to each other.
The first test of Christian kindness is the home. Let me ask you married people, "Are you kind to each other? Children, are you kind to your parents? Parents, are you kind to your children?" Kindness is vital to our Christian witness, and the place to learn and practice kindness is in the home.
I think Clement of Rome was correct when he wrote, "As you are kind, so will you be shown kindness." Just as unkindness sets off a chain reaction of unkindness, so an act of kindness sets off a chain reaction of kind events.
A man was driving down the road in his old pickup when he noticed a stretch limo on the side of the road with the hood up. He stopped to ask the driver if he could use some help. The driver said, "Yes. I have no idea what the problem is." The man looked around under the hood for a few minutes, discovered the problem, and was able to fix it. The limo started up immediately and began running smoothly. The driver thanked the man and offered to pay him. "Not necessary," the man said. "Just glad to help." He began walking back to his car when the rear window of the limo opened and a voice called out to the man. The man looked in the window and saw Donald Trump sitting in the back seat. Trump said, "Thank you very much for your help. What can I do to repay you?" At first the man said, "You don't need to do anything." Then he had a thought. "Mr. Trump," he said, "My wife would be thrilled to get a box of flowers from you. Would you do that for me?" Donald Trump said, "Consider it done. What is your address?" The man told Donald Trump his address. He later said he only half-expected to hear from him the next day. Sure enough, the next day a delivery truck pulled up with a box of flowers addressed to the man's wife. The note inside said something to the effect of... "Dear Mrs. Smith: You are lucky to have for a husband such a caring and kind person. When I offered him payment for his act of kindness, he thought only of you. These flowers are for you." Signed, Donald Trump. Then the P.S. said, "By the way, I have paid off your mortgage at the bank. You now own your house free and clear."
Kindness is contagious! But so is unkindness. Let's be sure that as God's children, we are spreading kindness to those we come in contact with.
Herbert V. Prochnow said, "You may be sorry that you spoke, sorry you stayed or went, sorry you won or lost, sorry you thought the worst, sorry so much was spent. But as you go through life, you'll find—you're never sorry you were kind."
Think about how kind Yahweh has been to you. In gratitude for all that He has done for us, we are to be kind to everyone. Think about how we will be able to influence others for the glory of God when we treat them with kindness. We can live this way, but will we? We must choose to be kind to others while trusting the Lord to provide the strength to do it.
Where is it today where most non-believers come in contact with Christians? I would guess that it would be on the internet. So when you are on the internet, facebook, Google+, or some chat log, are you kind? I see so much unkindness on the internet among Christians. I know it grieves Yahweh.
"Tender-hearted"—is from the Greek eusplagchnos, which comes from the Greek word for "bowels," which they saw as the seat of our emotions. To be tender-hearted means to have deep, "gut" feelings for one another. It means: "to have genuine concern for another person's well-being. It's means being sympathetic to the needs of others." It is the opposite of being calloused. If you are tender-hearted you will get hurt and therefore you need to be:
"Forgiving each other"—forgiving is from the Greek word charizomai, most English translations render this word: "to forgive one another." Although this is a legitimate translation, it is not the normal rendering of charizomai, which would be: "being gracious to one another." The concept is broader than forgiveness, but includes forgiveness. If grace by definition is something we don't deserve, forgiveness is acting towards others in a way they don't deserve.
Instead of holding a grudge that develops into bitterness, we are to forgive those who have wronged us. The word used here points to undeserved favor. It implies that the other person has truly wronged us. Why does Yahweh command us to forgive each other? Because it is a fact of life that we will be hurt by each other.
None of us are perfect. We all still sin, and therefore, we will hurt each other. How many of you have ever been hurt by another Christian? Everyone has. How many of you have ever hurt another Christian? You can count on it, just like death and taxes. When we are hurt, how are we to deal with it, what do we do? Peter knows that when you forgive someone, chances are that they will turn around and hurt you again. So he asks the Lord this question:
Then Peter came and said to Him, "Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?" Matthew 18:21 NASB
Peter understood the tendency of man to fail, he knew it very well. So he asks, "How many times do I have to forgive, seven times?" Seven times might not seem like much to you, but Peter was going way beyond the Jewish requirement. Rabbi Jose Ben Hanina said, "He who begs forgiveness from his neighbor must not do so more than three times" Rabbi Jose Ben Jehuda said, "If a man commits an offence once, they forgive him; if he commits an offence a second time, they forgive him; if he commits an offence a third time, they forgive him; the fourth time they do not forgive." The Jewish Talmud said a person was to forgive three times and that's it. The Talmud contained rules and instructions by which, in addition to the Tanakh, the conduct of the Jewish nation was regulated. The Jews set so high a value on the Talmud, as to place it generally above the inspired Scripture. Kind of like some folks do today with church creeds, constitutions, and doctrinal statements.
Peter must have felt he was really being big hearted to go beyond the tradition of the Jews. Notice Yeshua's answer to Peter:
Yeshua said to him, "I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven. Matthew 18:22 NASB
It would be hard to keep track of that many. That's the point, you're not supposed to keep track. He is not saying that you stop forgiving at 491. His answer is not to be taken literally! Yeshua confronts Peter with the truth, that the spirit of forgiveness really knows no boundaries. He is saying, "Don't keep track." Forgiveness is the mark of a loving person.
The deeper you have been hurt, the more difficult it is truly to forgive. Some believers have been abused emotionally, physically, or sexually as children by their parents or by trusted family members. Some believers have children who were abused by their mate or by a family member. Some have been betrayed by an unfaithful spouse whom they loved and cared for deeply. These kinds of wrongs are not easy to forgive.
But if you're a Christian, seeking and granting forgiveness are not optional. Notice what Yeshua said would happen if you do not forgive others:
"But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions. Matthew 6:15 NASB
Does this verse sound like it is saying that we must forgive in order to be forgiven? It sounds like Yeshua is talking about experiencing the forgiveness of Yahweh by forgiving others. Many see it this way. Let me ask you something, "Can believers be threatened with eternal punishment?" No! The saved can never be lost, so how could eternal punishment be a threat to them? It can't be.
So what is Yeshua saying in Matthew 6:15? I believe that there are two types of forgiveness spoken of in the Bible—relational and judicial. I think that what is being referred to in this passage is relational forgiveness. Although our sins are forgiven, we don't stop sinning. When we sin and will not repent of that sin, it affects our relationship with Yahweh. We don't stop being His child, but we lose an intimacy, our communion is broken. The Gospel brings judicial forgiveness. But obedience, along with repentance of sin, will bring the joy that comes from relational forgiveness. There is a relationship between whether we forgive and our forgiveness. To not forgive hinders our relationship with Yahweh.
When someone wrongs you, it helps to control your anger and make you ready to forgive if you s remember that Yahweh has allowed this to happen for His purpose and your ultimate good (Rom. 8:28). When Joseph's brothers sold him into slavery, he could have become a very bitter young man. Instead, he chose to forgive his brothers. After their father died, they feared that now he would use his position of power to get revenge. But Joseph acknowledged God's sovereignty and goodness when he said to them:
But Joseph said to them, "Do not be afraid, for am I in God's place? "As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive. Genesis 50:19-20 NASB
Joseph's theology of Yahweh's absolute sovereignty kept him from having an unforgiving spirit.
How are we to forgive? What is the standard? "Just as God in Christ also has forgiven you"—God forgave you by His grace, not because of any merit. If you think that you somehow earned or deserved God's forgiveness because of your good works, you do not understand the Gospel.
Yahweh forgave you far more than you can ever forgive anyone else. Yeshua graphically made this point in response to Peter's question about forgiveness (Matthew 18:21-35). He told the parable of the slave who owed a king 10,000 talents. A talent was worth more than 15 years' wages for a laborer, so 10,000 talents represented 150,000 years' wages, an unpayable debt. When the man begged for mercy, the king freely forgave the entire amount. But then the slave went out and grabbed a fellow slave who owed him 100 denarii, about 100 days' wages. When he couldn't pay, the forgiven slave had him thrown into prison. The king was moved with righteous anger towards the unforgiving slave:
"Then summoning him, his lord said to him, 'You wicked slave, I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. 'Should you not also have had mercy on your fellow slave, in the same way that I had mercy on you?' "And his lord, moved with anger, handed him over to the torturers until he should repay all that was owed him. Matthew 18:32-34 NASB
What does he mean by "delivered him to the torturers?" I believe that he is referring to the physical and mental pain that God brings upon his disobedient sinning children.
There are many Scripture references that speak of the temporal pain a believer experiences when in sin:
For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs. 1 Timothy 6:10 NASB
The word "pierced" means: 'to pierce through from one end to another, as a piece of meat on a spit."
I believe that the torturers could refer to physical problems, it could also refer to mental problems, emotional pain. The bottom line is, when we sin and will not repent, we are chastened:
"My heavenly Father will also do the same to you, if each of you does not forgive his brother from your heart." Matthew 18:35 NASB
Here Yeshua applies the principles of the parable to all believers. My father will do this same thing to you if you don't forgive each other. The point of the story is, no one could have wronged you as much as you have wronged God. Since He freely forgave you, so you must forgive others. It teaches us that we should be willing to forgive any and all offences, because we have been forgiven so much. It also teaches that if we don't forgive, we will not be forgiven. We won't lose our salvation, judicially we are forgiven forever. But relationally, we will be separated from fellowship, and put under chastening until we are willing to forgive.
Biblical forgiveness is a decision to release the offender from the guilt of his sin, to refuse to bring up the offense to use against him, to refuse to think about the offense, to refuse to talk to others about the offense, and to be reconciled to the offender if possible.
How do we live like this? Walk by means of the Spirit. Depend upon Him, trust Him. Memorize verses such as our text, so that they immediately pop into your mind when you are tempted to be angry or unforgiving.
Think about this, believers, if we could be a community in the midst of this world; a community of people who never lie but always speak the truth; a community of people who never get angry so that it's a sinful anger, but always act in love; if we could be a people who never steal but only share; if we could be a people who never speak are never harmful but always minister grace to people who are listening; if we could be those who have no bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, evil speaking, but are characterized by an incessant kindness, tenderheartedness and forgiveness; do you think the world might take a note of our message? I think they would.
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