Bible Study from Calvary Chapel Newberg
with Tom Fuller
Living Out the New Life
Prepare to be challenged. This section of Ephesians ought to come with a warning label: read at your own peril. Why? Because from here on out we leave the theoretical idea of what a redeemed person should be like and get down into the nitty-gritty of how a born-again Christian should act in the day-to-day activities of life.
Last time we looked at verses 17 ? 24. Paul compared an old way of thinking in this age with a new way in the Messiah. The old way tries to satisfy human needs with ways God did not intend and leads further and further away from the way God thinks, speaks, and acts. But in Jesus, Paul says, we put off that way of thinking, become renewed in our minds, and put on a new way of thinking?thinking like Jesus.
But what does that look like in real life? In Chapter 4 verses 25-28, Paul gives us five examples: all revolving around relationships. Each has a command to stop doing something like the old way, the path towards the new way of acting, and the spiritual principal that Paul bases his comments on. Today we?ll cover the first three.
Paul is basically offering up the logical follow-through: since we?ve placed ourselves in the hands of the Messiah and belong to Him and want to think, act, and speak like Him?here are some ways you can practically apply that in your life.
Note something, though?our old ways of thinking are going to trick us into believing we don?t do the things outline here, at least not very much.
Jeremiah 17:9 says: ?The heart is more deceitful than anything else, and incurable?who can understand it?? Even scientists recognize that the brain is focused more than anything on self-justification. That?s how people like Hitler could do the things he did. His brain justified it. Our thinking patterns lie to us all the time. So I say that because I want us to open our minds and hearts to God revealing thinking patterns in us that mirror this age, and not God?s character.
The purpose isn?t to make us feel bad but to free us from the bonds of thinking like this world and allow us to really have God?s way of thinking deep in our minds.
25 Be a Truth Teller
Paul uses the idea of deceit several times in Chapter 4. He talks about deceitful ways of understanding life and God in verse 14. And he talks about deceitful desires in verse 22. Deceit is the default way of thinking in this age. It comes from the pattern of the devil who deceived Eve and is the father of deceipt.
We, as believers in Jesus, have ?put off? that old self, Paul says in that same verse. Don?t lie to yourself anymore, and don?t lie to others. Paul quotes from Zechariah 8:16. The passage talks about how Israel?s disobedience made them a curse to the nations but that God was going to redeem them and bless the faithful remnant.
It?s very much a parallel passage to this one: Zechariah goes on to exhort the people on behalf of God to no longer be against their neighbor in an ?every man for himself? sort of environment. And that fits well with Paul?s spiritual basis for the command: ?because we are members of one another.? Lying to your brother or sister is like cutting off your own arm.
Okay, you say, always tell the truth. Got it. If I think someone is stepping on my toes then I?m going to not hold my tongue and I?m going to call them out on it. The problem with that sort of line of logic is that it uses a good thing (truth telling) to do a bad thing (lash out at your sister) for a bad motivation (my pride is hurt).
In a moment, Paul goes further in gauging the effects of your truth telling. I think the core point here is that we are no longer independent beings, out for survival and triumph. We are dependent on one another so there is no point in lying to get ahead or impress someone or get away with things. There?s a better way that I?ll talk about in a bit.
So lying jeopardizes the harmony of relationships in the body, as does anger:
26 ? 27
This time Paul quotes from Psalm 4:4. The Psalmist has been unjustly accused of something. He knows he?s innocent and he?s pretty upset about it. But rather than take it out on others, he goes to God, realizes that God is his vindication and joy. Instead of anger, the psalmist should reflect and offer worship to God.
Paul is not telling us to never get angry, but he is telling us not to sin in anger. And I will tell you, nearly every time you?ve gotten angry, it is not a righteous anger.
In fact, James says in James 1:19 ?My dearly loved brothers, understand this: Everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger, 20 for man?s anger does not accomplish God?s righteousness.?
When you look at Jesus, the times He got angry were when people put up barriers to a relationship with God. Remember John 2:13-17? Jesus found the Court of the Gentiles filled with pocket-lining commerce that made it impossible for anyone to get to Yahweh. He threw the money-changers out in anger.
For us, most of the time we get angry because our pride has been hurt, a past hurt has been pricked, malice, or because we have a simply have a bad temper or we?re grumpy. None of those reasons is right reason for anger.
Anger does more than anything else to break apart Christians and churches. If you are angry, I would encourage you to doubt the reasons for it and explore your heart deeply before you give vent to that anger.
Paul goes on to say two things about angry disputes. The first is not to let the sun go down on your anger. This was a common saying in that day. Sunset was a time to settle accounts, and the idea here is not to let the anger continue. Don?t start brooding on it, nursing it, stoking it. Deal with it, first with God, and then with the person you are angry with after examining your own heart and motives.
The second admonition is that if you let anger grow, you are providing a perfect opportunity for the devil to do what he wants, and that is to drive wedges between people, between people and churches, and between churches themselves. This is the opposite of a harmonious body of Christ.
We should be reminded here that we are engaged in a pitched battle with the Devil. The stakes are the destiny of human souls. Don?t let Satan make you a tool in his strategy.
The most likely thing in focus here is that in the first century there was no welfare system in place. When craftsmen or day laborers were out of work there was no way for them to feed themselves or their families except by stealing. Paul says this should no longer be the case. Now the body of Christ should help out those in need.
Instead of stealing, Christians should work hard. ?Honest work? here suggests work to the point of weariness. Sometimes it?s easier to take the shortcut. Stealing might be easy but it isn?t right. Doing the right thing may be harder but it?s always worth it. Paul has a similar exhortation in 1 Thessalonians 4:11-12 and 2 Thessalonians 3:6-12.
Okay, so let?s talk about these three issues: lying vs. truth telling, anger vs. reconciliation, and thievery vs. honest work.
Lying vs. Truth Telling
May I suggest that there is a spirit of independence that pervades our old character? We will subtly withhold things from others if it helps us succeed or puts us over someone else in the pecking order. And remember, you do this by default and unconsciously.
That?s what the passage in Zechariah that Paul quotes seems to suggest. There is a ?plotting evil in your hearts against your neighbor? mentality. Paul is saying that we are members of one another, which goes along with another portion of the Zechariah passage that says: ?make sound decisions within your gates.? We are all in this together. We absolutely must look out for each other, even if that means we take a lower place or don?t get recognized or appreciated. The core of agape love is the ability to look beyond your own needs to the needs of others.
This is going to be hard to do, but I would encourage us all to stop before we speak or act and ask ourselves: is this going to build up my brother or sister or is this going to build me up? Paul actually uses that idea in the next few verses, which we?ll get to next time.
Anger vs. Reconciliation
Being very honest with yourself, do you keep grudges? Do you find it easy to fly off the handle and difficult to keep your cool? Do you find yourself getting hurt easily, blaming others easily?but very difficult to let go of that hurt?
It?s okay to have feelings, even of anger. But may I make a suggestion? As we saw in Psalm 4, when you feel anger, first take it to the Lord in a time of quiet reflection. Spend more time reflecting and less time reacting. Spend more time expressing worship to the Lord and less time expressing anger to your neighbor. Spend more time trusting that God will lift you up and less time putting others down.
I?m not trying to be too simplistic here as I know the reasons for anger can be very complicated. But perhaps this practical suggestion might help you be more slow to speak and slow to anger if you wait to react until you?ve had time to talk it over with God first. He may just reveal to you that the anger ha more to do with you, than the other person. Keep short accounts with God and short accounts with each other. Don?t let a ?root of bitterness? grow up in you, but in love go to your brother or sister and at least try to understand each other instead of fight with each other. You don?t have to agree, but remember, you are going to spend eternity with that person?do you really want to hide from them forever on the streets of the New Jerusalem?
Thievery vs. Honest Work
Although there isn?t really a present-day analogue to the type of situation Paul describes here, I like how a theme is developing. It?s all about doing good for others?whether that?s watching their back, building them up, or working hard so you can be ready to share when they are in need. We?ll see this theme develop in the coming verses and chapters. It?s the way things work in God?s universe and the way they should work in our lives as well.
As we?ve gone through this I want you to keep in mind what this is all about?love?other centered affection that is agape love. That?s what Ephesians is about. That?s the overriding theme of these last chapters. Don?t get caught up in the do?s and don?ts. God is trying to work His character, which is love, into our lives. All these things we see here are about teaching us that kind of love for our brothers and sisters. As we focus on how we can benefit one another, the body of Christ builds and the gospel becomes more effective.
So to sum up these verses: ?build one another up wherever possible. Don?t let anger break down relationships but work hard to find ways to serve each other.?
Stay tuned for study notes.