Ephesians 4:25-32: Six Practices of Holiness
June 9, 2023
TODAY'S BIBLE READING:
We saw that the model of holiness that Paul here is teaching involves “putting off” the old way of living, and “putting on” the characteristics of Christlikeness. This is not possible to do unless we have the power of Christ within us. That is, we must be born again. We need his power to be able to even stop sinning and to gradually become more holy. We also saw that we often have a wrong idea of what holiness even means: holiness does not mean negativity, nastiness, or narrow-mindedness. Holiness means being set apart to become more like Christ, a joyful and beautiful prospect for us all.
Now, though, Paul describes in some detail some of the characteristics that we need to put off, and some that we need to put on in six practices of holiness.
First, stop lying and start speaking the truth. Augustine long ago wrote a lengthy treatise on lying. We need something written like that again today. We are becoming far too accommodating towards “white lies” or “spin” or it being only a matter of “perspective” or telling “our truth” (rather than seeking to tell “the truth”).
Second, deal with our anger. Anger is not always wrong. Martin Luther said he never accomplished anything useful except when he was angry. There is a righteous anger. But though anger is not always wrong, it is always dangerous. And so Paul quotes from Psalm 4 to remind us that “in your anger do not sin.” How do we avoid sinning when we are angry? Paul teaches us the principle of the biorhythm of the clock. “Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry.” That is, ensure that if there is something that has made you furious that you find a way to deal with that before you go to sleep. This is an especially important principle for married couples. I advise that couples pray together each evening before they go to sleep. It’s hard to pray with someone when you are angry with them! Do not let the sun go down on your anger.
Third, develop a godly attitude towards materialism and money. Paul simply says those who were stealing must no longer steal and instead work with their hands to earn a living so that they can then be generous. John Wesley put it like this: Make as much as you can, save as much as you can, give as much as you can. In other words, instead of cheating our way to wealth—a short term approach that rarely produces dividends—we should work hard to earn a living and then be generous with what we have earned.
Fourth, we should carefully discipline our tongue. What we say matters. Sometimes we just simply need to bite our tongue, not say anything, not write that email, not send that text message. How true it is that on occasions, silence is golden. Once you have said something, you cannot take it back. How much better to avoid saying anything if you cannot say what is edifying. Your goal is to help those who are listening to you and build them up. That should be the goal of everything you say and write and post on the Internet.
Fifth, do not grieve the Holy Spirit. This talk of holiness can seem simply methodical or mechanical. But no, says Paul. We are talking about what pleases God, and God is a person and he can be grieved. Why should we be holy? Partly because it is good for you. But mainly because it pleases God, and sin grieves the Spirit.
Sixth, turn from being a fighter to being a reconciler. Paul summarizes these fighting kinds of attitudes and actions—bitterness, rage, slander, every form of malice—and then summarizes reconciling kinds of attitudes and actions—kindness, compassion, forgiveness. We should be seeking to move from the one (fighting and brawling) to the other (forgiving and loving). And again, the method to do so is to “get rid” of the one (or to “put it off” using the metaphor of clothes that he employed earlier) and “put on” the other—the kindness and compassion and forgiveness. No doubt it is hard work to do so; sometimes it seems easier not to forgive. But then Paul brings in the compelling motivation that stops us and drives us towards forgiving those who have wounded us: “in Christ God forgave you.” That is the motivation for forgiveness. Not just that living in unforgiveness is bad for you, though it is. But mostly and mainly, because if you have been forgiven by God, then you must forgive those who wounded you. How much more you have been forgiven! Therefore, forgive.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Josh Moody (Ph.D., University of Cambridge) is the senior pastor of College Church in Wheaton, IL., president and founder of God Centered Life Ministries, and author of several books including How the Bible Can Change Your Life and John 1-12 For You.
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