“Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another. Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil.” (Ephesians 4:25–27).
After reminding the Ephesians of what they had learned from Jesus, namely to put off the old and put on the new, Paul explained five areas to take off and put on. Like the removing of old garments and the putting on of fresh ones, the Christian life is one of putting off and putting on.
Paul’s way of explaining these five “put off” and “put on” areas is masterful. For each exhortation, he will tell us what to take off, what to put on, and why. This outline is Christianity at its core. To only take off lousy behavior is legalism. To take off bad behavior and put on good behavior is moralism. But to take off bad behavior and put on good behavior because Christ has changed your whole identity is Christian.
First, Paul told them to be truthful and reliable —
“Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members of one another.” We are to put off falsehood and put on truth-telling with our neighbor. The reason is that we are members of one another.
That the church has an opportunity to model trustworthiness to our world is obvious. All around people struggle to know whom to trust. News agencies, elections, and people in power are often held in suspicion. Search engines and social media networks often become vehicles for lie perpetuation. Friends betray. Deception abounds, so the church can model the beautiful counter-cultural art of truth-telling. Rather than put on airs about ourselves, seeming to be something we are not, the church can reject that hypocritical pharisaicalism and instead embrace a transparent and honest life.
Paul has the life of the church in view, so he is especially detailing an honest community of believers, able to confess sin and struggles to one another. Unfortunately, it can be all too easy for a believer to go years without any real, genuine, honest contact with another believer. This ought not to be the case. We need one another.
But why should a believer cultivate a true and honest network of Christian relationships? Why should we avoid falsehood with one another? Because “we are members of one another.” In other words, my new nature means I am yours and you are mine. The reason we ought to speak truthfully and honestly with one another is that we belong to one another. I am yours. You are mine. We, as Paul taught, “are members of one another.” This means that when a believer deceives another he hurts himself, along with the entire body, for we all belong to one another.
Second, Paul told them to be free of enslaving anger —
“Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil.”
Now, believers are called to righteous anger, one that is free of sin. Jesus had this type of anger when He drove out the moneychangers from the temple. There are many injustices in this world that anger true believers. But here, since Paul has adopted a “put off, then put on, and here’s why” format, it does not seem he is exhorting the church towards righteous anger in this passage.
Instead, he seems to say that anger is bound to come, but when it does, we must make sure to be on guard against it. We should not let it turn into enslaving sin. We must make sure we do not allow the sun to go down while still angry. This exhortation is steeped in the gospel of Jesus Christ, for no man has the power to daily release his anger unless he has the help of the Holy Spirit, along with a new nature, to do so.
However, why would a believer work hard to keep themselves from entering into sin by indulging anger? Because we must “give no opportunity to the devil.” In other words, my new nature means I am now a target for the enemy of our souls, the devil. He — or more precisely, his army — wants to dismantle every Christian, rendering us ineffective for God. He looks for a way to tear down our lives, and one major foothold is anger.
...to be continued.
During Fall 2017, I taught Calvary Monterey the book of Ephesians. During the series, I also wrote about Ephesians in sixty-plus short, devotionally styled posts. Each Thursday, through 2018, I will release a post. I hope you enjoy. For the entire series, please visit nateholdridge.com/united-for-unity-posts.