Ephesians 4:31

 

20 That, however, is not the way of life you learned 21 when you heard about Christ and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. 22 You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; 23 to be made new in the attitude of your minds; 24 and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. 25 Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbor, for we are all members of one body. 26 “In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, 27 and do not give the devil a foothold. 28 Anyone who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with their own hands, that they may have something to share with those in need. 29 Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.

As Christians, we know that the Bible teaches us the fact that the heart is what really matters to God. Of course, this doesn’t mean that the things we do are unimportant. What we do is important because the Bible also judges those visible sins we commit. On the other hand, our righteous acts that are done in front of others are highly praised. Isn’t that what we learn from a passage such as Matthew 5:16, “In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.

         

However, the things we do, out of love for God and our neighbour, are really only ‘good’ if they come from the right motivation. If we do them only to win the approval of people, then that is not the correct motivation. In that case we are considered no less than Hypocrites. The very same as those Jesus condemns in Matthew 23:25-26, who do things only for the sake of appearances, Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. 26 Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.

 

God does not see as man sees; when he looks at us as individuals, He looks at our hearts, as it tells us very clearly in 1 Samuel 16:17, “…the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

 

 Why is the condition of our heart so important to God? Simply, because it is the starting place for all impurity. The sins we commit outwardly are only really ‘put to death’ once we deal with our inward sins. If the sinful motivations of our hearts are not dealt with, then it really doesn’t matter how much we ‘put to death’ our external sins, they will still keep coming back and we will find ourselves committing the same sins over and over again.

That is Paul’s main point in this morning’s verse. He insists that we Get rid of bitterness, rage, anger, brawling, slander, and malice. Bitterness, rage, and anger are all basically attitudes that are inside our hearts while brawling and slander are the way which these sinful attitudes are shown outwardly. One commentator, says that, “bitterness, rage, and anger refer to violent inward resentment against others and ‘brawling’ is the uncontrolled speech, by which they vent themselves.”

 

The apostle Paul is not recommending that we give up being angry altogether. If that was the point of today’s verse, then he would be contradicting what he said earlier in verse 26. We learned, during the devotion on that verse, that we should apply only righteous anger when the occasion is appropriate. The type of anger that Paul wants us to get rid of in this verse is the type that is characterized by malice. The anger that is characterized by malice is consumed by feelings of hatred that wants only the destruction of others and not their restoration to fellowship with God and with other people.

 

Unfortunately, the type of anger we see people have against each other, more often than not, can be regarded as malice. The cure for this type of malicious anger is found when we consider the teaching in two Bible verses: James 1:19-21 and Romans 8:5-6, My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, 20 because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires. 21 Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you” (James 1:19-21).

Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace” (Romans 8:5-6). The combined teaching of these two verses tells us that our ungodly anger can only be restrained by the Spirit’s power.

 

The last word I want us to think about in today’s verse is “slander”. The Greek word translated as slander is ‘blasphemia’. Sound familiar? That is because it is the same word from which we get the English word blasphemy. Blasphemy, as it relates to God, is committed when we tell lies about His character or curse Him. In the same way, we blaspheme or slander other people when we curse them, spread rumors about them, or lie about their acts or intentions. Blaspheming is not a Christian thing to do.

 

Think About: Today as you attempt to ‘put to death’ the sins of your tongue. Realize that this involves more than just making the effort to avoid slandering others. Even though that is very important, it is more important that we need to ‘put to death’ the ungodly anger and malice that so easily come from within us. Here is some good advice, whenever you feel yourself getting angry, then take a moment to ask yourself, is this righteous anger that I am experiencing? If the answer is “no” then immediately determine to ‘put it to death’ by not doing what you were thinking of doing. Another helpful way to discern what type of anger you are feeling is by having honest friends around you who you can ask about it.