Stephen Caswell © 2005
First Century Baptism
The put-on take-off terminology of Colossians 3 finds a literal parallel in first-century baptismal practice, where candidates approached the ordinance wearing old filthy clothes. These were stripped off as they entered the waters of baptism, and on surfacing they put on new clothes. The old clothes represented the old life, while the new clothes characterized their new life in Christ and its accompanying behavior changes. We must put off the grave clothes of our old life that was dead. Then we must put on the grace clothes of our new life in Christ.
3 weeks ago we studied the grounds for unity in Ephesians 4:1-6. Then, 2 weeks ago we looked at Ephesians 4:7-16 and saw the gifts for unity. Today we will see the Graces For Unity in Ephesians 4:17-32. The apostle Paul describes the Christian as someone who has put off the Old Man with his habits and put on the New Man created by God. This affects 3 things: Our Mind, Our Mouth and Our Manners.
1. Our Mind
a. Futility, Darkness, Ignorance
Ephesians 4:17-19: This I say, therefore, and testify in the Lord, that you should no longer walk as the rest of the Gentiles walk, in the futility of their mind, having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart; Who, being past feeling, have given themselves over to lewdness, to work all uncleanness with greediness.
Paul says that Christians must not walk the same way that the pagans do.
Non – Christians walk around in the futility of their mind. Why does Paul start with the mind? Does it matter what we think? Absolutely! Proverbs 23:7: For as he thinks in his heart, so is he. If I go for a walk in the hills my mind decides the pathway that I will take. I choose where I will walk with my mind. The Gentile or non Christian walks in a vain or futile way. This word vain, ματαιότης means empty, void of a useful goal or aim. At the end of their lives, sinners have nothing of worth or value to present to God.
The non - Christian also walks around in darkness. This of course refers to a sinful lifestyle. People without God live for the pleasures of this world. They can never satisfy their desire for sexual immorality and uncleanness. They always crave more. Jesus often used the term darkness to describe sin. Since God works righteousness He describes Himself as the light. Since Satan works evil, his deeds are described as darkness.
Non – Christians are also described as ignorant. People who walk around in the darkness stumble. They don’t know where they are going. They can’t see the way ahead. Sinners aren’t interested in the spiritual things of life in any way. They know nothing about righteousness, a relationship with God, heaven or hell. They are ignorant of their peril and the coming judgment. They are insensitive to God and His ways.
b. Renewed, Righteous, Holy
Ephesians 4:20-24: But you have not so learned Christ, if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught by Him, as the truth is in Jesus: that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness.
In a parallel passage Paul speaks about the need for a renewed mind to produce a transformed life. After this Paul speaks about spiritual gifts and spiritual graces. Salvation starts with the mind and then works its way out in our actions. Romans 12:1-2: I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.
Salvation begins with a change of mind. To repent means to change your mind, to turn around and walk the other way. Instead of walking our own we turn around and walk God’s way. Psalm 37:23: The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord, and He delights in his way. When we give our lives to God as living sacrifices we will live to please Him and glorify Him. We no longer live to please ourselves. This starts with a renewed mind. The way we think does affect the way we live. How can we renew our mind? By reading God’s Word and asking the Lord to change us to be more like Jesus.
When a computer crashes usually something has gone wrong with the running program. It needs to be reprogrammed to become useful again. When we are saved we remove the old program and our mind’s are reprogrammed with Christ’s mind.
Colossians 3:16: Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. James 1:22-25: But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does.
When I received Jesus Christ as my Savior God made me a new creature. Some changes were immediate, others have taken time. God cleansed my mind. Before I became a Christian I fed it on things that weren’t very wholesome. Many of these changes came from reading God’s Word and seeing my sins revealed. God changed my taste in music and movies. A lot of my old habits have had to go. Arguing and debating is not a priority to me. God is still working on me I’m by no means perfect. Just ask my family. But the way I think now is completely different to what it was before.
Firstly, Christians have had a change of mind. We have changed from futile thinking to kingdom thinking. We no longer live empty wasted lives but lives that glorify God. Instead of walking around in the darkness believers are children of light. Our conduct should be marked by good works instead of sin. We’re no longer ignorant of God’s ways. We know God and His will for us. Has your mind been renewed by God’s Word? Do we think God’s way? If there’s no change in your life you should question your salvation.
2. Our Mouth a. Lying, Corrupt Words, Quarreling, Evil Speaking
Ephesians 4:25, 29, 31: Therefore, putting away lying, let each one of you speak truth with his neighbor, for we are members of one another. Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers. Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. Words are important because they affect our relationships. Jesus said that we will be condemned by our words and justified by our words.
What should we put off? A lie, ψεῦδος, is a statement that is contrary to fact, spoken with the intent to deceive. If I tell you it is noon, and then discover that my watch is wrong, I did not tell a lie. But if I deliberately deceived you, that’s a lie. Lies belong to the Devil because he is the father of all lies. Some like to believe that we help people by lying to them, but such is not the case. We may not see the sad consequences immediately, but ultimately they will come.
G For Gossip
R. G. LeTourneau was for many years an outstanding Christian businessman who manufactured earthmoving equipment. He once remarked, we used to make a scraper known as Model G. One day somebody asked our salesman what the G stood for. The man, who was pretty quick on the trigger, immediately replied, I’ll tell you. The G stands for gossip because like a talebearer this machine moves a lot of dirt and moves it fast!
Mark Twain said that a lie runs around the world while truth is still putting on her shoes. In the end, God’s truth will be victorious; meanwhile, Satan influences multitudes of people through lies. At Pentecost the tongues of the disciples were set on fire from heaven. They went out and preached the truth and 3,000 were saved. Tragically, Satan can also set our tongues on fire and countless lives are destroyed through lies and slander.
James 3:5-8: Even so the tongue is a little member and boasts great things. See how great a forest a little fire kindles! And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity. The tongue is so set among our members that it defiles the whole body, and sets on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire by hell. For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and creature of the sea, is tamed and has been tamed by mankind. But no man can tame the tongue. It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison.
The word corrupt, σαπρός, is also used in Matthew 7:17–18, where it refers to rotten fruit. It means that which is worthless, bad, or rotten. Cursing, swearing, blasphemy, slander and dirty jokes all belong to the old man, not to new creatures in Christ. The word clamor, κραυγή means to quarrel or argue, to cry out publicly or shout, a controversy. Some believers air their grievances publicly when they don’t get their way. Evil speaking, βλασφημία, means blasphemy or slander. This is where a person speaks evil of someone else. Tragically, Christians attack the character of other people including their brethren. Can corrupt words and lies hurt people? Yes! They kill! If a snake bites your hand it will soon affect your whole body. The poison spreads through the blood stream. Unless we apply a tourniquet and antivenin it kills us.
Numbers 21:5-9: And the people spoke against God and against Moses: Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and our soul loathes this worthless bread. So the Lord sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people; and many of the people of Israel died. Therefore the people came to Moses, and said, We have sinned, for we have spoken against the Lord and against you; pray to the Lord that He take away the serpents from us. So Moses prayed for the people. Then the Lord said to Moses, Make a fiery serpent, and set it on a pole; and it shall be that everyone who is bitten, when he looks at it, shall live. So Moses made a bronze serpent, and put it on a pole; and so it was, if a serpent had bitten anyone, when he looked at the bronze serpent, he lived. When we arrived the Khaki weed at the manse was everywhere. To get rid of it I had to dig it out and poison it. I couldn’t ignore it or it would break out again. God can’t ignore slander and gossip. The only solution for this is repentance. The Israelites said we have sinned against you and against God. Then God provided salvation for them from sin.
b. Truth, Edification, Grace
Ephesians 4:25, 29, 31: let each one of you speak truth with his neighbor, for we are members of one another. Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers. Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice.
We expect a change in speech when a person becomes a Christian. It’s interesting to trace the word mouth through the Book of Romans and see how Christ makes a difference to it. The sinner’s mouth is full of cursing and bitterness; but when he trusts Christ, he gladly confesses with his mouth Jesus Christ is Lord. As a condemned sinner, his mouth is stopped before the throne of God; but as a believer, his mouth is opened to praise God.
Note the reason Paul gave for telling the truth: We belong to each other in Christ. Lies deceive, destroy and bind people. The truth sets people free. In verse 15, Paul says speak the truth in love. The truth can hurt people if it is not shared in a loving way. As members of one another we affect each other, and we cannot build each other up apart from the truth. The first sin that was judged in the early church was the sin of lying. Annanias and Saphira died because they lied. God is Truth, He can’t lie; His children mustn’t lie. Don’t repeat anything unless it meets this criteria, is it true, is it kind, is it necessary?
Paul urges us to build up the body in love and urges us to build up the body in truth. It’s easy to find faults and run people down. It’s easy to go along with the crowd and join in when someone speaks evil of another behind their back. It’s much harder to challenge the speaker to go and speak face to face with the person concerned. Yet if we want to edify one another that’s exactly what we must do. The word, edify, οίκοδομή, means to build up, strengthen. Since our speech is powerful; let us use it to build one another up.
Galatians 5:13-15: For you, brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. But if you bite and devour one another, beware lest you be consumed by one another!
Gracious and kind words build up the Church. Criticism, slander and gossip tear the Church apart. If Christ has changed our lives and put a song in our hearts shouldn’t we speak words of encouragement rather than discouragement. We should never have to say, Now, take this with a grain of salt. Paul told us to put the salt of God’s grace in everything we say. Colossians 4:6: Let your speech be always with grace, seasoned with salt. And keep in mind that your words have power, either for good or evil. One day every one will give an account for every word that we speak.
Monk On Gossip
The story is told of a young man during the Middle Ages who went to a monk, saying, I’ve sinned by telling slanderous statements about someone. What should I do now? The monk replied, put a feather on every doorstep in town. The young man did it. He then returned to the monk, wondering if there was anything else that he should do. The monk said, Go back and pick up all the feathers. The young man replied, that’s impossible! By now the wind will have blown them all over town; said the monk, so has your slanderous word become impossible to retrieve. Just like tooth paste that is squeezed out of a tube can’t be recovered, neither can we retrieve malicious and slanderous words.
Paul says Christians should put off certain kinds of speech from our mouths. Christians should not tell lies, end of story. Untold hurt and pain have been caused by lies, slander and criticism. Many people have left this church disillusioned because of the critical spirit practiced by some and tolerated by others. Everyone is hurt by lies, slander, gossip and corrupt speech. When we speak evil of a brother, a leader or the pastor we aren’t just hurting them. We are hurting the whole body including ourselves. People who do this have admitted to driving others away from the Church.
Corrupt words such as blasphemy, swearing and filthy talk have no part in the Christians life. Quarreling and evil speaking belong to the old life of sin not our new life in Christ! How is our speech? Are we telling lies when it’s convenient? Do we swear to impress others or fit in? Do we listen to dirty jokes, gossip or slander? If so we must repent of these things and ask God to cleanse us and sanctify our speech!
3. Our Manners
Ephesians 4:26-27: Be angry, and do not sin: do not let the sun go down on your wrath,
nor give place to the devil. Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice.
a. Anger, Bitterness, Wrath, Malice
To be angry, ὀργίζω, is to rage, to have wrath, to be provoked. How can we be angry and not sin? By being angry at nothing but sin. Righteous anger at sin is good. But it must be controlled. In itself, anger is not a sin, because even God can be angry. Several times in the Old Testament the phrase appears, the anger of the Lord. Moses was angry with Israel when they worshipped the golden calf at Mt. Sinai. He threw the 10 commandments to the ground and they broke. Jesus was angry when He cleansed the temple of the money changers and drove out the livestock. If anger isn’t released correctly it can simmer over night leading us to sin and giving Satan a foothold.
A woman tried to defend her bad temper by saying, I explode and then it’s all over with. Yes, replied a friend, just like a shotgun, but look at the damage that’s left behind., Aristotle wrote; Anyone can become angry, but to be angry with the right person, to the right degree, at the right time, for the right purpose, and in the right way, this is not easy. I have had people explode in anger only to be embarrassed later on.
These verses warn us against several sins of the attitude and amplify what Paul wrote about anger. Bitterness, πικρία, refers to a settled hostility that poisons the whole inner man. Somebody does something we do not like, so we harbor ill will against him. Bitterness leads to wrath, θυμός, which is the explosion on the outside of the feelings on the inside. The word wrath means to burn, to be angry or furious. Bitterness and anger, usually over trivial things, make havoc of homes, churches, and friendships. Malice, κακία, is hateful or resentful feelings towards others. This normally happens when people won’t forgive one another.
A handsome elderly man stopped by to see Pastor Weirsbe one day and asked me if he would perform a wedding for him. Pastor Weirsbe suggested that he bring the bride in so that they could chat together and get better acquainted, since he hesitates to marry strangers. Before she comes in, he said, let me explain this wedding to you. Both of us have been married before — to each other! Over thirty years ago, we got into an argument, I got mad, and we separated. Then we did a stupid thing and got a divorce.
I guess we were both too proud to apologize. Well, all these years we’ve lived alone, and now we see how foolish we’ve been. Our bitterness has robbed us of the joys of life, and now we want to remarry and see if the Lord won’t give us a few years of happiness before we die. Sadly, this is a true story. How many times is this repeated in the Church?
b. Kindness, Tenderness, Forgiveness
Ephesians 4:30: And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.
Paul gives us three reasons why we must avoid bitterness. First, it grieves the Holy Spirit. He lives within the Christian, and when the heart is filled with bitterness and anger, the Spirit grieves. Second, our sin grieves God the Son, who died for us. Third, it grieves God the Father who forgave us when we trusted Christ. All sin grieves the Holy Spirit but bitterness and un-forgiveness are at the top of the list. God’s relationship with us is founded upon forgiveness. Jesus said that if we won’t forgive others their sins from our hearts, (sincerely), God won’t forgive us for our sins.
Here Paul put his finger on the basic cause of a bitter attitude: We cannot forgive people. An unforgiving spirit is the devil’s playground, and before long it becomes the Christian’s battleground. If somebody hurts us, either deliberately or unintentionally, and we do not forgive him, then we begin to develop bitterness within, which hardens the heart. We should be tenderhearted and kind, but instead we are hardhearted and bitter. Actually, we are not hurting the person who hurt us; we are only hurting ourselves. Ulcers often result from bitterness to others.
In His gracious kindness, God has forgiven us, and we should forgive others. We do not forgive for our sake (though we do get a blessing from it) or even for their sake, but for Jesus’ sake. Learning to forgive and forget is one of the secrets of a happy Christian life.
Anger, bitterness, wrath and malice don’t belong in the life of the Christian. We must put these old grave clothes of death off. We must put on the grace clothes of forgiveness, kindness and be tenderhearted. I know that there are broken relationships in this Church. Some of these are between people who are here. Some are between people here and ones who have left. If we hold on to grudges and un-forgiveness we grieve the Holy Spirit and quench His work in our lives. Beloved let’s not hurt one another or ourselves by anymore. Let’s forgive and forget as God has forgiven us. Amen!!
Elders believe that I am the problem in the Church. My lack of love and compassion.
I have preached the Word the Lord has placed on my heart For 19 months. I believe the things we have looked at this morning are the cause; lying, slander, anger, un-forgiveness and bitterness are the root cause. These have resulted in broken relationships in the Church. I believe that we stand at a crossroads. If we deal with these things as Israel did and confess that we have sinned that God will cleanse and heal. I know that confession must precede God’s cleansing. A reconciliation meeting is needed, ie Gatton. If you believe that I am wrong and these sins aren’t affecting the Church my resignation has been given to the elders and the secretary. They have forced this issue and placed the blame with me. I suggest that the Church calls a meeting to pray and discuss this matter.