Ephesians 4:30-5:2


Last Sunday's text, 4:17-14, was an admonition to the Gentiles not to follow the vanity of the pagans. And they were reminded that every Christian has two egos, the old man and the new man. There is constant warfare between these two and the Christian should never permit the flesh to rule the spirit, the new man. Renewal is a daily process. The entire life of the Christian must be one of repentance, faith and renewal. In verses 25-29 the Apostle speaks about the sins of lying, anger, stealing and filthy language. These sins are committed primarily against the neighbor. They are dangerous. It is at this point that our text begins.

Ephesians 4:30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.

Lenski: 'And' connects the new statement with the preceding admonition. Paul is not speaking of grieving the Holy Spirit in general, but of doing this with worthless speech.
Stoeckhardt: Paul adds force to his warning . . . That is exactly what Christians do - grieve - if they permit their tongue to utter shameful and foul speech.

We are living in time similar to those of the Apostle Paul. The movies, television and bookstands are filled with filthy language. Many people no longer blush when using the most disgusting language. This text ought to be driven home hard. America has become callous to foul speech. Christians dare not join in. This kind of language pains the Holy Spirit.

Kretzmann: With great solemnity he gives the full name of the third person of the Godhead, for the sin which he is discussing is a very serious matter.
Stoeckhardt: The Apostle chose here to use the euphonious 'The Holy Spirit of the Living God.'

He is the Spirit of Truth, John 15:26, Who testifies of Jesus. He is the great cause of my repentance and faith and my perseverance in the faith. How incongruous to have a mouth which stinks like manure rather than smells like roses! All of us are guilty, more or less, of grieving the Holy Spirit.

"By whom." The verb is aorist passive. The Holy Spirit is the agent. On the thought of sealing look at Ephesians 1:13. When I was baptized, when I was converted, the Holy Spirit claimed me as God's child and marked me for everlasting life.

"For the day." When I was baptized the Holy Spirit had the end of my life and beginning of eternal life in mind. I am safe in Him.

"The day." It is the day of deliverance which deliverance was caused by the ransoming of Christ. It is, of course, the Last Day, Judgment Day, a welcome day, not a dreadful day. This thought should make me leap for joy. The blood on the door posts in Egypt made the people safe from destruction. The sealing by the Holy Spirit makes me safe for eternity. I need nothing more. With Joseph I must say:  "How then could I do this great evil, and sin against God?" That's what I say but how easy to break my promise by speaking filthy words which no one criticizes. Lord have mercy!

Stoeckhardt: The Holy Spirit is a seal which has been impressed upon us, to reassure us that we belong to God, and preserves us for our destination, unto the day of redemption, when we shall be delivered from all evil, from all corruption, also from our old man.

Ephesians 4:31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.

This verse states the negative while verse 32 states the positive. ALL modifies all five following nouns. "Malice" has it own form of "all." It means "Every kind and every vestige of." 

"Bitterness" is bitter feelings. "Rage" means losing one's cool, bursting forth. "Anger" is the slow burn that can so easily become a grudge. Thus far we have the inner sins.

Now follow two which express themselves in voice and words. "Brawling" is angry shouting. "Slander" is the vile, destructive, scolding language which goes with brawling.

"Get rid of" is a periphrastic translation. Better is "Be put away from you," which renders the Greek passive with a passive in English. This reminds us that unless God is gracious we won't do this.

Of course, it is painful to put these things away. It feels so good to vent one's spleen on a person of whom we are convinced that he deserves utterly what we are giving him. But we must crucify our flesh. Think of the slander and scorn heaped on Christ. But He did not answer in kind, see Hebrews 12:3.

"Malice" in the Greek is a generic term for any and all kinds of inferior thought and actions. AAT: "And every way of hurting one another." That is quite correct in this context.

Ephesians 4:32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

Verse 31 states the negative. This verse states the positive. That is indicated by the Greek word "but," which the NIV ignores.

Here our standard is none other than God, the Saving God.

"Be" has the force of "be constantly." The goal is stated - kind and compassionate. The word is associated in Greek with the idea of "to use." We must be handleable. We should always be of such a spirit that people can deal with us.

"Having healthy bowels" is the literal meaning of "compassionate." That is a metaphor. Stoeckhardt says the word means "Merciful if you see any misery." There is so much misery in the world. We should meet it with pity and understanding.

"To be gracious, to forgive." Stoeckhardt translates: "Do not insist on retaliation." 

Lenski: Here Paul shows what Christian forgiveness is: it insists on nothing when we are wronged, freely lets the wrong pass, and thus for its part ends it at once.

Note that we have two reciprocal pronouns meaning "each other" in this verse. These are used here as synonyms.

"For Christ's sake" is the high standard which we are to keep before us. That explains itself and we need add nothing here.

Stoeckhardt: The unique, incomparable love of Christ in that He sacrificed Himself for us is the motive and power of our love.
Kretzmann: Just as God in Christ showed us such immeasurable love, so we should show love toward our neighbor.

Ephesians 5:1 Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children

Kretzmann: The first verses of this chapter really conclude the thought at the close of the previous chapter.
Stoeckhardt: Now Paul gathers, as it were, all these virtues which he has mentioned and others of a similar nature together and calls the sum of them love, 5:1-2.

This is the conclusion and summary of 4:17-31. As in Galatians 5:14, Paul summarizes all Christian virtues in one, love. Again the word "be" means "constantly be." 

Stoeckhardt: God is the archetype and model of love. God loved us and made us unworthy ones His own children; that should urge us, yes, that obliges us to imitate God, to love our fellow Christians as our brethren, to walk in love so that all that we do and all that we leave undone is motivated by love.
Luther: The outward life of the Christians shall be nothing but love.

"Children" are those who are begotten. The word reminds us of the fact that God was the cause of our spiritual birth.

"Beloved" reminds us of the truth that we love because He first loved us. Children both consciously and subconsciously imitate their parents. Every time the Christian says "Our Father who art in heaven," he is reminded of the attributes of his heavenly Father.

Ephesians 5:2 and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

Verse two explains verse one. How do we imitate our heavenly Father? By doing what we are told in verse 2.

The Greek word for "live a life" is something like "walk the walk," a metaphor for the Christian's way of life. This reminds us of the words of a hymn: "Let us ever walk with Jesus, Follow His example pure."   Lutheran Worship  #381.

In 4:32 we had "God in Christ." In 5:1 we had God as model. And here in verse 2 we have Christ as standard. We should love as Christ loved us. What does this mean? We were miserable, wretched, helpless, hopeless and even resisted His help because we thought we could help ourselves. The words "Christ loved us" are explained in the sentence which follows.

"Gave Himself up" is the very verb which is used of the betrayal of Judas. Judas turned Christ over to the Jewish authorities. But in actuality it was Christ who "gave Himself up." In the Garden of Gethsemane He willingly gave Himself up. He willingly laid down His own life. John 10:17; Hebrews 10:7.

"For us" means "in stead of us." It denotes the vicarious atonement.

Stoeckhardt: The joining of the two nouns serves to increase the emphasis upon the idea of sacrifice.

NKJV: "For a sweet smelling aroma." The point is that Christ's sacrifice pleased God. Christ gave Himself willingly for the undeserving. In doing so He pleased God. That is the way we should love, especially our fellow Christians. Look at Galatians 6:10. Instead of being angry at them we should love them. Instead of shouting at them we should speak kind words.

Stoeckhardt: The unique, incomparable love of Christ in that He sacrificed Himself for us is the motive and power of our love.
Lenski: It is not accidental that Paul writes about the supreme sweetness of the odor of Christ's sacrifice when he purposes to warn against filthiness on our part.

The Bible constantly warns Christians against living in deliberate sin. The Bible also constantly nudges the new man in us to live as God wants us to live. All of this is a somber reminder that we are sinful people who can so easily be misled or can so easily fall away from the faith.


(Adapted from Exegetical Notes Epistle Texts, Series B, Sundays after Pentecost,
by Harold H. Buls, Concordia Theological Seminary Press: Ft Wayne IN, 1987, pp. 50-52)

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