Do not grieve the Holy Spirit
A quick note on the tone of Paul’s letters and thus the tone of preaching through biblical texts: (seems like every week the message is urgent and has some kind of edge to it, so it feels like I don’t let up and preach an “airy” sermon to fluff you up)
Often, with the pressure to succumb to an under-developed toughness in a population who knows nothing but ease, those who claim to speak on behalf of Father, tone down the message and feed it to soft and unsuspecting flocks while not realizing there is a wolf, or even worse, the chief wolf or lion, waiting to devour them. They don’t realize that their people’s spiritual souls are at stake in the metanarrative of reality. This is why Paul’s tone is never relaxed and he always has urgency in his writing. He’s a preacher. He’s a herald announcing Father’s instruction to prevent his people from being devoured by a prowling lion looking for lagging lambs or unsuspecting and soft ewes.
We understand our audience: Father’s people united under the headship of Jesus Christ with dads set apart as the chiefs of homes and responsible to lead them, so men, I speak to you as a father to a son going off to war. Moms, I speak to you as a good father who desires you to fulfill the King’s role in a way that is honoring to him and to you. Single ladies, I speak to you as a dad sending you off to do your created part in the conflict. Your role is different, but no less vital. Single men, I speak to you as a good DI, with the goal of sobering you up to reality and preparing you for leading the conflict in taking back the King’s ground. Students and children, I speak to you as a dad who wants to equip you to know that life matters, and it will be a war, and you need to be toughened up and made ready for making war on the devil and his dark and petty little kingdom.
So, Paul’s tone is my tone. I don’t want to lessen the tone or urgency because the American church’s constitution is weak.
Remember, Ephesians is not a neat and well-planned epistle with a sequential theological argument. We recall the quick excursion Paul takes in chapter 3:2-13 in order to make sure they understand the mystery of the gospel, as he is about to voice his prayer for them. Paul is writing out of love and passion for the Ephesian’s good. Ephesians is a letter written by Paul addressing some specific challenges for the church at Ephesus.
I remind us of this because of the strange place verse 30 takes in the section.
Paul is unpacking what it is to live in a manner worthy of our calling to be unified in Christ.
And in the middle of his exhortation, because he is writing a letter not a planned out thesis, he throws in verse 30 as a heading and reminder of who we are and what our sin does.
Now, we have learned Christ, and so we fight to take off the old self and put on the new self, but we do fight against sin, and because 1:14 reminds us that we have been sealed with the promised Holy Spirit as a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance, we grieve him when we sin and don’t put off the old self.
So, as a waypoint, we’ll see verse 30 as a heading over the whole of 4:25-32.
Our passage is almost a mirror of Colossians 3:8-12. In the Colossians passage we learn that we have died and our life is hidden with Christ in God, so we put to death earthly and old self-sin and put on the new self.
So we see that this instruction is not just to the Ephesians, but to the church of Jesus Christ wherever they are gathered. So this exhortation is for us too.
So, who does our sin grieve ultimately?
Why this list of seemingly random sins?
What does taking off the old self and putting on the new self look like in practice?
Let’s explore these questions that the text addresses.
- Who does our sin grieve ultimately? Holy Spirit v. 30
Remember, we are going to see verse 30 as our waypoint in this passage. It’s our marker. It’s our point of reference.
Don’t grieve the Holy Spirit by failing to put off the old self.
1:13-14 reminds us that we have been sealed with the promised Holy Spirit.
Chapter 1 reminds us that we have been given the Holy Spirit as the capstone of Father’s work of salvation.
– Predestined to adoption.
– Lavished wisdom and insight into the mystery of Father’s will to unite all things in Christ.
– Obtained an inheritance
– Sealed with the Holy Spirit
All of these graces have been done in “us”. “We” are his body. Our kinship is founded in Father and evidenced by the indwelling Holy Spirit.
So, when we sin, we seek to divide what can’t be divided, Holy Spirit.
- Why this list of 6 seemingly random sins?
Each of the items listed here are uniquely crafted to destroy unity.
How can we make this assertion? Because the commands of this text are tied to three spiritual truths that build unity and kinship in the work of the gospel: 1. We are members of one another (v. 25b). 2. We are sealed by the Holy Spirit for the day of redemption (v. 30). 3. God in Christ has forgiven you (v. 32b).
These truths are bound to the mystery of the gospel in which we are united from all nations under one King, Jesus.
These are not just random things pulled out of the air to make people’s lives miserable.
Therefore, anything that breaks these truths breaks fellowship. Perhaps these particular sins beset Ephesus. Perhaps these sins are what show up in the church in dominant fashion. Either way, these sins break truth and propagate lies and therefore destroy unity.
If we sin, we separate ourselves from one another, we grieve the Spirit and we are in need of experiencing forgiveness from our family whom we have divided by our actions, and our family is commanded to forgive.
These are not random sins that Paul is bringing up. These are things that can destroy unity.
- What does taking off the old self and putting on the new self look like in practice?
To say it another way, how do we honor God and each other to preserve unity?
- We are to speak the truth v. 25
Satan is a liar and the father of lies (John 8:44). Jesus said that lying is Satan’s native tongue.
When we lie, we have become the puppet of the evil one and are contributing to the destruction of the whole by seeking ourselves over the good of others.
Lying is any form of seeking to juke the truth.
The problem is that when you try to juke the truth, the truth is going to steam roll you at some point.
We either face the truth and find grace or we dodge the truth and get crushed.
In the unity of the gospel we are to live in truth.
- Truth in our identity (be ok with what you are)
- Truth in our words (rumors, gossip, slander, etc.)
- Truth in our worldview
- Truth in our engagement of domains
- We are to refuse to sin in our anger thus giving the devil opportunity to pillage our unity v. 26-27
The opening phrase is taken from Psalm 4:4, “Be angry, and do not sin.”
“This indicates a proper anger – a good anger. God himself is sometimes angered. Jesus was angry when, for instance, he cleansed the Temple (Mark 11:15). If we are imitators of God (Eph. 5:1), we will sometimes be angry. We need the anger of a Wesley or a Wilberforce at personal or societal sins, or of a Luther at doctrinal aberration. Proper anger is a sign of spiritual life and health.”
However, we must be careful with anger or it will become what is forbidden in verse 31.
Thomas Boston said it becomes “…an evil in itself, and dishonorable to God; being the vomit of a proud heart and unmeekened spirit.”
We can take a righteous anger and allow it to become a consuming sin refusing to submit to the providence of God or a consuming sin refusing to act in righteousness and steeping in sin disguised as holiness.
What may be an improper anger? We must not allow ourselves to think that our wounded egos have the right to be angry over perceived slights. This is sin and will lead to a fiery dart thrown at the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
- Be angry about abortion
- Be angry about fostering/adopting
- Be angry about global and local poverty
- Be angry about injustice
- Be angry about broken homes
- Be angry about slavery
If it does not drive you and I to action for the reclaiming of Father’s territory, it may just be sinful fuming birthed out of rebellion against God by refusing to act.
Be careful with simple awareness raising. Awareness raising must be accompanied by action. Raising awareness can be a clever disguise for a refusal to obey a direct command.
Real righteous anger will drive you to glocal action.
- We don’t steal; rather we labor so that we can have something to contribute v. 28
The thief should turn philanthropist.
Theft is a no duh! It’s one of the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:15).
The value, the positive here in this text is the big deal.
It’s not just a lack of theft. It is the positive labor to take what one has and make it available to those who need.
In other words, there should be no deadbeats in the church who take and do not give. If you are a taker only, you are a thief.
If your life-style leads you to be a taker who never gives, then you are as good as a thief.
There is a time when we all are in need, but when the person is in nothing but need all the time there is a discipleship problem.
We should be laboring to be givers not takers.
I really believe Paul’s point goes beyond the “don’t take what is not yours” mentality.
I believe Paul’s point is that we should be striving to make our production and ourselves available to everyone in the body because everyone is more important than ourselves.
We are taught by the example of the Lord Jesus to consider others more important than ourselves (Philippians 2:3).
How can we make sure we are not stealing from each other in our fellowship?
- Serve in RK
RK is a family equipping model of ministry. It requires your engagement to serve and to be equipped in the role of discipling your family.
- Come set up when it’s your deacon team’s turn to set up
- Take out the garbage
- Bring a meal to someone who is in the throws of life
- Push the heavy carts for the ladies
- Even when it’s not your week to set up and tear down, help with
- Get in a RL group and serve people in it
- We use our speech to build not corrupt and we do it in the appropriate time v. 29
The idea here is that we, by the Spirit’s leading, are aware of the proper occasion to speak the proper words for building up.
This is not a legalistic rejection of things that carry humor that some may find offensive.
This is a command to build up and not tear down.
This is a command to know the time and place to speak something fitting to the person hearing.
Another way of putting this would be, “So whatever you wish others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” – Matthew 7:12
Our goal with our speech is to build up the hearer not tear them down.
The word used for “corrupting” means rotten. This idea stands opposed to building up.
We would not serve rotten food to our family, so why would I give rotten words to our family.
It is our goal to speak to each as they need.
- We put away bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, slander and malice v. 31
The idea of “put away” is that of lifting rocks to remove them. It’s literally like picking up rocks from your yard so you don’t hit them with the lawn mower.
Like we would pick up stones to prevent damage, we pick up these unity killers to prevent harming the unity of the Spirit in the fellowship.
Bitterness – this word is connected to wickedness in it’s definition / sour toward /
Wrath – violent action
Anger – state of mind
Clamor – crying out for controversy (drama seeking)
Slander – literally blasphemer / verbal abuse
Malice – wickedness as an evil habit of the mind (letting your mind run away with you to sin) / plotting wickedness in your mind for lack of control of your mind
Interesting note: “put away” is also in the passive voice, meaning that the putting away is due to being acted on from an outside force.
We should note from the overall context of Ephesians that this outside force must be none other than the combination of the head of the body, Jesus, through the sealing Spirit in the life of the community of the kingdom, the church.
Jesus, Spirit, Church. Jesus, by the Spirit, through the church puts away these unity-killing rocks.
We will probably not have these things put away in isolation from the church.
However, through fellowship in the church through the Spirit and by our King, these unity killers will be put away in sanctification.
- We are kind, tenderhearted and forgiving to one another as we are forgiven v. 32a
The basis of our kindness and tenderheartedness and forgiveness is none other than the fact that Father in Christ has treated us this way.
To withhold this kind of love from each other is to testify to the fact that we have never received this kind of love and need to be wrecked with the gospel.
In conclusion, we walk worthy of our calling to be unified under Jesus’ headship when we please the Holy Spirit by shedding unity-killing sin.
- We worship
Psalm 147:1 “Praise the LORD! For it is good to sing praises to our God; for it is pleasant, and a song of praise is fitting.”
 Kent Hughes, Ephesians, (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 1990), p. 148.
 Thomas Boston, The Complete Works of the Late Rev. Thomas Boston, ed. Samuel McMillan, vol. 4 (Wheaton, IL: Richard Owen Roberts, 1980), p. 357.