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Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth (2 Timothy 2:15)
Established November 2008 Published Weekly on Friday AM
This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men (and women) to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. (1Timothy 2:3-4)
Welcome back to HBS.
…that, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self (old man), which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth. Therefore, laying aside (put off) falsehood, “SPEAK TRUTH EACH ONE of you WITH HIS NEIGHBOR, for we are all members of one another (Ephesians 4:22-24).
Paul recently taught the Ephesians about their former manner of life. Why? Their old man is being corrupted by their lustful (greedy) desires. Therefore, Paul gave them two commands: “lay aside (put off) your former manner of life,”“and put on the new man. Why? Because their new man which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness and truth.” Said differently, “Your conduct should match your life, if you intend to walk worthy…”
All true Believers have been made alive to God (Ephesians 2; Romans 6:11; Colossians 2:13), but our regeneration did not transform the old man, i.e. our Adamic nature. Regeneration awakens us spiritually from our previous state of being dead to God (Romans 6:5-11) and God gives us a new nature (1 Corinthians 3:16; Ephesians 3:16, 4:24; Colossians 3:10). Our new man desires “the things of God” from this point onward (1 Corinthians 2:6-10), and through works of service to the building up of the body of Christ (4:12).
So, the Ephesians (and us) are carrying unwanted baggage around with them, that is, their old man which our Apostle Paul likened to a “filthy, worn out suit of clothes,” and these two entities are by nature polar opposites,
For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate (Romans 7:14-25).
These two entities engage in spiritual conflict incessantly:
For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would (Galatians 5:17 – KJV).
The old man is controlled by our sinful nature. It desires those things that are displeasing to God and contrary to the Holy Spirit. The new man is the life that serves God and others (Ephesians 4:12) in a new way, having been transformed by a renewed mind into a new creation in the image of God. Our new man is controlled by the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:9) and whatever belongs to Him has been “laid aside,” that is, “put to death” (Colossians3:3-8).
Please open your Bible at Ephesians 4:25.
25: Therefore, laying aside (put off) falsehood (the lie, essentially), “SPEAK TRUTH EACH ONE of you WITH HIS NEIGHBOR, for we are all members of one another.
Paul emphasizes speaking the truth to one another but why? The answer is found at the end of the verse, “for we are all members of one another.”
From verse 4:25 to 4:32 a pattern becomes rather obvious. Paul begins by teaching the Believers what not to do and then commands them to do the right thing. Sometimes Paul gives them the reason (motivation) for the required change. We recently learned of the direct connection between obedience and love. Spiritual growth is wonderful, but what’s most important is the motivation for the required change.
Paul’s saying when we lie to one another we harm the body of Christ to which we all belong, and we also bring harm to our Savior’s name (4:4-6).
Therefore – having just described the required changes that need to be made in their walk (life), Paul specifically describes how a righteous lifestyle is walked out. In essence, He’s giving the Ephesians godly guidelines to follow so they all can attain God’s predetermined goals for His Church.
Unity in the faith is one of the goals God has purposed for His Church:
There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all (4:4-6).
…for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain unity of the faith (4:12-13).
Unity is built upon trust. So falsehood (deceit) is unbecoming of a true Believer. When someone is caught in a deception fellowship is ruined and relationships may end, because once an atmosphere of trust prevailed but now a mood of distrust is present. This leads to disunity or separation generally.
…laying aside falsehood, “SPEAK TRUTH EACH ONE of you WITH HIS NEIGHBOR,
Lying is as common to mankind as weeds are to a garden. Truly, lying has become habitual and is part and parcel of our corrupt society. Psychology Today reports: “We couldn’t get through the day without being deceptive.” In the June 2017 issue of National Geographic I found this comment: “Although lies are often condemned by many, people are especially prone to accepting lies…”
Another article I read recently about the politicos in Washington, D.C. contained this statement,” “You know they’re lying because their lips are moving.” A different reporter said,” If everyone in our society started telling the truth our way of life would collapse.” I don’t know if this is true, but it sounds logical.
From this we learn deception is prevalent and people, in general, accept untruths. People live with deception in their homes, in the workplace, and in the church. The media is inundated with deceit. According to a January 2018 poll, 70% of those questioned are confused about the credibility of “Fake News” and where it originates. Face Book has been in the news of late, and not for their achievements, but for lying to congress and the public, yet I haven’t found anyone who complains to the point of leaving this social giant behind and moving forward without them. It should come as no surprise to discover on March 8, 2018, NBC News reported, “Fake news, lies and falsehoods spread faster on social media than truth does.” We’ve reached the point where most people are ignorant of where truth ends and deception begins. They’ve been conditioned to accept opinion as truth
Time Magazine reported: “Bank employees are more likely to exhibit dishonesty when discussing their jobs, a new study found.” The large banks in America dispute the statement, but please bear in mind on September 8, 2016, Wells Fargo fired 5,300 employees for creating “ghost accounts.” They opened millions of bank and credit card accounts in their customers’ names without their approval and without their knowledge. This is hardly ethical behavior, yet people still conduct their business daily at this bank.
This was after the DOJ announced on February 9, 2015 it had reached a financial settlement with five of the largest mortgage service (banks) in America: JP Morgan Chase Bank, N.A.; Wells Fargo, N.A. and Wells Fargo & Co.; Citi Residential Lending Inc., Citibank, NA and CitiMortgage Inc. (Citi); GMAC Mortgage, LLC, Ally Financial Inc. and Residential Capital LLC (GMAC Mortgage); and BAC Home Loans Servicing LP formerly known as Countrywide Home Loans Servicing LP (Bank of America). However, these banking giants continue to thrive today despite the deception. Proof, again, people accept lies.
I can remember when contracts were discussed face-to-face, verbally, and a man’s handshake was his bond. A person was only as good as their word. Character mattered. Lying includes telling direct falsehoods and telling only part of the truth with the intent to deceive just as Satan (the father of lies) practiced in the Garden of Eden when he tempted the woman. Lying also includes: exaggeration (the proverbial fish story for example), cheating in school and on taxes, making promises and breaking them, false flattery, weak excuses, and those oh so common little white lies.
Some argue lying is not all bad. Isn’t it a good thing when you spare someone’s feelings? Isn’t a lie warranted to prevent someone from experiencing distress, as when you spot your best friend’s girl friend kissing someone other than “your best friend?” Humans rationalize the sin of lying in many ways, but consider your relationship with this individual six months down the road when she finally discovers the truth and you knew about it but didn’t say anything. Is this how a friend behaves? You didn’t spare her the anguish; you just delayed the inevitable, and made the situation worse.
Imagine where we’d be today, if our Apostle Paul opted to spare people’s feelings by not telling them they are “dead to God,” “lost in their sin,” and “without hope!” Instead, he spoke the truth regardless of the consequences: And the Lord said to Paul in the night by a vision, "Do not be afraid any longer, but go on speaking and do not be silent (Acts 18:9, 19:8; Galatians 4:16).
God plainly said: “Do not steal. Do not lie. Do not deceive one another (Leviticus 19:11 – NIV).
The Bible states the unsaved that are characterized by lying “will be thrown into the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death” (Revelation 21:8). Jesus Christ said they are marked as being children of the devil, who is the father of lies (John 8:44).
A Believer will not suffer for eternity in the Lake of Fire. You can’t lose your salvation, but because you’re the Lord’s ambassador of reconciliation you can certainly lose your credibility (2 Corinthians 5:11-21) and impair unity in the body.
Let’s be clear. Paul isn’t saying all Believers SPEAK TRUTH. We all tell lies now and again, but this should not define our character. Thus, Paul said, “lay aside falsehood,” because it is the old man’s character. Believers are to be known as truth-tellers especially to one another; their neighbor. Paul said, “…we are members of one another” (4:25b), lying not only hurts the body (other people) it harms Christ, the head, and us. We depend on one another the same way the members of our body rely on accurate messages from the nerves and brain.
We must tell the truth to each other but this doesn’t mean we’re required to express everything we think and feel. We’ll learn more about this in 4:29. There are other things to consider before we speak. The Body of Christ is built up by speaking the truth, in love. The old adage, “You can’t get there from here” applies because unless you learn to love people, even the unlovable, the body of Christ suffers. Love for others is our motivation for speaking the truth. Paul’s talking about the same kind of love Jesus Christ exhibited on the cross (Romans 5:6-9).
This doesn’t mean we’re to “tell other people off,” or “unload our emotional baggage” (thoughts and perspective) on one another. Paul’s simply saying when we speak it must be truthful.
FROM UNRIGHTEOUS ANGER TO RIGHTEOUS ANGER
BE ANGRY, AND yet DO NOT SIN; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not give the devil an opportunity.
I was taught, long ago, all anger is sinful. Perhaps you received this same instruction. However, the Bible doesn’t say this. I was taught the opinion of man, clearly, because Paul said “Be angry.” He did not say Be not angry. From his statement we learn there will be those times when something goes wrong causing Believers to be angry. But this command and other statements in scripture teach us because we’re holy we are to exercise restraint:
The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control (Galatians 5:22-23).
As we walk by grace, through faith, practicing restraint (self-control) the Holy Spirit enables us to reign in our anger. Paul put it this way “…do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not give the devil (Satan) an opportunity.”
Anger in and of itself is not sin. What you do with your anger is the issue. Paul said “Don’t let your anger get the best of you; deal with it or else the devil will tempt you which may cause you to sin.”
The anger Paul speaks of here is the same as in Psalm 97:10 and Proverbs 8:13:
Hate evil, you who love the Lord, Who preserves the souls of His godly ones;
He delivers them from the hand of the wicked (Psalm 97:10).
The fear of the Lord is to hate evil; Pride and arrogance and the evil way And the perverted mouth, I hate (Proverbs 8:13).
The thing these two Bible passages have in common is they instruct the righteous (those who are in right-standing with God) “to hate evil.” Our Apostle Paul said true Believers are not to accept evil. Looking to scripture for an example of this teaching, we find the Lord Jesus Christ refusing to accept evil. He acted with righteous anger by driving out the merchants and money changers from the Jewish Temple. Why? They had turned God’s house of prayer into a “den of thieves” (Matthew 21:13; Mark 11:17; Luke 19:45; Isaiah 56:7; Jeremiah 7:11). The religious leaders were lying to the people and robbing them in God’s house, so the Lion of Judah brought the matter to everyone’s attention. But Jesus didn’t sin. His behavior was a controlled act of righteous indignation (James 1:20).
If your anger seeks to vindicate itself in its quest for revenge, then it’s gratuitous. Righteous anger is based in the holiness of God and the sincere love for others, seeking their highest good in other words (Galatians 6:1-4, 10). Agape love is sacrificial in nature and leaves “getting even or getting ahead’ in God hands. (Romans 12:19; 1 Thessalonians 5:15; 1 Peter 3:9).
Anger or righteous indignation should be experienced by every true Believer who becomes aware of a grave injustice; not to the extent of becoming Batman-like, avenging evil wherever you find it. Righteous anger reacts against sin. This means for anger to be righteous, it cannot, must not, arise in response to a violation of my preferences, because I’ve been inconvenienced in some way, or my rights are being neglected. In brief, biblically speaking, righteous anger focuses on God, His kingdom, His rights, and His concerns, and not mine or yours. It’s not about us it is about God.
Righteous anger will resemble the actions and expressions of our Lord. As I said, evil comes in many forms such as: a child physically or sexually abused by an adult, this includes abortion for anything but a documented medical concern, a sleazy character who entices run-a-way girls into prostitution, or an individual selling drugs on school property.
Note the restrictions Paul’s command places upon this anger. Be angry, but do not sin.
Do not let this emotion cause you to violate God’s standards. This is easily done; anger is a powerful emotion. It must be restrained.
In addition, Paul said, “do not let the sun go down on your anger.” Anger that is not dealt with quickly turns to bitterness. This gives the devil an opportunity (a foothold) to feed that anger until it becomes an out of control inferno causing us to strike out, selfishly.
FROM STEALING TO SHARING
28: He who steals must steal no longer; but rather he must labor, performing with his own hands what is good so that he will have something to share with one who has need.
Paul visited Ephesus several times. In around 57–58 AD, he stayed there for over two years as part of his third missionary journey. Paul’s effectiveness and success in spreading the gospel in Ephesus meant that some people were turning away from the cult of Artemis and converting to the faith. Some Ephesians were also turning away from magic: “A number who practiced magic collected their books and burned them publicly; when the value of these books was calculated, it was found to come to fifty thousand silver coins” (Acts 19:10, 19).
The Ephesian Church was known throughout the region for acknowledging Paul’s gospel and his apostleship unlike the Corinthians who couldn’t make up their minds about his apostolic authority and were known for their carnality. Between the two churches, the Ephesians could be considered spiritual giants. Yet, evidently, some of them were stealing. This is just one more reminder to us all that our old man is alive and intends to thwart our desire to do the right thing at the right time.
The Koine Greek word translated steal is Klepto (klep’-to), Verb, Strong’s Greek #2813; meaning: to commit a theft, to take away by theft stealthily. We get the English word Kleptomania from this word and it means: an irresistible impulse to steal stemming from an emotional disturbance more so than an economic need. The word itself or variations of the word appear 13 times in the N.T. I didn’t count the references in the O.T. but the one that stands out there is the LORD God’s command: “Do not steal.”
Not only is this command not being addressed by a great many, the act of stealing have been redefined by our society. In some cases it’s not even thought of as stealing, as in taking home items that belong to your employer, conducting personal business on the computer while at work, goofing off at work; which includes personal phone calls, visiting other workers on company time, and updating social media sites, and simply day-dreaming instead of focusing on the tasks at hand. There are many ways to steal, and these are limited only by man’s imagination. Thus, we discover stealing doesn’t only refer to robbing banks, identity theft, embezzlement, and shoplifting items from Wal-Mart.
Paul gives the Ephesians the alternative to stealing which is working, and by that labor we are to provide for ourselves and those who have genuine need. We are responsible for ourselves to “work with our own hands” and provide for those who depend on us.
If we do not, we deny the faith and are worse than unbelievers (1Timothy 5:8). Those who refuse to work are not to even be given anything to eat (2 Thessalonians 3:10-11). Those who have a genuine need, such as widows and orphans without means of support, or those physically incapable of providing for themselves are to be assisted out of the overflow of charity which should be in the heart of every Believer (1 Corinthians 9:6-8).
FROM UNWHOLESOME WORDS TO WHOLESOME
29: Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it may give grace to those who hear.
The word unwholesome refers to that which is corrupt or foul, as in rotten vegetables or spoiled fruit. Foul language from the mouth of a Believer is contradictory to their new life, in Christ. An unbeliever may honestly say, “The devil made me do it,” but a Believer may not. There is no excuse for cursing like a drunken sailor or for telling off-color jokes. Just because your peers practice these things doesn’t mean it’s ok. In Colossians 3:8 Paul commanded the Believers to “put them all aside: anger, wrath, malice, slander and abusive speech.”
Jesus Christ’s words just came to mind. He said, “For out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks (Matt. 12:34), so it is no wonder non-believers speak the way they do.
The mouthpiece of our old man is the tongue. The Apostle James said, “…it is untamable” (James 3:6-8). He’s not wrong, even on our best day, if you drop a weighty object on your toe, you’ll probably say things unbecoming of a true Believer.
Returning to what Paul said earlier, Believers are to “put off” their filthy, worn out clothing, that is, sin and “put on” the new man. Thus, unwholesome language is uncharacteristic of a spiritually-minded Believer, in Christ.
Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things (Philippians 4:8).
Paul’s solution is, “but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, (for this reason) so that it may give grace to those who hear (4:29b).
Think this through, who is going to listen to you share the gospel, if they’re aware of your habit of using unwholesome language. It’s a “turn-off.” Rotten words destroy; they don’t edify or build an individual up.
The Believer’s speech is to be guided by these three characteristics:
1) We speak only “such a word as is good for edification.” Our concern is building one another up in Christ. This includes appreciation, correction, encouragement, and motivation when necessary, in love. It is always the truth spoken with genuine love. Ask yourself this question before you speak, “Will my words genuinely help build the other person’s faith and help them become more Christ-like?
2) We also speak “according to the need of the moment.” In other words, we speak appropriately at the appropriate time. This takes discernment, wisdom and at times, patience.
“A man has joy in an apt answer, And how delightful is a timely word!”
3) We speak in order to give grace to those who hear. Gracious words comfort a grieving family; it empathizes with them, and demonstrates the love of Christ Jesus to those who are in need. Therefore, our spiritual service to others is more important than getting something off our chest, emptying our minds of clutter, in other words. This includes confronting sin in a timely fashion wherever it’s found. Jesus was a friend of sinners. We have not been given the freedom to be less. Jesus didn’t turn away from the sinner; He confronted evil (sin) by presenting the scriptures (God’s truths) to the lost.
FROM IMMORALITY TO VIRTUE
In the remaining verses, Paul commands the Ephesians to leave immorality behind and embrace change: Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you (4:30-32).
In verse 32 our Apostle Paul explains how the Ephesians (and us) are to behave. But first, in verses 30-31 he contrasts those who truly live for Jesus Christ with the folks who do not. When a Believer does not walk worthy of the calling for which they have been called, God calls it sin.
If we do not live in accordance with God’s standards, temptation leads to sin. Paul said the covetous (greedy) nature that’s a part of all sin leads to bitterness and wrath and anger and these lead to the outward expression of these emotions, clamor, slander, and malice.
Bitterness is a spirit of irritability that keeps a person imprisoned in perpetual animosity. Wrath is the wild rage of the passion of the moment while anger is more internal and more subtle, a deeper feeling. Paul said the outward expressions of these sins are clamor, slander and malice. Clamor is an outward sign of wrath expressed in the loss of control in public outbursts. Slander grows out of bitterness and is the defamation of those considered your enemies. Malice is the general term for the evil that is at the root of all immorality. The Believer must put all these things away from him and put on the virtues listed in verse 32. Be kind to one another instead of bitter. Tender-hearted (gentle) rather than irritable. Forgiving each other rather than filled with animosity.
If you as a Believer continue to live as if you were not, exhibiting the kinds of things Paul has mentioned here, you will grieve the Holy Spirit. By the way, the very fact that the Holy Spirit can be grieved underlines the truth He is a living Person, capable of thought, expressing His will, and demonstrating emotion. You cannot grieve a force.
The truth is the Ephesian Church was experiencing all of these things, which is why Paul’s words here actually mean, “Stop grieving the Holy Spirit!” Believers stop grieving the Holy Spirit when we live according to our calling in Jesus Christ, a calling to which the Holy Spirit has sealed us:
to the day of redemption.
We speak the truth in love rather than lie.
We have righteous anger, but we control it and do not let it lead us into sin.
We go to work seeking to provide for ourselves and others out of the charity of our heart rather than steal.
We guard our mouths and refrain from using unwholesome (rotten) words. Instead we seek to build one another up with appropriate, gracious words.
We put off the vices of bitterness, wrath and anger which lead to clamor, slander and malice and instead put on the virtues of kindness, tender-hearts and forgiveness.
In doing these things, we please the Lord by loving others rather than grieve the Holy Spirit. In doing these things we live according to our calling; in harmony with being the new creatures God has made us when He saved us; and in agreement with the new life we have in Jesus Christ.
(To be continued)
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