A Model of Change
In Ephesians 4:20-24 Paul gives a model of change, rooted in the Gospel, that he illustrates in five examples in verses 25-32. Use the chart below, not only to help you follow the logic of the passage, but also to serve as a way to think about your own battles with sin. Each of the letters (A is on lying; B is on anger, etc…) demonstrate how Paul counsels the Ephesians to overcome that particular sin.
Put Off Your Old Self (v. 22)
A. Falsehood (v. 25)
B. Sinful Anger (v. 26)
C. Stealing (v. 28)
D. Harsh Words (v. 29)
E. Acts & Emotions of Revenge (v. 31)
Be Renewed in the Spirit of Your Mind (v. 23)
A. Recognizing our unity in the church (v. 25)
B. Seeing the opportunity sinful anger gives Satan (v. 27)
C. Learn to value generosity more than prosperity (v. 28)
D. Tearing down others grieves God (v. 30)
E. Recognize the extent of forgiveness you have received (v. 32)
Put On the New Self (v. 24)
A. Speak the truth (v. 25)
B. Deal with differences quickly (v. 26)
C. Work for your goods (v. 28)
D. Speak to give grace (v. 29)
E. Act and relate out of forgiveness (v. 32)
From Lying to Truth-Telling (4:25)
Too often we seek to cure sin by appealing to the same selfishness that made sin tempting. Our children lie, so we tell them, “You will never truly get what you wanted by lying.” While this is true, it leaves the child rooted in the same self-centeredness that made lying seem like a good idea in the first place.
Paul makes a different appeal when he says, “Do not lie because you are members one of another (i.e., church, family, class, humanity).” Paul reveals that the true poison of deceit is not merely its falseness, but the belief that (nay, more the delight in) I can win by someone else losing. W
hen I am willing to sacrifice you for me, then I have broken the command to love my neighbor as myself.
Illustration: In football, a wide receiver does not lie to his quarterback about the route he is going to run. Why? They are members of the same team. One cannot succeed without the other succeeding. They both understand this; therefore, they trust one another. It is this core belief about life that protects our hearts from lying without appealing to our carnal nature to restrain our flesh.
Correcting Our Speech (4:29)
What is the measure of good communication? How do we know if we have been “successful” in a given dialogue? How we answer that question will greatly influence how we read our Bible, evaluate our marriages, and discipline our children. If success is to effectively get across whatever I feel, think, or believe, then the purpose of the Bible and others is to validate what I feel, think, or believe.
However, Paul gives us a different definition of success in communication. Paul says good communication gives grace to those who hear as fits the occasion. Grace builds up another person in Christ by affirming truth, confronting sin, or comforting suffering. That is the content of good communication. The tone is “as fits the occasion” and this requires the skill of speaking in age or situation appropriate ways.
Application: Paul further unpacks this principle in 1 Thessalonians 5:14, “And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all.” Here we see Paul identifying three different tones of presenting the content of grace based upon the heart attitude of the recipient. Identify a conversation that you had this week that fits each of these tones and consider how your words could have communicated more of the content of grace.