The book of Ephesians is a magnificent masterpiece, and why would it not be, given that it is a writing inspired by God. One of my favorite verses lies within the fourth chapter. Since that verse, number 32, begins with a conjunction, “And,” we must look to the preceding verses to really get the “big picture” of what the apostle Paul is telling us.
Ephesians 4:32 states: “And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God, for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.” Sweet. simple verse, correct? But oh so hard to carry out in our Christian lives! Kindness to others, when they have been unkind to us seems most difficult. Even in our own families, when we have daily disagreements, we have problems with remaining kind, yet that is exactly what God exepects…..no…..commands us to do.
In verse 24, Paul tells us that we are to put off the old man and put on the new man which is created after God in righteousness and holiness. Then he begins a compare/contrast list of the works the old man did and the works the new Christian is to do. A careful reading will reveal that when we are to “put away lying,” we are to replace it with truth. It is not enough to simply put away lying. We must speak truth. When we stop the evil, we are to go forth with the godly. In verse 28 we are admonished to cease stealing. So if we are not stealing, that should be enough? No, he continues to say that we are to labor; to work with our hands that we may not only have for ourselves, but that we will have so that we can give to others. Sitting back and not being a “thief,” is not good enough. We are commanded to be busy and support ourselves and share our abundance with others. Verse 29 continues to tell us that we are not to have any corrupt communication come forth from our mouths. Translation: “Corrupt,” “sapros” = bad, decayed, rotten, putrid (Barnes). Any obscene, filthy, offensive conversation that could corrupt others is not to be used, but rather, that which will build up and edify and increase our faith! That verse reinforces the fact that ALL of our communication should be that which edifies and brings grace to the hearer, as the verse states. So….if we simply stop swearing, gossiping, degrading others, ect., it is still not enough. We need to be speaking those things to build others up! We need to be speaking the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15).Verse 31 commands us to rid our lives of bitterness, anger, clamor, evil speaking and maliciousness. This being accomplished, we must follow through by adding to our Christian character, the attributes we see in verse 32, kindness, tenderheartedness and forgiveness.
The amazing thing about the Bible is that for every command and example of what we should not do, there is always instruction to show us how we should be living. God never left us in the dark, but always gave guidance to all men/women for all times. These are not options, but rather are commands to be followed, attributes that we must continually strive toward mastering. We are told, “Be not overcome with evil, but overcome evil with good,” (Romans 12:21). Jesus went about doing good (Acts 10:28). His children must do likewise. If you would be a child of God, you must do more that refrain from evil. You must also do good as our Father and Savior does. I would like to encourage all my sisters in Christ (as well as everyone else), to continue to add these attributes of goodness to your lives and to pray for one another that each of us might be found, pure, holy and acceptable in that last day.
Nancy is the wife of Bill Goring, who serves as a gospel preacher and elder for the Chipman Road church of Christ in Lee’s Summit, Missouri. She has 4 children, 11 grandchildren and has taught Bible class for over 40 years, speaks at Ladies Day gatherings and has published several books including: Behavior Becoming Holiness: Studies in Titus Chapter 2 and Overcoming our Self-Imposed Prisons.