Ephesians Study, Part 33: More Sins to Avoid


Last week, Paul reminded us that we are not like we used to be.  As believers, we are to put on the new self, have a renewed mind.  And then he told us that as the new person, and to maintain the unity of the Church, we should not lie.  Lying was the first item on a list of five sins Paul says to avoid.  We spent a lot of time on how poorly we follow Paul's admonition.  In the next few verses, he is going to continue the list, giving us several admonitions about what believers should not do.

Today's Study: More sins to avoid

  1. Lying was the first one, and we discussed that last week.

  2. Anger: Paul then continues this morning with another admonition: "Be angry, and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger..."

    Anger is an emotional arousal caused by something that displeases us.  Malice is anger that smolders.  That same anger can suddenly burst forth, which we would then call wrath.  Horace says anger is "Momentary insanity."  Solomon says:

    "Be angry, and yet do not sin" is a quote from Psalm 4:14, but depending on your translation, it may not be apparent.  The Greek word interpreted as angry is orgizo which means to provoke or enrage, or to become exasperated.

    The Psalms verse, in the NAS says:

    In the Hebrew the word interpreted as tremble is ragaz which is "to quiver" (with any violent emotion, especially anger or fear).  The King James translates the Psalms verse as "stand in awe" which could be tremble in awe.  Tremble in righteous indignation is one way to think of the Psalms verse and the Ephesians verse.

    We are to be angry with sin but loving toward people.  In reality, we get that backwards.  In reality we love the sin but hate the sinner.  There are all kinds of examples where we love to do what we know we should not, that would be sin, but we have disdain for people who choose to sin in ways that we manage to avoid.

    I believe that the New Testament teaches us that we are to love the homosexual, but we are to hate homosexuality.  There are times when it would be wrong not to be angry.  However, the only thing that we should ever be angry at is sin.  We are to hate sin.

    As an aside, it is very difficult to practice holy anger or righteous indignation, because our emotions are always tainted by sin.  The moment that self comes into the picture, that our ego and emotions become involved, then our anger is ego-centric; "I" is the center of the anger.  Aristotle said it well, "Anyone can become angry.  But to be angry with the right person, to the right degree, at the right time, for the right purpose and in the right way, this is not easy.

    Anger cherished becomes malice, and Satan works through a malicious spirit.  Unresolved anger makes you a sitting duck for the Devil to use you.  It is your obligation to forgive and resolve anger to protect yourself and to protect the Church.

  3. Stealing: Paul then goes on to another sin to avoid for the unity of the Church.  But this natural sin is far wider and deeper than the surface.

    Stealing, as you may recall, is one of the Ten Commandments that Moses was not able to negotiate God out of.  As the modern world would call them, and as many modern churches regard them, these are really the "Ten suggestions", anyway.

    God instituted the concept of private property.  It is a part of his law.  That really is sort of interesting.  By virtue of "Thou shall not steal", God instituted the concept of private property.  Stealing has many forms.  On the most shallow level, we understand that we are not to take something that belongs to someone else.  But let's take the question a little deeper.

    Do you see the point, socially and politically?  Socialism is a form of plunder.  It is not just a political issue.  It is against God's principal of personal property rights.  I think you can make the Biblical case that the source of Socialism is ungodly.

    I think we may have gone down this road before, but I think the point is so significant that I want to go down the road again.  Let's have déjà vu all over again.

    Do you understand that this is the concept that a socialistic system is built on?  It gets sold as a way for society to help the underprivileged.  But built into its design is an equation for financial disaster; where everybody in the system, to protect themselves from the rest of the people in the system have to spend as much as they can as quickly as they can, or to get and use as much as they can as fast as they can, before someone else gets it.  The politically liberal economic agenda is a form of an attack on private property.  It is, in effect, an invasion of one of the Ten Commandments.   Jesus tells us in John 10:10, talking about Satan, that Satan is a thief.

    He coaxed Eve to take the fruit which was forbidden.  The first Adam was a thief, cast out of Paradise.  The last Adam, Jesus, turned to a thief and said today you'll be with me and Paradise.  That's an interesting closure of the loop. 

    By the way, not that most of us really want to hear it, but not paying bills when they are due is a form of stealing.  When someone advanced you or me credit on certain terms with a due date, if the money is not paid when due, then it's a form of stealing.

    In contrast to stealing, Paul says, "let him work so that he will have means to give to the needy."  Note that Paul does not say that you should work so you do not have to steal.  That is not what he says.  You work so that you will have something to give to those who are in need.  A lazy Christian robs himself, others and God. 

    You might find it interesting to know that every Jewish Rabbi was taught a trade.  There is a common quote within the rabbinical community which says, "If you do not teach your son a trade, you teach him to be a thief."

    I want to overkill the question a little by asking you where our welfare system fits into this issue.  If you notice, the men whom God called in the Scriptures to do his work were busy people.  Moses was busy taking care of sheep.  Gideon was threshing wheat.  David was tending his father's sheep.  The first four disciples were either mending their nets or casting them, fishing.  Jesus himself was an apprentice carpenter.  If able, every Christian is expected to work.

  4. Unwholesome Speech:   Now to the next admonition.

    We do expect a change in speech when someone becomes a Christian.  If you want an exercise that will help you understand this, get a concordance out this week and trace the use of the word mouth in the book of Romans.  There are a handful of verses which contrast with each other about the mouth.

    The word unwholesome in verse 29 is the Greek word sapros which means rotten, worthless, like rotten fruit.  Romans 3:13 says:

    So what is the remedy for this problem with our mouth?  We acknowledge intellectually that unwholesome speech is not becoming to the Christian, but what do we do about it?  How do we repair this?  The defense is to fill your heart with the love of Jesus so that only truth and beauty can emerge.  That way you never have to say "take this with the grain of salt. " If you have this attitude you will be the salt!

    James three tells us what we need to understand.  This week, perhaps read the third chapter of James and see if it doesn't help you.

  5. Grieving the Holy Spirit:

    This is probably the most important verse of Chapter 4.  We know that the Father loves you.  We know that the Son of God loves you.  We talk a lot about both of those.  But many people, including Christians, have a misunderstanding about the Holy Spirit.  He is a person.  He has feelings.  We studied this before.  Verse 30 in Chapter 4 is one of the verses that tells us that he has feelings, because Paul tells us not to grieve the Holy Spirit.  What does that tell you about the Holy Spirit?  He loves you.  If he did not love you, you could not grieve him.  Grieve means to give pain.  You cannot grieve someone who does not care about you.  You cannot grieve someone who does not have feelings toward you.  The fact that you run the risk of grieving him tells you that he has feelings for you, that you're important to him.

    Let me tell you a story.  There was a man who had a very unique opportunity to give a very special gift to one of his daughters.  So on the way home from work he picked up that very special gift to take it home to give it to her.  But when he arrived home his wife explained that during that day that daughter had been horrible.  It wasn't just a matter that she had misbehaved, but what she had done was an overwhelming exhibit of her ingratitude toward her parents.  When the father learned about it, he was very upset.  If it had merely been some behavior that merited punishment or restriction of privileges or spanking he could've dealt with that.  But it was deeper than that.  Her actions had displayed her utter lack of gratitude to her parents.  He had the special gift that he wanted to give to her, but he was frozen.  He couldn't act out his love for her in view of what she had done, so all he could do was sit there and feel pain, sit there and grieve.

    Isn't that a picture of where the Holy Spirit is with each of us today?  Isn't that our position with the Father, with the Holy Spirit?  We cause him pain, by our ingratitude.  But what can he do but feel pain?  That is grieving the Holy Spirit. 

    It is shocking to realize that each of us is in a position to cause God pain.  When you think of it, that is a weird idea.  And yet that is exactly what is implied here by Paul.

On a more positive note, notice that Paul said:

No one can unseal the work of the Holy Spirit.  In John 14:16 Jesus said the Holy Spirit abides with us for ever.

This is a very key idea, but we won't pursue it now.

Bitterness is that subtle inner hostility that poisons our lives.  Bitterness leads to wrath and it hardens the heart.  The basic cause of bitterness is an unforgiving spirit.  If we forgive others, as we are mandated to do, there is no source for bitterness.  The person that gets hurt by bitterness is the person who fails to do the forgiving.  Learning how to forgive and forget is one of the secrets of a happy Christian life.  The phrase "be put away from you" is in the aorist imperative tense in the Greek.  That means that it requires a one-time, once and for all decisive action.  That's what the grammar requires in the Greek.  As a Christian we need to decide not to be bitter, once and for all.  To forgive and forget.

Courtesy is more than just an attitude.  It requires knowledge.  We call it "manners".  The ignorance of common courtesy is often the result of lack of training.  I'm sure you find as I do that many young people today are unbelievably discourteous.  It may or may not be a matter of attitude, but it most certainly is a lack of training.  Lord Chesterfield's definition of a gentleman is "One who is never unconsciously rude to anyone."  If you're consciously rude, that is a different question. 

Now forgiving each other.  That is putting the most charitable construction on the apparent faults or mistakes of others.  So Paul says to use graciousness rather than legalism.  Think about it.  The most dangerous hurts are the most justified ones.  The hurts the get you in the biggest trouble are the ones that you feel are justified.  They are the ones you are least likely to let go of, to forgive and forget.

So be kind, tender-hearted and forgiving.  God is with you and with me.


Next week:

...we will not have class.  The following week, January 5, we will dive into Chapter 5 and continue our learning about how to live worthy of our calling as Christians.