Sermon Notes: Ephesians 4:25-32 – The Gospel Response

June 30, 2012 by  
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These are the notes of a sermon preached by Andy Evans on the morning of the 08 January 2012 at Firwood Church. Click here to stream or download the sermon audio.

EPHESIANS 4:25-32 – THE GOSPEL RESPONSE

Ephesians 4:17-32

17Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. 18They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. 19They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. 20But that is not the way you learned Christ!— 21assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, 22to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, 23and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, 24and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.

25Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another. 26Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, 27and give no opportunity to the devil. 28Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need. 29Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. 30And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. 32Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

1. THE GOSPEL COMMAND

The Bible is unlike any other book in existence, inasmuch as it commands a response.

I presume all writers desire that the reader should respond to the text. For example, the author of a spy novel intends to thrill, the author of a supernatural ghost story hopes to terrify or repulse and the author of romantic fiction longs to inspire the reader with the sense of the exhilaration of newly-blossoming love. Writers write with the intention of provoking a response within the reader. No writer, however, is able to command a response (and an appropriate response, at that).

In this respect, the expectation of the writers of the Scriptures is all together greater. The Bible demands a response and, more specifically, the Apostle Paul’s letter to the church in Ephesus commands a response. This is evident in the passage we considered way back in September 2011. The Apostle Paul addresses this particular church and, by extension, believers everywhere in starkly uncompromising terms,

Ephesians 4:17

Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds.

Paul writes, not as you and I might write, but with the very authority of Christ Jesus. Paul ‘testifies in the Lord’. He does not speak on his own authority, but as one who is a prisoner of the Lord and speaks with the authority of the Lord.

Paul is able to speak with such authority because the message, the gospel, does not originate with him. As Paul writes elsewhere,

Galatians 1:11–12

11For I would have you know, brothers, that the gospel that was preached by me is not man’s gospel. 12For I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ.

We would do well to remember this each time we open the Bible. The words we read do not originate with the human authors. Rather, as Paul assures us elsewhere, ‘All scripture is breathed out by God’ (2 Timothy 3:16).

Specifically, we would do well to remember that as Paul pens chapters four through to six, he writes in such a way that his words can, and indeed should, be received as the very Word of God,

Ephesians 4:17

Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds.

This must affect the way that we receive and respond to the words written down in this book. This must affect the way that we receive and respond to Paul’s letter to this church in Ephesus.

For the believer, this weighty truth should compel us towards a posture of humility and obedience. Christians submit themselves to the words written by Paul, John, Peter and the other writers of Scripture, confident that in them and through them, God speaks without error and with absolute authority.

For the unbeliever, there is great encouragement in this. As we read the words of this Book, God speaks, He spoke then and he continues to speak today. And for believer and unbeliever alike, there is great encouragement that, as we continue this series, God will speak to us in and through the words of the Apostle as he spoke to the church in Ephesus.

2. THE GOSPEL RESPONSE

And these words, written for our instruction, encouragement and edification should and must produce a three-fold response.

a. Admiration

These words must produce admiration.

Consider how Paul begins this great letter: with meditation and doxology regarding the manifold glories of God displayed in his glorious interventions in this universe. This God, Paul assures us, has been at work since ‘before the foundation of the world’ (Ephesians 1:4) working for the good of his people and for the glory of his name. This God is intent on perfecting,

Ephesians 1:10

…plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.

Paul wants us to see that this God acts for his glory and our good. This explains why he thus prays,

Ephesians 1:17–21

17that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, 18having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, 19and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might 20that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, 21far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come.

Paul prays that those of us who believe, the Church of Christ, would see and comprehend the greatness of God and the glory of King Jesus. But note the sense of this passage, the way Paul moves from prayer to doxology. It is as though, as Paul reflects on the glorious saving activity of God in and through Christ Jesus, he gets caught up and his petition transforms into praise.

Paul wants us to see the glory of God that our hearts might respond with admiration.

It is not enough that we simply acknowledge that God exists. It is not enough that we see that Jesus is, in fact, all he claimed and all the Scriptures testify him to be. All of this demands a response. Moreover, all of this demands a right response. Indeed, Jesus addresses this very issue,

John 3:19

And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil.

Consider the outrageousness of this truth. The light comes into the world, men and woman see the light, but, instead of embracing and receiving Christ Jesus, they shun, despise and reject the light, instead preferring the darkness. In this we see the true depth of our own depravity. God becomes flesh and walks among us and minsters to us. He is beautiful. He is wonderful. He is gracious and glorious in equal measure. And we killed him.

The light came, but we rejected him and embraced darkness.

It is important that we see Jesus for who he is and respond appropriately. Jesus deserves our admiration. This is precisely Paul’s point. Jesus is the one who is raised from the dead and seated at the right hand of God,

Ephesians 1:21

far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come.

To fail to respond rightly is a sin. To see the One who is utterly admirable and respond with anything other than admiration is appalling and outrageous.

b. Affection

But even admiration is not enough.

Paul later prays that believers in Ephesus and, by extension, believers everywhere,

Ephesians 3:18–19

18may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

The Word of God demands a response. As we see Jesus, as we see the God of the Universe at work, we must respond with admiration. However, this is not enough. Revelation must lead to admiration and admiration must produce affection. God does not simply want our allegiance, he demands our hearts affection.

Consequently, Paul prays that not only would we see the glory and majesty of God, but that we would see and receive the rich expansive love of God revealed and at work in and through Christ Jesus. Paul prays that we would comprehend and, as we do so, that we would be filled with the fullness of God.

Admiration must be accompanied by affection. The two must go hand-in-hand.

It is not enough to simply see, recognise and admire the light. For us to do so would be cold and would call into question the depth of our admiration. We come to love that which we admire. For us to see the beauty of Christ and acknowledge that he is beautiful, but to refuse to love him in his beauty is nonsensical and wicked. We see and we respond.

Likewise, affection alone is not enough. My parents once owned a labrador. I felt immense affection for him, but I did not admire him. He ate grass, carpet, shoes and three piece suites. He was also fond of peeing on the carpet. It is difficult to admire something that is so undiscerning when it comes to putting things in his mouth. Moreover, it is very difficult to respect and admire anything that habitually pees on my stuff. He had my heart, but not my admiration.

God, however, is not my pet. God is beholden to no man. God does not need anything outside himself. God is the only person in existence who is truly self-sufficient. The Psalmist reminds us,

Psalm 115:3

Our God is in the heavens;
he does all that he pleases.

God is admirable and to feel anything other than admiration is a failure to acknowledge his godliness and his worth.

And this is precisely Paul’s point. He prays that we would see, he prays that we would comprehend, knowing that, as we do so, our hearts awaken to the glory of him. Admiration and affection go hand-in-hand.

i. The Command to Delight

This then makes sense of the commands in Scripture regarding our affections. Consider the following passages,

Psalm 37:4

Delight yourself in the Lord,
and he will give you the desires of your heart.

And, from the New Testament,

Philippians 4:4

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.

We have been considering passages like these at great length in the Monday Small Groups (we are currently working through a study based on Desiring God: Meditations of a Christian Hedonist, by John Piper). We have concluded that passages like these should trouble us.

God commands us to be happy in him. As such, and by implication, a failure to delight and rejoice in him would be disobedience and sin.

This should perplex us. Consider the employer who commanded us to be happy else we be disciplined and dismissed. Or, consider the government who ordered us to be joyful lest we be prosecuted by the full weight of the law. How then can this be?

The answer to this conundrum is found in God himself. God is delightful, therefore, a refusal to delight in him is an act of rebellion akin to rejecting the light and embracing the darkness. God is the source of all happiness; therefore, a refusal to rejoice in him is a refusal to acknowledge him as lovely, worthy, glorious, indeed, God.

But there is a further aspect to this. Our admiration and affection for God is a natural and instinctive response when seeing him as he truly is. No wife need command her husband to love her. He sees her, delights in her, honours her, admires her and loves her because she is to him delightful, honourable, admirable and loveable.

Our admiration and affection for God is borne from a true revelation and is the bedrock of true relationship with him.

c. Action

Finally, all of this must result in action. Paul makes this clear at the beginning of Chapter 4,

Ephesians 4:1

I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called

In the first verse of (and throughout) the passage we considered back in September,

Ephesians 4:17

Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds.

And throughout the passage we will consider over the coming weeks,

Ephesians 4:25

Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another.

The Scriptures are full of such commands, these passages cannot be ignored. The Bible commands us to act. To obey. To follow. To move. To do something. To refrain from sin. To pursue righteousness. To not live like that. To live like this.

The Christian life is a life characterised by active obedience.

3. ADMIRATION, AFFECTION, ACTION

But why resume this series by taking us back to the beginning of Ephesians? Why not just pick up where we left off (from Chapter 4, verse 25)?

There is a shift in emphasis from the beginning of Chapter 4. In Chapters 1 through to 3, Paul focuses upon the glory of God at work in the universe and towards those who are his. Chapters 1 through to 3 are designed to awake admiration and affection for the King of kings. In Chapters 4 through to 6, Paul focuses on unpacking the practical implications of this glorious truth.

It is important we see that these two sections of Ephesians are twin sides of the same coin. It is important we see that the admiration and affection belong together and are the foundation upon which we are compelled and motivated towards action.

Without admiration and affection, we are left with begrudging obedience.

Consider the husband who buys his wife a Christmas present because he pledged that he would remain faithful to the marriage ‘until death do them part’? Imagine the husband that reminds his wife of this each wedding anniversary as he hands over the obligatory flowers. Yes, she has his devotion, but this is begrudging devotion.

A wife wants to know that the gifts and the attention are borne out of true soul deep affection. This makes sense and this is how it should be.

Admiration leads to affection. Affection leads to action. We serve the one whom we love because we love her.

So too with God.

Begrudging obedience dishonours God. Begrudging obedience belittles his glory, his beauty and his loveliness. God desires our all. Moreover, God demands our all.

The wonder of the gospel is that all of this works for his glory and our good. Our obedience glorifies him. Our obedience is for our good because he wants us to be safe and happy. The admiration and affection speaks of relationship. Action is the outcome of this deep relationship. And because actions stems from both admiration and affection, our action, our service our devotion brings a deep unswerving joy.

We serve him because we must. We serve him because of his great love for us. We serve him because he is our great Treasure and very great Reward. We serve him because we delight to do so.

It is with this posture and attitude that we read the passage set before us over the coming weeks,

Ephesians 4:25-32

25Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another. 26Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, 27and give no opportunity to the devil. 28Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need. 29Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. 30And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. 32Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

Note how Paul begins with exhortation to action and then ends by return to the gospel, the very inspiration for our admiration and affection.

These three go together: admiration, because he is altogether admirable, affection, because he is altogether lovely, and action, because, when we see him as he truly is, we cannot but respond with our hearts, our lives and deep, full and meaningful worship.

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