Welcome to Expositing Ephesians

THIS BLOG IS DEDICATED to one of the chief passions of my life and ministry, The Epistle of Paul to the Ephesians. I believe this epistle is at the very core of the Christian life. I spent years in the study of it and then three and one half years expositing it from my pulpit. I hope this blog will be a blessing to you as I share that exposition. I also hope you will tell others about this blog. Please check for new posts each Monday .

Monday, November 17, 2014

Taking Off Unrighteous Vengeance to Put On Righteous Anger (2)

Considering again Ephesians 4:26-27—Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath: Neither give place to the devil—the New Testament speaks first of righteous anger.

Second, the New Testament also speaks of unrighteous anger. Paul adds another imperative, and sin not, which provide us with a check and a restraint, a test to show whether our anger is truly righteous. When is anger sin? Obviously, anger is sin when our anger is not directed at things that are sin against God. In short: Sinful anger is when our anger is motivated out of personal reasons, that is, when someone has offended us, not God.

How often is our anger selfish instead of Godly? How often do we get angry because we have been wronged instead of getting angry because God’s Word has been violated? Even if someone’s action is itself sinful, we also sin if our anger is motivated out of self, if it is motivated out of personal offense or “hurt feelings?”

And what horrendous destruction comes as a result of personally motivated anger! The story is told of a women who tried to defend her bad temper by saying to preacher Billy Sunday, “Although I blow up over the least little thing, it’s all over in a minute,” to which Sunday replied, “So is a shotgun blast! It’s over in seconds, too, but look at the terrible damage it can do.” Consider the results of so-called “crimes of passion,” where out of momentary anger someone is stabbed, shot, or just defamed by words.

The famous 1st Century B.C. Roman poet Horace wrote, “Anger is momentary insanity” (Epistolae). How true! “Insanity” is a loss of mental capacity and reason, and that is what uncontrolled anger is. That is not how the Christian is to live. The Christian doesn’t go insane, doesn’t “get stupid,” doesn’t fly off the handle, doesn’t “lose it,” doesn’t get enraged over the least little thing. When there is anger, it is for the right reason and is controlled.

This leads us to the positive consideration, that is, the deeper motive, namely: let not the sun go down upon your wrath. The word wrath comes from the Greek parorgismos, meaning embitterment or personal resentment. even righteous anger can degenerate, so Paul added this admonition. Kept too long, even righteous anger against sin can turn into resentment toward the person. It, therefore, must be dealt with before the sun [goes] down; that is, don’t take it to bed with you, deal with it, get it resolved. Again, be angry at the sin but don’t resent the person. Why? Because when we have resentment for someone, we cannot then be of help to them. Yes, we get angry at their sin, but our goal should be to bring them back to what is right by being a witness to them.

Why, then, must we not allow unrighteous anger? Because it will give place to the Devil. The Greek for give place exactly is another Present Imperative, a command. Give is didōmi, a common word found 416 times in the New Testament and means “to give of one’s own accord and with good will.” Luke records the words of our Lord when he said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35). The idea, then, is to say, “Here you go. I’m happy to give this to you. Take it. All power to you.”

Place, then, is topos (English, “topography”), which when used literally refers to “any portion of space marked off from the surrounding territory,” such as a spot, space, or room. Used figuratively, it speaks of an “opportunity, power, [or] occasion for acting.”

Finally, the Devil is tō diabolō, which because of the definitive article (the) refers specifically to “Satan, the great accuser, the prince of the demons or fallen angels, who is the great opposer of God and seducer of men, against whose schemes we are commanded to be constantly on our guard” (Charles Hodge).

So Paul is telling us that nothing gives the Devil a quicker foothold in our lives than anger, and we must, therefore, never give him any space to work, any room to maneuver, any opportunity to take advantage of our anger. It’s a medical fact that anger blinds a person’s mind; it obliterates a person’s judgment and rational thinking so he will do things he would not normally do. When anger comes, it opens the door to Satan and gives him an opportunity to work, and nothing opens the door faster or wider. Again, we can look at society today and see the devastation that has been caused by anger running amuck with “crimes of passion,” “road rage,” and the like. It’s far more tragic when such anger is allowed into the life of the Christian and into the Body of Christ.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Taking Off Unrighteous Vengeance to Put On Righteous Anger (1)

In Ephesians 4:26-27, the Apostle Paul writes, Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath: Neither give place to the devil. Next to lying (v. 25), unrighteous anger is the most prevalent sin in human behavior. The human nature is, if nothing else, a volatile thing. There are those exceptional people who seem not to get angry no matter what. Most of us, however, have a breaking point. In my own younger days, I had a problem with anger, which God worked on through His Word. To understand anger, we must look at two things that are brought out in our text.

First, the New Testament speaks of righteous anger. There are those who believe and teach that spiritual behavior demands that we suppress all anger, that all anger is sin. As almost all commentators recognize, however, the text clearly does not say not to be angry at all. If Paul that’s what wanted to say, surely he would have just written, “Never get angry.” Rather, what he says is, “In your anger, don’t sin.” In fact, the clause be ye angry is a Present Imperative in the Greek, that is, a command to be continuously angry. That, of course, doesn’t mean we go through life always angry, rather there will be times throughout life that we are to get angry.

May we also interject that one reason for the teaching that we must never be angry is no doubt due to today’s “touchy-feely,” syrupy sentimentality and false love that comes from liberal teaching. It’s really nothing but a resurrection of the philosophy of the ancient Stoics (300 B.C.), who condemned all anger because they believed that man should live rationally and in harmony with nature, and we hear the same nonsense from the New Agers and mystics.

Such teaching must in the end conclude that we aren’t even to get angry at sin. We submit, however, that there’s something dreadfully wrong with any Christian who is not angered at the some one-and-a-half million babies that are slaughtered in their mother’s own womb every year in America. There’s something terribly awry with “Christian” leaders who are not righteously indignant with the compromises that are being made to the Gospel and the wholesale abandonment of absolute Truth. As beloved J. Vernon McGee puts it, “No believer can be neutral in the battle of truth.” Amen! Tragically, however, some believers are actually on the wrong side these days as they refuse to “earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints” (Jude 3).

What, then, is Paul saying? He is telling us that there is an anger that is settled and right. Just as not all sex is sinful, but only the wrong kind (that which is outside of marriage), likewise only the wrong kind of anger is sinful.

So what kind of anger is right?—righteous anger. Simply put: Righteous anger is a settled state of mind in which there is an indignation and hatred of that which is offensive to and sinful against God and a desire for God’s justice. No, we do not seek revenge, for, “Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord” (Rom. 12:19); rather we are commanded to a continuous, enduring anger against sin and look forward to God dealing with sin in His judgment. The Christian can, and should, get angry at immorality, ungodliness, apostasy, disobedience, unfaithfulness, rebellion, unyieldedness, and all other sin against God’s will and commands. While we certainly are to be concerned for the sinner, and will witness to him concerning coming wrath, at the same time we look forward to God’s judgment on those who reject His Word and blaspheme His name.

One Greek authority offers a tantalizing consideration. He says that it is quite possible that the thought here in our text is that our anger is actually “to be understood as participation in the anger of God.” In essence, then, “our” anger is not really ours, but God’s. What a challenge! Let us each ask ourselves, “Do I get angry at the same things at which God is angered?” All sin is sin against God, as David realized in Psalm 51:4—“Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight”—so sin should, indeed, anger us.