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 .

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Taking Off Natural Reactions to Put On Spiritual Actions (1)

Ephesians 4:30-32 declares: And grieve not the Holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption. Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you. Here is the fifth and final sin that can easily creep back into the Christian’s life.

These final verses are a summary of what has gone before and graphically contrast the natural reactions of the “Old Man” with the spiritual actions of the “New Man.” In other words, in the Christian walk, the Believer must not react according the impulses of the flesh, rather he must act according the impetus of the Spirit. Once again we consider the negative first: grieve not the Holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption.

As a foundation to all that follows, Paul first emphasizes that the Christian grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption. What a statement! It is actually an allusion to Isaiah 63:9–11, where the prophet declares that God’s people “rebelled, and vexed his holy Spirit.” Here is a strong reminder of the indwelling Holy Spirit and the practical result of that doctrine.

Harry Ironside is no doubt correct when he observes that this statement is the most important part of this entire passage. The word grieve (lupeō) means “to sadden, bring pain, or afflict with sorrow.” While all sin saddens God, not just the ones Paul lists here, these listed sins are apparently especially painful to the Holy Spirit. Why? Because they are especially inconsistent in the Holy Spirit indwelt life. Nothing is more inconsistent in the Holy Spirit indwelt life than lying, unrighteous vengeance, stealing, corrupt speech, and the rest of the sins listed here.

We studied the “Sealing of the Holy Spirit” back in Ephesians 1:13-14. As we learned, the word “seal” pictures the ancient signet ring, which signified acquisition, absolute ownership, authenticity, and assurance. While the first mention of sealing is doctrinal, this second mention is practical. The principle here is that since we are sealed until we go home to be with the Lord, we are to act like it now by not grieving the Holy Spirit through sin. This brings us to Paul’s summary list.

First, there is bitterness (pikria), which simply means “harbored hostility,” a smoldering resentment, holding a grudge. In his commentary on the Greek text, John Eadie puts it best: Bitterness is a figurative term denoting that fretted and irritable state of mind that keeps a man in perpetual animosity—that inclines him to harsh and uncharitable opinions of men and things—that makes him sour, crabbed, and repulsive in his general demeanor—that brings a scowl on his face, and infuses venom into the words of his tongue.”

Bitterness is the end result of suppressed anger, and as Hebrews 12:15 declares, it defiles us. The Greek behind “defiled” there is miaino, which means “to stain with color, tinge, or pollute.” Anger must not be suppressed—it must be dealt with.

Second, Paul goes on, bitterness, if not dealt with, eventually leads to wrath and even more anger. As examined earlier, while thumos (wrath) is passionate and temporary, orge (anger) indicates “a more enduring state of mind.” Again, as one ancient put it, “Thumos is anger rising up in vapor and burning up, while orge is a yearning for revenge.” The idea here then is obvious—the time will come when bitterness will explode and dig its way deep into our heart.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Taking Off Corrupt Speech to Put On Good Speech (3)

By Dr. J. D. Watson
Pastor-Teacher, Grace Bible Church

Concluding Paul’s challenge in Ephesians 4:29— Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers—having considered the negative consideration, we now see the positive. Turning to the deeper motive, and thereby the greater blessing, this verse reveals three principles that should be true of the Believer’s speech.

First, we speak that which is good. The Greek here is agathos, which occurs frequently in the New Testament (107 times) and has a wide range of meanings, including: benevolent, profitable, useful, beneficial, excellent, virtuous, and suitable. As we’ll see, every one of those meanings is appropriate to speech. With that in mind, may we test ourselves daily and examine our speech according to agathos by asking a series of questions. (1) Is what I am about to say benevolent? Is it kind, compassionate, and caring? (2) Is what I am about to say profitable, beneficial, and useful? Will it accomplish something? Is it constructive or destructive? Will it help or hinder? Is it positive or negative? (3) Is what I am about to say excellent? Is it just good or eminently good, the best thing to say? (4) Is what I am about to say virtuous? Is it righteous, honorable, and moral? Does it avoid suggestiveness, vulgarity, and crudeness? (5) Is what I am about to say suitable? Does it fit the moment? Is it proper? Is it appropriate?

Second, as if good were not enough, Paul adds that our speech should edify. Edifying is oikodomē, which refers literally to the building of a house. Therefore, everything we say should build up other believers, not tear them down. Our speech should be uplifting, encouraging, instructive, and even challenging.

The story is told of a woman who developed a serious throat condition. The doctor prescribed medication but also told her that her vocal cords needed total rest—no talking for six months. With a husband and six children to care for, such a prescription seemed impossible, but she set out to do so. When she needed the kids, she blew a whistle. If she needed to give instructions, she wrote them on memo pad. She also placed such pads all around the house that she and others could quickly grab for questions and answers. When the six months had passed, her first words were most revealing. She said that the children had become quieter, and then she remarked, “I don’t think I’ll ever holler again like I used to.” When asked about the notes, she replied, “You’d be surprised how many hastily written notes I crumpled up and threw into the wastebasket before I gave them to anyone to read. Seeing my own words that I would have spoken had an effect that I don’t think I can ever forget.”

Paul is not done yet.

Third, our speech should gracious (minister grace). The word minister is again the word didōmi, which is translated “give” back in verse 27 (“Neither give place to the Devil”). It means “to give of one’s own accord and with good will.” Grace, of course is charis, which used in the context of salvation means the unmerited favor of God toward man manifested primarily through the person and work of Jesus Christ apart from any merit or works of man.

So what does it mean for us to give grace to others? In broad strokes the word grace and paints a picture of exceptional kindness, special goodwill, friendly action in excess of the ordinary. That is what characterizes our speech. Sometimes we say the right things, and even say them at the right time, but we say them in the wrong way. We must always speak with love, concern, and kindness. While we always “speak the truth” (4:15), we never stoop to today’s co-called “policy of total honesty,” which often hurts those around us. Our words are always kind.

Indeed, the tongue is the best and worst thing we each possess. It can help or hinder, it can build or destroy. May we ask ourselves throughout the day, “Is my tongue the best thing about me or the worst? Does my speech glorify and honour the Lord, and does it build up those around me?” May we pray with the Psalmist, “Set a watch, O LORD, before my mouth; keep the door of my lips” (Ps. 141:3).

Monday, January 12, 2015

Taking Off Corrupt Speech to Put On Good Speech (2)

Continuing our meditations on Ephesians 4:29—Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers—why is man’s speech corrupt? The answer is obvious—because the mouth only speaks what is in the heart.

An ancient fable tells of a slave who took poison a little at a time until she became so full of it that just her breath would wither the flowers. That’s how some people’s speech is today. Many years ago, while working in the building trades as an electrician, I was on a “cherry picker” one day running conduit in the steel ceiling frame of a warehouse. Just a few yards over from me was a sheet metal working (a “tin knocker” we called them) who was also on a cherry picker installing some heating duct. There was so much fifth coming out of his mouth that it seemed he had a little blue could floating above him. I just couldn’t resist, so I yelled over to him, “Hey, I was just wondering, is that the same mouth you eat with?” While his buddies on the ground laughed, he answered a little sheepishly, “Yea, I guess it is.”

Jesus Himself said, “Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaketh” (Matt. 12:34). Man speaks corruptly because he is corrupt. But Christ changes that.

Pastor, commentator, and conference speaker Warren Wiersbe points out this wonderful contrast: “It is interesting to trace the word mouth through the Book of Romans and see how Christ makes a difference in a man’s speech. The sinner’s mouth is ‘full of cursing and bitterness’ (Rom. 3:14); but when he trusts Christ, he gladly confesses with his mouth “Jesus Christ is Lord” (Rom. 10:9–10). As a condemned sinner, his mouth is stopped before the throne of God (Rom. 3:19); but as a believer, his mouth is opened to praise God (Rom. 15:6). Change the heart and you change the speech. Paul certainly knew the difference, for when he was an unsaved rabbi, he was ‘breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord’ (Acts 9:1). But when he trusted Christ, a change took place: ‘Behold, he prayeth’ (Acts 9:11). From ‘preying’ to ‘praying’ in one step of faith!”

What a truth! From profanity to praise, from threatening to thanksgiving, from vulgarity to virtue. The Christian’s speech must not be characterized by corrupt words. We must not allow it to can creep back into our lives. We are bombarded with this every day, and while outright vulgarity is usually not a temptation, off-color stories, crudeness, and other tendencies sometimes are.

Commentator William Hendrickson makes this point well: “Certain vile phrases or catch words, sometimes even profanity, all too common in the pre-conversion period of life, have the habit in unguarded moments to barge right in and to befoul the atmosphere. Think of Peter who, although a disciple of the Lord, ‘began to curse and to swear’ when he thought that his life was in danger (Matt. 26:74).”

Indeed, it’s those “unguarded moments” that trip us. Paul deals with other aspects of speech in Ephesians 5:4, which he calls “foolish talking” and “jesting.” He also gives a beautiful admonition in Colossians 4:6 that our speech should be “seasoned with salt.” What does that mean? As salt enhances the flavor of food, our speech is to enhance Christ and those around us. May we say, our words quite literally should “taste good.” May they never leave a “bad taste” in any one’s mouth. This leads to the positive emphasis, which we’ll examine next time.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Taking Off Corrupt Speech to Put On Good Speech (1)

Ephesians 4:29 declares, Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers. Here is the fourth of five sins that can easily creep back into the Christian’s life. Again we consider the negative first: let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth.

Speech is one of the most distinctive features of a person. I often recall the four years my wife and I traveled the country in ministry in the early 1980s (we thankfully came to Meeker in 1986). It was fascinating to hear the different dialects and accents in various places. During one week of meetings, I met a professor of linguistics who shared with me some of the reasons for this phenomenon, one of which was actually climate. Because of the heat in the southern states, speech tends to slow down and be drawn out, while in the colder climate in the north, speech tends to be quicker and clipped. I still recall the unique speech in Sheboygan, Wisconsin; I chuckled the entire week I spent there as I heard one of the most unique dialects in American culture. I also love the Tennessee accent, and of course, you can spot a Texan after about three words. To this day I still listen to speech patterns and often guess where someone is from originally.

Indeed, language and speech is one of our most unique characteristics. We might also interject that this unique quality of humanity over animals is still a puzzle that the evolutionist can’t explain.

What we see in our text, then, reminds us of what James declares, that while men have tamed wild beasts, no one can tame the tongue; it can be tamed only by the Holy Spirit.

Communication translates logos, which means to speak intelligently, to articulate a message, to give a discourse. Logos is derived from lego, which originally (prior to the 5th Century B.C.) denoted the “activity of collecting, carefully selecting, cataloguing in succession, and arranging together in an orderly sequence.” This developed into the meaning “to lay before, i.e., to relate, recount” and finally “to say, speak, i.e., to utter definite words, connected, and significant speech equal to discourse.” How important words are! They must be carefully selected, orderly, and connected. Words matter!

So Paul is concern here with the words Christians use, the speech that characterizes their lives. Specifically, he’s concerned that it not be corrupt (sapros), “rotten, putrid.” Originally this vivid word was used to describe rotten or spoiled food. Our Lord used it Matthew 13:48 to refer “bad” (rotten) fish that must be thrown away.

What must never characterize the Christian, then, is rotten, spoiled, decayed speech. Several modern translations miss the mark with “unwholesome,” which is not as strong as corrupt. And how corrupt, indeed, is the speech of man today! The vulgarity, profanity, suggestive, and down right filthy jokes and stories are all common to our society.

Some years ago I stopped at a one of the convenience stores right here in Meeker. When I came out of the store I heard two teenage girls, both about sixteen years old, swearing at one another. I heard four letter words coming from those girls that at one time would seldom be heard outside a marine barracks. Today such language is commonplace.

Further, have you ever considered how this corruption even appears in just the decibel volume of people’s speech? Whether it’s at a ballgame, a conference, a party, or even some restaurants, it’s an out of control cacophony. But the Christian’s speech is never to be out of control, never a clamor, never chaotic. We’ll continue next time.