How then should we live? What a question for believers! In his letter to the Ephesian believers, Paul first addresses the believer's position in Christ, and now in chapter four deals with the activity or walk of believers. Contextually, Paul makes it very clear that our works are an outflow of our position in Christ. Christ lives in us and as a result we are called to put off our old, sinful ways and walk in a manner worthy of the calling that we have in Him.
In verses 28-32, Paul is very clear about what a worthy walk looks like with regard to work, speech, and attitude as well as the way in which we should treat one another. In verse 28 Paul speaks to the issue of theft. Stealing is simply taking something that does not belong to you. Clearly, from the Word of God this is sin. The idea that a believer, indwelt with the righteous, holy, Son of God, would participate in theft is not what "walking in a manner worthy" looks like. The opposite of stealing is giving.
Paul shares with the believers what we are to do. Rather than stealing, the believer now is to work with the idea of being able to share with those in need. When we earn an income, we recognize that the Lord has blessed us and are in turn to share with others who are in need. We should not do for others what they are capable and expected to do, "laboring, performing with his own hands what is good," but rather to share with those who are in true need. Unfortunately in our day and age "need" has been twisted into many different ideas. With wisdom we are to bless those with what we have been blessed with.
God gave His Son in order that we may have life and life everlasting. To give and to have mercy on those who are poor and in need is the heart of God. Paul commands believers not to participate in such a fleshly activity that is contrary to who we now have been declared by God to be. With Christ in us, having been "blessed with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ," the believer is now commanded to turn from the old way of living and walk in the newness of Christ's life.
Paul also deals with the issue of speech. He commands believers not to allow any unwholesome word to proceed from our mouths. The word "unwholesome" means putrid or rotten. Have you ever forgotten to throw the trash out in the summer time? It stinks. It is putrid. Paul again contrasts what we should not be participating in with what we should be-rather than rotten speech coming out of our mouths we should be encouraging one another. Our encouragement should be serving others in such a way that, at the moment of their need, whatever that may be, there is grace given to them in and through what we say.
As believers, the encouragement from the Word of God in the context of Ephesians is the reminder of "whose" we are and "who" we are in Christ. This becomes an encouragement for all believers in the midst of life's distractions and hardships to be reminded of our salvation and the strength that we have in Christ Himself. How many times have we walked through difficult, painful experiences in which the Lord, through another brother or sister in Christ has reminded us of God's love for us? What a blessing we have to enjoy and share with one another!
Paul continues by stressing that we are not to "grieve" the Holy Spirit of God. We are not to offend the Spirit of God who we have been sealed in. The Spirit of God is constantly working in our lives as He now indwells us. Resisting the Holy Spirit or walking according to our old way of life grieves Him, and Paul commands us not to do this. The fact that the Holy Spirit lives in us to convict us of sin, empowering us and guiding us in His ways is an amazing truth. What a blessing that in Christ He has given us the Comforter. We are not to grieve Him but rather are to submit to Him.
In our attitudes and actions toward one another, we can see whether we are submitting to the Spirit of God. Our relationships with one another are a picture of our relationship with the Lord. If we are rightly related to the Lord, we will also through the power of God be rightly related to one another. If we are not rightly related to one another there is evidently a problem in our relationship with the Lord. Paul commands that all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, slander along with all malice be put away. Each of these words deal with attitudes that can destroy our relationships with one another. Every attitude listed here is an attitude out of the old fleshly nature rather than the new nature of Christ's life in us.
Paul summarizes this with the word "malice". Malice is that evil or wickedness that is reflective of our old nature. When we are walking in the flesh rather than the Spirit, our treatment of fellow believers does not reflect the kindness, tenderness, or forgiveness that is from the Lord. He has forgiven us, and with that in mind we are to forgive others. God has been kind to us, tender hearted toward us. This is then what should characterize our treatment of one another.
Our activity will always be a picture of what we believe and whether we are rightly related to the Lord or not. Paul admonishes believers to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which we have been called. Christ has come to live in us. Having been sealed in the Holy Spirit we are to submit to the Lord. We are to turn from our old sinful nature and through the empowering ability of Christ, walk in the new nature that is ours in Him. How are we following Him today? How is the life of Christ being seen in and through our speech, attitudes and relationships with the Lord first and then one another?
Erik Christensen is senior pastor of Hoffmantown Church in Albuquerque, New Mexico.