Chapter 4:25-32 (ESV) - Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another. Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil. Let 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. Let 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. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.
Question to consider: Why is it important for Christians to reconcile with one another?
As we make our way through the second half of Ephesians, we need to continually keep in mind the purpose of the letter as well as the truths established in the first half. Paul knew he would eventually get an audience with Caesar Nero, but he had no idea whether he would survive the encounter or be able to go back and visit the churches under his care. So this was a letter which richly demonstrated the truth and love necessary for the churches to stand firm in the faith.
We can say that the first half of the letter is the part that establishes the truth of our relationship with God, and the second half is the manifestation of that truth in the way that we love our neighbor. We cannot hope to adequately love our neighbor if we are not firmly rooted in the truth of God’s love which was shown to us through Christ. Because we have put away the falsehood and futility of worldly thinking, we begin to view our brothers and sisters in Christ as members of the same body, living in harmony and truth with one another.
As long as we live in this world that is perishing, there will be times in which we offend one another. In light of this reality, Paul is more concerned with what we do with that anger. Do not sin means do not do something to harm your neighbor’s body or reputation. Do not let the sun go down on your anger is an idiomatic expression Paul used for Christians to quickly forgive and reconcile with one another. We should not let our anger turn to bitterness lest the devil uses it as an opportunity to drive a wedge between us.
Paul recognized in the passage that as believers, we are indwelt with the Holy Spirit. When we take advantage of our brothers and sisters in Christ or tear down each other in our speech, we grieve the Spirit. Martin Luther’s explanation of God’s command to not bear false witness against our neighbor captures the spirit of what Paul is saying here, “You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor. What does this mean? We should fear and love God so that we do not tell lies about our neighbor, betray him, slander him, or hurt his reputation, but defend him, speak well of him, and explain everything in the kindest way.”
The last two verses of today's passage are a restatement of the previous five and emphasize that the reason we forgive and show tenderness to one another is because God has shown this same tenderness and forgiveness to us in Christ. As Jesus taught His disciples, “For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” (Matthew 6:14-15)
Dear heavenly father, thank You for giving us Your Spirit to dwell in us. May we treat our brothers and sisters in Christ in a way that glorifies and honors the Spirit instead of causing Him grief. Help us to quickly reconcile with each other when we sin and to give us a desire to build one another up in the faith. Amen.