A guide to the new life. 4:25-5:2
In our passage for study, Paul gives practical examples of the behavior that properly reflects our new life in Christ. As we have already put on Christ, put on his "righteousness and holiness", so we are encouraged to exhibit this righteousness in our daily lives.
v25. We are encouraged to put off lying and put on truth-telling. God is the God of truth and the Devil the father of lies, Jn.8:44. So, don't lie to one another. Be like your heavenly Father and tell the truth to each other, Col.3:9. We are the body of Christ and members of the body should be truthful.
v26-27. Paul goes on to encourage his readers not to allow bitterness to develop in the fellowship. We all get angry, but the real problem lies with dwelling on the hurt and letting it turn into hate. Dwelling on a hurt of some kind, holding a grudge, allows the Evil One to exploit the hurt to his own end.
v28. Replace stealing with hard work. In the first century, pilfering was part of everyday life, but such a way of life is not to be practiced by a Christian. So, give up living by your wits and advancing yourself at the expense of others, rather, apply yourself to productive hard work whereby you earn a good living and have resources spare to use for an eternal purpose.
v29-30. Replace corrupt speech with edifying speech. Unwholesome talk probably means foul language, but it also covers destructive, nasty, back biting, and even frivolous speech. Aim at speech that is helpful for building others up according to their needs. One of the functions of the Holy Spirit is to unite the fellowship of believers in love, so when we affront each other with destructive words, we "grieve" the Holy Spirit.
v31-32. Paul now gives a list of things to get rid of: "Bitterness" - annoying pinpricking; "Rage and Anger" - outbursts of uncontrolled anger; "Brawling" - public quarreling; "Slander" - back biting, whispering; "Every form of malice" - maliciousness and ill-will. Instead of these evils, we should seek to be: "kind" - mutual kindness; "Compassionate"; "Forgiving". These qualities are exhibited by God and they express the Christ-like nature we have put on in him, and therefore we should seek to exhibit these positive characteristics in our own lives.
5:1-2. Paul finally sums up his exhortation by encouraging his readers to "live a life of love." The love he speaks of is the type of love exhibited by Christ - a self giving love. To make his point, Paul uses an Old Testament image - a "fragrant offering and sacrifice to God". The reference is to the sacrificial offerings given to God at the temple. Paul applies this image to the life of the believer.
Live a life of love
I was recently involved in a discussion with a friend who had reached a point of despair in his Christian life. He had come to a point where he saw no value in pushing on, no point in struggling along the hard and narrow way. He was close to giving up his faith because it was all too hard. He had come to feel that no matter how hard he tried to serve the Lord, he continually failed.
Repeated failure, in the end, leads to a debilitated will. We often find it easier to do nothing, at least then we don't fail. We call this problem the problem of recurrent sin. Some deal with it honestly by facing the problem, while others deal with it by hiding in pharisaical piety.
Let me say, my friend faced it down in a way that only made the problem worse. He analyzed his recurrent sin in relation to the sovereignty of God. As God is a sovereign Lord, and as his grace is sufficient for us, then the Spirit of God will act upon us so that we bear the fruits of the Spirit. My friend deduced that his failure to overcome recurrent sin served as an evidence that he was probably not one of the chosen children of God. He was in deep trouble.
We need to understand that when we are exhorted to do good, as we are in this passage, we are not being asked to do it to demonstrate or confirm that our standing as a believer is valid. Our salvation is totally based on what Jesus has done for us, not on what we can or can't do. Nor are we being asked to do it to please God. If we have believed on Jesus Christ, then he rejoices over us; the angels are singing with joy for us. We may be struggling in the mud a bit, but we are totally covered by the perfect obedience of Christ. It is in Christ's perfection that heaven rejoices. Nor should we think that we somehow improve in holiness by means of our obedience. It is faith in Christ's renewing work within that renews us.
In Christ we are a "new creation", and so the Bible encourages us to be what we are, to put off the old self and put on the new. We are encouraged to move away from falsehood, bitterness, slander and the like, so as to maintain the oneness we have in Christ - maintain community. We are encouraged to be kind, compassionate, forgiving.... loving, to be "imitators of God", to enrich the fellowship of the church. Some of these requirements are ideals we can only but aim at, others are deeds that we can sometimes do. Through the renewing touch of the Spirit, our lives will move toward Christ-likeness, albeit always short of perfection. So, let us strive to be what we are are.
1. In what areas are we dishonest with each other in the Christian fellowship?
2. Why is anger not a sin? What is the sin of v26-27? How do you deal with Matt.5:22?
3. Try to apply v28 to your present situation. Relate "doing something useful with his hands" to your present employment. Comment on the statement, "there are only two options before a Christian, to be an evangelist, or to earn money to support evangelism".
4. Regarding v29, comment on the quotation, "there was great cheerfulness at the table - words of wisdom and grace were constantly heard: but no room was given for conversation to degenerate into frivolous talk. It was also a rule of the house that no one should speak ill of an absent person." R.C. Chapman.
5. Why would the Holy Spirit be grieved by nasty talk? v30.
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