The critical question for our generation- and for every generation- is this: if you could have heaven, with no sickness, and with all the friends you ever had on earth, and all the food you ever liked, and all the leisure activities you ever enjoyed, and all the natural beauties you ever saw, all the physical pleasures you ever tasted, and no human conflict or natural disasters, could you be satisfied with heaven, if Christ were not there? – John Piper
Sunday, Shannon taught on Ephesians 4:17-5:20. As Shannon said, we cannot read these verses without first remembering what Paul already said in the first three chapters. That is, if we try in our own power to keep the commandments listed here in chapters 4 and 5 but fail to love the Lord with all of our hearts, we will have gained nothing. If my heart’s single greatest affection is not Jesus Christ, I must repent. Before I can do what God says, I must love what God loves and desire Him.
In Ephesians 1 we see that we have been blessed with every spiritual blessing in Christ, being chosen in Him before the foundation of the earth, to the praise of His glorious grace. In Ephesians 2 we are reminded that we are saved by grace, through faith, and that we were once separated from God, now brought near by the blood of Christ. In chapter 3, we are told of the Spirit’s role in revealing the mystery of the gospel, and that God can do far more abundantly than all we could ever ask or think, according to the power at work within us.
So, what follows in Ephesians 4 is how we live as Christians, not how we become one. We see that change is multifaceted. For example:
If you are a thief, quit stealing. Instead, use your hands for good hard work, and then give generously to others in need. – Ephesians 4:28
When is a thief no longer a thief? Most people would say, “When he stops stealing.” But according to Scripture, a thief is no longer a thief when he stops stealing and when he does his own work, helping those in need. This text in Ephesians is full of this kind of logic, including rules for communication, crude joking, foolishness, and more.
Some of my favorite verses are Ephesians 4:31-32:
Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.
We can see in these verses that our sinful anger is driven out by forgiveness. We must not lose the biblical motivation for this forgiveness, however. We forgive as God in Christ forgave us.
Godly principles are powerless apart from the God of those principles. May our love for God overflow, ensuring that we do not simply keep a list of dos and do not’s, but that our actions flow from a Godward heart.