When we look at our own church, what do we see? Are there divisions? Are there divisions in our hearts between one another?
12 In verse 10, Paul says that we have put on the new self. Now in verses 12-17, Paul describes this “new self.”
Notice that the qualities of the new self listed here in verse 12—compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience—are the opposite of those qualities of the old self that Paul listed in verse 8. These new qualities are the fruits of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). These new qualities are essential for preserving our unity; they are essential for our church (see Ephesians 4:2-3 and comment).
Why should we Christians clothe ourselves with these qualities? Because we have been chosen by God to be His holy and dearly beloved people. God chose us before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight (Ephesians 1:4). Let us not refuse what God has chosen for us!
13 Each of us has some bad qualities which others have trouble tolerating. Do we want others to tolerate us, to bear with us, to accept us? Yes, of course we do. Well, if we want them to bear with our bad qualities, we must be willing to bear with theirs (Ephesians 4:2-3).
Do we want others to forgive us? Of course, we do. Well, if we want them to forgive us, we will have to forgive them. Forgiveness is not given with the lips alone; it is given from the heart. After we have forgiven our brother for some wrong, does the matter still linger in our hearts? Do we remain a little angry, a little hurt? If so, then we have not completely forgiven our brother.
When we refuse to forgive others completely, we are really hurting ourselves. Instead of peace, there is anger and bitterness in our hearts. Not only that, if we do not forgive others, God will not forgive us (see Matthew 6:12,14-15 and comment).
Think for a moment: How many times has God already forgiven you? How many more times do you want God to forgive you? Well, as many times as you want God to forgive you, that many times you must forgive your brother! (Matthew 18:21-22).
Let us not forget how much mercy God has shown to us. Let us show, then, that same mercy to others. Forgive as the Lord forgave you (see Ephesians 4:32).
14 And over all these virtues, put on love. Love is like a “rope” that binds [these virtues] together. In other words, all the qualities of the new self (verses 1213) are included in love. Love is the chief quality of God and of Christ. All other virtues flow out of love; love is the source of them all. Likewise, the two greatest commandments are to love God and to love our neighbor (Mark 12:30-31), and from these two commandments all other commands are derived (see Romans 13:9-10; Galatians 5:14 and comments).
15 Like love, peace is a “rope” that binds us together in unity (Ephesians 4:3). Wherever there is love, there will also be peace. If there is a lack of peace in our church, there must be a lack of love as well.
Peace is also a freedom from worry and fear. Peace is a gift of Christ (see John 14:27 and comment). If the peace of Christ “rules” in our hearts, then worry, fear, and strife cannot arise.
And be thankful. Why should we be thankful? Because of all that God has done for us! He has given us new life; He has given us grace, love, peace, forgiveness, salvation. But more than all these, He has given us His one and only Son Jesus Christ, and with Him, He has given us every spiritual blessing (see Romans 8:32; Ephesians 1:3 and comments). Therefore, how can we not thank God?
16 In this chapter, Paul has described the “new spiritual man.” But a spiritual man needs spiritual food. What is spiritual food? It is the word of Christ—that is, the word of God, our Bible. How can we let the word of Christ dwell in us? By reading and studying the Bible (Joshua 1:8; Psalm 1:2). Through studying the Bible, we will be able to teach and admonish one another with all wisdom.
Here we see how our church services and house fellowships should be! Not only are we to teach and admonish one another, but we are also to sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude … to God (see Ephesians 5:19-20).
17 Paul says to the Colossians: And whatever you do … do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus. “Whatever” we do means “everything” we do. That is, we must not only pray in Jesus’ name; we must do everything—whether in word or deed—in His name. (Except, of course, we must do nothing that will dishonor His name!) Our entire lives must be worthy of His name.
… in the name of the Lord Jesus. This is not some kind of magic formula. “In the name of the Lord Jesus” means “for the sake of Jesus,” and “with the authority of Jesus.” Remember, all of us who believe in Jesus are His ambassadors or representatives here on earth (2 Corinthians 5:20). Jesus has given us full authority to do His work in His name. Just as any ambassador must do everything in the name of his king or president, so in the same way must we Christians do everything in the name of Jesus.
In verses 12-17, we are given a description of the “new man,” the man raised with Christ. Are we like the “new man” described here? Let each one examine himself.
18 See Ephesians 5:22-24 and comment.
19 See Ephesians 5:25,28 and comment.
20 See Ephesians 6:1 and comment.
21 See Ephesians 6:4 and comment.
22-24 Just as we obey the Lord Jesus, so we must obey our earthly masters—the authorities and employers whom God has placed over us. The Lord sees everything we do. It is no advantage to do good only when our “earthly master” is looking—because our heavenly Master is always looking! Therefore, let us always do everything with all [our] heart, as working for the Lord (see Romans 12:11; Ephesians 6:5-8; Titus 2:9-10 and comments).
Slaves in Paul’s time had no rights and no property; they received no inheritance. But here Paul gives them a great promise: If they will serve their earthly master faithfully, they will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. Though they have no inheritance on earth, they will receive from God an eternal inheritance in heaven.
Here a question arises: Why didn’t Paul more clearly oppose the custom of slavery in his writings? We can be sure that Paul was personally opposed to slavery. However, Paul’s main goal was not to change society, but to change people’s hearts. If people’s hearts are changed, their society will be changed too. Therefore, Paul was mainly concerned that masters treat their slaves with kindness and fairness (Colossians 4:1), and that slaves serve their masters faithfully and with sincerity of heart (verse 22). Paul knew that if the relationship between master and slave were based on mutual love and respect, the custom of slavery would soon come to an end (see 1 Timothy 6:1-2; Titus 2:9-10 and comments).
25 God will judge all men equally, whether husband or wife, parent or child, master or slave. In Christ we are all equal, and we shall be repaid equally by God. With God, there is no favoritism. We shall be repaid not only according to the good we have done (Ephesians 6:8), but also according to the wrong we have done.