If we do not use the gifts we have received to build up the church, then we are misusing our gifts, and God will not be pleased.
13 In this verse we see the two ultimate goals of these gifts to the church. The first goal is that we—each member of the church—might reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God. The second goal is that we might become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. This second goal is the final and greatest goal God has set for every one of His children; this is the end and purpose of our life—to be conformed to the likeness of Jesus Christ (see Romans 8:29 and comment).
In this life we will never completely attain to the whole measure of Christ’s fullness; in this life we are growing, always growing. But even though on earth we cannot attain to all of Christ’s fullness, we must keep moving toward that end. We must keep on growing more and more mature; we must not remain children spiritually (verse 14).
14 Children are unstable. They believe whatever they hear. They are easily deceived. They are like leaves blown here and there by the wind. Don’t be like immature children, says Paul.17
15 The truth makes us stable. But the truth must be spoken in love. Some people speak the truth without love; such people create strife and divide the church. Other Christians make the opposite mistake. They believe that truth is not as important as love; as a result, they often avoid speaking the truth lest they hurt someone’s feelings. The fact is that both truth and love are equally necessary. Truth without love is too hard; love without truth is too soft. If there is both truth and love in a church, that church and its members will be able to grow up into … Christ.
Some people believe that in order to avoid hurting others it is necessary from time to time to tell little falsehoods. But this belief is not correct. It is all right to keep silent about a hurtful matter; but if we are going to speak about it, we must speak only the truth.
16 Here again Paul compares Christ’s church to a body, whose head is Christ. All of the body’s parts are under the control of Christ, the Head (verse 15). Just as a small child grows, so grows the church, each part growing together in love. Each supporting ligament joining the parts of the body together helps the body to grow in harmony. Each ligament is like a bond of peace (verse 3) between members of the body. And as with an ordinary body, if the members of a church are not joined and held together in peace, the church cannot function properly and it will cease to grow.
17 In this section Paul begins a new subject. In verses 1-16, He has talked about the unity of the church. Now, from this verse through to Ephesians 5:21, Paul talks about the purity of the church. These are the two things above all that are essential for the church: unity and purity.
Paul exhorts the Ephesian Christians to no longer live as the Gentiles do. Most of the Gentiles of Paul’s day did not believe in the one true God; rather, they worshiped idols and engaged in all kinds of immoral practices. Their minds were filled with vain and futile thoughts; their thinking was characterized by futility. Indeed, worldly men of every generation are like the Gentiles of Paul’s day. Let us not be like worldly men. We are no longer children of the world; we are children of God. Therefore, we must act like children of God. We are a new people, and new people need to lead new lives (see Galatians 3:27 and comment).
18-19 From these verses we can see what eventually happens to worldly men. They become more and more separated from God. Their hearts become hardened (verse 18). Because of this hardening of their hearts, they lose all sensitivity; they no longer care about distinguishing right from wrong. They seek pleasure in every kind of impurity, but they cannot find satisfaction. Therefore, they continually lust for more(verse 19).
20-21 You, however, did not come to know Christ that way. That is, the Ephesians did not learn such behavior from Christ’s teachings or from His example. Such behavior is based on falsehood; it is based on denying the truth of Christ’s teachings. Let the Ephesians hold fast to that truth, and not follow after the false ways of the world.
22 What did the Ephesians learn from Christ? They learned that they must put off their old self—that is, they must put away the thoughts and desires and actions of their old sinful self. Every one of us is born with a sinful nature, and until we accept Christ we live under the control of that sinful nature. Our old self is simply the person we were when we lived under the control of our sinful nature. Therefore, before we can put on the new self (verse 24), we must first put off, or put to death, our old self (see Romans 6:6; 8:13 and comments).
23 Paul next tells the Ephesians to be made new in the attitude18 of [their] minds (see Romans 12:2 and comment).
Remember, Paul is writing here to people who were already Christians. These Ephesian believers had already received new spiritual life through faith in Christ. They had already been born again (see John 3:3-5 and comment). There is no use in saying to people who haven’t been born again: “… be made new in the attitude of your minds.” It’s impossible. They can’t create a “new mind” by themselves. First they must believe in Jesus and receive new spiritual life; after that, it will be possible for them to have a new mind as well.
Because these Ephesian Christians had new spiritual life, they now needed new minds. New birth; new life; new mind. With a “new mind” we are better able to understand God’s word; we are better able to walk in the light and not in darkness, to walk in truth and not in ignorance.
24 Having put off the old sinful self, we must then put on the new self—that is, we must “put on” the thoughts, desires, and actions of our new spiritual self, which is under the control of the Holy Spirit. If we take off the old self and don’t put on the new self, we shall be naked! Many people try to put off the old self, but they hesitate to put on the new self. They leave their old religion, their old beliefs, their old ways, but then they don’t follow a new way. They are neither here nor there; they drift without purpose; and eventually they are pulled back into their old life. And their final condition will be worse than their first (see Matthew 12:43-45; 2 Peter 2:20 and comments).
All of us who have believed in Jesus and been born again are already “new people,” new creations (2 Corinthians 5:17). But now we must live like new people—new people who are created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.
Paul says to put on the new self. We can compare this “new self” to a new uniform. Nurses in a hospital wear their own special uniforms. Police have their uniforms. Prisoners in jail have their uniforms. And Christians—that is, new men and women—have their “uniforms.” The “uniform” of a Christian is Jesus Christ Himself—Christ’s mind, Christ’s behavior. Christians must “clothe” themselves with Christ.
Just as one’s uniform must match his profession, so a Christian’s behavior (uniform) must match his “profession,” which is to be a child of God. We can tell a person’s profession by the uniform he wears. If we Christians do not wear the “uniform” (behavior) of a Christian, how will people tell we are Christians? They won’t be able to. A “new man” must wear new clothes. What’s the first thing a prisoner does when he is released from jail? He takes off his jail clothes, and puts on new clothes! In the same way, we believers, who have been released from the “jail” of sin and Satan, should take off our jail clothes and put on Christ—our new clothes (see Romans 13:14 and comment).
25 Now Paul gives some examples of old behavior that we must “put off,” and the corresponding new behavior that we must “put on.”
First, Paul says, put off falsehood. Instead, speak truthfully. We must speak the truth always, in every situation. How often we twist the truth in order to hide our mistakes and sins! Let this not be; to twist the truth is to lie.
It is not enough simply to refrain from lying; we must speak the whole truth. When we withhold part of the truth, we often lead others to believe a falsehood—even though we have not actually lied. We deceive others by hiding part of the truth. To deceive others deliberately in this way is the same as to tell a lie.
To speak truthfully has another meaning: it means to keep our word, our promises. There must be trust between us, and the foundation of trust is keeping one’s word.
26 In your anger do not sin. This is a quotation from Psalm 4:4. When we are angry, we must make sure it is the offense we are angry with, not the offender. To be angry with a person—no matter how great his offense—is always a sin on our part.19 We must forgive the offender, not be angry with him. We must hate the sin but love the sinner. That was how Christ treated us!
Even when we are properly angry with someone’s sin or offense, we must not drag out our anger for a long time. Our anger should end by the time the sun goes down. Otherwise, Satan will find an opportunity to enter our heart and turn our righteous anger into sinful anger. How can we end our anger? By completely forgiving the offender from our heart.
27 The devil—that is, SATAN—is always looking for an opportunity to use our anger for his purposes. When we are angry, we naturally begin to speak against the person who has angered us. Others hear us, and spread around our evil report about that person. When this happens, Satan is very happy, because soon more and more Christians will begin to talk against one another. This is Satan’s most effective method of splitting apart a church or a Christian team.
It is not only wrong to talk against others; it is also wrong to even listen to such talk. To speak negatively about another person—even if it’s the truth—is slander. And slander is a grave sin (Romans 1:30; 1 Corinthians 5:11; Ephesians 4:31). Satan will always use our slander as a weapon to destroy the church.
28 The second example of “old behavior” that Paul gives is stealing. The new behavior is work—doing something useful. It is not enough just to give up stealing; one must begin to work. There is no place for laziness. We should work not only to provide for our families, but also to provide for others in need. From stealing one moment, to giving the next: only the power of Christ can change a man like that!
29 The third example of “old behavior” is unwholesome talk. The new behavior is talk that is helpful for building others up according to their needs. Let everything we say be judged by this standard: does it help build others up, encourage them, or benefit them in some way? If so, then let us say it; if not, then let us keep silence.
30 The next example of “old behavior” is very broad; it is really a joining of all our “old behaviors” into one. Paul calls it “grieving” the Holy Spirit. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit, Paul writes. Whenever we sin, we grieve the Spirit; that is, we trouble and disappoint and insult the Spirit. The Spirit is grieved by every kind of unholiness.
Whenever we grieve the Spirit, the Spirit draws away from us. Whenever we Christians grow lukewarm in our spiritual lives, whenever our zeal or joy decreases, it is almost always because we have grieved the Holy Spirit in some way (Isaiah 63:10). Remember, we have been stamped with the seal of the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1:13). Here Paul says we have been sealed with the Spirit. It’s the same thing. We have been sealed with the Spirit for the day of redemption20—for the day of salvation. The Holy Spirit’s seal is our passport to heaven. Let us not lose it!
31-32 In verse 31, Paul gives other examples of old behavior; in verse 32 he gives the new behavior (see Colossians 3:12-13 and comment).
God loved us when we were still sinners (see Romans 5:8 and comment). For Christ’s sake He forgave our sins. But Jesus warned us that if we do not forgive others, God will not forgive us (see Matthew 6:12,14-15 and comment). Let us heed this warning.