Everyone knows I’m a rather partisan sports fan. I’m very proud of my teams – especially the ones I’ve coached (Wildcats!), as well as certain professional teams – and I’m quick to wear the team jersey of “my guys.” I will occasionally tease church people when I see them wear an “enemy jersey” (like the Yankees or the Redskins as two notable examples) and will ask, “How do you expect God to bless your life when you’re walking around in a shirt like that?”
This is essentially the idea behind Paul’s writing to the Ephesians as we look at today’s passage. He is saying to them that there is a new way to live now that they are in Christ Jesus. No longer should they live as they did on the old team – a bunch who had no moral compass other than the gratification of selfish desires – and to rather live differently by wearing the jersey of the new team. The terms Paul uses actually speak pictorially of the idea of taking off one garment and putting on another (verses 22-24).
Both for these new Christians in the first century who were living in the terribly secular society of Ephesus, and for us today who live in an increasingly hedonistic world, the admonition is not merely a cold “just do it!” There are resources. There is the teaching of the Scriptures – for the Ephesians from Paul and Timothy and others, while for us it is the completed Word of God. And there is the tremendous resource of the indwelling Holy Spirit – God living within who guides us into understanding the Word and toward wisdom in life choices and perspectives. And so, the passage today says not to “grieve” this inner resource by resisting this power and authority and living like the rest of the folks in the natural world who have no inner compass whatsoever.
The practical nature of this application is listed in the final paragraphs today and needs little expansion beyond a couple of remarks.
An idea that comes back a couple of times in this passage is the issue of anger and holding onto inner rage. This is an emotion that does great damage within and seldom accomplishes anything good when expressed. It is allowing oneself to be eaten up from the inside out. The phrase where it says to not give the devil a foothold is especially interesting in the original language. This is expressed by a Greek verb that would immediately give the reader the picture of a military base of operation. So the meaning is this: If you hang on to anger, you are allowing the devil a base of operation inside of you from which he can launch his attacks into your life! Why would anyone want to do that?
And the passage ends with one of the “one anothers” of Scripture – of forgiving … which follows naturally on the heels of the previous ideas. We’re to do it as Christ forgave us … so, not based on anything earned, but rather on grace extended. It takes a big person to do that; that is our calling!
So be big; put on the Christian Jersey and live like a champion who is part of a champion outfit!
Instructions for Christian Living
17 So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. 18 They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. 19 Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, and they are full of greed.
20 That, however, is not the way of life you learned 21 when you heard about Christ and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. 22 You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; 23 to be made new in the attitude of your minds; 24 and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.
25 Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbor, for we are all members of one body. 26 “In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, 27 and do not give the devil a foothold. 28 Anyone who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with their own hands, that they may have something to share with those in need.
29 Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. 32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.