This mourning one of our brothers sent me a note of thanksgiving for the reminder in yesterday’s sermon about the need we have to stay tender hearted (a need we all have). This expression “tender hearted” immediately reminds us of Paul’s exhortations in Ephesians 4:22-32 about “putting off the old man” and “putting on the new man” (4:22-24). Here is the question: What does it mean to be a Christian? Paul takes 4:22-24 and then explains what this looks like in 4:25ff. with five illustrative examples about how to stop living sinfully and how to start living according to the ways of Christ. I will make brief comment on the first four so that we can emphasize the final point.
(1) What Christian honesty should look like (Eph. 4:25). Paul says, “Stop lying, the ways of the old man (v. 22), but be honest, the ways of the new man (v. 24)” Why? The answer is because in Christ we all belong to one another in His body (cf. Rom. 12:5).
(2) What Christian anger should look like (Eph. 4:26-27). Paul recognizes the reality of anger in v. 26, but he tells us that we must not let it become a sinful expression of anger, the ways of the old man (4:22). For that reason we must be very, very quick to forgive lest we give the devil an opportunity to do great harm with through a vengeful and unforgiving spirit (v. 27).
(3) What Christian diligence should look like (Eph. 4:28). Christians must put off the ways of the old man (4:22) which is that of theft and selfishness, and put on the ways of the new man (4:24) which is diligence and generosity, i.e., get a job and be productive so you can help others.
(4) What Christian speech should look like (Eph. 4:29). The ways of the old man are to tear down others. God commands us to not speak in these ways, but to only speak “such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.” Let us be known as people to regularly build others up instead of tearing them down.
(5) What Christian forgiveness should look like (Eph. 4:30-5:2). Verse 30 could possibly connect to v. 29, but it also may be seen as connecting to vv. 31ff. One thing is clear in both cases: When Christians are ungracious to others, we grieve the Holy Spirit who indwells us. To avoid the sin of grieving the Holy Spirit, Paul says, “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. 32 Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you” (vv. 31-32). The way of the old man is to not forgive, but the way of the new man is to be gracious, tender-hearted, and forgiving . . . just as God in Christ has forgiven us. When you forgive, says Paul, you are being “imitators of God, as beloved children” and “walking in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma” (5:1-2).
What is the message? Make sure that you are staying tender-hearted to one another.
Love, Pastor Tim