Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Life in Community (Ephesians 4:17-28)

"Each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body" (Ephesians 4:25)

Moralism is the heresy that reduces the principles of God’s law to mere dos and don’ts. “Do this and don’t do that,” says the moralist. Why? “Because this is right and that is wrong.” The moralist takes God and the kingdom out of the picture and encourages people to think that they can be good on their own terms.

God’s law is never given in such a moralistic context. God always gives His law in a context of redemption and grace. Even in the beginning we read concerning Adam and Eve that “God blessed them” before He told them what He wanted them to do (Genesis 1:28). God redeemed Israel from Egypt and told them that He wanted them to obey Him out of gratitude and out of a concern for their neighbors. “You know what it is like to be a slave,” He said repeatedly in the Law, “so your heart should go out to the oppressed and you should defend the poor and punish the wicked.”

Paul, in Ephesians 4:25 and following, gives moral exhortations to the church, but his exhortations are all based on what it means to live in community with other people in union with Christ. We want to see God’s palace-temple built on earth, and in order for that to happen, we must live righteously with each other.

The first thing Paul says (Ephesians 4:25) is that we should never lie or deceive one another, precisely because we are members of one body. Perhaps we would never willingly trick a fellow believer, but we might be tempted to tell a “white lie” to protect him from some unpleasant truth. But if we are one body in Christ, how can we hide the truth from him? It is as if we were deceiving our own selves and letting ourselves continue on foolishly believing something that is not true. Better to help him face the truth, just as we ourselves need to face unpleasant truths.

Similarly, Paul says that it is all right to be angry, for God is angry with sin, and many things in this life call for anger. But, he says, don’t let the sun go down on your anger. In your evening devotions, turn the situation over to God and let Him be angry for you. The reason for this is that human anger too easily turns to sin and gives the devil a foothold in our lives (Ephesians 4:26–27).

It is because of God’s grace that He so often gives a reason for His commands. While we should seek to do likewise, trust that God’s commands work for His glory and our good whether we understand them or not. Do not wait for understanding before you obey.