Sermon Quick Notes – Ephesians 4:31 – 5:2

Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.  Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children.  And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. (Eph. 4:31-5:2 ESV)

Let all . . . be put away from you.

Everything discussed in verse 31 is a dire threat to unity.


She said to them, “Do not call me Naomi; call me Mara, for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me.  I went away full, and the LORD has brought me back empty. Why call me Naomi, when the LORD has testified against me and the Almighty has brought calamity upon me?” So Naomi returned, and Ruth the Moabite her daughter-in-law with her, who returned from the country of Moab.  And they came to Bethlehem at the beginning of barley harvest. (Ruth 1:20-22 ESV)

Why is light given to him who is in misery, and life to the bitter in soul, who long for death, but it comes not, and dig for it more than for hidden treasures, who rejoice exceedingly and are glad when they find the grave? (Job 3:20-22 ESV)

Misery and suffering circumstances can affect souls.

The mystery Scot that penned the quoted definition of bitterness was John Eadie:  “‘bitterness’—is a figurative term denoting that fretted and irritable state of mind that keeps a man in perpetual animosity—that inclines him to harsh and uncharitable opinions of men and things—that makes him, sour, crabbed, and repulsive in his general demeanour—that brings a scowl over his face, and infuses venom into the words of his tongue.”

The bitter are ready to believe evil rather seek the good.  Bitterness can seep into the soul in a wide variety of circumstances—loss of wealth or ability, aging loss of loved ones, into children when they witness the disappointing or bitter interactions of their parents over time.

Brings to mind the snipped from 1 Cor. 13:7 that is the hardest for me to hold onto:  “Love . . . hopes all things.”


One lexicon calls clamor (Grk. κραυγὴ (kraugē)) “verbal brawling.”  An apt description, and one which too often describes our dinner table.


Remember the truth telling connection to unity throughout this passage.  Reminds me of Dr. Dan Doriani‘s description of truth telling as the currency or the “coin of the realm” for the family, without which the family cannot function.  True for the family and true for the church.


You want people to hurt as bad as you do.  Seeking a unity that destroys and consumes rather than refines—exactly the wrong kind.


Contra bitterness—seeing suffering and doing nothing to help; kindness—seeing suffering, bringing a benefit, and doing it with joy.  A genuine ability to say and mean “No, thank you!” when thanked for sacrificial assistance.


A soft heart.

Says the LORD: “I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.” (Ezek. 36:26-27 ESV)

This is one expression of the promise behind Paul’s admonition

The tenderhearted see others need and desires easily and respond kindly and graciously.

Forgive one another.

From Thomas Watson’s Body of Divinity discussing the Lord’s Prayer (Matt. 9:12), answering “When do we forgive others?”, i.e., what does forgiveness look like?:  His answer: “When we strive against all thoughts of revenge; when we will not do our enemies mischief, but wish well to them, grieve at their calamities, pray for them, seek reconciliation with them, and show ourselves ready on all occasions to relieve them.” (581).  One commentator noted how much this definition is rooted in scripture:

  • Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” (Rom. 12:19 ESV)
  • See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone. (1 Thess. 5:15 ESV)
  • Bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. (Lk. 6:28 ESV)
  • Do not rejoice when your enemy falls, and let not your heart be glad when he stumbles, lest the LORD see it and be displeased, and turn away his anger from him. (Prov. 24:17-18 ESV)
  • But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,
    so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. (Matt. 5:44-45 ESV)
  • Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. (Rom. 12:17-18 ESV)
  • If you meet your enemy’s ox or his donkey going astray, you shall bring it back to him. (Exod. 23:4 ESV)

Forgiving as God, in Christ, forgave you.

We respond to others’ sin against us out of the state of forgiveness in which we sit in Christ.

“I, I am he who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and I will not remember your sins.” (Isa. 43:25 ESV)

And they shall not teach, each one his neighbor and each one his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest. For I will be merciful toward their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more.” (Heb. 8:11-12 ESV)

Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?”

Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times.
“Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants. When he began to settle, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents.

And since he could not pay, his master ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made. So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’  And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt.

But when that same servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii, and seizing him, he began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay what you owe.’
So his fellow servant fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’He refused and went and put him in prison until he should pay the debt.

When his fellow servants saw what had taken place, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their master all that had taken place. Then his master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt.

So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.”  (Matt. 18:21-35 ESV)

Our willingness to forgive is directly proportional to our sense of HOW MUCH we have been forgiven.   Other things can interfere with our calling to forgive.  For example, the extent to which we consider ourselves unforgivable is likely to interfere with our forgiveness of others.  A lack of openness to forgiveness of the servant – go ahead and punish me – would have prevented even his opportunity to forgive the man who owed him the small amount money.  What other attitudes toward grace mercy and forgiveness interfere with this gospel dynamic?

The Church is a grace laboratory.  We cannot know what it is like to participate in the new life unless we can practice it and see it in practice wearing our new identities.  Until we practice here how can we show the same love out there?

Emptied of self focus and self righteousness which has been replaced by HIS goodness, glory, and His righteousness. Righteousness that remains His but is wholly ours.

Must live closely enough in our lives together in the church to give one another the opportunity to offend one another. We must continue together to be sinners and sinned against to show how this works.  The cycle of sin and forgiveness is the oil that keeps the engine of grace running in our lives and testimonies to one another—inside and outside of the church.

A fragrant offering and sacrifice to God

This is the opposite of grieving the Holy Spirit of God in verse 30.

Vogler, 09.02.18

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