Commentary on Ephesians, 4:26-29

Ephesians 4:26-29

Beginning with verse 26, or perhaps verse 25, all the way through into the next chapter, Paul gives specific instructions about living the Christian life. In chapter 4, Paul went into detail about who we are in Christ, urging us to walk in a manner that is consistent with our calling (Eph 4:1). He discussed the relationship that we have with one another as members of the body of Christ.

With these things still in mind, he now gives the type of instructions that we might find in the book of Proverbs. Some of these instructions seem to be disconnected from each other (as typically seen in Proverbs), but each one reflects the kind of character we’re to exhibit in Christ.

“25Therefore, putting aside the lie, speak truth each one of you with his neighbor, because we are members of one another.”
“26 Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun set on your anger.”  LEB

What are we to be “angry” about? My first thought, in view of what Paul has been talking about, is that we should be angry about sin. In other words, I believe what Paul is actually saying is, “be angry about sin, and thus, do not sin.” I realize that a common interpretation is that Paul is talking about anger in general, especially the out-of-control type toward others. However, within the context, I believe Paul is referring to anger toward sin.

Furthermore, since the common interpretation is that Paul is addressing anger in general, the accompanying interpretation of “do not let the sun set on your anger,” is that we are not to end the day with anger in our hearts (the sinful kind of anger). However, I believe Paul has the very opposite idea in mind. I believe Paul is exhorting us to be angry about sin, and not to let the heat (sun) of that anger be diminished. In other words, the fire of our anger toward sin should be ever present. Paul is not talking about an out-of-control, emotional type of anger, but a calm, burning presence in our heart, a burning hatred toward sin that never lets up.

We should first be angry about our own sin, but also about the sins that are being committed within the body of Christ overall. For there are no sins committed among us that do not effect the rest; we are one in Christ.

I think we should be so angry about our own personal sins, and about the sins within the Church, that it moves us to wage all-out war against it. Sin should effect us deeply. If we have a casual attitude toward sin, if we’re not too concerned about it, then sin will rule our lives. Thus we will never become the mature followers of Christ that God has called us to be. Whenever we sin, it should motivate us to gain victory over those sins, especially those sins that have a strong grip on us. Paul provides us with a list of sins that we’re to be angry towards in Galatians:

“Now the works of the flesh are evident; sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these.”  ESV (Gal 5:19,20,21)

“Things like these,” covers a lot of territory. In other words, this is just a short sample of the type of sins that are always working to gain control over our lives.

However, sin is to be brought under the control of the Holy Spirit. In the very next verses, Paul provides another list, but this list is the fruit that is gained in our lives as a result of walking in the power of the Spirit:

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentles, self-control…” ESV

Anger toward sin and dependence upon the Spirit of God, will result in Spirit-produced character, and a Spirit-produced life.

Paul goes on and says in the next verse:  “those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.”  ESV (Gal 5:24)

Sin, in all its passions and desires, is to continuously be put to death in our lives. If we belong to Christ, then sin has already been nailed to the cross, but we must live with a constant awareness of that fact, that we no longer have to sin. We must realize that we have died to sin, and have been raised to new life in Christ (Ro 6:1-14).

Paul said of himself:

“I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”  ESV (Gal 2:20)

This of course is true of all of us as Christians. The power of sin has been broken. We have been “crucified with Christ.” We have died to sin and it’s power. We’ve been raised to new life with Christ, and have been given power to live in victory over sin, as we depend on Christ to live His life in us.

“27 nor give place to the devil.”  LEB

We’re not to give the devil any kind of opportunity to lead us away into sin. How does that happen, you may ask? Satan uses our weaknesses against us. He knows where we’re vulnerable. So it’s wise to know ourselves. If we know where we’re weak regarding particular sins, we’ll know not to allow ourselves to be led into situations where we’ll be tempted by those sins. We’re to avoid temptation to sin where we can.

“28 The one who steals must steal no longer, but instead must labor, working with his own hands [what is] good, so that he may have [something] to share with the one who has need.”  LEB

Here Paul is contrasting stealing with labor. Stealing is something that is characteristic of those who belong to the devil. He’s a thief, and seeks to rob people of the truth. Likewise, those who steal are simply being like the devil. We as followers of Christ are to be givers, not takers. For Christ gave Himself for us. We’re to work hard for the cause of Christ, and we’re to work hard to provide for our families. Paul provides us with one of the primary reasons for earning money, so that we may have something to give to those whose needs are greater than our own.

“29 {No rotten word must proceed} from your mouth, but only something good for the building up of the need, in order that it may give grace to those who hear,”  LEB

We as representatives of Christ, are not to allow offensive language to proceed out of our mouths. We’re to talk as Christ Himself would talk. We’re not to speak in a way that tears people down, but in a manner that builds them up and encourages them. We’re to be sensitive to the emotional needs of those around us, and to speak to them in a manner that is sensitive to those needs. Everything that comes out of our mouths should be words of grace and kindness.