Why putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbor: for we are members one of another.
Wherefore, etc. In the preceding verses, as we have seen, under the head of The true method of studying Christianity, the apostle exhorted the Ephesians "to put off the old man and to put on the new man." He here proceeds to particularize and urge this the great practical work of Christianity. He abjures the elements of the old man and enjoins the elements of the new. Our subject is the abjured and the enjoined in the Christian life.
I. THE ABJURED IN CHRISTIAN LIFE. There are certain things here which are, alas! often found in connection with nominal Christians, and which are therefore too often regarded as identified with the Christian system, which are here abjured in language most earnest and strong. What are they?
1. Lying speech. "Putting away lying." A lie is a falsehood intended to deceive, with an immoral design; it is a misrepresentation of that to another about which he has a right to know the truth. What, then, is fiction and parable, say you? There is no justifiable fiction that does not agree with fact and serve the cause of reality and morals. Lying is one of the most prevalent sins. The ancient heathens everywhere practiced it, and moderns too. All travelers and missionaries bear testimony to this. Heathens are not to be believed on their oaths. Alas! the vice is not confined to heathendom; it prevails throughout the civilized world. Lies fill the social atmosphere. Men in every department of life are deceiving and being deceived by their fellow-men, and often for selfish and immoral ends. Christianity condemns lies. "Lying lips are an abomination unto the Lord." And "liars at last shall have their part in the lake that burneth with fire and brimstone." Christianity is essentially and eternally antagonistic to all insincerities and unrealities. Vanity, cowardice, and greed are the prolific factors of falsehoods,
2. Sinful anger. "Be ye angry, and sin not." We say, "sinful anger," for the text implies that there is an anger that is not sinful. Anger is the mind in emotional antagonism, and in a world of unreality, sin, and crime there is much to justify the strongest antagonism of the soul. Christ himself looked upon the conduct of the Jews with anger (Mark 3:5). Indignation sometimes fired his breast, and "woes" like thunderbolts rolled from his lips. The stronger a being's love for the right, the mightier his indignation for the wrong. The text implies two things concerning sinful anger.
(1) That it is abiding. Hence the command, "Let not the sun go down upon your wrath." Anger should not be allowed to continue in the mind, because it is painful to the soul; it is a fire that burns. He who cherishes it could not better gratify the vengeance of an enemy, for he is in agony all the while. The great Creator, in whose nature there is "no fury," never made the human soul for anger. "Let not the sun go down upon your wrath." Do not take it to bed with you; it will break your slumber and it will breed the devils of revenge. "Anger resteth in the bosom of fools." There is another thing here implied concerning sinful anger.
(2) It is favorable to the devil. "Neither give place to the devil." An angry soul is just the sphere to which the devil has the freest access and can best work out his malignant ends. All the assassinations, murders, and wars he works through angry souls. Don't give place to the devil. Human souls may keep the devil out. He cannot enter without their consent.
3. Social dishonesty. "Let him that stole steal no more." Stealing in some way or other is a vice as prevalent as lying. Our popular ideas of larceny are not deep or broad enough for Christianity. Englishmen regard those as thieves only whom the law has convicted of pilfering, and who are generally amongst the poor and needy. But in the eye of Christianity he is a thief who takes from another his rightful due. The tradesman who deals in short weights and measures, and overcharges for his wares, is a thief; the servant who does not occupy faithfully in his master's service the hours and faculties for which he is paid, is a thief; the physician who prolongs his visit to his patient beyond what is necessary, in order to get gain, is a thief; the rulers who tax the people to pay them enormous salaries for offices inefficiently and often injuriously filled, are thieves. To all these Christianity says, "Let him that stole steal no more;" be honest.
4. Corrupt language. "Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth." It is a putrescent language that is here abjured. What is a foul speech in the sense of Christianity? Not the ungrammarie in structure or the inelegant in style. The irreligious speech, which treats sacred things with frivolous profanity and sneering ridicule, is foul and corrupt; the selfish speech, which argues and persuades solely for personal gratification, is foul and corrupt; the malicious speech, which endeavors to undermine the influence, damage the interests, and injure the reputation of others, is foul and corrupt; the sensuous speech, that seeks to influence the animal passions and pollute the pure love of mankind, is foul and corrupt. All such language - and, alas! it abounds amongst us - is indeed putrescent. As heaps of decomposing vegetable and animal matter send forth gases into the atmosphere injurious to the physical health of the world, all corrupt communications proceeding from the mouths of men impregnate the mental atmosphere with elements damaging to the moral health of souls.
5. The anti-Divine. "And grieve not the Holy Spirit of God." Of course we are not to suppose that the eternal Spirit literally endures grief. He is the ever-blessed God. What is meant is, "do not do that which is repugnant to the heart and desires of the infinite Spirit." And what is thus repugnant to the Spirit? All that the Spirit here abjures, as well as moral evil of all kinds. A good reason is here added by Paul, "Whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption." This expression implies two things.
(1) There is a perfection awaiting the genuine disciples of Christ - "the day of redemption" -redemption from all evils, corporeal, intellectual, social, spiritual. Blessed day!
(2) The Divine Spirit has secured them to this. They are sealed for it. How flagrant the ingratitude and impiety of opposing such a spirit! Another thing abjured here is:
6. Malevolent conduct. "Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamor, and evil-speaking, be put away from you, with all malice." Malice, or malevolence, is the root of all. It is malice that generates the bitter things in social life; it is malice that kindles the fires of "wrath and anger;" it is malice that makes the tumultuous "clamors" and the contentious brawls. Let this malice be destroyed, and social love and purity anti peace shall prevail. Such are some of the evils that Christianity abjures, and, in abjuring, it abjures that which is the disgrace, the guilt, and the curse of mankind. With an exulting confidence, I say to infidels that whatever is had in the world or the Church, instead of growing out of Christianity, is in direct antagonism to it. All wrong is antichrist; all right is Christian.
II. THE ENJOINED IN CHRISTIAN LIFE. Christian life is not a negation. It does not consist in the mere deprivation of the morally wrong; its essence is the spirit of goodness - love. This love, in its social character, is forcibly inculcated in these words. We are here taught:
1. That the social love enjoined is courteous. "Be ye kind one to another." Christianity requires us to cherish a benignant spirit, and maintain an amiable and considerate deportment towards all mankind. Where this kindness of nature is there will be true courtesy and a gentle bearing in all our intercourse with men. There is a politeness of manner in society which has no heart, no nature; it is mere mechanism and polish; it is often in alliance with the coarse in thought, the selfish in spirit, the putrid in moral feeling. Such politeness is theatrical. The coarse-minded churl on the stage assumes the costume and plays the part of a gentleman. The spirit of Christianity is antagonistic to all that is coarse, crabbed, and morose. Love "doth not behave itself unseemly."
2. That the social love enjoined is compassionate. "Tender-hearted." There is suffering in society - physical, mental, moral, social. Children of sorrow and trial are found in every walk of life. Towards those Christianity inculcates "tender-hearted compassion. Put on ... as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, long-suffering; forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye" (Colossians 3:12, 13). "Be ye all of one mind, having compassion one of another, love as brethren, be pitiful, be courteous: not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing: but contrariwise blessing; knowing that ye are thereunto called, that ye should inherit a blessing" (1 Peter 3:8, 9).
3. That the social love enjoined is forgiving. "Forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you." Few men pass through life without meeting with those who commit offences against them; those who seek to damage their secular interests, their social enjoyments, or their moral reputation. How does Christianity require its disciples to act towards them? Not with the spirit of vengeance, but with that of forgiveness. "Forgiving one another." The words contain three facts.
(1) That God hath forgiven Christians. Glorious fact this.
(2) That God in forgiving Christians has acted in Christ. "As God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you," Θεὸς ἐν Ξριστῶ - in Christ. God works through various organs, through material nature, through moral mind, and through Jesus Christ. But it is only through the last - Christ - that he forgives. "God is in Christ reconciling the world unto himself." It is only in Christ that he works in the sinner that state of mind which separates him from his sin.
(3) That God's forgiveness of Christians is a rule for their forgiveness. "Even as God." How does God grant forgiveness?
(a) Freely. No urging required, no constraint.
(b) Abundantly. "He will abundantly pardon." "How oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? until seven times?" This was Peter's question to Christ; and what was the reply? "Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven" (Matthew 18:21, 22).
4. That the social love enjoined is God-like. "Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children." "Become, then, followers of God, as beloved children (Ellicott). "God is love." Seek to become like him in love. His love is disinterested, compassionate, forgiving, boundless, and ever-acting. This is the standard to be aimed at; nothing lower.
(1) God can be imitated in this respect. We cannot become like God in wisdom, power, sovereignty, but we can in love. The child can love as well as the man, and the man as well as the seraph. The God of love hath made all souls to love.
(2) God must he imitated in this respect. It is essential to happiness. Heaven is in this love, and nowhere else. "He that loveth dwelleth in God, and God in him."
5. That the social love is self-sacrificing. "And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling savor."
(1) The self-sacrificing love which Christianity enjoins is like that exemplified in Christ. Christ "hath given himself for us." "He gave himself for our sins." "He loved us, and gave himself for us." Christ so loved mankind that he sacrificed his time, energy, peace, reputation, life, all to save them. The love that Christianity enjoins must be like this, nothing inferior to this, nothing short of this; self-sacrificing love is the love of Christianity. It is the true heroic element.
(2) The self-sacrificing love which Christianity enjoins is acceptable to God. It is "a sweet-smelling savor." Its exhibition in Christ was delightful to the heart of God, and the same self-sacrifice in man can alone make man pleasing in his sight.
CONCLUSION. What a sublime system is Christianity! It abjures in the life of its disciples all that is false, malign, unjust, impure, and profane, and enjoins that spirit of love which purifies, ennobles, and beatifies. - D.T.
Parallel VersesKJV: Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbour: for we are members one of another.