A Commentary by John Stott
Ephesians 4:25-5:4. 2). Six concrete examples.
It is marvellous to see how easily Paul can descend from lofty theological talk about our two humanities, about the Christ we have learned and the new creation we have experienced, to the nitty-gritty of Christian behaviour – telling the truth and controlling our anger, honesty at work and kindness of speech, forgiveness, love and sexual self-control. All very practical. And before we come to his six examples, we need to notice three features common to them all.
First they all concern our relationships. Holiness is not a mystical condition experienced in relation to God but in isolation from human beings. You cannot be good in a vacuum, but only in the real world of people. Besides, ‘all the qualities enjoined here are aspects of that unity in the church which it is our writer’s prime concern to elucidate and to foster. To this matter he deliberately gives pride of place…Similarly, the evils to be avoided are all destroyers of human harmony.
Secondly, in each example a negative prohibition is balanced by a corresponding positive command. It is not enough to put off the old rags; we have to put on new garments. It is not enough to give up lying and stealing and losing our temper, unless we also start speaking the truth, working hard and being kind to people.
Thirdly, in each case a reason for the command is either given or implied, indeed a theological reason. For in the teaching of Jesus and his apostles doctrine and ethics, belief and behaviour are always dovetailed into one another.
a). Don’t tell lies, but rather tell the truth (verse 25).
*Therefore, putting away falsehood, let every one speak the truth with his neighbour, for we are members one of another*.
Strictly speaking, the Greek word is not *falsehood* in the abstract but ‘the lie’ (*to pseudos*). It is possible, therefore, that Paul is referring here as in Romans 1:25 to ‘the great lie of idolatry’, and that because his readers had renounced that supreme falsehood of paganism, the chief symptom of a futile and darkened mind (verses 17-18), he urges them now to forsake all lesser lies and speak the truth. Certainly the avoidance of lies is of little use without the active pursuit of truth. The followers of Jesus (in whom is truth, verse 21) should be known in their community as honest, reliable people whose word can be trusted. The reason given is not only that the other person is our *neighbour*, whom we are commanded in Scripture to love, but that in the church our relationship is closer still, *for we are members one of another*. Paul brings us back to his doctrine of the church as the body of Christ (cf. verses 12-16), and implies that ‘a lie is a stab into the very vitals of the Body of Christ’. For fellowship is built on trust, and trust is built on truth. So falsehood undermines fellowship, while truth strengthens it.
Tomorrow: Ephesians 4:26-27. b). Don’t loose your temper, but rather ensure that your anger is righteous.