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  • Chad Werkhoven

Ephesians 4:29-32 - License to Kill

There's no neutral in life. You're either building up or tearing down.

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Read Ephesians 4:29-32

Listen to passage & devotional:


Heidelberg Catechism Q&A 106

Q. Does the fifth commandment

refer only to killing?

A. By forbidding murder God teaches us

that he hates the root of murder:

envy, hatred, anger, vindictiveness.

In God’s sight all such are murder.



In many ways, the Sermon on the Mount is the defining blueprint for the Christian life. Jesus teaches that we must have surpassing righteousness, a feat we're not capable of on our own, but which He supplies on our behalf. Although this gift is pure grace, it does come with strings attached: we're now expected to live and look like the perfectly righteous people we've been declared to be. Not only does grace declare us to be righteous and holy, but it also equips us to live accordingly.

This means that we no longer view God's law as a black and white list of do's and don'ts, but rather we're to align our attitudes with the Law's underlying principles of godliness.

It's these foundational principles that Jesus taught in the Sermon on the Mount and elsewhere that Paul continues to build on in passages like what we're reading today. In this light, murder is not just an act that takes a person's physical life, but it's anything that is not "helpful for building others up according to their needs." This means that murder weapons have expanded from things like guns and knives to attitudes and behaviors like "bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, and every form of malice."

Dig Deeper

Anybody who's watched any sort of home improvement or remodeling show knows that the first step of a rebab project is demo day, where the old is torn out so the new can be installed. This is the entire premise of this chapter in Ephesians: your old sinful self must be removed so you can come to new life in Christ.

Unlike the remodel project where demo day comes and goes, demolishing is an ongoing project for you as often new sins creep in and recontaminate areas you thought you'd already cleaned out. Paul often uses violent language to describe this ongoing process: you are to put to death the misdeeds of the body (Romans 8:13).

But this license to kill comes with a significant restriction: for the most part, you must always be the victim. There certainly are times where it's not only appropriate but necessary for you to help others identify and kill off the sin in their lives, but those times are limited and must be done with great wisdom.

Your words, thoughts and attitudes will always result in one extreme or the other: they will either build others up in Christ, or they will "grieve the Holy Spirit of God," as murderous behaviors like bitterness, rage, brawling and slander tear others apart.

In general, keep your killing limited to your own sinful self (Sarx), and take advantage of the nearly limitless opportunities to build others up with wholesome talk, kindness and compassion.

  • ACKNOWLEDGE WHO GOD IS: Our Father who has forgiven you in Christ;

  • ALIGN YOUR LIFE WITH GOD'S WILL: Pray that your thoughts, words and deeds will build others up, even as you kill off the indwelling sin in your own life;



Read the New Testament in a year, a chapter a day - 2 John


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