Ephesians 4:29-32 - License to Kill
There's no neutral in life. You're either building up or tearing down.
Read / Listen
Read Ephesians 4:29-32
CONTEXT: Today's passage comes from a section in Ephesians often titled "Instructions for Christian Living," where Paul instructs us to "put off your old self... and put on your new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness (v24)."
29 Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. 32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.
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."
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;
ASK GOD FOR WHAT YOU NEED:
Read the New Testament in a year, a chapter a day - 2 John