By Deborah Bell
(Lead Apostle DGAN Global Network and DGFC churches)
Ephesians 4:29-31 (NIV)
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.
In Ephesians 4, Paul speaks about the church’s life as the body of Christ, that the God given leaders are called to prepare God’s people for works of service to build the body up.
But it doesn’t stop there. The Bible tells us that the church is a living organism, Christ calls us as the whole church to “every member” ministry. No one person (as is sometimes expected, namely the Pastor), can carry out the function on their own. The role of leaders within the church has always been to help the members of the body grow in their capacity to minister to others.
Getting rid of the bitter root
That capacity of ministering, is first to other believers so that we are growing in our maturity a people who the Scriptures say, show love, not bitterness, a people who speak out of pure hearts, a people who have “plucked out” their rage, slander and every form of malice, so that they can represent Christ to those around them, and benefit all those whom they are ministering to.
Getting rid of bitterness can require people to go as far back as their childhood. Dealing with past hurts and moving in the true forgiveness that Christ taught, removes the deep roots of hurt, pain, neglect (rejection) & unhealthy punitive discipline (which often causes people to distort & reject the wonderful freeing truths found in the Scripture. Leaving these old roots inside of us, causes us to continue to grow them into our adulthood and
nature, and they become like a poison to our faith.
“Plucking out” what shouldn’t be in our lives any longer, is part and parcel of how
we grow into healthy Christians, and then into the maturity, of being healthy Christians. So it is vital that we “grow up in Christ” if we are to be avalid expression of Jesus in this world. The whole body “grows and builds itself upin love, as each part does its work” (Eph 4:16).
The focus on building one another up is not “selfish.” It is essential. Only as we grow toward maturity together can we respond fully to Jesus as He directs us to serve in the world. Only a strong and healthy body can carry out the tasks assigned to it. Our effectiveness in communicating the Gospel and the love of God to the world around us depends on our growth toward maturity.
We know we cannot do this without Christ’s love deeply set in our spirit. Let’s make room today, for more of God and less of ourselves.
Living a life of love
Paul then exhorted us to “live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave Himself up
for us” (Eph. 5:12). Let me share a bit further with you on this, from Richards:
“As members of the body, we must no longer live as the Gentiles do (Eph. 4:17-19), but
become a loving family in which growth can take place. How do the Gentiles live?
Without sensitivity, indulging themselves in sensuality. This is a picture of men and women who see others as something to use. Love never degrades others or places things above human values. “I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles” (Eph. 4:17).
A New Attitude
How are we taught to live together in Christ? By putting off the former way of life (Eph. 4:20-32), we are to live with a totally new attitude: a new self that is like God in true righteousness and holiness. How does righteousness find expression in human relationships?
By putting off falsehood and speaking truthfully. This involves more than not lying. It involves an open sharing of ourselves with one another, rejecting deceit.
By rejecting the sinful actions anger drives us toward. Anger is not given a place. Before evening comes, we are to move toward reconciliation.
By rejecting gossip and unwholesome talk. In our conversation we seek to build others up, not tear them down.
By ridding ourselves of bitterness, rage, slander, and every form of malice. In their place, we are to express kindness and compassion, forgiving each other as God has forgiven us.
“Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love” (Eph. 4:1-2).
In every New Testament passage that teaches that the church is a body, we also find an emphasis on the loving relationships that are to develop between believers. It is through living with one another in love that ministry opportunities are created, and ministry takes place.
This is the simplicity we sometimes miss. The love that grows between family members and draws us closer to each other, moves us to care. As we care, we reach out to bear one another’s burdens, to encourage and support—we minister. It is in loving that our spiritual gifts come into play.
In Ephesians, the description of a life of love helps us define the characteristics of a healthy local church today.