Ephesians 4:29-5:2

Words (29-30): Paul addresses three more areas of our community life: words, kindness and love. We must not allow “unwholesome” speech to come out of our mouths.[1] All such words grieve the Holy Spirit,[2] whose indwelling in us guarantees our future redemption/glorification. Instead, our words[3] are to meet the saints’ need for spiritual edification.[4] We are to speak God’s truth and help renew one another’s minds.[5] Our words are to build up one another.

Kindness (4:31-32): Paul also calls us to remove from our community the wide array of evil that should never characterize God’s people. Paul lists the vices of “bitterness,” “wrath,” “anger,” “clamor” and “slander,” and adds “every evil” as a catchall for other types of actions and attitudes that betray our unity (4:2-3). We are, instead,[6] to be kind and compassionate (“tender-hearted”). In a community of unglorified saints, this would inevitably mean forgiveness. And we are to forgive as God has forgiven us: generously and profusely.[7]

Love (5:1-2): We are not love-deprived. We are God’s beloved children, and as such, we are to be like Him in His love. Specifically, we are to follow Jesus’ example. As He was a fragrant aroma to God when He gave Himself up for us, so we are to love sacrificially. Those who want to please God love like Christ.

[1] This is not meant to justify sinful inner attitudes (Matt. 15:18-20). Attitudinal issues are addressed in 4:31.

[2] 4:30 begins with “And,” pointing out the Spirit’s grief at our sinful speech, just one example (Isa. 63:10).

[3] The power of the tongue to do good is repeatedly seen in Proverbs: 12:18; 15:4; 16:24; 18:21.

[4] “According to the need of the moment” is literally “of need” which is taken attributively: “needed edification.” Paul has used “edification [oi-ko-do-mē (οἰκοδομή)]” (4:12, 16) for spiritual edification and it is likewise here.

[5] This is what should fill our conversations with one another. Cf. 4:13-15, 17-23; 5:19; Col. 3:16.

[6] 4:32 begins with the conjunction “But [de (δέ)],” indicating that this is a contrasting pair with verse 31.

[7] Christ has always taught us to forgive in this manner (Matt. 18:21-22, 32-33). Cf. also Col. 3:13.