Ephesians Pt 12 Slander, Anger and Foul Language

Ephesians 4:25-32(ESV) Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another. 26 Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, 27 and give no opportunity to the devil. 28 Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need. 29 Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. 32 Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

The Father chooses, the Son Redeems, the Holy Spirit Seals. V30 says do not grieve the Holy Spirit. We need to remember that the Holy Spirit is not a distant, abstract deity and certainly not an impersonal force. No, the Holy Spirit is a person, for only a genuine and personable being is capable of this kind of thinking, feeling, and emotion. In fact, when we understand that the Spirit is a person it should surprise us only if he would not or could not feel grief in the face of our sin. “There is some sadness in the consideration that the Holy Spirit, the One who is our Comforter (John 14:16), is himself grieved by our sin. Sins that bring disunity to the church also bring grief to the Holy Spirit. Again, Bryan Chapell says, “The same Spirit who convicts my heart of sin, generates in me love for God, gives me new birth, provides my apprehension of the beauty of grace in the world, and seals my redemption until the coming of my Lord—this same Spirit who loves me so intimately and perfectly, I can cause to grieve.”

It is also worth noting what Paul does not say, for there is comfort to be had here. Paul does not threaten abandonment. Clinton Arnold makes this point and concludes “Under the new covenant, the Spirit does not depart when sin is committed. Instead, the Spirit deeply grieves over it. Paul presents this as a truth that should motivate believers not to indulge their sinful desires—whether this might be filthy talk, stealing, uncontrolled anger, lying, or any other vice.” The true believer does not need to fear that God will respond to sin by giving up and moving out. We are sealed by the Spirit for all eternity.

We grieve the Spirit when we sin and we especially grieve the Spirit when we sin in ways that cause discord, perhaps because unity is a special work of the Spirit.

The old saying “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me” is simply not true. Words can do a great deal of damage to those who have been slandered. Slander is making a false verbal statement that damages someone’s reputation. Slander differs slightly from libel in that libel is a written defamation of character; slander is only spoken. Remember that when you read something on Facebook that is not true or you are tempted to write something that is not true about another, you are involved in libel and can be sued.The Bible says a lot about slander, in both Old and New Testament.
Proverbs 10:18(ESV)The one who conceals hatred has lying lips,and whoever utters slander is a fool.

1 Peter 2:1-5(ESV)So put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander. 2 Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation— 3 if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.4 As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, 5 you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.

Slander is a sin that is very high on God’s list, so much so that He listed it as #9 in the Ten Commandments Exodus 20:16(ESV).“You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.” Bearing false witness includes slander because of the untruths being spread. Slander is simply lying about someone with the intent of causing others to view that person in a negative light.

Slander is malicious lying, and God hates lying.
Proverbs 6:16–19(ESV)There are six things that the Lord hates, seven that are an abomination to him:17 haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood,18 a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil,19 a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers.

Proverbs 12:22(ESV)Lying lips are an abomination to the Lord, but those who act faithfully are his delight.

Proverbs 13:5(ESV) 5 The righteous hates falsehood, but the wicked brings shame and disgrace.

John 8:44(ESV)44 You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.

God is the author of truth. John 14:6(ESV)6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me, Anything untrue is in opposition to His nature and therefore repulsive to Him. Both slander and gossip are wrong, and Scripture often condemns them together (Leviticus 19:16(ESV)16 You shall not go around as a slanderer among your people, and you shall not stand up against the life of your neighbor: I am the Lord., but slander takes gossip to a whole new level. Gossip collects someone’s secrets and passes them to others; slander makes up its own secrets and broadcasts them wherever they will do the most harm.(ie:Facebook)

When we slander others, we are choosing to step out of the path God designed for us. He will not participate with us in our attempts to destroy someone else with our words. Slander comes from the heart, and when we are tempted to speak untruths about someone, we should first examine our own hearts to see what ugly root is producing those desires.

Matthew 15:16-18(ESV)18 But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person. 19 For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander.

The life of Jesus has shown us that being angry, in itself, is not evil. Ephesians 4:25–32 takes this idea a step further. Paul tells us not only that we are permitted to be angry, he also says there are times when we must be angry. When Jesus cleared the temple of the moneychangers and animal-sellers, He showed great emotion and anger (Matthew 21:12-13; Mark 11:15-18; John 2:13-22). Jesus’ emotion was described as “zeal” for God’s house (John 2:17). His anger was pure and completely justified because at its root was concern for God’s holiness and worship. Because these were at stake, Jesus took quick and decisive action. Another time Jesus showed anger was in the synagogue of Capernaum. When the Pharisees refused to answer Jesus’ questions, “He looked around at them in anger, deeply distressed at their stubborn hearts” (Mark 3:5).

Many times, we think of anger as a selfish, destructive emotion that we should eradicate from our lives altogether. However, the fact that Jesus did sometimes become angry indicates that anger itself, as an emotion, is amoral. This is borne out elsewhere in the New Testament. Ephesians 4:26 instructs us “in your anger do not sin” and not to let the sun go down on our anger. The command is not to “avoid anger” (or suppress it or ignore it) but to deal with it properly, in a timely manner. While anger is often viewed as a completely negative emotion, there are times a person can be angry for appropriate reasons. In the case of Jesus, His anger was the result of ungodly attitudes and actions by those around Him.

Six things that made Jesus Angry
1. Hypocrisy – Pharisees – Matthew 15 & 23

2. Greed – Money Changers – John 2:15-17

3. Lukewarm Living – Revelation 3:15

4. Hard Heartedness Mark 3:5

5. Superiority – exalted doctrines of men Matthew 23

6. Spiritual Pride – pharisees vs tax collector Luke 18:9-14

The anger of Jesus did not result in a long-term grudge. Instead, His anger was an emotion that resulted in proper actions. Today’s believers must seek the same response. Anger left unchecked or wrongly motivated can result in long-term unforgiveness that causes problems in a believer’s own life.

If they made Jesus angry we could say that we could get angry at these as well.

That the Lord would command us to be angry at times is understandable when we consider biblical ethics. In the same letter Paul summarizes what we need to know about Christian virtues by telling us to be “imitators of God” (5:1). Our Father in heaven can only be perfectly holy if He gets angry when His righteous standards are violated. If we are to imitate Him, we too must get mad at those things that make God angry. We must grow incensed when we see the weak and helpless exploited, because the Lord’s wrath is kindled against the oppressor. Exodus 22:21–24(ESV)21 “You shall not wrong a sojourner or oppress him, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt. 22 You shall not mistreat any widow or fatherless child. 23 If you do mistreat them, and they cry out to me, I will surely hear their cry, 24 and my wrath will burn, and I will kill you with the sword, and your wives shall become widows and your children fatherless.. Hypocrisy in our lives and in the church must disturb us because of Jesus’ anger at those who honor Him with their lips only (Matthew 15:8(ESV)“‘This people honors me with their lips,but their heart is far from me;

Yet we are imperfect, and while we must sometimes get angry, we must also take care that we do not sin in our anger (Ephesians 4:26). Every time we are mad, we should check ourselves to see if we are upset at the things God hates. Otherwise we may be angry without just cause and give opportunity to the Devil (v. 27). Anger is the emotion most prone to sinful abuse, and this is why Paul also tells us to put anger away in this same passage (v. 31). This is not a contradiction of verse 26, Paul is only recognizing that our anger, even if it is godly at first, is too often perverted into feelings of malice instead of a longing to see offenders repent. When this happens, we are in danger of giving root to the bitterness that destroys. Hebrews 12:15(ESV)15 See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled; 

Finally, though evil should anger us, we are not always to pour wrath on others. Jesus rebuked the Pharisees because of their hard hearts (Matthew 23), but He was kind and gentle to the adulterous woman because she was humble and contrite (John 7:53–8:11). We cannot condone sin, but we must also imitate our Savior and seek to restore the repentant in instead of showing the full brunt of our wrath.

Words are all we have, really. We have thoughts but thoughts are fluid. Then we assign a word to a thought and we’re stuck with that word for that thought, so be careful with words.The same words that hurt can heal, it’s a matter of how you pick them. There are some people that aren’t into all the words.There are some that would have you not use certain words.

“Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths…” I wonder what determines corrupting talk? Does the pop culture? Does the FCC? Do the religious people? Nope. The answer comes in the second part of the statement: “… but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.” This statement both makes cussing relative and invites some study of its context. The test, does using this word tear someone down or build up? If it doesn’t tear them down (because it is part of a language they understand) then we ought not live in a legalism that the Scriptures don’t impose.

Isaiah 5:20(ESV)Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!  We are supposed to use good words for good things and bad words for bad things, the problems start when we mix them up. When we start to assume certain words are bad and certain words are good. Or we allow culture to dictate what is good and what is bad instead of letting scripture tell us.

Bible Translations are filtered through a bit of political correctness. As a pastor one of my goals is to instill a passion to interpret and believe what the Bible actually says into you guys. Not what we want it to say, but what it really says in all its grit and occasional offensiveness. Cleaning up God’s word is like telling a chef he didn’t prepare the meal correctly for the patrons.

But religious people have been covering up  seemingly obscene language in the Bible for centuries. Jewish scribes in the middle ages, who copied the Hebrew Old Testament used as the base for all English translations, edited out some vulgar words and replaced them with nicer ones. For instance, God originally prophesied through Zechariah that women in Israel would be raped by wicked, invading armies. The word God inspired is shagel, and according to Hebrew linguists, shagel is an obscene word that describes a sexual act. But whenever God said shagel  as in Deuteronomy 28:30(ESV)30 You shall betroth a wife, but another man shall ravish her. You shall build a house, but you shall not dwell in it. You shall plant a vineyard, but you shall not enjoy its fruit.;

Isaiah 13:16(HCSB)Their children will be smashed to death before their eyes; their houses will be looted, and their wives raped., 

The Masorites replaced it with the more tame shakev—“to lie with.” And all of our “literal” English translations agree that the word from the middle ages is better than the one spoken by our Creator.

Ezekiel 23:16-21(ESV)
Ezekiel 16 (ESV)

Modern translators edit out the vulgarity so that Ezekiel can be read in church. The apostle Paul was so enrapture by the scandalous grace of God that he did what we considered the greatest sin of all, he assumedly cussed! Philippians 3:8(NET)“I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as skubala, in order that I may gain Christ” . The Greek word skubala is more vulgar than crap and dung, and as harsh as s**t. Either way, most translations dim it down by using words like “rubbish,” which means trash, not excrement, or “dung” which is more accurate but far less offensive. And yes my friends, that word is a first century cuss word.

Galatians 5:12(HCSB)12 I wish those who are disturbing you might also get themselves castrated!

Matthew 23:33(ESV)33 You serpents, you brood of vipers, how are you to escape being sentenced to hell?
Malachi 2:3(ESV) Behold, I will rebuke your offspring, and spread dung on your faces, the dung of your offerings, and you shall be taken away with it.

So…God said “whore,” called religious leaders “snakes”, said he would rub peoples faces in dung, told religious people to basically go ahead and cut it off. WOW! So much for the safe, tame and predictable God that most churches portray.

There are times that a speaker is called to say things that will shock and offend people…and that is ok. I don’t personally think a speaker should ever try to be shocking just for the sake of doing so…but I do believe, according to Scripture, that there are times when controversial and bold statements need to be made!

In some ways, it’s understandable that we don’t want to be using this type of language in church. But, on the other hand, the Gospel is offensive. Grace is scandalous. And that’s the real point. The biblical prophets sometimes use offensive language, but not to produce shock for its own sake. Edginess was never the goal, and neither was some vague notion of Christian “freedom.” God’s messengers used vulgar images to shock their religious audience out of complacency. Because sometimes the goodness of God becomes lost in the fog of Christianese rhetoric and religious routine, and the only way to wake us up is to use provocative language.

So how do we reconcile Ezekiel, Paul and Jesus’ filthy tongue with Ephesians 4:29(ESV)? 29 Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. Does this outlaw all forms of vulgarity? Not exactly. The word for “corrupting” (sapros) literally means “rotten, decaying, unwholesome.” The whole point is not to forbid certain words that are labeled “cuss words” by its culture, but all speech that does not “build up.”

Paul’s warning here does include using obscene or vulgar language that tears someone down, reflects worldly motives, or in any other way that’s unfit for a redeemed way of life. But “corrupting” primarily refers to slander, gossip or any other speech that tears someone down. Paul refers to the dangerous power of words, all words, when used to dehumanize another human being. Gossiping about a fellow church member, dropping a belittling comment on a blog or Facebook post or holding up a hateful sign at a gay-pride parade are all good examples of “corrupting” talk.

The Bible makes this abundantly clear.

1Peter 3:10(ESV)“For, whoever would love life and see good days must keep his tongue from evil and his lips from deceitful speech.”
James 3:9-12(ESV) summarizes the issue: “With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be. Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? My brothers, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.”

So what is the meaning of Ephesians 4:29(ESV) Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.

James makes it clear that the lives of Christians—the “brothers”—should not be characterized by evil speech. By making the analogy of both salt water and fresh water coming from the same spring (which is uncharacteristic of springs), he makes the point that it is uncharacteristic for a believer to have both praise and gossip, perverse, or corrupt speech come from his/her mouth. Nor is it characteristic for us to praise God on one hand and curse our brothers on the other. This, too, is uncharacteristic of a true believer. Gossip is like a secret craving. We say we don’t like it, but when it’s within reach, we almost can’t resist it. We get a sudden appetite to know what we don’t know… about somebody else.

Why is it so hard to stop? Proverbs 18:8(HCSB)A gossip’s words are like choice food that goes down to one’s innermost being

No, you might think. Not me. I’m not into sharing the dirty details about a person’s life just for fun. But gossip comes in many flavors, and it involves listening as well. Proverbs 17:4(HCSB)  A wicked person listens to malicious talk;a liar pays attention to a destructive tongue.

The Hebrew word translated “gossip” in the Old Testament is defined as “one who reveals secrets, one who goes about as a talebearer or scandal-monger.” A gossiper is a person who has privileged information about people and proceeds to reveal that information to those who have no business knowing it. Gossip is distinguished from sharing information in two ways:

1. Intent. Gossipers often have the goal of building themselves up by making others look bad and exalting themselves as some kind of repositories of knowledge.

2. The type of information shared. Gossipers speak of the faults and failings of others, or reveal potentially embarrassing or shameful details regarding the lives of others without their knowledge or approval. Even if they mean no harm, it is still gossip.

Jesus explained that what comes out of our mouths is that which fills our hearts. Sooner or later, the evil in the heart comes out through the mouth in curses and swearing. But when our hearts are filled with the goodness of God, praise for Him and love for others will pour forth. Our speech will always indicate what is in our hearts. Luke 6:45(ESV) “The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks”.

Sin is a condition of the heart, the mind, and “the inner man”, which is manifested in our thoughts, actions and words. When we gossip and use rotten speech, we are giving evidence of the polluting sin in our hearts that must be confessed and repented of. Thankfully, our great God is 1 John 1:9(ESV)“faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness”. When this happens, we receive a new nature from God (2 Corinthians 5:17), our hearts are transformed, and our speech reflects the new nature God has created within us.

In the end the battle for purity in the mouth is fought in the heart, because “out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” If we see this, we won’t be as surprised with what Paul says in Ephesians. It is not what you might expect. We might expect Paul to rebuke us to clean up our language. We might expect him to talk about words that are not vulgar or rotten or corrupt, but are pure and wholesome and creative and clear. But Paul doesn’t do what we expect.

Instead of proposing clean language, he proposes a whole new way of thinking about language. Instead of saying, “You don’t need dirty language to communicate your intention,” he says, “The root issue is whether your intention is love.” In other words the issue for Paul is not really language at all; the issue is love. The issue is not whether our mouth can avoid gross language; the issue is whether our mouth is a means of grace. You see he shifts from the external fruit to the internal root. He shifts from what we say to why we say it. That’s the issue.

The question for your attitude should be “Is what I am angry with angers God as well? or am I angry because I am not getting my way? The question for your mouth will not merely be the moral question: Am I avoiding dirty words? But the Christian question: Am I building the faith of others by what I say? Is my mouth a means of grace? Am I frightened and anxious and angry about my life, or am I filled and overflowing with hope that the Spirit of God will keep me safe for the day of redemption?

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