The Gospel And Living For God’s Glory – Ephesians 4:28-30

The Gospel And Living For God’s Glory

Nick Esch, 10/27/2019 Cornerstone Baptist Church

Introduction

One of the reasons I love the Reformation is because it was essentially a great revival where the gospel was recovered. So I love the Reformation because I love the gospel. I love the gospel because it’s everything to us as Christians… It’s in the gospel that we begin to truly behold the glory of God. It’s in the gospel that we see God’s amazing love and grace in Christ and find true joy and satisfaction in Christ. And it’s God’s grace in the gospel that saved us, transformed us, and is transforming us: compelling us to hate sin and love Jesus, and freeing us to love people. And those things are crucial because that’s how we truly glorify God.

We are to love Jesus, to love God, and thus to glorify God. We are to die to self, and hate and forsake sin, because that glorifies God by showing that we truly believe that Jesus is better than sin and self… And we also glorify God by loving and serving people because it shows that God is our greatest treasure, not us, or our stuff, or our conveniences… So personal holiness displays that Jesus is better than sin and the passions of the flesh, and relational holiness displays that Jesus is better than our selfishness, security, solitude, and sleep… So, because we have come to see, know, love, and treasure Jesus in and through the gospel, we can give sacrificially of our time, talent, and treasure because no matter what we give up we will always have Jesus. We can show other people grace and love them and serve them and build them up because no matter how they treat us in return we’ve already been treated better than we could ever deserve in Christ… You see, the love of God in the gospel stirs our heart to truly love God and frees us up to truly love people. And again, when we fight sin and pursue holiness, and when we love people it displays our love for God and thus magnifies the glory of God as we show that Jesus is better than anything we give up… And this all flows from the gospel. And Lord willing, that’s what we’ll see in God’s Word today.

 

 

Context

Our passage is found in the midst of Paul telling the Ephesians to live like Christians, and how to live like Christians. Now, he isn’t saying, “If you live this way you will be Christians, or become Christians…” He’s not saying that we must live a certain way if we are to be saved. No! He’s already clearly explained that we are saved by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, for God’s glory alone, in accordance with Scripture alone… By the power of the Holy Spirit working in and through the preaching of the gospel sinners are born again and have their eyes opened to the glory of Christ and are enabled to repent and believe in the person and work of Jesus… That’s how one becomes a Christian: we are justified by faith alone… But what Paul is telling us now is that though we are justified by faith alone, true faith never remains alone…

         God saves His people for a purpose: for His glory. Redemption has come for God’s people in and through Jesus so that God’s people would so live and love that they would magnify and display God’s glory not only to the watching world, but even to the angels and demons in the spiritual realm. God created us for His glory and God re-created us for His glory. We, as God’s people, as God’s church, have been given a mission. We are to be disciples of Jesus who make disciples of Jesus and make much of Jesus in all things—that’s how we magnify the glory of God in Christ… And so, what Paul has been doing, and what he will continue to do in our passage today, is show us how to live out this mission practically. And what we have seen thus far is that we embrace our mission to be disciples who make disciples and make much of Jesus first and foremost with our own love and devotion to Jesus, with our own personal holiness; we must put off the old self and put on the new, becoming practically who we already are officially in Christ. But closely related to that is our relational holiness: how we interact with and love others. And that’s the path our passage continues down today. So, with that in mind, let’s dive into our text.

 

Don’t Steal, Work and Give!

In verse 28 we read, “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.” Here we see an echo of the 8thcommandment in God’s Law, “You shall not steal.” But this text is pushing much further than the law. And that’s what the gospel does. This isn’t simply calling for morality or behavior modification, but this is calling for gospel transformation. Notice, the thief isn’t only not to steal, but the whole of the thief’s life is to be transformed… They are no longer to be lazy or selfish, but instead to be a hard honest worker who is giving, who is generous…

         You see, some think that grace is a license to sin or an excuse to be lazy, but this is saying just the opposite. As Titus 2:11-12 tells us, “the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training usto renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age.” Christians are not under the Law, but under grace; but even so, grace has its own commands and expectations… yet grace trains and transforms… It’s like what Paul says about the churches of Macedonia in 2 Corinthians 8. “[I]n a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part. For they gave according to their means, and beyond their means, of their own accord, begging earnestly for the favor of taking part in the relief of the saints…” Why? Because of, “the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for [our] sake he became poor, so that [we] by his poverty might become rich” (2 Corinthians 8:1-9). Not with worldly riches, but in heavenly joy… The grace of God had so gotten a hold of the churches in Macedonia that it had transformed them and trained them to be abundantly generous… They knew that everything they had was a direct result of God’s grace… As 1 Corinthians 4:7 says, “What do you have that you did not receive?” And so knowing that everything they are and everything they have belongs to Jesus anyway, they gave with great joy… And that’s what’s expected of the thief here…

         Unlike the thief, there are people, because of health, age, or circumstance, that are in genuine need… And though the world says that we should work hard to get as much as we can, God’s Word says the one who was once a thief is now called to do honest hard work, to work hard, not to get, but to give sacrificially and joyfully to those with real need. If at all possible, we all must be hard workers who work not only to provide for ourselves and our families, but also so that we can give… On some level we are all thieves; we have all stolen something before… Whether we took someone’s pen, cheated on our taxes, or didn’t give our employer our best effort or do the work they were paying us to do… In one way or another we have all broken the commandment to not steal, and thus we are by definition thieves. But here we see that gospel transformation, true repentance, and true life change are possible. Christians are not to be marked out by lying, laziness, and greed, but we are to be honest, hardworking, and truly generous. And because Christ was infinitely generous in the gospel, because Jesus gave all and paid it all, we can change, we can repent and live for God’s glory. And that’s the call of verse 28.

As Martin Luther once wrote, “Our Lord and Master Jesus Christ willed the entire life of believers to be one of repentance.” And by God’s grace we can live that life… We can repent of lying, laziness, and greed, and instead be honest, hardworking, and sacrificially generous. So, if that’s not where you are understand that that’s where you need to be… But even if you are honest, hardworking, and generous, understand that all of us need to grow in those things; we all need to become more and more honest, hardworking, and generous because we all need to become more and more Christlike… So take an honest look at yourself, and then take a deep long look at Christ and the gospel and repent accordingly… Ask the Lord to grant you true repentance, and then walk it out; don’t steal, but work and give, and bear fruit in keeping with repentance…

 

 

Don’t Corrupt, Build Up and Give Grace!

Now look with me at verse 29. It says, “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.” The Greek word for corrupting means unwholesome, bad, evil, impure, but also rotten, rotting, or decaying… And that’s the idea here, to give a contrast between that which builds up and gives life and that which tears down, decays, and brings death… And of course what he’s addressing here is what comes out of our mouths, our speech. So here he says let no evil, rotten, decaying speech come out of your mouths…

         Unwholesome, corrupting, evil speech is really anything we say that is sinful, false, crude, mean, arrogant, or not God-glorifying in any way… Our speech is corrupting when we curse or use the Lord’s name in vain, or when we trivialize, tear down, or lessen big matters or people, or when we use vulgar language or speak of profane vulgar things, or when we are selfish, mean, or simply not kind in our speech… One of the most common ways we use corrupting talk is with slander and gossip, or even with flattery for that matter… None of them are good. In slander and gossip we say things behind someone’s back that we would never say to their face…. And in flattery we say things to someone’s face that we would never say behind their back… And none of that is ok…

         Perhaps the greatest way we engage in corrupting talk these days is not so much in what we say, but in what we type. In text messages, emails, blogs, or social media, so many speak harshly, and frankly ungodly… Even sometimes when truth is shared it is shared in a mean-spirited and unloving manner… And all of this is corrupt and evil… It is sinful and wrong… And that corrupt talk is flowing from a corrupt heart. As Jesus said, “what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart” (Matthew 15:18)… But the Christian is to have a heart that is gripped by God’s grace, and thus acts as a fountain of grace that overflows, not into evil speech, but into edifying speech.

         Verse 29 says that the talk that comes out of the mouth of a Christian is to be good for building up. That language of building up is the language of construction; our speech is to build, strengthen, and develop… In other words what we say should be edifying and should work to develop others in Christ: to help them come to know Jesus, love Jesus, follow Jesus, and grow in Christlikeness… So, we are to speak, not with corrupting talk, but only with what is good for building up… That word good is actually the same word that’s translated honest in verse 28. So we are to speak truthfully and honestly, but in a loving and edifying manner.

As Paul has already said, we are to speak the truth in love. And really that’s the heart of the issue here… Paul doesn’t simply say that we need to clean up our language… He doesn’t simply go after what we say, but why we say what we say… Corrupting talk comes from sinful selfish motives, whereas edifying talk comes from God-glorifying, God-loving motives… Edifying talk is a means of grace that flows from a heart that is amazed by grace. Notice he says that edifying talk is what fits the occasion… What does he mean by that? Well the occasion is that we are sinners saved by grace… We deserve to hear death talk, corrupting talk, talk that tears down… That’s what we deserve to hear from God… We deserve to hear, “Away from me you sinner, and into death and hell…” But instead God says, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30). Come, “Enter into the joy of your Master” (Matthew 25:21).

Beloved, the occasion for us is an occasion of grace, therefore what we say should give grace to those who hear… And understand what that means. The grace of God in the gospel that we have received is the grace of Jesus; the grace of knowing, loving, and delighting in God in Christ. The grace of God is directly linked to Jesus. So, if our words would be gracious they must encourage people towards Christ and in Christ. That’s what edifying speech does… And we should speak loving edifying words to all… but especially to our fellow church members; and remember, that’s the context here. Back in verse 25 Paul stressed that we are members one of another. Edifying talk should always be flowing from a Christian, no matter who we are speaking to; but we are to especially work to love and build up our brothers and sisters in Christ with whom we have covenanted together with in the gospel. And that should be extremely convicting for some of you.

Some of you have not yet joined a gospel-centered Bible believing and preaching church; and thus you are not living this out. You need to repent, join a church, and give yourself to building up the church. If you’re interested in joining Cornerstone come talk with me and we’ll schedule a new members’ class… You need to be a member of a local church… But even as I say that, some of you are members and yet you don’t really live like it. Some of you never speak an edifying word to your fellow church members because you never really speak to your fellow church members… And you too must repent… Open your life to your brothers and sisters in Christ and then open your mouth and speak life-giving words of grace. Friends, our words should never tear people down or lead them astray; our words should always build up and lead people to Jesus. So beloved, don’t corrupt, but build up and give grace…

Don’t Grieve the Spirit of God, Live for the Glory of God!

Now lastly, look at verse 30 with me. It says, “And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.” Here we can see that the Spirit is indeed a person and not just some force or power by the mere fact that He can be grieved… So, this is God the Holy Spirit that we are not to grieve… We are not to grieve the Holy Spirit, the third personof the Trinity. But that begs the question, what grieves the Holy Spirit?

         Clearly the grieving is tied directly to the sin spoken of in the previous verses. So, lying, laziness, and greed, corrupting talk, and all the sins of the old self grieve the Holy Spirit… Or you could say, anything that is not holy grieves the Holy Spirit. But we’re given greater insight than just that here. Paul says that it is the Holy Spirit that has sealed us for the day of redemption. Now, what’s interesting here is that Paul has already talked about the sealing of the Holy Spirit. In Ephesians 1:13 he said, “In him (in Christ) you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit.” In other words, when we hear the gospel—the good news about the person and work of Jesus Christ—I mean really hear it, where we understand and believe and trust in the perfect life, sacrificial wrath absorbing death, and death defeating resurrection of God the Son, of Jesus as our only hope of salvation, we are sealed with the Holy Spirit, because the Spirit has caused us to be born again, to be truly converted, and enabled us to repent and believe, and has taken up residence in our life and will lead us, guide us, and hold us fast until we make it home to Jesus… And if you’re here today and this has not yet happened to you, friend it can happen right now—it may be happening right now, if you will forsake your sin, that is turn from your sin and trust in, surrender to, and give yourself to following Jesus… Repent and believe in the gospel and be saved. Remember, He should be speaking words of death and condemnation to us, but instead He speaks words of grace… He beckons you even now to come to Him and be saved… And in coming to Him you are sealed by Him, in the Spirit…

So typically the sealing of the Holy Spirit refers to what happens at the beginning of the Christian life, but here it says that we are sealed for the day of redemption, which looks to the end—not the end of the Christian life, but the big dramatic end, the Telos when Jesus returns and casts sin, Satan, death, and all those in their sin into eternal condemnation, and makes all else new… On that day redemption finds its fulfillment in resurrection, when we are given new bodies free from sin and its effects, and we will live in the ever-increasing eternal joy of our Lord and Savior, because the dwelling place of God will be with man… He will be our God and we will be His people, and His nail-scarred hands will wipe our tear-stained eyes dry and we will weep no more. So the day of redemption is the day that all of our hope becomes our reality… And in saying that we are seal by the Spirit for that day it’s saying that He will keep us to that day—He will get us there by His grace.

But, what insight does all of that give us into how we grieve the Spirit? Well, it’s our sin that grieves Him, and we sin when we fail to believe in God rightly, or to believe Godrightly and all of His gospel promises. We grieve the Spirit when we doubt the gospel and the great hope of the day of redemption. We grieve the Spirit when we choose sin instead of Jesus. Ultimately the root of all of our sin is unbelief—unbelief in the gospel and thus unbelief that Jesus is better than our sin… This is why Romans 3:23 says that sin is falling short of God’s glory… We glorify something or someone by honoring it and displaying its worth and value. And so we glorify God or honor Him by living in such a way that our lives display how glorious He is, how worthy and valuable He is… But, when we sin we fall short of His glory because when we sin we are going to the creation for joy and satisfaction instead of the Creator. So our sin proclaims that we don’t believe that God is truly glorious and honorable and worthy… Our sin proclaims that we don’t really believe the truth of the gospel, and that we are hoping in lesser things, not Jesus… And all of that grieves the Holy Spirit because it all digs at God’s glory. But glad-hearted hard work, joyful sacrificial giving, grace-fueled grace-filled edifying speech on the other hand all glorify God because they all proclaim that Jesus is worthy, that the gospel truly is good news—the best news in all of existence, and that we really believe that Jesus is better…

So, verse 30 is saying don’t grieve the Spirit of God, live for the glory of God. And it’s promising us that the Spirit of God will lead us and guide us and empower us to do so—He has sealed us for the day of redemption… He will hold us fast until the end, and then we shall see our Lord and Savior face to face, and we will be made like Him. So once again, what Paul is doing in this last verse is the same thing he just did, he’s not merely going after what we do, but why we do it… He’s going after our motives… And if we would not grieve the Spirit our motives must be love for the Lord, must be delight in Jesus; our actions must be fueled by a heart that is amazed by grace and filled with gospel hope… That’s how we glorify God… And it’s the Spirit working in and through the gospel that gets us there.

Conclusion

As we’ve seen, the context of our passage is Paul breaking down how we are to put off the old self and put on the new so that we, as the church, can embrace the mission of the church, which is to magnify the glory of God in Christ by being disciples of Jesus who make disciples of Jesus and make much of Jesus in all things… And what we see here in this passage is that part of the way we embrace this mission is by living a lifestyle of repentance: living lives not marked by lying, laziness, and greed, but being honest, hardworking, and truly generous… And by having hearts so amazed by grace and filled with hope that everything that comes out of our mouth is edifying, and everything we say and do is God glorifying. So essentially, what this passage is telling us is that if we are to put off the old self and put on the new and embrace the mission of the church then we must truly love God and love people, for that is how we truly glorify God; and if we’re going to do that, to truly glorify God, then we must go to the gospel again and again… Just as the Reformation was a great revival where the gospel was recovered, so too if we would see revival in our day, if we would truly love God, love people, and live for the glory of God then we must continually recover and focus on the one true gospel… For the gospel is our only hope… And the gospel changes everything.