“God’s New Society” (Part 2) (John MacDiarmid)

Reference: Ephesians 4v29 – 5v1

Sermon preached at Poole High School for Poole Christian Fellowship on 16 July 2017

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We saw last time that God intends his people to form a new society. We continue with that thought this time as we look at the next few verses in Ephesians:

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.Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

We saw last time that God wants us to be

  1. A People of Truth
  2. A People of Forgiveness
  3. A People who Give

…to which this week we add three more:

 

4. A People Who Build

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.

Unwholesome talk is the norm in every society –except God’s new society. Without Christ people’s default position is talk that is unwholesome, uncouth, and destructive. Paul tells us to put all that away, and to replace it with talk that builds – words that affirm, encourage, support and build. An interesting requirement is that God wants it to build up people “according to their needs”. We all have different needs, so in conversation we are to adapt our language to edify those who hear.

5. A People of the Spirit

And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption

This echoes the first chapter of the book where Paul told the believers that they had been “sealed” with the Holy Spirit. Here, the same word is used, and we are told that we are not to grieve this heavenly guest. Like a dove, which will disappear when grieved, scared or inconvenienced, so the presence of the Spirit disappears when grieved, so we must take care in our relationships not to grieve the Spirit, who gives His people the unity of peace. It is interesting that this command comes in the context of the way in which we treat one another.  Our dealings with one another is what can bring joy to, or grieve, the Spirit of God.

6. A people of compassion

Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.

3Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

Clearly some to the Ephesians had indulged in riotous behaviour in their pre-conversion days! This had to stop, but it is replaced by a sense of compassion and kindness to one another. We need to be a people who treat one anothers’ actions not with criticism, bitterness and unforgiveness, but with kindness, compassion and forgiveness.  What makes this easier is when we appreciate how much Jesus has forgiven us, and with what kindness and compassion he has treated us – we have only to pass it on. As CS Lewis said: “Christianity means we forgive the inexcusable in other people because God has forgiven the inexcusable in us”

So, we have a list of things which characterise God’s new society.

Paul now summarises it by putting his own spin on Jesus’ command to love ane another:

Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

Everything we called to be is an expression of a people who love one another because we are loved first by God. As always, Paul comes back to the gospel and asks us to focus our attention on the God who loved us and gave himself for us, in Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross – and then says – go and do likewise.

A community of love – what a message to a lost and damaged world.

John MacDiarmid

July 2017