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Ephesians 4:29-32, 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. 32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.
29-32 Anger, and the related sins of vs 29 and 31, are the epitome of socially destructive and alienating sins, and so characteristic of the old creation… and [they destroy] trust within the community. These things and others of their kind grieve the Holy Spirit (a telling allusion to Is. 63:10) in the sense that they oppose the very direction of his reconciling, unifying, new-creation work in the believer. In place of these socially destructive activities, Paul advocates corresponding ones that are cohesive, upbuilding, and pattern the new-creation existence epitomized and brought into being in Christ: the erstwhile thief should turn philanthropist instead (28); speech should not be used to befoul and tear down, but for good (29); in place of anger, the believer should show the forgiving character of God (32) and the self-sacrificial love of Christ who died to atone for us (5:2).
4:29–30. Believers are not to speak unwholesome “rotten” words (cf. 5:4), but helpful “good, beneficial”; words for the purpose of edification. Good words “give grace” or enablement to the hearers. One’s words are to be true and pure and also are to contribute to benefiting others. Besides one’s conscience, the Holy Spirit also helps guard a believer’s speech. The fact that the Holy Spirit may be grieved points to His personality. His seal of a believer remains until the day of redemption, the time that a believer receives his new body.
4:31–32. Believers are to get rid of the six vices of bitterness, rage “outbursts of anger”, anger, brawling, slander, and malice. Several of these vices are also listed in Colossians 3:8. The positive commands are three: (1) be kind (lit., “what is suitable or fitting to a need”); (2) be compassionate “inner emotions of affection,”; (3) be forgiving, “being gracious,” or “to give graciously as a favor”). The reason for these positive commands is that in Christ God is kind (Eph. 2:7), compassionate (Mark 1:41), and gracious (Rom. 8:32) to believers.
“Grieve the Holy Spirit” (4:30). The thought is that disobedience to any of these commands causes the Holy Spirit, who is in us, great and terrible sorrow and distress. The closest parallel may be that of a parent who suffers when a child commits a crime. How it hurts God when we are hostile to one another.
Study Guide – Use whichever questions below work best for your group!
- Read—the passages.
- What are some of the key words that jump out to you?
- Recap—Summarize the sermon for your group in two or three sentences.
- What was something in the sermon that stood out to you? Share it with the group.
- Reflect—Unpacking/going deeper
- How would you define unwholesome talk in your own words?
- How does edifying speech differ from speech that builds others up?
- How would you describe speech that grieves the Holy Spirit of God?
- If it is possible to grieve the Holy Spirit of God then is it possible to also please him…to bring him joy? Why?
- Is it practical or possible to live a life of kindness and forgiveness in the world we live in?
- How do you apply it to a harsh spouse, or dishonest boss, or unforgiving parent or crooked government official?
- Does what flows from our mouth reveal inner heart issues? If so, how?
- Look at the words that Paul uses to describe the old self, the things we’re to “get rid of.” Why is Paul so focused on words that describe verbal realities here?
- Paul uses three representative words/actions to describe putting on the new life: Be kind, be compassionate and keep on forgiving one another. Why do you think he uses these three?
- How can these three “being kind, compassionate, and forgiving one another” transform us at the heart level day by day?
- Here is the main point: The Gospel is God’s gift and our opportunity to experience life transformation on the inside and relational transformation on the outside. Apply this truth to your life today.
- What is it that you need to turn away from? Will you repent and confess it to the Lord?
- What is it that you need to turn towards? Do it right now. Decide today whom you will turn towards.
- Rejoice – Thank the Lord for the truth of the Gospel; For community; For having others to walk alongside you. That we would live open and honest lives together.
 Turner, M. (1994). Ephesians. In D. A. Carson, R. T. France, J. A. Motyer, & G. J. Wenham (Eds.), New Bible commentary: 21st century edition (4th ed., p. 1240). Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press.