Summary: What it takes to be a grace giver - kindness, tenderheartedness, forgiveness.
We have come to the end of a chapter rich with teaching about the church and the individual Christian life. Let’s review briefly. The first three chapters of Ephesians form one glorious doxology extolling the riches we have received in Christ Jesus. Chapter 4 addresses the question of “How then shall we live?”
We are to walk in a manner worthy of such a calling. That means we are to walk in humility and gentleness, with patience and forbearing with one another in love. We are to be eager to maintain unity. That unity is founded on the seven pillars of truth, namely that there is one body, one Spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father.
We also have been given grace to exercise the bountiful gifts given to us by Christ. Equipped by the teaching of the apostles, prophets, evangelists, and pastor-teachers, we are to be engaged in ministry so that we build up the body of Christ until we attain unity of the faith and of knowledge of Christ, maturing and becoming like him. We are to grow out of being children in faith, where we give in to false teachings. Instead, by speaking the truth in love we grow up into Christ, our Head, connected to one another and, again, building up one another in love.
As Christians we are to be distinctly different from our former way of life as unbelievers. Without the God of Scripture to be their authority, unbelievers will live darkened lives that give way to their passions. That is not the way we learned Christ. In him, we learned to put off the old self, to be renewed in the spirit of our minds, and to put on the new self that makes us to be more and more like him.
What is such a life like? It is marked by speaking truth, by self-control, by honest labor, and by building up others. In other words, it is marked by being grace givers. That is where we are now. Still learning what the new self as grace giver is about.
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.
As helpful as a chapter like chapter 4 may be, in which we are given specific instructions about how to live, there is nevertheless a danger of reducing the Christian faith to an instruction manual about how to live. We are not to do this; we are to do that. We should not be like this; we should be like that. Put this off; put that on.
Verse 30 wakes us up to the reality that someone very important is involved in our lives. “Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God.” The phrase seems to come out of nowhere. Indeed, Bible commentators cannot agree where it exactly fits in. Is it connected with what was said before about corrupting speech? Is it connected with what is said subsequently about anger? Just what is it that grieves the Holy Spirit?
Consider the role of the Holy Spirit. Verse 30 notes that it is by him that we are “sealed for the day of redemption.” That day is the day of Christ’s return when our bodies and spirits are fully transformed and glorified. Until that day, specifically while in the body, the Spirit is our seal, our guarantee that we will be kept safe in Christ. Ephesians 1:13-14 speaks of this: “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, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.”
The Holy Spirit not only keeps us safe, but is the one who applies Christ’s work of redemption to us, so that we believe and continue to grow in faith and righteousness, otherwise known as our sanctification. He breathes life into us, regenerating us; he convicts us of sin and gives us faith in Christ; he enables us to choose what is right and to follow the path of righteousness and of love (3:16). It is the Spirit who unites us to Christ and to one another (2:22), so that the unity we possess is the “unity of the Spirit” (4:3).
So then, when we speak unwholesomely and act out of bitterness; when we are at odds with one another; whenever we sin, we grieve the Holy Spirit who dwells in us specifically so that we will live according to the Spirit and not according to the flesh (cf Romans 8:1-16).