Summary: 37th in a series from Ephesians. The "conventional wisdom" is that this passage deals with our individual anger. But Paul seems to have something else in mind here.
This week I ran into what was billed as a “Conventional Wisdom IQ Test”. The idea is to see how many of the sayings of conventional wisdom that one can complete. The original test had 20 questions, but for time’s sake let’s see how well we can do on just 10 of them:
1. If it’s not broken.... don’t fix it.
2. It never rains, but.... it pours.
3. Better late.... than never.
4. It’s not over until.... the fat lady sings
5. The bigger they are.... the harder they fall
6. Can’t live with them.... can’t live without them
7. Life is like a bowl.... of cherries
8. That which does not kill me.... only makes me stronger
9. Don’t count your chickens.... before they hatch
10. Never mix business.... with pleasure
I think one of the great benefits that has come out of our detailed study of Ephesians, which is now approaching a year, is that it has caused us to take a step back and question some of the “conventional wisdom” that is often applied to some of these texts. And our passage this morning is certainly one of those places.
For some reasons that I’ll explain in more detail in a moment, we’re going to use the KJV of this passage this morning. Let’s read our passage out loud together:
Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath: Neither give place to the devil.
Ephesians 4:26, 27 (KJV)
If we’re not careful to go back to some of the fundamental basics of Bible study, we can very easily miss the principles that Paul is trying to teach us in this passage. So before we deal with the principles, let’s look at several keys to a correct understanding of this passage:
Keys to understanding this passage:
1. Consider the context:
• Paul is writing to the church, not individual believers
Based on much of my research this week, it seems that the “conventional wisdom” is to take this passage and use it as a platform for a message on how to deal with the anger in our individual lives in a healthy way. I know that was my initial inclination. I’m not totally surprised that many have taken that approach, given the individualism of our culture and our tendency to look at Scripture based on how it impacts me.
There is no doubt that the Bible has much to say about how each of us is to deal with the anger in our lives. In fact, Paul will deal with this a little more directly when we get to verse 31 in a few weeks. But I’m convinced that is not the focus of Paul’s writing here. As we’ve seen time after time, Ephesians deals much more with life in the body than it does with our individual lives as believers and this passage is no exception to that pattern.
• Paul is giving practical instruction on how to dress the part according to what his readers already are in Jesus.
In verses 22-24, Paul reminded us that we are to dress the part according to who we already are in Jesus. We are to put off all the things that characterized our old way of life and put on those things that are consistent with the character of Jesus. Then, beginning in verse 25, Paul gave some practical instruction on what that should look like. You’ll remember that he began that section by exhorting us to put off falsehood and put on truth within the body of Christ.
Verses 26 and 27 are a continuation of that practical instruction.
• Paul quotes an Old Testament passage in support of his teaching.
In verse 26, Paul quotes Psalm 4:4 directly from the Septuagint, the Greek version of the Old Testament. So it’s going to be important for us to understand the theme of that Psalm and why Paul uses it here. We’ll spend some time looking at that Psalm in a few minutes.
2. Consider the text
This is one of those passages where the translations vary greatly. This morning let’s look at four different translations that demonstrate these differences:
"In your anger do not sin": Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold. (NIV)
Even if you are angry, do not sin: never let the sun set on your anger or else you will give the devil a foothold. (NJB)
Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath: Neither give place to the devil. (KJV)
Be angry, and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not give the devil an opportunity. (NASB)