The Demeanor of His Workmanship (Ephesians 4:31-32)
Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. ³²Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. —Ephesians 4:31-32
The church—the Ephesian believers and us—are God’s workmanship created in Christ Jesus for good works. Paul gives us a pretty simple command in these verses: Don’t be like that, but be like this. There is a straightforward negative and positive ethic here.
Notice how verse 32 ends: “as God in Christ forgave you.” This reference doesn’t merely bulk up the single command to forgive. It actually puts this entire ethical section in context.
A Wide-Angle Look
Paul begins this imperative section in Ephesians 4:1, urging us to “walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which [we] have been called.” So all of these commands are anchored somewhere outside of us. Namely, it’s in God calling. It’s in the fact that before the foundation of the world He chose us in Christ to be holy and blameless before Him in love (Ephesians 1:4). While we were dead, He had mercy on us. He raised us up in Christ, saving us by grace through faith, not our own works (Ephesians 2:1-9). We are therefore His workmanship created in Jesus to walk a certain way (Ephesians 2:10).
Paul says here, walk in that way that’s fitting for who you are—chosen by God because of his own will and saved by Jesus because of grace alone. He explains a little of what this looks like in Ephesians 4:2, “all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love.”
From here Paul takes off: the unity of the church (vv. 3-5), Jesus' giving of gifts (vv. 6-10), and the offices of the church for the sake of her maturity (vv. 11-16). He then picks up this idea of walking in verse 17. We should make the direct connection. He tells us not to walk like the Gentiles. He elaborates on that and shows us what it means to “put on the new self” (Ephesians 4:24). Verses 31-32, our verses this week, come as a summary of his whole exhortation: This is a glimpse of what it means to walk in a manner worthy of your calling.
A Gospel Demeanor
Paul commands a demeanor. These are not easily packaged do’s that we can check off. They are the character of a life that persevere through a vast array of circumstances. They are a manner of living that can’t really be fabricated.
There’s a truth here asking for our submission: The positive flavor in verse 32 exudes from a life that knows the forgiveness of Jesus. You can’t short-circuit what He has done to be kind, or to be tenderhearted, or to forgive. Paul is urging us to be so imprinted by the mercy of God, so affected by the love of Jesus, that it definitively shapes us. It’s so pervasive that our lives speak with an accent.
After all, we are his workmanship.
1. How much have you been forgiven? 2. Why has God shown mercy to you? 3. What is one concrete way you can show kindness today?