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Giving to Your Church Family (Ephesians 4:25-32)

December 15, 2013 Speaker: Bryce Morgan Series: Season of Giving

Topic: Ephesians Passage: Ephesians 4:25–4:32

Season of Giving

Giving to Your Church Family
Ephesians 4:25-32
December 15th, 2013
(One Body: Love One Another)

 

I. If You Were Rich

Giving. That’s the subject we’ve been taking about over the past couple of weeks. Giving. Since we have been talking about giving our money, a subject the Bible addresses hundreds and hundreds of times, I thought it would appropriate to ask you this question: “If you were rich, do you think you would give more, less, or just about the same as you give now?” Think about that for a minute.

If you think you would give more, than think again. A recent study goes by UC Berkley researcher Dacher Keltner confirms what other past studies have pointed to: “the more wealth a person gains, the more likely they are to become both stingier and lonelier.”

But if you answered that way, your instinct is not wrong. Let me explain what I mean in just a few minutes. Let’s first look together at our main passage for this morning. Take your Bible or the blue one near you and turn over to the end of Ephesians 4 (pg. 978).

This morning we are continuing our “Season of Giving” series, as we think about the words of Jesus, quoted by the Apostle Paul in Acts 20:35: “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” Since that axiom goes against our default thinking, we’ve been trying to figure out, with God’s help, WHY it is more blessed to give than to receive.

Two weeks ago we learned about how God blesses us when we give to the needy, and last week we considered the tremendous spiritual harvests (plural) that come from giving to God’s global work of transformation through the gospel and local churches.

 

II. The Passage: “Good for Building Up” (4:25-32)

This morning, let’s look at Ephesians 4:25-32, and think about what this passage teaches us about both giving and the blessing of giving. Paul writes this to the Christians in Ephesus…

Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another. [26] Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, [27] and give no opportunity to the devil. [28] Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need. [29] Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. [30] 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.

Now there are a number of things we could unpack and dissect and mull over in this passage, but I’d like to focus in on three ideas that speak directly to our questions about giving. Here’s the first point…

 

1. We give to our church family when we build each other up in the truth.

Now notice that there is a direct connection in this passage to what we’ve been talking about in our last two messages. Verse 28 speaks directly to the issue of caring for “anyone who is need”.

The person who has been stealing to provide for himself or herself, should “no longer” steal. But they should work hard, doing “honest work with his own hands”. Why? Simply to provide for their own needs? No, so that they can share with the needy. I love that verse because it really brings out God’s heart for his people, that we be a giving people.

But what really dominates the passage in terms of giving has nothing to do with one’s finances. The main idea here is the idea of giving the gift of edification. What does it mean to edify? Well, it’s like the English word edifice. What is an edifice? An edifice is a building. Similarly to edify is to build up.

Notice how the idea of building each other up is clearly connected to the idea of speaking in verses 25 and 29: …let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor …AND… Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up…

A great way to think about what building up entails is thinking about it in light of another passage from Paul. He says this in I Corinthians 14:3…

On the other hand, the one who prophesies speaks to people for their upbuilding and encouragement and consolation.

In its most basic form, prophesying is speaking forth the word of God. When Paul talks about “speaking the truth” with one another, he is on the very same page. But notice the other words he connects with “upbuilding” or building up in I Corinthians 14:3: “encouragement” and “consolation”.

Have you ever been built up like this by a fellow follower of Christ? It’s a wonderful thing, isn’t it? To be encouraged. To be comforted. To be sustained. To be reminded and refreshed. By what? By the truth of God’s word!

And notice what Paul adds in verse 29: Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion… Think about that. When we give the gift of edification, of building up, of encouragement to one another, we need to first think about “the occasion”. What is happening? What is going on in the life of this other person? How do they need to built up?

Looking for examples of this? Look no further than any of the letters of the NT. In those letters the Apostles used God’s word to build up their listeners in light of the specific challenges those different churches or individuals faced.

We can learn so much from those letter about doing the very same thing in the lives of those around us who also need to be built up in this way. But we also learn something else about giving from these verses…

 

2. We build each other up in order to give grace to our spiritual family.

In this passage Paul does not simply give a directive or a command. He does that, but he also explains the heart behind the command. He explains why we should give the gift of edification to one another. Look again at verse 25: Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another.

Members? What does that mean? Well, Paul has already used this imagery earlier in chapter 4. Look at verses 12-16. Paul tells us there that God has given leaders to the church in order

…to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, [13] until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, [14] so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. [15] Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, [16] from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.

Being members of one another means we are all part of the same body, which is the spiritual body of Jesus. When Paul uses the idea of a human body to describe the church he is emphasizing three things: 1) interconnectedness, 2) interdependence, and 3) mutual dependence on the leadership or ‘head’-ship of Jesus Christ.

You see, it is more blessed to give the gift of edification because, in doing so, we are strengthening the very organism from which we draw spiritual life, AND, we are honoring our head; we are blessing Jesus when we build each other up.

Did you also notice how Paul speaks to the very things that hinder our hearts when it comes to building each other up? “Falsehood” (v. 25), “being angry” (v. 26, 31) “corrupting talk” (v. 29), or “clamor” (v. 31) or “slander” (v. 31), which flow from things like “bitterness”, “wrath”, and “malice” (v. 31).

Like we see in verses 25 and 26, there will be situations in our life together as Way of Grace church that will inspire anger. Someone will say or do something to hurt someone else. And it isn’t wrong to get angry over sin, but it is wrong to let it fester into bitterness, which gives rise to slander. Instead we should we go to one another with the truth of God’s word, and we should do so in love because we are interconnected and interdependent and both looking to the loving leadership of Christ.

You see, when we build one another up in the truth, we are in fact, verse 29, giving “grace” to the other person. The gift of edification is the gift of grace. And there are few things more valuable than grace. In fact the only thing that is more valuable than grace is the One to whom grace reconciles us.
And it is that idea that points us to our third point from this passage. We also learn here that...

 

3. We give grace to our spiritual family as those who have received grace through Christ.

We cannot miss the fact that there are some very powerful spiritual realities behind the instructions, the commands in this passage. Spiritual realities that should inform the why and how of loving one another.

One of those spiritual realities is in verse 27. If you let that righteous anger fester into unrighteous bitterness, then you need to be aware of the fact that you are giving the devil himself, giving the Tempter an open door into your heart.

Another one of these sobering spiritual realities is mentioned by Paul in verse 30. When we do not love and build each other up, when instead we lie to one another and tear each other down with our words, we are in fact bringing anguish to the Holy Spirit of God. The Spirit is grieved when act contrary to the very unity He gives us. Look back to the opening verses of this chapter. Paul encourages them to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, [2] with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, [3] eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. (Ephesians 4:1-3)

But the most powerful spiritual reality that Paul brings out in this passage is found in the very last verse. Don’t walk in bitterness, slandering one another, but… Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

You see, your instinct a few minutes ago, your instinct about being rich was not wrong. When we think about being rich we think about having more than enough, right? Well, if you have ventured everything you know of yourself on everything you know of Christ, if you have trusted in Jesus, in His death and resurrection, as your only hope in this life and the next, then you are rich, beyond your wildest dreams.

Do you remember the verse we look at last time from II Corinthians 8? Paul wrote…

For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich. (II Corinthians 8:9)

He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? (Romans 8:32)

Right at the outset of this letter, Paul declared: Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places… (Ephesians 1:3)

If you have trusted in, believed on, placed your faith in Jesus and the good news of life in Him, than you have more than enough…grace. Grace is God’s undeserved kindness and favor. Not only is it God not giving us what we deserve (i.e. eternal justice for our sins)(“God forgave you”) but it is also God giving us what we do not deserve: adoption as his children and eternal life with Him. God not only spares us, but He also cares for us, forever and ever!

And from the vast treasure house of grace that we have been given because Jesus took what we deserved on that cross, to give us what we do not deserve, from that wealth of grace, we can give the gift of grace to one another. Isn’t that beautiful? Paul makes this point explicit in the opening verses of chapter 5. Look at those…

Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. [2] And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

Even when someone says or does something to upset us, we can give them grace because of the grace that we were shown, even though we’ve said or done 10,000 things to upset and hurt God and other people.

Do you know that grace? Has God filled you up with His grace? If He has, are you being stingy with it? Are you simply making withdrawal after withdrawal for yourself? Because of all your problems? Brothers and sisters, we need to see that God wants to help us in every way with our struggles as we help others with their struggles. The example of Jesus teaches us that we are enriched when we give our riches away.

It truly is more blessed to give than to receive!

 

III. Giving an Early Christmas Gift

Listen, I know Christmas is not for another week and a half. But this week, we need to give some early Christmas gifts. And we need to give those gifts to one another.

I want you, right now, to commit yourself to giving a gift of grace to another brother or sister this week. Take a minute and look around you. Look around this room. Think about your brothers and sisters in Christ. Think about the other parts of the very body to which you are also connected.

Think about how you see Jesus in someone else’s life; in their attitude; in their love. Think about how you hear Jesus in their words. Think about how a brother or sister works hard for Christ. Think about how your brother or sister has endured well in the face of difficulty. Think about how they give to others sacrificially.

Or think about “the occasion”. What are they dealing with? What are they facing? How are they struggling and in need of edification…of grace? All of you bless and encourage ME plenty. So I want you to think about someone else in this family that you can reach out to this week by mail, by e-mail, by phone call, by social media, or in person. How can you give a gift of grace, a gift of edification to a brother or sister this week?

Commit to it. Pray and ask God about who and how. And when you give that gift, and when you receive that gift, I know you will be blessed. And by all means, don’t stop there. Let’s keep giving that gift all year long, that Christ and His grace would be on display in our family, and that this church would be strengthened for the work God has given us; the work of bringing His grace to a hurting community and world.