Holy Living In An Unholy World,

Five Fashion Tips From The Apostle Paul

By Dr. Robert Jeffress

My friend Bobb Biehl tells an interesting story about a day he spent working at a circus with a friend. During one of the breaks, Bobb started chatting with the man who trains animals for Hollywood movies. Pointing over to the elephants, Bobb asked the trainer, “How is it that you are able to stake down a ten-ton elephant with the same size stake that you use for a baby elephant?” “It’s easy,” the trainer replied. “There are two things about elephants you need to keep in mind. First, they aren’t too smart. But second, they have great memories. When they are babies, we stake them down. They try to tug away from the stake maybe ten thousand times before they realize that they can’t possibly get away. Then their elephant memory takes over and they remember for the rest of their lives that they cannot get away from the stake.”

We Christians are a lot like those elephants. We have great memories, but we aren’t that smart. We remember well the defeat we had in breaking away from sin before we were saved, and so even though we now have the power of the Holy Spirit in us, we live defeated lives, resigned to the lie that we can never have victory over wrong thoughts and actions. 

Sin has no more powerful over us than we choose to allow it to have. Because the “old self,” which we talked about last time, has been crucified, we are to lay aside the grave cloths—the behavior—of a corpse, and we are to “put on” behavior that is in keeping with our new life in Christ we have been resurrected too. That’s Paul’s command in Ephesians 4:22.

What kind of behavior does Paul have in mind? Beginning in verse 25, Paul mentions five specific actions that we are to lay aside, and he suggests five alternative pieces of clothing to put on. This new wardrobe is rich in spiritual blessings, and the price is just right because Christ has already paid for it.

1. We Need to Take Off False Speech and Put On Truth (Ephesians 4:25)

The word Paul uses for lying is the word “psuedos” meaning falsehood. The word involves all kinds of ways that we veer away from absolute truth in our speech.

Here are some examples.

  • Exaggeration

That is stretching the truth to suit our own purposes. Fishermen and Texans are masters of exaggeration. Employers are increasingly having to contend with inflated resumes. One study I saw estimated that 60% of all resumes have some kind of exaggeration in them. Those of us who speak regularly have to watch out for this. It is always tempting to stretch a good story into a great story or to inflate a statistic to make it sound even more impressive.

  • Flattery

It is another type of falsehood. I don’t know who coined it, but “It has been well said that gossip is saying something behind someone’s back that you would never say to his face, while flattery is saying something to someone’s face that you would never say behind his back.” Flattery is telling someone what they want to hear in order to fulfill your own self-serving agenda. Remember Solomon’s words in Proverbs 29:5: “A man who flatters his neighbor is spreading a net for his own steps.”

  • Silence

It can be a type of lying. When you are in a conversation with someone else or in a group, and something is said that you know is false, but you don’t speak up, you are engaging in falsehood.

Think for a moment how important truthfulness is to the proper functioning of our physical body. It is vitally important that our liver, our lungs, our cells, communicate accurate information to the brain and to other parts of the body if the body is to stay healthy. If our liver or pancreas exaggerates or distorts or denies its true condition to the brain, the result can be deadly.

It is in the same way in the body of Christ. Speaking the truth is essential to the unity of the body, but lying to other members of the body damages the body.

Therefore, before we speak a word, the first filter through which our words should pass is this one: Is it true?

2. We Need to Take Off Uncontrolled Anger and Put on Patience (Ephesians 4:26-27)

Now there is a reason I added the word “uncontrolled” before anger. Contrary to what many people think, there is nothing wrong with anger in and of itself. The reason we get angry is because we have been created in the image of God, and God gets angry. There are hundreds of references in the Old and New Testaments to the anger of God.

God wired us in such a way that anger is a natural response. Look carefully at this verse. Paul does not say, don’t get angry and sin. He says to get angry but do not sin.

If you read the whole passage of Ephesians 4:25–32 carefully you notice an apparent contradiction. In verse 26 Paul says, “Be angry, and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger.” Then in verse 31 he says, “Let all…anger …be put away.”

You probably wouldn’t know it, and neither did I until I studied this passage, which states that there are three Greek words for “anger” used in the New Testament—and all three are used in this passage. There is thumos, which refers to a turbulent, boiling passion that explodes and then subsides. That’s the word used in verse 31.

Then there is parorgismos, which refers to being exasperated and embittered. Sometimes this word is translated “wrath,” and is the word used for “anger” at the end of verse 26. Finally, there is orge which refers to an abiding and settled habit of mind that is aroused under certain conditions. This is the word used for “angry” at the beginning of verse 26.

Paul says the first two types of anger—thumos and parorgismos are forbidden in the life of the believer.

But orge is allowed since it refers to righteousness indignation. But Paul gives a caveat: as long as your anger stays righteous. You see, anger is not the problem; it is how we handle our anger. Sometimes, we allow our anger—orge—to explode into wrath or rage—parorgismos. We talk about going into a blind rage—that is, our anger overwhelms us; it takes control of us. That is when anger becomes sin when we allow it rather than the Holy Spirit to direct our actions.

Sometimes, we realize that to express our anger to the other person would be counterproductive and so we do a slow burn on the inside, secretly hoping that something bad will happen to the other person, using every opportunity we have to harm that person through our speech, our actions, or our inaction.

Don’t let anyone fool you—anger suppressed is just as deadly as anger expressed.

3. We Need to Take Off Theft and Put on Diligence (Ephesians 4:28)

Another kind of behavior we are to lay aside is stealing. Remember that when Paul wrote these words that 1/3 of the Roman empire were slaves. As Warren Wiersbe points out, stealing was common, especially among slaves in Paul’s day. They were not well provided for and had little protection under the law and so they probably thought they were justified in playing an early version of Robin Hood, stealing from their rich masters to compensate for their mistreatment.

In Titus 2:10, Paul instructed the slaves to abstain from pilfering, that is, stealing from their masters.

But this is a command that applies not just to slaves but to all of us. We are never to enrich ourselves by taking or denying what belongs to another person. The Greek word Paul used is klepton. It’s a general term covering all forms of taking things that don’t belong to us.

4. We Need to Take Off Unwholesome Speech and Put on Edifying Speech (Ephesians 4:29-30)

This word, translated as “unwholesome,” is a Greek word that was used to refer to “rotten fruit.” He says that we are to refrain from speech that is rotten and infectious. We have a saying that one rotten apple does what spoils an entire barrel of apples.

Rotten speech does the same thing—it contaminates all who hear it. Instead, Paul says we should speak in a way that edifies—builds up, and encourages other people.

What kind of rotten speech should we avoid? Let me just mention two kinds of speech that contaminate rather than motivate. 

  • Crude speech
  • Critical speech

5. We Need to Take Off Unresolved Bitterness and Put on Forgiveness (Ephesians 4:31-32)

Have you ever heard people say, “You can’t tell what is inside a person’s heart?” That really is not true. You can tell a lot about what is inside a person by what flows out of that person. Jesus made this clear when He said, “That which proceeds out of the man, that is what defiles the man. For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts” (Mark 7:20–21). 

If you for example bump into a person holding a mug, and coffee spills out, then you know coffee is inside the mug, if orange juice pours out, then you know orange juice is inside. When you get close to another person or accidentally bump against them so to speak, and anger, wrath, malice, abusive speech flows out of them, then you can know that bitterness resides within them. Jesus said, “By their fruit, you shall know them.”

Paul provides six vices that we need to root out of our lives. The way he’s recorded them they seem to represent a downward spiral, until we get to the rotten root.  

First, he says to put away bitterness—the anger that harbors resentments and keeps a careful tally of wrongs. The next step down is wrath—outbursts of uncontrolled frustration. The third downward step is anger—this is the Greek word I mentioned earlier that describes a sudden explosive rage. Fourth, we are to get rid of clamor—the temptation to shout, yell, and scream. Fifth is slander—verbally attacking another person or assassinating their character. Finally, the root cause of all these sins we’re to put away is malice—the ill will toward someone who has hurt you.

All of us are going to be hurt deeply by someone in our life. It might be a mate who deserts you, a friend who betrays you, a business associate who cheats you, a parent who abuses you, or God who disappoints you. We can’t control what others do to us, but we can control our response. We can either hold on to that offense, or we can forgive.

To forgive means to release and let go of it. Forgiveness is not denying we have been wronged, it is acknowledging that another person has wronged us but making the choice to release them of their obligation toward us.

Why in the world should I let someone off the hook for what they’ve done to me? The clearest answer to that question is in the Bible in Ephesians 4:32, which says, Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.

The reason we let someone else off the hook is because God has let us off the hook. When we offended God, instead of giving us what we deserved—eternal death—he gave us what we needed, grace. 


Full Passage: Ephesians 4:25-32