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Rules for the New Life

25 So then, putting away falsehood, let all of us speak the truth to our neighbors, for we are members of one another. 26Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, 27and do not make room for the devil. 28Thieves must give up stealing; rather let them labor and work honestly with their own hands, so as to have something to share with the needy. 29Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only what is useful for building up, as there is need, so that your words may give grace to those who hear. 30And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with which you were marked with a seal for the day of redemption. 31Put away from you all bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander, together with all malice, 32and be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you.

1Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children, 2and live in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.


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25. Wherefore, putting away lying. From this head of doctrine, that is, from the righteousness of the new man, all godly exhortations flow, like streams from a fountain; for if all the precepts which relate to life were collected, yet, without this principle, they would be of little value. Philosophers take a different method; but, in the doctrine of godliness, there is no other way than this for regulating the life. Now, therefore, he comes to lay down particular exhortations, drawn from the general doctrine. Having concluded from the truth of the gospel, that righteousness and holiness ought to be true, he now argues from the general statement to a particular instance, that every man should speak truth with his neighbour. Lying is here put for every kind of deceit, hypocrisy, or cunning; and truth for honest dealing. He demands that every kind of communication between them shall be sincere; and enforces it by this consideration, for we are members one of another. That members should not agree among themselves, — that they should act in a deceitful manner towards each other, is prodigious wickedness.

26. Be ye angry, and sin not. Whether or not the apostle had in his eye a part of the fourth Psalm is uncertain. The words used by him (᾿Οργίζεσθε καὶ υὴ ἁμαρτάνετε) occur in the Greek translation, though the word ὀργίζεσθε, which is translated, be ye angry, is considered by some to mean tremble. 150150     “Stand in awe,” Psalm 4:4. (English Version) The Hebrew verb רגז (ragaz) signifies either to be agitated by anger, or, to tremble. As to the passage of the Psalm, the idea of trembling will be quite appropriate. “Do not choose to resemble madmen, who rush fearlessly in any direction, but let the dread of being accounted foolhardy keep you in awe.” The word sometimes signifies to strive or quarrel, as, in that instance, (Genesis 45:24,) “See that ye fall not out by the way;” and accordingly, the Psalmist adds, “Commune with your own heart, and be still,” — abstain from furious encounters.

In my opinion, Paul merely alludes to the passage with the following view. There are three faults by which we offend God in being angry. The first is, when our anger arises from slight causes, and often from no cause whatever, or at least from private injuries or offenses. The second is, when we go beyond the proper bounds, and are hurried into intemperate excesses. The third is, when our anger, which ought to have been directed against ourselves or against sins, is turned against our brethren. Most appropriately, therefore, did Paul, when he wished to describe the proper limitation of anger, employ the well-known passage, Be ye angry, and sin not. We comply with this injunction, if the objects of our anger are sought, not in others, but in ourselves, — if we pour out our indignation against our own faults. With respect to others, we ought to be angry, not at their persons, but at their faults; nor ought we to be excited to anger by private offenses, but by zeal for the glory of the Lord. Lastly, our anger, after a reasonable time, ought to be allowed to subside, without mixing itself with the violence of carnal passions.

Let not the sun go down. It is scarcely possible, however, but that we shall sometimes give way to improper and sinful passion, — so strong is the tendency of the human mind to what is evil. Paul therefore suggests a second remedy, that we shall quickly suppress our anger, and not suffer it to gather strength by continuance. The first remedy was, Be ye angry, and sin not; but, as the great weakness of human nature renders this exceedingly difficult, the next is — not to cherish wrath too long in our minds, or allow it sufficient time to become strong. He enjoins accordingly, let not the sun go down upon your wrath. If at any time we happen to be angry, let us endeavor to be appeased before the sun has set.

27. Neither give place (τῷ διαβόλῳ) to the devil. I am aware of the interpretation which some give of this passage. Erasmus, who translates it, “neither give place to the Slanderer,” (calumniatori,) shews plainly that he understood it as referring to malicious men. But I have no doubt, Paul’s intention was, to guard us against allowing Satan to take possession of our minds, and, by keeping in his hands this citadel, to do whatever he pleases. We feel every day how impossible, or, at least, how difficult it is to cure long-continued hatred. What is the cause of this, but that, instead of resisting the devil, we yield up to him the possession of our heart? Before the poison of hatred has found its way into the heart, anger must be thoroughly dislodged.

28. Let him that stole steal no more. This includes not merely the grosser thefts which are punished by human laws, but those of a more concealed nature, which do not fall under the cognizance of men, — every kind of depredation by which we seize the property of others. But he does not simply forbid us to take that property in an unjust or unlawful manner. He enjoins us to assist our brethren, as far as lies in our power.

That he may have to give to him that needeth. “Thou who formerly stolest must not only obtain thy subsistence by lawful and harmless toil, but must give assistance to others.” He is first required to labor, working with his hands, that he may not supply his wants at the expense of his brethren, but may support life by honorable labor. But the love which we owe to our neighbor carries us much farther. No one must live to himself alone, and neglect others. All must labor to supply each other’s necessities.

But a question arises, does Paul oblige all men to labor with their hands? This would be excessively hard. I reply, the meaning is plain, if it be duly considered. Every man is forbidden to steal. But many people are in the habit of pleading want, and that excuse is obviated by enjoining them rather to labor (μᾶλλον δε κοπιάτω) with their hands. As if he had said, “No condition, however hard or disagreeable, can entitle any man to do injury to another, or even to refrain from contributing to the necessities of his brethren.

The thing which is good. This latter clause, which contains an argument from the greater to the less, gives no small additional strength to the exhortation. As there are many occupations which do little to promote the lawful enjoyments of men, he recommends to them to choose those employments which yield the greatest advantage to their neighbors. We need not wonder at this. If those trades which can have no other effect than to lead men into immorality, were denounced by heathens — and Cicero among the number — as highly disgraceful, would an apostle of Christ reckon them among the lawful callings of God?

29. No filthy speech. He first forbids believers to use any filthy language, including under this name all those expressions which are wont to be employed for the purpose of inflaming lust. Not satisfied with the removal of the vice, he enjoins them to frame their discourse for edification. In another Epistle he says, “Let your speech be seasoned with salt.” (Colossians 4:6.) Here a different phrase is employed, if any (speech) be good to the use of edifying, which means simply, if it be useful. The genitive, of use, may no doubt be viewed, according to the Hebrew idiom, as put for an adjective, so that for the edification of use (πρὸς οἰκοδομὴν τὢς χρείας) may mean for useful edification; but when I consider how frequently, and in how extensive a meaning, the metaphor of edifying occurs in Paul’s writings, I prefer the former exposition. The edification of use will thus mean the progress of our edification, for to edify is to carry forward. To explain the manner in which this is done, he adds, that it may impart grace to the hearers, meaning by the word grace, comfort, advice, and everything that aids the salvation of the soul.

30. And grieve not. As the Holy Spirit dwells in us, to him every part of our soul and of our body ought to be devoted. But if we give ourselves up to aught that is impure, we may be said to drive him away from making his abode with us; and, to express this still more familiarly, human affections, such as joy and grief, are ascribed to the Holy Spirit. 151151     “According to our view, the verse is a summation of the argument — the climax of appeal. If Christians shall persist in falsehood and deviation from the truth — if they shall indulge in fitful rage, or cherish sullen and malignant dislikes — if they shall be characterized by dishonesty, or insipid and corrupt language, then do they grieve the Holy Spirit of God; for all this perverse insubordination is in utter antagonism to the essence and operations of Him who is the Spirit of truth; and inspires the love of it; who assumed, as a fitting symbol, the form of a dove, and creates meekness and forbearance; and who, as the Spirit of holiness, leads to the appreciation of all that is just in action, noble in sentiment, and healthful and edifying in speech.” — Eadie. Endeavour that the Holy Spirit may dwell cheerfully with you, as in a pleasant and joyful dwelling, and give him no occasion for grief. Some take a different view of it, that we grieve the Holy Spirit in others, when we offend by filthy language, or, in any other way, godly brethren, who are led by the Spirit of God. (Romans 8:14.) Whatever is contrary to godliness is not only disrelished by godly ears, but is no sooner heard than it produces in them deep grief and pain. But that Paul’s meaning was different appears from what follows.

By whom ye are sealed. As God has sealed us by his Spirit, we grieve him when we do not follow his guidance, but pollute ourselves by wicked passions. No language can adequately express this solemn truth, that the Holy Spirit rejoices and is glad on our account, when we are obedient to him in all things, and neither think nor speak anything, but what is pure and holy; and, on the other hand, is grieved, when we admit anything into our minds that is unworthy of our calling. Now, let any man reflect what shocking wickedness there must be in grieving the Holy Spirit to such a degree as to compel him to withdraw from us. The same mode of speaking is used by the prophet Isaiah, but in a different sense; for he merely says, that they “vexed his Holy Spirit,” (Isaiah 63:10.) in the same sense in which we are accustomed to speak of vexing the mind of a man. By whom ye are sealed. The Spirit of God is the seal, by which we are distinguished from the wicked, and which is impressed on our hearts as a sure evidence of adoption.

Unto the day of redemption, — that is, till God conduct us into the possession of the promised inheritance. That day is usually called the day of redemption, because we shall then be at length delivered out of all our afflictions. It is unnecessary to make any observations on this phrase, in addition to what have already been made in expounding Romans 8:23, and 1 Corinthians 1:30. In this passage, the word sealed may have a different meaning from that which it usually bears, — that God has impressed his Spirit as his mark upon us, that he may recognize as his children those whom he perceives to bear that mark.

31. Let all bitterness. He again condemns anger; but, on the present occasion, views in connection with it those offenses by which it is usually accompanied, such as noisy disputes and reproaches. Between wrath and anger (Θυμὸν καὶ ὀργὴν) there is little difference, except that the former denotes the power, and the latter the act; but here, the only difference is, that anger is a more sudden attack. The correction of all the rest will be greatly aided by the removal of malice. By this term he expresses that depravity of mind which is opposed to humanity and justice, and which is usually called malignity.

32. And be ye kind one to another. With bitterness he contrasts kindness, or gentleness of countenance, language, and manners. And as this virtue will never reign in us, unless attended by compassion, (ουμπάθεια,) he recommends to us to be tender-hearted This will lead us not only to sympathize with the distresses of our brethren, as if they were our own, but to cultivate that true humanity which is affected by everything that happens to them, in the same manner as if we were in their situation. The contrary of this is the cruelty of those iron-hearted, barbarous men, by whom the sufferings of others are beheld without any concern whatever.

Forgiving one another. The Greek word here rendered forgiving, (χαριζόμενοι ἑαυτοῖς,) is supposed by to mean beneficence. Erasmus, accordingly, renders it (largientes) bountiful. Though the word admits of that meaning, yet the context induces me to prefer the other view, that we should be ready to forgive It may sometimes happen, that men are kind and tender-hearted, and yet, when they receive improper treatment, do not so easily forgive injuries. That those whose kindness of heart in other respects disposes them to acts of humanity, may not fail in their duty through the ingratitude of men, he exhorts them to discover a readiness to lay aside resentment. To give his exhortation the greater weight, he holds out the example of God, who has forgiven to us, through Christ, far more than any mortal man can forgive to his brethren. 152152     See Calvin's Commentary on Philippians, Colossians, etc., page 213.

1. Be ye therefore followers. The same principle is followed out and enforced by the consideration that children ought to be like their father. He reminds us that we are the children of God, and that therefore we ought, as far as possible, to resemble Him in acts of kindness. It is impossible not to perceive, that the division of chapters, in the present instance, is particularly unhappy, as it has made a separation between parts of the subject which are very closely related. If, then, we are the children of God, we ought to be followers of God. Christ also declares, that, unless we shew kindness to the unworthy, we cannot be the children of our heavenly Father.

“Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them who despitefully use you and persecute you; that ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven; for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.”
(Matthew 5:44,45.) 153153     “To institute an action against one who has injured us is human; not to take revenge on him is the part of a philosopher; but to compensate him with benefits is divine, and makes men of earth followers of the Father who is in heaven.” — Clem. Ep., quoted by Eadie.

2. And walk in love as Christ also hath loved us. Having called on us to imitate God, he now calls on us to imitate Christ, who is our true model. We ought to embrace each other with that love with which Christ has embraced us, for what we perceive in Christ is our true guide.

And gave himself for us. This was a remarkable proof of the highest love. Forgetful, as it were, of himself, Christ spared not his own life, that he might redeem us from death. If we desire to be partakers of this benefit, we must cultivate similar affections toward our neighbors. Not that any of us has reached such high perfection, but all must aim and strive according to the measure of their ability.

An offering and a sacrifice to God of a sweet smelling savor. While this statement leads us to admire the grace of Christ, it bears directly on the present subject. No language, indeed, can fully represent the consequences and efficacy of Christ’s death. This is the only price by which we are reconciled to God. The doctrine of faith on this subject holds the highest rank. But the more extraordinary the discoveries which have reached us of the Redeemer’s kindness, the more strongly are we bound to his service. Besides, we may infer from Paul’s words, that, unless we love one another, none of our duties will be acceptable in the sight of God. If the reconciliation of men, effected by Christ, was a sacrifice of a sweet smelling savor, 154154     “The offering, in being presented to God, was meant to be, and actually was, a sweet savor to Him. The phrase is based on the peculiar sacrificial idiom of the Old Testament. (Genesis 8:21; Leviticus 1:9, 13, 17; 2:9, 12; 3:5.) It is used typically in 2 Corinthians 2:14, and is explained and expanded in Philippians 4:18 — ‘a sacrifice acceptable, well-pleasing to God.’ The burning of spices or incense, so fragrant to the Oriental senses, is figuratively applied to God.” — Eadie. we, too, shall be “unto God a sweet savor,” (2 Corinthians 2:15,) when this holy perfume is spread over us. To this applies the saying of Christ,

“Leave thy gift before the altar, and go and be reconciled to thy brother.” (Matthew 5:24.)




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