Eph 4:31-32 “Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.”
Beloved, we cannot serve God and hold on to any ill will against God’s people. While the Greek word rendered “all” in some places can have a limited meaning (some of every kind, etc.), that is not the case here. Strong’s defines the word translated as “all” (all bitterness, all malice) to mean “all, any, every, the whole.” In the lesson here, all means all!
We are to put away all bitterness. Strong’s defines the Greek word translated as “bitterness” to mean “acridity (especially poison).” Most of us have experienced the discomfort of being too near a fire. The smoke gets in our eyes and nose; sometimes we can even taste it. It causes us to cough; our eyes burn; we can’t breathe properly. These are all examples of what being in the presence of something acrid (bitter) can do to us. Bitterness among God’s people has the same effect on us in a spiritual sense that a burning building has on our physical senses. It is not only unpleasant, but it is also dangerous.
In the same sense, we are to put away all wrath and anger. Sometimes it is hard for us to distinguish between wrath and anger. Wrath, as used here, seems to imply a fierce, almost unreasoning, indignation. Anger carries with it more the idea of punishment or vengeance. Before we allow our wrath to be kindled against others, we need to remember that we were once the children of wrath, even as they (Eph 2:3). We also need to remember that God has told us vengeance belongs to Him (Rom 12:19). Our attention and trust need to be fixed upon the Lord.
We are also called upon to put aside any tumultuous outcry (clamor). While we may be faced at times with grievous situations, we are not supposed to go screaming and crying to our brothers and sisters. Stirring up contention among the family of God should be the last thing we desire. Instead of creating a disturbance, we should be seeking God’s face in all reverence and humility. Unbridled wrath, coupled with a desire to see people “get what they deserve,” may even cause us to speak evil (blaspheme) against God.
We are to never give way to trouble-making (malice). Notice that all this instruction is given to us to look to ourselves. I am not supposed to busy myself with “riding herd” on by brothers and sisters. The admonishment is that we would put these things away from us; that each should look to him or herself. We are never justified in reacting with malice toward God’s people: we ourselves are not without sin.
Rather than give place to any vile reaction to our brethren, we should be kind to one another. This word kind is not about a feeling: the idea (according to Strong’s) is that we should be useful to one another. We need to have sympathy (tenderhearted) toward each other, understanding that we have all sinned and come short of the glory of God. Pardon (forgiveness) should be shown to each other without hesitation or requirement.
God, through Christ, put away our sins and the remembrance of the same. He has fully and freely forgiven us for Christ’s sake. This is our example; this is how we are to be holy, even as He is holy. We cannot accomplish this by our carnal nature, whose desire is to get even rather than forgive. The ability to put aside that carnal for the spiritual comes to us through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.
May we with gladness, through the power of the Holy Ghost, put aside all things that would poison our fellowship, and give thanks that we can, through that same power, live after the example of God our Father!