“If indeed you have heard Him…”: 10 Keys to Healthy Relations on Our Ships

20 But you did not learn Christ in this way,
21 if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught in Him, just as truth is in Jesus,
22 that, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit,
23 and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind,
24 and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.
25 Therefore, laying aside falsehood, speak truth each one of you with his neighbor, for we are members of one another.
26 Be angry, and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger,
27 and do not give the devil an opportunity.
28 He who steals must steal no longer; but rather he must labor, performing with his own hands what is good, so that he will have something to share with one who has need.
29 Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.
30 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, tender‐hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.

This is a brief version of a recent Bible Study I conducted at HOPE Church - Pearland recently.  As a part of the Relational Wellness portion of our "Journey to Wellness", we looked at what I like to think of as a Christian Code of Conduct wherein Paul outlines several expectations regarding how we must manage our relationships with one another.  

There's an important thought here.  We often take verses out of context and fail to read passages "in order" the way the Holy Spirit inspired the writer to put them down on paper.  Before we get into talking about husbands and wifes, children and parenting or household order, Paul reminds us of two things:

  1. We are all Believers called to a higher standard of understanding and living in Christ.  Before that woman is my wife, she is my sister in Him.  Before that man is her husband, he is her brother in the Lord.  Therefore, before we talk about managing a household together, we need to have a great grasp on the Lord's expectations of our behavior towards each other as His children.
  2. These are not suggestions or merely good ideas.  The preface "If indeed you have heard Him..." tells us these rules belong to us, those who call Christ our Lord.  If we've heard Him, if we know Him, if we're going to walk in Truth, here's how we are to walk.  There's no escape clause that allows us to "snap" just because we're tired and our husbands are "on our last nerve" or put her in "her place" verbally when we've had a long day!

I picked up and began to read through the fourth chapter of Ephesians because of the old 20/20 rule that I learned from a friend and teacher.  It states this: when you want to make sure you're understanding a passage in its proper context, take a moment to read twenty verses before and twenty verses after.  Good advice!  Therefore, when reading about the Christian Curse Word, "Submission", I decided to go back a little further to see what else Paul was teaching us about relationships in his letter to the saints in Ephesus, a group of Believers whom he had visited twice before his first imprisonment and who were dear to his heart.

What keys do we see for healthy Christian relationships in Ephesians 4?  How does each verse examined provide us some guidance?  Here are 10 that I found hiding in plain sight:

1. If indeed you have heard Him...lay aside the old self. (v. 22)

There's no room for "that's the way I've always been...take it or leave it!" in healthy relationships.  It's time to put away all those bad things we were in the past...

2. If indeed you have heard renewed in the spirit of your mind. (v. 23)

...and as we're letting go of the past, we need new instructions.  We learned in Romans that we can be transformed in our minds by refusing to be conformed to the way the "world" does things and instead dedicating ourselves to studying the word of God...

3. If indeed you have heard Him...put on the new self. (v. 24)

...and as we do so, we're challenging put on the new self, to be different.  This imagery used is similar to that of a caterpillar going through metamorphosis.  We're putting down the old and picking up the new.  We're to wear clothing worthy of our new stations in life.

4. If indeed you have heard Him...lay aside falsehood. (v. 25)

Here's the rule about secrets in marriage: don't have any.  Here's the rule about lying: never, ever do it.  Lying breeds mistrust.  Mistrust destroys intimacy.  Lack of intimacy creates distance.  When we grow distant, the relationship can't survive.

5. If indeed you have heard angry, and yet do not sin. (v. 26)

Paul didn't say don't get angry.  Anger can be productive.  Sometimes, it's even necessary.  Holding it for too long only gives our enemy an opportunity to do his best work.  Let it go and don't give him any more victories over you!

stop stealing, be productive and share. (v. 28)

We have an obligation to stop taking what isn't ours and be productive enough to give some of what is ours away.  Amazing!  

7. If indeed you have heard Him...speak words that edify and heal. (v. 29)

Our tongues have power.  We set the course of our lives by our words.  I am learning this.  Even better, I am learning to say words that are fruitful!  So many people testify of how they have been hurt, harmed and destroyed by hateful words spoken over them in childhood, marriage, church.  It works the other way, too.  We can and must do better.

8. If indeed you have heard not grieve the Holy Spirit. (v. 30)

How often has the Holy Spirit told us to do something different - maybe the exact opposite - of the action we decided to take?  Listen to His guidance.  He knows what's needed and when.  

9. If indeed you have heard Him...bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, slander and malice are no longer allowed! (v. 31)

There's no room to fully address this verse.  If you'll picture in your mind a person who always holds grudges, plots ways to retaliate for harms, stews and steams and generally can't even stay quiet about it.  Maybe this picture fits?

...but I'm thinking this one might be better?  Is this the way you act?  When you get mad do people need to stay out of your way?  Shame!  We can do better, saints!

10. If indeed you have heard kind, tender and forgiving. (v. 32)

This verse speaks for itself.  It's a mirror.  I challenge us to look into it often and measure ourselves accordingly.  Love is kind.  

How can we summarize this lesson? What else do we see in the word of God that can help us have healthy relationships?  Here are some concluding thoughts…

These verses precede Chapter 5 where Paul discusses marriage, roles and order in the family…almost as if he’s establishing a code of conduct for all kingdom citizens first. (See Ephesians 4:1-3)  I like to think about it that way.  It takes some pressure off the conversation about submission, love and mutual respect when you realize those only apply to people who are in Christ and in marriage.  Paul is writing to Christians.  He instructs wives to be subject to their own husbands...not a random "Joe" who happens to have male genitals.

“But you did not learn Christ in this way…”  What way?  Our relationships are not to be marked by “practices of impurity WITH greediness.” (Ephesians 4: 17-19)  Wow.  Impurity WITH greediness?  Sounds like a horrible combination.  In any regard, those behaviors belong to people outside of the fellowship.  The opposite expressions (purity and generosity?) ought to be our marks.  That is to say things by which we are known.

“If indeed you have heard Him…”  Are you a Believer? A Disciple? Have you heard the Truth?  Then you are called to a higher standard than the “lusts of deceit.” (Ephesians 4:22)  Lust means a "strong desire to have" and is contrasted with love which is a strong desire to give.  Deceiving people to get what we want out of them is a nasty, ugly trait and has no part in the life of the saint.

Anger destroys.  Don’t let it reign in your life! (Ephesians 4:26-27)  Unresolved anger has destroyed lives, families and even civilizations.  I am told by mental health professionals that failing to let go of anger is a common denominator among those who develop mental illness - illnesses so far gone that they have to be institutionalized.  Some people don't take it literally to not allow the sun to go down on your wrath, but I do.  I don't want to carry those destructive emotions a moment longer than I need to.

Also note, there's no restriction against getting angry.  Anger can be a healthy emotion if channeled properly.  I would even argue that nothing productive ever comes to pass in our lives until we get angry about something.  Be angry.  Do not sin.  Easy to say.  Hard to do.  It's not impossible to do, however.  The Lord doesn't give us directions that are impossible to follow.  That would be cruel...and He's not a cruel God.

“The tongue of the wise brings healing.” (Proverbs 12:18, Proverbs 15:4, Ephesians 4: 29-30)  If there is nothing else to be gained from this study, I hope people will walk away with an understanding that we don't have to remain broken and hurt forever.  We can heal and be healed by changing what we say to ourselves about ourselves and changing how we speak to our brothers and sisters.

Be blessed!


Good points! Placing another's concerns ahead of your own is a crucial first step that many want to skip in relationships because we often just seem to think of only what we can gain from relationships, but our focus should really be on what we can give.

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