Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour…be put away from you.

Ephesians 4:31


As Christian believers, we must stand together against some things. So, if you hear anyone saying that A.W. Tozer preaches a good deal that is negative, just smile and agree: “That is because he preaches the Bible!”

Here are some of the things we oppose: We are against the many modern idols that have been allowed to creep into the churches; we are against the “unauthorized fire” that is being offered on the altars of the Lord; we are against the modern gods that are being adopted in our sanctuaries.

We are against the world’s ways and its false values. We are against the world’s follies and its vain pleasures. We are against this world’s greed and sinful ambitions. We are against this world’s vices and its carnal habits.

We believe this spells out clearly the Bible truth of separation. God asks us to stand boldly against anything or anyone who hurts or hinders this New Testament body of Christians. Where the Church is not healed, it will wither. The Word of God is the antibiotic that alone can destroy the virus that would plague the life of the Church!


Lord, I pray that our churches will be faithful to the whole Word of God and that churchgoers will set themselves apart from the world’s ungodly values.[1]

Man’s natural tendency is to sin, and the natural tendency of sin is to grow into greater sin. And a Christian’s sin will grow just like that of an unbeliever. If not checked, our inner sins of bitterness and wrath and anger will inevitably lead to the outward sins of clamor, slander, and other such manifestations of malice.

Bitterness (pikria) reflects a smoldering resentment, a brooding grudge–filled attitude (see Acts 8:23; Heb. 12:15). It is the spirit of irritability that keeps a person in perpetual animosity, making him sour and venomous, Wrath (thurmos) has to do with wild rage, the passion of the moment. Anger (orgē) is a more internal smoldering, a subtle and deep feeling. Clamor (kraugē) is the shout or outcry of strife and reflects the public outburst that reveals loss of control. Slander (blasphēmia, from which we get blasphemy) is the ongoing defamation of someone that rises from a bitter heart. Paul then adds malice (kakia), the general term for evil that is the root of all vices. All of these, he says, must be put away from you.

These particular sins involve conflict between person and person—believer and unbeliever and, worse still, between believer and believer. These are the sins that break fellowship and destroy relationships, that weaken the church and mar its testimony before the world. When an unbeliever sees Christians acting just like the rest of society, the church is blemished in his eyes and he is confirmed still further in resisting the claims of the gospel.[2]

31 Continuing in this negative mode, Paul implores his readers to “get rid of” six additional behaviors that are sinful and that, presumably, would also grieve the Holy Spirit. (Four of the items parallel sins in Col 3:8; for similar lists, see 2 Co 12:20; Gal 5:20–21.) Here is a list of vices to avoid. While the verb the NIV translates “get rid of” is in the passive voice—perhaps an implicit reminder that believers need the Spirit’s power to jettison these—clearly they must exert their wills to put off these offenses. So this translation is appropriate. Paul precedes the list with the particle pasa, thus prohibiting “all kinds of” instances of the following acts. Many commentators point out the inner to outer progression in this list. First, Paul prohibits “bitterness” or “harshness,” probably in their speech, as he also employs this Greek word pikria (GK 4394) in Romans 3:14 to speak of “bitter” words. This inner feeling leads to anger. So second, they must avoid “rage” (thymos, GK 2596; cf. BDAG, 461) and its synonymous vice “anger” (orgē, GK 3973), a word denoting an emotional outburst of strong displeasure (cf. BDAG, 720) which Paul also uses of God’s wrath in 2:3; 5:6. Though it may be possible to be angry without sinning, the presence of anger usually proves dangerous. Anger leads to the next two examples of verbal outbursts. Believers must shun shouting or quarreling (kraugē, GK 3199; NIV, “brawling”). It speaks of a “shouting match.” (See Ac 23:9 for an example of this type of clamor or uproar.) Fifth, Paul prohibits blasphēmia (GK 1060), a term that refers to abusive speech that denigrates, defames, or slanders (cf. BDAG, 178). Finally, they must put off “every form of malice,” a phrase Paul uses to include any other kinds of behaviors that destroy harmony in the body. Members of Christ’s body must take great pains to rid themselves of all of these; they grieve the Spirit who has called believers to unity.[3]

[1] Tozer, A. W. (2015). Mornings with tozer: daily devotional readings. Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers.

[2] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1986). Ephesians (p. 190). Chicago: Moody Press.

[3] Klein, W. W. (2006). Ephesians. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Ephesians–Philemon (Revised Edition) (Vol. 12, pp. 132–133). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.


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