Four Rules of Communication: Act, Don't React

Faith Church June 27, 2010 Ephesians 4:25-32


1. We are continuing our series: “Taking the NEXT Step With Joy: In Our Marriages & Families”

- Let keep reminding ourselves:

Strong Christians = Strong Marriages = Strong Families = Strong Churches

2. Let remember that communication is one of the VERY IMPORTANT roles of your Christian life, your marriage, your family, and your church family!

- people who don’t communicate well, don’t grow well – which means they are not going to be as spiritually strong as they could be

3. During this series, there are a few things we’ve tried to emphasize:

1) * Jesus was a PERFECT Communicator !

> and if we’re going to bring glory to God, we have to be like Christ!

2) Wordsalone are not sufficient for effective biblical communication.

* 1 John 3:18 “Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth.”

3) We cannot show love with actions alone because God tells us hundreds of times in the Bible that He loves us.

- So, we should not only do things to communicate our love for others, we must also grow in telling others that we love them . . .

> . . . and use well chosen words to communicate & solve problems and/or prevent them.

4) Godly communication is a key to building relationships: our relationship with Christ (even confessing sin, prayer, asking for wisdom), strong marriages/families, and strong churches

- While some communicate better than others . . . we all must be growing in the area of communication – in both words and actions.

4. Let’s remember a working definition of . . .* Effective Communication:

“The process of sharing information with another person in such a way that the sender’s message is understood as he intended it. Unless the sender and receiver have come to a common meaning, they haven’t communicated effectively.” Wayne Mack, Your Family God’s Way

* We’ve been recommending the following resources for further study: (Ministry Resource Center)

  • War of Words – Paul Tripp
  • Your Family God’s Way – Wayne Mack

5. Remember, in Eph. 4, Paul writes about how to grow and change by replacing the ‘old self’ (thoughts & actions) with the ‘new self’ (biblical thoughts and biblical actions)

6. Paul illustrated this in verses (v. 25-32) and in these examples of the ‘put off’ and ‘put on’ – the Holy Spirit inspired Paul to write 4 very effective “Rules of Communication”

> these are good for PREVENTING and SOLVING problems (in all areas of our lives)

[READ Eph. 4:25-32- skip v. 28 – though it is included in the context of v. 22-24 of put off/put on]

7. Our topic today is the last of the 4 RULES of COMMUNICATION – on July 4th, we’ll do something a little different – that day we do a very PRACTICAL STUDY – somewhat like a Case Study

[REVIEW Rule #1 & 2 & 3 – ONLY RULE #1, #2, #3 (no sub-points) IS ON POWERPOINT]

Rule #1: BE HONEST - v. 25.

- you have a choice to obey it or disobey this command (both have consequences)

- you have to put off dishonesty and put on ‘speaking the truth’

> this is NOT telling everyone ALL your thoughts, ALL opinions, & ALL criticisms.

> The goal of speaking the truth is not you speaking your mind but SOLVING CONFLICTS in a way that brings glory to God or PREVENTING problems from occurring

- and to speak the truth . . . . IN LOVE (that’s the hard part!)

Rule #2: KEEP CURRENT - v. 26 &27.

- another way to say this is: * Solve today’s problems today!

- remember that in this process, the verse tells us to . . .

A. Be angry, but don't sin.

- Anger is emotional energy to be used to solve or prevent problems.

- Anger is sinful when used to attack others or self (bitterness setting in a/b the problem).

B. Stop clamming up.

- remember: Most people who ‘clam up’ eventually ‘blow up.’

Caution: Failure to solve problems daily = gives place, or a foothold, to Satan!

C. Seven questions to ask yourself before bringing trying to resolve a problem.

1) Do I have the facts right? 2) Should love hide it? [Is it sinful? Is it hindering growth?] 3) Is my timing right? 4) Is my attitude right? Am I trying to help the other person? 5) Are my words loving? 6) Have I prayed for God's help? 7) Do I need to seek counsel from someone else before I try to resolve this problem?

- Last week’s study took us to RULE #3:


- Paul makes it very clear that we are to . . .

A. “Put Off” words that attack a person's character.

- these are words that are the exact opposite of ‘edifying’ (building up)

“unwholesome” (Greek: sapros)= that which is corrupt or foul

- instead, we are to . . .

B. Use "edifying" communication that encourages or builds up.

- this is done in such a way that ‘it will give grace to those who hear it’

grace = God’s unmerited favor

C. What does it mean to attack the problem?

- Short answer: To Discuss the problem in God-honoring way

1. Starts with your heart (inner man)

2. Includes your motive (What are you wanting to accomplish?)

3. Thinking right

4. Using biblical terminology

5. Modeling grace

6. Remembering you will give an account at the Judgment Seat of Christ for the stewardship of your tongue

- Let’s move into the last 2 verses of chp. 4 – all BOLD is now on POWERPIONT

Rule #4: ACT, DON'T REACT - vs. 31 & 32

- let’s begin our time with a question:

Q: What are some of the reasons WHY we tend to react instead of act?

- There are many answers to that but a couple of main answers would be:

1) The effects of the curse of sin (on our mind’s ability to think and reason)

- it’s easy to get defensive and react (especially if you don’t have all the facts)

> which is a good reason to ask questions instead of making statements when you are in the middle of or about to enter into a conflict

> sometimes asking questions can PREVENT conflicts from even occuring

- probably all of us have had situations that we ‘wish I had that to do all over again’

- we wish that because we didn’t THINK right which lead to not ACTING right . . . and producedthe destructive RESULTS/CONSEQUENCES of the choice(s) we made!

2) Because of #1, we tend to be impulsive (or walk in the flesh instead of walking the Spirit)

- Paul dealt with this in Galatians 5 – ‘walk in the Spirit and

[READ Gal. 5:14-26!!]

- note the context of v. 14 – loving one another (2nd greatest commandment!)

- if we’d focus more on that command instead of being defensive, we would prevent sin which would prevent conflicts . . . and broken relationships . . . and robbing God of His glory by giving the devil an ‘opportunity’ (beach-front) to destroy/prevent godly relationships!

Note: * One aspect of the fruit of the Spirit is ‘self-control’ – which is the exact opposite of ‘REACTING’

- let’s be honest, when we react, we are NOT walking in the Spirit and therefore we are not demonstrating the fruit of the Spirit of ‘self-control’

Point: When we do things OUR way instead of God’s way, it usually leads to strife, division, and destruction

> of your marriage, family, friendship with another person, or the splitting of the church!

- and what causes #2 or leads to #2 is

3) Because we make decisions based on our feelings rather than the truth of God’s Word

- you’ve heard us emphasized being ‘principle oriented’ instead of ‘feeling oriented’

> since our feelings are cursed by sin, you can’t truth them

> since our thinking is cursed by sin, you can’t trust them

Point: The ONLY source of truth that you can absolutely trust is the truth of God’s Word!

- let’s look more specifically at Paul’s words in v. 31:

A. Reactions (v. 31) - attitudes and actions that must be "put off."

1. Bitterness - the refusal to treat someone as if they never hurt you.

- bitterness is a subject that God warns us about

- we should ‘put it off’ because of its sinful nature, but also because of the impact bitterness can have on those around us (family, friends, church, etc.)

  • Hebrews 12:15See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by it many be defiled.

Major Lesson: Where would you be if God treated YOU the way YOU treat others?

2. Wrath - flaring outbursts of anger.

- this is the Greek word: thumos (pronounced: Thew-mos)

- this refers to explosive anger

* Apply this to spousal/child abuse

Q: What does ‘wrath’ look like in a person? [describe what would be happening]

Answers: Yelling / throwing things / doors slammed / screaming threats

3. Anger - settled indignation or hostility that frequently seeks revenge; "slow burn."

- this is equally dangerous and sinful (if not used biblically)

- this is the boiling inside that takes place – dwelling on how wrong the other person is

- sinful anger is the first section of the road to bitterness (and destructive of relationships)

Q: What is a person thinking who has ‘anger’ dwelling in his/her heart?

A: Things like – how dare you do that to me . . . you’re going to pay for that . . . etc.

NOTE: When you’re thinking like that way, it’s a good time to run to the CROSS!

> think about God pouring out His wrath on the Lamb of God, Who takes away the sin of the world (including YOUR sin of sinful anger)

4. Clamor - harsh contention and strife, public quarreling, brawling.

- MacArthur wrote this about the word ‘calmor’:

“…the shout or outcry of strife and reflects the public outburst that reveals loss of control.[1]

- this is exactly what Jesus was talking about when He said ‘the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart’

- and this is all a result of what Proverbs warns us about:

  • Proverbs 13:10Through insolence (KJV: pride)comes nothing but strife . . .

- make a note that when there is ‘strife’ – there is pride on part of somebody OR both!

  • Proverbs 17:14The beginning of strife is like letting out water, so abandon the quarrel before it breaks out.

- Solomon warns us about PREVENTING these situations

- we ought to do all we can to PREVENT the quarrel (i.e. harsh contention, strife, etc.)

- Solomon even tells us how the subject of communication is connected to a FOOL:

  • Proverbs 18:6A fool's lips bring strife, and his mouth calls for blows.

- as we’ve said before, this in no way minimizes speaking the truth to someone (especially when they are sinning – that’s part of ‘admonishing one another)

> but the focus here is what Paul wrote in Eph. 4;15 ‘speak the truth in love’

- and keep in mind: A lot of this has to do with one’s ATTITUDE and/or the WAY a person comes across when he/she speaks

- and one’s attitude can lead to outright . . .

5. Slander - speech that injures, abusive speech.

- here again is the power of the tongue – cutting someone down

Input: What are some examples of this?

[various answers – you’re stupid, you’re the worst husband/wife anyone could have, etc.]

- of course, the result of this leads to destruction of the relationship

- Proverbs, again, warns us of this issue:

  • Proverbs 22:10Drive out the scoffer, and contention will go out, even strife and dishonor will cease.

- all this leads to

6. Malice - the desire to harm others or see them suffer.

Q: What usually results from a person who is ‘angry’ (slow-burn)?

A: Vengeance – the desire to get even, to do to other AS they have done to you!

- this is when we need to remember Romans 12:17-21

READ Romans 12:17-21 – note Who is responsible for ‘vengeance’

- the reason we can’t be vengeful is we don’t have the authority or the ability

> we don’t know what’s going on in the other person’s heart (but God does)

> we don’t have the power (ability) that God has (He’s OMNIPOTENT!!)

* Lesson: The natural tendency (and thus sinful response) of our Genesis 3 nature is to be defensive about dealing with our own sins.

- which is why we should listen carefully to Prov

  • Proverbs 9:8Do not reprove a scoffer, or he will hate you, Reprove a wise man and he will love you.

Point: The way we respond to ‘reproof’ (rebuke) reveals the true character within us

- We are commanded to PUT OFF this kind of communication

- but just because you STOP something doesn’t mean you’ve changed

Q: In order to change, what do we need to do?

A: “PUT ON” the new man – put on v. 32

B. Actions (v. 32) - attitudes and actions you must "put on" to replace the reactions.

1. Kind - benevolent, helpful, courteous.

- this is the way Jesus treated people

  • Luke 6:35But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men.

- this where we can give glory to God (give the right opinion) in how we treat others

> this is hard when we focus on how that person HURT ME

> but when we think about how much we HURT Jesus on cross as He died for our sin . . . it makes it easier to respond to others

2. Tenderhearted - lit. "of good heartedness," compassionate, sympathetic.

- this is going to the depth of the inner man (what’s really going on in the heart)

- you can’t really fake this part – either it’s there or it’s NOT

- Jesus, the Wonderful Counselor, modeled this for us in His life!

“The idea of being compassionate, and reflects a feeling deep in the bowels, or stomach, a gnawing psychosomatic pain due to empathy for someone’s need.”[2]

- if you don’t have the first two, it’s not likely you will be able to fulfill the 3rd command

3. Forgiving - to give up your right or claim to revenge, hold a grudge, or get even.

- the key phrase is ‘just as God in Christ has forgiven us’

- Jesus made this issue very clear in Matthew 6 (our study on prayer earlier this year)

  • Matthew 6:14- 15For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions.”

- this takes humility, and grace on our part, and God’s help

- and this goes back to the beginning of chp 4 [context]

  • Ephesians 4:1Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called.

- this isn’t just something to think about and consider only if you want to

- we have been CALLED (a divine summons) to act in this way

IMPORTANT: Your marriage, your family, your relationship with others, your church family will be impacted (positive or negative) in the way you communicate!


1. Conflicts are possible only if each person reacts.

- It takes 2 to argue – if you don't react, the argument dies.

- One person may be wrong, but conflict or fight occurs because the other reacts.

- When react, attack person, don't keep current, fail to be honest.

2. Changing habits is not easy but can be done with God’s help!

  • 1 Cor. 10:13 (quote)

Note: It is much easier than the "way of the transgressor” (Prov. 13:15)

3. You can't change the other person, but you can change how you respond and/or how you initiate the communication!

- No matter how irresponsible the other person is, you must act according to v. 32!

Q: If you had to stand at the Judgment Seat of Christ today, what would Jesus say about your communication?

Q: Do you need to ask your spouse (or your kids) for forgiveness for NOT practicing any of these 4 Rules of Communication?

Prayer Time:

  • Husband – pray for the guys
  • Wife – pray for the girls
  • One person – pray for the marriages/families

MacArthur, John: Ephesians. Chicago : Moody Press, 1996, c1986, S. 190

[2]MacArthur, John: Ephesians. Chicago : Moody Press, 1996, c1986, S. 190

Faith Church