The Apostle Paul spent over three years amongst the saints in Ephesus. During that time the Ephesians experienced miracles, healings, and prodigious events. As Paul attested, “the word of God” amongst them “grew mightily . . . and prevailed.” 1
But his preaching and the manifestations of the power of God caused a stir amongst the unbelievers so much so that Paul was forced to leave Ephesus. He went from place to place to preach, but before returning to Jerusalem he felt the need to instruct and warn his friends once more. Unable to return to Ephesus, he sent for the elders of the church there. He reminded them that he had spent all of his time in Ephesus teaching what was “profitable”—“repentance toward God, and faith toward [the] Lord Jesus Christ” 2 — and then he warned them to “take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock . . . for . . . after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock.” 3 He further added that “speaking perverse things” would be the tool these “grievous wolves” would use “to draw away disciples after them.” 4
Upon returning to Jerusalem, he was arrested and taken to Rome. While busy preaching the true gospel, even as a prisoner in Rome knowing his life would soon end, Paul felt an urgency to write to the members of the Church in Ephesus. When he had been there in person, Paul’s first act was to “[lay] his hands upon them [and] the Holy Ghost came upon them.” 5
Now as he writes his final words of teaching to his beloved friends and fellow servants in Ephesus, Paul starts by commending them for “[their] faith in the Lord Jesus, and love unto all the saints”.6 He further acknowledges that, though they previously had been “dead in trespasses and sins” and had been “by nature the children of wrath,” they now had been “quickened . . . together with Christ.” 7
Paul contrasts the enmity that the members of the Church in Ephesus had experienced toward one another before repenting, exercising faith and receiving the Holy Ghost with being now “fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God . . . through the Spirit.”8
He further expresses the inner desires of his heart as he tells them: “For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ . . . that he would grant you . . . that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to . . . know the love of Christ . . . that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God”. 9
To aid the saints in being filled with the fulness of God he just mentioned, Paul then makes a detailed list of behaviors that will ensure that these good men and women “grieve not the holy Spirit of God.”10
He tells them: “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.”11
Although conscious of their goodness as manifested by their repenting, having faith and being worthy of the manifestations of the Holy Ghost, Paul warned his friends of the potentially destructive power of words, both those spoken by grievous wolves outside of the flock as well as the evil speaking of those within the flock.
Earlier in his life Saul had used words to destroy the believers; now, after accepting the Lord, Paul wants the way he speaks to be a proof that he has changed and a mark of him being a true believer. Paul seems to be indicating that receiving the ordinances and having the Holy Ghost is not enough, for a mark of true believers is to “be . . . kind one to another”.