In Ephesians 4:31, Paul lists things we must remove from our lives if we are to grow in the grace of Christ: “Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice.”
We dare not skip over these issues on Paul’s list. The apostle says we absolutely must face these things if we are to grow in grace. If you ignore the heart issues Paul mentions here, you will grieve the Holy Spirit. Your growth will be stunted, and you’ll end up a spiritual zombie.
The first three items on Paul’s list—bitterness, wrath and anger—are self-explanatory. Bitterness is a refusal to let go of an old wound or forgive a past wrong. Wrath is a stronghold of resentment coupled with a hope to gain revenge. Anger is exasperation—either a quick explosive outburst or a slow burn of indignation toward someone. Evil speaking are words that tear down—it is the opposite of edifying someone or speaking words of edification; evil speaking is malicious, hurtful.
Clamor is a sudden outburst over nothing—an unnecessary hubbub, a loud noise made for no purpose. We cause a clamor when we make a big issue out of something insignificant, or cause a scene rather than trying to help or heal.
The final item on Paul’s list is malice. Malice is the desire to see someone else suffer. For many Christians malice means hoping God will punish someone who wounded them. It’s a devilish spirit, and it’s usually hidden deep within the heart.
When Paul says “Put away all these evils from you,” he’s not talking about a quick fix. He’s describing a process—a matter of growth that takes time. At times, we may fail at ridding ourselves of these evils. But if we will quickly repent, and commit to making things right with the person, over time these issues will fade away.