Paul transitions from doctrinal teaching to practical application in Ephesians 4:1-3: "I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace."
A few sentences later Paul gives another command: "Nor give place to the devil" (4:27, emphasis added). The Greek word topos, translated "place," is the same word translated as "room" elsewhere in the New Testament:
To have a room in the house is to have access to the entire house; therefore, to gain entry to one believer's life allows the devil access to the Body, to wreak havoc.
The devil isn't looking for a hotel room for an over-nighter (though he will take what he can get). He is looking for somewhere to rent longterm or to own. When Paul tells followers of Jesus Christ not to give the devil a foothold, he is telling them they are not to give the devil any habitable space in their lives.
Which leads to the question: How does a believer give the devil room in which to "shack up"?
The immediate context for Paul's instructions is believers' interactions with one another. Sadly, believers spend far too much time struggling to get along with other followers of Jesus Christ and often see them as the enemy. They are not the enemy! In fact, the true enemy wins his warfare against followers of Christ when they are offended, bitter, and unforgiving toward other Christ-followers. In chapter 6, Paul describes believers' struggle as not "against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places" (6:12). The enemy loves a good fight, especially between brothers and sisters in Christ.
Conflict between believers often grows into sustained anger (which quickly becomes bitterness), fussing and bickering, slander and malice--spreading from one "room" to the remainder of the house.
Therefore, Paul commands believers, "Therefore, putting away lying, "Let each one of you speak truth with his neighbor,--for we are members of one another (4:25). We cannot live as we once did; we must "put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness" (4:24), and "be filled with the Spirit" (5:18).
Questions from today's chronological Bible reading (Eph. 3:1-5:14):
What mystery did the Holy Spirit reveal to Paul and how did that revelation change his life, impact his ministry, and his prayer life?
Describe how Paul's revelation guided his teaching regarding the church and their living in a lost world.
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