“Neither give place to the devil.” (Ephesians 4:27)
Many of the apostle Paul’s letters to the early churches follow a similar pattern. They begin with an explanation of doctrine that either provides a groundwork for Paul’s theological position or answers specific questions or issues that have arisen with a particular congregation. The second half of each letter typically provides a more tangible teaching that allows the congregation to apply the foundation he has built. Part of this application includes a “checklist” of sorts that points out key behaviors to avoid, the reasons why, and other God-honoring habits to establish instead.
#1 A Reason for a Different Life
Much of Ephesians focuses on the unity of believers regardless of their earthly heritage, and the salvation that comes solely through faith in the grace of God (Ephesians 2:8-9). The life of the unbelieving “Gentile” is compared to the lifestyle we lived before coming to Christ’s saving faith, and how Christ’s death and resurrection atoned for our sinful nature and built a new man in its place (Ephesians 2:11-16). Rather than being bound by our sinful flesh, we have been crucified with Christ (Galatians 2:20) and have passed into a new life with Him. The Bible calls us to walk in the newness of life when we become believers (Romans 6:4), not live a worldly life, but instead live in Christ’s image.
#2 Resisting Disagreement in Love
As believers, we are also called to live in unity and harmony with other believers. The fourth chapter of Ephesians begins the “application” of the doctrine Paul preached in the preceding pages, providing explanation and follow-up where necessary. Since we all share the same God and faith (Ephesians 4:4-5), we should seek to avoid confrontation wherever possible. This does not mean that we will never disagree, but that when we do, we should strive for mature thinking and acknowledge the good of the church over our own selfish and changing desires (Ephesians 4:14-16).
#3 Rebuking the Devil’s Lies
In Ephesians, Paul clearly condemns falling back into an earthly way of thinking (Ephesians 4:17). Such thinking ignores God’s goodness and instead focuses solely on self-gratification. When we willfully turn against God, He will not force us to return to Him, but will instead grant us the free will to follow our hearts’ desires, even if those desires have disastrous results (Ephesians 4:18-19).
When we turn to God, He will renew our hearts and minds as we keep our focus on Him (Romans 12:2). Paul teaches that we should “put off” (or discard) our old self and have a new lifestyle and the habits that Jesus teaches (Ephesians 4:22). This will necessarily involve some changes in behavior and some worldly tendencies that must be abandoned. He gives many different examples throughout his letters, but here identifies lying and falsehoods (Ephesians 4:25), pent-up anger (Ephesians 4:26), theft and robbery (Ephesians 4:28), and hurtful speech (Ephesians 4:29), as well as other selfish and hateful states of mind (Ephesians 4:31).
The reason that all these changes are needed in the lives of believers is so that we can have the healing and restorative presence of God in our hearts (Ephesians 4:24).
#4 Revitalized Daily Living
By refusing to indulge in these bad worldly practices, we leave room for more positive and righteous activities. Instead of lying, we can choose to speak the truth to others in love (Ephesians 4:15, 25). Instead of taking from others what we do not deserve, we should rightfully earn things through hard work – and not just for the purpose of accumulating possessions, but so that we can freely and generously give to others (Ephesians 4:28). Instead of anger and bitterness and hatred, we can encourage others and be kind (Ephesians 4:29-32). This allows us to be vessels for God’s love and forgiveness.
The phrase “give no place to the devil” can also be translated as “do not give the devil a foothold.” Think of a mountain climber, reaching for a place to set his hand or foot as he (or she, of course) climbs the rock. He is looking for any kind of foothold or grip so that he can make upward progress towards the peak. In the same way, Satan prowls and hunts for any weakness he can exploit, any foothold that he can use to creep closer into our hearts. When we remove such footholds from our hearts and fill them with the Holy Spirit, we take away the opportunity for Satan to tempt us in the first place, and we make it easier to remain firmly rooted in God’s love.
#5 Redemption by Divine Love
There are temporary benefits to living godly lives, but remembering the eternal goal is essential. Paul recenters his teaching on God’s forgiveness (Ephesians 4:32), and reminds his readers that they are to look ahead to God’s redemption as it is fully and finally expressed in heaven (Ephesians 4:30).
Basically, it all boils down to this: what areas of your life have you allowed Satan to dig his heels into? Where is he trying to trip you up, and how can you instead turn to the power of the Holy Spirit to expel Satan from your heart? When we give no place for the devil to stay, he must leave us alone because he cannot withstand the saving power of the blood of Jesus.
Natalie Regoli is a child of God, devoted wife, and mother of two boys. She has a Master's Degree in Law from The University of Texas. Natalie has been published in several national journals and has been practicing law for 18 years.