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Discover the Book - May 6, 2008

  • 2008 May 06

Bitterness Hinders Grace-Energized Wives & Mothers


God’s high calling for grace-energized women is to love their husbands and children. To most of us mature 21st century believers that may sound wonderful. To them it must have sounded impossible.


The Cretans of Paul’s day lived in an ego-centered, selfish society that knew and cared little about forgiveness. Roman Society became so decadent that it saw forgiving people as weak and unforgiving ones as strong. Cretans celebrated vengeful gods and exalted as heroes those who took vengeance on others. The result was a society so much like America today--filled with bitterness, vengeance, anger, hate, and hostility.


More and more we see people seeking vengeance either outside or inside the bounds of the law. Just this week a crowd in Austin, Texas dragged a man from his car and beat him to death for a crime they mistakenly thought he had committed. This pervasive unwillingness to forgive in our society is also the leading cause of the breakups in family relationships. [1]


Bitterness Pervaded the World of the Bible


God wanted the lost pagans living on Crete to see their changed lives and be confronted with living examples of Jesus Christ. Society was to be flooded at every level with the irrefutable proof of changed lives.


Paul sent the details for the invasion of this strategic island in his letter to Titus. We have been studying these admonitions in Titus 2. These life-truths have always deeply impacted any society. When the Gospel that brings this impossible life into the heart of a newly saved individual starts to work through Christ's church, the world takes notice.


God has always worked out His plan in this world through individual believers who struggle[2] through life. One of the struggles believers have always faced while seeking to follow the Lord is: bitterness.


The key passage in the New Testament that warns about bitterness is Ephesians 4:30, let’s go there.


Ephesians 4:30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. NKJV


The immeasurable power of God is stopped when His people disobey. God’s grace teaches us to deny ungodliness, but when we resist that grace our sin grieves and quenches the Holy Spirit[3].


So Paul says grieve not the Spirit, don’t quench Him, because apart from God’s power nothing can be done that will last. Just as the congregations back then were told to deny ungodliness in any form, so must we also today.

Bitterness is a very deadly, fast-growing, and easily spread form of spiritual cancer.


Grace-Energized Lives Are Hindered by Bitterness


In the New Testament each time the word bitterness is used it always is a form of the Greek word pic. This word means just what the tool by the similar sounding word comes from, “to prick or cut”. This Greek word used for bitterness implies something that pricks or punctures and penetrates deeply.


This verse is fascinating for two reasons:

  • First, bitterness is the very first sin that is listed after Paul warns about the horrible dangers of grieving the Holy Spirit of God as a believer. Bitterness is FIRST in that list, never forget that.
  • Second, the verse on the other side of the warning (v. 29) is all about corrupt words (one of the danger signs of a bitter person is that they say rotten things about others).


At the heart of bitterness is a hurt that is internalized and not forgiven.


Perhaps the strongest warning Jesus ever gave to his disciples was in Matthew 18—He warned that the results of a bitter and unforgiving heart were grave. For a moment turn there to Matthew 18:21-35, stand with me and listen to the gravity of Christ's warning.


Matthew 18:21-35 Then Peter came to Him and said, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” 22 Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.23 “Therefore the kingdom of heaven is like a certain king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants.24 “And when he had begun to settle accounts, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. 25 “But as he was not able to pay, his master commanded that he be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and that payment be made.26 “The servant therefore fell down before him, saying, ‘Master, have patience with me, and I will pay you all.’ 27 “Then the master of that servant was moved with compassion, released him, and forgave him the debt. 28 “But that servant went out and found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii; and he laid hands on him and took him by the throat, saying, ‘Pay me what you owe!’29 “So his fellow servant fell down at his feet and begged him, saying, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you all.’30 “And he would not, but went and threw him into prison till he should pay the debt.31 “So when his fellow servants saw what had been done, they were very grieved, and came and told their master all that had been done.32 “Then his master, after he had called him, said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you begged me.33 ‘Should you not also have had compassion on your fellow servant, just as I had pity on you?’34 “And his master was angry, and delivered him to the torturers until he should pay all that was due to him.35 “So My heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses.” NKJV


Did you catch that? Jesus just told believers that we would trap ourselves in the prison house, and find ourselves in solitary confinement, tortured by the poisonous and sharp cutting edge of bitterness--if we hold onto an unforgiving spirit that always leads to bitterness.



[1] Adapted from MacArthur, John F., The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: Ephesians 4, (Chicago: Moody Press) 1983.

[2] The reality of our new life in Christ is that it is a struggle. When Paul wrote to Titus, he had already described himself as a fellow-struggler through this world (Romans 15:30; I Timothy 6:12; II Timothy 4:7). Paul calls born-again believers under the guidance of the Spirit of God sunagonidzomai or in English “fellow-strugglers”.

[3] Just as the armies of Israel were defeated because of Achan’s hidden sin, and the ministry of the churches of Asia Minor were halted because of the un-forsaken sins of each congregation—so the early church was forced to see that when God’s Spirit is grieved and quenched, the power of the saints to live the impossible life wanes.

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