Ephesians 4:31-32: Virtues Replacing Vices
How can you tell if someone is a Christian? We will not be able to know 100% because we cannot see the hearts of others but there are several tests you could apply that could make an informed opinion. God knows the heart completely; you can know of your own salvation, but knowing about others will run the risk of error.
Firstly, there is the test of orthodoxy. If someone is taught by the Spirit they will believe certain truths and reject certain errors, they cannot deny the Trinity, or the way of salvation for example.
Secondly, there is the spiritual struggle test. Romans 7 paints the picture of man who is born again but observing his sin through the lens of the law the law exposes his sin all the way to revealing a heart that still loves sin. The believer is tormented by this reality, he hates the fact that he still loves sin and longs for the day when his heart will not betray the God he wants to love.
There is the perseverance test. Many can make quick conversions that even appear genuine for a while, like in the parable of the sower, the seed sown on the rocky ground or among thorns. But it is those who persevere in their faith who prove that they are truly believers. There is the spiritual desires test. Do you love God, do you see evidence of the Spirit teaching your spirit to cry out ‘Abba, Father’? Do you seek Him prayer, delight in singing His praises, love to be with His people, hunger for His word?
Then there is the assurance test. Have you experienced the Spirit bearing witness with your spirit that you are a child of God? Have you known the joy that is inexpressible and full of glory? Have you seen a gracious and loving God condescend to save the terrible sinner that you are and your heart has melted in grateful praise?
And of course we have the fruit test. This test looks at the fruit of a changed path, a changed pattern of behaviour, the putting away of sin and putting on holiness, new speech patterns. Every believer walks the path of continuing to put to death the old ways and cultivate the new. It is this putting off and putting on that Pauls continues with in Ephesians 4:31-32, ‘Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamour and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. 32 Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.’
You will notice that Paul calls us to put away six vices and to cultivate three virtues in their stead. These will be our two points, vices and virtues.