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Bible Commentaries

John Trapp Complete Commentary

Ephesians 4

 

 

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Verse 1

1 I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called,

Ver. 1. Worthy of the vocation] There is a το πρεπον, a seemliness appertaining to each calling; so here. We must walk nobly and comfortably, as becometh the heirs of God and coheirs of Christ. Scipio, when a harlot was offered him, answered, Vellem, si non essem Imperator; I would if I were not general of the army. Antigonus being invited to a place where a notable harlot was to be present, asked counsel of Menedemus, what he should do? He bade him only remember that he was a king’s son. So let men remember their high and heavenly calling, and do nothing unworthy of it. Luther counsels men to answer all temptations of Satan with this only, Christianus sum, I am a Christian. They were wont to say of cowards in Rome, There is nothing Roman in them: of many Christians we may say, There is nothing Christian in them. It is not amiss before we be serviceable for the world, to put Alexander’s question to his followers, that persuaded him to run at the Olympic games, Do kings use to run at the Olympics? Every believer is God’s firstborn; and so higher than the kings of the earth, Psalms 89:27. He must therefore carry himself accordingly, and not stain his high blood.


Verse 2

2 With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love;

Ver. 2. With all lowliness and meekness] These are virtutes collectaneae, as Bernard calleth them, a pair of twin sisters, never asunder.


Verse 3

3 Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

Ver. 3. The unity of the Spirit] That is, unanimity; this keeps all together which else will shatter and fall asunder. The daughter of dissension is dissolution, saith Nazianzen.

Endeavouring] σπουδαζοντες, Or using all possible carefulness: this imports, 1. The necessity; 2. Difficulty of the duty. Satan will endeavour, by making division, to get dominion.


Verse 4

4 There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling;

Ver. 4. In one hope of your calling] That is, unto one inheritance, which we all hope for. Fall not out therefore by the way, as Joseph charged his brethren.


Verse 5

5 One Lord, one faith, one baptism,

Ver. 5. One baptism] The author to the Hebrews speaketh of baptisms, Ephesians 6:2. But either he puts the plural for the singular; or else he meaneth it of the outward and inward washing, which the schools call baptismum fluminis et flaminis, the baptism of water and fire. {See Trapp on "Matthew 3:11"}


Verse 6

6 One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.

Ver. 6. One God and Father of all] Have we not all one Father? saith Malachi. {Malachi 2:10} Why then dissent and jar we? How is it that these many ones here instanced unite us not? "My dove, mine undefiled is but one," Song of Solomon 6:9.


Verse 7

7 But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ.

Ver. 7. According to the measure] And may not Christ do with his own as he listeth? Those of greater gifts are put upon hotter service, στεργε παροντα.


Verse 8

8 Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men.

Ver. 8. He led captivity captive, &c.] As in the Roman triumphs, the victor ascended up to the Capitol in a chariot of state, the prisoners following on foot with their hands bound behind, and they threw certain pieces of coin abroad, to be picked up by the common people; so Christ in the day of his solemn inauguration into his heavenly kingdom, triumphed over sin, death, and hell, Colossians 2:15, and gave gifts to men.

And gave gifts unto men] The Hebrew hath it, Psalms 68:18; "Thou receivest, gifts for men." Christ received them that he might give them, and said, "It is a more blessed thing to give than to receive." The Psalmist adds, "Ever for the rebellious." To them also Christ gives common gifts, for the benefit of his people. Augustus in his solemn feast gave gifts; to some gold, to others trifles. So God in his ordinances, to some saving grace, to others common grace, and with this they rest content.


Verse 9

9 (Now that he ascended, what is it but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth?

Ver. 9. Into the lower parts] That is, into his mother’s womb; according to Psalms 139:15; "I was curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth," i.e. in the womb, where God formed and featured me: like as curious workmen, when they have some choice piece in hand, they perfect it in private, and then bring it forth to light for men to gaze at.


Verse 10

10 He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things.)

Ver. 10. Far above all heavens] That is, above all visible heavens, into the third heaven; not in the Utopia of the Ubiquitaries.

That he might fill all things] viz. With the gifts of his Holy Spirit; for the further he is from us in his flesh, the nearer by his Spirit; he is more efficacious absent than present.


Verse 11

11 And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;

Ver. 11. Some pastors and teachers] Distinct officers, Romans 12:7-8, yet one man may be both, 1 Corinthians 12:28-29. The essential differences between pastors and teachers in each congregation is much denied by many learned and godly divines.


Verse 12

12 For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:

Ver. 12. For the perfecting of the saints] καταρτισμον, for the jointing of them whom the devil hath dislocated.


Verse 13

13 Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ:

Ver. 13. Unto the measure of the stature] Or age; that age wherein Christ filleth all in all, as Ephesians 3:19. The saints (say some) shall rise again in that vigour of age that a perfect man is at about 33 years old, each in their proper sex; whereunto they think the apostle here alludeth. In heaven (say others) we shall all have an equal grace, though not an equal glory.


Verse 14

14 That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive;

Ver. 14. Be no more children] But young men, 1 John 2:14, strong men. Many men’s heads today are so big (like children that have the rickets) that all the body fareth the worse for it.

Tossed to and fro] As a feather or froth upon the waves, whirred about with every wind of doctrine; unstable souls, as St Peter calls them; simple, that believe everything, as Solomon hath it; giddy hearers, that have no mould but what the next teacher casteth them into, being blown like glasses into this or that shape at the pleasure of his breath.

By the sleight of men] Gr. εν τη κυβεια, by men’s cogging of a die, the usual trade of cheaters and false gamesters.

Whereby they lie in wait to deceive] Gr. Unto a method of deceiving. The devil and his disciples are notable method mongers, so as to deceive, if it were possible, the very elect; but that they cannot do fundamentally, finally, Matthew 24:24. {See Trapp on "Matthew 24:24"}


Verse 15

15 But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ:

Ver. 15. But speaking the truth] Or, doing the truth, as the Vulgate hath it, αληθευοντες. Truthifying, or following the truth, as one rendereth it. St John bids, love in truth, 1 John 3:18. St Paul, speak or do the truth in love. And again, let all your things be done in love.


Verse 16

16 From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.

Ver. 16. Compacted by that, &c.] The saints are knit unto Christ by his Spirit, as fast as the sinews of his blessed body to the bones, the flesh to the sinews, the skin to the flesh. The erroneous are like a bone out of joint; it will cost many a hearty groan before they be reduced to their right place.

Unto the edifying of itself in love] Our souls thrive and are edified as love is continued and increased. Nothing more furthereth growth in grace and power of godliness in any place or person, observe it where and when you will.


Verse 17

17 This I say therefore, and testify in the Lord, that ye henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind,

Ver. 17. This I say therefore] Matters of great importance must be urged and pressed with greatest vehemence.

As other Gentiles walk] Singular things are expected from saints; who are therefore worse than others, because they should be better.


Verse 18

18 Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart:

Ver. 18. Having the understanding darkened] By the devil’s black hand held before their eyes, 2 Corinthians 4:4. {See Trapp on "2 Corinthians 4:4"}

Alienated from the life of God] That is, from a godly life, which none can live but those that partake of the divine nature, 2 Peter 1:4.

Because of the blindness] Gr. πωρωσιν, callum obductum. Hardness, brawniness, a hoof upon their hearts, corneas fibras, brawny breasts, horny heart-strings. The Greek word imports a metaphor from the hard hand of hardest labourers. They say in philosophy, that the foundation of natural life is feeling; no feeling, no life: and that the more quick and nimble the sense of feeling is in a man, the better is his constitution. Think the same we may of life spiritual.


Verse 19

19 Who being past feeling have given themselves over unto lasciviousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness.

Ver. 19. Who being past feeling] Under a dead and dedolent disposition, being desperately sinful. Some there are of cauterized consciences, that, like devils, will have nothing to do with God, because loth to be tormented before their time. They feeling such horrible hard hearts, and privy to such notorious sins, they cast away souls and all for lust, and so perish woefully, because they lived wickedly; having through custom in evil contracted such a hardness, as neither ministry, nor misery, nor miracle, nor mercy could possibly mollify. As ducklings dive at any little thing thrown by a man at them, yet shrink not at the heaven’s great thunder; so is it with these, till at length they become like the smith’s dog, whom neither the hammers above him nor the sparks of fire falling round about him can awake.

Have given themselves over] They make it their felicity to pass their time lasciviously, as though they were born (as Boccas saith of himself) per l’amore dalle dame, for the love of women.


Verse 20

20 But ye have not so learned Christ;

Ver. 20. But ye have not so learned Christ] Caracalla never minded any good, quia id non didicerat (saith Dio), quod ipse fatebatur, because he had never learned it, as himself confessed. One main cause of Julian’s apostasy were his two heathenish tutors, Libanius and Jamblichus, from whom he drank in great profaneness. Christians cannot say but they have had the best teacher; they must therefore walk up to their principles lest they shame their profession, discredit their Master, who seemeth to say to them, as Samson once did to his brethren, Do not you bind me; the Philistines I care not for. Do not you dishonour me, &c.


Verse 21

21 If so be that ye have heard him, and have been taught by him, as the truth is in Jesus:

Ver. 21. Ye have heard him, &c.] When Christ speaks once, we must hear him twice, as David did, Psalms 62:11, to wit, by an after deliberate meditation; for otherwise we learn nothing.


Verse 22

22 That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts;

Ver. 22. That ye put off, &c.] As the beggar puts off his rags, as the master puts off his bad servant, as the porter puts off his burden, as the husband puts off his lewd wife, as the serpent his slough, or as the captive maid, when she was to be married, put off the garments of her captivity, Deuteronomy 21:13.

The old man which is corrupt] Sin is said to be the old man, because it lives in man so as sin seems to be alive and the man dead; and because God will take notice of nothing in the sinner but his sin.

According to the deceitful lusts] Sin, though at first it fawn upon a man, yet in the end (with Cain’s dog lying at the door) it will pluck out the very throat of his soul, if not repented of. Like the serpent, together with the embrace, it stings mortally. Hence the ruler’s meat is called deceivable, Proverbs 23:3. There being a deceitfulness in sin, Hebrews 3:13, a lie in vanity, Jonah 2:8. Lust hath a deceit in it, as here.


Verse 23

23 And be renewed in the spirit of your mind;

Ver. 23. In the spirit of your mind] That is, in the most inward and subtle parts of the soul, the bosom and bottom, the vis vivifica, and very quintessence of it. This he calls elsewhere the wisdom of the flesh, Romans 8:7, that carnal reason, that, like an old beldam, is the mother and nurse of those fleshly lusts that fight against the soul.


Verse 24

24 And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.

Ver. 24. Which after God is created] The new man is nothing else but the happy cluster of heavenly graces.

And true holiness] Or, holiness of truth. Opposite to that deceitfulness of lusts, Ephesians 4:22.


Verse 25

25 Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbour: for we are members one of another.

Ver. 25. Wherefore putting away lying] A base tinkerly sin, as Plutarch calls it, shameful and hateful: therefore the liar denies his own lie, as ashamed to be taken with it. Cicero indeed alloweth his orator the liberty of a merry lie sometimes; but Vives utterly disliketh it in him at any time. {a} And the apostle, Galatians 1:10, shows that we must not speak truth to please men, much less lie; no, though we could win a soul by it, Romans 3:7. Where then will the Jesuits appear with their piae fraudes, holy delusions, as they call them? and Jacobus de Voragine, that loud liar; with his golden legend? It were much to be wished that that golden age would return, that the argument might proceed, Sacerdos est, non fallet. Christianus est, non mentietur.

For we are members] Of the same holy society. Shall we not be true one to another? shall we not abhor sleights and slipperiness in contracts and covenants?

{a} Lib. 2, de Oratore. Lib. 4, de trad. discip.


Verse 26

26 Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath:

Ver. 26. Be angry and sin not] The easiest charge under the hardest condition that can be. Anger is a tender virtue, and must be warily managed. He that will be angry and not sin, let him be angry at nothing but sin.

Let not the sun go down] If ye have overshot in passion, let it not rest or roost in you, lest it become malice. Plutarch writeth that it was the custom of Pythagoras’ scholars, however they had been at odds, jarring and jangling in their disputations, yet before the sun set to kiss and shake hands as they departed out of the school. {a} How many are there that professing themselves the scholars of Christ, do yet nevertheless not only let the sun go down, but go round his whole course, and can find no time from one end of the year to the other to compose and lay aside their discords! How should this fire be raked up when the curfew bell rings! William the Conqueror commanded that cover-few (curfew) bell. It were well that some were admonished every night to cover the fire of their passions, that their wrath might not be memor ira, unforgetable wrath, as Virgil hath it, and αειμνηστος, as that of the Athenians, who hated all barbarians, for the Persians’ sake, and forbade them their sacrifices, as they used to do murderers. (Rous’s Arch. Attic.) Leontius Patritius was one day extremely and unreasonably angry with John, Patriarch of Alexandria: at evening, the patriarch sent a servant to him with this message; "Sir, the sun is set;" upon which Patritius reflecting, and the grace of God making the impression deep, he threw away his anger, and became wholly subject to the counsel of the patriarch. (Taylor’s Life and Death of Christ.)

{a} Plut. lib. περι φιλαδελφ.


Verse 27

27 Neither give place to the devil.

Ver. 27. Neither give place, &c.] Vindictive spirits let the devil into their hearts; and though they defy him, and spit at him, yet they spit not low enough; for he is still at inn with them, as Mr Bradford speaketh. As the master of the pit often sets two cocks to fight together, to the death of both, and then, after mutual conquest, suppeth with both their bodies; so, saith Gregory, dealeth the devil with angry and revengeful men.


Verse 28

28 Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labour, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth.

Ver. 28. Let him labour, working, &c.] This is the best remedy against poverty, which often prompts a man to theft, Proverbs 30:9. {See Trapp on "Proverbs 30:9"} The Grand Turk himself must be of some trade (Peacham); and Seneca said he had rather be sick in his bed than idle. How much more should "all ours learn to maintain good works for necessary uses, that they be not unfruitful!" Titus 3:14.

That he may have to give] Day labourers then must do somewhat for the poor. And indeed, alms should not be given until it "sweat in a man’s hand," saith he, in the Book of Martyrs. Giles of Brussels gave away to the poor whatsoever he had that necessity could spare, and only lived by his science, which was that of a cutler. (Acts and Mon.)


Verse 29

29 Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.

Ver. 29. Let no corrupt communication] Gr. σαπρος. Rotten, putrid speech. A metaphor from rotten trees, or stinking flesh, or stinking breath. Shun obscene borborology and filthy speeches.


Verse 30

30 And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption.

Ver. 30. And grieve not, &c.] As men in heaviness cannot despatch their work as they were wont; so neither doth the Spirit. if we grieve the Holy Ghost, how should we expect that he should comfort us? It is a foul fault to grieve a father; what then the Spirit? Delicata res est Spiritus Dei, saith Tertullian, God’s Spirit is a delicate thing, and must not be vexed. "It is a holy thing, that Spirit of that God" (so the original hath it, το πνευμα το αγιον του θεου), "whereby we are sealed," and so are declared to be the excellent ones of the earth; for whatsoever is sealed, that is excellent in its own kind, as Isaiah 28:25, hordeum signatum, sealed barley, &c.


Verse 31

31 Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice:

Ver. 31. Let all bitterness, &c.] If the godly man suddenly fall into hitter words, it maketh the Holy Ghost stir within him.

And clamour and evil speaking] These are as smoke to the eyes, and make the spirit ready to loathe and leave his lodging.

Be put away from you] When any lust ariseth, pray it down presently (saith one); for otherwise we are endangered by yielding to grieve, by grieving to resist, by resisting to quench, by quenching, maliciously to oppose the Spirit. Sin hath no bounds, but those which the Spirit puts, whom therefore we should not grieve.


Verse 32

32 And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.

Ver. 32. And be ye kind] χρηστοι. Sweet natured, facile, and fair conditioned; as Cranmer, whose gentleness in pardoning wrongs was such, as it grew to a common proverb, Do my Lord of Canterbury a displeasure, and then you may be sure to have him your friend while he liveth. He never raged so far with any of his household servants, as once to call the meanest of them varlet or knave in anger, much less to reprove a stranger with any reproachful word. Homo φιλοξενος, nec minus φιλολογος, saith Tremelius of him, and much more in praise of his courtesy and piety.

 


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Bibliography Information
Trapp, John. "Commentary on Ephesians 4:4". John Trapp Complete Commentary. http://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jtc/ephesians-4.html. 1865-1868.


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