Matthew Poole's English Annotations
EPHESIANS CHAPTER 4
Ephesians 4:1-6 Paul exhorteth to those virtues which become the
Christian calling, particularly to unity,
Ephesians 4:7-16 declaring that Christ gave his gifts differently,
that his body the church might be built up and
perfected in the true faith by the co-operation of
the several members with one another, and with him
Ephesians 4:17-21 He calleth men off from the vain and impure
conversation of the heathen world,
Ephesians 4:22-24 to renounce the old, and to put on the new, man,
Ephesians 4:25 to discard lying,
Ephesians 4:26,27 and sinful anger.
Ephesians 4:28 To leave off dishonest practices, and to gain by
honest labour what they have occasion for,
Ephesians 4:29 to use no corrupt talk,
Ephesians 4:30 nor grieve God’s Spirit.
Ephesians 4:31,32 To put away all expressions of ill-will, and to
practise mutual kindness and forgiveness.
The prisoner of the Lord; in the Lord, a Hebraism: it is as much as, for the Lord: see Ephesians 3:1.
Beseech you that ye walk worthy; proceed constantly and perseveringly in such ways as suit with and become your calling, 1 Thessalonians 4:7 1 Peter 1:15: see the like expression, Romans 16:2.
Of the vocation wherewith ye are called; both your general calling, whereby ye are called to be saints, and your particular callings, to which ye are severally called, as Ephesians 5:1-33 and Ephesians 6:1-24.
With all lowliness, or humility; submissiveness of mind, whereby we esteem others better than ourselves, Philippians 2:3. A virtue peculiar to Christians, unknown to philosophers: see Acts 20:19 Colossians 3:12,13.
And meekness; whereby we are not easily provoked, or offended with the infirmities of others: this is opposed to peevishness, as the former to pride.
With long-suffering; whereby we bear with greater or repeated injuries, 2 Corinthians 6:6.
Forbearing one another; or supporting, i.e. bearing with the infirmities, frowardness, or moroseness of others, so as not to cease to love them, and do them good.
In love; not out of any carnal affection, or for our own advantage, but out of love, which is wont to make men patient and long-suffering, 1 Corinthians 13:4.
The unity of the Spirit; either unity of mind, or spiritual unity, as being wrought by the Spirit, and then he means that unity he spoke of, Ephesians 2:14-16, and Ephesians 3:6, whereby is intended the mystical body of Christ.
In the bond of peace; i.e. in peace as the bond which keeps the members or parts of the church together, which by dissensions are dissipated and scattered. The first step to this unity is humility, for where that is not, there will be no meekness nor forbearance, without which unity cannot be maintained.
There is one body; i.e. the church of Christ, Ephesians 1:23: see Colossians 3:15.
And one Spirit; the self-same Spirit of Christ in that body by which all the members live and act, 1 Corinthians 12:11,13.
Even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; one inheritance in heaven, to the hope of which ye are called, Colossians 1:12.
Hope, for the thing hoped for, as Colossians 1:5: see 1 Peter 1:3,4.
One Lord; Christ, viz. as Redeemer, Head, and Husband of the church, to whom, by God’s appointment, she is immediately subject, 1 Corinthians 8:6 John 13:13 Acts 2:36.
One faith; i.e. one object of the faith of all believers, viz. the doctrine of salvation, which is but one.
One baptism; both as to the outward symbol, and the thing signified by it.
One God; God is here taken personally for the Father, the other two Persons being before mentioned, Ephesians 4:4,5.
And Father of all; of all believers.
Who is above all; not only in the excellencies of his nature, but especially in his sovereign dominion over the church.
And through all; by his special providence, through all the members of the church.
And in you all; by inhabitation, and the conjunction of believers with him. Though the former two may be applied to God’s universal dominion and providence over all the creatures, yet, the apostle speaking of the conjunction of believers in one Father, they are both to be restrained according to this last clause.
But unto every one of us is given grace; either by grace he means gifts which are not common to all believers, but proper to some, according to their various functions and places in the church, Romans 12:6 1 Corinthians 12:11. Or rather, more generally, it comprehends also those graces which are common to all believers as such, faith, hope, love, zeal, &c.; which though they are of the same kind in all, and have the same object, yet they are received in different degrees and measures.
According to the measure of the gift of Christ; in that measure in which it pleaseth Christ to give them, who gives to some one gift, to some another; to some one degree of grace to some another: all have not the same, but need the help of those that have what they want.
Wherefore he saith; the psalmist.
When he; Christ, God manifested in the flesh: and then what was spoken by the psalmist prophetically in the second person, is spoken by the apostle historically in the third.
Ascended up on high; Christ ascended up on high after his death, both as to place, in his human nature, into heaven; and chiefly as to his state, in his being glorified.
He led captivity captive; either led those captive who had taken us captive, or rather led them captive whom he had taken captive;
captivity being here put for captives, as elsewhere poverty for poor, 2 Kings 24:14. This Christ did when, having conquered sin, death, Satan, he triumphed gloriously over them in his ascension, Colossians 2:15. It is spoken with allusion to conquering princes or generals, who in their triumphs had their captives attending upon their chariots.
And gave gifts unto men; he alludes in this likewise to the custom of conquerors casting money among the people that were the spectators of their triumphs, or giving largesses to their soldiers. Christ upon his ascension sent the Holy Ghost on the disciples, Acts 2:1-47, and continues ever since to furnish his church with gifts and graces: see on Psalms 68:18.
Now that he ascended, what is it but that he also descended first? The apostle interprets the psalmist, and concludes that David, when he foretold Christ’s glorification, or ascending up to heaven, did likewise foresee his humiliation and descent to the earth: q.d. When David speaks of God in the flesh ascending up on high, he doth thereby imply, that he should first descend to the earth.
Into the lower parts of the earth; either simply the earth, as the lowest part of the visible world, and so opposed to heaven, from whence he came down, John 3:13 6:33,38,41,42,50,51; or the grave and state of the dead; or both rather, implying the whole of his humiliation, in opposition to his ascending, taken for the whole of his exaltation.
He that descended is the same also that ascended: he saith not, he that ascended is the same that descended, lest it should not be thought that Christ brought his body with him from heaven; but, on the contrary, he that descended is the same that ascended, to show that the Son of God did not by his descent become other than what he was, nor the assumption of the human nature add any thing to his person, as a man is not made another person by the clothes he puts on. Christ descended without change of place as being God, but ascended by changing place as man, yet, by communication of properties, whole Christ is said to have ascended.
Far above all heavens; all visible heavens, into the third heaven, or paradise. Acts 3:21 Hebrews 9:24.
That he might fill all things; all the members of his church, with gifts and graces. This began to be fulfilled, Acts 2:1-47, and still will be fulfilling to the end of the world: see John 7:39 16:7.
And he gave; distributed several gifts, (which are spoken of in general, Ephesians 1:7), according to his Father’s appointment, who is said to set in the church what Christ is here said to give, 1 Corinthians 12:28.
Objection. Nothing is here said of gifts, but only of offices.
Answer. Christ never gave offices without suitable furniture; this diversity therefore of offices includes diversity of respective gifts.
Apostles; extraordinary officers, with an immediate call, universal commission, infallibility in teaching, and power of working miracles, appointed for the first founding the Christian church in all parts of the world, Matthew 28:19 Acts 19:6.
Objection. The apostles were appointed by Christ before his death.
Answer. The apostle here speaks not of Christ’s first calling them, but:
1. Of his fully supplying them with gifts necessary to the discharge of their office, which was after his resurrection, Acts 1:4 John 7:39. And:
2. Of their solemn inauguration in their office, by the pouring out of the Holy Ghost upon them in a visible manner, Acts 2:1-47.
Prophets; extraordinary officers who did by immediate revelation interpret the Scriptures, 1 Corinthians 14:4,5, and not only such as did foretell things to come, Acts 11:27 21:10.
Evangelists; these were likewise extraordinary officers, for the most part chosen by the apostles, as their companions and assistants in preaching the word, and planting churches in the several places where they travelled. Such were Timothy, Titus, Apollos, Silas, &c.
Pastors and teachers; either two names of the same office, implying the distinct duties of ruling and teaching belonging to it; or two distinct offices, but both ordinary, and of standing use in the church in all times; and then pastors are they that are fixed to and preside over particular churches, with the care both of instructing and ruling them, 1 Thessalonians 5:12 Hebrews 13:17; called elsewhere elders, and bishops, Acts 20:28 Philippians 1:1 1 Timothy 3:1 Titus 1:5,7 1 Peter 5:1,2.
Teachers; they whose work is to teach the doctrine of religion, and confute the contrary errors.
For the perfecting of the saints; either for the restoring and bringing them into right order, who had been, as it were, dissipated, and disjointed by sin: or rather the knitting together and compacting them more and more, both in nearer union to Christ their Head by faith, and to their fellow members by love: see 1 Corinthians 1:10.
For the work of the ministry; or, for the work of dispensation, i.e. for dispensing the word, and all those ordinances which it appertains to them to dispense; and so it implies their whole work. But there may be a trajection in the words, and then this clause is to be read before the former, and the meaning plainly is:
For the work of the ministry, which is to perfect the saints, and edify the body of Christ.
For the edifying of the body of Christ; the same in effect as perfecting the saints, viz. the building up the church, both in bringing in new members to it, and strengthening those that are brought in already, in faith and holiness.
Till we all come, or meet; all we believers, both Jews and Gentiles, (who while in the world not only are dispersed in several places, but have our several degrees of light and knowledge), meet, or come together, in the unity of, &c.
In the unity of the faith; either that perfect unity whereof faith is the bond, or rather that perfect uniformity of faith in which we shall all have the same thoughts and apprehensions of spiritual things, to which as yet, by reason of our remaining darkness, we are not arrived.
And of the knowledge of the Son of God; or acknowledgment, i.e. not a bare speculative knowledge, but such as is joined with appropriation and affection.
Unto a perfect man: he compares the mystical body of Christ to a man, who hath his several ages and degrees of growth and strength, till he come to the height of both, and then he is a perfect man, or a man simply, in opposition to a child, 1 Corinthians 13:11. The church of Christ (expressed by a man, in the singular number, to show its unity) hath its infancy, its childhood, its youth, and is to have hereafter its perfect manhood and state of consistency in the other life, when, being arrived to its full pitch, it shall be past growing.
Unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ; either actively, that measure of stature or age which Christ fills up in it, or hath allotted to it, Ephesians 4:7; or rather passively, that measure which, though it do not equal, yet it shall resemble, being perfectly conformed to the fulness of Christ. As in Ephesians 4:12 he showed the end of Christ’s appointing officers in his church, so here he shows how long they are to continue, viz. till their work be done, the saints perfected, which will not be till they all come to the unity of the faith, &c.
That we henceforth be no more children; i.e. weak in the faith, unstable in judgment, children in understanding, 1 Corinthians 14:20; such as need teaching, and strengthening: see Romans 2:20 1 Corinthians 3:1 Hebrews 5:13.
Tossed to and fro; light and unconstant, like ships without ballast, tossed with every wave.
And carried about with every wind of doctrine; not only shaken and staggering as to our faith, (as in the former clause), but carried about to errors for want of judgment, by false doctrines, here compared to violent winds.
By the sleight of men; their sophistry, whereby they easily seduce those that are unskilful, as men easily cheat children in playing at dice, from whence this metaphor is taken.
Cunning craftiness; their skilfulness in finding out ways of deceiving, whereby they can make any thing of any thing.
Whereby they lie in wait to deceive, viz. as in ambush; the word here used, is translated wiles, Ephesians 6:11, against which the apostle would have them fenced with the whole armour of God, and seems to signify a laying in ambush, or assaulting a man behind his back; a secret and unseen way of circumventing, a laying wait to draw them that are weak from the truth.
But speaking the truth in love; or, following the truth in love: q.d. Not only let us not be seduced by the craftiness of men, but constantly adhere to, and persevere in, the belief of the truth, joining love with it, in which two the sum of Christianity consists; and this will be a means of our growing up, and being no more children.
May grow up; this is opposed to being children; we are not to stand at a stay, but grow to maturity, Hebrews 6:1.
In all things; in knowledge, faith, love, and all the parts of the new man.
Into him which is the head, even Christ; our growth must be with respect to Christ our Head, as the end of it; we must grow in our acknowledgment of him, and dependence on him, as he by whom we are influenced, and from whom all our proficiency and strength proceeds; so that whatever increase we make, must tend not to the magnifying ourselves, but exalting our Head.
From whom; Christ the Head, Ephesians 4:15.
The whole body; the mystical body, or church of believers, whereof every true saint is a member, Romans 12:4,5.
Fitly joined together; viz. in the right place and order, both in respect of Christ the Head, and of the members respectively. Some are eyes, some ears, some hands, some feet, 1 Corinthians 12:15,16.
And compacted; firmly knit, so as not to be separated.
By that which every joint supplieth; or, by every joint or juncture of administration; i.e. whose office is to administer spirits and nourishment to the body. Bands are added to joints, Colossians 2:19, which signifies the ligaments by which the joints are tied one to another, as well as the joints in which they touch.
Question. What are those joints and bands in the mystical body?
Answer. Every thing whereby believers are joined to Christ, or to each other as Christians; especially the Spirit of Christ, which is the same in the Head and all the members; the gifts of the Spirit, chiefly faith, whereby they are united to Christ, and love, whereby they are knit to each other; the sacraments, likewise, church officers, Ephesians 4:11, &c.
According to the effectual working; either the power of Christ, who, as a Head, influenceth and enliveneth every member; or the effectual working of every member, in communicating to others the gifts it hath received.
In the measure of every part; according to the state, condition, and exigence of every part, nourishment is conveyed to it meet for it; yet more to one and less to another, according as more is required for one and less for the other, and so to all in their proportion. Or else as each part hath received, so it communicates to others; all have their use and helpfulness to others, but not all alike, or in the same degree.
Maketh increase of the body: either body here redounds by a Hebraism, and the sense is, the body (mentioned in the beginning of the verse) maketh increase of itself; or, without that redundancy, increase of the body is an increase meet and convenient for the body.
Unto the edifying of itself: the apostle here changeth the metaphor from that of a body to this of a house, but to the same sense, and shows the end of this nourishment they ministered from one member to another, viz. not its own private good, but the good of the whole body, for the benefit of which each part receives its gifts from Christ the Head.
In love; either by the offices of love, or it denotes the impulsive cause, whereby the members are moved thus to promote the common increase of the body, viz. love to the Head and each other.
This I say therefore, and testify in the Lord; I beseech or adjure you by the Lord: see the like, Romans 12:1 Philippians 2:1.
That ye henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind; their minds themselves, and understandings, the highest and noblest faculties in them, being conversant about things empty, transient, and unprofitable, and which deceive their expectations, and therefore vain, viz. their idols, their worldly enjoyments, &c.
Having the understanding; the mind as reasoning and discoursing, and so their ratiocinations and discourses themselves.
Darkened; as to spiritual things.
Being alienated from the life of God; not only strangers to it, (for so are those creatures which are not capable of it), but estranged from it; implying, that in Adam originally they were not so.
The life of God; a spiritual life; that life which God commands, and approves, and whereby God lives in believers, and they live in him, Galatians 2:19,20; and that both as to the principle of life, and the operations of it.
Through the ignorance that is in them; that ignorance which is naturally in them is the cause of their alienation from the life of God, which begins in light and knowledge.
Because of the blindness of their heart; or rather hardness: the Greek word signifies a callum or brawniness in the flesh, which is usual in the hands of labourers. Either this is set down as another cause of their estrangement from the life of God, or as the cause of their ignorance, which, though in part it be natural to them, yet is increased to further degrees by their own hardness and obstinacy, shutting their eyes voluntarily against the light.
Who being past feeling; having lost all sense and conscience of sin: a higher degree or effect of the hardness before mentioned, 1 Timothy 4:2.
Have given themselves over unto lasciviousness; voluntarily yielded themselves up to the power of their own sensuality and lasciviousness, so as to be commanded by it, without resisting it.
To work; not only to burn with inward lusts, but to fulfil them in the outward acts.
All uncleanness; all sorts of uncleanness, even the most monstrous, Romans 1:24,26,27 1 Corinthians 6:9 Galatians 5:19.
With greediness; either with covetousness, and then it respects those that prostituted themselves for gain; or rather with an insatiable desire of still going on in their filthiness.
But ye have not so learned; so as to walk as other Gentiles walk, in the vanity of your minds, &c.
Christ; the doctrine of Christ, or rule of life prescribed by him.
If so be that ye have heard him; either heard Christ speaking to you in the gospel, Hebrews 12:25, and then the sense will be the same as in the following clause; or heard him preached to you, and then it may refer to the outward hearing of the word.
And have been taught by him; or taught in him; in or by, as Colossians 1:16 Hebrews 1:2; and then this relates to the power of the word, and the impression made by it upon the heart: q.d. If ye have not only heard of him by the hearing of the ear, but have been effectually taught by the Spirit to know him, and receive his doctrine, Isaiah 54:13 John 6:45.
As the truth is in Jesus; as it really is, and hath been taught by Christ himself, both in his doctrine and example, viz. what is the true way of a Christian’s living; as in the following verses: see John 17:17 Titus 1:1.
That ye put off; a usual metaphor, taken from garments (implying a total abandoning, and casting away, like a garment not to be put on again): it is oppesed to putting on, Ephesians 4:24, and is the same as mortifying, Colossians 3:5, crucifying, Galatians 6:14.
Concerning the former conversation; the former heathenish life and manners, Ephesians 2:2. He shows how they should put off their old man, viz. by relinquishing their old manners; the same as putting off
the old man with his deeds, Colossians 3:9.
The old man; the pravity of nature, or nature as depraved.
Which is corrupt; or, which corrupteth, i.e. tends to destruction, Galatians 6:8; or, which daily grows worse and more corrupt by the fulfilling of its lusts.
According to the deceitful lusts; i.e. which draw away and entice men, James 1:14; or which put on a show and semblance of some good, or promise pleasure and happiness, but lurch men’s hopes, and make them more miserable.
And be renewed; viz. more and more, being already renewed in part.
In the spirit of your mind; i.e. in your mind which is a spirit: see 1 Thessalonians 5:23 2 Timothy 4:22. He means the superior powers of the soul, where regeneration begins, and which the philosophers magnified so much, and thought so pure.
And that ye put on; the same metaphor of a garment as before, to show the intimateness of the new man with us, and its being an ornament to us.
The new man; i.e. a new disposition or constitution of the whole man, called the new creature, 2 Corinthians 5:17, and a divine nature, 2 Peter 1:4.
Which after God; after God’s image.
Is created in righteousness and true holiness; either righteousness may relate to the second table, and
holiness to the first, and so both contain our duty to man and to God; or righteousness may imply that Divine principle in us, whereby we perform our whole duty to God and the creature, and holiness that which denieth all mixture of corruption in onr duty to God and man.
True; sincere and sound. As
righteousness and holiness are opposed to lusts, Ephesians 4:22, so true here, to deceitful there.
Wherefore putting away lying; all fraudulency and dissimulation, and whatever is contrary to truth.
Speak every man truth; not only speak as things are, but act sincerely and candidly.
For we are members one of another; i.e. to or for one another, and therefore must be helpful to each other.
Be ye angry and sin not: by way of concession, rather than by way of command: q.d. If the case be such that ye must be angry, yet see it be without sin.
Let not the sun go down upon your wrath; if your anger is excessive, (for so this word signifies, being different from the former), yet let it not be lasting; be reconciled ere the sun go down.
Do not give advantage to the devil to possess your hearts, and put you upon more and greater evils: see Luke 22:3 John 13:27 Acts 5:3.
Let him that stole steal no more; stealing is understood largely for seeking our own gain by any way, defrauding others, whether by taking away, or unjustly detaining what is theirs.
But rather let him labour; i.e. diligently and industriously, as the word imports. Idleness is condemned as tending to theft.
Working with his hands; as the only instrument by which most arts and trades are exercised.
The thing which is good; not in any unlawful way, but in an honest calling.
That he may have to give to him that needeth; that he may have not only whereupon to live, and prevent stealing, but wherewith to help those that want, Luke 21:2.
Let no corrupt communication; unprofitable, unsavoury, not seasoned with the salt of prudence, Colossians 4:6: see Mark 9:50.
To the use of edifying; Gr. to the edification of use, by an hypallage, for, to the use of edifying, as our translators render it, implying, that the great use of speech is to edify those with whom we converse. But the same word translated use, signifies likewise profit, and necessity, and, by a Hebraism, this (as the latter substantive) may be instead of an adjective, and the words translated, to useful, or profitable, edifying, or, (according to the marginal reading), to edify profitably, with little difference of sense from the former: or, to necessary edifying; and then it respects the condition and necessities of the hearers, to which our discourse must be suited by way of instruction, reprehension, exhortation, or consolation, as their case requires.
That it may minister grace to the hearers; by which some grace may be communicated to or increased in them, by instruction, reprehension, exhortation, &c.
And grieve not the holy Spirit of God; viz. by corrupt communication. The Spirit is said to be grieved when any thing is done by us, which, were he capable of such passions, might be matter of grief to him; or when we so offend him as to make him withdraw his comfortable presence from us: see Isaiah 63:10.
Whereby ye are sealed; set apart or marked for, and secured unto the day of redemption; see Ephesians 1:14 2 Corinthians 1:22: so, Ezekiel 9:4, they are marked that are to be delivered; and Revelation 7:3, the servants of God are sealed that were to escape the following plagues.
Unto the day of redemption; i.e. full and final salvation at the resurrection: see Luke 21:28 Romans 8:23.
Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger; these all seem to relate to the inward affection, as the two following to the effects of it in the words.
Bitterness may imply a secret lurking displeasure at another, or rather a confirmed and permanent one;
wrath, the first boiling up of the passion, which affects the body in the commotion of the blood and spirits; and
anger, a greater height and paroxysm of the same passion, or an eager desire of revenge: see Colossians 3:8.
And clamour; such inordinate loudness as men in anger are wont to break out into in their words.
And evil speaking; either with respect to God or man, though the latter seems particularly meant here; railing, reviling, reproaching, &c., the ordinary effects of immoderate anger.
With all malice; maliciousness, or malignity of heart, in opposition to kindness and tenderness, Ephesians 4:32: see Romans 1:29 1 Corinthians 5:8 14:20 Titus 3:3.
And be ye kind; sweet, amiable, facile in words and conversation, Luke 6:35.
Tender-hearted; merciful, quickly moved to compassion: so we have bowels of mercies, Colossians 3:12.
Forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you; be placable, and ready to forgive, therein resembling God, who for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you more than you can forgive to one another.
Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Ephesians 4:4". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. http://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mpc/ephesians-4.html. 1685.