corner graphic   Hi,    
ver. 2.0.19.12.08
Finding the new version too difficult to understand? Go to classic.studylight.org/

Bible Commentaries

Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible
Ephesians 4

 

 

Other Authors
Verse 1

EPH. 4

Paul's writings defy any strict organization, due to the nature of their composition as dictated epistles. Nevertheless, there is certainly a broad outline in evidence here, the first three chapters dealing with Christian doctrine, and the last three with Christian morality and behavior. Of course, there is some mingling of the two.

It should be noted that Paul placed doctrine first. All human morality derives from the authority of God; and, apart from mortal responsibility to the Creator, there is, strictly speaking, no such thing as right or wrong conduct, immorality or morality! This underlies the total helplessness of men, apart from God, to direct their own affairs. The ultimate authority for evaluating the deeds of people as either praiseworthy or blameworthy cannot lie within men, but must be grounded externally in the will of the Father in heaven. It was therefore by design that Paul first wrote of Christian doctrine, then of Christian morals. "This is the true order."[1]

ENDNOTE:

[1] John Wesley, One Volume Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1972), in loco.

I therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, beseech you to walk worthily of the calling wherewith ye were called. (Ephesians 4:1)

To walk worthily ... "Walking" is frequently used in the New Testament as a designation of the Christian's total behavior pattern. To walk "worthily" is therefore to exhibit the kind of life that would do honor to the holy religion of Christ which they had accepted.

All of the high hopes, aspirations and ideals for God's holy church upon this earth, however, must finally succeed or fail in a degree determined, at least in part, by the kind of people who make up the church. Paul "next turned to the character of the Christian which is necessary if the church is to fulfill her great task."[2]

ENDNOTE:

[2] William Barclay, The Letters to the Galatians and Ephesians (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1954), p. 157.


Verse 2

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

These qualities of Christian character are the opposite of those sought and glorified by the non-Christian; and in the pagan culture that provided the setting for the Ephesian congregation, such qualities were actually despised.

Lowliness ... Barclay tells us that "In Greek there is no word for humility which has not some suggestion of meanness attached to it."[3] Humility is a becoming virtue in Christians because it reflects their evaluation, of themselves in respect of the infinitely righteous and holy God. It is the fountain from which are derived all of the Christian virtues. Conceit on the part of a child of God is a denial of the faith. There is also a very proper and necessary self-esteem which enters into Christian character (Romans 12:3).

Meekness ... Martin chose "gentleness" as a synonym for this word;[4] "It is closely connected with the spirit of submissiveness."[5] Moses was described as "meek" (Numbers 12:3); and perhaps in the character of the mighty lawgiver can be seen the true qualities which are indicated by this word. Certainly, "weakness" is not one of them. It does not mean docile, easy to handle or merely "cooperative." It refers to moral authority and power issuing in restraint as far as human temptations are concerned.

Longsuffering ... "This word is used of God's patience with men" (Romans 2:4; 9:22; 1 Timothy 1:16; 1 Peter 3:20; 2 Peter 3:15).[6] "If God had been a man, he would long since have wiped out the world for all its disobedience!"[7] Paul's use of the word here in the sense of a Christian virtue suggests that Christians should be tolerant, forgiving, and understanding of one another's mistakes and sins. A Christian who is always "up tight" about the mistakes of others can create a disaster in any congregation. He, in fact, is a disaster!

Forbearing one another in love ... In a word, this means that a Christian should accept his place with other Christians, having an attitude that grants to them the same "right to belong" which he claims for himself.

[3] Ibid., p. 159.

[4] Alfred Martin, Wycliffe Commentary, Ephesians (Chicago: Moody Press, 1971), p. 739.

[5] Francis Foulkes, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries, Ephesians (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1963), p. 109.

[6] Ibid.

[7] William Barclay, op. cit., p. 164.


Verse 3

Giving diligence to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

Our holy Saviour prayed for unity among the believers in Christ; and here it appears that unity was a major concern of the most gifted of the apostles; and it may be inquired, in the light of this, why is there so much disunity in the world? In a word, we do not know. It is obvious to all who ever contemplated it that there are no magic devices available for bringing unity out of chaos. Furthermore, it appears in this verse that unity is not produced by Christians, but by the Spirit of God, and Christians are merely admonished to keep it. "Whether there will ever be in this world any outward organic unity of the visible church, we do not know. The selfishness and pride of men are against it."[8]

Giving diligence ... carries the idea of "trying" or "endeavoring," leaving out any requirement that "unity" must be achieved. As a matter of truth, some types of proposed unity are not even desirable. There was a fierce unity in the medieval church.

ENDNOTE:

[8] Henry H. Halley, Halley's Bible Handbook (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1927), p. 564.


Verse 4

There is one body, and one Spirit, even as also ye were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism.

One body ... This is the spiritual body of Christ, the church, made up of Jews, Gentiles, all people and even includes the saved who no longer live on earth.

And one Spirit ... The reference to the third person of the Godhead seems to anticipate "Lord" (Ephesians 4:5) and "God" (Ephesians 4:6). In any case, the Spirit here is that being called "the Holy Spirit" in the New Testament, who like Christ and like the Father, dwells in Christian hearts.

One hope of your calling ... This is the hope of eternal life in Christ. There is simply no other lesser thing that may correctly be defined as the "one hope" of Christians.

One faith ... is thought to refer to the Christian religion and not the subjective trust/faith of individual Christians. Wesley said it refers to "the universal church";[9] and there is no doubt that the meaning of subjective trust/faith usually read into this word is frequently not in it at all. However, Hendriksen has a convincing analysis indicating that it is trust/faith Paul had in mind. He wrote:

The fact that "faith" is mentioned immediately after "Lord," and is immediately followed by "baptism," all in a very short sentence, would seem to indicate that all three are a very closely knit unit.[10]

This therefore carries the full impact of Mark 16:16, where Christ said, "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved." The Lord and faith and baptism are all in a very short sentence there, faith and baptism appearing as coordinates in both passages. Furthermore, this understanding of the passage has the advantage of explaining why there is no reference to the Lord's Supper, an omission which is very puzzling to many commentators:

Why does he not also include the Lord's Supper?[11]

"Baptism" means "spirit baptism," based on the fact that Paul does not refer to the Lord's Supper here in this list of unities.[12]

It is often asked why no reference was made here to the other great sacrament of the gospel (the Lord's Supper).[13]SIZE>

Foulkes pointed out the explanation by Westcott, which is doubtless correct. He said, "The apostle is speaking of the initial conditions of the Christian life, whereas the Holy Communion belongs to the support and development of the Christian life."[14] For the same reason, Christ had no need to mention the Lord's Supper in Mark 16:16, "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved." The fact that hinders many from seeing this is that they have failed properly to discern that baptism is one of the divinely imposed preconditions of salvation.

One baptism ... The reason why many commentators make this mean Holy Spirit baptism, the earnest of the Spirit, the Pentecostal outpouring, etc., is cited above. The obvious meaning of the passage is Christian baptism; that is, the baptism which is the initiatory rite of admittance into the Christian religion. As Bruce said, "If 'one baptism' here had meant Spirit-baptism to the exclusion of water baptism, it would have been associated with `one Spirit,' and not with `one Lord'."[15]

THE ONE BAPTISM

No less than seven baptisms are mentioned in the New Testament (for enumeration of these, see my Commentary on Hebrews, Hebrews 1:1-2). The statement here that there is "one" means that only one pertains to the Christian life in the present dispensation. There cannot be any escape from the conclusion that this is the baptism of the Great Commission, as given by both Mark and Matthew. That Christ would have mentioned a baptism in that context which is not the "one" baptism is unthinkable. Furthermore, it has just been pointed out that "Lord ... faith ... baptism" in this passage answers perfectly to Mark 16:16. The one baptism is therefore the one that the church itself is commanded to administer and that destroys any notion to the effect that baptism in the Spirit or by the Spirit is meant; because there has never been a church since the times of the apostles that could baptize anyone in the Holy Spirit, the same being something God promised that he would do (Matthew 3:11). The "one baptism" is the one Christ commanded his followers to administer to "all nations" (Matthew 28:18-20). A comparison of the post-Reformation writings with that of the wisest scholars of antiquity starkly reveals the bias toward Luther's invention of salvation by "faith only," which mars the exegesis of many writers in this later period.

[9] John Wesley, op. cit., in loco.

[10] William Hendriksen, New Testament Commentary, Ephesians (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1967), p. 187.

[11] Ibid.

[12] Willard H. Taylor, Beacon Bible Commentary, Vol. 9 (Kansas City, Missouri: Beacon Hill Press, 1965), p. 205.

[13] Francis Foulkes, op. cit., p. 113.

[14] Ibid.

[15] F. F. Bruce, The Epistle to the Ephesians (Old Tappan, New Jersey: Fleming H. Revell Company, 1961), p. 80.


Verse 6

One God and Father of all, who is over all, and through all, and in all.

The seventh of these great unities is God himself. The Pauline teaching that all people "live and move and have their being in God" is implicit in a verse like this. The very fact of the existence of life proves that God is.

One God ... The unity of God, as reiterated in the first commandment of the Decalogue, was thus emphasized at a time when the world was steeped in polytheism. This great truth burst upon the pagan darkness of pre-Christian times like sheet lightning at midnight (Deuteronomy 6:4). "The Lord our God is one Lord!" The Old Testament, however, does not deny the New Testament conception of the Godhead as a plurality. The word for God's oneness in the Old Testament is [~'echad], the same being a compound unity (as in "The people is one" - Genesis 11:6). Therefore, Deuteronomy 6:4, and similar passages, may not be alleged as a denial of that plurality associated with deity in the New Testament.


Verse 7

But unto each one of us was the grace given according to the measure of the gift of Christ.

It is incorrect to construe this as a reference to supernatural gifts. Paul was not dealing with that kind of gift in this letter, because the thrust of its message was toward all future generations, and the age of miraculous gifts was rapidly passing. Some of these no doubt still existed, but they are not in focus here. What Paul said of all gifts coming from Christ, of course, applied to all kinds of gifts; but as Blaikie said, "Grace does not refer merely to supernatural gifts, but also to the ordinary spiritual gifts of men ... what each gets, he gets for the good of all."[16] The fact that the supernatural gifts are not any longer needed does not detract from the glory of those gifts which are called ordinary, but which have blessed the church in all ages.

ENDNOTE:

[16] W. G. Blaikie, The Pulpit Commentary (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1950), Vol. 20, p. 148.


Verse 8

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

"This quotation is from Psalms 68:18; but Paul altered it, from Thou didst take gifts to He gave gifts!"[17] Wesley's explanation is the usual one; but it is perhaps better to understand this as a Scripture that Paul was here writing, not one that he was merely quoting. This would be to understand "wherefore he saith" as meaning "Thus saith the Lord," after the manner of Old Testament prophets. There is an obvious allusion here to one of Paul's favorite comparisons, that of the conquering Christ leading the type of triumphal parade affected by Roman emperors.

Again and again, we have noted in Paul's letters passages which the scholars have attempted to identify as "garbled" or "altered" quotations from the Old Testament. It is very probable, however, that here the inspired Paul was writing new Scripture, not merely quoting old passages. Naturally, the new Scripture would use terminology used by other sacred writers, the thought being distinctly new as it is in the passage before us. The importance of this regarding the authorship of this epistle will not be lost on the discerning student. No pseudonymous writer could have done such a thing innocently; such an act, if it had been done, would necessarily have been grounded in a deliberate purpose of fraud and deception. As Bruce pointed out, the first three words of this verse may be translated in either of two ways, thus: "Wherefore he (i.e., God) saith, or Wherefore it (i.e., Scripture) saith."[18] Since it is clear that the Scriptures do not say what Paul wrote here, the conclusion is reasonable that the first of these renditions is the correct one.

Led captivity captive ... See discussion of "The Triumph Metaphor" under 2 Corinthians 2:14 in my Commentary on 2Corinthians. Interpreting this as Paul's own Scripture, not a quotation, we shall look to this metaphor, which was one of Paul's favorites, for the probable meaning here. Christ is represented as the mighty conqueror, leading in his train of captives "captivity" itself, a personification of all of the bondage which oppresses human life, such as "captivity to death," the imprisonment of our mortality, "the captivity to sin" (2 Timothy 2:26), etc.

And gave gifts unto men ... This is the part of the so-called quotation that is in no sense whatever "a quotation." Referring this passage to the Old Testament (Psalms 68:18) "reveals the picture of a victorious king ascending the mountain of the Lord in triumphal procession, attended by a long train of captives, receiving tribute from his new subjects."[19] The conquering Christ, however, is represented as distributing gifts to men. The New Testament is the record of the rich and glorious nature of the gifts of Christ to those who love him. His "unsearchable riches" are freely lavished upon his own. See my comments in Ephesians 4:9 on "ascended."

[17] John Wesley, op. cit., in loco.

[18] F. F. Bruce, op. cit., p. 82.

[19] Ibid.


Verse 9

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

Now this, he ascended ... Taylor paraphrased this clause as meaning "As to this matter of ascension.[20] Paul in this verse made an argument to the effect that the ascension of Christ proved that Christ had also descended to the earth. His argument was not that any ascension proves a descent. If he meant such a thing as that, it would not have been true. The ascension of Christians to be with the Lord in eternity does not prove that they also descended, etc.

Misunderstanding of Paul's argument lies behind a remark like this: "That an ascent implies a descent ... strange and unconvincing as the argument appears to the modern reader, it is pure midrash!"[21] Such a view is only blindness to the glory of one of the great New Testament texts. Paul did not argue that "an ascension implies a descent"; any child would know better than that, and Paul was no intellectual child. What then was his argument?

Paul, along with the whole New Testament church, believed in the pre-existence of Christ with God, before the world was, worshipping him as Lord, Saviour, King, Creator of the universe, Sustainer of the universe, or as Paul himself titled him, King of kings and Lord of lords (1 Timothy 6:15). Now, when it is declared of Jesus Christ the Lord that he ascended, the inescapable and necessary deduction is imperative: that he also descended! How otherwise could a member of the Godhead ascend? How could the Holy One, with God in the beginning, "the same was God"; how could he have ascended without first descending? This verse, therefore, far from being "pure midrash," is one of the most eloquent passages in the New Testament touching upon the glorious Christian doctrine of the Ascension of Jesus Christ and of his pre-existence from all eternity with the Father.

[20] Williard H. Taylor, op. cit., p. 207.

[21] Francis W. Beare, The Interpreter's Bible, Vol. X (New York: Abingdon Press, 1953), p. 688.


Verse 10

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

See under Ephesians 4:9 for the thrust of Paul's argument. These words counteract any thought that by his ascension to heaven Christ thereby, in any sense, deserted the earth. On the contrary, he fills the entire universe. As Barclay expressed it, "The ascension of Christ meant not a Christ-deserted, but a Christ-filled world."[22] The manner of Christ's "filling" all things, of course, is not in a physical sense. It is his all-pervading power and sovereign authority; it is his omniscience and universal presence in all places simultaneously - these are the qualities of our Lord in view here (see Matthew 18:20).

ENDNOTE:

[22] William Barclay, op. cit., p. 171.


Verse 11

And he gave some to be apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some pastors and teachers.

This is a characteristic Pauline insertion, prompted by his mention a moment earlier of Christ "filling all things," which of necessity meant that he filled the church. How did Christ do such a thing? He did it in the manner in view here, through the faithful preaching of men in all generations who would declare the saving message.

As Bruce observed, there are two pairs of offices in view here: (1) apostles and prophets, and (2) evangelists and pastor-teachers.[23] The first pair were effective in the founding of the church, and the second pair are required in all generations. The omission of "some" before "teachers" indicates that the meaning is teaching-pastors, or pastor-teachers. The failure of some to see that the word "pastor" is a New Testament synonym for "elder" or "bishop" has led to some rather fanciful comments, such as:

The fact that neither bishops nor elders are mentioned is an indication that we are still some distance removed from the developed organization that we find around the turn of the first century.[24]

All kinds of scholarly misconceptions are evident in a remark like the above. The "organization" of the Lord's church did not "develop" but was given from the very first. Paul ordained elders among the churches established on his first missionary tour (Acts 14:23). In fact, the verse before us says: "He gave," that is, the Lord gave the offices mentioned, including that of elder or bishop, called here pastor-teachers.

[23] F. F. Bruce, op. cit., p. 85.

[24] Francis W. Beare, op. cit., p. 691.


Verse 12

For the perfecting of the saints, unto the work of ministering, unto the building up of the body of Christ; till we all attain unto the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a full-grown man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.

In these verses is set forth the purpose of the Lord in the sending forth of apostles, prophets, evangelists and elders, mentioned in the preceding verse, that purpose being the building up of the body of Christ, which is the church. But the passage goes dramatically beyond that. It is not apostles, etc., alone who are to do the ministering in the Lord's church. "Perfecting of the saints unto the work of ministering" means that:

Not only those called apostles, prophets, evangelists and pastor-teachers, but the entire church should be engaged in spiritual labor. The universal priesthood of believers is stressed here.[25]

Another very important thing in this passage regards the rendition of Ephesians 4:13b. The KJV has "unto a perfect man" where the English Revised Version (1885) has "unto a full-grown man." There can be little doubt that the KJV is correct, because the measure of "the fullness of the stature of Christ," mentioned next, can be nothing if not absolute perfection. As Barclay said, "The aim of the church for its members is nothing less than perfection."[26] It is true that the Greek word here may be rendered full-grown, as in English Revised Version (1885); but it is also rendered perfect, in the sense of being applicable to God himself (Matthew 5:48).[27] The meaning here has to be perfect; nor is this an idle distinction. See article on "The Perfection of Christians" under Ephesians 1:4.

[25] William Hendriksen, op. cit., p. 198.

[26] William Barclay, op. cit., p. 177.

[27] W. E. Vine, An Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words (Old Tappan, New Jersey: Fleming H. Revell Company, 1940), Vol. III, p. 173.


Verse 14

That we may be no longer children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the slight of men, in craftiness, after the wiles of error; but speaking truth in love, may grow up in all things into him, who is the head, even Christ.

There are two things which contribute to the seduction of Christians away from the holy faith. These are: (1) the natural instability of many persons who are captivated by novelty, easily misled, swayed by popular fashion, etc. As Barclay said of such people, "They are always under the influence of the last person with whom they talked."[28] (2) Then there are the deceivers themselves, ruthless, cunning, unprincipled sons of the devil who, while often appearing in sheep's clothing, are nevertheless "ravening wolves." The language Paul used here makes any apology for the deceivers a gratuitous endorsement of evil. Note:

Our translation is inadequate. The meaning is: "They make use of every shifting device to mislead" (Weymouth). There are not only those around you who lead you astray but mean to do it (Moule). They lay deliberate traps on purpose to guide you away from Christ whom they do not love[29]

The greatest mistake that any Christian can make is to assume that teachers of error are sincere. While true enough that some of them are, it is equally true that many are not.

Speaking the truth in love ... The wholesome life of absolute integrity, truthfulness before all men, love toward all men - what priceless gems of character are these; and where in all the wide, wide world may one look for a life like that except in the humble and faithful service of the Son of God?

[28] William Barclay, op. cit., p. 178.

[29] Willard H. Taylor, op. cit., p. 211.


Verse 16

From whom all the body fitly framed and knit together through that which every joint supplieth, according to the working in due measure of each several part, making the increase of the body unto the building up of itself in love.

In this wonderful expression of the glory and beauty of the body of Christ, "Language cannot express the full truth."[30] A moment before Paul spoke of Christ as "the head." He is also the whole body. He is all in all.

It should also be noted here that "every joint" and "each several part" make it very clear that Paul expected every member of the body of Christ to make its own contribution to the building up of the whole.

ENDNOTE:

[30] J. R. Dummelow, Commentary on the Holy Bible (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1937), p. 964.


Verse 17

This I say therefore, and testify in the Lord, that ye no longer walk as the Gentiles also walk, in the vanity of their mind.

Some old versions had inserted the word "other" before Gentiles; but as Bruce has accurately observed, "Christians constitute a third race on the earth, no longer Jews, no longer Gentiles. Even the also of the English Revised Version (1885) is misleading."[31] The meaning here is simple enough. "No longer live the old pagan life."

ENDNOTE:

[31] F. F. Bruce, op. cit., p. 91.


Verse 18

Being darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardening of their heart; who being past feeling gave themselves up to lasciviousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness.

Here is a reference to the pre-Christian Gentiles who at first knew God, rebelled against him, turned away from him, eventually being hardened, first through their own wickedness, and later receiving a judicial hardening of God himself who thus punished their disobedience. See extended discussion of that deplorable condition of the pre-Christian Gentiles in my Commentary on Romans 1:21ff. These two verses are a thumbnail reference to a matter Paul discussed at length in Romans, chapter 1.

Hardening of their heart ... gave themselves up ... See special related articles on these topics: "When God Gives up on People" (my Commentary on Romans 1:28), and "The Hardening of Israel" in my Commentary on Romans 11.


Verse 20

But ye did not so learn Christ; if so be that ye heard him, and were taught in him, even as truth is in Jesus: that ye put away, as concerning your former manner of life, the old man that waxeth corrupt after the lusts of deceit; and that ye be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new man, that after God hath been created in righteousness and holiness and truth.

Ye did not so learn Christ ... The "ye" here is emphatic. "Certainly, you, among whom I myself labored, did not learn Christ in such a manner as to allow living like Gentiles?' As Blaikie said, "To learn Christ" means "to learn all about Christ through complete acceptance and obedience of his teachings."[32]

If so be that ye heard him ... This is not a conditional but an idiomatic saying with the impact of "As surely as you have heard him."[33]

The old man to be put off ... This was the old man that lived like the Gentiles, as Paul had just described.

The new man to be put on ... Note that the "new man" is not man's doing at all, but God's. "That after God hath been created!" This simply means to "put on Christ." How is this done? Note:

Christians put on Christ in baptism (Galatians 3:26,27).

They put on the name of Christ (Matthew 28:18-20).

They put on (or receive inwardly) the mind of Christ (Philippians 2:5).

They put on "the body of Christ" in the sense of belonging to his spiritual body, the church.

They put on the manner of daily living that Christ exhibited.

They put on Christ in the sense of being "in Christ."SIZE>

[32] W. G. Blaikie, op. cit., p. 151.

[33] William Hendriksen, op. cit., p. 212.


Verse 25

Wherefore, putting away falsehood, speak ye truth each one with his neighbor: for we are members one of another.

Harper pointed out that Paul made the application in practical living concerning what he meant by putting off the old man and putting on the new man. From this verse through Ephesians 5:20, the contrast between the two is dramatically presented:

falsehood vs. truth (Ephesians 4:25).

resentment vs. self-control (Ephesians 4:26,27).

stealing vs. generosity (Ephesians 4:28).

evil speech vs. edification (Ephesians 4:29,30).

malice vs. love (Ephesians 4:31-5:2).

impurity vs. chastity (Ephesians 5:3-14).

imprudence vs wisdom (Ephesians 5:15-17).

debauchery vs. joy (Ephesians 5:18-20).[34]SIZE>

Always speaking truth relieves one of the task of remembering what he has already said! The violator of this holy law will discover that the principle of truth within him perishes, leaving him helpless to discriminate between reality and fantasy. Satan is a liar and the father of lies.

With his neighbor ... This does not restrict truth-telling to conversation with neighbors only, leaving one free to lie to those whom he does not recognize as neighbors. The injunction means always speak the truth.

ENDNOTE:

[34] George E. Harper, A New Testament Commentary, Ephesians (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1969), p. 466.


Verse 26

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

This verse can be misread, as if it said, "Be sure to be angry now and then, but do not sin." It appears that the meaning is, "When you are angry, be sure that you commit no sin." Anger is a time when sin strongly presents itself as a temptation to violence or other retaliatory action directed against the object of one's anger.

Anger is even attributed to God Himself; therefore the teaching cannot mean that it is a sin to be angry. There are things which certainly should arouse the emotion of anger in Christian hearts. About the most ineffective person on earth would be one incapable of being angry.

Let not the sun go down ... Even when anger comes, it must be terminated quickly. Sundown is the time for removing anger from the heart. When anger remains, it can corrupt and destroy every virtue of the soul.


Verse 27

Neither give place to the devil.

Paul recognized the devil as a personal enemy of Christians; and in this he followed the Saviour who taught people to pray, "Deliver us from the evil one" (Matthew 6:13). Satan in this verse appears as a being operating against Christians; and the admonition is that they should not allow any room for the devil's operations, as would be done if anger should be retained in the heart.


Verse 28

Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labor, working with his hands the thing that is good, that he may have whereof to give to him that hath need.

The ignorant person called upon to read this chapter publicly almost broke up the meeting when he read:

Let him that stole, steal; no more let him labor with his hands!

This is repeated here to show how much depends, at times, upon the proper punctuation; and it should always be remembered that the original writers of the New Testament did not punctuate it, punctuation marks having been added much later.

It is very obvious from this entire section that the persons who were addressed in this epistle were quite possibly doing some of the very things Paul condemned here. We are bound to be struck by these implications. Beare said, "The church was welcoming into her fellowship members of the criminal classes."[35] Words like these have the impact of "cease and desist from all sin." While those who "had been" criminals were welcome, their sins were not welcome.

The word of God reveals some acceptable methods of acquiring property, these being: (1) by inheritance, (2) by work, (3) by reception of it as a gift, (4) through merchandising, (5) through investment, etc.; two of the acceptable methods and one of the unacceptable methods appear in this verse, the latter being, of course, stealing.

ENDNOTE:

[35] Francis W. Beare, op. cit., p. 700.


Verse 29

Let no corrupt speech proceed out of your mouth, but such as is good for edifying as the need may be, that it may give grace to them that hear.

The Christian is an ambassador at all times of the faith which he has professed. All conversation provides an opportunity of imparting grace to people who might stand desperately in need of it; and for the child of God to waste the vast majority of all such occasions through idle, frivolous, empty, meaningless conversation is a standing tragedy on earth. And what is even worse is the indulgence of conversation which is vulgar, profane or obscene.

That it may give grace ... The Christian should never lose sight of the sad fact of a world lost in sin, without the Lord, needing some word, some ray of light, some word of grace that will point to the Lamb of God that takes away sin.


Verse 30

And grieve not the Holy Spirit of God, in whom ye were sealed unto the day of redemption.

Ye were sealed ... See under Ephesians 1:13 for more extended remarks on this, also in my Commentary on Romans, Romans 3:23f.

Grieve not the Holy Spirit ... Any of the sins Paul was forbidding in these verses would, of course, grieve the Holy Spirit in the heart of any Christian committing them; but the thought here seems especially directed against filthy conversation.

In addition to "grieving" the Holy Spirit, mentioned here, the New Testament reveals a number of other ways in which people may sin against the Holy Spirit:

They may lust against him (Galatians 5:16).

They may resist him (Acts 7:51).

They may lie to him (Acts 5:3).

They may try him (Acts 5:9).

They may insult him (do despite unto) (Hebrews 10:24).

They may blaspheme against him (Mark 3:29).

They may "quench" him (1 Thessalonians 5:19).SIZE>

The day of redemption ... "This means the day of judgment in which our redemption will be completed."[36]

ENDNOTE:

[36] John Wesley, op. cit., in loco.


Verse 31

Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamor, and railing, be put away from you with all malice.

Such conditions of the inward life as that indicated by the prohibitions listed here are the bane of earthly existence. What incredible waste and loss of all that is precious flow out of the undisciplined lives of unregenerated people; and, tragic as that is, it must be held even more deplorable that many Christians have never learned to live above the behavior Paul proscribed in this powerful verse. We are indebted to Hendriksen for excellent definitions of the sins here enumerated:

Bitterness ... is the settled disposition of one who is resentful.

Anger ... is strong, sudden antagonism, explosive, potential murder.

Wrath ... is like a roaring furnace, settled indignation.

Clamor ... is yelling at others.

Railing ... is "blasphemy" in the Greek, meaning "speaking against God or man."

Malice ... takes delight in inflicting hurt or injury.[37]

ENDNOTE:

[37] William Hendriksen, op. cit., p. 223.


Verse 32

And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving each other, even as God also in Christ forgave you.

These are the opposites of the things forbidden in Ephesians 4:31.

Kind one to another ... Nothing blesses mankind any more than ordinary kindness, which is not in any sense ordinary, but the most extraordinary endowment that any Christian possesses.

Tenderhearted ... How much at variance with the pagan cultures of antiquity was this Christian virtue is pointed out by MacKnight thus:

This precept is very different from that of Epictetus who speaks to this purpose, "If one is in affliction, thou may say to him that thou hast pity on him; but take care not to feel any pity.[38]

Forgiving ... as Christ forgave you ... The longest parable Matthew recorded, that of "The Unmerciful Servant" (Matthew 18:21-35), concludes with these words: "So shall also my heavenly Father do unto you, if ye forgive not every one his brother from your heart." The watchword for Christians, and for all people, is "Forgive or forfeit forgiveness!"

As Christ forgave ... The great motivation for all virtue is in Christ, especially that for forgiveness. All thought of malice toward others should perish in the flood of joy that sweeps over the soul which has been cleansed and forgiven of all sins.

ENDNOTE:

[38] James MacKnight, Apostolical Epistles and Commentary, Ephesians (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1969), p. 329.

 


Copyright Statement
James Burton Coffman Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.

Bibliography Information
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Ephesians 4:4". "Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bcc/ephesians-4.html. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.

Lectionary Calendar
Sunday, December 8th, 2019
the Second Week of Advent
ADVERTISEMENT
Commentary Navigator
Search This Commentary
Enter query in the box below
ADVERTISEMENT
To report dead links, typos, or html errors or suggestions about making these resources more useful use our convenient contact form
Powered by Lightspeed Technology