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Bible Commentaries

John Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible
Ephesians 4

 

 

Other Authors
Verses 1-32


Unity of the New Life. Rules for the New Life

The Apostle passes, as usual, from doctrinal statements to practical exhortations; but doctrine is here and there introduced to support exhortation.

1-6. 'Live in humility, in loving forbearance, and in unity, for we have one Body, one Head, and one Heavenly Father.'

1. Prisoner] This looks back to Ephesians 3:1. 'He can no longer superintend them: they must walk alone. He lost his liberty in their service: they will do what he asks.'

2. To a Greek, meekness was a second-rate virtue, and lowliness no virtue at all. The gospel gives both qualities their true position. The nearer man comes to God, the more he feels his own worthlessness, and the member of a vast Church knows his own insignificance.

4. 'One Body, animated by one Spirit, and cheered by one Hope.'

5. 'One Head, to which each member is united by one Faith and one Baptism.'

6. 'One God, the supreme Source and Sustainer.' In you all] RV 'in all.' Throughout the v. the 'all' is vague and may be neuter: we must leave it vague. Note the Trinitarian background: Spirit, Lord, Father.

7-16. 'But the various members have various gifts and functions.'

8. He saith] There is no pronoun in the Greek, and the nominative may be 'it,' 'the Scripture,' viz. Psalms 68:18. The important parts of the quotation are 'He ascended' and 'gave gifts.' Led captivity captive] i.e. led many captives in His train. These He used as ministers.

9, 10. The meaning of this obscure passage seems to be this. 'Christ ascended, not to leave His Church an orphan (John 14:18), but in order to return to it with the rich gifts of His spiritual presence. The ascent without this subsequent descent would be incomprehensible.' The descent is placed after the ascent, and can hardly refer to either the burial or the descent into Hades. RV omits first.

11. He gave] 'He' is emphatic; 'He it is who gave.' Some, apostles] RV 'some to be apostles';'some as Apostles.' 'Some' is accusative, not dative. St. Paul is speaking of the Church as a whole, and does not mention bishops, presbyters, or deacons, which were local ministers: cp. 1 Corinthians 12:28; Romans 12:6-8.

12. For.. for.. for] There is a change of preposition, which should be marked in English—for.. unto.. unto and there should be no comma after 'saints.' The saints are perfected with a view to their ministering, to their building up of the Church.

13. Come in the unity] RV 'attain unto the unity.' A more mature and perfect unity than the Church had at first (Ephesians 2:15), an ideal to work for, resulting in a mature and perfect humanity, endowed with the fulness which Christ, in union with the Church (Ephesians 1:23), has.

14. 'In order to reach this united manhood, we must cease to be a number of unstable children, at the mercy of every scheming teacher.'

15. Speaking the truth in love] upholding truth without bitterness.

16. Language cannot express the full truth. Christ is the Head. He is also the whole organism. He is also the source of its unity, growth, and energy. Consistency of thought and language is lost in this divine physiology.

17-24. 'How different are the believing Gentiles from the unbelieving! Believers must beware of retaining anything of the vanity, ignorance, or impurity of the old heathen life.'

17. Walk] He returns from the lofty panegyric of Christian unity to the lower but necessary topic of the Christian 'walk.' He began with 'do' (Ephesians 4:1); here it is nearly all 'do not.'

18. Pagans, 'being darkened in their understanding,' must be alienated from Him in whom is no darkness (1 John 1:5). RV substitutes 'hardening' for blindness; perhaps wrongly.

19. Being past feeling] they ceased to notice the pricks of conscience, and became reckless. In Romans 1:21-24; We have the same sequence: vanity, darkness, uncleanness.

21. Heard him] He is not thinking of the possibility that some of them had heard Christ teach: they 'heard Him' in listening to the gospel; heard what He taught on earth.

In Jesus] St. Paul rarely uses this name by itself; when he does, he is thinking of the earthly life, death, and rising again. To him Christ is the glorified Christ, 'Jesus Christ,' 'Christ Jesus,' 'the Lord Jesus,' or' the Lord Jesus Christ.'

22. Put off] Like filthy, worn-out clothes, the old self had to be put away. Conversation has the old meaning of 'manner of life' (Shakespeare,' 2 Hen. IV,' Ephesians 4:5): cp. 1 Peter 3:2; 2 Peter 2:7.

24. The new man which after God hath been created is that fresh form of humanity, after the first divine pattern, which redemption has produced. In righteousness and true holiness] RV 'in righteousness and holiness of truth.' 'Of truth' belongs to both substantives.

25-32. Illustrations of the old man: falsehood, vindictiveness, theft, bad language, bad temper; and, by contrast, of the new.

25. From Zechariah 8:16. 'How monstrous that members of the same body should deceive one another 1 and members of Christ!'

26. Prom Psalms 4:4. 'Anger may be righteous, but beware of nursing it.'

27. Give place to means' give him an opening.'

28. 'Instead of robbing others, earn something to share with others.'

29. Corrupt communication] bad language of any kind. To the use of edifying] RV 'for edifying as the need may be,' i.e. for building up the social fabric as occasion may require, that it may benefit them that hear.

30. 'The Spirit, who sealed us as His own, is pained when our tongues rebel.'

32. 'The mercifulness of God forbids our being unmerciful to our brethren: become kind.'

 


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Bibliography Information
Dummelow, John. "Commentary on Ephesians 4:4". "John Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dcb/ephesians-4.html. 1909.

Lectionary Calendar
Saturday, August 17th, 2019
the Week of Proper 14 / Ordinary 19
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