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Friday, July 19th, 2024
the Week of Proper 10 / Ordinary 15
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Bible Commentaries
Ephesians 4

Clarke's CommentaryClarke Commentary

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Verse 1


The apostle exhorts them to walk worthy of their vocation, and

to live in peace and unity, 1-6.

Shows that God has distributed a variety of gifts, and

instituted a variety of offices in his Church, for the building

up and perfecting of the body of Christ, 7-13.

Teaches them the necessity of being well instructed and steady

in Divine things, 14.

Teaches how the body or Church of Christ is constituted, 15, 16.

Warns them against acting like the Gentiles, of whose conduct he

gives a lamentable description, 17-19.

Points out how they had been changed, in consequence of their

conversion to Christianity, 20, 21.

Gives various exhortations relative to the purification of their

minds, their conduct to each other, and to the poor, 22-28.

Shows them that their conversation should be chaste and holy,

that they might not grieve the Spirit of God; that they should

avoid all bad tempers, be kindly affectioned one to another,

and be of a forgiving spirit, 29-32.


Verse Ephesians 4:1. I therefore — Therefore, because God has provided for you such an abundant salvation, and ye have his testimonies among you, and have full liberty to use all the means of grace;

The prisoner of the Lord — Who am deprived of my liberty for the Lord's sake.

Beseech you that ye walk — Ye have your liberty, and may walk; I am deprived of mine, and cannot. This is a fine stroke, and wrought up into a strong argument. You who are at large can show forth the virtues of him who called you into his marvellous light; I am in bondage, and can only exhort others by my writing, and show my submission to God by my patient suffering.

The vocation wherewith ye are called — The calling, κλησις, is the free invitation they have had from God to receive the privileges of the Gospel, and become his sons and daughters, without being obliged to observe Jewish rites and ceremonies. Their vocation, or calling, took in their Christian profession, with all the doctrines, precepts, privileges, duties, c., of the Christian religion.

Among us, a man's calling signifies his trade, or occupation in life that at which he works, and by which he gets his bread; and it is termed his calling, because it is supposed that God, in the course of his providence, calls the person to be thus employed, and thus to acquire his livelihood. Now, as it is a very poor calling by which a man cannot live, so it is a poor religion by which a man cannot get his soul saved. If, however, a man have an honest and useful trade, and employ himself diligently in labouring at it, he will surely be able to maintain himself by it; but without care, attention, and industry, he is not likely to get, even by this providential calling, the necessaries of life. In like manner, if a man do not walk worthy of his heavenly calling, i.e. suitable to its prescriptions, spirit, and design, he is not likely to get his soul saved unto eternal life. The best trade, unpractised, will not support any man; the most pure and holy religion of the Lord Jesus, unapplied, will save no soul. Many suppose, because they have a sound faith, that all is safe and well: as well might the mechanic, who knows he has a good trade, and that he understands the principles of it well, suppose it will maintain him, though he brings none of its principles into action by honest, assiduous, and well-directed labour.

Some suppose that the calling refers to the epithets usually given to the Christians; such as children of Abraham, children of God, true Israel of God, heirs of God, saints, fellow citizens with the saints, c., c. and that these honourable appellations must be a strong excitement to the Ephesians to walk worthy of these exalted characters But I do not find that the word κλησις, calling, is taken in this sense any where in the New Testament but that it has the meaning which I have given it above is evident from 1 Corinthians 7:20: Εκαστος εν τη κλησει ᾑ εκληθη, εν ταυτῃ μενετω· Let every man abide in the calling to which he hath been called. The context shows that condition, employment, or business of life, is that to which the apostle refers.

Verse 2

Verse Ephesians 4:2. With all lowliness — It is by acting as the apostle here directs that a man walks worthy of this high vocation; ταπεινοφροσυνη signifies subjection or humility of mind.

Meekness — The opposite to anger and irritability of disposition.

Long-suffering — μακροθυμια. Long-mindedness-never permitting a trial or provocation to get to the end of your patience.

Forbearing one another — ανεχομενοι αλληλων. Sustaining one another-helping to support each other in all the miseries and trials of life: or, if the word be taken in the sense of bearing with each other, it may mean that, through the love of God working in our hearts, we should bear with each other's infirmities, ignorance, &c., knowing how much others have been or are still obliged to bear with us.

Verse 3

Verse Ephesians 4:3. Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. — There can be no doubt that the Church at Ephesus was composed partly of converted Jews, as well as Gentiles. Now, from the different manner in which they had been brought up, there might be frequent causes of altercation. Indeed, the Jews, though converted, might be envious that the Gentiles were admitted to the same glorious privileges with themselves, without being initiated into them by bearing the yoke and burden of the Mosaic law. The apostle guards them against this, and shows them that they should intensely labour (for so the word σπουδαζειν implies) to promote and preserve peace and unity. By the unity of the Spirit we are to understand, not only a spiritual unity, but also a unity of sentiments, desires, and affections, such as is worthy of and springs from the Spirit of God. By the bond of peace we are to understand a peace or union, where the interests of all parties are concentrated, cemented, and sealed; the Spirit of God being the seal upon this knot.

Verse 4

Verse Ephesians 4:4. There is one body — Viz. of Christ, which is his Church.

One Spirit — The Holy Ghost, who animates this body.

One hope — Of everlasting glory, to which glory ye have been called by the preaching of the Gospel; through which ye have become the body of Christ, instinct with the energy of the Holy Ghost.

Verse 5

Verse Ephesians 4:5. One Lord — Jesus Christ, who is the governor of this Church.

One faith — One system of religion, proposing the same objects to the faith of all.

One baptism — Administered in the name of the holy Trinity; indicative of the influences, privileges, and effects of the Christian religion.

Verse 6

Verse Ephesians 4:6. One God — The fountain of all being, self-existent and eternal; and Father of all, both Jews and Gentiles, because he is the Father of the spirits of all flesh.

Who is above all — ο επι παντων. Who is over all; as the King of kings, and Lord of lords.

And through all — Pervading every thing; being present with every thing; providing for all creatures; and by his energy supporting all things.

And in you all. — By the energy of his Spirit, enlightening, quickening, purifying, and comforting; in a word, making your hearts the temples of the Holy Ghost. Some think the mystery of the blessed Trinity is contained in this verse: God is over all, as Father; through all, by the Logos or Word; and in all, by the Holy Spirit.

Verse 7

Verse 7. Unto every one of us is given graceGrace may here signify a particular office; as if the apostle had said: Though we are all equal in the respects already mentioned, yet we have all different offices and situations to fill up in the Church and in the world; and we receive a free gift from Christ, according to the nature of the office, that we may be able to discharge it according to his own mind. So the free gift, which we receive from Christ, is according to the office or function which he has given us to fulfil; and the office is according to that free gift, each suited to the other.

Verse 8

Verse 8. Wherefore he saith — The reference seems to be to Psalms 68:18, which, however it may speak of the removal of the tabernacle, appears to have been intended to point out the glorious ascension of Christ after his resurrection from the dead. The expositions of various commentators have made the place extremely difficult. I shall not trouble my reader with them; they may be seen in Rosenmuller.

When he ascended up on high — The whole of this verse, as it stands in the psalm, seems to refer to a military triumph. Take the following paraphrase: Thou hast ascended on high: the conqueror was placed in a very elevated chariot. Thou hast led captivity captive: the conquered kings and generals were usually bound behind the chariot of the conqueror, to grace the triumph. Thou host received gifts for (Paul, given gifts unto) men: at such times the conqueror was wont to throw money among the crowd. Even to the rebellious: those who had fought against him now submit unto him, and share his munificence; for it is the property of a hero to be generous. That the Lord God might dwell among them: the conqueror being now come to fix his abode in the conquered provinces, and subdue the people to his laws.

All this the apostle applies to the resurrection, ascension, and glory of Christ; though it has been doubted by some learned men whether the psalmist had this in view. I shall not dispute about this; it is enough for me that the apostle, under the inspiration of God, applied the verse in this way; and whatever David might intend, and of whatever event he might have written, we see plainly that the sense in which the apostle uses it was the sense of the Spirit of God; for the Spirit in the Old and New Testaments is the same. I may venture a short criticism on a few words in the original: Thou hast received gifts for men, לקחת מתנות באדם lakachta mattanoth baadam, thou hast taken gifts in man, in Adam. The gifts which Jesus Christ distributes to man he has received in man, in and by virtue of his incarnation; and it is in consequence of his being made man that it may be said, The Lord God dwells among them; for Jesus was called Immanuel, God with us, in consequence of his incarnation. This view of the subject is consistent with the whole economy of grace, and suits well with the apostle's application of the words of the psalmist in this place.

Verse 9

Verse 9. But that he also descended — The meaning of the apostle appears to be this: The person who ascended is the Messiah, and his ascension plainly intimates his descension; that is, his incarnation, humiliation, death, and resurrection.

Verse 10

Verse 10. He that descended — And he who descended so low is the same who has ascended so high. He came to the lower parts of the earth-the very deepest abasement; having emptied himself; taken upon him; the form of a servant, and humbled himself unto death, even the death of the cross; now he is ascended far above all heavens-higher than all height; he has a name above every name. Here his descending into the lower parts of the earth is put in opposition to his ascending far above all heavens. His abasement was unparalleled; so also is his exaltation.

That he might fill all things. — That he might be the fountain whence all blessings might flow; dispensing all good things to all his creatures, according to their several capacities and necessities; and, particularly, fill both converted Jews and Gentiles with all the gifts and graces of his Holy Spirit. Hence it follows: Ephesians 4:11

Verse 11

Verse 11. He gave some, apostles — He established several offices in his Church; furnished these with the proper officers; and, to qualify them for their work, gave them the proper gifts. For a full illustration of this verse, the reader is requested to refer to the notes on 1 Corinthians 12:6-10; 1 Corinthians 12:28-30; and to the concluding observations at the end of that chapter.

Verse 12

Verse 12. For the perfecting of the saints — For the complete instruction, purification, and union of all who have believed in Christ Jesus, both Jews and Gentiles. For the meaning of καταρτισμος, perfecting, 2 Corinthians 13:9.

For the work of the ministry — All these various officers, and the gifts and graces conferred upon them, were judged necessary, by the great Head of the Church, for its full instruction in the important doctrines of Christianity. The same officers and gifts are still necessary, and God gives them; but they do not know their places. In most Christian Churches there appears to be but one office, that of preacher; and one gift, that by which he professes to preach. The apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers, are all compounded in the class preachers; and many, to whom God has given nothing but the gift of exhortation, take texts to explain them; and thus lose their time, and mar their ministry.

Edifying of the body — The body of Christ is his Church, see Ephesians 2:20, c. and its edification consists in its thorough instruction in Divine things, and its being filled with faith and holiness.

Verse 13

Verse 13. In the unity of the faith — Jews and Gentiles being all converted according to the doctrines laid down in the faith-the Christian system.

The knowledge of the Son of God — A trite understanding of the mystery of the incarnation; why God was manifest in the flesh, and why this was necessary in order to human salvation.

Unto a perfect man — εις ανδρα τελειον. One thoroughly instructed; the whole body of the Church being fully taught, justified, sanctified, and sealed.

Measure of the stature — The full measure of knowledge, love, and holiness, which the Gospel of Christ requires. Many preachers, and multitudes of professing people, are studious to find out how many imperfections and infidelities, and how much inward sinfulness, is consistent with a safe state in religion but how few, very few, are bringing out the fair Gospel standard to try the height of the members of the Church; whether they be fit for the heavenly army; whether their stature be such as qualifies them for the ranks of the Church militant! The measure of the stature of the fulness is seldom seen; the measure of the stature of littleness, dwarfishness, and emptiness, is often exhibited.

Verse 14

Verse 14. Be no more childrenChildren, here, are opposed to the perfect man in the preceding verse; and the state of both is well explained by the apostle's allusions. The man is grown up strong and healthy, and has attained such a measure or height as qualifies him for the most respectable place in the ranks of his country.

The child is ignorant, weak, and unsteady, tossed about in the nurse's arms, or whirled round in the giddy sports or mazes of youth; this seems to be the apostle's allusion. Being tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, refers to some kind of ancient play, but what I cannot absolutely determine; probably to something similar to a top, or to our paper kite.

By the sleight of men — The words εν τη κυβεια refer to the arts used by gamesters, who employ false dice that will always throw up one kind of number, which is that by which those who play with them cannot win.

Cunning craftiness — It is difficult to give a literal translation of the original words: εν πανουργια προς τηνμεθοδειαν της πλανης. "By cunning, for the purpose of using the various means of deception." πανουργια signifies craft and subtlety in general, cheating and imposition: μεθοδεια, from which we have our term method, signifies a wile, a particular sleight, mode of tricking and deceiving; it is applied to the arts which the devil uses to deceive and destroy souls; see Ephesians 6:11, called there the WILES of the devil. From this it seems that various arts were used, both by the Greek sophists and the Judaizing teachers, to render the Gospel of none effect, or to adulterate and corrupt it.

Verse 15

Verse 15. But, speaking the truth in love — The truth recommended by the apostle is the whole system of Gospel doctrine; this they are to teach and preach, and this is opposed to the deceit mentioned above. This truth, as it is the doctrine of God's eternal love to mankind, must be preached in love. Scolding and abuse from the pulpit or press, in matters of religion, are truly monstrous. He who has the truth of God has no need of any means to defend or propagate it, but those which love to God and man provides.

Grow up into him — This is a continuance of the metaphor taken from the members of a human body receiving nourishment equally and growing up, each in its due proportion to other parts, and to the body in general. The truth of God should be so preached to all the members of the Church of God, that they may all receive an increase of grace and life; so that each, in whatever state he may be, may get forward in the way of truth and holiness. In the Church of Christ there are persons in various states: the careless, the penitent, the lukewarm, the tempted, the diffident, the little child, the young man, and the father. He who has got a talent for the edification of only one of those classes should not stay long in a place, else the whole body cannot grow up in all things under his ministry.

Verse 16

Verse 16. From whom the whole body — Dr. Macknight has a just view of this passage, and I cannot express my own in more suitable terms: "The apostle's meaning is, that, as the human body is formed by the union of all the members to each other, under the head, and by the fitness of each member for its own office and place in the body, so the Church is formed by the union of its members under Christ, the head. Farther, as the human body increases till it arrives at maturity by the energy of every part in performing its proper function, and by the sympathy of every part with the whole, so the body or Church of Christ grows to maturity by the proper exercise of the gifts and graces of individuals for the benefit of the whole."

This verse is another proof of the wisdom and learning of the apostle. Not only the general ideas here are anatomical, but the whole phraseology is the same. The articulation of the bones, the composition and action of the muscles, the circulation of the fluids, carrying nourishment to every part, and depositing some in every place, the energy of the system in keeping up all the functions, being particularly introduced, and the whole terminating in the general process of nutrition, increasing the body, and supplying all the waste that had taken place in consequence of labour, &c. Let any medical man, who understands the apostle's language, take up this verse, and he will be convinced that the apostle had all these things in view. I am surprised that some of those who have looked for the discoveries of the moderns among the ancients, have not brought in the apostle's word επιχορηγια, supply, from επιχορηγεω, to lead up, lead along, minister, supply, &c., as some proof that the circulation of the blood was not unknown to St. Paul!

Verse 17

Verse 17. Walk not as other Gentiles walk — Ye are called to holiness by the Gospel, the other Gentiles have no such calling; walk not as they walk. In this and the two following verses the apostle gives a most awful account of the conduct of the heathens who were without the knowledge of the true God. I shall note the particulars.

1. They walked in the vanity of their mind, εν ματαιοτητι του νοος αυτων. In the foolishness of their mind; want of genuine wisdom is that to which the apostle refers, and it was through this that the Gentiles became addicted to every species of idolatry; and they fondly imagined that they could obtain help from gods which were the work of their own hands! Here their foolishness was manifested.

Verse 18

Verse 18. 2. Having the understanding darkened — This is the second instance alleged by the apostle of the degradation of the Gentiles. Having no means of knowledge, the heart, naturally dark, became more and more so by means of habitual transgression; every thing in the Gentile system having an immediate tendency to blind the eyes and darken the whole soul.

3. Being alienated from the life of God — The original design of God was to live in man; and the life of God in the soul of man was that by which God intended to make man happy, and without which true happiness was never found by any human spirit: from this through the ignorance that was in them, δια την αγνοιαν την ουσαν, through the substantial or continually existing ignorance, which there was nothing to instruct, nothing to enlighten; for the most accurate writings of their best philosophers left them entirely ignorant of the real nature of God. And if they had no correct knowledge of the true God they could have no religion; and if no religion, no morality. Their moral state became so wretched that they are represented as abhorring every thing spiritual and pure, for this is the import of the word απηλλοτριωμενοι (which we translate alienated) in some of the best Greek writers. They abhorred every thing that had a tendency to lay any restraint on their vicious passions and inclinations.

4. Blindness of their heart — δια την πωρωσιν. Because of the callousness of their hearts. Callous signifies a thickening of the outward skin of any particular part, especially on the hands and feet, by repeated exercise or use, through which such parts are rendered insensible. This may be metaphorically applied to the conscience of a sinner, which is rendered stupid and insensible by repeated acts of iniquity.

Verse 19

Verse 19. 5. Who being past feeling — οιτινεςαπηλγηκοτες. The verb απαλγειν signifies,

1. To throw off all sense of shame, and to be utterly devoid of pain, for committing unrighteous acts.

2. To be desperate, having neither hope nor desire of reformation; in a word, to be without remorse, and to be utterly regardless of conduct, character, or final blessedness. Instead of απηλγηκοτες, several excellent MSS. and versions have απηλπικοτες, being without hope; that is, persons who, from their manner of life in this world, could not possibly hope for blessedness in the world to come, and who might feel it their interest to deny the resurrection of the body, and even the immortality of the soul.

6. Have given themselves over unto lasciviousnessLasciviousness, ασελγεια, is here personified; and the Gentiles in question are represented as having delivered themselves over to her jurisdiction. This is a trite picture of the Gentile world: uncleanness, lechery, and debauchery of every kind, flourished among them without limit or restraint. Almost all their gods and goddesses were of this character.

7. To work all uncleanness with greediness. — This is a complete finish of the most abandoned character; to do an unclean act is bad, to labour in it is worse, to labour in all uncleanness is worse still; but to do all this in every case to the utmost extent, εν πλεονεξια, with a desire exceeding time, place, opportunity, and strength, is worst of all, and leaves nothing more profligate or more abandoned to be described or imagined; just as Ovid paints the drunken Silenus, whose wantonness survives his strength and keeps alive his desires, though old age has destroyed the power of gratification:-

Te quoque, inextinctae Silene libidinis, urunt:

Nequitia est, quae te non sinit esse senem.

Fast., lib. i. v. 413.

Thee also, O Silenus, of inextinguishable lust, they inflame;

Thou art old in every thing except in lust.

Such was the state of the Gentiles before they were blessed with the light of the Gospel; and such is the state of those nations who have not yet received the Gospel; and such is the state of multitudes of those in Christian countries who refuse to receive the Gospel, endeavour to decry it, and to take refuge in the falsities of infidelity against the testimony of eternal truth.

Verse 20

Verse 20. But ye have not so learned Christ — Ye have received the doctrines of Christianity, and therefore are taught differently; ye have received the Spirit of Christ, and therefore are saved from such dispositions. Some would point and translate the original thus: Ὑμεις δε ουχ οὑτως· εμαθετε τον Χριστον· But ye are not thus; ye have learned Christ.

Verse 21

Verse 21. If so be that ye have heard him — ειγε, Seeing that, since indeed, ye have heard us proclaim his eternal truth; we have delivered it to you as we received it from Jesus.

Verse 22

Verse 22. That ye put off — And this has been one especial part of our teaching, that ye should abandon all these, and live a life totally opposite to what it was before.

The old manRomans 6:6, and especially the notes on Romans 13:13; Romans 13:14.

Which is corrupt — The whole of your former life was corrupt and abominable; ye lived in the pursuit of pleasure and happiness; ye sought this in the gratification of the lusts of the flesh; and were ever deceived by these lusts, and disappointed in your expectations.

Verse 23

Verse 23. And be renewed in the spirit of your mind — Their old mode of living was to be abandoned; a new one to be assumed. The mind is to be renovated; and not only its general complexion, but the very spirit of it; all its faculties and powers must be thoroughly, completely, and universally renewed. Plautus uses a similar expression describing deep distress, and answerable to our phrase innermost soul: -

Paupertas, pavor territat mentem animi.

Poverty and dread alarm my innermost soul.

Epid., l. 519.

Verse 24

Verse 24. Put on the new man — Get a new nature; for in Christ Jesus-under the Christian dispensation, neither circumcision avails any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation. Therefore ye must be renewed in the spirit of your mind.

Which after God is created in righteousness — Here is certainly an allusion to the creation of man. Moses tells us, Genesis 1:27, that God created man in his own image; that is, God was the model according to which he was formed in the spirit of his mind. St. Paul says here that they should put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness, or, οσιοτητι της αληθειας, in the holiness of truth. Both certainly refer to the same thing, and the one illustrates the other. From the apostle we learn what Moses meant by the image of God; it was righteousness and the truth of holiness. Genesis 1:26. It is not this or the other degree of moral good which the soul is to receive by Jesus Christ, it is the whole image of God; it is to be formed κατα θεου, according to God; the likeness of the Divine Being is to be traced upon his soul, and he is to bear that as fully as his first father Adam bore it in the beginning.

Verse 25

Verse 25. Wherefore putting away lying — All falsity, all prevarication, because this is opposite to the truth as it is in Jesus, Ephesians 4:21, and to the holiness of truth, Ephesians 4:24.

Speak every man truth with his neighbour — Truth was but of small account among many of even the best heathens, for they taught that on many occasions a lie was to be preferred to the truth itself. Dr. Whitby collects some of their maxims on this head.

Κρειττον δε ελεσθαι ψευδος, η αληθες κακον· "A lie is better than a hurtful truth."-Menander.

Το γαρ αγαθον κρειττον εστι της αληθειας· "Good is better than truth."-Proclus.

Ενθα γαρ τι δει και ψευδος λεγεσθαι, λεγεσθω. "When telling a lie will be profitable, let it be told."-Darius in Herodotus, lib. iii. p. 101.

"He may lie who knows how to do it εν δεοντι καιρῳ, in a suitable time."-Plato apud Stob., ser. 12.

"There is nothing decorous in truth but when it is profitable; yea, sometimes και ψευδος ωνησεν ανθρωπους, και τ' αληθες εβλαψεν, truth is hurtful, and lying is profitable to men."-Maximus Tyrius, Diss. 3, p. 29.

Having been brought up in such a loose system of morality, these converted Gentiles had need of these apostolic directions; Put away lying; speak the truth: Let lying never come near you; let truth be ever present with you.

We are members one of another. — Consider yourselves as one body, of which Jesus Christ is the head; and as a man's right hand would not deceive or wrong his left hand, so deal honestly with each other; for ye are members one of another.

Verse 26

Verse 26. Be ye angry, and sin not — οργιζεσθε, here, is the same as ει μεν οργιζεσθε, IF YE be angry, do not sin. We can never suppose that the apostle delivers this as a precept, if we take the words as they stand in our version. Perhaps the sense is, Take heed that ye be not angry, lest ye sin; for it would be very difficult, even for an apostle himself, to be angry and not sin. If we consider anger as implying displeasure simply, then there are a multitude of cases in which a man may be innocently, yea, laudably angry; for he should be displeased with every thing which is not for the glory of God, and the good of mankind. But, in any other sense, I do not see how the words can be safely taken.

Let not the sun go down upon your wrath — That is: If you do get angry with any one, see that the fire be cast with the utmost speed out of your bosom. Do not go to sleep with any unkind or unbrotherly feeling; anger, continued in, may produce malice and revenge. No temper of this kind can consist with peace of conscience, and the approbation of God's Spirit in the soul.

Verse 27

Verse 27. Neither give place to the devil. — Your adversary will strive to influence your mind, and irritate your spirit; watch and pray that he may not get any place in you, or ascendancy over you.

As the word διαβολος is sometimes used to signify a calumniator, tale-bearer, whisperer, or backbiter; (see in the original, 1 Timothy 3:11; 2 Timothy 4:2; Titus 3:3, and Titus 2:3;) here it may have the same signification. Do not open your ear to the tale-bearer, to the slanderer, who comes to you with accusations against your brethren, or with surmisings and evil speakings. These are human devils; they may be the means of making you angry, even without any solid pretence; therefore give them no place, that you may not be angry at any time; but if, unhappily, you should be overtaken in this fault, let not the sun go down upon your wrath; go to your brother, against whom you have found your spirit irritated; tell him what you have heard, and what you fear; let your ears be open to receive his own account; carefully listen to his own explanation; and, if possible, let the matter be finally settled, that Satan may not gain advantage over either.

Verse 28

Verse 28. Let him that stole steal no more — It is supposed that, among the rabbins, stealing was not entirely discountenanced, provided a portion was given to the poor. The apostle here teaches them a different doctrine: as they should speak truth every man with his neighbour, so they should in every respect act honestly, for nothing contrary to truth and righteousness could be tolerated under the Christian system. Let no man, under pretence of helping the poor, defraud another; but let him labour, working with his hands to provide that which is good, that he may have to give to him who is in necessity. Stealing, overreaching, defrauding, purloining, &c., are consistent with no kind of religion that acknowledges the true God. If Christianity does not make men honest, it does nothing for them. Those who are not saved from dishonesty fear not God, though they may dread man.

Verse 29

Verse 29. Let no corrupt communication — πασ λογος σαπρος. Kypke observes that λογος σαπρος signifies a useless, putrid, unsavoury, and obscene word or conversation.

1. Useless, particularly that which has been rendered so by old age and corruption.

2. Putrid, impure; so Aristophanes in Lysistrat., p. 859, calls a bad woman σαπραεμοισυλουτρονωσαπρα. Tune, Spurca! balneum mihi parabis?

3. Calumnious, or reproachful; whatever has a tendency to injure the name, fame, or interest of another.

In short, it appears to mean any word or thing obscene, any thing that injures virtue, countenances vice, or scoffs at religion. In the parallel place, Colossians 4:6, the apostle exhorts that our speech may be seasoned with salt, to preserve it from putrefaction. See Kypke and Macknight.

But that which is good to the use of edifying — To be good for a thing is a Graecism, as well as an Anglicism, for, to be fit, proper, suitable, c. so Achilles Tatius, lib. iv. p. 231: αγαθον εις φιλιαν οιδα σε. I know thee to be good (formed) for friendship. And Appian, de Bell. Hisp., p. 439, terms both the Scipios, ανδρας ες παντα αγαθους γενομενουχ, men who were good (suitable) for all things. And also Lucian, in Toxari, p. 53: ου μονον αρα τοξευειν αγαθοι ησαν σκυθαι. The Scythians were not good (expert) in archery only. See Kypke, from whom I quote.

That it may minister grace — ινα δω χαριν. This may be understood thus:

1. Let your conversation be pure, wise, and holy, that it may he the means of conveying grace, or Divine influences, to them that hear.

2. Let it be such as to be grateful or acceptable to the hearers. This is the meaning of ινα δω χαριν in some of the most correct Greek writers. Never wound modesty, truth, or religion with your discourse; endeavour to edify those with whom you converse; and if possible, speak so as to please them.

Verse 30

Verse 30. Grieve not the Holy Spirit of God — By giving way to any wrong temper, unholy word, or unrighteous action. Even those who have already a measure of the light and life of God, both of which are not only brought in by the Holy Spirit, but maintained by his constant indwelling, may give way to sin, and so grieve this Holy Spirit that it shall withdraw both its light and presence; and, in proportion as it withdraws, then hardness and darkness take place; and, what is still worse, a state of insensibility is the consequence; for the darkness prevents the fallen state from being seen, and the hardness prevents it from being felt.

Whereby ye are sealed — The Holy Spirit in the soul of a believer is God's seal, set on his heart to testify that he is God's property, and that he should be wholly employed in God's service. It is very likely that the apostle had in view the words of the prophet, Isaiah 63:10: But they rebelled, and VEXED his HOLY SPIRIT; therefore he was turned to be their enemy, and fought against them. The psalmist refers to the same fact in nearly the same words, Psalms 78:40: How oft did they PROVOKE him in the wilderness, and GRIEVE him in the desert! Let every man, therefore, take heed that he grieve not the Spirit of God, lest God turn to be his enemy, and fight against him.

Verse 31

Verse 31. Let all bitterness — πασα πικρια. It is astonishing that any who profess the Christian name should indulge bitterness of spirit. Those who are censorious, who are unmerciful to the failings of others, who have fixed a certain standard by which they measure all persons in all circumstances, and unchristian every one that does not come up to this standard, these have the bitterness against which the apostle speaks. In the last century there was a compound medicine, made up from a variety of drastic acrid drugs and ardent spirits, which was called Hiera Picra, ιερα πικρα, the holy bitter; this medicine was administered in a multitude of cases, where it did immense evil, and perhaps in scarcely any case did it do good. It has ever appeared to me to furnish a proper epithet for the disposition mentioned above, the holy bitter; for the religiously censorious act under the pretence of superior sanctity. I have known such persons do much evil in a Christian society, but never knew an instance of their doing any good.

And wrath — θυμος is more properly anger, which may be considered the commencement of the passion.

Anger — οργν is more properly wrath-the passion carried to its highest pitch, accompanied with injurious words and outrageous acts, some of which are immediately specified.

And clamour — κραυγη Loud and obstreperous speaking, brawling, railing, boisterous talk, often the offspring of wrath; all of which are highly unbecoming the meek, loving, quiet, sedate mind of Christ and his followers.

And evil speaking — βλασφημια. Blasphemy; that is, injurious speaking-words which tend to hurt those of whom or against whom they are spoken.

With all malice — κακια. All malignity; as anger produces wrath, and wrath clamour, so all together produce malice; that is, settled, sullen, fell wrath, which is always looking out for opportunities to revenge itself by the destruction of the object of its indignation. No state of society can be even tolerable where these prevail; and, if eternity were out of the question, it is of the utmost consequence to have these banished from time.

Verse 32

Verse Ephesians 4:32. Be ye kind one to another — γινεσθε χρηστοι. Be kind and obliging to each other; study good breeding and gentleness of manners. A Christian cannot be a savage, and he need not be a boor. Never put any person to needless pain.

Tender-hearted — ευσπλαγχνοι. Compassionate; having the bowels easily moved (as the word implies) to commiserate the state of the wretched and distressed.

Forgiving one another — Should you receive any injury from a brother, or from any man, be as ready to forgive him, on his repentance and acknowledgment, as God was, for Christ's sake, to forgive you when you repented of your sins, and took refuge in his mercy.

1. THE exhortations given in this chapter, if properly attended to, have the most direct tendency to secure the peace of the individual, the comfort of every family, and the welfare and unity of every Christian society. That God never prohibits any thing that is useful to us, is an unshaken truth. And that he never commands what has not the most pointed relation to our present and eternal welfare, is not less so. How is it, then, that we do not glory in his commandments and rejoice in his prohibitions? If the gratification of our fleshly propensities could do us good, that gratification had never been forbidden. God plants thorns in the way that would lead us to death and perdition.

2. From the provision which God has made for the soul's salvation, we may see the nature, and in some sense the extent, of the salvation provided. Much on this subject has been said in the preceding chapter, and the same subject is continued here. God requires that the Church shall be holy, so that it may be a proper habitation for himself; and he requires that each believer should be holy, and that he should, under the influences of his grace, arrive at the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ! Ephesians 4:13. This is astonishing; but God is able to make all grace abound towards us.

3. It is the will of God that Christians should be well instructed; that they should become wise and intelligent; and have their understandings well cultivated and improved. Sound learning is of great worth, even in religion; the wisest and best instructed Christians are the most steady, and may be the most useful. If a man be a child in knowledge, he is likely to be tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine; and often lies at the mercy of interested, designing men: the more knowledge he has, the more safe is his state. If our circumstances be such that we have few means of improvement, we should turn them to the best account. "Partial knowledge is better than total ignorance; he who cannot get all he may wish, must take heed to acquire all that he can." If total ignorance be a bad and dangerous thing, every degree of knowledge lessens both the evil and the danger. It must never be forgotten that the Holy Scriptures themselves are capable of making men wise unto salvation, if read and studied with faith in Christ.

4. Union among the followers of Christ is strongly recommended. How can spiritual brethren fall out by the way? Have they not all one Father, all one Head? Do they not form one body, and are they not all members of each other? Would it not be monstrous to see the nails pulling out the eyes, the hands tearing off the flesh from the body, the teeth biting out the tongue, c., c.? And is it less so to see the members of a Christian society bite and devour each other, till they are consumed one of another? Every member of the mystical body of Christ should labour for the comfort and edification of the whole, and the honour of the Head. He that would live a quiet life, and keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace, must be as backward to take offence as to give it. Would all act on this plan (and surely it is as rational as it is Christian) we should soon have glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace and good will among men.

5. A roughness of manners is to some unavoidable it is partly owing to the peculiar texture of their mind, and partly to their education. But there are others who glory in, and endeavour to cultivate, this ungentle disposition under this is often concealed a great degree of spiritual pride, and perhaps some malignity; for they think that this roughness gives them a right to say grating, harsh, and severe things. They should be taught another lesson; and if they will not demean themselves as they ought, they should be left to themselves, and no man should associate with them. They are not Christians, and they act beneath the character of men.

Bibliographical Information
Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on Ephesians 4". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/acc/ephesians-4.html. 1832.
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