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Tuesday, July 23rd, 2024
the Week of Proper 11 / Ordinary 16
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Bible Commentaries
Ephesians 4

Carroll's Interpretation of the English BibleCarroll's Biblical Interpretation

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Verses 1-16



Ephesians 4:1-16.

We have come to the tenth division of our analysis of Ephesians – the great unities, and the means of securing their recognition. The importance of this section (Ephesians 4:1-16), cannot be overstated. It would be well to memorize this section verbatim. It would be well for the reader to drill himself on it until every thought in it is rooted unto such stability that no whirlwind could uproot the sturdy oak tree of his faith or, changing the figure, until the composite structure of his faith is so grounded in the rock, so tied at the corners, so compacted in each layer of stones, so jointed and roofed that no storm of wind and wave could undermine, tear apart, or shake it down. These nine unities are thus named:

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

One Lord, who is Jesus Christ.

One bond of peace, which is Christ’s atonement.

One Spirit, which is the Holy Spirit.

One calling, meaning the inheritance to which we are called.

One body, which is the church.

One act of faith, by which we have access into grace.

One baptism, a prerequisite of church membership.

One system of faith, i.e., "The Faith," which is the church creed.

In a true sense this chapter begins the practical side of the letter: "I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk -worthily of the calling wherewith ye were called, with all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; giving diligence to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace."

From doctrines come morals. The relation is philosophical and the bond is indissoluble. All the modern hue and cry against dogma is really against morals. The more we reduce the number of the creed articles, the more we undermine practical religion.

Neither Christ nor the apostles predicate morals on any other than a doctrinal foundation. If we are to walk worthily of our calling, we must first know the doctrine of the calling, that is, unto what we were called. And all our "lowliness and meekness and longsuffering and forbearance toward each other, and diligent keeping of the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace" are dependent on the antecedent doctrines set forth, otherwise there is no force in Paul’s "therefore." And what one of the doctrines in the three preceding chapters or in this can we omit from our creed without omitting something profitable in our life? A Christian’s creed should enlarge, and not diminish, up to the last utterance of revelation in order that each article might be transmitted into experience.

A church with a little creed is a church with a little life. The more divine doctrines a church can agree on, the greater its power, and the wider its usefulness. The fewer its articles of faith, the fewer its bonds of union and compactness.

The modern cry: "Less creed and more liberty," is a, degeneration from the vertebrate to the jellyfish, and means less unity and less morality, and it means more heresy. Definitive truth does not create heresy – it only exposes and corrects. Shut off the creed and the Christian world would fill up with heresy unsuspected and uncorrected, but none the less deadly.

Just so it is not good discipline that creates backsliding and other sins of Christians. But discipline is oftentimes the only means of saving a church. To hold to discipline for immoralities and relax it on doctrine puts the cart before the horse and attempts to heal a stream while leaving the fountain impure. To Christ and the apostles false creeds were the most deadly things, and called most for the use of the knife. Let us apply these reflections to the great unities in this chapter:

1. One God and Father of all, who is over all, through all and in all. That declaration not only dethrones the idols of the world, but digs under the multitudinous and gross immoralities arising from the idolatries. Not only so, but it uproots all the false philosophies and cosmogonies; for example, materialism, pantheism, Stoicism, Epicureanism (more recently labeled Darwinian evolution), and the like.

2. "One Lord." This limits revelation, mediation, priesthood and kingly rule to Jesus the Messiah, the image of God. How vast the sweep of this exclusive truth, and how multitudinous the immoralities it outlaws!

3. "One bond of peace." That is one sacrifice through which our peace with God is secured and our peace with each other is assured. Apart from this there is no real peace between God and man, and between man and man.

4. "One Spirit." This limits the vicarship and the vicegerency to one, and so not only cuts off the head of Pope and king who claim to be vicars of Christ, but outlaws all approaches to Christ or interpretations of him not directed by the Spirit, and closes up the way to all immoral attempts to penetrate the future through demon, wizard, witch, diviner, or soothsayer. Moreover, it limits all application of the atonement to the Holy Spirit.

5. "One calling." This refers not only to the act of calling, but to the inheritance to which we are called. It means the complete salvation of man and his heavenly home, with all the riches of its glory. We are all going to one place – the heavenly land of promise.

6. "One body," or one church. Applying this to the redeemed in the aggregate, it limits salvation to those in Christ and vitally connected with him. Applying it as we may and must to the time institution he established, it overturns the claims of all human institutions affecting equality with God’s institution, or assuming the right to be recognized as a branch thereof. Applying it as we may, and as Paul does, to a particular church, the only expression of the institution, it excludes all so called churches not modeled after the New Testament pattern in its terms of membership, polity, doctrines, ordinances, and officers.

7. "One faith." This, construed with Ephesians 4:13-14 below, as it may be construed, would evidently not refer to an individual’s trust in Jesus, but to the system, or body of truth taught by Christ and the apostles. But construed with baptism and the body, which is a nearer and better connection, then it means two things:

(1) The one means of contact with Christ, i.e., "by faith we enter into this grace wherein we stand," and so becomes an essential prerequisite to church membership and to salvation.

(2) It would also mean one definite transaction through which justification comes once for all. The thought excludes the heresy that we may lose justification and so be under the necessity of repeating the saving act of faith. Faith, in the act of receiving and relying on Christ for justification, is not repeated. It is one faith. We may go on, we may not go back to relay the foundation. This one definite act of faith is instantaneous. It receives Christ, as a woman in marriage takes a man to be her husband. It commits the keeping of the soul to Christ and relies on his ability to keep that which is so committed until the judgment day. Neither the taking in marriage nor the making of a deposit is progressive or contingent. And so justification, following faith, is not contingent nor progressive. It is a declaration of the court of the last resort that one is acquitted definitely, at once, and is forever free.

8. "One baptism." The reference here is unquestionably to the ordinance of water baptism that follows faith and precedes church membership. By a figure of speech other things are called baptism. The overwhelming of Christ in suffering is so called (Luke 12:50’). The overwhelming of the saints in the outpoured Spirit is so called (Acts 1:5). The final overwhelming of sinners in the penal fires of judgment is so called (Matthew 3:10-12). But these figures of speech – baptism in suffering, baptism in the Holy Spirit, baptism in fire – gather their significance from a likeness in the overwhelming act to the immersion of a believer in water. The one baptism of our text means the one immersion in water according to Christ’s example and precept. It therefore implies two things:

(1) Baptism is one definite thing – immersion – and not permissibly one of three things – sprinkling, pouring, or immersion.

The baptism of our Lord in the river Jordan settles the whole matter and fixes the particular meaning, even if the word had many meanings, for John, in baptizing Jesus, did only one thing. He either sprinkled or poured water on Christ or immersed Christ in water. He did not do all three. What he did is the one baptism, for when, through his disciples, Christ also baptized, and baptized more than John did, the act was the same as that to which he had submitted himself (John 3:22-23; John 4:1-2). And what he submitted to himself that he also commanded to be done by his disciples (Matthew 28:19).

(2) It is not only one thing as distinguished from others, but one in that, unlike the Lord’s Supper, it may not be repeated, when the elements of its validity are all present. These elements are: (a) proper authority; (b) proper subject; (c) proper act; (d) proper design, upon all of which the receiving church must pass judgment. By the consensus of Christendom, baptism is prerequisite to church membership, and consequently to participation in the Lord’s Supper, which is peculiarly a church ordinance.

9. "The unity of the faith" (Ephesians 4:13). Here certainly, if not in Ephesians 4:5, the reference is to the system or body of truth constituting the creed of the church, as sufficiently appears from its direct connection with Ephesians 4:14. It certainly teaches the importance of all gospel truth, and the necessity of bringing all babes in Christ, or new converts, into unity of belief to safeguard them from divisions and from becoming the prey of cunning craftiness, to hedge against shifting from doctrine to doctrine, all in order to their reciprocal growth so as to affect the maturity of the church in Christian knowledge and the consequent maturity of development as the body of Christ.

"The faith" here coincides with its use in Judges 1:3: "Beloved, while I was giving all diligence to write unto you of our common salvation, I was constrained to write unto you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered unto the saints." Here is a sacred deposit of truth called "the faith" – a deposit delivered to the saints – a fixed deposit delivered once for all. This truth certain heresiarchs, who had crept privately into the church, were seeking to undermine, "denying our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ." And as Jude shows powerfully this departure from the faith was followed by immorality in life.

Paul refers to this deposit and its sanctity in several places. Notably 1 Corinthians 15:3-8: "For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received," itemizing (1) Christ’s death for our sins according to the Scriptures, (2) his burial, (3) his resurrection, (4) his appearance. Again, concerning the Lord’s Supper, he says: "For I received of the Lord that which I also delivered unto you" (1 Corinthians 11:23-34). And yet again: "Now I praise you that ye hold fast to the things handed down, even as I delivered them unto you" (1 Corinthians 11:1). To Timothy he writes, "O Timothy, guard that which is committed unto thee, turning away from the profane babblings and opposition of the knowledge which is falsely so called; which some professing have erred concerning the faith" (1 Timothy 6:20-21). And again: "And the things which thou hast heard from me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men who shall be able to teach others also" (2 Timothy 2:2). Thus does he provide both for keeping and for transmission. Concerning himself about to die, he says, "I have kept the faith" (2 Timothy 4:7).

This body of truth, constituting the creed of the church, is held as of inestimable value, and was ready to pronounce anathema against an angel from heaven who would preach any other gospel. It is a radical mistake to say that these New Testament articles of faith were few and simple. They touched, among other things, the nature, being, attributes, and offices of the triune God; the Holy inspired Scriptures, the church with its polity, terms of membership, officers, ordinances, and mission; the whole plan of salvation from election, foreordination, and predestination to glorification; the family; the citizen; the whole of this life, and the whole of the life to come; the ministry of angels good and the opposition of angels bad; and the final judgment.

Particularly they touched the personality of the Messiah, his pre-existence and deity, his emptying himself of his heavenly glory and prerogatives to assume in his first advent the body of his humiliation, in order to his vicarious expiation of sin on the cross, his going in his spirit after death to make the atonement in the holy of holies; his second advent to earth in order to assume his body of glorification, and his ascension and exaltation to the throne of the universe as a royal priest; his sending of his vicar, or vicegerent, the Holy Spirit, to accredit, infill, endue with power, and to abide with his church on earth; his third advent to assume his mystical body, the glorified church, to raise the dead and judge the world.

Broad as is the foregoing statement, it does not include all the clearly defined articles of the New Testament faith. So the reader may find it interesting and profitable to study in connection with the nine unities of Ephesians 4:1-16; Romans 12:4-5; 1 Corinthians 12:12-31; and these other scriptural declarations or summaries of the faith: Matthew 16:16; Matthew 28:18-20; Romans 8:28-30; 1 Corinthians 5:1-8; and especially 1 Timothy 3:15-16. The last is quite important, for after setting forth that the church is the pillar and ground of the faith, i.e., the keeper, conservator, publisher, illustrator, and vindicator of the truth, the apostle then summarizes the elements of the truth – at least the elements that enter into the mystery of godliness – thus:

1. God was manifested in the flesh.

2. So manifested he was justified, or vindicated, by the Holy Spirit, (1) at his baptism (Matt. 3), (2) in offering up himself as a sacrifice (Hebrews 9:14), (3) in his resurrection (1 Peter 3:18; Romans 1:4), (4) by his descent at Pentecost (Acts 2).

3. Though veiled in the flesh, he was recognized by the angels (Luke 2:9-14; Matthew 3:2; Luke 22-43).

4. Preached among the nations.

5. Believed on in the world.

6. Received up into glory.

Very solemnly I would warn the reader against any teaching that decries doctrines, or which would reduce the creed of the church into two or three articles.

We are entitled to no liberty in these matters. It is a positive and very hurtful sin to magnify liberty at the expense of doctrine. A creed is what we believe. A confession of faith is a declaration of what we believe. The church must both believe and declare. The longest creed of history is more valuable and less hurtful than the shortest. While "the faith" has many articles, there is unity in them. They articulate. And it is intensely important to bring all members of the church into unity touching all the faith. This brings us to a consideration of –

The means for securing unity. These are all of divine appointment. If we ask, what? They are all summed up in the one word "gifts." These gifts are men – teaching men. As here enumerated they are:

Apostles, who are inspired.

Prophets, who are inspired.

Evangelists, who labor in the kingdom at large.

Pastors and teachers, whose work is in the particular churches.

The first two were inspired to fix the limits of the faith. The second two were illumined to understand and expound these limits. If we ask where are these gifts set, or placed? They are set in the church (1 Corinthians 12:28). If we ask, why, i.e., to what end? This is the answer: "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 fulness of Christ." That is the answer to the positive side. Negatively it is expressed thus: "That we may be no longer children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, in craftiness, after the wiles of error." The standard is the holy Scriptures.

The apostle now gives, under the figure of head and body, as a living organism, the most vivid description in the Bible of a well-organized and thoroughly instructed church: From Christ the head, "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, maketh the increase of the body unto the building up of itself in love."

This is an ideal church. It constitutes the standard of perfection toward which every pastor should work. It teaches not only that each individual member should have vital connection with Christ through faith, but should have living articulation connecting with the whole body of church members, and should contribute in due measure toward the development of the whole church. In other words, it excludes absolutely the idea of unsaved men in the church, and even of saved men who refuse to be articulated with others, and even those articulated who will not cooperate according to ability. So that it provides not only for individual salvation, but for the organization of individuals into a corporation and the full developments of corporate life.

To change the figure, it provides not only for good individual horses, but for a well-harnessed team of horses to pull together; not only for good individual soldiers, but for a well-drilled phalanx, moving and fighting as a unit. One balking horse spoils the team. One deserter from the line leaves an opening through which the enemy may penetrate and break up the phalanx.

Dr. Burleson used to say of a certain town: "It has more individual excellence, and more general worthlessness than any other town in Texas." He meant that they had no organized community life. Their magnified individuality went off in every direction on tangential lines. We Baptists, in stressing individual liberty, are continually sacrificing the power of united forces.

Just so the present trend toward cutting off every article of faith to which some individual crank may object, will, if tamely unresisted, leave the church without a creed and without a moral life. Turning away from doctrines toward God, we necessarily turn away from the injunction, "Love the brotherhood." We need to restudy Zechariah 11:10-14. Whenever the staff, "beauty," which binds us to God, is broken, then will be broken the staff, "bands," which binds us to each other.

This discussion is incomplete until we consider the source of the gifts which make for corporate unity and development. Our text declares that Christ is the author of the preacher gifts. The continued supply of these gifts results from his exaltation to the mediatorial throne and this exaltation results from the previous humiliation. The one who ascended to bestow the gifts is the very one who first descended to make the expiation which is the basis of the gifts. He was dead, but is alive forevermore.

We may close with these observations: (1) While even babes in Christ may be received into the church for further instruction and development, those appointed to instruct and develop must have far higher qualifications of character, capacity, and knowledge. The minimum of entrance qualification into the church can never be made the limit of the church creed, and especially cannot be made the limit of examination for ordination to the ministry. This would assume that a babe must teach a babe. (2) The limit of ordination examination on doctrine is the maximum of church creed on doctrine. The teacher must develop each new-born soul unto the ultimate height of church belief in doctrine. Therefore the injunction: "Lay hands suddenly on no man – not on a novice." The minister must be "apt to teach." A teacher is one long past the milk diet, and who himself nourishes on stronger meat, by reason of use has his senses exercised to discern between good and evil. He must himself be "sound in the faith." Even a deacon must be a proved man, "sound in the faith." (3) Unless "the faith" is a needed creed of definite vital truth, there is no basis for examination looking to ordination and no standard up to which the convert must be developed. The church, being the pillar and ground of the truth, must have a standard of truth to uphold and conserve. Upon the one point of the mystery of godliness, Paul cites six distinct creed items. On the plan of salvation he cites many others. See Romans 8:28-30; Romans 8:33-34; 1 Corinthians 15:1-8; and on the ordinances yet others. (4) As the church must publish the truth, it must know what to publish. As the church must illustrate the truth in ordinances it must know the ordinances and their import. As the church must vindicate the truth in discipline, it must know what is a vindication of truth in either doctrine or life.

Again, I solemnly warn the reader against all who depreciate creeds, or who would reduce them to a minimum of entrance qualifications into the church.


1. Name the nine unities in Ephesians 4:1-16.

2. What side of the letter does this chapter commence?

3. What is the philosophical relation between doctrines and morals?

4. What bearing has this relation on creeds?

5. What is the particular effect of this modern cry: "Less creeds – more liberty"?

6. Apply the foregoing to each one of the nine unities in order, making clear the meaning and result of each, citing appropriate scriptures.

7. What scriptures may be profitably studied in connection with Ephesians 4:1-16?

8. Why is a long creed better than a short one?

9. What is the means of securing unity in doctrine, where placed, and why, both positively and negatively, and what the standard?

10. What is the teaching of Ephesians 4:16?

11. Who is the source of the gifts, and how the continual supply?

12. What is the difference in standard between receiving converts into a church and a man into the ministry, and why?

Verses 17-21



Ephesians 4:17-5:21; 6:1-9

This section extends from Ephesians 4:17-6:9, except we leave out the illustration in Ephesians 5:21-33, Christ and the Bride. That will follow in the next chapter.

Attention has already been called to the remarkable parallels between Colossians and Ephesians. They are nowhere more striking than in the exhortations to newness of life in the world and in the family. In both we find the sharp distinction between the philosophy of a corrupt life and the philosophy of a pure life.

Effects are traced in each case to an adequate cause. The unrenewed nature causes the first. The renewed nature, which is a new creation, causes the second. Nowhere else in the Scriptures, except perhaps in Romans 1 and Romans 7, is there more clearly shown the power and depravity of original sin, the inheritance of sin – nature, and the necessity of regeneration in order to a life of holiness. That is the capital thought in this section.

The two sources of such divergent life are here called the "old man," and the "new man." In the first the fruit is bad because the tree is bad. In the second the fruit is good because the tree has first been made good. The whole exhortation powerfully expounds the words of our Lord to Nicodemus: "Except a man be born from above he cannot see the kingdom of God," therefore, "Marvel not that I said unto you, Ye must be born again." If any man has any doubt about the necessity of regeneration, let him read this section. It is the most powerful argument on the necessity of regeneration anywhere in the Bible.

Henry Ward Beecher, the great Congregationalist preacher, who had several heretical tendencies, was once subjected to an examination on orthodoxy before a council of his people. I have the paper which he submitted at that time. One of the points on which he was examined was the subject of regeneration. He said, "I unswervingly hold to the necessity of regeneration by the Holy Spirit in order to be a Christian." That looks all right. But when one of the examiners asked, "Do you hold that regeneration is necessary for any other reason than the actual transgressions of men?" What a searching question that! His reply was a dodge: "I believe that a man needs to be regenerated because he is an animal." He would not admit original sin. He would not admit inherited depravity. He said that the Adam man was an animal and must be regenerated before he can become a spiritual man in Christ. That was new to me. Beecher was one of the most remarkable thinkers the world has ever known. Nobody else would have thought of replying just that way. If I had been there I would have asked Mr. Beecher some questions on the letter to the Ephesians.

The reader will notice that every gradation in process of corruption is set forth with philosophical power in this section. In analyzing it we see that he starts with spiritual ignorance. That produces vanity of mind, darkness of understanding, and alienation from the life of God. Then evil practice hardens the heart until we lose sensitiveness to right and wrong, become past feeling, so that the whole life is surrendered to lasciviousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness.

How much we are reminded here of the terrible process set forth in Romans 1:21-32! There also the whole process is given: "Because that, knowing God, they glorified him not as God, neither gave thanks; but became vain in their imaginations, and their senseless heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools." Because they did not like to retain the knowledge of God, God gave them up to reprobate minds, to the working out of all evil passion. Read the whole of that awful indictment against the Gentile world.

A great missionary in the early days here in Texas preached for me in Waco on this theme: "Are the heathen lost without the gospel?" His answer was, "Yes, lost." He took the first chapter of Romans and showed how what is there said fits just as well to conditions in heathen lands today as then; that human nature is always the same, and that through the fall of Adam an evil nature was inherited. That evil nature develops into acts. The wicked man waxes worse and worse and finally becomes crystallized, past feeling, without God, and without hope in the world. That was once the condition of these Ephesians. Many of them were Greeks, who prided themselves upon the greatest intellectual development in the world. Highest in art, science, sculpture, painting, eloquence, philosophy, they thought themselves the cream of the earth, but notwithstanding this culture their moral corruption was extreme. But new in Christ, renewed in mind, they are exhorted to put off the old man with his lusts, his anger, falsehood, idleness, theft, evil speaking, bitterness, clamor, railing, malice, fornication, covetousness, filthiness, foolish talking and jesting, and drunkenness. These are overt acts. As soon as we are renewed in Christ we are obliged and empowered to put on the new man with his truth, industry, generosity, thankfulness, spirituality, mercy, love, praise, and prayer.

We see in the letter to the Galatians the fruits of the two trees contrasted. Galatians 5:22: "The fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, meekness, self-control; against such there is no law." Galatians 5:19: "The works of the flesh are manifest, which are these: fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousies, wraths, factions, divisions, parties, envyings, drunkenness, revellings, and such like." When I was a young preacher I preached a sermon on the two trees – the tree of the flesh and the tree of the Spirit – and stated that some people spend half a lifetime trying to find out whether or not they are converted. I held up these two trees, saying, "Under which tree do you stand? There is a practical way of knowing that you are a child of God. Here are the things that are the fruits of the flesh, and here are the things that are the fruits of the Spirit. You know the fruit of your life; judge from that. If a man sows to the flesh, he reaps corruption; if he sows to the Spirit, he reaps life everlasting." Our Lord said, "By their fruits ye shall know them." The carnal nature and spiritual nature are opposites and antagonists. He had already shown the source of the different fruits: "That which is born of the flesh is flesh, that which is born of the Spirit is spirit." They are just as wide apart as possible. There is, however, one difficulty in reaching a correct judgment from the fruit, to wit: Even the renewed man, until sanctification is complete, finds a war in himself, as we learn from Romans 7. Sometimes the soul is on top and sometimes the fleshly lusts. In such cases there are yet two ways of ascertainment:

1. What is the trend of the life, good or evil, and is there progress toward the good?

2. Which trend does the person deliberately encourage and make provision for?

"You may not be able to keep a bird from lighting on your head, but you can keep him from building a nest in your hair." "You may not be able to keep the devil from knocking at your door, but you are able to refrain from asking him to spend the night."

In this careful elaboration of both good and evil fruits there are several expressions calling for special notice: "Be ye angry and sin not: let not the sun go down on your wrath: neither give place to the devil." The first part of this statement shows that there is no sin per se in indignation against a wrong. Christ became terribly indignant at many evils which he saw in his day. We cannot stand by and see a great, burly boy browbeat and evil treat a weak little fellow without being indignant, that is, if we are any good ourselves. If a man sees a snake creeping up just about to strike a child, love in that case reaches out after a stick and hits quickly, and hits to hurt. In this way a man may be angry and sin not.

We come now to a nice point of discrimination: In our indignation at what is wrong there is a great hazard of committing a sin, so our text puts in three cautions. One is, "do not let the sun go down on your wrath," that is, "do not cherish it until it breaks out in the wrong direction – get rid of it before night." When a man carries anger in his heart and broods over it for a week, or a year, or waits, as Absalom did, two years before striking, it grows into malice. There are two things the sun ought never to go down on, viz.: Never let the sun go down on your anger – cool off before night – and never let it go down on unpaid wages due a day laborer. Many are entirely dependent on each day’s pay. So let us pay our washerwomen and not forget that there are some obligations that a gentleman cannot defer. The next danger in anger is this: We are apt, if we are very hot about a matter, to take vengeance into our own hands. I will cite a passage which explains: "Avenge not yourselves, beloved, but give place unto the wrath of God; for it is written, vengeance belongeth to me; I will recompense, saith the Lord. But if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink; for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire upon his head. Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good."

I knew a man once to make a wrong application of that. While he was conducting family prayer his boy kept doing something that angered him, and he overcame evil with good by throwing the family Bible at him and knocking him down, which was not promotive of reverence for that service.

No matter how angry we get, we should never forget that vengeance is a divine prerogative. Nobody is qualified to take vengeance except God. He never forgets, and he takes everything into account. Our text says, "Neither give place to the devil." When a Christian gets angry there stands the devil, whispering, "Hit him!" "Kill him!" "Take vengeance in your own hands!"

I saw a man once walk the floor for hours, and finally I said to him, "What is the matter?" "I am trying," said he, "to get rid of a desire to get on the train, go to a certain place and cowhide a man until his skin hangs in strings. It is not right for me to do that, but I am continually reaching out my hand and trying to take hold of the thunderbolt of the Almighty and hurl it."

The question has been asked, "What bearing has Ephesians 4:19, ’being past feeling’ on the unpardonable sin?" It is the tendency of turning away from light to have less light; turning away from the feeling to have less feeling. A young man in a protracted meeting may be wonderfully impressed. He is convinced that the Bible is true, that Christ is a Saviour and that he is a sinner. He is stirred up over the matter, and feels impelled to go and fall upon his knees and say, "God have mercy on my soul," but says, "Not right now – at a more convenient season – some other time." The next time he will not feel that impression as strong as the first time. The third time he feels it still less, and after a while he is past feeling – cannot be awakened. The sun shines on wax and melts it. The sun shines on soft clay and hardens it. So light followed gets brighter; light neglected dims into darkness. Being past feeling may well, in some cases, indicate the unpardonable sin, but not in all cases. Some feel, by anticipation, the pangs of hell. Remorse can be active when there is no repentance.

The next particular passage is Ephesians 4:28: "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 him that hath need." The point that I want to impress is this: Many people in the church think, because they have no real estate, no bank account, and are not rich, that they ought not to help. They say, "I have nothing." Here is the answer: "Go to work, get something, and help. You have strength." One of the sweetest offerings ever laid upon the altar of God is the offering of the poor which is the result of the labor of their hands.

One day when I was taking up a great collection, people calling out in hundreds all over the house, an old woman, who had to be helped up, came on her crutches to the table and put on the table a pair of socks which she had knit. I felt the tears running down my face, and I almost listened to hear a voice from heaven say, "Behold, she hath done more than they all!" She felt that she had a right to help, even if she was poor, and that God did not require her to give beyond her ability. She could labor with her hands and make a contribution.

Next consider specially Ephesians 5:4: "Nor filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting, which are not befitting." This is the "fly in the apothecary’s ointment" in the case of many preachers. Many a good meeting has been ruined by the talk in the preacher’s tent. Let a young man who has been deeply concerned about his salvation hear that foolish talking and jesting in the hour of the preacher’s relaxation, and it hurts him; he is led to question the sincerity of the previous exhortation.

That is why, in my young manhood, I made a covenant with Dr. Riddle, moderator of our association, that we would never tell an obscene anecdote and never let anybody tell us one. He and I made that covenant when camping out on the prairie between Waco and Groesbeck. Afterward many people joined us in that covenant. It had a marked effect. I would like to see every preacher solemnly enter into an agreement with God to set a watch before his lips, to avoid foolish jesting and foolish, obscene stories.

I was in a stage traveling from Canyon to Plainview, one other Christian besides myself on the stage, and two worldly sinners. One of them started to tell a very vulgar anecdote. I said, "Stop! I imagine that is going to be tough. Let me get out and walk; I do not want to hear it. I am willing to help you while away the time by telling anecdotes, if they be good ones without any twang in them." He said, "If you will let me tell this one, I will not tell any more." "But I do not want to hear that one; I know it is bad, and I do not want to hear it." "Why?" he asked. "Sir," I said, "I made a covenant with a man who is now in heaven that I would never allow any one to tell me a smutty anecdote." "Well," he said, "Dr. Carroll, I respect your wishes in the matter." I said to him, "Now you feel better; you have a better taste in your mouth."

The next passage Isaiah 5:5: "Nor a covetous man, who is an idolater." Just look at that language! We claim that idolatry has passed away. But there stands that text: "A covetous man is an idolater." He worships an idol, and that idol is money.

No devotee ever bowed before Moloch, or any other hideous idol in China or India, who was more of an idolater than a covetous man is.

When I was a boy a book of poetry was largely read called Pollok’s Course of Time. I am sorry people stopped reading it. It describes a miser in hell with the devil pouring melted gold down his throat.

The miser is the meanest, ghastliest, grizzliest of all gross men!

Milton does the same thing in Paradise Lost when he comes to describe Mammon. He makes other demons somewhat respectable, but when he comes to Mammon, there is nothing in him to admire.

We now notice Ephesians 5:7. Here arises the question, "What are you going to do with this evil tide all around you?" (1) "Be ye not partakers with them." We cannot help what they do, but we should not be partakers. (2) We should have no fellowship with their unfruitful works. (3) We should reprove them. I do not say that we ought to go out on the streets and denounce them. Our lives will reprove them if we show by the way we live that we do not touch those things. We cannot walk down the street without condemning them.

Again, Ephesians 5:14: "Wherefore he sayeth, Awake, thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall shine upon thee." That is a great text. Who can locate that text in the Bible? On that passage one of the greatest sermons I ever read is by Dr. Addison Alexander, a Presbyterian. I give the divisions of his sermon:

1. Sin is a state of darkness – "Christ shall give thee light."

2. A state of sleep – "Awake, thou that sleepest."

3. A state of death – "Arise from the dead."

Let us look at Ephesians 5:18: "Be not drunken with the wine, wherein is riot, but be filled with the Spirit." There are two kinds of intoxication, one of wine and one of the Holy. Spirit. I have seen people under the intoxication of the Spirit. I remember one lady – one of the sweetest ladies I ever knew. I was not a Christian, but it did me good to watch her in a meeting. When the power of the Spirit would begin to fill her heart, she would begin to show her intoxication. Her face would become luminous, her lips would quiver and she would commence to sing: "Oh, Love Divine, how sweet thou art." It was like the rustling of the wings of an angel.

A preacher oftentimes needs a stimulant. The trouble is that some of them take the wrong kind. One thing I know: Nobody respects a preacher who, before he enters the pulpit, takes a little toddy or opium to enable him to take hold of things lively while in the pulpit. One of the most brilliant preachers in the South made a shipwreck of himself that way. I was called on to preach for him in his church, and when he got up to make his introductory remarks he was braced up right sharply with whiskey, and said some very foolish things. He could get a church anywhere at first, but at last he could get a church nowhere. Whenever we want to be stimulated, we should go off and pray. As we are infilled with the Spirit, we become enthusiastic; a divine afflatus rests upon us, enabling us to think thoughts that breathe, to speak words that burn and to sing songs that have more convincing power than the sermon. That is spiritual intoxication.

It is often a practical question: "What shall we do with exuberant feelings?" How may we find a safe vent for our enthusiasms, ecstasies, exultations? Edward Eggleston tells of a crowd of intoxicated boys raising this very question. One of them said, "Let’s do something lu-dick-er-ous." When asked what he would call a "ludickerous" thing he replied, "Let’s go and rock the Dutchman’s house." There was one inoffensive German in the neighborhood, and their rocking his house led to some costly and disastrous results. But Ephesians 5:19 suggests a better and safer vent: "Speaking one to another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord." I have known churches intoxicated with the Spirit to do that very thing, the members going from house to house holding glorious song services that did much to deepen and widen the religious awakening.

From the general discussion of "the old" and "the new man" expressed in life’s work, he turns to the application in life’s relation, viz.: husband and wife, parent and child, master and servant, pointing out clearly as he does in other letters the reciprocal obligations, but as these relations have been discussed in the letter to the Colossians, we pass them here.


1. What philosophy of a good or evil life does this section give?

2. What is the bearing of the philosophy on the necessity of regeneration in order to a good life?

3. Cite the case of Henry Ward Beecher’s examination by a council of his people.

4. Are the heathen lost without the gospel?

5. What is our Lord’s standard for our judgment of men’s professions?

6. What is the difficulty in applying this test, and how obviated?

7. Expound: "Be ye angry and sin not."

8. What is the first hazard in being angry, and how guarded?

9. What is the second, and how obviated?

10. What is the third, and how obviated?

11. What is the bearing of "past feeling" on the unpardonable sin?

12. Show how the poor should help in Christ’s work.

13. What danger attends the preacher’s hours of relaxation, and what examples cited?

14. Prove that we have idolaters among us.

15. What two poets describe the miser?

16. Where do you find the quotation: "Awake, thou that sleepest, etc.," who preached a great sermon on the text, and what his outline?

17. What two intoxications are contrasted?

18. What prescription in this section for finding a safe vent to religious exuberance, and what Edward Eggleston’s account of a different vent for worldly exuberance?

Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on Ephesians 4". "Carroll's Interpretation of the English Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/bhc/ephesians-4.html.
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