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This chapter Ephesians 5:0 is a continuation of the practical exhortations commenced in Ephesians 4:0. It comprises the following points, or subjects:
- The exhortation to be followers of God, and to walk in love; Ephesians 5:1-2.
- The duty of avoiding the impure practices of the surrounding pagan, and of wholly breaking off from the vices in which even they themselves had indulged, before their conversion to Christianity;Ephesians 5:3-17; Ephesians 5:3-17.
- The apostle cautions them particularly against the use of wine, and the revelry which attends its use, and exhorts them rather to engage in the exercises to which the Holy Spirit would prompt them, and to the services of praise and thanksgiving; Ephesians 5:18-20.
- He exhorts they to mutual subjection; and particularly enjoins on wives the duty of being subject to their husbands; Ephesians 5:21-24.
- The chapter closes with a statement of the duty of husbands to love their wives, illustrated by that which Christ showed for the church; Ephesians 5:25-33.
Be ye therefore followers of God - Greek, “Be imitators - μιμηταὶ mimētai - of God.” The idea is not that they were to be the friends of God, or numbered among his followers, but that they were to imitate him in the particular thing under consideration. The word “therefore” - οὖν oun - connects this with the previous chapter, where he had been exhorting them to kindness, and to a spirit of forgiveness, and he here entreats them to imitate God, who was always kind and ready to forgive; compare Matthew 5:44-47; As he forgives us Ephesians 4:32, we should be ready to forgive others; as he has borne with our faults, we should bear with theirs; as he is ever ready to hear our cry when we ask for mercy, we should be ready to hear others when they desire to be forgiven; and as he is never weary with doing us good, we should never be weary in benefiting them.
As dear children - The meaning is, “as those children which are beloved follow the example of a father, so we, who are beloved of God, should follow his example.” What a simple rule this is! And how much contention and strife would be avoided if it were followed! If every Christian who is angry, unforgiving, and unkind, would just ask himself the question, “How does God treat me?” it would save all the trouble and heart-burning which ever exists in the church.
And walk in love - That is, let your lives be characterized by love; let that be evinced in all your deportment and conversation; see notes on John 13:34.
As Christ also hath loved us - We are to evince the same love for one another which he has done for us. He showed his love by giving himself to die for us, and we should evince similar love to one another; 1 John 3:16.
And hath given himself for us - “As Christ also hath loved us.” We are to evince the same love for one another which he has done for us He showed his love by giving himself to die for us, and we should evince similar love to one another; 1 John 3:16. “And hath given himself for us.” This is evidently added by the apostle to show what he meant by saying that Christ loved us, and what we ought to do to evince our love for each other. The strength of his love was so great that he was willing to give himself up to death on our account; our love for our brethren should be such that we would be willing to do the same thing for them; 1 John 3:16.
An offering - The word used here - προσφορά prosphora - means properly that which is “offered to God” in any way; or whatever it may be. It is, however, in the Scriptures commonly used to denote an offering without blood - a thank-offering - and thus is distinguished from a sacrifice or a bloody oblation. The word occurs only in Acts 21:26; Acts 24:17; Romans 15:16; Ephesians 5:2; Hebrews 10:5, Hebrews 10:8,Hebrews 10:10, Hebrews 10:14, Hebrews 10:18. It means here that he regarded himself as an offering to God.
And a sacrifice - θυσίαν thusian. Christ is here expressly called a “Sacrifice” - the usual word in the Scriptures to denote a proper sacrifice. A sacrifice was an offering made to God by killing an animal and burning it on an altar, designed to make atonement for sin. It always implied the “killing” of the animal as an acknowledgment of the sinner that he deserved to die. It was the giving up of “life,” which was supposed to reside in the “blood” (see the notes on Romans 3:25), and hence it was necessary that “blood” should be shed. Christ was such a sacrifice; and his love was shown in his being willing that his blood should be shed to save people.
For a sweet-smelling savour - see the notes on 2 Corinthians 2:15, where the word “savor” is explained. The meaning here is, that the offering which Christ made of himself to God, was like the grateful and pleasant smell of “incense,” that is, it was acceptable to him. It was an exhibition of benevolence with which he was pleased, and it gave him the opportunity of evincing his own benevolence in the salvation of people. The meaning of this in the connection here is that the offering which Christ made was one of “love.” So, says Paul, do you love one another. Christ sacrificed himself by “love,” and that sacrifice was acceptable to God. So do you show love one to another. Sacrifice everything which opposes it. and it will be acceptable to God. He will approve nil which is designed to promote love, as he approved the sacrifice which was made, under the influence of love, by his Son.
But fornication - A “common” vice among the pagan then as it is now, and one into which they were in special danger of falling; see Romans 1:29 note; 1 Corinthians 6:18 note.
And all uncleanness - Impurity of life; see the notes on Romans 1:24; compare Romans 6:19; Galatians 5:19; Ephesians 4:19; Colossians 3:5.
Or covetousness - The “connection” in which this word is found is remarkable. It is associated with the lowest and most debasing vices, and this, as well as those vices, was not once to be “named” among them. What was Paul’s estimate then of covetousness? He considered it as an odious and abominable vice; a vice to be regarded in the same light as the most gross sin, and as wholly to be abhorred by all who bore the Christian name see Ephesians 5:5. The covetous man, according to Paul, is to be ranked with the sensual, and with idolaters Ephesians 5:5, and with those who are entirely excluded from the kingdom of God Is this the estimate in which the vice is held now? Is it the view which professing Christians take of it? Do we not feel that there is a “great” difference between a covetous man and a man of impure and licentious life? Why is this? Because:
(1)It is so common;
(2)Because it is found among those who make pretensions to refinement and even religion;
(3)Because it is not so easy to define what is covetousness, as it is to define impurity of life; and,
(4)Because the public conscience is seared, and the mind blinded to the low and grovelling character of the sin.
Yet, is not the view of Paul the right view? Who is a covetous man? A man who, in the pursuit of gold, neglects his soul, his intellect, and his heart. A man who, in this insatiable pursuit, is regardless of justice, truth, charity, faith, prayer, peace, comfort, usefulness, conscience; and who shall say that there is any vice more debasing or degrading than this? The time “may” come, therefore, when the covetous man will be regarded as deserving the same rank in the public estimation with the most vicious, and when to covet will be considered as much opposed to the spirit of the gospel as any of the vices here named. When that time shall come, the world’s conversion will probably be not a distant event.
Let it not be once named among you - That is, let it not exist; let there be no occasion for mentioning such a thing among you; let it be wholly unknown. This cannot mean that it is wrong to “mention” these vices for the purpose of rebuking them, or cautioning those in danger of committing them - for Paul himself in this manner mentions them here, and frequently elsewhere - but that they should not “exist” among them.
As becometh saints - As befits the character of Christians, who are regarded as holy. Literally, “as becometh holy ones” - ἁγίοις hagiois.
Neither filthiness - That is, obscene, or indecent conversation. Literally, that which is shameful, or deformed - αἰσχρότης aischrotēs. The word does not elsewhere occur in the New Testament.
Nor foolish talking - This word - μωρολογία mōrologia - does not occur elsewhere in the New Testament. It means that kind of talk which is insipid, senseless, stupid, foolish; which is not suited to instruct, edify, profit - the idle “chitchat” which is so common in the world. The meaning is, that Christians should aim to have their conversation sensible, serious, sincere - remembering the words of the Lord Jesus, “that every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment;” Matthew 12:36.
Nor jesting - εὐτραπελία eutrapelia. This word occurs also nowhere else in the New Testament. It properly means, that which is “well-turned” εὐ eu - well, and τρεπω trepō - to turn); and then that which is sportive, refined, courteous; and then “urbanity, humor, wit; and then jesting, levity” - which is evidently the meaning here. The apostle would not forbid courteousness, or refinement of manners (compare 1 Peter 3:8), and the reference, therefore, must be to that which is light and trifling in conversation; to that which is known among us as jesting. It may be observed:
(1) That “courteousness” is not forbidden in the Scriptures, but is positively required; 1 Peter 3:8.
(2) “Cheerfulness” is not forbidden - for if anything can make cheerful, it is the hope of heaven.
(3) “Pleasantry” cannot be forbidden. I mean that quiet and gentle humor that arises from good-nature, and that makes one good-natured in spite of himself.
Such are many of the poems of Cowper, and many of the essays of Addison in the “Spectator” - a benevolent humor which disposes us to smile, but not to be malignant; to be good-natured, but not to inspire levity. But levity and jesting, though often manifested by ministers and other Christians, are as inconsistent with true dignity as with the gospel. Where were they seen in the conversation of the Redeemer? Where in the writings of Paul?
Which are not convenient - That is, which are not fit or proper; which do not become the character of Christians; notes, Romans 1:28. Christians should be grave and serious - though cheerful and pleasant. They should feel that they have great interests at stake, and that the world has too. They are redeemed - not to make sport; purchased with precious blood - for other purposes than to make people laugh. They are soon to be in heaven - and a man who has any impressive sense of that will habitually feel that he has much else to do than to make people laugh. The true course of life is midway between moroseness and levity; sourness and lightness; harshness and jesting. Be benevolent, kind, cheerful, bland, courteous, but serious. Be solemn, thoughtful, deeply impressed with the presence of God and with eternal things, but pleasant, affable, and benignant. Think not a smile sinful; but think not levity and jesting harmless.
But rather giving of thanks - Thanks to God, or praises are more becoming Christians than jesting. The idea here seems to be, that such employment would be far more appropriate to the character of Christians, than idle, trifling, and indelicate conversation. Instead, therefore, of meeting together for low wit and jesting; for singing songs, and for the common discourse which often attends such “gatherings” of friends, Paul would have them come together for the purpose of praising God, and engaging in his service. Human beings are social in their nature; and it they do not assemble for good purposes, they will for bad ones. It is much more appropriate to the character of Christians to come together to sing praises to God, than to sing songs; to pray than to jest; to converse of the things of redemption than to tell anecdotes, and to devote the time to a contemplation of the world to come, than to trifles and nonsense.
For this ye know - Be assured of this. The object here is to deter from indulgence in those vices by the solemn assurance that no one who committed them could possibly be saved.
Nor unclean person - No one of corrupt and licentious life can be saved; see Revelation 22:15.
Nor covetous man, who is an idolater - That is, he bestows on money the affections due to God; see Colossians 3:5. To worship money is as real idolatry as to worship a block of stone. If this be so, what an idolatrous world is this! How many idolatrous are there in professedly Christian lands! How many, it is to be feared, in the church itself! And since every covetous man is certainly to be excluded from the kingdom of God, how anxious should we be to examine our hearts, and to know whether this sin may not lie at our door!
Hath any inheritance, ... - Such an one shall never enter heaven. This settles the inquiry about the final destiny of a large portion of the world; and this solemn sentence our conscience and all our views of heaven approve. Let us learn hence:
(1) That heaven will be “pure.”
(2) That it will be a “desirable” place for who would wish to live always with the licentious and the impure?
(3) It is right to reprove these vices and to preach against them. Shall we not be allowed to preach against those sins which will certainly exclude people from heaven?
(4) A large part of the world is exposed to the wrath of God. What numbers are covetous! What multitudes are licentious! In how many places is licentiousness openly and unblushingly practiced! In how many more places in secret! And in how many more is the “heart” polluted, while the external conduct is moral; the soul “corrupt,” while the individual moves in respectable society!
(5) What a world of shame will hell be! How dishonorable and disgraceful to be damned forever, and to linger on in eternal fires, because the man was too polluted to be admitted into pure society! Here, perhaps, he moved in fashionable life, and was rich and honored, and flattered; there he will be sent down to hell because his whole soul was corrupt, and because God would not suffer heaven to be contaminated by his presence!
(6) What doom awaits the “covetous” man! He, like the sensualist, is to be excluded from the kingdom of God. And what is to be his doom? Will he have a place apart from the common damned - a golden palace and a bed of down in hell? No. It will be no small part of his aggravation that he will be doomed to spend an eternity with those in comparison with whom on earth, perhaps, he thought himself to be pure as an angel of light.
(7) With this multitude of the licentious and the covetous, will sink to hell all who are not renewed and sanctified. What a prospect for the “happy,” the fashionable, the moral, the amiable, and the lovely, who have no religion! For all the impenitent and the unbelieving, there is but one home in eternity. Hell is less terrible from its penal fires and its smoke of torment, than from its being made up of the profane, the sensual, and the vile; and its supremest horrors arise from its being the place where shall be gathered all the corrupt and unholy dwellers in a fallen world; all who are so impure that they cannot be admitted into heaven. Why then will the refined, the moral, and the amiable not be persuaded to seek the society of a pure heaven? to be prepared for the world where holy beings dwell?
Let no man deceive you - Let no one by artful pleas persuade you that; there will be no danger from practicing these vices, We may suppose that they would be under strong temptations to mingle in the “happy” and festive scenes where these vices were not frowned on, or where they were practiced; or that they might be tempted to commit them by some of the plausible arguments which were then used for their indulgence. Many of their friends may have been in these circles; and they would endeavor to convince them that such were the customs which had been long practiced, and that there could be no harm still in their indulgence. Not a few philosophers endeavored, as is well known, to defend some of these practices, and even practiced them themselves; see the notes on Romans 1:0. It required, therefore, all the authority of an apostle to convince them, that however plausible were the arguments in defense of them, they certainly exposed those who practiced them to the wrath of God.
For because of these things cometh the wrath of God - see the notes on Romans 1:18; Romans 2:8-9, note.
Upon the children of disobedience - see the Matthew 1:1, note; Romans 2:8, note.
Be not ye therefore partakers with them - Since these things displease God and expose to his wrath, avoid them.
For ye were sometimes darkness - see the Ephesians 2:11-12 notes; 1 Corinthians 6:11 note. The meaning here is, that they were themselves formerly sunk in the same ignorance, and practiced the same abominations.
But now are ye light in the Lord - Light is the emblem of happiness, knowledge, holiness. The meaning is, that they had been enlightened by the Lord to see the evil of these practices, and that they ought, therefore, to forsake them.
Walk as children of light - see the notes on Matthew 1:1, on the use of the word “son,” or “children.” The meaning here is, that they should live as became those who had been enlightened to see the evil of sin, and the beauty of virtue and religion; compare John 12:36, where the same phrase occurs.
For the fruit of the Spirit - That is, since the Holy Spirit through the gospel produces goodness, righteousness, and truth, see that you exhibit these in your lives, and thus show that you are the children of light. On the fruits of the Spirit, see the notes on Galatians 5:22-23.
Is in all goodness - Is seen in producing all kinds of goodness. He who is not good is not a Christian.
Proving what is acceptable unto the Lord - That is,” Walk as children of light Ephesians 5:8, thus showing what is acceptable to the Lord.” Rosenmuller supposes that the participle is used here instead of the imperative. The meaning is, that by so living you will make a fair trial of what is acceptable to the Lord. The result on your happiness in this life and the next, will be such as to show that such a course is pleasing in his sight. Dr. Chandler, however, renders it as meaning that by this course they would show that they discerned and approved of what was acceptable to the Lord. See the notes on Romans 12:2, where a similar form of expression occurs.
And have no fellowship - See the sentiment here expressed fully explained in the notes on 2 Corinthians 6:14-18.
The unfruitful works - The deeds of darkness that produce no “benefit” to the body or the soul. The word “unfruitful” is used here in contrast with the “fruit of the Spirit,” Ephesians 5:9.
But rather reprove them - By your life, your conversation, and all your influence. This is the business of Christians. Their lives should be a standing rebuke of a sinful world, and they should be ever ready to express their disapprobation of its wickedness in every form.
For it is a shame even to speak ... - ; compare notes, Romans 1:24-32. It is still a shame to speak of the practices of the pagan. Missionaries tell us that they “cannot” describe the images on the car of Juggernaut, or tell us what is done in the idol temples. All over the world the same thing is true. The cheek of modesty and virtue would be suffused with shame at the very mention of what is done by the worshippers of idols; and the same is true of what is done by multitudes in Christian lands, who are not worshippers of idols. Their deeds cannot be described in the circles of the refined and the delicate; they cannot be told in the presence of mothers and sisters. Is there not emphasis here in the words “even to speak of these things!” If the apostle would not allow them to name those things, or to “speak” of them, is it wise or safe for Christians now to be familiar with the accounts of those practices of pollution, and for ministers to portray them in the pulpit, and for the friends of “moral reform” to describe them before the world? The very “naming” of those abominations often produces improper associations in the mind; the description creates polluting images before the imagination; the exhibition of pictures, even for the purpose of condemning them, defiles the soul. There are some vices which, from the corruptions of the human heart, cannot be safely described, and it is to be feared that, under the plea of faithfulness, many have done evil by exciting improper feelings, where they should have only alluded to the crime, and then spoken in thunder. Paul did not “describe” these vices, he denounced them; he did not dwell upon them long enough for the imagination to find employment, and to corrupt the soul. He mentioned the vice - and then he mentioned the wrath of God; he alluded to the sin, and then he spoke of the exclusion from heaven; compare notes on 1 Corinthians 6:18.
Which are done of them in secret - Many have supposed that there is an allusion here to the “mysteries” which were celebrated in Greece, usually at night, and far from the public eye. Many of these were indeed impure and abominable, but there is no necessity for supposing that there is such an allusion here. The reference may be to the vices which were secretly practiced then as now; the abominations which flee from the eye of day, and which are performed far from the public gaze.
But all things that are reproved - Margin, discovered. The word used here properly means proved, demonstrated, reproved, or convicted (see the notes on John 16:8); but it seems here to be used in the sense of disclosed, or discovered. The sense is, that “its true nature is demonstrated;” that is, it is made known.
Are made manifest by the light - The sense is, “light is the means of seeing what things are. We discern their form, nature, appearance, by it. So it is with the gospel - the light of the world. It enables us to see the true nature of actions. They are done in darkness, and are like objects in the dark. Their form and nature cannot then be known; but, when the light shines, we see what they are;” compare notes on John 3:20-21.
For whatsoever doth make manifest is light - “Anything which will show the real form and nature of an object, deserves to be called light.” Of the truth of this, no one can doubt. The meaning in this connection is, that that system which discloses the true nature of what is done by the pagan, deserves to be considered as “light;” and that the gospel which does this, should be regarded as a system of light and truth. It discloses their odiousness and vileness, and it stands thus in strong contrast with all the false and abominable systems which have upheld or produced those vices.
Wherefore he saith - Margin, or “it.” Διὸ λέγει Dio legei. The meaning may be, either that the Lord says, or the Scripture. Much difficulty has been experienced in endeavoring to ascertain “where” this is said. It is agreed on all hands that it is not found, in so many words, in the Old Testament. Some have supposed that the allusion is to Isaiah 26:19, “Thy dead men shall live - awake and sing, ye that dwell in the dust, for thy dew is as the dew of herbs,” etc. But the objections to this are obvious and conclusive.
(1) This is not a quotation of that place, nor has it a “resemblance” to it, except in the word “awake.”
(2) The passage in Isaiah refers to a different matter, and has a different sense altogether; see the notes on the passage.
To make it refer to those to whom the gospel comes, is most forced and unnatural. Others have supposed that the reference is to Isaiah 60:1-3, “Arise, shine; for thy light is come,” etc. But the objection to this is not less decisive.
(1) It is “not” a quotation of that passage, and the resemblance is very remote, if it can be seen at all.
(2) “that” is addressed to the church, calling on her to let her light shine; “this,” to awake and arise from the dead, with the assurance that Christ would give them light. The exhortation here is to Christians, to “avoid the vices of the pagan around them;” the exhortation in Isaiah is to the church, to “rejoice and exult” in view of the fact that the day of triumph had come, and that the pagan were to be converted, and to come in multitudes and devote themselves to God. In the “design” of the two passages there is no resemblance. Some have supposed that the words are taken from some book among the Hebrews which is now lost. Epiphanius supposed that it was a quotation from a prophecy of Elijah; Syncellus and Euthalius, from some writing of Jeremiah; Hippolytus, from the writing of some now unknown prophet. Jerome supposed it was taken from some apocryphal writings. Grotius supposes that it refers to the word “light” in Ephesians 5:13, and that the sense is,” That light says; that is, that a man who is pervaded by that light, let him so say to another.” Heumann, and after him Storr, Michaelis, and Jennings (Jewish Ant. 2:252), suppose that the reference is to a song or hymn that was sung by the early Christians, beginning in this manner, arid that the meaning is, “Wherefore, as it is said in the hymns which we sing,
‘Awake, thou that sleepest;
Arise from the dead;
Christ shall give thee light.’
Others have supposed that there is an allusion to a sentiment which prevailed among the Jews, respecting the significancy of blowing the trumpet on the first day of the month, or the feast of the new moon. Maimonides conjectures that that call of the trumpet, especially in the month Tisri, in which the great day of atonement occurred, was designed to signify a special call to repentance; meaning, “You who sleep, arouse from your slumbers; search and try yourselves; think on your Creator, repent, and attend to the salvation of the soul.” “Burder,” in Ros. Alt. u. neu. Morgenland, in loc. But all this is evidently conjecture. I see no evidence that Paul meant to make a quotation at all. Why may we not suppose that he speaks as an inspired man, and that he means to say, simply, that God now gives this command, or that God now speaks in this way? The sense then would be, “Be separate from sinners. Come out from among the pagan. Do not mingle with their abominations; do not name them. You are the children of light; and God says to you, awake from false security, rouse from the death of sin, and Christ shall enlighten you.” Whatever be the origin of the sentiment in this verse, it is worthy of inspiration, and accords with all that is elsewhere said in the Scriptures.
(The grand objection to this view of our author is, that the apostle evidently introduces a citation. In the writings of Paul, the form διὸ λέγει dio legei is never used in any other sense. Whence then is the quotation taken? There is nothing absurd in supposing, with Scott and Guyse, that the apostle gives the general sense of the Old Testament prophecies con cerning the calling of the Gentiles. But Isaiah 60:1-3, bears a sufficiently close resemblance to the passage in Ephesians, to vindicate the very commonly received opinion, that the apostle quotes that prophecy, in which the subject is the increase of the Church by the accession of the pagan nations. The church is called to arise and shine, and the apostle reminds the converted Ephesians of their lofty vocation. It forms no very serious objection, that between the place in Isaiah and that in Ephesians, there are certain verbal discrepancies. No one will make much of this, who remembers, nat in a multitude of cases similar variations occur, the apostles contenting themselves with giving the sense of the places to which they refer. “Accordingly,” says Dr. Dodridge, “the sense of tire passage before us is so fairly deducible from the words of Isaiah, that I do not see any necessity of having recourse to this supposition,” namely, that the quotation was from an apocryphal book ascribed to Jeremiah.)
Awake thou that sleepest - Arouse from a state of slumber and false security. “Sleep and death” are striking representations of the state in which people are by nature. In “sleep” we are, though living, insensible to any danger that may be near; we are unconscious of what may he going on around us; we hear not the voice of our friends; we see not the beauty of the grove or the landscape; we are forgetful of our real character and condition. So With the sinner. It is as if his faculties were locked in a deep slumber. He hears not when God calls; he has no sense of danger; he is insensible to the beauties and glories of the heavenly world; he is forgetful of his true character and condition. To see all this, he must be first awakened; and hence this solemn command is addressed to man. He must rouse from this condition, or he cannot be saved. But can he awaken himself? Is it not the work of God to awaken a sinner? Can he rouse himself to a sense of his condition and danger? How do we do in other things? The man that is sleeping on the verge of a dangerous precipice we would approach, and say, “Awake, you are in danger.” The child that is sleeping quietly in its bed, while the flames are bursting into the room, we would rouse, and say, “Awake, or you will perish.” Why not use the same language to the sinner slumbering on the verge of ruin, in a deep sleep, while the flames of wrath are kindling around him? We have no difficulty in calling on sleepers elsewhere to awake when in danger; how can we have any difficulty when speaking to the sinner?
And arise from the dead - The state of the sinner, is often compared to death; see the notes on Ephesians 2:1. People are by nature dead in sins; yet they must rouse from this condition, or they will perish. How singular, it may be said, to call upon the dead to rise! How could they raise themselves up? Yet God speak thus to people, and commands them to rise from the death of sin. Therefore, learn:
(1) That people are not dead in sin in any such sense that they are not moral agents, or responsible.
(2) That they are not dead in any such sense that they have no power of any kind.
(3) That it is right to call on sinners to arouse from their condition, and live.
(4) That they must put forth their efforts as if they were to “begin” the work themselves, without waiting for God to do it for them. “They” are to awake; “they” are to arise. It is not God who is to awake; it is not Christ who is to arise. It is the sinner who is to awake from his slumber, and arise from the state of death nor is he to wait for God to do the work for him.
And Christ shall give thee light - Christ is the light of the world; see the John 1:4, note, 9, note; John 8:12, note notes; Hebrews 1:3, note. The idea here is, that it they will use all the powers with which God has endowed them, and arouse from their spiritual slumber, and make an appropriate effort for salvation, then they may expect that Christ will shine upon them, and bless them in their efforts. This is just the promise that we need, and it is all that we need. All that man can ask is, that if he will make efforts to be saved, God will bless those efforts, so that they shall not be in vain. Faculties of mind have been given us to be employed in securing our salvation; and if we will employ them as they were intended to be employed, we may look for the divine aid; if not, we cannot expect it. “God helps those who help themselves;” and they who will make no effort for their salvation must perish as they wire will make no effort to provide food must starve. This command was indeed addressed at first to Christians; but it involves a principle which is applicable to all. Indeed, the “language” here is rather descriptive of the condition of impenitent sinners, than of Christians. In a far more important sense they are “asleep,” and are “dead;” and with the more earnestness, therefore, should they be entreated to awake, and to rise from the dead, that Christ may give them light.
See then that ye walk circumspectly - carefully, anxiously, solicitous lest you fall into sin. The word rendered “circumspectly” - ἀκριβῶς akribōs - means “diligently,” and the idea here is, that they were to take special pains to guard against the temptations around them, and to live as they ought to.
Not as fools, but as wise - Not as the people of this world live, indulging in foolish pleasures and desires, but as those who have been taught to understand heavenly wisdom, and who have been made truly wise.
Redeeming the time - The word rendered here as “redeeming,” means “to purchase; to buy up” from the possession or power of anyone; and then to redeem, to set free - as from service or bondage; notes, Galatians 3:13. Here it means, to rescue or recover our time from waste; to improve it for great and important purposes.
Because the days are evil - Because the times in which you live are evil. There are many allurements and temptations that would lead you away from the proper improvement of time, and that would draw you into sin. Such were those that would tempt them to go to places of sinful indulgence and revelry where their time would be wasted, and worse than wasted. As these temptations abounded, they ought therefore to be more especially on their guard against a sinful and unprofitable waste of time. This exhortation may be addressed to all, and is applicable to all periods. The sentiment is, that we ought to be solicitous to improve our time to some useful purpose, because “there are, in an evil world, so many temptations to waste it.” Time is given us for most valuable purposes. There are things enough to be done to occupy it all, and no one need have it hang heavy on his hands. He that has a soul to be saved from eternal death, need not have one idle moment. He that has a heaven to win, has enough to do to occupy all his time. Man has just enough given him to accomplish all the purposes which God designs, and God has not given him more than enough. They redeem their time who employ it:
(1)In gaining useful knowledge;
(2)In doing good to others;
(3)In employing it for the purpose of an honest livelihood for themselves and families;
(4)In prayer and self-examination to make the heart better;
(5)In seeking salvation, and in endeavoring to do the will of God.
They are to redeem time from all that would waste and destroy it - like recovering marshes and fens to make them rich meadows and vineyards. There is time enough wasted by each sinner to secure the salvation of the soul; time enough wasted to do all that is needful to be done to spread religion around the world, and to save the race. We should still endeavor to redeem our time for the same reasons which are suggested by the apostle - because the days are evil. There are evil influences abroad; allurements and vices that would waste time, and from which we should endeavor to rescue it. There are evil influences tending to waste time:
(1)In the allurements to pleasure and amusement in every place, and especially in cities;
(2)In the temptations to novel-reading, consuming the precious hours of probation to no valuable purpose;
(3)In the temptations of ambition, most of the time spent for which is wholly thrown away, for few gain the prize, and when gained, it is all a bauble, not worth the effort;
(4)In dissipation - for who can estimate the amount of valuable time that is worse than thrown away in the places of revelry and dissipation;
(5)In wild and visionary plans - temptations to which abound in all lands, and pre-eminently in our own;
(6)And in luxurious indulgence - in dressing, and eating, and drinking.
Be ye not unwise - Be not fools in the employment of your time, and in your manner of life. Show true wisdom by endeavoring to understand what the will of the Lord is, and then doing it.
And be not drunk with wine - A danger to which they were exposed and a vice to which those around them were much addicted. Compare notes on Luke 21:34. It is not improbable that in this verse there is an allusion to the orgies of Bacchus, or to the festivals celebrated in honor of that pagan god. He was “the god of wine,” and during those festivals, men and women regarded it as an acceptable act of worship to become intoxicated, and with wild songs and cries to run through streets, and fields, and vineyards. To these things the apostle opposes psalms, and hymns, and spiritual songs, as much more appropriate modes of devotion, and would have the Christian worship stand out in strong contrast with the wild and dissolute habits of the pagan. Plato says, that while those abominable ceremonies in the worship of Bacchus continued, it was difficult to find in all Attica a single sober man. Rosenmuller, Alt. u. neu. Morgenland, in loc. On the subject of wine, and the wines used by the ancients, see the notes on John 2:10-11. We may learn from this verse:
(1) That it was not uncommon in those times to become intoxicated on wine; and,
(2) That it was positively forbidden. All intoxication is prohibited in the Scriptures - no matter by what means it is produced. There is, in fact, but one thing that produces intoxication. It is “alcohol” - the poisonous substance produced by fermentation. This substance is neither created nor changed, increased nor diminished, by distillation. It exists in the cider, the beer, and the wine, after they are fermented, and the whole process of distillation consists in driving it off by heat, and collecting it in a concentrated form, and so that it may be preserved. But distilling does not “make” it, nor change it. Alcohol is precisely the same thing in the wine that it is in the brandy after it is distilled; in the cider or the beer that it is in the whisky or the rum; and why is it right to become intoxicated on it in one form rather than in another? Since therefore there is danger of intoxication in the use of wine, as well as in the use of ardent spirits, why should we not abstain from one as well as the other? How can a man prove that it is right for him to drink alcohol in the form of wine, and that it is wrong for me to drink it in the form of brandy or rum?
Wherein is excess - There has been much difference of opinion about the word rendered here as excess - ἀσωτία asōtia. It occurs only in two other places in the New Testament, where it is rendered “riot;” Titus 1:6; 1 Peter 4:4. The “adjective” occurs once Luke 15:13, where it is rendered riotous. The word (derived, according to Passow, from α a, the alpha privative (not), and σώζω sōzō - to save, deliver) means that which is unsafe, not to be recovered; lost beyond recovery; then that which is abandoned to sensuality and lust; dissoluteness, debauchery, revelry. The meaning here is, that all this follows the use of wine. Is it proper then for Christians to be in the habit of drinking it? “Wine is so frequently the cause of this, by the ungrateful abuse of the bounty of providence in giving it, that the enormity is represented by a very strong and beautiful “figure” as contained in the very liquor.” Doddridge.
But be filled with the Spirit - The Holy Spirit. How much more appropriate to Christians than to be filled with the spirit of intoxication and revelry! Let Christians, when about to indulge in a glass of wine, think of this admonition. Let them remember that their bodies should be the temple of the Holy Spirit, rather than a receptacle for intoxicating drinks. Was any man ever made a better Christian by the use of wine? Was any minister ever better suited to counsel an anxious sinner, or to pray, or to preach the gospel, by the use of intoxicating drinks? Let the history of wine-drinking and intemperate clergymen answer.
Speaking to yourselves - Speaking among yourselves, that is, endeavoring to edify one another, and to promote purity of heart, by songs of praise. This has the force of a command, and it is a matter of obligation on Christians. From the beginning, praise was an important part of public worship, and is designed to be to the end of the world; see the notes on 1 Corinthians 14:15. Nothing is more clear than that it was practiced by the Saviour himself and the apostles (see Matthew 26:30), and by the primitive church, as well as by the great body of Christians in all ages.
In psalms - The Psalms of David were sung by the Jews at the temple, and by the early Christians (notes Matthew 26:30), and the singing of those psalms has constituted a delightful part of public worship in all ages. They speak the language of devotion at all times, and a large part of them are as well suited to the services of the sanctuary now as they were when first composed.
And hymns - It is not easy to determine precisely what is the difference in the meaning of the words used here, or to designate the kind of compositions which were used in the early churches. A “hymn” is properly a song or ode in honor of God. Among the pagan it was a song in honor of some deity. With us now it denotes a short poem, composed for religious service, and sung in praise to God. Such brief poems were common among the pagan, and it was natural that Christians should early introduce and adopt them. Whether any of them were composed by the apostles it is impossible now to determine, though the presumption is very strong that if they had been they would have been preserved with as much care as their epistles, or as the Psalms. One thing is proved clearly by this passage, that there were other compositions used in the praise of God than the Psalms of David; and if it was right then to make use of such compositions, it is now. They were not merely “Psalms” that were sung, but there were hymns and odes.
Spiritual songs - Spiritual “odes” - ᾠδᾶις ōdais. Odes or songs relating to spiritual things in contradistinction from these which were sung in places of festivity and revelry. An “ode” is properly a short poem or song adapted to be set to music, or to be sung; a lyric poem. In what way these were sung, it is now vain to conjecture. Whether with or without instrumental accompaniments; whether by a choir or by the assembly; whether by an individual only, or whether they were by responses, it is not possible to decide from anything in the New Testament. It is probable that it would be done in the most simple manner possible. Yet as music constituted so important a part of the worship of the temple, it is evident that the early Christians would be by no means indifferent to the nature of the music which they had in their churches. And as it was so important a part of the worship of the pagan gods, and contributed so much to maintain the influence of paganism, it is not unlikely that the early Christians would feel the importance of making their music attractive, and of making it tributary to the support of religion. If there is attractive music at the banquet, and in the theater, contributing to the maintenance of amusements where God is forgotten, assuredly the music of the sanctuary should not be such as to disgust those of pure and refined taste.
Singing - ᾄδοντες adontes. The prevailing character of music in the worship of God should be vocal. If instruments are employed, they should be so subordinate that the service may be characterized as singing.
And making melody - “Melody” is an agreeable succession of sounds; a succession so regulated and modulated as to please the ear. It differs from “harmony,” inasmuch as melody is an agreeable succession of sounds by a single voice; harmony consists in the accordance of different sounds. It is not certain, however, that the apostle here had reference to what is properly called “melody.” The word which he uses - ψάλλω psallō - means to touch, twitch, pluck - as the hair, the beard; and then to twitch a string - to “twang” it - as the string of a bow, and then the string of an instrument of music. It is most frequently used in the sense of touching or playing a lyre, or a harp; and then it denotes to make music in general, to sing - perhaps usually with the idea of being accompanied with a lyre or harp. It is used, in the New Testament, only in Rom 5:19; 1 Corinthians 14:15, where it is translated “sing;” in James 5:13, where it is rendered “sing psalms,” and in the place before us. The idea here is, that of singing in the heart, or praising God from the heart. The psalms, and hymns, and songs were to be sung so that the heart should be engaged, and not so as to be mere music, or a mere external performance. On the phrase “in the heart,” see the notes on 1 Corinthians 14:15.
To the Lord - In praise of the Lord, or addressed to him. Singing, as here meant, is a direct and solemn act of worship, and should be considered such as really as prayer. In singing we should regard ourselves as speaking directly to God, and the words, therefore, should be spoken with a solemnity and awe becoming such a direct address to the great Yahweh. So Pliny says of the early Christians, “Carmenquc Christo quasi Deo dicere secure invicem” - “and they sang among themselves hymns to Christ as God.” If this be the true nature and design of public psalmody, then it follows:
(1) That all should regard it as an act of solemn worship in which they should engage - in “heart” at least, if they cannot themselves sing.
(2) Public psalmody should not be entrusted wholly to the light and frivolous; to the trifling and careless part of a congregation.
(3) They who conduct this part of public worship ought to be pious. The leader “ought” to be a Christian; and they who join in it “ought” also to give their hearts to the Redeemer. Perhaps it would not be proper to say absolutely that no one who is not a professor of religion should take part in the exercises of a choir in a church; but thoro can be no error in saying that such persons “ought” to give themselves to Christ, and to sing from the heart. Their voices would be none the less sweet; their music no less pure and beautiful; nor could their own pleasure in the service be lessened. A choir of sweet singers in a church - united in the same praises here - “ought” to be prepared to join in the same praises around the throne of God.
Giving thanks always - This is probably designed to be connected with the preceding verse, and to denote that the proper subject of psalms and hymns is thanksgiving and praise. This is indeed always the main design, and should be so regarded; and this part of worship should be so conducted as to keep up in the heart a lively sense of the mercy and goodness of God.
For all things - ὑπὲρ πάντων huper pantōn - for all things, or all “persons.” Dr. Barrow supposes that the meaning here is, that they were to give thanks for “all persons,” and to regard themselves as under obligations to give thanks for the mercies bestowed upon “the human race,” in accordance with the idea expressed in the Liturgy of the Episcopal church, “We, thine unworthy servants, do give thee most humble and hearty thanks for thy goodness and loving-kindness to us, and to all men.” This idea is beautiful: and it accords with the requirements of the Scriptures elsewhere; 1 Timothy 2:1. “I exhort, therefore, that first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all people. Such is the duty of Christians; and I see no departure from the fair meaning of the words here, in supposing that the apostle may have designed to express such an idea. The sense, according to this, would be, that we are to praise God for his general mercy to mankind; for all the happiness which mortals are permitted to enjoy; for the love of God to mankind in creation, in providence, and in redemption - just as a grateful child will give thanks for all the kindness shown to his brothers and sisters One obvious effect of this would be to overcome “selfishness,” and to make us rejoice in the happiness of others as well as in our own.
Another effect would be to make us feel a deeper interest in the condition of our fellow creatures. Another would be to elevate and enlarge our conceptions of the goodness of God - directing the mind to all the favors which he has bestowed on the race. Man has much for which to be grateful; and the duty of acknowledging the mercy of God to the race should not be forgotten. We are often prone so to magnify our calamities, and to contemplate the woes of the race, that we overlook the occasions for gratitude; and we should, therefore, look upon the “mercies” which we enjoy as well as the miseries which we endure, that our hearts may be right. He who looks only on his trials will soon find his mind soured and complaining; he who endeavors to find how many occasions for gratitude he has, will soon find the burden of his sorrows alleviated, and his mind tranquil and calm. Yet, if the words here are to be taken as in our translation, “for all things.” they are full of force and beauty. At the close of life, and in heaven, we shall see occasion to bless God for all his dealings with us. We shall see that we have not suffered one pang too much, or been required to perform one duty too severe. We shall see that all our afflictions, as well as our mercies were designed for our good, and were needful for us. Why then should we not bless God in the furnace as well as in the palace; on a bed of pain as well as on a bed of down; in want as well as when sitting down at the splendid banquet? God knows what is best for us; and the way in which he leads us, mysterious though it seem to be now, will yet be seen to have been full of goodness and mercy.
Unto God and the Father - Or, “to God, even the Father.” It cannot mean to God as distinguished from the Father, or first to God and then to the Father, as if the Father were distinct from God. The meaning is, that thanks are to be given specially to God the Father - the great Author of all mercies, and the source of all blessings.
In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ - That is, through his mediation, or trusting in him; see the notes on John 14:13. The meaning is, that we are “always” to approach God through the mediation of the Lord Jesus. When we ask for mercy, it is to be on his account, or through his merits; when we plead for strength and grace to support us in trial, it is to be in dependence on him; and when we give thanks, it is to be through him, and because it is through his intervention that we receive all blessings, and by his merits that even the gratitude of beings so sinful as we are can be accepted.
Submitting yourselves one to another - Maintaining due subordination in the various relations of life. This general principle of religion, the apostle proceeds now to illustrate in reference to wives Ephesians 5:22-24; to children Ephesians 6:1-3; and to servants, Ephesians 6:5-8. At the same time that he enforces this duty of submission, however, he enjoins on others to use their authority in a proper manner, and gives solemn injunctions that there should be no abuse of power. Particularly he enjoins on husbands the duty of loving their wives with all tenderness Ephesians 5:25-33; on fathers, the duty of treating their children so that they might easily obey them Ephesians 6:4; and on masters, the duly of treating their servants with kindness, remembering that they have a Master also in heaven; Ephesians 6:9. The general meaning here is, that Christianity does not break up the relations of life, and produce disorder, lawlessness, and insubordination; but that it will confirm every proper authority, and make every just yoke lighter. Infidelity is always disorganizing; Christianity, never.
Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands - On this passage, compare notes on 1 Corinthians 11:3-9. The duty of the submission of the wife to her husband is everywhere enjoined in the Scriptures; see 1 Peter 3:1; Colossians 3:18; Titus 2:5. While Christianity designed to elevate the character of the wife, and to make her a fit companion of an intelligent and pious husband, it did not intend to destroy all subordination and authority. Man, by the fact that he was first created; that the woman was taken from him; that he is better qualified for ruling than she is, is evidently designed to be at the head of the little community that constitutes a family. In many other things, woman may be his equal; in loveliness, and grace, and beauty, and tenderness, and gentleness, she is far his superior; but these are not the qualities adapted for government. Their place is in another sphere; and “there,” man should be as cautious about invading her prerogative, or abridging her liberty, as “she” should be about invading the prerogative that belongs to him. In every family there should be a head - someone who is to be looked up to as the counselor and the ruler; someone to whom all should be subordinate. God has given that prerogative to man; and no family prospers where that arrangement is violated. Within proper metes and limits, therefore, it is the duty of the wife to obey, or to submit herself to her husband. Those limits are such as the following:
1. In domestic arrangements, the husband is to be regarded as the head of the family; and he has a right to direct as to the style of living, the expenses of the family, the clothing, etc.
2. In regard to the laws which are to regulate the family, he is the head. It is his to say what is to be done; in what way the children are to employ themselves, and to give directions in regard to their education, etc.
3. In business matters, the wife is to submit to the husband. She may counsel with him, if he chooses; but the affairs of business and property are under his control, and must be left at his disposal.
4. In everything, except that which relates to “conscience and religion,” he has authority. But there his authority ceases. He has no right to require her to commit an act of dishonesty, to connive at wrong-doing, to visit a place of amusement which her conscience tells her is wrong, nor has he a right to interfere with the proper discharge of her religious duties. He has no right to forbid her to go to church at the proper and usual time, or to make a profession of religion when she pleases. He has no right to forbid her endeavoring to exercise a religious influence over her children, or to endeavor to lead them to God. She is bound to obey God, rather than any man (see the notes on Acts 4:19); and when even a husband interferes in such cases, and attempts to control her, he steps beyond his proper bounds, and invades the prerogative of God, and his authority ceases to be binding. It ought to be said, however, that in order to justify her acting independently in such a case, the following things are proper:
(1) It should be really a case of conscience - a case where the Lord has plainly required her to do what she proposes to do - and not a mere matter of whim, fancy, or caprice.
(2) When a husband makes opposition to the course which a wife wishes to pursue in religious duties, it should lead her to re-examine the matter, to pray much over it, and to see whether she cannot, with a good conscience, comply with his wishes.
(3) If she is convinced that she is right, she should still endeavor to see whether it is not “possible” to win him to her views, and to persuade him to accord with her; see 1 Peter 3:1. It is “possible” that, if she does right, he may be “persuaded” to do right also.
(4) If she is constrained, however, to differ from him, it should be with mildness and gentleness. There should be no reproach, and no contention. She should simply state her reasons, and leave the event to God.
(5) She should, “after” this, be a better wife, and put forth more and more effort to make her husband and family happy. She should show that the effect of her religion has been to make her love her husband and children more; to make her more and more attentive to her domestic duties, and more and more kind in affliction. By a “life” of pure religion, she should aim to secure what she could not by her entreaties - his consent that she should live as she thinks she ought to, and and walk to heaven in the path in which she believes that her Lord calls her. While, however, it is to be conceded that the husband has “authority” over the wife, and a “right” to command in all cases that do not pertain to the conscience, it should be remarked:
(1) That his command should be reasonable and proper.
(2) He has no right to require anything wrong, or contrary to the will of God.
(3) Where commands begin “in this relation,” happiness usually ends; and the moment a husband “requires” a wife to do anything, it is usually a signal of departing or departed affection and peace. When there are proper feelings in both parties in this relation there will be no occasion either to command or to obey. There should be such mutual love and confidence, that the known “wish” of the husband should be a law to the wife: and that the known desires of the wife should be the rule which he would approve. A perfect government is that where the known wish of the lawgiver is a sufficient rule to the subject. Such is the government of heaven; and a family on earth should approximate as nearly as possible to that.
As unto the Lord - As you would to the Lord, because the Lord requires it, and has given to the husband this authority.
For the husband is the head of the wife - see the notes on 1 Corinthians 11:3.
As Christ is the head of the church - As Christ rules over the church, and has a right to direct and control it.
And he is the Saviour of the body - That is, of the church, represented as “his body;” see notes, Ephesians 1:23. The idea here seems to be, that as Christ gave himself to save his body, the church; as he practiced self-denial and made it an object of intense solicitude to preserve that church, so ought the husband to manifest a similar solicitude to make his wife happy, and to save her from want, affliction, and pain. He ought to regard himself as her natural protector; as bound to anticipate and provide for her needs; as under obligation to comfort her in trial, even as Christ does the church. What a beautiful illustration of the spirit which a husband should manifest is the care which Christ has shown for his “bride,” the church! See the notes on Ephesians 5:25-29.
In everything - In everything which is not contrary to the will of God; see the notes on Ephesians 5:23.
Husbands, love your wives - The duty of the wife is to obey; the right of the husband is to command. But the apostle would guard against the abuse of that right by enjoining the manifestation of such a spirit on the husband as would secure obedience on the part of the wife. He proceeds, therefore, to show, that the husband, in all his conversation with the wife, should manifest the same spirit which the Lord Jesus did toward the church; or, in other words, he holds up the conduct of the Redeemer toward the church, as the model for a husband to imitate. If a husband wished a rule that would be short, simple, clear, and efficacious, about the manner in which he should regard and treat his wife, he could not find a better one than that here suggested.
Even as Christ loved the church - This was the strongest love that has ever been evinced in this world. It follows, that a husband is in no danger of loving his wife too much, provided she be not loved more than God. We are to make the love which Christ had for the church the model.
And gave himself for it - Gave himself to die to redeem it. The meaning here is, that husbands are to imitate the Redeemer in this respect. As he gave himself to suffer on the cross to save the church, so we are to be willing to deny ourselves, and to bear toil and trial, that we may promote the happiness of the wife. It is the duty of the husband to toil for her support; to provide for her needs; to deny himself of rest and ease, if necessary, in order to attend on her in sickness to go before her in danger; to defend her if she is in peril; and to be ready to die to save her Why should he not be? If they are shipwrecked, and there is a single plank on which safety can be secured, should he not be willing to place her on that, and see her safe at all hazards to himself? But there may be more implied in this than that a man is to toil, and even to lay down his life for the welfare of his wife. Christ laid down his life to save the church; and a husband should feel that it should be one great object of his life to promote the salvation of his wife. He is bound so to live as not to interfere with her salvation, but so as to promote it in every way possible. He is to furnish her all the “facilities” that she may need, to enable her to attend on the worship of God; and to throw no obstacles in her way. He is to set her the example; to counsel her if she needs counsel, and to make the path of salvation as easy for her as possible. If a husband has the spirit and self-denial of the Saviour, he will regard no sacrifice too great if he may promote the salvation of his family.
That he might sanctify - The great object of the Redeemer was to purify and save the church. The meaning here is, that a husband is to manifest similar love toward his wife, and a similar desire that she should be prepared to “walk before him in white”.
And cleanse it with the washing of water - In all this there is an allusion doubtless to the various methods of purifying and cleansing those who were about to be married, and who were to be united to monarchs as their brides. In some instances this previous preparation continued for twelve months. The means of purification were various, but consisted usually in the use of costly unguents; see Esther 2:12. “Six months with oil of myrrh, and six months with sweet odors, and with other things for the purifying of women;” compare Psalms 45:13-14; Ezekiel 16:7-14. As such a virgin was purified and prepared for her husband by washing and by anointing, so the church is to be prepared for Christ. It is to be made pure and holy. Outwardly there is to be the application of water - the symbol of purity; and within there is to be holiness of heart; see the notes on 2 Corinthians 11:2, where Paul says of the Corinthians, “I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ.”
By the word - There has been much diversity of opinion respecting the meaning of this. Probably the sense of the expression is, that all this was to be accomplished by the instrumentality of the truth - the Word of God. By that truth they were to be sanctified John 17:17; and in accordance with that the whole work from the commencement to the close was to be accomplished. It was not by external ceremonies, and not by any miraculous power on the heart, but by the faithful application of truth to the heart.
That he may present it to himself - In the last day, when he shall receive the church as his spouse to heaven; Revelation 21:9. Perhaps the word “prepare” would better express the sense here than “present” - that he may prepare it for himself as a holy church. Tyndale renders it, “to make it unto himself.”
A glorious church - A church full of honor, splendor, beauty. The idea of “shining,” or of being “bright,” would convey the sense here. Probably there is still here an allusion to a bride “adorned for her husband” (Revelation 21:2; compare Psalms 45:9-14); and the ideal is, that the church will be worthy of the love of the bridegroom, to whom it will then be presented.
Not having spot - Not having a stain, a defect, or any impurity - still retaining the allusion to a bride, and to the care taken to remove every blemish.
Or wrinkle - In the vigor and beauty of youth like a bride in whom there is no wrinkle of age.
Or any such thing - Nothing to deform, disfigure, or offend. To this beautiful illustration of the final glory of the church, the apostle was led by the mention of the relation of the husband and the wife. It shows:
(1) The tendency of the thoughts of Paul. He delighted to allow the associations in his mind, no matter what the subject was, to draw him along to the Redeemer.
(2) The passage here shows us what the church will yet be. There will be a period in its history when there shall not be any imperfection; when there shall be neither spot, nor wrinkle, nor any such thing. In heaven all will be pure. On earth we are preparing for that world of purity; and it cannot be denied that here there is much that is imperfect and impure. But in that future world, where the church shall be presented to Christ, clothed in the robes of salvation, there shall not be one unholy member; one deceiver or hypocrite; one covetous or avaricious man; one that shall pain the hearts of the friends of purity by an unholy life. And in all the million that shall be gathered there out of every land, and people, and tongue, and age, there shall be no envy, malice, backbiting, pride, vanity, worldliness; there shall be no annoying and vexing conflict in the heart with evil passions, “nor any such thing.” How different from the church as it now is; and how we should pant for that blessed world!
So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies - Because they are one flesh; Ephesians 5:31. This is the subject on which Paul had been speaking, and from which he had been diverted by the allusion to the glorified church. The doctrine here is, that a husband should have the same care for the comfort of his wife which he has for himself. He should regard her as one with himself; and as he protects his own body from cold and hunger, and, when sick and suffering, endeavors to restore it to health, so he should regard and treat her.
He that loveth his wife loveth himself -
(1) Because she is one with him, and their interests are identified.
(2) Because, by this, he really promotes his own welfare, as much as he does when he takes care of his own body. A man’s kindness to his wife will be more than repaid by the happiness which she imparts; and all the real solicitude which he shows to make her happy, will come to more than it costs. If a man wishes to promote his own happiness in the most effectual way, he had better begin by showing kindness to his wife.
For no man ever yet hated his own flesh - This is urged as an argument why a man should love his wife and show kindness to her. As no man disregards the happiness of his own body, or himself, so he should show equal care to promote the happiness of his wife. A sentiment similar to this is found in the classic writers. Thus, Curtius (lib. vii.) says, “Corporibus nostris quoe utique non odimus” - “We do not hate those things that pertain to our own bodies.” So Seneca (Epis. 14), “Fateor insitam nobis esse corporis nostri charitatem” - “I confess that there is implanted in us the love of our own body.” The word nourisheth here means properly to bring up, as e. g., children. The sense here is, that he provides for it, and guards it from exposure and want. The word “cherisheth” - θάλπει thalpei - means properly to “warm;” and may mean here that he defends it from cold by clothing - and the two expressions denote that he provides food and raiment for the body. So he is to do for his wife; and in like manner the Lord Jesus regards the church, and ministers to its spiritual necessities. But this should not be spiritualized too far. The “general” idea is all that we want - that Christ has a tender concern for the needs of the church, as a man has for his own body, and that the husband should show a similar regard for his wife.
For we are members of his body - Of the body of Christ; see 1 Corinthians 11:3, note; 1 Corinthians 12:27, note; John 15:1-6, notes, and Ephesians 1:23, note. The idea here is, that there is a close and intimate union between the Christian and the Saviour - a union so intimate that they may be spoken of as “one”.
Of his flesh, and of his bones - There is an allusion here evidently to the language which Adam used respecting Eve. “This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh;” Genesis 2:23. It is language which is employed to denote the closeness of the marriage relation, and which Paul applies to the connection between Christ and his people. Of course, it cannot be understood “literally.” It is not true literally that our bones are a part of the bones of Christ, or our flesh of his flesh; nor should language ever be used that would imply a miraculous union. It is not a physical union, but a union of attachment; of feeling; of love. If we avoid the notion of a “physical” union, however, it is scarcely possible to use too strong language in describing the union of believers with the Lord Jesus. The Scriptures make use of language which is stronger than that employed to describe any other connection; and there is no union of affection so powerful as that which binds the Christian to the Saviour. So strong is it, that he is willing for it to forsake father, mother, and home; to leave his country, and to abandon his possessions; to go to distant lands and dwell among barbarians to make the Redeemer known; or to go to the cross or the stake from simple love to the Saviour. Account for it as people may, there has been manifested on earth nowhere else so strong an attachment as that which binds the Christian to the cross. It is stronger love that that which a man has for his own flesh and bones; for it makes him willing that his flesh should be consumed by fire, or his bones broken on the wheel rather than deny him. Can the infidel account for this strength of attachment on any other principle than that it has a divine origin?
(See the supplementary note, Romans 8:10, on the union between Christ and his people, in which it is shown that a mere union of feeling and love is far beneath the truth.)
For this cause - Ἀντὶ τόυτου Anti toutou. This verse is a quotation from Genesis 2:24, and contains the account of the institution of marriage. The meaning of the phrase rendered “for this cause” is, “answerably to this;” or corresponding to this - that is, to what Paul had just said of the union of believers and the Redeemer. On the meaning of this verse, see the notes on Matthew 19:4. There is no evidence that the marriage connection was originally designed to symbolize or typify this union, but it may be used to illustrate that connection, and to show the strength of the attachment between the Redeemer and his people. The comparison should be confined, however, strictly to the use made of it in the New Testament.
This is a great mystery - The Latin Vulgate translates this, “sacramentum hoc magnum est” - “this is a great sacrament” - and this is the proof, I suppose, and the only proof adduced by the papists that marriage is a “sacrament.” But the original here conveys no such idea. The word “mystery” - μυστήριον mustērion - means something which is concealed, hidden, before unknown; something into which one must be “initiated” or instructed before he can understand it. It does not mean that it is “incomprehensible” when it is disclosed, but that hitherto it has been kept secret. When disclosed it may be as intelligible as any other truth; see the word explained in the notes on Ephesians 1:9. Here it means simply, that there was much about the union of the Redeemer with his people, resembling the marriage connection, which was not obvious, except to those who were instructed; which was obscure to those who were not initiated; which they did not understand who had not been “taught.” It does not mean that no one could understand it, but that it pertained to the class of truths into which it was necessary for one to be “initiated” in order to comprehend them. The truth that was so great a mystery was, that the eternal Son of God should form such an union with people; that he should take them into a connection with himself, implying an ardor of attachment, and a strength of affection superior to even that which exists in the marriage relation. This was a great and profound truth, to understand which, it was necessary to receive instruction. No one would have understood it without a revelation; no one understands it now except they who are taught of God.
But I speak concerning Christ and the church - This, it seems to me, is an explicit disclaimer of any intention to be understood as affirming that the marriage contract was designed to be a “type” of the union of the Redeemer and his people. The apostle says expressly, that his remarks do not refer to “marriage at all” when he speaks of the mystery. They refer “solely” to the union of the Redeemer and his people. How strange and unwarranted, therefore, are all the comments of expositors on this passage designed to explain marriage as “a mysterious type” of the union of Christ and the church! If people would allow the apostle to speak for himself, and not force on him sentiments which he expressly disclaims, the world would be saved from such insipid allegories as Macknight and others have derived from this passage. The Bible is a book of sense; and the time will come, it is hoped, when, freed from all such allegorizing expositions, it will commend itself to the good sense of mankind. Marriage is an important, a holy, a noble, a pure institution, altogether worthy of God; but it does not thence follow that marriage was designed to be a type of the union between Christ and the church, and it is certain that the apostle Paul meant; to teach no such thing.
Nevertheless - The apostle here resumes the subject which he had been discussing in Ephesians 5:21-29, and says that it was the duty of every man to love his wife as he did himself. This was the main topic, from which he had been diverted by the discussion respecting the love which the Redeemer had shown for his church.
And the wife see that she reverence her husband - The word “see” is supplied by our translators. The meaning is, that it was the special duty of the wife to show respect for her husband as the head of the family, and as set over her in the Lord; see on Ephesians 5:22, note 28, note. The word rendered “reverence,” is that which usually denotes “fear” - φοβῆται phobētai. She is to fear; i. e., to honor, respect, obey the will of her husband. It is, of course, not implied that it is not also her duty to love her husband, but that there should be no usurping of authority; no disregard of the arrangement which God has made; and that order and peace should be secured in a family by regarding the husband as the source of law.
From what is here said of the duties of husband and wife we may remark:
(1) That the happiness of society depends on just views of the marriage relation. It is true the world over, that the views which prevail in regard to this relation, determine everything in reference to all other relations of life, and to all other sources of enjoyment.
(2) God designed that woman should occupy a subordinate, though an important place in the relations of social life. This arrangement is never disregarded without evils which cannot be corrected until the original intention is secured. No imaginary good that can come out of the violation of the original design; no benefits which females, individual or associated, can confer on mankind by disregarding this arrangement, can be a compensation for the evil that is done, nor can the evil be remedied unless woman occupies the place which God designed she should fill. There nothing else can supply her place; and when she is absent from that situation - no matter what good she may be doing elsewhere - there is a silent evil reigning, which can be removed only by her return. It is not hers to fight battles, or to command armies and navies, or to control kingdoms, or to make laws. Nor is it hers to go forward as a public leader even in enterprises of benevolence, or in associations designed to act on the public mind. Her empire is the domestic circle; her first influence is there; and in connection with that, in such scenes as she can engage in without trenching on the prerogative of man, or neglecting the duty which she owes to her own family.
(3) It is not best that there should be the open exercise of authority in a family. When “commands” begin in the relation of husband and wife, “happiness” flies; and the moment a husband is “disposed” to command his wife, or is “under a necessity” of doing it, that moment he may bid adieu to domestic peace and joy.
(4) A wife, therefore, should never give her husband “occasion” to command her to do anything, or forbid anything. His known wish, except in cases of conscience, should be law to her. The moment she can ascertain what his will is, that moment ought to settle her mind as to what is to be done.
(5) A husband should never “wish” or “expect” anything that it may not be perfectly proper for a wife to render. He, too, should consult “her” wishes; and when he understands what they are, he should regard what she prefers as the very thing which he would command. The known wish and preference of a wife, unless there be something wrong in it, should be allowed to influence his mind, and be that which he directs in the family.
(6) There is no danger that a husband will love a wife too much, provides his love be subordinate to the love of God. The command is, to love her as Christ loved the church. What love has ever been like that? How can a husband exceed it? What did not Christ endure to redeem the church? So should a husband be willing to deny himself to promote the happiness of his wife; to watch by her in sickness, and, if need be, to peril health and life to promote her welfare. Doing this, he will not go beyond what Christ did for the church. He should remember that she has a special claim of justice on him. For him she has left her father’s home, forsaken the friends of her youth, endowed him with whatever property she may have, sunk her name in his, confided her honor, her character, and her happiness, to his virtue; and the least that he can do for her is to love her, and strive to make her happy. This was what she asked when she consented to become his; and a husband’s love is what she still asks to sustain and cheer her in the trials of life. If she has not this, whither shall she go for comfort?
(7) We may see, then, the guilt of those husbands who withhold their affections from their wives, and forsake those to whom they had solemnly pledged themselves at the altar; those who neglect to provide for their needs, or to minister to them in sickness; and those who become the victims of intemperance, and leave their wives to tears. There is much, much guilt of this kind on earth. There are many, many broken vows. There are many, many hearts made to bleed. There is many a pure and virtuous woman who was once the object of tender affection, now, by no fault of hers, forsaken, abused, broken-hearted, by the brutal conduct of a husband,
(8) Wives should manifest such a character as to be worthy of love. They owe this to their husbands. They demand the confidence and affection of man; and they should show that they are worthy of that confidence and affection. It is not possible to love that which is unlovely, nor to force affection where it is undeserved; and, as a wife expects that a husband will love her more than he does any other earthly being, it is but right that she should evince such a spirit as shall make that proper. A wife may easily alienate the affections of her partner in life. If she is irritable and fault-finding; if none of his ways please her; if she takes no interest in his plans, and in what he does; if she forsakes her home when she should he there, and seeks happiness abroad; or if, at home, she never greets him with a smile; if she is wasteful of his earnings, and extravagant in her habits, it will be impossible to prevent the effects of such a course of life on his mind. And when a wife perceives the slightest evidence of alienated affection in her husband, she should inquire at once whether she has not given occasion for it, and exhibited such a spirit as tended inevitably to produce such a result.
(9) To secure mutual love, therefore, it is necessary that there should be mutual kindness, and mutual loveliness of character. Whatever is seen to be offensive or painful, should be at once abandoned. All the little peculiarities of temper and modes of speech that are observed to give pain, should be forsaken; and, while one party should endeavor to tolerate them, and not to be offended, the other should make it a matter of conscience to remove them.
(10) the great secret of conjugal happiness is in the cultivation of a proper temper. It is not so much in the great and trying scenes of life that the strength of virtue is tested; it is in the events that are constantly occurring; the manifestation of kindness in the things that are happening every moment; the gentleness that flows along every day, like the stream that winds through the meadow and around the farm-house, noiseless but useful, diffusing fertility by day and by night. Great deeds rarely occur. The happiness of life depends little on them, but mainly on the little acts of kindness in life. We need them everywhere; we need them always. And eminently in the marriage relation there is need of gentleness and love, returning each morning, beaming in the eye, and dwelling in the heart through the livelong day.
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Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Ephesians 5". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Christ the King / Proper 29 / Ordinary 34