Click here to learn more!
Ch. 4:1 16. Practical results: spiritual Unity in Diversity of Gifts
1. I therefore ] Here begins what may be called the Second Part of the Epistle. Hitherto the Apostle has dealt with the eternal and spiritual aspects of Redemption. He now comes to their sequel and manifestation in conduct and life. Not that he leaves behind, for a moment, the eternal facts and spiritual principles. Scripture always brings the doctrinal into the practical, as reason and mainspring; and nowhere more than in this Epistle. But the main stress of thought is now on the effects rather than on the causes; it deals with the holy sequitur , the “ therefore ,” of the matter. Compare the Epistles to the Romans and Colossians for a similar arrangement; and, to some extent, the First to the Corinthians.
the prisoner of the Lord ] Lit., the prisoner in the Lord . His bonds are due to his union with Christ. They are thus a strong Christian argument with his converts. See further on 3:2, above.
beseech ] Cp. Romans 12:1 for the same word in just the same connexion. The Gr. is a verb more elastic in reference than our “beseech,” often meaning “to exhort,” “to encourage,” and (without the thought of entreaty) “to request.” But the thought of entreaty is quite in place here.
walk ] See on 2:2, 10, above. The distinctive notion of the word is that of the moral action and conduct of life.
worthy of the vocation ] Better, worthily of the calling . For similar phrases, cp. Philippians 1:27 , “walk worthily of the Gospel of Christ”; Colossians 1:10 , “walk worthily of the Lord”; 1 Thessalonians 2:12 , “walk worthily of God.” Ideally, of course, no human walk is “worthy of” the Gospel, the Call, or the Divine Caller. But practically it can and should be so, in the sense of being governed at every step by the Divine motives, applied by grace, and so presenting a true correspondence to those motives.
“ The vocation ” : see on 1:18, “His calling.”
are called ] Lit., and better, were called , when they heard and believed.
2. with all lowliness ] So, exactly, Acts 20:19 , in St Paul’s review of his own “walk” at Ephesus ; “serving the Lord with all lowliness .” “ With ” : the idea is strictly of accompaniment, attendance. But in view of actual N. T. usage of the preposition this must not be pressed. Lowliness was to characterize them.
Observe the moral lesson here. The first and most characteristic effect of the heights and depths of Divine privilege and spiritual experience just unfolded is to be the sincerest and most unselfish humility .
lowliness ] The Gr. word imports an unaffected lowly estimate of self. See Trench’s Synonyms of the N. T. , under ταπεινοφροσύνη, πραότης . It is a distinctively Christian grace, viewed as a thing always to be sought and cherished. Pagan ethics, at best, just recognized it as right where necessary, but not as good and happy per se . The Gospel puts its obligation and its blessedness on the same footing for all believers, as all absolutely dependent for all true good upon the mercy of Another.
The corresponding adjective is used (Matthew 11:29 ) by our Lord of Himself. Trench remarks that we have Him there recognizing His entire dependence as Man on the Father. Not moral defect but “creatureliness,” he says, is the thought there. “In His human nature He must be the pattern of all … creaturely dependence.”
Observe the force of the phrase; “ all lowliness.” The grace was to have the most unreserved scope and exercise.
meekness ] See Trench again, as just above. The Gr. word imports gentle and entire submission under trial, whatever the trial be, in the consciousness that no other attitude can be right for self. Meekness thus rests “on deeper foundations than its own, namely on those which lowliness has laid for it, and it can only continue while it continues to rest on these.” In this respect “it is a grace in advance of lowliness” (Trench).
longsuffering ] Grouped with “meekness,” Galatians 5:22 ; Colossians 3:12 . It so far differs from it as not necessarily to import the patience or submission due to a sense that a chastisement is right, but rather patience for whatever good reason; e. g. largeness of view of things, or deep internal peace and joy. It is used of the Divine patience, Romans 2:4 ; Romans 9:22 ; 1 Timothy 1:16 ; 1 Peter 3:20 ; 2 Peter 3:15 .
forbearing one another in love ] Here was to be the special motive to “longsuffering,” the family-affection of fellow-members of Christ. It is implied that there were sure to be occasions for such forbearance. Cp. Colossians 3:13 .
3. endeavouring ] R. V., better, giving diligence . The A. V., to a modern reader, suggests (as the Gr. does not) a certain imperfection and precariousness of result.
the unity of the Spirit ] The sacred Oneness effected and maintained by the One Holy Spirit who had, by uniting them to Christ, united them to each other. This Oneness has many aspects. The aspect here is that of realized community of feeling and purpose, based on the fact of community of regenerated position and nature in Christ.
in the bond of peace ] Grammatically, this may mean either “in peace, as the bond”; or “in that which secures peace.” Bengel prefers the latter; “the bond , with which peace is bound, is even love .” But we have recently (ch. 2) had Christ Himself presented as the “peace” of His people one with another; and is not the same thought present here? To realize their connexion with Him as such was the way to maintain the sense and exercise of spiritual solidarity.
4. one body ] See on 1:23; 2:15, 16; and below, ver. 15, 16. Here as always the imagery of the Body suggests not only union but united energy and operation. Its frequent recurrence emphasizes its importance and significance. Vital union with Christ, by the Spirit, is the one true secret of holy growth and action, alike for the individual and the community. The “ one ” is highly emphatic. As regards the vital Union, there is one Organism, and one only. Let the relations of practical Christian life and work correspond to that fact, to the utmost possible.
one Spirit ] The same Divine Spirit as above, ver. 3. He, the immediate Agent in regeneration (John 3:0 ), unites each regenerate individual to the Head, and, as the Sanctifier, maintains that union. He is thus comparable to the all-pervading spirit energizing and preserving the human frame.
Bengel remarks on the close sequence, in the “Apostles’ Creed,” of the articles of the Holy Ghost and of the Holy Church. Cp. at large 1 Corinthians 12:0 .
ye are called ] Perhaps a special reference to the work of the Holy Ghost, the immediate Agent in the “call” of grace. Cp. 1 Corinthians 12:13 . Lit. and better, ye were called .
in one hope of your calling ] On the “hope” and the “calling,” see on 1:18. They were called “ in ” the hope; i. e., so as to be in it, embraced and possessed by it. On the spiritual power of the “ one hope” cp. Colossians 1:4 , for a real parallel. There, the “love for all the saints” is (lit.) “ on account of the hope laid up in heaven.” The community of blissful prospect binds faster the communion of sympathy and affection.
5. one Lord ] Jesus Christ; Possessor and Prince of all His people equally.
one faith ] Is “faith” here the “Christian creed,” or “trustful acceptance” of Christ, “saving faith”? Probably the latter, in view of the great rarity of the former meaning of the word in St Paul (Galatians 1:23 ; Philippians 1:27 ; present perhaps the best cases, and even these are not quite clear). The words here thus mean, “one and the same way of access to and union with the One Lord.”
one baptism ] The one Divine Seal upon the one God-given faith in the One Lord. This holy Seal is “one” in respect of the Unity of the Triune Name (Matthew 28:19 ) “into” which, and which alone, all partakers of the covenant of Christ are baptized. The “one baptism for the remission of sins” is baptism into that Name, or into its equivalent (Acts 2:38 ), the Name of the Son of the Father and the Giver of the Spirit.
6. one God and Father of all ] The ultimate Source of spiritual unity. Baptism seals faith, faith unites to the Lord Christ, Christ reveals the Father as “the only true God” (John 17:3 ), with Whom He, one with His Church, is eternally one. “ Of all ” : here, obviously, all believers. Other aspects of Divine Fatherhood are not here in question. See above on 1:2. And cp. on this ver. 1 Corinthians 8:6 .
above all , &c.] The thought in these clauses progresses downwards and inwards. The Eternal Father, in His Son, supremely presides “ over all” His regenerate children, carries out action “ through ” them, and dwells “ in ” them. On the last word see 2:22; 2 Corinthians 6:16-18 ; 1 John 4:12 , 1 John 4:16 . “ In you all ” : there is clear evidence for the omission of “you”; considerable evidence for the reading “us”; but a preponderance, chiefly of patristic quotations, against any pronoun. The context however is clear for the special reference to the Church. The power and immanence of God in the Universe would be only a remote plea for Christian union.
7. But unto every one ] A motive to holy union from the opposite side; that of “diversity of gifts.” See Romans 12:3-8 ; 1 Corinthians 12:4 , &c.; 1 Peter 4:10 , 1 Peter 4:11 . Harmony of spiritual life and work should be promoted by equal remembrance of the oneness of the source of life and the inevitable diversity of its exercises and applications.
is given ] Was given , in the great ideal distribution at the Lord’s exaltation, and actually when we were each “sealed” (1:14).
according to the measure of the gift of Christ ] I. e., not indefinitely, or confusedly, but as the great Master, Christ, adjusted, measured , His mighty Gift to His sovereign allotment of each servant’s work . All was mere bounty, free gift; but all also profound design, manifold in detail, one in end.
8. Wherefore he saith ] Or it , i.e. the Scripture, saith . St Paul’s usage in quotation leaves the subject of the verb undetermined here and in similar cases (see e.g. ch. 5:14). For him, the word of the Scripture and the word of its Author are convertible terms. “ Wherefore ” : as if to say, “the Scripture statement of course answers to the spiritual fact just given.”
When he ascended , &c.] Psalms 68:0 (LXX. 67) 18. The Heb. there is lit., “Thou didst ascend on high; Thou didst lead captive a captivity (a band of captives); Thou didst take gifts amongst men,” or more lit., “in man.” The LXX. renders, “When Thou didst ascend on high, Thou didst lead captive a captivity; Thou didst take gifts in man.” The Targum, or Chaldee paraphrase, which is little likely to have been influenced by this passage, renders, “Thou hast given to them gifts, even to the sons of men.”
On this quotation, we first examine the discrepancy between “ take gifts” and “ give gifts,” and between “ among men” and “ for ” or “ to men,” and then briefly remark on the use made of the Psalmist’s words by the Apostle.
α . The first discrepancy is not to be reconciled by an attempt to make the Heb. verb mean both “give” and “take.” But what if the “taking” was for the purpose of “giving”? The Conqueror, Divine or human, in Psalms 68:0 may well be conceived as receiving grants for distribution among his vassals. If so, the Targum (see above) and the Apostle rightly convey the intention of the Psalmist.
“ Among men”; “ for men.” The great compression of Hebrew poetical diction makes it quite possible to explain, “ so as to be among men.” Thus again “to,” or “for,” will rightly convey the intention of the Psalmist, whatever were his precise and conscious thought in depicting the Conqueror as making gifts and grants to “ man .”
β . The “first reference” of Psalms 68:0 is a large and difficult question. See Dean Perowne’s full statement of problems and theories in his Commentary on the Psalms; see too Dr Kay’s notes. It is enough here to say that the Psalm celebrates, apparently, some great sacred triumph, or triumphs, at the Sanctuary of Zion; an occasion on which the supreme Conqueror, Jehovah, is represented as “ascending” after battle to His throne. One type of criticism will see in this nothing beyond a national Ode of Victory, and will regard the Apostle’s quotation as an “unscientific” accommodation. For ourselves, believing that our Lord taught a very different view of the Ancient Scriptures, we feel free to recognize any “first reference” fairly provable, but also bound to believe that the Divine Author worked through the human author, so as to convey eternal and permanent truth through his imagery and words, and so as to make the whole terminate on Christ, whether or no the human author was aware of it. And we believe that the same Divine Author worked here through the memory and thought of the Apostle, so as to secure, in his quotation and exposition, the true development of the Divine intention of the earlier passage.
We thus accept the present verse as reciting a true testimony of the Spirit of Prophecy to the foreseen facts of the Ascension of the Divine Messiah after conflict and conquest, and the distribution of blessings consequent upon it. The “captivity” will denote whatever persons or powers are in any way His conquest; whether as “enemies under His feet” (1 Corinthians 15:25 , &c.), or self-surrendered rebels reconciled to His will (2 Corinthians 10:3-5 , &c.). For the thought, “He received gifts (to distribute ) amongst men,” cp. Acts 2:33 .
9. Now that he ascended ] More lit., Now the [word, or thought,] He ascended .
what is it ] As if to say, “What does it imply? It implies a previous descent, from the seat of royalty. And, in the light of the Fulfilment, this implied descent was ‘to the lower parts of the earth.’ ” The Apostle does not mean that the Psalm teaches anything special about the Descent, but that it implies a Descent, and that what that Descent was, Christians know. And the interest of the implied reference is, its supernatural correspondence in outline to Gospel facts; its imagery being of One who has left His throne and now returns upward.
first ] Evidence is divided as to the right of this word to a place in the text. It is obviously, at worst, explanatory of the sense.
the lower parts of the earth ] Does this mean “the lower regions, even the earth,” as distinct from heaven? Or, “the lower regions of the earth,” i.e. the region underground, the grave and its world? Our great theologian and critical scholar, Bp Pearson ( Exposition of the Creed , Art. V.), inclines to the former view, with a reference to the Incarnation only. The phrase, so taken, may perhaps be illustrated by Isaiah 44:23 ; where, however, “lower parts of the earth” (LXX. “foundations of the earth”) may be contrasted with “mountains.” (Cp. also, perhaps, Psalms 139:15 .) On the other hand Psalms 63:9 is distinctly in favour of a reference to “the grave.” Our judgment is on the whole for the second view, with a reference to the Death and Burial of the Incarnate Lord. Such a reference seems better to balance , in a sense, the phrase just below, “far above all heavens ”; it falls in better with the amplitude of the words, “that He might fill all things” (cp. Romans 14:9 ); and it is in the manner of the N. T. to connect the Resurrection and Ascension as parts of one great whole. And the Lord’s Death is so profoundly concerned with the procurement of blessings to His Church that an allusion to it is à priori likely here. Many of the Fathers (see Pearson’s notes under Art. V. of the Creed) take this passage to refer to a definite work done by the Lord in the under-world, a deliverance of the spirits of the Old Testament saints from a “Limbus” there. But certainly the words here teach nothing of the kind; only that He who suffered for us entered the state of disembodied souls, “the Grave,” “Sheol,” “Hades.” The mysterious passage 1 Peter 3:18 , 1 Peter 3:19 , will at once occur in the question. But upon it we can only say here that it is too isolated, and involves too many problems of interpretation, to allow any great and peculiar article of belief to be built upon it; and, upon any view, its only explicit reference is to the generation of the Flood. See again Pearson. And for a different view from his, stated with great ability and insight, see Note II. to The Unsafe Anchor , by the Rev. C. F. Childe.
10. He that descended , &c.] As if to say, “Yes, He once descended, as a step in the process, a means to the great end; but now we have to dwell on the result; this Descender has now become by consequence the Ascended One, giving gifts from the Throne.” Both parts of the statement are emphatic, the fact and wonder of the Descent, and the triumph and result of the Ascent; and they are in deep connexion. But the main stress is on the latter.
far above all heavens ] Lit., all the heavens . Cp. Hebrews 4:14 ; Hebrews 7:26 ; where the ascended High Priest is revealed as “having passed through the heavens,” and as “become loftier than the heavens.” Scripture gives no precise revelation as to the number or order of regions or spheres of the upper world, the unseen universe of life and bliss. But its frequent use of the plural in regard of it, as here, whatever the origin of the usage, sanctions the thought that the Blessed (angels and glorified men), while from other points of view eternally concentrated and in company, and doubtless able, under their spiritual conditions of existence, to realize and act upon their unity to a degree unimagined by us, are yet distributed, classed, and ordered. “The Rabbis spoke of two heavens, or seven” (Smith’s Dict. of the Bible , under the word Heaven; and see Wetstein on 2 Corinthians 12:2 ). St Paul himself speaks (2 Corinthians 12:2 ) of a “third heaven,” meaning, apparently, the immediate presence of God; possibly with a reference to the twofold division mentioned just above, and which, if so, is to some degree favoured by Scripture. The plain meaning of the present passage, in any case, is that the Lord passed through and beyond all regions of created blessedness into the region of the Throne. That Throne (we can only use the language of figure, permitted by the Scriptures,) is as truly “far above” the highest sphere of created life as it is “far above” the lowest. To both it stands in the mysterious relation of the uncreated to the created. Cp. Psalms 113:5 , Psalms 113:6 . See further above, note on 1:21. From another point of view, He who is “far above” the heavens is (like His Father) “in heaven” (below, 6:9). In this view, heaven includes the whole state of blessed existence, uncreated and created alike.
that he might fill ] Possibly, “ fulfil ” ; i.e. every prophecy, of humiliation and glory. But St Paul’s usage favours the other version. He ascended that He might, not only in possibility but in act, “fill all things,” “with His presence, His sovereignty, His working by the Spirit; not with His glorified body, as some have thought” (Alford). “There is here no reference to a diffused and ubiquitous corporeity, but to a pervading and energizing omnipresence … Christ is perfect God, and perfect and glorified Man; as the former He is present everywhere , as the latter He can be present anywhere ” (Bp Ellicott).
11. And he gave ] The “ He ” is emphatic; it was He who gave . See above on ver. 7. Immediately, the Holy Spirit is the Giver (1 Corinthians 12:8 , &c.; cp. Acts 2:4 , and 13:2). But His action is in Divine union with that of the Son, and vicariously for Him.
some apostles ] I.e., some men as apostles , and so through the passage. Cp. 1 Corinthians 12:28 . The gift is to the Church, from the Lord, of spiritually called and enabled human ministers. “ Apostles ” : see above on 1:1.
prophets ] In the enumeration, 1 Corinthians 12:28 , this “ministry” comes second, as here. On the “prophets” of the N. T. see above on 2:20, and Appendix F.
evangelists ] The word occurs thrice in N.T.; here, Acts 21:8 , and 2 Timothy 4:5 . It seems, like our word “missionary,” to indicate not a defined ecclesiastical order (for Timothy “does the work of an evangelist,” while also an authoritative superintendent of pastors and churches), but rather a special kind of personal function in the ministry; the work of one called and devoted to direct proclamation of the Gospel message. It was thus an elastic word, like “missionary,” sometimes and oftenest denoting a minister’s special function, sometimes one only of his functions. “This passage,” our present passage, “would lead us to think of the evangelists as standing between the two groups,” (apostles and prophets, pastors and teachers,) “sent forth, as missionary preachers of the Gospel, by the first, and as such preparing the way for the labours of the second” (Smith’s Dict. of the Bible , under the word Evangelist ). “The omission of evangelists in the list of 1 Corinthians 12:0 may be explained on the hypothesis that the nature of St Paul’s argument there led him to speak of the settled organization of a given local Church” ( Ibidem ).
pastors and teachers ] Not, “some pastors and some teachers.” The two functions are regarded as coinciding and combining in the one settled guardian of a local flock; an instructive fact. Such a “pastor-teacher” had St Paul himself been at Ephesus (Acts 20:0 ), where indeed he had also been so conspicuously the “evangelist.” On the pastoral aspect of the Christian ministry cp. John 21:16 (Gr. “ shepherd my sheep”); Acts 20:28 (Gr., “ shepherd the church of God”), 29; 1 Peter 5:2 , 1 Peter 5:3 . See also Luke 17:7 (Gr., “a slave … shepherding ”). And note the Lord’s own references to His supreme Pastorate, Matthew 25:32 , Matthew 25:26 :31; John 10:0 ; and Hebrews 13:20 ; 1 Peter 2:25 , 1 Peter 2:5 :4; and Matthew 2:6 (Gr., “shall shepherd my people”). On the teaching aspect of the ministry, cf. esp. Acts 13:1 , Acts 13:15 :35; Romans 12:7 ; 1 Corinthians 12:28 , 1 Corinthians 12:29 ; 1 Timothy 3:2 ; 2 Timothy 2:24 .
12. for the perfecting of the saints , &c.] More lit., with a view to the equipment of the saints for [their] work of service . Latin versions, ad consummationem sanctorum in opus ministerii . The noun rendered equipment occurs only here in N.T. The kindred verb occurs e.g. Matthew 4:21 (A.V., “ mending nets”); Galatians 6:1 (A.V., “ restore such a one”); Hebrews 13:21 (“make you perfect ”; and so 2 Corinthians 13:11 ; 1 Peter 5:10 ). The idea is of mending a breach, completing a connexion, putting the dislocated in order. The practical suggestion here is most important. The Divine gift of a Christian Ministry is to have its effect above all things in the fitting of “the saints” (true believers in general) for active “service” for the common Lord. Government, preaching, teaching, is to bear upon this. Nothing will be a more lawful result of a Divine ministerial commission than energetic efforts for Christ and His cause on the part of private Christians. These efforts, on the other hand, will never be made (in the true ideal of Christian work) in neglect or contempt of the ordered ministry.
for the edifying of the body ] A special aspect of the “work of service” just mentioned. Each true believer is, by the spiritually enabled ministry, to be “equipped” to act as a “builder up” of the Lord’s Body (on which see above, on ver. 4); to gather in new “living stones,” new “members,” by holy influence of word and work; and to compact and consolidate the cohesion. See below ver. 29 for a special form of such labours. For the fusion of the metaphors of “building” and “body” see the closing verses of ch. 2, and below ver. 16.
13. till we all come in ] Render, come unto . The thought is of the holy Community converging into the spiritual harmony of a developed, equal, identical faith in and knowledge of the Son of God, under the mutual influence of individual believers stimulated and guided by the spiritual ministry. This would take place by growth and development in the faith and knowledge of individuals; but the cohesion of the true Church would bring these individual growths to converge and result in the maturity of the collective faith and knowledge, so to speak, of the whole Body, the ideal “fullgrown Man” of which the “fullgrown men” were the elements and miniatures.
of the faith, and of the knowledge of ] I.e., faith in Him and knowledge of Him. “Faith of ” often, in the N.T., means “faith in ”; e.g. Galatians 2:20 (A.V., “the faith of the Son of God,” identically as here). See above on 3:12. “ Knowledge ” : the Gr. word indicates true, full, developed spiritual knowledge, but too delicately, perhaps, to admit translation. See above on 1:17.
the Son of God ] This sacred Title belongs to the Saviour specially, among other respects, as He is the Head of the Church, the Firstborn, “in Whom” the “children” have adoption and regeneration; “in Whom” they are one with the Father. Their progress in the regenerate life and likeness will be largely effected through their “faith in Him and true knowledge of Him” as such .
perfect ] Better, as R.V., full-grown . The maturity of the life to come is in view; the state in which the mutual “edification” of the present life will have done its work.
man ] The Gr. corresponds to the Latin vir , not homo . It indicates man as against child . See next verse.
unto the measure of the stature ] The metaphor is of height, not age, though the word rendered “stature” means “age” as readily, by itself. The imagery of growth in this passage decides the alternative here. “ The measure ” : the allotted, proper, standard.
the fulness of Christ ] Cp. the phrases “fulness of the Gentiles” (Romans 11:25 ), and “fulness of the time” (Galatians 4:4 ), and note on 1:23. The phrase here appears to be analogous: the total, at length attained, of what is meant by Christ . And “Christ” in this passage (so full of the idea of the oneness in and with the Lord of His mystical Body) is, in effect, Christ and His Church (see above on 1:23); as in 1 Corinthians 12:12 , “as the body is one, and hath many limbs … so also is Christ .” The Lord the Son becomes in accomplished fact all that He wills, and is willed, to be, only when He is the Head of a perfected mystical Body which lives by His sacred Life and is His incorporate “limbs,” His immortal vehicle of action, if we may so speak. So He and they are guardedly and reverently spoken of here and there as One Christ, with full reservation, from other Scriptures, of the truth of the undying personality of each individual “limb” of the glorious Head, and of His Divine Personality. See further above on 1:22.
It is possible to explain the present phrase to mean “the fulness which flows from Christ,” the full, ideal, supply of grace and glory derived to the members from the Head. But we think this less probable, in view of the passage above quoted, 1 Corinthians 12:12 . See also below, vv. 15, 16.
14. that we henceforth, &c.] This verse takes up the thought of ver. 12. The mutual activity and influence of Christians, guided aright, is to result in, at once, fixity of principle and richness of power; both characteristic of spiritual maturity.
children ] The same Gr. word as e.g. 1 Corinthians 3:1 (A.V., “babes”), 13:11; Hebrews 5:13 (A.V., “babe”). By usage, it denotes the young child in the aspect specially of ignorance or mental weakness, “childishness.” From another side the same word sometimes conveys ideas commended by the Gospel, the little child’s simplicity of purpose and willingness to be taught, “childlikeness” ( e.g. Matthew 11:25 , Matthew 11:21 :16; 1 Corinthians 14:20 , where the kindred verb is used).
tossed to and fro ] Lit., “ billowed ”; carried up and down as on waves. Another explanation of the (rare) Gr. word is “worked into waves,” as the sea by the wind. But the next phrase is against this, and so is the analogy of a verb of similar form, James 1:6 (A.V., “driven with the wind”).
carried about ] Like St Paul’s own ship in Adria (Acts 27:27 , where the Gr. verb is closely akin to this).
of doctrine ] Lit., of the teaching , the teaching in question, that described just below.
by the sleight ] Lit., in the dicing . “ In: ” more than “ by .” The thought is of “the evil atmosphere, as it were, in which the varying currents of false doctrine … exert their force” (Ellicott). “ Dicing ” : the word was familiar in later Greek, in the sense of deceit, sharp practice, in general. It was thence borrowed, and similarly used, by the Rabbis.
of men ] Not of Christ, nor for Christ. Cp. Galatians 1:1 .
and cunning craftiness , &c.] More lit., in cunning, with a view to the scheming of [their] deceit . R.V., “ after the wiles of error.” But the Gr. preposition far more often means “with a view to” than “according to.” The practical difference, however, is minute.
The Apostle here recognizes and exposes the sad fact of intentional misguidance on the part of these preachers of “another Gospel” (Galatians 1:6 , Galatians 1:7 ). See the parallel cautions, Romans 16:17 , Romans 16:18 ; Colossians 2:4 .
15. speaking the truth ] The Gr. (one word) is wider and deeper, including the thought of living and loving truth . Alford renders “ being followers of truth .” And the context is in favour of this. Not speaking truth, but avoiding false teaching, is in question. The Christian is to cultivate an instinct for Divine Truth, as against its counterfeits, in thought and in life. R.V., “speaking truth” and (margin) “dealing truly.”
in love ] The holy condition under which alone the “follower of truth” would follow it truly, free from bitterness and prejudice, intent only on the will of God. It has been well said that some men find love the easier precept, some truth; but that the Gospel enjoins the harmony of both.
grow up] The metaphor of the living Body reappears. See above, notes on ver. 12, 13.
into him ] So as to deepen the realization of “in-ness” in Him, and more richly to derive its blessings. Just possibly we may render “ unto Him.” In that case the Lord would be viewed as the Archetype to which each believer, in his spiritual development and growth, growingly conforms. But this is less in harmony with the imagery of the Body and Head which we have here.
in all things] Lit., “ as to all things .” Our growing sense of incorporation is to affect our whole being, not a part; “spirit, soul, and body” (1 Thessalonians 5:23 ).
the head ] See on 1:22.
16. from whom ] He is the vital Source to which the whole complex organism now to be described wholly owes alike its existence and its action .
fitly joined together ] The Gr. participle is present, and indicates a process going on. The Body, vitalized from and by the Head, is evermore acquiring a deeper and truer contact of part with part, a more harmonious (“ fitly ”) inner union and action. See above on 2:21, where the same Gr. word occurs.
compacted ] Again a present participle. (The same word recurs Colossians 2:19 .) The idea of growth in harmony of structure (see last note) here merges into that of growth in solidity and strength.
by that which every joint supplieth ] Lit., by or through every joint of the supply . It is possible to render “by every contact of the supply”; i.e., as explained by St Chrysostom here, “as the Spirit touches, in order to supply grace, each limb of the Body”; or, perhaps, as each limb, each believer, touches (by faith) the source of supply. But the parallel passage Colossians 2:19 is decisive for the explanation “joint.” So the Latin Versions, junctura . The thought is of “supply” passing to the limbs through the nexus of each with the source of life. Each such nexus is thus a “joint of supply,” “a junction designed for, made for, conveyance” of life and power; as we speak of “a bond of union.” The metaphor must not be elaborately pressed. The essential idea is mutual coherence and common growth of the limbs through individual connexion with the Head (1 Corinthians 6:17 ), not through connexion with other limbs. The “joint” thus represents the man’s spiritual union with Christ, not union with church-organization, which is a thing, however sacred, of another order. The life-flow from the Head to each spiritual Limb is individual and direct. The product of this, not the cause or means of it, is the life of the Body.
according to the effectual working ] Better, simply, [the] working . The process in view takes place “according to,” in the manner and on the scale of, the life-power of the Head acting in the Limb. The original noun (whence our “energy” is derived) occurs in N. T. only in St Paul; Ephesians 1:19 , Ephesians 3:7 (where see note), and here; Philippians 3:21 ; Colossians 1:29 , Colossians 1:2 :12; 2 Thessalonians 2:9 (of the working of the Evil Power). The article is omitted before the word here, perhaps because the power referred to is unmistakable. Alford renders “according to vital working.”
in the measure of every part ] Each limb has its own conditions of larger or smaller capacity; age, circumstances, training, and the like occasion very various “measures” in the allotments of the Divine life-power which adjusts itself to each real need, while it can always fully meet that need.
maketh ] The form of the Gr. verb (middle) indicates fulness and intensity of action.
increase ] Lit., the increase , the growth contemplated as taking place.
unto the edifying of itself ] For illustration, see 2:21, and notes.
in love ] The inmost condition of the whole process. All takes place “in,” under the power and after the action of, “love”; for the Source of the life-energy is “the Son of the Father’s love” (Colossians 1:13 , Gr.), and the recipients are “rooted and grounded in the love” of the Father in Him (see above on 3:17); from which “no created thing shall separate them” (Romans 8:39 ).
17 24. Practical Results: a spiritual revolution of principle and practice. The Old Man and the New
17. testify ] A word of solemn appeal occurring elsewhere in N. T. only Acts 22:26 (St Paul speaking) and Galatians 5:3 .
in the Lord ] As myself being “in Him,” and as to those who are in the same union. Cp. Galatians 5:10 (“I have confidence towards you in the Lord,” Gr.); below, 6:1 (“obey in the Lord”); &c. The phrase “in the Lord” occurs 45 times in St Paul; “in Christ,” or closely kindred phrases, nearly 80 times.
henceforth , &c.] More lit., no longer walk . At their conversion “old things were passed away” (2 Corinthians 5:17 ) as to principle. Let this be now realized, continuously and ever more completely, in practice. On the metaphor “ walk ,” see above on 2:2, 10.
other Gentiles ] Read, probably, the Gentiles . (On the word see above, on 2:11.) In a spiritual sense the Ephesians were no longer “Gentiles,” for they were spiritual “Israelites” (Galatians 6:16 ); hence the true form of the phrase here.
vanity of their mind ] “Vanity” here is not self-conceit , which would require another Gr. word. It is the “emptiness” of illusion , specially of the state of illusion which sees pleasure in sin. In Romans 8:20 the word is used of evil, whether physical or moral, regarded as (what all evil ultimately proves to be) delusion and failure.
“ Of their mind ” : the “mind” sometimes denotes specially the reason, as distinguished e.g. from spiritual intuition (1 Corinthians 14:14 , 1 Corinthians 14:15 ). Sometimes (Colossians 2:18 ) it apparently denotes the rational powers in general, as in the unregenerate state; and again those powers as regenerate (Romans 12:2 ). Here the unrenewed “Gentile” is viewed as living on principles which reason can approve only when the eternal facts are hidden from it.
18. having the understanding darkened ] Lit., haying been darkened in the understanding . On “the understanding” see note above on 2:3 (where A.V., “mind”). The Gr. word may fairly be said to mean the reason ( nous ) in action. Here accordingly the phrase defines, so to speak, the phrase just previous; the general illusion of the reason comes out in obfuscated acts of thought. On the metaphor of darkness cp. Matthew 6:23 ; John 3:19 , John 3:8 :12, John 3:12 :35, 46; Acts 26:18 ; Colossians 1:13 ; 1 Thessalonians 5:4 , 1 Thessalonians 5:5 ; 1 John 1:5 , 1 John 1:6 , 1 John 1:2 :8, 1 John 1:9 , 11; and below, ch. 5:8, 11, 6:12. It often combines the ideas of blindness and of secrecy; here it gives only the former.
being alienated from the life of God ] The words, Gr. and Eng., imply a fall from a state of union. See above on 2:12 where “alienated” occurs in another connexion. Here, as there, the Human Soul in the abstract is viewed as having shared, in its unfallen state, the Life of God, and having lost it in the Fall. And this view is transferred from the Soul to the souls in which it is individualized. Historically, we begin our personal existence aliens; ideally, we began in union and fell from it.
“ The life of God ” : the word “life” occurs here only in the Epistle. The phrase here denotes the spiritual force given to the human spirit by spiritual contact with God, resulting in the action and exercise of holiness. The Christian believer finds “this life in His Son” (1 John 5:11 ). In John 17:3 we have at once its secret and its issue; “to know the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom He hath sent.” It is entered, from one point of view, by “justification of life” (Romans 5:18 ), that acceptance of the guilty in Christ which is the sine quâ non in Divine Law. Its development is the state of glory, which is therefore very often called, in a special sense, “eternal life” ( e. g. Matthew 25:46 ), though that phrase is also fully true of the present state of the believer (1 John 3:15 , 1 John 5:13 ). It is plain that the word “life,” in spiritual connexions, means very much more than “existence.” See above on 2:1.
through the ignorance ] Better, on account of, &c. They lost connexion with the Life of God, and so remain, because of their ignorance of the eternal facts about God and holiness. We have here still something of the idealization explained just above. As the Human Soul fell through guilty “ignorance” of the supreme right and joy of absolute submission to God, so the individual soul is viewed as, ideally, losing union through the same “ignorance” of self-will. Historically, the individual begins self-willed and therefore alienated; ideally, he breaks an existing connexion. The practical aspect of the matter is that he maintains disconnexion by the ignorance of self-will. He “wills not to come that he may have life” (John 5:40 ), “seeing no beauty” in Christ, “that he should desire Him” in an effectual sense (Isaiah 53:2 ).
blindness ] Better, hardening (so R.V.). The word denotes failure of sensation in general. This clause is a re-statement of that just previous. What took place “on account of ignorance” took place “on account of hardening”; another aspect of the same moral state.
heart ] See on 1:18, 3:17. Much more than the seat of emotion is meant by this word in Scripture. Phrases compounded of “heart” and “harden” occur (in the Gr.) Mark 3:5 , Mark 3:6 :52, Mark 3:8 :17; John 12:40 . In 2 Corinthians 3:14 we have (Gr.) “their thoughts were hardened.”
19. who being past feeling ] The Gr. relative pronoun indicates a certain conditionality; almost as if it were, “ as being those who.” But the shade is too slight for translation. “ Past feeling ” : lit., “having got over the pain,” as when mortification sets in; a deeply suggestive metaphor.
have given themselves over ] Lit., did give over themselves. An ideal crisis is in view, reflected in many a sad actual crisis in individual lives. “ Themselves ” is emphatic by position. The perverted will is the traitor, the “giver over.” However deep the mystery of its perversion, it is always the will , and speaks as such the decisive “yes” to temptation.
lasciviousness ] The Gr. word occurs in N.T. 11 times. See e.g. Mark 7:22 ; Romans 13:13 (A.V., “wantonness”); Galatians 5:19 . The root-idea of the word is not specially fleshly impurity, but rebellion against restraint as such; petulance, wantonness, as shewn e.g. in violence. Abp Trench ( N. T. Synonyms , on this word), recommends accordingly wantonness as a better rendering than “lasciviousness,” which is but one manifestation of the tendency denoted.
to work ] Lit., to the working of. The Gr. noun occurs elsewhere in N.T. Luke 12:58 (A.V., “diligence”); Acts 16:16 , Acts 16:19 (A.V., “gain”); 19:24 (A.V., “gain”), 25 (A.V., “craft”). The idea of business thus adheres to the word. The suggestion conveyed by it here is that sin becomes to the deliberate sinner an earnest pursuit, an occupation. Cp. Romans 13:14 (“ forethought for the flesh”). The R.V. gives in its margin here, “to make a trade of.”
uncleanness ] The connexion of the Gr. word is mainly with fleshly impurity, and so probably here. But it is not quite confined to this; one passage (1 Thessalonians 2:3 ) giving the thought rather of “impure motives” in the sense of insincerity.
greediness ] The Gr. word is rendered “covetousness,” Luke 12:15 . But it means much more than the desire of money , or property , with which we specially associate “covetousness.” It occurs (or its cognate verb or adjective) in close connexion with the subject of fleshly impurity 1 Corinthians 5:11 ; 1 Thessalonians 4:6 ; and below, 5:3, 5. See too Colossians 3:5 . “Greed” has a strong and terrible connexion with impurity, as is obvious. Bp Lightfoot shews (on Colossians 3:5 ) that the present word never of itself denotes “lust,” while it is, of course, rightly used to denote the horrible grasp and plunder which lust involves.
In this verse the Apostle depicts, as universal among “the Gentiles,” an abandoned licentiousness. Contemporary literature gives mournful testimony to the charge, as regards society in general, indicating a large social toleration of the most hideous vices, and a significant readiness to import vicious imagery into refined spheres of thought. But the accusation of this passage, surely, transcends the limits of any one age, or state of society; it is levelled at unregenerate Man. And the explanation of it, so viewed, is to be sought in the study of those tendencies of evil which reside in the fallen “heart” as such. The action of outrageous sinning does but illustrate the underlying principle of sin; a principle with which absolutely nothing but “the life of God” can effectually deal. See further Romans 3:10-18 , and notes in this Series.
20. ye ] Emphatic by position.
have not … learned ] Better, did not learn ; at their conversion. “ Learn ” implies the instruction then received in the Lord’s precepts, and in the holy bearings of His work. For a similar reference to the first apprehension by new converts of Gospel purity of principle, cp. 1 Thessalonians 4:7 ; “God did not call us on terms of impurity.”
Christ ] Who is the Subject-matter of His own message.
21. if so be ] The Gr. interrogative (used also above, 3:2) does not imply any doubt, necessarily, but calls the reader to verify the statement.
have heard him , &c.] Better, as “Him” is emphatic by position, If it was He whom ye heard . The Gr. construction leads us to explain this not of listening to the Lord so much as of hearing about Him, or rather, of hearing “Him” as Truth rather than Teacher. “Christ” had been the Message they had received. He does indeed, by His Word and Spirit, personally continue the “teaching” which in His earthly ministry He began (Acts 1:1 ); but that is not the point of the present words.
have been taught by him ] Better, if it was in Him that ye were taught . The instruction was “in Christ,” if the teacher’s limit and rule was the truth of His Person and Work, and if those who received it were, by living spiritual union, “in Him,” and so capable of “spiritual discernment” (1 Corinthians 2:14 ). This clause defines and explains the previous clause.
as the truth is in Jesus ] Better, even as in Jesus truth is . See last note, on the relation of spiritual “in-ness” to the standard and reception of spiritual truth. The emphasis here is as if to say, “If you were taught, as I say, in Him; in the lines of eternal fact and spiritual reality which do so truly meet in Him.” The question arises, why does the Lord’s designation change from “Christ,” ver. 20, to “ Jesus ” here? Probably to mark the fact that the prophesied Christ is the historical Jesus.
22. that ye put off ] The Gr. verb is the infinitive aorist. The tense tends to denote singleness of crisis and action. Some would render “that you have” (or “did) put off.” But the better explanation, or paraphrase, is, “with regard to your (definite) putting-off.” The “instruction in Christ” had informed them about such a “putting-off”; its principles, secret, effects, as well as its fact. But the view of the “putting-off” as a definite crisis remains; and the only question is, does this crisis appear here as a past or future one? The answer will be best given under the words “the old man,” just below. For the present we refer to Colossians 3:9 as strongly favouring the reference here to a crisis past; so that we may paraphrase, “you were taught in Christ with regard to the fact that your old man was laid aside.”
concerning the former conversation ] On “conversation” see on 2:3 above. The word (noun and verb) happens to be almost always used by St Paul in reference to the unregenerate life-course. The clause means that the “putting-off” concerned , had to do with, a former life-course; it affected it, by being the close of it. As concerning your former manner of life (R.V.).
the old man ] This important phrase occurs elsewhere Romans 6:6 ; Colossians 3:9 . In Rom. it appears as a thing which “was crucified with Christ”; in Col. as a thing which “was once stripped off” by the saints. (Cp. the remarkable parallel words Colossians 2:11 , as in the best supported reading, “in the stripping off of the body of the flesh .”) On the whole, we may explain the phrase by “ the old state .” And under this lie combined the ideas of past personal legal position and moral position; all that I was as an unregenerate son of Adam, liable to eternal doom, and the slave of sin. To “put off the old man” is to quit those positions, which, at the root, are one. It is to step into the position of personal acceptance and of personal spiritual power and victory; and that position is “in Christ.” The believer, lodged there, enters definitely and at once upon both acceptance and spiritual capacity for victory and growth. “ The old man ” is thus not identical with “ the flesh ,” which is an abiding element (Galatians 5:16 , Galatians 5:17 ) in even the regenerate and spiritual, though it need no longer even for an hour be the ruling element; it may be continuously overcome, in a practical and profound manner, in the strength of “the new man.” The phrases “old Man” and “new Man” have a probable inner reference to the doctrine of the First and Second Adam (Romans 5:12-19 ; 1 Corinthians 15:21-58 ). The “putting off” and “putting on” may be expressed by saying, “ye broke connexion (in certain great aspects of connexion) with the First Adam, and formed connexion with the Second,” connexion both of acceptance and of life-power 1 1 On this aspect of Christian doctrine much excellent matter will be found in an old book, The Gospel Mystery of Sanctification , by Walter Marshall, Fellow of New College, Oxford (about 1670). .
corrupt ] Lit., corrupting, growing corrupt ; morally decaying, on the way to final ruin. Such, from the Divine point of view, is the condition of ideal Man unregenerate, Man as represented by and summed up in Adam fallen. And such accordingly is the actual condition, from the same point of view, of unregenerate men , in whom the ideal is individualized.
according to the deceitful lusts ] Lit., the desires of deceit ; desires after the forbidden, full of deceitful promises of joy and gain. See Genesis 3:0 for the great typical case, which perhaps is in view throughout this verse. “ According to ” : by natural result. Moral decay must follow in their path. Cp. 2 Peter 2:19 .
23. be renewed ] A present infinitive in the Gr. The idea is thus of progress and growth, the antithesis to the “corrupting” just above. The decisive fact of new position in and connexion with Christ was to result, and was resulting, in an ever developed spiritual experience, with its ever new disclosures both of need and of grace. Cp. 2 Corinthians 4:16 . We may paraphrase the clause (on the principle explained in the first note on ver. 22), “ and with regard to your being renewed.”
in the spirit of your mind .] I.e., practically, “in your spiritual life and faculty, coming out in the phase of thought and understanding,” as distinct from e.g. the phase of emotion. “Spirit” can scarcely here refer to the Holy Ghost; and it cannot bear the vague modern sense of “sentiment,” or the like. It is the human spirit, as the substratum, so to speak, of every activity of the “inner man,” and now specially of the activity which sees and grasps truth (“your mind ”). See above, last note on ver. 17. The Gr. may be rendered “ by the spirit of your mind,” as the instrument, or avenue, used by the Eternal Spirit in the process of renewal. And cp. Romans 12:2 for a good parallel. But usage is on the whole in favour of the rendering “in,” in the sense of “with reference to.”
24. that ye put on ] See note on “put off,” ver. 22. Here again is an aorist infinitive in the Gr.; and we may correspondingly paraphrase, “(you were taught) with regard to the fact that the new man was put on.”
On the meaning of the phrase here, see notes on ver. 22, where it is explained by contrast and implication. The “putting on the new man” is the inseparable converse to the “putting off the old man.” There is no neutral border; to step out of the old position and connexion, out of Adam, is to step into the new, into Christ.
Meantime, what is in covenant and in principle a thing done, is to be in realization and application a thing doing, a thing repeated. So we have Romans 13:14 ; “ put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ,” an exhortation to a new act of realization. And cp. Colossians 3:12 . The other side, the side (as we believe) of this passage, appears Galatians 3:27 ; “ ye did put on Christ.”
the new man ] Practically, the new position and power (legal and moral, see note on ver. 22) of the regenerated self. In a deeper analysis, we trace (as above on ver. 22) a reference to the Second Man, the Second Adam, Christ. (See the quotation from St Ignatius, Introd. , p. 28. See also, for another aspect of this phrase, 2:15). By incorporation with Him His “members” become (in a sense needing reverent caution in the statement) repetitions of Him the glorious Archetype, as occupants of His position of Acceptance, and as “one spirit” with Him, and as enabled in Him to live a life whose principle is His separation from sin to God. To come to be “in Him” is thus to “put on the New Man” in the sense of part and lot in the standing and in the power of the Lord as Second Covenant Head. But, we repeat it, the practical reference of the verse is to the “newness” of the believer’s standing and power, acquired in regeneration.
which ] Better, in modern English, who .
after God ] “Answering His great Idea,” His plan and will.
is created ] Better, was created . This “creation” was accomplished, ideally, when the new Covenant Head of the regenerate Race was provided, in eternal purpose; historically, when He was “made Man,” in time; actually, for individuals, when each believer “put on Christ,” came to be “in Him.” Cp. on the thought of spiritual “creation” ch. 2:10, 15; 2 Corinthians 5:17 ; Galatians 6:15 ; and especially Colossians 3:10 , a close and suggestive parallel here.
righteousness ] Of which the essential idea is willing conformity to Law; “the keeping of His commandments.”
true holiness ] Lit., sanctity of the truth . We use “sanctity” rather than “holiness,” to mark the fact that the Gr. word ( hosiotés ) is not akin to that commonly rendered “holy.” Its meaning is discussed by Abp Trench ( N. T. Synonyms ii. § xxxviii). He shews it to be the virtue which “reverences everlasting sanctities, and owns their obligation”; the intuitive conviction, e.g. , of the sacredness of an oath, or of marriage, or, in the spiritual sphere, of God’s absolute claims, wholly apart from a calculation of results. “ Piety ” would fairly, though not fully, represent the word. In two places (Revelation 15:4 , Revelation 16:5 ) the cognate adjective is used of God Himself. It there suggests His own inviolable regard for His own truth, in mercy and judgment.
The word (noun, adjective, or adverb) occurs (as here) with “righteous” or “righteousness” Luke 1:75 ; 1 Thessalonians 2:10 ; Titus 1:8 . It is the almost invariable rendering in the LXX. for the Heb. châsîd; e.g. Psalms 16:10 , quoted Acts 2:27 , Acts 13:35 (A.V. “ thy Holy One ”); and Isaiah 55:3 , quoted Acts 13:34 (where lit. “ the holy things of David,” the inviolable promises given to him 1 1 The lit. rendering of the Heb. of Is. 55:3 is “the mercies of David, the assured (mercies).” The LXX. represents, but does not translate, this. In Ps. 16:10 render lit., “Thy godly One,” or perhaps, “Thy favoured, beloved, One.” (Note by the Dean of Peterborough). ).
“ Of the truth ”: so lit., and so, looking at St Paul’s usage, we translate; not “ of truth ,” as R.V. and marg. A.V. This “sanctity” or “piety” is “ of ” the truth of the Gospel, because the Gospel explains it, and it characterizes the Gospel; and this is equally so, whether the thought is of its manifestation in Christ or in Christians, in Head or in Members.
25 32. The subject pursued: the revolution coming out in truthfulness, kindness, honesty, purity, patience, forgivingness
25. Wherefore ] From these deep principles come now the more detailed inferences of holy practice, and these fill most of the rest of the Epistle. Here and there (as in this verse, and in ch. 5:23) the basis of the whole in the relations of the Church to Christ appears explicitly.
putting away lying ] Cp. Colossians 3:9 , Colossians 3:10 , for a suggestive parallel. There, as here, truthfulness is connected with “new creation.” He who is “in Christ” is, above all things, in a region of light and of right, whose first result will be the aim to do and speak truth; the truth of entire and unselfish sincerity. “ Putting away ” carries on the imagery of ver. 22. For the phrase, in reference to a definite break with sinful principle and practice, cp. Colossians 3:8 ; Hebrews 12:1 ; James 1:21 ; 1 Peter 2:1 (A.V., “ lay aside ,” in the last three places). And see below, ver. 31. This “putting away” may be viewed either as a thing done , in principle, for the member of Christ has, in respect of that union, definitely “done with sin”; or as a thing to be done (Colossians 3:8 , imperative), in each application of sinless principle. The Gr. is an aorist participle, and thus, grammatically, allows either view. We recommend the former, as most in harmony with the previous context.
speak … truth ] The application of the decisively accepted principle of truth. Observe the sober and humbling practicality of the Apostle’s precepts; as necessary now as ever. And earnestly observe the uncompromising condemnation, by the Gospel, of all kinds and phases of dishonesty. Nothing untruthful can possibly be holy. A pious fraud is, in the light of true Christianity, a most grievous sin. The emphasis laid on truthfulness in Scripture is all the more significant of the character and origin of Scripture when we remember the proverbial Oriental laxity about truth. Lying is a vice deeply characteristic of heathenism. An Indian missionary said of his first convert, “he would often come to me with tears in his eyes, saying, ‘I told you a falsehood, but it seemed nature to me to say yes when I should say no , and no when I should say yes ’.” (Communicated by the Dean of Peterborough). Contrast Psalms 15:2 , Psalms 15:3 .
his neighbour ] Primarily, the fellow-Christian is in view; see the next clause. But this first bearing of such a precept is pregnant with a universal reference. For to the believer his fellow-Christian is a fellow-member of Christ, his fellow-man may be . On the word “neighbour” it is obvious thus to compare the Lord’s parable, Luke 10:29 &c.
for we are members one of another ] Each vitally and directly joined to the Head (see on ver. 16) and so, through Him , incorporated into one another. And thus comes a profound correction to that selfishness which inheres in falsehood. The interests of each member centre not in itself but in the Head, and the Head is equally related to and interested in each member. In Him, therefore, each is as important to each as each to itself. Cp. Romans 12:5 ; 1 Corinthians 12:12-27 . On the universal application latent in this argument, see last note.
26. Be ye angry, and sin not ] Another inference from co-membership in the Lord. Anger, as the mere expression of wounded personality, is sinful; for it means that self is in command. Anger, as the pure expression of repugnance to wrong in loyalty to God, is sinless, where there is true occasion for it. The Apostle practically says, let anger, when you feel it, be never from the former motive, always from the latter. “Ebullitions of temper,” alike the greatest and smallest, the seen and unseen, are wholly forbidden here.
The words are verbatim the LXX. version of Psalms 4:4 . The lit. Hebrew there is, “tremble, and sin not .” And the verb rendered “tremble” may denote the tremor of grief, awe, or anger indifferently. The question of interpretation thus becomes one of context, and it has been suggested (by Dr Kay) that the reference is to the temptation to David’s followers, during Absalom’s rebellion, to give way to unholy wrath against the rebels. Dean Perowne, though saying that the LXX. Gr. is “certainly a possible rendering,” refers the words to the tremor of awe before God. And he remarks that St Paul here gives the Gr. version “not in the way of direct citation.” This last remark is important. The N.T. does not necessarily endorse a certain version of the O.T. by adopting its wording for a special purpose, without the decisive formula “it is written,” or the like. Still, the suggestion of Dr Kay is noteworthy in itself, and its adoption would give a peculiar point and force to the words here.
let not the sun go down ] Wetstein quotes a curious parallel from Plutarch, ( De Fraterno Amore , p. 488 b.), who says of the Pythagoreans that it was their rule, if betrayed into angry reviling, to shake hands before the sun set. It is possible that we have Psalms 4:0 still in view here; “commune with your own heart upon your bed , and be still.” As if to say, “if you have sinned in the way here forbidden, see that at least the sin is reversed and renounced before night calls you to bid your brother farewell and to meet your God in solitude.”
your wrath ] Better, perhaps, your provocation , as R.V. margin. The Gr. denotes an occasion of anger, rather than the feeling. See further on the cognate verb, 6:4. The reasons, as well as the acts, of quarrel were to be done with by set of sun. The Gr. word is one often used by the LXX. of the provocation of God by His unfaithful people.
27. give place to the devil ] The rendering suggested by some, “to the calumniator ,” the heathen or Jewish slanderer, is quite untenable, in view of St Paul’s use elsewhere of the word diabolos (lit., “Accuser”) for the great Enemy.
“ Give place ” : as to one who would fain intrude at a half-open door, intent on occupying the house. Personal anger gives just such a point d’appui to the Spirit of pride and hatred. “Wherever the devil finds a heart shut, he finds a door open” (Monod). And this is true not of individuals only, but of the Church and its life.
28. him that stole ] Another moral inference from Christian incorporation. Here again, as above (see on ver. 25), and more obviously than ever, the Christian aspect of the duty has also a universal reference. The Gr. is a present participle, and may equally well be rendered him that stealeth . It is possible, surely, that St Paul (like many a modern missionary and pastor) was prepared to find inconsistency so serious in the Christian community as to warrant the assumption of present thieving in some cases. (See above on ver. 25). Such things were surely to be found in the early Corinthian Church.
The duty of strict restitution is not explicitly mentioned here. But in the Epistle to Philemon, written at the same time, it is both insisted upon and acted upon.
his hands ] Better, perhaps, his own hands . If personal activity has been spent on wrong, let nothing less than personal activity be spent on “working that which is good,” with a view to honest getting and gain.
that he may have to give ] Impartation of good is of the genius of the Gospel; and there would be a special call now to impart where there had been unholy appropriation before. Christian morality, as Monod remarks, is never satisfied with reform; it demands conversion.
29. no corrupt communication ] Or, better, speech , as R.V. Another moral inference from membership in Christ.
“ Corrupt ” : lit., “ rotten, putrid .” The Latin versions render simply sermo malus , and the Gr. adjective may (by usage) bear this merely general reference to “evil” of any sort; worthlessness, uselessness, as well as impurity. But we recommend the narrower reference, as certainly more native to the word, and as extremely likely à priori , in view of the moral pollution of common conversation in heathen society.
the use of edifying ] Lit., “ for edifying of the need ,” i.e., as R. V. well paraphrases, for edifying as the need may be . The thought of the spiritual influence of one “living stone,” and one “limb of Christ’s body,” upon another, so largely illustrated in previous passages, is still present. See 2:21, 4:16, and notes.
minister grace ] Lit., give grace , instrumentally.
Bp Burnet says that he had never been in the company of his master, Abp Leighton, without receiving spiritual benefit.
30. grieve not ] A distinct indication of the Personality of the Blessed Spirit. “Grief is certainly a personal affection, of which a Quality is not capable” (Pearson, On the Creed , Art. VIII). Putting aside passages where “spirit” obviously denotes “breath” or “wind,” the usage of the word in Scripture favours the interpretation of it as always denoting a personality, good or evil. See further Bp Pearson’s discussion. This precept, in this context, seems to indicate that polluting words would be a special “grief” to the Holy One.
ye are sealed ] Better, ye were sealed , at the definite crisis of reception. See above, 1:13 and notes.
the day of redemption ] “the redemption of the purchased possession,” 1:14, where see note.
31. all … all ] Observe the uncompromising scope of the precept. Revolution in principle was to result in nothing short of revolution in temper and practice.
wrath … anger ] The two original words occur together also Romans 2:8 ; Colossians 3:8 ; Revelation 16:19 , Revelation 19:15 (“ the wrath of the anger of God”). The word rendered “wrath” denotes rather the acute passion, and the other the chronic . See Trench, Synonyms , § xxxvi. There is no real contradiction here to ver. 26. The aim there was to limit the admission of anger only to the rare cases where it could be present “without sin.” Here the question is not of the exception but of the rule. Personal irascibility, personal feud and quarrel, were to be things past and gone out of Christian life.
clamour ] The violent assertion of rights and wrongs, real or supposed.
evil speaking ] Gr. blasphêmia . Our word “blasphemy” is now confined to “evil speaking” against God and Divine things, but the Gr. word includes all kinds of slander and opprobrium. It is used (verb, noun, or adjective) of evil speaking against man, or human things, often in N.T.; e.g. 1 Corinthians 4:13 (A. V., “ defamed ”); 10:30; Colossians 3:8 ; Titus 3:2 .
be put away ] Or, taken away . The verb is in the aorist imperative, enjoining a decisive act, a definite and total rejection of these phases of evil. Such an act, and the maintenance of its results, would be only possible “in Christ”; but so it could be done. See the parallel passage, Colossians 3:8 , where the precept is as decisive and as inclusive as here.
malice ] The Gr. word sometimes bears the sense of “evil,” “ill,” in general; e.g. “ the evil ” of “ the day ,” Matthew 6:34 . But where, as here, it forms one of a list of vices (cp. Romans 1:29 ; Colossians 3:8 ; Titus 3:3 ; 1 Peter 2:1 ), it tends to mean the bitter and unjust habit of mind which we denote by malice. (See Trench, Synonyms , § xi.) It is here mentioned last, as the deeper and more subtle sin of which those just mentioned are manifestations. Unkindness, in its inmost secret, is to be a thing cast out.
32. be ] Lit., become ; shew yourselves, in the actions and developments of life.
kind ] The Gr. word (noun or adj.) occurs in similar contexts, Luke 6:35 ; Romans 2:4 ; Romans 11:22 (“ goodness ”); 2 Corinthians 6:6 ; Galatians 5:22 ; Colossians 3:12 . Its primitive meaning is “ useful ”; hence “helpful,” and so “kindly.” It is the original of “easy” in Matthew 11:30 ; the Lord’s “yoke” is a real yoke, but instinct with the lovingkindness of Him who imposes it.
tender-hearted ] The same Gr. word as in 1 Peter 3:8 (A.V., “ pitiful ”). It occurs nowhere else in N.T. Kind-hearted may perhaps be a better rendering, as somewhat wider. The word carries the idea of the previous word a little more into life and detail.
forgiving one another ] Lit., “ forgiving yourselves .” Usage and common sense alike fully justify the rendering of A.V. and R.V. (which reads, somewhat needlessly, “ each other”). The “yourselves,” as a grammatical fact, indicates the solidarity of the body within which the reciprocity takes place; though this fine shade of meaning must not be exaggerated.
For a close parallel to the precept see Colossians 3:13 . The holy duty of heartfelt forgiveness, entire and unreserved, is prominent in the Lord’s teaching; cp. especially the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:12 ; Luke 11:4 ); Matthew 18:21 , &c. No duty is more readily owned in the abstract, none more repugnant to the will in many a case in the concrete. But the law of Christ knows no exceptions, and grace is able to meet every demand for fulfilment. It is humbling and instructive to see here, as in the Lord’s Prayer, that the abiding need for mutual forgiveness is assumed.
even as ] The Divine pardon is at once supreme example and sacred motive. Cp. just below, ch. 5:2.
God ] The Father, “Fount of Deity,” and as such styled often simply God where Christ is also and distinctively named (John 17:3 ; 2 Corinthians 5:19 , 2 Corinthians 5:13 :13; Jude 1:21 ). The Son has also Deity, but as in the Stream, not in the Fountain. See Pearson, On the Creed , Art. 1.
for Christ’s sake ] Lit. and better, in Christ . The reason of pardon, and the process of it, are alike summed up “in Christ,” “in” Whom the Father reveals Himself as God of Peace: “in” Whom resides the immediate atoning reason of Peace; and “in” Whom, by grace and faith, are the human objects of pardon, “very members incorporate” of Him Who is eternally the Accepted One of the Father. Cp. 1:7.
hath forgiven ] Lit., and better, did forgive ; ideally and in covenant, “before the world was”; historically, when the Son was accepted and glorified as the perfect Propitiation, raised from the dead; in individual experience, when each person believed (Romans 5:1 , &c.) It is important to observe how the Apostle bids them deal with Divine forgiveness not as a hope but as a fact. Cp. 1 John 2:12 .
you ] There is considerable, but not preponderating, evidence for a reading “us”. The question between the two readings is not of practical importance.
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
"Commentary on Ephesians 4". "Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Christ the King / Proper 29 / Ordinary 34