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Friday, September 22nd, 2023
the Week of Proper 19 / Ordinary 24
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Bible Commentaries
Ephesians 5

Cambridge Greek Testament Commentary for Schools and CollegesCambridge Greek Testament Commentary

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Verses 1-99

Ch. 5:1 14. The subject pursued: Christ’s Sacrifice the supreme example of self-sacrifice: Purity: Reproof of darkness by light

1. therefore ] The argument passes unbroken from the previous words.

followers ] Lit. “ imitators .” The A. V. consistently uses “ follow ,” “ follower ,” to render the original verb and noun; 1 Corinthians 4:16 , 1 Corinthians 4:11 :1; 1 Thessalonians 1:6 , 1 Thessalonians 1:2 :14; 2 Thessalonians 3:7 , 2 Thessalonians 3:9 ; Hebrews 6:12 , Hebrews 6:13 :7; 1 Peter 3:13 ; 3 John 1:11 . For the thought here cp. Matthew 5:45 , Matthew 5:48 ; Luke 6:36 ; 1 Peter 1:15 , 1 Peter 1:16 , 1 Peter 1:2 :21, 1 Peter 1:3 :13. (In this last passage the true reading gives probably “emulators,” not “imitators”; but this obviously is the same thought intensified in expression.) The “Imitation of God” is the true sequel and index of Peace with God and Life in God. It is, from another aspect, the Manifestation of God in His people.

of God ] Who, in that supreme instance, set the example of forgiveness.

dear children ] Better, beloved children . As children (see Matthew 5:45 ; 1 Peter 1:17 , where read, “ If ye invoke Him as Father , &c.”) they were to shew the family likeness. And as children who had become such by a sacred act of pardoning love , they were to shew it above all things in self-forgetting kindness. Cp. on the whole subject 1 John; esp. 3:10. The word rendered “children” is the word specially appropriate to ideas not of adoption but of birth.

2. walk ] On the metaphor, see above on 2:2. It is just in the steps of actual life that Divine grace is to shew itself, if it is indeed present.

as Christ also ] “ Also ,” as an Exemplar additional to the Father, and in different though profoundly kindred respects. See next notes. On “God” and “Christ” thus collocated see above on 4:32.

hath loved … hath given ] Better, loved … gave . Cp. for a pregnant parallel, Galatians 2:20 , “Who loved me , and gave Himself for me .” And, again of the community, the Church, ch. 5:25; Revelation 1:5 . On this holy Love see above 3:19; Romans 8:35 ; 2 Corinthians 5:14 .

us ] Considerable evidence, but scarcely conclusive, gives the reading “ you .” All the ancient Versions favour the received text.

given himself for us ] as atoning, pacificatory, satisfactory Sacrifice. Thus we may safely interpret in the light of Scripture at large, and of the next following words here. But the business of this passage is with the Lord’s Example, and it does not enter in detail into His Sacrificial work, nor employ (in the Gr.) the strict formula for substitution, such as the Lord Himself uses, Matthew 20:28 , “to give His soul a Ransom in place, instead, of many.” The supreme Act of self-devoting love for others which, as a fact, the Atoning Death was, is here used as the great Example of all acts of self-devoting love in the Christian Church. As the Father has just been named as the Ideal for the forgiving Christian, so here the Son is named as the Ideal for the self-sacrificing Christian.

Hath given ”: better, as R.V., gave Himself up , to the agents of death. “ For us ” = “on behalf of us,” not here (see first paragraph of this note) “in place of us.” The phrase is the less precise and more inclusive.

offering … sacrifice ] Both Gr. nouns have a large and general meaning in many places and thus often “overlap” each other; but where, as here, they occur together we must look for some limit and distinction. “Offering” is, on the whole, the more general word, “sacrifice” the more particular. “Offering” gives the thought of dedication and surrender at large to God’s purposes; “sacrifice” gives that of such surrender carried out in altar-death. Not that “sacrifice” necessarily implies death, but death is its very frequent connexion. Bp Ellicott here sees in “offering” a suggestion of the obedience of the Lord’s life, in “sacrifice,” of His atoning death.

a sweet-smelling savour ] The same Gr. occurs Philippians 4:18 (A. V. “an odour of a sweet smell”). It occurs often in the LXX. of the Pentateuch; e.g . Genesis 8:21 ; and see esp. Leviticus 1:9 , Leviticus 1:13 , Leviticus 1:17 , where the reference is to atoning sacrifices (see ver. 3). It translates the Heb. rêach nîchôach , “a savour of rest.” In the picture language of typical sacrifices, the savour was “smelt” by the Deity as a welcome token of worship and submission, and thus it conveyed the thought of pacification and acceptance. Pagan sacrificial language has many parallels; see, e.g. Homer, Il. 1. 317, viii. 549. Cowper renders the last passage

“Next the Gods

With sacrifice they sought, and from the plain

Upwafted by the wind, the smoke aspires,

Savoury, but unacceptable to those

Above, such hatred in their hearts they bore” &c.

The Lord’s obedience and atonement “reconciled the Father unto us” (Art. ii.), in that they perfectly met the unalterable demand of the holy and broken Law. He thus sent up, as the result of His work for us, the sacred “odour of rest;” becoming our “peace with God.”

3. but ] The word imports a sort of a fortiori . The Examples of the Father and the Son oblige the believer to a uniform life of holy unselfish love; how complete then is the condemnation, for the believer, of all gross sins!

fornication ] A sin lightly regarded by the heathen, and too often palliated in modern Christendom, but utterly condemned by the Lord and the Apostles. See esp. Matthew 15:19 ; Acts 15:20 ; 1 Corinthians 6:9 , 1 Corinthians 6:13 , 1 Corinthians 6:18 ; Galatians 5:19 ; Colossians 3:5 ; 1 Thessalonians 4:3 ; Hebrews 13:4 ; and below, ver. 5. Regarding it, as regarding all sin, total abstinence is the one precept of the Gospel; and the Divine precept will always be found, sooner or later, to coincide with the highest physical law.

all uncleanness ] Act, word, or thought, unworthy the children of the All-Pure. Observe the characteristic “ all ”; and cp. last note, and on 4:31.

covetousness ] The Gr. word has occurred 4:19 (A.V. “greediness”), where see note. Here as there the root idea is the grasp after another’s own, whatever it may be; money, person, wife. This passage, more perhaps than any other, suggests that the word had acquired by usage, in St Paul’s time, a familiar though not fixed connexion with sensual greed, just such as our word “covetousness” has acquired with the greed of material property. It would scarcely otherwise be used to denote an “unnamable” sin.

once named ] Lit. and better, even named ; obviously in the sense of approving or tolerant mention. The Apostle himself here “names” these sins for exposure and condemnation; and Christians may need, on occasion, to do the same, and very explicitly. But let them beware that it is done in the spirit of Scripture in self-distrust, and as in God’s presence. For the phrase, 1 Corinthians 5:1 gives a parallel, in the A.V.; but the word “ named ” is probably to be omitted there from the text. The resolve not to “name” the Gods of Canaan (Psalms 16:4 ) is parallel and illustrative.

4. filthiness ] Lit. “ ugliness, deformity ”; vice in its aspect as morally hideous. The Gr. word occurs here only in N.T. In the classics some cognate words bear a special connexion with forms of gross sensuality.

foolish talking ] Talk about sin, in the spirit of the “fool” who gloats and jests over his own or his neighbour’s undoing. The word occurs here only in N.T. It and its cognates occur in the classics, but not in grave moral connexions.

jesting ] Obviously, by context, in the sense of immoral pleasantry, such as defiles some of the most brilliant pages of pagan literature, not to speak of Christian, so called; and such as terribly impregnates common talk in many strata and circles of society now. It must have been everywhere the fashion at Ephesus. The passage does not deal with the play of humour and wit in general. This is not forbidden in Scripture, and so far as it is the outcome of vigour, gladness, or (in the case of humour) tenderness, it may be quite in harmony with the strict piety of the Gospel. But to remain so it must be watched; and see next note but one. The Gr. word denotes specially the versatility of clever repartee; but it is wider by usage.

convenient ] Better, as R.V., befitting ; the French convenable . In older English “convenient” could bear this meaning; but it has lost it. Romans 1:28 and Philemon 1:8 are parallel cases in the A.V.

giving of thanks ] as the far more “befitting” expression of the buoyancy of the believing spirit. See Colossians 3:16 ; James 5:13 . Such precepts, out of Scripture, have often been stigmatized as “puritanic,” or the like; but they are nevertheless apostolic. And the nearer the conduct of inner life is brought to apostolic lines of principle the more natural will such precepts be felt to be.

5. ye know ] More lit., ye know with acquaintance , or recognition ; as if to say, “you know it with full recognition of the fact and the right.” R.V. “ye know of a surety ”; but the Gr. seems to imply, as above, the reasons along with the certainty.

no whoremonger … hath ] Lit. every fornicator … hath not ; a form of phrase which perhaps accentuates the individual exclusions from the kingdom. But it must not be pressed.

who ] Read, which ; the Gr. relative pronoun, in the probable reading, being neuter. As if to say, “which word means, or implies, idolater .”

an idolater ] See the close parallel Colossians 3:5 . Lightfoot there says, “The covetous man sets up another object of worship besides God,” or, more truly still, instead of God. And this is so, whatever is the object of his avarice. Monod remarks that this clause points rather to the miser than the seducer ; and most certainly it includes the miser. But there is a terrible fitness also in the other application; and we cannot but think that “covetousness” had, in the apostolic age, a familiar reference, among other references, to immoral cupidity. See on 4:19.

inheritance ] On the Gr. word, see note on 1:18. It conveys regularly the thought of possession by title, whether actually enjoyed or in prospect. An “inheritor” ( clêronomos ) may be thus either a present occupant, or an expectant “heir,” as context may indicate. Here probably the expected possession of glory is mainly in view, though we cannot exclude some reference to the organic antecedent to glory the present possession of “life eternal.” See further next note.

the kingdom of Christ and of God ] the realm of the Son, Who “gave Himself for our sins,” that He might be our “Lord” (Galatians 1:4 ; Romans 14:9 ); and of the Father, Who gave the Son that the redeemed might “yield themselves unto God” (Romans 6:13 ). The secret of admission to this kingdom, and of congenial life in it, is “to know the only true God and Jesus Christ Whom He hath sent” (John 17:3 ). The more common phrase “kingdom of God” is here displaced by one specially suggestive of the holy conditions of membership implied in the mention of Christ. See note on 4:32, on the word “God” in such collocations.

What is the “Kingdom” here? On the whole, the glorified state, the goal of the process of grace. True, the word often, with obvious fitness, includes the period of grace in this life, in which most truly the Christian is a subject of the King (see e.g. Matthew 11:2 , Matthew 11:13 :41, Matthew 11:21 :43; Romans 14:17 ; Colossians 1:13 ). But usage gives the word a special connexion with the final state, glory; cp. esp. Matthew 25:34 (specially in point here); 1 Corinthians 15:50 . See also the passages, closely akin to the present, 1 Corinthians 6:9 , 1 Corinthians 6:10 ; Galatians 5:21 ; where the “ shall not inherit” (as in 1 Corinthians 15:50 ) points to the idea of a coming “kingdom.” Doubtless the state of will and life here in view excludes man, from God’s point of view, from the present phase of His kingdom, in its spiritual essence (see 1 John 3:6 , 1 John 3:15 &c.; though the imagery is different). But the phase to come, that of perfect and eternal result and development, is naturally the predominant phase of the word. The practical meaning here, then, is “no such moral rebel can be, while such, a citizen of and pilgrim to the heavenly city.” See Revelation 21:27 .

6. Let no man deceive you ] See for similar warnings Romans 16:18 ; 1 Corinthians 3:18 ; 2 Corinthians 11:3 ; Colossians 2:8 ; 2 Thessalonians 2:3 ; James 1:26 .

vain ] Lit., empty ; alien to the solidity of the immoveable facts that the body cannot sin without sin of the spirit; that body and spirit alike are concerned in eternal retribution; that the wrath of God is no figure of speech, and that His love cannot possibly modify His holiness. “Vain words” on these matters, and therefore such cautions as this, are never obsolete. Human sin began (Genesis 3:0 ) with exactly such deceits, and they are the subtlest ingredient still in the secret of temptation.

cometh ] is coming ; is on its way, till in “the day of wrath” (Romans 2:5 ) it falls.

the wrath of God ] For this awful phrase cp. John 3:36 ; Romans 1:18 , Romans 1:2 :5, Romans 1:8 , Romans 1:5 :9, Romans 1:9 :22; Colossians 3:6 (parallel here); 1 Thessalonians 1:10 ; Revelation 6:16 , 19:15; &c. And see note above on 2:3 (“children of wrath”).

children ] Lit., sons . For the Hebraism, see above on the same phrase, 2:2.

7. Be not ] Lit., Become not . Nolite fieri (Latin versions).

partakers ] in disobedience, and so in the coming wrath.

8. sometimes ] Better, in modern English, once, formerly . See on 2:13 above. He refers to the whole period of their unconverted life.

darkness ] Not merely “in the dark”. So had the night of spiritual ignorance and sin penetrated them that they were, as it were, night itself, night embodied. On the metaphor of darkness see on 4:18.

light ] Again, not merely “in the light.” The Divine Light of truth, holiness, and resulting joy, had now so penetrated them that they were, in a sense, light embodied; not seeing light only, but being light, and emitting it (see below, on ver. 13). Cp. Matthew 5:14 .

in the Lord ] By your union with and knowledge of Him Who is the Light.

walk ] See above on 2:2, &c., for the metaphor.

children of light ] See above on 2:2, for the phrase “ children , or sons, of .”

9. for ] The suppressed link of thought is, “Walk in a path wholly unlike that of the disobedient; for the path of the light must be such.”

the fruit of the Spirit ] Cp. Galatians 5:22 . But the literary evidence here supports the reading the fruit of the light . The metaphor “fruit” (found here only in the Epistle) gives the idea not only of result but of natural and congenial result; growth rather than elaboration. Christian virtue is, in its true essence, grace having its way .

is in ] Consists in, comes out in.

all ] Observe here, as continually, the absoluteness in idea of the Christian character. It is an unsinning character . “Whosoever is born of God, doth not commit sin” (1 John 3:9 ). The Christian, as a Christian , sins not: a truth at once humiliating and stimulating.

goodness ] The Gr. word occurs besides, Romans 15:14 ; Galatians 5:22 ; 2 Thessalonians 1:11 . The Gr. word like the English, while properly meaning the whole quality opposite to evil, tends to mean specially the goodness of beneficence , or at least benevolence . Such, on the whole, is the evidence of the LXX. usage. But the context here favours the wider and more original reference; all that is anti-vicious .

St Chrysostom sees in it here a special antithesis to anger; but this is surely too narrow a reference. See further on the word, Trench, N.T. Synonyms , § 1.

righteousness ] See above on 4:24. And cp. Titus 2:12 . The special reference here doubtless is to the observance of God’s Law in regard of the rights of others, in things of honesty and purity.

truth ] The deep, entire reality which is the opposite to the state of “the simular of virtue that is incestuous” ( King Lear , iii. 3).

10. proving ] Testing, by the touchstone of His declared and beloved Will; putting every action, and course of action unreservedly to that proof , and unreservedly approving , in action, all that passes it. Cp. Romans 1:28 (where lit. “they did not approve to retain God, &c.”), 12:2 (a close parallel here); 1 Thessalonians 5:21 .

acceptable ] Better, as R. V., well-pleasing . The word is kindred to the noun rendered “pleasing” Colossians 1:10 . The whole question was to be, “What pleases God?”

11. unfruitful ] “For the end of these things is death” (Romans 6:21 ). The metaphor of fruit , which we have just had (ver. 9), is almost always used in connexions of good. See a close parallel, Galatians 5:19 , Galatians 5:22 , “the works of the flesh”; “the fruit of the Spirit.”

darkness ] Lit., the darkness , which you have left; from whose “authority” you have been “rescued” (Colossians 1:13 ). The metaphor here (on which see on 4:18) suggests rather the secrecy and shame of sin than its blindness.

rather ] Rather even , R. V., and so better; “rather, go the length of positive reproof.”

reprove ] The verb, in classical prose, has always an argumentative reference; it is, to question, confute, disprove. And though in some N. T. passages this reference is not necessary to the sense, it is always admissible, and lies, as it were, behind the meaning of mere blame or censure . So here, the Christian is not merely to denounce evil, but by holy word and life to evince its misery and fallacy, to convict it (R. V. margin) of its true nature.

12. even to speak ] See above on “not once named”, ver. 12. Perhaps the suggestion here is that the “reproof” of ver. 11 was to come more through a holy life, and less through condemnatory words. Not that such should never be used; but that they are weak reproofs compared with those issuing from a life of unmistakable holiness brought into contact with the unholy.

The verse was terribly in point at the time, as every reader of ancient literature knows. Is it much less in point to-day, in the midst of our nominal Christendom? Neither, then, is ver. 11.

13. all things that are reproved ] More lit., all things, when being reproved , or convicted .

doth make manifest ] Render, certainly, is made manifest , or more precisely, is being manifested . So the Lat. versions, and, with verbal variations, all the older English Versions except the Genevan (1557), which has, loosely, “it is light that discovereth all things.” The Gr. is decisive against this and the A.V.

The drift of this somewhat difficult verse, suggested by the context, seems to be; “You are light in the Lord; use this character upon the surrounding moral darkness, in order to the rescue of its victims, that they also may become light. Nothing but light will do this work; no conquest over darkness, literal or spiritual, is possible except to light. And one evidence of this is that every such real conquest results in the subjects of darkness becoming now subjects of light, becoming lights.” More briefly; “You are light; keep pure then, but shine far into the dark. And then other men, as already you, shall become light in the Lord.”

14. Wherefore ] With regard to the fact that whatever is really brought to light, in the sense of true spiritual conviction, becomes light.

he saith ] Or possibly it (the Scripture) saith . See note on 4:8.

Awake , &c.] These words occur nowhere in the O.T. verbatim. St Jerome, on the verse, makes many suggestions; as that St Paul may have used an “apocryphal” passage, exactly as he used words from pagan writers ( e.g. Titus 1:12 ); or that he utters an immediate inspiration granted to himself, in prophetic form. Thomas Aquinas (quoted by Vallarsius on St Jerome) suggests that we have here the essence of Isaiah 60:1 ; where the Lat. reads “Rise, be enlightened, O Jerusalem, for thy light is come &c.” Surely this is the true solution, if we add to it the probability that other prophecies contributed to the phraseology here. Dr Kay (in the Speaker’s Commentary ) on Isaiah 60:1 writes, “In Ephesians 5:14 this verse is combined, in a paraphrase form, with 51:17, 52:1, 2. The Ephesians had been walking in darkness, as dead men … but the Redeemer had come and the Spirit been given. Therefore they were to awake (ch. 51:17, 52:1) out of sleep, and arise from the dead, that Christ the Lord might shine upon them, and they again shed His light on the Gentiles round.”

To the believer in the Divine plan and coherence of Scripture it will be abundantly credible that “the Lord” (Jehovah) of Isaiah should be the “Christ” of St Paul (cp. Isaiah 6:5 with John 12:41 ), and that the “Jerusalem” of Isaiah should have an inner reference to the True Israel (Galatians 3:29 , Galatians 6:16 ), in its actual or potential members.

Dr Edersheim ( Temple and its Services , p. 262), suggests that the Apostle may have had present to his mind language used in synagogue worship at the Feast of Trumpets. Rabbinic writers explain the trumpet blasts as, inter alia , a call to repentance; and one of them words the call, “Rouse ye from your slumber, awake from your sleep, &c.” Some such formula may have been in public use. Bengel makes a similar suggestion here. But this would not exclude, only supplement, the reference to Isaiah.

Another suggestion is that the words are a primitive Christian “psalm” (1 Corinthians 14:26 ); perhaps “the morning hymn used each day by the Christians in Rome in St Paul’s lodging,” or “a baptismal hymn.” Here again we have an interesting possibility, for such a “psalm” may have given or influenced the phrase here. But the introductory word “ He , or it, saith ,” seems to us to weigh decidedly for the view that the words are, in essence, a Scripture quotation.

sleepest the dead ] The sleep is more than sleep; the sleep of death . But death itself is but as sleep that can be broken (Matthew 9:24 ) to the Lord of Life. On spiritual death see above, on 2:1.

shall give thee light ] Better, as R.V., shall shine upon thee . The idea, by context, is not so much of the light of conviction, as of that of spiritual transfiguration (2 Corinthians 3:18 , 2 Corinthians 4:4-6 ). The thought of “ being light in the Lord ” runs through the passage. It is a light consequent upon awaking and arising. Another, but certainly mistaken, reading gives, “ thou shalt touch Christ ” The “Old Latin” followed it. It is due, in part at least, to the close similarity in form of two widely different Gr. verbs.

15 21. The subject pursued: the talent of time: temperance: spiritual songs: thanksgiving: humility

15. See then ] The more general exhortation to a holy life-walk is resumed here, after the special entreaties thus given to avoid, yet influence, surrounding darkness.

walk ] The seventh and last occurrence in the Epistle of this important metaphor.

circumspectly ] Lit., accurately , remembering the importance of details of both duty and danger, and the presence of the will of God in everything .

The R.V. adopts here a Gr. text which requires the rendering, “ Look therefore carefully how ye walk .” But the documentary evidence scarcely warrants this change. And it has the objection of making the order of words in the Gr. more easy, and so more likely to be a transcriber’s correction.

Observe how the illuminated Christian is to keep his eyes open . No guidance is promised him which shall dispense with patient watchfulness.

fools ] Lit., and better, unwise ; spiritually unwise, blind to spiritual facts and consequences.

16. redeeming the time ] Lit., buying out (from other ownership) the opportunity . So Colossians 4:5 . The same phrase occurs (Aramaic and Greek) Daniel 2:8 ; “I knew of a certainty that ye would buy the time ”; where the meaning plainly is, “that ye would get your desired opportunity, at the expense of a subterfuge.” Here similarly the meaning is, “getting each successive opportunity of ‘walking and pleasing God’ at the expense of steady watchfulness.” In Colossians 4:5 the special thought is of opportunities in intercourse with “them that are without.” So, perhaps, here also, in regard of verses 12 14. Cp. Galatians 6:10 ; where render “as we have opportunity .”

because the days are evil ] As if to say, “Make this sustained effort of getting opportunity; for it will be needed. The ‘days’ of human life in a fallen world do not lend themselves to it. Circumstances, in themselves, are adverse, for sin attaches to them.”

The Apostle very probably had in view the special difficulties of the then present time, but his words have a permanent bearing on each following period with its new phases of difficulty, all related as they are to the permanent underlying difficulty, sin.

17. be ye not ] Lit., become ye not ; let not unwatchfulness pull you down.

understanding ] Better, probably, understand .

what the will of the Lord is ] “The good, and perfect, and acceptable will of God” apprehended by the disciple who is “being transformed by the renewing of his mind ” (Romans 12:2 , a passage much in point here). Not independent reason but the illuminated perceptions of a soul awake to God will have a true intuition into “His will,” both as to that invariable attitude of the Christian, subjection to and love of the will of God, and as to the detailed opportunities of action in that attitude. Cp. on the Divine Will and our relation to it, Psalms 143:10 ; Matthew 6:10 , Matthew 6:7 :21; Mark 3:35 ; John 7:17 ; Acts 13:36 , Acts 13:21 :14, Acts 13:22 :14; 2 Corinthians 8:5 ; Colossians 1:9 , Colossians 1:4 :12; 1 Thessalonians 4:3 , 1 Thessalonians 4:5 :18; Hebrews 13:21 ; 1 John 2:17 ; below 6:6. And on the example of the Lord, cp. Psalms 40:8 ; Luke 22:42 ; John 4:34 , John 5:30 , John 6:38 .

18. drunk with wine ] Cp. for similar cautions, Proverbs 20:1 , Proverbs 20:23 :30, 31; Luke 21:34 ; Romans 13:13 ; 1 Corinthians 5:11 , 1 Corinthians 5:6 :10; Galatians 5:21 ; 1 Timothy 3:3 . “He fitly follows up a warning against impurity with a warning against drunkenness” (Bengel).

wherein ] In “being drunken with wine;” in the act and habit of intemperance.

excess ] R.V., riot . The word recurs Titus 1:6 ; 1 Peter 4:4 ; and its adverb, Luke 15:13 . By derivation it nearly answers the idea of that which is “ dissolute ,” i.e. unbound, unrestrained. The miserable exaltation of strong drink annuls the holy bonds of conscience with fatal ease and certainty.

but be filled ] As if to say, “Avoid such false elevation; yet seek instead not a dead level of feeling, but the sacred heights of spiritual joy and power, in that Divine Love which (Song of Solomon 1:2 ) ‘is better than wine’.”

filled with the Spirit ] Lit., “ in spirit ,” and so margin R.V. But the text R.V., and the A.V., are assuredly right. The definite article may well be omitted here (see on 1:17, and 2:22), without obscuring the ref. to the Divine Spirit, if context favours it. And surely the context does so, in the words “ in which ” just above. The two “ in ” ( in which,” “ in Spirit,”) are parallel. And as the first “in” points to an objective cause of “riot,” so surely the second “in” points to the objective cause, not subjective sphere, of joy; to the Spirit, not to our spirit. On the phrase “in (the) Spirit” cp. Matthew 22:43 ; Romans 8:9 ; Colossians 1:8 ; 1 Timothy 3:16 ; Revelation 1:10 . The phrase “in the Spirit” (def. article expressed) occurs only Luke 2:27 . “In (the) Holy Spirit” occurs frequently, and in many places where A.V. has “ by &c.”; e.g. , 1 Corinthians 12:3 , 1 Corinthians 12:9 . The parallel phrase “in an unclean spirit” occurs Mark 5:2 . On the whole, the idea conveyed appears to be that the possessing Power, Divine or evil, which from one point of view inhabits the man, from another surrounds him, as with an atmosphere. “If the Spirit be in you , you are in It ” (Jer. Taylor, Sermon for Whitsunday ).

Thus, “be ye filled in (the) Spirit,” may be lawfully paraphrased, “Let in the holy atmosphere to your inmost self, to your whole will and soul. Let the Divine Spirit, in Whom you, believing, are, pervade your being, as water fills the sponge.” And the context gives the special thought that this “filling” will tend to that sacred exhilaration, “the Spirit’s calm excess 1 1 St Ambrose (“ Splendor paternæ gloriæ ” tr. by Chandler). ”, of which wine-drinking could produce only a horrible parody. See next verse.

19. to yourselves ] R.V., one to another . The Gr. admits either rendering (see above on 4:32); but the parallel, Colossians 3:16 (“teaching and admonishing, &c.”) is clearly for the R. V. here, as the much most natural reference there is to mutual edification.

It has been thought that we have here a suggestion of responsive chanting. But this is most precarious, to say the least; the words being fully satisfied by the thought of the mutual spiritual help, most real and powerful now as then, given on any occasion of common spiritual praise. The first disciples thus “spoke one to another ” in the united outburst of ascription and praise, Acts 4:24 . Still, it is interesting to remember that responsive hymn-singing was, as a fact, used very early in Christian worship. In the famous Letter of Pliny to Trajan (written between a. d. 108 and a. d. 114), where the worship of the Christians is described, we read; “they are used to meet before dawn on a stated day, and to chant ( carmen dicere ) to Christ, as to a God, alternately together ( secum invicem ).” See Alford’s note here.

psalms hymns spiritual songs ] It is impossible to fix precisely the limits of these terms; nor does the character of the passage, full of the spirit rather than the theory of praise, demand it. But there is probability in the suggestion that the psalm was generally a rhythmic utterance, either actually one of the O. T. psalms, or in their manner; the hymn , a rhythmic utterance of praise distinctively Christian; and the spiritual song , or spiritual ode , a similar utterance, but more of experience or meditation than of praise. The canticles of Luke 1:2 , would thus rank as psalms; the inspired chant of the disciples (Acts 4:0 ) as a hymn; and the possibly rhythmic “faithful words” in the Pastoral Epistles (see esp. 2 Timothy 2:11-13 ) as spiritual odes.

Another suggested distinction is that a psalm (Gr., psallein , to play ,) demanded instrumental accompaniment, a hymn did not. But this cannot be sustained in detail.

“Psalm-singing” (see further 1 Corinthians 14:26 ; James 5:13 ) is thus a primeval element in not only Christian worship but Christian common life; for the Apostle here evidently contemplates social gatherings rather than formulated services; similar occasions to those formerly defaced by “excess of wine.”

The history of psalmody and hymnody in the Church cannot be discussed, however briefly, here. See articles on Hymns , in Smith’s Dictionaries (of the Bible and of Christian Antiquities). We may just note that (1) Pliny (quoted above on this verse) speaks already of Christian hymnody, very early cent. 2; (2) St Justin, rather later cent. 2, in his account of Sunday eucharistic worship makes no distinct allusion to it; but (3) a century later the allusions are frequent. See e.g. Eusebius, Hist. Eccl. 5:28, 7:30. The “earliest known Christian hymn” is a noble Greek hymn, in anapæstic metre, to the Son of God, by St Clement of Alexandria, at the end of his Pædagogus (middle of cent. 3).

Spiritual songs” : not necessarily “inspired,” but charged with spiritual truth.

making melody ] Lit. “ playing instruments ” ( psallontes, psalm ). This seems to assume the use of lute or flute on such occasions.

in your heart ] Both voice and instrument were literal and external, but the use of them both was to be spiritual, and so “in the heart.” No other use of either, in and for worship, can be truly according to the will of God (John 4:24 ).

to the Lord ] Who is either directly or indirectly addressed in the song, and to Whom every act of the Christian’s life is related.

20. always for all things] Because everything in hourly providence is an expression, to the believing heart, of God’s “good, perfect, and acceptable will” (Romans 12:2 ). In view of this, the Christian will be thankful, both generally and as to details. St Chrysostom’s habitual doxology was, “Glory be to God for all things”; and it was the last word of his suffering life.

unto God and the Father ] Lit. to the God and Father ; i. e. probably, of our Lord, and of us in Him.

in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ ] For the same phrase, or the like, cp. e.g. Matthew 10:41 , Matthew 10:21 :9; Mark 16:17 ; Luke 10:17 ; John 5:43 , John 14:13 *, 14*, 26, 15:16, 16:23*, 24*, 26*, 17:11, 12; Acts 3:6 , Acts 3:9 :27, Acts 3:10 :48; 1 Corinthians 5:4 , 1 Corinthians 5:6 :11; Philippians 2:10 ; Colossians 3:17 ; James 5:14 ; 1 Peter 4:14 . Of these references, those marked * carry, like this verse, the idea of an approach to the Father through the Son. The whole series (compared with parallel phrases of the O. T., e.g. Deuteronomy 18:19 ; Psalms 20:5 , Psalms 44:5 , Psalms 89:24 ) indicates, as an idea common to all the uses of the expression, that he whose “name” is in question is the basis or reason of the action. Empowered by the “name” of Jehovah, His revealed glory and will, the prophet speaks. Empowered by the “name” of Christ, going upon His revealed character as Mediator, the believer in Him offers praise and prayer to the Father. And so in such phrases as Psalms 63:4 ; “I will lift up my hands in Thy name”; the thought is of action upon a revelation of God and of the way to Him. In Philippians 2:10 we perhaps find combined the ideas of worship of and worship through Jesus Christ.

21. submitting ] The primary point in the spiritual ethics of the Gospel is humiliation; self is dethroned as against God, and consequently as against men. Here the special, but not exclusive, reference is to fellow-Christians. “[The precept] seems to have been suggested by the humble and loving spirit which is the moving principle of thanksgiving” (Ellicott).

Special applications of this great principle now follow, in a study of the relative duties of the Christian Home.

22 32. Special Exhortations: the Christian Home: Wife and Husband

22. Wives ] Cp. Colossians 3:18 ; 1 Peter 3:1-6 . In Col. the corresponding instructions about domestic duty are drawn expressly from the truth (Colossians 3:1 ) that the believer lives, in the risen Christ, a resurrection-life.

submit yourselves ] It is probable that the Gr. original has no verb here. R.V. accordingly reads in italics be in subjection to . But it is obvious that the thought if not the word is present, carried on from the last verse.

The Gospel on the one hand recognizes and secures woman’s perfect spiritual equality with man, an equality which modifies and ennobles every aspect of possible “subjection”; on the other hand recognizes and secures man’s responsible leadership.

your own ] Words of special emphasis, suggesting the holy speciality of the marriage relation.

as unto the Lord ] Who is, in a peculiar sense, represented to the wife by the husband. In wifely submission to him she not only acts on the general principle of the acceptance of the Will of God expressed in circumstances: she sees in that attitude a special reflection, as it were, of her relations to the Lord Himself. Her attitude has a special sanction thus from Him.

23. the head ] See 1 Corinthians 11:3 . The husband and the wife are “one flesh” (ver. 31), and the husband, in that sacred union, is the leader. So Christ and the Church are one, and Christ is the Leader.

even as ] Not, of course, that the headship of the husband embraces all ideas conveyed by the Lord’s Headship, but it truly answers to it in some essential respects; see last note, and its reference.

Christ is the head ] See on 1:22, and last note but one here.

the church ] The highest reference of the word “Church” (see Hooker, quoted on 1:22, where see the whole note) is the reference proper to this passage. The out-called Congregation, truly living by the heavenly Bridegroom, in union with Him, and subject to Him, is in view here. The sacred truth of the Marriage-union of the Lord and the Church, brought in here incidentally yet prominently, pervades (in different phases) the Scriptures. See not only the Canticles, but e.g. Psalms 45:0 ; Isaiah 54:5 , 61:10, 62:4, Isaiah 54:5 ; Jeremiah 3:14 , 31:32; Hosea 2:2-20 ; Matthew 9:15 , 25:Matthew 9:1-10 ; John 3:29 ; Galatians 4:21-31 ; Revelation 21:2 , Revelation 21:9 , Revelation 21:22 :17. It is observable that in the Revelation as in this Epistle the metaphors of building and of bridal appear in harmony; the Mystic Bride is the Holy City and the Spiritual Sanctuary. Cp. Psalms 87:3 , where a possible rendering is, “With glorious offers art thou bespoken [ for marriage ], O City of God.”

and he is , &c.] Read, with R.V., [ being ] himself the Saviour of the Body . The reference to the Lord, not to the earthly husband, is certain. And the emphasis (see on next ver.) is that Christ’s unique position, in this passage of comparison, must be remembered; as if to say, “He, emphatically, is to the Church what no earthly relationship can represent, its Saviour.” Some expositors see in this clause, on the other hand, an indirect precept to the husband to be the “preserver,” the loyal protector, of the wife. But the “ but ” which opens the next verse decides against this.

saviour ] So the Lord is called elsewhere, Luke 2:11 ; John 4:42 ; Acts 5:31 , Acts 5:13 :23; Philippians 3:20 ; 2 Timothy 1:10 ; Titus 1:4 , Titus 1:2 :13, Titus 1:3 :6; 2 Peter 1:1 , 2 Peter 1:11 , 2 Peter 1:2 :20, 2 Peter 1:3 :2, 2 Peter 1:18 ; 1 John 4:14 . Cp. for the word “save” in connexion with Him (in spiritual reference), Matthew 1:21 , Matthew 1:18 :11; Luke 19:10 ; John 3:17 , John 3:5 :34, John 3:10 :9, John 3:12 :47; Acts 4:12 , Acts 4:16 :31; Romans 5:9 , Romans 5:10 , Romans 5:10 :9; 1 Timothy 1:15 ; Hebrews 7:25 . Deliverance and Preservation are both elements in the idea of Salvation. See further, above, on 2:5.

the body ] See on 1:23, 4:16. The Body is the Church, viewed as a complex living organism. The Gr. words Sôtêr (Saviour) and sôma (body) have a likeness of sound, and perhaps a community of origin, which makes it possible that we have here an intentional “play upon words.”

24. Therefore ] Translate, certainly, But . The Apostle has guarded the husband s headship from undue comparison with the Lord’s; but now he enforces its true likeness to it.

their own ] There is an emphasis in “ own ”; a suggestion at once of a holy limit, as against wandering loves, and of the fact that not only does the wife belong to the husband, but the husband to the wife (Monod).

in every thing ] In all relations and interests. This great rule will always, of course, be over -ruled by supreme allegiance to Christ; but its spirit will never be violated in the Christian home.

25. Husbands ] Here the instruction is equally precise and more full. Cp. 1 Peter 3:7 .

love ] “in deed and in truth” (1 John 3:18 ), “giving honour unto the wife as unto the weaker vessel” (1 Pet., quoted above). Monod well says that the Apostle, true to the spirit of the Gospel, speaks to the wife of the authority of the husband, to the husband of devotion to the wife: each party is reminded not of rights, but of duties.

even as Christ ] What a standard for the man’s conjugal love, in point of elevation, holiness, and self-sacrifice! “In Christian domestic life, Jesus Christ is at once the starting point and the goal of everything … We may even say that domestic life is the triumph of the Christian faith” (Monod).

loved the church , &c.] Cp. the same words of the individual soul, Galatians 2:10 , “Who loved me and gave Himself for me .” The two places are in deepest harmony. Cp. also above, ver. 2.

Loved: ” in the pre-mundane view and grace indicated e.g. 1:3 7. Cp. 2 Timothy 1:9 .

gave ] Lit. (and so Galatians 2:20 ), gave over, delivered up , to suffering and death. The same word is used e.g. Romans 4:25 , Romans 8:32 .

himself ] The supreme Ransom-gift. Cp. Titus 2:14 (where the Gr. verb is simply “ gave. ”)

for it ] Better, in this vivid context, for her . On the preposition, see above on ver. 2.

26. sanctify and cleanse it] Better, again, her . And the pronoun is slightly emphatic by position; as if to say, “It was in her interest that He did this, and so in the wife’s interest the husband should be ready for sacrifice.”

Sanctify and cleanse: ” lit., sanctify, cleansing ; both the verbs being in the aorist, and being thus most naturally referred to one and same crisis, not, as R.V. seems to imply, (“sanctify, having cleansed ,”) to a sanctifying process consequent on a cleansing. The Church was decisively “sanctified,” separated from the claim and dominion of sin unto God, when she was decisively “cleansed,” accepted as guiltless.

It needs remembrance that the word “to sanctify” lends itself equally, according to context, to ideas of crisis and of process . In one aspect the human being, decisively claimed and regenerated by God for Himself, is sanctified. In another aspect, in view of each successive subjective experience of renunciation of self for God, he is being sanctified. The sanctifying crisis here in view is that of regeneration. This is put before us ideally as the regeneration of the Church . The Idea is realized historically in the regeneration of individuals, with a view to the final total. On this individual aspect of the matter, cp. John 3:3 , John 3:5 ; 1 Corinthians 6:11 .

with the washing of water ] Lit., by the laver of the water . So Titus 3:5 ; “through the laver of regeneration,” the only other N.T. passage where the noun rendered “laver” occurs.

Here, undoubtedly, Holy Baptism is referred to. It is another and most important question, what is the precise bearing of the Rite upon regeneration; whether it is the special channel of infusion of the new life, or its federal and legal “conveyance,” the Seal upon the Covenant of it, and upon the actual grant of it. But in any case there is a connexion, divinely established, between Regeneration and Baptism. For ourselves, we hold that Baptism is a true analogue to the sacrament of Circumcision, and that its direct and essential work is that of a Divine seal. This view we believe to be (1) the view in truest harmony with the whole spirit of the Gospel, (2) the view most consonant with observed facts, (3) the view which, under wide varieties of expression, was held, in essence, by the pre-medieval Church (and not wholly forgotten even in the medieval Church), and by the great Anglican Protestant doctors of the 16th and 17th centuries. But it is to be remembered that this view leaves untouched the fact of a profound and sacred connexion between New Birth and Baptism. And it is entirely consonant with language of high reverence and honour for the Rite, language often applicable, properly, only to the related Blessing, under remembrance that the Rite derives all its greatness from the spiritual Reality to which it stands related.

by the word ] Quite lit., in utterance , or in an utterance . The Gr. is rhêma , not logos . We may translate (having regard to the N. T. usage of “ in ,” similar cases), attended by , or conditioned by, an utterance : as if to say, not a mere laver of water, but one which is what it is only as joined to declared truth. What is the “utterance” in question? The Gr. word (in the singular), occurs elsewhere in the Epistles, Romans 10:8 , Romans 10:17 ; 2 Corinthians 13:1 , below, 6:17; Hebrews 1:3 , Hebrews 1:6 :5, Hebrews 1:11 :3; 1 Peter 1:25 (twice). In almost every case it refers to a definite Divine utterance, whether of truth or of will. We explain it here accordingly as the utterance of that New Covenant of the Gospel of which Baptism is the seal, or, to put it more generally, the revelation of salvation embodied in “the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost” (Matthew 28:19 ), or in “the Name of the Lord Jesus” (Acts 19:5 ). Baptism, in connexion with that revelation and the reception of it, is “the laver of new birth”(Titus 3:5 ).

Cp. the parallel 1 Peter 3:21 ; in which we see the same care to correct any possible inferences from the material aspect of Baptism, as if the rite itself, apart from the moral surroundings of the rite, were a saving thing.

27. that he ] In the Gr. “ He ” is emphatic; “He to Himself;” with stress on the Lord’s personal action.

present ] Cp. for similar use of the same Gr. word 2 Corinthians 4:14 , 2 Corinthians 4:11 :2; Colossians 1:22 , Colossians 1:28 . In Jude 1:24 a similar word is used. The thought is of the heavenly Bridegroom welcoming the glorified Bride at the Marriage Feast hereafter. True, she is now “His Spouse and His Body;” but the manifestation then will be such as to be, in a sense, the Marriage as the sequel to the Betrothal. The words “present to Himself” suggest that the Bride is not only to be welcomed then by her Lord, but welcomed as owing all her glory to His work, and as being now absolutely His own.

a glorious church ] Translate rather, the Church arrayed in glory . Cp. Revelation 19:7 , Revelation 19:8 . And see Song of Solomon 4:7 . She “shall be like Him, for she shall see Him as He is” (1 John 3:2 ). He who gave Himself for her had also given Himself to her, and His nature shall now be manifested in her eternal state.

holy ] Absolutely, without qualification, and for ever, consecrated to Him.

without blemish ] The Gr. is cognate to that in Song of Solomon 4:7 (“there is no blemish in thee”). The holy and perfect principle, perfect at length in all the conditions of its working, shall come out in actual perfection of spiritual beauty. Cp. for the same Gr. word,1:4 (side by side there also with “holy”); Philippians 2:15 ; Colossians 1:22 ; Hebrews 9:14 ; 1 Peter 1:19 ; Jude 1:24 ; Revelation 14:5 .

28. So ] With a love akin to the love of Christ just described. The Gr. word is one whose reference tends to preceding ideas.

as their own bodies ] A clause explanatory of “So” just above. It was thus that Christ loved the Church. In eternal purpose, and in actual redemption and regeneration, she is at once His Bride and His Body. The husband is accordingly to regard his wife as, in a profound and sacred sense, part and parcel of his own living frame.

his wife ] Lit., his own wife . The Gr. emphasizes the “ self -ness,” so to speak, of the relation: “his own wife … his own self .”

29. no man ever ] under normal conditions. True, in a distorted mental state a man may “hate his own flesh.” And in obedience to the will of God a man may so act as to be said to hate it; to choose that it should suffer rather than that God’s will should not be done (see, for such a use of “hate”, Luke 14:26 ). But under normal conditions it is not only man’s instinct but his duty to protect and nourish that mysterious work of God, his body, connected by God’s will in a thousand ways with the action of his spirit. “Self-love,” whether in the direction of flesh or of spirit, acts sinfully only when it acts outside God as the supreme and all-embracing Reason and Good.

the Lord ] Read, with full documentary evidence, Christ .

30. members ] Limbs ; the word used above 4:25; and cp. Romans 12:4 , Romans 12:5 ; 1 Corinthians 6:15 (a strict parallel), 12:27.

of his flesh, and of his bones ] Three important MSS. (AB א ) supported by other but not considerable authority, omit these words. It has been suggested that they were inserted by transcribers from Genesis 2:23 , as the next verse is certainly quoted from Genesis 2:24 . But the phrase here is not verbally close enough to that in Gen. to make this likely. A transcriber would probably have given word for word, while the Apostle would as probably quote with a difference, such as we find here. And the difference is significant. “We” are not said here to be “bone of His bone &c.,” which might have seemed to imply that our physical frame is derived from that of the Incarnate Lord, but, more generally, “limbs of His body, out of His flesh and out of His bones .” Our true, spiritual, life and being is the derivative of His as He is our Second Adam, in a sense so strong and real as to be figured by the physical derivation of Eve from Adam. “As for any mixture of the substance of His flesh with ours,” says Hooker ( Eccl. Pol. v. 56, end), “the participation which we have of Christ includeth no such gross surmise 1 1 The remarkable chapter which thus closes deserves very careful study. It will be seen that Hooker’s view of “Christ’s body in ours as a cause of immortality” is that it is “a cause by removing, through the death and merit of His own flesh, that which hindered the life of ours.” ”.

In brief, this statement, in the light of other Scripture, amounts to the assertion that “we,” the believing Church, as such, are, as in the Case of Eve and Adam, at once the product of our Incarnate Lord’s existence as Second Adam, and His Bride. This profound and precious truth is not dwelt upon, however. Strictly speaking, it is only incidental here.

31. For this cause , &c.] The Gr. in this verse is practically identical with that of Genesis 2:24 . We may reverently infer that the Apostle was guided to see in that verse a Divine parable of the Coming Forth of the Lord, the Man of Men, from the Father, and His present and eternal mystical Union with the true Church, His Bride.

For this cause: ” the cause of His (covenanted and foreseen) Union with us as Incarnate, Sacrificed, and Risen; in order to realize that Divine Idea.

joined ] A kindred word is used in a kindred passage, full of importance here, 1 Corinthians 6:17 .

32. This is , &c.] More precisely, This mystery is great . For the word “mystery” see above, 1:9, 3:3, 4, 9; and below 6:19. The word tends to mean something of the sphere of spiritual truth not discoverable by observation or inference, but revealed. The thing answering to such a description in this context is, surely, “the mystical union and fellowship betwixt Christ and His Church.” It can scarcely be the marriage union of mortal man and wife. That, as this whole passage bears witness, is a thing most sacred, Divine in institution, and, in the popular sense of the word, “mysterious.” But it scarcely answers the idea of a revealed spiritual truth.

We paraphrase the verse, then; “This revealed mystery, the Union of Bridegroom and Bride, is great; but I say so in reference to the Bridal of Redemption, to which our thought has been drawn.”

The Vulgate Latin, which forms in its present shape the authoritative Romanist version, translates here, “ sacramentum hoc magnum est, ego autem dico in Christo et in ecclesiâ ”; from which the Roman theology deduces that “marriage is a great sacrament in Christ and in His Church ” (see Alford here, and the Catechism of the Council of Trent, pars ii. qu. xv. xvii). The “Old Latin” read “ in ecclesiam ,” “with reference to the Church.”

but I ] The pronoun is emphatic, possibly as if to say, “I, as distinguished from the narrator of the marriage in Eden.”

On this whole passage Monod’s remarks are noteworthy. He declines to see, with Harless, a mere accommodation of the words of Genesis. For him, those words, narrating true facts, are also a Divinely planned type. “When St Paul quotes, by the Holy Spirit, a declaration of the Holy Spirit, it is the Holy Spirit’s thought and not his own that he gives us … The relation which he indicates between the two unions … is based in the depths of the Divine thought, and on the harmony established between things visible and invisible … The marriage instituted in Eden was really, in the plan of God, a type of the union of Christ with His Church.”

For a reference by the Lord Himself to the passage in Genesis, though with another purpose, see Matthew 19:4 , Matthew 19:5 ; Mark 10:6-9 . For Him, as for His Apostle, the passage was not a legend but an oracle.

33. Nevertheless ] The word recalls the reader from the Divine but incidental “mystery” of the mystical Union to the holy relationship which is at once a type of it and sanctified and glorified by it.

of you ] Add, with the Gr., also : “you Christian husbands, as well as the heavenly Husband.”

his wife ] His own wife , as above, ver. 28.

reverence ] Lit., “fear,” and so R.V. The fear of respect, of reverence, is obviously meant, and we prefer the expression of this as in A.V. The word “fear” is indeed continually used in Scripture of the holy and happy reverence of man for God , and so has lost all necessary connexion with painful ideas. But just because we have here a precept for a human mutual relation, the word which best keeps painful ideas out seems to be not only the most beautiful, but the most true to the import of the Greek, in such a context.

Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on Ephesians 5". "Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/cgt/ephesians-5.html. 1896.
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