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Wednesday, June 19th, 2024
the Week of Proper 6 / Ordinary 11
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Bible Commentaries
Ephesians 4

Contending for the FaithContending for the Faith

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Verse 1

I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called,

I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you: Because Paul’s faith has led him to be a "prisoner" of the Lord (see notes on 3:1), he calls for the Ephesians to respect and yield to his exhortation. "Beseech" (Strong 3870) originally meant "to call to one’s side" (Thayer 482). Paul is pleading with them to join with him in serving the Lord.

that ye walk worthy of the vocation: The word "walk" suggests the way they would choose to behave and conduct their lives. The way they walk is the way they live. Instead of translating the word as "walk" (Strong 4043), the New International Version chose to translate it as "live." The figure of walking in a way that pleases God is frequently found in scripture (Psalms 1:1; Romans 6:4; 2 Corinthians 5:7; Galatians 5:16; Philippians 3:18; Colossians 1:10) and repeatedly in this letter to the Ephesians (2:2, 10; 4:17; 5:2, 8, 15).

We are not just to "walk" but to walk in a way that is "worthy," that is, in a manner that shows the weight, value, and worth we put on the cause for which we live (our "vocation"). Do we live devoted lives, dedicated to Him who died and rose again on our behalf (2 Corinthians 5:15)? Does our manner of life reflect the focus, honor, and stature we give to Christ? It should since we explicitly make a claim of following Him in wearing the name "Christian." "For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps" (1 Peter 2:21 NASB).

"Walk worthy of the vocation" is similar to the appeal Paul makes to the brethren at Thessalonica. He encourages and implores them to "walk in a manner worthy of the God who calls you, into His own Kingdom and glory" (1 Thessalonians 2:11-12 NASB). Peter makes a similar plea, "...like the Holy One who called you, be holy...in all your behavior" (1 Peter 1:14-16 NASB). It is imperative that our lives reflect the significance we have placed on God’s invitation to us. The rest of this epistle is devoted to showing us how to "walk worthy."

The word translated "vocation" (Strong 2821) literally means "a calling" or receiving an "invitation" to something (Thayer 349). Literally this phrase translates "walk worthily of the calling with which you were called" (Bratcher & Nida 93; see also Marshall 562). To what have we been "called"? We all have been "invited" to salvation from our sins and to fellowship with God through Christ (see notes on 1:4-7, 13).

wherewith ye are called: We have been "called" (Strong 2564) or "invited" (Thayer 321) to fellowship with God (2 Corinthians 5:18-19), not by a better-felt-than-told Holy Spirit induced experience but "by the gospel" (2 Thessalonians 2:14).

This calling influences our mind by appealing to our conscience, our reason, and our need. We are motivated (called) to enter God’s kingdom by moral persuasion rather than by supernaturally imposed physical power (Caldwell 156).

The call of the gospel is a general, universal invitation extended to "all" (Titus 2:11; Hebrews 5:9; 1 Timothy 2:3-4; 1 John 2:2), for everyone has been invited to enjoy this salvation and its blessings through Christ. Jesus directs us to "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation" (Mark 16:15 NASB). God does not wish "for any to perish but for all to come to repentance" (2 Peter 3:9). Mankind now carries the responsibility of responding in obedience to the call of God (Mark 16:16; Hebrews 5:9; 2 Peter 1:10).

Since the gospel call is the greatest invitation ever offered to us, we should conduct ourselves in a way that reflects our appreciation for such an unmerited privilege. As Paul says to the Philippians, "conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ" (Philippians 1:27 NASB). This verse is very similar in meaning to a phrase many parents use with their children, "Remember who you are."

Verse 2

With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love;

Walking in a way that is "worthy" of God’s calling involves our developing proper attitudes, relationships, conduct, and character.

With all lowliness: "Lowliness" (Strong 5012) is "humility" (NASB). We are to have a modest opinion of our worth while regarding others "as more important" than ourselves (Philippians 2:3 NASB). We are to "clothe" ourselves with humility "for God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble" (1 Peter 5:5 NASB). The proud are self-centered and see themselves as important while the humble view the Lord and brethren as more important than themselves (see also James 4:6; James 4:10; Matthew 23:12).

The idea of this word is to think of one’s self as small or little in comparison to the honor due others (1 Samuel 15:17-19). Having an humble self-image discourages the attitudes that bring strife and division (James 3:14 to James 4:6). Humility promotes unity.

and meekness: "Meekness" (Strong 4236) contains qualities of "gentleness, humility, courtesy" and "considerateness" (Arndt & Gingrich 699). Meekness is the outward expression of inner humility. When there is conflict between brethren, meekness pursues fairness, not self-justification. When a brother or sister needs to be corrected, one should prayerfully approach the situation in a spirit of meekness (Galatians 6:1; 2 Timothy 2:25). Remember, "A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger" (Proverbs 15:1 NASB). Meekness promotes unity.

with longsuffering: "Longsuffering" (Strong 3115) is shown when we have "patience" (NASB, NIV) with one another. It carries the idea of enduring with someone in a courteous and tactful manner. "Longsuffering" carries an element of time, a "slowness in avenging wrongs" (Thayer 387) rather than a short temper (James 1:19-20). It involves a willingness to wait for growth. Patience promotes unity.

forbearing one another: It is our bearing with (Strong 430) and enduring (Thayer 45) one another that convincingly shows our commitment to unity within the body. Bearing with one another promotes unity.

in love: The nature of "love" (Strong 26) embodies all the above-mentioned virtues. Love is a decision to value another to such an extent that their well-being is placed above our own (Philippians 2:3-4). It actively seeks the greatest good for the one loved. Love does not arise from our own needs or flesh but comes from the mind that chooses to assign value or honor to someone. Love promotes unity.

Verse 3

Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

Endeavouring to keep: "Endeavouring" (Strong 4704) is translated from a dynamic word meaning to "make haste...to exert one’s self, endeavor, give diligence" (Thayer 585), "be zealous or eager, take pains" or "make every effort" (Arndt & Gingrich 763; NIV). It takes effort to invest, support, protect, maintain, and repair (if necessary) "unity" within the body of Christ. We know this work needs to be done, so we are prompted to put forth quickly "every effort" to see that it gets done.

the unity of the Spirit: This is "unity" (Strong 1775) that can only be realized as a result of the Spirit’s work.

What is the "unity of the Spirit"? It is not that we all share a common attitude (a "spirit of unity") or that we all share in the presence of the Holy Spirit. This "unity" is brought about as a result of the Spirit’s work in revealing the will of God. Without knowledge of the will of God, there can be no consensus pertaining to the will of God. When the Spirit-revealed word is the only source of our common faith and practice, the "unity of the Spirit" is the effect (see notes on 4:13).

How is the unity of the Spirit attained?

in the bond of peace: A "bond" (Strong 4886) is something that holds things together, such as "a band" that holds a bundle of sticks together (Thayer 601). It is "peace" (Strong 1515) that unites and creates harmony between members of the church. When the wall of hostility that separated the Jews from the Gentiles was broken down, "both groups" were united "in one...body" (2:14-17), and peace was established.

In this passage the bond is "peace," whereas in Colossians the bond is "love." "And beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity" (Colossians 3:14 NASB). In Colossians, the context is speaking of personal qualities that Christians are to put on. The context here, after previously telling the church to have "love" for one another (4:2), is the unity of the body. We are to bond our unity with peace.

Paul has taught the church how to maintain unity through proper conduct. Now he presents the doctrinal basis from which unity arises.

Verse 4

There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling;

There is one body: This "one body" is the church (1:22-23). And since there is but "one" body, it is appropriate to advocate there is but one church. The terminology of "one body" here represents all the saved in Christ (1:22-23; 2:16; Colossians 3:15). Jesus is the "Savior" (5:23) of this "one body."

There are many local congregational representations of this "one body"; however, there is but "one body." This "one body" consists of all the saved without regard to the local congregation with which they are identified (Colossians 4:9; Colossians 4:12). Just because scripture records the existence of a plurality of congregations called "churches" (Romans 16:16), it does not mean Christ has more than one universal church or "body." Each local congrega­tion is merely a representation of that "one" body (1 Corinthians 12:27) with its "head" being Christ (1:22-23). This truth is reflected in the Lord’s supper when the assembled congregation partakes of one loaf and one cup (1 Corinthians 10:16-17).

The presumption that there can be many variant kinds of acceptable worship, organizations, and doctrines because there are many congregations is absurd. Since "God is not a God of confusion" (1 Corinthians 14:33 NASB), Christ’s body cannot be confused and divided. Each congregation must submit to its "head," Christ, or that congregation is not representative of the one body of Christ (Revelation 2:5).

To maintain that "any church is all right" or to encourage people to "join the church of your choice" is not authorized by God. Those who would say such think they are being loving and tolerant, but in reality they are promoting confusion and division. God knew division would be inevitable (1 Corinthians 11:19; 1 Timothy 4:1; 2 Peter 2:1), but He did not want the church to embrace it (1 Corinthians 1:10; Ephesians 4:3). We need to identify the church embraced by God, the church of God’s choice. We need to find "the" church with worship, organization, and work that reflect the will of God (John 4:23-24), not the preferences of men.

Using a Bible does not mean you honor it (2 Peter 3:16), and using Christ’s name does not mean you honor it (Matthew 7:21-23). Once Christ’s church has been identified through a careful investigation of the scriptures, we are obligated to endorse and promote the concept that all disciples must unite in that "one body" under its head, Christ, for there is but "one body."

and one Spirit: The "one" Spirit is the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is distinct from both the Father and the Son, yet they are in total harmony. All three entities of the Godhead are mentioned in Ephesians 2:18; Ephesians 3:14-17; Ephesians 4:4-6; Ephesians 5:18-20.

In the letter to the church at Corinth, Paul reasons that because the "one" Holy Spirit is the source of the various "spiritual gifts" (1 Corinthians 12:4-11), there should be "no division in the body" (1 Corinthians 12:25). Today, because of the revelatory work of the Holy Spirit, the scriptures (2 Timothy 3:16), there should be no divisions in the body. The Holy Spirit’s work "has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness" (2 Peter 1:3 NASB).

even as ye are called in one hope of your calling: All members of the body of Christ are "called" by the message of the gospel (2 Thessalonians 2:14). This message is conveyed by the Holy Spirit to the messengers (John 14:26) and writers of the scriptures (2 Timothy 3:16). The message carries a hope of Heaven because of salvation in Christ:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you (1 Peter 1:3-4 NASB).

And, as Paul reminds the Colossians, there is a "...hope laid up for you in heaven" (Colossians 1:5).

"Hope" (Strong 1680) is not wishful thinking but an expectant desire, a desire that anticipates fulfillment. Because of the dynamic evidence given to us "through the resurrection of Jesus Christ," we have a living, active hope.

There is but "one" hope God has given for those who are saved: heaven (Matthew 5:12; Matthew 6:20-21; 2 Corinthians 5:1; Psalms 11:4; John 14:2-3; Acts 2:32-34). There are some who say God has prepared two different hopes for two different groups, heaven for the 144,000 and a new earth for the great multitude (Revelation 7:4; Revelation 7:9; Revelation 14:3). The Bible does use the term "new heavens and a new earth" (2 Peter 3:10; 2 Peter 3:13; Revelation 21:1) to speak of our eternal domain of existence. Please note, however, that in both of these passages "the present" (2 Peter 3:7 NASB, NIV) heavens and earth have already "passed away," that is, they have been "destroyed with intense heat" (2 Peter 3:10). When the plural is used ("heavens"), it is including the atmosphere around the earth, where birds fly (Genesis 1:20; Psalms 8:8; Jeremiah 4:25), and space, where the stars are (Genesis 22:17; Psalms 8:3). When the Jews wanted to refer to the dwelling place of God, they looked past these two heavens to "the third heaven" (2 Corinthians 12:2), which is "far above all the heavens" (Ephesians 4:10 NASB). Thus, the term "present heavens and earth" (2 Peter 3:7) is addressing our earthly realm of existence, the temporal, created domain within which we live (2 Corinthians 4:18).

We are to look for the "new" heavens and earth in metaphorical contrast to the old heavens and earth. We, like the faithful of old, "desire a better country, that is a heavenly one" (Hebrews 11:16 NASB). Remember, Jesus says, "...I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you I will come again, and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also" (John 14:2-3). As Christians, we have but "one hope," enjoying eternal salvation in Heaven.

Verse 5

One Lord, one faith, one baptism,

One Lord: We have but "one Lord," Jesus Christ:

...there are so-called gods...indeed there are many gods and many lords, yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom are all things, and we exist for Him; and one Lord, Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we exist through Him (1 Corinthians 8:5-6 NASB).

When Jesus is called "Lord" (Strong 2962), it puts emphasis on the rule and authority of Christ. He has a right to this authority for God the Father gave Him this authority:

God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow...and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father (Philippians 2:9-11 NASB). (See also Matthew 28:18.)

Therefore let all the house of Israel know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Christ--this Jesus whom you crucified (Acts 2:36 NASB).

Because we have but one Lord, Jesus Christ, there must be unity.

one faith: "One faith" can either be subjectively speaking of one kind of personal saving faith or objectively speaking of the collective body of Christ’s teachings ("the" faith). Contextually, we take this "faith" to be objective (4:13; Colossians 2:7; Romans 10:8), asserting the existence of one standard of truth in doctrine. This one standard mankind has tried to codify into creeds, resulting in innumerable divisions. Any creed of man that contains more than the Bible speaks presumptuously, and any creed that contains less than the Bible is insufficient. The Bible is divinely sufficient and must be our creed (2 Timothy 3:16-17; 2 Peter 1:3; John 17:17). There is no need for additional revelation for God’s truth to be known (1 Timothy 3:15; James 5:19). We must "contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered" (Judges 1:3).

We must, in humble honesty, give ourselves diligently to understanding what has been revealed:

Now I exhort you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all agree, and there be no divisions among you, but you be made complete in the same mind and in the same judgment (1 Corinthians 1:10).

The truth exists, whether we know it and accept it or not. As someone having a discussion once said, "I may be wrong; you may be wrong; we both may be wrong; but we both can’t be right." We are to correct gently "those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth" (2 Timothy 2:25). We also need to remain objective, knowing that the truth is more important than our winning an argument. We are exhorted to "test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves" (2 Corinthians 13:5 NASB).

Unity results when we submit to the "one faith" for "God is not a God of confusion but of peace" (1 Corinthians 14:33).

one baptism: Baptism (Strong 908) is immersion or submersion in some element (Thayer 94). There are five different baptisms referred to in the New Testament:

1. Baptism of John, administered by John (Luke 7:29-30).

2. Baptism of suffering, administered by evil men (Mark 10:38-39).

3. Baptism of Holy Spirit, administered by Jesus (Matthew 3:11).

4. Baptism of fire, administered by Jesus (Matthew 3:11-12).

5. Baptism of Jesus, administered by His disciples (Matthew 28:19).

By the time Ephesians is written, there is only "one" baptism that is applicable to believers:

1. Baptism of John, ceased before Christ died (Acts 19:3-5).

2. Baptism of suffering, was finished in death (Matthew 27:50).

3. Baptism of Holy Spirit, the prophecy fulfilled (Joel 2:28-32; Acts 2:17-21) in Jews (Acts 2:1-4) and Gentiles (Acts 10:44; Acts 11:15-18).

4. Baptism of fire, to be administered after Judgment (Matthew 25:41).

5. Baptism of Jesus, is still being administered by His disciples today (Matthew 28:19-20).

Only the baptism of Jesus is currently in effect. This is the "one baptism" (4:5) described in Ephesians 5:26, speaking of Christ and His church, "that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word." The baptism Jesus commands is immersion or submersion in water (Acts 8:36-38) and is for the forgiveness of sins (Acts 22:16; Acts 2:38; Mark 16:16; 1 Peter 3:21). Baptism in the name of Jesus Christ (Acts 2:38) means "by one’s command and authority" (Thayer 447; Strong 3686). Jesus instructs His disciples to baptize "in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit" (Matthew 28:19; see Acts 19:2-5).

On the human side, the one baptism in which every Christian had shared was water baptism, the public rite of confession of the one faith in the one Lord. On the divine side, this water baptism was conjoined with the participation of the Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:13) (Boles 269).

Luke records that early Christians practiced this command. "When they believed Philip preaching the good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were being baptized, men and women alike" (Acts 8:12 NASB).

Verse 6

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

One God and Father of all: The scriptures record that in worldly religions: "...there are so-called gods...indeed there are many gods and many lords, yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom are all things, and we exist for Him..." (1 Corinthians 8:5-6 NASB). If there were many gods, there would be no unity in religion. Because there is "one God," we can have unity. (See Paul’s sermon to the idolatrous Athenians: Acts 17:22-31.)

We address God as "Father" because He is the great source or cause "of all" that exists (Acts 17:28). Christians personally address God as their Father because they have been adopted into the family of God (Romans 8:15; Galatians 4:5-6; Ephesians 1:5). (See notes 1:3; 2:18; 3:14-15; 5:20.)

who is above all: God the Father is above (Strong 1909) or over all in authority, even Christ (1 Corinthians 15:24-28; John 14:28). To those in the church, God the Father is the one to whom we are reconciled "in Christ" (Romans 5:10-11; 2 Corinthians 5:18-20), the one to whom we pray (1:17-18; 3:14; 5:20).

It is by the Father’s will that all things, except Himself, be put under the authority of Jesus, His Son (Psalms 8:6; Matthew 28:18; Hebrews 2:8; 1 Peter 3:22; Ephesians 1:22). "And you belong to Christ; and Christ belongs to God" (1 Corinthians 3:23 NASB). (See also 1:10; Philippians 3:21; 1 Corinthians 11:3.) Because God is "above all," there should be unity.

and through all: God asks, "Do I not fill the heavens and the earth" (Jeremiah 23:24)? (See Psalms 139:1-12; Acts 17:27-28.) God is "through all" in His fullness and work. (Some call this quality "immanence.") But, a word of caution...God is everywhere, but He is not everything. By His power "all things hold together" (Colossians 1:16-17 NASB), but God is not His creation. God gives life to a tree and by His power causes it to grow, but God is not a tree. There are many who respect "the force" of nature and believe that through venerating nature, they worship God (Pantheism). But the design and symbiotic balance of creation gives testimony to the handiwork of God (Psalms 19:1). Nature itself is not God; nature gives glory to God. God is "through all," and, hence, there ought to be unity.

and in you all: God is omnipresent (Jeremiah 23:23-24). He is also "in all" as we, in the church, are united together for "a dwelling place of God in the Spirit" (2:22 NASB). (Note also 1 Corinthians 3:16.) Also note that "you" (Strong 5213) does not have much support in the original text. If the same God is "in all" of us, should there not be unity?

Up to this point, Paul has been discussing the oneness or unity of the whole body (4:1-6). Now he turns to the individual parts of the body and shows how diversity within this body contributes to the strength of its unity.

Verse 7

But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ.

But unto every one of us: The seven foundational facts of Christian unity (given above) are now contrasted with the variety of "every one of us."

is given grace: "Grace" (Strong 5485) is the unmerited favor of God. In this context grace is used to describe any "capacity and ability due to the grace of God" (Thayer 666). We each have abilities, talents, or "gifts that differ according to the grace given to us" (Romans 12:6 NASB). Any ability we possess is due to God’s graciousness, and we are to praise Him for it:

As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. Whoever speaks, let him speak, as it were, the utterances of God; whoever serves, let him do so as by the strength which God supplies; so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belongs the glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen (1 Peter 4:10-11 NASB).

Man must humbly admit that the capacity for us to do anything comes from God. The terms "grace" from God and "ability" from God are sometimes used synonymously for God is the source of all our capabilities.

Paul, in correcting the arrogant, self-sufficient, yet ironically jealous Corinthians, asks, "What do you have that you did not receive? But if you did receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it?" (1 Corinthians 4:7 NASB). Since we have been given our abilities by God, why do we boast (which betrays a desire to receive glory for ourselves)? God did not give us talents so that we could have something in which to boast or glory but to have something with which to glorify Him.

according to the measure of the gift of Christ: Our differing abilities or talents should not become a source of strife or jealousy between brethren for "It is He who made us, and not we ourselves..." (Psalms 100:3). Since we did not create ourselves, then our abilities or limitations, "the measure (Strong 3358)," should not be a point of pride or shame. We should not allow ourselves to get upset concerning our limitations and irreverently ask God, "...Why did you make me like this?" (Romans 9:20). We should just decide that whatever limited or abundant talents God has given us, we will use them for His glory. Our purpose for existence is to glorify God with what we are (Isaiah 43:7; 2 Corinthians 5:15). As in the parable of the talents, if we use the abilities we have been given, we will develop even more of them (Matthew 25:14-30).

The giver of the gift "to every one of us" is Christ. Jesus was also the administrator of the baptism of the Holy Spirit (Matthew 3:11; Mark 1:8; John 15:26), but the manifestations came by the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:4-11).

Verse 8

Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men.

Wherefore he saith: Paul now cites prophetic Psalms 68:18 to corroborate Christ’s being the source of their various gifts. Paul’s affirmation of this passage to Christ may have been to refute the Jewish application of it to Moses (Weed 160; also see notes on 4:9).

When he ascended up on high: Christ "presented Himself alive, after His suffering by many convincing proofs, appearing to them over a period of forty days" (Acts 1:3 NASB). Then, "He was lifted up while they were looking on, and a cloud received Him out of their sight" (Acts 1:9 NASB; see also Luke 24:51; Mark 16:19). He then "passed through the heavens" (Hebrews 4:14) and then, from Heaven’s viewpoint:

...behold, with the clouds of heaven One like a Son of Man was coming, and He came up to the Ancient of Days and was presented before Him. And to Him was given dominion, Glory and a kingdom..." (Daniel 7:13-14 NASB).

When Christ was given this kingdom, He "gave gifts to men."

he led captivity captive: This phrase translates literally "he captured captivity," idiomatically meaning he "took many captives" (Bratcher & Nida 98). The New International Version translates this phrase "he led captives in his train," taking its meaning from the Roman practice of allowing Roman generals to parade their captives before the people. The Roman Senate would authorize such a victory procession only when a province had been made subject to Rome’s power and rule. The spiritual meaning is clear: Christ is victorious in His war with Satan for the salvation of man. "When He had disarmed the rulers and authorities, He made a public display of them, having triumphed over them through Him" (Colossians 2:15 NASB). (See notes 1:20-21.)

What is not so clear here, contextually, is who the captives in this "triumph" procession are. Usually it is the conquered enemy that is led about in shame (Luke 11:20-22). But in Paul’s letter to the Corinthians Paul includes himself in God’s "triumph" (2 Corinthians 2:14), that is, God’s parade of the captives. Because of Jesus, we have been delivered "from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son" (Colossians 1:13 NASB). "But now having been freed from sin and enslaved to God, you derive your benefit, resulting in sanctification, and the outcome, eternal life" (Romans 6:22 NASB). And, "...likewise he who was called while free, is Christ’s slave" (1 Corinthians 7:22 NASB).

From God’s perspective, we were the slaves of sin (John 8:34); but He redeemed us, accepted us and, through adoption (see notes 1:5-7; Romans 8:15-17), treats us as sons (Hebrews 12:5-11):

But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, in order that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, "Abba! Father!" Therefore you are no longer a slave, but a son; and if a son, then an heir through God (Galatians 4:4-7 NASB).

From our perspective, we are merely servants or "slaves of Christ" (6:6 NASB). We have been "bought with a price" (1 Corinthians 6:20; 2 Peter 2:1), that being the blood of Christ (Acts 20:28). We are keenly aware that we owe our freedom (salvation) to the victorious Christ and willingly make ourselves servants in His kingdom (1 Peter 2:16). It is in this sense that Paul includes himself in God’s "triumph" (2 Corinthians 2:14). Could it be, then, that the term "led captivity captive" is a picture of Christ’s leading all those who were saved in the Old Testament to Heaven?

It seems best, in view of all that Christ accomplished through His death, burial, and resurrection, to understand the term "led captivity captive" as having reference to Christ’s conquering all evil forces, including Satan, demons, sin, and death (Luke 11:20-22; Revela­tion 1:17-18; Hebrews 2:14-15; Acts 2:22-24; 1 John 3:8; Colossians 2:15; John 12:31). When Christ ascended, He led all that He had conquered and captured in His triumph.

and gave gifts unto men: It was customary for the people to share in the celebration of their victorious, conquering leaders. Not only did the people share in the honor of "their" heroes but the people also shared in the spoil or riches of the conquered land. Sometimes the conquered people were given as slaves. In our text, "gifts" are given to God’s people in celebration of Christ’s triumphal victory. These "gifts" are enumerated in verse 11.

A textual problem here deserves note. Paul does not cite from where this quote is taken, but most conclude it is Psalms 68:18. Paul quotes the passage as saying Christ "gave" gifts to men, whereas the original Hebrew text of the Psalm says "received" gifts from men. Is this a quote, misquote, or a paraphrase on Paul’s part? Weed maintains that Paul, following his rabbinical background, is quoting from a rabbinical commentary on Psalms 68, which relates the verse to Moses’ receiving the law in Exodus 19 (Weed 160). Weed supports that Paul quotes this passage and applies it to Christ to correct their misapplication of it to Moses. This view has some merit but is speculation nonetheless. If this is not the case, then, is this a misquote or a paraphrase? There are two ideas that may help us understand Paul’s apparent transposition of the text. First, two ancient versions, the Peshitta and one of the Targums (an Aramaic translation of the Hebrew), recite the Psalm as Paul does (Bruce 342-343). Paul may have accurately quoted the passage, but there is not much textual support for this conclusion. Secondly, the general framework of this Psalm is the description of a king’s returning from a victory in battle and giving to his people from the spoil (Psalms 68:5-6; Psalms 68:10-11; Psalms 68:19; Psalms 68:35). The last verse of Psalms 68 makes apparent the reason the king received gifts from the captives was to give "strength and power to the people" (Psalms 68:35 NASB). The concept of giving is implied in the receiving (Boles 273; Hendriksen 190-191). Contextually, then, the passage cited is interpreted correctly and seems to be a compilation paraphrase of the broader text.

Verse 9

(Now that he ascended, what is it but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth?

Paul now leaves the quotation to explain the meaning of ascend and descend (4:9-10) and the application of the passage to Christ.

Now that he ascended: John maintains "...no one has ascended into heaven, but He who descended from heaven, even the Son of Man" (John 3:13 NASB).

what is it but that he also descended: This phrase is best translated: "Now this expression, ’He ascended,’ what does it mean except that He also had descended" (NASB). Paul’s claim is, basically, "what goes back up must have first come down."

Paul’s argument is that the Psalm must refer to one who first descended, i.e., it is necessary for one to descend before ascending (cf. John 3:13). Moses is excluded and the prior descent posited is better identified with Jesus’ Incarnation (cf. John 1:14) (Weed 160).

first into the lower parts of the earth: Many translations drop the word "first" for not having sufficient textual support (UBS 671). The "lower parts of the earth" could refer to the womb of Mary (Psalms 139:13; Psalms 139:15), but this meaning is doubtful. This phrase could refer to earth itself, the grave--where the body goes in death ("heart of the earth," Matthew 12:40). It could refer to the fleshly, earthly realm (Philippians 2:3-8) of Christ’s "incarnation" (Thayer 341). Furthermore, it could refer to hades where the spirit retires when death takes place (Isaiah 14:9; Ezekiel 26:20; Psalms 63:9).

Understanding that hades was considered by the Jews to be the lowest part of creation and heaven the highest, we are led to determine that all of creation is under consideration in this passage. Also, note the phrase "that he might fill all things" in the next verse suggests all of creation. The phrase "the lower parts of the earth" here seems to suggest the realm of hades.

The fact that Jesus went to the realm of the dead called hades is without question. Peter, citing Psalms 16:10, contends the body of Jesus does not experience decay, even though it is placed in a grave, and that His soul is not abandoned in hades (Acts 2:27; Acts 2:31; Acts 13:35-37). This passage indicates that when Jesus died His soul went to hades. He was not, however, left or abandoned there, for after three days God raised Him from the realm of the dead, and His body from the grave (Acts 10:40). Jesus also tells the thief on the cross that he would join Him that very day in paradise (Luke 23:43); therefore, paradise must be part of hades (Luke 16:19-31).

During the time He is in hades, He does not ascend to His Father (John 20:17). It is at this time that Jesus conquers death, "And God raised Him up again, putting an end to the agony of death, since it was impossible for Him to be held in its power" (Acts 2:24 NASB). (See also 2 Timothy 1:10.) Jesus renders "powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil" (Hebrews 2:14). Jesus now proclaims, "I have the keys of death and of Hades" (Revelation 1:18 NASB). The victory of Jesus is complete. There is no realm left, physical or spiritual, that is not now under His control (1 Peter 3:22). Only the patience of the Lord (2 Peter 3:15) now restrains the final destruction of death (1 Corinthians 15:20-28; 1 Corinthians 15:50-58), hades (Revelation 20:13-14), and all other evil forces in "heavenly places" (1:3; 6:12). (See also Psalms 71:20; Isaiah 26:19.)

Note: 1 Peter 3:19 has no bearing on this passage. The context of 1 Peter shows he is speaking of those who were once alive and heard the message of Noah (who was preaching in the spirit of Christ, that is, by inspiration). Those who heard were disobedient and died and are "now in" the "prison" of hades. 1 Peter 3:19 does not teach that Christ preached while He is in hades.

Verse 10

He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things.)

He that descended is the same also that ascended up: Unlike Moses who went up and then descended Mt. Sinai to give the Law to the people, Jesus descends and then goes back up to Heaven to give gifts (Weed 160). Paul is showing that Psalms 68:18 more appropriately applies to Jesus, not Moses (see notes on verse 4:8). Jesus goes back to where He came from, heaven.

far above all heavens: The opposite of "the lower parts of the earth" is "above all heavens." Jesus has been "exalted above the heavens" (Hebrews 7:26). When the plural is used ("heavens"), it is including the atmosphere around the earth, where birds fly (Genesis 1:20; Psalms 8:8; Jeremiah 4:25), and space, where the stars are (Genesis 22:17; Psalms 8:3). When the Jews wanted to refer to the dwelling place of God, they looked past these two heavens to "the third heaven" (2 Corinthians 12:2), which is "far above all the heavens" (4:10 NASB). (See also "highest heaven," 1 Kings 8:27; 2 Chronicles 6:18.) Christ ascends up to the "third heaven," the abode of God. "For Christ did not enter a holy place made with hands, a mere copy of the true one, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us" (Hebrews 9:24 NASB). Jesus "...is at the right hand of God, having gone into heaven, after angels and authorities and powers had been subjected to Him" (1 Peter 3:22 NASB).

that he might fill all things: Christ, in this exalted position, pervades the entire universe (1:23). By the word of His power, He "upholds all things" (Hebrews 1:3) and "in Him all things hold together" (Colossians 1:17). He now rules over and sustains all things. From this prominent, victorious position, Jesus "gave gifts to men" (4:7-8).

Verse 11

And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;

And he gave: Christ is the giver of the gifts. Jesus was the administrator of the baptism of the Holy Spirit (Matthew 3:11; Mark 1:8; John 15:26), but the manifestations came by the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:4-11). Contextually, the discussion is limited to "some" offices in the infant church that were sustained by spiritual gifts until the scriptures were complete 4:13).

some, apostles: Generically, an apostle (Strong 652) is described as being a king’s commissioned agent or a delegate subject to official orders. Sometimes the New Testament uses the word in this generic way speaking of "messengers" sent out by the church (2 Corinthians 8:23): Barnabas (Acts 14:4; Acts 14:14); Andronicus and Junias (Romans 16:7); James, the brother of the Lord (Galatians 1:19); and Epaphroditus (Philippians 2:25).

Most often, however, the term "apostles" applies specifically to the twelve hand-picked messengers of Christ. They were apostles "of Jesus Christ" (Colossians 1:1; 1 Peter 1:1). Paul, speaking of his apostleship, says, "...we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were entreating through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God" (2 Corinthians 5:20 NASB). The apostles were ambassadors or envoys for Christ. These apostles did not receive their commission by the will of men or from the church but from Jesus Christ Himself (Galatians 1:1). Except for Christ, their word took priority over all others in the church (1 Corinthians 12:28). The apostles also had miraculous credentials, spiritual gifts, and signs that were designed to authenticate their spiritual credibility (Mark 16:17-20; 2 Corinthians 12:12; Hebrews 2:3-4). They were unique in that they alone had the ability to pass on some spiritual gifts through the laying on of their hands (Acts 8:18).

The work of an apostle was to provide eyewitness testimony to the resurrection of Christ (Acts 1:22; Acts 4:33; Acts 10:40-42; Acts 26:16; 1 Corinthians 9:1) and to reveal and confirm everything needed to know and please God (Hebrews 2:3; 1 Corinthians 2:4-15; John 16:13; 2 Peter 1:3).

Do we have the apostolic office in the church today? The works of Christ’s apostles are continuing today, even though the apostles died long ago. We have their eyewitness testimony recorded for us in the word of God (John 20:30-31), and it continues to produce faith in those who hear (Romans 10:17). We have their teachings (Acts 2:42), chronicled in the scriptures, which still instruct us today. The church has "...been built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone" (2:20 NASB). Does the church today have apostles? Yes, the same ones the early church had (Revelation 21:14). The apostolic office in the church has been filled and the foundation laid by the apostles "of Christ." No one alive today can qualify for this office.

and some, prophets: "Prophets" (Strong 4396) were divinely inspired "forth-tellers" or teachers of God’s word (Thayer 553). This office was second only to the apostles in authority: "And God has appointed in the church, first apostles, second prophets..." (1 Corinthians 12:28). They were also part of the foundation upon which the church is built (2:20; 3:4-5). Prophets were foundational in that they not only were inspired messengers but writers (Mark, Luke, James, Jude). Their teachings and writings contributed to the body of truth the church uses for guidance (Acts 11:27-30; Acts 13:1-3; Acts 21:9). In the infancy of the church, inspired individuals filled the role of revealing God’s will while the inspired books were being written (2 Timothy 3:16-17). After the scriptures were complete, the spiritual ability of inspiration and "prophecy" ceased (1 Corinthians 13:8-12). Because of the necessity of the spiritual gift of prophecy in order for one to be in the office of a prophet, no one alive today can qualify for this office. We can, however, prophesy today in a non-miraculous way by quoting their writings: Jesus will come again (Acts 1:11).

and some, evangelists: "Evangelists" (Strong 2099) are responsible to spread the good news, share glad tidings, or preach the gospel. Two who held this office were Philip (Acts 21:8) and Timothy (2 Timothy 4:5). Although some evangelists in the New Testament, notably Timothy, possessed spiritual gifts (1 Timothy 4:14-16; 2 Timothy 1:6), special miraculous knowledge is not essential to accomplish the work of an evangelist. Men, therefore, can qualify for this office today because it does not necessitate a spiritual gift. Since the written word is designed to "build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified" (Acts 20:31 NASB), one who is naturally equipped with the knowledge of the gospel can do the work of an evangelist today (2 Timothy 3:16-17). We need more evangelists today (Romans 10:10-15; Romans 15:20-21).

and some, pastors: "Pastors" (Strong 4166) act as shepherds over a local flock or congregation of Christians. The title signifies the work. Synonyms for this office are elders or presbyters (Acts 20:17; Titus 1:5; 1 Peter 5:1-5), and bishops or overseers (1 Timothy 3:1-2; Titus 1:7; Acts 20:28). There should be more than one pastor for each congregation (Acts 14:23; Titus 1:5). The qualifications for one who would aspire to this office are given in 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:5-9. Neither the work nor the qualifications of a pastor necessitate a spiritual gift but rather require spiritual maturity. We need more pastors today.

and teachers: "Teachers" (Strong 1320) are instructors of the word of God. They have the responsibility of making the word of God relevant and understood (1 Corinthians 14:26). Although the Greek definite article is absent before the word "teachers," which would link the words "pastors and teachers" (teaching pastors), and although there is a different conjunction used between them than with the other offices on the list, 1 Corinthians 12:29 lists "teachers" as a separate work. All teachers are not pastors but all pastors are to be teachers (1 Timothy 3:2). All teachers must not be hypocrites (James 3:1) but must be "faithful men, who will be able to teach others" (2 Timothy 2:2 NASB). We need more teachers today.

Someone may ask why the office of deacon (Philippians 1:1; 1 Timothy 3:8-13) is not included in this list. The answer may lie in the observation that all the above-mentioned offices involve teaching or instruction, whereas the office of deacon is primarily a temporal service work (Acts 6:2-6). Contextually, the focus is on men who possessed revelatory gifts and provided instruction for the purpose of developing spiritual maturity and unity. The context here suggests that in the infancy of the church all of these offices were sustained by spiritual gifts.

Verse 12

For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:

For the perfecting of the saints: The word "For" (Strong 4314), literally "towards" (Thayer 541), would be better translated "with a view to" or "toward the goal of" perfecting the saints. The noun "perfecting" (Strong 2677) is found only here in the New Testament. The verb form (Strong 2675) is found thirteen times and means "to render...fit, sound, complete" and carries the idea of outfitting or equipping someone for a task (Thayer 336; see 1 Thessalonians 3:10). Saints (Strong 40) are "holy" people in that they have been "set apart for God" (Thayer 7) because of salvation. The meaning then is Jesus gave these gifts for the purpose of equipping Christians.

for the work of the ministry: The punctuation here obscures the meaning of the Greek text. The word "for" (Strong 1519) carries the meaning of "unto," "in order to," or "with a view toward" a goal (Caldwell 182). We need to be equipped in order to perform a "work" (Strong 2041), a ministry. A "ministry" (Strong 1248) is accomplished through serving, waiting upon, attending, relieving, or aiding someone and would be better translated "for the work of service" (NASB). Someone who ministers is called a minister (Strong 1249), servant, or "deacon" (1 Timothy 3:8; 1 Timothy 3:12). The meaning then is Jesus gave these gifts with the purpose of equipping Christians for the work of providing what is spiritually needed.

for the edifying of the body of Christ: The word "for" (Strong 1519) is the same as above. Jesus gave these gifts with a view toward "building up" or "edifying" (Strong 3619) one another. The word "edifying" means much more that just dispensing knowledge. It carries the concept of "promoting another’s growth in Christian wisdom, piety, holiness, (and) happiness" (Thayer 440). The "body of Christ" is the church (1:22-23; 2:16; 4:4).

To summarize, Christ gave a variety of spiritual gifts to specific Christians in the early church. These gifts were necessary to provide the early church with what it needed to promote both individual and corporate spiritual growth.

Verse 13

Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ:

Till we all come in the unity of the faith: "Till" (Strong 3360) means until a goal, end, or result is reached. "Till" ties together the subject of the giving of spiritual gifts (beginning in verse 7) with the goals that follow. All the above mentioned offices were to be sustained by spiritual gifts "until" four goals were accomplished:

1. We attain a unity of the faith,

2. We attain complete knowledge of Jesus,

3. We attain maturity,

4. We replicate the measure of the stature of Christ.

The first goal is that "we all," corporately, as the church, are to "come" to (Strong 2658), that is arrive at or reach, "unity" on what comprises "the faith." The word "unity" (Strong 1775) indicates we are to reach "unanimity" and "agreement" (Thayer 217), that is oneness (Bratcher & Nida 103) on what comprises "the faith." With the definite article, "the faith" is referring to the whole revealed body of truth that Christians are to believe (4:5; 1 Timothy 4:1; Galatians 1:23). Brethren with spiritual gifts were to continue in the church until it reached consensus on the whole revealed body of truth that Christians believe.

This goal had not yet been fully attained at the time Ephesians was written (A.D. 61-63). It was difficult (but not impossible) to arrive at consensus on some issues during an age when revelatory gifts were still in use because God did not reveal all the truth to any one individual. He "parted" it out. Paul speaks of the amount of his revealed knowledge when he says he knows "in part" (1 Corinthians 13:9), even though he had a big "part" (2 Corinthians 12:7). When all of those individuals to whom God’s will had been revealed supplied their "part," then "all the truth" (John 16:13) was completely revealed. Spiritual gifts, then, were given "until" "the faith" became a unit.

The faith became a unit when the scriptures were completely delivered. We are told to "contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints" (Judges 1:3 NASB). "The faith" was delivered only once. When the delivery was complete, spiritual gifts ceased. (See also 1 Corinthians 13:8-12.)

and of the knowledge of the Son of God: Secondly, spiritual gifts were to continue until the church attained a "complete knowledge" (Strong 1922) or a full recognition and understanding of Jesus. We would, at some point, fully understand who He is and what He stood for. This is not just knowing facts about Jesus but understanding Jesus. Peter shows this perceptive understanding is gained through knowing "the holy commandment" and "the way of righteousness":

For if after they have escaped the defilements of the world by the knowledge (Strong 1922) of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and are overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first. For it would be better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn away from the holy commandment delivered to them (2 Peter 2:20-21 NASB).

We must not separate our understanding from what has been revealed in the word of God. By understanding the word of God (John 17:17), we understand (Strong 1922) the truth (2 Timothy 2:24-26; 2 Timothy 3:7; 1 Timothy 2:4; Hebrews 10:26; Titus 1:1). By understanding the truth, we acquire a "precise and correct knowledge" of Jesus and His teachings (Thayer 237). Spiritual gifts, then, were to continue until the church attained a comprehensive understanding of Jesus through a completed revelation whereby we can now "read and understand" (2 Corinthians 1:13).

Jesus is here called the "Son of God," a title that affirms Jesus’s deity (Acts 9:20; Romans 1:4; Galatians 2:20).

unto a perfect man: Thirdly, spiritual gifts would continue until the church attained maturity. The word "perfect" (Strong 5046) here suggests a "full-grown, adult" or "mature" (Thayer 618) male (Strong’ 435). Thayer continues to explain this passage as, "Until we rise to the same level of knowledge which we ascribe to a full-grown man, until we can be likened to a full-grown man" (618). The spiritual gifts were to help each Christian attain spiritual adulthood by being fully taught. This idea is in contrast to the ignorant, and therefore immature, "children" of the next verse.

Paul teaches that when the revelation of spiritual knowledge is complete, spiritual gifts will be done away.

Love never fails; but if there are gifts of prophecy, they will be done away; if there are tongues, they will cease; if there is knowledge, it will be done away. For we know in part, and we prophesy in part; but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away. When I was a child, I used to speak as a child, think as a child, reason as a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things (1 Corinthians 13:8-11 NASB).

Paul here compares the age of partial spiritual gifts to the speaking, thinking, and reasoning of a child. Before the Bible was complete, the church spoke, thought, and reasoned incompletely. The church did not have all the information it needed to function maturely. The inspired authors of the scriptures contributed their writings all through the first century. Then Paul concludes, "...when I became a man, I did away with childish things." When the church became "a man," that is full-grown, God did "away with childish things," that is spiritual gifts. Paul is showing that spiritual gifts were for the church in its infancy. The purpose of spiritual gifts was to reveal and confirm (Hebrews 2:3-4) the will of God so the church could speak, think, and reason in a spiritually mature way.

Paul also prophesies, "when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away." The word "perfect" (Strong 5046) here is speaking of something "brought to its end, finished," something that lacks "nothing necessary to completeness" (Thayer 618). The "partial" spiritual gifts were to facilitate the completion of the scriptures. When the Bible lacked "nothing necessary to completeness," the partial spiritual gifts were "done away." We now have "the perfect (Strong 5046) law, the law of liberty" (James 1:25).

Again, the spiritual gifts were to help each Christian attain spiritual adulthood or maturity by being fully taught. Now we have the completed revelation, the word. We now instruct new Christians to, "like newborn babes, long for the pure milk of the word, that by it you may grow in respect to salvation" (1 Peter 2:2 NASB). And, "grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ" (2 Peter 3:18 NASB). (See notes on 4:15; 2:21.)

unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ: Fourthly, spiritual gifts were to continue until the church could replicate "the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ." The "measure" (Strong 3358) is a full portion measured off by a standard. "Stature" (Strong 2244) carries the idea of being of full age or full height, that of being a full-grown, mature man. The word "fullness" (Strong 4138) refers to all that Christ is, His complete character. Before the complete standard was revealed, the body of Christ was still not full-grown and, therefore, could not represent Christ in His maturity. To summarize then, spiritual gifts were to continue until the church could replicate the standard of mature character, set and measured by the full-grown example of Christ.

"As the church attains Christ’s full stature there is a reciprocal benefit in that Christ also finds his fullness in the church (Ephesians 1:23)" (Patzia 244).

Verse 14

That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive;

That we henceforth be no more children: The spiritually gifted offices were given and the book was being written so that we would no longer remain spiritually immature "children." The word "child­ren" (Strong 3516) refers to an infant, one who is not yet speaking and still unable to digest solid food (Hebrews 5:11-14; see also 1 Corinthians 3:1-2; 1 Corinthians 13:11). The metaphor is fitting for describing aspects of immaturity. It is appropriate for newborn Christians to be protected and fed simple Bible truths so they can be "nourished on the words of the faith" (1 Timothy 4:6). We anticipate children growing to a point where they can feed themselves. It is sad that some Christians choose to remain in the passive, dangerous state of spiritual infancy. God has provided everything we need to grow so "that we henceforth be no more children."

tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine: The phrase "tossed to and fro" is from one word (Strong 2831) meaning "to be tossed by the waves" (Thayer 350). The image is that of a small boat in a storm without a rudder, unable to hold a steady course. When we add to this image the shifting "wind" blowing about (Strong 4064) the small boat in every direction, we have a vivid picture of spiritual instability.

Spiritually, this example illustrates a situation where a person is unable to distinguish between truth and error. A crisis of confidence arises because everyone sounds correct. Then comes doubt, hesitation, insecurity, and a weak conscience, truly a devastating spiritual storm (Romans 14:13-23; 1 Corinthians 8:7-13). All this difficulty because of a lack of familiarity with "the word of righteous­ness" (Hebrews 5:13). (See also Luke 8:24; James 1:6; James 1:6.)

by the sleight of men: Some who teach the word have a hidden agenda. They prey upon the gullible.

Now I urge you, brethren, keep your eye on those who cause dissensions and hindrances contrary to the teaching which you learned, and turn away from them. For such men are slaves, not of our Lord Christ but of their own appetites; and by their smooth and flattering speech they deceive the hearts of the unsuspecting (Romans 16:17-18 NASB).

The word "sleight" (Strong 2940) is used only here and literally means "playing with dice." It is a gambling term that came to imply trickery and sleight of hand. To protect ourselves, we should imitate the Bereans who were "examining the Scriptures daily, to see whether these things were so" (Acts 17:11). We are expressly told to "examine everything carefully" (1 Thessalonians 5:21).

For there are many rebellious men, empty talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision, who must be silenced because they are upsetting whole families, teaching things they should not teach, for the sake of sordid gain (Titus 1:10-11 NASB).

Money, that is "sordid gain," seems to be a constant underlying motive for many false teachers.

But those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful desires which plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith, and pierced themselves with many a pang (1 Timothy 6:9-10 NASB).

Contextually, we are being shown some of the things that create a lack of unity in the body of Christ. First there is simple internal ignorance followed by external deception that preys upon that ignorance.

and cunning craftiness: The word translated "cunning craftiness" (Strong 3834) carries the concept of cheating with dice further to the craft of loading the dice cubes. The spiritual application is of a false teacher who would shape, twist, and form his teachings in a clever, shrewd way.

Paul says:

...we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God (2 Corinthians 4:2 NIV).

Peter says Paul writes:

...some things hard to understand, which the untaught and unstable distort, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures, to their own destruction. You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, be on your guard lest, being carried away by the error of unprincipled men, you fall from your own steadfastness, but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (2 Peter 3:16-18 NASB).

whereby they lie in wait to deceive: The Greek here is difficult to translate. Literally it is, "with a view to the systematizing of error" (Berry 690), meaning "wickedly plotting" or "deceitful scheming" (NASB, NIV). (See notes on 6:10.)

Paul has earlier warned the Ephesian elders (Acts 20:17):

I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves men will arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them (Acts 20:29-30 NASB).

The word translated "perverse" (Strong 1294) here means "to distort...to pervert, corrupt" and carries the idea of plotting against the truth (Thayer 142).

Deception is the accomplishment of a lie. If someone knows he is being lied to, then the liar is not believed and the lie has no effect. But if someone is naive, the liar is believed and the deceived person is unaware he does not know the truth. The deceived has confidence with no foundation. His confidence is based on assumptions, not truth. Spiritually, a lie can cost us our eternal life (Colossians 2:8 "spoil you"). We can believe a lie and be lost (2 Thessalonians 2:11-12). Jesus says, "if a blind man guides a blind man, both will fall into a pit" (Matthew 15:14 NASB; also see Isaiah 9:16). We are warned that if we listen to liars, we may "fall away from the faith":

But the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons, by means of the hypocrisy of liars seared in their own conscience as with a branding iron (1 Timothy 4:1-2 NASB).

People who speak the truth may cause us to be embarrassed or ashamed because we discover that we have sinned (1 Corinthians 14:24-25). Paul asks a congregation he has rebuked, "Have I therefore become your enemy by telling you the truth?" (Galatians 4:16 NASB). To keep from being deceived, we must always love and want the truth no matter how it makes us feel. Feelings and self-justification are our biggest enemies in keeping us from accepting the truth.

For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires; and will turn away their ears from the truth, and will turn aside to myths (2 Timothy 4:3-4 NASB).

The attitude we bring to our study of the word is critical to our understanding.

Jesus tells some false teachers:

You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature; for he is a liar, and the father of lies (John 8:44 NASB).

(See also 2 Corinthians 11:13-15.)

For those who truly want to find the truth, Jesus has given a positively wonderful promise: "If you abide in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free" (John 8:31-32).

Verse 15

But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ:

But speaking the truth in love: Those who are children of the devil lie, trick, and deceive, both others and themselves (2 Timothy 3:13). How do we overcome false teachers? We seek and speak the truth. In order to speak the truth, we must first know it (John 17:17). Contextually, this duty is enjoined upon the church, but verse 25 makes it incumbent upon the individual Christian. "Truth" is the first piece of Christian armor we are to put on (6:14).

In opposition to the motive of the false teachers, who have their own interests at heart, we are to speak the truth "in love" so that our words are "good for edification according to the need of the moment, that it may give grace to those who hear" (4:29). (See also Romans 15:2; Philippians 1:15-17.) Before we speak, we should not only ask, "Is it true and right?" but "Is it kind?" for "love is kind" (1 Corinthians 13:4 NASB). Remember, the whole context of this passage is unity in the body of Christ (4:2-3). As has been said, "They don’t care what we know, till they know that we care." Sometimes love speaks the truth, even though it knows that it may not be pleasant, for "Faithful are the wounds of a friend, but deceitful are the kisses of an enemy" (Proverbs 27:6 NASB).

may grow up into him in all things: The complete revelation is given so that we may "grow up into him." This expression means we are to augment our knowledge, increase our strength, and become mature like Christ. We accomplish this task through feeding on "the pure milk of the word" (1 Peter 2:2) and by being "nourished on the words of the faith" (1 Timothy 4:6). We are to grow spiritually in "all things" or "in all aspects" (NASB) of life.

which is the head, even Christ: Because of Christ, the body lives and grows (Colossians 2:19). The purpose of the body’s activity is to accomplish the will of "the head." The body of Christ is under subjection to "the head, even Christ" (1:22-23; 5:23; Colossians 1:18).

Verse 16

From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.

From whom the whole body: The life-sustaining connection of the head (above) with its body becomes the basis for illustrating how the body grows. Just as branches obtain their life and strength from the vine (John 15:1-11), so the church obtains its spiritual vitality and energy from the Lord.

fitly joined together and compacted: The parts are being held or "joined together" (Strong 4883) and are continuing to coalesce (Strong 4822) or unite into a whole. The present participles emphasize ongoing activity.

by that which every joint supplieth: Joints (Strong 860) are where parts have contact and connection with each other. Joints are those parts that bind, secure, fasten, and provide a united connection. Here, as in Colossians 2:19, "ligaments" may have been a better translation (NIV, NASB). The meaning is that every part or member of the body contributes to the cohesion and unity of the body.

according to the effectual working in the measure of every part: Literally, "according to the energizing in measure of each individual part." The word "measure" (Strong 3358) means a full portion measured off by a standard (see 4:13). Each member must fully supply his unique God-given strengthening ability to the work of the body. No part is useless (1 Corinthians 12:21-22), and everyone has a work. Even if it seems that a person is not doing much, if he can encourage those who are struggling and support those who are working, he will energize "the body." When a congregation has unity, purpose, and energy, it will grow "with a growth which is from God" (Colossians 2:19).

maketh increase of the body: When every member is contributing a full measure of their abilities to the common good of the body (1 Corinthians 12:7), then the body experiences growth. Even though it may seem that each member is working alone, it is through cooperative effort or working together that the body is enlarged. This "increase" is both inner strength and numeric growth. "In all labor there is profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty" (Proverbs 14:23 NASB).

unto the edifying of itself in love: The word translated "edifying" (Strong 3619) literally suggests the act of "building up" but metaphorical­ly means "the act of one who promotes another’s growth in Christian wisdom, piety, holiness, (and) happiness" (Thayer 440). Just as we are to speak the truth "in love" (4:15), we are to build up each other "in love." In both of these cases, the phrase "in love" is describing the attitude we are to maintain while doing a deed. The emphasis here is on the church strengthen­ing itself.

Verse 17

This I say therefore, and testify in the Lord, that ye henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind,

This I say therefore, and testify in the Lord: Paul reverts to the subject he introduced in verse 1, walking or living "in a manner worthy of the calling." To "testify" (Strong 3143) is to affirm soberly or to bear witness. It here carries the idea of witnessing against or denouncing their former manner of life.

The phrase "in the Lord" emphasizes the authority for the instruction that is about to follow. When addressing the Thessalonians, Paul uses the phrase "in the Lord" and "by the authority of the Lord Jesus" synonymously:

Finally then, brethren, we request and exhort you in the Lord Jesus, that, as you received from us instruction as to how you ought to walk and please God (just as you actually do walk), that you may excel still more. For you know what commandments we gave you by the authority of the Lord Jesus (1 Thessalonians 4:1-2 NASB).

that ye henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk: The word "walk" suggests the way we have chosen to behave and conduct our lives. The way we walk is the way we live. Instead of translating the word (Strong 4043) "walk," the New International Version chose to translate its meaning as "live." The figure of "walking" in a way God finds pleasing is frequently found in scripture (Psalms 1:1; Romans 6:4; 2 Corinthians 5:7; Galatians 5:16; Philippians 3:18; Colossians 1:10), and repeatedly in this letter (2:2, 10; 4:1; 5:2, 8, 15). Paul has described how to "walk in a manner worthy of the calling" (4:1); now he will describe how not to "walk."

"Gentiles" (Strong 1484) is literally translated "nations" and was used by the Jews to speak of "foreign nations not worshipping the true God, pagans" (Thayer 168). The word "Gentile" is also used in a spiritual sense to represent those who are not God’s people.

Before we became Christians, our ethical "walk" was to a large part decided by our environment. We followed a path of moral aimlessness. In the following phrases, Paul catalogs nine basic spiritual characteristics of the Gentile world:

1. Futility (4:17)

2. Moral Confusion (4:18)

3. Alienation from God (4:18)

4. Rebellious Ignorance (4:18)

5. Hardness of Heart (4:18)

6. Dysfunctional Conscience (4:19)

7. Given over to Sensuality (4:19)

8. Impure Behavior (4:19)

9. Insatiable Self-centered Greed (4:19)

in the vanity of their mind: "Vanity" (Strong 3153) would be better translated "futility" (NASB, NIV) and suggests an empty, purposeless, hopeless life. Jesus redeems us from our "futile way of life" (1 Peter 1:18). The word translated "mind" (Strong 3563) carries the ideas of intellect, judgment, thought, understanding, and attitudes. These words together paint a dark picture. For all of man’s ability to analyze and contemplate, without God there is no meaning, no purpose. After musing on the purpose of life, the great wise man Solomon says, "The conclusion, when all has been heard, is: fear God and keep His commandments" (Ecclesiastes 12:13). (See also Romans 1:19-21.)

Verse 18

Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart:

Having the understanding darkened: The word "darkened" (Strong 4654) implies an inability to see or perceive. "It involves being shrouded in the darkness of moral and spiritual gloom" (Caldwell 195). It is the opposite of being "enlightened" (1:18; Hebrews 6:4; Hebrews 10:32). Sinners lack spiritual understanding (Strong 1271), insight, and comprehension (Romans 1:19-21; 1 Corinthians 2:14) and, therefore, exhibit spiritual confusion. (Note: This is a developed darkness, not an inherent darkness, an acquired depravity, as opposed to "hereditary" depravity.)

being alienated from the life of God: Although every child enters this life "alive" to God (Romans 7:9), a gradual darkening of the mind leads ultimately to sin and separation from God (James 1:14-15; Isaiah 59:2). "Alienated" (Strong 526) means one is estranged or cut off from fellowship. When we are cut off from fellowship with God because of our sin, we are severed from our source of spiritual "life" (Strong 2222). Like a branch broken off a tree (John 15:4-6), we have no access to our sustenance; and we will die. (See also Colossians 1:21.)

through the ignorance that is in them: This is a willful, not passive, "ignorance" of God (Strong 52). It ensues from "the hardness of their heart" (NASB). There is no excuse for this ignorance:

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God, or give thanks; but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened...And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind (Romans 1:18-21; Romans 1:28 NASB).

Also David says, "The heavens are telling of the glory of God; and their expanse is declaring the work of His hands" (Psalms 19:1).

Paul, while preaching to the Greeks, says:

(God) is not far from each one of us; for in Him we live and move and exist...Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all everywhere should repent, because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead (Acts 17:27-31 NASB).

Peter reminds us:

As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; because it is written, "You shall be holy, for I am holy" (1 Peter 1:14-16 NASB).

because of the blindness of their heart: The word "blindness" (Strong 4457) is better translated "hardening" (Arndt & Gingrich 732). This word is used referring to a soft mass or tissue that calcifies or turns to stone (Linski 556), like skin "covering with a callus" (Thayer 559). This phrase is speaking of someone who is unwilling to be taught and stubbornly refuses to admit the truth (Mark 3:5; Mark 8:17).

Verse 19

Who being past feeling have given themselves over unto lasciviousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness.

Who being past feeling: The hardening process has left the sinner "past feeling" (Strong 524), unable "to feel pain or grief" (Thayer 53). The hardening in a sinner’s heart creates a dangerous spiritual situation. It corrupts, impairs, and then disables a sinner’s conscience. The conscience no longer creates guilt, shame, or remorse, for it has lost all sensitivity: it is dysfunctional. The sinner no longer cares about his moral choices because his "conscience" has been "seared...as with a branding iron" (1 Timothy 4:2 NASB).

In the physical realm, those who through disease have lost their sense of touch or ability to feel pain (heat or cold) have a very real problem. They discover that the God-given ability to be tactually sensitive is for our good, a built-in protection from permanently damaging ourselves. Spiritually, the conscience, which at times creates annoying ambivalence, was created by God for our eternal good. People should not ignore its warnings (Romans 14:14-23; 1 Corinthians 8:7-13; 1 John 3:19-22), lest they develop a conscience that is "past feeling."

have given themselves over: The phrase "have given...over" (Strong 3860) is from a word meaning someone "gave up" or surrendered to another. It suggests a submission to captivity or slavery. Peter writes of those who "themselves are slaves of corruption; for by what a man is overcome, by this he is enslaved" (2 Peter 2:19 NASB). (See also John 8:34; Romans 6:16.)

Romans 1:24-32 says "God gave them over" to sinful desires (Romans 1:24; Romans 1:26; Romans 1:28), whereas this passage says they "have given themselves" (NASB, NIV) up to sinful desires. In either case it is the desire of the sinful heart, not the desire of God, that generates the result.

unto lasciviousness: "Lasciviousness" (Strong 766) has a broad definition, encompassing all kinds of "sensuality" (NASB, NIV). One who surrenders to sensuality, surrenders his moral restrictions. This work "of the flesh" (Galatians 5:19) is marked by an absence of restraint and limits expressed through all kinds of excess. The focus of this sin seems to be a total disregard for decency through unrestrained sexual behavior (which incudes homosexuality: 2 Peter 2:6-8). Caldwell aptly observes:

...we conclude that lasciviousness becomes activated by: (a) immodest dress; (b) certain types of dancing; (c) indecent language; (d) body movements and touching between the sexes which is intended to produce inordinate desire; and (e) pornography (Caldwell 198).

(See Thayer 79; see also Mark 7:22; Romans 13:13; 2 Corinthians 12:21.)

to work all uncleanness: This phrase is best translated "to indulge (Strong 2039) in every kind of impurity (Strong 167)" (NIV). The opposite of "uncleanness" is purity. "Uncleanness" and impurity carry the idea of being morally polluted, rendering one unfit to come into the presence of God (Isaiah 35:8; Ezekiel 39:24; Revelation 21:27). From a spiritual perspective, any immorality is filthy or dirty, rendering one unclean. (See 5:3; Colossians 3:5; Galatians 5:19; James 1:27.)

with greediness: The best translation capturing the meaning of "greediness" (Strong 4124) is "with a continual lust for more" (NIV). It is selfishness that carries the idea of an insatiable appetite or craving for sin. Contextually, the application seems to be toward sexual sins, but it can also apply to riches and possessions and be called "covet­ousness." (See 5:3, 5; Colossians 3:5; Hebrews 13:5.)

Verse 20

But ye have not so learned Christ: The Ephesians did not learn their way of life from following Christ. In Paul’s letter to the Colossians, he also substitutes the name "Christ" and "in Him" for the teachings of Christ:

As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him and established in your faith, just as you were instructed, and overflowing with gratitude. See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ (Colossians 2:6-8 NASB).

Christ taught through words and example. Peter reminds his readers that Christ left "an example for you to follow in His steps, who committed no sin, nor was any deceit found in His mouth..." (1 Peter 2:21-22). Christ did not display or endorse the sinful way of life that has just been described.

Verse 21

If so be that ye have heard him, and have been taught by him, as the truth is in Jesus:

If so be that ye have heard him: The phrase "If so be" (Strong 1489) does not express doubt about their knowledge of the Christian’s way of life. It is a conditional conjunction that anticipates a positive response. It means "at least" or "indeed" (Caldwell 199). The translations give us "if indeed you have heard" (NASB), "surely you heard" (NIV), or "assuming that you have heard" (RSV). (Also found in 3:2.)

and have been taught by him: Paul is not assuming they have literally "heard" Jesus or have personally "been taught by Him." Here Jesus is named because He is the one whose words are given when instructing new converts (1 Corinthians 7:10).

How then shall they call upon Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? (Romans 10:14 NASB).

It should be noted that the word "by" (Strong 1722) should be translated "in."

as the truth is in Jesus: Jesus says, "I am the way, and the truth and the life; no one comes to the Father, but through Me" (John 14:6 NASB). Jesus also says, "Sanctify them in the truth; Thy word is truth" (John 17:17 NASB). In the truth, the word of God (John 17:17), the historical Jesus is revealed. "And we know that the Son of God has come, and has given us understanding, in order that we might know Him who is true, and we are in Him who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ" (1 John 5:20 NASB). Jesus is the truth, teaches the truth; we hear the truth and obey the truth (1 Peter 1:22).

In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation--having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise (Ephesians 1:13 NASB).

In Him and through Him we understand all spiritual reality (Colossians 2:3). (See notes on 1:13)

Verse 22

That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts;

That ye put off: To hear, learn, and obey Jesus, calls for lifestyle changes. The phrase "put off" (Strong 659) means to lay aside or take off as a garment and carries the idea of renouncing (see 4:31).

concerning the former conversation: "Conversation" (Strong 391) should be translated "walk" or "manner of life, behavior, conduct" (Thayer 42). The best translation of this phrase is "in reference to your former way of life" (NASB).

Scriptures tell us that out of our "manner of life" we are to lay aside "the deeds of darkness" (Romans 13:12); "evil practices" (Colossians 3:9); "every encumbrance, and...sin" (Hebrews 12:1); "filthiness and all that remains of wickedness" (James 1:21); "all malice and all guile and hypocrisy and envy and all slander" (1 Peter 2:1).

the old man: "Old" (Strong 3820) refers to something that is aged or used up and worn out, something that lacks vitality. Spiritually, this expression is referring to our "old" or previous manner of life prior to the "new" one (4:24), in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17). (See Romans 6:6; Colossians 3:9-10.) Like taking off some old clothes, we are to lay aside our old way of living, feeling, and acting. How do we renounce the old man? We crucify him (2 Timothy 2:11; Galatians 2:20; Colossians 2:20). Baptism is when we crucify our old self:

Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, in order that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall be also in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, that our body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin; for he who has died is freed from sin (Romans 6:4-7 NASB).

which is corrupt: The old manner of life was "corrupt" (Strong 5351), that is spoiled, destroyed, or ruined by bringing into a degenerate state. We start out vibrantly "alive" to God (Romans 7:9); but then temptation, lust, sin, and death (James 1:14-15) come in and "corrupt" us.

according to the deceitful lusts: "Lusts" (Strong 1939), as used here, are desires or cravings for things that are "forbidden" by God (Thayer 238). "Deceitful" (Strong 539) means to be deceptive, fraudulent, dishonest, and misleading. Lust is deceitful because it promises fulfillment but delivers corruption. Lust is fraudulent because it suggests the pleasure of sin will last, but it is temporary (Hebrews 11:25). Peter tells us that through lust comes corruption:

...His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence. For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, in order that by them you might become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust (2 Peter 1:4 NASB).

When we obey the Lord (Hebrews 5:9), we escape the corruption and death that comes through lust and sin (James 1:14-15). Even though we escape from the corruption of lust once, through the grace of God, we may find ourselves being enticed again. We may be tempted to go back and pick up those old, dirty, smelly, discarded clothes of sin and put them back on (2 Peter 2:20-22). When tempted, we must look for the way of escape before the temptation becomes lust:

No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, that you may be able to endure it (1 Corinthians 10:13 NASB).

Verse 23

And be renewed in the spirit of your mind;

And be renewed in the spirit of your mind: A renewal is needed from the old, worn out lifestyle. The change of our lifestyle is marked by three distinct things: we put off, renew our mind, and put on. The renewal (Strong 365) takes place "in the spirit of your mind." Paul teaches that a change of lifestyle comes from a change of mind:

...do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect (Romans 12:2 NASB).

(See also Romans 8:5-7.)

Verse 24

And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.

And that ye put on the new man: After we lay "aside" the old man (4:22), we are to "put on" or be clothed with the "new man." Spiritually, this clause is referring to our "new" manner of life in Christ. Like taking off some old clothes, we are to lay aside our old way of living, feeling, and acting.

Do not lie to one another, since you laid aside the old self with its evil practices, and have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him (Colossians 3:9-10 NASB).

When we put on the "new man," we are to exhibit "the image" of God and the character of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:15).

The new man has new principles, desires, goals, emotions, and hopes, an altogether new life.

Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, in order that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall be also in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, that our body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin; for he who has died is freed from sin (Romans 6:4-7 NASB).

"For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ" (Galatians 3:27). "Therefore if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come" (2 Corinthians 5:17 NASB).

Scripture tells us that we are to put on "the armor of light (Romans 13:12); "the Lord Jesus Christ" (Romans 13:14); "the full armor of God" (Ephesians 6:11); "the breastplate of righteousness" (Ephesians 6:14); "the breastplate of faith and love" (1 Thessalonians 5:8); "a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience (Colossians 3:12).

which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness: When we are forgiven "in Christ," we experience a "new creation" (Galatians 6:15 NASB). When we obey the Lord in baptism, God forgives our transgressions (Colossians 2:11-13). God gives us our new life. This "creation" brings us into a state of "righteousness" and "holiness" before God and man, a state that we cannot experience in sin. "Righteousness" (Strong 1343) means being right with God, and "holiness" (Strong 3742) means being one who is faithful in keeping the commitments of holiness, that of being separate from sin in lifestyle and faithful to God in worship. This is not the generic word for holiness, as it is found only here and in Luke 1:75 where it is again linked with righteousness.

Verse 25

Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbour: for we are members one of another.

There is a great similarity in the catalog of "vices and virtues" as found here (4:25-5:2) and in Colossians 3:8-14.

Wherefore putting away lying: There is no way to overestimate the importance of the distinction between that which is true and that which is "false" (Strong 5579). The differences are as opposite as God, "who cannot lie" (Titus 1:2), is from the devil, "the father of lies" (John 8:44). "It is impossible for God to lie" (Hebrews 6:18). Because we are children of God, our character should reflect our progeny: "By this the children of God and the children of the devil are obvious: anyone who does not practice righteousness is not of God..." (1 John 3:10 NASB). And since God would not lie to us:

Do not lie to one another, since you laid aside the old self with its evil practices, and have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him (Colossians 3:9-10 NASB).

(See notes on 4:14-15; Revelation 21:8; Revelation 22:15; Matthew 12:36-37.)

speak every man truth with his neighbour: To be a "new man," we are not to lie, but speak the truth "in love" (4:15). Jesus, being our example, spoke the truth always (John 1:17), and "deceit" was never "found in His mouth" (1 Peter 2:22). It is deceitful to speak a half-truth, which is nothing more than a half-lie. Someone once said, "A way to make a mountain out of a molehill is add a little dirt." As followers of Christ, we must have integrity; we must be "above reproach" (Philippians 2:15).

"Neighbour," within the context of the following clause, is anyone in the body of Christ. Obviously, we are not to infer from Paul’s reference to the body that we may lie to others outside the body, non-Christians. Trustworthiness in speech, as well as in all aspects of life, is essential to the character of a Christian (Matthew 5:37; James 5:12).

for we are members one of another: Being one of the "members" (Strong 3196) of the body is to understand we are part of a living social organism. What impacts one member affects all those in the body:

...there should be no division in the body, but that the members should have the same care for one another. And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it. Now you are Christ’s body, and individually members of it (1 Corinthians 12:25-27 NASB).

We are members "one of another," meaning, literally, we are parts of one another:

For just as we have many members in one body and all the members do not have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another (Romans 12:4-5 NASB).

In our physical body, the cooperation between the different parts and functions of our body are essential for our health and vitality. If the parts do not work together, we are sick and could die. If a member of the spiritual body, the church, begins to lie and deceive other parts of the body, that body could die also. Many churches have been destroyed, not from outside persecution but from inner self-destruction. We need each other for our spiritual survival; therefore, we should not infect the body of which we are a member with the disease of deceit. (See notes on 4:16; Romans 12:12; Romans 12:15.)

Verse 26

Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath:

Be ye angry, and sin not: The word "angry" (Strong 3710) carries the idea of an anger that is provoked by something, that is, it is not a disposition of the heart (unlike "wrath"). The meaning is: do not become so angry that it causes you to sin.

A Christian should not be provoked to anger over everything. If we are easily provoked, we have developed a sinful attitude, wrath. Knowing that we are to demonstrate the mind of Christ through our lives, we should ask ourselves, "Is this something about which God would be angry?" "Would viewing this from an eternal perspective change my attitude?" The scriptures reveal that God does get angry with sinful attitudes and behavior (Romans 1:18; Romans 2:5-8; Romans 3:5; Romans 12:19; Colossians 3:6). The Lord’s anger is always just, and, therefore, not sinful because He is angry at the correct things (evil); and His anger is always consistent with His character (patient). We, on the other hand, have a tendency to judge motives, react from pride, stress, frustration, and many other things that cause us to lose our objectivity. This is the reason this very passage goes on to say, "and do not give the devil an opportunity" (4:27 NASB). "But let everyone be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger; for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God" (James 1:19-20 NASB).

(See 4:31; Colossians 3:8; and note that our text may be a possible quote from Psalms 4:4, a fact that would explain the imperative nature of the statement; however, this is speculation.)

let not the sun go down upon your wrath: "Wrath" (Strong 3950) is stronger than anger (above) in that instead of being aroused by a situation, it becomes a continual temperament, an attitude of embittered irritation and exasperation. We must not allow anger to continue in our hearts until it begins to dominate causing malice.

The meaning is clear: The day of anger should be the same as the day of reconciliation. We must "see to it...that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble" (Hebrews 12:15 NASB).

Verse 27

Neither give place to the devil.

When emotions are running high, impulsiveness, that is, acting without thinking, is at its greatest. When emotions are out of control, the devil takes advantage. There are many regrets for irrational, impulsive behavior. The devil also tempts us in anger through persuading us to justify an unChristian like response. (See 1 Peter 2:19-23; 1 Peter 3:9; 1 Peter 3:13-17.)

Verse 28

Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labour, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth.

Let him that stole steal no more: The past tense "stole" (Strong 2813) in the Greek is in the present tense of the participle meaning "the one stealing" must stop stealing. It is a sin (1 Corinthians 6:10).

but rather let him labour: Rather than steal, "let him labour" (Strong 2872) or go to work or get a job. This word means hard work or strenuous work that produces fatigue. Paul uses this word to describe his own work (1 Corinthians 4:12) at tent making (Acts 18:3).

working with his hands: "Working" (Strong 2036) is the appropriate way for a Christian to take care of his needs and acquire possessions. Paul gives an order:

For even when we were with you, we used to give you this order: if anyone will not work, neither let him eat. For we hear that some among you are leading an undisciplined life, doing no work at all, but acting like busybodies. Now such persons we command and exhort in the Lord Jesus Christ to work in quiet fashion and eat their own bread (2 Thessalonians 3:10-12 NASB).

the thing which is good: Paul says work because it is the right and "good" (Strong 18) thing to do. Stealing is wrong and, therefore, not good. Working is the morally correct way we support ourselves.

that he may have to give to him that needeth: This mind-set is the converse of the thief who thinks he should benefit from the work of others. Our motive for working must go beyond our own needs. God does not tell us to work so that we can fulfill our fleshly lusts (Romans 13:14). We may justify a covetous heart by saying that what motivates us is a desire to work hard when, in reality, it is greed (2 Peter 2:14; Luke 12:15; Colossians 3:5). Sometimes we can do the right thing with the wrong motive (Philippians 1:15-18). We should think of our income as a God-given talent, a stewardship from God, something for which we will give an account. (See Romans 12:8; Romans 12:13; Titus 3:14.)

Paul, speaking to the Ephesian elders, says:

I have coveted no one’s silver or gold or clothes. You yourselves know that these hands ministered to my own needs and to the men who were with me. In everything I showed you that by working hard in this manner you must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He Himself said, "It is more blessed to give than to receive" (Acts 20:33-35 NASB).

Let it be said that this passage should not be cited as supporting communistic ideals. The Bible shows we can own property: "...after it was sold, was it not under your control?" (Acts 5:4 NASB). Our text also shows it was the person doing the work who had the prerogative to "give."

Verse 29

Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.

Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth: The word "corrupt" (Strong 4550) means something rotten or putrid, contextually, words not fit for use, words of bad or poor quality (Thayer 568). These ideas are described in Ephesians 5:4 : "Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving (NIV). The words "let no" are not sufficient to carry the meaning of the Greek. The best translation would be, "Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths" (NIV).

Jesus says:

...the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart. The good man out of his good treasure brings forth what is good; and the evil man out of his evil treasure brings forth what is evil. And I say to you, that every careless word that men shall speak, they shall render account for it in the day of judgment. For by your words you shall be justified, and by your words you shall be condemned (Matthew 12:34-37 NASB).

Our words betray our heart.

but that which is good to the use of edifying: "Good" (Strong 18) suggests those words that are upright, honorable and acceptable to God (Thayer 3). These words are "good" or helpful toward the goal of "edifying" (Strong 3619), that is "building up" (4:12, 16) the body of Christ. (See Romans 15:2; 1 Corinthians 14:12.)

that it may minister grace unto the hearers: We are to speak those things that will provide a spiritual and moral benefit or "minister grace" (Strong 5485) to those who listen. Paul writes:

Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned, as it were, with salt, so that you may know how you should respond to each person (Colossians 4:6 NASB).

"How delightful is a timely word" (Proverbs 15:23). "Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones" (Proverbs 16:24). "Like apples of gold in settings of silver is a word spoken in right circumstances" (Proverbs 25:11). And we should learn "how to sustain the weary one with a word" (Isaiah 50:4).

Verse 30

And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption.

And grieve not the holy Spirit of God: Sin grieves (Strong 3076) the Holy Spirit, that is, it makes Him feel sad and sorrowful. Israel grieved the Holy Spirit by her sins in the wilderness (Isaiah 63:10). When we commit sins against the brotherhood, as have been listed above, we are distressing the Holy Spirit, who inhabits the body of believers (Patzia 254). Weed harmonizes:

...the context indicates that the previously listed actions of stealing, lying, and using unedifying language are grievous to the Holy Spirit, not simply as isolated individual sins but precisely because of the threat that they pose for the harmony of the church (Weed 170).

whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption: The Spirit is the seal, or identifying mark, placed on each child of God (see notes 1:13-14). Evidently, when the Lord returns to claim the redeemed, each of them will be recognized by the Spirit dwelling within them (Romans 8:9). Redemption, in one sense, has already taken place at the cross (1:7; Titus 2:14; Galatians 3:13; 1 Peter 1:18). The final realization of redemption, however, will take place at the end of this age when God will be "revealing...the sons of God" and they will receive "the redemption" of their bodies (Romans 8:19; Romans 8:23 NASB).

Verse 31

Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice:

Let all bitterness: We are to put away "bitterness" (Strong 4088), which is harboring resentful feelings. Bitterness ignores attempts at reconciliation and carries an attitude that secretly applauds when misfortune falls upon those with whom they are embittered.

and wrath: We are to put away "wrath" (Strong 2372), which is an anger that "boils up" suddenly, that is a bitter outburst of anger. This "wrath" is different than "wrath" in Ephesians 4:26 in that it lasts longer.

and anger: We are to put away "anger" (Strong 3709), that is a festering anger, wrath, or indignation (Thayer 452). (See Ephesians 4:26.)

and clamour: We are to put away "clamour" (Strong 2906), which is a boisterous, noisy face-to-face confrontation or "brawling" (NIV). The original meaning was to cry out (Matthew 25:6; Luke 1:42). When used in the context of anger, it suggests a quarrelsome yelling and shouting. The scriptures say, "A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger" (Proverbs 15:1 NASB).

and evil speaking: We are to put away "evil speaking" (Strong 988), which is the same as speaking evil of or to someone. It is a general term that includes all that has been mentioned above. In addition, it involves "slander" (NIV), backbiting, cursing, and uttering obscenities. (See Colossians 3:8.)

be put away from you: "Put away" (Strong 142) means "to remove" (Thayer 16) and is a synonym for "putting off" (see 4:22).

with all malice: We are to put away from us every form of malice. "Malice" (Strong 2549) refers to the evil intentions we wish upon someone. It is a malicious desire to inflict harm upon someone. The context of this word suggests that "malice" is at the root of all the above.

Verse 32

And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.

And be ye kind one to another: Being "kind" (Strong 5543) means being useful, serviceable, and benevolent. God’s kindness leads us to repentance (Romans 2:4). Kindness between brethren who may be offended with each other also promotes repentance and reconciliation. (See Colossians 3:12.)

tenderhearted: Someone "tenderhearted" (Strong 2155) has a compassionate, understanding, empathetic concern for others. This ability comes easily to someone who has a genuine love for others (Philippians 2:1-5).

forgiving one another: "Forgiving" (Strong 5483) means to extend grace or to be gracious. It does not mean we have the power to release others from guilt, for only God can truly forgive sin (Mark 2:7); but we are to have a kind, pardonable disposition.

even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you: This is more than just a call for us to imitate God. It is an appeal to our judgment, a call to view offenses from God’s perspective. In view of the enormity of what God has forgiven in order for us to be saved, should we not have a little more longsuffering and patience with others (see Matthew 18:23-35). This phrase goes back to the essential core of reconciliation and unity between God and man for a pattern for promoting unity between brethren (Colossians 3:13).

Note: It would seem best to overlook the unfortunate chapter division and continue the thought through 5:2.

Bibliographical Information
Editor Charles Baily, "Commentary on Ephesians 4". "Contending for the Faith". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ctf/ephesians-4.html. 1993-2022.
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