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I. The unity of the Spirit:
A. Attitudes necessary for Unity: 4:1-3
B. Doctrines necessary for Unity: 4:4-6
C. Gifts given to promote Unity: 4:7-11
D. The purpose and desired results of such gifts: 4:12-16
I. The walk that is worthy: 4:17-20
I. The "Walk" That Is Unworthy: 4:17-20
II. Put off the old man and put on the new man: 4:21-24
III. Specific applications: 4:25-32
“The apostle continues to describe the new standards which are expected of God's new society. He goes on to argue now, we must also cultivate purity. Purity is as indispensable a characteristic of the people of God as unity” (Stott p. 174). “The readers are Gentile converts to the Christian faith. They were brought up in the pagan way of life; that must now be abandoned. The darker side of that way of life is depicted in the following clauses, which repeat, but more concisely, the picture of the ethical bankruptcy of contemporary paganism presented in Rom_1:18-32 . Even in the ethical field, it is implied, the most strenuous efforts of pagans are vain” (Bruce p. 355). We should carefully note the type of background, environment and upbringing which many first century Christians came ( 1Co_6:9-11 ; Eph_2:1-3 ; Col_3:7 ; 1Th_1:9 ; 1Pe_1:18 ; 1Pe_4:2-4 ). The lesson is clear. With God's instruction the Christian can overcome even the worst upbringing and the most addictive of sinful habits. When someone is trying to blame the past for their present moral failures, they are making an excuse that God does not accept.
As in many of Paul's letters, a strong doctrinal section is followed by an equally strong practical section ( Rom_12:1 ; Gal_5:1 ; Col_3:1 ), reminding us to build our lives on the truths already mentioned. As Caldwell said, “We are obligated to become what we believe” (p. 152). “For three chapters Paul has been unfolding for his readers the eternal purpose of God being worked out in history. Through Jesus Christ, who died for sinners and was raised from death, God is creating something entirely new. Paul sees an alienated humanity being reconciled, a fractured humanity being united, even a new humanity. Now the apostle moves on from the new society (the church) to the new standards which are expected of it . So he turns from exposition to exhortation, from what God has done to what we must be and do , from doctrine to duty, from mind-stretching theology to its down-to-earth, concrete implications in everyday living” (Stott p. 146). “From Cain ( Gen_4:1-15 ) and Babel ( Gen_11:1-9 ) until the present, brother has risen against brother and nation against nation. This world is marked by dissension, division, and strife. Even in religion, the order man has chosen for himself is fighting and quarreling: sect against sect and church member against church member. God did not will division . God devised, designed, and executed a plan, on the other hand, whereby satisfying unity can be established in and through Jesus Christ. This is not a forced unity . Man voluntarily must will to accept the plan for unity. The fact that too many will not surrender to Christ and to His design of spiritual fellowship does not militate against the Lord's pattern itself. It simply speaks to the unwillingness of men to comply with the word and will of Almighty God in His wisdom” (Caldwell p. 152). This section reveals that unity in the Church is a real possibility. God's plan for unity includes proper attitudes, correct doctrine, and everyone using their gifts.
Eph_4:1 “I therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, beseech you to walk worthily of the calling wherewith ye were called”
“Therefore”: “This conjunction makes a transition, denoting that what follows is a logical and necessary result from what has preceded” (Boles p. 263). “In view of the grace revealed in Christ, in view of the new life imparted, in view of the union of Gentiles and Jews in the church of Christ. According to Paul, duties are always based upon doctrines and belief is expressed in life” (Erdman p. 82). “The prisoner in the Lord”: Compare with 3:1,13; Gal_6:17 ; and Phm_1:9 . “A prisoner in the Master's cause” (TCNT). “Here in jail for serving the Lord” (Tay). “That he is both a prisoner of Christ and a prisoner for Christ” (Stott p. 146). “If being ‘in the Lord’ has resulted in his imprisonment, what will it involve for his readers?” (Boles p. 264). “Having indicated his own commitment as a ‘prisoner’, Paul was in a position to beseech them to walk worthily” (Caldwell p. 153). The point is that the following verses are not unrealistic expectations for Christians. In fact, they may be considered "light duty", because after all, would you rather work on getting along with other Christians, or like Paul be physically beaten for being a Christian? See Heb_12:1-4 . “Beseech you”: “Entreat” (NASV). “He has taught them, and he has prayed for them (1:15-23 and 3:14-19); now he addresses to them a solemn appeal. Instruction, intercession and exhortation constitute a formidable trio of weapons in any Christian teacher's armory” (Stott p. 146). See 2Ti_4:2 . Paul can exhort people with God's great love (chapters 1-3) or, if need be he will use some healthy "fear" (2 Corinthias 5:10-11). “To walk”: That is to live and conduct yourself. “It is the picture of one who is advancing step by step. It reminds us of the common round and the daily task. It assures us that every sphere of life gives one ample opportunity to serve His Lord” (Erdman p. 83). Col_1:10 “so that you may walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects”. “Worthily”: “Live lives worthy” (TCNT). “Live and act in a way worthy” (Tay). “Live up to your calling” (NEB).
“It should be of equal value to the claim. We must practice what we believe and preach. Our lives should be as valuable to us (weigh as much) as our belief and talk” (Caldwell p. 154). “It has the idea of equal weight. Conduct and calling are to balance in weight . More is implied than likeness between calling and conduct, namely also corresponding weight and value” (Lenski p. 506).
The importance of living the Christian life can only be seen when we realize the great price paid for such a relationship (1:7); the great purposes to which such people have been redeemed (1:12; 2:10); the great accomplishment achieved in the one body (2:13-22); and the great hope that such people have (1:18). Stott said, “What this life is to be like can be determined only by the nature of the divine call of which it is to be worthy. What is this? The new society has two major characteristics. First, it is ‘one’ people, composed equally of Jews and Gentiles, the single family of God. Secondly, it is a ‘holy’ people, distinct from the secular world. Therefore, because God's people are called to be one people, they must manifest their unity , and because they are called to be a holy people, they must manifest their purity . Unity and purity are two fundamental features of a life worthy of the divine calling . The apostle discusses unity of the church in verses 1-16 and the purity of the church from 4:17-5:21” (pp. 146-147).
“Of the calling”: “In a way worthy of those who have been chosen for such wonderful blessings as these” (Tay). One is called by the gospel message ( 2Th_2:14 ). Yet this is no ordinary invitation. It is a call that comes from heaven ( Heb_3:1 ). It is an invitation to accept and receive all the benefits of Christ's sacrifice. It is an invitation to receive eternal life, and an invitation to join God in heaven. Such a "high" calling must have "high" expectations for those who accept it ( Rom_16:2 ; Php_1:27 ; 1Th_2:12 ; 3Jn_1:6 ). When I choose to become a Christian I am also choosing to live by a higher standard and expectations (5:2,8,15). I have decided to reject the "low" standards of the world (4:17). I have decided to walk with God ( Gen_5:24 ; Gen_6:9 ; Gen_6:12 ; Gen_17:1 ). Bruce said, “As members of a reputable family will have the family's good name in mind as they order their public conduct, so members of the Christian society will have in mind not only the society's reputation in the world but the character of Him who called into being and the purpose for which He so called it” (p. 334).
“All of the high hopes, aspirations, and ideals for God's holy church upon this earth, however, must finally succeed or fail in a degree determined, at least in part, by the kind of people who make up the church” (Coffman p. 181). “Now Paul turns to the character the Christian must have if the Church is to fulfill her great task” (Barclay p. 134). “Lest there be misunderstanding about what it means to walk in harmony with God's redemptive purpose, Paul lists several specifics” (Boles p. 264).
Attitudes necessary for walking worthily
Eph_4:2 “with all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love”
“With”: This is a “statement of moral dispositions which should attend their walk conveying the idea of accompaniment” (Gr. Ex. N.T. p. 320). “All”: “All possible lowliness, or every kind of lowliness” (Gr. Ex. N.T. p. 320). “Being completely humble” (NIV). “Lowliness”: Humility. “Lowliness was much despised in the ancient world. The Greeks never used their word for humility in a context of approval, still less of admiration. Instead they meant by it an abject, servile, subservient attitude, ‘the crouching submissiveness of a slave’” (Stott p. 148). Unfortunately, many people in our modern society have the same view of humility. They perceive it to be a sign of weakness, and they claim that people will walk all over you, if you demonstrate humility. True humility is the result of proper self-evaluation ( Rom_12:3 ), remembering the fact that one is blind without God ( Jer_10:23 ). We must have the proper view of the worth of others ( Php_2:3-4 ), and a proper view of the God we serve. Barclay makes some fine comments on this point: “To face oneself is the most humiliating thing in the world. Most of us dramatize ourselves , true humility comes when we face ourselves and see our weakness, our selfishness, our failure in work and in personal relationships. Christian humility comes from setting life beside the life of Christ. So long as we compare ourselves with second best , we may come out of the comparison well. It is when we compare ourselves with perfection that we see our failure. A girl may think herself a very fine pianist until she hears one of the world's outstanding performers. A man may think himself a good golfer until he observes one of the world's masters in action. Self-satisfaction depends on the standard with which we compare ourselves. The Christian standard is Jesus Christ and against that standard there is no room for pride . There is another way of putting this. R.C. Trench said that humility comes from the constant sense of our own creatureliness. We are in absolute dependence on God” (pp. 135-136).
This verse suggests that "pride" often lurks behind discord. Whether it is discord in marriage, in the home, or in the church, human arrogance is often to blame. “Humility is a becoming virtue in Christians because it reflects their evaluation of themselves in respect of the infinitely righteous and holy God. It is the fountain from which are derived all of the Christian virtues. Conceit on the part of a child of God is a denial of the faith” (Coffman p. 182). Coffman made a good point. In other words, the first step in successfully living the Christian life and in maintaining unity in a congregation is to recognize the fact that God is God, and we are not. Division starts to happen when man wants to elevate his view or opinion over the will of God ( Rom_12:16 ; Col_2:18 ; Jam_4:6 ; 1Pe_5:5 ; Proverb13:10 “Through presumption comes nothing but strife”. Humility is able to apologize and seek reconciliation, admit failure or sin and seek the will of God over it's own opinions. The humble man or woman says, “My own personal opinion is worthless, for without God’s guidance I am an imperfect individual and morally blind” ( Pro_16:25 ).
“Meekness”: Gentleness---“was warmly applauded by Aristotle. Because he hated extremes and loved ‘the golden mean’, he saw in praotes (meekness) the quality of moderation, for example ‘the mean between being too angry and never being angry at all.’ The word was also used of domesticated animals. Meekness is not a synonym for weakness. On the contrary, it is the gentleness of the strong, whose strength is under control . It is the quality of a strong personality who is nevertheless master of himself and the servant of others” (Stott p. 149). God expects the person with a "strong personality" to be under control as well. "Meekness" means being under God's control and in subjection to His will ( Jam_1:21 ), and at the same time being on call to serve others ( Jam_1:26-27 ). “Moses is a special biblical example of meekness ( Num_12:3 ). Moses was not weak or spineless, but neither was he headstrong toward God” (Caldwell p. 157). “The weak person yields because he is helpless to do anything else; the meek person yields his strength because he seeks the well being of others” (Boles p. 265). “It does not mean docile, easy to handle, or merely ‘cooperative’. It refers to moral authority and power issuing in restraint” (Coffman p. 182). I have always been impressed by this word in Jam_1:21 . The most important aspect of meekness is that the person who is "meek" is the individual who will always listen to the will of God and accept God's teachings no matter how hard they might be to accept or apply. It is the attitude in which true learning takes place, that is, it is the man who is "big" enough to admit his own ignorance, and it is also the attitude in which God can rebuke us and we will not resent Him. In his book "Flesh and Spirit", Barclay said of this quality, “It is when we have prautes that we treat all men with perfect courtesy, that we can rebuke without rancor, that we can face the truth without resentment, that we can be angry and yet sin not, that we can be gentle and yet not weak” (p. 121). Compare with Gal_6:1 ; 2Ti_2:25 ; 2Ti_1:1-18 Peter 3:15. Vine notes “Described negatively, meekness is the opposite of self-assertiveness and self-interest; it is equanimity of spirit that is neither elated nor cast down, simply because it is not occupied with self at all” (p. 56).
“With longsuffering”: Fortitude, patience, forbearance. Longsuffering does not overlook sin ( Mat_18:15 ; Gal_6:1 ), rather it is patience that always leaves the sinner with an opportunity to repent ( Rom_12:19 ). “Perhaps the best way for us to ‘lengthen’ the fuse on our tempers is to remember how much God has forgiven in our own lives” (Boles p. 265). Compare with Eph_4:31-32 ; Col_3:13 ; and Mat_18:21-35 . Coffman reminds us, “If God had been a man, He would long since have wiped out the world for all its disobedience! A Christian who is always up tight about the mistakes of others can create a disaster in any congregation. He, in fact, is a disaster!” (p. 182). Sometimes we forget that since God has forgiven us and has endured our imperfections, we are morally obligated to bear with the imperfections in others. Again, such "longsuffering" does not excuse sin and neither does it tolerate false teaching ( 1Co_5:1-13 ; 2Jn_1:9-11 ), but it does treat others in the same manner that God has treated it, and refuses to use the sins of others as the reason why it can give up. “Christian patience is the spirit which never admits defeat , which will not be broken by an misfortune or suffering, by any disappointment or discouragement, but which persists to the end” (Barclay p. 138).
This is such an essential quality in the unity of any congregation, because the failings and apathy of other members can get us down. If we are not careful we can start thinking that nobody is serious about really serving God, and this is simply one way that the devil tries to convince us to quit. When discouragement moves us to inactivity, it means that the devil has broken us ( Gal_6:9 ).
“Forbearing one another”: This suggests that even fellow Christians will irritate us at times, but how soon do we forget that we do our own fair share of irritating others. Stott reminds us that "mutual tolerance without which no group of human beings can live together in peace” (p. 149). Since we are admittedly imperfect, "forbearance" is essential for unity to happen in a congregation. In practical terms this means we give people the time to grow spiritually ( Heb_5:12-14 ), give people a chance to think things through, avoid making hasty judgments, and realize the difference between Divine commandments and realms in which personal preference is allowed. Remember a person is more apt to listen to us, if we correct our own problems first ( Mat_7:1-5 ). We give others the same slack and allowances that we can rightly give ourselves, understanding that there is a big difference between helping a brother out of sin ( Gal_6:1 ) and the practice of "fault-finding" ( Gal_5:15 ). One maintains unity, because it is unselfish, the other destroys unity. “In love”: “Has the high purpose of seeking to do what is best for the faulty brother. The idea of standing anything and everything for any length of time is excluded” (Lenski p. 508). “A forbearance having its motive, its inspiration, its life, in love” (Gr. Ex. N.T. p. 321). The love mentioned is the love described in 1Co_13:4-8 .
This last phrase defines what type of forbearance promotes unity. It is not a forbearance of the world, that is, looking the other way, putting up with them, but secretly resenting them or just allowing people to do and believe anything they want. Instead this forbearance confronts sin with the attitude of wanting the sinner to be saved ( 2Ti_2:24 ; Mat_18:15 ). Instead of gossiping and spreading discontent, this forbearance has the courage to talk face to face with a brother ( Mat_18:15 ). This forbearance does not result in bitterness, resentment, or revenge because it is motivated by a "love" that springs from the will and not from undependable emotions.
Eph_4:3 “giving diligence to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace”
“Giving diligence”: “Earnestly striving” (Alf). “Eager to maintain” (RSV). Every member of the church is under this obligation, for unity does not just happen by accident, and congregations that stay united are not merely lucky. “Originally the verb means to ‘make haste’” (Vincent p. 386). "Haste" is often necessary to maintain unity ( Mat_5:24 “leave your offering...and go your way; first be reconciled to your brother”). “Unity cannot be achieved or maintained just by being passive” (Boles p. 266). It is absolutely necessary that the world see God's people maintaining a united front ( Joh_17:20-21 ). Therefore, haste needs to be made to clear up every misunderstanding between brethren. “To keep”: “Preserve” (NASV). “Is to guard, keep watch over protectively. Unity is not simply an external, superficial togetherness” (Caldwell p. 159). “Ever to guard” (Lenski p. 508). “The unity of the Spirit”: “The unity given by the Spirit” (TCNT). Through the Holy Spirit, God has revealed all the essential elements of unity. All of us are sinners, so humility is essential. Every Christian stands equal before God. God's word is the final standard for belief and practice ( 2Th_3:6-14 ). God is God and we are not. Human opinion isn't the standard. Be patient with others, because God has been very patient with you. “In the bond”: A joint, tie, ligament, uniting principle. “Of peace”: “Since Christ is Himself their peace ( Eph_2:14 ), it would be unnatural for them to live otherwise than at peace with one another” (Bruce p. 335). When the number one priority in our lives is "peace with God" and scriptural peace with others, then unity will prevail.
Unity is grounded in the truth
In all situations where "fellowship" becomes an issue we must maintain the proper attitudes toward each other (4:2-3), and side with the truth (4:4-6). “These facts are all objective, not subjective. Lack of faith in them does not change their truthfulness one iota. Each one stands as a spiritual reality” (Caldwell pp. 163-164).
Eph_4:4 “There is one body, and one Spirit, even as also ye were called in one hope of your calling”
“There is”: “One may leave this great basis, it remains nonetheless what it is. One may rest on it wholeheartedly or weakly, that, too, does not change it in the least” (Lenski p. 510). “One body”: This is another name for the church ( Eph_1:22-23 ). All Christians are members of this one body ( Eph_2:16-19 ). This one body is not composed of differing religious bodies, rather it is composed of individual Christians ( Rom_12:5 ; 1Co_12:27 ). Jesus prayed for a unified body of disciples ( Joh_17:20-21 ). “To thank God for all the different ‘churches’, to declare that ‘any church is alright’, or to encourage people to ‘join the church of your choice’, is to promote disunity and discord. Denominationalism seeks to have one head with many bodies. Paul is declaring a unity of membership among Christians in a single church” (Caldwell pp. 164-165). God maintains only "one body". There is only one way to enter the body of Christ ( Act_2:38 ; Act_2:41 ; Act_2:47 ; 1Co_12:13 ). God weeds out the unfaithful among His people ( 2Jn_1:9 ; Rev_3:4 ). God does not endorse congregations that depart from His will ( Rev_2:5 ; Rev_3:16 ).
“One Spirit”: One Holy Spirit ( 1Co_12:4 ; 1Co_8:1-13 ; 1Co_9:1-27 ; 1Co_10:1-33 ; 1Co_11:1-34 ). "One Spirit" demands one consistent revelation of truth (3:3-5). Hence the Bible does not teach contradictory doctrines, for all truth was revealed through "one Spirit" ( Joh_16:13 ). There is only one body because the one Spirit directs sinners to only one plan of salvation and one place of salvation ( 1Co_12:13 ). Denominationalism cannot be linked to God, because nowhere does the Spirit ever direct anyone to become a member of some human denomination.
“One hope of your calling”: “Called to share one common hope” (Con). “Just as there was but one hope set before you when you received your Call” (TCNT). The "one hope" is eternal life ( Tit_1:2 ). The Jehovah Witnesses argue that two hopes exist, that is an earthly paradise for the vast majority of believers and then heaven for the 144,000. There is only one problem--- it contradicts the Bible. All Christians are told to set their minds on heaven ( Mat_6:19-21 ; Col_3:1-2 ; 1Pe_1:4 ). “This hope is not something individual and private, but something public and corporate (Col.ossians1:13)” (Boles p. 268). If Christians all have "one hope", then we should all have the same basic goals and ambitions in common. We should all "value" the same spiritual things. We should all recognize what is important and what is not ( Mat_6:19-21 ). We should all work towards helping others obtain eternal life. We should all realize how important it is to encourage each other so that we all gain this hope ( Heb_3:13 ; Heb_10:25 ).
Eph_4:5 “one Lord, one faith, one baptism”
“One Lord”: Jesus Christ. “This phrase indicates unity of authority and leadership . The term Lord means more than simple acceptance of Christ's exalted position. It means accepting His word and establishing our personal allegiance upon His every command and wish ( Mat_7:21 )” (Caldwell pp. 166-167). "One Lord" means that Christians need not only to believe these "ones" in Eph_4:4-6 , but everything that this "Lord" has commanded ( Luk_6:46 ; Joh_12:48 ; 2Jn_1:9 ; Col_3:17 ). “One faith”: While it is tempting to see faith in this passage as the subjective faith of the individual Christian, especially when we realize that the next "one" is baptism ( Mar_16:16 ). I believe that it is more in line with the context that the "faith" under consideration here is the "objective" faith, that being the teachings that Christians must believe ( Jud_1:3 ). Since everything else in this list is an objective reality, it seems that the faith under consideration should be the same. “One faith suggests unity of doctrinal belief. The fellowship of Christians does not rest on subjective or conjectural information” (Caldwell p. 167). See Joh_8:32 ; and 1Co_1:10 . This means that one must believe certain things to be a Christian ( Act_8:37 ; Rom_10:9-10 ). The church does not have a right to create a fellowship based on "potluck theology", where we embrace all views ( 2Jn_1:9-11 ; Gal_1:6-10 ; 2Ti_4:2-4 ). Becoming a member of the "one body" obligates you to defend the "one faith" ( Jud_1:3 ; Philipiians 1:27,16; 1Ti_3:9 ; 1Ti_4:6 ). We do not have a moral right to believe anything we want to believe and still call ourselves Christians ( 2Co_10:3-5 ).
“One baptism”: “ Indicates unity of obedience and means of entrance into Christ” (Caldwell p. 168). Obviously baptism is essential, because why would Paul say, “one (important) body, one (important) Spirit, one (important) hope, one (important) Lord and one unimportant and unnecessary baptism? Since the word "baptism" means "immersion" (check out any lexicon), the only acceptable "baptism" is by immersion ( Rom_6:3-5 ). The only "baptism" that we find commanded of all men, is baptism in water ( Act_8:36-38 ; Act_10:47-48 ) The only baptism that is essential for salvation is baptism in water ( 1Pe_3:21 ). Therefore, the baptism under consideration here is not Holy Spirit baptism. We must always remember that the baptism of the Holy Spirit was a promise ( Act_1:5-8 ), which never applied to all Christians. “The ‘one baptism’ cannot be a baptism in the Spirit. Nowhere in the New Testament is anyone ever commanded to be baptized in the Spirit. (How could a person obey such a command?) Furthermore, even after Cornelius had received the miraculous outpouring of the Spirit, Peter commanded him to be baptized in water ( Act_10:44-48 )” (Boles p. 270).
Eph_4:6 “one God and Father of all, who is over all, and through all, and in all”
“One God and Father”: Implying a unity of worship. Nothing has really changed from the first century. Even today we must persuade people that only one true God exists ( Act_17:21 ff; 1Co_8:6 ). “and Father”: The One true God is a personal being, not some impersonal force or the ultimate within each one of us. Neither is God to be confused with the creation. No, God isn't in the tree, in the rocks, in the animals, and so on. God is the Creator, not the creation. The existence of "one God" reveals a very important logical reason why in these other areas only "one" exists. This is the fundamental ground of unity. Only one body of believers exist because only one God is being served. Only one hope exists, because we are to share the company of only one God. “Of all”: “God created all. There is not one god for each nation or religion” (Caldwell p. 169). Yet connecting this statement to the word "Father", God is only the spiritual Father of all Christians ( Gal_3:26-27 ). “Who is over all”: He is not to be confused with the creation or with some mysterious "God-force" within us. God is the creator, the ultimate source of authority, the final standard, and the last court of appeal. “And through all”: “Pervades all” (TCNT). “Acts through all” (Wey). God sustains all ( Mat_5:45 ; Act_14:16-17 ; Act_17:25 ). The universe is held together by deity ( Col_1:16 ; Heb_1:3 ), and God can also work through all events and circumstances to bring about His purposes ( Rom_8:28 ). “And in all”: Eph_2:22 ), in all who conform to His will ( 1Jn_3:24 ).
Some conclusions on this section
Unity among Christians is an essential element in persuading unbelievers ( Joh_17:20-26 ). Everyone's soul is at stake when Christians cannot seem to get along.
Maintaining unity in the church is a real possibility. “God has done everything short of taking away our free will to act and think for ourselves in helping us achieve these goals. He provided the ultimate example of love. He furnished an understandable revelation to insure that we would have in common a basic doctrinal and moral objective in life” (Caldwell p. 171).
Provision for spiritual health and growth
Not only has God enabled us to have the right attitudes, perspective (4:2-3), and the right doctrinal basis (4:4-6), but He has also provided "gifts" to help maintain unity and growth in the body of Christ.
Eph_4:7 “But unto each one of us was the grace given according to the measure of the gift of Christ”
“Unto each one of us”: While Paul will mention specific areas of service (4:11), it is also true that very Christian possesses a talent or gift that they must use ( Mat_25:14-29 ; Rom_12:4-6 ). “Within the unity of the body each member has a distinctive part to play, a distinctive service to perform, for the effective functioning of the whole” (Bruce pp. 339-340). Often you will hear people argue that diversity of backgrounds, personalities, and cultures makes unity in the church impossible, especially in doctrine. It is interesting to note that what many people consider to be an obstacle to unity, God sees as a means to strengthening the body. Division is not caused by the mere fact that people have differing talents. With the right attitude, such people can accomplish much. Neither is background or culture an inherent barrier to unity, because the congregations in the first century were composed of people from all sorts of cultures (Jewish and Gentile), backgrounds (slaves and free), and socio-economic levels (rich and poor).
“Was the grace given”: “His favor has been bestowed upon each one of us” (Wms). Definitely every Christian has come into contact with the grace of God (1:6), but "grace" can also refer to a realm of service given by God ( Rom_12:6 ; Eph_3:2 ; Eph_3:7 ). Seeing that all Christians have both received salvation from God and some area of service all Christians are morally obligated to work towards the unity and growth of the body of Christ. “As a motive to keep the unity of the Spirit--none is overlooked--each has his part in the distribution of the gifts which he is bound to use for the well-being of the whole” (Alford p. 1229). “According to the measure of the gift of Christ”: “His due portion of Christ's bounty” (NEB). “Out of the rich diversity of Christ's giving” (Phi). “Measure”: A degree. The context is talking about "gifts" (4:8,11), therefore Paul is not saying that Christ gives differing degrees of "grace" (that results in salvation). All Christians receive the exact same forgiveness, and redemption. “Paul argued that Christians were to accept the fact that God designates certain individual differences among persons” (Caldwell p. 171). Hence this passage is teaching basically the same truth as that found in 1Co_12:4 ff and Rom_12:4-6 , yet carefully note that in Rom_12:4 ff, Paul speaks of "spiritual gifts" and not-so spiritual gifts in the same context (12:6-8). Therefore some of the same principles that applied to spiritual gifts also apply to what people call "God-given abilities". Such talents are to be used to build up the body of Christ. We should not envy some talented Christian, for we are just as talented in another area. We need to be grateful to God for what we can do well and not "fret" about areas of service for which we are not fitted, or which God has excluded us .
Eph_4:8 “Wherefore He saith, ‘When He ascended on high, He led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men’”
“Wherefore He saith”: “That is why it is said” (TCNT). “Concerning this the Scripture says” (Wms). Paul quotes from the Old Testament to prove that Christ did in fact give "gifts" to men. “He saith”: “It says” (NASV). God is identified with Scripture. Therefore Scripture constitutes the very words of God Himself ( 2Ti_3:16 ; Mat_22:31-32 ). The quotation here is from Psa_68:18 . “It refers to the return of the Lord in victory to His people. The Old Testament statement refers to the Lord's having received gifts (apparently as spoil)” (Caldwell p. 173). Under the direction of the Spirit, Paul quoted the Psalm and changed the wording from "received" to "gave gifts", which is only logical. Stott reminds us, “So we need to remember that after every conquest in the ancient world there was invariably both a receiving of tribute and a distributing of largesse. What conquerors took from their captives, they gave away to their own people. The spoils were divided, the booty was shared” (p. 157). “When He ascended on high”: Eph_1:20-22 . “He led captivity captive”: “He led His captives into captivity” (TCNT). “With captives in His train” (NEB). “Took prisoners” (Beck).
“Abstract for the body of captives. The captives are not the redeemed, but the enemies of Christ's kingdom, Satan, sin, and death” (Vincent p. 388). Even though Christians were once the slaves of sin ( Rom_6:13 ; Rom_6:16 ), the "captivity" taken captive in the above verse are God’s enemies. Other Scriptures teach the same truth, that through the cross Christ defeated His enemies ( Col_2:15 ; Luk_11:20-22 ; Rev_1:17-18 ; Heb_2:14-15 ; Act_2:22-24 ; 1Jn_3:8 ). This fits well with the Psalm quoted-“the captives are the enemies of Christ; just as in the Psalm they are the enemies of Israel and Israel's God” (Gr. Ex. N.T. p. 324). “As in a literal triumph, the chiefs of the enemy's army are led captive” (P.P. Comm. p. 148). Hence, now Christ is able to return at any moment and simply "mop" up. The power and influence of the devil has been limited for those who choose to disobey Christ. The obedient are free from the terror of death ( Heb_2:14-15 ). They are free from the devil's deceptions ( Eph_4:14 ; 2Co_2:11 ). They have the weapons to resist the devil's attacks ( Eph_6:10-18 ; Jam_4:7 ).
“Gave gifts unto men”: Just like a victorious King would divide the spoil with His loyal subjects. The "men" in the context are Christians. Only Christians have obtained the benefits from the victory achieved by Jesus Christ (1:3; 2:6).
Eph_4:9 “Now this, He ascended, what is it but that he also descended into the lower parts of the earth?”
“What is it”: “Must imply that He had already gone down” (TCNT). “What does it mean but that He had first descended” (Wey) “Furthermore, to emphasize this triumph, Paul pauses to dwell on the word ‘ascended’ and to remind his readers that the glory of this victory can be measured only by the depth to which Christ descended” (Erdman p. 88). “He also”: The Jesus that sits at the right hand of God, is the same as the Jesus that came to this earth. You cannot make some artificial distinction between the "historical Jesus" and the "Christ of Glory". They are one and the same person. “Descended”: This implies a pre-existence ( Joh_8:58 ; Php_2:6 ; Joh_1:1-3 ). “Lower parts of the earth”: Not only did Jesus completely humble Himself, live among men, and live in some of the most humble circumstances, even for human beings, but such a "descent" even resulted in His physical death, that is, this descent finally resulted in His being entombed in the earth ( Php_2:7-8 ). “This was the climax of Christ's humiliation; to be removed out of men's sight, as too offensive for them to look on--to be hidden away in the depths of the earth” (P.P. Comm. p. 148). From this phrase some get the idea that following His death Jesus "descended" into hell and rescued various individuals, yet Jesus did not go to hell when He died, he went to Hades ( Luk_23:43 ; Act_2:31 ). The people now in torment that heard Jesus’ preaching ( 1Pe_3:19-20 ), were not in hell at the time when heard, rather Jesus had preached to them through Noah while the ark was being constructed.
Eph_4:10 “He that descended is the same also that ascended far above all the heavens, that He might fill all things”.
“Far above all the heavens”: Even beyond the atmospheric and celestial heavens, to the right hand of the very throne of the Father Himself (1:20-21; Heb_4:14 ; Heb_7:26 “exalted above the heavens”). His great descent resulted in a great exaltation ( Php_2:6-11 ). “That He might fill all things”: This is not a physical filling, rather the exaltation of Christ constituted Him as Lord of all ( Mat_28:18 ), and with "all things under His feet" (1:22). “That simply means that He is able to provide all blessings. He fills all things by His influence” (Caldwell p. 174). “Christ was exalted to the place of unlimited authority that He might fill the universe with the blessings of His beneficent rule” (Erdman p. 89). “From His position of superiority over all the universe, Jesus sustains ( Heb_1:3 ) and holds together all things ( Col_1:17 )” (Boles p. 274). In addition, since Jesus is in such an exalted position, He is able to give the church everything it needs for spiritual growth and unity.
Eph_4:11 “And He gave some to be apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers”
“And He gave some”: Here are "some" of the gifts that Christ has given to the Church. “It is not suggested that such gifts are restricted to those that are specifically named; those that are named exercise their ministries in such a way as to help other members of the church to exercise their respective ministries” (Bruce pp. 345-346). This is the point of 4:12. “But before he explains that purpose he specifies a series of gifts given with that in view” (Gr. Ex. N.T. p. 329). “He gave”: “These operations did not spring up by themselves or on the basis of human will. They existed in the mind of the Lord from the beginning and did not result from the church's development through the ages as some contend” (Caldwell pp. 175-176). Therefore these "gifts" did not "evolve" in the church, as some contend that the "office" of elders evolved over time. Not so, we find elders in the earliest stages of Christianity ( Act_11:30 ), and in the very first congregations established. “Apostles”: “Their principle function was to provide eye-witness testimony that Christ was who He claimed to be ( Acts 1:21-22; 3:32-33; 10:30-41 ; 1Co_9:1 ). Their credentials were miraculous signs designed to establish their credibility ( Mar_16:17-20 ; 2Co_12:12 ; Heb_2:3-4 ). Since their essential qualifications or credentials cannot be duplicated today, we necessarily conclude that these functionaries are not personally present in the church today” (Caldwell p. 176). Stott makes a good point when he says, “The original apostles as eyewitnesses of the historic risen Jesus can in the nature of the case have no successors , and their authority is preserved today in the New Testament, which is the essential ‘apostolic succession’” (p. 161). Therefore, the role of the apostles to provide unity and growth for the body of Christ, was and is still accomplished by their writings once they died ( Joh_20:30-31 ; 2Pe_3:2 ; 2Pe_3:15-16 ).
“Prophets”: The prophet was a "mouth-piece" for God ( Exo_7:1-2 ; Exo_4:12-15 ; 2Pe_1:20-21 ). “In this sense we must again insist that there are no prophets today. Nobody can presume to claim an inspiration or use their introductory formula ‘Thus says the Lord’. If this were possible, we would have to add their words to Scripture, and the whole church would need to listen and obey” (Stott p. 161). The very fact that other "inspired" books have not been added to the New Testament following the days of the apostles and New Testament prophets, is objective proof that these two gifts have ceased or served their purpose, because God has never failed to get His message into print. Hence the completion of their writings, which would bring "all truth" promised by Jesus ( Joh_16:13 ), would also bring about the cessation of such gifts as inspired utterance or prophecy ( 1Co_13:8-10 ). “Evangelists”: A bearer of good news or preacher of the gospel. One of the mistakes that many denominational commentators make on the word evangelist , is that they define such men as "traveling missionaries", in contrast to a located preacher, yet the Bible mentions men who were called evangelists who worked with congregations for many years ( Act_8:40 ; Act_21:8 ; 2Ti_1:3 ; 2Ti_4:5 ). “ Announce glad tidings. They announce or teach good news” (Caldwell p. 177). Seeing that men can still meet the qualifications for being an evangelist, and still accomplish the work (See the books of 1 and 2 Timothy and Titus), this gift this exists today.
“Pastors”: A shepherd. "Pastors" were not "located preachers" in contrast to a traveling evangelist (another popular denominational concept even to this day), rather "pastors" were the shepherds of the local congregation, who are also called "elders" or "bishops” and “overseers" ( Act_20:17 ; Act_20:28 ; Tit_1:5-6 ; 1Pe_5:1-3 ). These "pastors" must meet specific qualifications ( 1Ti_3:1-7 ; Tit_1:5-9 ). “Teachers”: This would include uninspired individuals who were gifted at teaching ( Act_13:1 ; 2Ti_2:2 ; Jam_3:1 ).
The intended goal of such gifts
Eph_4:12 “for the perfecting of the saints, unto the work of ministering, unto the building up of the body of Christ”
“For”: “With a view to” (Rhm). “The perfecting”: To complete or finish. “Fully to equip” (Wey). “In order to get His holy people ready to serve as workers” (Beck). “Preparing, furnishing, equipping” (Gr. Ex. N.T. p. 331). “To equip completely, to develop thoroughly to maturity” (Caldwell p. 179). Basically all of the above "gifts" have to do with teaching. Spiritual growth and unity comes from proper instruction from the Word of God. “Their aim is that the members of the Church should be fully equipped ( 2Ti_3:16-17 ) . The basic idea of the word (perfecting) is that of putting a thing into the condition in which it ought to be” (Barclay p. 149). Paul's goal was to present every man "complete in Christ" ( Col_1:28 ). Practical applications are not very hard to find. We need to cooperate with the efforts put forth by elders, preachers and teachers to help us grow in the faith, such as attending the classes offered and learning the material covered. New converts need to be willing to invest the time it takes to become grounded in the faith. It is sad when professed Christians try to argue that they are not obligated to attend Bible study. Such demonstrates a very shallow understanding of their role in the growth and unity of the congregation. An untaught membership is the path to division ( Rom_16:18 ; Heb_5:12-14 ; 2Pe_3:16 ).
“Unto the work of ministering”: “For the work of service” (NASV). "Ministering" means basically "service", and various realms of "service" are mentioned in the New Testament such as teaching others ( 2Ti_2:2 ), encouraging ( 1Th_5:14 ), restoring the fallen ( Gal_6:1-2 ), and caring for those in need ( Jam_1:27 ; Matthews 25:31-46). The ministering under consideration applies to every member of the body. Stott says, “the word ministry is here used not to describe the work of pastors but rather of all God's people without exception” (pp. 166-167). This means that every member of the church is expected to "serve" in some capacity, yet often we get these passages all twisted around in practice. Often a congregation will think, “When we get a preacher, then work will be done”. Sadly, such an attitude assumes that the preacher is to do all the work. In contrast, Paul teaches that the "purpose" of elders, preachers and teachers is to prepare the members so they can serve. Teach them what they need to do, give them the tools, skills, and knowledge they need, and then motivate them to go out and do it ( Tit_3:1 ; Tit_3:14 ). “Unto the building up of the body of Christ”: “For the ultimate building up” (Wms).
There is nothing mysterious or secret about church growth or unity in a congregation. The church grows when the elders, preachers, and teachers are providing the instruction necessary for personal growth and service, and when the members take advantage of it. In Acts chapter 6 we find that problems arose when a "need" was not being addressed. God is telling us that many problems never have to happen if members will simply use the talents they have and take care of the needs that they can do something about.
The desired results of this process
Eph_4:13 “till we all attain unto the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a full-grown man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ”
“Till”: “This points to goals or results constantly sought, rather than to some specific duration which would end at a certain expected time. This ‘never-ending’ idea in the word ‘until’ may be seen in other passages ( Mat_11:23 )” (Caldwell p. 184). “In a manner this task never ends because new generations of children and new converts ever require our ministration” (Lenski p. 532). As long as this earth remains, this work is never done. Therefore not only do we need new converts, but every generation needs new preachers, pastors and teachers. “We all”: Every Christian, the whole number of us. Note: Every Christian is commanded to mature and grow ( Heb_5:12-14 ). “Attain”: “To arrive at something so that one comes to possess it, to attain unto, to reach to, or arrive at the goal or destination” (Caldwell p. 185). This "attaining" is not talking about some future generation of "super-duper" Christians, instead these are goals that each Christian must pursue in his own time. "My generation" of Christians must seek to attain these goals in their own lifetime. We must work towards securing unity, knowledge, and maturity among us now! “The unity of the faith”: “Oneness in faith” (Wey). “With the definite article faith refers to the gospel message, the body of truth revealed in the New Testament” (Caldwell p. 185). There is one objective body of truth (4:5), and the purpose of evangelists, pastors, and teachers is to help all Christians at this present time hold a united view ( 1Co_1:10 ; 1Ti_6:3 ; 2Th_2:15 ; 2Jn_1:9 ).
Hence denominationalism is condemned by this very statement. All movements which argue, “We can't all understand the Bible alike” or “It doesn't matter what you believe, just as long as you are sincere” are working against the above goal, which is God's goal. Yes, all Christians are morally obligated to believe the same thing and embrace the body of truth known as "the faith".
“Knowledge”: Full discernment. “Of the Son of God”: “By a fuller knowledge of the Son of God” (TCNT). “Precise and correct understanding concerning Christ: who He is and what He says. Much disunity is due to immature knowledge” (Caldwell p. 186) ( Php_3:10 ; 2Pe_3:18 ). The more we "know" who Jesus really is, the more we become impressed with His character and nature, the more humble and submissive we will become to His will and in turn, the greater chances for unity. Just knowing about Jesus is not enough. “Full-grown man”: “At mature manhood” (Wey). “At full spiritual maturity” (Lenski p. 535). This is what is expected of every member of the body. Remaining spiritually immature or weak is to be working at cross purposes with God. “The Church can never be content that her members should live descent, respectable lives; her aim must be they should be examples of perfect Christian manhood and womanhood” (Barclay p. 150). The costs of spiritual immaturity are too high (4:14).
“The measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ”: “The full standard of the perfection of the Christ” (TCNT). “And that full measure of development found in Christ” (Gspd). “Measured by nothing less than the full stature of Christ” (NEB). “We reach maturity when we attain the qualities of Christlikeness. Rather than asking how little we can know and remain in fellowship with Christ, how much we can sin and escape judgment, or how much ignorance or weakness God will overlook, all children of God should be seeking full growth” (Caldwell p. 187). What a great quote! It seems that many members of the Church are always asking the same basic question, “How far can we stray from the truth and still be right with God?” What a horrible mental preoccupation! We need to wrestle the church out of the hands of those who are trying to reduce the church of the Lord Jesus Christ down to the lowest possible standard. Christ is the standard for all Christians ( 1Co_11:1 ; 1Pe_2:21 ). We are to love, as Christ loved ( Eph_5:2 ); forgive as Christ forgave (4:32); be pure as Christ is pure ( 1Pe_1:14-15 ); be faithful and loyal to the Father as Christ was. Therefore the "fullness of Christ" comprises all the moral and ethic qualities that are found in Jesus Christ. “This high goal has been set before the church, and spiritual leaders have been given to the church” (Erdman p. 92).
Eph_4:14 “that we may be no longer children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, in craftiness, after the wiles of error”
“That”: All the sermons, classes, instruction and encouragement that is presented by preachers, elders and teachers is to protect Christians from the following. “We”: This is true of every member of the church. “May be no longer children”: In contrast to full-grown spiritually mature individuals (4:13). “Of course we are to resemble children in their humility and innocence ( Mat_18:3 ; 1Co_14:20 ), but not in their ignorance and instability” (Stott p. 170). This verse suggests that all of us were at one time "children", that is ignorant and immature individuals who were naively swallowing all sorts of false ideas. In addition, this verse also suggests that without God and His truth, we would continue to be easy prey for all sorts of crazy ideas ( Pro_16:25 ; Jer_10:23 ).
“Tossed to and fro and carried about”: “Blown round by every shifting current of teaching” (Con). “There are those who are like children, they are dominated by a desire for novelty and the mercy of the latest fashion in religion” (Barclay p. 150). “They are always under the influence of the last person with whom they talked” (Coffman pp. 190-191). “Such are immature Christians. They never seem to know their own mind or come to settled convictions. Instead, their opinions tend to be those of the last preacher they heard or the last book they read, and they fall an easy prey to each new theological fad” (Stott p. 170). False teaching will always exist, and it will always exist in abundance ( 2Pe_2:1 ; 2Pe_2:1-22 Timohty 4:3). False teachers will always deceive "someone" they will always find easy prey ( Rom_16:18 ; Act_20:30-31 ; 2Pe_2:2 “and may will follow”). It is my choice whether I will be easy prey or not. If I do not take the time to learn the truth, make the effort to ground myself in the faith ( Col_1:23 ), or if I do not develop a heart that appreciates Divine truth ( Pro_23:23 ), then I will be easy prey ( 2Th_2:10-12 ). “With every wind of doctrine”: This statement reminded me of some statements that F. Lagard Smith wrote in his book the The Cultural Church. Speaking to members in “liberal” congregations, he said:
“Someone has suggested that what being non-denominational usually means to us is simply being ten years behind the denominations. How true! Remember when we bought everyone else's used ‘Joy Buses’ ? And do you not find it interesting that we are only now beginning to raise our hands during praise songs and to punctuate the worship with clapping? As one who uncomfortably finds himself in the midst of other fellowships on frequent occasions, I must share with you the other striking implication of the ten-year lag between us and the denominational world. Just look around and see where our trendiness is likely to lead us. In the churches around us, ‘more meaningful worship services’ have already evolved into thinly-disguised entertainment. It started with choruses, solos, and music ministry teams, then became the focal point in which worship leaders (particularly music leaders) stole the show and left the audience applauding the weekly worship ‘concert’. Is that where we really want to go? The novelty of trendy worship practices can be as self-deluding as any traditionalism ever was. Before we initiate something new, simply for the sake of change, we must ask ourselves whether we are breathing life into our worship to God, or merely following the crowd hoping to catch some of the excitement which faddishness tends to offer” (p. 209).
“By the sleight of men”: “By the trickery of men”, “according to men's cleverness” (Wey). Literally the term sleight in this verse “is a gambling term referring to playing with a cube or dice. It refers to the crafty deceit and trickery of the gambler who plays with loaded or false dice” (Caldwell pp. 188-189). “In craftiness”: “Readiness to do anything” (Caldwell p. 189). “This word was used especially in the practice of adulterating a product before it was sold” (Boles p. 281). Men who have absolutely no morals, who will do anything and say anything to persuade you. “After the wiles of error”: “That makes use of every shifting device to mislead” (Wey). “Their crafty presentation of error as truth” (Nor).
“Neither Paul, nor any other New Testament writer, ever soft-peddled the effect of false teachers in seeking to cheat Christians out of eternal life” (Caldwell p. 189). While someone can teach error out of ignorance, the Bible contains a number of passages which indicate that many people teach error when they know it is error ( Act_20:29-30 ; 2Co_11:13-15 ; Gal_2:4 ; Gal_6:12 ; 2Pe_2:3 ). We must rid ourselves of the naive view that states that everyone teaching religious concepts is honest and sincere. Religious teachers and leaders do exist who have absolutely no ethics. They will do anything they can to get followers. Vincent points out that the word "wiles" means “a deliberate planning or system” (p. 392).
Coffman reminds us, “The greatest mistake that any Christian can make is to assume that teachers of error are sincere. While true enough that some of them are, it is equally true that many are not” (p. 191).
The contrast to such instability
Eph_4:15 “but speaking truth in love, we may grow up in all things into Him, who is the head, even Christ”
“Speaking truth in love”: “But we shall lovingly hold to the truth” (Wey). “Dealing truly or cherishing truth” (Erdman p. 92). It is not enough for the church to believe the truth, it must speak it ( 1Ti_3:15 ; 1Th_1:8 ), and it must present the truth from the motives of love for God and love for souls. ( Php_1:15-18 ). Effective teaching and preaching must have true passion behind it. We are showing disrespect when we present God's truth on a platter than is apathetic, cold, and uncaring ( 2Ti_2:24-25 ). "Speaking the truth in love" also demands that when we teach and preach, we are completely above board and on the level with those we are teaching. Boles said, “they must adhere to truth in every respect; they must practice absolute integrity . We do not combat the father of lies with guile” (p. 281). This involves telling people everything they need to hear, and being completely honest with the word of God. Religious error is not successfully countered by compromise, or misrepresentation, rather false teaching is to be fought by presenting God's truth with complete integrity and with a true love for those whom we are preaching. Years ago someone asked an up and coming preacher, “Do you love to preach to people?” The response was “Yes”. Then the young man was asked, “But do you love the people you preach to?” “May grow up in all things to Him”: Christ is the standard for the Christian in "all things", and speaking the truth in love is an essential element in this process to maturity. You just cannot grow up spiritually and be like Christ, without loving God's truth and being willing to defend and proclaim it. “Who is the head, even Christ”: Eph_1:22-23 ; Col_1:18 ; Col_1:24 .
Eph_4:16 “from whom all the body fitly framed and knit together through that which every joint supplieth, according to the working in due measure of each several part, maketh the increase of the body unto the building up of itself in love”.
“From whom”: From the head, Christ. “All the body”: Every member of the church. One cannot grow spiritually without holding fast to the Head. One cannot grow up spiritually unless one is willing to embrace everything that Christ taught. Spiritual growth depends upon our "attitude" towards the Head. Do we resent Him? Or do we love and adore Him? “Fitly framed and knit together”: “The present participles denote present, continuous progress. The two participles represent respectively the ideas of harmony or adaptation and compactness” (Vincent p. 392). “Closely fitting and firmly adhering to one another” (Wey). “Through that which every joint supplieth”: “By the aid of every contributing ligament” (Wey). That is, every member of the church must strive for the right attitudes, and the right doctrine, and accept the instruction and assistance from sound leadership ( Heb_13:17 ). Every member must refuse to embrace false teaching (4:14), and strive to uphold God's truth with the utmost integrity. “According to the working in due measure of each several part”: “When each part is working properly” (RSV). “Every member must exert himself to full measure, to the full extent” (Caldwell p. 192).
“Maketh the increase of the body”: The church grows when God's plan, as outlined in this chapter, is followed. “Notice the peculiar phrase: the whole body making increase of the body (Vincent p. 392). Congregations grow in number and maturity when they are composed of members who are committed to this end. “Unto the building up of itself in love”: This is true church growth. Gimmicks, false teaching, doctrinal compromise, watered down morality, and fun and games will cause religious bodies to grow in number, but only God's plan with cause a church to grow both in number and in real spiritual maturity. This is not superficial church growth, but real growth of the body of Christ. In closing, Stott offers the following comments: “Others lay great stress on the fact of the church's unity as a theological concept clearly articulated in their minds, but appear to see nothing anomalous in the visible disunity which contradicts their theology. Others have a static view of the church, and are well satisfied if the congregation manages to maintain its size and programme, without cutback. All such complacency is unworthy of the church's calling. We need to keep this biblical ideal clearly before us. Only then shall we live a life that is worthy of it” (p. 173).
Eph_4:17 “This I say therefore, and testify in the Lord, that ye no longer walk as the Gentiles also walk, in the vanity of their mind”
“This I say therefore”: Resuming the exhortation found in 4:1-3. “Testify”: “A solemn declaration, protest, or injunction” (Gr. Ex. N.T. p. 338). “So what I mean and insist upon in the Lord's name is this” (Gspd). “Insisting on it” (Boles p. 284). “In the Lord”: “Speaking for the Lord” (Tay). “I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord” (NIV). Paul is speaking with Divine authority ( 1Co_14:37 ), hence all Christians are expected to heed and obey this message. “That ye no longer walk as the Gentiles also walk”: That is to resist any conformity to the world ( Rom_12:2 ).
“His readers knew from experience what he was saying; for they had been pagans themselves, and they were still living in a pagan environment. But they must live that way no longer, even if all around them others continued to do so” (Stott p. 174). This means that being surrounded by unbelievers, does not give us the right to behave like them. Unfortunately, some Christians today try to excuse their unfaithfulness by blaming it upon the fact that too many temptations surround them. God expects purity from His people even when they are surrounded by a very immoral culture ( Php_2:15 ; Eph_5:11 ; 2Co_7:1 ; 1Ti_4:12 ; Jam_4:4 ; 1Pe_4:4 ). The truth is that the world has always been a "wicked place" to live. If God expected His people to remain pure, even in such cities as Ephesus and Corinth, then He certainly expects all Christians, both young and old to remain pure in whatever big or small city they live today. It is significant that Paul did not command these Christians to separate themselves from society, that is sell all their possessions and migrate into the desert or some other isolated area. God expects His people to live better lives than unbelievers, while living right in the midst of them ( Mat_5:13-16 ). A religion that turns people into isolationists is not Christianity. This section of Scripture is the negative side of "walking worthily". Verses 4:1-3 is the positive aspect of walking worthily, 4:17-19 the negative aspect .
“In the vanity of their mind”: “With their good-for-nothing notions” (NEB). “Whose minds are filled with folly” (Con). “Do not continue to live such purposeless lives” (TCNT). The term vanity is “derived from the noun that means that which does not lead to the goal . That which is without real context, hollow . Their mind directs them on a wild-goose chase” (Lenski p. 553). “Purposeless, uselessness given over to things devoid of worth or reality” (Gr. Ex. N.T. p. 339).
“What is immediately noteworthy is the apostle's emphasis on the intellectual factor in everybody's way of life. He thus refers to their empty minds. Scripture bears an unwavering testimony to the power of ignorance and error to corrupt, and the power of truth to liberate ( Joh_8:32 ), ennoble and refine” (Stott pp. 175-176). One's conduct is determined by what one really believes in their own mind ( Pro_4:23 ; Mar_7:20-23 ). Not all opinions or views are equal, in fact some views and opinions are completely worthless, and any view that does not harmonize with the Bible is "vain" because such a view is not true. Futile thoughts and mental preoccupations are self-chosen ( Rom_1:18-21 “but they became futile in their speculations”). There is a high price for abandoning God and His truth. Part of that price includes a mind that is left to worthless and aimless thoughts and goals. Hence, one cannot reject God and still maintain a hold on to the truth, common sense, and reality. Unbelief not only hurts the soul and morality, it also hurts the intellect.
Eph_4:18 “being darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardening of their heart”
“Being darkened”: “With their powers of discernment darkened” (TCNT). “They live blindfolded” (Phi). “In their understanding”: Imagination, mind. “The ‘understanding’ may be regarded as the reason in action . It includes the ideas not only of thinking but of feeling and desiring. With all its boasted wisdom this world was moving in a sphere of illusions and unreality. It was unable to discover truth. It was absorbed in delusions. It was striving after vanity and after things devoid of worth” (Erdman p. 96). Rejection of God's truth leads to moral darkness ( Rom_1:24 ); spiritual or religious darkness ( Rom_1:23 ) and ignorance concerning the truth of the most basic relationships ( Rom_1:26-27 ) . An individual who rejects the Bible cannot be viewed as "enlightened" ( Act_26:18 ). The good news is that one can be delivered from this state of spiritual and moral ignorance ( 1Pe_1:18 ; Act_14:15 ). “Alienated”: A non-participant, estranged. “From the life of God”:
“Excluded from the life of God” (NASV). “Cut off from” (TCNT). “Having no share in” (Wey). Compare with Eph_2:12 ; Col_1:21 . This was a self-caused alienation ( Eph_2:1-3 ; Rom_1:18-32 ). They were not born alienated from God. People outside of Christ have absolutely no spiritual life. They are 100% spiritually dead in their sins ( Eph_1:3 ; Eph_2:1-3 ) . If you do not have Jesus, then you do not have Life ( Joh_14:6 ). Being cut off from God also being cut off from all His spiritual blessings ( Eph_1:3 ), including His mercy, forgiveness and grace. “Because of the ignorance that is in them”: “Because ignorance prevails among them” (NEB).
Boles argues, “in Scripture the word ignorance implies a refusal to know . Not to know the Lord is as much as to ignore Him” (p. 285). The book of Romans seems to back up this contention, because in that book Paul argues that the ignorance of the Gentiles was a self-willed ignorance. People had to suppress the truth , in order to get around it ( Rom_1:18 ). Ignorance of God or His Divine will is inexcusable ( 2Th_1:8-9 ; Act_3:17 ; Act_17:30 ; 1Pe_1:14 ). It is inexcusable because the evidence for God's existence is so abundant and so clear ( Rom_1:20 ; Psa_19:1 ), the existence of God is so logical ( Act_17:22-30 ), and God's revelation to mankind is so accessible ( Mat_28:19-20 ).
“Because”: This ignorance was the result of the following. “Of the hardening of their heart”: “Their closed minds” (Beck). “Their minds have grown hard as stone” (NEB). “They are not victims of inadvertent ignorance; their ignorance is a willful product of their hard hearts” (Boles p. 285). “Hardening”: Callousness. The Greek term rendered hardening originally meant a stone that was harder than marble. See Barclay p. 152. Once again this was a self-caused condition ( Mat_13:15 ; Mar_3:5 ).
This is also a gradual process. Barclay reminds us, “ No man becomes a great sinner all at once . At first he regards sin with horror. When he sins, there enters into his heart remorse and regret. But if he continues to sin there comes a time when he loses all sensation and can do the most shameful things without any feeling at all. His conscience is petrified” (pp. 152-153). In practical terms one is involved in the process of hardening their heart when they are convicted by the truth, but they refuse to act upon it, violate their conscience, allow opportunities for good works to just pass them by, refuse to acknowledge the wrongs they have committed, and commit sin, yet refuse to repent or ask God for forgiveness. “The word incorporates the idea of being covered with a stone. When the heart is petrified or turned to stone, the individual becomes calloused to sin and hard-skinned toward the reception of truth. This condition further promotes ignorance” (Caldwell p. 196). ( Eze_11:19-20 ).
Eph_4:19 “who being past feeling gave themselves up to lasciviousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness”.
“Past feeling”: To grieve out, become apathetic. “Lost to all sense of shame” (TCNT). “They have stifled their consciences” (Phi). “Dead to all feeling” (NEB). “Lit., the verb means to cease from feeling pain. Hence to be apathetic” (Vincent p. 393). “ Lost all moral sensitivity --a classical term which means primarily that one's skin has become callous and no longer feels pain” (Bruce pp. 355-356). Carefully observe that apathy is far more serious than being depressed but rather than be the result of a hardened heart. “When one is past feeling he ceases to care. He becomes insensitive and callous. He is insensible to honor, shame, guilt, and other similar emotions. They often even rationalize their sin as acceptable behaviour” (Caldwell p. 197). In the Old Testament God spoke of those who could no longer blush ( Jer_3:3 ; Jer_6:15 ; Jer_8:12 ). But some people naively think, “I wouldn't mind a seared conscience in fact, I would think that such might come in very handy.” “I could like to engage in all sorts of selfish pursuits and not be bothered by my conscience, in fact, life would probably be a lot more fun, if I simply didn't care what others thought.” Unfortunately, a "seared conscience" is a double-edged sword, because part of the "package" of being past feeling can easily involve not caring about anything, including your own salvation. Many commentators point out that the same word rendered "past feeling", also means to "be despondent" in classical Greek (Bruce p. 356). The hardened sinner can very easily stop caring about everything, even life itself.
“Gave themselves up to”: “Abandoned themselves” (Gspd). “Then surrendered themselves” (Phi). “Having lost all sensitivity, people lose all self-control” (Stott p. 177).
A seared conscience has a high price tag. When one ceases to care, one also ceases to care about their own physical and spiritual welfare. “Why would a man deliver himself up to something so destructive? Why would he hand himself over, abandoning his own welfare?” (Caldwell p. 197). When conscience is disconnected, and when the heart is insensitive to God's truth, one has just taken all the brakes off the car. What is left to hold you back from complete self-destruction? Unfortunately, a good number of people claim that they can "remain in control" without God and without a tender conscience. God will not stop us if we are determined to give ourselves over to evil ( Rom_1:24 ). God will not stand in the way if we are bent on self-destruction.
“Lasciviousness”: Barclay provides us with some good comments concerning this word: “But the man who has aselgeia in his soul does not care how much he shocks public opinion so long as he can gratify his desires. Sin can get such a grip on a man that he is lost to decency and shame, a man can become such a slave of liquor that he does not care who sees him drunk” (p. 153). Basil defined this word as "a disposition of the soul incapable of bearing the pain of discipline." '”Vice that throws off all restraint and flaunts itself, unawed by shame or fear, without regard for self-respect, for the rights and feelings of others, or for public decency” (Bruce p. 356). Sin always gets the best of the sinner ( Joh_8:34 ; Rom_6:21 ). For the person who rejects God, it's simply a matter of time for eventually sin makes a fool out of all sinners. Notice the downward spiral that obstinate defiance to God leads. Lasciviousness includes the idea of "absence of restraint", one can reach a point that you absolutely refuses to be bound by any rules, that one becomes so selfish and self-centered that one must have instant gratification. Again, the logical consequence of rejecting God includes a very high personal price. Without self-respect, how is happiness maintained? It is only maintained by participating in some sinful behaviour, which by its very nature is merely temporary. Hence, this person is now very miserable, depressed and unhappy whenever they are away from whatever sin they like to practice, and the ruthless cycle has started. The "high" a certain sin once gave them, no longer is enough. “To work”: This lifestyle is self-chosen, and sin becomes the occupation of such people. It becomes their goal, master, aim, purpose, and reason for living. They make sin to be their business. Pleasure has become their god ( 2Ti_3:4 ; 2Pe_2:14 ). “All uncleanness”: “Not content merely to abandon God and sink into sin, the Gentiles wanted to practice every kind of impurity” (Boles p. 286). “Uncleanness marked their religion and their worship, their pleasures and diversions, their business and their social relations, their politics, their public shows, and what not?” (Lenski p. 559). “Practicing any form of impurity which lust can suggest”(Phi). “With greediness”: “Arrogant greediness, as the accursed love of possessing. It has been defined as the spirit in which a man is always ready to sacrifice his neighbor to his own desires. In the heathen world. Paul saw terrible things. He saw men's hearts so petrified that they were not even aware that they were sinning; he saw men so dominated by sin that shame was lost and decency forgotten; he saw so much at the mercy of their desires that they did not care whose life they injured and whose innocence they destroyed so long as these desires were satisfied” (Barclay pp. 153-154).
The new life in Christ
“Over against heathen hardness, darkness and recklessness Paul sets a whole process of Christian moral education” (Stott p. 178).
Eph_4:20 “But ye did not so learn Christ”: “Far different is the lesson you learnt from the Christ” (TCNT). “But that isn't the way Christ taught you!” (Tay). “But”: This repudiates everything about the lifestyle described in 4:17-19.
The process of spiritual change is started by learning about Christ. Christianity does not produce ignorance, selfishness, self-centeredness, seared consciences and lack of self-respect. The world promotes the ignorance, not Christ. Learning Christ involves much more than merely learning who He is. “It involves applying that knowledge. It involves realizing what it means to follow Christ. It implies that we have embraced all that the word ‘Christ’ stands for and all that He is (His person, His word and His character)” (Caldwell p. 199). Therefore the various religious groups which claim that one can serve Christ, and yet still engage in some sin condemned in the Bible is a religion that does not teach Christ. Learning Christ means that one "learns" the worthlessness of the pagan way of life. It means that one "learns" the value of unselfishness, self-sacrifice and self-denial ( Mat_16:24 ). Hence one has not really "learned" much about Christ until one learns to live unselfishly ( Php_2:3-5 ). Since Christ was a servant and completely unselfish, a "selfish Christian" (follower of Christ) is a contradiction. Boles points out, “While dualism in Greek philosophy taught that the actions of the body had no effect on the inner man, no such folly is taught in Christ. The mind and the body are inseparably connected in acts of immorality ( 1Jn_3:7-8 )” (pp. 286-287). “The Christ whom the Ephesians had learned was calling them to standards and values totally at variance with their former pagan life” (Stott p. 179).
Eph_4:21 “if so be that ye heard Him, and were taught in Him, even as truth is in Jesus”.
“If so be”: “This condition of reality does not intend to raise a doubt; it does, however, intend to remind Paul's readers of the unquestionable fact that they heard and were taught so that if any one of them did not learn, the fault does not lie with their teachers or with what these taught” (Lenski p. 560). “Heard Him”: Heard preaching about Him or heard His word taught ( 1Co_14:37 ). Remember, Christ was preaching through His apostles and prophets. “Were taught in Him”: New converts need much more than just instruction concerning what to do to be saved. These Christians were "taught" after they heard about Christ. The Bible stresses the need for new converts to be engaged in continual instruction ( Mat_28:19-20 ; Act_2:42 ; Act_14:22 ; Act_19:9-10 ). Paul had personally grounded many of these Christians in the faith ( Act_19:9-10 ). “Even as truth is in Jesus”: Notice how Paul easily switches from "Christ" (4:20) to "Jesus" (4:21). The historical Jesus is the same as the heavenly Christ, and real spiritual truth only exists in connection with Jesus Christ ( Joh_14:6 ; Joh_8:31-32 ; Joh_17:17 ; Joh_16:13 ). Real truth is not in any other religious founder. Truth is not in Buddha, Mohammed or Joseph Smith. “Let it not be said ( this may be implied) that the instruction received by Gentile Christians was one whit less genuinely ‘truth as it is in Jesus’ than the instruction received by those ‘who first hoped in Christ’ (1:12)” (Bruce p. 357).
“ To learn Christ is to grasp the new creation which He has made possible, and the entirely new life which results from it. It is nothing less than putting off our old humanity like a rotten garment and putting on like clean clothing the new humanity recreated in God's image” (Stott p. 180).
Eph_4:22 “that ye put away, as concerning your former manner of life, the old man, that waxeth corrupt after the lusts of deceit”
“That”: “What you learned was” (Phi). " Learning about Jesus includes learning to remove the sin in your life. Often we hear people arguing, “Just preach Jesus”. This section of Scripture reveals that preaching Jesus includes teaching Christians to put off the old man. This means that preaching Jesus includes sermons that specify what sin is, and in which attitudes and actions the Christian cannot participate (5:11). Preaching Jesus also includes teaching Christians what their new responsibilities are, and what they need to add to their lives. “Put away”: To cast off or remove. “To strip off” (Rhm). “Fling off the dirty clothes of the old way of living” (Phi). “Is to lay down, to lay aside, to put off as a garment, to renounce” (Caldwell p. 200). “Your former manner of life, the old man”: “The old self” (NASV). “The old man is the sum-total of their former practices and attitudes” (Bruce p. 358). This is possible. God does not give us any impossible commands ( 1Jn_5:3 ). The good news is that we can change, even if such change demands giving up very addictive habits ( 1Co_6:9-11 ). We are not born inherently depraved, and neither does the problem of sin reside in our genetics. If God commands us to "put off" sinful attitudes and actions, then they are not "inherently" part of our being. “Putting off this old man is not a painless operation, it is violent, painful; Rom_6:6 calls it a crucifixion” (Lenski p. 564).
“That waxeth corrupt”: “Grows corrupt” (TCNT). “Which is going to ruin” (Gspd). “The self that wasted its aim on false dreams” (Knox). “Which were rotted through and through with lust's illusions” (Phi). “ Process of corruption (worse and worse)” (Robertson p. 540). Here we find additional motivation to put off the old self. The attitudes in the old self were causing decay. They were destroying our relationships, emotional, mental and physical health. As long as one remains in sin, one is not going to get any better. We must get rid of the old way of thinking, because those attitudes will destroy us! ( Rom_6:21 ; Gal_6:8 ; Tit_3:3 ; 2Ti_3:13 ). “After the lusts of deceit”: “Following the desires which deceives” (Con). “Deluded by its lusts” (NEB).
People remain in sin, not because they are "really" having such a good time, but rather because they have been "deceived" into thinking that they are really living. Sin is deceitful ( Heb_3:13 ). If people would just honestly sit back and compare what a particular sin promised and what it actually delivered in terms of true happiness and fulfillment, they would find that the most blatant false advertising exists when it comes to temptation. Sin always promises much more than it actually delivers, and often the temptation itself is more appealing than the actual sin. Someone said, “Sin will take you farther than you ever thought you'd stray; Sin will keep you longer than you ever thought you'd stay; Sin will cost you more than you'd ever thought you'd pay”. Another person said, “Whether the cost of living goes up or down the cost of sowing ‘wild oats’ remains the same”. “It promises so much from our self-centered, passionate desires and delivered only misery, dissipation, degradation, and loss of respect ( Rom_13:14 ; 1Ti_6:9 )” (Caldwell p. 202). “When Paul admonished Christians to put away the former life and reminded us that in it we are ‘being corrupted’ he cuts at the very core of Calvinism. How can one be in the process of ‘being corrupted’ if he is already totally depraved? How can one ‘put away’ the old man if he is unable to exercise his free will?” (Caldwell p. 202) . Notice the contrast between the old man and the new man. “The old was corrupt, in the process of degenerating, on its way to ruin or destruction; the new has been freshly created. The old was dominated by lusts, uncontrolled passions; the new has been created in righteousness and holiness. The lusts of the old were deceitful; the righteousness of the new is true” (Stott p. 181).
Eph_4:23 “and that ye be renewed in the spirit of your mind”
“Renewed”: To reform. “ The present passive infinitive suggests continual action . Literally the command requires that we ‘continue to be renewed’ (Caldwell p. 203). “In the spirit of your mind”: “You must adopt a new attitude of mind” (Gspd). “Is the moral direction that one chooses to pursue. Each individual's human spirit, his free moral agency, changes direction and he takes on a new disposition of mind toward the things of God” (Caldwell p. 203).
The key to this transformation is a new attitude towards God and sin. The "new man" is a new thinking man ( Rom_12:1-2 ). Thus to be successful against temptation and successful in developing Christian character one must have the proper frame of mind. Certain fundamental truths or perspectives are essential for the Christian: God is God and we are not. God is good and every command is always given in our best interest. If God says “no” then there is good reason for behind this heavenly “no”. The Christian life is not the deprived life. God is always right. Selfishness only results in misery and frustration. Serving and self-denial is the true path to purpose, meaning, satisfaction, happiness and "Life" ( Mat_16:25 ). I don't deserve the good things that happen to me in life, I actually deserve to be treated much worse, therefore gratitude is an essential element of the new life ( Col_3:15 ). Therefore guarding our minds and maintaining the proper perspective and attitude, which means believing the truth, is an essential aspect to enjoying the Christian life. Believing the correct doctrines and maintaining the proper attitudes are absolutely necessary for successful spiritual growth, which means if I am perpetually in a condition of spiritual weakness, it means that I am entertaining some worthless thoughts, concepts and attitudes. I have found that "self-pity" or the preoccupation with self is one of the most common "rotten" mind-sets found in those who are either spiritually weak or those who abandon God all together. The change required by God must reach all the way down to our inward attitudes. Merely getting rid of some bad habit is not enough. We must clean up our minds as well ( Mat_23:23-28 ).
Eph_4:24 “and put on the new man, that after God hath been created in righteousness and holiness of truth”
“And put on”: The Christian life contains much more than just "negative" instructions. We are not finished with serving God merely at the point of getting rid of a sinful habit. The void left by discarding that attitude or habit must be filled by a new habit and attitude. “The job is only half done in putting away sin. Whole-hearted acceptance of the new way of living in Christ is the mark of the reformed man” (Caldwell p. 203). “The new man”: “That new and better self” (Wey). “The new man involves new qualities ( Col_3:10 ; Rom_12:21 ; Rom_13:14 ). The new man has new feelings, principles, desires, goals, and hopes. It is a wholly different direction of life ( Rom_6:4 ; Gal_6:15 ; 2Co_5:17 )” (Caldwell p. 204). “That after God”: “Which is created to be like God” (Beck). Compare with Col_3:10 “renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him”. God is the standard for the new man ( 1Pe_1:14-15 ; Mat_5:48 ; Eph_4:32 ). “Created”: The Christian is a "new creation" ( 2Co_5:17 ), he or she has been "born again" ( Joh_3:3 ; Joh_3:5 ). Since the Christian is a "new creation" a blueprint or pattern must exist for this new life, and that pattern is the word of God ( 1Ti_3:15 ). Christians are those who have admitted that they need to be "re-created", and that their own ideas and the ideas of the world only made their lives into a mess (4:22; Jer_10:23 ). True self-improvement can only be found in the Christian life. Everyone who is trying to improve themselves or change apart from Jesus Christ and His will is using substandard materials. What God desired man to be when God created him, can only be obtained in a relationship with Jesus Christ. Hence, when you obey and submit to Christ, only then can it be said that you have truly found yourself, or your true purpose for living.
“In righteousness and holiness of truth”: Notice the contrast with the old life. The old man was unethical and had a very low or situational standard of morality. The new man pursues righteousness and personal holiness (purity). The old man was corrupt and the new man is pure. The old man lived in a world of illusion and deceit while the new man lives by the truth. “The knowledge of God is never divorced from walking in His ways: to know Him is to be like Him, righteous as He is righteous, holy as He is holy” (Bruce p. 359).
“As in Col_3:8-14 , Paul identifies exactly what it means for the believer to put off the old self and put on the new” (Boles p. 289). “Instead of a list of vices to be discarded and another list of virtue to be cultivated, this paragraph counterbalances each vice that is mentioned with a virtue: falsehood is to be replaced by truth, unrestrained anger by timely reconciliation, stealing of other's property by the generous sharing of one's own, foul language by helpful speech, animosity by kindness” (Bruce p. 360). Nothing has changed. Some 2000 years later we are still faced with all of the following sins, therefore the Bible continues to remain relevant for mankind himself remains the same. The culture these Christians lived in often overlooked or condoned some of these behaviors. Therefore, the apostles are not laying down some culturally defined ethic, rather this is God's ethic for all time and for everyone. “Holiness is not a mystical condition experienced in relation to God but in isolation from human beings. You cannot be good in a vacuum, but only in the real world of people. It is not enough to give up lying and stealing and losing our temper, unless we also start speaking the truth, working hard and being kind to people” (Stott p. 184).
Eph_4:25 “Wherefore, putting away falsehood, speak ye truth each one with his neighbor: for we are members one of another”.
“Falsehood”: “Finish then with lying” (Phi). “Speak ye truth”: See Zec_8:16 . “The continuous present, has the force of ‘speak truth and speak it continually’” (Gr. Ex. N.T. p. 345).
“The Christian must do more than avoid the outright lie. The half-truth, which is also half-lie, simply will not do” (Boles p. 290). “Avoidance of lies is of little use without the active pursuit of truth” (Spiritual Sword Lectureship p. 172). “There is also the lie of silence, and maybe it is even commoner. It may be that in some discussion a man by his silence gives approval to some course of action which he knows is wrong. It may be that a man withholds warning or rebuke when he knows quite well he should have given it” (Barclay p. 155). Speaking the truth and abandoning falsehood also means that one is to give up the "lies" of the old life. Caldwell points out, “Our generation is not fond of identifying religious lies . We want to give all people credit for being honest and sincere. Many are indeed sincere who nonetheless believe a lie ( 2Co_4:3-4 ; Mat_7:21-23 ). All would be pleased if God did not care and if all that He required was naive good attitudes , but the Devil laughs and counts up the souls he will receive when he sees us accept such a deceitful concept of religion” (pp. 207-208). “This lie lies about God and about man, about sin and about punishment, about godliness and about morality” (Lenski p. 573). “Any profession or business that cannot be practiced without lying or dishonesty the Christian will not enter, no matter what the profit to him might be” (Lenski p. 576). Hence speaking the truth includes accurately presenting the facts rather than stretching them, refusing to hide defects in a product or giving an false impression, and refusing to spice up something we heard. Keeping our promises, including keeping our wedding vows, and refusing to remain silent, when we know that someone is under a false impression.
“Each one”: The obligation of every Christian. “With his neighbor”: In this context, Paul will specifically apply this truth to our relationship with other Christians (the next statement in this verse) yet the Christian has an obligation to speak the truth to everyone ( Rom_13:9-10 ).
“For we are members of one another”: “Nothing so divides and separates Christians as falsehood, misrepresentations, suspicion, and unscrupulous partisanship. Mutual confidence is the essential bond of Christian fellowship” (Erdman p. 101). “The followers of Jesus (in whom is truth, verse 21) should be known in their community as honest, reliable people whose word can be trusted. Paul brings us back to the church as the body of Christ (cf. verses 12-16), and implies that a lie is a stab into the very vitals of the Body of Christ. For fellowship is built on trust, and trust is built on truth” (Stott p. 185). Boles makes a good point when he says, “People lie or withhold truth when they conclude that the other person is not competent to handle the whole truth. To convey a falsehood to a fellow believer, to deem him unworthy of knowing the truth, rips the fabric of unity in the one body” (p. 290). So many have tried to undermine these verses by pointing out situations in which "speaking the truth" would be harmful, as in the classic example of Nazi soldiers looking for Jews that one has hidden. The question is often asked, is not this a situation in which "lying" would be the right thing to do? Carefully note: "Speaking the truth" never has meant disclosing things which no person has a right to know. You are under no moral obligation to tell anyone your secret ATM code, where you hide your spare house key, and so on. We are under no moral obligation to give information, which others do not have a moral right. Nazi's hunting for Jews had no moral right to capture such people, therefore it was none of their business to know where such people had hidden. They would probably search your house, whether you lied or not. The point is that when we do speak, it must be truthful. The problem with situation ethics, is that the same "situational ethic" that would justify dishonesty in such hard circumstances, could also be used to justify placing false blame on a certain ethnic race, if that resulted in bringing a nation out of poverty. Situation ethics isn't really about "sparing others", in the end, situation ethics is all about saving our own skins.
Eph_4:26 “Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath”.
“Be ye angry”: Psa_4:4 “Permissive imperative, not a command to be angry” (Robertson p. 540). “It seems clear that this form of words is a Hebrew idiom which permits and then restricts anger, rather than actually commanding it” (Stott p. 185). Vincent argues that righteous anger is commanded, not merely permitted. (p. 396). A certain type of anger needs to be in our lives. “There is a great need in the contemporary world for more Christian anger. We human beings compromise with sin in a way in which God never does. In the face of blatant evil we should be indignant not tolerant, angry not apathetic. If God hates sin, His people should hate it too. If evil arouses His anger, it should arouse ours also” (Stott p. 186). See Psa_119:53 ; Psa_104:1-35 . “John Wesley said: ‘Give me a hundred men who fear nothing but God, and who hate nothing but sin and I will shake the world’” (Barclay p. 156). This was the type of anger that Jesus expressed ( Mar_3:5 ; Joh_2:13-17 ). Anger is a legitimate human emotion, built into us by God. The Bible deals in reality. It does not tell us to "stuff" our anger or deny it, rather it teaches us to properly channel it. Anger for the Christian can become a very constructive tool. There is something wrong with the person who never gets mad at anything.
“And sin not”: This is a very reasonable command and God is not requiring the impossible here. Hard circumstances, difficult situations, or being provoked still does not give us the right to sin. God has enabled us to properly channel this emotion into very constructive and effective ways. First do not be too quick in using this emotion ( Jam_1:19 ). Always leave room for the wrath of God and do not allow your anger to take vengeance ( Rom_12:19 ). Be angry for the right reason. Often Christians are more upset because someone slighted them, instead of when people slight God . Stott makes a good point when he said, “So Paul immediately qualifies his permissive be angry by three negatives . First, ‘do not sin’. We have to make sure that our anger is free from injured pride, spite, malice, animosity and the spirit of revenge. Secondly, ‘do not let the sun go down on your anger’, warns us against nursing anger. Third ‘give no opportunity to the devil’ for he knows how fine is the line between righteous and unrighteous anger” (pp. 186-187).
“Let not the sun go down upon your wrath”: “Do not let sunset find you still nursing it” (NEB). “Wrath”: “To exasperate to anger” (Robertson p. 541). “Irritation, exasperation” (Vincent p. 396). Since sinful and selfish anger is plainly forbidden, the wrath in this passage is justifiable anger. “If the person with whom one is angry is not accessible, or refuses to be reconciled--then at least the heart should be unburdened of its animosity by the committal of the matter to God” (Bruce p. 361). The Christian has many opportunities to remove such anger: Seek reconciliation ( Mat_5:23-24 ). Realize that God will judge ( Rom_12:19 ), and that such a judgment will be just and free from self-serving motives. Pray for your enemy and do him good ( Rom_12:20-21 ). Let God have all your anxiety ( 1Pe_5:7 ). “Because the longer we postpone mending a quarrel, the less likely we are ever to mend it” (Barclay p. 157). “ Nursing one's wrath to keep it warm is not recommended as a wise policy. It magnifies the grievance, makes reconciliation more difficult, and destroys friendly relations and the prime exploiter of such discord is the devil” (Bruce p. 361).
Eph_4:27 “neither give place to the devil”
“Give place”: “Give no opportunity to the Devil” (TCNT). “Leave no loop-hole for the devil” (NEB). “Opportunity for action, which you would do by continuing in a state of irritation” (Alford p. 1236). Whatever foothold the Devil has in the life of a Christian, is a "given" foothold. We may be imperfect, but being imperfect does not mean that we have to allow the Devil to exploit those imperfections. We are just asking for trouble and we are setting ourselves us all kinds of problems when we refuse to stop nursing a grudge. Some of the most fertile soil for the Devil to work in is the soil that contains resentment, bitterness, hard feelings, hurt feelings, and the desire for retaliation. As children of God, we should already know that ( 2Co_2:10-11 )! “So he loves to lurk around angry people, hoping to be able to exploit the situation to his own advantage by provoking them into hatred or violence or a breach of fellowship” (Stott p. 187).
Eph_4:28 “Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labor, working with his hands the thing that is good, that he may have whereof to give to him that hath need”.
“Steal no more”: “Stealing is here intended to include all forms of getting something wrongfully, theft, cheating, and overreaching. Many Christians were slaves, and pagan slaves did not regard it as wrong to pilfer from their masters” (Lenski p. 579) ( Tit_2:10 ). A low wage or salary, does not give one the right to steal from an employer. Just because one is making minimum wage, does not mean that God allows one to live at a minimum level of morality. God rejects the argument that the poor cannot afford to be moral or honest. The poor are accountable to the same ethical standard that the rich are under. Remember one can steal more than money or possessions. Coming in late, leaving early, taking excessive coffee-breaks or simply goofing off is also stealing from an employer. “It had and still has a wide application also to tax evasions and customs dodges which rob the government of their dues, to employers who oppress their workers, and to employees who give poor service” (Stott p. 187). I am convinced that many people steal because they feel that they "deserve" what they are taking, feeling “the world owes me this”. Hence stealing is often the result of human arrogance. “No more”: God has no tolerance for dishonesty and no situation ever justifies it. “But rather”: There is always a better way than stealing. “Let him labor”: Notice the word let. Freewill is written all over these verses. Putting on the new man is our own choice. God will not force us to change. “Labor”: To toil and be wearied. “With his hands”: There is nothing wrong with manual labor, yet even most "white collar" jobs include working with one's hands. Certainly the doctor works with his hands. The word rendered "labor", indicates "hard work". Christians are not to be lazy ( Eph_6:6-7 ), and neither is hard work to be avoided. God has no use for the lazy man. Gambling not only violates the principle of good, honest work, but more importantly it violates one of the most basic commandments, “love your neighbor as yourself”. “Gambling is wrong because it operates on the principle that I may take from another on the basis of skill or chance. If my neighbor loses, it is just his tough luck” (Caldwell p. 217). “The thing that is good”: “At honest work” (TCNT). “At some honest vocation” (Wms). “To make an honest living” (Phi). Again, this means that I do not the right to take a job which will involve me in unethical behavior.
“That he may have whereof to give to him that hath need”: Notice the total transformation of the former thief. It's not enough to simply give up stealing. He must now "work" at an honest job, and then not merely to support himself or his own family, but he must also learn to give to those in legitimate need. “Instead of sponging on the community he will start contributing to it” (Stott p. 188). “Here is a new idea and a new ideal--that of working in order to give away. The Christian ideal is that we work, not to amass things (merely or solely), but to be able, if need be, to give them away” (Barclay p. 158). Hence the "thief" is seen to be a very selfish person because wants something for nothing or with little effort, not only is he unwilling to share with people, he even takes what they presently have, and he wants everyone else to "pay" the tab for his wants.
Eph_4:29 “Let no corrupt speech proceed out of your mouth, but such as is good for edifying as the need may be, that it may give grace to them that hear”
“Let”: We can use our tongues wisely, if we so choose. “This could be well translated ‘Stop it from going on’” (Boles p. 292). “No”: All corrupt speech is condemned. No situation allows us to use profanity or take God's name in vain. “Corrupt”: The word here means that which is rotten or worthless. “Foul word” (TCNT). “Bad language, crude, foul, base, low, worthless statements” (Caldwell p. 219). “Lit., rotten unfit for use, and then worthless, bad, suggests bad, profitless, of no good to any one” (Gr. Ex. N.T. p. 347). “When applied to rotten talk, whether this is dishonest, unkind or vulgar” (Stott p. 188). “Foul language of any kind is inappropriate not only obscene vulgarity but slanderous and contemptuous talk, any talk that works to the detriment of the persons addressed” (Bruce pp. 362-363). “Good for edifying”: “A word as is good for edification” (NASV). “But let all your words be good for benefiting others” (Wey). Boles points out, “Bluntly stated, Paul's rule is this: ‘If you can't build up, shut up!’ However, this does not call for constant false flattery (or any for that matter). Criticism can be edifying, when offered in the proper spirit” (p. 292). Constructive criticism and honest rebuke can build a person up ( 2Ti_4:2 ). The bottom line in our speech is, use speech that helps others spiritually. “As the need may be”: “As fits the occasion” (RSV). “For supplying help when there is need” (Robertson p. 541). See Pro_15:23 ; Pro_25:11 ). “That it may give grace to them that hear”: “That they may be a help to those who hear them” (TCNT). “Means of blessing to the hearers” (Wey) ( Col_4:6 ). Our speech can be used for tremendous good or tremendous harm ( Pro_12:18 ; Jam_3:1-12 ). “If we are truly a new creation of God, we shall undoubtedly develop new standards of conversation. Instead of hurting people with our words, we shall want to use them to help, encourage, cheer, comfort and stimulate them” (Stott p. 188). Every Christian is under the above obligation in their speech. Nobody has the right to "speak their mind", when such speech includes unscriptural concepts, irrelevant arguments, gossip, unjust or hypocritical criticisms and just plain ignorance.
Eph_4:30 “And grieve not the Holy Spirit of God, in whom ye were sealed unto the day of redemption”.
“Grieve not: “Don't cause the Holy Spirit sorrow” (Tay). If the Holy Spirit can be grieved, then obviously the Spirit is a "personal" being and not some impersonal force ( Act_5:1-4 ; Isa_63:10 ). “Since He is the ‘Holy Spirit’, He is always grieved by unholiness, and since He is the ‘one Spirit’ (2:18; 4:4), disunity will also cause Him grief. In fact, anything incompatible with the purity and unity of the church is incompatible with His own nature and therefore hurts Him. One might add that because He is also the ‘Spirit of truth’, through whom God has spoken, He is upset by all our misuse of speech” (Stott p. 189). “Conversation (or any other activity) that endangers the unity of the body of Christ ‘grieves’ the Holy Spirit” (Bruce p. 363). “Cease grieving or do not have the habit of grieving” (Robertson p. 541). We get so easily caught up in all the wrongs and injustices that have been committed against us that we forget that the most wrongs, insults and injustices have been committed against God! Stop feeling sorry for yourself and realize how much abuse God has endured and yet still is giving mankind the opportunity to repent ( 2Pe_3:9 ). God is not a cold or insensitive being, rather God is hurt by our unfaithfulness ( Gen_6:5-6 ). “In whom ye were sealed”: “The personal pledge” (Phi). “The seal with which you were marked” (NEB). The term sealed means to stamp for security or preservation.
This "sealing" doesn't remove my freewill, and neither does it mean that I can never fall away (5:3-6). “Specifically the Holy Spirit, delivered the written word to us by inspiration (3:3-5) and it is one of the greatest blessings ever given to man. Our disregard for decency as indicated in our speech and our rebellion as shown in refusal to heed the divine message are a weariness and trial to the one who delivered that message. We have been sealed or marked by the words and promises spoken by the Holy Spirit in the Bible. They are true. When they are appropriated to my life, they mark me as belonging to God” (Caldwell pp. 221-222). See Rom_8:16 . “The Holy Spirit is a sensitive Spirit. He hates sin, discord and falsehood. Therefore if we wish to avoid hurting Him, we shall shrink from them too. Every believer desires to bring Him pleasure, not pain” (Stott p. 189).
“Unto the day of redemption”: This is the day of final redemption, when our physical bodies will be redeemed from the grave ( Rom_8:23 ). Since this "sealing" is available to the actual Second Coming of Christ, this means that the message the Spirit delivered will always exist in a pure and uncorrupted form . Believers of all generations will be able to accurately tell if they are "marked" as a real Christian or not, that being, does their life harmonize with the teachings of the one Spirit?
Eph_4:31 “Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamor, and railing, be put away from you, with all malice”.
“All”: God has zero tolerance for these qualities. “All manner of, harshness in all its forms whether in speech or in feeling” (Gr. Ex. N.T. p. 348). “The sins enumerated in this verse often find expression in our speech” (Caldwell pp. 222-223). “Bitterness”: “Bitter frame of mind” (Vincent p. 397). “Long-standing resentment, as the spirit which refuses to be reconciled. So many of us have a way of nursing our wrath to keep it warm, of brooding over the insults and the injuries” (Barclay p. 159). “This is a sour spirit and sour speech” (Stott p. 190). '
“The temper which cherishes resentful feelings” (Boles p. 293). “Wrath”: “The Greeks defined thumos as the kind of anger which is like the flame which comes from straw; it quickly blazes up and just as quickly subsides. To the Christian the burst of temper and the long-lived anger are both alike forbidden” (Barclay p. 159). “Anger”: Anger which stems from selfish motives, such as hurt feelings, embarrassment, hurt pride, and frustration. “Clamor”: “Describes people who get excited, raise their voices in a quarrel, and start shouting, even screaming, at each other” (Stott p. 190). “It is the characteristic of a mob or assembly that covers up lack of sober arguments with its loudness ( Luk_23:23 ; Act_19:28 ; Act_23:19 )” (Boles p. 293). Such still happens today. Every once in a while you see on the news someone who is trying to simply speak and various individuals in the crowd attempt to disrupt the speech with shouting, slogans, and noise. Boles is right, all groups that attempt such tactics are admitting that their arguments are very weak.
“Railing”: “In reference to God it is ‘blasphemy’; in reference to man it is reviling and cursing” (Boles p. 293). “Is speaking evil of others, especially behind their backs, and so defaming and even destroying their reputation” (Stott p. 190). Even Christians need to be reminded that the "sin" of blasphemy still exists. Some professed Christians seem to feel that they can criticize God, His will, His letting certain things happen in the world, all they want. Insinuating that God is unfair, or that God did something wrong, is blasphemy. If we are forbidden to bring a false accusation against another Christian ( 1Ti_5:19 ), then certainly we are in the wrong for bringing any criticism against God. “Be put away from you”: “To pick up and carry away, to make a clean sweep” (Robertson p. 541). See 1Pe_2:1 ; Jam_1:20 ). “With all malice”: “Ill will, wishing and probably plotting evil against people. There is no place for any of these horrid things in the Christian community; they have to be totally rejected” (Stott p. 190). Desiring to see other Christians fail is "malice". When hard feelings or bitterness have moved one to the point that they actually secretly desire to see harm come to another Christian, then we know that such a person is far away from God.
Eph_4:32 “and be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving each other, even as God also in Christ forgave you”.
“And”: In the place of the horrible attitudes and actions just mentioned. “Be ye”: “The present imperative--ever continue to be” (Lenski p. 587). Notice the contrast, put away once for all such evil things (4:31), and continually work on being good. “Keep on becoming” (Robertson p. 541). “Kind”: “Is more than gentle and polite; the word also means ‘useful’ and ‘serviceable’. It has the flavor of action and productivity. God showed His kindness to us (2:7) when He took steps to save us” (Boles p. 294). “The Greeks defined this quality as the disposition of mind which thinks as much of its neighbour's affairs as it does of its own. Kindness has learned the secret of looking outwards all the time” (Barclay pp. 159-160). “One to another”: This means continuing to treat each other in the manner which God has treated us, that is, apply your kindness. Do more than talk about being kind. Do more than merely analyzing the word. Express this kindness to other Christians. “Doing as a body for yourselves that which God did once for you all” (Vincent p. 397). “Tenderhearted”: “Tenderly affectionate’ (Rhm). “Is understanding, compassionate, and full of both sympathy and empathy” (Caldwell p. 224). “Forgiving each other”: Which implies that such forgiveness will be needed. Your brethren will need it and you will find yourself needing it. “Even as God also in Christ forgave you”: Notice that such forgiveness is only found "in Christ" (1:3; Gal_3:26-27 ). This is not an optional command, God is not merely giving us advice. The stakes for failing to apply these truths are high, because if I fail at forgiveness, God will not forgive me ( Mat_6:12 ; Mat_18:21-35 ). “Too many who are otherwise good men will go to hell for rationalizing hatred and vengeance” (Caldwell p. 225). “So, in one sentence, Paul lays down the law of personal relationships --that we should treat others as Jesus Christ has treated us” (Barclay p. 160). Notice how proper conduct arises out of the proper grasp and submission to the right doctrine. If we really believe that God has forgiven us of horrible things, and that He has spared our souls from eternal misery, then we will not have a problem in being kind to others. “The watchword for Christians and for all men, is ‘Forgive or forfeit forgiveness!’” (Coffman p. 197) . Before we close, remember, such a command also applies to the marriage relationship ( Col_3:19 ).
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Dunagan, Mark. "Commentary on Ephesians 4". "Dunagan's Commentaries on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
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