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Bible Commentaries
Ephesians 4

Gaebelein's Annotated BibleGaebelein's Annotated

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Verses 1-6


1. Walking worthy of the Calling


1. The walk in lowliness and meekness (Ephesians 4:1-2 )

2. Keeping the unity of the Spirit (Ephesians 4:3-6 )

“I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the calling wherewith ye are called.” This marks the beginning of the second part of the epistle. it is obvious then, to walk worthy as a Christian, one has to know the calling wherewith God has called us. This calling, as we have seen, is revealed in the first three chapters. The first exhortation is to walk “with all lowliness and meekness.” He does not speak of doing some great work, or to seek special gifts and special power. Lowliness and meekness are to be manifested by the members of the body of Christ. These two words remind us of the Lord Jesus and the words which came from His blessed lips. “Take my yoke upon you and learn of Me, for I am meek and lowly in heart” (Matthew 11:29 ). He who had laid His glory by, thus emptying Himself, lived down here in lowliness and meekness. And we are called to walk even as He walked (1 John 2:6 ). “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:5 ). The Holy Spirit tells us then that the first thing in the walk of the believer is to manifest the lowliness and meekness of the Lord Jesus. Walking in meekness produces gentleness towards the brethren, the fellow-saints. And as we walk “with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love” we manifest practically that we are members of the one body. Love is to be the governing principle towards all the saints of God.

In the second place we are to give “diligence to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” We are not told to produce the unity of the Spirit, but to keep it. What is this unity of the Spirit? It is the unity which God in His infinite grace has made Himself. All believers are members of the body of Christ, the Church. The Holy Spirit dwells in each and He has put us into that body as members; the one body, and believers members of that body, constitutes the unity of the Spirit. We are to own it by keeping it in the bond of peace. This unity can never be destroyed for it is the work of God. But it may be denied and the expression of it completely lost. Alas! this is the common thing about us. Sectarianism is a denial of this unity of the Spirit. We keep the unity of the Spirit when we recognize in every true believer a member of Christ and of His body. What will enable us to keep this unity and this walk worthy of our calling? We must constantly feed on the glorious realities of our redemption in Christ. What God has wrought for us and for all His saints, the fact that all are indwelt by the same Spirit, and that all have the same glorious destiny, must never be lost sight of.

The unity of the Spirit is revealed in Ephesians 4:4-6 . Again, the three persons of the Godhead are seen only in reverse order, the Holy Spirit first, the Son of God the second, and the God and Father third.

The Holy Spirit

1. One Body

2. One Spirit

3. One Hope

The Son of God, the Lord

4. One Lord

5. One Faith

6. One Baptism

The God and Father

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

The one body, which stands first, is the Church, the body of Christ. The fullness of Him that filleth all in all. The one Spirit is the Holy Spirit. He came on the day of Pentecost and the Baptism of the Spirit then took place, by which the body of Christ is formed. “For by one Spirit we are all baptized into one body” (1 Corinthians 12:13 ). The one hope is the hope of the Church, to be with the Lord in glory, to be like Him and share His glory. The next three linked with the Lord and are likewise connected with the Church. One Lord, one faith, one baptism, presents the aspect of public profession. The one Lord, is Christ; all Christians own Him professedly as Lord. The “one faith” is the faith in the Lord and the “one baptism” is water-baptism, which is both, the initiatory rite of Christian profession and an expression of that faith in the one Lord. And God is the “one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in all.” Of course this applies only to believers.

Verses 7-16

2. The Ministry and Its Purpose

CHAPTER 4:7-16

1. Ministry according to the measure of the gift of Christ (Ephesians 4:7-10 )

2. The needed and permanent gifts (Ephesians 4:11 )

3. The purpose and the goad (Ephesians 4:12-16 )

Each member in the body of Christ has a specific place for a specific work. See Romans 12:4-5 and 1 Corinthians 12:4-5 . And the bestowal of gifts for service in the body is in His hands. He ascended upon high and triumphed over all enemies. He led captivity captive and gave gifts unto men. He triumphed over the devil, who has the power of death and stripped him of that power. And all who constitute His body share in His triumph. They are no longer under the power of Satan, but delivered from the power of darkness, they are His trophies. “He led captivity captive,” i.e., those who were in captivity, or “a troop, a multitude of captives.” The view held by some that the Old Testament saints are meant, whom He led forth from Hades is incorrect.

Psalms 68:1-35 is quoted. But we discover an omission. Psalms 68:18 reads, “Thou has received gifts for men, yea, for the rebellious also, that the Lord God might dwell among them.” The last sentence is omitted, for the rebellious are the Jews; they are as the rebellious nation not in view in Ephesians, though the day will come when Israel will be converted and the promised gifts will be bestowed upon that nation. And He who ascended also descended first into the lower parts of the earth. It means the deepest depths of suffering, the shameful death of the cross and that He was buried. (This passage has nothing to do with 1 Peter 3:18 - The meaning of this Scripture will be fully explained in our annotations of the First Epistle of Peter.) As the Ascended One He has given gifts for the ministry in the body. These gifts are “apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers.” Other gifts are mentioned in First Corinthians such as the gift of healing, the gift of tongues, etc. These were not permanent gifts, and not absolutely necessary for the perfecting of the saints and the building up of the body of Christ.

The gifts mentioned here in Ephesians abide to the end until the Church is complete and removed from the earth. The apostles are the apostles of the beginning. The apostolate of Mormonism and similar cults is an invention. Nowhere does it say that Paul, Peter or John should have successors; all who lay claim to the title of apostle in the church are deceivers (Revelation 2:2 ). The doctrines of the apostles are in our possession as the supreme gifts of the exalted Lord to His body. New Testament prophets are such who speak the message of God for the comfort and exhortation of God’s people. The evangelist preaches the gospel. The pastor and teacher are practically one. The teacher expounds the Word and teaches the doctrines of the Bible. And these gifts remain till the Lord comes for His saints. The gifts are for the perfecting of the saints, unto the work of the ministry for the building up of the body of Christ. And each gift is not for a certain part of the church, but for the whole body. “Till we all come 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.” This measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ will be reached when the body is joined to the Head. When the Church enters into His presence and He presents the church to Himself (Ephesians 5:27 ), then this completion has come. Till then He will give the gifts to the Church, His body, for the upbuilding of that body. And He puts this body together and ministers unto its needs (Ephesians 4:16 ).

Verses 17-32

3. The Walk in Holiness and Righteousness

CHAPTERS 4:17-5:21

1. Not as the Gentiles walk (Ephesians 4:17-19 )

2. The putting off and putting on (Ephesians 4:20-32 )

3. Followers of God (Ephesians 5:1-2 )

4. Exhortations (Ephesians 5:3-21 )

At this point the exhortations to walk in separation begin. The “therefore” of Ephesians 4:17 refers us to the “wherefore” of Ephesians 2:11-12 . What Gentiles are in their natural condition is here once more put before us. The grace of God takes the believer out of these conditions and puts power on our side to walk “no longer as the Gentiles walk.” And how solemn is the description of what Gentiles are by nature! Nor must we overlook the fact, that beneath the thin veneer of our boasted civilization, which rejects Christ and the gospel, there is the same darkened understanding, the same alienation from God, the same blindness and the uncleanness of which these words speak.

Saved by grace these Gentiles had heard Christ and had been taught by Him. To walk according as the truth is in Jesus is the responsibility of all who know and follow Him. He is our pattern. The old man is put off and the new man is put on. We are not told to put off the old man by all kinds of endeavors and resolutions; it is already done. The old man was put away by the cross of Christ (Romans 6:6 ). This is the blessed truth which delivers from doubt and bondage. And then we receive something in Christ, the new man, the new nature. Grace unclothed us and clothed us. Grace made an end of the old man and put upon us the new man. And this new man, after God, is created in righteousness and true holiness, which calls for a corresponding walk. But there is also a practical putting off and putting on. Of this we read in Ephesians 4:25-29 . In Ephesians 4:26 there is a command to be angry and sin not. There is a righteous anger which is not sinful. The Lord Jesus exhibited that (Mark 3:5 ). When truth is perverted, or that blessed and worthy name is dishonored, a righteous feeling of displeasure arises in the heart, which is indwelt by the Holy Spirit. Such a feeling is not sin. But we are warned “let not the sun go down upon your wrath.” The wrath of man, if nourished, worketh not the righteousness of God (James 1:20 ). How easy it is to harbor feelings which are sinful, and in doing so give place to the devil. Corrupt communications are not to proceed out of the mouth of a member of the body of Christ, “but that which is good for needful building up, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.” Speech is always to be with grace, seasoned with salt (Colossians 4:6 ). In view of such exhortations, the practice of certain evangelists to use “slang,” vulgar and common expressions in public speech stands condemned.

“And grieve not the Holy Spirit of God, by whom ye have been sealed unto the day of redemption.” We are His temple and all must be avoided which displeases the holy guest. That He dwells in us and we are sealed by Him is the evidence of our eternal security. We are sealed by Him unto the day of redemption. We may grieve Him, but He will never leave those who are washed in the blood of the Lamb. He abides with us forever. in Ephesians 4:32 we find another exhortation how the members of the body of Christ should act towards each other.

We are to be imitators of God, as dear children and walk in love as Christ also hath loved us and hath given Himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling savor. Then there are additional exhortations about fornication, all uncleanness, or covetousness, as well as other things. It shows the possibility of a child of God falling into these things. The true believer knows that in his flesh dwelleth no good thing, and that only the power of the Holy Spirit can deliver him from the power of the flesh; therefore he walks in the Spirit. There can be no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God for such whose life is in these things. A child of God may fall and commit some of these things, but no true believer will continue to live in them.

“And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them” (Ephesians 5:10 .) when our Lord was on earth He reproved the unfruitful works of darkness. His condemnation was aimed at the religious Pharisees and rationalistic Sadducees. He pronounced His solemn “woes” upon them. Walking as the children of light, therefore, means separation from evil, moral and religious, and a definite witness against it.

The exhortation in Ephesians 5:14 , to awake and arise, is not addressed to an unsaved person, but to a Christian. Many believers are in the state of spiritual sleep among the spiritually dead in the world; but the promise is given, that Christ will give light when the awakening comes. Another important exhortation is found in Ephesians 5:18 : “And be not drunken with wine, wherein is excess, but be filled with the Spirit.” “Be filled with the Spirit” does not mean another outpouring of the Holy Spirit, another Pentecost. The Holy Spirit dwells in every child of God; He is the abiding guest. He is in us to fill us, and He will do so if we walk in the Spirit. May we open our whole heart to Him and walk in obedience, abiding in Christ, occupied with Christ, exalting Christ, and we shall know what it means to be filled with the Spirit. Some of the effects of it are mentioned in the verses which follow (Ephesians 5:19-21 ). There is worship and thanksgiving. He is also the Spirit of love and grace--”submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God.”

Bibliographical Information
Gaebelein, Arno Clemens. "Commentary on Ephesians 4". "Gaebelein's Annotated Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/gab/ephesians-4.html. 1913-1922.
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