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Bible Commentaries
Ephesians 4

Godbey's Commentary on the New TestamentGodbey's NT Commentary

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Verses 1-3



In order that you may be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height:

19. And to know the love of Christ which transcendeth knowledge, in order that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. ” “Rooted and grounded” describe entire sanctification in a powerful double metaphor. Here a wonderful impetus of inspired eloquence fires the soul of Luke’s enraptured dictator. Rapt in heavenly visions, filled and thrilled with the Holy Ghost, he soars beyond the range of sun, moon, and stars; amid the bewilderment of Divine communion and contemplation he gives utterance to these transcendent hyperboles, and basks in the ineffable glory of the unseen world. Well does John Fletcher say that “filled with all the fullness of God” describes a state of grace infinitesimally beyond entire sanctification. We enter the sanctified experience from the negative hemisphere, realizing the utter elimination of the sin principle through the cleansing blood. Having passed the sin side of the experience, we enter the glorious hemisphere of incoming and super-abounding grace, which is illimitable in this life, and, superseded by the glory of heaven, sweeps on in a geometrical ratio through all eternity, ever and anon flooding the soul with fruitions, amplifications, beatifications, and rhapsodies, eclipsing the most ecstatic hyperboles. while ages and cycles wheel their precipitate flight.

20. But to Him who is able exceedingly above all things which we ask or think, according to the dynamite which worketh in us. ” You may ask what you will, and lay under contribution all of your thinking powers, yet your omnipotent Sanctifier will flood you with ineffable surprises, doing for you infinitely beyond your asking or thinking. No wonder he surprises you when he has his own dynamite in you, which he manipulates ad libitum, blowing you up ever and anon into a higher, richer, and sweeter heavenly communion. The Lord inspire your faith to appropriate these wonderful promises, and get on shouting ground, world without end!

1. Paul keeps us reminded of the chain on his hands and the soldier by his side, while he dictated this wonderful truth which is free as a bird of paradise.

2. Here we have humility, meekness, and long-suffering these three bottom-rock graces, all in the superlative degree, forever fortifying their possessor against the liability of falling. When you are down on the bottom, there is no place into which you can fall. Hence, the Calvinistic dogma is right if you put it where it belongs, and apply it to a soul invested with graces of perfect humility, meekness, and longsuffering.

So long as you there abide, you can never fall. You must first imbibe Satan’s egotism, and climb up before you can fall and break your neck.

3. Endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. ” Here we see that it is our imperative duty to make the needed effort to perpetuate the unity of the Christian brotherhood, which is in the Spirit. Hence, we must allow perfect liberty in non-essentials, such as creeds, forms, and ceremonies, seeking unification only in the Holy Ghost. A Baptist preacher, during a long run in the car, assaulted me for my heresies on sanctification, dealing his sledgehammer blows right and left without distinction or mercy; meanwhile I antagonized him not a word, but ever and anon endorsed his orthodox utterances. Finally, he desisted from his arguments, and requested me to speak. I told him my experience of a glorious conversion in a Baptist revival when sixteen years old, praising the goodness of God which had kept me from falling forty-six years. Then I alluded to the terrible spiritual conflict involving the new life in a desolating civil war with Adam, the first through a period of nineteen years, fifteen of which in my humble way I endeavored to preach the gospel; but culminating in such a victory as I never had dreamed of when the Savior baptized my soul with the Holy Ghost and fire; filling, thrilling, and flooding me, soul, mind, and body; taking me out of college, of which I was president, suddenly, unexpectedly, and forever; radically revolutionizing my ministerial character in every respect, and transforming me into a flaming revivalist, preparing me every minute to preach and to die. The shout came into my soul, and staid there twenty-seven years, getting sweeter and better.

He broke down and wept, saying, “That is just what I have always wanted, and I will have it or die;” from that moment, while we rode together, becoming an earnest and appreciative inquirer after the experience against which he had hurled his logical thunderbolts. Lord, help us all to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace!

Verses 4-7



4-6. Here we have a beautiful golden chain, consisting of seven links, “one body,” which is the mystical spiritual body of Christ, the Church of the Firstborn, without spot or wrinkle.

“One Spirit,” the blessed Holy Ghost, the Third Person in the adorable Trinity, the illuminator, convictor, regenerator, adopter, sanctifier, and glorifier of fallen humanity. “One hope,” the sweet anticipation of universal Christendom singing away the lugubrious clouds of human woe, and spanning the firmament with a thrilling prelibation of coming glory. “One faith,” the spiritual hand alone competent to receive the things of God, take Jesus by the hand, and turn over to him the battle of life, shouting victory over the world, the flesh, and the devil. ‘One baptism;” we take it for granted that no one reading these pages will be so foggy as to see water here in this beautiful golden chain of seven links, which lifts humanity up to God; you would not be so inadvertent as to insert a water link, as in that case your chain would be weak as water, and lift no soul up to glory. This is most assuredly the baptism of the Holy Ghost and fire (Matthew 3:2), administered by our Savior to his own children exclusively. You must not mar the spiritual homogeneity of this beautiful gospel chain, by inserting a water link. Again, beware that you do not nullify the unity of Christian baptism by a baptism of fire, distinct from that of the Spirit. There is no danger of your having too much fire nor too much water; the latter the symbol, and the former concomitant of the spiritual baptism administered by the omnipotent Sanctifier. “One God;” we must beware of heresies on all lines, and not emphasize the three persons of the Trinity so forcibly as to drift into the dogma of three gods. There is but “one God,” of whom the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost are three distinct persons, accommodatory to finite apprehension and the redemptive scheme.

7. To each one of us grace has been given according to the measure of the gift of Christ. ” We should never measure other peoples corn by our half- bushel, as God will attend to measuring their corn as well as ours. We who have long enjoyed the experience of entire sanctification, should deal very tenderly with young converts and weak believers, if we discourage them, remembering that infinite diversity of spiritual idiosyncrasies and magnitude characterizes the kingdom of God.

Verses 8-10



8-10. The reader would do well here to exchange this book for Volume 2, and read the Commentary on 1 Peter 3:19. It takes in this whole subject, and corroboratively expounds this Scripture. When our Savior expired on the cross, his human soul descended into hell (Acts 2:31); the herald of his own victory achieved on Mount Calvary having triumphed over the pandemonium, he crosses the chasm (Luke 16:26) impassable to all finite beings, enters the intermediate paradise, called Abraham’s bosom, meets the thief according to promise (Luke 23:43), and all the Old Testament saints there awaiting the verification of the Abrahamic covenant by the sufferings of Christ; on the third morning, abolishing the intermediate paradise, leads them all up, receives his body out of the sepulcher, all the mighty hosts of Old Testament saints accompanying him during his forty day on the earth, invisible because disembodied, and ascend with him into heaven from Mount Olivet; constituting his triumphal procession, as seen by the prophetic eye of David (Psalms 24:0), they enter the glorified city of God amid the shouts of angels, archangels, and redeemed spirits. “Christ, the first-fruits of them that slept,” must lead the way into heaven, throwing wide the pearly gates for every disembodied saint in all coming ages to sweep with a shout.

Verses 11-13



11. Here, we see, the ministerial curriculum of the gospel dispensation includes “apostles,” who are the pioneers sent out into every country under heaven; e.g., Bishop Taylor in Africa, and Hudson Taylor in interior China, and many others exploring the heathen world at the present day. “Prophets,” (1 Corinthians 14:3)

“He that prophesieth speaketh to men edification, exhortation, and comfort.”

The Greek and Hebrew words for prophecy mean to boil up and flow out like an artesian well, never ceasing. On the day of Pentecost their tongues were split, each prong on fire, one to preach hellfire to sinners, and the other heavenly fire, to sanctify the Christians. It is the privilege of all sanctified people to receive the spirit of prophecy, which is the normal qualification for preaching the gospel. O how the world is perishing today for the spirit of prophecy! The Lord raise them up in platoons! Next “evangelists.” This word in Greek is the concrete of which gospel is the abstract. The evangelist travels to the end of the earth in the fulfillment of the latter-day prophecies. Daniel 12:4

“Many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased.”

In the last year I have traveled in twenty-one States, having more calls everywhere I went, and in many other places, than I knew what to do with. The evangelist has a message to the world, which he goes expeditiously to deliver. He is an auxiliary of apostles, prophets, pastors, and teachers. How strange to find preachers and Churches clamorous against the very existence of a ministerial order which the Bible positively reveals, instituted and sent of God! The bitter opposition to evangelists reminds me of the old Latin proverb, “ Quem Deus vit perdere primum dementat,” whom God wisheth to destroy, he first maketh mad. When preachers and laymen flatly contradict God Almighty, and audaciously oppose his revealed Word, the omens are appalling.

“Pastors.” You see in this catalogue “bishop” does not occur, from the simple fact that the New Testament bishop is always synonymous with pastor; the latter Latin, and the former Greek. The pastor is the abiding custodian of the Lord’s flock, whose duty it is to “lead them beside the still waters, and have them lie down in green pastures.” Our Savior condemns the hireling shepherd, certifying that he can not be relied on when the robber attacks the flock, but he will skedaddle away, leaving them a prey to the enemy. The saddest phenomenon of the present day is to see the devil’s wolves and robbers making sad havoc of the flock of God, while the hireling shepherds are

“drinking their milk, feasting on their flesh, and clothing themselves in their wool, reveling in their tents.” (Ezekiel 44:0)

“Teachers.” This office has long ago been dead and forgotten in the popular Churches. An old ex-missionary of Bishop Taylor from India told me that the heathen know more about the Bible than the Church members in America, because the missionaries teach a regular Bible school every day, which they are permitted to attend and enjoy. Sad to say, the Church is no longer the school of Christ; as the little degospelized, despiritualized sermonettes on Sunday morning and evening are not entitled to recognition in Biblical didactics. The Lord has long used your humble servant as the teacher of his people; but I have to go to the holiness movement for an appreciative audience. The Word of God is bread, meat, water, milk, honey, wine, grapes, pomegranates, and all the luxuries of the kingdom. But a dead man does not want his dinner. Hence, if you would turn a popular Church into a Christian school, you must first bring to them the resurrection power.

12. For the perfecting of the saints in the work of the ministry, unto the edification of the body of Christ:

13. Until we all arrive into the unity of faith and of the perfect knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ. ” We see clearly in these Scriptures that these different ministerial orders are God’s provision for the perfecting of his saints. No wonder the Church of the present day is lamentably shorn of her power by the Delilahs of the world, and miserably enslaved in the mills of Dagon, when all these ministerial orders given for her perfection are practically abnegated with the single exception of the pastor, and he a poor hireling, who, Jesus said, could not be relied on.

God has raised up the holiness people in every Church and country, to restore New Testament truth and simplicity, leading the people out of legal bondage into the glorious liberty of full salvation the Bible loved and appreciated as the only guide and authority.

Verses 14-25



14. In order that we may be no longer infants, tossed by the waves and carried away by every wind of teaching in the stratagem of men, in their craft for the purpose of delusion;

15. But speaking the truth in Divine love, let us grow up into him in all things who is the head, Christ. Neepios means an infant; Teleios means perfect. These two words, correlatively and contrastively, represent the two great works of grace in the plan of salvation. We have in this wonderful exegesis of Paul no allusion whatever to any other classes. Regeneration makes you a babe in Christ, and sanctification, winding up your minority, brings in your spiritual majority, constituting you an adult. Of course, following the analogy of the natural kingdom, we recognize a progressive development before the birth, and afterward culminating in full-grown manhood. He gives a reason here why we should get out of babyhood, because during our spiritual infancy, as in natural childhood, we need nurses and guardians; meanwhile, we are perilously subordinated to our environments, and liable to influence and capture by all sorts of intrigue, human and diabolical, ultimating in ruin, temporal and eternal. The only remedy for the spiritual feebleness, foibles, and caprices peculiar to the spiritual infancy following regeneration, is entire sanctification, which makes you a “perfect man.” Perfect is from facio, to make, and per, complete. Hence, it simply means made complete. Man was complete, man was perfect, when he emanated from the Creative fiat. Satan destroyed his equilibrium, put him out of kilter, thus rendering him imperfect. Christ came to destroy the works of the devil. (1 John 3:8.)

Nothing is the work of the devil but sin. When Christ destroys sin in you, he makes you complete in him, and what the Bible calls a perfect Christian. It is not maturity, but purity, as you will grow on through this life, and doubtless through all eternity. Carnal preachers in all ages, the pope at their head, have violently opposed entire sanctification, from the simple fact that it takes the people out of their hands, and puts them where none but God can rule them. A Roman Catholic commentator, Liguori, thus delivers on that subject: “That abominable doctrine of purity has given the Catholic Church more trouble than anything else.” Ahab said to Elijah, “Thou art he that troubleth Israel.” O how the holiness people are now troubling the carnal preachers and fallen Churches, because they recognize no authority hut God, revealed in his Word, Spirit, and providence! Spiritual babes are tossed about by every wind of teaching at the caprice of ecclesiastical demagogues.

15. Speaking the truth in Divine love. ...

Sanctified people are no longer tossed about by human creeds and cunningly manipulated by priestcraft; but, free as angels, they take the Bible for their only authority, and Jesus for their only companion, and, O how they “grow up in him, their living Head!”

16. We see from this verse the glorious unity of God’s people, regardless of sect, race, or color; the whole body joined and knitted together, and united to Christ by the Holy Spirit; the life-blood Circulating into every part, and vitalizing every fiber and tissue throughout the entire body. When the blood no longer circulates into any part of the body, it becomes paralyzed and dead. So with the Church of God and the Churches forsaken by the Holy Ghost, and now ghastly spiritual corpses.

17-19. These three verses give us an appalling description of the debauched heathen world, sunk deep, not only into brutality, but into diabolism.

20. But you have not so learned Christ, if, indeed, you have heard him and been taught in him, as is true in Jesus;

22. That you are to lay aside as to your former life the old man, who is corrupt as to the lusts of delusion. ” You see from these verses

the positive and unequivocal fact that every regenerated person is taught by the Holy Ghost the reality and their need of entire sanctification, so that all of the true children of God actually hunger and thirst after it. This Scripture positively unchristianizes all anti-holiness people. If a man is a Christian, his soul longs to be perfectly whole.

23. And to be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and

24. To put on the new man, who is created in harmony with God, in righteousness and holiness of the truth. ” Here we have an exegesis of our creation in the image and likeness of God.

What is that image and likeness? Here Paul answers the question. “ The image of God is righteousness in harmony with God’s revealed truth. ” Hence, it is not human righteousness arising from our good works, as a corrupt clergy would vainly tell you, but the righteousness of God in Christ imputed unto the truly penitent sinner, who, in utter desperation and profound realization of his utter meekness for hellfire, casts himself on the mercy of God in Christ. Then God freely forgives him for Christ’s sake alone, imputing to him his own righteousness, procured by the perfect obedience of Christ, both active (ever keeping the law), and passive (paying its penalty for us). This is the image of God; i.e., harmonization with the Divine character. Our conformity to the Divine law does not suffice; we must be in harmony with the character of God; i.e., like God, if we spend eternity with him in heaven. It takes entire sanctification, not imputing, as in case of righteousness, but imparting the Divine nature to our hearts, thus investing us with the likeness of God. The true reading is, “righteousness and holiness of truth;” i.e., as expounded by the truth in contradistinction to all sorts of clerical and diabolical counterfeits, by which millions are deluded and cast into hell. The Bible is the only expositor of the “righteousness and holiness” pertinent to the restoration of the Divine image and likeness which we lost in the fall. The inspired Book is full of warnings against the counterfeits of men and devils, flooding us with the testimony of the Holy Ghost, assuring us that we must have the righteousness wrought in the expiation of Christ and the holiness of the cleansing blood applied by the Holy Spirit through faith alone.

Verses 26-32



26. Be ye angry, and sin not; let not the sun go down on your provocation. ” The Greek word translated angry, is the same we have in Luke, who says our Savior “looked on them with anger, being grieved on account of the hardness of their hearts,” revealing our Savior’s holy grief as the definition of orgidzoo, anger.

Hence, we see that if you get angry, and sin not i.e., have no sin in it there will be nothing indulged but holy grief in contemplation of wrong; i.e., you will simply be angry in the sense in which God is angry. God sees all the evil in the world, and is infinitely grieved over it. The more holy we become, the more acutely we discern, disapprove, and grieve over all evil; i.e., we are angry, but sin not; i.e., there is no sin in our anger. The sun is going down every moment on some meridian of the earth.

Hence, the going down of the sun signifies the daily current events of life, involving the idea that we are to receive no provocation at any time, lest the sun go down onit. Wicked men and devils are constantly offering us provocation. But entire sanctification is the investiture of true wisdom, incessantly fortifying us against the reception of evil, though ever so alluringly and importunately enforced on us by human and demoniacal agencies. An insult is a filthy, loathing stench in the nostrils of purity. Shall I be gumpish enough to receive it? God forbid!

28. The man who cheats or defrauds in any way, or endeavors to acquire ill-gotten gains, is a thief in the sight of God. If you cheat a man out of a dollar, God condemns you for stealing the dollar. The little rogues steal in the night,, and expiate their crimes in the penitentiary.

The big rogues steal while looking you in the face. Then you honor them with a place on the judicial bench, where they condemn the little thieves. If a man can steal enough to become very rich, you will promote him to high offices of honor in Church and State. We see from this Scripture that a man is not justifiable for idleness because he is rich. It is his duty to labor with his own hands, that he may have to give to the needy.

29. Your mouth belongs to God. Hence, you can not let the devil use it for obscene, vain, trifling, or foolish utterances with impunity.

30. Grieve not the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you have been sealed unto the day of redemption. ” In regeneration, the Holy Spirit writes you up, and sends you into the world God’s letter, to be read by all men. (2 Corinthians 3:0) In sanctification, the letter is sealed by the Holy Ghost, securing the contents against robbery. If this is not done, Satan will steal away your letter, leaving you the old, empty envelope to meet the “Judge of all the earth.” “Redemption” is the glorious transfiguration of your body,. when “this mortal shall put on immortality, and death shall be swallowed up of life.” The day of “redemption” is the great day of all days when our glorious Lord shall return and call his saints to meet him in the air. The sealing of the Holy Ghost i.e. entire sanctification is the qualification for the momentous ordeal of meeting our descending Lord. Has the Holy Ghost written you into a letter of God to the world, and sealed you against all the intrigues of the devil?

31. Here we have a black catalogue of ugly things, which forever depart with the exit of sin and the ingress of the Holy Ghost. Lord, help us all to verify this commandment!

32. The saints of God are exceptions in the world for their goodness, kindness, and philanthropy, delighted with opportunities freely to forgive, and joyfully to confer benefactions. While Christ sitteth on the mediatorial throne, hidden beyond the glittering stars, his loving bride, exhibiting his image and likeness, still walks the earth, reflecting the loving kindness, tender mercies, and heavenly benefactions of her Divine Spouse.

1,2. Like our ascended Lord, we are to be a perpetual sacrifice on God’s altar, emitting the sweet savor of holiness to the Lord.

3. Here we see covetousness, the crying sin of the popular Churches of this day, and so magnetic as to escape exposition and condemnation from the pulpit, here catalogued with fornication and impurity, and interdicted so much as a mention among the saints.

4. And scandal or foolish talking or indecent jesting, which are unbecoming, but rather the giving of thanks. ” For many years a secular paper has not been permitted to enter my house, from the simple fact that they carry Satan’s carrion. You can not mention “scandal” with impunity. If you tamper with it, you will get polluted. You can not indulge in “foolish talk,” or even listen to it, without grieving the Holy Spirit; while “indecent jesting” is simply abominable in the sight of God and all good people. During the Confederate War, while General Grant was in his headquarters, surrounded by his military magnates, a Federal officer rushes in a great glee, looking around, says: “I believe there are no ladies present. I have something wonderfully good to tell.” At that moment the old General bluntly interjected, “But I will let you know there are gentlemen present.” The man took the hint, and never told the joke.

At that time General Grant did not profess Christianity, but his manly decorum revolted at the thought of hearing anything too obscene for repetition in the presence of ladies. It is scandalous, diabolical, and barbaric for men to indulge in conversation incompatible with the presence of women. This verse ought to be written up in a motto, and rendered conspicuous in every home, church, and business circle. Scandal, foolish talking, and indecent jesting among the laity, and even the ministry, cause wholesale backsliding, as it is impossible to indulge in these vices and frivolities without grieving the Holy Spirit. Inadvertent participation in these vanities will grieve away the Holy Spirit, and superinduce backsliding before you are aware. Thousands fall in this way, and wake up to find the Heavenly Dove mournfully absent, and wonder why he ever retreated away. Thomas a Kempis, the Roman Catholic confessor of entire sanctification, has written clearly and beautifully on this subject, especially warning the preachers.

5. Here again the Holy Ghost not only catalogues the covetous man right along with the fornicator and the debaucher, but he denominates him an idolater, certifying that he “has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.” This argument will bear the most logical scrutiny, as the covetous man piling up his hoarded self does not need it for sustenance, it follows, as a legitimate sequence, that he worships the sordid gold, and is therefore as base an idolater as ever bowed at the shrine of Jupiter.

6. Let no one deceive you “ with empty discourses; for through these things the wrath of God cometh on the sons of disobedience. ” The sad verification of this warning everywhere nowadays proclaims the awful apostasy of the latter days. The gospel has well-nigh gone out of the popular Churches. Paul defines the gospel as (Romans 1:16), “the dynamite of God unto salvation to every one that believeth.” Hence, every discourse which is not charged with God’s dynamite to blow sin out of the heart, is “empty” and degospelized. Songs, prayers, testimonies, and sermons without the Holy Ghost are all “empty,” illusory, and susceptible of utilization by the devil, as greased planks on which to slide people into hell. No wonder our Savior forbade his own apostles to preach the gospel till after they received the Holy Ghost.

What a pity that every preacher does not lie prostrate before God till he fills him with the Holy Ghost, before he assumes the awful responsibility of standing between the living and the dead.

7-9. God is original light, perfectly free from darkness. Satan has not a solitary ray to cheer the black midnight of his hapless soul.

10,11. Have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather convict them. ” “Convict” is the verb form of elegchos, which is the verdict of the criminal judge against the accused, condemning him to his merited retribution. We are all custodians and exponents of God’s law, revealed in the Bible. Therefore, it is our province, like the criminal judge, to know no favorites, giving the gospel trumpet no uncertain sound, lifting high the glittering sword, cutting right and left without distinction or mercy, never softening what God has made hard, nor smoothing what God has made rough; but ringing out the truth fearlessly of men and devils, though it condemn the priest, the prophet, the king, and the potentate.

12-14. As the sun illuminates the material world, investing every substance with his light, which is reflected indiscriminately, thus rendering visible the material world; so the great Sun of righteousness transmits his light to all of his saints, which by them is reflected throughout the spiritual world. Hence, we are all walking luminaries in the providence of God, sent forth to irradiate the globe. “ Therefore, he says, awake thou that sleepest and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine upon thee. ” Regeneration is the glorious resurrection of the human soul from the dead, rising out of Satan’s dreary kingdom, where black darkness and death eternally reign; the soul sweeps into the kingdom of God, opening his eyes to contemplate the glorious light pouring on him from the effulgent Christ, revealing to him the splendors, mysteries, and beauties of the spiritual world, which he never saw before.

15. This verse, in harmony with the Bible, denominates the people walking straight into hell “foolish,” and those who travel the heavenly highway as “wise.”

16. Buying in the opportunity, because the days are evil. ” When bright den went into eclipse, Satan’s reign of darkness, sin, and death sadly supervened. It has swept along like a desolating avalanche, nearly six thousand years, during which the “saved are few;” only here and there a traveler on the King’s highway, while the pell-mell multitudes rush at racehorse speed into hell. Therefore, it stands us in hand wisely to snatch every fleeting moment, thus “buying in the opportunity” to rescue the perishing.

Bibliographical Information
Godbey, William. "Commentary on Ephesians 4". "Godbey's Commentary on the New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ges/ephesians-4.html.
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