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Bible Commentaries
Ephesians 4

Hampton's Commentary on Selected BooksHampton's Commentary

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Verses 1-3

Walking Worthily Means Walking In Unity

Because God had given such great blessings to those in the church and could provide even above what we might ask or think, Paul pleaded with the brethren at Ephesus to live a life that is suited to our great calling. Our calling came from the gospel and is directed to the glory of Jesus Christ ( 2Th_2:14 ). This verse begins Paul's call for unity and suggests to us the need for Christian people to have such (4:1).

The call for unity continues with the call for the proper attitude. For division to truly end, we must have a self-emptying mind. Those who are lowly minded are like minded. That is, putting the needs of others in the forefront of our thinking where we usually put the needs of self ( Php_2:28 ). Of course, Christ is the perfect example of one who put aside self and sacrificed all for the good of others ( Mat_20:28 ).

Summers says the word meekness was used in Paul's day to describe a wild horse that had been tamed. "The horse still had all of its old power and fire and determination, but these were yielded to the controlling hand of his master who held the reins. He was a 'meek' horse. Meekness then meant surrendered power, obedient power." God suffered long with the sins of men ( Rom_2:4 ; Rom_9:22 ; 1Ti_1:16 ; 2Pe_3:15 ). If it were not for this characteristic of God, none of us could hope to be saved. We, in turn, need to be patient with one another's weaknesses and failings. Of the word "forbearing," Coffman says, "In a word, this means that a Christian should accept his place with other Christians, having an attitude that grants to them the same 'right to belong' which he claims for himself" (4:2).

Proper authority is also needed to have unity. The Bible is a Holy Spirit given book that is God's only basis for unity. The bond the Bible forms between believers who yield to its instructions does not merely lead to peace, but is peace. We must do our best to submit to the Spirit's direction so we can achieve unity and have peace (4:3).

Verses 4-6

God's Plan For Unity

To have unity, we also must have a plan. The Spirit's message will cause us to realize there is only one body, or church ( Eph_1:22-23 ). There is only one Holy Spirit to give us life and peace through his message. Our hope is eternal life in heaven with God and it serves as an anchor during life's troubling storms to sustain our lives (4:4; Heb_6:19 ).

If there is to be unity, there can only be one master. For the church, that master is the Lord Jesus Christ ( Eph_1:22-23 ; Mat_28:18 ; Act_2:36 ; Act_10:36 ; Act_10:43 ; Rom_10:12 ; 1Pe_3:22 ). It seems to this writer, the one faith is the sum of all that is believed. However, it should also be noted there is only one faith that saves and that is an active faith ( Jam_2:17-18 ). Only an active, obedient faith would cause one to be in the one body and under the one Lord ( Gal_5:6 ). Only baptism in the name of Jesus, for the remission of sins is able to put off the old man of sin and bring us into a new life (4:5; Act_2:38 ; Rom_6:3-4 ).

There is but one God, the great creator, who is over all things. There is nothing that exists without him or is outside of his authority. He rules, even now, in all the universe and we are sustained through his power ( Col_1:15-17 ; Act_17:24-28 ). All of the statements of this verse may have special reference to the Christian and his relationship to the Father. If not, it appears this last does because God can only be said to dwell in the lives of his purchased people (4:6; 1Co_6:19-20 ).

Verses 7-10

Gifts Christ Gave to the Church

In a few verses Paul is going to deal with special miraculous abilities given to some in the early church to sustain it until God's word could be set down in inspired writings. This verse may refer to those gifts. However, it could safely be said each Christian has been given ability by the Father and should put it to work in a particular area of the church. All tasks in the church are equally important (4:7; compare 1Co_12:12-26 ).

Christ ascended up to heaven from the earth as a conqueror. Men had lived in bondage to, or fear of, sin and death prior to Christ's coming because there was no means of escape. When Jesus was raised from the dead, man's freedom was purchased and those righteous of the past, who had submitted to God's will, and those of Christ's own time, who would submit, gladly followed him out of captivity (4:8). For God to ascend from the earth, he would logically have had to first descend to the earth ( Joh_3:13 ). The earth would be the lower parts in reference to heaven where Jesus had been abiding. However, it also could be that Paul here has in mind Christ's burial in the heart of the earth. Either thought is certainly true and both remind us of Christ's great sacrifice (4:9).

Jesus ascended as King of kings and Lord of lords to rule over all from his throne, thus fulfilling God's great plan ( Mat_28:18-20 ; Act_2:29-36 ). He is above the heaven the birds fly in, the heaven the stars and planets are in and is over the heaven in which God resides as a ruler (4:10).

Verse 11

Offices Christ Established

As ruler over all, particularly in the church, Jesus set apostles and prophets in the church to reveal his will to man. They were able to do this because of the inspiration of the Holy Spirit and the miracles he empowered them to work ( Act_1:6-8 ; Joh_16:13-14 ; Heb_2:14 ). Evangelists are men who carry the good news to a lost and dying world. Coffman says, "The omission of 'some' before 'teachers' indicates that the meaning is teaching-pastors, or pastor-teachers." Their job would be to shepherd the flock by feeding them on God's word and confronting false teachers ( 1Pe_5:14 ; Tit_1:9 ). Evangelists and pastor-teachers may have been strictly a reference to miraculous offices in this passage, but we should remember these are both non-miraculous offices today. In either case, they would be obligated to proclaim and defend the inspired Word of God (4:11).

Verses 12-13

Getting Ready for Service

The word for "equipping" here comes from a word which suggests setting a bone that has been broken or mending a fishing net. The thought is of getting ready for service. One means of getting Christians ready for use is getting them ready to serve, or perform even the most lowly physical task. Further, there is the work of building up the body through teaching. Our goal as individual Christians is to practice the things of the preceding verse until we become perfect like God ( Mat_5:48 ). To have any hope of reaching such perfection, we must be united in the faith and knowledge of Jesus Christ. Perfection is not measured by comparing ourselves with others but by stretching to become like Christ (4:12-13).

Verses 14-16

Growing In Love

Again, to be perfect, we have to quit being childish ( 1Co_14:20 ). Children are gullible and will often believe whatever was last told them. Like a cork on the waves, such would be unstable, drifting wherever the wind is blowing at the time. Unfortunately, there are those false teachers who will take advantage of every possible means to mislead such childish ones. They use such to ambush the young or weak in God's flock (4:14; Act_20:28-31 ; 2Ti_4:15 ; 2Pe_2:9-22 ).

Paul wanted the Ephesian brethren to be closely joined like a body and united, or knitted together, like the rejoining of a broken bone ( 1Co_12:13 ; 1Co_12:20 ). Each member has a work to do, thus supplying the body with some essential ( 1Co_12:21-26 ; Rom_12:5-8 ).

Effective working only takes place when each member gives all he is capable of giving. All of this will promote the growth of the whole body which will be strengthened by love. The Ephesian church evidently failed to heed Paul's instructions here because Christ was prepared, in Revelation 2:45 , to remove their candlestick for leaving their first love. The church can only grow unto perfection if it grows in love (4:15-16).

Verses 17-20

The Old Man Walked in Sin

If the church would grow to the perfection of Christ, it must turn from walking in the ways of the world. Particularly, Christians would not pursue selfish ways (4:17). When man follows his own desires, he fails to understand the ways of righteousness. God's ways become foreign to him. He is ignorant, not because God failed to make knowledge available through inspiration's pen, but because of his own willfulness. Ultimately, God gives such a man ample opportunity to harden his heart and turn completely away from good (4:18; Rom_1:18-32 ; 2Th_2:3-12 ).

When one ignores righteousness long enough, his conscience quits hurting, and he runs wild in sin ( 1Ti_4:1-2 ). He involves himself in lustful activities. His only purpose becomes the filling of his own desires and without any shame whatsoever (4:19). Paul knew they had been taught the truth and would know such a lifestyle was not Christ-like (4:20; Act_20:17-21 ; Act_20:25-27 ).

Verses 21-24

The New Life of Those Taught By Christ

Paul did not have any doubt about the teaching they had received. Instead, he is preparing to remind them of Christ's teachings and the life they should live after accepting them (4:21). The old Gentile way of living should be cast aside like a worn out garment. This old man was sin dominated as described above (4:22).

The mind should then be Spirit directed through the truth (4:23; Rom_12:12 ). In place of the cast away lifestyle, the Christian will put on the new man. To put on the new man, one must be in Christ, which can only be accomplished in baptism ( 2Co_5:17 ; Gal_3:26-27 ). In place of pursuing lusts, the new man lives in accord with God's will and strives to keep himself pure (4:24).

Verses 25-29

Changes in the New Man

The old man would not hesitate to lie if it would help him fill one of his uncontrolled desires. The new man always tells the truth, especially to his brethren because we are all members of the same body (4:25; Col_3:9-11 ). The old man would allow anger to run wild and the devil to gain control of him. The new man gets angry but keeps it under control so that he does not involve himself in sin. A means of doing that is not allowing anger to remain in us past the end of one day. Resentments tend to build and fester into a putrefying sore. The devil is an enemy to every Christian. He must not be allowed to have a toehold in our lives through anger harbored in the heart (4:26-27; Col_3:8 ).

The old man would steal to acquire wealth and the things his heart desired. The new man would work to earn money to purchase the things necessary to provide for his own needs. Additionally, he would use what God gave him to help those in need. In other words, a Christian will work so others can benefit from his prosperity (4:28).

The old man would tell suggestive stories and allow foul language to be an integral part of his vocabulary. The new man uses his speech to teach saint and sinner alike the ways of the Lord. Those who will heed his instructions will thus have access to God's glorious grace (4:29; Col_3:8 ; Col_4:6 ; Mat_12:36-37 ).

Verses 30-32

Do Not Grieve the Holy Spirit

Any involvement of Christians in the activities of the "old man" would grieve the Holy Spirit ( Isa_63:10 ). Whenever we reject the teachings of the Bible, we are rejecting the Holy Spirit, thereby giving him great sorrow ( Psalms 78:40: 95:10-11 ). Remember, the Holy Spirit is the seal, or guarantee, of our ultimate salvation in heaven ( Eph_1:13 ). None would want to risk giving him cause for sorrow since that would lead to our eternal sorrow (4:30).

Paul lists a series of actions the old man might have been involved in that the new man must avoid. A bitter man has resentment built up in him that causes him to see only mud and no stars. The anger here is uncontrolled, explosive in nature and leads to rash actions such as murder. Wrath is another description of such anger. If you have ever seen two, or more, people in a shouting match, you have seem clamor. The word for evil speaking could also be translated blasphemy and suggests speaking against God or man. Our word sadistic, which describes one who enjoys inflicting pain on others, could be used in place of the word malice (4:31).

In place of the attitudes listed in the previous verse, Paul would encourage the Ephesian brethren to show others kindness. Also, they were urged to be tenderhearted, or have compassion, and a forgiving spirit toward others. Christians are forgiven because of Christ's loving sacrifice ( Mat_6:14-15 ; Mat_18:21-35 ). Clearly, all who have been forgiven of sin ought to be prepared by that forgiveness to forgive others (4:32; Rom_6:23 ).

Bibliographical Information
Hampton, Gary. "Commentary on Ephesians 4". "Hampton's Commentary on Selected Books". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ghc/ephesians-4.html. 2014.
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