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Friday, July 12th, 2024
the Week of Proper 9 / Ordinary 14
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Bible Commentaries
Ephesians 4

Beet's Commentary on Selected Books of the New TestamentBeet on the NT

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Verses 1-16


CHS. 4.-6.


I, therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, exhort you to walk worthily of the calling with which ye were called, with all lowliness of mind and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love, giving diligence to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

One body there is and one Spirit, according as also ye were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one Baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.

But to each one of us has been given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ. For which cause one says, “When He went up on high, He led captive a captivity and gave gifts to men.” (Psalms 68:18.) Now this, “He went up,” what is it but that He also went down into the lower parts of the earth? He that went down is Himself also He that went up beyond and above all the heavens, that He might fill all things. And Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, with a view to the full equipment of the saints, for the work of ministry, for building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the oneness of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a full-grown man, to the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ; that we may no longer be babes, wafted about and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in craftiness, after the wiles of error; but speaking the truth in love may grow up into Him in all things, who is the Head, even Christ, from whom all the body, being jointed together and knit together through every joint of supply, according to the working in measure of each one part, makes the increase of the body for the building up of itself in love.

Since only upon revealed truth can morals rest securely, the moral teaching of this Epistle is not only preceded by the profound doctrines of DIV. I., but is also in this section, after an introductory exhortation in Ephesians 4:1-3, intertwined with more specific teaching about (Ephesians 4:4-6) the unity of the Church arising from the unity of God, and about (Ephesians 4:7-11) the variety of gifts with which the Risen Saviour has endowed it, in order (Ephesians 4:12-16) to further the harmonious development of all the members of the Church.

Ephesians 4:1. I exhort you, then; introduces, as do the same words in Romans 12:1, a practical application of the foregoing teaching. The great truth that God is working in us beyond our thought ought to mould our conduct.

Prisoner in the Lord: Christ the Master being the element in which Paul lives, and so living finds himself in prison at Rome. For all that he is and does is in the Lord. Similar thought in Philippians 1:13 : a slightly different conception in Ephesians 3:1.

I, the prisoner: Paul’s own personality and circumstances appealing to his readers: so Ephesians 3:1; Galatians 5:2; 2 Corinthians 10:1.

Walk worthily: same words and sense in Colossians 1:10; similar words in Philippians 1:27.

Calling: as in Ephesians 1:18. The grandeur of the Gospel call lays upon us an obligation to choose such steps in life as are in harmony with the prospect of blessing which that call opens to our view.

Ephesians 4:2. Lowliness-of mind, meekness, long-suffering: same three words together in Colossians 3:12, where see note. The first two are joined under one preposition and strengthened by the word all. Our walk in life must be accompanied by a correct estimate of our utter powerlessness for good and by a consequent absence of self-assertion; and this at all times and in all circumstances. And with this must be a disposition slow to give way to unfavourable influences from without.

Forbearing one another: same words in same connection in Colossians 3:13; see note. This participial clause both continues Paul’s account of the disposition he desires in his readers and describes the practical working, and the source, of longsuffering, the point last mentioned. If Christian love be the element of our life, we shall refrain from anything which would injure or grieve our brethren, whatever provocation they may give.

Ephesians 4:3. A second participial clause giving a motive for the forbearance just described, viz. that want of it may endanger Christian unity.

Giving-diligence: same word and sense in Galatians 2:10; a cognate word in 2 Corinthians 7:11-12; 2 Corinthians 8:7-8; 2 Corinthians 8:16. It suggests difficulty, and a resolute effort to overcome it.

The Spirit: of God; see Ephesians 4:4.

The unity of the Spirit: harmony wrought by the Spirit among the members of the one Body of Christ. Similarly, the spirit of life produces harmony in the variously endowed members of the human body, making each member helpful to all the others. In a dead body this harmony is lost; and each member pursues its own way along the path of corruption. Since this unity is a work of the Spirit of God, but is conditional on man’s self-surrender to the Spirit, we are bidden to keep it. And, since this is sometimes difficult, inasmuch as everything which needs forbearance tends to destroy unity in the Church, Paul bids us to give diligence to keep etc.

Peace: harmony with those around us: so Ephesians 2:14-15; Ephesians 2:17; Romans 14:19; 1 Corinthians 14:33; Acts 7:26. It is represented as a silken cord binding into one the members of the Church: in the bond of peace. Contrast Acts 8:23, bond of injustice. This mutual peace, which is the encompassing element of the unity of the Spirit, has the same source as the peace of God which fills the breast of each believer: Colossians 3:15; Philippians 4:7.

Ephesians 4:4. Seven objective unities, underlying the subjective unity which Paul desires his readers to maintain.

One body: the Church, which occupies a unique relation to Christ as His Body. So Ephesians 2:16; Romans 12:5; 1 Corinthians 12:12-13.

One Spirit: the Holy Spirit, the one animating principle of the Church, giving to it life and unity as the one Body of Christ. Thus every living human body is a pattern of the Church. And this unity is in harmony with the truth that the good news of salvation opens, to all who receive it, the same prospect of good things to come: according as ye were called in one hope. Cp. Ephesians 1:18. This one hope animates all the members of the one body, and has its source in the one Spirit. Cp. Colossians 3:5. So in secular matters the uniting power of a common hope often binds together a company of men, and makes it a living unity.

One Lord, or Master: whom all obey. So 1 Corinthians 8:6, cp. 1 Timothy 2:5. Each of His servants relies upon the same Gospel promise: one faith. And each has entered the company of His professed followers by the one gate of Baptism.

One God: final and supreme unity. So 1 Corinthians 8:6; 1 Timothy 2:5. Since the word God does not need a defining genitive in order to give a complete sense, it is perhaps better to understand it absolutely: there is one God who is also Father of all. Grammatically, the word all three times repeated, may denote all things, or men, or believers. Probably here the last. For Paul is evidently thinking about members of the one body. Throughout § 9 we have no reference to the outside world.

Above all: reigning supreme over all His people: so Romans 9:5.

Through all: using them as instruments to work out His purposes: cp. Romans 11:36; an important parallel.

In all: dwelling in, and filling, their hearts.

Notice here seven unities, arranged in two groups of three and surmounted by one supreme unity presented in a threefold relation to us. Among these unities are the three Persons of the Trinity, each possessing a unity of His own and Himself a centre of unity to the servants of God: One Spirit…

One Lord… One God. Same order in 1 Corinthians 12:4-6, a close parallel. As ever, Paul rises from the Son to the Father: and in the presence of the Father he lingers. For all unity in the creature has its source in this Supreme Unity.

Ephesians 4:7. After the unity of the Church, based upon the eternal unities of the Godhead, now follow the manifold gifts to the various members of the Church.

To each one of us: no member left without an endowment.

Was given grace: the undeserved favour of God revealed in the gift of capacities for usefulness: a thought frequent with Paul, e.g. Romans 12:6; 1 Corinthians 12:4, also 1 Peter 4:10. The kind and degree of the grace given to each one is determined by the measure of the free gift of Christ, i.e. by His wisdom and love: a close parallel in Romans 12:3; Romans 12:6. We may therefore cheerfully acquiesce in the absence of some gifts which others have, knowing that other gifts have been chosen for us by the unerring wisdom of Christ.

Ephesians 4:8-10. A parenthesis, in thought though not in form. It links the spiritual endowments given by Christ to all His servants with the historic facts of His life on earth; a connection ever present to the thought of Paul. This is introduced by a quotation connecting the deliverance wrought by Christ with deliverances wrought by God for ancient Israel and celebrated in their ancient songs. The speaker of the words here quoted is not mentioned: and, since no one is suggested by the context and God is addressed in the second person, it is best to understand the speaker to be the Psalmist. Cp. 1 Corinthians 6:16; Hebrews 2:6. The introductory formula, For which cause one says, occurs again in Ephesians 5:14; James 4:6, and not elsewhere in the N.T. It asserts that the words quoted were in some sense prompted by the gifts of Christ to the Church. This demands explanation.

Psalms 68:1 f is evidently a song of triumphant praise to God for a great deliverance from enemies of Israel and of God: cp. Ephesians 4:1; Ephesians 4:12; Ephesians 4:20-21. The Psalmist compared it to that wrought by God when He led Israel through the wilderness and revealed Himself in majesty on Sinai. He accosts the conqueror as, after complete victory, returning in triumph to heaven, whence He came in power to save His people: Thou hast gone up on high. The triumphal procession is, as usual, accompanied by captives, these attesting the greatness of the victory: Thou hast led captive a captivity. As usual, there are also gifts which the conqueror has received, either from the gratitude of those whom He has rescued or from others who seek His favour. And we are told that these gifts were received by Him among men; who are represented as standing round and observing the triumph of God. Among these astonished observers are the rebellious ones, who had vainly refused to bow to His yoke but now witness His complete victory. Of this victory, a purpose is that God may reign securely, undisturbed upon His throne, as King among men. The truth underlying this poetic imagery is that, by conspicuously rescuing His people, God has manifested His power in a way which even His enemies cannot fail to recognise and that, the victory being now complete, His power is again hidden from the eyes of men. This truth, the Psalmist has represented under the figure of a conqueror’s return from the field of victory.

Now Paul saw that all such earlier deliverances culminated in the deliverance wrought by Christ, through His life and death and resurrection among men on earth, for those who believe the Gospel. In Him, God had come conspicuously forth from His unseen dwelling place in heaven; and had wrought for His people complete salvation by victory over their spiritual enemies. The ascension of Christ marked the completion of this victory; and was thus the triumphant return of the Conqueror to His home on high. Whatever therefore the Psalmist said about an earlier deliverance was true in still greater measure of the ascension of Christ. Moreover, whatever God did for ancient Israel was made possible only by the death of Christ on the cross, which reconciled mercy to sinful man with the justice of God. Consequently, the deliverance celebrated by the Psalmist was due, and is here attributed by Paul, to the incarnate Son of God. Hence the introductory formula: for which cause one says.

Among many songs of praise for deliverances wrought by God, Paul chose one containing a poetic figure which has an exact and literal counterpart in the ascension of Christ from earth to heaven. And since, through the victory over the powers of darkness gained by Christ on the cross, multitudes of His enemies had been brought to bow to Him in cheerful submission, Paul was able appropriately to retain in his quotation the word captivity, which belongs only to the drapery of the Psalm. Moreover, the practical gain to men of Christ’s victory, of which gain the gifts mentioned in Ephesians 4:7 were a part, suggested retention of the word gifts, which also belongs to the drapery of the Psalm. And, in order to make clear the relation of Christ’s victory to the spiritual gifts about which he is here speaking, Paul does not hesitate to change the form of the quotation and to write He gave gifts to men. For the word altered is only a part of the dramatic picturing of the passage quoted. And the alteration makes at once evident the connection between the quotation and the matter which in this section Paul has in hand. The gifts received by the Conqueror revealed the completeness of His victory: the gifts which the ascended Saviour gave to His servants on earth revealed the completion of His work for them. The essential point of connection between the quoted Psalm and the gifts bestowed by Christ is that, just as in ancient days God sometimes came forth from the unseen world and manifested Himself to men by working for His servants unexpected deliverance, and then again retired from their view, so still more conspicuously in Paul’s day He had wrought deliverance by the incarnation and death and ascension of Christ.

A Targum reads in Psalms 68:18 Thou hast given to them gifts; as does the Syriac Version. If this reading was known to Paul, it may have suggested the change here adopted. But this is not needful to explain the change. It was justified by the fact that the alteration pertains only to the drapery of the Psalm. And it was needful in order to show the bearing of the quotation upon Christ’s gifts to the Church. [In the LXX., the Sinai MS. reads ανθρωποις. If this reading was in Paul’s mind, it might possibly have made easier to him the change from the singular number in the Psalm to the plural in the quotation.]

This quotation is the first we have met with in the four Epistles now before us; a marked contrast to the Epistles of his third missionary journey, already annotated. Or rather, in its abundance of quotations from the O.T., the second group of Paul’s Epistles differs greatly from all his other Epistles. This difference, we cannot explain. For reasons unknown to us, the O.T. was, during his third missionary journey specially near to the Apostle’s thought.

Ephesians 4:9. Now this, He went up: viz. Christ. For Paul has asserted, and now assumes, that in His ascension Psalms 68:1 f finds its most complete fulfilment. Inasmuch as the original dwelling place of God and of the Son of God is the highest heaven, Paul justly points out that the ascent of Christ implies that He had already come down from heaven to save His people. This is asserted by God in Exodus 3:8; and by Christ in John 3:13; John 6:62. Certainly Christ’s return in triumph to the skies implies His previous incarnation. Moreover, all this reminds us at once that Christ’s ascent was preceded by a still deeper descent, that before He went up to heaven He went down into the realms of the dead. And Paul taught that He died in order to make mercy to the guilty consistent with the justice of God, and therefore possible. Consequently, had He not gone down into the grave, there had been no triumphant ascent of Christ as (Acts 5:31) a Prince and Saviour. And so closely was this thought interwoven into the whole teaching of Paul that we cannot doubt that he here refers to it. The descent of Christ into the abode of the dead is also the simplest explanation of the words into the lower parts of the earth. For this can hardly mean that earth is lower than heaven, which is self-evident. It recalls rather the constant conception of the ancient world that just as the bodies of the dead are beneath the earth so even their souls are in the under-world. So in Philippians 2:10 dead persons capable of worship are described as under the earth. The same thought underlies the O.T. conception of Hades. If this exposition be correct, we have here an express assertion that Christ went down into the world of the dead. And this agrees with John 20:17 where Christ risen from the dead says that He had not yet ascended to God, thus implying that His Spirit did not go from the cross to the throne. But, apparently, the chief significance of these words is not so much the descent of Christ into the realms of the dead as a tremendous fact involved in this descent viz. that He who ascended in triumph had previously died. The readers of the Epistle knew well that He died for their sins and to save them from sin. Had He not died, there had been no spiritual gifts for men. For these were the purchase of His blood. The descent of Christ into Hades is mentioned here, apparently, as a strong pictorial contrast to His triumphant ascent to heaven.

The connection between His death and triumph is also plainly stated in Colossians 2:14-15.

The words before us do not imply that Christ went to the abode of the lost awaiting their final doom. For even the righteous dead are in the under-world: so Acts 2:34.

Ephesians 4:10. Lingering upon the contrast between the death and ascension of Christ, Paul asserts the identity of the dead and the risen Saviour; and further describes the grandeur and the aim of His ascension.

Beyond-and-above all the heavens: until the loftiest seat on high became lower than the ascended Lord. Same word and same thought in Ephesians 1:21. Similar thought in Hebrews 4:14. It depicts an extreme contrast to the lower parts of the earth.

All the heavens: suggesting a variety of abodes in heaven. Cp. John 14:2. This variety is closely related to the various ranks in Ephesians 1:21.

May fill all things: primarily the palaces of heaven. These the Son, at His incarnation, left. At His ascension He returned to claim His own again. He now fills all things, not only as the Eternal Son but as the God-Man, the slain Lamb. His return to heaven marked the completion of the work for which He came to earth. And we can easily conceive that for this completion it was needful that His spirit, driven through man’s sin into exile from its body, should descend to the lowest depth reached by His servants, in order that from that depth He might raise them to be sharers of His throne. To this end He must needs claim for His own, by entering its gloomy chambers, even the realms of the dead. Therefore, in order that the whole universe might become the fulness of Him who fills all in all, He both descended and rose.

Ephesians 4:8-10 teach the important truth that the inward experiences of Christians rest upon the outward historic facts of the human life of Christ. His descent into the grave has for us the deepest personal interest: His triumphant ascent to heaven was our spiritual enrichment. That this truth is embodied in an O.T. quotation, reminds us that the greatest deliverances in the sacred songs of Israel have been surpassed by the mightier work wrought by Christ. Led from step to step by this quotation, we have followed the Saviour into the dark regions of the dead; and from afar have witnessed His exaltation until the brightest abodes of heaven have been left behind in His triumphal progress. A close parallel in Philippians 2:9-11.

Ephesians 4:11. And HE gave: emphatic addition to is Himself also etc. in Ephesians 4:9. It also takes up the thought in Ephesians 4:7 which was interrupted by the reference to the ascension and descent of Christ, to each one has been given grace.

Apostles… Prophets: close parallel in 1 Corinthians 12:28, first apostles, secondly prophets.

Apostles: see under 1 Corinthians 15:7; Romans 1:1 : the highest rank in the Church.

Prophets: the second rank. See under 1 Corinthians 14:40.

Evangelists or gospellers: see under Romans 1:1. Only found in 2 Timothy 4:5; Acts 21:8. Its position here after apostles and prophets suggests a definite order of men: its form suggests an order of preachers. That they are called a gift of Christ, implies that they were endowed with special capacity for usefulness, as were the apostles and prophets.

Shepherds, or pastors: same word in Luke 2:8. A frequent and appropriate metaphor for those who have charge of others in the Church. So Ezekiel 34:2; Ezekiel 34:9-10; Ezekiel 34:23; John 10:16; 1 Peter 2:25; Hebrews 13:20 : cognate verb in John 21:16; Acts 20:28; 1 Peter 5:2. It denotes evidently a class of men whose work is to find food for, to protect, and to guide, the members of the Church.

Teachers: men whose work is to impart Gospel truth. Close parallel in 1 Corinthians 12:28, thirdly teachers. Cp. Acts 13:1, prophets and teachers. The pastors and teachers are grammatically closely joined as describing either the same office or offices closely allied. Since the food of the flock of Christ is Gospel truth, these two words describe probably the same office. Now in Acts 20:25 the elders or bishops are exhorted to shepherd the flock of God. And in 1 Timothy 3:2 Paul requires that a bishop be apt to teach. We may therefore take these titles as describing the elders, not however as filling an office but as endowed by Christ with capacity fitting them for it. Such capable officers are indeed Christ’s best gifts to His Church. Moreover, if outside the circle of the elders there were others possessing in a marked degree the gift of teaching, these would come under the assertion of this verse. For all capacities for Christian work are gifts of the Risen Lord.

Notice here not only gifts for each member but special gifts fitting certain members for special offices. Such gifts are an enrichment to the whole Church, which needs for its various officers divinely-given capacities corresponding to the work of each.

Ephesians 4:12-16. Aim of the gifts just mentioned, viz. the full development of the Church in every part; with an exposition in detail of this development.

Full-equipment: for the work and battle of the Christian life. Cognate words in 1 Corinthians 1:10; 2 Corinthians 13:9; 2 Corinthians 13:11 : see notes.

Of the saints: a title noting the sacred relation to God of all Church-members. This first clause states the general aim of Christ’s gift of officers to His Church. Then follow subordinate aims needful for its attainment.

Ministry: see under Romans 12:8. The absence of any reference here to the specific office of a deacon, the mention above of various Church officers, and the frequency of this word in the general sense of any office, suggest that it is here used in this more general sense. So 1 Corinthians 12:5, varieties of ministries.

Work of ministry: result to be attained by this official ministration. For this practical end, Christ endowed certain Church-members with special capacities.

For building up etc.: further aim, parallel with and defining that just mentioned. It reproduces the metaphor of Ephesians 2:2-22. As in English, so in Greek the same word, building, denotes both the structure erected and the act of erection.

The body of Christ: Paul’s favourite metaphor, found already in Ephesians 1:23. This combination of two metaphors links with the idea of the progress of a rising building that of the growth of a living body and the vital relation of the Church to Christ. Similar combination in Ephesians 4:16. This work of ministry and building of the body of Christ, we may perhaps understand as means leading to the full equipment of the saints. [The prepositions προς and εις are used here together, as in Romans 15:2, apparently for the further and nearer objects in view.] God designs that, through the agency of the officers of the Church and through the consequent progress of the Church as a whole, each individual Christian, standing as he does in special relation to God, may attain his full development.

Ephesians 4:13. In Ephesians 4:13 Paul stated that the gifts of Christ to the Church were designed to continue till all His servants attain full development. This was really a statement of Christ’s purpose in bestowing these gifts. Grammatically, Ephesians 4:14-16 announce a further purpose to be attained by the purpose implied in Ephesians 4:13 or by the purpose asserted in Ephesians 4:12. Practically, they expound in detail these purposes; negatively in Ephesians 4:14, positively in Ephesians 4:15-16.

Ephesians 4:14. A state from which Christ designs to save His people. The word no-longer implies that it was actual and frequent among the Christians of Paul’s day.

Babes; keeps up by contrast the metaphor of full-grown in Ephesians 4:13. So 1 Corinthians 3:1 in contrast to Ephesians 2:6, where we have the same words. Then follows a picture of spiritual babyhood.

Wafted-about: like a wave of the sea. Same metaphor in James 1:6, he who doubts is like a wave of the sea carried by wind: a close parallel.

Instability under external pressure is a mark both of weak faith and of spiritual childishness.

Carried-about or around; emphasises an idea already present in wafted-about, viz. useless movement hither and thither.

Every wind of teaching: the changing cause of this ceaseless and useless motion. On babes, teaching operates like wind on water.

Every wind: recalling the infinite variety of such influences. The immature Christian is carried along by what he hears, good or bad. He is therefore at the mercy of every influence brought to bear upon him, and is borne hither and thither in ceaseless and useless movement.

In the trickery of men: the source of this teaching, represented as the surrounding element and atmosphere of this vain movement.

Trickery: literally dice-playing, the gamester’s art.

In craftiness etc.: parallel with, and expounding, the foregoing.

Craftiness: as in 2 Corinthians 4:2 : a disposition to do anything to gain one’s ends. The wiles, or deliberate-system, literally the method, of error: a way of working peculiar to those who are away from the truth. This is the path and goal of those by whom the immature ones are led.

This verse opens a dark picture of the Churches in Paul’s day: for this teaching of error must be that of professed Christians. But the picture is no darker than that in 2 Corinthians 12:21. We have here men wandering in, and dominated by, error. While professing to teach Divine truth, they do anything to gain their ends, using even the trickery of a dice-player. By such teachers, some immature Christians are carried about from one belief to another like the tossing waves of the sea. Against their craft nothing can stand firmly except robust Christian manhood. To guard His servants from this peril, by raising them to men in Christ, the Risen Lord has enriched His Church with abundant and various spiritual gifts.

Ephesians 4:15-16. Positive side of Christ’s purpose for His people.

Speaking-truth: either statements corresponding with fact, as in Galatians 4:16; or teaching or belief corresponding with reality. This latter sense is at once suggested here by the contrast with error in Ephesians 4:14, and by the whole context. [The participle preceding a finite verb recalls the same construction in Ephesians 3:18.] Paul teaches that knowledge of the truth is a necessary condition of Christian growth. Consequently, it matters little whether the words in love be joined to the words preceding them or to those following, i.e. whether love be the surrounding element of the truth we speak or of our growth. In either case Paul teaches that for growth there must be both love and knowledge of the truth. Cp. Ephesians 3:18.

We-may-grow; keeps before us the idea of progress. So Ephesians 4:13, come to a full-grown man.

Into Him: our spiritual development bringing us into closer inward contact with Christ.

In all things: every part of our nature being, by this development, united more closely to Christ.

Who is etc.: Christ into whom we are to grow is related to the Church as is the head to a living body. Same favourite metaphor in Ephesians 1:22; Colossians 1:18. And He it is from whom the Church, His body, derives unity and growth.

All the body: parallel with we all in Ephesians 4:13. Same words in same connection in Colossians 2:19. They represent the entire Church as one whole.

Being-fitted-together: same word and same present participle in Ephesians 2:21. It suggests harmonious and close union like the various parts of a living body.

Knit-together: same word in Colossians 2:19; a close parallel to this verse. It adds to the idea of adaptation that of actual coming together.

Joint: same word and sense as in Colossians 2:19, through the joints and bands receiving supply and being brought together. The similarity of these verses seems to compel us to understand through every joint as the means by which this close union of the various members is brought about; rather than as the means of the growth afterwards mentioned. The added words of the supply teach that the manifold contact of member with member in the Church, which binds these members into one compact body, is also a means of supplying the spiritual needs of the Church and thus helping its spiritual growth. Same thought in Colossians 2:19.

The working in measure of each one part: each member of the Church being active for the general good, according to the spiritual endowment of each. Cp. Romans 12:3. Just so, in a healthy body, each member is active, and the activity of each contributes to the general good. And in proportion to this activity of the several parts is the health of the whole: according to the working etc.

Makes the increase (or growth) of the body: chief assertion of Ephesians 4:16, corresponding to may-grow in Ephesians 4:15. This growth is derived from Christ, and is conditioned by compact union of the members and by the normal activity of each.

For the building-up of itself: the metaphor of a rising building added, as in Ephesians 4:12, to that of a living and growing body.

In love: the encompassing element of Christian progress. Same words in Ephesians 4:15; Ephesians 3:18.

In § 9 Paul enters upon the moral teaching of this Epistle. After praise and prayer on his readers’ behalf in Ephesians 1-3, interwoven with loftiest doctrinal teaching, he now exhorts them to action worthy of the Gospel call. Of such worthy conduct, the first point emphasised is Christian unity. Paul suggests that the preservation of unity requires effort, and a mutual forbearance possible only to the lowly in heart. Then follows a statement of the objective and eternal unities which underlie all Christian unity. From these he passes to Christ’s various gifts to the members of the Church. He reminds us that these gifts were from the ascended Saviour; and that His ascension was a triumph grander than the many triumphs of God celebrated in the ancient songs of Israel. After this passing reference to Christ’s ascension and to His previous descent into the grave, Paul specifies further His gifts to the Church, mentioning specially the various grades of Church officers. These were given for the full development of the Church, which is the body of Christ. It can rise above the vacillations of childhood only by spiritual growth derived from Christ its Head, a growth uniting it more closely to Him, and nourished by the active co-operation of each member in compact union with his fellows.

That in this Epistle the spiritual union of believers with Christ and with each other is treated of before morality, reveals Paul’s estimate of its importance. The new life in Christ ever draws together those united to Him; and is therefore hindered by all disunion. Therefore, since the mind of Christ moulding human conduct is the one source of the highest morality, whatever separates Christians is hostile to morality.

Verses 17-24


This then I say and testify in the Lord, that ye no longer walk according as the Gentiles walk in vanity of their mind, being darkened in the understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance which is in them because of the hardening of their hearts; men who, being past feeling, have given up themselves to wantonness for the working of all uncleanness with greediness. But not so have ye learnt Christ; if indeed ye have heard Him and have been taught in Him, according as it is truth in Jesus that ye must needs put away, as concerns your former manner of life, the old man which is corrupting according to the desires of deceit; and be renewed by the Spirit of your mind, and put on the new man, which, after God, has been created in righteousness and holiness of truth.

After emphasising the need of unity and mutual help among Christians, Paul now asserts the need of a total change of life, a complete renunciation of the sins of heathenism. This he prefaces in Ephesians 4:17 by a solemn protestation; and then in Ephesians 4:18-19 depicts, as a warning, the moral and spiritual state of the heathen. He then says that Christ (Ephesians 4:20-21) requires a complete surrender (Ephesians 4:22) of the old life and (Ephesians 4:23-24) a life altogether new.

Ephesians 4:17. This then I say; resumes the exhortation interrupted by the assertion in Ephesians 4:4 of the great unities underlying the unity which in Ephesians 4:3 Paul bids his readers endeavour to maintain.

Protest: as in Galatians 5:3. He calls God to witness the truth of what he is about to say.

In the Lord: like in Christ in Romans 9:1. This protest is an outflow of Paul’s union with Christ.

That ye no longer walk; recalls their earlier contrary life. Along the same path also the Gentiles now walk. This path Paul bids his readers henceforth avoid.

Now follows-as a warning, a description of the forbidden path.

Vainly: cp. 1 Corinthians 3:20, the reasonings of the wise… are vain. Their mind is at work, but with no good result. And this useless activity is the mental element of their action: in the vanity of their mind.

Ephesians 4:18. In two parallel participial clauses this useless mental effort is traced to its source.

The understanding: the mental eye which looks through objects around to their underlying significance. Same word in Colossians 1:21. Upon this mental eye falls no light: therefore the heathen are in this all-important faculty darkened. This statement, the rest of Ephesians 4:18 further develops.

Alienated: same word in Ephesians 2:12.

The life of God: the immortal life which God Himself lives and which He gives to His servants. Cp. the peace of God, in Philippians 4:7. To this, the only real life, the heathen are strangers. So terrible is their position. The ignorance which is in them: stronger than their ignorance. In their hearts dwells an absence of knowledge of all that is best worth knowing. And, since knowledge of God is the channel of life, ignorance results in separation from life: alienated from the life … because of the ignorance. Cp. John 17:3 : this is the eternal life, that they may know Thee. A keen rebuke to the vaunted knowledge of the Greeks. Then follows the cause of their ignorance.

Hardening: as in Romans 11:8. Same phrase in Mark 6:52; Mark 8:17; John 12:40. The heart is hardened when it becomes less sensible to influences from without; in this case, influences from God. These are designed to fill and mould and raise the whole life. But the heart of the heathen is unmoved by these good influences. And, since they are the one source of the only real knowledge, hardening produces ignorance. Moreover, since knowledge is the avenue of spiritual life, the hardened and ignorant ones are destitute of that life. Thus the two clauses, each introduced by the word because-of, are successive links of causation.

Such is the inward State of the heathen. Their heart is insensible to things divine; therefore ignorance reigns in them, and the true life is far off. No wonder that in these darkened ones the mind works to no purpose, and that their path in life is wrong.

Ephesians 4:19. Further description of the same men, setting forth the immoral result of this hardening.

Past feeling: literally having-become-insensible-to pain, i.e. sin no longer painful to them.

Gave-up: surrender to a hostile power. Same word and sense in Romans 1:24; Romans 1:26; Romans 1:28 : an important parallel and complement to this passage. By willingly embracing sin they gave up themselves to its power: and by decreeing that sinners fall victims to the power of their own sin God gave them up.

Themselves: the most tremendous sacrifice ever laid on the altar of sin.

Wantonness: insolent casting aside of all restraint.

Uncleanness: anything inconsistent with personal purity. Same words together in 2 Corinthians 12:21; Galatians 5:19. Wantonness is almost personified as a power to which these men surrendered themselves in order to work out everything which defiles men.

Insolence is their master: and every kind of impurity is their aim.

Covetousness: desire of having more, an inordinate longing for the good things of earth. See under Colossians 3:5. As a conspicuous form of selfishness, it stands in close relation to bodily self-indulgence. So here and Ephesians 5:3; Colossians 3:5. This close relation makes it needless to give to the word here any other than its ordinary meaning.

Such is the state of the heathen. The darkening of their minds has made them in some measure insensible to the evil of sin. They have therefore given themselves up to gross and defiling sin and to the worship of material good.

Ephesians 4:20-21 a. Ye not so: conspicuous and double contrast to the Gentiles.

Christ: Himself the matter of the knowledge they have acquired. So in Galatians 1:16; 1 Corinthians 1:23. He is the matter revealed and preached.

If at least etc.; strengthens the foregoing assertion by adding a condition within which it is undoubtedly true. If they have heard Christ etc., then certainly they have not so learnt Him.

Heard Him: by hearing they received not merely His words but Christ Himself. So in Ephesians 4:20 they learnt Christ. And He is not only the matter heard but the personal encompassing element of the teaching received: taught in Him. They first heard the truth of Christ and thus received Him; and then, abiding in Him, received further instruction.

Ephesians 4:21 b. A statement in harmony with the foregoing. This truth can be no other than that stated in Ephesians 4:22, viz. that God requires us to put away the old man. This is a truth in Jesus: for in Him who was born in Bethlehem a command has gone forth to all men everywhere to repent. The teaching received by the Asiatic Christians was in agreement with the moral truth of this command: according as etc. Notice the Saviours names.

They learnt Christ, i.e. they embraced the meaning of His official title. There is truth in Jesus: for in that historic Person God spoke to man.

Ephesians 4:22. The moral truth, now plainly stated.

Put-away: as clothes are laid aside. Same word and idea in Colossians 3:8; Romans 13:12.

That ye put away: this moral truth brought to bear on the Christians at Ephesus.

Manner-of life: same word and sense in Galatians 1:13, my manner of life formerly.

In-view-of the former manner-of-life: aspect of their case which makes it needful to put away etc.

The old man: same words and sense in Colossians 3:9, where we have the same metaphor of laying aside clothing: see note.

Which is corrupting: moral deterioration and destruction going on day by day. Of this, eternal death is the awful consummation. So is the corruption of a corpse a consummation of mortification before death. The abstract principle of deceit with its tendencies is represented almost as a person cherishing desires. In the unsaved, these are a ruling power. And the corruption now going on is what we should expect when such a principle guides the steps of men: according to the desires of deceit. These last words keep before us the teaching in Ephesians 4:18 that ignorance and error are the treacherous basis of human life without Christ. A building erected on such a foundation is doomed to fall.

Ephesians 4:23. Positive side of the moral truth in Jesus.

And be renewed: from day to day, in contrast to the advancing corruption of the old man. Similar word, and same idea of progressive renovation, in Colossians 3:10; Romans 12:2.

The Spirit of your mind: the Holy Spirit looked upon as enlightening the mind. Similarly, in Romans 7:23 the law of God is called the law of my mind. Nowhere else in the Bible is the Holy Spirit spoken of as belonging to man or to man’s mind. But the phrase is intelligible and appropriate.

Whereas, to understand it as describing the human spirit, is to make the collocation of spirit and mind unmeaning. The Holy Spirit is the Agent of the renewal: Titus 3:5. And He renews men by enlightening their intelligence. Paul could therefore say, be renewed by the Spirit of your mind, and the Gentiles walk in the vanity of their mind.

Ephesians 4:24. And put on: once for all in contrast both to cut off in Ephesians 4:22 and to the gradual renewal in Ephesians 4:23. Same word in Colossians 3:10, where we have also a term equivalent to the new man.

After God: Himself the pattern, as He is also the Author, of this new creation. Cp. Colossians 3:10, according to the image of Him that created Him. The new man has already been created, and is therefore waiting to be put on.

In righteousness: right doing, the surrounding element of this new creation.

Holiness: not the very common word usually so rendered, but a rare word found, in conjunction with righteousness, in Luke 1:75. Cognate words in Acts 2:27; Acts 13:34-35; 1 Timothy 2:8; Titus 1:8; 1 Thessalonians 2:10. It denotes agreement with the eternal sanctities of right. This righteousness and holiness belong to the truth, just as the desires which lead to moral corruption belong to deceit. The moral teaching which found utterance in Jesus, and which because it corresponds with the eternal realities is truth, finds its outward expression in conduct agreeable to the Law and to the eternal principle of right. Such conduct is the surrounding element of the new man which has been created in the likeness of God and which Paul bids his readers put on.

[Notice carefully the tenses in Ephesians 4:22-24. The old man is day by day corrupting: we are therefore bidden to lay it once for all aside. The new man has already been created: we are therefore bidden once for all to put it on. But the renewal wrought by the Holy Spirit operating on our mind progresses day by day.]

Such is the broad platform which Paul lays for his subsequent moral teaching. He points to the heathen, to their moral insensibility and to the consequent darkness which has clouded their minds and reduced to worthlessness their mental efforts, and to their reckless self-abandonment to every kind of sin; and silently reminds his readers that this was once a picture of themselves. But the truth which spoke in Jesus has changed all this. The old corrupting life, Paul bids them lay aside; and bids them put on the new life breathed into man by the creative power of God, in the likeness of God, and receiving daily progressive renewal by the mental illumination of the Holy Spirit.

Verses 25-32


CH. 4:25-5:21.

For which cause, having put away falsehood, Speak ye truth each with his neighbour For we are members one of another. Be angry and sin not: let not the sun go down on your provocation; neither give place to the devil. He that steals, let him steal no longer; but rather let him labour, working with his hands that which is good, that he may have to impart to him who has need. Let no corrupt speech go forth from your mouth, but if anything is good for edifying as the need may be, that it may give grace to those that hear. And grieve not the Holy Spirit of God in whom ye have been sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and fury and anger and clamour and railing be put away from you, with all badness. And become kind one to another, compassionate, forgiving each other, according as God in Christ forgave you.

Become then imitators of God as beloved children: and walk in love according as Christ loved you and gave up Himself on our behalf an offering and sacrifice to God for an odour of perfume.

But fornication and all uncleanness or covetousness, let them not be named among you, as becomes saints: and shamefulness and foolish talking and jesting, which are not fitting, but rather thanksgiving. For this ye know being aware that no fornicator or unclean person or covetous one, which is an idolater, has inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. Let no one deceive you with empty words. For because of these things comes the anger of God upon the sons of disobedience. Become not then partakers with them.

For ye were once darkness, but are now light in the Lord. As children of light walk, (for the fruit of the light is in all goodness and righteousness and truth,) proving what is well-pleasing to the Lord. And be not sharers with others in the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them. For the things secretly done by them, it is a shame even to Speak of. But all things when reproved are made manifest by the light. For everything which is made manifest is light.

For which cause he says, “Rise up, sleeper and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give light to thee.”

Look then carefully how ye walk, not as unwise but as wise, buying up the opportunity, because the days are bad. For this cause be not senseless, but understand what is the will of the Lord. And be not drunk with wine, in which is riot, but be filled with the Spirit; speaking one to another with psalms and hymns and Spiritual songs, singing and chanting in your heart to the Lord; giving thanks always for all things, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, to God even the Father; subjecting yourselves one to another in the fear of Christ.

After asserting in § 10 the broad underlying principles of Christian morality, Paul comes in § 11 to apply them in detail to various specific vices and virtues. Without my formal divisions, his discourse flows on with orderly sequence, shedding light on each point it touches. In Ephesians 4:25-31 we have a series of prohibitions; and in Ephesians 4:32 to Ephesians 5:2 positive injunctions supported by the example of God and of Christ. Then follow in Ephesians 5:3-7 other prohibitions, supported by threatenings. These are further supported in Ephesians 5:8-14 by a comparison of the past and present under the aspects of darkness and light. In Ephesians 5:15-21 we have sundry exhortations culminating in an exhortation to spiritual song and praise. A word about mutual subordination closes § 11, and becomes the key-note of § 12.

Ephesians 4:25. For which cause: a desired practical result of the foregoing general moral principles.

Falsehood: in all its forms. [The Greek article looks upon it as a definite and well-known object of thought.]

Having-put-away: once for all. [The participle does not imply that this had already taken place, but merely makes it a necessary preliminary to the truth-speaking to which Paul here exhorts his readers. See under Romans 5:1.]

Speak ye truth each with his neighbour: almost word for word from Zechariah 8:16, the prophet’s word correctly expressing Paul’s thought. That this exhortation comes first, was probably suggested by the last word of § 10.

Members one of another: same words in same sense in Romans 12:5. They bring Paul’s favourite metaphor of the Church as the body of Christ, asserted in Ephesians 1:23 and further expounded in Ephesians 4:12; Ephesians 4:16, to bear upon this detail of practical morality. If we are members of one body, we have one interest. And, where this is recognised, falsehood is impossible. For it is only a cloak to hide our selfish disregard of the interests of others.

To limit the word neighbour to fellow-Christians, would contradict both the broad compass of the word itself and the plain teaching of Luke 10:29. And the same width must be given to the words following which support this exhortation. If so, all men are here said to be members of one body. And, in a very real sense, this is true. The whole human race, like a human body, is so joined together that benefit or injury to any one member is done to the whole, and thus indirectly done in some measure to each other member. They who know this have nothing to hide; and will therefore speak the truth. Notice here an application of Paul’s favourite metaphor wider than is found elsewhere in his Epistles.

Ephesians 4:26-27. Be angry and sin not: word for word from Psalms 4:4. Grammatically each word conveys an exhortation. But practically the whole force of the exhortation falls upon the second verb. The first exhortation implies that anger may sometimes be right; and is therefore practically permissive. Paul bids us see that our anger be ever joined to sinlessness. Then follow two warnings against dangers which always attend anger. It is always wrong when it becomes an abiding state of mind: and in all danger Satan is near, seeking for entrance.

The sun go down: the solemn close of the day. Even nature, by dividing life into short portions; suggests retrospection as each portion passes. And such retrospection is a safeguard against sinful anger.

Your provocation, or any provocation of yours: cognate word in Romans 10:19. It is therefore not necessarily sinful. It denotes a rousing of the emotion of anger.

Give place: as in Romans 12:19. Paul suggests that when anger continues Satan is near; and warns that we be careful not to afford him an opportunity of doing us spiritual harm.

The devil: see under Ephesians 6:11.

Ephesians 4:28. He that steals etc.: a general precept which all Paul’s readers must obey. For Christ bids every sinner to put away his sin.

But rather let him labour… that he may have to impart etc.: exact opposite to stealing. To avoid labour, a thief impoverishes others. He must now work that by possessing he may be able to impart, i.e. to give a portion of his own possession, to him that has need. Working with his hands: vivid picture of actual toil. That which is good: in contrast to the evil of theft.

Ephesians 4:29. Every corrupt (or bitter) word: put conspicuously first as the serious matter of this prohibition.

Out of your mouth: graphic delineation of speech, revealing the inappropriateness of such talk from the lips of Christians. Then the prohibition: let it not go forth.

But if any discourse be good etc.: the contrasted positive exhortation.

For edification: i.e. tending to build-up the spiritual life, and thus to supply the need (same word as above) of men. A further purpose, explaining the foregoing words, is that it may give grace to the hearers, i.e. convey to them the favour of God and its consequent benefits. In James 4:6; 1 Peter 5:5; Psalms 84:11; Exodus 3:21, God gives grace. This last passage denotes the favour towards Israel wrought by God in the hearts of the Egyptians. The others refer to His own favour with which God enriches the lowly: a meaning practically the same as here.

Ephesians 4:30. A fifth prohibition.

The Holy Spirit of God: full and solemn title.

Grieve: literally cause-sorrow-to: same word several times in 2 Corinthians 2:2-5; 2 Corinthians 7:8-9. It is here a strong anthropomorphism. They who resist the Spirit and thus provoke His displeasure are here said to cause Him sorrow. Only thus can we conceive the influence of man’s sin upon the mind of God. If it stood alone, this phrase would not in itself necessarily imply that the Spirit of God is a Person distinct from the Father. For it might be understood as a mere circumlocution for Him. But when we have learnt this doctrine from John 16:13; Matthew 28:19,

(see under 1 Corinthians 12:11,) it sheds new light upon, and thus receives confirmation from, these words.

Ye were sealed: same phrase in same connection and sense in Ephesians 1:13.

Redemption: as in Ephesians 1:14; Romans 8:23. The great day will be a final and complete deliverance of the servants of Christ, and in this sense a day of redemption. And the gift of the Spirit has that day in view: sealed for the day etc. God has given to believers the Holy Spirit that in their hearts. He may be a divine testimony that in the day of days they will be rescued from death and the grave. Now all sin tends to deface that seal and thus to destroy this divine attestation. Consequently, this last prohibition contains a strong motive for obedience to those foregoing.

Ephesians 4:31. A compact group of prohibitions. Notice its comprehensiveness: all… all.

Bitterness: cognate to a word in Colossians 3:19; see note. Fury and anger: see under the same words in Colossians 3:8. Clamour: a loud or earnest cry. Same word in Acts 23:9; Matthew 25:6; Hebrews 5:7. Both anger and clamour so easily pass the bounds of right that the words are, as here, often used in a bad sense.

Railing… badness: as in Colossians 3:8, in the same connection. This last term is separated from the others as generic and inclusive.

Ephesians 4:32 to Ephesians 5:2. A group of closely allied positive exhortations, inserted as a conspicuous contrast among these warnings against sin.

Become: in contrast to put away from you. It implies that the readers are not yet what Paul desires them to be.

Compassionate: literally, good-hearted.

Forgiving each other: as in Colossians 3:13, where the same motive is given.

God forgave you: (cp. Colossians 2:13 :) as the ultimate source of the grace of pardon. But it reaches us in Christ, i.e. through the facts of His human life and through inward union with Him. Outside of Christ there is no forgiveness from God.

Ephesians 5:1-2. On this divine pattern Paul lingers. We must be imitators of God. And this because we are His children, objects of His tender love. For children are expected to bear their father’s likeness: and loved ones are influenced by those who love them. And love is to be the encompassing element and directive principle of their steps in life: walk in love. Similar phrase in Romans 14:15. To the example of the Father, Paul adds that of the Son: according as also Christ etc.

Gave up himself on your behalf: as in Romans 8:32; Galatians 2:20; Ephesians 5:25. Grammatically, these words mean simply self-surrender for our benefit. But the following word sacrifice and Paul’s constant teaching about the purpose of the death of Christ prove abundantly that he refers here to Christ’s self-surrender to death for our salvation: an infinite contrast to the self-surrender in Ephesians 4:19.

Offering: a general term for everything given to God.

Sacrifice: a more specific term for the gifts laid upon the altar. It is a frequent translation of the ordinary Hebrew word for bloody sacrifices; but is sometimes used in the LXX. (e.g. Leviticus 2:1; Leviticus 2:3) for unbloody offerings. Wherever used in the N.T., it has reference to the ritual of the altar: e.g. Romans 12:1; Philippians 2:17; Philippians 4:18. The two words are together, in reversed order, in Psalms 40:6, quoted in Hebrews 10:5; Hebrews 10:8. The psalmist’s thought there passes from the specific to the general, denying that either one or other is desired by God.

To God: most easily joined to the words immediately foregoing. For the mention of sacrifice recalls at once the deity to whom it is offered.

An odour of perfume: as in Philippians 4:18, where the gift from Philippi is said to be a sacrifice pleasant to God as perfume is fragrant to man.

Ephesians 5:3-4. Another group of warnings against sin.

Fornication, uncleanness: as in Galatians 5:19. Paul passes from the specific to the general, to which last he gives the widest latitude: all uncleanness.

Covetousness: as in Ephesians 4:19. By the conjunction or it is separated, as belonging to a different class, from the two foregoing sins.

As becomes saints: their relation to God making it unfitting that the sins of heathenism should be even named among them.

Shamefulness: a wide term including (Colossians 3:8) shameful speaking.

Jesting: literally quick versatility of speech which easily degenerates into evil. Since the last two prohibitions seem to relate only to trifles, Paul pauses to say that foolish-speaking and jesting are not fitting. Instead of such inappropriate mirth he proposes the gladness of thanksgiving. So Philippians 4:6; Colossians 2:7; Colossians 4:2.

Ephesians 5:5. A solemn assertion supporting the three prohibitions in Ephesians 5:3. The word I have rendered being-aware denotes the process of coming to know, and is almost equal to perceiving. Ye know this that I am going to say, perceiving that every fornicator etc. The three sins are in the same order as in Ephesians 5:3. On the last sin Paul lingers to assert again, as already in Colossians 3:5, that the covetous man is an idolater.

Has no inheritance in the kingdom: close parallels in 1 Corinthians 6:9-10; Galatians 5:21.

Of Christ and God: climax, rising as ever with Paul from the Son to the Father. These last are here placed in closest relation. But we have no proof that they denote the same divine Person.

Ephesians 5:6. Further support of the above prohibitions. Paul warns his readers against some who will say that sin is a trifle: let no one deceive you. In a heathen city, and to converts from heathenism, persuasion to sin would most frequently come from heathens. And to such probably Paul chiefly refers. But his words are quite general.

Empty words: mere sounds destitute of truth. Cp. empty deception in Colossians 2:8. A similar compound word in 1 Timothy 6:20; 2 Timothy 2:16.

For because etc.: solemn confirmation of the foregoing, and proof that the words are empty.

Comes the anger of God: word for word as in Colossians 3:6.

The sons of disobedience: as in Ephesians 2:2, and Colossians 3:6 where see note.

Ephesians 5:7. Become not; courteously suggests that they were not such already.

Partakers-with them: joined with them as sharers of their sin and of the anger of God which falls upon sinners. Same word in contrasted surroundings in Ephesians 3:6.

Ephesians 5:8-10. For ye were etc.: an appeal to the readers’ former life, supporting the foregoing dissuasive. This contrast of past and present is a genuine trait of Paul: cp. Romans 3:21; Romans 11:30; Romans 16:26. ‘Darkened in mind (Ephesians 4:18) ye were yourselves formerly an embodiment of darkness.’ Cp. 2 Corinthians 6:14. ‘But now the light which has illumined your path has transformed you into its own nature.’

In the Lord: the change has come in virtue of their inward union with the Master.

Children of light: cp. 1 Thessalonians 5:5, sons of light and sons of day; Luke 7:35, children of wisdom. Contrast Ephesians 2:3, children of anger. Light is a condition of sight and therefore of knowledge. In darkness we know not where we are going: 1 John 2:11. The Gospel gives light: for it reveals to us our own nature and our environment. And, to those who believe, it becomes the mother of a new nature: children of light. Moreover, since the light enters into them and becomes in some sense a part of themselves, they are themselves light. This lays upon them an obligation to choose such steps as are in harmony with the light which has transformed them. Similar thought in Romans 13:13.

Ephesians 5:9. A parenthesis explaining and thus justifying the foregoing metaphorical exhortation. The Gospel, which to those who believe it is a ray of light, bears fruit, i.e. produces by the outworking of its own life good results: fruit of the light. See under Romans 1:13. Cp. fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22.

Goodness: practical beneficence, as in Galatians 5:22.

Righteousness: conduct in agreement with the Law, as in Romans 14:17.

Truth: moral agreement with the eternal realities. In each of these directions and in every form of them, the light bears fruit. That the light works these good results is a reason why we should walk as children of the light.

Ephesians 5:10. A participial clause collateral to, and supplementing, the exhortation of Ephesians 5:8. Children of light ought, in virtue of the new life they have received, ever to put to the proof, and thus find out, what is well-pleasing to the Lord, i.e. to their Master Christ.

Well-pleasing: same word and thought in Colossians 3:20; Philippians 4:18; 2 Corinthians 5:9; Romans 12:1-2; Romans 14:18.

Proving: same word and thought in Romans 12:2; Philippians 1:10. This putting to the proof will unmask the deception of empty words: Ephesians 5:6.

Ephesians 5:11. Another exhortation, added to that in Ephesians 5:8.

Partakers-with others: same word in Philippians 4:14; a cognate word in Philippians 1:7; Romans 11:17; 1 Corinthians 9:23.

The works… of darkness: as in Romans 13:12. These are fruitless; in marked contrast to the fruit of the light. They produce no good result. Cp. Romans 6:21.

But rather even reprove: something more than mere refusal to participate.

Reprove: or convict, i.e. prove to be wrong. Same word in 1 Corinthians 14:24; 1 Timothy 5:20; Titus 1:9; Titus 1:13; Luke 3:19, and especially John 3:20.

Ephesians 5:12. Justifies the foregoing by pointing to the need for reproof.

Secretly: in conspicuous prominence. The secrecy of these sins makes more needful their public reproof.

Done: more fully being-done, i.e. from time to time. These are sins so bad that even to speak of them is polluting, and therefore shameful. Paul suggests that, bad as is the outward conduct of the heathen, under the surface lie still worse sins which in their vileness pass description.

Ephesians 5:13. Another reason for reproving sin. Not only are there sins needing reproof but to reprove them is an appointed work of Christians.

All things: all sorts of sin, as is proved by the word following, when-they-are-reproved.

Manifested: set conspicuously before the eyes of others, in contrast to things done secretly: see under Romans 1:19. Whenever a sin is proved to be such, the reproof is caused by the light falling upon it and thus making its true character conspicuous.

For all that is from day to day manifested etc.: proof of the foregoing. Every conspicuous object is in a true sense luminous. For it partakes the brightness which makes it conspicuous. And that conspicuous objects shine, proves that to reveal the nature of whatever is illumined is the specific work of light: by the light it is manifested. Now Christians are children of light. Therefore the presence of a Christian among sinners ought to reveal to them their sin.

Ephesians 5:14. For which cause he (or some one) says: same form of quotation as in Ephesians 4:8; James 4:6. That these two passages are express quotations from the O.T., suggests very strongly that the quotation before us was so intended. But no such passage is found. Nor is there anything in the O.T. which these words recall. On the other hand they give a complete and harmonious sense. In an ordinary document we should guess that in a moment of forgetfulness a passage from some other work was quoted as Holy Scripture. And perhaps this is the best explanation here. We may reverently suppose that the Spirit of inspiration, which even in this quotation guarded the Apostle from doctrinal error, did not think fit to protect him against this trifling oversight. See under Galatians 3:18. Or possibly, without thinking of the author, Paul merely quotes a familiar passage from some author unknown to us.

For which cause: because to bring to light things hidden in darkness is a specific work of Christians.

Up, sleeper: the sinner, who needs arousing from his deep sleep. A frequent metaphor, suggested by the metaphor of darkness: cp. Romans 13:11; 1 Thessalonians 5:6; 1 Peter 2:9.

Arise from the dead: a still stronger metaphor. Notice the climax: up, sleeper… arise from the dead.

Christ shall-give light to-thee: a motive for rising from the sleep of sin, viz. that light is waiting for the sleeper. And this is also, since Christians are a medium through which the light shines, a reason why (Ephesians 5:11) they should reprove the sin which (Ephesians 5:12) exists all around them.

Ephesians 5:15-16. Further exhortations; after the parenthesis in Ephesians 5:12-14, which supports the concluding exhortation of Ephesians 5:11.

Look then: practical application of the teaching in Ephesians 5:12-14.

Carefully or accurately: same word in 1 Thessalonians 5:2, ye know accurately. It suggests the need of extreme care in choosing our steps in life.

How ye walk; recalls Ephesians 5:8, ‘walk as children of light.’ It is further expounded by not as unwise but as wise. This implies that Christian wisdom, which is a knowledge of that which is most worth knowing, is a practical guide in life. See under 1 Corinthians 2:5.

Buying up the opportunity: as in Colossians 4:5, in a very similar connection. It is parallel to not as unwise etc. as a further description of how Paul would have his readers walk. A reason for this last injunction is added: because the days are evil. Cp. Genesis 47:9. Evil is in power. It is therefore important to seize every opportunity for good. In Ephesians 6:13, the evil day is a definite time of special peril.

Ephesians 5:17. Because of this: because evil around makes it needful to walk as wise men. In view of his readers’ peril, Paul points to a means of wisdom: understanding what is the will of the Lord. Not to use this means of divine guidance, would be senseless.

Do not become: as in Ephesians 5:7; cp. Ephesians 5:1; Ephesians 4:32. Perhaps it was suggested, instead of the simpler words be not, by a half-conscious remembrance that human character is ever developing, for good or bad.

Senseless: a man without brains; a worse term than unwise.

What is the will of the Lord: close parallel to Ephesians 5:10; cp. Acts 21:14. That the will of God must ever be the directive principle of human life, was ever present to the thought of Paul: Romans 12:2; Ephesians 1:1; Ephesians 1:5; Ephesians 1:9; Ephesians 1:11; Colossians 1:9. The same honour he here gives to the will of the Lord Jesus Christ. He thus recognises the Crucified One as still his Master.

Ephesians 5:18. To the foregoing general precept Paul now adds a prohibition of a definite sin specially inconsistent with it. He thus illustrates the general principle, and looks at this sin in the light of it.

In which: in being drunk with wine, the sin here prohibited.

Dissoluteness: a reckless waste of money and of life itself. A typical example is the prodigal son, touching whom a cognate word is used in Luke 15:13, living dissolutely. Paul says that in drunkenness is reckless waste of all we have and are.

Filled with the Spirit: every thought, purpose, word, act, prompted and controlled by the Holy Spirit. [The present imperative describes this all-pervading influence as ever going forth from the Spirit. The aorist in Acts 2:4; Acts 4:8; Acts 4:31; Acts 9:17; Acts 13:9 describes a sudden and all-controlling impulse.] This salutary influence from above filling and raising man is an absolute antithesis to the destructive inspiration of strong drink. That both influences operate on man from within, justifies the somewhat strange contrast here.

With the Spirit: literally in the Spirit: a form of speech chosen possibly because they whom the Holy Spirit fills live and move in Him as their life-giving environment. We obey this command when we claim by faith the influences of the Holy Spirit and surrender ourselves to His guidance.

Ephesians 5:19-21. Four participial clauses containing exhortations collateral to the foregoing exhortation, be filled with the Spirit, and thus completing the contrast to be not drunk with wine.

Speaking to yourselves etc.: very close parallel to Colossians 3:16, where see note. With psalms and songs correspond respectively the cognate verbs chanting and singing. The second participial clause is parallel to the first. Paul first bids his readers speak in their songs one to another; and then bids them sing to the Lord. To Him they can and must sing in their heart, both in vocal praise and when their song is silent.

Giving thanks etc.: a third co-ordinate participial clause still further defining what Paul desires in his readers.

Thanks always for all things: a constant thought of Paul: so Colossians 3:17, a close parallel, Colossians 1:12; Colossians 2:7; Colossians 4:2; Ephesians 5:4; Ephesians 1:16. It specifies the contents of these songs to the Lord. And our thanks are given in the name of Christ, in acknowledgment that only through Him comes all real good; to God our Father, the ultimate source of blessing.

Grammatically, the three foregoing participial clauses describe accompaniments of being filled with the Spirit. Actually, they describe its results. Instead of riotous songs stimulated by the wine cup, Paul desires the vocal and silent praise to God which the Holy Spirit ever prompts.

The last participial clause is the key-note of §§ 12-14.

Submitting: as in Colossians 3:18.

One to another: according to their various relations, as Paul now proceeds to expound.

Fear of Christ: cp. the will of the Lord in Ephesians 5:17. It is another note of the majesty of Christ, and in no small degree a proof of His divinity.

REVIEW OF § 11. Without any marked order, but each thought suggesting that which follows, compactly yet clearly, Paul touches and illumines, in the light of the essential principles of the Gospel, many practical duties of life. He warns his readers against falsehood by reminding them that all men are members of one body and therefore have one interest, and that therefore nothing is to be gained but much lost by one man deceiving another. He gives a safe and easy guard and limit to anger: it must not continue to the morrow. The man who, in order to live in idleness, robs others must now work in order to help others who are in need. All evil talking is shut out by a precept that we are so to speak as to edify those who hear us. And all this is strengthened by reference to the Holy Spirit, the seal of our future deliverance, who observes all we say or do and is grieved by evil. All bitterness of temper or word must be laid aside: kindness and forbearance must take their place. For we are beloved children of God, and must therefore imitate our Father and walk in the steps of Christ who so loved us as to give up Himself for our salvation.

All impurity and covetousness must be banished even from the lips of the sacred people: foolish talking must be superseded by thanksgiving. For, whatever men may say, sensuality, and covetousness which is a form of idolatry, will exclude their votaries from the kingdom of God. With those guilty of such sins, we must have no part. For, our life is altogether changed. Once darkness we are now children of light: and spiritual light produces, by the outworking of its own nature, moral excellence. Our only relation to the works of darkness must be reproof. For the hidden sins of heathenism need it. And light reveals, by its own nature, in their true colours objects otherwise hidden. We must therefore carefully and wisely choose our steps. Because the times are bad, we must embrace every opportunity of doing and saying good. This, i.e. to learn the will of Christ, will need all our intelligence. Paul warns against drunkenness, which ever leads to ruin. We need to be filled and stimulated not with wine but by the Spirit of God. His inspiration prompts, not the loud voice of revelry, but sacred song, sometimes inaudible but always heart-felt, and ever assuming the form of thanks to Christ. This will be accompanied by mutual subordination, a duty to be further discussed.

Bibliographical Information
Beet, Joseph. "Commentary on Ephesians 4". Beet's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jbc/ephesians-4.html. 1877-90.
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