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Bible Commentaries
Ephesians 5

Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New TestamentsSutcliffe's Commentary

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Verses 1-33

Ephesians 5:1-2 . Be ye followers of God as dear children, for children are expected to walk in their father’s steps. He sends us rain and fruitful seasons, he makes his sun to rise on the evil and the good; and if we act otherwise, men will not acknowledge us for the sons of God. In all good offices the Saviour forgot himself, and went about continually doing good. Nay more; he gave himself for us, an eucharistal oblation and sacrifice, a sweet savour of unexampled love. What can words add more?

Ephesians 5:3-6 . But uncleanness or covetousness, let it not be named among you. These cautions are repeated from 1 Corinthians 6:9-12, and Galatians 5:19, where comments occur. For these things, he adds, the wrath of God comes down on the children of disobedience. They perish by disease, infamy, and a miserable death. How deplorable must have been the state of the heathen world, that St. Paul deemed it requisite to give such strong cautions to believers, in the great cities of Corinth and Ephesus.

Ephesians 5:12 . It is a shame even to speak of those things which are done of them in secret. St. Paul often alludes to the deliverance which the gospel had wrought for the heathen. Those only have adequate ideas of the secret crimes connected with idolatry, who have read Livy’s Account of the Bacchanalian Orgies, and Augustine’s City of God, and other books of the fathers against the gentiles. The bloody worship of Moloch, and the beastly uncleanness attendant on the worship of Priapus, which is thought to he the same with Baal-peor, are too abominable for description. He is feigned to be the son of Bacchus and Venus. Suffice to say, that the figure of this idol, and the dress of the priests, and virgins, and matrons, who served at his altar, and the airs which varlets sung were such as inflamed the people to the perpetration of those crimes in the adjoining groves, which St. Paul comprises under the word acatharsia, all uncleanness, of every species of unnatural lust: Ephesians 5:3. Truly except the Lord had left us a remnant, we had been as Sodom, or like unto Gomorrah. See the City of God, book 2. chap. 4.

Ephesians 5:14 . Awake, thou that sleepest. Some apply this exhortation to rouse the church from a state of slumber, as in Isaiah 60:1. Romans 13:11. But the adjection, arise from the dead, extends the address to a slumbering world. The wicked are dead to God, dead to piety, dead in trespasses and sins. They sleep, they slumber, and the fleeting vanities of this world vanish as the morning dreams. Sinners sleep on the verge of hell; their awakening in the hour of visitation is tremendous and terrific. Clouds of guilt, the curses of Sinai, the flames ascending from the abyss, and the aspects of a vindictive God, are terrors insupportable. Sinners have but a moment to look to Calvary, and fly for refuge to the living temple. Isaiah 28:16.

Ephesians 5:16 . Redeeming the time. Εξαγοραζομενοι τον καιρον . The words import, that we should buy up and improve the time as men do in a market, which if once lost may never return. The reason assigned is, because the days are evil. Our enemies are all active, we must be alert in the war, and laborious in the harvest days. It is prudent to lay down in a morning a plan of the duties of the day, that we may first give ourselves to the Lord, and then our hands to labour.

Ephesians 5:19 . Speaking to yourselves in psalms, and hymns, and spiritual songs. The wicked, exhilarated with wine, indulge in songs which utter the infamy of the heart, and pollute the ear; but the saints have angels’ songs. Pliny testifies, that christians in his time sung hymns to Christ as God. Christo ut Deo hymnos canunt. David, and the prophet Elisha, from their youth were proficients in sacred song. Jerome composed hymns; and the hymns and psalms of St. Hilary are said to have been sung all over France. Buchanan has delighted all the Latin church with a metrical version of the Psalms. Chrysostom says, God has given those psalms and hymns of praise to raise the souls of men above the troubles of life. Singing revives every pious affection of the heart, and contributes to health and cheerfulness. But alas, our modern composers of sacred music, men now living, have ruined public worship by jig tunes, many of them taken from the army and the stage. They forget that temples require time, they forget God, they forget themselves, to impose silence on the church.

Ephesians 5:22-24 . Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands. A christian female must be instructed in all the duties of her station. She must not be a brawler, running about for pleasure, contracting debts, and grieving her husband with her tongue. It becomes her to be adorned with every virtue, to render her lovely in the eyes of her husband, and honourable in the station she occupies. The eulogy of such a virtuous woman has been made by Lemuel, and painted with brilliancy of character. Proverbs 31:10; Proverbs 31:31.

Ephesians 5:25 . Husbands, love your wives. The model of conjugal affection is that of Christ, loving the church, and giving himself for it; indicating that the husband should love his wife as his own life, and in every view as one with him. He should support her in all duties, comfort her in all infirmities, and be her pillar of support in all the walks of life. His oath at the altar is obligatory; and her love, if possible, should more than repay his affection. The drunkard and the profligate must not here be classed with husbands, but with culprits: he cannot rank even with the wild beasts, who always carry their prey to their lair.


After a scale of moral precepts, wise, pure, and brilliant, the apostle concentrates all their glory in the love of Christ to the church, and in all the graces which his love confers. The prophet, by an allegory rich in figures, regards the Hebrew church as descended, not from Abraham and Sarah, but morally of the line of the Amorite, and of the Hittite; exposed in infancy, unwashed and in a state of nudity. Ezekiel 16:0. The Lord, as the best of beings, passed by, and had pity upon her. He adopted her as a daughter, he decorated her as a princess, betrothed her in righteousness as a bride, and placed a diadem upon her head.

Christ in like manner has loved the church, redeemed her by his blood, and sanctified her with the washing of water by the word; expressions which harmonize with all the glory of justifying and sanctifying grace. Having thus redeemed and cleansed her in the fountain of life, he has also consecrated and crowned her for himself. The king’s daughter is all glorious within, not having spot or wrinkle, or any defilement. Her clothing is embroidered gold. He did all this, that she might live in his presence, holy and without blame before him in love, and finally be presented faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy.

Here, oh husbands, is your model of behaviour towards your wives, that your love may command a just return of the same behaviour towards you. But this is the mystery, the great mystery of godliness, and not merely natural affection, of which Paul speaks. It is designed to augment the spiritual glory of the believer that he so wrote, and to enlarge the communion of the saints with the Saviour. May our eyes be opened to behold in all things the grand design of our Lord’s redeeming love.

Bibliographical Information
Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on Ephesians 5". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jsc/ephesians-5.html. 1835.
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