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To Walk Worthy Of the Calling
Ephesians 4:1. The word “therefore” indicates the beginning of a new section. This word is the transition from the primarily doctrinal part to the more practical part. In more of his letters (Romans 12:1; Colossians 3:1) Paul uses the word ‘therefore’ for a transition. The point is that we shall put the teachings of the first part of the letter in practice now. We are now appealed to, to take on responsibility. How important knowledge may be, the intention is that this knowledge will be of effect in your life and mine.
Paul admonishes his readers to walk “worthy of the calling with which you have been called”. If you want to heed this admonition, you should know what is meant by this calling. We already came across this word ‘calling’ in chapter 1 (Ephesians 1:18). There it is about our personal blessings. It is not about that calling here. The calling here has to do with what we have read in chapter 2. There we saw that we, together with all saints, have become one body and one house. It is our calling to put that into practice.
In other letters Paul also speaks about ‘to walk worthy’. Just as in the letter to the Ephesians the admonition to walk worthy adapts there also to the doctrine that is given. To the Philippians Paul says in his letter to them: “Only conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ” (Philippians 1:27). In that letter he writes about his defense of the gospel and the fellowship the Philippians, he wished, should have therein with him. He desires that their conduct in daily life will be in accordance with that.
In Colossians 1 the prayer of Paul is focused on encouraging the Colossians “that you will walk worthy of the Lord” (Colossians 1:10). That meets the purpose of the letter, namely to focus the hearts of the Colossians on the glorified Lord as the Head of the church.
In 1 Thessalonians 2 it is that the believers “would walk in a manner worthy of God” (1 Thessalonians 2:12). In that letter our eyes are focused on the future when God will establish His kingdom. Paul admonishes there that we as believers show God’s government, that will soon be visible on the earth, already now in our lives.
It is remarkable that Paul starts this chapter with almost the same words as the previous one. But, as you have seen there, after those opening words he first had to speak in some kind of parenthesis about “the mystery of Christ” (Ephesians 3:4). In chapter 4 he picks up the thread with almost the same words. That stresses once more that chapter 4 actually connects to chapter 2.
Because of that you also understand that the calling has to do with what has been brought forward in the last part of chapter 2. In the following verses you will see confirmed that it is our calling to keep the unity of the church as body and house. You will surely remember that the unity relates to what Jew and Gentile became together. In the church the distinction between both has disappeared. That was preached by Paul and that made him end up in prison.
By presenting himself as a prisoner, must have made his appeal to the believers more urgent to heed his admonition. Take notice that he didn’t see himself as a prisoner of Caesar. Neither did he scold the Jews who handed him over, as if it was their fault. No, he saw himself as “the prisoner of the Lord”.
The Lord, to Whom he had devoted his life and service, directed his life. Paul knew he was in His hand. He would have never landed in prison if the Lord had not allowed that. And when the Lord allows something, He surely has wise intentions. That was the reason Paul had the peace and confidence to adapt himself to the circumstances he was in. In the same way you and I can learn to look at circumstances and situations in which we may be involved and how to deal with them.
Ephesians 4:2. After his admonition to walk worthy of the calling, he describes in Ephesians 4:2 in what mind this walk should take place. The mind of such a person will be expressed in: lowliness and gentleness with longsuffering, love and bearing with one another. The purpose that should be achieved is to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. The different characteristics of that unity are summarized in the Ephesians 4:4-Joshua :.
The first characteristic is “humility”. ‘Humility’ doesn’t mean that you think bad about yourself or always speak about your own insignificance. If that was the case, then you yourself are still the center. Humility means that you don’t talk about yourself at all. It indicates the condition of your heart. You are not the one who is important, the Lord and His own are important. It is not about your honor but about His honor.
He, who is really humble, has learnt to renounce himself and to look upon the Lord. Your own self has only been erased when the Lord is at the forefront. Humility effaces itself to make Christ to be everything. This is how every good communication between believers starts. That’s why ‘all humility is firstly mentioned.
After humility, follows “gentleness”. Just as we have to learn to be humble, we also must learn to be gentle. Therefore our urges and pride need to be judged: our own ‘I’ must be held in death; that means in the death that Christ died, for there we – there I – died. It took Moses forty years before he was ready for that. In those forty years he changed from an irascible man to a humble man (cf. Exodus 2:12 with Numbers 12:3). After that change he could be used by God to lead His people.
He who is humble will be no threat to anyone; he who is gentle doesn’t feel himself threatened by anyone. This was perfectly present in the Lord. He could say: “I am gentle and humble in heart” (Matthew 11:29). He was always that. That’s why he could precede that phrase by saying ”learn from Me”. We are not humble and gentle by nature, but we can become like that if we want to learn from Him. His offer to learn from Him is still applicable.
Now it can be the case that you by God’s grace have made progress in the classroom of the Lord. But you still have to deal with your brothers and sisters. You may then notice that there are some who want to assert themselves, which can cause that others feel threatened by that and irascibly react to that. How do you have to deal with that? You must learn to deal with that “with patience”.
‘Patience’ or ‘longsuffering’ means ‘to bear for a long time’, that you can put up with your brother or sister for a very long time. So it is about dealing with patience towards your fellow-believer, male or female, by being humble and gentle.
There is a danger that you show this attitude, but that you have the feeling that you’re better than the other. You may have the attitude of someone that has achieved a lofty status, from which you may look down at others who are not that far yet, with contempt. Paul is aware of that danger and therefore adds that we should bear each other in love. You should realize that the three characteristics mentioned, can only flourish when they are rooted in love. Love enables one to bear the other in love, who has not yet fully developed, just as you are not perfect yet.
To see what love does and how it works, you can read 1 Corinthians 13 (1 Corinthians 13:1-1 Chronicles :). The features of love mentioned there are those of God, for God is love (1 John 4:8; 1 John 4:16). All His features emerge from that. This is how it was with the Lord Jesus. It should be the same with us, who have received the Lord Jesus as our life.
Now read Ephesians 4:1-2 again.
Reflection: Which characteristics do you need to keep the unity?
The Unity of the Spirit
Ephesians 4:3. In the previous verses we saw the characteristics that are necessary to be able to preserve the unity of the Spirit. Now let us take a look at preserving the unity of the Spirit on its own. This is an extremely important element that is often misconceived. It is not said that we should preserve the unity of the body. The unity of the body already exists.
Unfortunately that unity has not been kept in practice. Disagreements among us Christians are the cause of that. We do not follow the Lord Jesus together. For example, everyone has his favorite doctrine or preacher. Our human preference has gotten priority above what God has said in His Word about the church.
Yet as a (local) church, it is possible to show that there is one body. That happens where the unity of the Spirit is being preserved. Therefore the appeal is not to make efforts to preserve the unity of the body, but the unity of the Spirit. There is only one Spirit, Whom all have received who have believed the gospel of their salvation (1 Corinthians 15:1-Numbers :; Ephesians 1:13). Also through that one Spirit the one body has come into being, when the Holy Spirit was poured out on the day of Pentecost (1 Corinthians 12:13). Now all who have received the Spirit are being appealed to preserve the unity of the Spirit. So it is not an appeal to the individual Christian, but it concerns all who belong to the one body.
To walk in and to be led by the Spirit (Galatians 5:16; Galatians 5:18) can happen individually, but preserving the unity of the Spirit can only take place together with others. The unity of the Spirit is not just simply a unity in thoughts, a unity that can be acquired by an agreement with each other, sometimes through a compromise. To such unity the Spirit has no part. It is about a unity that we see in the beginning of Christianity. Then they were “of one heart and one soul” (Acts 4:32).
That unity has not been preserved, as that of the body hasn’t. Yet we are called here to preserve the unity in the bond of peace, even endeavor to do that, which means to make efforts. We can do that by taking care with our fellow believers not to give room for the flesh. This care came because the flesh, the human mind, has found a way to have influence in preserving the unity of the Spirit.
The activity of the flesh has come to expression in two ways. On the one hand people have formed a unity that is broader than that of the Spirit and on the other hand they have formed a unity that is narrower than that of the Spirit. A unity that is broader than that of the Spirit you find in churches where people are being accepted as Christians when they are not. You find them in churches, where one can be a member without having really been converted and without having a God fearing walk, which is a result of that. People can be a member there through baptism and by confession without having even a slightest change in the heart. There the unity of the Spirit is not being preserved, but a human unity is being formed.
The other side, a unity that is narrower, more limited than that of the Spirit, you see everywhere where believers with a God fearing walk are being refused, because they do not consent to rules made by man. You find this in churches and communities where demands are made that the Lord does not command us to do. In practice those demands get more authority than the Word of God, while they are in fact commandments of man.
The unity of the Spirit includes all children of God. The only demand for preserving the unity of the Spirit, you find in 2 Timothy 2 (2 Timothy 2:20-Song of Solomon :). There it is said that one must call on the Lord out of a pure heart, what only a genuine believer can do, and that we must walk in separation of evil. Where the unity of the Spirit is being preserved in this way, the unity of the body can become visible.
I don’t know which denomination you frequent, but here you have a touch stone to judge in which way people are gathering, whether it is or is not according to the will of God. Because this is such an important subject, I have given it a more thorough consideration. More consideration could be given to this, but I think I have mentioned the most important features. It depends on us to apply them.
For a right application Paul yet points to “the bond of peace”. It may be clear that all that is mentioned must happen in peace when we put it into practice. In your diligence you might forget to consider others or you would possibly impose your will on others. In both cases peace is missing. Peace is not so much the absence of quarrels, but it is a kind of making efforts with fellow believers harmoniously to preserve the unity of the Spirit. When peace is the bond in which you show your diligence, you’re doing right.
Ephesians 4:4. In Ephesians 4:4-Joshua : the word “one” appears seven times to present the seven aspects of unity. These seven aspects of unity you can subdivide into three groups. Ephesians 4:4 forms the first group. There it is about genuine believers, about the inner side of our unity, something we share inwardly:
1. Only true believers form “one body”;
2. only they have the Holy Spirit indwelling, they have “one Spirit”;
3. only they can speak about “one hope” of a calling that came from the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
To this calling Christian professors (unconverted Christians) have no part. It is about the calling in connection to heaven on which the hope of the believer is set and which will be fulfilled when the Lord Jesus comes back. Then we shall fully enjoy all glorious blessings of which we read in this letter.
Ephesians 4:5. This verse shows the second group. Here it is about the practical unity of the genuine believers:
1. The world cannot see anything of the inward aspect of Ephesians 4:4. What they do see, is that the believers live in submission to “one Lord”. He Himself is not visibly present on earth to exercise His government, but His authority is apparent in the life of His servants. Their confession is that they acknowledge Christ as Lord. They serve Him voluntarily before the time comes that everyone will be coerced to do that.
2. What also is visible is “one faith” – maybe not so much visible, but rather audible. Those who want to keep the unity of the Spirit, confess one truth of faith, however different they may be among themselves.
3. They also have a totally different position towards the world, which is in contrast to them who belong to the world. That they have shown in “one baptism”. The world can be a witness of somebody being baptized. From the baptism flows the testimony that the baptized one chooses the side of the dead and rejected One, Whom we know as the glorified Lord. Through baptism you are being separated from the world and from a life in sin and you are added to Christ as Lord, in order to walk in newness of life henceforth (Romans 6:1-Numbers :).
So baptism is an external characteristic to which a new kind of walk of life is connected and which is noticeable for the world. She sees the people who are baptized to the Name of the Lord Jesus; people who acknowledge Him as their only Lord and who confess one truth of faith.
By the way, baptism has nothing to do with becoming a member of the body of Christ. You do not become a member of the body of Christ by baptism, but by receiving the Holy Spirit.
Ephesians 4:6. “One God and Father of all” shows us the third aspect of the unity of the Spirit. All genuine believers have been brought in connection with God as Father and may know Him in that way. The believers have been brought that close to God. At the same time He is also “over all”. After all He is God and we remain creatures. But He works also “through all”. He becomes visible in the life of all His own, He works through them.
Finally He is also “in all”. I think John 17:23 gives the best reflection of what “in all” means. There the Lord Jesus says to the Father: “I in them, and You in Me” (John 17:23) The Lord Jesus is in us, because we have eternal life in the Son (1 John 5:11-2 Kings :). Because the Son is in us, is why the Father is also in us. Isn’t that a great thought?
Now read Ephesians 4:3-6 again.
Reflection: What is your contribution in ‘preserving the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace’?
Ephesians 4:7. In the previous verses the unity of the church has been highlighted. Now you are going to see the other side. Within the church each member has his own unique role to practice. Every member has his own specific function and each separate function is meant to let the whole body function as a harmonious unity.
Now it is not said here that a gift was given to us, but that “grace” is given to us. I think that in this way the emphasis is more on what is needed for you to fulfill your function than on the function itself. You may be aware of the fact that you have a function in the body, but you must also be aware of being dependent on the necessary grace to practice that function. Well, you may know that the grace is there already, you don’t have to wait for it anymore. You may start right away. And you also have received the exact measure of grace that you need to practice your gift. It has been measured by Christ very precisely. He is the One Who gives grace.
Ephesians 4:8. In Ephesians 4:8-2 Samuel : Christ is put one more time in the spotlight. Who is He, Who distributes this grace and does that with the exact measure? He is the One, Who has thoroughly defeated the enemy. He is the One, Who is above all and all things as a result of that. He is the One, Who distributes gifts to the members of His body from that position.
Let us first take a look at the victory that is described in Ephesians 4:8. This verse is introduced by the word “therefore” and is followed by a quotation that comes from Psalm 68 (Psalms 68:18). At first sight it may seem strange that Paul quotes a verse from the Old Testament to illustrate his teachings. But wasn’t it that in the Old Testament there was no mention of the church? He discussed that issue in detail in the previous chapter, didn’t he? That is right, but in the Old Testament Christ is being spoken of, and with reference to Him, Paul quotes this verse.
The word ‘therefore’ indicates that the quotation from Psalms 68 is meant as a confirmation of Ephesians 4:7. In that verse it is about Christ as the Giver. Ephesians 4:8 emphasizes both the place from where He gives, “on high”, and what He has done so that He could give, “He led captive a host of captives” or “He led captivity captive”.
Psalms 68 is a victory psalm. There you read how the Lord (Yahweh) scatters His enemies and puts them to flight. Kings, who were rebellious against Him, perish in front of His face. To His oppressed people God’s action means liberation. That’s why they celebrate. This scene foresees the beginning of the millennial kingdom of peace.
Paul quotes this psalm because he knows that the victory that will be publicly seen then, is now already a reality for faith. The Lord Jesus has gone through death; after that He rose and “He ascended on high”. The word ‘ascended’ makes you taste Divine power, the majesty of the Conqueror. That He has ‘led the captivity captive’ means that He has disempowered everything that brought men into captivity. Therefore you read in Hebrews 2:“That through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and might free those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives” (Hebrews 2:14-Ezra :). He has conquered the power of sin, death, world and flesh for all who belong to Him.
But He did not only liberate them, He also gave them gifts. First, God gave Him gifts in reward for His victory. In His turn Christ gives the gifts to all who partake in His victory and those are we. So the gifts come from One Who has triumphed and is in heaven now. So in Ephesians 4:8 we see the Conqueror Who ascends on high in triumph. And His victory is very great, as He not only defeated him, who kept us in captivity, but also his whole government machinery, everything that served him. Also we, who were in captivity, are freed. Therefore He can also give us gifts.
Ephesians 4:9. This verse makes clear how the victory happened. It happened because He descended to earth and not only to earth, but into the lower parts of it, which means in death. If He had only come to earth, He couldn’t lead the captivity captive. He had to descend into death, into the grave. It is the victory of Someone, Who entered the den of the lion, Who went through death and appeared as Conqueror.
He showed that He is above the power of satan. All who are connected to Him and are partakers of His work on the cross, are also partakers of its results. With Him they are saved from the power of death and are made to sit together in the heavenly places with Him. This only concerns the believers. As far as the unbelievers are concerned, they are still under the power of sin and death.
“Descended into the lower parts of the earth” doesn’t mean ‘descended into hell’, as if the Lord Jesus had been in hell. This is what is included in the Dutch confession of faith, but not in the Bible. It can surely be said that the Lord Jesus underwent the judgment of God when He was judged because of our sins. Had He not done that, then we would have been eternally condemned to hell under the wrath of God. The judgment He underwent was surely not less than what our part would have been in hell.
Ephesians 4:10. He didn’t stay into those ‘lower parts of the earth’. He had been highly raised “above all the heavens”, after He triumphed, with the purpose “that He might fill all things” (cf. Jeremiah 23:24). There is no depth too deep but He has been there and there is no height too high but He is exalted above it.
‘Above all heavens’ is a remarkable expression. It is the superlative degree of superiority. In Mark 16 you read about the first degree (Mark 16:19). There He, the true Servant, ‘is received up into heaven’. In Hebrews 4 you see the second degree (Hebrews 4:14). There He is the great High Priest ‘Who has passed through the heavens’. In our verse He is the triumphing Man Who has ascended ‘above all heavens’. This is the third degree, the superlative, the all exceeding degree.
He will fill all things with His presence. That reminds us of what we read in chapter 1 (Ephesians 1:23). The difference is that there it is about Him as God, while here it is about Him as Man. It clarifies that there it is about one Person Who is God as well as Man. Incomprehensible and inexplicable for human intellect, but faith ‘worships and bows down’.
The glory of His Person is unfathomable and unsearchable. It invites you to be occupied with that Person and to enjoy Him more and more and to admire Him. In eternity there will be no place in heaven or on earth where His glory will not be visible. Then there will be no room for anything else. It is Him and Him only. What He will be then may be already reality for the heart of each one who is connected to Him. The Holy Spirit wants to focus our heart on Him. How He does that, you will see in the following verses.
Now read Ephesians 4:7-10 again.
Reflection: Tell in your own words what you see of the greatness of the Lord Jesus in these verses.
The Purpose of the Gifts
Ephesians 4:11. “And He”, that is how the verse begins, that has the emphasis. He, Whose great glory and superiority you saw in the previous verses. He has ascended on high and is there the triumphant Man above all things. He has made captive the power that ruled over men. His victory and His power are not visible for the world yet at the moment. Yet He proves already His power in this world. Do you know how? It is because He, as He had promised (Ephesians 4:8), gives gifts to the people He has liberated from the power of the enemy.
That He gives gifts to the church is the proof that He is above all things. The church is in the world, on the territory where satan rules. Yet satan has not a bit of authority over the church, but Christ has all authority. His power is so great that He uses former captives of satan as instruments to also redeem others and to build them up.
Now you should read the following very well. It is said: “He gave some …” So it is not that He gave gifts to particular persons. That you can read for example in Romans 12 (Romans 12:6-Ruth :). There somebody has a gift. The same goes for 1 Corinthians 12 (1 Corinthians 12:4-1 Kings :). But here the person himself has been given as a gift to the church by the Lord Jesus.
In each gift mentioned here, you see something of what Christ is to His own. He is the Apostle of our confession (Hebrews 3:1), the Prophet raised up by God (Acts 3:22), the Evangelist, Who preached the gospel to the poor (Matthew 11:5), the good, great and chief Shepherd of the sheep (John 10:11; John 10:14; Hebrews 13:20; 1 Peter 5:4).
The first who are mentioned are the apostles. Together with them, the prophets have already been mentioned earlier, in chapters 2 and 3 (Ephesians 2:20; Ephesians 3:5); here they are mentioned second. In chapter 2:20 they are the preparers of the foundation of the church as the house of God. In chapter 3:5 they are the ones to whom God made known the mystery of the church so that they would pass that on.
In both cases it is about a unique happening, as preparing a foundation is something you only do once and a mystery that has been made known doesn’t have to be revealed anymore afterwards. As such the apostles and the prophets, who are meant here, do not need followers. You will also search in vain for such a thing as ‘apostolic succession’ in the Bible. We have no apostles anymore.
That becomes clearer if you think about the conditions to become an apostle. That is somebody who
1. must have seen the Lord Jesus (1 Corinthians 9:1) and
2. must be known by his signs (2 Corinthians 12:12).
The same goes for the prophets. It is not about Old Testament prophets. If that was the case, it would not have been said here ‘apostles and prophets’, but ‘prophets and apostles’. No, it is about New Testament prophets who together with the apostles prepared the foundation of the church and to whom God has made known the mystery of the church.
But even though these gifts are no longer present on earth as persons, we do have their service. Their letters are in the Bible actually. Apostles are Matthew, John, Peter and Paul and prophets are Mark and Luke. When we read their Gospels and letters and take them to heart, we will be made suitable more and more as members of the church to fulfill the task we have as members.
The three following gifts are still as persons among us. Evangelists are taking care of new ‘accretion’ of the church. Shepherds and teachers make sure that these new members get pastoral care, nourishment and teaching.
Ephesians 4:12. This is reflected in the multiple purposes that are mentioned in this verse. The service of the gifts is focused on “the saints”. The result of the service is that these saints finally will come to the “measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:13). So the gifts are focused on the saints, on you and me, first of all “for the equipping of” us. The meaning of that is that all members of the body will be made aware of which place they have in the body and also which function they fulfill as members.
So it is about the functioning of the whole body and that can only happen when every member functions properly. The Lord Jesus cannot be satisfied with an inadequately functioning body. That’s why it is important that every member separately should make use of these gifts. That means to be occupied with God’s Word, by using bible commentaries from teachers who are faithful to the Scripture, listening to their sermons, attending the gatherings where the Word is being clarified and practiced. By the way, this doesn’t mean that we should not examine if the things they write or say are in accordance with God’s Word (Acts 17:11).
In this way members like you and I, are being equipped “for the work of service”. We shall become more and more capable to do the task that the Lord destined for us to do when He added us to the church through the means of His evangelists. This ministry is also not on its own, but goes for “the building up of the body of Christ”. It is about the whole.
You’re not a member just by yourself. It doesn’t work that way in the human body and neither in the spiritual body. Everyone is there for the other and is put to the service of the whole body. (So it is not limited to some members of the body who you know and with whom you gather.) And that whole body is there for Christ.
Ephesians 4:13. The work of the gifts is only ready when “we all attain to the unity of the faith”. As long as there are divisions, there is no ‘unity of the faith’. It is not a confession of faith that is established by people and through which believers, however, are being separated in practice. Therefore each of the gifts that are given by the Lord Jesus, are meant to bring all members together on the ground of the one and whole truth of God.
It is not possible to experience this unity of faith and at the same time be a member of a church or group. There is only one truth. And the only membership we read of in the Bible is the membership of the body of Christ. In heaven there will be no difference in views and neither will there be division. There shall be unity in believing the one truth.
The gifts are working on that already now. They shall teach all members together the whole truth of faith. They therefore do not proclaim a number of truths of faith or dogma’s, but a Person. In the unity of faith it is about “the knowledge of the Son of God”. The concern of the gifts is that all members grow together to Him and that the Lord, Who is the eternal Son, is sufficient unto them.
That is the characteristic of genuine ministry, a ministry that perseveres until all members have come “to a mature man”, that is until spiritual maturity. Spiritual maturity is measured by the fact that Christ is formed in them (Galatians 4:19). That is the meaning of “the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ”. This is how God measures the growth of the church. God cannot and will never lower that standard. We shall heartily agree with that when we have become aware of the glory of the Christ of God Who has been given by God to the church.
Now read Ephesians 4:11-13 again.
Reflection: What is the task of the gifts?
Grow Up Into Him Who Is the Head
Ephesians 4:14. In the previous verses you saw that the Lord Jesus gave gifts to the church with a specific purpose, namely to come to the fullness of Christ. That purpose will only be perfectly achieved when we are with the Lord in heaven.
But also for here and now a purpose is achieved when the gifts can practice their tasks on you and me. That purpose is that we stand firmly and will not be wiped out immediately when the enemy attacks us. When you and I as members of Christ are filled with the fullness of Christ, the doctrines of the enemy will not get a chance to toss us to and fro. The enemy will do his utmost to prevent the members to grow together to be ‘a perfect man’, full of ‘the knowledge of the Son of God’ (Ephesians 4:13).
One of his tested means is sowing seeds of disunity among the members. He starts with driving a wedge in the unity. For him it doesn’t matter what the theme of the disunity is, whether it is a quarrel about a normal everyday thing, or a wrong doctrine about the Person or the work of Christ, as long as the members get into fights. The result is that the image of the fullness of Christ is not to be seen anymore.
When the members form a unity, when they are together and support each other, they are strong. When they are separated from each other, they are weak. Then the church is not a testimony anymore of the unity of the faith. And when the members are set up against each other, satan’s success really is complete. Because they are not firmly rooted in the teaching of the Scripture, they quickly drift about back and forth, when they hear people preaching their own ‘truth’. And when those ‘preachers’ know how to preach convincingly, they deceive a lot of people. Quite a few of American television preachers are living examples of that.
The enemy achieves his greatest success in churches where the believers remain as babies or “children”. Those believers do not grow in the truth, they are stunted, immature. They know nothing of the unity of the church and, the more miserable thing is, that they have no desire to know that. That’s why they have no stability and are an easy victim for sly people who just mislead them with their deceptions. With their deceptions they let the unstable members go astray. Often these believers remain dependent on a specific type of leader.
Every gift, every genuine servant, feeds a child in faith in a way that it doesn’t stay dependent on him. The true servant becomes happy when he sees that babies in faith are growing more and more into the Lord and more and more independent, because of his teaching.
Ephesians 4:15. In his teaching he shall certainly make use of truth and love. Those are the right ingredients in order to grow into Christ. The verse starts with “but” and therefore forms a contradiction to the previous. Truth stands over against deception and error, and love stands over against craftiness. Truth as well as love is needed to grow healthily. Truth without love is weak and leads to carnal tolerance.
“Speaking [or: holding] the truth in love” means that you, as a member of the body, are truthfully in your performance. You live from the truth and you reflect the truth. You do that in a spirit of love. Love is as it were the smell of a good perfume that surrounds you.
This was perfectly seen in Christ. Everything He said and did was truthfully and embedded in love. A result of that is, that what is said without the mind of Christ, is not really true. It comes from the flesh. To ‘impose the truth’ on somebody is not “speaking the truth in love”. I’m afraid that I’m not the only one who shamefully has to admit to have said things that were indeed true, but which were not surrounded by the perfume of love. Truth is only that which is also kept in love.
The opposite is also true. Only that which is true love is in accordance with truth. When you are only being nice and never speak of things that are wrong, you are not truthfully in love. Then love is hypocrisy, just fake. True love will correct the other on the wrong things, because wrong things cause damage. When you do that, you prove that you love that person, as you prevent him from damage or you limit the damage.
What goes for the individual also goes for the church as a whole, and that is the main issue here. A companionship that holds on to the truth in love is not easily tossed here and there by every wind of doctrine. That is a company of people where every believer has his own firm and inextricable link with Christ, the Head of the body. Together they grow up into Him in everything. All aspects of their common lives are permeated with the features of the Head. As already said, truth and love are the features of Christ. When these are found in His members, the result will be that they will look like Him and they will grow up into Him.
Ephesians 4:16. In his turn, growing up into Him is also the result of being linked with the Head. From Christ – as the Head of the body – everything flows, what is needed for the body to grow. The point is that the body grows. But the whole body consists of all parts that are linked to each other by joints. For the growth of the body it is necessary that every member grows. There should be no member doing his own thing, taking care of himself, apart from the Head. Such a conduct would obstruct the growth of the whole and can cause imbalance.
It is God’s intention that each member grows by being linked with the Head. In this way every member will be able to work in such a way as is suited to the position he has in the body. The ‘teamwork’ between the members mutually will occur harmoniously. The joints, the invisible links between the members, will not do their job squeaking and creakingly.
God has decided the measure of every member. No member has to do more, but should neither do less than is appropriate to do. A hand should do only the work of the hand. It must not want to do the work of the foot or add that to his work, as that will break the balance of the body. Then the whole body is not visible anymore, but only some functions which also ‘perform’ even badly. In this way the Head, Who loves to see His reflection in His whole body, is dishonored.
When the members serve each other and make each other happy, it is the result of Christ’s work in them. He serves and makes happy. When the work of Christ can be manifested in this way in the members, they will together show Christ on earth. When the body functions that way from the Head, it builds itself up. Through the service the members serve each other with, they will grow up into Him, Who is the Head.
This rich verse ends with the words “in love”. Love is, just as for speaking the truth, the only suitable ‘climate’ in which the growth can be realized at its best.
Now read Ephesians 4:14-16 again.
Reflection: What is the point of these verses for you?
Past and Present
Ephesians 4:17. There is a big contrast between Ephesians 4:17-Psalms : and the previous verses. The spirit of the world, wherein everyone is living just for himself, stands completely against the body and the members where everyone is there for the other. But Paul points to the danger that the spirit of the world may exert its influence in the church. You should always be aware that your old habits may suddenly arise. It is dangerous to think that your past cannot influence you anymore. The only security to escape from that is to remain close to the Lord Jesus.
You can notice from the introductory words of Paul that you must take this warning seriously. The words “so this I say, and affirm” emphasizes what he is going to say. The addition “with the Lord” indicates the fellowship in the Lord between writer and readers.
The starting point of his admonition is the absolute separation between the believers and the Gentiles, to which they belonged in the past, but not anymore now. The separation is radical and must be seen in their whole walk, in everything.
The walk of man is strongly related with his “mind”. The ‘mind’ consists of his thinking, in the widest sense of the word. The origin of his walk is there. He lives in accordance with his thinking. The mind of man produces nothing of permanent value: it is ‘futile’. How different it is what God expects from the believer. The Lord Jesus says to His disciples: “I … appointed you that you would go and bear fruit, and [that] your fruit would remain” (John 15:16).
Ephesians 4:18. The “understanding” is the capacity to gain knowledge, to fathom something. In the world people look up to others who have a great intellect. Awards are given to people who have achieved brilliant brainwork. However, if these people are not related to God through conversion and new life, all their works have been achieved in darkness. Darkness rules everywhere, where God’s light doesn’t shine. They are in darkness and darkness is in them.
There is no life from God in them; they are “excluded from” it. They have always kept it at a distance. They do not want to share in it. They closed themselves to it. They don’t know anything of it and don’t want to have anything to do with it.
This attitude is the result of “the hardness of their heart”. The heart is the inner core of man; it is the center of his whole being. A hardened heart is inaccessible for the good and is incorrigible. Actually it is a circle: he who always rejects everything that comes from God makes his heart blind; and he who has a blinded heart always rejects everything that comes from God.
Ephesians 4:19. Yet Paul is not finished with the black painting of the man-without-God. To God everything is futility, darkness, death, ignorance and hardness. To themselves and to their environment, there is no sense of what is appropriate. Their natural feelings do not work anymore; they are “callous”. He who is on the one hand ‘excluded from the life of God’, is on the other hand very familiar with life in sin. There he feels at ease and at home.
Such people have lawlessly given themselves to mostly depraved things. With greediness they throw themselves to every thinkable excess of dissipation (1 Peter 4:4). By “impurity” often is meant, sexual uncleanness. By “greediness” is meant, that there is an inner pressure to have more and more. There is an insatiable craving to fulfill the unclean desires.
Ephesians 4:20. After this description of the impetuous walk of the Gentiles, it becomes apparent that there is a huge contrast with Christ. It is remarkable that Paul doesn’t present opposite to the world’s way of living a Christian way of living, but he presents a Person. The believers in Ephesus did not receive a new doctrine, but they received Christ. He is the content of all that they have learnt. All the plans of God are connected with Him and have Him as the Center and purpose. There is no truth of the Scripture that is apart from Christ.
The Christ Who was preached to the Ephesians, was the Man of God’s right hand. Everything He is and Who He is, is completely strange to the content of the Ephesians 4:17-Psalms :. There is no connection at all between Him and the Gentiles. That means that for the Christian who is related to Him, the previous must be ‘passé’, past time.
Ephesians 4:21. By the name of ‘Christ’ you can think of the Lord Jesus as the Man of God’s counsels. In this way you have learnt to know Him after you have accepted Him as your Savior and Lord. That opened the door to an unknown glory. In that glory you penetrate furthermore, the more you learn about Him. All truth of God is present in Him. That truth you see, said with reverence, in the flesh in ‘Jesus’.
By using the name ‘Jesus’, you can think of His life when He was on earth. Paul doesn’t often mention ‘Jesus’ without any addition. He only does that when he points at Him as the humble Man on earth. Paul does that here to present Him as an Example. In order to know how to reflect the truth of God on earth, you should look at the life of Jesus.
Ephesians 4:22. ‘The truth in Jesus’ becomes visible in our lives when we have put off the old man and have put on the new man. “The old man” is the fallen Adam as he is reflected in all his aspects (characteristics) in all human beings: very pleasing or very unpleasing and everything in between. “Our old self (or: old man) was crucified with [Him]” (Romans 6:6). That is how God dealt with it. The consequence is that we should look at the old man that way, we should put off.
Therefore there is nothing at all to be improved on the old man. On the contrary, only deceiving desires come from it, which improve a process of destruction. At your conversion the connection with the old man and his walk is radically broken. In Acts 19:18-Psalms : you can read how that happened, regarding the Ephesians.
Ephesians 4:23-Jeremiah :. Instead of the old, something completely new has come. A new source of thinking has come, which causes a new walk. In the new walk “the new self” becomes visible. That new man is totally in accordance with Whom God is. The Lord Jesus was that also. Yet, He is not the new man. Of the new man it is said that he is created. The Lord Jesus is not created. But the features of the new man are just the same as those of the Lord Jesus. In Him and in God there is nothing present that belongs to the old man. The new man is everywhere to be seen where believers show the features of the Lord Jesus.
The new man is therefore not a restoration of the first man, Adam. You cannot say of Adam that he has been created “in true righteousness and holiness”, as when he was created, there was no sin yet. He was not ‘righteous’, but innocent; he had no knowledge of good and evil. That knowledge came after his fall into sin. From that moment he could do no good anymore – he could do only evil.
The new man also has the knowledge of good and evil, but he always chooses the good and rejects the evil. ‘Righteousness’ means doing what is right, in the midst of, and against the evil. ‘Holiness’ means separation to God, while we are surrounded by the evil.
Now read Ephesians 4:17-24 again.
Reflection: What are the differences in your case, between the past and present?
The New Man
Ephesians 4:25. The word “therefore” indicates that the admonitions that now follow arise from what has just been said. The believers in Ephesus had heard about the ‘truth in Jesus’. Paul had told them about the old and the new man. He made it clear that the new man ‘is created according to God’. You might know all that, but you only have really understood it, if that is also visible in your life.
That’s why Paul now gives his teachings real substance. He demonstrates how the features of God should be reflected in the life of the believer. You have the possibility to do that. After all you ‘are created according to God’. That means that you have been renewed to look like God by reflecting His features in your daily life.
The first Man on earth in Whom it was perfectly seen, is the Lord Jesus. Not a (half or whole) lie have ever come out of His mouth (cf. 1 Peter 2:22); He always spoke the full truth. And that should also be the case with everyone who is created according to God.
Lying is a conscious denial of the truth or a conscious twist of that. You throw dust in people’s eyes, because it brings you profit. That doesn’t always have to be financial profit. It can also help you to cover your true intentions. But that is not how God is and neither how the Lord Jesus was when He was on earth. God is perfectly transparent, as was the Lord Jesus also on earth. He only spoke truth and could say: “I am the truth” (John 14:6). And “no lie is of the truth” (1 John 2:21).
Of course ‘not lying’ and ‘speaking the truth’ is something you should always do towards everybody, but here it is said especially towards your fellow believers. When you lie towards your brother, you deceive yourself. That is in fact embedded within the words “for we are members of one another”. This approach is completely suitable for the letter in which the unity of the church is significant.
Ephesians 4:26. Lying is always wrong and happens deliberately at almost all times. ‘Getting angry’ is not always wrong and that happens at almost all times spontaneously in cases of injustice. We speak of ‘holy anger’ which arises in a situation where God is being dishonored. That anger is appropriate. Here the apostle even appeals to it: “Be angry.”
Getting angry is not against love. God is love, but He is angry about sin and therefore anger is not against love. The Lord Jesus was angry about the dishonor that had been done to His God and cleansed the temple in anger (Matthew 21:12).
The point is that we are risking that our anger becomes a sinful anger. That’s why there follows the addition straight afterwards: “And do not sin.” When we get angry in a case of a certain injustice, we can get that indignant and agitated that we lose our self-control. In such a case we may unthinkingly say or do things that are not ‘according to God’. Regarding the Lord Jesus, we see that anger and sadness go perfectly together in balance (Mark 3:5); regarding us, there is a chance that anger goes together with being hurt personally.
Moses ’anger became hot’ once. That happened when he got down from the mountain and saw the people dancing around the gold calf (Exodus 32:19). That anger was appropriate. Afterwards he got angry again and struck the rock instead of speaking to it, as God commanded. There he was quick tempered and for that anger God had to punish him, because he then was sinning and gave room to the devil (Numbers 20:7-2 Kings :).
That the sun should not go down on your wrath, means that we should not cherish wrath, but take this to God. Psalms 4 points to that (Psalms 4:4). When you cherish wrath, the sun will also go down on your wrath spiritually. You will get sour and all light and prospect you have, will fade away. Wrath can then change into hatred and resentment.
It is possible that you have come to such a situation, due to an injustice done to you. You should then search for somebody you can trust to help you. Just do something to get into the light again!
Ephesians 4:27. “Do not give the devil an opportunity” means: do not give him any room to let you sin. When you have done that, take that away immediately from him, so that your life is not being pushed further into darkness. He has no right to it, as the Lord has conquered him. Let him no longer take advantage of you (2 Corinthians 2:11).
Ephesians 4:28. After Paul has dealt with our speech and emotions in relation to the old and the new man, he now comes to our deeds. Stealing is enriching yourself at the expense of others; giving is to enrich others at your own expense. The law is clear about lying and stealing: “You shall not …” (Exodus 20:15-Nehemiah :). Paul doesn’t appeal to the law, however! The Christian, who is made to sit in Christ in heaven and is blessed there with all spiritual blessings, does not live in the realm of the law anymore.
Of course he should not lie and steal, but nobody wants that at all, who ‘is created according to God’. On the contrary, such a person wants to show the features of God. Has God stolen anything? This is a foolish question. God is a giver (John 4:10) and He gives gently. Such will also be the case with you.
You don’t have to be a former thief to learn how to reflect God in your life. Here it even goes further than what you read in Romans 13: “Owe nothing to anyone” (Romans 13:8). Okay, you don’t steal; you don’t even owe anybody anything. But in the light of this letter that is not the peak of being a Christian. Here you are being addressed at the highest level: by working hard, honest and good, you will be able to give to others.
Paul himself has given the good example – with which he brought into practice the words of the Lord Jesus – when he said to the elders of the church in Ephesus: “I have coveted no one’s silver or gold or clothes. You yourselves know that these hands ministered to my [own] needs and to the men who were with me. In everything I showed you that by working hard in this manner you must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He Himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive’” (Acts 20:33-Habakkuk :).
Ephesians 4:29. God neither steals anything nor says anything that is damaging or unedifying. Everything that God says, His whole Word, is good, edifies and gives grace. The world is full of filthy words and dirty expressions. Radio, television, the internet, books and magazines are mainly nothing else but channels of the old man. They pass their message to whoever wants to hear, watch and read. Listeners, viewers and readers are being provided with a jargon that is familiar to the old man. The discussions in the workplace and meeting rooms prove this. The language they use, are often not free from ‘filth’ in the sense of bad, perverse.
The expression “unwholesome word” doesn’t only refer to a wrong, dirty expression, but also to the whole content, the message that is being passed on. And whether someone uses vulgar or respectable words, his language usage is unclean or dirty when his message is ‘dirty’. No, also in the language usage God would love to recognize Himself.
Instead of a word that causes decay and destruction, our words should be an instrument “that may impart grace to the hearers”. Of the Lord Jesus it is testified: “Never has a man spoken the way this man speaks” (John 7:46). He spoke “gracious words, comforting words” (Zechariah 1:13). The words “as is good for edification according to the need [of the moment]” indicate that, not only what has been said is important, but also when and where it is said.
I heartily hope that in your and my speech the language of God is being heard.
Now read Ephesians 4:25-29 again.
Reflection: How do you put off the old man and how do you put on the new man?
Be Kind To One Another
Ephesians 4:30. If you ‘are created according to God’ (Ephesians 4:24), you are able to show to a sin perverted world Who and how God is. You bring heaven onto earth. You have seen in the previous verses how to understand that practically. How you are able to practice that and to get the right motivation, you see in this verse. You see, you are sealed with “the Holy Spirit of God”. Briefly, it means that you are God’s property. What a great security! More of what sealing means you can read again in the explanation of chapter 1, where you have found this expression already (Ephesians 1:13-2 Chronicles :).
The Holy Spirit gives you the power to show the features of God in your life. The Holy Spirit is mentioned here with emphasis on the Spirit of God. It is all about God. You ‘are created according to God’ and you have received the Holy Spirit of God, so that you, to say it with chapter 5, can be addressed as a follower of God (Ephesians 5:1). In the life of the Lord Jesus on earth you see that shown in a perfect way. In that way it happens in you also, as you have the same nature.
The Holy Spirit dwells in you “for the day of redemption”. That indicates the redemption of your body and the redemption of the creation. Your body has not been redeemed yet. You can realize that by the pain you can have. Not only physical pain, but also pain in your soul when you have done something wrong, or when you look at the misery around you. Romans 8 also speaks about “the redemption of our body” (Romans 8:23), which will take place when the Lord comes to take us up to be with Him (Philippians 3:20-Ecclesiastes :). You can eagerly wait for that; you can look forward to it; it shall happen.
After that happening the Lord Jesus shall redeem ‘the purchased possession’ (Ephesians 1:14), that is the whole creation. How that will happen is to be read in the book of Revelation, where it is comprehensively described. The definite outcome is that everything will be according to God, as ‘God will be all in all’ (1 Corinthians 15:28). The Lord Jesus has the right to redeem everything, as He paid the whole price for the redemption. This prospect of the ‘day of redemption’ gives the believer a great drive to be a follower of God in the power of His Spirit.
Then you are also protected from grieving the Holy Spirit of God. So the appeal not to grieve the Spirit is written for a good reason. When you do something that is not according to God – especially in the light of the fact that you are created according to Him – you grieve Him with that. The Holy Spirit is God. That you can grieve Him proves that He is a Person and not just a power or an influence. It is also said that we can quench Him (1 Thessalonians 5:19) and that we can lie to Him (Acts 5:3).
Ephesians 4:31. It is clear that all things that are mentioned in this verse do not belong to ‘the truth in Jesus’, neither to ‘the new man’, nor to what ‘is created according to God’. The issue here is your personal behavior in the church (“from you”). And this is addressed to a church to which Paul told so many wonderful things.
So it is clear that being familiar with the highest blessings is not a guarantee not to turn aside to the lowest behavior. After all, can you imagine that the things Paul mentioned here could happen in a church like Ephesus? And yet that happened, not only then, but it also happens now among us. It is a list of evil feelings and expressions, where anger produces more anger.
It begins with “bitterness”. Once a “root of bitterness” (Hebrews 12:15) is sprouted and which has not been judged, then “wrath” will follow. When suppressed wrath has not been put away by self-judgment, this will discharge in “wrath and anger and clamor”. When there is no repentance, then wrath and anger and clamor will be followed by “slander”. Wrath and anger and clamor will be poured out over the opponent. Slander always happens behind the back of the opponent. When evil slander is not being confessed, the door has been opened for every kind of “malice”. This picture of the old man is most telling. Likewise most telling is the command (it’s not a request) to put this all away from the church.
Ephesians 4:32. Against the anger of the old man is the totally different mind of the new man. After the obscure feelings and expressions of the old man, the bright light is shining here and you feel the warmth of the new man. Instead of cherishing the bitter feelings towards the other, you are expected to be tenderhearted towards the other. Instead of scolding the other and speaking evil of the other, you are expected to be kind and forgiving to the other.
You have the example before you. How did God treat you and how does He still treat you? He has forgiven you in Christ. The more you think about it, the more you will be able to show the forgiving mind of God in your dealing with others.
Indeed, that is a very high standard, but yet the only right standard. And you are able to meet this standard, because you ‘are created according to God’. God didn’t come to you with bitterness because of your guilt, but He came with forgiveness. He remitted your debt and took pity on you. There is room for showing kindness and forgiveness when the obstacles of the previous verse have been put away.
Now read Ephesians 4:30-32 again.
Reflection: Which characteristics of the old man and which of the new man do you see here?
Kingcomments on the Whole Bible © 2021 Author: G. de Koning. All rights reserved. Used with the permission of the author
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de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op Ephesians 4". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany