Lectionary Calendar
Saturday, July 20th, 2024
the Week of Proper 10 / Ordinary 15
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Bible Commentaries
Ephesians 4

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Verse 1

Eph 4:1

Ephesians 4:1

I therefore,—Because God had provided for them such an abundant salvation and had given them full liberty to use all the means of grace.

the prisoner in the Lord,—He was a prisoner because he was in the Lord and for his sake. It was as a Christian and the cause of Christ that he suffered bonds. He speaks as a prisoner not to excite sympathy, nor merely to add weight to his exhorta­tion, but rather as exulting that he was counted worthy to suffer for Christ’s sake.

beseech you to walk worthily of the calling wherewith ye were called,—They had been called to a higher life, calling or walk, as servants of God. When a man by faith enters into Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:26), he accepts the call of God to live the life of Jesus Christ, to obey the will of God, and walk according to the precepts he laid down. [The true grace in the heart must show itself by true devotion to the Lord in the life.]

Verse 2

Eph 4:2

Ephesians 4:2

with all lowliness—This is a low estimate of one’s self, founded on the consciousness of guilt and weakness, and a conse­quent disposition to be low, unnoticed, and unpraised.

and meekness,—There is a natural connection between humility and meekness, and therefore they are here joined to­gether as in so many other places. Meekness is that unresisting, uncomplaining disposition of mind which enables us to bear with­out irritation or resentment the faults and injuries of others. It lays hold on the sovereign will of God as our supreme good, and delights in absolutely and perfectly conforming itself thereto.

with longsuffering,—[This is an attendant of the Christian walk closely connected with the other two, but introduced by itself. It means not taking swift vengeance, not inflicting speedy punishment. It is meekness towards the sins of others, and the more difficult to exercise because justice seems at times to be against it. It is prompted by recalling that we were called when sinners, that all of our privileges are proofs of God’s long-suffer­ing.]

forbearing one another—[This defines the walk still further, but is in reality a vicarious setting forth of how long-suffering is exhibited.]

in love;—[Love is an all-inclusive affection, embracing not only every other affection proper to its object, but all that is proper to be done to its object; for love spontaneously seeks to please its object, so in the case of men to God, it is the native well-spring of a voluntary obedience. It is, besides, the most personal of all affections. One may fear an event, one may hope an event, one may rejoice in an event; but one can love only a person. It is the tenderest, and most unselfish, the most divine of all affec­tions.]

Verse 3

Eph 4:3

Ephesians 4:3

giving diligence to keep the unity of the Spirit—Christians are to give diligence to stand one in the teachings of the Spirit, to be united in walking according to his instructions. There were Jews and Gentiles in the church, and they were to maintain peace among themselves. Complete and perfect oneness in spirit, in heart, and in one body all springing from the oneness of God in the hearts of all, is the purpose and end of the gospel of Christ among men. The spirit that promotes unity and harmony among men comes from God. Unity and harmony of action are im­possible in a way not provided by God. The unity is gained and maintained by doing the will of God. It requires no negotia­tions or arrangements among men to unite them as one in Christ. If we are in Christ, we cannot help being one with all who are in Christ. All in Christ are one with him and in him. Nothing can keep two persons in Christ separated. They will flow together. Christ came to remove all division walls and hindering causes and make of the many families and nations of earth one new man in Christ All human teachings, inventions, and institutions are occasions of discord, stumbling, and division. To divide the spiritual body of Christ is as cruel a crime against God and man as it was to pierce the fleshly body of Jesus with the spear. The hearts of those who add human inventions are not right in the sight of God. The example of perfectness before God that we are to follow is that of Jesus who had no will save to do the will of him that sent him, and to finish his work.

in the bond of peace.—They were to live in accord under the teaching of the Spirit and maintain peace among themselves. The state of mind and heart that inspired the unity of the body is the gentle, long-suffering, forbearing spirit that keeps down strife and divisions in the body, crushes out selfishness, sordid spirit of the flesh, and makes each seek not his own but another’s good. The spirit that bears patiently, suffering for well-doing, is the one that is well-pleasing to God, and the one that promotes the unity and harmony of the body of Christ.

Verse 4

Eph 4:4

Ephesians 4:4

There is one body,—The church of the Lord Jesus Christ, in which his Spirit dwells. It is the one spiritual body of the Lord Jesus Christ. The church at Ephesus was the body of Christ at that place.

and one Spirit,—There is but one Spirit to give life, to guide, and direct that one body. The body animated and guided by the one Spirit cannot be divided. It must be a unit.

even as also ye were called in one hope of your calling;—There is one calling to follow Jesus Christ, and one hope of the home in heaven as a result of that calling.

Verse 5

Eph 4:5

Ephesians 4:5

one Lord,—This one Lord is Jesus Christ, crucified, buried, risen, exalted, and invested with supreme authority in heaven and on earth. To the Jews out of every nation, Peter declared: “Let all the house of Israel therefore know assuredly, that God hath made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom ye crucified.” (Acts 2:36). To the Gentiles, also, Peter preached him as “Lord of all”; and “to him bear all the prophets witness, that through his name every one that believeth on him shall receive remission of sins.” (Acts 10:36; Acts 10:43). Thus the door of faith was opened to the Gentiles, as it had been to the Jews, into one and the same kingdom under one and the same Lord. Hence Paul emphasized the fact that “there is no distinction between Jew and Greek: for the same Lord is Lord of all, and is rich unto all that call upon him.” (Romans 10:12). As Lord of all, he “is on the right hand of God, having gone into heaven; angels and authorities and powers being made subject unto him.” (1 Peter 3:22).

one faith,—One living, life-giving faith that works by love, and is made perfect by these works; that purifies the heart and fits it for a true temple of God, “a habitation of God in the Spirit.” Only those whose faith is regulated by the word of God and whose purposes and daily life are conformed to the will of God can be one in Christ. This oneness must be a spiritual and practical oneness, not simply an assent of the mind to the truths of God. Oneness with and in Christ is the only source of spiritual and divine power. The great need of the church today is divine presence and spiritual power. This can be gained only by a closer walk with God; a more perfect conformity of the lives, the feelings, purposes, and life of professed Christians to the will and Spirit of God.

one baptism,—One burial of him whose heart is purified by faith, who has been crucified with Jesus Christ to sin, that he may rise to walk in newness of life with the risen and glorified Savior.

Verse 6

Eph 4:6

Ephesians 4:6

one God and Father of all, who is over all, and through all, and in all.—The Creator, Preserver, and Benefactor of all things, who overrules in, through the universe, and dwells and works in every obedient heart “both to will and to work, for his good pleasure.” (Philippians 2:13). This perfect and complete unity in the creation, preservation, and direction of the universe and of all the loyal and true subjects of God is given as the strong and irresistible appeal for unity among the children of God, in his body, guided by his Spirit. It is not a plea for denominational union. There were no denominations in the days of Paul. It is an earnest plea for unity and oneness in the congregation of be­lievers in Christ in a given locality in doing the work of God on earth. It is a grievous sin against God for men to destroy the unity of the body of Christ by personal ambition and strife and bickering.

Verse 7

Eph 4:7

Ephesians 4:7

But unto each one of us was the grace given according to the measure of the gift of Christ.—This likely refers to those endowed with spiritual gifts presented in the following verses, and Christ bestowed those gifts or offices as he saw each was gifted to receive and use them. The miraculous gifts did not change the talents, the dispositions, or faculties of those receiv­ing them. They enabled them to work miracles and to know the truth, and the powers bestowed were such as were suited to the talents and dispositions of those to whom they were given.

Verse 8

Eph 4:8

Ephesians 4:8

Wherefore he saith, When he ascended on high,—The giving of these gifts to men was dependent upon his ascending on high, just as he said to his disciples: “It is expedient for you that I go away; for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I go, I will send him unto you.” (John 16:7).

he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men.—Captivity refers to death, as death had held dominion over every living thing on earth. Jesus Christ went down into death’s inner prison, and struggled with the powers of death and hell; bursting asunder the bars of death, and rose a triumphant victor over the power of death and hell. In his triumph he secured man’s resurrection, and won his crown as King of kings and Lord of lords. By virtue of his victory over death, his angelic convoy, as it approached the city of God, cried: “Lift up your heads, O ye gates; and be ye lifted up, ye everlasting doors: and the King of glory will come in.” (Psalms 24:7-10). In this glorious ascension, convoyed by an angelic host, he led death a captive, a conquered captive, in his train. Since that day, death reigns not as an unconquered and independent sovereign, but by the permission and subject to the will of its conqueror and captor—Christ the Lord. But the ques­tion arises: “If death has been conquered by the Lord, is held captive by him, is subject to his will, and reigns by his permis­sion, why does he permit death still to reign over all that is on the earth?”

Death is an evil, truly, but not the greatest of evils; sometimes as a result, and must exist as a restrainer, an antidote for greater evils. So death is an evil, but not the greatest evil. Sin is a greater evil than death. Death is the prison house for sinners—the boundary line beyond which no active rebel against God can ever pass. Without, then, the restraining of death, man must have been an eternal sinner. Now, this side of that line he may set God at defiance; he may stiffen his neck and harden his heart. On that side his knee must bow; his stubborn will must flex, and in hell he must pay the fearful penalty of his rebellion against God by submission to its horrors forever.

Then death is the prison house of sin. Let sin cease to abound, and death will be destroyed. Would we then seek to destroy death, we must do it by destroying that greater evil which brought death, and still retains it in and over this world—sin is a rebellion against God. Death came into the world, not as the result of the rule and reign of God. When God ruled over the world, and man, the great head over the under creation, maintained his true allegiance to God, his Spirit was the pervading, controlling power of the world, then death was unknown, and only things which administered to man’s well-being and promoted his happiness. When man turned from obedience to God and transferred the allegiance of the world from God to the devil, then God’s Spirit no longer dwelt in a kingdom ruled over by the wicked one. But the devil became the ruling, controlling, animating principle in the earth. As a result of this transfer, spiritual death came, and man with his brother engaged in strife, bitterness, wrath, and bloodshed. All the institutions of earth, built by man under this evil spirit, partake of this same spirit, and are subject to the same rule of the evil one.

Verse 9

Eph 4:9

Ephesians 4:9

(Now this,—These words introduce an explanatory state­ment of the correctness of the application of the preceding verse.

He ascended,—This implies a previous corresponding de­scent, which must be from heaven to earth, as Jesus said: “And no one hath ascended into heaven, but he that descended out of heaven, even the Son of man, who is in heaven” (John 3:13), and he could not ascend to give gifts to men without previously descending.

what is it but that he also descended into the lower parts of the earth?—The reference here is to the Messiah who came to earth from heaven, his original dwelling place, to destroy the power of the devil; to annihilate his kingdoms, cast out the evil spirit inseparable from them; reassert the authority of God, re­establish his rule and kingdom; make his Spirit again the life- giving and pervading influence of this world. When this work is accomplished, death will no longer riot on perishing mortals: those in the bondage of death will rise from their imprisoning graves; bitterness, wrath, strife will cease among men, then shall the prophecy of Isaiah 11:6-9 be fulfilled. This is to be the result of the reign of the kingdom of God on earth. The fullness of that reign and the rule of that Spirit will usher in the glori­ous millennial morn. Whoever, then, strives to reinstate God’s authority, God’s Spirit, God’s kingdom, and to destroy the au­thority, spirit, dominion, and institutions that have sprung up under the rule of the wicked one, is a coworker with God—with Jesus Christ, who “also himself in like manner partook of the same; that through death he might bring to nought him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; and might deliver all them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.” (Hebrews 2:14-15). And in destroying the devil with his institutions, and their fruits, he destroys the necessity and the cause of death—destroys death itself.

Verse 10

Eph 4:10

Ephesians 4:10

He that descended is the same also that ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things).—His as­cension was necessary to the completing or finishing the work for which he came into the world—the re-establishing the kingdom of God on earth. He must be crowned the conquering Lord, ere his kingdom could be established, or send the Spirit to guide that kingdom, before proper gifts and appointments upon his subjects, to guide them into all truth, and develop them into the full stature of the Lord.

Verse 11

Eph 4:11

Ephesians 4:11

And he gave some to be apostles;—Here are enumerated the gifts bestowed on the disciples by him when he ascended on high, in the order of the fullness and importance of these gifts. Strictly speaking, the term apostle applies only to the twelve and to Paul. It should be taken here in its strict sense. It is gen­erally agreed that only those are apostles who were commis­sioned by Christ himself; were witnesses of the resurrection, because they had seen the risen Lord (Acts 1:21-22; Acts 22:14-15; Acts 26:16; 1 Corinthians 15:5-8); had a special inspiration (Ephesians 2:20; Ephesians 3:5; John 14:26; John 16:13-16); and that their authority was supreme (Gal. 1 8, 9). [It must be understood that the apostles com­pletely set in order what things were to be taught and practiced by Christians. They left no successors. Their teaching, there­fore, as recorded in the New Testament is the rule of faith and practice, and their institution and example the infallible guide in the order and administration of the church for all time.]

and some, prophets;—The prophets were inspired to make known the will of God after it had been revealed to them through the apostles. [Prophets acted and spoke under the extraordinary divine impulse and inspiration, whether in predicting or in teach­ing. Naturally their service accompanied and supplemented that of the apostles and so entitled them to be mentioned in this con­nection. Like that of the apostles, the function of the prophets ceased to be necessary when the foundation had been securely laid.]

and some, evangelists;—Evangelists were those who were supplied with the gifts to go into destitute fields to make known the gospel. [They seem to have acted under apostolic direction, and were the missionaries of the time.]

and some, pastors and teachers;—Those endowed to feed and teach those already Christians the duties and obligations rest­ing on them as children of God. All these were miraculously endowed, spiritually gifted to perform the work for which they had talent and turn or disposition. These gifts were to endure until the perfect will of God was made known, and were intended to teach the children of God until the scriptures were completed. Then the gifts were to cease.

Verse 12

Eph 4:12

Ephesians 4:12

for the perfecting of the saints,—The endowed teachers were given to the church for the purpose of instructing the saints in the full and complete will of God, that they might be perfect in character. The first and highest purpose of God in giving the Spirit to direct and guide man and the object for which the church was established is the perfection of the saints in the spiritual knowledge, that they may make the perfection of their lives the one great leading and absorbing end and aim of their lives.

unto the work of ministering,—Here we see the perversion of the meaning of the Spirit, in the use of the term ministering. Preaching is the prominent idea connected with the work of the ministry at the present day. The preacher is the minister. Orig­inally the minister was the individual who performed the most menial and laborious work in the congregation—physical labor for the congregation—who waited upon the sick, fed the hungry, and labored for the relief of sorrow, distress, and the physical ills of the offcast of earth. There are two different words used in the Greek to designate the work of serving and the work of preaching the gospel. Ergon diakonias indicated the work of serving; ergon evangelistes the work of preaching the good news of salvation. The term used here, translated ministering, is the one which designates the work of serving or ministering to the wants of the afflicted—first of the household of faith; secondly, of all the suffering mortals of the earth.

unto the building up of the body of Christ:—This is the third end for which Jesus gave the gift of the Spirit. This embraces the teaching necessary to bring men into the church, and to perfect, build up their character and to direct their work after having entered it. These gifts were to direct Christians in perfecting themselves in knowledge and obedience, for the work of caring for the needy and suffering, and for their teaching the gospel of the Son of God; and the Christians, the duties and obligations laid on them. The order of these works should be observed. Enumerations in the Scriptures began with the great­est and ended with the least. The list of the apostles began with Peter and ended with Judas Iscariot. Then the first and most important work of the church is to seek to perfect themselves in the divine knowledge and Christian character. Second, to look after the poor, afflicted, and destitute of the children of God, and then after the preaching of the word and building up of the church. This order of God is effective. We reverse the order, neglect the obligation to perfect the character, and the second lesson, too, and devote our energies to the third and last. We fail of the last because we neglect the first and second. If the saints would perfect their own characters in righteousness and true holiness, and care for the needy and helpless, then convert­ing all possible to be converted would be an easy matter. The work done by these gifts is just the work performed by the word of God after it had come in its fullness.

Verse 13

Eph 4:13

Ephesians 4:13

till we all attain unto the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God,—This work of the Spirit was to continue until they came to the oneness of faith through the full knowledge of the Son of God that is necessary to make man perfect in faith. This does not mean that any one individual member is perfect in knowledge or in faith; but the knowledge to this end has been given to the church through one member supplementing the weakness of another, for all members have not the same gifts or works to perform in the church. These gifts were partial; each person was instructed by the gift given to him to do the work for which he was naturally qualified. But the gifts differed as the talents of man differed, so it took all the different gifts to give full instruction.

unto a full-grown man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ:—When the completed instruction was given, it was collected in the New Testament, as the perfected will of God, and the gifts of the Spirit vanished. The same thing is taught by the following exhortation given by Paul to the Corin­thian church: “But desire earnestly the greater gifts. And more­over a most excellent way show I unto you.” (1 Corinthians 12:31). The “most excellent way” he describes as follows: “Love never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall be done away; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall be done away. For we know in part, and we prophesy in part: but when that which is perfect is come, that which is in part shall be done away.” (1 Corinthians 13:8-10). This clearly teaches that spiritual gifts were partial and temporary in their office, and would cease when the perfect will of God was completed and revealed to man. When that was come the church of Christ would approximate in its workings the work of a com­pleted man in Christ.

Verse 14

Eph 4:14

Ephesians 4:14

that we may be no longer children,—The end of the full knowledge of the will of God being made known would be that the servants of God might be no more children. [The word used here and in 1 Corinthians 3:1; 1 Corinthians 13:11; Hebrews 5:13 is a word almost always applied in a bad sense, like our word childish—not to the guilelessness, the trustfulness, or the humility of children, which the Savior emphatically blessed (Matthew 18:2-4), but to their unforeseeing and unthinking impulsiveness. The distinc­tion is marked in these words: “Brethren, be not children in mind: yet in malice be ye babes, but in mind be men.” (1 Corinthians 14:20). Thus it describes shallowness and crudeness; liability to disturbance and by every external impression from without, so as to be “everything by turns and nothing very long.”]

tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doc­trine,—This sets forth the infinite variety of such influences. The varying wind carries about the waves, or the ship deserted is at the mercy of the waves and wind. Those immature and unstable run after every new teacher; having little knowledge or stability, excitable, dependent on their surroundings, they fall a ready prey to the various teachers of error. The readiness of professed Christians now to follow every new idea or visionary dream that some plausible and pretentious adventurer may bring is discouraging. Yet this evil must have been greater in the days of spiritual gifts, when new revelations were being made, than they are now. Wordy and plausible men would come claiming to be spiritually endowed with new revelations, and the ill-taught and unstable converts were ready to run after anything that might be presented.

by the sleight of men, in craftiness, after the wiles of error;—[This emphasizes the dishonesty and trickery of false teaching. Its authors use all the arts of deception to persuade the unstable that their self-made doctrine was the divine truth. It denotes error in practice, a wrong way of life or action. It means a craftiness, furthering the scheming, deceitful art which has for its results the false way of life that strays fatally from the truth.]

Verse 15

Eph 4:15

Ephesians 4:15

but speaking truth in love,—Speaking the truth in love is the means of promoting the growth and harmony of the body of Christ. Men are not only brought into the body of Christ through the truth, but their growth and work in the church are promoted through the truth.

may grow up in all things into him, who is the head, even Christ;—The Christian, being grounded and rooted in the faith in Christ, who is the head of all things, should move as he directs, just as all the members of the fleshly body move at the will of the head. Christ practiced perfectly what he taught The things he taught were the outgrowth of his own life, so that were we to practice fully the truths he taught, our lives would conform to the life of Christ,

Verse 16

Eph 4:16

Ephesians 4:16

from whom all the body fitly framed and knit together—The human body is used to illustrate the church. Jesus is the head, and from him, as the head, the church, as the body, is fitly joined together and compacted by being knit together. The truth is the means that Christ and the Spirit use. Then the body grows up into Christ the head. Just as the human body is con­nected with the head by joints and ligatures, so the spiritual body is united and grows up into the head by spiritual joints. With that head all the members are united.

through that which every joint supplieth, according to the working in due measure of each several part, maketh the in­crease of the body unto the building up of itself in love.—By every member working effectually in his place and sphere, they all make increase of the body unto the building up of itself in love. The point is emphasized here that every member has his work to do, his office to fill. By this joint and harmonious work­ing of all the parts, the body grows into the well-proportioned body of Christ, all moved and governed by him as the living head. This union is, of course, a spiritual union, as Christ is Spirit, and the union with him is a spiritual union. The church is a spiritual body. The only manifestation of the church is where the Spirit controls the bodies of men and brings them into obedience to the gospel; so the physical bodies under the control of the Spirit separate themselves from the world as servants of Christ. The apostle says: “But ye are come unto mount Zion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable hosts of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect, and to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling that speaketh better than that of Abel.” (Hebrews 12:22-24). These are the associations into which the entrance into Christ brings man. These are all spirits; the relation is a spiritual one; and when the spirits of men become subjects of this kingdom or members of this body, these spirits control the bodies they inhabit and separate them from the world and bring them into subjection to Jesus Christ. These bodies of men, controlled by the Spirit of God, are the only manifestations of the church visible to men in the flesh. This shows the close relation that the church and every individual member bears to Christ the head. This relation is a spiritual one and is regulated by the Spirit of the head permeating all the members of the body. But the Spirit does this through the truths he presents. Spiritual influences are directed to the spirit of man that thinks, considers, wills, pur­poses, and acts in accord with that will.

The evil in the church is that we lay too exclusive stress on certain offices and work, too little in that universal work of each and every member of the body. The welfare and development of the whole body is dependent upon the proper workings of each and every member. In the human body there can be no proxy work. One member cannot do the work of all or any other member without injury to the other members and to the whole body. It is even so in the spiritual body of Christ,

Verse 17

Eph 4:17

Ephesians 4:17

This I say therefore, and testify in the Lord,—[The apostle having in the preceding section taught that Christ had destined his church to perfect conformity to himself, and made provisions for that end, as a natural consequence, solemnly en­joins on those in Christ to live in accordance with this high vocation.]

that ye no longer walk as the Gentiles also walk,—[Christ has called into existence and formed a new world. Those who are members of his body are brought into another order of being from that to which they had formerly belonged. They should therefore walk in quite another way—no longer as the Gentiles, for his readers, though Gentiles by birth (Ephesians 2:11), are now of the household of faith—the church of Christ, the “commonwealth of Israel” (Ephesians 2:12). Though born Gentiles, Paul distinguishes his readers from the Gentiles who were their natural kindred. Where he testified of their walk, he exclaims: “but ye did not so learn Christ” (Ephesians 4:20), it appears that there were those wearing Christ’s name and professing to have learned of him who did not thus walk. This indeed he expressly asserts: “For many walk, of whom I told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: whose end is perdition, whose god is the belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things.” (Philippians 3:18-19). This warn­ing we naturally associate with that given in verse 14. The reckless and unscrupulous teachers against whose seductions he guards the churches of Asia Minor tampered with the morals, as well as with the faith of their disciples, and were drawing them back insidiously to their former habit of life.]

in the vanity of their mind,—[After the leading of their own vain and fleshly minds. Christians are to walk after Christ the head, not after the vain efforts of the unconverted heathen to find happiness in the gratification of the depraved lusts. Vanity betokens a waste of the whole rational powers on worthless ob­jects. This is the characteristic of heathenism, even in its most refined forms.]

Verse 18

Eph 4:18

Ephesians 4:18

being darkened in their understanding,—Having the un­derstanding so warped and perverted, so overruled by debasing lusts, that they could not understand the true good of the person.

alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardening of their heart;—They were made averse to the life of God and the complete subjection of their minds to him by the wicked and corrupting lusts. The same causes and effects are presented in the following: “Because that, knowing God, they glorified him not as God, neither gave thanks; but became vain in their reasonings, and their senseless heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God for the likeness of an image of corruptible man. and of birds, and four-footed beasts, and creeping things.” (Romans 1:21-23). This shows that men esteeming themselves so wise that they can walk without God became fools and gave themselves up to the rule of fleshly lusts.

Verse 19

Eph 4:19

Ephesians 4:19

who being past feeling gave themselves up to lascivious­ness,—These lusts dominated all their feelings, directed their thoughts, warped and blinded their minds, perverted their judg­ments, so that they, becoming past feeling and sense of shame or right, gave themselves over to follow the lusts and with greedi­ness run into all lascivious practices. This is the essential result of separation from God. Cut loose from him, man must follow the flesh, and as was said of man before the flood: “And God saw the earth, and, behold, it was corrupt; for all flesh had cor­rupted their way upon the earth.” (Genesis 6:12).

[There is nothing more terrible than the loss of shame. When modesty is no longer felt as an affront, when there fails to rise in the blood and bum upon the cheeks the hot resentment of a wholesome nature against things that are foul, when we grow tolerant and familiar with their presence, we are far down the slopes to hell. It needs only the kindling of passion, or the removal of the checks of circumstances, to complete the descent. The pain that the side of evil gives is a divine shield against it.]

to work all uncleanness with greediness.—Insatiable greed, the selfish desire for more, whether in the form of avarice or lust. The business of committing uncleanness moves on in this atmos­phere of unsatisfied greed; the two constantly interact. The intimate connection of avarice and lust is suggested, and the history of those times furnishes many fearful illustrations.

Verse 20

Eph 4:20

Ephesians 4:20

But ye did not so learn Christ;—This intimates that many had come into the church ill-taught, in the truth as Jesus taught it. [To preach Christ is to set him as the object of supreme love and confidence, so to “learn Christ” does not mean merely to learn his doctrines, but to attain the knowledge of Christ as the Son of God, God in our nature, the holy one of God, the Savior from sin, whom to know is holiness and life. Any one who has thus learned Christ cannot live in darkness and sin. Such knowledge is in its very nature light. When it enters, the mind is refined and purified.]

Verse 21

Eph 4:21

Ephesians 4:21

if so be that ye heard him, and were taught in him, even as truth is in Jesus:—In the early church there were very many that were imperfectly taught in the truth of Christ. With no written standard of truth given, men were ill-taught and moved by personal feeling and ambition, taught many things not compatible with the truth, hence in the earliest days of the church sects and parties were more common in proportion to the number of members claiming to follow Jesus than at any other period.

Verse 22

Eph 4:22

Ephesians 4:22

that ye put away, as concerning your former manner of life, the old man,—The new life required that they put off the “old man”—the old manner of life, which was corrupt. [The resistance, the subduing, the absolute overcoming of those sinful propensities and habits, and the abandoning of those sinful acts which are so contrary to the new principles of spiritual life be­gotten through the gospel is the putting off of the “old man”; represented here under the figure of laying off an old garment, that another and better one may be put on.]

that waxeth corrupt after the lusts of deceit;—The old habit or manner of life which was put off or laid aside was corrupt—sinful through deceitful lusts. The lusts are deceitful because they promise happiness if gratified, when they always bring misery. The man away from God is led by these lusts, and they always work corruption of life and degradation of character and bring misery.

Verse 23

Eph 4:23

Ephesians 4:23

and that ye be renewed in the spirit of your mind,—The spirit of the mind is the spirit that directs the mind, which before becoming Christians was under the control of fleshly lusts, seeking happiness only in the gratification of them. Henceforth as Christians the spirit that animates the mind must direct its energies to the elevating of man, doing good, in denying ungod­liness and fleshly lusts, and living soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world, (Titus 2:12).

Verse 24

Eph 4:24

Ephesians 4:24

and put on the new man, that after God hath been created in righteousness and holiness of truth.—Jesus Christ was God manifest in the flesh. He was the perfect likeness of God, after which the Christian is to model his life. He came as the final and perfect teacher to prepare man to dwell with God. He gave the precepts that would fit man in character to dwell in his presence. He not only gave the precepts, but he also gave the example in his own life of what they would make of man if perfectly practiced. Christ is the only perfect teacher of earth—he perfectly practiced what he taught, and if perfectly obeyed will make man in life just what Christ was. All the instruction as to how to live was illustrated in his own life. If we will care­fully examine the record of his life, we will not be at a loss to know how to apply them in our own life. When we determine what he would do, we learn what we should do. Hence, Paul said: “Be ye imitators of me, even as I also am of Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1); and Peter: “For hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, that ye should follow his steps” (1 Peter 2:21); and John: “He that saith he abideth in him ought himself also to walk even as he walked” (1 John 2:6). The precepts, examples, and provisions he gave were all to help man to form the character that will fit him to dwell with God. Man is fitted for union with God only in so far as he follows the teachings of Jesus,

Verse 25

Eph 4:25

Ephesians 4:25

Wherefore, putting away falsehood,—Because we have put on the new man and are to follow the life of Christ, we are to put away all falsehood, misrepresentation, and all deceit. All intentional deceiving is falsehood—lying—whether by speaking falsely, concealing the truth, or by acts misleading others. In our dealings and transactions, we should always seek to maintain a Christian character, a pure, spotless, unsullied integrity. A determination to tell the truth, though it strip us of our property and bring upon us obloquy and shame, is the true characteristic of the Christian. The conduct of Christians should be such as to guarantee unto the world that they will not deceive, conceal, or overreach for the sake of gain, or for some coveted position.

speak ye truth each one with his neighbor:—We have com­mon aims and interests, and should be careful to act with frank­ness, candor, and spotless integrity in all our dealings with our fellow men. In our actions we are speaking for Christ, not for ourselves. Christ benefits us just to the extent that he causes us to seek to act at all times as he would have us act.

for we are members one of another.—We are members of the same body, have the same interests, and should not deceive one another. While this admonition has special reference to our bearing toward our fellow Christians, it is equally true that we are to be truthful and upright in our dealings with all men. God hates a liar, and he says of all liars, “their part shall be in the lake that burneth with fire and brimstone; which is the second death.” (Revelation 21:8). It is thought by some that it is strange that Paul should admonish Christians long after their conversion to quit lying and be truthful. The Holy Spirit recognizes things just as they are. But few children of Adam ever attain the divine model of truthfulness, and it requires constant admonition from God and watchfulness on the part of man to be truthful as he should be. I know of no church now to whom, were the Holy Spirit writing, that he would not feel the necessity of warning them to “put away falsehood, speak ye truth each one with his neighbor.”

Verse 26

Eph 4:26

Ephesians 4:26

Be ye angry, and sin not:—This is not an exhortation to be angry, neither is it a prohibition to be angry. Anger is not necessarily sinful. God is angry with the wicked every day. Christ at times had his heart stirred to its very depths with in­dignation and anger (Mark 3:5), being grieved and angered at the hardness of heart of the people. Oftentimes the Christian is brought face to face with sin, corruption, and crime so iniquitous that it would be a sin not to manifest deep indignation—a holy indignation. But when he becomes so aroused there is great danger of sinning, of rashly doing a wrong that cannot be cor­rected, he must be doubly guarded lest he sin. There is oftentimes more true heroism in the Christian, unseen by man, choking back the rising passion and refusing to give expression to the angry feelings when he has been so provoked and annoyed by those he loves than in performing deeds of great danger that the world calls great. But a feeling of angry indignation that in its first arousing is harmless, or even praiseworthy, by being harbored and kept alive, soon degenerates into malice and hatred which is always exceedingly sinful. There is possibly no more cause of sin and the difficulty in a church than being ignorant of the Lord’s instructions as to how to control wrath after it is aroused.

let not the sun go down upon your wrath:—Let your wrath subside quickly. Wrath cherished soon develops into malice. He who cherishes angry, bitter, or vindictive feelings in his heart toward another will soon come to feel a hatred that will destroy all the pure and holy influences of the soul, and destroy the peace of the bosom in which it dwells, and the happiness of all around.

Verse 27

Eph 4:27

Ephesians 4:27

neither give place to the devil.—To cherish anger is to give place to the devil. When angry the devil suggests the cher­ishing of the ill feeling; but we are neither to cherish anger, nor are we to allow him to take advantage of our being angry. The Lord says: “Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” (James 4:7). Refuse to follow the evil passions and they will sub­side. If we dally with sin, if we trifle with right, if we indulge and cherish passions that lead to sin, we shall be overtaken in crime and must become the helpless slaves of the devil.

Verse 28

Eph 4:28

Ephesians 4:28

Let him that stole steal no more:—This implies that they had been given to stealing, either before or after their con­version. There is a close relation between lying and stealing. (The world calls only that stealing which is taken under cover of darkness or in secrecy, without a pretext of ownership. God regards and calls the obtaining of what belongs to another by false representation, by concealment of defect, by taking undue advantage, all gaining goods without a fair and just consideration, stealing). Gaining by such unfair means is so common that the world calls it sharpness, shrewdness, etc., but all such names when probed to the bottom indicate dishonesty. The man is shrewd, is sharp, when he studies to take advantage of his fellow men to get more than the just and fair value of his goods, or to get his neighbor’s goods at less than their value. Every man is entitled to the market value of his goods. People generally regard those thieves only whom the law has convicted of pilfering, and who are generally among the poor and needy. But in the eyes of the Lord he is a thief who takes from another his rightful due. The tradesman who deals in short weights and measures, and over­charges for his wares, is a thief; the servant who does not occupy faithfully in his master’s service the hours and faculties for which he is paid is a thief; the physician who prolongs his visits to his patient beyond what is necessary in order to get gain is a thief. Are Christians cultivating and practicing that spirit of candor, frankness, and honesty that satisfies the man of the world that he will not be unfairly dealt with, that advantage will not be taken of his ignorance, or that he will be overreached in consequence of necessities, or that the goods that he purchases will be just as represented?

but rather let him labor, working with his hands—Instead of making a living by stealth or dishonesty, let him rather work with his hands is the way approved by God. Nothing has a better tendency to make a man moral, honest, and upright in his deportment and character than manual labor for a living. This is frequently commended: “But we exhort you, brethren, that ye abound more and more; and that ye study to be quiet, and to do your own business, and to work with your hands, even as we charged you.” (1 Thessalonians 4:10-11). “For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, If any will not work, neither let him eat. For we hear of some that walk among you dis­orderly, that work not at all, but are busybodies. Now them that are such we command and exhort in the Lord Jesus Christ, that with quietness they work, and eat their own bread.” (2 Thessalonians 3:10-12). Laboring with the hands seems to have been regarded by the apostles as an important agent in destroying the disposition, and removing the temptation to steal; in other words, of promoting honesty. A hard-working, industrious man is seldom a dishonest man. A community is usually honest in exact proportion to the number of its citizens who engage regularly in honest, productive labor. Its prosperity is also in the same ratio. When parents educate and train their children to live by manual labor, they start them in the path of honesty. Christians, then, should foster and encourage the members of the church to engage in callings of physical industry. No man or woman can live the Christian life faithfully without some regular industrial calling. Idlers, male and female, have no heritage in the kingdom of God.

the thing that is good,—The Christian must confine his labor to the thing that is good. He cannot, without violating the law of the Spirit, engage in any calling whose general results on society are evil. But it must be a calling, the fruits of which are good to humanity. To bring this about, industry and energy, economy and prudence in business are required, and the danger is that, in bringing these to bear on life, we cultivate the love of money and let it become the leading purpose of life and gain the mastery over us. We are to be in the world as strangers and pilgrims, not drinking into the spirit of the world, but into the Spirit of God. Connected with the legitimate calling of life are many things that are hurtful to man. A Christian ought to keep his conscience and his hands clean of all that is connected with or that leads to sin. Any calling or manner of conducting a call­ing of life, the general effect of which is to prevent our children from being trained to seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, itself is sinful and unfit for a child of God. Yet there are many Christians, while not wholly denying the faith themselves, who in their anxiety for wealth and honor place them­selves and families in such surroundings that their ruin is almost sure. When parents set a higher value on worldly attainments than on service to God, none see it sooner than their children, and aided as they are by fleshly tendencies of their own natures, and encouraged by the influence of the world, they will more than likely follow the evil course, and, like Lot’s daughters who married in Sodom, will prefer the associations that lead to de­struction rather than to the pathway that leads to eternal life.

that he may have whereof to give to him that hath need.—The Christian is to work industriously and energetically at that which is good, live economically, and save with prudence, and avoid debt and obligations for the future and use his means liber­ally for the relief of the poor and needy, the widow and the fatherless, for in this way he promotes the honor of God.

Verse 29

Eph 4:29

Ephesians 4:29

Let no corrupt speech proceed out of your mouth,—This is an admonition that demands earnest attention from all professed Christians to make sure that no corrupt or impure communication proceed out of their mouths. All conversations that excite and inflame evil thoughts, feelings, and passions are prohibited. Sometimes preachers compromise their character, destroy their influence, and injure the cause of Christ by foolish jesting, blackguardism, and corrupting anecdotes and incidents. The Holy Spirit commands Christians to put away malice, rail­ings, and shameful speaking out of their mouths (Colossians 3:8), and Christ says: “I say unto you, that every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judg­ment. For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned.” (Matthew 12:36-37). Thus Christ demands of Christians a pure, elevated, and ennobling conversa­tion calculated to administer grace to the hearers.

but such as is good for edifying as the need may be,—[The effort to build up must be adapted to the place and time and to the persons whose edification is sought. In other words: “Let your speech be always with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer each one.” (Colossians 4:6).]

that it may give grace to them that hear.—[This is the pur­pose of that which has just been commanded, and should be made the purpose of those who obey it, because profitable con­versation is so rare that our social intercourse seldom has such an exalted aim as this.]

Verse 30

Eph 4:30

Ephesians 4:30

And grieve not the Holy Spirit of God,—The Holy Spirit is God’s medium of communication with man, his representative here on earth. We reach God through the Spirit. Then what pleases God pleases the Spirit; what grieves God grieves the Spirit The prophet says: “But they rebelled, and grieved his holy Spirit: therefore he was turned to be their enemy, and himself fought against them.” (Isaiah 63:10). The Holy Spirit was in the prophets and through them taught the people the law of God. They refused to hearken to it and rebelled and sinned against him, and God turned and fought against them. Again, referring to the frequent rebellings against Moses, the Holy Spirit, speaking through the Psalmist, said: “How oft did they rebel against him in the wilderness, and grieve him in the desert!” (Psalms 78:40). They provoked and grieved the Spirit by their frequent murmurings and rebellions against Moses and his law in the journey through the wilderness from Egypt to the land of Canaan. Distrusting his promises and disobeying his commands grieved him and provoked the Lord to destroy them. He says: “Forty years long was I grieved with that generation, and said, It is a people that do err in their heart, and they have not known my ways: wherefore I swore in my wrath, that they should not enter into my rest.” (Psalms 95:10-11). The Holy Spirit since the ascension of Christ is the representative of God on earth; to grieve God now is to grieve the Holy Spirit. The commands of the Spirit are the commands of God. To violate the commands of the Spirit grieves him. In the passage before us are a number of commands given by the Spirit. Those who violate any of these or any other commands of the Spirit grieve the Spirit as they grieve God by violating a command of God. There is nothing ob­scure in this work of the Spirit of God. He is a person with the peculiarities of action and being acted upon common to other per­sons, modified only by his divine characteristics.

in whom ye were sealed—A seal is a sign guaranteeing and confirming a promise, or obligation. To this end the Holy Spirit as an indwelling Comforter to all baptized believers in Christ is given. The influences of the Spirit are exerted through the truth, revealed in the scriptures and confirmed to our faith. All the instructions given by the Spirit to the apostles for the enlighten­ment, guidance, comfort, and help of the world are recorded in the scriptures for the benefit of the world. Hence the apostle says: “Every scripture inspired of God is also profitable for teach­ing, for reproof, for correction, for instruction which is in right­eousness: that the man of God may be complete, furnished com­pletely unto every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17). It is through the Spirit then in his teachings and guiding power that all Chris­tians are sealed or confirmed until the day of redemption, complete and thorough from the thralldom of sin and the grave. They are sealed men, sealed after their conversion by the bestowal of the Holy Spirit.

unto the day of redemption.—The day of redemption refers to the “second coming of Christ,” as it is called, when he will redeem his people from the bondage of corruption and give them the eternal inheritance in the presence of God.

Verse 31

Eph 4:31

Ephesians 4:31

Let all bitterness,—Bitterness is that frame of mind which willfully retains angry feelings, ready to take offense and liable to break out in anger at any moment.

and wrath, and anger,—[These are synonymous words, the former being the passionate outburst of resentment in rage, the latter the settled individual. In these the smoldering bitterness kindles into flame.]

and clamor,—Clamor is the loud self-assertion of an angry man, who attempts to make every one hear his grievance. Christians are to be calm and serious. Harsh contentions and strife, brawls, and tumults are to be known among them.

and railing,—The railer is the one who carries the war of his tongue into the camp of his enemy, and gives vent to his griev­ance in abuse and insult.

be put away from you,—These sins were rife among the heathen; and there may have been some among Paul’s readers who found it difficult to refrain from their indulgence. Especially was this true when Christians were being subjected to severe persecutions; but they must lay all these aside. Cherished, they ferment and sour in the heart, and destroy one’s peace of soul. To remember and dwell upon wrongs received is destructive to Christian character.

with all malice;—All the sins mentioned are various ex­hibitions of malice—that is, evil-mindedness or malignity. By the law of human nature they rise out of their temper, and react upon it so as to intensify its bitterness, and must be resisted and cast out. This spirit is sensual, and devilish in its influences.

Verse 32

Eph 4:32

Ephesians 4:32

and be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving each other,—Be kind and helpful to one another, tender­hearted, compassionate, full of mercy, not cherishing vindic­tive feelings, ready to forgive, as God has forgiven you. The kindness and mercy of God to man, his readiness and anxiety to forgive is held up as a model to the Christian. We should be ready and anxious to forgive as God is anxious to forgive

even as God also in Christ forgave you.—What lesson does this teach? How does God forgive? To forgive is to hold and treat an offender as though he were not guilty. A man cannot hold one as innocent until he repents of his sin, ceases to sin, and corrects his wrongs so far as possible. God cannot forgive sin in this sense so long as man persists in it. God never forgives sin until it is repented. But while man was a sinner God loved him and was so anxious for him to repent, cease to sin, that he might forgive him, that he gave his own Son to die to lead him to repentance. Man ought to hold himself in a forgiving spirit toward those who sin against him. He ought to be anxious for him to repent that he may forgive him. He should do good to him to bring him to repentance. Man ought at all times to cherish the forgiving spirit and be ready to do good to those who sin against him, that he may bring them to repentance.

Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on Ephesians 4". "Old & New Testament Restoration Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/onr/ephesians-4.html.
 
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