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Bible Commentaries
Ephesians 4

Zerr's Commentary on Selected Books of the New TestamentZerr's N.T. Commentary

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Verse 1

Eph 4:1. Therefore means that a conclusion is being drawn from the truths stated at the close of the preceding chapter. Prisoner of the Lord is explained in the comments on chapter 3:1. To beseech means to entreat very earnestly. To walk worthy is to walk or conduct one's self in a manner suitable to his vocation. The last word technically means first the divine call or invitation to serve the Lord, and next it denotes that service itself. The same Greek word is used in 1Co 7:20, where it is rendered "calling" and where the connection clearly shows it means a man's chief occupation. A Christian's chief occupation or vocation is service to the Lord.

Verse 2

Eph 4:2. Lowliness and meekness are virtually the same in meaning, but when used in combination, the first pertains to the state of mind and the second denotes the manner of approach. The phrase as a whole denotes a spirit of humility, which is indicated by the rest of the verse. Longsuffering does not indicate the least degree of compromise where principles of right and wrong are involved. It means patience in dealing with those who are uninformed and who thereby are led to make things unpleasant for others. Forbearing means about the same thing, and the apostle names the motive that will cause Christians to treat each other as he has been instructing them to do, and such motive is accounted for by the fact they have love for each other.

Verse 3

Eph 4:3. The "seven units" as they are so familiarly termed will be itemized soon, and in view of that combination the apostle gives a significant exhortation in this verse. All who are in the church are partakers of the one Spirit that animates the spiritual body. (1Co 12:13; Eph 2:18.) In this formal sense all members of the body of Christ are a unit since they are in the one and only institution that has been organized by the Lord. However, members of the church sometimes make their unity "doctrinal" only, and while maintaining a "united front" against the encroachments of false teachings and organizations of men, they may not observe the degree of love for each other that they should. As a result, there will not be the peace with that organic unity that Is so necessary for the welfare of the cause of Christ.

Verse 4

Eph 4:4. Having introduced the subject of unity in the preceding verse, Paul now names the items involved in the setup, consisting of six or seven, depending on the classification named in verse 6, to be considered when we come to that verse. One body and one Spirit. This is logical, far it is universally admitted that there is but one Spirit, hence if there were more than one body (which is the church) then all but one would be without a Spirit and hence would be dead, since a body without a spirit is dead. There can be but one hope because God has called us with only one purpose in view, namely, the life eternal beyond this age.

Verse 5

Eph 4:5. The primary meaning of Lord is "ruler," and God is generally thought of as the Ruler of the universe. At the same time we commonly think of Christ as Lord; why, then, does Paul say there is one Lord? There is a special sense in which Christ is Lord, in that he is "head over all things to the church" (chapter 1:22); hence He is this one Lord. Faith comes by hearing the word of God (Rom 10:17); since there is but one inspired Word there can of necessity be but one faith. We frequently hear people speaking about the various "faiths" in the world. Doubtless there are many systems of religious doctrines in the world, but they can only be those produced by human wisdom, and are thus vain beliefs since the apostle definitely declares there is one faith. One baptism. The simple meaning of this word is "immersion" or "an overwhelming," regardless of who is baptized, the element in which it is done or the pur-pose for the act. The New Testament tells us of four different baptisms; that of suffering (Mat 20:22-23), of fire (Mat 3:11), with the Holy Ghost (same reference), and with water (Act 10:47-48). We are sure that Paul was aware of all these, yet he says there is one baptism. The apparent difficulty will clear up by observing that the first three are not commanded of sinners while the fourth one is. Whatever the Lord wished to take place by His action, whether that be some kind of baptism or anything else, was sure to happen without the cooperation of man. But something that must be done in response to a divine commandment, requires the willing act of needy mankind. Of such kind of baptism there is but one, and that is water baptism. Hence we find it here in a list of things that pertain to man's endeavoring in response to the apostolic command. More information on the meaning of the word baptism is given at Act 8:38, in volume 1 of the New Testament Commentary.

Verse 6

Eph 4:6. God and the Father are actually the same person, and hence give only one item of the "units" referred to at verse 4. The first term refers to Him as a deity, a fact applying to him regardless of all other persons in the universe. The second states His relation to other individuals as the Heavenly Parent. The words above, through and in are used for the purpose of emphasis. Paul wishes us to think of God as the one supreme Being who is superior to all others in existence.

Verse 7

Eph 4:7. Several verses following this one deal with the spiritual gifts that Christ caused to be given to disciples in the first years of the church. This verse refers to them as grace because the possession of them was certainly a favor, which is the meaning of grace. According to the measure denotes that not all disciples received the same kind or amount of this spiritual favor. (See 1Co 12:4-7.) But whatever degree of this grace that was bestowed upon the various members of the church, it was all a part of the gift of Christ.

Verse 8

Eph 4:8. Wherefore he saith indicates a quotation is about to be made, which is from Psa 68:18, and it is a prediction of the ascension of Jesus to Heaven, which is the meaning of on high. Captivity is from a Greek word that is translated "a multitude of captives" in the margin of many Bibles. This rendering agrees with the definitions and comments of both Thayer• and Robinson. The fact that Jesus did this leading of the captives when he ascended up on high indicates it applies to some special group. Evidently that consisted of the saints who are mentioned in Mat 27:52-53, who came from their graves after the resurrection of Jesus. It will be well for the reader to see the notes on Rom 8:29-30, in volume 1 of the New Testament Commentary. These saints had been prisoners (captives) in Hades, but they were released from their "narrow chambers of death" by the resurrection of Jesus, who then led them with Him when he ascended to the Eternal Abode of those who are never to die again. As soon as Jesus arrived in the presence of his Father, he prayed that the Holy Spirit (Comforter, Joh 14:16-17) would be sent down upon the apostles. That was done, enabling them to bestow spiritual gifts upon them who had obeyed the Gospel (Act 8:15-18). The purpose of these gifts will be explained a little farther on in this chapter.

Verse 9

Eph 4:9-10. These verses are a break into the direct line of thought that the apostle is discussing. However, are related to it in that they show the importance of Him of whom so much is being said. Having just referred to the ascension of Jesus, the apostle deems it well to say a few words about that subject. There have been two persons who have ascended to Heaven before: Enoch (Gen 5:24) and Elijah (2Ki 2:1 2Ki 2:11). But these persons were natural men prior to their ascension, hence that experience would not prove them to be divine. Paul at once meets that situation by declaring that this one who was said to have ascended, had before that time descended, and of necessity we would understand the descension to have been from the same place to which he afterwards ascended, which was Heaven, and that proves the divine origin and character of Jesus. Lower parts of the earth. Some explain this to mean the grave; it could not mean Hades since that is no part of the earth. Others teach that it refers to the lowly state which Jesus took upon himself and the humble life that he lived. I believe the statement embraces all of these and any other facts that were true of His stay on this earth. As proof that Paul has these great facts in mind, I will use the space to quote as follows: "Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God. But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men. And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross" (Php 2:6-8). The first half of the tenth verse virtually repeats the statement of the preceding one, and then adds the phrase above all heavens. Since the heavens were all created by Christ in cooperation with God, it follows that in going back to his Father, Jesus would be raised above those things he had assisted in making. Fill all things is said in the sense of fulfilling all things that He had promised to do, including the bestowal of the Comforter (promised in Joh 14:16) to give to the apostles miraculous power, and the work of conferring spiritual gifts upon others, which gifts will be discussed soon.

Verse 11

Eph 4:11. And he gave some. Many translators and commentators insert the words "to be" after this italicized phrase. But the grammatical inflection does not require nor justify it, so that the words must be regarded as an insertion upon no inspired authority. On the other hand, the word "unto" is in the text in verse 8, where the subject matter is the same as it is in our present verse, and thus the word may be inserted after the phrase with inspired example. It is true that bestowing the office of apostleship and the other offices mentioned, could be regarded as an honor and hence as a gift. But if that is the gift Paul meant, then we are confronted with the thought that the apostleship and eldership were to be discontinued after the first ages of the church, for verse 13 shows the gifts were not to be permanent. In truth, that very heresy is today advocated by some extremists. No, it means that Christ bestowed some of the spiritual gifts upon the various persons named. That is not strange, for even the apostles needed miraculous qualifications while the New Testament was in the making. But the office of the apostleship itself was not to cease after the miraculous gifts ceased, but they (the apostles) were to continue in authority unto the end of the world (Mat 28:20). These prophets were the ones referred to in chapter 2:20. Evangelists is from EUAGGELISTES, which Thayer defines, "a bringer of good tidings, an evangelist," and he adds this comment: "This name is given in the New Testament to those heralds of salvation through Christ who are not apostles." Robinson defines it, "In the New Testament, an evangelist, a preacher of the Gospel," and adds the explanation, "not fixed in any place, but travelling as a missionary to preach the Gospel and establish churches." Groves defines it, "an evangelist, preacher of the Gospel." Greenfield gives the definition, "one who announces glad tidings, an evangelist, preacher of the Gospel, teacher of the Christian religion." I have quoted from a number of lexicons because of the confusion that some are under concerning this word. The general trend of the various definitions, together with the connections in which the word is found in the King James Version, gives us the conclusion that it means a preacher whose special work is to preach the Gospel in new fields, then call the converts into assemblies for regular services, take charge of their development until men have been qualified for the eldership, then after appointing the elders to take himself from the management of the congregation and go on to other fields of labor. (See Tit 1:5; 2Ti 4:5; 1Ti 5:19-21.) Pastors is from POIMEN and Thayer's definition is, "a herdsman, especially a shepherd; the presiding officer, manager, director, of any assembly." It applies to the elders of a congregation. This is shown in 1Pe 5:1-5 where the elders are mentioned in connection with Christ whom the apostle calls the chief Shepherd, thus representing the elders as shepherds, that being one of the words in the definition of our word pastors. Teachers is indefinite and applies to any disciple engaged principally in giving instruction to others.

Verse 12

Eph 4:12. This verse is a general statement of the purpose of spiritual gifts mentioned in the preceding verse. Perfecting means the strengthening of the saints (or Christians). Work of the ministry denotes the service of Christ in general. Edifying means up-building or making firm and being braced against attack.

Verse 13

Eph 4:13. Till is a preposition and denotes the termination of something. As used in this place it means that the things named in the preceding two verses will cease at the accomplishment of those mentioned in the present verse. In the unity. The first word is from. EIS and may more properly be rendered "into." Of the faith. Verse 5 declares there is one faith, hence it is always a unit, and the statement of Paul does not mean that something was to be done to bring the faith into a unit, for it is already so. The thought is that all professed disciples would come into or embrace that unity. And of the knowledge. The word unity has already been introduced in connection with faith, and it is implied in connection with the phrase about knowledge. That would make it mean as if it said "and into the unity of the knowledge," etc. Since not all kinds of knowledge is desirable, Paul specifies the kind he is writing about, namely, that of the Son of God. Perfect man is a figure of speech and means a full-grown man in contrast with an immature child. The illustration is to show the difference between the time when the church had to depend on spiritual gifts, and when it would have the complete New Testament. The contrast is likened to the immature thoughts and activities of a child, as against those of a man. Stature is from HELIKIA, which Thayer defines, "age, time of life; adult age, maturity; stature." It refers both to the age and size of a person, hence is a fitting illustration of the subject at hand. Fulness of Christ denotes that completeness of spiritual advancement that Christ makes possible through the complete revelation of the New Testament. I shall urge the reader to consider again the comments on 1 Corinthians 13 th chapter.

Verse 14

Eph 4:14. The preceding two verses and several following the present one, show what is to be accomplished affirmatively by the complete New Testament. The present one states some of the things to be avoided by the complete volume. The original word for children is defined "untaught, unskilled," in Thayer's lexicon, and it is used to illustrate the unreliable standing of disciples who have no complete volume to guide them. Tossed to and fro is another figure for the same purpose, representing the untaught disciples as a frail raft tossed about by the waves. Waves are usually caused by winds, and the ones Paul has in mind are the false doctrines of men. Without the help of special guidance, the disciples would not be able to detect the false doctrines. Sleight and cunning craftiness refers to the trickery and deceptive language that false teachers use to mislead the untaught.

Verse 15

Eph 4:15. Speaking the truth in love. It is possible for one to be very strict in his compliance with the demands of truth from a "doctrinal" or technical motive, and yet not manifest the proper spirit toward those whom he addresses. Paul speaks of certain ones who received not the love of the truth (2Th 2:10). Those people would outwardly admit the truth because It Is so evident they could not deny it, yet they had no real love for it and hence did not profit by it. In our passage the apostle teaches that full-grown Christians will love to speak the truth. Truth is the substance upon which the disciple of Chirst may grow--grow up into Him in all things. Physical bodies will not thrive unless they are under the control of the head where all the directing impulses originate. Likewise it is necessary for the spiritual body (the church, chapter 1:22, 23) to have its growth and activities controlled by Christ its head, which will be considered in full detail with the next verse.

Verse 16

Eph 4:16. This verse as a whole may be regarded as a compound-complex sentence, but the central thought is expressed by the words the whole body maketh increase. All the rest of the verse is related to these words, enlarging and explaining how the body (the church) makes this increase. It is one of the most informative passages in the apostolic writings on the subject of "mutual edification," otherwise and more accurately termed mutual ministry; let us analyze the verse very carefully. From whom means from Christ who was named in the preceding verse as the head of the body. The whole body. If any part of a human body is thrown out of connection with the head, a state of ill health will result. Likewise the entire body or church must be subject to Christ the head, or spiritual illness will develop. Fitly joined together. In 1Co 12:18 Paul is using the fleshly body as an illustration where he says: "But now bath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him." The same is true of the spiritual body or church, of which he is writing in this verse. Compacted is similar in meaning to the last italicized phrase, only it is a stronger term. The phrase means the members are so constructed that they fit each other, while the word compacted denotes a closer knitting of the parts as if they were welded together to compose this body of which Christ is the head. Every joint sup-plieth. The joints are the members of the body, and the phrase clearly teaches that each member of the church is expected to contribute something toward the edification of it. Any discrimination that is made against a member of the body is wrong, and any member who fails to contribute whatever he can to the advancement of the church is a dead joint that is a detriment to the body of Christ. This effectual working must be according to the measure or ability of the parts, since the members do not all have the same talents. When all of this process is observed, it will result in the increase or growth of the body, and it will be edified or built up in love for the Head and for each other as members.

Verse 17

Eph 4:17. Testify in the Lord. The first word means to exhort, and Paul is doing it in the Lord or by His instruction. The Ephesians were Gentiles mainly and had previously walked after the ways of the ungodly world. Having accepted Christ and started in His service, they were exhorted to discontinue their life of sin. Other Gentiles means those who had not become Christians.

Verse 18

Eph 4:18. This and the following verse describes the unrighteous way of life that the Gentiles practice who are still under the darkness of heathenism. It is much like the description of them in Rom 1:18-24. Understanding means the mind, and it was darkened by their being alienated or separated from Him. The situation is accounted for by the fact of their blindness of heart. The other word for blindness is hardness of heart, or stubbornness.

Verse 19

Eph 4:19. Being past feeling all comes from the one Greek word APAL--GEO, and Thayer defines it, "to become callous." They were so hardened by sin that the truth had little or no effect on them, until they were even not concerned whether a thing was right or wrong. Such a state of mind would cause them to abandon themselves to the grossest kind of practices. LASCIVIOUSNESS means vile and vicious thoughts and desires. All uncleaness would include both physical and mental kinds. These people not only practiced such things, but did it with greediness, which denotes an active appetite for that kind of life.

Verse 20

Eph 4:20. But ye have not so learned Christ. The thought of this verse is as if it said, "you did not learn such practices from Christ." The Ephesian brethren had evidently become tinctured with such corruptions, for the exhortations so common in the rest of this chapter, as well as in many other places in the epistle, indicates such a conclusion. We recall this is the same church that is accused by John of having "left its first love" (Rev 2:1-4).

Verse 21

Eph 4:21. If so be is not said in the sense of any doubt, but it means that it really was true they had heard about Christ, and had been given the truth concerning Him. That being true, the apostle would repeat what he had said in the preceding verse, then go on and give his readers some exhortations concerning righteous living in Christ.

Verse 22

Eph 4:22. To put off means to cease doing things that belong to men of the world. Conversation refers to the general conduct including the speech used with their fellowmen. Old man is a figurative name for the fleshly desires that people of the world try to satisfy. It is the same "old man" that is described in Rom 6:1-6. Deceitful lusts. Such lusts are deceitful because they lead a man to think he is enjoying genuine pleasure, and yet they will be disappointing in the end.

Verse 23

Eph 4:23. Spirit and mind means virtlally the same thing in a sentence like this, but the two are used for the purpose of emphasis. Paul wants them to realize that he is not writing about things that the fleshly body desires, but of those that are higher, and of a spiritual character. To be renewed denotes a change in their mind from an interest in carnal things, to desire the things that are spiritual.

Verse 24

Eph 4:24. Put on is the opposite of put off that is used in verse 22, and new man is the opposite of old man in the same verse. In ordinary language it means to cease doing worldly things and begin doing those that are spiritual. God is the creator of the material universe and also gives man his fleshly body. And He also is the creator or originator of the spiritual life that is to be practiced in Christ. True holiness does not imply there could be such a thing as false holiness. The phrase means that holiness is that kind of life that is according to truth.

Verse 25

Eph 4:25. Genuine repentance means a reformation of life, and it includes both the ceasing of practices that are wrong, and the doing of those that are right. Hence Paul teaches that lying should be put away, and truthful speaking be done instead. Members one of another is true because all Christians are members of the one body, namely, the body of Christ. (See Rom 12:5 :) It would not be good for the different parts of the physical body to oppose each other, for that would have a bad effect upon the whole body (1Co 12:26). On the same principle, the members of the church should be interested in each other to such an extent that they would not do each other any harm by being untruthful in their dealings together.

Verse 26

Eph 4:26. The mere fact of being angry does not constitute sin, for Jesus looked upon the people with anger (Mar 3:5), and God is angry with the wicked every day (Psa 7:11). The sin consists in what one allows his anger to lead him into doing. That is why the apostle adds the warning not to let the sun go down upon one's wrath. That is, do not harbor the angry thoughts, but banish them before the day comes to a close, lest they finally tempt us into committing some sin.

Verse 27

Eph 4:27. Neither give place to the devil. Do not furnish the devil any room in your heart, for he will be sure to occupy it and go to work with his schemes. If a person harbors wrath from day to day, he is making an opportunity for the devil, and that is the same as giving him place.

Verse 28

7The Bible does not contradict itself, hence an apparent conflict in its language will be understood when all the passages involved are considered. Ephesians 4:28 directs men to labor for the necessities of life, so we are to understand our present passage to mean that our desire for them must not be our chief purpose in the world; it should all be regarded in the light of Matthew 6:33. Sealed is from SPHRAGIZO, and Thayer defines it at this place, "To confirm, authenticate, place beyond doubt." The idea is that we should seek the food that the Son of man offers which will lead to everlasting life. This is assured since the Father has placed his seal or stamp of approval on his Son's work.

Verse 29

Eph 4:29. Corrupt is from SAPROS, which Thayer defines, "Of poor quality, bad, unfit for use, worthless." Robinson defines it, "Bad, decayed, rotten; corrupt, foul." Communication is from Locos, and it has been rendered by "word" in the King James Version at least 220 times. Hence the first sentence of this verse means that Christians should not use any language that is filthy and useless. Paul gives his explanation of what constitutes good language, namely, that which will edify or build up and strengthen the hearer. Such speech will further help the hearers by ministering or serving them with grace, which means favor of a spiritual kind.

Verse 30

Eph 4:30. A part of Thayer's definition of the original of grieve is "to offend." The Bible was given to the world through the guidance of the Holy Spirit. If we show any disrespect for the Sacred Volume, then, we will grieve or offend the Spirit. Whereby ye are sealed means they are furnished with assuring evidence by the Spirit which reveals the truth of salvation through the apostles. Day of redemption refers to the day of judgment when all faithful servants of God will receive their eternal crown of redemption from sin.

Verse 31

Eph 4:31. Bitterness is the same as strong hatred. The three words, anger, wrath and malice are used in this one verse, indicating that there is some distinction between them, although they have a similarity of meaning and may generally be used interchangeably. The three words are used in immediate succession in Col 3:8. The difference is chiefly in the degree of their intensity. Anger is the temper when stirred up, but which should not be retained beyond the sunset. If it is so retained it may develop into a more fixed state and then it is wrath. If it is still cherished against another it will become malice which is a form of hateful spite. Clamor means a disorderly outcry or noisy demonstration against someone whom we consider as being in the wrong. Evil speaking refers to unfavorable remarks against another that are made from the motive of injuring him. All of the evils named in this verse must be put away or avoided by those who have become Christians.

Verse 32

Eph 4:32. Kind and tenderhearted does not require any compromise of the right, but it means that we should be considerate in our criticism of others in view of our own weaknesses. (See Gal 6:1.) Forgiving one another, even as. The point is that God has given us a divine example of the act of forgiveness, and we should be influenced by that example also to forgive our brethren.
Bibliographical Information
Zerr, E.M. "Commentary on Ephesians 4". Zerr's Commentary on Selected Books of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/znt/ephesians-4.html. 1952.
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