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Bible Commentaries
Ephesians 5

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

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Verse 1

Eph 5:1. Dear children means. beloved or favorite children. If a child could think of his father only as a tyrant, raid a man who regarded his offspring merely as subjects whom he could rule with a cruel hand, it would be an unpleasant task to obey his commands. On the other hand, if he believed that his father was directing his conduct because of a deep love for his child, it would certainly be a joy to obey such a parent. God has given numerous evidences of His love for the children in the divine family, and Paul asks the Ephesian brethren to obey Him from that motive.

Verse 2

Eph 5:2. Walk in love is along the same line as the preceding verse; love to walk so as to please the loving Father. An additional motive is in the fact that Christ as well as God loved us--even before we loved Him. The love of Christ for us was proved by the supreme sacrifice that He made for us by the death on the cross. Sweet-smelling savor is said in view of some sacrifices that were offered to God under the law of Moses, in which sweet incense was burned as an odor that was sweet.

Verse 3

Eph 5:3. Fornication is the unlawful intimacy of the sexes. For a detailed explanation of the word in its relation to "adultery," see the comments at Gal 5:19. Uncleanness means impurity in general, whether of the body or the mind. Covetousness is from PLEONEXIA which Thayer defines. "greedy desire to have more." A reasonable desire for the good things of the world is not wrong, for they are necessary to man's existence in this life. But a greedy desire for them will take a man's mind away from spiritual matters and may lead him back into a life of sin. Not be once named. We should not interpret any statement in the Bible in such a way as to contradict some other plain one. The fact that Paul just named these things shows he is not forbidding his brethren even to mention them, for that would be condemning himself. The explanation is in the last three words of the verse, namely, as becometh saints. Hence he means these things should not be mentioned with approval.

Verse 4

Eph 5:4. The Greek word for filthiness in this passage does not appear in any other place in the New Testament. It means something that is low grade in character, either in word or deed. Foolish talking and jesting mean virtually the same thing, but the two are used for the sake of making a stronger impression. Christians are not required to be glum and unhappy, yet they should not indulge in conversations that are undignified and meaningless. Not convenient means unbecoming; anything that would be out of place in a Christian. Rather giving of thanks. The children of God have so much to be thankful for, that such a frame of mind should influence their speech.

Verse 5

Eph 5:5. Even one single act of unlawful sexual intimacy constitutes fornication or adultery, but a whoremonger is a man who makes it a common practice; especially one who patronizes a woman who receives men for money. Unclean person means one who is corrupt either in body or mind. Covetous is explained in the comments at verse 3. Paul does not say that such a man is merely as bad as an idolater, but says he is one. That is because idolatry consists of being devoted to any thing or person except the one true God. A man who is greedy for the temporal things of this world will be chiefly interested in them, and will give his greatest devotion along that, line, hence is an idolator. An inheritance is a share in the property of another either through a relationship with him, or by some provision in his will. God has offered to adopt any person who will, into His family, and thus make him an heir of the Heavenly Estate. Paul states that such evil characters as the ones just mentioned will be denied any share in the good things of God. It is called the kingdom of Christ and God, because both the Father and the Son are one in spirit and purpose. Christ is the active king, ruling under his Father, but at the last day he will give up the rule that the Father may be the exclusive King. (See 1Co 15:24-28.)

Verse 6

Eph 5:6. Vain words are those that sound very well on the surface, but which are deceptive in reality. Some men might be able to speak in such a way as to make it seem that the things Paul had just mentioned were not wrong; he is warning his brethren against such false teachers. God's wrath is never shown against anything that is right, yet it has been expressed concerning these practices; therefore they must be wrong. Children of disobedience is a figurative term that means a group of persons who do not have enough faith in their professed father to obey Him.

Verse 7

Eph 5:7. A partaker with a person is one who either actually joins with him in doing the same things, or who encourages him in it by friendship with him.

Verse 8

Eph 5:8. Were sometimes darkness refers to the time when these Ephe-sians were in the darkness of heathenism. Having been led into the light of divine truth in Christ, their walk or general conduct should be in harmony with such divine truth. Children of light is a figure similar to the one in verse 6 except that it applies to truth instead of unbelief.

Verse 9

Eph 5:9. A tree is known by its fruit (Mat 7:16-20), and the kind of character a man maintains can be known only by the fruit or outward deeds in his life. The Spirit cannot produce anything but that which is goodness and righteousness and truth. This important subject is treated also in Gal 5:22-23.

Verse 10

Eph 5:10. When men walk according to the truth that has been given to them by the Spirit (through the inspired writers), it produces the good fruit of righteousness just mentioned. That will prove (make a practical demonstration) the Lord's way is best.

Verse 11

Eph 5:11. To have fellowship has the same meaning as being a partaker, which is commented upon at verse 7, but Paul adds another command in this verse, namely, to reprove the evil. The word is from ELEGCHO, and Thayer defines it at this place, "by conviction to bring to light, to expose." According to the laws of the land, even, "to conceal a crime constitutes another crime." If the servants of God know of the existence of sin and do not condemn it, they thereby become partakers thereof. All active things whether good or bad produce some kind of fruit (Mat 7:17), hence the word unfruitful in our verse means that it does not bear any proper fruit. Works of darkness refers to the evil practices that are performed under the cover of the darkness of error and the absence of spiritual light of truth.

Verse 12

Eph 5:12. The workers of darkness mentioned in the preceding verse are the persons meant by "them" in this verse. To speak of cannot mean the mere reference to the things done, for Paul has just done that very thing. The word speak is from LEGO, and one part of Thayer's definition is, "to enumerate, recount, narrate, describe." In secret denotes that the things they were doing were not open to the public, not that no people knew anything about it. Paul had to know about it, else he could not have spoken of it as he did. Neither is that because he was an inspired man, for some historians have given accounts of such proceedings. But they were often so vile and immoral that it would be a shock to the decent mind to describe them in detail.

Verse 13

Eph 5:13. Reproved means to be exposed or made known to all, and that would be done by turning on the light of truth. That is why those deeds were done "behind closed doors." This subject is treated in Joh 3:19-21, which shows the same spirit of men who do not want their actions to be known, because they fear that good people would refuse to have any fellowship with them.

Verse 14

Eph 5:14. The terms used in this verse are figurative or spiritual, and pertain to the proper conduct of Christians. Divine truth is referred to as light, because it makes known many things that could not be known otherwise. Isa 60:1-5 is a passage that deals with the subject of light, and our verse evidently refers to that. Paul is exhorting the brethren to bestir themselves from their spiritual slumber, and arise from their spiritually-dead condition so as to be ready for the light that Christ offers.

Verse 15

Eph 5:15. The original for circumspectly is defined by Thayer, "exactly, accurately, diligently." To walk in such a manner, it is necessary for one to see or take heed to the divine law that is given to direct his steps. Jer 10:23 says "it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps." Hence it is necessary for the Lord to give the directions, which He has done in his word of truth. The sentence may well be expressed by the familiar phrase appearing in many public places, "watch your step." The original for fools does not appear in any other place in the Greek New Testament. It does not mean a person without intelligence, for such an individual would not be responsible and hence should not be given any religious commands. The word is defined in the lexicon, "unwise, foolish," and Robinson explains it, "without true wisdom in Christ." This shows the word means a person who does not consult the Lord's instructions as to the proper way to walk; the wise person is the one who does give them heed.

Verse 16

Eph 5:16. Redeeming is from EXAGO-RAZO, and Thayer's definition (the part in italics) at this place is, "to make a wise and sacred use of every opportunity for doing good." Time is from KAIROS, and Thayer defines it at this place, "opportune or seasonable time," then adds the comment, "with verbs suggestive of the idea of advantage." This definition fits in well with the meaning of redeeming just explained. We should make use of every advantage that comes before us for doing something good. If that is done, it can be Said that the time we spend is not in vain. Days is from EMERA, and it has such a wide range of meaning that Thayer uses two pages of his lexicon in defining it. Paul means there is much evil present in these days, and Thayer's definition of evil at this place is, "bringing toils, annoyances, perils." To overcome these evils and make the time count for good, we are exhorted to "redeem the time."

Verse 17

Eph 5:17. This verse is related to the preceding one in that it recognizes the contrast between wisdom and the lack of it. The man who understands the will of the Lord is regarded by the apostle as a wise man, and vice versa. Such wisdom is necessary to enable one to walk in the ways of righteous- ness.

Verse 18

Eph 5:18. Excess is from ASOTIA. Thayer and Robinson agree on the meaning cf this word, butj shall quote the definition of the latter because he uses a more common language. "Debauchery, revelry, riot." The American Standard Version also renders it "riot." The heathens generally filled themselves with wine and then engaged in their idolatrous performances, which often were disorderly even to the extent of being immoral. In contrast to that, Paul instructs his brethren to be filled with the Spirit. That can be done by drinking deep from the fountain of truth as it is produced by the Spirit through the preaching and teaching of the apostles. Instead of making them drunk and leading them into riotous actions and filthy conversations, it will produce the kind of thought exchange that is indicated in the next verse.

Verse 19

Eph 5:19. There is so much misunderstanding in the religious world over the proper kind of "music" to be used in the services of the Lord, that I believe it will be well to go into much detail at this verse. I shall first give the meaning of the different words in the passage. Speaking is from LALEO, which means words uttered by mouth, regardless of whether it is done merely as expressions of speech, or performed by singing. In the present verse it is used only in the form of singing. Psalms is from PSALMOS, which Thayer defines, "a pious song, a psalm." Hymns is from HUMNOS, and the same lexicon defines it, "a sacred song, hymn." Songs is from ODE and Thayer defines it, "a song, lay, ode," and explains it to mean, "in the Scriptures a song in praise of God or Christ." Making melody is from PSALLO. This word originally referred to a musical instrument and is defined in Thayer's lexicon, "to cause to vibrate by touching, to twang; to touch or strike the chord, to twang the strings; to play on a stringed instrument, to play the harp; to sing to the music of a harp." Many words in the old classical language came later to have a more restricted meaning, and that is the case with PSALLO. Hence, Thayer defines it further as follows: "In the New Testament, to sing a hymn, to celebrate the praises of God in song." Since the word literally has reference to a musical instrument, but Paul uses it figuratively, he tells us what instrument Christians are to play, namely, the heart. Spiritual songs means those exhibiting the effects and character of the -Holy Spirit as taught in the New Testament. Any composition that combines the qualities of PSALMOS, IIUMNOS and ODE would be a scriptural song, and such a composition is possible according to a footnote in Thayer's lexicon.

Verse 20

Eph 5:20. In Col 3:16 Paul writes a passage cn the same subject as the preceding verse at this place, but there is some difference in the wording as to what is to be accomplished by the singing. The brethren are to teach and admonish each other, and in the next verse they are told to give thanks to God, after having told them to do everything in the name of Jesus. We should consider our present passage in the same light as the one in the letter to the Colossians. Whatever ye do is directly connected with the command in the preceding verse to "teach" themselves in song, hence they were to speak on the subject of doing things for the Lord's cause, just as the instructions are given in our present passage. In the name means by the authority of Jesus, and all of the deeds performed for Him will prompt the true disciple to offer thanksgiving for the privilege of doing things for the Lord.

Verse 21

Eph 5:21. Whatever the New Testament says in one place must be considered in the light of what it says elsewhere on the same subject. We know there are certain men in the church who have ruling authority over others (1Th 5:12-13; Heb 13:17). By this we must understand our present passage does not teach a promiscuous exercise of ruler-ship, for that would be devisive in its results. Thayer explains the original for submitting in this place, "to yield to one's admonition or advice." Such an explanation is correct since Paul adds the proviso in the fear of God. If a brother fears or reverences God, he will not give another disciple any admonition that is not in harmony with God's will. Therefore, if any member of the body of Christ, whether official or private, gives another some admonition that is according to the will of the Lord, it is the duty of that person so admonished to heed the advice. Such an attitude if manifested by the various members of the church would prevent much of the confusion that so often divides the body.

Verse 22

Eph 5:22. This verse should be understood on the principle set fourth in the preceding one. A wife must submit to the authority of her husband as long as he requires nothing that is contrary to the will of God. When she does that, she is doing so as unto the Lord, for He has willed the husband is the head of the wife.

Verse 23

Eph 5:23. A comparison is made between a husband as head of his wife, and Christ as the head of the church. No institution or organization or body. whether temporal or spiritual and whether physical or moral, can prosper without a head, and the body must be under the control of the head. Saviour of the body. Chapter 1:22, 23 says the body of Christ is his church. Hence, unless a person is a member of the body or church of Christ, he has no promise of salvation.

Verse 24

Eph 5:24. All normal human bodies are subject to and controlled by their head, and likewise the church is subject to Christ its head. Since the husband is the head of the wife (verse 23), she is to be subjected to him. In every thing is modified by the proviso mentioned and explained at verse 22.

Verse 25

Eph 5:25. When a man asks a woman to become his wife, it is presumed that he loves her; but too often he ceases to have the affection that prompted his proposal, and he may even become "bitter" against her as the companion passage in Col 3:19 expresses it. The love of Christ for his church is cited as an example of the love a true husband has for his wife. Christ proved his love by giving his life for the church, and a devoted husband will do all he can for the sake of his wife.

Verse 26

Eph 5:26. The comparison between a husband and wife on one hand, and Christ and the church on the other, is used for the purpose of illustration as far only as the two are similar. However, the case of Christ is far more extensive than is required of a husband. Christ literally died to produce the cleansing blood for the purification of the institution that was to become His bride. Washing of water refers to the ordinance of baptism, by which men and women are made members of the divine body. (Act 2:38 Act 2:41 Act 2:47; Tit 3:5.) By the word. Baptism will mean nothing to a man unless he submits to it in obedience to the ward-of the Lord (Rom 6:17).

Verse 27

Eph 5:27. Present it to himself. When a man looks upon a woman who is to become his bride, he delights in seeing her properly attired, with garments that are suitable for the occasion, being unsoiled and free from wrinkles. Jesus wished his bride (the church) to be thus qualified, and the phrase in italics first applies to the way the church appears to Him in this world if it is what it should be. But the actual marriage is to take place at the judgment day, and Christ desires that when the time comes, the bride will have adorned herself properly, in character and appearance (2Co 11:1-2; Rev 19:7-8). To enable her to be so adorned, He has provided her with garments that have been cleansed from all blemishes by his own blood. Spot or wrinkle. A wedding garment should be free from stains, and be smooth in its physical form. The figure means the church should be "unspotted from the world" (Jas 1:27), and free from such evil blemishes as wrinkles that may be caused by contact with the pressure of sin. To be holy denotes a life that is righteous according to the rules that have been left by the bridegroom.

Verse 28

Eph 5:28. The apostle continues his comparison that was started at verse 22, because there are so many points of likeness between the family and the church, the two and only divine organizations on earth today. Wives as their own bodies. When a man joins himself to his wife they become one flesh (Gen 2:24; Mat 19:5-6). That is why it is said that he that loveth his wife loveth himself.

Verse 29

Eph 5:29. Self-interest will cause a man to be concerned about his own body, and if he is neglectful of his wife's welfare, it indicates that he does not realize she is a part of him. Christ never forgets the relationship between Himself and the church, hence he has always been mindful of its needs.

Verse 30

Eph 5:30. The terms of this verse are literal as they pertain to the members of the fleshly body. That is why the blood of Christ is not mentioned, for He did not have any blood even after coming from the grave (Joh 19:34; Luk 24:39). However, the application is to our relationship with Christ and with each other (Rom 12:4-5; 1Co 12:27).

Verse 31

Eph 5:31. For this cause. Since the union of a man and woman makes them one flesh, the man should leave his father and mother--consider himself no longer under their authority as a specific part of their group--and should give undivided faithfulness to the new union he has formed with his wife.

Verse 32

Eph 5:32. A mystery is anything that is not known, whether complicated or simple in its character. It is also something that could not be discovered by human investigation alone. No uninspired man would have thought that the joining of a male and female in sexual intimacy would actually merge their bodies into one. But the word of God has declared it so, and the fact will be acknowledged by all who respect Him. Paul recognizes the great reality, but says he is referring to it as an illustration of Christ and the church.

Verse 33

Eph 5:33. Nevertheless. Because of his statement as to why he was referring to the great mystery of the marriage relation, some people might conclude that what the apostle said on that subject was of minor importance. He here avoids such an error by direct instructions on the duties of a husband to his wife, repeating what he said in several preceding verses on that subject. He then adds instructions for the wife in her proper attitude toward her husband. Reverence is from PHOBEO, which Thayer• defines at this place, "To reverence, venerate [regard with respect], to treat with deference [courteous regard] or reverential obedience." It does not have the sense of regarding her husband as a superhuman or divine being, as the word "reverend" generally (but erroneously) is thought to mean.
Bibliographical Information
Zerr, E.M. "Commentary on Ephesians 5". Zerr's Commentary on Selected Books of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/znt/ephesians-5.html. 1952.
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