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Bible Commentaries

Henry Mahan's Commentary on Selected Books of the New Testament
Ephesians 4

 

 

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Verses 1-7

A walk worthy of our calling

Ephesians 4:1-7

In the first three chapters of this epistle Paul deals with the doctrines of the grace of God, explaining and establishing them. In the last three chapters he deals mainly with the duties of believers with regard to the Christian walk.

Ephesians 4:1. ‘I beseech you to take heed to your conduct and conversation that your behavior be a credit to him who by his grace called you out of darkness into his kingdom of light. In your attitude, speech, home life, business dealings and social contacts, conduct yourselves in a way that is becoming to the name of Christ which you wear. Adorn the gospel of Christ with righteousness’ (Titus 2:7-10).

Ephesians 4:2. ‘In lowliness and meekness,’ that is, in the exercise of humility having the best thoughts of others and the lowest thoughts of ourselves; in not envying the gifts and graces of others but rejoicing in them; and in willingness to receive correction, rebuke and instruction.

‘With long-suffering,’ bearing patiently the faults and infirmities of others, not being easily provoked to anger nor being offended by slight or misunderstanding. God is certainly patient with us! (Galatians 6:1-2).

‘Forbearing one another in love,’ making whatever allowances are necessary because you love one another! (1 Corinthians 13:4-7; 1 Peter 4:8).

Ephesians 4:3. ‘Be eager and strive earnestly to protect and keep the harmony and oneness of spirit in the church.’ This spiritual union between Christ and his people and between believers is produced by the Holy Spirit. We are united in faith, love, purpose and one body. My responsibility is to do all within my power to protect and preserve that unity, even to surrendering my rights and opinions (Psalms 133 :l; 1 Corinthians 3:1-3).

Ephesians 4:4. ‘There is one body,’ the church. It is called one body with respect to Jew and Gentile, to saints above and below and to separate classes and societies; for though there are several congregations and local churches, there is one church of which Christ is the Head and we are all brethren (Ephesians 5:23; Colossians 1:18).

‘There is one spirit,’ the Holy Spirit of God, who enlightens, quickens, makes alive and incorporates us all in the body of Christ – members one of another.

‘There is one hope of your calling,’ that is, the glory hoped for and which is reserved for us in heaven. There are no degrees in this glory. It will be equally possessed by all; for they are all loved with the same love, chosen in the same Head, redeemed by the same blood and secured in the same covenant.

Ephesians 4:5. ‘One Lord,’ the Lord Jesus Christ, who is Lord by right of creation (Colossians 1:16-17), of the Father's decree (Acts 2:36) and of his sacrificial death (Romans 14:9; Philippians 2:9-11).

‘One faith.’ There is but one true grace of faith. It may be little faith, much faith, or great faith; but its author and object are the same in all – the Lord Jesus Christ in his person and work (John 3:36).

‘One baptism.’ There is one baptism under the gospel, which is water baptism; to be administered in one and the same way – by immersion; with one and the same subjects – believers; and in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:19; Acts 8:36-39).

Ephesians 4:6. There is one eternal, infinite, omnipotent God of heaven and earth, who is the Father of all believers in Christ and who is sovereign over all, taking care of us all and dwelling in us all. Paul is saying (in Ephesians 4:4-6) that, as believers, we have all these things in common – one body, one spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God, who is our Father. Therefore, we must and will be one family joined together in love stronger than anything this world can know. To disturb that unity is displeasing to God (Proverbs 6:16-19).

Ephesians 4:7. God's grace was given to us individually – grace to know Christ, to walk with Christ and to minister for the glory of Christ. He gives grace and gifts as he will and to whom he will, and there is no room for pride, envy, or contempt (1 Corinthians 4:7).


Verses 8-16

The work of the ministry

Ephesians 4:8-16

Ephesians 4:8. This is a quotation from Psalms 68:18, and it speaks of our Lord's ascension to heaven from Mt Olivet in the sight of the apostles (Acts 1:9-11). In this he fulfils the type of the High Priest entering into the holiest to make intercession for his people, to prepare a place for them and to send down the Holy Spirit with his grace and gifts to them.

‘He led captivity captive.’ He led a train of vanquished foes; he conquered those who had conquered us, such as sin, Satan and death. Christ conquered and triumphed over every spiritual enemy and those of his people.

‘And gave gifts to men’ – the gifts of the Holy Spirit, and especially such as qualify men for the work of the ministry and make them useful for God's glory and the good of the church (Romans 12:5-8).

Ephesians 4:9-10. These verses are simply saying that it could not be said of Christ that he ascended into heaven if he had not first descended or come down to the earth (John 3:13). ‘The lower parts of the earth’ does not mean hell (as the Catholics say), but rather the whole of his humiliation, beginning with his mother's womb. He was made flesh!

‘That he might fulfill all things’ that were written, prophesied and typified of him. All that he did, is doing and will do is according to the Scriptures (1 Corinthians 15:3-4; Luke 24:27).

Ephesians 4:11. He himself appointed and gave men gifts that qualified them to be apostles. This was the first and chief office in the church. They were called by Christ, had their doctrine directly from him and had a power to work miracles to confirm their doctrine (Hebrews 2:3-4). This office is now ceased.

‘And some prophets’ – not ordinary ministers of the word but unusual men of God in the early church who had a particular gift to interpret scripture (especially the prophecies of the Old Testament) and of foretelling things to come, such as Agabus (Acts 11:27-30).

‘Evangelists’ – preachers of the gospel who were traveling missionaries.

‘Pastors and teachers.’ Many say this is one and the same office, and it may be, for every true pastor is a teacher of the Scriptures. But it seems to me that there are teachers in the church who are not pastors. Pastors are the shepherds of the flock, while teachers may be gifted brethren in the church, teachers of the word and assistants to the pastors.

Ephesians 4:12. The reason Christ gave us these ministers of the gospel is for ‘the perfecting of all believers,’ for the best of believers are imperfect. Our faith, love, knowledge and sanctification need growth and maturity (1 Peter 2:2).

‘For the work of the ministry,’ to preach the gospel to the lost (2 Timothy 2:10), to oversee the church (1 Peter 5:1-4) and to teach the things of Christ (Matthew 28:19-20).

‘For the edifying of the body of Christ.’ We preach and teach, not to divide nor to scatter the sheep, but to strengthen, build up and give comfort and assurance to the people of God.

v. l3. We pray, preach and teach until all the elect come to saving faith and are united in their sentiments concerning Christ, the source and object of faith. We preach until all of the elect come to a spiritual knowledge of Christ, behold his glory, trust in him and appropriate him to themselves. We preach that the elect may grow to a spiritual maturity. We will not be perfect until Christ comes and we are conformed to his image; but we, through proper use of the word, grow from spiritual infancy to maturity and strength in Christ (1 Peter 2:1-2). The next two verses indicate that this is the meaning.

Ephesians 4:14-15. When we were first converted, we were babes in Christ – babes in understanding, having to be fed with milk; babes in strength, having to be protected, watched over and pacified; babes in fruit, having the buds of the fruit of the spirit but not the full flower. As children we are in danger from false teachers, cunning men and strange doctrines. As our tree ministers feed us the word of God, we grow up in all things in Christ. We become strong in faith, love, patience, knowledge and all grace. The danger of our being deceived or led away from Christ is lessened. The word of truth is the instrumental means of such growth (1 John 2:12-13).

Ephesians 4:16. Because of Christ, who is our Head, the whole church (called the whole body) in its various parts and members is joined and firmly knit together (1 Corinthians 12:12-13; 1 Corinthians 12:27). The bond (or cement) which holds us together is the grace of faith and love supplied by Christ to every part. When each part or member is working properly, the body grows to full maturity and builds itself up in love.


Verses 17-32

Put off the old man and put on the new

Ephesians 4:17-32

Ephesians 4:17. Before conversion, believers walk as others (Ephesians 2:2-3). But when we are brought to a knowledge of Christ, our walk, conduct and conversation are not (or ought not be) like the unconverted. ‘The vanity of the mind’ is vain philosophy, foolish thoughts of self and God, the pursuit of worldly riches, honour and acclaim, and the continued effort to find pleasure and happiness in the world (Psalms 39:5).

Ephesians 4:18-19. The unbelieving Gentiles are intelligent and wise enough in evil things, but in spiritual things their understanding is darkened (2 Corinthians 4:3-4; 1 Corinthians 2:7-9).

They are alienated from the life of God because of sin. They have natural life and knowledge, but have no spiritual life nor proper knowledge of God (John 8:19; John 8:42-44).

They are ignorant and their hearts are hardened against God. Every natural man is ignorant of spiritual things and his heart is hardened daily by sin (Romans 8:7).

In their ignorance, deadness and carnality, they have given themselves to sensuality, eager to indulge in every form of evil and dishonesty. They are given to whatever sin their corrupt natures may suggest or desire.

Ephesians 4:20. Believers cannot live in this manner, for a life of sin and indulgence in fleshly carnality is certainly not the life of Christ as we have been taught by his spirit.

Ephesians 4:21-22. ‘Assuming that the Lord has spoken to you through his word and by his spirit and that you have been taught the truth as it is in Christ Jesus (John 6:44-45), you will put off and discard your old way of life. You will deny the old man (the old nature) the right to rule over you. The old nature has its lusts and desires, but they are deceitful. They promise pleasure and profit but yield neither! Put down this old nature with strong denials’ (1 Timothy 6:11; Titus 2:11-12).

Ephesians 4:25. By prayer, worship, reading the word and continued feeding upon Christ, our spiritual man is refreshed, revived and renewed (Psalms 51:10).

Ephesians 4:24. To ‘put on’ the new nature is not to make ourselves new creatures in Christ, for this is God's work and not man's. It is God who regenerates and creates a new man in true righteousness and holiness. But to ‘put on the new man’ is to walk daily according to the principles of grace and holiness formed in us. Walk in the Spirit of Christ and avoid not only the works of evil but the very appearance of evil (1 Thessalonians 5:22).

Ephesians 4:25. Reject and denounce lying, exaggeration and any effort to deceive. Speak tactfully and kindly words of truth to one another; for we are of the same body and a man is foolish to lie to himself.

Ephesians 4:26-27. There is an anger which is not sinful, for anger is found in God and in Christ! It arises from a true zeal for God and for holiness and it is not against persons but against sins. But do not allow even this anger to continue: let it be over when the day is over. All anger and indignation should quickly be forgotten (James 1:19-20). Do not give Satan any room, foothold, or opportunity to use you for evil purposes or to hinder the kingdom of God by your anger and bad attitude.

Ephesians 4:28. Stealing takes many directions – actual theft, obtaining possessions by false representation, failing to pay debts and receiving wages while not putting forth our best efforts. Make an honest living and be able and willing to share with others.

Ephesians 4:29. Let your conversation be seasoned with grace and language which is spiritually beneficial to others. Avoid unwholesome words, worthless talk, gossip and excessive levity (Colossians 3:8-9; Colossians 4:6).

Ephesians 4:30. The things mentioned above grieve, vex and offend the Holy Spirit of God, who dwells in us and by whom we are sealed unto the day of final redemption.

Ephesians 4:31. Let all bitterness and wrath (bad temper, resentment and rage) be put away. Let all contention, strife and quarrelling, along with all slander and ill will, be put away! (Colossians 3:19.)

Ephesians 4:32. Become useful, helpful, kind and tender-hearted with one another; and forgive one another readily and freely as God in Christ forgave you (Matthew 6:14-15).

 


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Bibliography Information
Mahan, Henry. "Commentary on Ephesians 4:4". Henry Mahan's Commentary on Selected Books of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/hms/ephesians-4.html. 2013.

Lectionary Calendar
Thursday, December 5th, 2019
the First Week of Advent
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