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Bible Commentaries

Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament
Ephesians 4

 

 

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Introduction

Verse 1

Ephesians 4:1. I exhort you therefore. The emphasis in the original rests on ‘exhort,’ as indicated in the order given above. The word means first to call hither (corresponding with ‘calling’ and ‘called’); then, to address, either for exhortation or comfort; it should not be rendered ‘beseech.’ ‘Therefore’ may refer to the whole preceding part, but as summed up in the doxology(chap. Ephesians 3:20-21) a more particular reference maybe found in the prayer (chap. Ephesians 3:14-19), which suggests the greatness of Christian privilege. Still this prayer in turn springs from chaps. 1, 2

I the prisoner in the Lord. The repetition of ‘I’ in English brings out the emphasis of the original. ‘In the Lord’ is not = ‘of Christ Jesus’ (chap. Ephesians 3:1), nor is ‘in’ = ‘through’ or ‘with,’ but denotes the sphere or element of his captivity, giving prominence to his fellowship with Christ and to his devotion to His cause; in chap. Ephesians 3:1 the reference is to Christ as the author of his captivity. The phrase is apt in this connection: his joyous wearing of his bonds enforces his exhortation, giving it the tone of Christian experience more than of Apostolic dignity.

That ye walk worthy, etc. This he would have them do, live in a manner worthy of their privilege. ‘Worthy’ is an adverb, not an adjective.

Of the calling wherewith ye were called. ‘Calling’ corresponds in sound with ‘called.’ It is God who called them, and that in the past (‘were’); ‘calling’ is only another way of expressing the fact mat they had been called, which is the motive presented. We are not to walk worthy in order to receive the call, as legalism suggests. When Christians ignore the privileges resulting from God’s love in Christ, summed up in the Apostle’s doctrine, and assumed in his ‘therefore,’ they have ceased to be in earnest about the worthy walk. For the true Christian walk is not obedience to rule, but the expression of loyal and loving allegiance to One, who has done for us what awakens our gratitude and exalts it into personal devotion to Him for what He is.


Verses 1-3

I. WALK WORTHY OF THE CALLING IN HUMILITY AND UNITY.

This brief section contains the practical theme, exhorting the readers to a walk worthy of their calling (Ephesians 4:1), naming three attendant virtues essential to this walk, defining further the mode of Christian forbearance (Ephesians 4:2), and giving, in the exhortation to the preservation of the unity of the Spirit, a motive for this forbearance, which suggests the theme of the next section. The virtues put in the foreground here, and giving character to the entire practical part, are distinctively Christian. The ethical tone is that of the Sermon on the Mount. There, however, the high ideal is presented to awaken a sense of need; here the practice of the same virtues is based upon the great truths of a completed gospel, offering not only motives and means, but Divine strength.


Verse 2

Ephesians 4:2. With all lowliness and meekness. These two attendants of the Christian walk are closely joined. The former is humility: ‘the esteeming ourselves small, inasmuch as we are so; the thinking truly, lowlily of ourselves’ (French). How welt adapted Christian privilege is to produce this state of mind the believers experience shows (comp. chap. Ephesians 3:8 and similar passages). As we receive all of Christ’s grace, we feel our unworthiness. In one aspect it is the basis of all Christian virtue. ‘Meekness’ is a gentleness, resting on ‘lowliness,’ humble submission to God, and a consequent mildness toward men as His instruments, as if to say: ‘Have I been helped, then I do not know who should not be helped’ (Braune). ‘All,’ i.e., ‘every kind of,’ qualifies both words.

With longsuffering. This is another attendant of the Christian walk, closely connected with the other two, but introduced by itself. The phrase should not be joined with what follows. ‘Longsuffering’ means, not taking swift vengeance, not inflicting speedy punishment, though it sometimes has the more general sense of ‘forbearance.’ It is meekness toward the sins of others, and the more difficult to exercise be-cause justice seems at times to be against it is promoted by recalling that we were called when sinners, that all our privileges are proofs of God’s longsuffering.

Forbearing one another in love. This clause defines the walk still further, but is in reality a vivacious setting forth of how ‘longsuffering’ is exhibited. ‘One another’ suggests that each one who forbears gives occasion to others for forbearance.

In love. This is the element in which all true forbearance is manifested; without the Christian grace of love it degenerates into indifference, but love ‘is longsuffering’ (1 Corinthians 13:4). The phrase should not be joined with what follows.


Verse 3

Ephesians 4:3. Earnestly striving, giving diligence. This is parallel with ‘forbearing,’ and describes the humble, longsuffering walk, with reference to the motive of the forbearance, a motive leading to continuous and earnest effort. The underlying thought of Christian unity is carried out in the next section.

To keep, to maintain, to preserve something already possessed, and to continue doing this.

The unity of the Spirit, i.e., the Holy Spirit, since a reference to the human spirit in this connection would be both flat and unpauline. The unity is that effected by the Holy Spirit; not an outward uniformity, or hollow truce, or unholy compromise, but that unity of thought and feeling and effort among individual Christians which is produced by the indwelling of the same Spirit. Such a unity we are commanded to ‘keep,’ not to ‘make.’ The main instruments in keeping it are the graces named in Ephesians 4:2. This is the basis of all real unity in the Church. Most of the failures in seeking unity have resulted from a failure to accept what is implied in this clause. Only unity of Christians, wrought by the Holy Spirit, maintained by loving personal endeavor, can result in the manifested unity of the Body of Christ.

In the bond of peace. ‘In’ is not= ‘by,’ but points to the sphere or element in which the unity is maintained. There are, however, two explanations of the phrase ‘the bond of peace:’ (1.) the bond which is peace; (2.) the bond which has peace as its object. The latter view regards this phrase as parallel to ‘in love,’ taking love as ‘the bond,’ in accordance with Colossians 3:14. But the other explanation is more natural. ‘Peace ‘is the result of peace with God, and, binding Christians together, it is ‘a condition and symbol of that inner unity wrought by the indwelling Spirit of God’ (Alford). Hence an outward unity, which does not bind Christians in peace, can scarcely be ‘the unity of the Spirit.’


Verse 4

Ephesians 4:4. There is. This is properly supplied, since we have here, not an exhortation, but a motive. ‘For’ is not inserted; the argumentative force of the passage is obvious without it

One body, i.e., the mystical body of Christ, the invisible Church. The existence of this as a unity is a motive for preserving the unity of the Spirit among Christians. The force of this motive is weakened by taking the term as exactly equivalent to ‘church,’ and such an explanation inevitably leads to false notions of the unity of the Church, and to unwise methods of preserving it.

One Spirit, the Holy Spirit, who is the life of this body, yet distinct from it. The term should not be weakened by any reference to the human spirit. In the New Testament it never means temper or disposition.

As ye were also called, etc. ‘Were called’ points to the time when they became Christians; what occurred then corresponded with the fact that ‘there is one body, and one Spirit,’ enabling them to recognize this fact. The correspondence is better suggested by joining ‘also’ (not ‘even’) with the verb.

In one hope of your calling. ‘In’ points to the element in which the calling took place; the ‘one hope’ is not that which is hoped for, but our hope, which is one, because it has one object and source. ‘Of your calling’ may mean either that the hope resulted from the calling, or belonged to it, as characteristic of it. The latter is perhaps preferable.


Verses 4-6

Ephesians 4:4-6. Meyer gives this analysis of these verses: ‘Objective relations of unity to which the non-observance of the precept in Ephesians 4:3 would be opposed. These are: (1.) The Church itself constituted as a unity,—one body, one Spirit, one blessed consummation (Ephesians 4:4). (2.) That by which this constitution of the same as a unity has and does come to pass,—one Lord, one faith, one baptism (Ephesians 4:5). (3.) The Supreme Ruler, Administrator, and Preserver of this entire unity,—one God and Father, etc. (Ephesians 4:6). Notice the triple tri-partite division.’


Verses 4-16

II. MOTIVES FOR PRESERVING THE UNITY OF THE SPIRIT.

In this passage the leading thought is ‘ the unity of the Spirit; ’ the duty of preserving it is not directly enjoined, but motives are presented:—

(1.) The basis of unity is found in certain existing unities, necessarily involved in the relations of the Spirit, Lord and Father to the one body of believers (Ephesians 4:4-6).

(2.) The diversity of individual gifts is in accordance with the gift of the one Lord, who has power to bestow them (Ephesians 4:7-10).

(3.) The persons given to be officers in the Church are instruments to promote growth toward unity (Ephesians 4:11-16). These persons are Christ’s gift (Ephesians 4:11); the aim of their effort is the perfecting of the saints (Ephesians 4:12), until unity and maturity are attained (Ephesians 4:13); this perfecting has as its end, avoiding the instability and error of a childish condition (Ephesians 4:14), and truthful, loving growth into Christ as Head (Ephesians 4:15), He being the source of life for every part of His body, so that it can symmetrically grow ‘unto the building up of itself in love’ (Ephesians 4:16).

The first paragraph is almost epigrammatic; the second is broken and somewhat obscure; the third is involved, full of metaphor and perplexing subordinate clauses. Yet all three present, with varied matter and manner, the great thought: the ultimate design of the Triune God, in the Church as a whole, in every individual member, and in all its outward organism, is the complete unity of the Body of Christ.


Verse 5

Ephesians 4:5. One Lord, one faith, one baptism. Here we have the way and means of salvation, presented as facts on which unity among Christians rests. A misapprehension of the second and third terms has led to diversity rather than unity. ‘One Lord’ is the Personal Christ. The whole Epistle shows that out of Him there is no unity of the Spirit. He is not only the one object of faith, but the Lord to whom allegiance is due, and the loyal trust in Him, exercised by all who are Christians, is the ‘one faith.’ For ‘faith’ here does not mean what is believed, but the act of believing. The New Testament use of the word upholds this view; the conception of ‘faith’ as a universal dogma belongs to later times, and has not been promotive of unity. Because we all exercise this one belief in the one Lord, we are to preserve unity. The other view—because we need unity, let us lay down one creed—has not been fortunate in its application. To this subjective fact of believing in the one Lord, there is added a third: ‘one baptism,’ the external sign and seal of faith,’ by which, as a badge, the members of Christ are outwardly and visibly stamped with His name’ (Alford). The importance of baptism is thus emphasized, and it is further suggested that it has no efficacy apart from the ‘one Lord’ and ‘one faith.’ Baptism is named, rather than the Lord’s Supper, since the latter is a manifestation of union preserved, while the former, ‘from its single celebration and marked individual reference, presents more clearly the idea of unity’ (Ellicott), thus furnishing a motive for preserving it. The view that the third term prescribes one mode of baptism not only seems foreign to the drift of the Apostle’s argument, but has proven unfortunate as a means of maintaining unity.


Verse 6

Ephesians 4:6. One God. The deepest ground of unity is found the existence of one God, who has revealed Himself in the redemption of His people’

And Father of all. This is not equivalent to Creator, but refers to the special paternal relation sustained to all believers by the Father. The context is decisive against any weakening of it into ‘All-Father.’ Alford thinks there is a reference to God’s Fathership of all men as a lost possession, but the argument of the Apostle is not helped by such a view. He urges Christians to preserve unity (Ephesians 4:3), and he then contrasts the relation of God to ‘all’ with the gift of Christ to ‘each’ (Ephesians 4:7). The reference to Christians alone in ‘all’ strengthens both positions. After the mention of ‘one Spirit’ (Ephesians 4:4) and ‘one Lord’ (Ephesians 4:5), it is natural to refer this verse to the Father alone, who is further described: Who is over all (believers), as Ruler and Guide, and through all; since the individuals are instruments used by Him, and in all. The best authorities omit ‘you,’ an explanatory insertion to confine the application to Christians. God the Father dwells in all believers, not in a pantheistic sense, but as set forth in the gospel; comp. chap. Ephesians 2:22, Since ‘baptism ‘was mentioned in Ephesians 4:5, and its formula points to Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, many find in this verse a reference to these three Persons of the Trinity. The prepositions ‘over’ and ‘in’ would agree with this view, but ‘through’ is not fairly applicable to the Son. Moreover, the verse loses much of its force, if applied to the Trinity, since unity is the idea dwelt upon. The reference to God the Father is not only more grammatical, but much safer. On the entire paragraph, Hodge well remarks: ‘There are many passages to which the doctrine of the Trinity gives a sacred rhythm, though the doctrine itself is not directly asserted. It is so here; there is one Spirit, one Lord, one God and Father. The unity of the Church is founded on this doctrine. It is one, because there is to us one God the Father, one Lord, one Spirit. It is a truly mystical union: not a mere union of opinion, of interest, or of feeling; but something supernatural, arising from a common principle of life. This life is not the natural life which belongs to us as creatures; nor intellectual, which belongs to us as rational beings; but it is spiritual life, called elsewhere the life of God in the soul. And as this life is common on the one hand to Christ and all His members, and on the other to Christ and God, this anion of the Church is not only with Christy but with the Triune God.’


Verse 7

Ephesians 4:7. But. In contrast with ‘all,’ there is a gift to each one of at; each has a part in the same salvation, and the gift, though adapted to individuals, has its unity.

Was the grace given. The tense points to a particular time, namely, the exaltation of Christ, as Ephesians 4:8 shows. The emphatic word is ‘given;’ it is not ours by right, but is bestowed, and that upon ‘each one.’ Here is a motive to Christian forbearance, as a means of preserving unity. ‘The grace’ refers, not to the spiritual gift itself, but rather to the one grace, bestowed by Christ, and manifesting itself in various ways, so that each one has his peculiar gift. This grace is bestowed according to the measure of the gift of Christ, i.e., ‘in proportion to the amount of the gift which Christ gives’ (Ellicott). As His good pleasure determines this ‘measure,’ this suggests another reason for humility and forbearance, as helps to concord ‘The gift does not obliterate natural, corporate, local, temporal, individual, differences, but purifies and ennobles them. Temperament and natural mental powers, talents and inclinations, are only refined, directed, moved, and used for the Lord’s kingdom and our own salvation’ (Braune).


Verse 8

Ephesians 4:8. wherefore he saith. The citation (Psalms 68:19) is to prove that Christ gives (‘wherefore’). ‘He,’ which refers to God, is properly supplied, rather than ‘it’ = the Scripture. When Paul uses the latter, there is generally a reason for it.

When he ascended up on high, etc. The original, fairly rendered in the LXX., is: ‘ascending to the height, thou didst lead captive (a) captivity, and received gifts in man’ (Hebrew: ‘in the man’). The change to the third person is natural; the main difficulty is found in the last clause (which see). That the Psalm was prophetic is quite obvious. It was probably composed after a victory, and probably first used in bringing the ark to Mount Zion after such a victory. This gives it at once a theocratic and Messianic character. ‘On high’ points in the Psalm to the holy hill, in the Apostle’s application to Christ’s exaltation to heaven.

Led a captivity captive. ‘A captivity’ suggests the concrete sense which we must accept, the reference being originally to the crowd of captives led in triumph by the returning victor. The application here undoubtedly is to the enemies of Christ who have been overcome, either (1) men who have become His servants (comp. the correct sense of 2 Corinthians 2:14), previously prisoners of Satan; or (2) Satan, sin, and death, whom He had conquered through His death and resurrection. The latter view is favored by Colossians 2:15, gives a forcible meaning, and accords with the metaphor. The former lessens the difficulty in the last clause, making these captives the gifts, who are both received and given. But this lays it open to suspicion. Other views have been suggested, but none of them seem tenable.

And gave gifts to men. The Psalm reads: ‘received gifts in the man,’ which means either ‘among men,’ or ‘consisting in men.’ The E. V. renders ‘for men,’ which lessens the difficulty, since receiving gifts for men, and giving them to men, are substantially the same. But the original will scarcely bear this sense. We are therefore shut up to two views. (1.) The gifts consist in men, His captives,’ to whom He has given gifts of grace, that they themselves may and can become gifts to men in wider circles’ (Braune). This view, by uniting, receiving, and giving in the persons of the captives, seeks to make them synonymous terms. But it seems forced, and compels us to give ‘captivity’ its less obvious reference. (2.) The Hebrew is to be translated: ‘hath taken gifts among men,’ since the collective sense of ‘the man’ is well established. The ideas of the original and Paul’s application are thus to be regarded, not as identical, but as correlative. He, as an inspired man, recasts this clause, to bring out, by means of this application, the farther, fuller, and deeper meaning of the Psalm. This view assumes (a) that the Apostle could make an authoritative exposition; (b) that this exposition is not contrary to, but involved in, the original and historical reference. To these points may be added (c) that our tropological expositions are not authoritative; we can use this method only to elucidate doctrine fully established by other passages, or to enforce precept plainly enjoined.


Verse 9

Ephesians 4:9. It is not necessary to regard Ephesians 4:9-10 as parenthetical.

Now introduces an explanatory statement, not a proof, of the correctness of the application of Ephesians 4:8.

That he ascended, i.e., the fact that He ascended, not the word, since the form here differs from that in Ephesians 4:8.

What is it, what does it imply, but that he also descended. It is assumed, since the reference in the Old Testament is to God, and here to the Messiah, that heaven is the point of departure and place of return for Him who is spoken of. This is the original dwelling place of Christ (John 3:13), and He could not ascend to give gifts to men without previously descending. But whither? Paul says, into the lower parts of the earth. It is quite grammatical to explain this as, ‘the lower parts, namely, the earth,’ and this is all that is necessarily involved in what precedes. But the contrast with Ephesians 4:10, and the evident design to show the power of Christ, favors the view, held by ancient expositors and a number of recent commentators, that the Apostle refers to Christ’s descent into Hades. Either view is doctrinally admissible and grammatically defensible; probably the more ancient one is preferable, if it be guarded against unwarrantable inferences. The other explanations, referring the phrase to lowliness, to burial, to the womb of the Virgin, especially the first, must be regarded as untenable.


Verse 10

Ephesians 4:10. He it is also; not, ‘is the same also’ (E. V.). The two thoughts of descending and ascending are here joined in such a way as to give prominence to the Person of Christ.

Above all the heavens. It is immaterial whether Paul had in mind three heavens or seven heavens, according to the Jewish notion. Whatever divisions exist, or whatever Paul referred to, his statement is that Christ was exalted above all such places.

That he might fill all things. As this was the purpose of His exaltation, that He might be able to ‘penetrate with His grace and glory all regions and all persons within them’ (Braune), it is proven that He can and does give to each Christian as He will (Ephesians 4:7). Thus, too, the way is prepared for the statement which follows, respecting His gift of official persons to His Church, and the purpose of the Christian ministry. The thought in its connection is the same as that of chap. Ephesians 1:22-23 : ‘gave Him as Head over all things to the Church,’ etc.


Verse 11

Ephesians 4:11. And he gave. ‘He’ is emphatic; He, and none other. ‘Gave’ refers back to Ephesians 4:6; Ephesians 4:8, and is to be taken in its strict sense; Christ gives the persons to fill the offices; comp. 1 Corinthians 12:28, where the idea is different. Here the historical fact is referred to, but the principle is a permanent one. Meyer:’ Christ gives the Church’s ministers; the Church takes those given and sets them in the service of the Church. Accordingly the Church, or he who represents the rights and duties of the Church, never has to choose the subjects arbitrarily, but to know and recognize those endowed by Christ as those given by Him, and to place them in the ministry; hence the highest idea of the ecclesiastical examination is to test whether those concerned are given by Christ,—without prejudice, however, to other requisites which are matters of ecclesiastical polity.’

Some to be apostles. ‘To be’ is properly supplied; they were to be the gift in these positions. The word ‘Apostle,’ in its strict sense, applies only to the Twelve and Paul. (On the relation of the latter to the former, see General Introduction, and Excursus on Galatians, chap. Ephesians 2:1-10.) But the term was sometimes loosely applied to others, especially Barnabas (Acts 14:4; Acts 14:14). It should be taken here in the strict sense, since the other terms would include all to whom this title might be loosely applied. It is generally agreed that only those are Apostles, who (1.) were commissioned by Christ Himself; (2.) were witnesses of His resurrection, because they had seen the Risen Lord; (3.) that they had a special inspiration (comp. chaps. Ephesians 2:20; Ephesians 3:5); (4.) that their authority was supreme; (3.) that they were furnished with ample credentials. It would appear from this that they can have no successors in the distinctive features of their office. Rightly, then, they are regarded as extraordinary Church officers. If any claim that the Apostolate has been reestablished, the claim must be made good by abundant proofs of unique inspiration and of supernatural vision of the Lord Himself on the part of the persons for whom the claim is made.

And some, prophets. Those who were inspired occasionally, usually for the instruction of believers, although some of the New Testament prophets predicted (comp. Acts 11:27; Acts 13:1; Acts 15:32; Acts 21:10; and especially 1 Corinthians 14). As ‘prophets’ is joined with ‘Apostles’ (chaps. Ephesians 2:20; Ephesians 3:5), and in a way to indicate direct inspiration, this office also is to be regarded as extraordinary; any claim that it has been restored must be sustained by abundant proofs of such inspiration.

And some, evangelists. This cannot refer to the writers of the Gospels, but to such persons as Philip (comp. Acts 8:4-12 with Acts 21:8). They seem to have been travelling missionaries, not ‘vicars of the Apostles,’ such as Timothy and Titus (as Calvin held). There is no evidence that this office required gifts which are no longer bestowed, and it may be regarded as permanent. But this does not imply a distinct class, or order, of the ministry. The Apostle seems to have avoided the use of the technical terms then applied in the churches. How such ‘evangelists’ can be recognized and regulated in their labors is a practical question of Church polity, especially since many are thus termed who present little evidence of having been given for this office.

And some, pastors and teachers. These terms are properly understood of those who labor in some special field, committed to their care and instruction. The only question is, whether two classes are meant, or only one, the two-fold duty of which is thus indicated. The latter view is favored by the fact that ‘some ‘is not repeated, and is held by a majority of commentators. Calvin maintained the former, and the distinction has usually been recognized in the Reformed Church, though practically disregarded. When Paul wrote the ‘pastors’ were ‘bishops,’ or ‘elders,’ and probably were always ‘teachers’ also; it is not so clear that the ‘teachers’ were always ‘pastors.’ It is further probable that there were already differences of organization among the Christian congregations, so that whatever distinction is here implied need not be regarded as pointing to a permanent one. In this most ‘churchly’ Epistle there is little support for any claims to a jure divino form of Church polity. ‘The Apostle says nothing of the modes of human appointment or ordination to these various offices. He descends not to law, order, or form, but his great thought is that though the ascended Lord gave such gifts to men, yet their variety and number interfere not with the unity of the Church’ (Eadie).


Verses 11-16

Ephesians 4:11-16. For a summary of these verses, see above. The leading thought is: this exalted Lord gives official persons to the Church to promote its growth toward perfection and unity. This too is a motive for the precept of Ephesians 4:3.


Verse 12

Ephesians 4:12. The relation of the clauses of this verse has been much discussed. All three cannot be parallel (as in E.V.), since the preposition in the first differs from that in the second and third. There are two leading views: (1.) The second depends on the first, and the third on the second, with this sense: ‘For the perfecting of the saints, unto all that variety of service, essential unto the building up of the body of Christ’ The main objection is that the Apostle is speaking of those who hold official positions, not of all the saints, while this view lays stress on the service of the latter. (2.) All the clauses depend on ‘gave,’ but the first expresses the more remote, and the second and third (which are parallel) the more immediate, aim of the giving. ‘He gave some, etc., to fulfil the work of ministration, and to build up the body of Christ; His purpose being to perfect the saints,’ This accounts for the difference of prepositions, avoids some minor difficulties, and gives a sense suited to the context. That the ultimate end should be placed first is strange, but is rendered all the more probable by the fact that Ephesians 4:13 presents a result which is more remote than that described in Ephesians 4:14-15.

For the perfecting of the saints. ‘For,’ lit,’ to’ or ‘toward,’ marking the aim (see above). ‘Perfecting’ occurs only here, and refers to moral completeness, not to the completeness of the number of the elect, nor to their becoming one body. The view which makes the next clause dependent on this gives this the special sense of complete preparation for service on the part of all the saints.

Unto the work of ministration. ‘Ministry’ is too technical, although the ‘ministration’ seems to refer to ‘spiritual service of an official nature’ (Meyer), already suggested in Ephesians 4:11. To apply it to the office of a deacon is unwarranted. If this clause depends on the preceding the reference is to all Christian ministration.

Unto the building up of the body of Christ. This clause is parallel to the preceding, although it serves to define the nature of the ‘work,’ The service is not merely philanthropic ministration; it has in view the growth and strengthening of the ‘one body.’ Whatever view be taken of the connection of thought, it is true that all Christian service should contribute to the furtherance of this end.


Verse 13

Ephesians 4:13. Till we all come. The verb means to arrive at a destination; ‘we all ‘refers to all the saints, the members of the body of Christ. The official service will be needed, until this goal is attained, and it is here implied that it will be reached. Notice that this end is more remote than the results spoken of in Ephesians 4:14-15.

Unto, not, ‘in.’ This preposition occurs three times in this verse, introducing the same aim under different aspects.

The unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God. The phrase ‘of the Son of God’ belongs to both ‘faith’ and ‘knowledge;’ He is the object of both. ‘The faith,’ here means, not a creed, but our believing, while ‘knowledge’ means full knowledge. ‘The unity’ is not the state in which ‘faith’ and ‘knowledge’ become identical, since the two terms are kept apart by the repeated article; moreover the former is not to be lost in the latter, but abides (1 Corinthians 13:13). The unity is rather that of the individual believers (‘we all’) resulting from that perfect faith and that perfect knowledge which corresponds with the perfect object of both, namely, the Son of God. How tar off is this goal! But the servant of Christ should never lose sight of it.

Unto a full-grown man. The same end figuratively set forth, the whole becomes a mature, complete, single personality; the next clause repeats the figure: unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ. The measure to be reached is ‘the stature,’ etc. The word means ‘age,’ and some contend for that meaning here, explaining, ‘the measure characteristic of the age,’ etc. But the idea of magnitude is prominent throughout the passage, and ‘stature’ seems more appropriate with ‘measure.’ Spiritual maturity is meant, and this maturity is conditioned by ‘the fulness of Christ’ This may mean the state of fulness which belongs to Christ, or which comes from Him; the latter is perhaps preferable. The question remains, Will this goal be reached here or hereafter? some think the mention of ‘faith’ points to this world; others place the goal at the Second Advent, and the maturity during the subsequent millennium. Many hold that this end will be attained only in eternity. But some of the most judicious expositors feel that there is nothing to indicate that the Apostle had in mind a distinction between here and hereafter. This is the goal set before the Church on earth; until it is reached Christ will give men to do His work in official position, and this goal should be ever before them. It may be approached on earth, else it were no goal for present effort, but probably will be reached only when the Lord comes again. No one helps the Church toward it who obscures ‘the Son of God’ as the object of ‘faith’ and ‘knowledge,’ or seeks perfection from other sources than ‘the fulness of Christ.’ ‘Beyond Christ we cannot go, without Him or against Him there is no progress’ (Braune).


Verse 14

Ephesians 4:14. In order that. While this verse is grammatically dependent on Ephesians 4:13, it points to a purpose to be fulfilled during the attainment of the goal set up in that verse, in other words, as in Ephesians 4:12, the most remote end is placed before the more immediate one.

We be no longer children; immature, small, feeble, imperfect

Tossed as waves; like the waves, ‘fluctuating’ (Vulgate); others prefer ‘tossed to and fro,’ as a deserted ship. Excitable and unsteady, as children are.

Carried about with every wind of teaching, not, ‘doctrine,’ since active agency is suggested. The figure must be understood in accordance with what precedes. The varying wind carries about the waves, or the ship deserted is at the mercy of the waves and wind. Those immature 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. It is as true today as when Paul wrote, perhaps is even more obvious, since the range of erroneous opinions through which such successively pass is now so much wider.

In the sleight of men. ‘In’ denotes’ the evil atmosphere, as it were, in which the varying currents of doctrine exist and exert their force’ (Ellicott). The word ‘sleight’ is significantly taken from dice-playing. ‘Men,’ with their variety of teaching and trickery, are substituted for Christ the true guide.

In craftiness tending to the system of error, or, ‘deceit’ This paraphrase is necessary to bring out the meaning. ‘In craftiness’ answers to ‘in the sleight,’ but implies more of conscious malice. This craftiness has as its goal, a systematic method, in the bad sense, a machination, stratagem. ‘Error’ is that which plans or machinates; the idea of ‘deceit ‘is included, but the term is here used abstractly, and ‘error’ is perhaps preferable. Back of all this ‘system’ is Satan himself. In every age the scheme best adapted to lure away immature Christians comes into the foreground. Those most accurately described in this verse too often deem themselves far in advance in faith and knowledge. When the ‘pastors and teachers’ are themselves ‘children,’ the Church has most to fear.


Verse 15

Ephesians 4:15. But introduces the positive side, in contrast with Ephesians 4:14

Holding the truth. Not simply ‘speaking the truth,’ but ‘being true,’ following truth, walking in truth. ‘Holding the truth ‘is correct, if ‘the truth ‘is not referred to true doctrine.

In love. Some connect this with ‘grow,’ but it is better to join it with the participle, which otherwise would stand awkwardly alone. ‘A true-seeking and true-being with loving caution and kind allowance’ (Alford).

May grow up into him; ‘unto and into Him’ as the goal and standard of our growth (Ephesians 4:13), with a secondary thought, afterwards unfolded (Ephesians 4:16), of the incorporation of all the body in Him.

In all things, all those things in which Christian growth consists, faith, truth, knowledge, love, etc.

Who is the head, even Christ. Comp. Ephesians 1:22-23. The position of the phrase renders it very emphatic. Growth is possible only because the Living Christ is the Head.


Verse 16

Ephesians 4:16. From whom, as the Personal source and cause of unity and growth, all the body (as in Colossians 2:19), including every member of it. ‘The whole body’ suggests a slightly different idea.

Fitly framed together and compacted. The participles point to a present continuous progress; the former denotes the fitting together of the parts of a building, the latter the gathering together of persons into a compact society; the two ideas being adaptation and solidity.

By means of every joint of the supply. ‘Joint’ is a figure taken from the human body, referring to the nerves or more generally to all those points of contact through which the common life passes to the different members; comp. Colossians 2:19. The explanation ‘sensation’ is not a natural one. The word rendered ‘supply’ is one which passed from the sense of leading a chorus to contribution for public service in general. ‘The supply’ is not that rendered by the individual members, but rather that furnished by Christ, the source of life, passing through every ‘joint,’ which is therefore defined as a joint of the supply. It is not necessary, and perhaps unsafe, to refer the phrase exclusively to the official persons spoken of in Ephesians 4:2. The most difficult question is that of connection. The E. V. joins the phrase with the participles. In favor of this may be urged, the position of the phrase and the parallel passage in Colossians 2:19. But to join it with the verb ‘maketh the growth’ is equally allowable, and gives more perspicuity to the passage. The participles do not necessarily involve this notion of vital con-tact and supply.

According to the working, etc. Not ‘effectual working,’ since the reference is not directly to God’s energy, but to the vital energy of each part of the body. As each several part is spoken of, all the members of the body are included, not the officials only. Some join this clause with what precedes, as an explanation of ‘the supply;’ others connect it with the verb. The former seems preferable, the whole compound phrase, however, belonging to the predicate.

Maketh the growth of the body. The repetition of ‘body’ gives distinctness to the involved statement, but may also indicate the body as a whole over against’ each several part’ The verb ‘maketh’ is intensive. All the body possesses, by means of the adaptation, compacting, supply, and energy of each part, contributes to this organic, symmetrical, growth.

Unto the building up of itself in love. This is the aim of the growth: Self-edification, and that ‘in love,’ as its element. It is unnecessary to connect the last phrase with the verb. The view taken of this complicated verse may be thus stated: ‘From whom (Christ) all the body (each and every member) fitly framed (jointed) together and compacted (so as to form one whole) grows (as by its own organic life) by means of every joint (every special adaptation in gift and office) of the supply (which Christ grants) according to the working in the measure of each several part (the growth being not only from Him, but symmetrical and organic) unto (this end) the building up of the body itself in love (as the element of edification).’ We have here nothing about the ministry constituting the Church, but enough to show the necessity for the ministry; nothing about the necessity of maintaining the succession through fixed forms, but the promise that Christ will give real pastors and teachers, if the Church will be careful to receive these and only these: nothing about the external polity of the Church, but much about the means of her advancement toward unity of faith and knowledge, through edifying in love.


Verse 17

Ephesians 4:17. This therefore I say. ‘This’ points to what follows; ‘therefore’ may refer to what immediately precedes; it is better, however, to find here a resumption of the exhortations begun in Ephesians 4:1-3, but with the force added by the intervening discussion.

Testify in the Lord. He bears witness, not in his own, but in the cause of the Lord in whom he lives, and in whom his

readers live; hence the appeal should have weight with them.

That ye no longer walk. This is what he says, and it amounts to a precept; comp. Ephesians 4:1. It forbids doing any more what they once did.

As the Gentiles also walk. The fuller reading of the Received text, which would properly be rendered: ‘as the rest of the Gentiles also walk,’ is not sufficiently supported. It was probably inserted to indicate that the readers were Gentiles. But the briefer form suggests this in ‘also,’

In the vanity of their mind. ‘Vanity’ betokens ‘a waste of the whole rational powers on worthless objects’ (Alford). This is the characteristic of heathenism, even in its most refined forms. ‘Mind’ here is the same term used in Romans 7:23-25, and is applied to the spirit of man, mainly in its moral and intellectual aspects,’ the practical reason,’ the controlling will. It is evident that the ‘mind’ is here regarded as depraved; that part of man’s nature, which in its original constitution was noblest, has become the stronghold of his depravity.


Verses 17-32

1. Exhortations based on the Contrast between the Old and New Man.

The exhortation of Ephesians 4:1-3 is resumed, but with all the added force derived from the motives presented in Ephesians 4:4-16. Because of all these, their walk is no longer like that of the Gentiles (Ephesians 4:17-19), but, in accordance with their great Example and Teacher (Ephesians 4:20-21), is a putting off of the old man (Ephesians 4:22), and through a spiritual renewal (Ephesians 4:23) a putting on of the new man (Ephesians 4:24). Because of this principle of the new walk, their lives should show the virtues opposed to lying (Ephesians 4:25), unholy anger (Ephesians 4:26-27), dishonesty (Ephesians 4:28), corrupt speech (Ephesians 4:29), which grieves the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 4:30); instead of the malice of the old man (Ephesians 4:31), there should be the forgiving love of the new, since God, after whom the new man hath been created, has in Christ shown such forgiving love.


Verses 17-21

III. GENERAL CHRISTIAN DUTIES.

This part of the Epistle is difficult to analyze. The ethical precepts are not arranged in any discoverable logical order. For convenience a division into two sections is adopted: (1) Chap. Ephesians 4:17-32, in which the duties are based upon the contrast between the old and the new man. (2.) Ephesians 5:1-21, in which the precepts have as their motive the self-sacrificing love of Christ.


Verse 18

Ephesians 4:18. This verse is made up of four clauses, which may be thus arranged:—

Being darkened in their understanding,

Being alienated from the life of God,

Because of the ignorance that is in them,

Because of the hardness of their heart.

Some find a correspondence between the first and third, and the second and fourth clauses, the alternative being regarded as due to the interaction of the results set forth in the first and second clauses. Others join the third to the first, and the fourth to the third, taking ignorance as the cause of darkness, and hardness as the cause of ignorance, alienation being the result of darkness. The former view seems preferable (see below). In any case the whole is descriptive of the walk of the heathen ‘in the vanity of their mind,’

Being darkened in their understanding. The participle points to a condition which has been effected in the past, and the seat of this darkened condition was the intellectual part of our nature.

Being alienated from the life of God; comp. chap. Ephesians 2:12. The participle here has the same force as that of the previous clause. ‘The life of God’ means the true spiritual life which belongs to God, and which He bestows on men. The two clauses stand related, the one is the internal condition, the other the external result

Because of the ignorance, etc. Not ‘through.’ This is an ‘ignorance’ which is now natural and peculiar to them. It is the ground of the darkening of the understanding. Against this view of the connection, it is urged that’ ignorance’ is not the cause of darkness. But in the first clause a present condition is spoken of, the result of something in the past, or rather of a continued process. The ignorance peculiar to heathenism was the ground of growing mental obscuration.

Because of the hardening of their heart ‘Hardening ‘is more exact than ‘blindness’ (comp. Romans 11:7). This is the ground, the alienation from the life of God; but it should be remembered that the two causes interact, as do the two results. ‘There is not intellectual obscuration be-side practical estrangement from God, nor ignorance beside hardness of heart; the one conditions the other, working destructively as they reciprocally affect each other’ (Braune). Whatever view be taken of the interdependence of the clauses, the verse, as a whole, asserts that depravity had affected the entire man, and that this condition was a lapse, not an original one.


Verse 19

Ephesians 4:19. Who, men of the kind that.

Being past feeling. One word in Greek, meaning to be unsusceptible of pain, and in this connection, referring to moral pain, not feeling the punishment of conscience

Gave themselves up. The same verb is used in Romans 1:24 of the other side of the matter: ‘God gave them up,’ etc. Here, where ‘themselves’ is the emphatic word, the freedom and guilt of men is described. The two are not antagonistic ‘Self-abandonment to deeper sin is the Divine judicial penalty of sin’ (Eadie).

To wantonness. The term, derived from the verb meaning to overeat, refers to an unbridled course of conduct, defying public decency, not to any special sin of sensuality. As however sensuality is always implied, ‘wantonness ‘fairly expresses the sense. Comp. Trench, New Testament Synonyms; and Galatians 5:19.

Unto the working; as at a trade; this is the conscious design of giving themselves up, to make it a business to indulge in all uncleanness. Every kind of uncleanness is referred to, chiefly libidinous forms.

In greediness, or, ‘covetousness;’ but here the wider sense is preferable, insatiable greed, the selfish desire for more, whether in the form of avarice or lust. ‘In ‘is not = with, as if another special vice were added; 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 furnished many fearful illustrations.


Verse 20

Ephesians 4:20. But ye, over against the ‘Gentiles’ (Ephesians 4:17), whose walk has been described (Ephesians 4:18-19).

Did not thus learn Christ. The tense is historical, at the time of conversion. ‘Not thus ‘is put rhetorically for ‘in an entirely different way.’ That different way is detailed in Ephesians 4:22-24. ‘Christ’ is the Personal Object they learned, as is evident from Ephesians 4:21. It is not simply ‘the doctrine of Christ; or,’ about Christ; ‘the peculiar phrase suggests that in nothing else is a Person so directly and fully the object of the knowledge obtained.


Verse 21

Ephesians 4:21. If indeed; comp. chap. Ephesians 3:2; their experience is to be recalled to test the matter; not doubt, but certainty is implied.

Ye heard him; when they became disciples. Even if they heard through the instrumentality of others, they did not truly hear, unless they heard Him, for this is the emphatic word. Nothing is truly heard through the gospel message, until He is heard.

And were taught in him; ‘and in Him were taught; ‘not ‘by Him,’ nor ‘concerning Him,’ but, in fellowship with Him. This fellowship was not only the result but the essential condition of the instruction; for saving knowledge is referred to.

As is truth in Jesus. ‘As’ is not = ‘inasmuch as,’ but ‘according as.’ ‘Not thus,’ but in this manner were they taught ‘Is’ points to what is real and permanent ‘Truth ‘here includes both what is true and what is real, over against ignorance and vanity, but is not to be understood as meaning ‘Christian doctrine’ (comp. the frequent misquotation: ‘the truth as it is in Jesus’), nor ‘true holiness.’ The whole may be thus paraphrased: ‘If you were taught so that what you received was according to what is true (true and real) as permanently embodied in the personal Saviour.’ The word ‘Jesus’ has the article in the original, pointing to the known Person, whose human name, rather than His official title, is used here, where He is represented as Himself speaking to His individual followers.


Verse 22

Ephesians 4:22. That ye put off. The emphasis is on the verb, which is used of throwing oft garments. No more special reference (as preparation for a race, for baptism) is necessary. The tense points to a single, sudden act.

As regards your former way of life. ‘Conversation’ is misleading; comp. Galatians 1:13. The phrase qualifies the verb ‘put off,’ and this putting off of the old man is indispensable, because in their former way of life this old man was, as it were, the garment in which they were clothed

The old man. The corrupt self, the depraved nature, the ‘flesh’ in the ethical sense (see Excursus on Romans 7), here personified, in contrast with ‘the new man’ (Ephesians 4:24). It is ‘old,’ because it is regarded as condemned, done away, and in Romans 6:6 is spoken of as ‘crucified.’

Which waxeth corrupt. The participle, thus rendered, has been variously explained, as ‘which tends to corruption,’ ‘which is corrupted,’ ‘which corrupteth himself,’ The last view, which brings out the force of the present and middle senses of the original, is preferable, and fairly paraphrased by Ellicott as above. The idea of growing corruption was probably suggested by the figure of putting off an old garment. Eternal destruction is suggested as the culmination of the process of corruption.

According to the lusts of deceit. Not ‘deceitful lusts,’ but lusts which belong to deceit, sin being thus characterized because of its power of deceiving. These ‘lusts’ are the instruments which carry on the process of corruption, and their agency is so potent, because the subjects are deceived as to the true character of the desires they cherish. In the more refined forms of sin the deceit is the greater. The entire ‘culture ‘of too many is included here, as it was in those days of classical heathenism.


Verses 22-24

Ephesians 4:22-24. These verses depend on the en-tire preceding thought. The substance of what you learned, of what you heard and were taught properly, ‘as is truth in Jesus,’ was ‘that ye put off,’ etc. In the connection, this is equivalent to ‘that ye must put off.’ Some find in ‘ye ‘a contrast with ‘Jesus,’ and hence join the verses with the clause: ‘as truth is in Jesus,’ but the contrast is with their previous condition, the Christian walk as opposed to the walk of the Gentiles. Ephesians 4:22 presents the negative side, and Ephesians 4:23-24 the positive side of the Christian walk.


Verse 23

Ephesians 4:23. And become renewed. ‘Be renewed’ is more literal, but the present tense refers to a continued process, as ‘become’ suggests. In Colossians 3:10, the word ‘renewed ‘is slightly different; here the root is the word meaning ‘young,’ which there occurs in the phrase ‘new man;’ comp. Ephesians 4:24. This ‘renewing’ is God’s work, and yet we have here an exhortation. The paradox is frequent in the Scriptures, and need occasion no practical difficulty.

In the spirit, or, ‘by the Spirit,’ of your mind. It is difficult to decide between the two views. The one refers ‘spirit’ to the human spirit, which belongs to the ‘mind,’ the whole phrase indicating that with reference to which the renewal takes place. The other refers ‘Spirit’ to the Holy Spirit indwelling in the human spirit’ (see Excursus on Romans 7), taking the phrase as instrumental. Both are grammatically admissible. The New Testament use of ‘sprint’ favors the latter, since the unrenewed human spirit is rarely spoken of. The main difficulty is that the subject and the agency of the renewing are confused. But a process is referred to, in which this ‘indwelling Spirit’ of the mind is the continuous Agent.


Verse 24

Ephesians 4:24. And that ye put on; once for all.

The new man. New,’ not ‘young,’ as in Colossians 3:10. Comp. Romans 13:14 : ‘Put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ’

Which after God hath been created. The allusion to Genesis 1:26-27 is unmistakable (comp. also Colossians 3:10 : ‘after the image of Him that created him’), but the immediate reference is to the new creation in Christ, the new human personality into which the believer is transformed. ‘Hath been created’ suggests this reference, better than ‘was created.’ More than was lost in Adam has been given in Christ, but both creations are ‘after the image of God,’ This ‘new man’ we can be exhorted to ‘put on,’ since ‘once for all in the Person of Christ is that created and prepared for us, which we are to put on’ (Stier). In Colossians 3:12, the Apostle exhorts, in consequence, to put on the several virtues which characterize the new man.

In righteousness and holiness of the truth. ‘In’ these, with these endowments or characteristics, the new man hath been created; the former points to moral rectitude, external and toward men; the latter, to the internal quality of spiritual life, its relation to God. The two combined express moral perfection. ‘Of the truth’ is added, as the ground of both, ‘truth’ being personified. There may be an antithesis to ‘deceit’ (Ephesians 4:22), but God’s truth is indicated as the ultimate source of these moral perfections, since the creation is ‘after God’ Hence ‘truth’ is more than our true knowledge of God. It appears from this verse that the image of God in which man was originally created consisted in moral likeness, not merely in rational powers, immortality, or dominion over other creatures.


Verse 25

Ephesians 4:25. Wherefore. In view of the previous exhortation, especially Ephesians 4:22-24.

Having put off falsehood; comp. Ephesians 4:22. The negative side comes first. The participle points to a single act, hence ‘having put off;’ this precedes the habit which is commanded. ‘Falsehood’ is the vice or habit of lying, a chief characteristic of ‘the old man,’ a necessary result of selfishness and sin. The mention of ‘truth’ (Ephesians 4:24) seems to have suggested this precept. But lying is a fundamental vice. It comes from the devil (comp. John 8:44). The motive with which the verse closes shows that it is inconsistent with love, and a lie spoken out of love is still a lie. Falsehood includes deceptive acts and looks, and this single precept, if obeyed, would revolutionize many a community, and destroy some kinds of business.

Speak ye truth each one with his neighbor. The command is to habitual action. (The language is a reminiscence from Zechariah 8:16). ‘With’ points to mutual intercourse, and the added motive shows that ‘neighbor’ means fellow-Christian. Of course the application of the precept is not confined to intercourse with Christians.

For we are members one of another. Comp. Romans 12:5-8; 1 Corinthians 12:15-27. More than members of human society, and hence mutually dependent; in close fellowship as holding the same views and laboring for the same end; as members of the body of Christ we become members of one another; as He is true, we should be truthful.


Verse 26

Ephesians 4:26. Be angry and sin not Psalms 4:5 is here cited. Both verbs are imperative, not the first conditional. Wrath, for this is the proper force, is not only allowable, but in certain cases commanded, yet in no case should sin be joined with it. This throws the emphasis on the second member of the sentence, so that the first becomes more of an assumption than a command: ‘Be angry (for this must be so) and do not sin.There is no necessity for supposing that all wrath is sinful. Sinless wrath is like the wrath of God, and needs no excuse; but our wrath is rarely like God’s.

Let not the sun go down upon your irritations. The article is omitted by some of the most ancient authorities. If retained it points to the ‘irritation’ in consequence of being angry. Even allowable anger should not continue. If the article be omitted, the precept is more general, forbidding the continuance of any ‘irritation,’ This term occurs only here, and means a condition of aroused wrath. The reference to the going down of the sun is a ‘reminiscence of Deuteronomy 25:13-15, according to which the poor man should receive his cloak, given in pledge, and wages should be paid before sun-down’ (Braune). The limit need not be applied too literally, but night is a good season for the growth of the forbidden feeling. The verse teaches that anger may be right, but is far more likely to be wrong; that it certainly is if it lasts long, and becomes worse by giving entrance to Satan.


Verse 27

Ephesians 4:27. Nor yet. A slight change in the form of the negative, sustained by the best authorities, shows that this is another prohibition; hence ‘neither’ is inexact. The reference is, however, still to anger.

Give place (comp. Romans 12:19), give free play, room in the heart, to the devil, i.e., Satan. It is doubtful if the word diabolos ever means simply slanderer, or blasphemer, when used as a noun. The clause gives a reason why sinful anger should be avoided: it opens to Satan the heart which has been redeemed from his power by Christ.


Verse 28

Ephesians 4:28. Let him who stealeth, not, ‘stole,’ as if a single act were meant. One who acts thus, not quite so strong as ‘thief,’ But were there any such among the Ephesian Christians? Possibly there were, comp. 1 Corinthians 5:1; 2 Corinthians 12:21; but more probably the term should be understood in the spirit of Christian ethics, of those who lived by their wits, cheating their neighbors, or in indolence neglected to labor for themselves, becoming a burden on the charity of others. Certainly the context points to such, as included. Preying upon others in any way is forbidden: let such steal no longer; but rather, etc. How he should labor is explained in the appended clause: working with his hands that which is good. The effort is to be assiduous, the ‘hands’ that were thievish are to be used in honest labor. Laziness is but a form of dishonesty; and manual labor is far more honorable than many forms of ‘business,’ so-called.

That he may have, etc. Why he should labor is now stated. Further it is implied that all labor, however assiduous and honest, which does not aim at a surplus to give away, is not distinctively Christian. The laborer may not always be conscious of this end, but it must be practically present. The precept of this verse is the very opposite of communism, which encourages men to take as their right, not to give as their privilege. Here is the germ of Christian social science. It does not encourage demands from capital (the accumulated surplus of labor), but lays a personal duty upon the Christian capitalist. On the other hand, each is commanded not only to labor but to have a surplus: to be a capitalist for benevolent purposes at least. The Apostle’s language discourages begging, combining to extort, or legislating in favor of idleness. Legislative charity is not necessarily Christian charity; taxes are not free will offerings of benevolence. The dignity of manual labor is sustained by the Apostle’s example (Acts 18:3; Acts 20:34; 2 Thessalonians 3:8) and precept (Acts 20:35; 2 Thessalonians 3:10). To despise labor is a mark of barbarism, not of civilization. Unless the primal curse (Genesis 3:19) be accepted and transformed into a blessing, it becomes a worse misfortune. The one rule for making it a blessing is given by this Apostle: ‘So laboring ye ought to help the weak, and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, It is more blessed to give than to receive’ (Acts 20:35).


Verse 29

Ephesians 4:29. Let no corrupt communication, etc. ‘Corrupt’ is used of what is decayed and loathsome, but the idea of worthlessness is included. It is implied that such things naturally rise to the lips, but they should never be spoken.

But whatever; the form is conditional, as if to suggest how rare such speech is. Much speaking is likely to be evil speaking.

Good (i.e., fitting, though possibly suggesting the moral quality) for the building up of the need. This means either ‘for edifying with respect to the need,’ or more probably,’ for the building up of the need which occasions or calls for it.’ (The E. V. is not correct.) In either case the requirement is, adaptation to place and time, and to the person whose edification is sought; comp. Colossians 4:6 : ‘how ye ought to answer every man.’

That it may give grace, etc. This is the purpose of what has just been commanded, and should be made the purpose of those who obey it. ‘Give grace’ is here = confer benefit, impart a blessing, suggesting spiritual benefit, since ‘grace’ usually refers to God’s favor. But it should not be limited to that sense here, nor weakened into ‘that it may be gracious,’ or ‘agreeable.’ Profitable conversation is so rare, because our social intercourse has no such exalted aim as this.


Verse 30

Ephesians 4:30. And grieve not the Holy Spirit of God, lit, ‘the Spirit, the Holy (Spirit) of God.’ This emphatic form shows the importance of the command. The verb means to disturb, render sorrowful, while ‘and’ shows that corrupt words do thus ‘grieve’ the Spirit, which dwells in us and in others, and can be thus ill treated by foul speech. Believers can ‘grieve’ the Spirit, unbelievers ‘resist’ Him; comp. Acts 5:51. Though the expression is in one sense figurative, it points to a great reality, namely, the sympathetic (not apathetic) presence of the Holy Spirit in Christian hearts.

In whom, not ‘by whom,’ since God seals us with the Spirit as the Seal (comp. Ephesians 1:13); ‘in’ suggests fellowship.

Unto the day of redemption; the day of final and complete redemption; comp. chap. Ephesians 1:14. The motive is one of love, not of fear, the day of judgment is for Christians the day of redemption. The possibility of losing the seal is not suggested, except as all exhortations imply danger.


Verse 31

Ephesians 4:31. This verse warns against several manifestations of evil passion, virtually grouping them under the common term (or principle) of ‘malice.’ The whole presents a sharp contrast to the exhortation of Ephesians 4:31. The prohibition pictures the disposition of ‘the old man’ (Ephesians 4:22); the command, that of ‘the new man’ (Ephesians 4:24); together they form an appropriate conclusion to the section.

Let all bitterness, ill-temper of every kind, as ‘the prevailing temperament and frame of mind’ (Ellicott).

And wrath, and anger; the former denotes the excitement, the passionate display of temper; the latter the settled habit, probably directed in malice against a person. Both are the results of ‘bitterness.’ (The latter is the term applied to the wrath of God)

And clamor and evil speaking (lit., ‘blasphemy ‘). The former is the wrathful passionate outcry of strife; the other, the slander and reviling of settled anger. The last always breaks the sixth and ninth commandments, usually the seventh, and is akin, as the term indicates, to an infraction of the third also.

Be put away from you; a stronger expression than that of Ephesians 4:25.

With all malice. The other five represent a progress in the manifestation of evil temper; this is the root from which they spring. But ‘all’ includes every manifestation of malice, not already enumerated.


Verse 32

Ephesians 4:32. But become ye. ‘But’ marks the contrast with Ephesians 4:31; ‘become’ points to a process, indicating that the preceding warning was needed.

Kind to one another; benignant, of a sweet disposition, the practical manifestation is implied; comp. Galatians 5:22.

Tenderhearted; having sympathy, heartfelt compassion, etc.

Forgiving each other; not, ‘one another,’ as before; possibly the change marks more strongly the fellowship of Christians. The participle shows how the kindness and sympathy should be manifested; opportunities to forgive will not be lacking.

Even as God in Christ forgave you (some authorities read ‘us’). The example is introduced as a motive, but ‘even as’ is not = ‘because.’ The verb points to a single crowning act of forgiveness in the past, and should not be translated: ‘hath forgiven,’ or ‘will forgive,’ a gloss which our feeble faith too frequently puts upon it. ‘In Christ’ (not, ‘for Christ’s sake’) may be connected with ‘God,’ or with ‘forgave:’ either presents an important truth. God in Christ forgave us, and God forgave us in Christ, in giving Him to be a propitiation for our sins. The latter though accords better with the term used and with the emphasis Paul places on the atonement. So nearly all recent commentators. Kindness is well, compassion is better, but forgiveness is God-like. Forgiveness, however, is the result of an inward experience of God’s forgiving love in Christ. Not to believe in Christ is to exclude the strongest motive for pardoning those who injure us.

 


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Bibliography Information
Schaff, Philip. "Commentary on Ephesians 4:4". "Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/scn/ephesians-4.html. 1879-90.

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