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Bible Commentaries

Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible
Ephesians 5

 

 

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Introduction

CHAP. V.

After general exhortations to love, to flee fornication and all uncleanness not to converse with the wicked, to walk warily, and to be filled with the Spirit; he descendeth to the particular duties: how wives ought to obey their husbands, and husbands ought to love their wives, even as Christ his church.

Anno Domini 62.

BECAUSE the characters and actions of the heathen deities, according to the notions which were entertained of them, were vicious in the extreme, and had a most pernicious influence in corrupting the mannersof their worshippers,—the Apostle, in different parts of this epistle, but in a more solemn manner in the beginning of this chapter, held up to the Ephesians the character of God, or Christ, as truly venerable and worthy of imitation.For he commanded the Ephesians, now become the children of God through faith, chap. Ephesians 1:5 to be imitators of God, as his beloved children, and to walk in love to one another, after the example of Christ, the Head of their fellowship, who had loved them so exceedingly, as to give himself a sacrifice for their sins, Ephesians 5:1-2.—Next he ordered them to avoid fornication; a vice which the heathens practised without restraint; and to abstain from obscene discourse; because the persons guilty of these impurities are so odious to God, that they shall have no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God, Ephesians 5:3-5.—And because the heathens pretended to justify these practices by the example of their false deities, the Apostle cautioned the Ephesiansagainst being deceived with false speeches; and told them, that God had declared his disapprobation of such enormities by his judgments brought on the nations who were guilty of them, Ephesians 5:6.—The Ephesian Christians therefore were not to be partakers with the heathens in their vices, Ephesians 5:7.—Because though formerly such of them as were initiated into the mysteries thought themselves enlightened, theywere really in darkness as to matters of religion, spiritual experience, and morality. Whereas being truly enlightened by the gospel, it became them to walk as persons rightly instructed, Ephesians 5:8.—Withal, to lead them to a proper behaviour, he pointed out to them the graces and virtues, which are the fruits of minds well enlightened, Ephesians 5:9-10.—and forbade them to join in any of the fellowships of the heathen mysteries, which he justly termed the unfruitful works of darkness, because they produced no fruit to those who continued in them, except eternal death, Ephesians 5:11.—He added, that the things done in the mysteries during the darkness of the night, were so abominable, that it was an offence against modesty so much as to mention them, Ephesians 5:12.—Besides, the gospel expressly condemns these base actions; by which its excellent nature is clearly manifested, Ephesians 5:13-14.—Next, he ordered the Ephesian brethren to walk carefully and accurately, as Christian converts, in correspondence to their new light and obligations, and according to the rule of the word; as persons under the eye of God and men, of enemies as well as friends, Ephesians 5:15.—and to redeem time and opportunity, particularly because the days in which they lived were days of great immorality, ignorance, and profaneness, and days of trouble, danger, and persecution for the sake of Christ, Ephesians 5:16.—He then charged them to take heed that they did not actan inconsiderate foolish part, as in the days of their ignorance and unregeneracy; nor needlessly expose themselves to the malice and fury of their enemies; but endeavour to consider attentively the mind and will of the Lord. Christ, in respect to the prudence of their behaviour, Ephesians 5:17.—And to prevent their running into the abominable practices against which he had been already cautioning them, he warns them against so free an use of intoxicating liquors as would cloud themind and disorder the faculties of the soul; and commands them to get theirsouls filled with the holy influences and consolations of the Divine spirit, Ephesians 5:18.—speaking among themselves, bysinging forth the praises of God, in all the variety of them, by joining their voices in proper tunes to utter poetic compositions; which are to be sung, he adds, in a spiritual manner, for spiritual ends; and their united praises, with the voice together (Isaiah 52:8.), should be with the sweetest harmony and delight in their own hearts, by their ascending with their voices to the Lord Jesus, and shewing forth his glory, Ephesians 5:19.—And to conclude this subject, the Apostle requires that the work of praise should run through their whole lives; and that, on all occasions, they should express their thankfulness for all things to God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, and our Father in him; and this thanksgiving should be rendered to him through our Lord Jesus Christ, as our only Mediator, and the purchaser of all blessings, on whose account they are bestowed upon us, Ephesians 5:20.

With respect to relative duties, the Apostle, in a general manner, exhorted the Ephesians to be subject to one another in the fear of God: that is, to perform to each other, from a principle of piety, all the duties of social life, according to their different stations, and according to the relations and subordinations in which they stood to each other, Ephesians 5:21.—Then proceeding toparticulars, in the natural order of these relations, he began with the duties of wives and husbands, which he illustrated by the example of Christ and the church; and on that occasion explained a very deep mystery relating to Christ and the church, couched in the formation of Eve, and in her marriage with Adam, Ephesians 5:22-30.


Verse 1

Ephesians 5:1. Be ye therefore, &c.— "Since therefore God is so exceedingly good and merciful in the exercise of his pardoning grace toward you (ch. Ephesians 4:32.), let this excite you to be ( μιμηται ) imitators of him, in exercising all kindness and forgiveness one towards another, as becomes children of his own likeness, begotten and adopted by him, beloved of him, and loving him, and delighting to resemble him, especially in those amiable graces, and to approve yourselves to him who is Love, and is so much pleased with this part of his image, that he who dwells in love, dwells in God, (1 John 4:16.)." This verse, as is intimated by the particle therefore, is an inference from the last verse of the preceding chapter, which might have been continued to the end of the second verse of this chapter, where the Apostle shuts up his argument then in hand.


Verse 2

Ephesians 5:2. An offering, &c.— Some think that the words προσφορα and θυσια are used in reference to the peace-offering and the sin-offering, as the truth of both is in the sacrifice of Christ, which appeased God, and obtains the blessings consequent upon his favour. The words possibly are here used in conjunction, to express the completeness of the sacrifice:—of a sweet-smelling savour, was, in scripture phrase, such a sacrifice as God accepted and was pleased with. See Genesis 8:21.


Verse 3

Ephesians 5:3. And all uncleanness or covetousness, Or, any kind of uncleanness or insatiable desire. Insatiable desire is certainly a literal rendering of the Greek word πλεονεξια, which plainly signifies the desire of having more of any thing, whatever it be. And though the word is commonly used for covetousness, or an intemperate love of riches; yet it is here to be understood of the letting loose of the desires in a carnal way. The words in connection abundantly prove this to be the sense; for what indecency or unbecomingness is it among Christians to name covetousness. The word πλεονεξια, therefore, must here signify the title of sins that are not fit to be named among Christians. The whole verse may be thus paraphrased: "But, as you expect favour from God, you must make it your care to maintain a due consistency of character, avoiding not only all malignant passions, but every kind and degree of impurity and licentiousness, and therefore let not fornication, nor any kind of uncleanness, or insatiable desire of sensual gratifications, or of the means of procuring them, be so much as named, or heard of among you; but abstain from these evils, and whatever might lead to them, as it becometh saints, who are conscious of the sanctity of their name and profession, and dread the thoughts of debasing it."


Verse 4

Ephesians 5:4. Neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, &c.— "Nor let there be among you anyshameful practices in secret, the very naming of which would put a modest person to the blush; nor any light, wanton, or obscene ways of talking, bantering, or joking, which are so far from innocent pleasantry, that they are not only unprofitable and vain, but very offensive to God, and insufferable to a chaste ear, and are too great an incentive to impure thoughts and actions: ye therefore ought to have nothing to do with them; but, on the contrary, should accustom yourselves to employ your tongues in speaking well of God, with grateful acknowledgments of his goodness, and in thankfulness and praise for his wondrous works of providence and grace, which would be honourable to him, and improving to your company, as well as to yourselves; and would be a happy means of guarding you against impure language, and all the forementioned abominable iniquities, which have the most pernicious consequence."


Verse 5

Ephesians 5:5. Nor covetous man, who is an idolater, In whatever sense covetousness is used, it may be called idolatry; as it is setting up something else, and, be it what it will, something comparatively very base and contemptible, and pursuing it, as if it were something that could be to us, as in the place of God, a supreme happine


Verse 6

Ephesians 5:6. Let no man deceive you, &c.— "Let no man then, in this respect, amuse and deceive you with vain words and sophistical arguments, by which it is well known that many, and especially some who call themselves philosophers, attempt to vindicate some of these things, or at least to extenuate the evil of them; for I am divinely commissioned to assure you, that, on account of these things, and such as these, the wrath of God cometh even on the Gentiles, those children of disobedience and infidelity: now, if heathens are punished for them, much less can we suppose that professing Christians, who have so much greater advantages for purity and virtue in all its branches, and are under such peculiar engagements to cultivate it, shall escape with impunity in these shameful practices."


Verse 8

Ephesians 5:8. Ye were sometimes darkness, St. Paul, to express the great darkness in which the Gentiles were, calls them darkness itself. The kingdom of Satan over the Gentile world was a kingdom of darkness. See ch. Ephesians 6:12. And so, on the other hand, we find Jesus is pronounced by Simeon a light to lighten the Gentiles, Luke 2:32. The parenthesis in Ephesians 5:9 serves to give us the literal sense of all that is here required by the Apostle in this allegorical discourse of light. See Colossians 1:12-13


Verse 11

Ephesians 5:11. With the unfruitful works of darkness, It is well known that the word ακαρπος in Greek, and the word inutilis in Latin, are sometimes used to express not only unprofitable, but mischievous things; and this is undoubtedly the meaning of the word here. See Romans 1:28.


Verse 12

Ephesians 5:12. It is a shame even to speak, &c.— Nothing could be more impure and abominable than some of the religious nocturnal mysteries of the heathens, to which the Apostle seems here in the primary sense to refer. Bishop Warburton, agreeably to his system, asserts, that if the lower sort of mysteries among them were first intended by the magistrates to impress the mindsof the people with a belief and sense of future rewards and punishments, and the higher sort of them to instruct persons of more reflection and penetration thanthe rest, in the knowlege of the true God, and the other great principles of natural religion, they were long before the Apostle's time greatly corrupted, and degraded to the most detestable purposes; so that some persons in public characters, by no means remarkable for the purity of their own morals, thought it absolutely necessary, in order to prevent the most scandalous and profligate disorders, to prohibit the celebration of them. Monsieur Saurin has observed a sarcasm in this clause seldom attended to; as if it were insinuated here, "They are called απορρητα, things not to be spoken of: true, says the Apostle, they are properly so! things not too sacred, but too infamous to be mentioned." See his Sermons, tom. 8: p. 198 and Div. Leg. b. 2: sect. 4.


Verse 13

Ephesians 5:13. But all things that are reproved See John 3:20. The Apostle's argument here, to keep the Ephesian converts from being misled by those who would persuade them that the Gentile impurities were indifferent actions,—is to shew them that they were now better enlightened: to which purpose, Ephesians 5:5 he tells them, that no such person as there described, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of God, or of Christ. This he tells them, Ephesians 5:8, &c. was Light, which they had received from the gospel; of which before their conversion they knew nothing, but were in perfect darkness and ignorance of it: but now they were better instructed, and saw the difference; which was a sign of life; and therefore were bound in duty to follow that light, which they had received from Christ, who had raised them from among the Gentiles, (who were so far dead, as to be wholly insensible of the evil course and state they were in,) and had given them light and a prospect into a future state, and a way to attain everlasting happiness.


Verse 14

Ephesians 5:14. Wherefore he saith, Awake, &c.— "Wherefore, when God is speaking in the prophecies of the Old Testament, of the calling of the Gentiles, and of the light which they should have by Christ, he says in effect, to those who are yet in darkness, though not exactly in these words, Awake, thou that sleepest, &c. And this particularly is the most natural import of those well-known words in Isaiah, ch. Isaiah 60:1. Arise, shine, for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee. That is to say, the Messiah, represented by the glory of the Lord, shines in his church; shines upon the souls of believers; in consequence of which, they arise as from the dead, and shake off their deep sleep; they rejoice in the light; they walk in it, and reflect it all around them; so that many others are awakened, and transformed by it." See on Isaiah 60:1.


Verse 16

Ephesians 5:16. Redeeming the time, The word εξαγοραζομενοι, redeeming, has a peculiar force, and implies, as the French word racheter, and the English word redeem, also does,—the recovery and purchasing again what has been lost. "Endeavour to recover, and bring back, as far as possible, the time which has been unhappily lost and thrown away in the enormities of your heathen life, by diligently making use of what remains, and studying to improve it to the best and most valuable purposes; for which you should be careful to embrace the present opportunity, because the days we live in are evil; in which we are on every side surrounded with persecutions and perils, and God only knows how soon our liberty or our life may be taken away." Dr. Heylin reads Improving the time; and he observes from Tully, that every hour has its proper duty; nullum tempus vacare officio potest. When we discharge that duty, we improve, that is, make the best of our time. The motive added is, because the days are evil: the frequent disasters which happen to us furnish materials for the exercise of holiness and virtue, which is the true improvement of time.


Verse 17

Ephesians 5:17. Wherefore be ye not unwise, See Ephesians 5:10. The Christian prudence is, upon all occasions, to consider what is the will of God. Our duty varies with our circumstances; and it is a main point of wisdom to discern what are the duties which correspond to our present circumstances.


Verse 18

Ephesians 5:18. Be not drunk with wine, It is highly probable that here may be a particular reference to those dissolute ceremonies called the Bacchanalia, which were celebrated by the heathens in honour of their god of wine. While these rites continued, men and women made it a point of religion to intoxicate themselves, and ran about the streets, fields, and vineyards, singing and shouting in a wild and tumultuousmanner:inoppositiontotheseextravagantvociferations,theuseofdevout psalmody is with great propriety recommended. Plato tells us, that there was hardly a sober person to be found in the whole Attican territories, during the continuance of these detestable solemnities. St. Paul dehorts the Ephesians from the too free use of wine, because therein is excess. The word is ασωτια, which may either signify luxury or dissoluteness; implying that drinking is no friend to continencyand chastity, but gives up the reins to lust and uncleanness,—the vice that he had been warning them against: or it may signify intemperance and disorder; opposite to that sober and prudent demeanour advised in redeeming the time. Wine is so frequently the cause hereof, by the ungrateful abuse of the bounty of Providence in giving it, that the enormityis represented by a strong and beautiful figure as contained in the very liquor.


Verse 19

Ephesians 5:19. Singing and making melody in your heart "Your hearts and affections corresponding with what is uttered by your mouths; without which no external melody, be it ever so exact and harmonious, can be pleasing to the Lord."


Verse 20

Ephesians 5:20. Giving thanks always, &c.— "Giving thanks to God for all the favours that he has bestowed upon you, and even for your afflictions, as occasions offer for the trial, the illustration, and improvement of your holiness and virtue." The words rendered for all things, are translated by some for all persons; and then the meaning will be, "Consider yourselves as appointed to return to God the tribute of praise due from the whole human race, and address your daily thanksgivings to him, for those blessings which he is continually showering down on your fellow-Christians and fellow-creatures in general."


Verse 21

Ephesians 5:21. Submitting yourselves one to another Though this verse, in grammatical construction, be joined to the foregoing discourse, yet it ought to be looked upon as introductory to what follows, and to be a general rule given to the Ephesians, to submit to those duties which the several relations that they stood in to one another required. After this general exhortation to the discharge of the relative duties, the Apostle proceeds to the particular consideration of the several relations of husbands and wives, parents and children, masters and servants; which he might rather choose to insist on, as some were ready to imagine that Christian converts were released from any further obligation to those who still continued in a state of heathenism. The Apostle therefore presses it upon them to shew a due regard to relative duties, in whatever station they were placed; and to remember that Christian privileges by no means excused them from the duties resulting from natural and civil relations of life, but rather enforced the obligations they were under to observe them: and if these duties were incumbent upon Christians towards relations of all kinds, even though they bore the character of unbelievers, much more were they engaged to practise them toward such, as were related to them, not only by the ties of nature or of civil institution, but also by the more endearing bonds of grace. See 1 Corinthians 7:10-24; 1 Timothy 6:1-2.


Verse 22

Ephesians 5:22. Wives, submit yourselves, &c.— The Apostle's discourse on particular relative duties, is in the natural order in which the relations themselves commenced in the world, which was first between husband and wife; next, between parents and children; and, lastly, between masters and servants. The Apostle accordingly begins with the duties of the first of these relations in this chapter, and goes on to those of parents and children in the next; and he keeps the same order in his exhortations to all these in his epistle to the Colossians, ch. Ephesians 3:18, &c. and Ephesians 4:1. But it may be farther observed, that, in both these epistles he first insists on the duties of the inferior, and then on those of the superior relatives in every instance of them. And St. Peter proceeds in the same order, when he speaks of the duties of wives and husbands, 1 Peter 3:1-7. The reasons of this may probably be, because the duties of wives, children, and servants, are most difficult in themselves, and most apt to be objected against, and not so readily attended to, and complied with; and because, if these relatives faithfully perform the duties on their part, it will lay a more endearing obligation upon husbands, parents, and masters, to treat their wives, children, and servants, with love and tenderness, and would leave them utterly inexcusable, were they to be wanting in their duty toward them. Hence St. Peter, in the place just referred to, exhorts believing wives to win their husbands by a becoming spirit and conversation.


Verse 23

Ephesians 5:23. The husband is the head of the wife, It is from the head that the body receives both health and life: St. Paul here pronounces this of Christ, as the head of the church; that by the parallel which he makes use of to represent the relation between husband and wife, he may both shew the wife the reasonableness of her subjection to her husband, and the duty incumbent on the husband to cherish and preserve his wife; as we see that he pursues it in the following verses.


Verse 26

Ephesians 5:26. That he might sanctify and cleanse it, &c.— "That he might take away the power and pollution of sin from all its members, and infuse a principle of true holiness into them, and so consecrate them to God by the sanctification of his Spirit, as ( Καθαρισας ) having purged them from the guilt of sin, by his atoning blood (see Hebrews 1:3; Hebrews 9:14; Hebrews 9:22.); which effects of his blood and spirit are signified by the cleansing quality of water (Ezekiel 36:25.): and he, in the greatness of his love, communicates these blessings by means of the gospel preachedto them, and received and applied by faith, for the cleansing of them from all sin by his blood (1 John 1:7.), and renewing them by the Holy Ghost (Titus 3:5.)."


Verse 27

Ephesians 5:27. That he might present it to himself The Alexandrian and other copies read, That he himself might present to himself the church, glorious, without spot, &c. The Apostle, to recommend to husbands love and tenderness toward their wives, in imitation of Christ's affection to the church, shews, that whereas other brides take care to embellish and set off their persons, in order to recommend themselves to their bridegrooms, Christ himself, at the expence of his own pains and blood, purifies and prepares for himself his spouse (his faithful saints), that he might present it to himself without spot or wrinkle. How bright an idea does this verse give us of the grand plan and design of Christianity;—to bring all the millions of the faithful to such a state of perfect virtue and glory, that when the penetrating eye of Christ, their great and holy Bridegroom, shall survey them, there shall not be one spot, or wrinkle, or any thing like it, in the least to impair their beauty, or offend his sight! Where is such a scheme of thought to be found in the world, but in the New Testament, and those who have been taught by it?


Verse 28

Ephesians 5:28. So ought men,— So also, or answerably to this, ought men; or, on the other hand, taking the matter in a different but correspondent view.


Verse 30-31

Ephesians 5:30-31. For we are members, &c.— The Apostle had here two things in view; the one was, to press men to love their wives, by the example of Christ's love to his church; and the force of the argument lay in this, that a man and his wife were one flesh, as Christ and his church were one; but this latter being a truth of the greater consequence of the two, he was as intent on settling it upon their minds, though it were but an incident, as the other, which was the argument he was upon: and therefore having said, Ephesians 5:29 that every one nourisheth and cherisheth his own flesh, as Christ doth the church, it was natural to subjoin the reason; viz. because we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones: this proposition he took as much care to have believed, as that it was the duty of husbands to love their wives; and when he had asserted this doctrine of Christ and his church being one, in the words of Adam concerning Eve, Genesis 2:23. (which he, in his concise way of expressing himself, understands both of the wife, and of the church), he goes on with the words in Genesis 2:24 which make their being one flesh a reason why a man was more strictly to be united to his wife, than to his parents, or any other relations. Instead of, For this cause, Ephesians 5:31 some would render the Greek, Answerably thereto, or on the other hand. See Matthew 19:4-7 and Ephesians 5:28.


Verse 32

Ephesians 5:32. This is a great mystery: It is plain by the fore-going verses, and by the application of the words in Genesis 2:23 to Christ and the church, that the apostles understood several passages in the Old Testament in reference to Christ and the gospel, which were not understood in their evangelical or spiritual sense, till, by the assistance of the Spirit of God, the apostles so explained and revealed it. This is that which St. Paul here calls mystery: he who is desirous to have a true notion of this matter, should carefully read 1 Corinthians 2 where the Apostle very particularly explains it. Dr. Doddridge paraphrases the verse thus: "This is indeed a great mystery, which was long unknown, and, now it is in some measure discovered, is a matter of much admiration: but you will easily perceive that in saying this, I speak not of the union between a man and his wife, but of that betwixt Christ and the church. For, that the Son of God should unite himself to a society of mortal men, and regard them as making a part of himself, on account of the intimacy with which they are joined to him in a community of spirit and of interest, can never be sufficiently admired." This sublime doctrine which had been long concealed, and cannot now be fully comprehended, may, with the greatest propriety be called a mystery, in every sense of the word.

Inferences.—With what cheerfulness should the dear children of God imitate their Heavenly Father! And what an affecting and engaging motive to brotherly love is the dying love of Christ, who offered up himself as an atoning and acceptable sacrifice for us! But how utterly unworthy the Christian's character, privileges, and obligations, is it to give way to any sin, especially such shameful ones as Heathens and unconverted sinners are infamous for! Neither covetousness, which is constructive idolatry; nor any sort of unchastity or impurity; nor any works of darkness, should ever be found upon, or countenanced by those who profess themselves to be saints: for whatever vain deceivers may suggest to the contrary, such things are abominable, and exclude the practisers of them from the Saviour's kingdom of grace and glory, and bring divine wrath upon their heads. What a visible change in conversation is to be expected from those who are awakened into light and life by the powerful voice of Christ! They should walk as children of the light, under the influence of the Spirit, unto all goodness, righteousness, and truth; their words and actions should carry such reproof to workers of iniquity, as shews that they have no fellowship with them in their evil deeds, but that they approve of those things which are acceptable to God their Saviour. How watchful and careful ought they to be in their walk! They should be very circumspect to shun temptation, sin, and danger, and to redeem time for the best purposes, especially in evil days; and should behave wisely in an upright way, and not like ignorant and foolish people, who neither consider what they are doing, nor whither they are going. How pure and sublime are the joys that arise from being filled with the gifts and graces of the Spirit! There is no danger of excess in these, as there is in the use of wine; they dispose us for singing the praises of God with harmonious voices, and with the sweetest melody in our hearts; and make us thankful to him, through Jesus Christ, in every circumstance of things. But how concerned should we be to fill up all the relations of life with the duties of them, from a principle of holy reverence and fear of God! Husbands and wives should not trifle with, but conscientiously attend to the respective duties that result from their union with each other as one flesh. And O! how happy would the marriage-state be, if both relatives, in their places, would study to please one another! Conjugal love would keep all right between them, and secure the duties on both sides. How intimate and endearing is the relation and affection of Christ to his church! He is full of tender love and care towards his faithful saints, to take away the guile, power, and defilement of their sins, by his blood and spirit, and by means of his word; and, at length, to present them to himself, arrayed in glory, like a spouse fit for such an illustrious husband to delight in, as having no spot or blemish of any kind upon them. How constraining ought his love to them to be, to engage their most dutiful submission to him! And what a sweet influence should these considerations have upon every religious husband to love his wife as himself, and upon every religious wife to reverence her husband!

REFLECTIONS.—1st, Love is the divine principle through which alone the practice of all holiness can be produced. This therefore,

1. The Apostle inculcates. Be ye followers of God as dear children, acting according to this high relation, and in your spirit and temper resembling your heavenly Father; and walk in love, which is his brightest attribute, and renders you most like the blessed Redeemer; as Christ also hath loved us, with a love so free and so surpassing great; and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling savour, to make atonement for our sins, and to reconcile us to God by his own blood, his sacrifice being infinitely meritorious and acceptable. Note; (1.) Love is the characteristic mark of a child of God, and a disciple of Jesus. (2.) The sacrifice of the Lamb of God is fully efficacious: God is well pleased in the oblation of his Son; and all who draw near in faith through him are sure of acceptance.

2. He warns them against all manner of uncleanness. But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, the lawless desires of fleshly concupiscence, let it not be once named amongst you, as becometh saints, but avoided with the utmost detestation, and never once so much as mentioned; neither filthiness, in gesture, habit, or discourse; nor foolish talking, in secret innuendoes, or vain, light, or unprofitable conversation; nor jesting, to excite laughter in others, and admiration of our own carnal wit; which are not convenient, but utterly unbecoming a Christian's profession, who should rather be employed in giving of thanks, and use his tongue as an instrument to set forth the glory of God.

3. He enforces his exhortation by the most weighty arguments:

[1.] These sins must necessarily exclude us from heaven, and lay us under the eternal wrath of God. For this ye know, according to the unchangeable word of God, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, whose heart is the stye of lewd desires, or who is inordinately eager after gain, and consequently is an idolater, loving and serving the creature more than the Creator, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God, but must be for ever excluded from the divine favour. Let no man deceive you with vain words, as if these sins were not so dangerous; and with some soft names of human infirmity, or venial transgressions, endeavour to satisfy your consciences, and embolden you to hope for impunity: for know assuredly, because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience and unbelief, who, despising God's warnings, perish eternally under the deluge of his fiery wrath. Be not ye therefore partakers with them, by communion with them, or connivance at them, lest you become involved in their punishment. Note; It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. We should often consider it, that we might tremble, and avoid the most distant approaches of evil, which has consequences so dreadfully dangerous.

[2.] What God has done for us, should engage us to be faithful to him. For ye were sometimes darkness, and in this wretched state were blindly led on by vile affections to every abomination, ignorant of God and your own danger, and rushing headlong to ruin; but now are ye light in the Lord, since he hath shone into your hearts, and given you the knowledge of his will, and turned you to his blessed Self in the practice of true holiness; therefore walk as children of light, agreeable to the obligations lying upon you, and the measure of knowledge and grace which you have received. For the fruit of the Spirit, which the Lord hath given you to illumine your darkness, and quicken your souls from the death of sin, is in all goodness, and righteousness, and truth; it appears in every act of tenderness and beneficence towards the needy, in all purity of heart towards God, and uprightness in our dealings with men; and engages us to a holy simplicity and unimpeachable fidelity, in all our words and works; in which things, as children of light, you must therefore habitually walk; proving what is acceptable unto the Lord, desiring out of his word to learn his mind and will, and to approve yourselves to him in all holy conversation and godliness. And, for this end, have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, neither by countenance, nor connivance at them in others, any more than by practising them yourselves; they are works of darkness, the deeds of a fallen and corrupted heart, and which seek usually the covert of the night; unfruitful of every thing but misery, wrath, and wretchedness. Instead, therefore, of joining in them, rather, wherever they appear, bear an open testimony against them; and, with zeal tempered with love, boldly reprove them. Note; (1.) The fallen mind, in its mere natural state, is darkness itself: they who are under its influence take hold of the paths of death and hell, and know not whither they are going. (2.) Where God hath given us the light of his truth, every wilful sin is greatly aggravated. (3.) They who are truly sensible of the evil and danger of sin, will not see it upon their brother without a kind and faithful rebuke.

[3.] The very shocking and shameful nature of these sins should deter us from them. For it is a shame even to speak of those things, which are done of them in secret: the very mention of them must offend a modest ear; and how much more must the practice of them provoke a holy God? But all things that are reproved, as such evils must be, are made manifest by the light of God's word, which hath shone into your hearts, and are thereby discovered in their native deformity, and hateful colours; for whatsoever doth make manifest is light; as the sun illumines the world, which otherwise would be covered in darkness, so does Christ in his gospel, arising as the Sun of Righteousness, shine into the hearts of his believing people, giving them light and discernment in spiritual things, which were before utterly hidden from their eyes; and enabling them to see the evil and danger of those tempers and practices, which before they never apprehended. Wherefore he saith, when calling the souls of sinners out of darkness into his marvellous light, Awake thou that sleepest in security, ignorance, and insensibility, and arise from the dead, from thy state of death, in trespasses and sins, and Christ shall give thee light, the light of life and truth, to conduct thee in the paths of holiness, and, at last, if faithful, to the regions of glory; and wherever this light is spoken into the soul, then it will be evident by an abhorrence of evil, and such a conversation as will bear the strictest scrutiny.

4. On what he had said, he grounds this farther exhortation: See then that ye walk circumspectly, narrowly examining every step you take, not as fools, but as wise, as those who have been taught the truth as it is in Jesus; redeeming the time, making the best improvement of the present moment, and desirous to retrieve the time and opportunity which has been lost; because the days are evil, and require great watchfulness when iniquity so abounds, when temptations so many and great beset you; and you know not how soon you may be cut off. Wherefore, be ye not unwise, as in the former days of folly and unregeneracy, but understanding what the will of the Lord is, that ye may know how to walk and please him, and be found faithful to the light which he is pleased to give you. Note; (1.) If we consider how much of our time we have abused and squandered, it will become us, with peculiar diligence, to improve the pittance which remains. (2.) Evil days require especial circumspection. (3.) The worst and most fatal folly is the ignorance of God's word, and the neglect of our souls.

How we must redeem our time, and walk according to the divine prescription, the Apostle, in several particulars, proceeds to shew.

[1.] Be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess, for the dreadful consequences of drunkenness are numberless; for when the mind is once intoxicated, a wide door is opened to every act of extravagance, folly, riot, debauchery, and uncleanness, and there remains no restraint from the greatest abominations.

[2.] But, on the contrary, be filled with the Spirit; seek to drink deeper into the sacred fountain of his divine light, grace, strength, and consolation, which will inspire the most exquisite and sacred pleasure and delight; not roaring round the board of riot, and joining the mad songs of the drunken, but speaking to yourselves, and each other, in psalms and hymns, and spiritual songs, uniting your voices in the Redeemer's praise, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord, with inward exultation in God as your Saviour, and every outward expression that tends to exalt his great and glorious name, giving thanks always for all things, your hearts in every dispensation acknowledging a gracious God, and your tongue employed in thanksgiving unto God and the Father, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom alone all our services are accepted, and by whom all the dispensations of providence and grace are made to work together for the good of true believers. Note; (1.) Psalmody is a gospel ordinance, and they who are happy in God will delight in his praises. (2.) Whatever our condition, or circumstances may be, there is always room for thanksgiving. Afflictions, as well as mercies, demand a grateful acknowledgment; they are good for us, and we shall, in the issue, find the blessed effects of them.

2nd, The Apostle proceeds to exhort them to the discharge of those relative duties, which are the great ornaments of Christianity.

In general, a spirit of gentleness and mutual forbearance must reign in you, submitting yourselves one to another, in all natural and civil relations, in public and private, making conscience of discharging the duties of your several stations, in the fear of God, being willingly in all due subjection to those whom he hath placed as your superiors.

1. The duty of wives is to submit themselves unto their own husbands, in all reverence, honour, and dutiful obedience; consulting their will, and content to be in subjection as unto the Lord, regarding him as the author of their subordination, and submitting, as the church doth, to him. For the husband is the head of the wife, by divine appointment, as Christ is the head of the church, and he is the Saviour of the body, having bought her even at the expence of his own blood, and with the most endearing tenderness and affection providing whatever is needful for her support and comfort. Therefore as the church is bound, by every tie of love and duty, to be subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing not contradictory to their duty towards God. Note; The direction is clear and obvious; but the difficulty is for a fallen spirit to acquiesce. Let those, therefore, who enter into the marriage state seriously consider their obligations, before they lay themselves under the solemn vow of obedience.

2. The duty of husbands is this; Love your wives with singleness of affection, which speaks in every word and look of tenderness, with gentleness desiring to rule, not tyrannize, and, by every endearing art of persuasion, winning obedience, rather than haughtily and imperiously demanding subjection, remembering and imitating the love of Christ to his church, who gave himself for it, even to the death of the cross, that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, in his atoning blood opening a fountain for sin and uncleanness, to which, by faith, every genuine penitent may come according to his word, and be effectually delivered from all their guilt and defilement; that, being thus cleansed, he might present it to himself, as a chaste virgin, adorned for her heavenly bridegroom, a glorious church, beautiful through his Blood and Spirit, not having spot or wrinkle, or any such thing, but appearing in perfect comeliness and purity; that, as the sacrifices under the law, it should be holy and without blemish. So ought men to love their wives, according to this love of Christ, even as their own bodies, they being now a real part of themselves: he that loveth his wife, loveth himself. For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it; our own flesh is not nearer to us than our wives; and the same affectionate care is due to them, even as the Lord hath shewed to the church: for we are members of his body mystical, of his flesh, and of his bones, like the woman formed from the first man's side. For this cause, seeing the union is so close, shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, in peculiar singleness of affection; and they two shall be one flesh, as if they literally became one body. This is a great mystery, these words being figurative of a more happy and excellent marriage than that of the first man and woman; and I mean, in their application, to lead you, not merely to consider the original law of marriage, but I speak concerning Christ and the church, to whom they emphatically belong. Nevertheless, let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself, as the members of his own body; and let the wife see that she reverence her husband with all conjugal love, and jealous fear of offending.

 


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Bibliography Information
Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Ephesians 5:4". Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tcc/ephesians-5.html. 1801-1803.

Lectionary Calendar
Sunday, November 17th, 2019
the Week of Proper 28 / Ordinary 33
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