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Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary
Ephesians 4:12

for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the building up of the body of Christ;
New American Standard Bible

Bible Study Resources

Nave's Topical Bible - Church;   Instruction;   Minister, Christian;   Perfection;   Sanctification;   Wisdom;   Thompson Chain Reference - Body of Christ;   Church;   Edification;   The Topic Concordance - Body;   Disciples/apostles;   Edification;   Evangelism;   Giving and Gifts;   Prophecy and Prophets;   Shepherds/pastors;   Teaching;   Torrey's Topical Textbook - Christ Is God;   Christ, the Head of the Church;   Church, the;   Edification;   Ministers;   Perfection;  
Bridgeway Bible Dictionary - Apostle;   Church;   Gifts of the spirit;   Interpretation;   Minister;   Mission;   Pastor;   Paul;   Servant;   Teacher;   Work;   Baker Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology - Body;   Build up;   Church, the;   Holy Spirit;   Holy Spirit, Gifts of;   Nahum, Theology of;   Romans, Theology of;   Union with Christ;   Worship;   Charles Buck Theological Dictionary - Christianity;   Church;   Fausset Bible Dictionary - Bishop;   Church;   Elijah;   Pentecost;   Holman Bible Dictionary - Apostles;   Ascension;   Baptism of the Holy Spirit;   Body;   Body of Christ;   Church;   Edification;   Ephesians, Book of;   Gift, Giving;   Humanity;   Instruction;   Pastor;   Preaching in the Bible;   Spirit;   Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible - Church;   Ephesians, Epistle to;   Peter, First Epistle of;   Presbytery;   Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament - Body;   Body (2);   Building ;   Edification;   Ephesians Epistle to the;   Fellowship (2);   Growth Increase ;   Mediation Mediator;   Minister Ministry;   Minister, Ministration;   Organization (2);   Perfect Perfection;   Restoration of Offenders;   Union;   Unity;   Work;   Morrish Bible Dictionary - Apostle;   Ascension;   Edification;   Gifts in the Church;   Wilson's Dictionary of Bible Types - Perfecting;  
Condensed Biblical Cyclopedia - Kingdom or Church of Christ, the;   International Standard Bible Encyclopedia - Bishop;   Body;   Edification;   Ephesians, Epistle to the;   Exodus, the Book of;   Grace;   Ministry;   Perfect;   Senses;   Spiritual Gifts;   Teach;  
Chip Shots from the Ruff of Life - Devotion for April 24;   Daily Light on the Daily Path - Devotion for May 3;   Every Day Light - Devotion for October 11;  
Unselected Authors

Clarke's Commentary

Verse 12. For the perfecting of the saints — For the complete instruction, purification, and union of all who have believed in Christ Jesus, both Jews and Gentiles. For the meaning of καταρτισμος, perfecting, 2 Corinthians 13:9.

For the work of the ministry — All these various officers, and the gifts and graces conferred upon them, were judged necessary, by the great Head of the Church, for its full instruction in the important doctrines of Christianity. The same officers and gifts are still necessary, and God gives them; but they do not know their places. In most Christian Churches there appears to be but one office, that of preacher; and one gift, that by which he professes to preach. The apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers, are all compounded in the class preachers; and many, to whom God has given nothing but the gift of exhortation, take texts to explain them; and thus lose their time, and mar their ministry.

Edifying of the body — The body of Christ is his Church, see Ephesians 2:20, c. and its edification consists in its thorough instruction in Divine things, and its being filled with faith and holiness.

Bibliographical Information
Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on Ephesians 4:12". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/​commentaries/​acc/​ephesians-4.html. 1832.

Bridgeway Bible Commentary


Unity in the church (4:1-16)

God’s great purposes for his church should produce a new quality in the lives of the church members. The blessings that God gives should not lead the believers to pride. On the contrary, when they see that these blessings are an indication of the standard God expects, they will develop a new humility. When people or circumstances annoy them and try their patience, they will show love by being patient and helpful (4:1-2).
People in the church come from various racial, cultural and social backgrounds, but they must not allow these differences to spoil the unity that God has created in the church (3). After all, they hold all the important things in common. They are indwelt by the same Spirit, they own the same Jesus as Lord and they are children of the same heavenly Father. As fellow members of the same body, the church, they have experienced the same baptism, share the same faith and look forward to the same salvation (4-6).
Just as people in the church differ from one another, so the spiritual gifts that Christ has given for the functioning of the church vary from person to person (7). Christ is likened to a triumphant conqueror who has returned from battle and now divides the goods seized in battle among his people. In Christ’s case he came down to earth where he conquered sin, Satan and all the other angelic powers of evil. He then returned to heaven, from where he shares out his gifts to his church (8-10).
These divine gifts are in fact people - apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers. They are given to build up the Christians so that they also can do the work of God. This will help the Christians individually and the church as a whole to grow in maturity towards the perfection and fulness that is found in Christ himself (11-13).
Such Christians will not be like immature children who can be persuaded to believe almost anything (14). Mature Christians will be confident in their faith, though they will always act towards others in love. They will be under the control of Christ, as the parts of the body are under the control of the head. This will help them to maintain and develop strength in the church (15-16).

Bibliographical Information
Fleming, Donald C. "Commentary on Ephesians 4:12". "Fleming's Bridgeway Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/​commentaries/​bbc/​ephesians-4.html. 2005.

Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible

For the perfecting of the saints, unto the work of ministering, unto the building up of the body of Christ; till we all attain unto the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a full-grown man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.

In these verses is set forth the purpose of the Lord in the sending forth of apostles, prophets, evangelists and elders, mentioned in the preceding verse, that purpose being the building up of the body of Christ, which is the church. But the passage goes dramatically beyond that. It is not apostles, etc., alone who are to do the ministering in the Lord’s church. "Perfecting of the saints unto the work of ministering" means that:

Not only those called apostles, prophets, evangelists and pastor-teachers, but the entire church should be engaged in spiritual labor. The universal priesthood of believers is stressed here. William Hendriksen, op. cit., p. 198.

Another very important thing in this passage regards the rendition of Ephesians 4:13 b. The KJV has "unto a perfect man" where the English Revised Version (1885) has "unto a full-grown man." There can be little doubt that the KJV is correct, because the measure of "the fullness of the stature of Christ," mentioned next, can be nothing if not absolute perfection. As Barclay said, "The aim of the church for its members is nothing less than perfection." William Barclay, op. cit., p. 177. It is true that the Greek word here may be rendered full-grown, as in English Revised Version (1885); but it is also rendered perfect, in the sense of being applicable to God himself (Matthew 5:48). W. E. Vine, An Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words (Old Tappan, New Jersey: Fleming H. Revell Company, 1940), Vol. III, p. 173. The meaning here has to be perfect; nor is this an idle distinction. See article on "The Perfection of Christians" under Ephesians 1:4.

Bibliographical Information
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Ephesians 4:12". "Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/​commentaries/​bcc/​ephesians-4.html. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.

Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible

For the perfecting of the saints - On the meaning of the word rendered here as “perfecting” - καταρτισμὸν katartismon - see the notes on 2 Corinthians 13:9. It properly refers to “the restoring of anything to its place;” then putting in order, making complete, etc. Here it means that these various officers were appointed in order that everything in the church might be well arranged, or put into its proper place; or that the church might be “complete.” It is that Christians may have every possible advantage for becoming complete in love, and knowledge, and order.

For the work of the ministry - All these are engaged in the work of the ministry, though in different departments. Together they constituted the “ministry” by which Christ meant to establish and edify the church. All these offices had an existence at that time, and all were proper; though it is clear that they were not all designed to be permanent. The apostolic office was of course to cease with the death of those who were “the witnesses” of the life and doctrines of Jesus (compare notes on 1 Corinthians 9:1); the office of “prophets” was to cease with the cessation of inspiration; and in like manner it is possible that the office of teacher or evangelist might be suspended, as circumstances might demand. But is it not clear from this that Christ did not appoint “merely” three orders of clergy to be permanent in the church? Here are “five” orders enumerated, and in 1 Corinthians 12:28, there are “eight” mentioned; and how can it be demonstrated that the Saviour intended that there should be “three” only, and that they should be permanent? The presumption is rather that he meant that there should be but one permanent order of ministers, though the departments of their labor might be varied according to circumstances, and though there might be helpers, as occasion should demand. In founding churches among the pagan, and in instructing and governing them there, there is need of reviving nearly all the offices of teacher, helper, evangelist, etc., which Paul has enumerated as actually existing in his time.

For the edifying - For building it up; that is, in the knowledge of the truth and in piety; see the notes on Romans 14:19.

The body of Christ - The Church; see the notes on Ephesians 1:23.

Bibliographical Information
Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Ephesians 4:12". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/​commentaries/​bnb/​ephesians-4.html. 1870.

Calvin's Commentary on the Bible

12.For the renewing of the saints. In this version I follow Erasmus, not because I prefer his view, but to allow the reader an opportunity of comparing his version with the Vulgate and with mine, and then choosing for himself. The old translation was, (ad consummationem ,) for the completeness. The Greek word employed by Paul isκαταρτισμός, which signifies literally the adaptation of things possessing symmetry and proportion; just as, in the human body, the members are united in a proper and regular manner; so that the word comes to signify perfection. But as Paul intended to express here a just and orderly arrangement, I prefer the word (constitutio ) settlement or constitution, taking it in that sense in which a commonwealth, or kingdom, or province, is said to be settled, when confusion gives place to the regular administration of law.

For the work of the ministry. God might himself have performed this work, if he had chosen; but he has committed it to theministry of men. This is intended to anticipate an objection. “Cannot the church be constituted and properly arranged, without the instrumentality of men?” Paul asserts that a ministry is required, because such is the will of God.

For the edifying of the body of Christ. This is the same thing with what he had formerly denominated the settlement orperfecting of the saints. Our true completeness and perfection consist in our being united in the one body of Christ. No language more highly commendatory of the ministry of the word could have been employed, than to ascribe to it this effect. What is more excellent than to produce the true and complete perfection of the church? And yet this work, so admirable and divine, is here declared by the apostle to be accomplished by the external ministry of the word. That those who neglect this instrument should hope to become perfect in Christ is utter madness. Yet such are the fanatics, on the one hand, who pretend to be favored with secret revelations of the Spirit, — and proud men, on the other, who imagine that to them the private reading of the Scriptures is enough, and that they have no need of the ordinary ministry of the church.

If the edification of the church proceeds from Christ alone, he has surely a right to prescribe in what manner it shall be edified. But Paul expressly states, that, according to the command of Christ, no real union or perfection is attained, but by the outward preaching. We must allow ourselves to be ruled and taught by men. This is the universal rule, which extends equally to the highest and to the lowest. The church is the common mother of all the godly, which bears, nourishes, and brings up children to God, kings and peasants alike; and this is done by the ministry. Those who neglect or despise this order choose to be wiser than Christ. Woe to the pride of such men! It is, no doubt, a thing in itself possible that divine influence alone should make us perfect without human assistance. But the present inquiry is not what the power of God can accomplish, but what is the will of God and the appointment of Christ. In employing human instruments for accomplishing their salvation, God has conferred on men no ordinary favor. Nor can any exercise be found better adapted to promote unity than to gather around the common doctrine — the standard of our General.

Bibliographical Information
Calvin, John. "Commentary on Ephesians 4:12". "Calvin's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/​commentaries/​cal/​ephesians-4.html. 1840-57.

Smith's Bible Commentary

Now Paul begins the fourth chapter again with the reminder that he is a

prisoner of the Lord, and I beseech you, [I beg you, I implore you] that you walk worthy of the vocation wherewith you are called ( Ephesians 4:1 ).

Now, notice this is the first mention now that Paul makes of your response to God. He has spent three chapters telling you what God has done for you, of what God has given to you, of what God has provided for you. He has spent three chapters unfolding the glorious mysteries of God's love and grace and goodness. How God has reached out to you, you Gentiles who were once alienated and far away, and He has brought you near. Now after spending the three chapters telling you all that God has done, now he turns around and he says, "Now you walk worthy."

One of the problems in the church is that we have been emphasizing the walk first. We have been trying to get people to walk before they even know how to sit. Paul gets us firmly seated in Christ in heavenly places and now he says, "Now walk. You learned how to sit, now walk." In a little while as we get to the sixth chapter, he is going to say, "Now stand."

And so as another author of Ephesians has divided it, he spent three chapters telling you of the wealth and of the riches you have in Christ. Now he is going to spend a couple of chapters telling you about the walk that you should have. And then he will spend the last chapter telling you about the warfare that you are in. So the wealth, the walk and the warfare of the believer. Ruth Paxon divides the book of Ephesians that way. Watchman Nee divides it in sit, walk, stand.

But it is important to note that God's work for us is, first of all, mentioned before our response to God. So opposite to the religions which teach man to do his work in order that God might respond to him. If we are in that works-response, I work that God might respond syndrome, we will never have the full relationship with God that He desires to have, nor will we ever enjoy the riches that God wants to bestow upon us. Because our works are always going to be failing and feeble. It is God's work that matters, not mine. It is my response to God which is important, not trying to get God to respond to me. God has already initiated, and God is the initiator; man is the responder. So many times man seeks to reverse that in the preaching, making man the initiator and God the responder. Such is not the case. Such is not the gospel. There is no gospel in that. The gospel is that God initiated: God so loved that He gave, and that man responds. We love Him because He first loved us.

The love of Christ constrains me. I am responding to that constraining love. So any work that I try to do for God that does not come from a responsive base is unacceptable. Any work that I try to do to gain favor, any work that I try to do to gain merit, to gain points, to gain righteousness is of no avail. It is only that work that flows freely as I am responding to God and His grace and His goodness to me that has any real eternal merit or value. We need to get this correct theology or else we are going to really be missing out on all that God is wanting for us and wanting to do for us.

You do not initiate the relationship with God. He has initiated it. You need to respond to it. You cannot make God love you more. He loves you supremely. You need to respond to it. When I am responding to God then I am not really getting all puffed up in my works and boasting in them and going around and bragging about all that I have been doing for God. All I am doing is responding to love that is . . . I just can't handle. Overwhelming love, I respond to it. So it isn't, "Oh, I have given so much for God or I have sacrificed so much for the Lord. You can't believe how much I have given to the Lord." No, no, no. The person who has the true relationship with God is going around saying, "You can't believe all that God has done for me. I can't believe His goodness. Listen, you will never believe what the Lord did for me this week." They are always talking about what God has done, and what I do is nothing, man. It is just a response to this glorious grace that I have received through Jesus Christ.

Respond now to God. Let your walk be in keeping with what you are. God has called you to be His child, that you might in the endless ages to come experience the richness of His grace and mercy and love towards you in Christ. Now respond to that by living in a manner that is fitting that of a child of God. Live like a child of God. Don't live like the devil, you did that long enough. Now start living like a child of God, which you are through Jesus Christ. Respond to it.

How am I to live?

With all lowliness and meekness ( Ephesians 4:2 ),

I am to live as Jesus Christ.

Do you remember when Jesus said, "Come unto Me all ye that labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn of Me, for I am meek and lowly of heart"( Matthew 11:29 )? Now how are we to walk?

In all lowliness and meekness ( Ephesians 4:2 ),

Now, this is really the natural response to the real understanding of the grace of God for me, and my unworthiness of it.

If I am doing my works trip, then involved in the works is the bragging and the boasting and the glorying of what I am and what I have done. But when I realize what God has done for me, what God is offering to me, this glorious grace of God of which I am so totally undeserving and unworthy, the affect that I have is that of lowliness and meekness. As Paul said, "That God should choose me, less than the least of all of the saints to bestow this abundant glory that I should preach the unsearchable riches of Christ" ( Ephesians 3:8 ). That man who truly understands what God has done is humbled by what God has done. The man who has had a true confrontation with God is humbled by that confrontation. Walk with all lowliness and meekness.

Now I am thinking of a certain TV evangelist who seems to have purchased so much time on television. Some people have come up and asked me what my opinion of him is. Well, from what I have observed, which is not very much, because I have a hard time taking it, if I am commanded as a child of God to walk in lowliness and meekness, if I am commanded as a child of God to walk in love, then these are characteristics that I do not observe. So the whole ministry must come into question.

I am to walk with all lowliness and meekness.

with long-suffering, forbearing one another in love ( Ephesians 4:2 );

What a glorious way to walk.

Endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace ( Ephesians 4:3 ).

I am not to be cursing all of the government officials, the FCC and all of the ministers that don't go along with me. "Endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace." I should be constantly seeking the unity of the Spirit within the body of Christ.

Now it is sad to me that man has so divided the body of Christ and built his fences and in some cases block walls. "We are the people, everybody else is false and wrong, we have the truth." They build up these barriers and these walls around themselves.

A few months ago I received a letter where I was invited to speak at a certain denominational meeting. And I got a letter this week after I responded. I thought, "Well, that is interesting. I will accept that." And so I wrote a letter of acceptance, and I got a letter back this week from the minister who had invited me to speak and he said, "I am awfully sorry, but when I brought up your name, a lot of the ministers were afraid that some of our ministers might be influenced by you. And because you believed in the validity of the gifts of the Spirit, it might draw some of them away. So they decided that they don't want you to speak." Sad.

There is only one body, there is only one Spirit, there is only one hope of our calling; there is only one Lord, there is only one faith, there is only one baptism, there is only one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all ( Ephesians 4:4-6 ).

There should be a unity in the body of Christ. And the thing I like about being non-denominational or inter-denominational is that it does give us a comfortable posture whereby we can accept and love and feel free to fellowship with anybody from any denomination who really believes in Jesus Christ. Now, there are some denominations that will not accept the baptism of another denomination. Some churches that will not accept the baptism of another church. "Oh, you were baptized by them. Well, you will have to be baptized again before we can receive you into membership." There are some churches that have closed communion. When they pass the broken bread you can't take it unless you are an approved member of that church. Walls by which the body of Christ is divided.

"One baptism." That is, we were all baptized unto Jesus Christ. We weren't baptized unto Paul, or Apollos, or Peter. We really weren't baptized a Baptist, or a Christian church, or a Methodist, or Catholic. We should have been baptized into Jesus Christ, not into a church. Because a church cannot save you. There is only one baptism, and that is the baptism into Jesus Christ. If you were baptized into a church, then I would encourage you to just be baptized into Jesus Christ. "One baptism, one faith, one Lord, one God and Father."

But to every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ ( Ephesians 4:7 ).

I love this. What is the measure of grace? The gift of Jesus Christ. And every one of us is given a measure or given grace according to the measure of the gift of Jesus Christ.

Paul said, "If God spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how much more then shall He not freely give us all things?"

You see, again, when I come to God for my needs, I think, "Oh, I don't know if God is willing to do this much for me." Well, how much is God willing to do for me? He is willing to send His only begotten Son to die for me, now do you need more than that?

So grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ.

Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men. (Now he that ascended, what is it but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth? He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things.) ( Ephesians 4:8-10 )

What is he talking about? "The one who has ascended is the same one who descended into the lower parts of the earth and when He ascended far above all the heavens that He might fill all things." They came to Jesus one day and they said, "Show us a sign." And Jesus said, "A wicked and an adulterous generation seeks after a sign, but there will no sign be given to it, except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the whale, so must the Son of God be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth."

When on the day of Pentecost the people were gathered and Peter stood up to preach to them, he identified his subject as Jesus of Nazareth. "A man who proved that He was from God because of the signs and the wonders that He did in the midst of you, who you, according to the predetermined counsel and foreknowledge of God, with your wicked hands have crucified and slain. But God raised Him from the dead, because it was not possible that He could be held by it. For the scripture said, 'Thou will not leave my soul in hell, neither will you allow the Holy One to see corruption.' And we testify unto you that God did not leave His soul in hell, but He has been raised again" ( Acts 2:22-32 ).

Jesus, in Luke's gospel chapter 16, said, "There was a certain rich man, who fared sumptuously every day. And there was also a poor man who was brought daily and laid at his gate, full of sores, and the dogs were licking his sores. And the poor man died and was carried by the angels into Abraham's bosom. More also the rich man died, and in hell he lifted up his eyes, because he was in torment. And he saw Abraham afar off, and Lazarus there being comforted. And he said, 'Father Abraham, would you send Lazarus that he may take some water and touch my tongue with it, because I am tormented in this heat.' But Abraham said. 'Son, remember that in your lifetime you had the good things, and Lazarus the evil. Beside that, there is a gulf between us that is fixed, and it is impossible for those that are here to come over there or for those that are there to come over here.' He said, 'If that be the case, then I pray, please send Lazarus back that he might warn my brothers, lest they come to this horrible place.' Abraham said, 'They have the law and the prophets. If they will not believe the law and the prophets, neither would they believe even if one should come back from the dead.'"

Jesus tells us that prior to His death, Hades was separated into two compartments: in one compartment those who were being tormented, the unrighteous; in the other compartment those who were being comforted in Abraham's bosom. For we are told in Hebrews chapter 11, when it lists off these great men of faith in the Old Testament, that they all died in faith not having received the promise. But they saw it afar off and they embraced it, and they claimed they were just strangers and pilgrims. But they all died in faith, not having received the promise, because God has reserved some better thing for us that they apart from us could not come into the perfected state.

Now, Isaiah tells us that a part of the mission of Christ in chapter 61, to preach the gospel unto the poor, to bind the brokenhearted, and then also to set at liberty the captive and to open the prison doors to those that were bound. So that when the thief on the cross said, "Lord, when You come into Your kingdom, remember me," Jesus said, "Today you will be with Me in paradise."

When Jesus died, His Spirit went into Hades, but into that compartment where Abraham was comforting those who had died in faith. As they were awaiting the fullness of time when God would fulfill the promise of sending the Messiah. For they all died in faith, but they could not ascend into heaven because it was impossible that the blood of bulls and goats could put away their sins. All they did was foreshadow the sacrifice of Jesus Christ whereby sins could be put away and man could have access on into heaven. So Jesus preached to those souls that were imprisoned, and on the third day when He arose again, He led the captives from their captivity. He opened the prison doors to those that were bound. He led them from their captivity, and the graves of many of the saints were opened, and they were seen walking in the streets of Jerusalem after His resurrection from the dead, Matthew 27 .

So, "He who has ascended" is the one who, first of all, descended into the lower parts of the earth. In order to open the prison doors to those that were bound, in order to lead those who had by faith been waiting for the Messiah in order to lead them on into glory.

And He gave gifts unto men.

And to some he gave, apostles; and to some, prophets; and to some, evangelists; and to some, pastors and teachers ( Ephesians 4:11 );

So He anointed some men to be apostles. He anointed others to be prophets, others to be evangelists, others to be pastor-teachers.

Now what is the purpose then of the church? What is the purpose of these men that God has gifted? For years because of my seminary experiences and my exposure to Oswald J. Smith and his missionary conferences, and because of my denominational background, I thought that the primary purpose of the church was the evangelization of the world. I was always trying to preach evangelistic sermons in order that I might evangelize the world. Because, after all, that, I was taught, was the primary purpose of the church. As the result, the people in my congregations have been exposed to evangelistic preaching over and over and over again. Every week they were hearing messages on the importance of receiving Jesus Christ and being born again, the new life that you could have in Christ. Repent, turn your life over to Jesus, surrender your life to Him, and be saved.

I would oftentimes have extremely powerful evangelistic messages that the Lord had laid on my heart. I mean, I would just have my heart burning with this message because it was so dynamic and powerful it would surely convert the hardest sinner. I would be so excited ready to deliver this powerful message and surely no sinner could resist. I would go to church and there wouldn't be a single sinner in the house. Oh, how frustrating. I would take my frustrations out on the people. If they would only have been witnessing this week as they should, they would have had some of their neighbors in church with them tonight. "You are a disgrace to God, you are a failure," and I'd begin to beat the sheep that were there. Jesus didn't say, "Peter, do you love Me? Beat my sheep," yet I was. Jesus said, "Do you love me? Feed my sheep." You see, I was so into evangelism that I never took the people beyond that level. I never brought them into the fullness in Christ.

In Hebrews chapter 6, it says, "Therefore, setting aside these first principles of the doctrine of Christ, the repentance from dead works, the baptism, the laying on of hands, let's go on into maturity." I wasn't doing that with the people. Because I thought that the primary purpose of the church was the evangelization of the world. Isn't that what they taught me in seminary? But then I came across this passage in Ephesians 4:0 and it transformed my life and my ministry. I found out God didn't call me to be an evangelist. I never felt that He did. I was uncomfortable trying to be an evangelist, but that was the mold that the denomination fit me into. I realized that God called pastor-teachers too and this was the area where I was very comfortable and I loved.

But the purpose of the church, the purpose of the pastor-teacher was

the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, and building up the body of Christ ( Ephesians 4:12 ):

I had been tearing down the body of Christ. I had been beating the body of Christ. I had been driving them away. I should be building up the body of Christ-the pastor-teacher.

Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and the knowledge of the Son of God, into the fully-matured man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ ( Ephesians 4:13 ):

I had a whole new philosophy for the purpose of the church. It isn't the evangelization of the world, but it is the building up of the body of Christ. And so, I then began to focus my ministry on building up the body of Christ, loving the body of Christ, ministering to the body of Christ, strengthening the body of Christ, teaching the body of Christ the Word of God, feeding the body of Christ. As the result, as they began to mature and come into this maturity in Christ, their lives became a witness to the world around them and others came to know and came to find out what was going on. And evangelism was the byproduct of a healthy body.

That we no longer be like children, who are tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive ( Ephesians 4:14 );

There has always been the curse of these weird doctrines that blow through the church. There are always those little sheep who will follow anybody ringing a bell. Not matured. They come with their starry eyes. "Oh, I heard the most wonderful thing the other day. We can all be perfect now in these bodies. Oh, bless God, I am perfect." Oh, help us, God. Children tossed to and fro with every wind of doctrine and slight of men, cunning craftiness. And boy, I mean they are there. What cunning craftiness. These letters that they send out on their computers, cunning craftiness. I mean, they are masters of deceit. They lie in wait to deceive.

But speaking the truth in love ( Ephesians 4:15 ),

That is how the truth should be taught and spoken, in love. Not pounding the truth into people, not ranting and raving, but speaking the truth in love.

that we may grow up into him in all things, [that grow, through the truth of God,] which is the head, even Christ: from whom the whole body is fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplies, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, making increase of the body to the edifying [or building up] of itself in love ( Ephesians 4:15-16 ).

Christ the head, and all of us really fit together, joined by the Spirit, made a part of that body, the beautiful body of Christ functioning together, coordinated together by the Spirit coming into the fullness. But we look at the body of Christ today in the world, and it is spastic. No wonder the world isn't interested. You know, the church is so divided, divided over the dumbest things. It is only as we really come to that unity and love that the church will have a powerful witness before the world. Building up itself in love.

This I say therefore, and testify in the Lord, that you no longer walk as the Gentiles ( Ephesians 4:17 ),

So we are told, first of all, walk in a way that is fitting as a child of God. Now we are told that we are not to walk as the Gentiles. And that word is used for the heathen. Who walk,

in the vanity of their mind, [or empty headed] because they have their understanding darkened, because they are alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart ( Ephesians 4:17-18 ):

Their hearts are blind, thus they are ignorant. Ignorant of the life of God that is available to man, and they are alienated then from God.

They are past feeling and have given themselves over to lasciviousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness ( Ephesians 4:19 ).

You are not to walk as the Gentiles who walk in lasciviousness, in sexual impurity, working all uncleanness, akathartes, filthy, and greed is usually the problem behind it.

Today the real problems of the world you can trace back to greed. The greed of man, all of the social ills come back to the greed of man. The exploitation of people, all comes back to the greed, wanting for myself.

But that is not what you have learned from Jesus Christ; If so be that you have heard him, and have been taught by him, as the truth is in Jesus ( Ephesians 4:20-21 ):

What did He teach? Love one another, even as I have loved you. He has taught that love should be the motivating factor behind our lives and behind our actions rather than greed being the motivating factor.

There are two powerful motivators in the world today that move men. You are moved by one of the two motivators. Men are either motivated by love, or they are motivated by greed. The man apart from Christ is motivated by greed. You see the results in the world around us. The man who is in Christ is motivated by love and you see the effects within the church, wherever they are following the truth that is in Jesus. What a glorious thing to be around people motivated by love, motivated by the love of Christ. What they do they do in the name of Christ, what they do they do for Jesus Christ, for the love of Christ constrains me. And thus, they are giving because they are motivated by love, whereas those that are motivated by greed are only interested in getting. Now, that is not the way you have learned from Christ, but you have learned

That you should put off concerning the former manner of life the old man, which is corrupt according to his deceitful lusts ( Ephesians 4:22 );

You are to put him off. Know ye not that the old man was crucified with Christ, that the body of sin should not reign as king over you any longer? Put off that old man, corrupted because of his deceitful lusts.

And that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind; and that you put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness ( Ephesians 4:23-24 ).

This is the way I am to walk. After the new man, the new nature in Christ, righteousness and holiness.

Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man the truth with his neighbor: for we are members one of another. Now be angry, and sin not ( Ephesians 4:25-26 ):

There is an anger that is not sinful, that anger at sin, that anger at unrighteousness, that anger at evil, that anger at bigotry.

Jesus, when He came into the temple and saw the moneychangers there, saw the desecration of the house of God, saw the commercialism, was angry. And I think that He is equally angry with the commercialism today within Christianity. He said, "My Father's house is to be called a house of prayer. You have made it a den of thieves." He drove them out, angry. Again, when He came into the synagogue on the Sabbath day and there was a man with a withered hand and the Pharisees watched to see what He was going to do, He said to the man with the withered hand, "Stand forth." And He looked upon that Pharisee crowd with anger, because they would because of their narrow bigotry keep this man from receiving the work of God, the healing of his withered hand that day. He looked around upon them with anger. Anger because men through their traditions would hold back the work of God from other men because that is not the way we do it. That is not according to the bylaws of our denomination.

There is an anger that is not sinful. "Be angry and sin not. Let not the sun go down on your wrath." Don't go to sleep at night holding a grudge. It is apt to destroy you during the evening hours.

don't let the sun go down upon your wrath; neither give place to the devil ( Ephesians 4:26-27 ).

Or for the devil's work in your life.

So many times we give place, we say, "I have a right," and we say, "Good, sit there. I have a right to be this way." Don't give place to the devil.

Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labor, working with his hands the thing which is good, [Notice] that he might be able to give to him that has need ( Ephesians 4:28 ).

In other words, the motivation for working is not just to provide for my own needs, but that I might be able to give to someone else that has need. Let him that stole steal no more, but work with his own hands so he can give to the poor, so he has something to provide for their needs.

Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace to the hearers ( Ephesians 4:29 ).

This is something that I think that we need to really take to heart. There is a form of jesting many times even among believers that is not really proper. Filthy communication, jesting over sexual things, or filthy things. Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which will build up someone, not that which will tear down someone, not that which will destroy someone else.

Grieve not the Holy Spirit of God, whereby you are sealed unto the day of redemption ( Ephesians 4:30 ).

Again, back in chapter 2, He has sealed us with the Holy Spirit which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchase possession. Now don't grieve the Holy Spirit. How do I grieve the Holy Spirit? I grieve the Holy Spirit when filthy communication comes out of my mouth, for He is pure. He is holy. I grieve the Holy Spirit when I speak to someone in anger. When I sort of put myself on a pedestal to put others down. That isn't the work of the Holy Spirit, it is to build others up. Grieve not the Holy Spirit of God whereby you were sealed.

Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamor, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice ( Ephesians 4:31 ):

Now, these are the things that grieve the Spirit: bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, evil speaking, malice.

On the positive,

be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you ( Ephesians 4:32 ).

There it is, be ye kind to one another, tenderhearted, not hardhearted, forgiving one another, by what measure? Even as God for Christ's sake has forgiven you. Remember now the lessons that Jesus taught on forgiveness.

There was a certain man who had a servant who owed him sixteen million dollars and he called him in and said, "Pay me what you owe me." And he said, "Oh, I can't pay you. Give me a little time and I will try." This man went out and caught a fellow servant that owed him seventeen bucks, and he took him by the neck and he said, "Pay me what you owe me." He said, "I am sorry I can't right now. Give me a little time and I will pay you." He said, "No way, you have had it." He took him to court and had him thrown in the debtor's prison. Now the lord who had forgiven him the sixteen million dollar debt called him in and said, "How much did you owe me?" "Sixteen million dollars." "Didn't I just say I forgive you of the debt?" "Yes." "How is it that I hear that you got hold of a fellow servant that owed you seventeen bucks and you had him thrown in debtor's prison because of his debt?" He said, "That is not right."

You see, we are to forgive as God for Christ's sake has forgiven us the seventeen million. Who are we to hold these small grudges or debts against each other?

Tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake has forgiven you. This is one of the first scriptures my mother had me to memorize when I was a little boy. Planted in my heart when I was two years old. "Be ye kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you."

When our little girl was about three she was in one of those moods that was insisting that we spank her. Though I was always reluctant to spank them, but it was one of those days when she kept pushing and pushing and pushing, until she gave you no alternative. I brought her in and I sat her down and said, "All right, that is it. I have had it. Now do you know what the scripture says?" I was going to quote to her Ephesians 6:1 ,"Children obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right." She said, "Yes, I know what the scripture says." I said, "What does it say?" "Be ye kind one to another." I said, "That will work this time but not again." Smart little kids.

Oh, what a verse to take and work on this week, to allow the Spirit to work in our hearts with just this verse, "Be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven us." What beautiful exhortation.

Father, we thank You for Your Word, and help us not to walk in a manner that becomes a son of God. That we might, oh God, put off the old man with his desires and his affections, and that we might put on that new man after Christ. In Jesus' name. Amen. "

Bibliographical Information
Smith, Charles Ward. "Commentary on Ephesians 4:12". "Smith's Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/​commentaries/​csc/​ephesians-4.html. 2014.

Contending for the Faith

For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:

For the perfecting of the saints: The word "For" (Strong 4314), literally "towards" (Thayer 541), would be better translated "with a view to" or "toward the goal of" perfecting the saints. The noun "perfecting" (Strong 2677) is found only here in the New Testament. The verb form (Strong 2675) is found thirteen times and means "to render...fit, sound, complete" and carries the idea of outfitting or equipping someone for a task (Thayer 336; see 1 Thessalonians 3:10). Saints (Strong 40) are "holy" people in that they have been "set apart for God" (Thayer 7) because of salvation. The meaning then is Jesus gave these gifts for the purpose of equipping Christians.

for the work of the ministry: The punctuation here obscures the meaning of the Greek text. The word "for" (Strong 1519) carries the meaning of "unto," "in order to," or "with a view toward" a goal (Caldwell 182). We need to be equipped in order to perform a "work" (Strong 2041), a ministry. A "ministry" (Strong 1248) is accomplished through serving, waiting upon, attending, relieving, or aiding someone and would be better translated "for the work of service" (NASB). Someone who ministers is called a minister (Strong 1249), servant, or "deacon" (1 Timothy 3:8; 1 Timothy 3:12). The meaning then is Jesus gave these gifts with the purpose of equipping Christians for the work of providing what is spiritually needed.

for the edifying of the body of Christ: The word "for" (Strong 1519) is the same as above. Jesus gave these gifts with a view toward "building up" or "edifying" (Strong 3619) one another. The word "edifying" means much more that just dispensing knowledge. It carries the concept of "promoting another’s growth in Christian wisdom, piety, holiness, (and) happiness" (Thayer 440). The "body of Christ" is the church (1:22-23; 2:16; 4:4).

To summarize, Christ gave a variety of spiritual gifts to specific Christians in the early church. These gifts were necessary to provide the early church with what it needed to promote both individual and corporate spiritual growth.

Bibliographical Information
Editor Charles Baily, "Commentary on Ephesians 4:12". "Contending for the Faith". https://www.studylight.org/​commentaries/​ctf/​ephesians-4.html. 1993-2022.

Dr. Constable's Expository Notes

1. Walking in unity 4:1-16

The apostle began by stressing the importance of walking (or living) in unity. This is one of two classic New Testament passages on unity, the other being John 17. God will not enforce unity in answer to prayer. Believers have a responsibility to obey Him as well.

"Instruction, intercession and exhortation constitute a formidable trio of weapons in any Christian teacher’s armoury." [Note: Stott, p. 146.]

Charity, unity, diversity, and maturity are the key concepts in this section.

Bibliographical Information
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Ephesians 4:12". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". https://www.studylight.org/​commentaries/​dcc/​ephesians-4.html. 2012.

Dr. Constable's Expository Notes

The preservation of unity 4:7-16

Having described the basis of Christian unity Paul next explained the means by which Christians can preserve it, namely, with the gifts that the Spirit gives.

Bibliographical Information
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Ephesians 4:12". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". https://www.studylight.org/​commentaries/​dcc/​ephesians-4.html. 2012.

Dr. Constable's Expository Notes

The purpose of all these gifted leaders is to prepare the rest of the saints to minister and so build up the body of Christ, the church. "Equipping" (Gr. katartismon) means preparing, mending, or restoring people to their proper use (Galatians 6:1; cf. Matthew 4:21; 2 Corinthians 13:11; Hebrews 13:21). The role of these leaders is to minister the Word to the saints in the church so the saints can minister the Word in the world (cf. 1 Timothy 3:15). All the saints should participate in service, not just the leaders. One writer cautioned against viewing only the leaders as doing equipping ministry. [Note: T. David Gordon, "’Equipping’ Ministry in Ephesians 4," Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 37:1 (March 1994):69-78.] Every Christian has a gift or gifts with which he or she can and should serve (Ephesians 4:7; 1 Peter 4:10).

Bibliographical Information
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Ephesians 4:12". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". https://www.studylight.org/​commentaries/​dcc/​ephesians-4.html. 2012.

Barclay's Daily Study Bible

Chapter 4

Ephesians 4:1-32 INTRODUCTION ( Ephesians 4:1-10 )

With this chapter the second part of the letter begins. In Ephesians 1:1-23; Ephesians 2:1-22; Ephesians 3:1-21 Paul has dealt with the great and eternal truths of the Christian faith, and with the function of the Church in the plan of God. Now he begins to sketch what each member of the Church must be if the Church is to carry out her part in that plan.

Before we begin this chapter, let us again remind ourselves that the central thought of the letter is that Jesus has brought to a disunited world the way to unity. This way is through faith in him and it is the Church's task to proclaim this message to all the world. And now Paul turns to the character the Christian must have if the Church is to fulfil her great task of being Christ's instrument of universal reconciliation between man and man, and man and God within the world.

WORTHY OF OUR CALLING ( Ephesians 4:1-10 continued)

4:1-10 So then, I, the prisoner in the Lord, urge you to behave yourselves in a way that is worthy of the calling with which you are called. I urge you to behave with all humility, and gentleness, and patience. I urge you to bear with one another in love. I urge you eagerly to preserve that unity which the Holy Spirit can bring by binding things together in peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you have been called with one hope of your calling. There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism. one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in all. To each one of you grace has been given, as it has been measured out to you by the free gift of Christ. Therefore scripture says, "He ascended into the height, and brought his captive band of prisoners, and gave gifts to men." (When it says that "he ascended." what else can it mean than that he also descended into the lower parts of the earth? He who descended is the same person as he who ascended above all the heavens, that he might fill all things with his presence.)

The Christian Virtues ( Ephesians 4:1-3)

4:1-3 So then, I, the prisoner in the Lord, urge you to behave yourselves in a way that is worthy of the calling with which you are called. I urge you to behave with all humility, and gentleness, and patience. I urge you to bear with one another in love. I urge you eagerly to preserve that unity which the Holy Spirit can bring by binding things together in peace.

When a man enters into any society, he takes upon himself the obligation to live a certain kind of life; and if he fails in that obligation, he hinders the aims of his society and brings discredit on its name. Here Paul paints the picture of the kind of life that a man must live when he enters the fellowship of the Christian Church.

The first three verses shine like jewels. Here we have five of the great basic words of the Christian faith.

(i) First, and foremost, there is humility. The Greek is tapeinophrosune ( G5012) , and this is actually a word which the Christian faith coined. In Greek there is no word for humility which has not some suggestion of meanness attaching to it. Later Basil was to describe it as "the gem casket of all the virtues"; but before Christianity humility was not counted as a virtue at all. The ancient world looked on humility as a thing to be despised.

The Greek had an adjective for humble, which is closely connected with this noun--the adjective tapeinos ( G5011) . A word is always known by the company it keeps and this word keeps ignoble company. It is used in company with the Greek adjectives which mean slavish (andrapododes, doulikos, douloprepes), ignoble (agennes), of no repute (adoxos), cringing (chamaizelos, which is the adjective which describes a plant which trails along the ground). In the days before Jesus humility was looked on as a cowering, cringing, servile, ignoble quality; and yet Christianity sets it in the very forefront of the virtues. Whence then comes this Christian humility, and what does it involve?

(a) Christian humility comes from self-knowledge. Bernard said of it, "It is the virtue by which a man becomes conscious of his own unworthiness. in consequence of the truest knowledge of himself."

To face oneself is the most humiliating thing in the world. Most of us dramatize ourselves. Somewhere there is a story of a man who before he went to sleep at night dreamed his waking dreams. He would see himself as the hero of some thrilling rescue from the sea or from the flames; he would see himself as an orator holding a vast audience spell-bound; he would see himself walking to the wicket in a Test Match at Lord's and scoring a century; he would see himself in some international football match dazzling the crowd with his skill; always he was the centre of the picture. Most of us are essentially like that. And true humility comes when we face ourselves and see our weakness, our selfishness, our failure in work and in personal relationships and in achievement.

(b) Christian humility comes from setting life beside the life of Christ and in the light of the demands of God.

God is perfection and to satisfy perfection is impossible. So long as we compare ourselves with second bests, we may come out of the comparison well. It is when we compare ourselves with perfection that we see our failure. A girl may think herself a very fine pianist until she hears one of the world's outstanding performers. A man may think himself a good golfer until he sees one of the world's masters in action. A man may think himself something of a scholar until he picks up one of the books of the great old scholars of encylopaedic knowledge. A man may think himself a fine preacher until he listens to one of the princes of the pulpit.

Self-satisfaction depends on the standard with which we compare ourselves. If we compare ourselves with our neighbour, we may well emerge very satisfactorily from the comparison. But the Christian standard is Jesus Christ and the demands of God's perfection--and against that standard there is no room for pride.

(c) There is another way of putting this. R. C. Trench said that humility comes from the constant sense of our own creatureliness. We are in absolute dependence on God. As the hymn has it:

"'Tis Thou preservest me from death

And dangers every hour;

I cannot draw another breath

Unless Thou give me power.

My health, my friends, and parents dear

To me by God are given;

I have not any blessing here

But what is sent from heaven."

We are creatures, and for the creature there can be nothing but humility in the presence of the creator.

Christian humility is based on the sight of self, the vision of Christ, and the realization of God.

The Christian Gentleman ( Ephesians 4:1-3 Continued)

(ii) The second of the great Christian virtues is what the King James Version calls meekness and what we have translated gentleness. The Greek noun is praotes ( G4236) , the adjective praus ( G4239) , and these are beyond translation by any single English word. Praus has two main lines of meanings.

(a) Aristotle, the great Greek thinker and teacher, has much to say about praotes ( G4236) . It was his custom to define every virtue as the mean between two extremes. On one side there was excess of some quality, on the other defect; and in between there was exactly its right proportion. Aristotle defines praotes ( G4236) as the mean between being too angry and never being angry at all. The man who is praus ( G4239) is the man who is always angry at the right time and never angry at the wrong time. To put that in another way, the man who is praus ( G4239) is the man who is kindled by indignation at the wrongs and the sufferings of others, but is never moved to anger by the wrongs and the insults he himself has to bear. So, then, the man who is (as in the King James Version), meek is the man who is always angry at the right time but never angry at the wrong time.

(b) There is another fact which will illumine the meaning of this word. Praus ( G4239) is the Greek for an animal which has been trained and domesticated until it is completely under control. Therefore the man who is praus ( G4239) is the man who has every instinct and every passion under perfect control. It would not be right to say that such a man is entirely self-controlled, for such self-control is beyond human power, but it would be right to say that such a man is God-controlled.

Here then is the second great characteristic of the true member of the Church. He is the man who is so God-controlled that he is always angry at the right time but never angry at the wrong time.

The Undefeatable Patience ( Ephesians 4:1-3 Continued)

(iii) The third great quality of the Christian is what the King James Version calls long-suffering. The Greek is makrothumia ( G3115) . This word has two main directions of meaning.

(a) It describes the spirit which will never give in and which, because it endures to the end, will reap the reward. Its meaning can best be seen from the fact that a Jewish writer used it to describe what he called "the Roman persistency which would never make peace under defeat." In their great days the Romans were unconquerable; they might lose a battle, they might even lose a campaign, but they could not conceive of losing a war. In the greatest disaster it never occurred to them to admit defeat. Christian patience is the spirit which never admits defeat, which will not be broken by any misfortune or suffering, by any disappointment or discouragement, but which persists to the end.

(b) But makrothumia ( G3115) has an even more characteristic meaning than that. It is the characteristic Greek word for patience with men. Chrysostom defined it as the spirit which has the power to take revenge but never does so. Lightfoot defined it as the spirit which refuses to retaliate. To take a very imperfect analogy--it is often possible to see a puppy and a very large dog together. The puppy yaps at the big dog, worries him, bites him, and all the time the big dog, who could annihilate the puppy with one snap of his teeth, bears the puppy's impertinence with a forbearing dignity. Makrothumia ( G3115) is the spirit which bears insult and injury without bitterness and without complaint. It is the spirit which can suffer unpleasant people with graciousness and fools without irritation.

The thing which best of all gives its meaning is that the New Testament repeatedly uses it of God. Paul asks the impenitent sinner if he despises the patience of God ( Romans 2:4). Paul speaks of the perfect patience of Jesus to him ( 1 Timothy 1:16). Peter speaks of God's patience waiting in the days of Noah ( 1 Peter 3:20). He says that the forbearance of our Lord is our salvation ( 2 Peter 3:15). If God had been a man, he would long since in sheer irritation have wiped the world out for its disobedience. The Christian must have the patience towards his fellow men which God has shown to him.

The Christian Love ( Ephesians 4:1-3 Continued)

(iv) The fourth great Christian quality is love. Christian love was something so new that the Christian writers had to invent a new word for it; or, at least, they had to employ a very unusual Greek word--agape ( G26) .

In Greek there are four words for love. There is eros (compare G2037) , which is the love between a man and a maid and which involves sexual passion. There is philia ( G5373) which is the warm affection which exists between those who are very near and very dear to each other. There is storge (compare G794) which is characteristically the word for family affection. And there is agape ( G26) , which the King James Version translates sometimes love and sometimes charity.

The real meaning of agape ( G26) is unconquerable benevolence. If we regard a person with agape ( G26) , it means that nothing that he can do will make us seek anything but his highest good. Though he injure us and insult us, we will never feel anything but kindness towards him. That quite clearly means that this Christian love is not an emotional thing. This agape ( G26) is a thing, not only of the emotions, but also of the will. It is the ability to retain unconquerable good will to the unlovely and the unlovable, towards those who do not love us, and even towards those whom we do not like. Agape ( G26) is that quality of mind and heart which compels a Christian never to feel any bitterness, never to feel any desire for revenge, but always to seek the highest good of every man no matter what he may be.

(v) These four great virtues of the Christian life--humility, gentleness, patience, love--issue in a fifth, peace. It is Paul's advice and urgent request that the people to whom he is writing should eagerly preserve "the sacred oneness" which should characterize the true Church.

Peace may be defined as right relationships between man and man. This oneness, this peace, these right relationships can be preserved only in one way. Every one of the four great Christian virtues depends on the obliteration of self. So long as self is at the centre of things, this oneness can never fully exist. In a society where self predominates, men cannot be other than a disintegrated collection of individualistic and warring units. But when self dies and Christ springs to life within our hearts. then comes the peace, the oneness, which is the great hall-mark of the true Church.

The Basis Of Unity ( Ephesians 4:4-6)

4:4-6 There is one body and one Spirit, just as you have been called with one hope of your calling. There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in all.

Paul goes on to set down the basis on which Christian unity is founded.

(i) There is one body. Christ is the head and the Church is the body. No brain can work through a body which is split into fragments. Unless there is a coordinated oneness in the body, the designs of the head are frustrated. The oneness of the Church is essential for the work of Christ. That does not need to be a mechanical oneness of administration and of human organization; but it does need to be a oneness founded on a common love of Christ and of every part for the other.

(ii) There is one Spirit. The word pneuma ( G4151) in Greek means both spirit and breath; it is in fact the usual word for breath. Unless the breath be in the body, the body is dead; and the vitalizing breath of the body of the Church is the Spirit of Christ. There can be no Church without the Spirit; and there can be no receiving of the Spirit without prayerful waiting for him.

(iii) There is one hope in our calling. We are all proceeding towards the same goal. This is the great secret of the unity of Christians. Our methods, our organization, even some of our beliefs may be different; but we are all striving towards the one goal of a world redeemed in Christ.

(iv) There is one Lord. The nearest approach to a creed which the early Church possessed was the short sentence: "Jesus Christ is Lord" ( Php_2:11 ). As Paul saw it, it was God's dream that there should come a day when all men would make this confession. The word used for Lord is kurios ( G2962) . Its two usages in ordinary Greek show us something of what Paul meant. It was used for master in contra-distinction to servant or slave; and it was the regular designation of the Roman Emperor. Christians are joined together because they are all in the possession and in the service of the one Master and King.

(v) There is one faith. Paul did not mean that there is one creed. Very seldom indeed does the word faith mean a creed in the New Testament. By faith the New Testament nearly always means the complete commitment of the Christian to Jesus Christ. Paul means that all Christians are bound together because they have made a common act of complete surrender to the love of Jesus Christ. They may describe their act of surrender in different terms; but, however they describe it, that surrender is the one thing common to all of them.

(vi) There is one baptism. In the early Church baptism was usually adult baptism, because men and women were coming direct from heathenism into the Christian faith. Therefore, before anything else, baptism was a public confession of faith. There was only one way for a Roman soldier to join the army; he had to take the oath that he would be true for ever to his emperor. Similarly, there was only one way to enter the Christian Church--the way of public confession of Jesus Christ.

(vii) There is one God. See what Paul says about the God in whom we believe.

He is the Father of all; in that phrase is enshrined the love of God. The greatest thing about the Christian God, is not that he is king, not that he is judge, but that he is Father. The Christian idea of God begins in love.

He is above all; in that phrase is enshrined the control of God. No matter what things may look like God is in control. There may be floods; but "The Lord sits enthroned over the flood" ( Psalms 29:10).

He is through all; in that phrase is enshrined the providence of God. God did not create the world and set it going as a man might wind up a clockwork toy and leave it to run down. God is all through his world, guiding, sustaining, loving.

He is in all; in that phrase is enshrined the presence of God in all life. It may be that Paul took the germ of this idea from, the Stoics. The Stoics believed that God was a fire purer than any earthly fire; and they believed that what gave a man life was that a spark of that fire which was God came and dwelt in his body. It was Paul's belief that in everything there is God.

It is the Christian belief that we live in a God-created, God-controlled, God-sustained, God-filled world.

The Gifts Of Grace ( Ephesians 4:7-10)

4:7-10 To each one of you grace has been given, as it has been measured out to you by the free gift of Christ. Therefore scripture says, "He ascended into the height and brought his captive band of prisoners, and gave gifts to men." (When it says that "he ascended," what else can it mean than that he also descended into the lower parts of the earth? He who descended is the same person as he who ascended above all the heavens, that he might fill all things with his presence.)

Paul turns to another aspect of his subject. He has been talking about the qualities of the members of Christ's Church; now he is going to talk of their functions in the Church. He begins by laying down what was for him an essential truth--that every good thing a man has is the gift of the grace of Christ.

"And every virtue we possess,

And every victory won,

And every thought of holiness,

Are His alone."

To make his point about Christ the giver of gifts, Paul quotes, with a very significant difference, from Psalms 68:18. This Psalm describes a king's conquering return. He ascends on high; that is to say, he climbs the steep road of Mount Zion into the streets of the Holy City. He brings in his captive band of prisoners; that is to say, he marches through the streets with his prisoners in chains behind him to demonstrate his conquering power. Now comes the difference. The Psalm speaks next about the conqueror receiving gifts. Paul changes it to read, "gave gifts to men."

In the Old Testament the conquering king demanded and received gifts from men: in the New Testament the conqueror Christ offers and gives gifts to men. That is the essential difference between the two Testaments. In the Old Testament a jealous God insists on tribute from men; in the New Testament a loving God pours out his love to men. That indeed is the good news.

Then, as so often, Paul's mind goes off at a word. He has used the word ascended, and that makes him think of Jesus. And it makes him say a very wonderful thing. Jesus descended into this world when he entered it as a man; Jesus ascended from this world when he left it to return to his glory. Paul's great thought is that the Christ who ascended and the Christ who descended are one and the same person. What does that mean? It means that the Christ of glory is the same as the Jesus who trod this earth; still he loves all men; still he seeks the sinner; still he heals the sufferer; still he comforts the sorrowing; still he is the friend of outcast men and women. As the Scottish paraphrase has it:

"Though now ascended up on high,

He bends on earth a brother's eye;

Partaker of the human name,

He knows the frailty of our frame.

Our fellow suff'rer yet retains

A fellow-feeling of our pains;

And still remembers in the skies

His tears, His agonies and cries.

In every pang that rends the heart

The Man of sorrows has a part:

He sympathizes with our grief,

And to the suff'rer sends relief."

The ascended Christ is still the lover of the souls of men.

Still another thought strikes Paul. Jesus ascended up on high. But he did not ascend up on high to leave the world; he ascended up on high to fill the world with his presence. When Jesus was here in the flesh, he could only be in one place at one time; he was under all the limitations of the body; but when he laid this body aside and returned to glory, he was liberated from the limitations of the body and was able then to be everywhere in all the world through his Spirit. To Paul the ascension of Jesus meant not a Christ-deserted but a Christ-filled world.


4:11-13 And he gave to the Church some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers. This he did that God's consecrated people should be fully equipped, that the work of service might go on, and that the body of Christ should be built up. And this is to go on until we all arrive at complete unity in faith in and knowledge of God. until we reach perfect manhood, until we reach a stature which can be measured by the fullness of Christ.

There is a special interest in this passage because it gives us a picture of the organization and the administration of the early Church. In the early Church there were three kinds of office-bearers. There were a few whose writ and authority ran throughout the whole Church. There were many whose ministry was not confined to one place but who carried out a wandering ministry, going wherever the Spirit moved them. There were some whose ministry was a local ministry confined to the one congregation and the one place.

(i) The apostles were those whose authority ran throughout the whole Church. The apostles included more than the Twelve. Barnabas was an apostle ( Acts 14:4, Acts 14:14). James, the brother of our Lord, was an apostle ( 1 Corinthians 15:7; Galatians 1:19). Silvanus was an apostle ( 1 Thessalonians 2:6). Andronicus and Junias were apostles ( Romans 16:7).

For an apostle there were two great qualifications. First, he must have seen Jesus. When Paul is claiming his own rights in face of the opposition of Corinth, he demands: "Am I not an apostle? Have I not seen Jesus our Lord?" ( 1 Corinthians 9:1). Second, an apostle had to be a witness of the Resurrection and of the Risen Lord. When the eleven met to elect a successor to Judas the traitor, he had to be one who had companied with them throughout the earthly life of Jesus and a witness of the Resurrection ( Acts 1:21-22).

In a sense the apostles were bound to die out, because before so very long those who had actually seen Jesus and who had actually witnessed the Resurrection, would pass from this world. But, in another and still greater sense, the qualification remains. He who would teach Christ must know Christ; and he who would bring the power of Christ to others must have experienced Christ's risen power.

(ii) There were the prophets. The prophets did not so much fore-tell the future as forth-tell the will of God. In forth-telling the will of God, they necessarily to some extent fore-told the future, because they announced the consequences which would follow if men disobeyed that will.

The prophets were wanderers throughout the Church. Their message was held to be not the result of thought and study but the direct result of the Holy Spirit. They had no homes and no families and no means of support. They went from church to church proclaiming the will of God as God had told it to them.

The prophets before long vanished from the Church. There were three reasons why they did so. (a) In times of persecution the prophets were the first to suffer; They had no means of concealment and were the first to die for the faith. (b) The prophets became a problem. As the Church grew local organization developed. Each congregation began to grow into an organization which had its permanent minister and its local administration. Before long the settled ministry began to resent the intrusion of these wandering prophets, who often disturbed their congregations. The inevitable result was that bit by bit the prophets faded out. (c) The office of prophet was singularly liable to abuse. These prophetic wanderers had considerable prestige. Some of them abused their office and made it an excuse for living a very comfortable life at the expense of the congregations whom they visited. The earliest book of church administration is the Didache, The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles, which dates back to just after A.D. 100. In it both the prestige and the suspicion of the prophets is clearly seen. The order for the sacrament is given and the prayers to be used are set out; and then comes the instruction that the prophet is to be allowed to celebrate the sacrament as he will. But there are certain other regulations. It is laid down that a wandering prophet may stay one or two days with a congregation, but if he wishes to stay three days he is a false prophet; it is laid down that if any wandering prophet in a moment of alleged inspiration demands money or a meal, he is a false prophet.

(iii) There were the evangelists. The evangelists, too, were wanderers. They corresponded to what we would call missionaries. Paul writes to Timothy, "Do the work of an evangelist" ( 2 Timothy 4:5). They were the bringers of the good news. They had not the prestige and authority of the apostles who had seen the Lord; they had not the influence of the Spirit-inspired prophets; they were the rank and file missionaries of the Church who took the good news to a world which had never heard it.

(iv) There were the pastors and teachers. It would seem that this double phrase describes one set of people. In one sense they had the most important task in the whole Church: They were not wanderers but were settled and permanent in the work of one congregation. They had a triple function.

(a) They were teachers. In the early Church there were few books. Printing was not to be invented for almost another fourteen hundred years. Every book had to be written by hand and a book the size of the New Testament would cost as much as a whole year's wages for a working man. That meant that the story of Jesus had mainly to be transmitted by word of mouth. The story of Jesus was told long before it was written down; and these teachers had the tremendous responsibility of being the respositories of the gospel story. It was their function to know and to pass on the story of the life of Jesus.

(b) The people who came into the Church were coming straight from heathenism; they knew literally nothing about Christianity, except that Jesus Christ had laid hold upon their hearts. Therefore these teachers had to open out the Christian faith to them. They had to explain the great doctrines of the Christian faith. It is to them that we owe it that the Christian faith remained pure and was not distorted as it was handed down.

(c) These teachers were also pastors. Pastor is the Latin word for a shepherd. At this time the Christian Church was no more than a little island in a sea of paganism. The people who came into it were only one remove from their heathen lives; they were in constant danger of relapsing into heathenism; and the duty of the pastor was to shepherd his flock and keep them safe.

The word is an ancient and an honourable one. As far back as Homeric times Agamemnon the king was called the Shepherd of the People. Jesus had called himself the Good Shepherd ( John 10:11; John 10:14). The writer to the Hebrews called Jesus the great shepherd of the sheep ( Hebrews 13:20). Peter called Jesus the shepherd of men's souls ( 1 Peter 2:25). He called him the Chief Shepherd ( 1 Peter 5:4). Jesus had commanded Peter to tend his sheep ( John 21:16). Paul had warned the elders of Ephesus that they must guard the flock whom God had committed to their care ( Acts 20:28). Peter had exhorted the elders to tend the flock of God ( 1 Peter 5:2).

The picture of the shepherd is indelibly written on the New Testament. He was the man who cared for the flock and led the sheep into safe places; he was the man who sought the sheep when they wandered away and, if need be, died to save them. The shepherd of the flock of God is the man who bears God's people on his heart, who feeds them with the truth, who seeks them when they stray away, and who defends them from all that would hurt their faith. And the duty is laid on every Christian that he should be a shepherd to all his brethren.

THE AIM OF THE OFFICE-BEARER ( Ephesians 4:11-13 continued)

After Paul has named the different kinds of office-bearers within the Church, he goes on to speak of their aim and of what they must try to do.

Their aim is that the members of the Church should be fully equipped. The word Paul uses for equipped is interesting. It is katartismos ( G2677) , which comes from the verb katartizein ( G2675) . The word is used in surgery for setting a broken limb or for putting a joint back into its place. In politics it is used for bringing together opposing factions so that government can go on. In the New Testament it is used of mending nets ( Mark 1:19), and of disciplining an offender until he is fit to take his place again within the fellowship of the Church ( Galatians 6:1). The basic idea of the word is that of putting a thing into the condition in which it ought to be. It is the function of the office-bearers of the Church to see that the members of the Church are so educated, so guided, so cared for, so sought out when they go astray, that they become what they ought to be.

Their aim is that the work of service may go on. The word used for service is diakonia ( G1248) ; and the main idea which lies behind this word is that of practical service. The office-bearer is not to be a man who simply talks on matters of theology and of Church law; he is in office to see that practical service of God's poor and lonely people goes on.

Their aim is to see to it that the body of Christ is built up. Always the work of the office-bearer is construction, not destruction. His aim is never to make trouble, but always to see that trouble does not rear its head; always to strengthen, and never to loosen, the fabric of the Church.

The office-bearer has even greater aims. These may be said to be his immediate aims; but beyond them he has still greater aims.

His aim is that the members of the Church should arrive at perfect unity. He must never allow parties to form in the Church nor do anything which would cause differences in it. By precept and example he must seek to draw the members of the Church into a closer unity every day.

His aim is that the members of the Church should reach perfect manhood. The Church can never be content that her members should live decent. respectable lives; her aim must be that they should be examples of perfect Christian manhood and womanhood.

So Paul ends with an aim without peer. The aim of the Church is that her members should reach a stature which can be measured by the fullness of Christ. The aim of the Church is nothing less than to produce men and women who have in them the reflection of Jesus Christ himself. During the Crimean War Florence Nightingale was passing one night down a hospital ward. She paused to bend over the bed of a sorely wounded soldier. As she looked down, the wounded lad looked up and said: "You're Christ to me." A saint has been defined as "someone in whom Christ lives again." That is what the true Church member ought to be.

GROWING INTO CHRIST ( Ephesians 4:14-16 )

4:14-16 All this must be done so that we should no longer be infants in the faith, wave-tossed and blown hither and thither by every wind of teaching. by the clever trickery of men, by cunning cleverness designed to make us take a wandering way. Instead of that it is all designed to make us cherish the truth in love, and to make us grow in all things into him who is the head--it is Christ I mean. It is from Christ that the whole body is fitted and united together, by means of all the joints which supply its needs, according as each part performs the share of the task allotted to it. It is from him that the body grows and builds itself up in love.

In every Church there are certain members who must be protected. There are those who are like children, they are dominated by a desire for novelty and the mercy of the latest fashion in religion. It is the lesson of history that popular fashions in religion come and go but the Church continues for ever. The solid food of religion is always to be found within the Church.

In every Church there are certain people who have to be guarded against. Paul speaks of the clever trickery of men; the word he uses (kubeia, G2940) means skill in manipulating the dice. There are always those who by ingenious arguments seek to lure people away from their faith. It is one of the characteristics of our age that people talk about religion more than they have done for many years; and the Christian, especially the young Christian, has often to meet the clever arguments of those who are against the Church and against God.

There is only one way to avoid being blown about by the latest religious fashion and to avoid being seduced by the specious arguments of clever men, and that is by continual growth into Christ.

Paul uses still another picture. He says that a body is only healthy and efficient when every part is thoroughly coordinated. Paul says that the Church is like that; and the Church can be like that only when Christ is really the head and when every member is moving under his control, just as every part of a healthy body is obedient to the brain.

The only thing which can keep the individual Christian solid in the faith and secure against seduction, the only thing which can keep the Church healthy and efficient, is an intimate connection with Jesus Christ who is the head and the directing mind of the body.


4:17-24 I say this and I solemnly lay it upon you in the Lord--you must no longer live the kind of life the Gentiles live, for their minds are concerned with empty things; their understandings are darkened; they are strangers from the life God gives, because of the ignorance that is in them and because of the petrifying of their hearts. They have come to a stage when they are past feeling, and in their shameless wantonness they have abandoned themselves to every kind of unclean conduct in the insatiable lust of their desires. But that is not the way that you have learned Christ, if indeed you have really listened to him, and have been taught in him, as the true teaching in Jesus is. You must stop living in your former way of life. You must put off your old manhood, which is perishing, as deceitful desires are bound to make it do. You must be renewed in the spirit of your minds. You must put on the new manhood, created after God's pattern, in righteousness and in true holiness.

Paul appeals to his converts to leave their old way of life and to turn to Christ's. In this passage he picks out what he considers the essential characteristics of heathen life. The heathen are concerned with empty things which do not matter; their minds are darkened because of their ignorance. Then comes the salient word; their hearts are petrified.

The word which Paul uses for the petrifying of their hearts is grim and terrible. It is porosis ( G4457) . Porosis comes from poros, which originally meant a stone that was harder than marble. It came to have certain medical uses. It was used for the chalk stone which can form in the joints and completely paralyse action. It was used of the callus that forms where a bone has been broken and re-set, a callus which is harder than the bone itself. Finally the word came to mean the loss of all power of sensation; it described something which had become so hardened, so petrified that it had no power to feel at all.

That is what Paul says the heathen life is like. It has become so hardened that it has lost the power of feeling. In the Epistle to a Young Friend, Robert Burns wrote about sin:

"I waive the quantum o' the sin,

The hazard of concealing:

But och! it hardens a' within,

And petrifies the feeling!"

The terror of sin is its petrifying effect. The process of sin is quite discernible. No man becomes a great sinner all at once. At first he regards sin with horror. When he sins, there enters into his heart remorse and regret. But if he continues to sin there comes a time when he loses all sensation and can do the most shameful things without any feeling at all. His conscience is petrified.

Paul uses two other terrible Greek words to describe the heathen way of life. He says that they have abandoned themselves to every kind of unclean conduct in the insatiable lust of their desires; and that they have done so in their shameless wantonness.

The word for shameless wantonness is aselgeia ( G766) . It is defined by Plato as "impudence"; and by another writer as "preparedness for every pleasure." It is defined by Basil as "a disposition of the soul incapable of bearing the pain of discipline." The great characteristic of aselgeia ( G766) is this--the bad man usually tries to hide his sin; but the man who has aselgeia ( G766) in his soul does not care how much he shocks public opinion so long as he can gratify his desires. Sin can get such a grip of a man that he is lost to decency and shame. He is like a drug taker who first takes the drug in secret, but comes to a stage when he openly pleads for the drug on which he has become dependent. A man can become such a slave of liquor that he does not care who sees him drunk. A man can let his sexual desires so master him that he does not care who sees him satisfy them.

The Christless man does all this in the insatiable lust of his desires. The word is pleonexia ( G4124) , another terrible word, which the Greeks defined as "arrogant greediness," as "the accursed love of possessing," as "the unlawful desire for the things which belong to others." It has been defined as the spirit in which a man is always ready to sacrifice his neighbour to his own desires. Pleonexia ( G4124) is the irresistible desire to have what we have no right to possess. It might issue in the theft of material things; it might issue in the spirit which tramples on other people to get its own way; it might issue in sexual sin.

In the heathen world, Paul saw three terrible things. He saw men's hearts so petrified that they were not even aware that they were sinning; he saw men so dominated by sin that shame was lost and decency forgotten; he saw men so much at the mercy of their desires that they did not care whose life they injured and whose innocence they destroyed so long as these desires were satisfied. These are exactly the sins of the Christless world today, sins that can be seen invading life at every point and stalking the streets of every great city.

Paul urges his converts to have done with that kind of life. He uses a vivid way of speaking. He says: "Put off your old way of life as you would put off an old suit of clothes; clothe yourself in a new way; put off your sins, and put on the righteousness and the holiness which God can give you."


4:25-32 So then strip yourselves of falsehood, and let each of you speak the truth with his neighbour, because we are all members of the same body. Be angry--but be angry in such a way that your anger is not a sin. Do not let the sun set on your wrath, and do not give the devil any opportunity. Let him who was a thief steal no more; rather let him take to hard work, and to producing good with his hands, in order that he may be able to share with the man who is in need. Do not allow any foul word to issue from your mouth; but let your words be good, designed for necessary edification, that they may bring benefit to those who hear them. Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you are sealed until the day of your redemption comes. Let all bitterness. all outbreaks of passion, all long-lived anger, all loud talking, all insulting language be removed from you with all evil. Show yourselves kind to one another, merciful, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

Paul has just been saying that when a man becomes a Christian, he must put off his old life as a man puts off a coat for which he has no further use. Here he speaks of the things which must be banished from the Christian life.

(i) There must be no more falsehood. There is more than one kind of lie in this world.

There is the lie of speech, sometimes deliberate and sometimes almost unconscious. Dr. Johnson has an interesting bit of advice in regard to the bringing up of children. "Accustom your children constantly to this (the telling of the truth); if a thing happened at one window, and they, when relating it, say that it happened at another, do not let it pass, but instantly check them; you do not know where deviation from truth will end.... It is more from carelessness about truth than from intentional lying, that there is so much falsehood in the world." Truth demands a deliberate effort.

There is also the lie of silence, and maybe it is even commoner. Andre Maurois, in a memorable phrase, speaks of "the menace of things unsaid." It may be that in some discussion a man by his silence gives approval to some course of action which he knows is wrong. It may be that a man withholds warning or rebuke when he knows quite well he should have given it.

Paul gives the reason for telling the truth. It is because we are all members of the same body. We can live in safety only because the senses and the nerves pass true messages to the brain. If they took to passing false messages, if, for instance, they told the brain that something was cool and touchable when in fact it was hot and burning, life would very soon come to an end. A body can function healthily only when each part of it passes true messages to the brain. If then we are all bound into one body. that body can function properly only when we speak the truth.

(ii) There must be anger in the Christian life, but it must be the right kind of anger. Bad temper and irritability are without defence; but there is an anger without which the world would be a poorer place. The world would have lost much without the blazing anger of Wilberforce against the slave trade or of Shaftesbury against the labour conditions of the nineteenth century.

There was a certain rugged bluntness about Dr. Johnson. When he thought a thing was wrong, he said so with force. When he was about to publish the Tour to the Hebrides, Hannah More asked him to mitigate some of its asperities. She tells that his answer was that "he would not cut off his claws, nor make his tiger a cat, to please anybody." There is a place for the tiger in life; and when the tiger becomes a tabby cat, something is lost.

There were times when Jesus was terribly and majestically angry. He was angry when the scribes and Pharisees were watching to see if he would heal the man with the withered hand on the Sabbath day ( Mark 3:5). It was not their criticism of himself at which he was angry; he was angry that their rigid orthodoxy desired to impose unnecessary suffering on a fellow creature. He was angry when he made a whip and drove the changers of money and the sellers of victims from the Temple courts ( John 2:13-17).

F. W. Robertson of Brighton tells in one of his letters that he bit his lips until they bled when he met on the street a certain man whom he knew to be luring a pure young girl to destruction. John Wesley said: "Give me a hundred men who fear nothing but God, and who hate nothing but sin, and who know nothing but Jesus Christ and him crucified, and I will shake the world."

The anger which is selfish and uncontrolled is a sinful and hurtful thing, which must be banished from the Christian life. But the selfless anger which is disciplined into the service of Christ and of our fellow men is one of the great dynamic forces of the world.

THINGS WHICH MUST BE BANISHED FROM LIFE ( Ephesians 4:25-32 continued)

(iii) Paul goes on to say that the Christian must never let the sun set upon his wrath. Plutarch tells us that the disciples of Pythagoras had a rule of their society, that if, during the day, anger had made them speak insultingly to each other, before the sun set they shook hands and kissed each other and were reconciled. There was a Jewish Rabbi whose prayer it was that he might never go to sleep with any bitter thought against a brother man within his mind.

Paul's advice is sound, because the longer we postpone mending a quarrel, the less likely we are ever to mend it. If there is trouble between us and anyone else, if there is trouble in a Church or a fellowship or any society where men meet, the only way to deal with it is at once. The longer it is left to flourish, the more bitter it will grow. If we have been in the wrong, we must pray to God to give us grace to admit that it was so; and even if we have been right, we must pray to God to give us the graciousness which will enable us to take the first step to put matters right.

Along with this phrase Paul puts another command. The Greek can equally well mean two things. It can mean: "Don't give the devil his opportunity." An unhealed breach is a magnificent opportunity for the devil to sow dissension. Many a time a Church has been torn into factions because two people quarrelled and let the sun set upon their wrath. But there is another meaning which this phrase can have. The word for devil in Greek is diabolos ( G1228) ; but diabolos is also the normal Greek for a slanderer. Luther, for instance, took this to mean: "Give the slanderer no place in your life." It may well be that this is the true meaning of what Paul wishes to say. No one in this world can do more damage than the slanderous tale-bearer. As Coleridge wrote in Christabel:

"Alas! they had been friends in youth;

But whispering tongues can poison truth,"

There are reputations murdered over the teacups every day; and when a man sees a tale-bearer coming, he would do well to shut the door in his face.

(iv) The man who was a thief must become an honest workman. This was necessary advice, for in the ancient world thieving was rampant. It was very common in two places, at the docks and above all in the public baths. The public baths were the clubs of the time; and stealing the belongings of the bathers was one of the commonest crimes in any Greek city.

The interesting thing about this saying is the reason Paul gives for being an honest workman. He does not say: "Become an honest workman so that you may support yourself." He says: "Become an honest workman so that you may have something to give away to those who are poorer than yourself." Here is a new idea and a new ideal--that of working in order to give away.

James Agate, tells of a letter from Arnold Bennett, the famous novelist, to a less fortunate writer. Bennett was an ambitious and in many ways a worldly man; but in this letter to a fellow writer whom he hardly knew, he says: "I have just been looking at my bankbook; and I find that I have a hundred pounds which I don't need; I am sending you a cheque herewith for that amount."

In modern society no man has overmuch to give away but we do well to remember the Christian ideal is that we work, not to amass things, but to be able, if need be, to give them away.

(v) Paul forbids all foul-mouthed speaking; and then goes on to put the same thing positively. The Christian should be characterized by words which help his fellow men. As Moffatt translates it, Eliphaz the Temanite paid Job a tremendous compliment. "Your words," he said, "have kept men on their feet" ( Job 4:4). Such are the words that every Christian ought to speak.

(vi) Paul urges us not to grieve the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the guide of life. When we act contrary to the counsel of our parents when we are young, we hurt them. Similarly, to act contrary to the guidance of the Holy Spirit is to grieve the Spirit and to hurt the heart of God, the Father, who, through the Spirit, sent his word to us.

THINGS WHICH MUST BE BANISHED FROM LIFE ( Ephesians 4:25-32 continued)

Paul ends this chapter with a list of things which must go from life.

(a) There is bitterness (pikria, G4088) . The Greeks defined this word as long-standing resentment, as the spirit which refuses to be reconciled. So many of us have a way of nursing our wrath to keep it warm, of brooding over the insults and the injuries which we have received. Every Christian might well pray that God would teach him how to forget.

(b) There are outbreaks of passion (thumos, G2372) and long-lived anger (orge, G3709) . The Greeks defined thumos ( G2372) as the kind of anger which is like the flame which comes from straw; it quickly blazes up and just as quickly subsides. On the other hand, they described orge as anger which has become habitual. To the Christian the burst of temper and the long-lived anger are both alike forbidden.

(c) There is loud talking and insulting language. A certain famous preacher tells how his wife used to advise him, "In the pulpit, keep your voice down." Whenever, in any discussion or argument, we become aware that our voice is raised, it is time to stop. The Jews spoke about what they called "the sin of insult," and maintained that God does not hold him guiltless who speaks insultingly to his brother man.

Lear said of Cordelia:

"Her voice was ever soft,

Gentle and low, an excellent thing in woman."

It would save a great deal of heartbreak in this world if we simply learned to keep our voices down and if, when we had nothing good to say to a person, we did not say anything at all. The argument which has to be supported in a shout is no argument; and the dispute which has to be conducted in insults is not an argument but a brawl.

So Paul comes to the summing up of his advice. He tells us to be kind (chrestos, G5543) . The Greeks defined this quality as the disposition of mind which thinks as much of its neighbours affairs as it does of its own. Kindness has learned the secret of looking outwards all the time, and not inwards. He tells us to forgive others as God forgave us. So, in one sentence, Paul lays down the law of personal relationships--that we should treat others as Jesus Christ has treated us.

-Barclay's Daily Study Bible (NT)

Bibliographical Information
Barclay, William. "Commentary on Ephesians 4:12". "William Barclay's Daily Study Bible". https://www.studylight.org/​commentaries/​dsb/​ephesians-4.html. 1956-1959.

Gann's Commentary on the Bible

Ephesians 4:12

This verse indicates the Purpose of the gifts (Ephesians 4:8-12). For the equipping of the saints for the work of service, ... the building up of the body of Christ. cf. NASB.

For the perfecting -- equipping, maturing, etc.

On the meaning of the word rendered here as “perfecting” - καταρτισμὸν katartismon - It properly refers to “the restoring of anything to its place;” then putting in order, making complete, etc. Here it means that these various officers were appointed in order that everything in the church might be well arranged, or put into its proper place; or that the church might be “complete.”

Louw and Nida, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, vol. 1, p. 680, assert that artios (complete, adequate, fully equipped for the assigned task), with all its different prepositional compounds (epi and kata), are all synonyms (cf. Luke 6:40; 2 Corinthians 13:9, 2 Corinthians 13:11; Ephesians 4:12; 2 Timothy 3:17).

The term "equip" means to cause something to be ready for its assigned purpose. It is used of:

1. broken limbs being healed and made useful again

2. torn fishing nets being mended and thereby able to catch fish

3. ships being fitted with ropes and sails and tacked for sea

4. chicks who had grown large enough to be taken to market

For the work of ministry -- All the "gifts" in the previous verse are engaged in the work of the ministry, though in different ways. In the first century all of these gifts were needed to establish and edify the church.

    Gus Nichols uses the illustration how that in building a great building you need scaffolding to frame up the building. But when the building is completed and is being used, the scaffold is no longer needed. The first century need the inspired apostles and prophets to reveal and teach God’s word. But after the "Faith" [Judges 1:3] had been delivered and contained in inspired NT Scripture, the "frame-work" was no longer required.

    Today we have evangelists, teachers, and elders and deacons to "maintain" the ministry of the church.

to the building up [edifying] of the body of Christ -- Paul mixes his building metaphor (cf. Ephesians 2:20-22) with his body metaphor (cf. Ephesians 1:23; Ephesians 4:12; Ephesians 5:30).

the body of Christ -- The church, Ephesians 1:22-23.

- - - - - - -

IV. Growth - v. 12-16 - Evidence of spiritual growth - v.13

    1. Christ-like minds - v.12

    2. Stability - v.14

    3. Joining truth and love - v.15

        Truth without love is brutal.

        Love without truth is hypocrisy.

    4. Cooperation - v.16

        Joined and knit together. Every part doing its share.

Bibliographical Information
Gann, Windell. "Commentary on Ephesians 4:12". Gann's Commentary on the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/​commentaries/​gbc/​ephesians-4.html. 2021.

Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible

For the perfecting of the saints, c,] The chosen ones, whom God has sanctified or set apart for himself in eternal election: the ministry of the word is designed for the completing the number of these in the effectual calling and for the perfecting of the whole body of the church, by gathering in all that belong to it, and of every particular saint, who is regenerated and sanctified by the Spirit of God: for the best of saints are imperfect; for though there is a perfection in them, as that designs sincerity, in opposition to hypocrisy, and as it may be taken comparatively with respect to what others are, or they themselves were; and though there is a perfection of parts of the new man in them, yet not of degrees; and though there is a complete perfection in Christ, yet not in themselves, their sanctification is imperfect, as their faith, knowledge, love, c. sin is in them, and committed by them, and they continually want supplies of grace and the best of them are sensible of their imperfection, and own it: now the ministration of the word is a means of carrying on the work of grace in them unto perfection, or "for the restoring or joining in of the saints"; the elect of God were disjointed in Adam's fall, and scattered abroad, who were representatively gathered together in one head, even in Christ, in redemption; and the word is the means of the visible and open jointing of them into Christ, and into his churches, and also of restoring them after backslidings:

for the work of the ministry; gifts are given unto men by Christ to qualify them for it: the preaching of the Gospel is a work, and a laborious one, and what no man is sufficient for of himself; it requires faithfulness, and is a good work, and when well performed, those concerned in it are worthy of respect, esteem, and honour; and it is a ministering work, a service and not dominion:

for the edifying the body of Christ; not his natural body the Father prepared for him; nor his sacramental body in the supper; but his mystical body the church; and gifts are bestowed to fit them for the preaching of the Gospel, that hereby the church, which is compared to an edifice, might be built up; and that the several societies of Christians and particular believers might have spiritual edification, and walk in the fear of the Lord, and in the comforts of the Holy Ghost, and their numbers be increased, and their graces be in lively exercise.

Bibliographical Information
Gill, John. "Commentary on Ephesians 4:12". "Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible". https://www.studylight.org/​commentaries/​geb/​ephesians-4.html. 1999.

Henry's Complete Commentary on the Bible

Exhortation to Unity; Persuasives to Unity. A. D. 61.

      2 With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love;   3 Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.   4 There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling;   5 One Lord, one faith, one baptism,   6 One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.   7 But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ.   8 Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men.   9 (Now that he ascended, what is it but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth?   10 He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things.)   11 And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;   12 For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:   13 Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ:   14 That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive;   15 But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ:   16 From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.

      Here the apostle proceeds to more particular exhortations. Two he enlarges upon in this chapter:--To unity an love, purity and holiness, which Christians should very much study. We do not walk worthy of the vocation wherewith we are called if we be not faithful friends to all Christians, and sworn enemies to all sin.

      This section contains the exhortation to mutual love, unity, and concord, with the proper means and motives to promote them. Nothing is pressed upon us more earnestly in the scriptures than this. Love is the law of Christ's kingdom, the lesson of his school, the livery of his family. Observe,

      I. The means of unity: Lowliness and meekness, long-suffering, and forbearing one another in love,Ephesians 4:2; Ephesians 4:2. By lowliness we are to understand humility, entertaining mean thoughts of ourselves, which is opposed to pride. By meekness, that excellent disposition of soul which makes men unwilling to provoke others, and not easily to be provoked or offended with their infirmities; and it is opposed to angry resentments and peevishness. Long-suffering implies a patient bearing of injuries, without seeking revenge. Forbearing one another in love signifies bearing their infirmities out of a principle of love, and so as not to cease to love them on the account of these. The best Christians have need to bear one with another, and to make the best one of another, to provoke one another's graces and not their passions. We find much in ourselves which it is hard to forgive ourselves; and therefore we must not think it much if we find that in others which we think hard to forgive them, and yet we must forgive them as we forgive ourselves. Now without these things unity cannot be preserved. The first step towards unity is humility; without this there will be no meekness, no patience, or forbearance; and without these no unity. Pride and passion break the peace, and make all the mischief. Humility and meekness restore the peace, and keep it. Only by pride comes contention; only by humility comes love. The more lowly-mindedness the more like-mindedness. We do not walk worthy of the vocation wherewith we are called if we be not meek and lowly of heart: for he by whom we are called, he to whom we are called, was eminent for meekness and lowliness of heart, and has commanded us therein to learn of him.

      II. The nature of that unity which the apostle prescribes: it is the unity of the Spirit,Ephesians 4:3; Ephesians 4:3. The seat of Christian unity is in the heart or spirit: it does not lie in one set of thoughts, nor in one form and mode of worship, but in one heart and one soul. This unity of heart and affection may be said to be of the Spirit of God; it is wrought by him, and is one of the fruits of the Spirit. This we should endeavour to keep. Endeavouring is a gospel word. We must do our utmost. If others will quarrel with us, we must take all possible care not to quarrel with them. If others will despise and hate us, we must not despise and hate them. In the bond of peace. Peace is a bond, as it unites persons, and makes them live friendly one with another. A peaceable disposition and conduct bind Christians together, whereas discord and quarrelling disband and disunite their hearts and affections. Many slender twigs, bound together, become strong. The bond of peace is the strength of society. Not that it can be imagined that all good people, and all the members of societies, should be in every thing just of the same length, and the same sentiments, and the same judgment: buy the bond of peace unites them all together, with a non obstante to these. As in a bundle of rods, they may be of different lengths and different strength; but, when they are tied together by one bond, they are stronger than any, even than the thickest and strongest was of itself.

      III. The motives proper to promote this Christian unity and concord. The apostle urges several, to persuade us thereto.

      1. Consider how many unities there are that are the joy and glory of our Christian profession. There should be one heart; for there is one body, and one spirit,Ephesians 4:4; Ephesians 4:4. Two hearts in one body would be monstrous. If there be but one body, all that belong to that body should have one heart. The Catholic church is one mystical body of Christ, and all good Christians make up but one body, incorporated by one charter, that of the gospel, animated by one Spirit, the same Holy Spirit who by his gifts and graces quickens, enlivens, and governs that body. If we belong to Christ, we are all actuated by one and the same Spirit, and therefore should be one. Even as you are called in one hope of your calling. Hope is here put for its object, the thing hoped for, the heavenly inheritance, to the hope of which we are called. All Christians are called to the same hope of eternal life. There is one Christ that they all hope in, and one heaven that they are all hoping for; and therefore they should be of one heart. One Lord (Ephesians 4:5; Ephesians 4:5), that is, Christ, the head of the church, to whom, by God's appointment, all Christians are immediately subject. One faith, that is, the gospel, containing the doctrine of the Christian faith: or, it is the same grace of faith (faith in Christ) whereby all Christians are saved. One baptism, by which we profess our faith, being baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost; and so the same sacramental covenant, whereby we engage ourselves to the Lord Christ. One God and Father of all,Ephesians 4:6; Ephesians 4:6. One God, who owns all the true members of the church for his children; for he is the Father of all such by special relation, as he is the Father of all men by creation: and he is above all, by his essence, and with respect to the glorious perfections of his nature, and as he has dominion over all creatures and especially over his church, and through all, by his providence upholding and governing them: and in you all, in all believers, in whom he dwells as in his holy temple, by his Spirit and special grace. If then there be so many ones, it is a pity but there should be one more--one heart, or one soul.

      2. Consider the variety of gifts that Christ has bestowed among Christians: But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ. Though the members of Christ's church agree in so many things, yet there are some things wherein they differ: but this should breed no difference of affection among them, since they are all derived from the same bountiful author and designed for the same great ends. Unto every one of us Christians is given grace, some gift of grace, in some kind or degree or other, for the mutual help of one another. Unto every one of us ministers is given grace; to some a greater measure of gifts, to others a less measure. The different gifts of Christ's ministers proved a great occasion of contention among the first Christians: one was for Paul, and another for Apollos. The apostle shows that they had no reason to quarrel about them, but all the reason in the world to agree in the joint use of them, for common edification; because all was given according to the measure of the gift of Christ, in such a measure as seemed best to Christ to bestow upon every one. Observe, All the ministers, and all the members of Christ, owe all the gifts and graces that they are possessed of to him; and this is a good reason why we should love one another, because to every one of us is given grace. All to whom Christ has given grace, and on whom he has bestowed his gifts (though they are of different sizes, different names, and different sentiments, yet), ought to love one another. The apostle takes this occasion to specify some of the gifts which Christ bestowed. And that they were bestowed by Christ he makes appear by those words of David wherein he foretold this concerning him (Psalms 68:18), Wherefore he saith (Ephesians 4:8; Ephesians 4:8), that is, the Psalmist saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men. David prophesied of the ascension of Christ; and the apostle descants upon it here, and in the Ephesians 4:9-11. When he ascended up on high. We may understand the apostle both of the place into which he ascended in his human nature, that is, the highest heavens, and particularly of the state to which he was advanced, he being then highly exalted, and eminently glorified, by his Father. Let us set ourselves to think of the ascension of Jesus Christ: that our blessed Redeemer, having risen from the dead, in gone to heaven, where he sits at the right hand of the Majesty on high, which completed the proof of his being the Son of God. As great conquerors, when they rode in their triumphal chariots, used to be attended with the most illustrious of their captives led in chains, and were wont to scatter their largesses and bounty among the soldiers and other spectators of their triumphs, so Christ, when he ascended into heaven, as a triumphant conqueror, led captivity captive. It is a phrase used in the Old Testament to signify a conquest over enemies, especially over such as formerly had led others captive; see Judges 5:12. Captivity is here put for captives, and signifies all our spiritual enemies, who brought us into captivity before. He conquered those who had conquered us; such as sin, the devil, and death. Indeed, he triumphed over these on the cross; but the triumph was completed at his ascension, when he became Lord over all, and had the keys of death and hades put into his hands. And he gave gifts unto men: in the psalm it is, He received gifts for men. He received for them, that he might give to them, a large measure of gifts and graces; particularly, he enriched his disciples with the gift of the Holy Ghost. The apostle, thus speaking of the ascension of Christ, takes notice that he descended first,Ephesians 4:9; Ephesians 4:9. As much as if he had said, "When David speaks of Christ's ascension, he intimates the knowledge he had of Christ's humiliation on earth; for, when it is said that he ascended, this implies that he first descended: for what is it but a proof or demonstration of his having done so?" Into the lower parts of the earth; this may refer either to his incarnation, according to that of David, Psalms 139:15, My substance was not hidden from thee, when I was made in secret, and curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth; or, to his burial, according to that of Psalms 63:9, Those that seek my soul to destroy it shall go into the lower parts of the earth. He calls his death (say some of the fathers) his descent into the lower parts of the earth. He descended to the earth in his incarnation. He descended into the earth in his burial. As Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale's belly, so was the Son of man in the heart of the earth. He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens (Ephesians 4:10; Ephesians 4:10), far above the airy and starry (which are the visible) heavens, into the heaven of heavens; that he might fill all things, all the members of his church, with gifts and graces suitable to their several conditions and stations. Observe, Our Lord humbled himself first, and then he was exalted. He descended first, and then ascended. The apostle next tells us what were Christ's gifts at his ascension: He gave some apostles, c., Ephesians 4:11; Ephesians 4:11. Indeed he sent forth some of these before his ascension, Matthew 10:1-5. But one was then added, Acts 1:26. And all of them were more solemnly installed, and publicly confirmed, in their office, by his visibly pouring forth the Holy Ghost in an extraordinary manner and measure upon them. Note, The great gift that Christ gave to the church at his ascension was that of the ministry of peace and reconciliation. The gift of the ministry is the fruit of Christ's ascension. And ministers have their various gifts, which are all given them by the Lord Jesus. The officers which Christ gave to his church were of two sorts--extraordinary ones advanced to a higher office in the church: such were apostles, prophets, and evangelists. The apostles were chief. These Christ immediately called, furnished them with extraordinary gifts and the power of working miracles, and with infallibility in delivering his truth; and, they having been the witnesses of his miracles and doctrine, he sent them forth to spread the gospel and to plant and govern churches. The prophets seem to have been such as expounded the writings of the Old Testament, and foretold things to come. The evangelists were ordained persons (2 Timothy 1:6), whom the apostles took for their companions in travel (Galatians 2:1), and sent them out to settle and establish such churches as the apostles themselves had planted (Acts 19:22), and, not being fixed to any particular place, they were to continue till recalled, 2 Timothy 4:9. And then there are ordinary ministers, employed in a lower and narrower sphere; as pastors and teachers. Some take these two names to signify one office, implying the duties of ruling and teaching belonging to it. Others think they design two distinct offices, both ordinary, and of standing use in the church; and then pastors are such as are fixed at the head of particular churches, with design to guide, instruct, and feed them in the manner appointed by Christ; and they are frequently called bishops and elders: and the teachers were those whose work it was also to preach the gospel and to instruct the people by way of exhortation. We see here that it is Christ's prerogative to appoint what officers and offices he pleases in his church. And how rich is the church, that had at first such a variety of officers and has still such a variety of gifts! How kind is Christ to his church! How careful of it and of its edification! When he ascended, he procured the gift of the Holy Ghost; and the gifts of the Holy Ghost are various: some have greater, others have less measures; but all for the good of the body, which brings us to the third argument,

      3. Which is taken from Christ's great end and design in giving gifts unto men. The gifts of Christ were intended for the good of his church, and in order to advance his kingdom and interest among men. All these being designed for one common end is a good reason why all Christians should agree in brotherly love, and not envy one another's gifts. All are for the perfecting of the saints (Ephesians 4:12; Ephesians 4:12); that is, according to the import of the original, to bring into an orderly spiritual state and frame those who had been as it were dislocated and disjointed by sin, and then to strengthen, confirm, and advance them therein, that so each, in his proper place and function, might contribute to the good of the whole.--For the work of the ministry, or for the work of dispensation; that is, that they might dispense the doctrines of the gospel, and successfully discharge the several parts of their ministerial function.--For the edifying of the body of Christ; that is, to build up the church, which is Christ's mystical body, by an increase of their graces, and an addition of new members. All are designed to prepare us for heaven: Till we all come, c., Ephesians 4:13; Ephesians 4:13. The gifts and offices (some of them) which have been spoken of are to continue in the church till the saints be perfected, which will not be till they all come in the unity of the faith (till all true believers meet together, by means of the same precious faith) and of the knowledge of the Son of God, by which we are to understand, not a bare speculative knowledge, or the acknowledging of Christ to be the Son of God and the great Mediator, but such as is attended with appropriation and affection, with all due honour, trust, and obedience.--Unto a perfect man, to our full growth of gifts and graces, free from those childish infirmities that we are subject to in the present world.--Unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ, so as to be Christians of a full maturity and ripeness in all the graces derived from Christ's fulness: or, according to the measure of that stature which is to make up the fulness of Christ, which is to complete his mystical body. Now we shall never come to the perfect man, till we come to the perfect world. There is a fulness in Christ, and a fulness to be derived from him; and a certain stature of that fulness, and a measure of that stature, are assigned in the counsel of God to every believer, and we never come to that measure till we come to heaven. God's children, as long as they are in this world, are growing. Dr Lightfoot understands the apostle as speaking here of Jews and Gentiles knit in the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, so making a perfect man, and the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ. The apostle further shows, in the Ephesians 4:14-16, what was God's design in his sacred institutions, and what effect they ought to have upon us. As, (1.) That we henceforth be no more children, c. (Ephesians 4:14; Ephesians 4:14); that is, that we may be no longer children in knowledge, weak in the faith, and inconstant in our judgments, easily yielding to every temptation, readily complying with every one's humour, and being at every one's back. Children are easily imposed upon. We must take care of this, and of being tossed to and fro, like ships without ballast, and carried about, like clouds in the air, with such doctrines as have no truth nor solidity in them, but nevertheless spread themselves far and wide, and are therefore compared to wind. By the sleight of men; this is a metaphor taken from gamesters, and signifies the mischievous subtlety of seducers: and cunning craftiness, by which is meant their skilfulness in finding ways to seduce and deceive; for it follows, whereby they lie in wait to deceive, as in an ambush, in order to circumvent the weak, and draw them from the truth. Note, Those must be very wicked and ungodly men who set themselves to seduce and deceive others into false doctrines and errors. The apostle describes them here as base men, using a great deal of devilish art and cunning, in order thereunto. The best method we can take to fortify ourselves against such is to study the sacred oracles, and to pray for the illumination and grace of the Spirit of Christ, that we may know the truth as it is in Jesus, and be established in it. (2.) That we should speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15; Ephesians 4:15), or follow the truth in love, or be sincere in love to our fellow-christians. While we adhere to the doctrine of Christ, which is the truth, we should live in love one with another. Love is an excellent thing; but we must be careful to preserve truth together with it. Truth is an excellent thing; yet it is requisite that we speak it in love, and not in contention. These two should go together--truth and peace. (3.) That we should grow up into Christ in all things. Into Christ, so as to be more deeply rooted in him. In all things; in knowledge, love, faith, and all the parts of the new man. We should grow up towards maturity, which is opposed to being children. Those are improving Christians who grow up into Christ. The more we grow into an acquaintance with Christ, faith in him, love to him, dependence upon him, the more we shall flourish in every grace. He is the head; and we should thus grow, that we may thereby honour our head. The Christian's growth tends to the glory of Christ. (4.) We should be assisting and helpful one to another, as members of the same body, Ephesians 4:16; Ephesians 4:16. Here the apostle makes a comparison between the natural body and Christ's mystical body, that body of which Christ is the head: and he observes that as there must be communion and mutual communications of the members of the body among themselves, in order to their growth and improvement, so there must be mutual love and unity, together with the proper fruits of these, among Christians, in order to their spiritual improvement and growth in grace. From whom, says he (that is, from Christ their head, who conveys influence and nourishment to every particular member), the whole body of Christians, fitly joined together and compacted (being orderly and firmly united among themselves, every one in his proper place and station), by that which every joint supplies (by the assistance which every one of the parts, thus united, gives to the whole, or by the Spirit, faith, love, sacraments, c., which, like the veins and arteries in the body, serve to unite Christians to Christ their head, and to one another as fellow-members), according to the effectual working in the measure of every part (that is, say some, according to the power which the Holy Ghost exerts to make God's appointed means effectual for this great end, in such a measure as Christ judges to be sufficient and proper for every member, according to its respective place and office in the body or, as others, according to the power of Christ, who, as head, influences and enlivens every member; or, according to the effectual working of every member, in communicating to others of what it has received, nourishment is conveyed to all in their proportions, and according to the state and exigence of every part) makes increase of the body, such an increase as is convenient for the body. Observe, Particular Christians receive their gifts and graces from Christ for the sake and benefit of the whole body. Unto the edifying of itself in love. We may understand this two ways:--Either that all the members of the church may attain a greater measure of love to Christ and to one another; or that they are moved to act in the manner mentioned from love to Christ and to one another. Observe, Mutual love among Christians is a great friend to spiritual growth: it is in love that the body edifies itself; whereas a kingdom divided against itself cannot stand.

Bibliographical Information
Henry, Matthew. "Complete Commentary on Ephesians 4:12". "Henry's Complete Commentary on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/​commentaries/​mhm/​ephesians-4.html. 1706.

Spurgeon's Verse Expositions of the Bible

The Ascension of Christ


A Sermon

(No. 982)

Delivered on Lord's-day Morning, March 26th, 1871 by


At the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington


"Unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ. Wherefore he saith, when he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive and gave gifts unto men. (Now that he ascended, what is it, but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth? He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things.) And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ." Ephesians 4:7-12 .

OUR blessed Lord and Master has gone from us. From the mount of Olives, the place where in dread conflict his garments were rolled in blood, he has mounted in triumph to his throne. After having shown himself for forty days amongst his beloved disciples, giving them abundant evidence that he had really risen from the dead, and enriching them by his divine counsels, he was taken up. Slowly rising before them all, he gave them his blessing as he disappeared. Like good old Jacob, whose departing act was to bestow a benediction on his twelve sons and their descendants, so ere the cloud received our Lord out of our sight, he poured a blessing upon the apostles, who were looking upward, and who were the representatives of his church. He is gone! His voice of wisdom is silent for us, his seat at the table is empty, the congregation on the mountain hears him no more. It would be very easy to have found reasons why he should not have gone. Had it been a matter of choice to us, we should have entreated him to tarry with us till the dispensation closed. Unless, peradventure, grace had enabled us to say: "Not as we will! but as thou wilt," we should have constrained him, saying, "Abide with us." What a comfort to disciples to have their own beloved teacher visibly with them! What a consolation to a persecuted band to see their leader at their head; difficulties would disappear, problems would be solved, perplexities removed, trials made easy, temptations averted! Let Jesus himself, their own dear Shepherd be near, and the sheep will lie down in security. Had he been here we could have gone to him in every affliction, like those of whom it is said, "they went and told Jesus."

It seemed expedient for him to stay, to accomplish the conversion of the world. Would not his presence have had an influence to win by eloquence of gracious word and argument of loving miracle? If he put forth his power the battle would soon be over, and his rule over all hearts would be for ever established. "Thine arrows are sharp in the heart of the king's enemies; whereby the people fall under thee." Go not from the conflict, thou mighty bowman, but still cast thine all-subduing darts abroad. In the days of our Lord's flesh, before he had risen from the dead, he did but speak, and those who came to take him fell to the ground; might we but have him near us no persecuting hand could seize us; at his bidding, the fiercest enemy would retire. His voice called the dead out of their graves; could we but have him still in the church his voice would awaken the spiritually dead. His personal presence would be better to us than ten thousand apostles, at least, so we dream; and we imagine that with him visibly among us the progress of the church would be like the march of a triumphant army.

Thus might flesh and blood have argued, but all such reasoning is hushed by our Lord's declaration, "It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you." He might have told us that his majestic presence was expected by the saints in heaven to complete their felicity; he might have said that for himself it was fitting that after so long an exile and the performance of such stupendous labors, he should rise to his reward; he might also have added that it was due to his Father that he should return into the bosom of his love; but, as if he knew that their trembling at his departure was mainly occasioned by fear for their own personal interests, he puts the consoling word into this form: "It is expedient for you that I go away." He has gone then, and whether our weak understandings are able to perceive it or not, it is better for us that Jesus should be at the right hand of God than here corporeally in our assemblies below. Fain would a hundred Bethanies entertain him, a thousand synagogues would rejoice to see him open the Scriptures; women there are among us who would kiss his feet, and men who would glory to unloose the latchets of his shoes; but he has gotten him away to the mountains of myrrh and the hills of frankincense. He no more sits at our tables, or walks with us on our highways; he is leading another flock to living fountains of waters, and let not his sheep below imagine that he has injured them by his removal; unerring wisdom has declared that it is expedient for us that he is gone.

This morning, instead of standing here gazing up into heaven; like the men of Galilee, deploring that we have lost our Lord, let us sit down in quiet contemplation, and see if we cannot gather profitable redactions from this great thing which has come to pass. Let our meditations ascend the yet glowing trackway of our Lord's ascension,

"Beyond, beyond this lower sky,

Up where eternal ages roll."

We shall, by the Holy Spirit's aid, first consider, with a view to practical good, the fact of his ascension; secondly, the triumph of that ascension; thirdly, the gifts of that ascension; and then we shall conclude by noticing the bearings of that ascension upon the unconverted.

I. First, then, let our earnest thoughts gaze upward, viewing THE FACT OF THE ASCENSION. We lay aside all controversy or attempt at mere doctrinal definition, and desire to meditate upon the ascension with a view to comfort, edification, and soul profit.

It should afford us supreme joy to remember that he who descended into the lower parts of the earth has now "ascended up far above all heavens." The descent was a subject of joy to angels and men, but it involved him in much humiliation and sorrow, especially when, after having received a body which, according to the psalmist, was "curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth," he further descended into the bowels of the earth, and slept as a prisoner in the tomb. His descent on earth, though to us the source of abounding joy, was full of pain, shame, and humiliation to him. In proportion, then, ought to be our joy that the shame is swallowed up in glory, the pain is lost in bliss, the death in immortality. Did shepherds sing at his descent, let all men sing at his rising. Well deserves the warrior to receive glory, for he has dearly won it. Our love of justice and of him compels us to rejoice in his rejoicing. Whatever makes the Lord Jesus glad makes his people glad. Our sympathy with him is most intense; we esteem his reproach above all wealth, and we set equal store by his honor. As we have died with him, were buried with him in baptism, have also risen with him through the faith of the operation of God who raised him from the dead, so also have we been made to sit together in the heavenly places, and have obtained an inheritance. If angels poured forth their sweetest minstrelsy when the Christ of God returned to his royal seat, much more should we. Those celestial beings had but slight share in the triumphs of that day compared with us; for it was a man who led captivity captive, it was one born of woman who returned victoriously from Bozrah. We may well say with the psalmist, in the sixty-eighth Psalm, to which our text refers, "Let the righteous be glad; let them rejoice before God: yea, let them exceedingly rejoice. Sing unto God, sing praises to his name: extol him that rideth upon the heavens by his name JAH, and rejoice before him." It was none other than Christ, bone of our bone and flesh of our flesh; it was the second Adam who mounted to his glory. Rejoice, O believers, as those who shout because of victory, divide ye the spoil with the strong.

"Bruised is the serpent's head,

Hell is vanquished, death is dead,

And to Christ gone up on high,

Captive is captivity.

All his work and warfare done,

He into his heaven is gone,

And beside his Father's throne,

Now is pleading for his own:

Sing, O heavens! O earth, rejoice!

Angel harp and human voice,

Round him, in his glory, raise

Your ascended Savior's praise."

Reflect yet again that from the hour when our Lord left it, this world has lost all charms to us. If he were in it, there were no spot in the universe which would hold us with stronger ties; but since he has gone up he draws us upward from it. The flower is gone from the garden, the first ripe fruit is gathered. Earth's crown has lost its brightest jewel, the star is gone from the night, the dew is exhaled from the morning, the sun is eclipsed at noon. We have heard of some who, when they lost a friend or favourite child never smiled again, for nothing could supply the dreary vacuum. To us it could not be that any affliction should bring us such grief, for we have learned to be resigned to our Father's will; but the fact that "Jesus, our all, to heaven is gone," has caused something of the same feeling in our souls; this world can never be our rest now, its power to content us is gone. Joseph is no more in Egypt, and it is time for Israel to be gone. No, earth, my treasure, is not here with thee, neither shall my heart be detained by thee. Thou art, O Christ, the rich treasure of thy people, and since thou art gone thy people's hearts have climbed to heaven with thee.

Flowing out of this is the great truth that "our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ." Brethren, inasmuch as Christ is gone our life is hid with him in God. To the glory-land our Head is gone, and the life of the members is there. Since the head is occupied with things celestial, let not the members of the body be grovelling as slaves to terrestrial things. "If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth." Our Bridegroom has gone into the ivory palaces, he dwelleth in the midst of his brethren; do we not hear him calling us to commune with him? Hear ye not his voice, "Rise up my love, my fair one, and come away"? Though awhile our bodies linger here, let our spirits even now walk the golden streets, and behold the King in his beauty. Begin, O faithful souls, to-day the occupation of the blessed, praising God even while ye linger yet below, and honoring him if not by the same modes of service as the perfect ones above, yet with the same obedient delight. "Our conversation is in heaven." May you and I know what that means to the full. May we take up our celestial burgess-rights, exercise our privileges and avocations as heavenly citizens, and live as those that are alive from the dead, who are raised up together and made partakers of his resurrection life. Since the head of the family is in the glory, let us by faith perceive how near we are to it, and by anticipation live upon its joys and in its power. Thus the ascension of our Lord will remind us of heaven, and teach us the holiness which is our preparation for it.

Our Lord Jesus Christ has gone from us. We return again to the thought. We cannot speak into his ear and hear his voice reply in those dear accents with which he spoke to Thomas and to Philip. He no longer sits at feasts of love with favored friends, such as Mary and Martha and Lazarus. He has departed out of this world unto the Father, and what then? Why he has taught us by this the more distinctly, that we must henceforth walk by faith and not by sight. The presence of Jesus Christ on earth would have been, to a great extent, a perpetual embargo upon the life of faith. We should all have desired to see the Redeemer; but since, as man, he could not have been omnipresent, but could only have been in one spot at one time, we should have made it the business of our lives to provide the means for journey to the place where he might be seen; or if he himself condescended to journey through all lands, we should have fought our way into the throng to feast our eyes upon him, and we should have envied each other when the turn came for any to speak familiarly with him. Thank God we have no cause for clamor or strife or struggle about the mere sight of Jesus after the flesh; for though once he was seen corporeally by his disciples, yet now after the flesh know we even him no more. Jesus is no more seen of human eyes; and it is well, for faith's sight is saving, instructing, transforming, and mere natural sight is not so. Had he been here we should have regarded much more the things which are visible, but now our hearts are taken up with the things which are not seen, but which are eternal. This day we have no priest for eyes to gaze upon, no material altar, no temple made with hands, no solemn rites to satisfy the senses; we have done with the outward and are rejoicing in the inward. Neither in this mountain nor in that do we worship the Father, but we worship God, who is a Spirit, in spirit and in truth. We now endure as seeing him who is invisible; whom, having not seen, we love; in whom, though now we see him not, yet believing, we rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory. In the same fashion as we walk towards our Lord, so walk we towards all that he reveals; we walk by faith, not by sight. Israel, in the wilderness, instructed by types and shadows, was ever prone to idolatry; the more there is of the visible in religion, the more is there of difficulty in the attainment of spirituality. Even baptism and the Lord's Supper, were they not ordained by the Lord himself, might be well given up, since the flesh makes a snare of them, and superstition engrafts on them baptismal regeneration and sacramental efficacy. Our Lord's presence might thus have become a difficulty to faith, though a pleasure to sense. His going away leaves a clear field for faith; it throws us necessarily upon a spiritual life, since he who is the head, the soul, the center of our faith, hope, and love is no more within the range of our bodily organs. It is poor believing which needs to put its finger into the nail-prints; but blessed is he that hath not seen and yet hath believed. In an unseen Savior we fix our trust, from an unseen Savior we derive our joy. Our faith is now the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

Let us learn this lesson well, and let it never be said to us, "Are ye so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh?" Let us never attempt to live by feeling and evidence. Let us banish from our soul all dreams of finding perfection in the flesh, and equally let us discard all cravings for signs and wonders. Let us not be like the children of Israel, who only believed while they saw the works of the Lord. If our Beloved has hidden himself from our sight, let him even hide everything else, if so it pleases him. If he only reveals himself to our faith, the eye which is good enough to see him with is good enough to see everything else with, and we will be content to see his covenant blessings, and all else with that one eye of faith, and no other, till the time shall come when he shall change our faith to sight.

Beloved, let us further reflect how secure is our eternal inheritance now that Jesus has entered into the heavenly places. Our heaven is secured to us, for it is in the actual possession of our legal representative, who can never be dispossessed of it. Possession is nine points of the law, but it absolutely secures completely our tenure under the gospel. He who possesses a covenant blessing shall never lose it, for the covenant cannot be changed, nor its gifts withdrawn. We are heritors of the heavenly Canaan by actual hold and sure title, for our legal representative, appointed by the highest court of judicature, has entered into possession and actual occupancy of the many mansions of the great Father's house. He has not merely taken possession, but he is making all ready for our reception and eternal inhabitation. A man who enters a house and claims it, if he has any question about his rights, will not think of preparing it for the inhabitants, he will leave any expenditure of that kind till all doubts are cleared up: but our good Lord has taken such possession of the city of the new Jerusalem for us, that he is daily preparing it for us, that where he is we may be also. If I could send to heaven some mere human being like myself to hold my place for me till my arrival, I should fear that my friend might lose it: but since my Lord, the King of heaven and the Master of angels, has gone thither to represent all his saints and claim their places for them, I know that my portion is secure. Rest content, beloved, and sing for joy as the apostle's heart did when he wrote "In whom also we have obtained an inheritance."

Further, if Jesus has gone into the glory, how successful must our prayers be. You send a petition to court, and you hope for its success, for it is drawn up in proper style, and it has been countersigned by an influential person; but when the person who has backed your plea for you is himself at court, to take the petition and present it there, you feel safer still. To-day our prayers do not only receive our Savior; imprimatur, but they are presented by his own hand, as his own requests. "Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God," "let us come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need." No prayer which Jesus urges can ever be dismissed unheard, that case is safe for which he is advocate.

"Look up, my soul, with cheerful eye

See where the great Redeemer stands;

The glorious Advocate on high,

With precious incense in his hands.

He sweetens every humble groan,

He recommends each broken prayer;

Recline thy hope on him alone,

Whose power and love forbid despair."

Once more, though I feel this theme might detain us long, we must leave it, and remark further that, as we consider Christ ascended, our hearts burn within us at the thought that he is the type of all his people. As he was, so are we also in this world; and as he is, so shall we also be. To us also there remain both a resurrection and an ascension. Unless the Lord come very speedily, we shall die as he did, and the sepulcher shall receive our bodies for awhile; there is for us a tomb in a garden, or a rest in the Machpelah of our fathers. For us there are winding-sheets and grave-clothes; yet like our Lord we shall burst the bonds of death, for we cannot be holden of them. There is a resurrection morning for us, because there was a rising again for him. Death could as soon have held the head as the members; the prison doors once taken away, post and bar and all, the captives are set free. Then when we have risen from the dead at the blast of the archangel's trumpet, we shall ascend also, for is it not written that we shall be caught up together with the Lord in the air, and so shall be for ever with the Lord? Have courage, brother; that glittering road up to the highest heavens, which Christ has trodden, you too must tread; the triumph which he enjoyed shall be yours in your measure. You, too, shall lead your captivity captive, and amidst the acclamations of angels you shall receive the "well done" of the ever-blessed Father, and shall sit with Jesus on his throne, even as he has overcome and sits with the Father upon his throne.

I have rather given you suggestions for meditation than the meditations themselves. May the Holy Spirit bless them to you; and as you in imagination sit down on Olivet and gaze into the pure azure, may the heavens open to you, and, like Stephen, may you see the Son of Man at the right hand of God.

II. Let us advance to the second point, and dwell upon it very briefly THE TRIUMPH OF THE ASCENSION. Psalmists and apostles have delighted to speak upon our Lord's triumphal ascension to the hill of the Lord. I shall not attempt to do more than refer to what they have said. Call to your minds how the Psalmist in vision saw the Savior's ascension, and, in the twenty-fourth Psalm, represented the angels as saying: "Lift up your heads, O ye gates; and be ye lift up, ye everlasting doors; and the King of glory shall come in. Who is this King of glory? The Lord strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle." The scene is described in rich poetic imagery of the most sublime kind, and it evidently teaches us that when our Savior left the sight of mortals, he was joined by bands of spirits, who welcomed him with acclamations and attended him in solemn state as he entered the metropolis of the universe. The illustration which has usually been given is, I think, so good that we cannot better it. When generals and kings returned from war, in the old Roman ages, they were accustomed to celebrate a triumph; they rode in state through the streets of the capital, trophies of their wars were carried with them, the inhabitants crowded to the windows, filled the streets, thronged the house-tops, and showered down acclamations and garlands of flowers upon the conquering hero as he rode along. Without being grossly literal, we may conceive some such a scene as that attending our Lord's return to the celestial seats. The sixty-eighth Psalm is to the same effect: "The chariots of God are twenty thousand, even thousands of angels: the Lord is among them, as in Sinai, in the holy place. Thou hast ascended on high, thou hast led captivity captive: thou hast received gifts for men; yea, for the rebellious also, that the Lord God might dwell among them." So also in Psalm forty-seven: "God is gone up with a shout, the Lord with the sound of a trumpet." Angels and glorified spirits, saluted our returning champion; and, leading captivity captive, he assumed the mediatorial throne amidst universal acclamations. "having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a show of them openly triumphing over them in it."

Our Lord's ascension was a triumph over the world. He had passed through it unscathed by its temptations; he had been solicited on all hands to sin, but his garments were without spot or blemish. There was no temptation which had not been tried upon him, the quivers of the earth had been emptied against him, but the arrows had glanced harmlessly from his armor of proof. They had persecuted him relentlessly; he had been made to suffer all that cruel scorn could invent, but he came forth from the furnace with not the smell of fire upon him. He had endured death itself with love unquenched and courage invincible. He had conquered by enduring all. As he rose he was infinitely beyond their reach; though they hated him no less than before, he had been forty days amongst them, and yet no hand was outstretched to arrest him. He had shown himself openly in divers places, and yet not a dog dare move his tongue. In the clear air, from far above the hills of Salem, he who was once tempted in the desert, looked down upon the kingdoms of the earth, which had been shown him by Satan as the price of sin, and reserved them all as his own by right of merit. He rises above all, for he is superior to all. As the world could not injure his character by its temptations, so no longer could it touch his person by its malice. He has defeated altogether this present evil world.

There, too, he led captive sin. Evil had assailed him furiously, but it could not defile him. Sin had been laid upon him, the weight of human guilt was borne upon his shoulders, it crushed him down, but he rose from the dead, he ascended into heaven, and proved that he had shaken off the load, and left it buried in his sepulcher. He has abolished the sins of his people; his atonement has been so efficacious that no sin is upon him, the Surety, and certainly none remains upon those for whom he stood as substitute. Though once the Redeemer stood in the place of the condemned, he has so suffered the penalty that he is justified now, and his atoning work is finished for ever. Sin, my brethren, was led captive at our Immanuel's chariot-wheels when he ascended.

Death also was led in triumph. Death had bound him, but he snapped each fetter, and bound death with his own cords.

"Vain the stone, the water, the seal,

Christ has burst the gates of hell;

Death in vain forbids his rise,

Christ hath opened paradise.

Lives again our glorious King!

'Where, O death, is now thy sting?'

Once he died our souls to save;

'Where's thy victory, boasting grave?'"

Our Savior's ascension in that same body which descended into the lower parts of the earth, is so complete a victory over death, that every dying saint may be sure of immortality, and may leave his body behind without fear that it shall for ever abide in the vaults of the grave.

So, too, Satan, was utterly defeated! He had thought that he should overcome the seed of the woman when he had bruised his heel, but lo! as the conqueror mounts aloft, he breaks the dragon's head beneath his feet. See ye not the celestial coursers as they drag the war chariot of the Prince of the house of David up the everlasting hills! He comes who has fought the prince of darkness! Lo! he has bound him in iron fetters. See how he drags him at his chariot wheels, amidst the derision of all those pure spirits who retained their loyalty to the almighty King! Oh, Satan! thou wast worsted then! Thou didst fall like lightning from heaven when Christ ascended to his throne.

Brethren in Christ, everything that makes up our captivity Christ has led captive. Moral evil he has defeated, the difficulties and trials of this mortal life he has virtually overcome. There is nothing in heaven, or earth, or hell, that can be thought to be against us which now remaineth, he hath taken all away. The law he hath fulfilled; its curse he hath removed: the handwriting against us, he hath nailed to his cross. All foes of ours he hath made a show of openly. What joy there is to us in this triumph! What bliss to be interested in it by the gift of faith in him!

III. We may now turn to consider THE GIFTS OF THE ASCENSION. Our Lord ascended on high, and gave gifts to men. What were these gifts which he both received from God and gave to men? Our text says that he ascended that he might fill all things. I do not think this alludes to his omnipresence in that respect he does fill all things; but allow me to explain, as I receive it, the meaning of the passage, by a very simple figure. Christ descended into the lowest parts of the earth, and thereby he laid the foundations of the great temple of God's praise: he continued in his life laboring, and thereby he built the walls of his temple: he ascended to his throne, and therein he laid the topstone amidst shoutings. What remained then? It remained to furnish it with inhabitants, and the inhabitants with all things necessary for their comfort and perfection. Christ ascended on high that he might do that. In that sense the gift of the Spirit fills all things, bringing in the chosen, and furnishing all that is necessary for their complete salvation. The blessings which come to us through the ascension, are "for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ."

Observe next, that these filling blessings of the ascension are given to all the saints. Does not the first verse of our text say: "Unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ." The Holy Spirit is the particular benediction of the ascension, and the Holy Spirit is in measure given to all truly regenerated persons. You have all, my brethren, some measure of the Holy Spirit; some more; some less but whatever you have of the Holy Spirit comes to you, because Christ, when he ascended up on high, received gifts for men, that the Lord God might dwell among them. Every Christian having the gift of Christ in his measure, is bound to use it for the general good; for in a body no joint or member exists for itself, but for the good of the whole. You, brother, whether you have much grace or little, must, according to the effectual working in you, supply your part to the increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love. See that ye regard your gifts in this light; trace them to Christ, and then use them for the object for which he designed them.

But to some persons the Holy Spirit is given more largely. As the result of the ascension of Christ into heaven the church received apostles, men who were selected as witnesses because they had personally seen the Savior an office which necessarily dies out, and properly so, because the miraculous power also is withdrawn. They were needed temporarily, and they were given by the ascended Lord as a choice legacy. Prophets, too, were in the early church. They were needed as a link between the glories of the old and new covenant; but each prophetic gift came from the Spirit through the Redeemer's ascent to glory. There remain rich gifts among us still, which I fear we do not sufficiently prize. Among men God's richest gifts are men of high vocation, separated for the ministry of the gospel. From our ascended Lord come all true evangelists; these are they who preach the gospel in divers places, and find it the power of God unto salvation; they are founders of churches, breakers of new soil, men of a missionary spirit, who build not on other men's foundations, but dig out for themselves. We need many such deliverers of the good news where as yet the message has not been heard. I scarcely know of any greater blessing to the church than the sending forth of earnest, indefatigable, anointed men of God, taught of the Lord to be winners of souls. Who among us can estimate the value of George Whitfield to the age in which he lived? Who shall ever calculate the price of a John Williams or a William Knibb? Whitfield was, under God, the salvation of our country, which was going down straight to Pandemonium; Williams reclaimed the islands of the sea from cannibalism, and Knibb broke the negro's chains. Such evangelists as these are gifts beyond all price. Then come the pastors and teachers, doing one work in different forms. These are sent to feed the flock; they abide in one place, and instruct converts which have been gathered these also are invaluable gifts of the ascension of Jesus Christ. It is not given unto all men to be pastors, nor is it needed; for if all were shepherds, where were the flock? Those to whom this grace is especially given are fitted to lead and instruct the people of God, and this leading is much required. What would the church be without her pastors? Let those who have tried to do without them be a warning to you.

Wherever you have pastors or evangelists they exist for the good of the church of God. They ought to labor for that end, and never for their own personal advantage. Their power is their Lord's gift, and it must be used in his way.

The point I want to come at is this. Dear friends, since we all, as believers, have some measure of the Spirit, let us use it. Stir up the gift that is in thee. Be thou not like to him in the parable who had but one talent and hid it in a napkin. Brother, sister, if thou be in the body the least known joint, rob not the body by indolence or selfishness, but use the gift thou hast in order that the body of Christ may come to its perfection. Yet since thou hast not great personal gifts, serve the church by praying the Lord who has ascended to give us more evangelists, pastors, and teachers. He alone can give them; any that come without him are imposters. There are some prayers you must not pray, there are others you may pray, but there are a few you must pray. There is a petition which Christ has commanded us to offer, and yet I very seldom hear it. It is this one. "Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth laborers into his harvest." We greatly lack evangelists and pastors. I do not mean that we lack muffs, who occupy the pulpits and empty the pews. I believe the market has for many years been sufficiently supplied therewith; but we lack men who can stir the heart, arouse the conscience, and build up the church. The scatterers of flocks may be found everywhere; the gatherers of them, how many have we of such? Such a man at this day is more precious than the gold of Ophir. The Queen can make a bishop of the Established Church, but only the ascended Lord can send a bishop to the true church. Prelates, popes, cardinals, vicars, prebends, canons, deans, the Lord has nothing to do with. I see not even the name of them in his word, but the very poorest pastor whom the Lord ordains is a gift of his ascending glory. At this moment we are deploring that in the mission field our good men are grey. Duff, Moffat, and the like, are passing from the stage of action. Where are their successors? I was almost about to say, Echo answers, Where? We want evangelists for India, for China, for all the nations of the earth; and though we have many godly fathers among us, who are instructors in the faith, yet have we in all our pastorates few of eminence, who could be mentioned in the same day as the great Puritanic divines. If the ministry should become weak and feeble among us, the church richly deserves it, for this, the most important part of her whole organisation, has been more neglected than anything else. I thank God this church has not only prayed for ministers, but has proved the sincerity of her prayer by helping such as God has called, by affording them leisure and assistance for understanding the way of God more perfectly. We have thought that Christ's gifts were valuable enough for us to treasure up and improve them. Our College has now received and sent forth, in the name of Jesus, more than two hundred ministers of the word. Look around you and see how few churches care to receive the ascension gifts of Christ, and how few pastors encourage young men to preach. I read the other day, with unutterable horror, the complaint that our churches were like to have too many ministers; an almost blasphemous complaint, impugning the value of Christ's ascension gifts. O that God would give us ten times the number of men after his own heart, and surely there would be then great lack of more! But there are too many, say they, for the present pulpits. Oh, miserable soul is it come to this, that a minister of Christ must have a pulpit ready to hand? Are we all to be builders on other men's foundations? Have we none among us who can gather their own flocks? In a three million city like this can any man say that laborers for Christ are too many? Loiterers are too many, doubtless; and when the church drives out the drones, who shall pity them? While there remain hundreds of towns and villages without a Baptist church, and whole districts of other lands without the gospel, it is idle to dream that of evangelists and teachers we can have too many. No man is so happy in his work as he who presides over a flock of his own gathering, and no pastor is more beloved than he who raised from ruin a destitute church and made it to become a joy and praise in the earth. Pray the Lord to send true pastors and true evangelists. Christ procured them by his ascension. Let us not forget this. What! shall it be thought that the blessings of the crucifixion are worth the having, and the blessings of the resurrection worth receiving, but the blessings of the ascension are to be regarded with indifference or even with suspicion? No; let us prize the gifts which God gives by his Son, and when he sends us evangelists and pastors, let us treat them with loving respect. Honour Christ in every true minister; see not so much the man as his Master in him. Trace all gospel success to the ascended Savior. Look to Christ for more successful workers. As they come receive them from his hands, when they come treat them kindly as his gifts, and daily pray that the Lord will send to Zion mighty champions of the faith.

IV. We shall conclude by noticing THE BEARING OF OUR LORD'S ASCENSION UPON sinners.

We will utter few words, but full of comfort. Did you notice in the sixty-eighth Psalm the words: "He received gifts for men; yea, for the rebellious also"? When the Lord went back to his throne he had thoughts of love towards rebels still. The spiritual gifts of the church are for the good of the rebels as well as for the building up of those who are reconciled. Sinner, every true minister exists for thy good, and all the workers of the church have an eye to you.

There are one or two promises connected with our Lord's ascension which show his kindness to you: "I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me." An ascended Savior draws you run after him. Here is another word of his: "He is exalted on high." To curse? No; "to give repentance and remission of sins." Look up to the glory into which he has entered; ask for repentance and remission. Do ye doubt his power to save you? Here is another text: "He is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them." Surely he has gone to heaven for you as well as for the saints. You ought to take good heart, and put your trust in him at this happy hour.

How dangerous it will be to despise him! They who despised him in his shame perished. Jerusalem became a field of blood because it rejected the despised Nazarene. What will it be to reject the King, now that he has taken to himself his great power? Remember, that this same Jesus who is gone up to heaven, will so come in like manner as he was seen to go up into heaven. His return is certain, and your summons to his bar equally certain; but what account can you give if you reject him? O come and trust him this day. Be reconciled to him lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way while his wrath is kindled but a little. The Lord bless you, and grant you a share in his ascension. Amen, and Amen.


PORTIONS OF SCRIPTURE READ BEFORE Sermon Psalms 68:1-19 ; Ephesians 4:1-16 .

Bibliographical Information
Spurgeon, Charle Haddon. "Commentary on Ephesians 4:12". "Spurgeon's Verse Expositions of the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/​commentaries/​spe/​ephesians-4.html. 2011.

Kelly Commentary on Books of the Bible

In this epistle we have the unfolding of the grace of God in all its fulness, not merely the application of His righteousness to man's need on His part, but God from out of Himself, and for Himself, as the adequate motive and object before Him, even His own glory. Hence it is that righteousness disappears in this epistle. We have had the gospel thus in all the epistles that have gone before. In Romans, in 1st and 2nd Corinthians, and in Galatians righteousness was largely used. It was developed in a positive and comprehensive way, as in Romans. It was brought in either to convict the Corinthians of their utter departure through the spirit of the world, the flesh taking that shape, or it was brought in triumphantly on their restoration. Again, by it the apostle, writing to the Galatians, vindicated God's ways with man, and set the Christian outside the law.

But in Ephesians the aim is of a much more absolute and direct character. It is not the wants of man in any sense, either positively or negatively. Here God from Himself and for Himself is acting according to the riches of His own grace. Accordingly the very opening brings before us this astonishingly elevated manner of presenting the great truth with which the apostle's heart was filled. "Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God." (Ephesians 1:1) It was pre-eminently for this that he had been chosen as an apostle; and he represents his apostleship not here as a question of calling, but "by the will of God:" everything in this epistle flows from the will of God; "to the saints which are at Ephesus, and to the faithful in Christ Jesus."

Although about to show us what the church is in its heavenly blessing, that is, in its highest associations, he always begins with the individual. This was peculiarly needed. The tendency is ever to set aside what is personal for that which is corporate. The epistle to the Ephesians truly understood will help none so to do. It may be perverted to this or anything else; but so far is our corporate place from being put in the foreground that we do not hear one word about the assembly as such till the close of the first chapter. Only in verse 22 is the church even named for the first time, where it is said God has given Christ "to be the head over all things to the church." But up to this the saints are contemplated as such. The moral order of this is exceedingly beautiful. In the admirable wisdom and grace of God it is the direct setting aside of that which is found in all earthly systems, where the individual is merely a portion of a vast body which arrogates to itself the highest claims. It is not so in the word of God. There the individual blessing of the soul has the first place. God would have us set thoroughly clear and intelligently appreciating our individual place and relation to Himself. Where these are made and kept right, we can then safely follow what God will show us in due time, but not otherwise.

As usual the apostle salutes the saints with the best wishes for their blessing. "Grace be to you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ." Then, without delay, the next verses introduce a general view of the glorious topic that occupied him. "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ." It is God in His proper nature, and in His relationship to Jesus. He is the God of Jesus; He is the Father of Jesus. But the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ "hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ." It is not carnal blessing such as was in measure given under the law to Israel, and will be under the new covenant by and by; it is spiritual blessing. The earth is their sphere; it is there that Israel looks to be blessed, and the Gentiles somewhat farther off, but all in the ordered blessing of the Most High God. Altogether differently here "the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ" has blessed us where Christ is on high. There is no place good enough for Christ the Son but heaven. There it is God Himself displays most His own glory; there He displays Christ Himself to all the heavenly hosts, delighting to put honour on that Man whom He raised from the dead and set at His own right hand. it is there not merely that He means to bless us, but that He has blessed us already. Such is the character of our blessing, and such its seat. The character is spiritual, the seat heavenly; and as the whole is given by the God and Father of our Lord Jesus, so it is secured in Christ.

In the next verse the apostle opens out that which is move particularly connected with "the God of our Lord Jesus Christ." "According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love." If "the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ" has blessed us with every spiritual blessing above in Christ, this is the first need to have a nature capable of communion with His God, to have a condition that would do no dishonour, not only to the highest sphere, but to the holiest form and sphere in which God has ever made, Himself known. This is the nature that is given to the believer now. But it is not merely a thing imparted. The special point before the apostle's mind is that this was the choice of God before the world, in which we are brought to know the infinite blessing. It was entirely unconnected with the world. Far different was Israel's case, however favoured as a nation. They were chosen in time. Not only were they called in time as we have been, but they were chosen in time, which we were not. The choice of the saints for heavenly blessedness was before the creation of the universe, before the foundation of the world.

This gives a very peculiar character to our blessedness. It is altogether independent of the old creation, of that which might fail and pass away. It was a choice of God Himself before there was any creature responsible or dependent. God made known His choice, not when the creature was to be proved, but when it had failed to the uttermost; but the choice itself was decided on by God Himself before the creature came into being. It is the moral answer to what was shown in Christ, "that we should be holy and without blame before him in love." Indeed, these are the very qualities of God Himself. He is holy in nature, and blameless in His ways. Man may cavil and murmur now in unbelief; but God will vindicate them every one when man shall be silent for ever. Besides, there is love, the activity, as well as, the moral qualities, of His being. Love it is which, as it were, puts all in movement that belongs to God. It is not something extraneous that acts on God as a motive, but His own love flowing out from Himself according to His holy nature, and in perfect consistency with His character and ways.

This is the moral nature which God confers on us who are born of Him. This and nothing less or else is what He chooses us to be before Him chooses us to be in Christ in His own sight, and therefore with the fullest certainty that it shall be according to His own mind. It is not merely in the presence of an angel, still less before the world. Angels are not adequate judges of what pertains to us; they may be witnesses, but not judges. God Himself is acting for His own glory and according to His own love. But then the possession of a nature capable of communing with God did not and could not satisfy. He would have something more. What could this possibly be? Is He not satisfied with giving us a nature like His own? No, not even so, and for this reason God has relationships, and these relationships are shown in Jesus just as much as His nature is. If we want to know what the holiness, and blamelessness, and love of God is, we must look at Him; but in the same way also, if we desire to know what are the relationships into which God puts those He loves, where shall we find the highest? Certainly not in the first man Adam. Israel's was at best a mere creature relationship, though, no doubt, having a special place in creation. Of all the creatures that live and breathe, man is the only one on earth that became a living soul by the breath of the Lord God, who, as it is written, breathed into his nostrils the breath of life. That is, there is a creative connection between God and man which is the source of man's moral relations with God, and the reason why man, and man alone of all creatures on the earth, shall live again and give an account of himself to God.

But in that which comes before us in our epistle, it is not a question even of the highest creature on earth one that was called to have dominion on earth, and be the image and glory of God here below. God had in view One infinitely above man; and yet He was a man. It was Jesus; and Jesus stood in what was altogether peculiar in a relationship that was perfectly according to God's counsels; but more than that, according to a relationship that was peculiar to His own person. There was counsel, but besides there was intrinsic glory altogether independent of any plans of conferred honour. In other words, the Son of God never was made the Son, He is never even called the child ( τέκνον ) of God.* To us, to be called children of God is more intimate than to be styled His sons; but it would derogate from the Lord. Jesus is never called a child in the sense in which I am now speaking He has His own relationship to the Father eternally. To us it is more to be born of the very nature of God, than to be sons adopted into the family of God. There might be an adopted son without the nature. One might be altogether a stranger to him that adopts. But in Jesus, the Son of God, there was this character of Son in His own title and being from everlasting. Need I say that this is altogether above human comprehension? Yet nothing is more certain than that God so speaks to our faith. Were there an interval of one instant between the Father and the Son, did the Father exist in any respect before the Son as such, all the truth of God as revealed in the Bible perishes. He to whom I look up, by and in whom alone I can know God and the Father, is God Himself Let the notion of time come into the conception given of Godhead and of the persons Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, and all would be falsehood and confusion. The Son would be a creature not self-subsisting, not therefore truly God. For if God, He is as such not less truly God than the Father; for there can be no difference as to Godhead. As the Father is everlasting, so is the Son. The relationship in the Godhead has nothing to do with the question of time; and the great mistake that has been wrought by all human philosophy is from introducing notions of time where time can have no place whatever.

* The Lord Jesus is repeatedly called παῖς , translated "son" and "child" in the English version of the Acts of the Apostles, but more properly God's servant as Messiah.

Thus in the Godhead there are the relationships of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. But I confine myself now to the relationship of the Son to the Father from everlasting. And God, having these counsels before Him from everlasting, deigns to have a people, not only capable of enjoying Him as having the very same nature as His own, without which they could not enjoy glory; but, besides, if He has us in His presence, He would have us in the highest relationship into which grace could bring us. Now, the highest being that of the Son, we accordingly are brought into that relationship, though not, of course, in the sense in which He was eternally so. To us it could be but eternal purpose, to Him eternal being; to us pure grace, but to Him His own indefeasible right. But the Son being before the Father as His supreme object of love and delight from all eternity, to bring us as sons before Him was as much a part of His counsels as to make us partakers of divine nature. Thus nature is the subject of verse 4, as relationship is of verse 5. Hence in the latter we find, not exactly choosing, but predestinating us: "Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will."

It is well to mark the difference. To be before Him without having His own nature would be impossible; and therefore it is not stated as a matter of predestination, but of choice. He might have been pleased to choose none; but if we are to be brought into His presence at all, it is impossible to be there without having the divine nature, in a moral sense (and, of course, one only speaks of this). It is not the impartation of Godhead: none can be so foolish as to think of such a thing. But the divine nature is given to us in its qualities of holiness and love. On the other hand, we find that the predestination is "according to the good pleasure of his will," because no necessity operates in this. There was a moral necessity for a nature suitable to God, if we were to be in His presence at all; but there was none for this special relationship. He might have put us in any degree of relationship He pleased. Angels, for instance, are there; but they have no such relationship. His grace has predestinated us to the very highest relation that of sons unto Himself by Jesus Christ "according to the good pleasure of his will." And the apostle concludes the whole of this part of the matter "to the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved." All this wondrous scheme is to the glory of His grace. He uses therefore the highest terms in order to express it. Grace alone would not suffice, glory alone would not serve, but both. It is "to the praise of the glory of his grace." Meanwhile it is again presented to us in this new fact, that we are brought in as objects of His perfect favour in the Beloved. Such is the measure, if measure it can be called, of the grace wherein we stand.

But then those in respect of whom God the Father had such thoughts were in point of fact sinners. The next verse shows that this is not forgotten, for account is taken of the fact, and it is provided for. The same "Beloved" who accounts to us for the counsels of God has brought in redemption. In Him we enter into favour, "in whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of offences," not exactly according to the praise of his glory, "but according to the riches of His grace." It is a present thing in every sense, though, of course, needed for heaven and eternity. Hence the expression does not go beyond the riches of God's grace. Thus is touched, incidentally, the need of our souls as offenders against God, but only so far as to show that it was in no way overlooked.

Next the apostle turns to the boundless scene that lies before us, as in the preceding verses he had looked at what is behind us. And why is all this? Clearly God has a purpose, a settled and glorious plan to gather the whole universe under Christ as its Head. Are those that He has brought into a share of His own moral nature and the relationship of sons to be left out of this? In nowise: even now He has abounded toward them "in all wisdom and prudence." These words do not attribute to God all wisdom and prudence, which certainly would be nothing new; but they intimate that He has now conferred on His saints all wisdom and prudence. It is truly an astonishing statement. The contrast is with Adam, who had a knowledge that was suited to his own place and relationship. Accordingly we hear inGenesis 2:1-25; Genesis 2:1-25 how he gave names to all that was put under him. And as to his wife, he instantly understands, though he had been in a deep sleep while she was being formed. But when presented to him, he knows all that it was meet for him to know then. He knows instinctively that she was part of himself, and gives her a name suitably. Such seems to have been the measure of Adam's wisdom and prudence. As being the image and glory of God on earth, he is the one that gives names to his companion, or to the subject creation. It is not merely that he accepts names given him by God, but God delights in putting him in this place of lordship, and to a certain extent also of fellowship lordship to that which is below him, and fellowship as regarded his wife. Thus, then, Adam acts and speaks.

But the saints, now being made the objects of these heavenly counsels of God, have a wisdom and prudence of their own, quite peculiar to the new creation in Christ, and its proper relations: God puts no limits to it. In point of fact, He looks for the expression and exercise of it, be assured, from all of us, though no doubt according to our measure. It is no use merely taking it up as a name or barren title. Our God and Father does look for the display of the mind of Christ in us, so that we should be able to form a judgment according to Himself, and to express it about whatever comes before us. For if we are in Christ, we have a vantage ground which makes all things clear. Christ is not darkness but light, and puts all in the light; He makes us to be children of the light, that so we may be able to judge ourselves, not discerned by man as such, but capable of discerning whatever claims our attention. Such is the place of a Christian, and a wondrous place it is, flowing from the nature and relationship which we possess by the grace of our God.

But the connection is important. God has "abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence; having made known unto us [what is the special proof of it] the mystery of his will." This does not yet appear; for there is nothing to indicate to mankind what He purposes to do. It is an absolutely new thing; and this new purpose is "according to the good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself: that in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth, even in him; in whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will, that we should be to the praise of his glory," etc.

Here the apostle repeats that high, large, and blessed phrase already so familiar to us, "that we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ; in whom ye also [trusted]." It was not confined to those that had their hope founded on Christ while the nation refused Him. Paul was one of those; and there were others at Ephesus, as we well know in point of fact the first nucleus of the assembly there. The first saints and faithful in the city of Ephesus, asActs 19:1-41; Acts 19:1-41 shows, were persons who had been baptized with the baptism of John, and afterwards brought from Jewish to Christian ground by the apostle Paul. Hence he says, "that we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ," referring to himself and any other saints who had been chosen from the people of the Jews. At the same time there is no exclusion of Gentile believers, but the reverse. "In whom ye, also [trusted], after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation." For the mass subsequently brought in were Gentiles, and the gospel of salvation they forthwith received, without going through the intermediate steps that the others knew. The Jews, or those who had been under Jewish teaching, had been for a while in an infantine state, or an Old Testament condition; but the Gentiles by faith passed simply and directly into the full Christian blessing. "In whom also, after that ye believed, ye were sealed with the holy Spirit of promise, who is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory."

It cannot have escaped observation that there are two great parts in that which has come before us. The first is nature; the second is relationship. The Holy Ghost is here viewed according to these two. Connected with nature, He has sealed us, as it is said here and elsewhere; and connected with relationship, He is the earnest. For "if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ." The Holy Ghost thus takes a corresponding part. Just as Christ is the sample and model whether of nature or relationship, so the Holy Ghost is not without His own proper place in bringing the saint into the reality, knowledge, and enjoyment of both. The Holy Ghost gives us the certainty and joyful assurance of our place as saints; the Holy Ghost at the same time gives us the foretaste of the bright inheritance of God that lies beyond.

Then follows a prayer of the apostle the first of those he pours out for the Ephesian saints. Naturally this prayer grows out of the two great truths he had been urging. He prays for the saints "that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory [for this is what his mind connected with it], may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him, the eyes of your understanding being enlightened, that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints." These are the two former points. The "hope of his calling" is the bright prospect of the saints themselves, as they are in Christ before God. "The riches of the glory of his inheritance" embrace, of course, that vast scene of creation which is to be put under the glorified saints. He prays accordingly that they might enter into both, realizing the holy peaceful atmosphere of the one, and the glorious expectations that were bound up with the other; for clearly the future is before his mind. But then he adds a third point, which was not given in the previous part of the chapter; namely, that they might know "what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power, which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead."

This last was of all-importance to the saints, and the rather as that power had already been put forth. It shines in full contrast with Israel. If the latter enquired how God had interfered most conspicuously for them, no doubt they were reminded of the power that brought them out of the land of Egypt. This was always their comfort in the midst of disasters and troubles. The God that divided the Red Sea, and brought them across Jordan, was equal to any difficulty that might ever assail them again. In the prophets this too remains always the standard, until God exert His power in another way, when He shall be no longer spoken of as Jehovah that brought them out of the land of Egypt, but out of the north country into their land, where He shall settle them for ever. Thus Israel stands in the permanent remembrance of power that redeemed them from the land of Egypt, and in the anticipation of a still greater manifestation that will eclipse whatever had been seen of old.

But the Christian is even now himself, with his fellow-saints, the object of the very same power which never can be outshone the power that raised up Christ from the dead. We wait for nothing greater nor its match; we await the results of this glorious power for the body and the creation; but we look for no new putting forth of power which can enter into competition with that which God has already shown in Christ. The moment that Jesus presents Himself as the answer to what has been put forth already, the saints rise or are changed in the twinkling of an eye. Besides, it is not merely that the body will immediately respond to the call of the Lord Jesus, but even now the very same power Acts wrought toward us in making us Christians which "wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age, but also in that which is to come: and hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all." Such is the power that has wrought now wrought toward us even while we are in this world.

Accordingly, in Ephesians 2:1-22, the apostle pursues this train, and shows that it is not another exertion of power, but a part of the very same work of God which raised up Jesus from the dead. In other words, Christ was not raised up as an insulated individual, severed from all others by His glory and their sin and shame. The gospel of God's grace proclaims the very reverse. He was raised up as the great manifestation of divine power for effectuating God's counsels as well as redemption. Not only was His resurrection this manifestation, but also whatever God put forth toward us was in virtue of that display of His energy was, so to speak, morally included in that power which raised up Christ from the dead. This clearly is of the deepest possible interest to the saints. Throughout the epistle all the secret is just this God would associate us with Christ (that is, of course, in everything that is consistent with the maintenance of the divine glory). Whatever could contribute to it, whatever fell in according to it, everything that God Himself could do to bind us up with Christ, sharing with us all that is glorious in Christ His own Son, even to His holy nature and relationship with the Father, as far as this could be conferred on a creature, is no more than God had in His heart yea, is what God has given us now, and will display in heavenly Places ere long.

So the apostle says, "You hath he quickened, who were dead in offences and sins;" for now we can bear to learn anything, however humiliating, and He can speak of anything, no matter how exalted or holy. God had never so spoken of man before. In Romans the sinner is regarded as alive in sins; and death, the death of Christ, is the means of deliverance. In Ephesians death is the very first place where we find even Christ. Not a word is said of sending Him into the world, or of His life and labours there, any more than of our doing this or being that. The first place where Christ is seen is in the grave whence God according to the mightiest action of His almighty power raised Him up. It was an absolutely new thing: never was seen one so glorious, never can there be another so triumphant, as the power there put forth. Man, Satan, yea, the judgment of God that had gone forth against Him because of our sins, had no force to detain Him in the grave. That judgment had fallen on Him necessarily and unsparingly; but in the face of everything calculated to hinder, God's power broke up the last stronghold of the enemy. There was Jesus lying in the grave; and from that grave God raised Him, and set Him on the highest pinnacle of heaven's glory not only of that which then was, but that ever shall be. Such is the very power that has taken you and me up in divine grace, and wrought toward us. The very power that brought you out of the world and of your sins is the power that raised up Christ from the dead, set Him in the heavenly places, and gave Him as head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fulness of that glorious Head to whom it is united.

This is pursued then first with reference to the Gentiles, for now the order is reversed. InEphesians 1:1-23; Ephesians 1:1-23 he began with the Jews, and then showed the Gentiles brought in; but now he begins with the outer circle where the Gentiles were. "And you hath he quickened, who were dead in offences and sins; wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience." What can be conceived more dreadful than such a condition, positively without spiritual life, dead in offences and sins! Not only so, but they had walked according to the course of that which is most of all offensive to God "of this world, according to the prince of the authority of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience;" for indeed they were, one as much as another, children of disobedience. "Among whom also we all," etc., for he does not let slip the Jews, but turns round on their estate, equally lifeless as the Gentiles. They might otherwise think themselves more or less superior. He had spoken of the poor idolatrous Gentiles and their awful condition; but "we all," says he, putting himself along with them, Jews as we were, children of the covenant and what not, were none the less dead in offences and sins. "Among whom also we all had our conversation in time past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as the rest. But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, even when we were dead in sins, quickened us together with Christ (by grace ye are saved), and raised us up together." Now he unites both in this place of richest blessing; for He has even "made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: that in the ages to come he might show the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus." In truth it is His grace to the full, and for heaven (not earth), though given to us to know here before we get there; "for by grace are ye saved." The whole work is thus presented in its completeness from first to last; nevertheless, it is only "through faith" as yet. This is and must be the medium, as far as the saints are concerned, grace being the spring on God's part: "and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship."

It is clearly not a question of righteousness here, or consistency with any known standard of judgment. God would frame a new sort of workmanship worthy of Himself; and therefore all question of antecedent measures disappears. Righteousness supposes a claim in the first place, however met; even though it may be God's righteousness, still it is God acting in consistency with Himself and His own claims. But in Ephesians we are in presence of a new creation in Christ, where claim is out of the question. Who would demand of God to make the objects of His mercy like Christ the Son? Who could, before He revealed His purpose, have so much as conceived such a dealing possible? Even now, though plainly made known in this epistle and elsewhere, how few Christians there are who rest in it as their assured portion! So totally and absolutely is it outside the range of human thought and feeling that the difficulty is to drop self, to cut all the strings that bind us to human nature and the world, to see all ended even now that is connected with the present course of this age, so that we may be simply occupied and filled with that heavenly blessedness which God unfolds to our souls.

However this be, "We are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works," a peculiar kind of good works, suited to the relationship in which we stand. This is the great point to seize always throughout Scripture. There never can be spiritual understanding, unless souls let in this after all plain principle, that the suited good depends on the relationship in which we are placed, whether to God, or to any other. The, good for an Israelite, for a Gentile, for a man, is wholly different from the good for a Christian, because their relationships are not the same as his. Now we are Christians; and this decides the character of the duties we have to pay, or of the good works which He has before prepared that we should walk in them; for "we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus" for this very purpose. It is not at all put as a question of command according to the law; but "God had before prepared," as a part of His wonderful scheme, "that we should walk in them." He merely now touches on the principle, as he had before let us see not merely God's counsels from before the foundation of the world, but the manner and means of their application through Christ our Lord to us in time. Hence the condition in which we were found here below came into view; and, as we have seen, it was total ruin, whether Jew or Gentile be looked at.

But now fromEphesians 2:11; Ephesians 2:11 the apostle enters into particulars, and shows that the bringing down from God's own heights of these glorious counsels and making them thus manifest in man here below, completely sets aside the Jewish system, or rather supposes the setting aside of all Jewish elements. Hence, being "Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands; [the apostle bids such remember] that at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world." And what had God done now? Had He brought the Gentiles into the place that Israel once occupied? The Jews had rejected their own Messiah. Of old they had forfeited every claim according to the law, and were spared and kept in God's mercy and faithfulness. But now they had consummated their rebellion by refusing the Christ of God. What was to be done? Would God send out and bring in the Gentiles to fill their place? Another plan discloses itself. The Jews who believe are taken out of their former place, as much as the Gentiles, who had no place. Both are now introduced by grace into an entirely new and heavenly place in Christ, which was not so much as heard of before. Accordingly not only does he enforce the truth first presented in the end of chapter 1, the church which is the body of Christ, but he also still more qualifies it as a "new man," and as "one body;" because, in treating of the two objects of grace, and component parts of the church, Jews and Gentiles who believe, he shows that God does not purpose to form two societies of these saints, but one body. It is not a mere aggregate of Gentiles into the well-known line of old blessing, but one new man, not merely fresh in time, but of an absolutely new order, never seen or experienced before. It is not again a simple question of a new nature, but of a new man: the first Adam, with all remedial or corrective dealings in him disappear, and one new man comes before our view.

Here again the apostle brings in the relation of the Holy Ghost to the new things. The consequence is that we find the Spirit of God, now sent down from heaven, not only putting the saints into relationship with the Father, but, besides, dwelling in them and making them God's habitation through the Spirit.

Thus we have at last the church developed in its two main characters. It has its heavenly association as the one body of Christ; it has its earthly place and responsibility as the "habitation of God through the Spirit." All this, it will be observed, is consequent on the cross. The one was not at all, nor was the other in such sort before. God had a dwelling-place of old in Israel; but it was a house made with hands, however magnifical, that followed the tabernacle of witness in the desert, in both of which the Shechinah, or visible sign of His glory, deigned to dwell. Such is not the character of God's dwelling now. It is neither the tabernacle, nor the temple, but His habitation in Spirit. It is not, of course, a display of glory before men's eyes; yet is it most real a proper dwelling of God on earth, answering to, though not necessarily coextensive with, those who are constituted the body of Christ glorified on high. Not that the body is there yet, but that the body of Christ is heavenly in its character, although in fact on the earth now. Besides, as we have seen, the church is the dwelling-place of God through the Holy Ghost's presence here below.

This leads toEphesians 3:1-21; Ephesians 3:1-21, in which the apostle unfolds things parenthetically. It is a revelation of God that comes in at the time when the Jews have, at least temporarily, lost their place altogether. The very structure of the chapter, as has been noticed, is a sort of confirmation of this. The chapter itself is a parenthesis. "For this cause I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles, if ye have heard of the dispensation [administration or stewardship] of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward: how that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery (as I wrote afore in few words; whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ); which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed." Observe, therefore, that what was the first in counsel is the last in revelation.

Accordingly, when all was complete in the communication of God's plans in the Bible, there was one subject that was left a blank. Paul was the chosen witness to fill up that blank. He wrote in few words no doubt, but he has written with divine perfection, and clearly enough for those by God's grace made competent to understand, let the words be ever so few. Many wonder that such truths as these should not have more words used in communicating them. But profound truths are for those who have spiritual understandings; and such do not require many words to comprehend them. When persons are only learning the elements of truth, the grace of God provides precept on precept, line on line, for those who want it. If He is showing needy souls how they may be forgiven of God, He displays it in a thousand forms; if the need of righteousness, He repeats it over and over again. But it is not so with the revelation of the mystery. There is a certain spiritual competence supposed, a due preparation not only of heart, but also of knowledge; or, as the apostle said, "we speak wisdom among them that are perfect," Here no lengthy exposition would be wanted about it, because they were not so infantine as to suppose that the truth of God depends on the number of times that a thing is asserted. Once is enough for the intelligent.

God therefore has not been pleased in the heights of divine truth to repeat words in the same way as His grace leads Him to do when He is helping the babes. Hence the apostle Paul, in what is by no means the simplest utterance he has given, writes in few words. He could condescend. We know how he would bend down and be as it were a; Gentile to one without law, and a Jew to one under law, to do good to souls.

But now he speaks briefly. He was not constrained to enter into a full or long explanation. But as he said that by revelation it was made known to him, so he would from God communicate it to them. "Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit." It is remarkable that the mystery, though revealed to His holy apostles and prophets in the power of the Holy Ghost, was not revealed by them. It was revealed by Paul alone. Revealed to all the apostles and prophets of the New Testament, to one as much as another, it never seems to have taken such a hold of the others as of Paul. In point of fact, from his conversion right through, the revelation of the mystery was involved. That which comforted his soul was Christ in heavenly glory far above all things. As the light that shone then was brighter, than the sun at noonday, so in the vision the truth about to be learnt was entirely outside and superior to the present or the past. It was grace in its deepest character and in its highest form, and so the apostle Paul was the suited vessel that God employed to instruct others, not merely the one to whom the revelation was made, but by whom the revelation was to be communicated. It is revealed to us here.

We must carefully remember that the mystery does not mean the church merely. It is the mystery of Christ emphatically; and the part about Christ is the higher of the two. The church is but a consequence; and we bless God for this, and bless Him also that we know the church is but the complement of Christ. One might distrust a mystery, if it centred in the church. Who that knows what man is, and God, as Christ has made both known, would dare to rest in any one person or thing which did not find its brightest form in Christ Himself? And the reason is simple; so inadequate is the creature, so untrustworthy is the first Adam, that one might well be certain the true meaning of the Bible was lost to him who judged otherwise. Such an one must have only got the lower end of the line, and not the full truth in its own native purity and freshness from God. Impossible that the Head should not be there as well as the body; and the apostle speaks as to Christ yet more than as to the assembly.

God then brings out His own secret, after having kept it hidden from all past ages and generations, though, of course, it has been before Him from the beginning. If God reveals it now, the idea of man of ourselves being the first and main object in the mind of God is impossible. It is the mystery of Christ; and this is what secures the blessing in its fulness and purity for the church of God. Therefore we need never fear, no matter what the blessing and the privilege may be. If it be illustrated in Christ, if it be bound up with Him, fear not to trust simply and to believe implicitly. Enter boldly into the sweetness of His grace and fulness of His glory. We never can go astray, if we follow the path of the Lord Jesus.

Though it is the mystery of Christ, it is not exclusively about Christ. So in Ephesians 5:1-33 he says, "This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church." Is there not good reason for saying that the church is but a consequence? The church follows; and as it belongs to Christ, so it is a part of Him. Hence, to make the mystery to be the church is a very serious moral as well as doctrinal mistake.

The apostle adds that it was now revealed of the Spirit, "That the Gentiles should be fellow-heirs, and of the same body, and partakers of His promise in Christ by the gospel: whereof I was made a minister, according to the gift of the grace of God given unto me by the effectual working of his power. Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints" there is nothing like this truth, where it is learnt from the Holy Ghost, for humbling the soul, were it even the greatest of the apostles, "is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ; and make all see what is the fellowship [rather administration] of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in, God, who created all things [by Jesus Christ to the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God."

God had something more to teach those who are the natural denizens of heaven. They had to learn what they had never known. They had seen creation, and sung at the sight. They had seen the ways of God with man, and with Israel; and surely they had entered into the glory of God that was involved in all His ways. Nevertheless, whether it was creation, whether man or favoured Israel, there was so much the more painful a declension that portended the judgment of God upon them. Thus there were dark shadows, and lowering clouds. But now appeared something altogether new. Latest of all, God divulged His wonderful scheme in which the man that came from above, the Son that became a man, the Word made flesh, had gone down to the very lowest in order to make good the glory of God morally in the scene where He had been most put to shame. But now, consequent on His resurrection from the dead, and of the place given Him in heaven above all, there was made known to these very principalities and powers "the manifold wisdom of God," made known to them before it came to pass, the sure deliverance of the whole scene of creation, of man, of Israel, as well as of the earth. But not merely this. That man who came down but was found alone to the end of His earthly course would now be alone no more; He would have a new and suited body, believing Jews and Gentiles fellow-heirs and of the same body. Most wholesome blessedness! for who should be more above the feelings of jealousy than those who delight in that which shows the greatness, and the glory, and the perfect goodness of God in His greatest work? This, then, was what was needed for the principalities and powers, and this is what they behold in the church of God.

The apostle accordingly is now led at the sight of the mystery of Christ into another prayer, in which he asks "the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ [for now he takes up the other relationship,], of whom the whole [rather, every] family in heaven and earth is named, that he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man; that Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; being rooted and grounded in love, that ye may be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; and to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye may be filled with all the fulness of God."

Here the prayer is not, as in the first chapter, that they might know the power that had wrought toward them; it is now that their hearts might be in the secret of His grace according to the power that works in them. That is, he looks at the inner source, not merely at the glorious results. Here he prays to the Father of our Lord Jesus, not simply to the God that had raised up the Christ from the dead, and was glorifying Him on high. It will be observed that the desire is not merely that they might be enlightened as to the special glory of their standing, but that their hearts might be filled with the love of Christ, and this too as a present thing filling them to overflowing, though surely not to cease in the ages to come. "Unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end." This is not a question therefore of the place or standing of the Christian, but rather of his condition or state, which the Spirit would have in unison with the love of Him who alone made either possible. Consequently here it is not an energy already put forth, but he pleads that Christ might dwell by faith in their hearts. It is not a conferred position, however blessed, but practical enjoyment even that Christ Himself might be habitually the object before them, now that all question of deliverance and blessing was settled in their favour. It was all a known thing that they were blessed by yea, with Christ, forming a part of Christ, expressly fellow-heirs, and of the same body. But now, founded on this, the apostle prays thus for them, that the Holy Ghost would so act in the inner man that there might be no hindrance to Christ, and that they might know, not the Holy Ghost (for this they did not doubt), but Christ dwelling there by His power constantly.

Unquestionably the Spirit of God does evermore dwell in the Christian, though I am not aware that He is ever said to dwell in our hearts. He may shed abroad the love of God therein; but He is rather said to dwell in us, making the body God's temple. Here the apostle would have Christ to be more the satisfying object of our affections. This is the point. Far be it from us just to know that He loves us through the word of God, as a security to us, like a dry parchment deed of gift that we quietly keep in a strong box. Rather is the very gospel to the sinner free and full, that, having the certainty of the divine fulness of our blessing, our hearts may be now open to enjoy Christ, and be occupied with His love. "That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith;" not that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, but "rooted," etc., that ye "may be able to comprehend with all saints." It is not here deliverance, let it be ever so complete; it is not the knowledge of our position in Christ as inEphesians 1:1-23; Ephesians 1:1-23; but rather the converse Christ dwelling in us by faith, and the heart entering into the positive excellency of the Son, the only adequate object of the Father's own delight. Hence it was that they might "be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and. height; and to know the love of Christ." It is not only the full extent of glory, but the sole satisfying spring, Christ thus dwelling in our hearts in the consciousness of His love "to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God." He is the ultimate blessedness with which we are filled, the One in whom we most confide, being the Son, in whom dwells all the fulness of the Godhead bodily.

Thus, having Him who is the centre of all glory dwelling in our affections by faith, we enter into, and become established in, the grace which is the secret of it all. In communion with the objects of it, we go out into the resulting scenes of glory on every side; knowing Christ's love though unknowable, and filled into God's fulness though infinite. The apostle concludes his prayer with an ascription of glory to Him in the Church unto all generations of the age of the ages, able to do far above all we ask or think according to His power which works in us. It is thus seen to be founded on the great facts and standing privileges mentioned at the end of Ephesians 2:1-22; but it is the desire that the saints should know God's present power to an indefinite extent working in them in spiritual enjoyment, through the Holy Ghost's power, giving us to have Christ the definite and constant object of the heart.

Ephesians 4:1-32 begins the proper exhortatory portion, and here, first of all, urges a walk in view of such a calling as is ours, diligently keeping the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. Then the diversities are brought before us. "I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, with all lowliness and meekness, with long-suffering, forbearing one another in love." The very truth which, learnt and enjoyed in the Holy Ghost, conduces to all lowliness and meekness, as it calls for mutual forbearance in love, flesh would abuse to all pride and vain-gloriousness, to high-minded contempt of others, and bitter self-confidence. Than these nothing less becomes those so blessed. Oh that we might have grace to walk in communion with such grace! But if we are to walk thus, let us not forget the prayer for the state of our hearts which precedes these exhortations. Knowledge of standing and a, state answering to Christ's love, are the basis of a walk worthy of our calling. "The unity of the Spirit" seems to be the general name for that great fact which is now established that unity of which Christ is the chief, and to which we all belong. The apostle treats it as our business diligently to observe it. It is impossible for flesh to be true to it. This is as it should be. An easy path could not be divine, as men and things are on earth. We need, but we have, the Holy Spirit who is surely all-sufficient, if looked to. It is impossible to exaggerate the snares and difficulties of Christendom.

But what are difficulties to the Spirit of God? This is the great want simple, genuine faith in the Holy Ghost. He is equal to all, and, would have us count on His presence and power answering to the name of Christ. What has all the confusion of men to do with the glorious reality that God has established His unity, of which we all form part by the power of His Spirit? What does it matter about times, persons, or circumstances, if the Spirit abide to enable us, according to Scripture, diligently to keep His own unity? Numbers are of small account here. The Lord might be where there are only two gathered together unto His name. If but two acted accordingly, they ought to be and would be an expression of the unity of the Spirit. What is the value of any other unity? It can never rise above its human source. Evidently also, it is no essential matter for present practice of faithfulness, whether few or many see and feel it: this is a question for God's will, who will act for His own glory, whether by many or by few. Let this then rest in His hands. Be it our part with diligence (for this is needed) "to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace."

Then we hear the particulars, and in a very orderly manner. "There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling." This verse states the intrinsic unity that never passes away, beginning with the fact of "one body;" then the efficient power, one Spirit; and lastly the cause of it all in the calling of grace. Nothing touches these.

In the next verse we have that which has been justly designated the unity of profession, where all things may come in to mar. Hence it is said, "One Lord," which is precisely that which is owned in the common creed of Christendom. And as there is one Lord, so "one faith." It is neither "faith" nor "the faith." That is, it may not be sincere, nor even doctrinally the truth that is held; but we hear of lone faith" in contrast with Judaism on one hand, and with Paganism on the other. Hence "one baptism" follows, which the context shows to be the plain initiatory rite of Christian profession, and nothing else. In the verse before the apostle had spoken of the "one Spirit," and hence it would be superfluous to introduce the statement of His baptism here, even if the adjuncts did not exclude the idea.

Thus we have had, first of all, the great spiritual reality which is always true of Christians, and of none else. They, and only they, have "one Spirit" dwelling in them. They only have the "one hope of their calling." But the moment you come to the "one Lord," this city, yea every city in Christendom, is a witness to a wide-spread profession of His name. As He is outwardly called on, so there is everywhere the "one faith," which does not mean (alas! we know too well) saving faith necessarily, but the faith of Christendom; and accordingly "one baptism" is its mark, because thus they are put on or take the ground of professing the one Lord and one faith.

Lastly, "one God and Father of all." Here we come to what is universal. Each circle hitherto was getting larger and larger. First there was the true company that had divine life and the Spirit of God; secondly, the circle of profession very much more extensive; and thirdly remains the universal unity, which embraces not Christendom only, but all the creatures of God included under their one God and Father whatever derived its being from God, the God that created all things, as we were told in Ephesians 3:9. He consequently is the lone God and Father of all," not merely of all believers, for this is a mistake of its force, but of all absolutely; just as we were told in verse 15 of that same chapter, that of Him every family in heaven and earth is named. No matter whether Jews or Gentiles, principalities or powers, every family is derived from this universal source of existence "One God and Father of all, who is above all [there we find His supremacy], and through all [there we find His permeance, if one may so say, as the support, of the whole universe], and in you all" [His intimacy with the saints]. The moment the apostle comes to inward relationship, he leaves the universality of phrase and speaks only of the saints of God "in you all." No statement can be conceived more exact.

Now we must turn to the diversities. "But to every [each] one is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ." And as the unity flowed from the power of the Spirit sent down from heaven; so now when we come to gifts, it is expressly connected with Christ in glory. "Wherefore he saith, when he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men. Now that he ascended, what is it but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth? He that descended is the same also that ascended." Yes, but He did not go up as He came down from above. He came a divine person filled with love; and He went a man also, triumphant not with love only but in righteousness and power, to give effect to all the glorious counsels of His Father, which unjudged sin would have for ever frustrated. He went up after all the working of evil had been really defeated and destroyed in the sight of God. Satan is allowed to go on for a little while longer, because God is gathering out the joint-heirs, while the evil develops itself in a new form Man had been shown to be the enemy of all righteousness, and now betrays himself the enemy of all grace. As the end of the latter will be incomparably worse than the former, so judgment will be commensurate with man's apostasy from grace; for the Lord must come from heaven, "in flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and on them that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ."

Meanwhile, before a blow is struck at man's failure in the presence of righteousness, or at his apostasy from grace, that blessed Saviour, the only begotten Son in the bosom of the Father, the Son of man who is in heaven, went down to the very uttermost, and (having exhausted the powers of evil, and blotted out all that could rise against the objects of God's grace,) was raised and seated by God in heaven. He takes His place there, of course always the Son; but, wonderful to say, humanity makes an integral and everlasting part, so to speak, of that divine person, the Son of God. And here is the key, and that which accounts for the astonishing display of what God is now doing in man. How could it be otherwise, seeing that He who sits on His throne, tar above every creature in God's presence and in all ages, is a man, but withal the very Son of God? The Son is as truly man as God, and as such gives gifts to men. Angels are not the object. They had a distinguished place before the Son became man. Since then it is not so much they that have lost, but man in and by Christ that has gained such a place as they never had nor could have. Never were they to reign; never will they be one with Christ like the saints. They are "ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation."

But Christ at the right hand of God gives gifts unto men; and, as it is said here, "He gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;" bringing in both the highest gifts and also those ordinarily requisite for the good of the saints. I say "requisite," simply in view of Christ's love towards the church. It is not a question of rendering a testimony of the power of God working in man and dealing with the first creation. In Corinthians we have this, and properly in its place. There we have tongues, miracles, etc.; because all that is connected with man in the flesh and in the world is a sign to unbelievers, showing them the goodness of God, and the defeat of that wicked power which governs human nature as it is.

But in the epistle to the Ephesians we have none of these dealings with the first man, but that which forms and nourishes the new creation. Hence we have those gifts alone which are the expression of the grace of Christ toward the saints that He loves, for ministerial work, for the building up of His body. In this order He gave them the body to be edified, and ministry carried on, but always the individual first. The building up of the body is the fruit of God's blessing the individual saints. It cannot be otherwise. It is in vain to look for the church's prosperity, if saints individually do not grow up unto Christ. And so these gifts are given, as it is said, "till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man., unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: that we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; but speaking the truth in love, may grow up unto him in all things, which is the head, even Christ."

Then we have in the centre of this chapter no longer the unity or the gifts differing, but the moral walk of the saints. And what is the first lesson of the truth as it is in Jesus? This; not only that we hear of the one body, and that saints compose this body, but that a new man is seen. Introducing this great practical truth, he reminds them of what they had been, but also tells them what they are now. Our duties flow from what we are, or are made. And what then is the truth as it is in Jesus? Our having put off the old man, and our having put on the new man. Such is the truth, if indeed we have learnt the Christ as God teaches Him. Anything short of this is not the true Christian measure. Jesus could occupy Himself in divine love. Self would have hindered; had there been a particle, it would have ruined both His person and His work; but this is not the truth as it is in Jesus. He came so as to be left absolutely free to occupy Himself in love for God's glory and our desperate need. And now, in Him who is dead and risen, the Christian has put completely off the old man, is being renewed in the spirit of his mind, and has put on the new man, which according to God is created in righteousness and holiness of truth.

Not only is there this new man that God has created after the image of Christ in contrast with the first Adam, but this is the ground why all moral evil is to be judged, beginning with deceit and falsehood. "Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbour: for we are members one of another. Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath: neither give place to the devil. Let the stealer steal no more." How solemn to learn what the old man is in its most detestable forms, against all which the Christian is warned! Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers."

But, besides the new man which lives in dependence, we need to guard against losing power according to God. "Grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption." Thus the great basis of all our walk is, that the old man has been judged in Jesus, and the new man we have already put on; but, moreover, the Holy Ghost is given, and we are sealed by Him. Thus we have a new nature which hates sin, and the Holy Ghost which gives power for that which is good.

Then he adds the great exemplar and spirit of it all, according to the forgiveness with which God met us in Christ. "Be ye kind one to another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ hath forgiven you." But there is yet more. To forgive another's wrongs is not enough for a Christian. No doubt it is a giving up of self, and therefore the fruit of divine grace. But in Ephesians God cannot but have us imitate His own ways as they have shone in Christ. He Himself is the measure of the walk of the new man, and the manifestation of it is Christ Himself. Nothing short of this suffices. What has God done? He has forgiven you in Christ; and you are called to do the same. But was this all? Was there only this? Was there not positive love, far beyond forgiveness? And what is the manifestation of love? Not the law, but Christ. "Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children; and walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling savour."

Do you think this devotedness too much? yea, impossible? Not so. Take a passage in 2 Corinthians (2 Corinthians 8:5), which has been before us only a short time ago: "And this they did, not as we hoped, but first gave their own selves to the Lord, and unto us by the will of God." How blessed is the character and the spring of Christian service! Think of their giving themselves first to the Lord, then to us by the will of God. It is just the answer to the grace of God in Christ. Nor is there full Christian service, except in proportion as it is according to this pattern and in this power. In Christ it was, of course, absolutely perfect: He did give Himself for us. But this was not enough. He might have given Himself ever so truly in pity for us; but it would not have been perfection, had He not "given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling savour." And so accordingly all that is acceptable takes this shape. "But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not be once .named among you, as becometh saints; neither filthiness, nor foolish talking [even light words dishonour the Christian, as being contrary to Christ], nor jesting, which are not convenient: but rather giving of thanks. For this ye know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God."

But there are other elements. God is not only love but light; and inasmuch as this epistle reveals how fully God associates us with Christ according to His own nature, so having first shown us the privilege of loving, as He Himself loved us in Christ, now it shows that we are made "light in the Lord." But it is not said that we are love. This would be too strong, yea, false. Love is God's nature, but it is a sovereign prerogative in Him. In His own actings it has no motive or spring except in Himself. This could not be true of us. We need both motive and object, and hence could not be said to be love; because not we, but only God acts from Himself, as much as for Himself. Impossible that the creature could be or do so; and therefore the creature is never said to be love. But there is love after a divine sort in the new nature, which is said to be light, because this is the necessity of the new nature. Impossible that the new nature could countenance sin; the very essence of it is rejection and exposure of what is contrary to God. It is sensitive about sin; detects and detests it thoroughly. Hence we are said to be "light in the Lord," and we need to shake off the things of death that encumber the light, and hinder it. And so Christ gives us more light. For the word is, "Awake, thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light." But just as before, in the walk which shuts out hatred, and anger, and so on, we were warned against grieving the Spirit of God; so the power of the Holy Ghost asserts itself here. Here it is not merely "Grieve not the Holy Spirit." He goes farther, and says, "Be filled with the Spirit." "Be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit; speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord."

And is this all? It is not. There has been the full unfolding of God's love, and the answer to it in the saints here below in their nature, and in the ways that manifest the new nature. But, besides, we have relationships; and now we have God manifesting Himself in each of our positions, and showing us that these are meant to give us opportunity of glorifying God by the good works that were before ordained of God. Accordingly he brings in the most important of them, first, the wife and the husband; then, children and their parents; and, finally, servants and masters.

All through these then we have, but more particularly in the first, the interweaving of the duty with the manifestation of God's grace: "Christ also loved the church." It is not now either sovereign love, or love of complacency. There was the sovereign love of God in Christ forgiving us; there was love of complacency, inasmuch as we were to love according to that love with which we were loved, as shown us in the matchless love of Christ. But now there is love of relationship as well; and here too Christ appears, who is the pattern and perfection of grace in every respect. "Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, that he might present it to himself." Just look into this revelation of His love. How everything is connected with Christ! He gave Himself for us. What was it for? "That he might present it to himself [not merely to the Father, but present it to himself] a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish." More than this; for "no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church." Everywhere Christ Jesus Himself is intermixed with every portion. He Himself is the beginning, He Himself the end, He Himself all the way through. He gave Himself as the beginning; and He presents it to Himself as the end. Meanwhile He tenderly cares for the church. "He that loveth his wife loveth himself; . . . for we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones." "This is a great mystery," he adds at the close; "but I speak as to Christ and as to the church."

Then we have the children, who are called to obey their parents in the Lord. It was not a question of the flesh: how could this be trusted? Let them obey in the Lord. To honour one's father and mother was both an obligation and had a special promise under law. And if children that had a relationship with their parents in the flesh and under law did so (for it was indeed right), how much more did it become Christian children to pay them reverence?

This is followed up by an exhortation to parents: "And ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord." Thus is the Lord ever presented as the pattern. Then come the slaves similarly. He was privileged to do all as unto Christ; as the master again must remember that he had his own Master in heaven. This also answers to the grand doctrine of this epistle.

Then the apostle introduces us to another topic. It is not the source of the blessing (Ephesians 1:1-23); nor the place into which we are now brought as being made one with Christ (Ephesians 2:1-22); nor the objects to whom we are bearing testimony. (Ephesians 3:1-21) The closing theme shows us where and with whom are our true conflicts as Christians. As such we have not properly to fight with flesh at all, any more than to fight with the world. All other combats are outside the calling of a Christian.

I do not deny but that a Christian may slip elsewhere. But as long even as he is merely in conflict with his own nature, he can hardly be said to be on Christian ground at all. He may be a converted person; and God may be truly dealing with him in the way of gracious action. A really awakened soul may still have a great many unsettled questions in agitation within him. He has not come to God consciously. Now the very baptism of a Christian man is the confession of the truth, that God has in Christ judged flesh root and branch. Is not this the meaning of the institution? How far the person has realised it is another matter; but such is the meaning of baptism. Judging what I am, I confess that all my blessing is in the Saviour, who did not merely come to bless me as a living man in the world, but died and is risen again; and 1, confessing Him who is thus dead and risen, have part in His death. The conflict of the Christian is not therefore with flesh, still less is it with the world, but with Satan, and with his power, viewed as interposing and hindering our enjoyment of our heavenly blessing.

Is not this the meaning of the combat as described here? The wrestling is not with flesh and blood, "but against principalities, against powers, against the world-rulers of this darkness, against spiritual wickedness in heavenly places." The English translators did not know what to make of the apostle, and so they changed it to "high places," which was an unwarrantable liberty, and gives the most perverse meaning. This has misled many beside the poor Puritans, who fancied they were called of God, as a Christian duty, to strive against kings and all in authority, when not satisfied with their ways or measures. I mention this, because it is a striking proof that an error imported into Scripture leads even right-minded men into sad evil. It is expressly not against any powers that were living and acting in the world. The conflict is against Satan and his hosts. Just as the Canaanites tried to keep the Israelites out of the land which God assured Moses the tribes were to have for their possession, so Satan's great effort is to hinder the saints of God from realizing their blessedness in heavenly places.

But for this the most careful provision is laid on us. The first thing is to "be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might." That is, all our strength is to lean on another, even the Lord. The next thing is that we take "the whole armour of God, that we may be able to withstand in the evil day, and, having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth [inwardly applied, and thus bracing us morally], and having on the breast-plate of righteousness." The internal state is the great point here. Carefully remember this. Our standing is quite another matter, which itself could not avail here. The panoply is against Satan and not God. It is a question not of acceptance before God, but of resisting the enemy who would take advantage of loose ways and a bad conscience. The breast-plate means the practical righteousness of the saint himself. "And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace." So should our walk be. Besides, take "the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one." It is the confident trust of the heart in the favour of God in which we stand, not the remembrance of our first subjection to the gospel. Finally, "receive the helmet of salvation, [there the head is lifted up, not in presumption, but with none the less joy and courage,] and the sword of the Spirit," which is expressly said to be the word of God. The defensive comes before the offensive; and all should follow dependence on the Lord. The sword must be the real intrinsic power of the word wielded in the Spirit, which does not spare anything. Thus, first blessed, strengthened, and enjoying the grace and truth of God in Christ, we can then go out with the sword of the Spirit to deal with what is contrary to His nature, which Satan would use to obstruct our realization of our heavenly privileges.

Finally, there is the activity now for others, just as before there was dependence for ourselves. "Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints; and for me [as the apostle blessedly adds], that utterance may be given unto me, that I may open my mouth boldly to make known the mystery of the gospel" (what a gracious way of encouraging and strengthening saints, giving them a feeling of the value of their prayers, both in the sight of God, and in fellowship with the most blessed apostle that God ever gave the church!) "for which I am an ambassador in bonds: that therein I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak." He felt his need and that of the work. Also he counted on their loving desire to know his affairs as well as to have their hearts comforted through Tychicus.

Bibliographical Information
Kelly, William. "Commentary on Ephesians 4:12". Kelly Commentary on Books of the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/​commentaries/​wkc/​ephesians-4.html. 1860-1890.
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