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Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary
New American Standard Version
Bible Study Resources
Nave's Topical Bible - Adultery; Commandments; Communion; Darkness; Fellowship; Holiness; Reproof; Wicked (People); Thompson Chain Reference - Association-Separation; Commendation-Reproof; Concealment-Exposure; Darkness; Evil; Fellowship, Divine; Reproof; Separation; Works; World, the; The Topic Concordance - Fellowship; Reproof; Torrey's Topical Textbook - Alliance and Society with the Enemies of God; Communion of Saints; Darkness; Missionaries, All Christians Should Be as; Reproof; Sin;
Verse 11. Have no fellowship — Have no religious connection whatever with heathens or their worship.
Unfruitful works of darkness — Probably alluding to the mysteries among the heathens, and the different lustrations and rites through which the initiated went in the caves and dark recesses where these mysteries were celebrated; all which he denominates works of darkness, because they were destitute of true wisdom; and unfruitful works, because they were of no use to mankind; the initiated being obliged, on pain of death, to keep secret what they had seen, heard, and done: hence they were called απορρητα μυστηρια, unspeakable mysteries-things that were not to be divulged. That the apostle may refer to magic and incantations is also probable, for to these the Ephesians were greatly addicted. See the proofs in Clarke's notes on "Acts 19:19".
Rather reprove them. — Bear a testimony against them; convince them that they are wrong; confute them in their vain reasons; reprove them for their vices, which are flagrant, while pretending to superior illumination. All these meanings has the Greek word ελεγχω, which we generally render to convince or reprove.
Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on Ephesians 5:11". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/acc/ephesians-5.html. 1832.
More about the new standards (5:1-20)
Just as children follow the example of their parents, so Christians must follow the example of their heavenly Father. Their love, then, will not be mere words, but will show itself by self-sacrifice, just as Christ’s love did (5:1-2).
Converted pagans had a special problem in that many of the sinful practices they once engaged in were still widespread in the society in which they lived. One way to overcome the temptation to such practices was not even to speak about them. They should certainly not joke lightheartedly about them, because people who practise such things are enemies of God’s kingdom (3-5).
Besides being careful about what they say, Christians should be careful about what they hear. They must examine what people say, whether concerning religion, morals or anything else, to see whether such people are on the side of Satan (darkness) or Christ (light). Only by careful testing will Christians know whether a thing is pleasing to God or not, whether it belongs to the light or to the darkness (6-10). If the lives of Christians are pure, they will show up the sins of others, just as light shows up dirt. Any who stir themselves from their moral laziness can be cleansed, if they allow themselves to be examined in the light of Christ (11-14).
Christians must be alert at all times. They must act wisely and display the worth of Christianity to a sinful world (15-17). In former days they might have tried to overcome depression or find enjoyment by drinking till they became drunk. Now that they are Christians, they should open their lives to God and allow God’s Spirit to control them. They will find true joy in having fellowship with other Christians, singing praises together and giving thanks to God (18-20).
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Flemming, Donald C. "Commentary on Ephesians 5:11". "Fleming's Bridgeway Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bbc/ephesians-5.html. 2005.
And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather even reprove them.
Reprove ... This word means "expose," and probably should be so translated. There can be no neutrality between the sons of light and the sons of darkness. As Hendriksen said:
Sin must be exposed. One is not being nice to a wicked man by endeavoring to make him feel what a fine fellow he is. The cancerous tumor of sin must be removed. It is not really an act of love to smooth things over, as if the terrible evil of the sons of disobedience is really not so bad.
Coffman's Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Ephesians 5:11". "Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bcc/ephesians-5.html. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.
And have no fellowship - See the sentiment here expressed fully explained in the notes on 2 Corinthians 6:14-18.
The unfruitful works - The deeds of darkness that produce no “benefit” to the body or the soul. The word “unfruitful” is used here in contrast with the “fruit of the Spirit,” Ephesians 5:9.
But rather reprove them - By your life, your conversation, and all your influence. This is the business of Christians. Their lives should be a standing rebuke of a sinful world, and they should be ever ready to express their disapprobation of its wickedness in every form.
Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Ephesians 5:11". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bnb/ephesians-5.html. 1870.
11.And have no fellowship. As “the children of light” dwell amidst the darkness, or, in other words, in the midst of “a perverse and crooked generation,” (Deuteronomy 32:5,) — there is good reason for warning them to keep themselves apart from wicked actions. It is not enough that we do not, of our own accord, undertake anything wicked. We must beware of joining or assisting those who do wrong. In short, we must abstain from giving any consent, or advice, or approbation, or assistance; for in all these ways we have fellowship. And lest any one should imagine that he has done his duty, merely by not conniving, he adds, but rather reprove them. (158) Such a course is opposed to all dissimulation. Where a manifest offense is committed against God, every man will be eager to vindicate himself from any share in the guilt, but very few will guard against connivance; nearly all will practice some kind of dissimulation. But rather than the truth of God shall not remain unshaken, let a hundred worlds perish.
(158) “Most expositors supply
Calvin, John. "Commentary on Ephesians 5:11". "Calvin's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/cal/ephesians-5.html. 1840-57.
Shall we turn now in our Bibles to Ephesians, chapter 5.
Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children ( Ephesians 5:1 );
Now, the therefore immediately points you back, back to the last verse of chapter 4 where we are exhorted to be kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven us. Paul's topic here is God's forgiveness as our example of forgiveness. "Be ye followers of God," or follow the example that God has established for us in forgiveness.
Really the Bible does have the keys to good mental health. A very important thing for mental health is a forgiving spirit. If you are holding bitterness or animosity in your heart towards someone else, that bitterness is going to do you a lot more harm than it is them. It can just eat at you. The Bible constantly is emphasizing the importance of our forgiving and being forgiving. Just to have a forgiving spirit. When Jesus was giving to the disciples the model prayer, incorporated into that prayer was "and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us." Asking for forgiveness, but also acknowledging the fact that I have received forgiveness or I must myself be forgiving. Forgive us and help me to be forgiving as we forgive others. There was only one petition of that prayer that Jesus emphasized at the close of the prayer, and that was the petition on forgiveness, He said, "For if you will not forgive men their trespasses against you, neither will your Father forgive you your trespasses."
Jesus taught so much on forgiveness, Peter one day felt he was getting the lesson and was looking for some extra strokes. He said, "Lord, how often should I forgive a brother the same offense? Seven times?" I am certain that Peter felt that he was really growing in grace in that he could conceive of forgiving a man the same offense seven times. Imagine his chagrin when Jesus answered him, "No, Peter. Seventy times seven." Four hundred and ninety?
The Lord, I am certain, was demonstrating to Peter that forgiveness is not a matter of mathematics. Before you get to the four hundred and ninety, you would have forgotten the count. And you would just go on forgiving. It isn't a matter of mathematics; it is a matter of the spirit. God wants us to have a forgiving spirit. Yes, you have been wronged. Yes, you have a right to be angry. Yes, you have a right to be upset over this whole situation. Go ahead, eat yourself up, or forgive and be freed from that.
"Be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God, for Christ's sake, hath forgiven us. Be ye therefore, followers of God, as dear children." So you see how it ties to the previous verse in the previous chapter. God is the example for us in forgiveness; we are to be followers of God who has forgiven us.
And walk in love ( Ephesians 5:2 ),
Now, as we've pointed out in the first three chapters of Ephesians, Paul has dealt with the spiritual blessings wherewith God has blessed us in Christ in heavenly places. Having seated us together in Christ, made us heirs together with Him. And having spent three chapters telling you all that God has done for you, and all that God has promised to do for you, and all that God is planning to do for you, having thoroughly rehearsed the resources that God has made available to you, he finally starts to talk to you about your walk. Now unfortunately, we don't follow that same example in our preaching today. But we start immediately preaching to people how they ought to walk, how they ought to act, how they ought to respond.
But the Bible doesn't do that until it lays first the foundation of God's love, God's grace, God's goodness, God's blessings, God's provisions, and now walk in love, because you have been so loved of God, so blessed of God, so taught of God to love.
Walk in love, as Christ also has loved us ( Ephesians 5:2 ),
So forgiveness, God is the example. We are to forgive as God has forgiven us. Be ye followers of God. In walking in love, Jesus is our example, who loved us,
and gave himself for us ( Ephesians 5:2 )
So that self-sacrificing love, that giving love. He has given Himself for us as
an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweetsmelling savor ( Ephesians 5:2 ).
Now, in the beginning now to list some of the unloving things whereby men often relate to each other, it is interesting that he puts at the top of an unloving thing, fornication. We see how Satan has so deceived and distorted things, because the world equates fornication with love. In fact, they use the term "let's make love" when they are referring to the act of fornication quite often, calling it love making. But here in the scripture it is the prime example of something that is lacking in love. That is, lacking in true love. A person who in entices someone else into the act of fornication is not really considering the other person, but only considering themselves and their own desire for some kind of fulfillment, emotional, sexual or otherwise.
They are not really considering the other person that they are leading them into a damning sin. Into one of those works of the flesh which Paul tells us that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. So it is a very unloving thing to lead a person into an action that is so destructive to that person's spiritual walk in life, which is total disobedience to the commands of God. So it is not really loving and considering the other person. It is a very unloving act and it is only Satan's deception and lies that would cause a person to even think of that as an act of love. It is an act of lust. But true love is not really involved. If you really loved the person, you would be considerate of their conscience, of their feelings. You would not want to place them under that guilt that they would feel afterwards, that shame and all that they would experience as the result of the relationship.
It is interesting that Paul would place that at the top of the list of an unloving act. Walk in love. The second is
uncleanness ( Ephesians 5:3 ),
Which, of course, is a sexual uncleanness or impurity.
covetousness ( Ephesians 5:3 ),
Of course, that is at the heart of unloving actions. Self-love, covetous, but that isn't a real love or consideration for others.
let them not once be named among you ( Ephesians 5:3 ),
You are the children of God. Walk in love, not in these unloving ways.
Neither filthiness, nor [really] foolish talking, nor jesting, which are not convenient ( Ephesians 5:4 ):
Really, he is referring here to dirty jokes. It should never, never be done by a child of God, the passing on of a dirty story, because what you are doing is planting filth in that other person's mind, filth that they will not be able to get rid of. It is tragic, but I can remember dirty jokes that were told me when I was just a little kid. That filth was planted into my mind and I cannot get rid of it. It still lingers there. Oh, I don't think on it all of the time, thank God, but you know how the dumb mind works. Every once in a while one of those dirty little ditties that I learned as a kid, some kind of a sight, sound, word will trigger a DNA molecule and it will pop that thing out of the file, flash it across my brain. And I think, "Oh God help me, that filth is still there."
But what a shame to plant filth in someone else's mind like that. Filth that they can't get rid of, permanent stains. That is not loving, not loving at all. Rather than that kind of stuff,
we should be giving thanks ( Ephesians 5:4 ),
Plant stuff in their minds that will edify, that will bless, that will be good, that will build them up.
For this you know ( Ephesians 5:5 ),
Now I hope you know it.
no whoremonger, nor unclean person [sexually impure], nor covetous man, who is an idolater, has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God ( Ephesians 5:5 ).
Paul says, "Now you know this." The tragedy is that a lot of people don't know that. They think that they can get by with these things. They think that somehow God will smile at these things or God will excuse these things or pass over these things. But God is a righteous judge, and everything will be called into account that is not covered by the blood of Jesus Christ.
Let no man deceive you ( Ephesians 5:6 )
And unfortunately, so many men have deceived in these areas, but let them not
deceive you with vain words ( Ephesians 5:6 ):
As they get into their speculations and as they get into their rationale and into their philosophies,
for because of these things comes the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience ( Ephesians 5:6 ).
In the early church they had a heresy that was known as Gnosticism. According to the Gnostic heresy, basically everything that was material was evil. The material world was not really created by God. God in the beginning sent forth emanations, and one of the emanations got so far from God that it wasn't related to God anymore, and this emanation created the material universe and thus, the whole material universe is just given over to evil. It's just evil and you can't do anything about it. Only the spiritual is pure.
Therefore, they taught that Jesus was not in a real body of flesh, He was actually a phantom, just an appearance. When He would walk along the beach, there wouldn't be any footprints. They created all of these fanciful stories to deny that Jesus had come in a body, and so that is why John, to counteract this Gnostic heresy, said, "If any man denies that Jesus Christ came in the flesh, he is the antichrist."
Now, going along with this teaching that the material is all evil, they said, "Inasmuch as the material is given over to evil, it doesn't matter what you do with your body because it is all wiped out anyhow. It is just all evil. It is part of the material things, which is totally evil, so it doesn't count. God doesn't really count. It is what is in your spirit that counts. So you can go ahead and commit fornication and go ahead and do all of these things. It really doesn't matter, because you see, that is all a part of the material body and God is so disassociated with the material world that anything done in the material world doesn't really count in the spiritual realm." That was the teaching of the Gnostic's, and so Paul was saying, "Don't let any man deceive you with vain words." If you get into the Gnostic heresy there was a lot of rationale and plausibilities and all. But they were deceiving people with their vain words and telling them you can do what you want in your body, it really doesn't matter. It isn't wrong because the body is material and it is all going to be done away with. It is what is spiritual that only counts with God.
Don't be partakers with them ( Ephesians 5:7 ).
Actually, he said, "Don't you realize that these are the very things that are going to bring the wrath of God on man?" These are the things for which God is going to judge the world. If you are guilty of doing these things then you will be judged with a guilty world.
You were one time in darkness, but now you are light in the Lord ( Ephesians 5:8 );
Actually, "you were one time darkness," not, "in darkness," you were darkness. Now you are not in the light, you are the light. One time your life was darkness, now your life is light if Christ is dwelling in you.
(For the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth;) Proving what is acceptable unto the Lord. And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them ( Ephesians 5:9-11 ).
When Paul was writing to the Corinthians, he said, "What fellowship has light with darkness?" Now think about that for a moment. Light and darkness are mutually exclusive. They cannot coexist. When you turn on a light the darkness goes. But they don't coexist. They are not one. They are separate, mutually exclusive entities. So spiritually you cannot walk in darkness and walk in light. If a man says that he has fellowship with God, who is light, and he is walking in darkness, he lies; he is not telling the truth. But if we walk in the light as He is in the light then we do have fellowship with God as the blood of Jesus Christ His Son is continually cleansing us from all sin. So again, don't be deceived. If you are walking in darkness then you cannot have fellowship with God. So have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them.
Now, we are to take more than just a passive attitude towards darkness. When someone comes and starts to tell a dirty story and it is obvious from the look in their eye and the sinister smile that it is going to be one of the dirty ones, stop them, reprove them, don't just listen and then smile politely and chuckle. Say, "That is filthy." There are some men whose minds are like racehorses; they run best on a dirt track. Don't let them pour out their filth on you. Don't have any fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, reprove them, speak up, tell them that that is wrong, you don't appreciate it. That way you will keep them from coming back with more filth later.
For it is a shame even to speak of those things which are done of them in secret ( Ephesians 5:12 ).
A lot of times they want to come along and tell you the weekend that they just had and all of their exploits and all, and it is a shame to talk about those things.
But all things that are reproved are made manifest by the light: for whatsoever doth make manifest is light ( Ephesians 5:13 ).
Jesus said, "I didn't come into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Me might be saved. He that believeth is not condemned but he that believeth not is condemned already, inasmuch as he has not believed on the only begotten Son of God. And this is the condemnation, light came into the world, but they would not come to the light because their deeds were evil. And if they would come into the light their deeds would be manifested" ( John 3:17-20 ). So they will not come to Christ because of their evil deeds. Christ is the light and they don't want to come into that light because it will reveal the truth about them. They love to stay in the darkness. They stay away from the light.
Wherefore he said, Awake thou that sleepest, arise from the dead, and Christ will give you light ( Ephesians 5:14 ).
To those who are sleeping in darkness, the call of the gospel. Arise from that death, that spiritual death, and Jesus Christ will give you spiritual life.
See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise ( Ephesians 5:15 ),
So here we are told walk in love, in verse Ephesians 5:8 , walk as children of light, and here, walk circumspectly.
Redeeming the time, because the days are evil ( Ephesians 5:16 ).
How much time is wasted even by the most careful planner. In a sense, I consider all time that is not spent in spiritual development of some kind is really, in a sense, wasted time. I am not saying that I feel that a person should never do anything for just recreational purposes, I think you have to. But I think that even our recreation can be centered around a spiritual base. I think that God gave us all things to really enjoy. I think that God gave us the surf to enjoy. I believe that God gave us the mountains to enjoy, the rivers, the streams. How can you have dominion over the fish of the sea if you don't get a hook and go after them? But you know, when I am engaged in these recreational activities, when I am sitting out there waiting for a set to come, my heart is in the things of the Spirit. I look at the ocean, I look at the surf, I look at the beauty of God's creation and I am just there in fellowship with the Lord. In fact, I think that I enjoy it probably a lot more than a lot of those people because of the fact that I do have such neat times of fellowship with the Lord while I am there.
I like what Jim Elliot said concerning his going out for the wrestling team at Wheaton College when he won the national AAU championship in his weight division. He wrote home to his parents in Washington and said, "You will probably hear of certain honors that I have received recently in wrestling, the National AAU Championship, but I want you to know that it wasn't for this purpose that I went out for wrestling. My purpose in wrestling was to develop a stronger more coordinated body that I might offer to God for Him to use in whatever way He might see fit." The motive behind physical fitness. Do I want to walk down the street and have everybody say, "Wow, look at that build." Or am I seeking to give to God a more qualified instrument for Him to do His work through? Makes a big difference.
Redeeming the time, we waste so much.
Wherefore be not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is ( Ephesians 5:17 ).
So many people are confused as far as God's will for their lives. The purpose and the plan of God for their life. They go on just sort of continuing wasting time. Still doing their own things, never really seeking God, never really searching for the will of God for their lives. God, why did You put me here? What do You have in mind for me? What work is it, Lord, that You want me to accomplish for You? Why have You placed me on this planet? God placed each of us here with a purpose.
Paul the apostle in writing to the Philippians said, "I have not yet apprehended that for which I was apprehended by Jesus Christ." In other words, when the Lord stopped me on the road to Damascus, He had a definite plan for my life. I have not yet accomplished that for which God has planned for me. But I am on my way. I forget those things which are behind and I am pressing towards those things which are before. Reaching for, pressing towards the mark.
Now that should be the story of every one of us. Pressing towards the purpose of God and fulfillment of that purpose of God and plan of God for my life. Redeeming the time, knowing what God wants me to do and being about my Father's business.
Be not drunk with wine, in which is excess; but be filled with the Spirit ( Ephesians 5:18 );
And in the Greek it is present perfect tense, which would indicate a continual filling of the Spirit. "Be ye being filled," but that isn't good English grammar. But that is Greek. We don't have a present perfect tense in English as such.
Now these are two interesting things that he would couple together, and relate. Here is a man staggering down the straight, he has had too much wine, and Paul would equate that to a man being filled with the Spirit. Now they seem like opposite things.
Be not drunk with wine, where in is excess; but be filled with the Spirit ( Ephesians 5:18 );
They are closer than a person would expect on the surface. What is a person searching for who turns to wine? The man who turns to alcohol, what is he seeking? What is he searching for? There is an emptiness deep inside. I am trying to find something that will fill that void in my life. I am reaching out for something that will satisfy; I am looking, I am searching. Some people search in alcohol to find a peace, a contentment, a relaxation or whatever. What does a person experience who is filled with the Spirit? A peace, a relaxation, a contentment, a fulfillment. The one man is looking in the wrong place; he is looking in a place where he will never discover it. The other man has come to the answer, being filled with the Spirit, that void, spiritual void in my life is now complete and full and I am no longer searching and seeking after something to satisfy. I am satisfied through my relationship with God in the Spirit. Rather than being entirely separate things, there is a real tie-in behind the injunction, "be not drunk with wine wherein is excess, but be ye continually filled with the Spirit."
Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord ( Ephesians 5:19 );
When you sing for recreation, what do you sing about? When you are just unconsciously sort of humming a tune, what is it all about? I love to observe my grandchildren, when they are not aware even that Grandpa is watching and listening. I like to watch them at play. I like to watch their inventiveness and the interest that they take in different things. Oh, how I love it as they are going around the yard, riding the tricycle or engaged in some activity and they are singing about Jesus, singing about the Lord. I think, "Oh, how beautiful, how beautiful."
That should be true of all of us. Singing psalms, hymns, spiritual songs, making melody in your heart to the Lord, that it just be a part of the subconscious. I do it when I am not even aware of doing it. That will be the case if that is the kind of music you are listening to, but if you are listening to some of these other stations all of the time, who knows what you will be whistling about.
Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ ( Ephesians 5:20 );
Giving thanks, always for all things. That's impossible to do unless I realize that all things are working together for good to those who love God. If I don't have that confidence, then I can't give thanks for all things. I can't give thanks for all things if I don't fully believe that God loves me supremely, and that God is wiser than I. So that those things that God has allowed to come into my life, He has a wise plan and purpose, motivated by love, which caused Him to allow them to come to me. Thus, I can give thanks for all things, but if I don't realize that, I can't. Because some things that happen to me on the surface look to be so adverse and so horrible that I'm prone to really cry out to God against these things. But if I know that God is in control of my life, that nothing can happen to me except the Father allow it to happen and that the Father loves me supremely so that all things that happen, happen for His purpose because He loves me, I love Him, and He has called me according to His purposes, then I can give thanks even for those things that I do not understand yet what the purpose is. That takes faith.
Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God ( Ephesians 5:21 ).
He has been talking about a lot of fleshly characteristics, covetousness and these other things. The characteristic of the flesh is actually selfishness or self-centeredness from which comes the covetousness and all these other things, the greed. All of it comes and stems from my self-centeredness and my selfishness. I want my way; I want people to yield to my desires. I want people to play by my rules. I want them to yield to me. But here we are told that we are to submit one to another, yielding to each other. Now, the insistence on our own way is what brings all of the strife and all of the problems.
I remember when I was a kid there used to be along the highway these Burma Shave signs. I am not going to ask you how many remember that because I wouldn't date you back to my tintype, flash powder days. I remember as a kid reading one of those signs along the road between Los Angeles and Ventura up in the area of Thousand Oaks, when Gobles Lion Farm used to be out that way and that old dirigible they were building along side of the road. The sign said, "Famous last words, of lights that shine, if he doesn't dim his, I won't dim mine." I won't yield first, I won't give in; you have got to yield to me. That is the basis of so much striving and so much fighting. How much strife could be avoided if we would just submit to one another in love; yield the point.
Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife ( Ephesians 5:22-23 ),
The word head meaning authority there.
even as Christ is [the authority or] the head of the church: and he is the savior of the body. Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be subject to their own husbands in every thing ( Ephesians 5:23-24 ).
This is the one rule for marriage that God has given to the wife, only one. It should be simple enough for her to keep the one rule. Why would you suppose that God would make such a rule? Because God understands men. God knows that in man there is that male macho image. That somehow a man needs to feel that he is in control, that he is able, that he can handle the situation, that he is boss. I mean, that is just a part of the male ego. God, understanding the male ego and man's needs, gave to the wife the one rule by which her husband can feel that he is really the man of the house and in control and thus be very compatible and loving towards her.
So he gave the women one simple rule, which, if she would follow, would make her husband a very responsible, loving person, easy to get along with. God gave one rule to the husbands, just one. God knows we are prone to forget, so just one rule for each.
Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ loved the church, and gave himself for it ( Ephesians 5:25 );
Now, why would God command the husbands to love their wives so totally and supremely? Because God understands women. God understands the needs in women, and He understands that one of the greatest needs that a woman has is to feel the security that she is loved supremely by her husband. That there is no one else that can attract his eye, or attract his attention, that she is queen, and that she is loved supremely. She needs that. So God commanded the husbands to fulfill that need in the woman so that she could feel the security of her husband's love, knowing I am number one in his life.
All marital problems stem out of the disobedience of these two rules. There are only two rules for a happy marriage; one for the husband, one for the wife. But marriages get in trouble because these rules are broken, and when they are broken they begin to compound. When the husband fails to show his wife that kind of love that Christ had for the church, and she begins to feel insecure, and, "I don't know if he really loves me or not," she then feels the necessity of beginning to protect herself, because, "I don't know if he is going to protect me or not." She begins to challenge the decisions that he makes. "Are you sure you are doing the right thing?" But as she begins to challenge the decisions that he makes, that upsets him because that means he is not the boss and supreme. "You ought to know . . . " And so as she begins to challenge his decision-making processes, he begins to feel that he is being challenged and, "I must now show that I am boss by becoming tough and hard and cold and unresponsive." As he becomes tough and unresponsive, she gets all the more insecure, so she challenges him all the more. You know, "I don't know if this character really loves me or not. I don't think what he is planning to do is that smart. If we lose everything he is probably going to walk out himself, because I am not really assured that he really loves me," and so she is challenging, but this challenging has a reverse affect upon him, causing him to become cold and aloof and, "I will show you I am boss." So the marriage is torn apart.
On the other hand, as the wife is submitting unto him and to his decisions, "Honey, I will just leave that with you, you are the one that takes care of that. I am just trusting you." He gets the feeling, "Oh, this precious little doll. I don't know if I am doing right or not, but oh boy, she trusts me and all right." And he begins to feel that, "Oh, you are a sweetheart, come here, Honey." And he hugs her and, "You are just a doll, and I love you, Angel." And he feels the freedom of expressing and showing his love to her. The more he expresses and shows that love to her, the more secure she feels. She doesn't feel that she has to challenge his decisions. "That was a dumb move, we will lose everything, but I still have him and he loves me, and after all, we can get by. We have love." She feels that security of love and thus she feels the freedom of submitting to him. And because she does submit, he feels that total freedom of expressing that love that he has for her. And it just gets gooder and gooder as we are following the rules.
But you see it has a way of compounding. You start going one way, and it starts building up to drive you farther and farther apart. And so if you find yourself way out here in your marriage, you know, where every decision is challenged, "Why are you wearing that shirt this morning? Are you sure you want to wear that tie? If I was you I would wear a different pair of shoes." You know, you may even agree with what he wants to do, but still you are going to challenge it. "I think I will take you out for dinner tonight, Honey." "Oh, I don't know if I want to go for dinner or not." You challenge it, don't let him get by making a decision.
Now, somewhere someone has to give. You have to break this routine that is driving you and tearing you apart. You have got to break the routine and someone has to give in. The husband has to begin to show more love to his wife. He has to cause her to really feel secure in that love. He has got to go ahead and just express his love, let her know that there is no one else and there will never be anyone else, that she is it for life, till death do us part, and he has no intention or desire for anybody else, she is it. As she begins to feel that security, then she will be able to be freer to allow him to do those things that he feels that he ought to do or wants to do. And you can get the thing going the other direction until it becomes heaven on earth, as we are following now God's rules which takes into consideration the basic need of the husband as a man, and the basic need of the wife as a woman.
God is so smart. He has it all set out. And He puts it so simply, rather than, "Here are the fifty-five rules for a happy marriage." He knows you'd forget them. So He gives you one, but even we have difficulty with the one, don't we? We forget so readily. "She ought to know I love her, I come home for dinner, after all." You know, there is something interesting about women, of course, that is why we are attracted to them. But I really don't think that you can tell your wife enough times that you love her. If when she first opens her eyes in the morning and you look over and you see her in bed, and you say, "Oh, Darling, you are beautiful. I love you." Then as you are sitting across from her at the breakfast table and you just look into her eyes and say, "Sweetheart, I love you so much." Then as you kiss her goodbye and head off for work and you say, "I love you, Honey. See you later." Two or three times during the day you call up and she says, "Hi, what do you want?" "Oh, I just wanted to tell you, Honey, I love you, and I think you are great." Believe me, when you go to bed at night, you are going to hear the question, "Honey, do you love me?" Take a hint, fellows, they need assurance of love. Not just verbal. Love is demonstrated in its actions and love is demonstrated in its giving. Love your wives as Christ loved the church and gave Himself for it. Giving of yourself to her, showing your love in your giving yourself to her. The rules for a happy home.
Paul goes on and draws on this illustration of Christ and the church as an illustration, really, of the perfect marital kind of a relationship. He gave Himself for the church
That he might set it apart and cleans it with the washing of the water by the word, that he might present it to himself a glorious church ( Ephesians 5:26-27 ),
You know, the wife who is smothered with love will just blossom forth so beautifully. As we blossom forth in the love of Jesus, the purpose is that He might present to Himself a glorious church,
without spot or blemish, or wrinkle, or any such thing; So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loves his wife [is really doing himself a favor, he] is loving himself ( Ephesians 5:27-28 ).
You are the one who is going to benefit from your showing your love to your wife.
For we are members of his body, of his flesh and of his bones. And for this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall become one flesh. It is a great mystery: but I am speaking [Paul said] concerning Christ and the church. Nevertheless, let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband ( Ephesians 5:30-33 ).
So relationships, submitting ourselves to one another, wives submitting to their husbands, husbands loving their wives supremely.
Copyright © 2014, Calvary Chapel of Costa Mesa, Ca.
Smith, Charles Ward. "Commentary on Ephesians 5:11". "Smith's Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/csc/ephesians-5.html. 2014.
And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them.
And have no fellowship with: We are not to have "fellowship" (Strong 4790) with, that is "participate in" or take part in, these sins (Arndt & Gingrich 774). Christians should "have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness" (NIV). This teaching is a reiteration of the warning: "Therefore do not be partakers with them" (5:7 NASB).
the unfruitful works of darkness: The "fruit" of the light (5:9) is now contrasted to the "unfruitful" (Strong 175) works of darkness. When something is spiritually "unfruitful," it means it does not produce anything that is spiritually beneficial. The "works of darkness" have consequences that can hardly be classified as beneficial (Romans 6:21-23; Judges 1:12-13).
but rather reprove them: Withdrawal from these sins is not enough. We are to "reprove them." To "reprove" (Strong 1651) means to convict or correct those who are ignorant or guilty of these sins and bring to light or expose sin so others will be able to identify it and see its true nature (see 5:13). One of the responsibilities of having the "light" is using it:
And this is the judgment, that the light is come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the light; for their deeds were evil. For everyone who does evil hates the light, and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. But he who practices the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God (John 3:19-21 NASB).
First, we are not to participate in sin. Second, we are instructed to stand back to expose sin with the light of God’s word (5:13; 2 Timothy 4:2; Titus 2:15).
Contending for the Faith reproduced by permission of Contending for the Faith Publications, 4216 Abigale Drive, Yukon, OK 73099. All other rights reserved.
Editor Charles Baily, "Commentary on Ephesians 5:11". "Contending for the Faith". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/ctf/ephesians-5.html. 1993-2022.
4. Walking in light 5:7-14
The resumptive inferential particle translated "Therefore" marks the beginning of a new paragraph in Paul’s thought (cf. Ephesians 4:1; Ephesians 4:17; Ephesians 5:1; Ephesians 5:15). He related three commands concerning walking (living) in the light in these verses and added reasons and explanations to motivate and to assist his readers.
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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Ephesians 5:11". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dcc/ephesians-5.html. 2012.
Children of light should also abstain from joining the sons of disobedience in their deeds but should rather reprove believers who do them because these deeds are unfruitful (cf. Ephesians 5:9). [Note: Hoehner, Ephesians, p. 679.] This is Paul’s third command in this section. It is the deeds of unbelievers that Christians must shun, not the unbelievers who do them. We reprove the deeds of believers who practice such evil deeds as we bring the light (Ephesians 5:9) next to them. This exposes them for what they are.
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Ephesians 5:11". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dcc/ephesians-5.html. 2012.
THE IMITATION OF GOD ( Ephesians 5:1-8 )
5:1-8 You must become imitators of God, as well loved children imitate their father. You must live in love, as Christ loved you, and gave himself to God as a sacrifice and an offering, a sacrifice which was the odour of a sweet savour to God. Let no one even mention fornication and unclean living and insatiable desire among you--it does not befit God's consecrated people to talk about things like that. Let no one even mention shameful conduct. Let there be no foolish talking and graceless jesting among you for these things are not fitting for people like you. But rather let your talk be a gracious thanksgiving to God. You know this and you are well aware of it, that no fornicator, no unclean liver, no one who gives rein to insatiate desire--which is idolatry has any share in the kingdom of Christ and God. Let no one deceive you with empty words. It is because of these vices that the wrath of God comes upon the children of disobedience. Don't become partners with them.
Paul sets before his Christian people the highest standard in all the world; he tells them they must be imitators of God. Later Clement of Alexandria was to say daringly that the true Christian wise man practises being God. When Paul talked of imitation he was using language which the wise men of Greece could understand. Mimesis, imitation, was a main part in the training of an orator. The teachers of rhetoric declared that the learning of oratory depended on three things--theory, imitation and practice. The main part of their training was the study and the imitation of the masters who had gone before. It is as if Paul said: "If you were to train to be an orator, you would be told to imitate the masters of speech. Since you are training in life, you must imitate the Lord of all good life."
Above all the Christian must imitate the love and the forgiveness of God. Paul uses a typical Old Testament phrase, "odour of a sweet savour," which goes back to a very old idea, as old as sacrifice itself. When a sacrifice was offered on an altar, the odour of the burning meat went up to heaven and the god to whom the sacrifice was offered was supposed to feast upon that odour. A sacrifice which had the odour of a sweet savour was specially pleasing and specially acceptable to the god to whom it was offered.
Paul takes the old phrase which time had hallowed--it occurs almost fifty times in the Old Testament and uses it of the sacrifice that Jesus brought to God. The sacrifice of Jesus was well-pleasing to God.
What was that sacrifice? It was a life of perfect obedience to God and of perfect love to men, an obedience so absolute and a love so infinite that they accepted the Cross. What Paul says is: "Imitate God. And you can do so only by loving men with the same sacrificial love with which Jesus loved them and forgiving them in love as God has done."
Paul goes on to another matter. It has been said that chastity was the one new virtue which Christianity introduced into the world. It is certainly true that the ancient world regarded sexual immorality so lightly that it was no sin at all. It was the expected thing that a man should have a mistress. In places like Corinth the great temples were staffed by hundreds of priestesses who were sacred prostitutes and whose earnings went to the upkeep of the Temple.
In his speech Pro Caelio Cicero pleads: "If there is anyone who thinks that young men should be absolutely forbidden the love of courtesans, he is indeed extremely severe. I am not able to deny the principle that he states. But he is at variance not only with the licence of what our own age allows but also with the customs and concessions of our ancestors. When indeed was this not done? When did anyone ever find fault with it? When was such permission denied? When was it that that which is now lawful was not lawful?"
The Greeks said that Solon was the first person to allow the introduction of prostitutes into Athens and then the building of brothels; and with the profits of the new trade a new Temple was built to Aphrodite, the goddess of love. Nothing could show the Greek point of view better than the fact that they saw nothing wrong in building a temple to the gods with the proceeds of prostitution.
When Paul set this stress on moral purity, he was erecting a standard which the ordinary heathen had never dreamed of. That is why he pleads with them so earnestly and lays down his laws of purity with such stringency. We must remember the kind of society from which these Christian converts had come and the kind of society with which they were encompassed. There is nothing in all history like the moral miracle which Christianity wrought.
JESTING ABOUT SIN ( Ephesians 5:1-8 continued)
We must note two other warnings which Paul gives.
(i) He says that these shameful sins are not even to be talked about. The Persians had a rule, so Herodotus tells us, by which "it was not even allowed to speak such things as it was not allowed to do." To jest about a thing or to make it a frequent subject of conversation is to introduce it into the mind and to bring nearer the actual doing of it. Paul warns that some things are not safe even to talk or to jest about. It is a grim commentary on human nature that many a book and many a play and many a film has had success simply because it dealt with forbidden and ugly things.
(ii) He says that his converts must not allow themselves to be deceived with empty words. What does he mean? There were voices in the ancient world, even in the Christian Church, which taught men to think lightly of bodily sin.
In the ancient world there was a line of thought called Gnosticism. Gnosticism began from the contention that spirit alone is good and that matter is always evil. If that be so, it follows that only spirit is to be valued and that matter must be utterly despised. Now a man is composed of two parts; he is body and spirit. According to this point of view only his spirit matters; his body is of no importance whatsoever. Therefore, some at least of the Gnostics went on to argue, it does not matter what a man does with his body. It will make no difference if he gluts its desires. Bodily and sexual sin were of no importance because they were of the body and not of the spirit.
Christianity met such teaching with the contention that body and soul are equally important. God is the creator of both, Jesus Christ for ever sanctified human flesh by taking it upon himself, the body is the temple of the Holy Spirit and Christianity is concerned with the salvation of the whole man, body, soul and spirit.
(iii) That attack came from outside the Church; but an even more dangerous attack came from inside. There were those in the Church who perverted the doctrine of grace.
We hear the undertones of Paul's argument with them in Romans 6:1-23. Their argument ran like this. "Do you say that God's grace is the greatest thing in all the world?" "Yes." "Do you say that God's grace is wide enough to cover every sin?" "Yes." "Then let us go on sinning, for God's grace can wipe out every sin. In fact the more we sin the more chances God's grace will get to operate."
Christianity met that argument by insisting that grace was not only a privilege and a gift; it was a responsibility and an obligation. It was true that God's love could and would forgive; but the very fact that God loves us lays on us the obligation to deserve that love as best we can.
The gravest disservice any man can do to a fellow man is to make him think lightly of sin. Paul pleaded with his converts not to be deceived with empty words which took the horror from the idea of sin.
THE CHILDREN OF LIGHT ( Ephesians 5:9-14 )
5:9-14 For once you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. You must behave as children of the light, for the fruit of light consists in all benevolence and righteousness and truth. You must decide what is well-pleasing to the Lord. You must take no share in the barren works of the dark. Rather you must expose them, for it is a shameful thing even to speak about the hidden things which are done in secret by such men. Whatever is exposed to the light is illuminated. And everything which is illuminated becomes light. That is why it says: "Wake, O sleeper, and rise from the dead, and Christ will shine upon you."
Paul saw the heathen life as life in the dark; and the Christian life as life in the light. So vividly does he wish to put this that he does not say the heathen are children of the dark and the Christians children of the light; he says the heathen are dark and the Christians are light. He has certain things to say about the light which Jesus Christ brings to men.
(i) The light produces good fruit. It produces benevolence, righteousness and truth. Benevolence (agathosune, G19) is a certain generosity of spirit. The Greeks themselves defined righteousness (dikaiosune, G1343) as "giving to men and to God that which is their due." Truth (aletheia, G225) is not in New Testament thought simply an intellectual thing to be grasped with the mind; it is moral truth, not only something to be known but something to be done. The light which Christ brings makes us useful citizens of this world; it makes us men and women who never fail in duty, human or divine; it makes us strong to do that which we know is true.
(ii) The light enables us to discriminate between that which is well-pleasing and that which is not pleasing to God. It is in the light of Christ that all motives and all actions must be tested. In the bazaars of the east the shops are often simply little covered enclosures with no windows. A man might wish to buy a piece of silk or an article of beaten brass. Before he buys it he takes it out to the street and holds it up to the sun, so that the light might reveal any flaws which happen to be in it. It is the Christian's duty to expose every action, every decision, every motive to the light of Christ.
(iii) The light exposes that which is evil. The best way to rid the world of any evil is to drag it into the light. So long as the thing is being done in secret, it goes on; but when it is taken into the light of day, it dies a natural death. The surest way to cleanse the depths of our own hearts and the practices of any society in which we happen to be involved is to expose them to the light of Christ.
(iv) Finally, Paul says: "Everything which is illuminated becomes light." What he seems to mean is that light has in itself a cleansing quality. In our own generation we know that many a disease has been conquered simply by letting the sunlight in. The light of Christ is like that. We must never think of the light of Christ as only condemnatory; it is a healing thing too.
Paul finishes this passage with a quotation in poetry. In Moffatt's translation it runs:
"Wake up, O sleeper, and rise from the dead;
So Christ will shine upon you."
Paul introduces the quotation as if everybody knew it, but no one now knows where it came from. There are certain interesting suggestions.
Almost certainly, being in poetry, it is a fragment of an early Christian hymn. It may well have been part of a baptismal hymn. In the early Church nearly all baptisms were of adults, confessing their faith as they came out of heathenism into Christianity. Perhaps these were the lines which were sung as they arose from the water, to symbolize the passage from the dark sleep of paganism to the awakened life of the Christian way.
Again, it has been suggested that these lines are part of a hymn, which was supposed to give the summons of the archangel when the last trumpet sounded over the earth. Then would be the great awakening when men rose from the sleep of death to receive the eternal life of Christ.
These things are speculations, but it seems certain that when we read these lines, we are reading a fragment of one of the first hymns the Christian Church ever sang.
THE CHRISTIAN FELLOWSHIP ( Ephesians 5:15-21 )
5:15-21 Be very careful how you live. Do not live like unwise men, but like wise men. Use your time with all economy for these are evil days. That is the reason why you must not be senseless, but you must understand what the will of God is. Do not get drunk with wine--that is profligacy--but be filled with the Spirit. Speak to each other in psalms and hymns and songs the Spirit teaches you. Let the words and the music of your praise to God come from your heart. Give thanks for all things at all times to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Be subject to one another because you reverence Christ.
Paul's general appeal finishes with an exhortation to his converts to live like wise men. The times in which they are living are evil; they must rescue as much time as they can from the evil uses of the world.
He goes on to draw a contrast between a pagan gathering and a Christian gathering. The pagan gathering is apt to be a debauch. It is significant that we still use the word symposium for a discussion of a subject by a number of people; the Greek word sumposion ( G4849) literally means a drinking-party. Once A. C. Welch was preaching on this text: "Be filled with the Spirit." He began with one sudden sentence: "You've got to fill a man with something." The heathen found his happiness in filling himself with wine and with worldly pleasures; the Christian found his happiness in being filled with the Spirit.
From this passage we can gather certain facts about the Christian gatherings in the early days.
(i) The early Church was a singing Church. Its characteristic was psalms and hymns and spiritual songs; it had a happiness which made men sing.
(ii) The early Church was a thankful Church. The instinct was to give thanks for all things and in all places and at all times. Chrysostom, great preacher of the Church of a later day, had the curious thought that a Christian could give thanks even for Hell, because Hell was a warning to keep him in the right way. The early Church was a thankful Church because its members were still dazzled with the wonder that God's love had stooped to save them; and it was a thankful Church because its members had such a consciousness that they were in the hands of God.
(iii) The early Church was a Church where men honoured and respected each other. Paul says that the reason for this mutual honour and respect was that they reverenced Christ. They saw each other not in the light of their professions or social standing but in the light of Christ; and therefore they saw the dignity of every man.
THE PRECIOUS BOND ( Ephesians 5:22-33 )
5:22-33 Wives, be subject to your husbands as to the Lord; for the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the Church, though there is this great difference, that Christ is the Saviour of the whole body. But, even allowing for this difference, even as the Church is subject to Christ, so wives must be subject to their husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ loved the Church and gave himself for the Church, that by the washing of water he might purify her and consecrate her as she made confession of her faith, that he might make the Church to stand in his presence in all her glory, without any spot which soils, or any wrinkle which disfigures, or any such imperfection, but that she might be consecrated and blameless. So ought husbands to love their wives, to love them as they love their own bodies. He who loves his wife really loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh; rather he nourishes it and cherishes it. So Christ loves the Church because we are parts of his body. For this cause a man will leave his father and his mother and will cleave to his wife, and the two will become one flesh. This is a symbol which is very great--I mean when it is seen as a symbol of the relationship between Christ and the Church. However that may be, let each and every one of you love his wife as he loves himself, and let the wife reverence her husband.
No one reading this passage in the twentieth century can fully realize how great it is. Throughout the years the Christian view of marriage has come to be widely accepted. It still is recognised as the ideal by the majority even in these permissive days. Even where practice has fallen short of that ideal, it has always been in the minds and hearts of men who live in a Christian situation. Marriage is regarded as the perfect union of body, mind and spirit between a man and a woman. But things were very different when Paul wrote. In this passage Paul is setting forth an ideal which shone with a radiant purity in an immoral world.
Let us look briefly at the situation against which Paul wrote this passage.
The Jews had a low view of women. In his morning prayer there was a sentence in which a Jewish man gave thanks that God had not made him "a Gentile, a slave or a woman." In Jewish law a woman was not a person, but a thing. She had no legal rights whatsoever; she was absolutely her husband's possession to do with as he willed.
In theory the Jew had the highest ideal of marriage. The Rabbis had their sayings. "Every Jew must surrender his life rather than commit idolatry, murder or adultery." "The very altar sheds tears when a man divorces the wife of his youth." But the fact was that by Paul's day, divorce had become tragically easy.
The law of divorce is summarized in Deuteronomy 24:1. "When a man takes a wife and marries her, if then she finds no favour in his eyes because he has found some indecency in her, he writes her a bill of divorce and puts it in her hand and sends her out of his house." Obviously everything turns on the interpretation of some indecency. The stricter Rabbis, headed by the famous Shammai, held that the phrase meant adultery and adultery alone, and declared that even if a wife was as mischievous as Jezebel a husband might not divorce her except for adultery. The more liberal Rabbis, headed by the equally famous Hillel, interpreted the phrase in the widest possible way. They said that it meant that a man might divorce his wife if she spoiled his dinner by putting too much salt in his food, if she walked in public with her head uncovered, if she talked with men in the streets, if she spoke disrespectfully of her husband's parents in her husband's hearing, if she was a brawling woman, if she was troublesome or quarrelsome. A certain Rabbi Akiba interpreted the phrase if she finds no favour in his eyes to mean that a husband might divorce his wife if he found a woman whom he considered more attractive. It is easy to see which school of thought would predominate.
Two facts in Jewish law made the matter worse. First, the wife had no rights of divorce at all, unless her husband became a leper or an apostate or engaged in a disgusting trade. Broadly speaking, a husband, under Jewish law, could divorce his wife for any cause; a wife could divorce her husband for no cause. Second, the process of divorce was disastrously easy. The Mosaic law said that a man who wished a divorce had to hand his wife a bill of divorcement which said, "Let this be from me thy writ of divorce and letter of dismissal and deed of liberation, that thou mayest marry whatsoever man thou wilt." All a man had to do was to hand that bill of divorcement, correctly written out by a Rabbi, to his wife in the presence of two witnesses and the divorce was complete. The only other condition was that the woman's dowry must be returned.
At the time of Christ's coming the marriage bond was in peril even among the Jews, so much so that the very institution of marriage was threatened since Jewish girls were refusing to marry because their position as wife was so uncertain.
THE PRECIOUS BOND Ephesians 5:22-33 (continued)
The situation was worse in the Greek world. Prostitution was an essential part of Greek life. Demosthenes had laid it down as the accepted rule of life: "We have courtesans for the sake of pleasure; we have concubines for the sake of daily cohabitation; we have wives for the purpose of having children legitimately and of having a faithful guardian for all our household affairs." The woman of the respectable classes in Greece led a completely secluded life. She took no part in public life; she never appeared on the streets alone; she never even appeared at meals or at social occasions; she had her own apartments and none but her husband might enter into them. It was the aim that, as Xenophon had it, "she might see as little as possible, hear as little as possible and ask as little as possible."
The Greek respectable woman was brought up in such a way that companionship and fellowship in marriage was impossible. Socrates said: "Is there anyone to whom you entrust more serious matters than to your wife--and is there anyone to whom you talk less?" Verus was the imperial colleague of the great Marcus Aurelius. He was blamed by his wife for associating with other women, and his answer was that she must remember that the name of wife was a title of dignity but not of pleasure. The Greek expected his wife to run his home, to care for his legitimate children, but he found his pleasure and his companionship elsewhere.
To make matters worse, there was no legal procedure of divorce in Greece. As someone has put it, divorce was by nothing else than caprice. The one security that the wife had was that her dowry must be returned. Home and family life were near to being extinct and fidelity was completely nonexistent.
THE PRECIOUS BOND Ephesians 5:22-33 (continued)
In Rome the matter was still worse; its degeneracy was tragic. For the first five hundred years of the Roman Republic there had been not one single case of divorce. The first recorded divorce was that of Spurius Carvilius Ruga in 234 B.C. But at the time of Paul, Roman family life was wrecked. Seneca writes that women were married to be divorced and divorced to be married. In Rome the Romans did not commonly date their years by numbers; they called them by the names of the consuls; Seneca says that women dated the years by the names of their husbands. Martial tells of a woman who had had ten husbands; Juvenal tells of one who had had eight husbands in five years; Jerome declares it to be true that in Rome there was a woman who was married to her twenty-third husband and she herself was his twenty-first wife. We find a Roman Emperor Augustus demanding that her husband should divorce the lady Livia when she was with child that he might himself marry her. We find even Cicero, in his old age, putting away his wife Terentia that he might marry a young heiress, whose trustee he was, that he might enter into her estate in order to pay his debts.
That is not to say that there was no such thing as fidelity. Suetonius tells of a Roman lady called Mallonia who committed suicide rather than submit to the favours of Tiberius the Emperor. But it is not too much to say that the whole atmosphere was adulterous. The marriage bond was on the way to complete breakdown.
It is against this background that Paul writes. When he wrote this lovely passage he was not stating the view that every man held. He was calling men and women to a new purity and a new fellowship in the married life. It is impossible to exaggerate the cleansing effect that Christianity had on home life in the ancient world and the benefits it brought to women.
THE GROWTH OF PAUL'S THOUGHT ( Ephesians 5:22-33 continued)
In this passage we find Paul's real thought on marriage. There are things which Paul wrote about marriage which puzzle us and may make us wish that he had never written them. The unfortunate thing is that it is these things which are so often quoted as Paul's view of marriage.
One of the strangest chapters is 1 Corinthians 7:1-40. He is talking about marriage and about the relationships between men and women. The blunt truth is that Paul's teaching is that marriage is permissible merely in order to avoid something worse. "Because of the temptation to immorality," he writes, "each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband" ( 1 Corinthians 7:2). He allows that a widow may marry again but it would be better if she remained single ( 1 Corinthians 7:39-40). He would prefer the unmarried and the widows not to marry. "But if they cannot exercise self control they should marry; for it is better to marry than to be aflame with passion" ( 1 Corinthians 7:9).
There was a reason why Paul wrote like that. It was because he hourly expected the Second Coming of Jesus. It was therefore his conviction that no one should undertake any earthly ties whatsoever, but that all should concentrate on using the short time which remained in preparing for the coming of their Lord. "The unmarried man is anxious about the affairs of the Lord, how to please the Lord; but the married man is anxious about worldly affairs, how to please his wife" ( 1 Corinthians 7:32-33).
Between I Corinthians and Ephesians there is a space of perhaps nine years. In these nine years Paul had realized that the Second Coming was not to be so soon as he had thought, that in fact he and his people were living, not in a temporary situation, but in a more or less permanent situation. And it is in Ephesians that we find Paul's true teaching on marriage, that Christian marriage is the most precious relationship in life, whose only parallel is the relationship between Christ and the Church.
It is just possible that the Corinthians passage was coloured by Paul's personal experience. It would seem that in his days as a zealous Jew, he was a member of the Sanhedrin. When he is telling of his conduct towards the Christians, he says: "I cast my vote against them" ( Acts 26:10). It would also seem that one of the qualifications for membership of the Sanhedrin was marriage, and that therefore Paul must have been a married man. He never mentions his wife. Why? It may well be that it was because she turned against him when he became a Christian. It may be that when he wrote I Corinthians Paul was speaking out of a situation in which, not only did he expect the immediate coming of Christ, but in which he had also found his own marriage one of his greatest problems and sorest heartbreaks; so that he saw marriage as a handicap for the Christian.
THE BASIS OF LOVE ( Ephesians 5:22-33 continued)
Sometimes the emphasis of this passage is entirely misplaced; and it is read as if its essence was the subordination of wife to husband. The single phrase, "The husband is the head of the wife," is quoted in isolation. But the basis of the passage is not control; it is love. Paul says certain things about the love that a husband must bear his wife.
(i) It must be a sacrificial love. He must love her as Christ loved the Church and gave himself for the Church. It must never be a selfish love. Christ loved the Church, not that the Church might do things for him, but that he might do things for the Church. Chrysostom has a wonderful expansion of this passage: "Hast thou seen the measure of obedience? Hear also the measure of love. Wouldst thou that thy wife shouldst obey thee as the Church doth Christ? Have care thyself for her as Christ for the Church. And if it be needful that thou shouldst give thy life for her, or be cut to pieces a thousand times, or endure anything whatever, refuse it not.... He brought the Church to his feet by his great care, not by threats nor fear nor any such thing; so do thou conduct thyself towards thy wife."
The husband is head of the wife--true, Paul said that; but he also said that the husband must love the wife as Christ loved the Church, with a love which never exercises a tyranny of control but which is ready to make any sacrifice for her good.
(ii) It must be a purifying love. Christ cleansed and consecrated the Church by the washing of water on the day when each member of the Church took his confession of faith. It may well be that Paul has in mind a Greek custom. One of the Greek marriage customs was that before the bride was taken to her marriage she was bathed in the water of a stream sacred to some god or goddess. In Athens, for instance, the bride was bathed in the waters of the Callirhoe, which was sacred to the goddess Athene. It is of baptism that Paul is thinking. By the washing of baptism and by the confession of faith, Christ sought to make for himself a Church, cleansed and consecrated, until there was neither soiling spot nor disfiguring wrinkle upon it. Any love which drags a person down is false. Any love which coarsens instead of refining the character, which necessitates deceit, which weakens the moral fibre, is not love. Real love is the great purifier of life.
(iii) It must be a caring love. A man must love his wife as he loves his own body. Real love loves not to extract service, nor to ensure that its own physical comfort is attended to, it cherishes the one it loves. There is something far wrong when a man regards his wife, consciously or unconsciously, as simply the one who cooks his meals and washes his clothes and cleans his house and trains his children.
(iv) It is an unbreakable love. For the sake of this love a man leaves father and mother and cleaves to his wife. They become one flesh. He is as united to her as the members of the body are united to each other; and would no more think of separating from her than of tearing his own body apart. Here indeed was an ideal in an age when men and women changed partners with as little thought as they changed clothes.
(v) The whole relationship is in the Lord. In the Christian home Jesus is an ever-remembered, though an unseen, guest. In Christian marriage there are not two partners, but three--and the third is Christ.
-Barclay's Daily Study Bible (NT)
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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Barclay, William. "Commentary on Ephesians 5:11". "William Barclay's Daily Study Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dsb/ephesians-5.html. 1956-1959.
Take no part [no fellowship with] -- Paul’s instruction is plain and direct: Christians are to faithfully live in righteousness and purity and have nothing at all to do with the evil ways and works of Satan and the world. The two ways of living are unalterably opposed to each other and mutually exclusive. Cf. 1 Corinthians 5:9-11; 2 Corinthians 6:14-18; 2 Thessalonians 3:6, 2 Thessalonians 3:14.
unfruitful deeds of darkness -- Contrasted with the "fruit of light" Ephesians 5:9. It refers to the illicit behavior Paul mentioned in Ephesians 5:3-5. Such actions are characteristic of sin and death.
expose them [reprove] -- Speak out against, expose. Christ’s disciples are to expose these deeds either verbally or through their lifestyle. By not participating in such actions, they show these deeds to be the evil that they are.
While the Christian is responsible for exposing and opposing darkness wherever it is found, he should especially do so when it is found in the church. See Matthew 18:15-17; Galatians 6:1-3.
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Gann, Windell. "Commentary on Ephesians 5:11". Gann's Commentary on the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/gbc/ephesians-5.html. 2021.
And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness,.... It is not said with the workers of darkness, or with the men of the world, who are in darkness, and are darkness itself; to have fellowship with them in a civil way, or to dwell among them, is not prohibited; it is allowed of, and countenanced by the greatest examples; and especially it is lawful and right, when there is any prospect of doing good to the souls of men; and even when natural right, relation, and necessity require it; and indeed, the contrary is impracticable: conversation with them in things sinful and superstitious should be abstained from; and when it tends to draw off the soul from Christ and his interest, and is infectious; and when weak ones are offended, and sinners are hereby hardened and confirmed in sin; and the name of God is blasphemed, and the Gospel is evil spoken of: but fellowship is not to be maintained "with the works of darkness"; which are sins, so called, because they are opposite to light; to the light of nature, to the light of the divine word, both law and Gospel, to the light of grace, to God the fountain of light, and to Christ the light of the world; and because the source and spring of them are the original darkness of the mind, and Satan the prince of darkness; and because they are generally committed in the dark; and because the effect and consequence of them is utter darkness, and blackness of darkness: and these are "unfruitful"; they are of no profit and advantage, they bring forth no fruit, unless it be guilt, fear, shame, corruption, and death; wherefore no fellowship should be had with them, by committing the same, by assisting in them, by consenting to them, by approving of them, by receiving any worldly advantage from them, and by winking and conniving at them: it is contrary to the character of saints to have fellowship with such, as the apostle says, 2 Corinthians 6:14, where he gives the mystical explanation of the law, in Deuteronomy 22:10; agreeably to which, and to the passage here, is the sense of a Jewish commentators l who upon it observes, that that law
"intimates that a righteous man, שלא ישתתף, "should have no fellowship" with a wicked man;''
this is to be unequally yoked, signified by the ox and the ass ploughing together:
but rather reprove [them]; both by words and by deeds, by an agreeable life and conversation, which last seems to be the design of the apostle here; because it is not a brother, but such who are in darkness, and live in works of darkness; yea, not sinners, but sins are to be reproved, which can be done no other way; nor are all saints proper to reprove verbally, nor are they qualified for it; but all should, and may by facts; and the light discovers darkness, by its own splendour; and this appears from the apostle's reasoning in the next words.
l Baal Hatturira in Deut. xxii. 10.
The New John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible Modernised and adapted for the computer by Larry Pierce of Online Bible. All Rights Reserved, Larry Pierce, Winterbourne, Ontario.
A printed copy of this work can be ordered from: The Baptist Standard Bearer, 1 Iron Oaks Dr, Paris, AR, 72855
Gill, John. "Commentary on Ephesians 5:11". "Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/ephesians-5.html. 1999.
|Preservatives from Impurity; Cautions and Admonitions.||A. D. 61.|
3 But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not be once named among you, as becometh saints; 4 Neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting, which are not convenient: but rather giving of thanks. 5 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. 6 Let no man deceive you with vain words: for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience. 7 Be not ye therefore partakers with them. 8 For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light: 9 (For the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth;) 10 Proving what is acceptable unto the Lord. 11 And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them. 12 For it is a shame even to speak of those things which are done of them in secret. 13 But all things that are reproved are made manifest by the light: for whatsoever doth make manifest is light. 14 Wherefore he saith, Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light. 15 See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, 16 Redeeming the time, because the days are evil. 17 Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is. 18 And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit; 19 Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord; 20 Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ;
These verses contain a caution against all manner of uncleanness, with proper remedies and arguments proposed: some further cautions are added, and other duties recommended. Filthy lusts must be suppressed, in order to the supporting of holy love. Walk in love, and shun fornication and all uncleanness. Fornication is folly committed between unmarried persons. All uncleanness includes all other sorts of filthy lusts, which were too common among the Gentiles. Or covetousness, which being thus connected, and mentioned as a thing which should not be once named, some understand it, in the chaste style of the scripture, of unnatural lust; while others take it in the more common sense, for an immoderate desire of gain or an insatiable love of riches, which is spiritual adultery; for by this the soul, which was espoused to God, goes astray from him, and embraces the bosom of a stranger, and therefore carnal worldlings are called adulterers: You adulterers and adulteresses, know you not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? Now these sins must be dreaded and detested in the highest degree: Let it not be once named among you, never in a way of approbation nor without abhorrence, as becometh saints, holy persons, who are separated from the world, and dedicated unto God. The apostle not only cautions against the gross acts of sin, but against what some may be apt to make light of, and think to be excusable. Neither filthiness (Ephesians 5:4; Ephesians 5:4), by which may be understood all wanton and unseemly gestures and behaviour; nor foolish talking, obscene and lewd discourse, or, more generally, such vain discourse as betrays much folly and indiscretion, and is far from edifying the hearers; nor jesting. The Greek word eutrapelia is the same which Aristotle, in his Ethics, makes a virtue: pleasantness of conversation. And there is no doubt an innocent and inoffensive jesting, which we cannot suppose the apostle here forbids. Some understand him of such scurrilous and abusive reflections as tend to expose others and to make them appear ridiculous. This is bad enough: but the context seems to restrain it to such pleasantry of discourse as is filthy and obscene, which he may also design by that corrupt, or putrid and rotten, communication that he speaks of, Ephesians 4:29; Ephesians 4:29. Of these things he says, They are not convenient. Indeed there is more than inconvenience, even a great deal of mischief, in them. They are so far from being profitable that they pollute and poison the hearers. But the meaning is, Those things do not become Christians, and are very unsuitable to their profession and character. Christians are allowed to be cheerful and pleasant; but they must be merry and wise. The apostle adds, But rather giving of thanks: so far let the Christian's way of mirth be from that of obscene and profane wit, that he may delight his mind, and make himself cheerful, by a grateful remembrance of God's goodness and mercy to him, and by blessing and praising him on account of these. Note, 1. We should take all occasions to render thanksgivings and praises to God for his kindness and favours to us. 2. A reflection on the grace and goodness of God to us, with a design to excite our thankfulness to him, is proper to refresh and delight the Christian's mind, and to make him cheerful. Dr. Hammond thinks that eucharistia may signify gracious, pious, religious discourse in general, by way of opposition to what the apostle condemns. Our cheerfulness, instead of breaking out into what is vain and sinful, and a profanation of God's name, should express itself as becomes Christians, and in what may tend to his glory. If men abounded more in good and pious expressions, they would not be so apt to utter ill and unbecoming words; for shall blessing and cursing, lewdness and thanksgivings, proceed out of the same mouth?
I. To fortify us against the sins of uncleanness, c., the apostle urges several arguments, and prescribes several remedies, in what follows,
1. He urges several arguments, As, (1.) Consider that these are sins which shut persons out of heaven: For this you know, &c., Ephesians 5:5; Ephesians 5:5. They knew it, being informed of it by the Christian religion. By a covetous man some understand a lewd lascivious libertine, who indulges himself in those vile lusts which were accounted the certain marks of a heathen and an idolater. Others understand it in the common acceptation of the word; and such a man is an idolater because there is spiritual idolatry in the love of this world. As the epicure makes a god of his belly, so the covetous man makes a god of his money, sets those affectations upon it, and places that hope, confidence, and delight, in worldly good, which should be reserved for God only. He serves mammon instead of God. Of these persons it is said that they have no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God; that is, the kingdom of Christ, who is God, or the kingdom which is God's by nature, and Christ's as he is Mediator, the kingdom which Christ has purchased and which God bestows. Heaven is here described as a kingdom (as frequently elsewhere) with respect to its eminency and glory, its fulness and sufficiency, c. In this kingdom the saints and servants of God have an inheritance for it is the inheritance of the saints in light. But those who are impenitent, and allow themselves either in the lusts of the flesh or the love of the world, are not Christians indeed, and so belong not to the kingdom of grace, nor shall they ever come to the kingdom of glory. Let us then be excited to be on our guard against those sins which would exclude and shut us out of heaven. (2.) These sins bring the wrath of God upon those who are guilty of them: "Let no man deceive you with vain words, c., Ephesians 5:6; Ephesians 5:6. Let none flatter you, as though such things were tolerable and to be allowed of in Christians, or as though they were not very provoking and offensive unto God, or as though you might indulge yourselves in them and yet escape with impunity. These are vain words." Observe, Those who flatter themselves and others with hopes of impunity in sin do but put a cheat upon themselves and others. Thus Satan deceived our first parents with vain words when he said to them, You shall not surely die. They are vain words indeed; for those who trust to them will find themselves wretchedly imposed upon, for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience. By children of disobedience may be meant the Gentiles, who disbelieved, and refused to comply with, and to submit themselves to, the gospel: or, more generally, all obstinate sinners, who will not be reclaimed, but are given over to disobedience. Disobedience is the very malignity of sin. And it is by a usual Hebraism that such sinners are called children of disobedience; and such indeed they are from their childhood, going astray as soon as they are born. The wrath of God comes upon such because of their sins; sometimes in this world, but more especially in the next. And dare we make light of that which will lay us under the wrath of God? O no. Be not you therefore partakers with them,Ephesians 5:7; Ephesians 5:7. "Do not partake with them in their sins, that you may not share in their punishment." We partake with other men in their sins, not only when we live in the same sinful manner that they do, and consent and comply with their temptations and solicitations to sin, but when we encourage them in their sins, prompt them to sin, and do not prevent and hinder them, as far as it may be in our power to do so. (3.) Consider what obligations Christians are under to live at another rate than such sinners do: For you were sometimes darkness, but now, c., Ephesians 5:8; Ephesians 5:8. The meaning is, "Such courses are very unsuitable to your present condition; for, whereas in your Gentile and your unregenerate state you were darkness, you have now undergone a great change." The apostle calls their former condition darkness in the abstract, to express the great darkness they were in. They lived wicked and profane lives, being destitute of the light of instruction without and of the illumination and grace of the blessed Spirit within. Note, A state of sin is a state of darkness. Sinners, like men in the dark, are going they know not whither, and doing they know not what. But the grace of God had produced a mighty change in their souls: Now are you light in the Lord, savingly enlightened by the word and the Spirit of God. Now, upon your believing in Christ, and your receiving the gospel. Walk as children of light. Children of light, according to the Hebrew dialect, are those who are in a state of light, endued with knowledge and holiness. "Now, being such, let your conversation be suitable to your condition and privileges, and accordingly live up to the obligation you are under by that knowledge and those advantages you enjoy--Proving what is acceptable unto the Lord (Ephesians 5:10; Ephesians 5:10), examining and searching diligently what God has revealed to be his will, and making it appear that you approve it by conforming yourselves to it." Observe, We must not only dread and avoid that which is displeasing to God, but enquire and consider what will be acceptable to him, searching the scriptures with this view, thus keeping at the greatest distance from these sins.
2. The apostle prescribes some remedies against them. As, (1.) If we would not be entangled by the lusts of the flesh, we must bring forth the fruits of the Spirit,Ephesians 5:9; Ephesians 5:9. This is expected from the children of light, that, being illuminated, they be also sanctified by the Spirit, and thereupon bring forth his fruit, which is in all goodness, an inclination to do good and to show mercy, and righteousness, which signifies justice in our dealings. Thus they are taken more strictly; but, more generally, all religion is goodness and righteousness. And in and with these must be truth, or sincerity and uprightness of heart. (2.) We must have no fellowship with sin nor sinners, Ephesians 5:11; Ephesians 5:11. Sinful works are works of darkness: they come from the darkness of ignorance, they seek the darkness of concealment, and they lead to the darkness of hell. These works of darkness are unfruitful works; there is nothing got by them in the long run, whatever profit is pretended by sin, it will by no means balance the loss; for it issues in the utter ruin and destruction of the impenitent sinner. We must therefore have no fellowship with these unfruitful works; as we must not practise them ourselves, so we must not countenance others in the practice of them. There are many ways of our being accessary to the sins of others, by commendation, counsel, consent, or concealment. And, if we share with others in their sin, we must expect to share with them in their plagues. Nay, if we thus have fellowship with them, we shall be in the utmost danger of acting as they do ere long. But, rather than have fellowship with them, we must reprove them, implying that if we do not reprove the sins of others we have fellowship with them. We must prudently and in our places witness against the sins of others, and endeavour to convince them of their sinfulness, when we can do it seasonably and pertinently, in our words; but especially by the holiness of our lives, and a religious conversation. Reprove their sins by abounding in the contrary duties. One reason given is, For it is a shame even to speak of those things, c., Ephesians 5:12; Ephesians 5:12. They are so filthy and abominable that it is a shame to mention them, except in a way of reproof, much more must it be a shame to have any fellowship with them. The things which are done of them in secret. The apostle seems to speak here of the Gentile idolaters, and of their horrid mysteries, which abounded with detestable wickedness, and which none were permitted to divulge upon pain of death. Observe, A good man is ashamed to speak that which many wicked people are not ashamed to act; but, as far as their wickedness appears, it should be reproved by good men. There follows another reason for such reproof: But all things that are reproved are made manifest by the light,Ephesians 5:13; Ephesians 5:13. The meaning of this passage may be this: "All those unfruitful works of darkness which you are called upon to reprove are laid open, and made to appear in their proper colours to the sinners themselves, by the light of doctrine or of God's word in your mouths, as faithful reprovers, or by that instructive light which is diffused by the holiness of your lives and by your exemplary walk." Observe, The light of God's word, and the exemplification of it in a Christian conversation, are proper means to convince sinners of their sin and wickedness. It follows, For whatsoever doth make manifest is light; that is, it is the light that discovers what was concealed before in darkness; and accordingly it becomes those who are children of light, who are light in the Lord, to discover to others their sins, and to endeavour to convince them of the evil and danger of them, thus shining as lights in the world. The apostle further urges this duty from the example of God or Christ: Wherefore he saith, c. (Ephesians 5:14; Ephesians 5:14); as if he had said, "In doing this, you will copy after the great God, who has set himself to awaken sinners from their sleep, and to raise them from the death of sin, that they might receive light from Christ." He saith. The Lord is constantly saying in his word what is more particularly expressed in Isaiah 60:1. Or, Christ, by his ministers, who preach the everlasting gospel, is continually calling upon sinners to this effect: Awake, thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead. The same thing in the main is designed by these different expressions; and they serve to remind us of the great stupidity and the wretched security of sinners, how insensible they are of their danger, and how unapt they naturally are to spiritual motions, sensations, and actions. When God calls upon them to awake, and to arise, his meaning is that they would break off their sins by repentance, and enter on a course of holy obedience, and he encourages them to essay and do their utmost that way, by that gracious promise, And Christ shall give thee light; or Christ shall enlighten thee, or shall shine upon thee. "He shall bring thee into a state of knowledge, holiness, and comfort, assisting thee with his grace, and refreshing thy mind with joy and peace here and rewarding thee with eternal glory at length." Observe, When we are endeavouring to convince sinners, and to reform them from their sins, we are imitating God and Christ in that which is their great design throughout the gospel. Some indeed understand this as a call to sinners and to saints: to sinners to repent and turn; to saints to stir up themselves to their duty. The former must arise from their spiritual death; and the latter must awake from their spiritual deadness. (3.) Another remedy against sin is circumspection, care, or caution (Ephesians 5:15; Ephesians 5:15): See then, c. This may be understood either with respect to what immediately precedes, "If you are to reprove others for their sins, and would be faithful to your duty in this particular, you must look well to yourselves, and to your own behaviour and conduct" (and, indeed, those only are fit to reprove others who walk with due circumspection and care themselves): or else we have here another remedy or rather preservative from the before-mentioned sins and this I take to be the design of the apostle, being impossible to maintain purity and holiness of heart and life without great circumspection and care. Walk circumspectly, or, as the word signifies, accurately, exactly, in the right way, in order to which we must be frequently consulting our rule, and the directions we have in the sacred oracles. Not as fools, who walk at all adventures, and who have no understanding of their duty, nor of the worth of their souls, and through neglect, supineness, and want of care, fall into sin, and destroy themselves; but as wise, as persons taught of God and endued with wisdom from above. Circumspect walking is the effect of true wisdom, but the contrary is the effect of folly. It follows, redeeming the time (Ephesians 5:16; Ephesians 5:16), literally, buying the opportunity. It is a metaphor taken from merchants and traders who diligently observe and improve the seasons for merchandise and trade. It is a great part of Christian wisdom to redeem the time. Good Christians must be good husbands of their time, and take care to improve it to the best of purposes, by watching against temptations, by doing good while it is in the power of their hands, and by filling it up with proper employment--one special preservative from sin. They should make the best use they can of the present seasons of grace. Our time is a talent given us by God for some good end, and it is misspent and lost when it is not employed according to his design. If we have lost our time heretofore, we must endeavour to redeem it by doubling our diligence in doing our duty for the future. The reason given is because the days are evil, either by reason of the wickedness of those who dwell in them, or rather "as they are troublesome and dangerous times to you who live in them." Those were times of persecution wherein the apostle wrote this: the Christians were in jeopardy every hour. When the days are evil we have one superadded argument to redeem time, especially because we know not how soon they may be worse. People are very apt to complain of bad times; it were well if that would stir them up to redeem time. "Wherefore," says the apostle (Ephesians 5:17; Ephesians 5:17), "because of the badness of the times, be you not unwise, ignorant of your duty and negligent about your souls, but understanding what the will of the Lord is. Study, consider, and further acquaint yourselves with the will of God, as determining your duty." Observe, Ignorance of our duty, and neglect of our souls, are evidences of the greatest folly; while an acquaintance with the will of God, and a care to comply with it, bespeak the best and truest wisdom.
II. In the Ephesians 5:18-20 the apostle warns against some other particular sins, and urges some other duties. 1. He warns against the sin of drunkenness: And be not drunk with wine,Ephesians 5:18; Ephesians 5:18. This was a sin very frequent among the heathens; and particularly on occasion of the festivals of their gods, and more especially in their Bacchanalia: then they were wont to inflame themselves with wine, and all manner of inordinate lusts were consequent upon it: and therefore the apostle adds, wherein, or in which drunkenness, is excess. The word asotia may signify luxury or dissoluteness; and it is certain that drunkenness is no friend to chastity and purity of life, but it virtually contains all manner of extravagance, and transports men into gross sensuality and vile enormities. Note, Drunkenness is a sin that seldom goes alone, but often involves men in other instances of guilt: it is a sin very provoking to God, and a great hindrance to the spiritual life. The apostle may mean all such intemperance and disorder as are opposite to the sober and prudent demeanor he intends in his advice, to redeem the time. 2. Instead of being filled with wine, he exhorts them to be filled with the Spirit. Those who are full of drink are not likely to be full of the Spirit; and therefore this duty is opposed to the former sin. The meaning of the exhortation is that men should labour for a plentiful measure of the graces of the Spirit, that would fill their souls with great joy, strength, and courage, which things sensual men expect their wine should inspire them with. We cannot be guilty of any excess in our endeavours after these: nay, we ought not to be satisfied with a little of the Spirit, but to be aspiring after measures, so as to be filled with the Spirit. Now by this means we shall come to understand what the will of the Lord is; for the Spirit of God is given as a Spirit of wisdom and of understanding. And because those who are filled with the Spirit will be carried out in acts of devotion, and all the proper expressions of it, therefore the apostle exhorts, 3. To sing unto the Lord, Ephesians 5:19; Ephesians 5:19. Drunkards are wont to sing obscene and profane songs. The heathens, in their Bacchanalia, used to sing hymns to Bacchus, whom they called the god of wine. Thus they expressed their joy; but the joy of Christians should express itself in songs of praise to their God. In these they should speak to themselves in their assemblies and meetings together, for mutual edification. By psalms may be meant David's psalms, or such composures as were fitly sung with musical instruments. By hymns may be meant such others as were confined to matter of praise, as those of Zacharias, Simeon, c. Spiritual songs may contain a greater variety of matter, doctrinal, prophetical, historical, &c. Observe here, (1.) The singing of psalms and hymns is a gospel ordinance: it is an ordinance of God, and appointed for his glory. (2.) Though Christianity is an enemy to profane mirth, yet it encourages joy and gladness, and the proper expressions of these in the professors of it. God's people have reason to rejoice, and to sing for joy. They are to sing and to make melody in their hearts not only with their voices, but with inward affection, and then their doing this will be as delightful and acceptable to God as music is to us: and it must be with a design to please him, and to promote his glory, that we do this; and then it will be done to the Lord. 4. Thanksgiving is another duty that the apostle exhorts to, Ephesians 5:20; Ephesians 5:20. We are appointed to sing psalms, c., for the expression of our thankfulness to God but, though we are not always singing, we should never want a disposition for this duty, as we never want matter for it. We must continue it throughout the whole course of our lives; and we should give thanks for all things; not only for spiritual blessings enjoyed, and eternal ones expected (for what of the former we have in hand, and for what of the other we have in hope), but for temporal mercies too; not only for our comforts, but also for our sanctified afflictions; not only for what immediately concerns ourselves, but for the instances of God's kindness and favour to others also. It is our duty in every thing to give thanks unto God and the Father, to God as the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ and our Father in him, in whose name we are to offer up all our prayers, and praises, and spiritual services, that they may be acceptable to God.
These files are public domain and are a derivative of an electronic edition that is available on the Christian Classics Ethereal Library Website.
Henry, Matthew. "Complete Commentary on Ephesians 5:11". "Henry's Complete Commentary on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mhm/ephesians-5.html. 1706.
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.
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Kelly, William. "Commentary on Ephesians 5:11". Kelly Commentary on Books of the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/wkc/ephesians-5.html. 1860-1890.
the Fourth Week after Epiphany