This chapter Ephesians 4 is the commencement of the "practical" part of the Epistle, and is made up, like the remaining chapters, of various exhortations. It is in accordance with the usual habit of Paul to conduct an "argument" in his epistles, and then to enforce various practical duties, either growing out of the argument which he had maintained, or, more commonly, adapted to some particular state of things in the church to which he wrote. The points of exhortation in this chapter are, in general, the following:
I. An exhortation to unity; Ephesians 4:1-6. He entreats them to walk worthy of their vocation Ephesians 4:1; shows them how it could be done, or what he meant; and that, in order to that, they should show meekness and kindness Ephesians 4:3, and particularly exhorts them to unity Ephesians 4:3; for they had one God, one Saviour, one baptism, one religion; Ephesians 4:4-6.
II. He shows them that God had made ample provision for his people, that they might be sound in the faith, and in unity of life and of doctrine, and need not be driven about with every wind of opinion; Ephesians 4:7-16. He assures them that to every Christian is given grace in the Redeemer adapted to his circumstances Ephesians 4:7; that the Lord Jesus ascended to heaven to obtain gifts for his people Ephesians 4:8-10; that he had given apostles prophets and evangelists, for the very purpose of imparting instruction, and confirming them in the faith of the gospel Ephesians 4:11-12; that this was in order that they might attain to the highest elevation in Christian knowledge and piety Ephesians 4:13; and particularly that they might not be driven to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine; Ephesians 4:14-16.
III. Having these arrangements made for their knowledge and piety, he exhorts them not to live as the pagan around them lived; But to show that they were under a better influence; Ephesians 4:17-24. Their understanding was darkened, and they were alienated from the life of God, or true religion Ephesians 4:18; they were past feeling, and were given over to every form of sensuality; Ephesians 4:19. The Ephesians, however, had been taught a different thing Ephesians 4:20-21, and the apostle exhorts them to lay aside everything pertaining to their former course of life, and to become wholly conformed to the principles of the new man; Ephesians 4:22-24.
IV. He exhorts them to perform particular Christian duties, and to put away certain evils, of which they and all others were in danger; Ephesians 4:25-32. In particular, he entreats them to avoid lying Ephesians 4:25; anger Ephesians 4:26; theft Ephesians 4:28; corrupt and corrupting conversation Ephesians 4:29; grieving the Holy, Spirit Ephesians 4:30; bitterness, evil-speaking, and malice Ephesians 4:3 l; and entreats them to manifest in their conversation with each other a spirit of kindness and forgiveness; Ephesians 4:32.
I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called,I, therefore - In view of the great and glorious truths which God has revealed, and of the grace which he has manifested toward you who are Gentiles. See the previous chapters. The sense of the word "therefore" - οὖν oun - in this place, is, "Such being your exalted privileges; since God has done so much for you; since he has revealed for you such a glorious system; since he has bestowed on you the honor of calling you into his kingdom, and making you partakers of his mercy, I entreat you to live in accordance with these elevated privileges, and to show your sense of his goodness by devoting your all to his service." The force of the word "I," they would all feel. It was the appeal and exhortation of the founder of their church - of their spiritual father - of one who had endured much for them, and who was now in bonds on account of his devotion to the welfare of the Gentile world.
The prisoner of the Lord - Margin, "in." It means, that he was now a prisoner, or in confinement "in the cause" of the Lord; and he regarded himself as having been made a prisoner because the Lord had so willed and ordered it. He did not feel particularly that he was the prisoner of Nero; he was bound and kept because the "Lord" willed it, and because it was in his service; see the notes on Ephesians 3:1.
Beseech you that ye walk worthy - That you live as becomes those who have been called in this manner into the kingdom of God. The word "walk" is often used to denote "life, conduct," etc.; see Romans 4:12, note; Romans 6:4, note; 2 Corinthians 5:7, note.
Of the vocation - Of the "calling" - τῆς κλήσεως tēs klēseōs. This word properly means "a call," or "an invitation" - as to a banquet. Hence, it means that divine invitation or calling by which Christians are introduced into the privileges of the gospel. The word is translated "calling" in Romans 11:29; 1 Corinthians 1:26; 1 Corinthians 7:20; Ephesians 1:18; Ephesians 4:1, Ephesians 4:4; Philippians 3:14; 2 Thessalonians 1:11; 2 Timothy 1:9; Hebrews 3:1; 2 Peter 1:10. It does not occur elsewhere. The sense of the word, and the agency employed in calling us, are well expressed in the Westminster Shorter Catechism. "Effectual calling is the work of God's Spirit, whereby convincing us of our sin and misery, enlightening our minds in the knowledge of Christ, and renewing our wills, he doth persuade and enable us to embrace Jesus Christ freely offered to us in the gospel." This "calling or vocation" is through the agency of the Holy Spirit, and is his appropriate work on the human heart.
It consists essentially in influencing the mind to turn to God, or to enter into his kingdom. It is the exertion of "so much" influence on the mind as is necessary to secure the turning of the sinner to God. In this all Christians are agreed, though there have been almost endless disputes about the actual influence exerted, and the mode in which the Spirit acts on the mind. Some suppose it is by "moral persuasion;" some by physical power; some by an act of creation; some by inclining the mind to exert its proper powers in a right way, and to turn to God. What is the precise agency employed perhaps we are not to expect to be able to decide; see John 3:8. The great, the essential point is held, if it be maintained that it is by the agency of the Holy Spirit that the result is secured - and this I suppose to be held by all evangelical Christians. But though it is by the agency of the Holy Spirit, we are not to suppose that it is without the employment of "means." It is not literally like the act of creation. It is preceded and attended with means adapted to the end; means which are almost as various as the individuals who are "called" into the kingdom of God. Among those means are the following:
(1) "Preaching." Probably more are called into the kingdom by this means than any other. It is "God's great ordinance for the salvation of men." It is eminently suited for it. The "pulpit" has higher advantages for acting on the mind than any other means of affecting people. The truths that are dispensed; the sacredness of the place; the peace and quietness of the sanctuary; and the appeals to the reason, the conscience, and the heart - all are suited to affect people, and to bring them to reflection. The Spirit makes use of the word "preached," but in a great variety of ways. Sometimes many are impressed simultaneously; sometimes the same truth affects one mind while others are unmoved; and sometimes truth reaches the heart of a sinner which he has heard a hundred times before, without being interested. The Spirit acts with sovereign power, and by laws which have never yet been traced out.
(2) the events of Providence are used to call people into his kingdom. God appeals to people by laying them on a bed of pain, or by requiring them to follow a friend in the still and mournful procession to the grave. They feel that they must die, and they are led to ask the question whether they are prepared. Much fewer are affected in this way than we should suppose would be the case; but still there are many, in the aggregate, who can trace their hope of heaven to a fit of sickness, or to the death of a friend.
(3) conversation is one of the means by which sinners are called into the kingdom of God. In some states of mind, where the Spirit has prepared the soul like mellow ground prepared for the seed, a few moments' conversation, or a single remark, will do more to arrest the attention than much preaching.
(4) reading is often the means of calling people into the kingdom. The Bible is the great means - and if we can get people to read that, we have very cheering indications that they will be converted. The profligate Earl of Rochester was awakened and led to the Saviour by reading a chapter in Isaiah. And who can estimate the number of those who have been converted by reading Baxter's Call to the Unconverted; Alleine's Alarm; the Dairyman's Daughter; or the Shepherd of Salisbury Plain? He does "good" who places a good book in the way of a sinner. That mother or sister is doing good, and making the conversion of a son or brother probable, who puts a Bible in his chest when he goes to sea, or in his trunk when he goes on a journey. Never should a son be allowed to go from home without one. The time will come when, far away from home, he will read it. He will read it when his mind is pensive and tender, and the Spirit may bear the truth to his heart for his conversion.
(5) the Spirit calls people into the kingdom of Christ by presiding over, and directing in some unseen manner their own reflections, or the operations of their own minds. In some way unknown to us, he turns the thoughts to the past life; recalls forgotten deeds and plans; makes long past sins rise to remembrance; and overwhelms the mind with conscious guilt from the memory of crime. He holds this power over the soul; and it is among the most mighty and mysterious of all the influences that he has on the heart. "Sometimes" - a man can hardly tell how - the mind will be pensive, sad, melancholy; then conscious of guilt; then alarmed at the future. Often, by sudden transitions, it will be changed from the frivolous to the serious, and from the pleasant to the sad; and often, unexpectedly to himself, and by associations which he cannot trace out, the sinner will find himself reflecting on death. judgment, and eternity. It is the Spirit of God that leads the mind along. It is not by force; not by the violation of its laws, but in accordance with those laws, that the mind is thus led along to the eternal world. In such ways, and by such means, are people "called" into the kingdom of God. To "walk worthy of that calling," is to live as becomes a Christian, an heir of glory; to live as Christ did. It is:
(1) To bear our religion with us to all places, companies, employments. Not merely to be a Christian on the Sabbath, and at the communion table, and in our own land, but every day, and everywhere, and in any land where we may be placed. We are to live religion, and not merely to profess it. We are to be Christians in the counting-room, as well as in the closet; on the farm as well as at the communion table; among strangers, and in a foreign land, as well as in our own country and in the sanctuary.
(2) it is to do nothing inconsistent with the most elevated Christian character. In temper, feeling, plan, we are to give expression to no emotion, and use no language, and perform no deed, that shall be inconsistent with the most elevated Christian character.
(3) it is to do "right always:" to be just to all; to tell the simple truth; to defraud no one; to maintain a correct standard of morals; to be known to be honest. There is a correct standard of character and conduct; and a Christian should be a man so living, that we may always know "exactly where to find him." He should so live, that we shall have no doubts that, however others may act, we shall find "him" to be the unflinching advocate of temperance, chastity, honesty, and of every good work - of every plan that is really suited to alleviate human woe, and benefit a dying world.
(4) it is to live as one should who expects soon to be "in heaven." Such a man will feel that the earth is not his home; that he is a stranger and a pilgrim here; that riches, honors, and pleasures are of comparatively little importance; that he ought to watch and pray, and that he ought to be holy. A man who feels that he may die at any moment, will watch and pray. A man who realizes that "tomorrow" he may be in heaven, will feel that he ought to be holy. He who begins a day on earth, feeling that at its close he may be among the angels of God, and the spirits of just men made perfect; that before its close he may have seen the Saviour glorified, and the burning throne of God, will feel the importance of living a holy life, and of being wholly devoted to the service of God. Pure should be the eyes that are soon to look on the throne of God; pure the hands that are soon to strike the harps of praise in heaven; pure the feet that are to walk the "golden streets above."
With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love;With all lowliness - Humility; see the notes on Acts 20:19, where the same Greek word is used; compare also the following places, where the same Greek word occurs: Philippians 2:3, "in lowliness of mind, let each esteem other better than themselves;" Colossians 2:18, "in a voluntary humility;" Colossians 2:23; Colossians 3:12; 1 Peter 5:5. The word does not elsewhere occur in the New Testament. The idea is, that humility of mind becomes those who are "called" Ephesians 4:1, and that we walk worthy of that calling when we evince it.
And meekness - see the notes on Matthew 5:5. Meekness relates to the manner in which we receive injuries. We are to bear them patiently, and not to retaliate, or seek revenge. The meaning here is, that; we adorn the gospel when we show its power in enabling us to bear injuries without anger or a desire of revenge, or with a mild and forgiving spirit; see 2 Corinthians 10:1; Galatians 5:23; Galatians 6:1; 2 Timothy 2:25; Titus 3:2; where the same Greek word occurs.
With longsuffering, ... - Bearing patiently with the foibles, faults, and infirmities of others; see the notes on 1 Corinthians 13:4. The virtue here required is that which is to be manifested in our manner of receiving the provocations which we meet with from our brethren. No virtue, perhaps, is more frequently demanded in our contact with others. We do not go far with any fellow-traveler on the journey of life, before we find there is great occasion for its exercise. He has a temperament different from our own. He may be sanguine, or choleric, or melancholy; while we may be just the reverse. He has peculiarities of taste, and habits, and disposition, which differ much from ours. He has his own plans and purposes of life, and his own way and time of doing things. He may be naturally irritable, or he may have been so trained that his modes of speech and conduct differ much from ours. Neighbors have occasion to remark this in their neighbors; friends in their friends; kindred in their kindred; one church-member in another.
A husband and wife - such is the imperfection of human nature - can find enough in each other to embitter life, if they choose to magnify imperfections, and to become irritated at trifles; and there is no friendship that may not be marred in this way, if we will allow it. Hence, if we would have life move on smoothly, we must learn to bear and forbear. We must indulge the friend that we love in the little peculiarities of saying and doing things which may be important to him, but which may be of little moment to us. Like children, we must suffer each one to build his play-house in his own way, and not quarrel with him because he does not think our way the best. All usefulness, and all comfort, may be prevented by an unkind, a sour, a crabbed temper of mind - a mind that can bear with no difference of opinion or temperament. A spirit of fault-finding; an unsatisfied temper; a constant irritability; little inequalities in the look, the temper, or the manner; a brow cloudy and dissatisfied - your husband or your wife cannot tell why - will more than neutralize all the good you can do, and render life anything but a blessing.
It is in such gentle and quiet virtues as meekness and forbearance, that the happiness and usefulness of life consist, far more than in brilliant eloquence, in splendid talent, or illustrious deeds, that shall send the name to future times. It is the bubbling spring which flows gently; the little rivulet which glides through the meadow, and which runs along day and night by the farmhouse, that is useful, rather than the swollen flood or the roaring cataract. Niagara excites our wonder; and we stand amazed at the power and greatness of God there, as he "pours it from his hollow hand." But one Niagara is enough for a continent or a world; while that same world needs thousands and tens of thousands of silver fountains, and gently flowing rivulets, that shall water every farm, and every meadow, and every garden, and that shall flow on, every day and every night, with their gentle and quiet beauty. So with the acts of our lives. It is not by great deeds only, like those of Howard - not by great sufferings only, like those of the martyrs - that good is to be done; it is by the daily and quiet virtues of life - the Christian temper, the meek forbearance, the spirit of forgiveness in the husband, the wife, the father, the mother, the brother, the sister, the friend, the neighbor - that good is to be done; and in this all may be useful.
Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.The unity of the Spirit - A united spirit, or oneness of spirit. This does not refer to the fact that there is one Holy Spirit; but it refers to unity of affection, of confidence, of love. It means that Christians should be united in temper and affection, and not be split up into factions and parties. It may be implied here, as is undoubtedly true, that such a unity would be produced only by the Holy Spirit; and that, as there was but one Spirit which had acted on their hearts to renew them, they ought to evince the same feelings and views. There was occasion among the Ephesians for this exhortation; for they were composed of Jews and Gentiles, and there might be danger of divisions and strifes, as there had been in other churches. There is "always" occasion for such an exhortation; for:
(1) "unity" of feeling is eminently desirable to honor the gospel (see the notes on John 17:21); and,
(2) there is always danger of discord where people are brought together in one society. There are so many different tastes and habits; there is such a variety of intellect and feeling; the modes of education have been so various, and the temperament may be so different, that there is constant danger of division. Hence, the subject is so often dwelt on in the Scriptures (see the notes on 1 Corinthians 2ff), and hence, there is so much need of caution and of care in the churches.
In the bond of peace - This was to be by the cultivation of that peaceful temper which binds all together. The American Indians usually spoke of peace as a "chain of friendship" which was to be kept bright, The meaning here is, that they should be bound or united together in the sentiments and affections of peace. It is not mere "external" unity; it is not a mere unity of creed; it is not a mere unity in the forms of public worship; it is such as the Holy Spirit produces in the hearts of Christians, when it fills them all with the same love, and joy, and peace in believing. The following verses contain the reasons for this.
There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling;There is one body - One church - for so the word "body" means here - denoting the body of Christ; see the notes on Romans 12:5; compare notes on Ephesians 1:23. The meaning here is, that as there is really but one church on earth, there ought to be unity. The church is, at present, divided into many denominations. It has different forms of worship, and different rites and ceremonies. It embraces those of different complexions and ranks in life, and it cannot be denied that there are often unhappy contentions and jealousies in different parts of that church. Still, there is but one - "one holy, catholic (i. e., universal) church;" and that church should feel that it is one. Christ did not come to redeem and save different churches, and to give them a different place in heaven. He did not come to save the Episcopal communion merely or the Presbyterian or the Methodist communions only; nor did he leave the world to fit up for them different mansions in heaven. He did not come to save merely the black man, or the red, or the white man; nor did he leave the world to set up for them separate mansions in the skies. He came that he might collect into one community a multitude of every complexion, and from every land, and unite them in one great brotherhood on earth, and ultimately assemble them in the same heaven. The church is one. Every sincere Christian is a brother in that church, and has an equal right with all others to its privileges. Being one by the design of the Saviour they should be one in feeling; and every Christian, no matter what his rank, should be ready to hail every other Christian as a fellow-heir of heaven.
One Spirit - The Holy Spirit. There is one and the self-same Spirit that dwells in the church The same Spirit has awakened all enlightened all; convicted all; converted all. Wherever they may be, and whoever, yet there has been substantially the same work of the Spirit on the heart of every Christian. There are circumstantial differences arising from diversities of temperament, disposition, and education; there may be a difference in the depth and power of his operations on the soul; there may be a difference in the degree of conviction for sin and in the evidence of conversion, but still there are the same operations on the heart essentially produced by the same Spirit; see the notes on 1 Corinthians 12:6-11. All the gifts of prayer, and of preaching; all the zeal, the ardor, the love, the self-denial in the church, are produced by the same Spirit. There should be, therefore, unity. The church is united in the agency by which it is saved; it should be united in the feelings which influence its members.
Even as ye are called - see Ephesians 4:1. The sense is, "there is one body and one spirit, in like manner as there is one hope resulting from your calling." The same notion of oneness is found in relation to each of these things.
In one hope of your calling - In one hope "resulting from" your being called into his kingdom. On the meaning of the word "hope," see notes on Ephesians 2:12. The meaning here is, that Christians have the same hope, and they should therefore be one. They are looking forward to the same heaven; they hope for the same happiness beyond the grave. It is not as on earth among the people of the world, where, there is a variety of hopes - where one hopes for pleasure, and another for honor, and another for gain; but there is the prospect of the same inexhaustible joy. This "hope" is suited to promote union. There is no rivalry - for there is enough for all. "Hope" on earth does not always produce union and harmony. Two men hope to obtain the same office; two students hope to obtain the same honor in college; two rivals hope to obtain the same hand in marriage - and the consequence is jealousy, contention, and strife. The reason is, that but one can obtain the object. Not so with the crown of life - with the rewards of heaven. All may obtain "that" crown; all may share those rewards. How "can" Christians contend in an angry manner with each other, when the hope of dwelling in the same heaven swells their bosoms and animates their hearts?
One Lord, one faith, one baptism,One Lord - This evidently refers to the Lord Jesus. The "Spirit" is mentioned in the previous verse; the Father in the verse following. On the application of the word "Lord" to the Saviour, see the notes on Acts 1:24. The argument here is, that there ought to be unity among Christians, because they have one Lord and Saviour. They have not different Saviours adapted to different classes; not one for the Jew and another for the Greek; not one for the rich and another for the poor; not one for the bond and another for the free. There is but one. He belongs in common to all as their Saviour; and he has a right to rule over one as much as over another. There is no better way of promoting unity among Christians than by reminding them that they have the same Saviour. And when jealousies and heart-burnings arise; or when they are disposed to contend about trifles; when they magnify unimportant matters until they are in danger of rending the church asunder, let them feel that they have one Lord and Saviour, and they will lay aside their contentions and be one again. Let two men who have never seen each other before, meet in a distant land, and feel that they have the same Redeemer, and their hearts will mingle into one. They are not aliens, but friends. A cord of sympathy is struck more tender than that which binds them to country or home and though of different nations, complexions, or habits, they will feel that they are one. Why should contentions ever arise between those who have the same Redeemer?
One faith - The same belief. That is, either the belief of the same doctrines, or faith of the same nature in the heart. The word may be taken in either sense. I see no reason why it should not include "both" here, or be used in the widest sense, If so used it means that Christians should be united because they hold the same great doctrines; and also, because they have the same confidence in the Redeemer in their hearts, They hold the same system as distinguished from Judaism, Paganism, Mohammedanism, Deism; and they should, therefore, be one. They have the same trust in Christ, as a living, practical principle - and they should, therefore, be one. They may differ in other attachments; in temperament; in pursuit; in professions in life - but they have a common faith - and they should be one.
One baptism - This does not affirm that there is one mode of baptism, but it refers to "the thing itself." They are all baptized in the name of the same Father, Saviour, Sanctifier. They have all in this manner been consecrated unto God, and devoted to his service. Whether by immersion, or by pouring, or by sprinkling, they have all been baptized with water; whether it is done in adult years, or in infancy, the same solemn act has been performed on all - the act of consecration to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. This passage cannot be adduced to prove that only one "mode" of baptism is lawful, unless it can be shown that the thing referred to here was the "mode" and not "the thing itself;" and unless it can be proved that Paul meant to build his argument for the "unity" of Christians on the fact that the same "form" was used in their baptism. But this is evidently not the point of his argument.
The argument is, that there was really but "one baptism" - not that there was but one "mode" of baptism. I could not use this argument in this form, "Christians should be one because they have been all baptized by 'sprinkling;'" and yet the argument would be just as forcible as to use it in this form, "Christians should be one because they have all been baptized by 'immersion.'" There is one baptism, not one "mode" of baptism; and no man has a right to "assume" that there can be but one mode, and then apply this passage to that. The "essential thing" in the argument before us is, that there has been a consecration to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, by the application of water. Thus, understood, the argument is one that will be "felt" by all who have been devoted to God by baptism. They have taken the same vows upon them. They have consecrated themselves to the same God. They have made the same solemn profession of religion. Water has been applied to one and all as the emblem of the purifying influences of the Holy Spirit; and having been thus initiated in a solemn manner into the same profession of religion, they should be one. (See Matthew 3:6 note and Matthew 3:16 note.)
One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.One God - The same God; therefore there should be unity. Were there many gods to be worshipped, there could be no more hope of unity than there is among the worshippers of Mammon and Bacchus, and the various other idols that people set up. People who have different pursuits, and different objects of supreme affection, can be expected to have no union. People who worship many gods, cannot hope to be united. Their affections are directed to different objects, and there is no harmony or sympathy of feeling. But where there is one supreme object of attachment there may be expected to be unity. The children of a family that are devoted to a parent, will be united among themselves; and the fact that all Christians have the same great object of worship, should constitute a strong bond of union among themselves - a chain always kept bright.
And Father of all - One God who is the Father of all; that is, who is a common Father to all who believe. That this refers to the Father, in contradistinction from the Son and the Holy Spirit, seems evident. The Spirit and the Son are mentioned in the previous verses. But the fact that the "Father of all" is mentioned as "God," does not prove that the Spirit and the Son are not also endowed with divine attributes. That question is to be determined by the attributes ascribed to the Son and the Holy Spirit in other places. All sincere Christians worship "one" God, and "but" one. But they suppose that this one God subsists as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, united in a mysterious manner, and constituting the one God, and that there is no other God. That the Father is divine, they all hold, as Paul affirms here; that the Son and the Holy Spirit are also divine, they also hold; see the John 1 note; Hebrews 1 note; Philippians 2:6 note; Romans 9:5 note. The meaning here is, that God is the common Father of "all" his people - of the rich and the poor; the bond and the free; the learned and the unlearned. He is no respecter of persons. Nothing would tend more to overcome the prejudices of color, rank, and wealth, than to feel that we all have one Father; and that we are all equally the objects of his favor; compare notes on Acts 17:26.
Who is above all - Who is supreme; who presides over all things.
And through all - He pervades universal nature, and his agency is seen everywhere.
And in you all - There is no one in whose heart he does not dwell. You are his temple, and he abides in you; see Ephesians 2:22; notes, 1 Corinthians 6:19. The argument here is, that as the same God dwelt in every heart, they ought to be one. See this argument beautifully expressed in the Saviour's prayer, John 17:21; compare John 14:23.
But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ.But unto every one of us - Every Christian.
Is given grace - The favor of God; meaning here that God had bestowed upon each sincere Christian the means of living as he ought to do, and had in his gospel made ample provision that they might walk worthy of their vocation. What "are" the endowments thus given, the apostle states in the following verses. The "grace" referred to here, most probably means "the gracious influences of the Holy Spirit," or his operations on the heart in connection with the use of the means which God has appointed.
According to the measure of the gift of Christ - Grace is bestowed upon all true Christians, and all have enough to enable them to live a life of holiness. Yet we are taught here:
(1) That it is a "gift." It is "bestowed" on us. It is not what is originated by ourselves.
(2) it is by a certain "measure." It is not unlimited, and without rule. There is a wise adaptation; an imparting it by a certain rule. The same grace is not given to all, but to all is given enough to enable them to live as they ought to live.
(3) that measure is the gift of Christ, or what is given in Christ. It comes through him. It is what he has purchased; what he has obtained by his merits. All have enough for the purposes for which God has called them into his kingdom, but there are not the same endowments conferred on all. Some have grace given them to qualify them for the ministry; some to be apostles; some to be martyrs; some to make them eminent as public benefactors. All this has been obtained by Christ; and one Should not complain that another has more distinguished endowments than he has; compare Romans 12:3 note; John 1:16 note.
Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men.Wherefore he saith - The word "he" is not in the original; and it may mean "the Scripture saith," or "God saith." The "point" of the argument here is, that Christ, when he ascended to heaven, obtained certain "gifts" for people, and that those gifts are bestowed upon his people in accordance with this. To "prove" that, he adduces this passage from Psalm 68:18. Much perplexity has been felt in regard to the "principle" on which Paul quotes this Psalm, and applies it to the ascension of the Redeemer. The Psalm seems to have been composed on the occasion of removing the ark of the covenant from Kirjath-jearim to Mount Zion; 2 Samuel 6:1 ff it is a song of triumph, celebrating the victories of Yahweh, and particularly the victories which had been achieved when the ark was at the head of the army. It "appears" to have no relation to the Messiah; nor would it probably occur to anyone upon reading it, that it referred to his ascension, unless it had been so quoted by the apostle.
Great difficulty has been felt, therefore, in determining on what principle Paul applied it to the ascension of the Redeemer. Some have supposed that the Psalm had a primary reference to the Messiah; some that it referred to him in only a secondary sense; some that it is applied to him by way of "accommodation;" and some that he merely uses the words as adapted to express his idea, as a man adopts words which are familiar to him, and which will express his thoughts, though not meaning to say that the words had any such reference originally. Storr supposes that the words were used by the Ephesian Christians in their "hymns," and that Paul quoted them as containing a sentiment which was admitted among them. This is "possible;" but it is mere conjecture. It has been also supposed that the tabernacle was a type of Christ; and that the whole Psalm, therefore, having original reference to the tabernacle, might be applied to Christ as the antitype.
But this is both conjectural and fanciful. On the various modes adopted to account for the difficulty, the reader may consult Rosenmuller in loc. To me it seems plain that the Psalm had original reference to the bringing up the ark to Mount Zion, and is a triumphal song. In the song or Psalm, the poet shows why God was to be praised - on account of his greatness and his benignity to people; Ephesians 4:1-6. He then recounts the doings of God in former times - particularly his conducting his people through the wilderness, and the fact that his enemies were discomfited before him; Ephesians 4:7-12. All this refers to the God, the symbols of whose presence were on the tabernacle, and accompanying the ark. He then speaks of the various fortunes that had befallen the ark of the covenant. It had lain among the pots, Ephesians 4:13, yet it had formerly been white as snow when God scattered kings by it; Ephesians 4:14.
He then speaks of the hill of God - the Mount Zion to which the ark was about to be removed, and says that it is an "high hill" - "high as the hills of Bashan," the hill where God desired to dwell forever; Ephesians 4:16. God is then introduced as ascending that hill, encompassed with thousands of angels, as in Mount Sinai; and the poet says that, in doing it, he had triumphed over his enemies, and had led captivity captive; Ephesians 4:18. The fact that the ark of God thus ascended the hill of Zion, the place of rest; that it was to remain there as its permanent abode, no more to be carried about at the head of armies; was the proof of its triumph. It had made everything captive. It had subdued every foe; and its ascent there would be the means of obtaining invaluable gifts for people; Mercy and truth would go forth from that mountain; and the true religion would spread abroad, even to the rebellious, as the results of the triumph of God, whose symbol was over the tabernacle and the ark.
The placing the ark there was the proof of permanent victory, and would he connected with most important benefits to people. The "ascending on high," therefore, in the Psalm, refers, as it seems to me, to the ascent of the symbol of the Divine Presence accompanying the ark on Mount Zion, or to the placing it "on high" above all its foes. The remainder of the Psalm corresponds with this view. This ascent of the ark on Mount Zion; this evidence of its triumph over all the foes of God; this permanent residence of the ark there; and this fact, that its being established there would be followed with the bestowment of invaluable gifts to people, might be regarded as a beautiful emblem of the ascension of the Redeemer to heaven. There were strong points of resemblance. He also ascended on high. His ascent was the proof of victory over his foes. He went there for a permanent abode. And his ascension was connected with the bestowmerit of important blessings to people.
It is as such emblematic language, I suppose, that the apostle makes the quotation. It did not originally refer to this; but the events were so similar in many points, that the one would suggest the other, and the same language would describe both. It was language familiar to the apostle; language that would aptly express his thoughts, and language that was not improbably applied to the ascension of the Redeemer by Christians at that time. The phrase, therefore, "he saith " - λέγει legei - or "it saith," or "the Scripture saith," means, "it is said;" or, "this language will properly express the fact under consideration, to wit, that there is grace given to each one of us, or that the means are furnished by the Redeemer for us to lead holy lives."
(For remarks on the subject of accommodation. in connection with quotations from the Old Testament into the New Testament, see the supplementary notes, Hebrews 1:5, and Hebrews 2:6, note. The principle of accommodation, if admitted at all, should be used with great caution. Doubtless it is sanctioned by great names both in Europe and America. Yet it must be allowed, that the apostles understood the mind of the Spirit, in the Old Testament, that their inspiration preserved them from every error. When, therefore, they tell us that certain passages have an ultimate reference to the Messiah and his times, through we should never have discovered such reference without their aid, nothing of the kind, it may be, "appearing" in the original places, yet we ate bound to receive it "on their testimony." It is alleged, indeed, that the apostles sometimes use the ordinary forms of quotation, without intending to intimate thereby any prophetic reference in the passages titus introduced, nay, when such reference is obviously inadmissible. This, in the opinion of many, is a very hazardous statement, and introduces into the apostolic writings, and especially into the argumentative part of them, where so great use is made of the Old Testament, no small measure of uncertainty. Let the reader examine the passages in question, keeping in view. at the same time, the typical nature of the ancient economy, and he will have little difficulty in admitting the prophetic reference in most, if not in all of them. See Haldane on Romans 1:17, for a very masterly view of this subject, with remarks on Matthew 2:16, and other passages supposed to demand the accommodation theory.
"Nothing can be more dishonorable," says that prince of English commentators, on the Epistle to the Romans, "to the character of divine revelation, and injurious to the edification of believers, than this method of explaining the quotations in the New Testament from the Old, not as predictions or interpretations, but as mere illustrations, by way of accommodation. In this way, many of the prophecies referred to in the Epistles are set aside from their proper application, and Christians are taught that they do not prove what the apostles adduced them to establish." In reference to the quotation in this place, there seems little difficulty in connection with the view, that though the primary reference be to the bringing up of the ark to Mount Zion, the ultimate one is to the glorious ascension of Jesus into the highest heavens. The Jews rightly interpret part of this psalm Ps. 68 of the Messiah. Nor is it to he believed that the apostle would have applied it to the ascension of Christ unless that application had been admitted by the Jews in his time, and unless himself were persuaded of its propriety.
When he ascended up on high - To heaven. The Psalm is, "Thou hast ascended on high;" compare Ephesians 1:22-23.
He led captivity captive - The meaning of this in the Psalm is, that he triumphed over his foes. The margin is, "a multitude of captives." But this, I think, is not quite the idea. It is language derived from a conqueror, who not only makes captives, but who makes captives of those who were then prisoners, and who conducts them as a part of his triumphal procession. He not only subdues his enemy, but he leads his captives in triumph. The allusion is to the public triumphs of conquerors, especially as celebrated among the Romans, in which captives were led in chains (Tacitus, Ann. xii. 38), and to the custom in such triumphs of distributing presents among the soldiers; compare also Judges 5:30, where it appears that this was also an early custom in other nations. Burder, in Res. Alt u. neu Morgenland, in loc. When Christ ascended to heaven, he triumphed ever all his foes. It was a complete victory over the malice of the great enemy of God, and over those who had sought his life. But he did more. He rescued those who were the captives of Satan, and led them in triumph. Man was held by Satan as a prisoner. His chains were around him. Christ rescued the captive prisoner, and designed to make him a part of his triumphal procession into heaven, that thus the victory might be complete - triumphing not only over the great foe himself, but swelling his procession with the attending hosts of those who "had been" the captives of Satan, now rescued and redeemed.
And gave gifts unto men - Such as he specifies in Ephesians 4:11.
(Now that he ascended, what is it but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth?Now that he ascended - That is, it is affirmed in the Psalm that he "ascended" - "Thou hast ascended on high." This implies that there must have been a previous "descent;" or, as applicable to the Messiah, "it is a truth that he previously descended." It is by no means certain that Paul meant to say that the "word" "ascended" demonstrated that there must have been a previous descent; but he probably means that in the case of Christ there was, "in fact," a descent into the lower parts of the earth first. The language used here will appropriately express his descent to earth.
Into the lower parts of the earth - To the lowest state of humiliation. This seems to be the fair meaning of the words. Heaven stands opposed to earth. One is above; the other is beneath. From the one Christ descended to the other; and he came not only to the earth, but he stooped to the most humble condition of humanity here; see Philippians 2:6-8; compare notes on Isaiah 44:23. Some have understood this of the grave; others of the region of departed spirits; but these interpretations do not seem to be necessary. It is the "earth itself" that stands in contrast with the heavens; and the idea is, that the Redeemer descended from his lofty eminence in heaven, and became a man of humble rank and condition; compare Psalm 139:15.
He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things.)He that descended is the same also that ascended - The same Redeemer came down from God, and returned to him. It was not a different being, but the same.
Far above all heavens - see the notes on Ephesians 1:20-23; compare Hebrews 7:26. He is gone above the visible heavens, and has ascended into the highest abodes of bliss; see the notes on 2 Corinthians 12:2.
That he might fill all things - Margin, "fulfil." The meaning is, "that he might fill all things by his influence, and direct and overrule all by his wisdom and power." Doddridge. See the notes on Ephesians 1:23.
And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;And he gave some, apostles - He gave some to be apostles. The "object" here is to show that he has made ample provision for the extension and edification of his church On the meaning of the word "apostles," and on their appointment by the Saviour, see the notes on Matthew 10:1.
And some, evangelists - see the notes on Acts 21:8; compare 2 Timothy 4:5. The word does not elsewhere occur in the New Testament. What was the precise office of the evangelist in the primitive church, it is now impossible to determine. The evangelist "may" have been one whose main business was "preaching," and who was not particularly engaged in the "government" of the church. The word properly means "a messenger of good tidings;" and Robinson (Lexicon) supposes that it denotes a minister of the gospel who was not located in any place, but who traveled as a missionary to preach the gospel, and to found churches. The word is so used now by many Christians; but it cannot be proved that it is so used in the New Testament. An explanation of the words which here occur may be found in Neander on the Primitive Church, in the Biblical Repository, vol. iv. pp. 258ff The office was distinct from that of the "pastor," the teacher, and the "prophet:" and was manifestly an office in which "preaching" was the main thing.
And some, pastors - Literally, "shepherds" - ποιμένας poimenas; compare Matthew 9:36; Matthew 25:32; Matthew 26:31; Mark 6:34; Mark 14:27; Luke 2:8, Luke 2:15, Luke 2:18, Luke 2:20; John 10:2, John 10:11-12, John 10:14, John 10:16, where it is rendered "shepherd and shepherds;" also Hebrews 13:20; 1 Peter 2:25; in Matthew 26:31; Mark 14:27; Hebrews 13:20; 1 Peter 2:25, it is applied to the Lord Jesus as the great shepherd of the flock - the church. It is rendered "pastors" only in the place before us. The word is given to ministers of the gospel with obvious propriety, and with great beauty. They are to exercise the same watchfulness and care river the people of their charge which a shepherd does over his flock; compare the notes on John 21:15-16. The meaning here is, that Christ exercised a special care for his church by appointing "pastors" who would watch over it as a shepherd does over his flock.
And teachers - see the notes on Romans 12:7.
For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:For the perfecting of the saints - On the meaning of the word rendered here as "perfecting" - καταρτισμὸν katartismon - see the notes on 2 Corinthians 13:9. It properly refers to "the restoring of anything to its place;" then putting in order, making complete, etc. Here it means that these various officers were appointed in order that everything in the church might be well arranged, or put into its proper place; or that the church might be "complete." It is that Christians may have every possible advantage for becoming complete in love, and knowledge, and order.
For the work of the ministry - All these are engaged in the work of the ministry, though in different departments. Together they constituted the "ministry" by which Christ meant to establish and edify the church. All these offices had an existence at that time, and all were proper; though it is clear that they were not all designed to be permanent. The apostolic office was of course to cease with the death of those who were "the witnesses" of the life and doctrines of Jesus (compare notes on 1 Corinthians 9:1); the office of "prophets" was to cease with the cessation of inspiration; and in like manner it is possible that the office of teacher or evangelist might be suspended, as circumstances might demand. But is it not clear from this that Christ did not appoint "merely" three orders of clergy to be permanent in the church? Here are "five" orders enumerated, and in 1 Corinthians 12:28, there are "eight" mentioned; and how can it be demonstrated that the Saviour intended that there should be "three" only, and that they should be permanent? The presumption is rather that he meant that there should be but one permanent order of ministers, though the departments of their labor might be varied according to circumstances, and though there might be helpers, as occasion should demand. In founding churches among the pagan, and in instructing and governing them there, there is need of reviving nearly all the offices of teacher, helper, evangelist, etc., which Paul has enumerated as actually existing in his time.
For the edifying - For building it up; that is, in the knowledge of the truth and in piety; see the notes on Romans 14:19.
The body of Christ - The Church; see the notes on Ephesians 1:23.
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:Till we all come - Until all Christians arrive at a state of complete unity, and to entire perfection.
In the unity of the faith - Margin, into. The meaning is, until we all hold the same truths, and have the same confidence in the Son of God; see the notes on John 17:21-23.
And of the knowledge of the Son of God - That they might attain to the satire practical acquaintance with the Son of God, and might thus come to the maturity of Christian piety; see the notes on Ephesians 3:19.
Unto a perfect man - Unto a complete man. This figure is obvious. The apostle compares their condition then to a state of childhood. The perfect man here refers to the man "grown up," the man of mature life. He says that Christ had appointed pastors and teachers that the infant church might be conducted to "maturity;" or become strong - like a man. He does not refer to the doctrine of "sinless perfection" - but to the state of manhood as compared with that of childhood - a state of strength, vigor, wisdom, when the full growth should be attained; see 1 Corinthians 14:20.
Unto the measure of the stature - Margin, or age. The word "stature" expresses the idea. It refers to the growth of a man. The stature to be attained to was that of Christ. He was the standard - not in size, not in age - but in moral character. The measure to be reached was Christ; or we are to grow until we become like him.
Of the fulness of Christ - see the notes on Ephesians 1:23. The phrase "the measure of the fulness," means, probably, the "full measure" - by a form of construction that is common in the Hebrew writings, where two nouns are so used that one is to be rendered as an adjective - "as trees of greatness" - meaning great trees. Here it means, that they should so advance in piety and knowledge as to become wholly like him.
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;That we henceforth be no more children - In some respects Christians "are" to be like children. They are to be docile, gentle, mild, and free from ambition, pride, and haughtiness; see the notes on Matthew 18:2-3. But children have other characteristics besides simplicity and docility. They are often changeable Matthew 11:17; they are credulous, and are influenced easily by others, and led astray, In these respects, Paul exhorts the Ephesians to be no longer children but urges them to put on the characteristics Of manhood; and especially to put on the firmness in religious opinion which became maturity of life.
Tossed to and fro - κλυδωνιζόμενοι kludōnizomenoi. This word is taken from waves or billows that are constantly tossed about - in all ages art image of instability of character and purpose.
And carried about with every wind of doctrine - With no firmness; no settled course; no helm. The idea is that of a vessel on the restless ocean, that is tossed about with every varying wind, and that has no settled line of sailing. So many persons are in regard to religious doctrines. They have no fixed views and principles. They hold no doctrines that are settled in their minds by careful and patient examination, and the consequence is, that they yield to every new opinion, and submit to the guidance of every new teacher. The "doctrine" taught here is, that we should have settled religious opinions. We should carefully examine what is truth, and having found it, should adhere to it, and not yield on the coming of every new teacher. We should not, indeed, close our minds against conviction. We should be open to argument, and be willing to follow "the truth" wherever it will lead us. But this state of mind is not inconsistent with having settled opinions, and with being firm in holding them until we are convinced that we are wrong. No man can be useful who has not settled principles. No one who has not such principles can inspire confidence or be happy, and the first aim of every young convert should be to acquire settled views of the truth, and to become firmly grounded in the doctrines of the gospel.
By the sleight of men - The cunning skill "trickery" of people. The word used here - κυβεία kubeia - is from a word (κύβος kubos) meaning a cube or die, and properly means a game at dice. Hence, it means game, gambling; and then anything that turns out by mere chance or hap-hazard - as a game at dice does. It "may" possibly also denote the trick or fraud that is sometimes used in such games; but it seems rather to denote a man's forming his religious opinions by "the throw of a die;" or, in other words, it describes a man whose opinions seem to be the result of mere chance. Anything like casting a die, or like opening the Bible at random to determine a point of duty or doctrine, may come under the description of the apostle here, and would all be opposed to the true mode, that by calm examination of the Bible, and by prayer A man who forms his religious principles by chance, can un" form" them in the same way; and he who has determined his faith by one cast of the die, will be likely to throw them into another form by another. The phrase "the sleight of men" therefore I would render "by the mere chance of people, or as you may happen to find people, one holding this opinion, and the next that, and allowing yourself to be influenced by them without any settled principles."
Whereby they lie in wait to deceive - Literally, "Unto the method of deceit;" that is, in the usual way of deceit. Doddridge, "In every method of deceit." This is the true idea. The meaning is, that people would use plausible pretences, and would, if possible, deceive the professed friends of Christ. Against such we should be on our guard; and not by their arts should our opinion be formed, but by the word of God.
But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ:But speaking the truth in love - Margin, "being sincere." The translation in the text is correct - literally, "truthing in love" - ἀληθεύοντες alētheuontes. Two things are here to be noted:
(1) The truth is "to be spoken" - the simple, unvarnished truth. This is the way to avoid error, and this is the way to preserve others from error. In opposition to all trick, and art, and cunning, and fraud, and deception, Christians are to speak the simple truth, and nothing but the truth. Every statement which they make should be unvarnished truth; every promise which they make should be true; every representation which they make of the sentiments of others should he simple truth. "Truth is the representation of things as they are;" and there is no virtue that is more valuable in a Christian than the love of simple truth.
(2) the second thing is, that the truth should be spoken "in love." There are other ways of speaking truth. It is sometimes spoken in a harsh, crabby, sour manner, which does nothing but disgust and offend When we state truth to others, it should he with love to their souls, and with a sincere desire to do them good. When we admonish a brother of his faults, it should not be in a harsh and unfeeling manner, but in love. Where a minister pronounces the awful truth of God about depravity, death, the judgment, and future woe, it should be in love. It should not be done in a harsh and repulsive manner; it should not he done as if he rejoiced that people were in danger of hell, or as if he would like to pass the final sentence; it should not be with indifference, or in a tone of superiority. And in like manner, if we go to convince one who is in error, we should approach him in love. We should not dogmatize, or denounce, or deal out anathemas. Such things only repel. "He has done about half his work in convincing another of error who has first convinced him that he loves him;" and if he does not do that, he may argue to the hour of his death and make no progress in convincing him.
May grow up into him - Into Christ; that is, to the stature of a complete man in him.
From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.From whom the whole body - The church, compared with the human body. The idea is, that as the head in the human frame conveys vital influence, rigor, motion, etc., to every part of the body; so Christ is the source of life, and rigor, and energy, and increase to the church. The sense is, "The whole human body is admirably arranged for growth and rigor. Every member and joint contribute to its healthful and harmonious action. One part lends vigor and beauty to another, so that the whole is finely proportioned and admirably sustained. All depend on the head with reference to the most important functions of life, and all derive their vigor from that. So it is in the church. It is as well arranged for growth and vigor as the body is. It is as beautifully organized in its various members and officers as the body is. Everything is designed to he in its proper place, and nothing by the divine arrangement is lacking in its organization, to its perfection. Its officers and its members are, in their places, what the various parts of the body are with reference to the human frame. The church depends on Christ, as the head, to sustain, invigorate, and guide it, as the body is dependent on the head" See this figure carried out to greater length in 1 Corinthians 12:12-26.
Fitly joined together - The body, whose members are properly united so as to produce the most beauty and vigor. Each member is in the best place, and is properly united to the other members. Let anyone read Paley's Natural Theology, or any work on anatomy, and he will find innumerable instances of the truth of this remark; not only in the proper adjustment and placing of the members, but in the manner in which it is united to the other parts of the body. The foot, for instance, is in its proper place. It should not be where the head or the hand is. The eye is in its proper place. It should not be in the knee or the heel. The mouth, the tongue, the teeth, the lungs, the heart, are in their proper places. No other places would answer the purpose so well. The brain is in its proper place. Anywhere else in the body, it would be subject to compressions and injuries which would soon destroy life. And these parts are as admirably united to file other parts of the body, as they are admirably located. Let anyone examine, for instance, the tendons, nerves, muscles, and bones, by which the "foot" is secured to the body, and by which easy and graceful motion is obtained, and he will be satisfied of the wisdom by which the body is "joined together." How far the "knowledge" of the apostle extended on this point, we have not the means of ascertaining; but all the investigations of anatomists only serve to give increased beauty and force to the general terms which he uses here. All that he says here of the human frame is strictly accurate, and is such language as may be used by an anatomist now, The word which is used here (συναρμολογέω sunarmologeō) means properly to sew together; to fit together; to unite, to make one. It is applied often to musicians, who produce "harmony" of various parts of music. "Passow." The idea of harmony, or appropriate union, is that in the word.
And compacted - συμβιβαζόμενον sumbibazomenon. Tyndale renders this, "knit together in every joint." The word properly means, to make to come together; to join or knit together. It means here that the different parts of the body are "united" and sustained in this manner.
By that which every joint supplieth - Literally, "through every joint of supply;" that is, which affords or ministers mutual aid. The word "joint" hero - ἁφή haphē - (from ἇπτω haptō to fit) - means anything which binds, fastens, secures; find does not refer to the joint in the sense in which we commonly use it, as denoting "the articulation" of the limbs, or the joining of two or more bones; but rather that which "unites or fastens" together the different parts of the frame - the blood vessels, cords, tendons, and muscles. The meaning is, that every such "means of connecting one part of the body with another" ministers nourishment, and that thus the body is sustained. One part is dependent on another; one part derives nourishment from another; and thus all become mutually useful as contributing to the support and harmony of the whole. Thus, it furnishes an illustration of the "connection" in the members of the church, and of the aid which one can render to another.
According to the effectual working - Greek, "According to the energy in the measure of each one part." Tyndale, "According to the operation as every part has its measure." The meaning is, that each part contributes to the production of the whole result, or "labors" for this. This is in proportion to the "measure" of each part; that is, in proportion to its power. Every part labors to produce the great result. No one is idle; none is useless. But, none are overtaxed or overworked. The support demanded and furnished by every part is in exact proportion to its strength. This is a beautiful account of the anatomy of the human frame.
(1) nothing is useless. Every part contributes to the general result - the health, and beauty, and vigor of the system. Not a muscle is useless; not a nerve, not an artery, not a vein. All are employed, and all have an important place, and all contribute "something" to the health and beauty of the whole. So numerous are the bloodvessels, that you cannot perforate the skin anywhere without piercing one; so numerous are the pores of the skin, that a grain of sand will cover thousands of them; so minute the ramifications of the nerves, that wherever the point of a needle penetrates, we feel it; and so numerous the absorbents, that million of them are employed in taking up the chyme of the food, and conveying it to the veins. And yet all are employed - all are useful - all minister life and strength to the whole.
(2) none are overtaxed. They all work according to the "measure" of their strength. Nothing is required of the minutest nerve or blood-vessel which it is not suited to perform; and it will work on for years without exhaustion or decay. So of the church. There is no member so obscure and feeble that he may not contribute something to the welfare of the whole; and no one is required to labor beyond his strength in order to secure the great object. Each one in "his place," and laboring as he should there, will contribute to the general strength and welfare; "out of his place" - like nerves and arteries out of their place, and crossing and recrossing others - he will only embarrass the whole, and disarrange the harmony of the system.
Maketh increase of the body - The body grows in this manner.
Unto the edifying of itself - To building itself up that is, it grows up to a complete stature.
In love - In mutual harmony. This refers to the "body." The meaning is that it seems to be made on the principle of "love." There is no jar, no collision, no disturbance of one part with another. A great number of parts, composed of different substances, and with different functions - bones, and nerves, and muscles, and blood-vessels - are united in one, and live together without collision; and so it should be in the church. Learn, hence:
(1) That no member of the church need be useless, anymore than a minute nerve or blood-vessel in the body need be useless. No matter how obscure the individual may be, he may contribute to the harmony and vigor of the whole,
(2) Every member of the church should contribute something to the prosperity of the whole. He should no more be idle and unemployed than a nerve or a blood-vessel should be in the human system. What would be the effect if the minutest nerves and arteries of the body should refuse to perform their office?. Langour, disease, and death. So it is in the church. The obscurest member may do "something" to destroy the healthful action of the church, and to make its piety languish and die.
(3) there should be union in the church. It is made up of materials which differ much from each other, as the body is made up of bones, and nerves, and muscles. Yet, in the body these are united; and so it should be in the church. There need be no more jarring in the church than in the body; and a jar in the church produces the same effect as would be produced in the body if the nerves and muscles should resist the action of each other, or as if one should be out of its place, and impede the healthful functions of the other.
(4) every member in the church should keep his place, just as every bone, and nerve, and muscle in the human frame should. Every member of the body should be in its right position; the heart, the lungs, the eye, the tongue, should occupy their right place; and every nerve in the system should be laid down just where it is designed to be. If so, all is well If not so, all is deformity, or disorder; just as it, is often in the church.
This I say therefore, and testify in the Lord, that ye henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind,This I say therefore, and testify in the Lord - I bear witness in the name of the Lord Jesus, or ministering by his authority. The object of this is, to exhort them to walk worthy of their high calling, and to adorn the doctrine of the Saviour. With this view, he reminds them of what they were before they were converted, and of the manner in which the pagan around them lived.
That ye henceforth walk not - That you do not henceforth live - the Christian life being often in the Scriptures compared to a journey.
As other Gentiles walk - This shows that probably the mass of converts in the church at Ephesus were from among the pagan, and Paul regarded them as Gentile converts. Or it may be that he here addressed himself more particularly to that portion of the church, as especially needing his admonition and care.
In the vanity of their mind - In the way of folly, or in mental folly. What he means by this he specifies in the following verses. The word "vanity" in the Scriptures means more than mere "emptiness." It denotes moral wrong, being applied usually to those who worshipped vain idols, and then those who were alienated from the "true" God.
Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart:Having the understanding darkened - That is, because they were alienated from the true God, and particularly because of "the blindness of their hearts." The apostle does not say that this was a "judicial" darkening of the understanding; or that they might not have perceived the truth; or that they had no ability to understand it. He speaks of a simple and well-known fact - a fact that is seen now as well as then that the understanding becomes darkened by indulgence in sin. A man who is intemperate, has no just views of the government of the appetites. A man who is unchaste, has no perception of the loveliness of purity. A man who is avaricious or covetous, has no just views of the beauty of benevolence. A man who indulges in low vices, will weaken his mental powers, and render himself incapable of intellectual effort. Indulgence in vice destroys the intellect as well as the body, and unfits a man to appreciate the truth of a proposition in morals, or in mathematics, or the beauty of a poem, as well as the truth and beauty of religion.
Nothing is more obvious than that indulgence in sin weakens the mental powers, and renders them unfit for high intellectual effort. This is seen all over the pagan world now - in the stolid, stupid mind; the perverted moral sense; the incapacity for profound or protracted mental effort, as really as it was among the pagans to whom Paul preached. The missionary who goes among the pagan has almost to create an "intellect" as well as a "conscience," before the gospel will make an impression. It is seen, too, in all the intellect of the bar, the senate, the pulpit, and the medical profession, that is ruined by intemperance, and in the intellect of multitudes of young men wasted by licentiousness and drunkenness. I know that under the influence of ambition and stimulating drinks, the intellect may seem to put forth unnatural efforts, and to glow with an intensity nowhere else seen. But it "soon burns out" - and the wastes of such an intellect become soon like the hardened scoriae of the volcano, or the cinders of the over-heated furnace. Learn hence, that if a man wishes to be blessed with a clear understanding, he should he a "good man." He who wishes a mind well balanced and clear, should fear and love God; and had Christianity done no other good on earth than to elevate the "intellect" of mankind, it would have been the richest blessing which has ever been vouchsafed to the race. It follows, too, that as man has debased his "understanding" by sin, it is needful to make an exertion to elevate it again: and hence a large part of the efforts to save people must consist in patient "instruction." Hence, the necessity of schools at missionary stations.
Being alienated - see the notes on Ephesians 2:12.
From the life of God - From a life "like" that of God, or a life of which he is the source and author. The meaning is, that they lived a life which was "unlike" God, or which he could not approve. Of the truth of this in regard to the pagan everywhere, there can be no doubt; see the notes on Romans 1.
Through the ignorance that is in them - The ignorance of the true God, and of what constituted virtue; compare notes on Romans 1:20-23.
Because of the blindness of their heart - Margin, "hardness." Hardness is a better word. It is a better translation of the Greek; and it better accords with the design of the apostle. Here the reason is stated why they lived and acted as they did, and why the "understanding" was blinded. It is not that God has enfeebled the human intellect by a judicial sentence on account of the sin of Adam, and made it incapable of perceiving I the truth. It is not that there is any I deficiency or incapacity of natural powers. It is not that the truths of religion are so exalted that man has no natural ability to understand them, for they may be as well understood as any other truth; see the notes on 1 Corinthians 1:14. The simple reason is, "the hardness or the heart." That is the solution given by an inspired apostle, and that is enough. A man who has a blind and hard heart sees no beauty in truth, and feels not its force, and is insensible to all its appeals. Learn, then:
(1) That people are to blame for the blindness of their understanding. Whatever proceeds from a "wicked heart" they are responsible for. But for mere "inferiority of intellect" they would not be to blame.
(2) they are under obligation to repent and love God. If it was required of them to enlarge their intellects, or create additional faculties of mind, they could not be bound to do it. But where the whole thing required is to have a "better heart," they may be held responsible.
(3) the way to elevate the understandings of mankind is to purify the heart. The approach must be made through the affections. Let people "feel" right toward God, and they will soon "think" right; let the heart be pure, and the understanding will be clear.
(Doubtless there is a reciprocal influence between the dark mind and depraved heart. The one acts on the other. Admitting that the understanding is affected "first," through the will or heart, and that it is a bad heart which makes a spiritually dark mind, still the fact remains the same, that "in consequence of our union with Adam, in consequence of the fall," all our faculties, understanding, will, affections, have been corrupted. See the supplementary notes, Romans 5)
Who being past feeling have given themselves over unto lasciviousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness.Who being past feeling - Wholly hardened in sin. There is a total want of all emotion on moral subjects. This is an accurate description of the state of a sinner. He has no "feeling," no emotion. He often gives an intellectual assent to the truth, But it is without emotion of any kind. The heart is insensible as the hard rock.
Have given themselves over - They have done it voluntarily. In Romans 1:24, it is said that "God gave them up." There is no inconsistency. Whatever was the agency of God in it, they preferred it; compare notes on Romans 1:21.
Unto lasciviousness - see the notes on Romans 1:24-26.
But ye have not so learned Christ;But ye have not so learned Christ - You have been taught a different thing by Christ; you have been taught that his religion requires you to abandon such a course of life.
If so be that ye have heard him, and have been taught by him, as the truth is in Jesus:If so be that ye have heard him - If you have listened attentively to his instructions, and learned the true nature of his religion. There may be a slight and delicate doubt implied here whether they had attentively listened to his instructions. Doddridge, however, renders it, "Seeing ye have heard him;" compare notes on Ephesians 3:2.
And have been taught by him - By his Spirit, or by the ministers whom he had appointed.
As the truth is in Jesus - If you have learned the true nature of his religion as he himself taught it. What the truth was which the Lord Jesus taught, or what his principles implied, the apostle proceeds to state in the following verses.
That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts;That ye put off - That you lay aside, or renounce. The manner in which the apostle states those duties, renders it not improbable that there had been some instruction among them of a contrary character, and that it is possible there had been some teachers there who had not enforced, as they should bare done, the duties of practical religion.
Concerning the former conversation - The word "conversation" here means conduct - as it commonly does in the Bible; see the notes, 2 Corinthians 1:12. The meaning here is, "with respect to your former conduct or habits of life, lay aside all that pertained to a corrupt and fallen nature." You are not to lay "everything" aside that formerly pertained to you. Your dress, and manners, and modes of speech and conversation, might have been in many respects correct. But everything that proceeded from sin; every habit, and custom, and mode of speech and of conduct that was the result of depravity, is to be laid aside. The special characteristics of an unconverted man you are to put off, and are to assume those which are the proper fruits of a renewed heart.
The old man - see the notes on Romans 6:6.
Which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts - The meaning is:
(1) That the unrenewed man is not under the direction of reason and sound sense, but is controlled by his "passions and desires." The word "lusts," has a more limited signification with us than the original word. That word we now confine to one class of sensual appetites; but the original word denotes any passion or propensity of the heart. It may include avarice, ambition, the love of pleasure, or of gratification in any way; and the meaning here is, that the heart is by nature under the control of such desires.
(2) those passions are deceitful. They lead us astray, They plunge us into ruin. All the passions and pleasures of the world are illusive. They promise more than they perform; and they leave their deluded votaries to disappointment and to tears. Nothing is more "deceitful" than the promised pleasures of this world; and all who yield to them find at last that they "flatter but to betray."
And be renewed in the spirit of your mind;And be renewed - That is, it is necessary that a man who has been following these should become a new man; see the notes on John 3:3 ff., compare the notes on 2 Corinthians 4:16. The word used here - ἀνανεόω ananeoō - does not occur elsewhere in the New Testament; but it has the same meaning as the word used in 2 Corinthians 4:16, and Colossians 3:10. It means to make new, and is descriptive of the work of regeneration. This was addressed to the church, and to those whom Paul regarded as Christians; and we learn from this:
(1) that it is necessary that man should be "renewed" in order to be saved.
(2) that it is proper to exhort Christians to be renewed. They need renovated strength every day.
(3) that it is a matter of "obligation" to be renewed. People are "bound" thus to be renovated, And,
(4) that they have sufficient natural ability to change from the condition of the old to that of the "new" man, or they could not be exhorted to it.
In the spirit of your mind - In your temper; your heart; your nature.
And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.And that ye put on the new man - The new man refers to the renovated nature. This is called in other places, the "new creature, or the new creation" (see the notes on 2 Corinthians 5:17), and refers to the condition after the heart is changed. The change is so great, that there is no impropriety in speaking of one who has experienced it as "a new man." He has new feelings, principles, and desires. He has laid aside his old principles and practices, and, in everything that pertains to moral character, he is new. His body is indeed the same; the intellectual structure of his mind the same; but there has been a change in his principles and feelings which malco him, in all the great purposes of life, a new being. Learn, that regeneration is not a trifling change. It is not a mere change of relations, or of the outward condition. It is not merely being brought from the world into the church, and being baptized, though by the most holy hands; it is much more. None of these things would make proper the declaration, "he is a new man." Regeneration by the Spirit of God does.
After God - κατὰ Θεὸν kata Theon. In respect to God. The idea is, evidently, that man is so renewed as to become "like" God, or the divine image is restored to the soul. In the parallel passage in Colossians Col 3:9, the idea is expressed more fully, "renewed in knowledge after "the image" of him that created him." Man, by regeneration, is restored to the lost image of God; compare Genesis 1:26.
Is created - A word that is often used to denote the new birth, from its strong resemblance to the first act of creation; see it explained in the notes on 2 Corinthians 5:17.
In righteousness - That is, the renewed man is made to resemble God in righteousness. This proves that man, when he was made, was righteous; or that righteousness constituted a part of the image of God in which lie was created. The object of the work of redemption is to restore to man the lost image of God, or to bring him back to the condition in which he was before he fell.
And true holiness - Margin, as in Greek, "holinese of truth" - standing in contrast with "lusts of deceit" (Greek), in Ephesians 4:22. "Holiness" properly refers to purity toward God, and "righteousness" to integrity toward people; but it is not cerrain that this distinction is observed here. The general idea is, that the renovated man is made an upright and a pious man; and that, therefore, he should avoid the vices which are practiced by the pagan, and which the apostle proceeds to specify. This phrase also proves that, when man was created, he was a holy being.
Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbour: for we are members one of another.Wherefore putting away lying - It may seem strange that the apostle should seriously exhort Christians to put away "lying," implying that they were in the habit of indulging in falsehood. But we are to remember:
(1) that lying is the universal vice of the pagan world. Among the ancient pagans, as among the moderns, it was almost universally practiced. It has been remarked by a distinguished jurist who had spent much time in India, that he would not believe a Hindu on his oath. The same testimony is borne by almost all the missionaries. of the character of pagans everywhere. No confidence can be placed in their statements; and, where there is the slightest temptation to falsehood, they practice it without remorse.
(2) the Ephesians had been recently converted, and were, to a great extent, ignorant of the requirements of the gospel. A conscience has to be "created" when pagans are converted, and it is long before they see the evils of many things which appear to us to be palpably wrong.
(3) the effects of former habits abide long, often, after a man is converted. He who has been in the habit of profane swearing, finds it difficult to avoid it; and he who has been all his life practicing deception, will find himself tempted to practice it still. It was for reasons such as these, probably, that the apostle exhorted the Ephesians to put away "lying," and to speak the truth only. Nor is the exhortation now inappropriate to Christians, and there are many classes to whom it would now be proper - such as the following:
(1) He who is in the habit of concealing the defects of an article in trade, or of commending it for more than its real value - "let him put away lying."
(2) he, or she, who instructs a servant to say that they are not at home, when they are at home: or that they are sick, when they are not sick or that they are engaged, when they are not engaged - "let them put away lying."
(3) he that is in the habit of giving a coloring to his narratives; of conveying a false impression by the introduction or the suppression of circumstances that are important to the right understanding of an account - "let him put away lying."
(4) he that is at no pains to ascertain the exact truth in regard to any facts that may affect his neighbor; that catches up flying rumors without investigating them, and that circulates them as undoubted truth, though they may seriously affect the character and peace of another - "let him put away lying."
(5) he that is in the habit of making promises only to disregard them - "let him put away lying." The community is full of falsehoods of that kind, and they are not all confined to the people of the world. Nothing is more important in a community than simple "truth" - and yet, it is to be feared that nothing is more habitually disregarded. No professing Christian can do any good who has not an unimpeachable character for integrity and truth - and yet who can lay his hand on his breast and say before God that he is in all cases a man that speaks the simple and unvarnished truth?
For we are members one of another - We belong to one body - the church - which is the body of Christ; see the notes Romans 5:12. The idea is, that falsehood tends to loosen the bonds of brotherhood. In the "human body" harmony is observed. The eye never deceives the hand, nor the hand the foot, nor the heart the lungs. The whole move harmoniously as if the one could put the utmost confidence in the other - and falsehood in the church is as ruinous to its interests as it would be to the body if one member was perpetually practicing a deception on another.
Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath:Be ye angry and sin not - It has been remarked that the direction here is conformable to the usage of the Pythagoreans, who were bound, when there were any differences among them, to furnish some token of reconciliation before the sun set. Burder, in Ros. Alt. u. neu. Morgenland, in loc. It is implied here:
(1) that there "may" be anger without sin; and,
(2) that there is special danger in all cases where there is anger that it will be accompanied with sin. "Anger" is a passion too common to need any description. It is an excitement or agitation of mind, of more or less violence, produced by the reception of a real or supposed injury, and attended commonly with a desire or purpose of revenge. The desire of revenge, however, is not essential to the existence of the passion, though it is probably always attended with a disposition to express displeasure, to chide, rebuke, or punish; compare Mark 3:5. To a great extent the sudden excitement on the reception of an injury is involuntary, and consequently innocent. Anger is excited when a horse kicks us; when a serpent hisses; when we dash our foot against a stone - and so when a man raises his hand to strike us. The "object or final cause" of implanting this passion in the mind of man is, to rouse him to an immediate defense of himself when suddenly attacked, and before his reason would, have time to suggest the proper means of defense. It prompts at once to self-protection; and when that is done its proper office ceases. If persevered in; it becomes sinful malignity. or revenge - always wrong. Anger may be excited against a "thing" as well as a "person;" as well against an act as a "man." We are suddenly excited by a wrong "thing," without any malignancy against the "man;" we may wish to rebuke or chide "that," without injuring "him." Anger is sinful in the following circumstances:
(1) When it is excited without any sufficient cause - when we are in no danger, and do not need it for a protection. We should be safe without it.
(2) when it transcends the cause, if any cause really exists. All that is beyond the necessity of immediate self-protection, is apart from its design, and is wrong.
(3) when it is against "the person" rather than the "offence." The object is not to injure another; it is to protect ourselves.
(5) when it is cherished and heightened by reflection. And,
(6) When there is an unforgiving spirit; a determination to exact the utmost satisfaction for the injury which has been done. If people were perfectly holy, that sudden "arousing of the mind" in danger, or on the reception of an injury; which would serve to prompt us to save ourselves from danger, would exist, and would be an important principle of our nature. As it is now, it is violent; excessive; incontrollable; persevered in - and is almost always wrong. If people were holy, this excitement of the mind would obey the first injunctions of "reasons," and be wholly under its control; as it is now, it seldom obeys reason at all - and is wholly wrong. Moreover, if all people were holy; if there were none "disposed" to do an injury, it would exist only in the form of a sudden arousing of the mind against immediate danger - which would all be right. Now, it is excited not only in view of "physical" dangers, but in view of the "wrongs" done by others - and hence it terminates on the "person" and not the "thing," and becomes often wholly evil.
Let not the sun go down - Do not cherish anger. Do not sleep upon it. Do not harbor a purpose of revenge; do not cherish ill-will against another. "When the sun sets on a man's anger, he may be sure it is wrong." The meaning of the whole of this verse then is, "If you be angry, which may be the case, and which may be unavoidable, see that the sudden excitement does not become sin. Do not let it overleap its proper bounds; do not cherish it; do not let it remain in your bosom even to the setting of the sun. Though the sun be sinking in the west, let not the passion linger in the bosom, but let his last rays find you always peaceful and calm."
Neither give place to the devil.Neither give place to the devil - This has respect probably to the exhortation in the former verse. "Do not yield to the suggestions and temptations of Satan, who would take every opportunity to persuade you to cherish unkind and angry feelings, and to keep up a spirit of resentment among brethren." Many of our feelings, when we suppose we are merely defending our rights, and securing what is our own, are produced by the temptations of the devil. The heart is deceitful; and seldom more deceitful in any case than when a man is attempting to vindicate himself from injuries done to his person and reputation. The devil is always busy when we are angry, and in some way, if possible, will lead us into sin; and the best way to avoid his wiles is to curb the temper, and restrain even sudden anger. No man sins by "restraining" his anger: no man is certain that he will not who indulges it for a moment.
Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labour, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth.Let him that stole steal no more - Theft, like lying, was, and is, almost a universal vice among the pagan. The practice of pilfering prevails in, probably, every pagan community, and no property is safe which is not guarded, or so locked up as to be inaccessible. Hence, as the Christian converts at Ephesus had been long addicted to it, there was danger that they would fall into it again; and hence the necessity of special cautions on that head. We are not to suppose that "pilfering" was a common vice in the church, but the cautions on this point proceed on the principle that, where a man has been long in the habit of a particular sin, he is in great danger of falling into it again. Hence, we caution the man who has been intemperate against the least indulgence in intoxicating drinks; we exhort him not to touch that which would be so strong a temptation to him. The object of the apostle was to show that the gospel requires holy living in all its friends, and to entreat Christians at Ephesus in a special manner to avoid the vices of the surrounding pagan.
But rather let him labour - Let him seek the means of living in an honest manner, by his own industry, rather than by wronging others.
Working with his hands - Pursuing some honest employment. Paul was not ashamed to labor with "his own hands" Acts 20:35; and no man is dishonored by labor. God made man for toil Genesis 2:15; and employment is essential to the happiness of the race. No man, who is "able" to support himself, has a "right" to depend on others; see the notes on Romans 12:11.
That he may have to give to him that needeth - Margin, "distribute." Not merely that may have the means of support, but that he may have it in his power to aid others. The reason and propriety of this is obvious. The human race is one great brotherhood. A considerable part "cannot" labor to support themselves. They are too old, or too young; or they are crippled, or feeble, or laid on beds of sickness. If others do not divide with them the avails of their labors, they will perish. We are required to laboar in order that we may have the privilege of contributing to their comfort. Learn from this verse:
(1) That every Christian should have some calling, business, or profession, by which he may support himself. The Saviour was carpenter; Paul a tentmaker; and no man is disgraced by being able to build a house or to construct a tent.
(2) Christianity promotes industry. It is rare that an idle man becomes a Christian; but if he does, religion makes him industrious just in proportion as it has influence over his mind. To talk of a "lazy Christian," is about the same as to talk of burning water or freezing fire.
(3) Christians should have some "useful" and "honest" employment. They should work "that which is good." They should not pursue an employment which will necessarily injure others. No man has a right to place a nuisance under the window of his neighbor; nor has he any "more" right to pursue an employment that shall lead his neighbor into sin or ruin him. An honest employment benefits everybody . A good farmer is a benefit to his neighborhood and country; and a good shoemaker, blacksmith, weaver, cabinetmaker, watchmaker, machinist, is a blessing to the community. He injures no one; he benefits all. How is it with the distiller, and the vender of alcoholic drinks? He benefits no one; he injures every body. Every quart of intoxicating drink that is taken from his house does evil somewhere - evil, and only evil, and that continually. No one is made better, or richer; no one is made more moral or industrious; no one is helped on the way to heaven by it. Thousands are helped on the way to hell by it, who are already in the path; and thousands are "induced" to walk in the way to death who, but for that distillery, store, or tavern, might have walked in the way to heaven. Is this then "working that which is good?" Would Paul have done it? Would Jesus do it? Strange, that by a professing Christian it was ever done! See a striking instance of the way in which the Ephesian Christians acted when they were first converted, in the Acts of the Apostles, Acts 19:19; compare notes on that place.
(4) the main business of a Christian is not to "make money," and to become rich. It is that he may have the means of benefiting others. Beyond what he needs for himself, his poor, and sick, and aged, and afflicted brother and friend has a claim on his earnings - and they should be liberally bestowed.
(5) we should labor in "order" that we may have the means of doing good to others. It should be just as much a matter of plan and purpose to do this, as it is to labor in order to buy a coat, or to build a house, or to live comfortably, or to have the means of a decent burial. Yet how few are those who have any such end in view, or who pursue their daily toil definitely, "that they may have something to give away!" The world will be soon converted when all Christians make that the purpose of life; see the notes on Romans 12:11.
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.Let no corrupt communication proceed - see the notes on 1 Corinthians 15:33. The word rendered "corrupt" (σαπρὸς sapros) means bad, decayed, rotten, and is applied to putrid vegetable or animal substances. Then it is applied to a tree that is of a useless character, that produces no good fruit; Matthew 7:17. Then it is used in a moral sense, as our word "corrupt" is, to denote that which is depraved, evil. contaminating, and may denote here anything that is obscene, offensive, or that tends to corrupt others. The importance of this admonition will be appreciated when it is remembered:
(1) that such obscene and filthy conversation prevailed everywhere, and does still among the pagan. So general is this, that at almost every missionary station it has been found that the common conversation is so corrupt and defiling that missionaries have felt it necessary to send their children home to be educated, in order to secure them from the contaminating influence of those around them.
(2) those who have had the misfortune to be familiar with the common conversation of the lower classes in any community, and especially with the conversation of young men, will see the importance of this admonition. Scarcely anything can be conceived more corrupt or corrupting, than that which often prevails among young men - and even young men in the academies and colleges of this land,
(3) its importance will be seen from the "influence" of such corrupt communications. "The passage of an impure thought through the mind leaves pollution behind it;" the expression of such a thought deepens the pollution on the soul, and corrupts others. It is like retaining an offensive carcase above ground, to pollute the air, and to diffuse pestilence and death, which should at once be buried out of sight. A Christian should be pure in his conversation. His Master was pure. His God is pure. The heaven to which he goes is pure. The religion which he professes is pure. Never should he indulge himself in an obscene allusion: never should he retail anecdotes of an obscene character, or smile when they are retailed by others. Never should he indulge in a jest having a double meaning; never should be listen to a song of this character. If those with whom he associates have not sufficient respect for themselves and him to abstain from such corrupt and corrupting allusions, he should at once leave them.
But that which is good to the use of edifying - Margin, to edify profitably." Greek, "to useful edification:" that is, adapted to instruct, counsel, and comfort others; to promote their intelligence anti purity. Speech is an invaluable gift; a blessing of inestimable worth. We may so speak as "always" to do good to others. We may give them some information which they have not; impart some consolation which they need; elicit some truth by friendly discussion which we did not know before, or recall by friendly admonition those who are in danger of going astray. He who talks for the mere sake of talking will say many foolish things; he whose great aim in life is to benefit others, will not be likely to say that which he will have occasion to regret; compare Matthew 12:36; Ecclesiastes 5:2; Proverbs 10:19; James 1:19.
And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption.And grieve not the Holy Spirit of God - This is addressed to Christians, and it proves that it is possible for them to grieve the Holy Spirit. The word used here - λυπεῖτε lupeite - means properly to afflict with sorrow; to make sad or sorrowful. It is rendered to make sorry, or sorrowful, Matthew 14:9; Matthew 17:23; Matthew 18:31; Matthew 19:22; Matthew 26:22, Matthew 26:37; Mark 14:19; John 16:20; 2 Corinthians 2:2; 2 Corinthians 6:10; 2 Corinthians 7:8-9, 2 Corinthians 7:11; 1 Thessalonians 4:13. It is rendered "grieved," Mark 10:22; John 21:17; Romans 14:15; 2 Corinthians 2:4-5; Ephesians 4:20; and once. "in heaviness," 1 Peter 1:6. The verb does not elsewhere occur in the New Testament. The common meaning is, to treat others so as to cause grief. We are not to suppose that the Holy Spirit literally endures "grief, or pain," at the conduct of people. The language is such as is suited to describe what "men" endure, and is applied to him to denote that kind of conduct which is "suited" to cause grief; and the meaning here is, "do not pursue such a course as is "suited" in its own nature, to pain the benevolent heart of a holy being. Do not act toward the Holy Spirit in a manner which would produce pain in the bosom of a friend who loves you. There is a course of conduct which will drive that Spirit from the mind as if he were grieved and pained - as a course of ingratitude and sin would pain the heart of an earthly friend, and cause him to leave you." If asked what that conduct is, we may reply:
(1) Open and gross sins. They are particularly referred to here; and the meaning of Paul is. that theft, falsehood, anger, and kindred vices, would grieve the Holy Spirit and cause him to depart.
(2) anger, in all its forms. Nothing is more suited to drive away all serious and tender impressions from the mind, than the indulgence of anger.
(3) Licentious thoughts and desires. The Spirit of God is pure, and he dwells not in a soul that is filled with corrupt imaginings.
(4) Ingratitude. "We" feel ingratitude more than almost anything else; and why should we suppose that the Holy Spirit would not feel it also?
(5) neglect. The Spirit of God is grieved by that. Often he prompts us to pray; he disposes the mind to seriousness, to the perusal of the Bible, to tenderness and penitence. We neglect those favored moments of our piety, and lose those happy seasons for becoming like God.
(6) Resistance. Christians often resist the Holy Spirit. He would lead them to be dead to the world; yet they drive on their plans Of gain. He would teach them the folly of fashion and vanity; yet they deck themselves in the most frivolous apparel. He would keep them from the splendid party, the theater, and the ballroom; yet they go there. A l that is needful for a Christian to do in order to be eminent in piety, is to yield to the gentle influences which would draw him to prayer and to heaven.
Whereby ye are sealed - see the notes on 2 Corinthians 1:22.
Unto the day of redemption - see the notes on Ephesians 1:14.
Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice:Let all bitterness - see the notes on Ephesians 4:2.
And wrath - The word here does not differ essentially from anger.
Anger - see the note on Ephesians 4:26. All cherished, unreasonable anger.
And clamour - Noise, disorder, high words; such as men use in a brawl, or when they are excited. Christians are to be calm and serious. Harsh contentions and strifes; hoarse brawls and tumults, are to be unknown among them.
And evil-speaking - Slander, backbiting, angry expressions, tale-bearing, reproaches, etc.
With all malice - Rather, "with all evil" - κακίᾳ kakia. Every kind and sort of evil is to be put away, and you are to manifest only that which is good.
And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you.And be ye kind one to another - Benignant, mild, courteous, "polite" - χρηστοὶ chrēstoi. 1 Peter 3:8. Christianity produces true courteousness, or politeness. It does not make one rough, crabby, or sour; nor does it dispose its followers to violate the proper rules of social contact. The secret of true politeness is "benevolence," or a desire to make others happy; and a Christian should be the most polite of people. There is no religion in a sour, misanthropic temper; none in rudeness, stiffness, and repulsiveness; none in violating the rules of good breeding. There is a hollow-hearted politeness, indeed, which the Christian is not to aim at or copy. His politeness is to be based on "kindness;" Colossians 3:12. His courtesy is to be the result of love, good-will, and a desire of the happiness of all others; and this will prompt to the kind of conduct that will render his conversation. with others agreeable and profitable.
Tender-hearted - Having a heart disposed to pity and compassion, and especially disposed to show kindness to the faults of erring brethren; for so the connection demands.
Forgiving one another - see the notes on Matthew 6:12.
As God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you - As God, on account of what Christ has suffered and done, has pardoned you. He has done it:
(1) "freely" - without merit on your part - when we were confessedly in the wrong.
(2) "fully;" he has forgiven "every" offence.
(3) "Liberally;" he has forgiven "many" offences, for our sins have been innumerable.
This is to be the rule which we are to observe in forgiving others. We are to do it "freely, fully, liberally." The forgiveness is to be entire, cordial, constant. We are not to "rake up" old offences, and charge them again upon them; we are to treat them as though they had not offended, for so God treats us Learn:
(1) That the forgiveness of an offending brother is a duty which we are not at liberty to neglect.
(2) the peace and happiness of the church depend on it. All are liable to offend their brethren, as all are liable to offend God; all need forgiveness of one another, as we all need it of God.
(3) there is no danger of carrying it too far. Let the rule be observed, "As God has forgiven you, so do you forgive others." Let a man recollect his own sins and follies; let him look over his life, and see how often he has offended God; let him remember that all has been forgiven; and then, fresh with this feeling, let him go and meet an offending brother, and say, "My brother, I forgive you. I do it frankly, fully, wholly. So Christ has forgiven me; so I forgive you. The offence shall be no more remembered. It shall not be referred to in our contact to harrow up your feelings; it shall not diminish my love for you; it shall not prevent my uniting with you in doing good. Christ treats me, a poor sinner, as a friend; and so I will treat you."