Ephesians 4:19
Who being past feeling have given themselves over unto lasciviousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness.
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(19) Who being past feeling . . .—We note that St. Paul, passing lightly over the intellectual loss, dwells on the moral with intense and terrible emphasis. They are (he says) “past feeling”; or, literally, carrying on the metaphor of callousness, they have lost the capacity of pain—the moral pain which is the natural and healthful consequence of sin against our true natures. Consequently, losing in this their true humanity, they give themselves over to “lasciviousness.” The word used here (as also in Mark 7:22; Romans 13:13; 2Corinthians 12:21; Galatians 5:19) signifies a lust devoid of all sense of decency, recklessly and grossly animal. Hence its result is not only to work out uncleanness of every kind, but to do so “with greediness,” with a reckless delight in foulness for its own sake. The union of this brutality of sensual sin with intellectual acuteness and æsthetic culture was the most horrible feature of that corrupt Greek civilisation, tainted with Oriental grossness, of which he was especially writing.

4:17-24 The apostle charged the Ephesians in the name and by the authority of the Lord Jesus, that having professed the gospel, they should not be as the unconverted Gentiles, who walked in vain fancies and carnal affections. Do not men, on every side, walk in the vanity of their minds? Must not we then urge the distinction between real and nominal Christians? They were void of all saving knowledge; they sat in darkness, and loved it rather than light. They had a dislike and hatred to a life of holiness, which is not only the way of life God requires and approves, and by which we live to him, but which has some likeness to God himself in his purity, righteousness, truth, and goodness. The truth of Christ appears in its beauty and power, when it appears as in Jesus. The corrupt nature is called a man; like the human body, it is of divers parts, supporting and strengthening one another. Sinful desires are deceitful lusts; they promise men happiness, but render them more miserable; and bring them to destruction, if not subdued and mortified. These therefore must be put off, as an old garment, a filthy garment; they must be subdued and mortified. But it is not enough to shake off corrupt principles; we must have gracious ones. By the new man, is meant the new nature, the new creature, directed by a new principle, even regenerating grace, enabling a man to lead a new life of righteousness and holiness. This is created, or brought forth by God's almighty power.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.

19. past feeling—senseless, shameless, hopeless; the ultimate result of a long process of "hardening," or habit of sin (Eph 4:18). "Being past hope," or despairing, is the reading of the Vulgate; though not so well supported as English Version reading, "past feeling," which includes the absence of hope (Jer 2:25; 18:12).

given themselves over—In Ro 1:24 it is, "God gave them up to uncleanness." Their giving themselves to it was punished in kind, God giving them up to it by withdrawing His preventing grace; their sin thus was made their punishment. They gave themselves up of their own accord to the slavery of their lust, to do all its pleasure, as captives who have ceased to strive with the foe. God gave them up to it, but not against their will; for they give themselves up to it [Zanchius].

lasciviousness—"wantonness" [Alford]. So it is translated in Ro 13:13; 2Pe 2:18. It does not necessarily include lasciviousness; but it means intemperate, reckless readiness for it, and for every self-indulgence. "The first beginnings of unchastity" [Grotius]. "Lawless insolence, and wanton caprice" [Trench].

to work all uncleanness—The Greek implies, "with a deliberate view to the working (as if it were their work or business, not a mere accidental fall into sin) of uncleanness of every kind."

with greediness—Greek, "in greediness." Uncleanness and greediness of gain often go hand in hand (Eph 5:3, 5; Col 3:5); though "greediness" here includes all kinds of self-seeking.

Who being past feeling; having lost all sense and conscience of sin: a higher degree or effect of the hardness before mentioned, 1 Timothy 4:2.

Have given themselves over unto lasciviousness; voluntarily yielded themselves up to the power of their own sensuality and lasciviousness, so as to be commanded by it, without resisting it.

To work; not only to burn with inward lusts, but to fulfil them in the outward acts.

All uncleanness; all sorts of uncleanness, even the most monstrous, Romans 1:24,26,27 1 Corinthians 6:9 Galatians 5:19.

With greediness; either with covetousness, and then it respects those that prostituted themselves for gain; or rather with an insatiable desire of still going on in their filthiness.

Who being past feeling,.... Their consciences being cauterized or seared as with a red hot iron, which is the consequence of judicial hardness; so that they have lost all sense of sin, and do not feel the load of its guilt upon them, and are without any concern about it; but on the contrary commit it with pleasure, boast of it and glory in it, plead for it and defend it publicly, and openly declare it, and stand in no fear of a future judgment, which they ridicule and despise: the Vulgate Latin, Syriac, and Arabic versions, and the Claromontane exemplar read, who "despairing": of mercy and salvation, saying there is no hope, and therefore grow hardened and desperate in sin;

have given themselves over unto lasciviousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness; by "lasciviousness" is meant all manner of lusts, and a wanton and unbridled course of sinning; and their giving themselves over unto it denotes their voluntariness in sinning, the power of sin over them, they being willing slaves unto it, and their continuance in it; and this they do in order

to work all uncleanness; to commit every unclean lust, to live in a continued commission of uncleanness of every sort; and that

with greediness; being like a covetous man, never satisfied with sinning, but always craving more sinful lusts and pleasures.

Who being {b} past feeling have given themselves over unto lasciviousness, to work all uncleanness with {c} greediness.

(b) Void of all judgment.

(c) They strove to surpass one another, as though there were some gain to be gotten by it.

Ephesians 4:19. The estrangement of the Gentiles from the divine life, indicated in Ephesians 4:18, is now more precisely proved in conformity with experience: οἵτινες, quippe qui, etc.: being such as, void of feeling, have given themselves over to lasciviousness.

ἀπηλγηκότες] ἀναίσθητοι γενόμενοι, Hesychius. The “verbum significantissimum” (Bengel), from ἀλγεῖν and ἀπό, is equivalent to dedolere, to cease to feel pain, then to be void of feeling, whether there be meant by it the apathy of intelligence, or the state of despair, or, as here, the moral indolence, in which one has ceased to feel reproaches of conscience,[234] consequently the securitas carnalis; see Wetstein, and also Matthaei, ed. min. in loc. The explanation having despaired (comp. Polyb. ix. 40. Ephesians 4 : ἀπαλγοῦντες ταῖς ἐλπίσι) imports a special definition of the meaning without warrant from the context, but is found already in Syr. Arm. Vulg. It. Ambrosiaster, and from it has arisen the reading ἈΠΗΛΠΙΚΌΤΕς (D E F G have ἈΦΗΛΠΙΚ.), which probably already those vss. followed.

ἙΑΥΤΟΎς] with deterrent emphasis. To bring into prominence what was done on the part of their own freedom, was here in accordance with the paraenetic aim. It is otherwise put at Romans 1:24 : παρέδωκεν αὐτοὺς ὁ Θεός. The two modes of regarding the matter are not contrary to one another, but go side by side (see on Romans 1:24); and according to the respective aims and connection of the discourse, both have their warrant and their full truth.

τῇ ἀσελγείᾳ] personified. It is to be understood of sensual lasciviousness (comp. on Romans 13:13; 2 Corinthians 12:21; Galatians 5:19), as, subsequently, ἀκαθαρσίας of sensual filthiness (comp. Romans 1:24; 2 Corinthians 12:21; Galatians 5:19), not of ethical wantonness and impurity generally (Harless, Matthies, Meier, and others), since the πλεονεξία connected with it is likewise a special vice, as indeed, on the other hand (Romans 1:24; comp. Ephesians 4:29 and Colossians 3:5), unchastity appears as the first and chief vice of the Gentiles.

εἰς ἐργασίαν ἀκαθαρσίας πάσης] aim of this self-surrender to the ἈΣΈΛΓΕΙΑ (comp. Romans 6:19): for the prosecution of every uncleanness, in order to practise every sort of uncleanness. On ἐργασία, comp. LXX. Exodus 26:1; 2 Chronicles 15:7; Isaiah 1:31, al.; Plat. Prot. p. 353 D: τῆς ἡδονῆς ἐργασίαν, Eryx. p. 403 E: ἐργασίας πραγμάτων μοχθηρῶν. Koppe takes it as trade (Acts 16:16; Acts 19:19; Acts 24:2-9). But could the trade of prostitution (Dem. 270. 15, Reiske, and thereon Dissen, de Cor. p. 301) be thus generally predicated with truth of the Gentiles? This at the same time tells in opposition to the explanation followed by Grotius, Bengel, Stolz, Koppe, Flatt, and Meier, of the ἐν πλεονεξίᾳ that follows as quaestus ex impudicitia (on the thing itself, see Aristaen. i. 14). In fact, ἐν πλεονεξίᾳ adds to the vice of sensuality the other chief vice of the heathen, and signifies: with covetousness. The explanations: with unsatiableness (Chrysostom, Theodoret, Oecumenius, Erasmus, Calvin, Estius, and others, including Matthies), or certatim (“quasi agatur de lucro, ita ut alius alium superare contendat,” Beza), or with haughtiness (Holzhausen), or in gluttony (Harless[235]), are all of them at variance with linguistic usage, partly in general, partly of the N.T. in particular, in which πλεονεξία never means anything else than covetousness. Sensuality and covetousness are the two cardinal vices of the heathen, which are to be avoided by the Christians. See Ephesians 5:3; 1 Corinthians 5:10 f.; Colossians 3:5. Comp. 2 Peter 2:2; 2 Peter 3:14.

[234] “Homines a Deo relicti sopita conscientia, extincto divini judicii timore, amisso denique sensu tanquam attoniti, belluino impetu se ad omnem turpitudinem projiciunt,” Calvin.

[235] He is followed by Olshausen, who explains πλεονεξία of repletion with meat and drink, and terms this physical greed! According to classical usage, πλεονεξία might mean superabundance, but not gluttony.

Ephesians 4:19. οἵτινες ἀπηλγηκότες: who having become past feeling. οἵτινες has its usual qualitative or explanatory force, = “who as men past feeling”. The ἀπηλγηκότες is naturally suggested by the πώρωσιν. It expresses the condition, not of despair merely (Syr., Vulg., Arm., etc.), but of moral insensibility, “the deadness that supervenes when the heart has ceased to be sensible of the ‘stimuli’ of the conscience” (Ell.). A few MSS. ([443] [444] [445], etc.) mistakenly read ἀπηλπικότες or ἀφηλπικότες, = desperantes (Latt., Syr., Arm., etc.).—ἑαυτοὺς παρέδωκαν τῇ ἀσελγείᾳ: gave themselves up to lasciviousness. In Romans 1:26 Paul gives us the other side of the same unhappy fact—πάρεδωκεν αὐτοὺς ὁ Θεός. It is at once a guilty choice of men and a judicial act of God. ἀσέλγεια is wantonness, shameless, outrageous sensuality (cf. 2 Corinthians 12:21; Galatians 5:19; 2 Peter 2:7, etc.).—εἰς ἐργασίαν ἀκαθαρσίας πάσης ἐν πλεονεξίᾳ: to the working of all uncleanness with greediness. The noun ἐργασία is used sometimes of work or business (Acts 19:25); sometimes of the gain got by work (Acts 16:19; perhaps also Acts 16:16; Acts 19:24); sometimes of the pains or endeavour (Luke 12:58). Hence some give it the sense of trade here (Koppe, RV marg. = “to make a trade of”). It might perhaps be rendered here “so as to make a business of every kind of uncleanness”. But it seems rather to be simply = τὸ ἐργάζεσθαι. The εἰς denotes the object, the conscious object (Ell.) of the self-surrender. πάσης = every kind of; ἀκαθαρσία is moral uncleanness in the widest sense; ἐν πλεονεξίᾳ, describes the condition or frame of mind in which they wrought the ἀκαθαρσία, viz., that of covetousness or greediness. πλεονεξία is taken by some to mean ἀμετρία, inordinate desire or insatiableness (Chrys., Oec., Calv., Trench, etc.). It is repeatedly coupled indeed with sins of the flesh in the NT (1 Corinthians 5:11; Ephesians 5:3; Colossians 3:5) and is akin to them as they all involve self-seeking. But its own proper meaning is greed, covetousness, and that sense is quite applicable here. See further on Ephesians 5:3; Ephesians 5:5. These two things ἀκαθαρσία and πλεονεξία ranked as the two great heathen vices. So the Gentiles, darkened and alienated from the life of God, had become men of such a character that they gave themselves wilfully over to wanton sensuality, in order that they might practise every kind of uncleanness and do that with unbridled greedy desire.

[443] Codex Claromontanus (sæc. vi.), a Græco-Latin MS. at Paris, edited by Tischendorf in 1852.

[444] Codex Augiensis (sæc. ix.), a Græco-Latin MS., at Trinity College, Cambridge, edited by Scrivener in 1859. Its Greek text is almost identical with that of G, and it is therefore not cited save where it differs from that MS. Its Latin version, f, presents the Vulgate text with some modifications.

[445] Codex Boernerianus (sæc. ix.), a Græco-Latin MS., at Dresden, edited by Matthæi in 1791. Written by an Irish scribe, it once formed part of the same volume as Codex Sangallensis (δ) of the Gospels. The Latin text, g, is based on the O.L. translation.

19. who being past feeling] The Gr. relative pronoun indicates a certain conditionality; almost as if it were, “as being those who.” But the shade is too slight for translation.—“Past feeling:—lit., “having got over the pain,” as when mortification sets in; a deeply suggestive metaphor.

have given themselves over] Lit., did give over themselves. An ideal crisis is in view, reflected in many a sad actual crisis in individual lives.—“Themselves” is emphatic by position. The perverted will is the traitor, the “giver over.” However deep the mystery of its perversion, it is always the will, and speaks as such the decisive “yes” to temptation.

lasciviousness] The Gr. word occurs in N.T. 11 times. See e.g. Mark 7:22; Romans 13:13 (A.V., “wantonness”); Galatians 5:19. The root-idea of the word is not specially fleshly impurity, but rebellion against restraint as such; petulance, wantonness, as shewn e.g. in violence. Abp Trench (N. T. Synonyms, on this word), recommends accordingly wantonness as a better rendering than “lasciviousness,” which is but one manifestation of the tendency denoted.

to work] Lit., to the working of. The Gr. noun occurs elsewhere in N.T. Luke 12:58 (A.V., “diligence”); Acts 16:16; Acts 16:19 (A.V., “gain”); Acts 19:24 (A.V., “gain”), Rom 25 (A.V., “craft”). The idea of business thus adheres to the word. The suggestion conveyed by it here is that sin becomes to the deliberate sinner an earnest pursuit, an occupation. Cp. Romans 13:14 (“forethought for the flesh”). The R.V. gives in its margin here, “to make a trade of.”

uncleanness] The connexion of the Gr. word is mainly with fleshly impurity, and so probably here. But it is not quite confined to this; one passage (1 Thessalonians 2:3) giving the thought rather of “impure motives” in the sense of insincerity.

greediness] The Gr. word is rendered “covetousness,” Luke 12:15. But it means much more than the desire of money, or property, with which we specially associate “covetousness.” It occurs (or its cognate verb or adjective) in close connexion with the subject of fleshly impurity 1 Corinthians 5:11; 1 Thessalonians 4:6; and below, Ephesians 5:3; Ephesians 5:5. See too Colossians 3:5. “Greed” has a strong and terrible connexion with impurity, as is obvious. Bp Lightfoot shews (on Colossians 3:5) that the present word never of itself denotes “lust,” while it is, of course, rightly used to denote the horrible grasp and plunder which lust involves.

In this verse the Apostle depicts, as universal among “the Gentiles,” an abandoned licentiousness. Contemporary literature gives mournful testimony to the charge, as regards society in general, indicating a large social toleration of the most hideous vices, and a significant readiness to import vicious imagery into refined spheres of thought. But the accusation of this passage, surely, transcends the limits of any one age, or state of society; it is levelled at unregenerate Man. And the explanation of it, so viewed, is to be sought in the study of those tendencies of evil which reside in the fallen “heart” as such. The action of outrageous sinning does but illustrate the underlying principle of sin; a principle with which absolutely nothing but “the life of God” can effectually deal. See further Romans 3:10-18, and notes in this Series.

Ephesians 4:19. Ἀπηλγηκότες) A very significant term, in which pain (ἄλγος) is used by Synecdoche for the whole sensibility of the affections and understanding, whether painful or pleasant. For pain urges us to seek the means of a cure; and when the pain is removed, not only hope, but also the desire and thought of good things are lost, so that a man becomes senseless, shameless, hopeless. That constitutes hardness, Ephesians 4:18. Despairing (Desperantes), in the Vulgate and Syriac Version, is worthy of consideration, and illustrates its signification. In this way ἡ ἀναλγησία (insensibility) and ἡ ἀπόγνωσις (despair) are conjointly noted by Chrysostom, Homil. vi., on Hebrews 3:13. But the very word ἀπαλγεῖν Cicero seems to paraphrase, lib. 2. famil. Ep. 16, when he says, “Diuturna DESPERATIONE rerum obduruisse animum ad DOLOREM novum,” that by long-continued DESPAIR at existing circumstances the mind has become hardened to new PAIN. Therefore ἀπαλγεῖν is more than to despair. Raphelius has given a beautiful disquisition on this word out of Polybius, where, of two examples ascribed to Polybius by Suidas, the oneexists in the same words in Xiphilinus.—ἑαυτοὺς παρέδωκαν, they gave themselves over) of their own accord, willingly.—πάσης, of all) ἀσέλγεια, lasciviousness, the species; ἀκαθαρσία, impurity, the genus. Those who are occupied with these works of the flesh, as being hurried away (seized) with the heated desire of material objects, fall also into greediness [πλεονεξίᾳ, avarice, covetousness]; and gain made by unchastity was frequent among the Gentiles.

Verse 19. - Who being past feeling. Without sense of shame, without conscience, without fear of God or regard for man, without any perception of the dignity of human nature, the glory of the Divine image, or the degradation of sin. Have given themselves over to lasciviousness to work all uncleanness (fourth point of difference). This is the climax - heathenism in its worst and fullest development, yet by no means rare. The sensuality of the heathen was and is something dreadful. Many of them gave themselves to it as a business, worked at it as at a trade or employment (see Uhlmann's 'Conflict of Christianity with Heathenism,' etc.). Details, such as even the walls of Pompeii furnish, are unfit for the public eye. With greediness, Πλεονεξία means the desire of having more, and has reference to the insatiable character of sensual sins. Sometimes it is translated (A.V.) "covetousness," as Ephesians 5:3. Ephesians 4:19Who (οἵτινες)

Explanatory and classifying: men of the class which.

Being past feeling (ἀπηλγηκοτες)

Only here in the New Testament. Lit, the verb means to cease from feeling pain. Hence to be apathetic.

Have given themselves over (παρέδωκαν)

See on Matthew 4:12; see on Matthew 11:27; see on Matthew 26:2; see on Mark 4:29; see on Luke 1:2; see on 1 Peter 2:23. The verb is frequently used of Christ giving Himself for the world. Romans 4:25; Galatians 2:20; Ephesians 5:5, Ephesians 5:25. It indicates a complete surrender. Meyer says, "with frightful emphasis." Where men persistently give themselves up to evil, God gives them up to its power. See Romans 1:24.

Lasciviousness (ἀσελγείᾷ)

See on Mark 7:22.

To work (εἰς ἐργασίαν)

Lit., to a working. In Acts 19:25, used of a trade. Not precisely in this sense here, yet with a shade of it. They gave themselves up as to the prosecution of a business. The εἰς unto is very forcible.

With greediness (ἐν πλεονεξίᾳ)

The noun commonly rendered covetousness: in an eager grasping after more and more uncleanness. Not with, but in, as the state of mind in which they wrought evil.

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