Ephesians 4
Pulpit Commentary
I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called,
Verses 1-16. - CHURCH PRINCIPLE OF GROWTH AND PROGRESS; THE CHURCH A BODY. Verse 1. - I therefore. Inference not only from last chapter, but the whole Epistle. Paul's interest in the Ephesians led him to a double application of the great subject which he had expounded:

(1) to ask God on their behalf that he would bestow on them the full measure of the blessing to which of his grace they were entitled (Ephesians 3:14-21); and

(2) to entreat them on God's behalf to live in a way befitting their high calling (Ephesians 4:6.). To this second application he proceeds now. The prisoner in the Lord. Not merely "of the Lord," but ἐν, Κυρίῳ, the usual formula for vital communion with Christ, indicating that his captivity was the captivity of a part or member of the Lord. An exhortation from such a prisoner ought to fall with double weight. Beseech you to walk worthy of the calling wherewith ye were called. Their call was to be God's people (comp. Romans 9:25); this not a mere speculative distinction, but one that must have practical form and that must lead to suitable fruit. True grace in the heart must show itself by true goodness in the life. They were not to conceal their religion, not to be ashamed of it, but to avow it and glory in it, and their lives were not to be disgraced by unworthy conduct, but to be brightened and elevated by their relation to Christ.
With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love;
Verse 2. - SOME POINTS OF A WORTHY WALK. With all lowliness and meekness, with long-suffering, forbearing one another in love. He begins his enumeration with passive graces - eminently those of Christ. Lowliness or humility may well be gendered by our remembering what we were when God's grace took hold of us (Ephesians 2:1-3). Meekness is the natural expression of a lowly state of mind, opposed to boisterous self-assertion and rude striving with others; it genders a subdued manner and a peace-loving spirit that studies to give the soft answer that turneth away wrath. Long-suffering and loving forbearance are phases of the same state of mind - denoting the absence of that irascibility and proneness to take offence which flares up at every provocation or fancied neglect, and strives to maintain self-control on every occasion. It is from such qualities in God that our redemption has come; it is miserable to accept the redemption and not try to attain and exhibit its true spirit. Neglect of this verse has produced untold evil in the Christian Church
Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
Verse 3. - Striving to keep the unity of the Spirit. Σπουδάζοντες is stronger than the A.V. "endeavoring," and denotes an object to be carefully and earnestly watched for and promoted. "The unity of the Spirit" is equivalent to the unity of which the Spirit is the Author. In all in whom he works savingly, the Spirit produces a certain oneness in faith, in repentance, in knowledge, in their views of sin, grace, Christ, the world, etc. This oneness exists, and cannot but exist, even when Christians are not careful of it, but the manifestation of it is lost; it seems to the world as if there were no such oneness. "Many men, many minds," says the world, when believers differ much and contend much, and are at no pains to preserve and manifest the unity wrought by the Spirit. It is due to the Spirit, as well as to the interests of the kingdom of God, that the unity of the Spirit be maintained in the bond of peace. The genitive, εἰρήυης, is commonly held to be that of apposition, the bond which consists of peace - a peace-loving spirit, a spirit laying more stress on the points in which Christians agree than those in which they differ. Those who are combative, censorious, careless of peace, do not walk worthy of their vocation.
There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling;
Verses 4-6. - WHEREIN UNITY CONSISTS - SEVEN PARTICULARS. There is one body (see Ephesians 2:16). The Church is an organic whole, of which believers are the members, and Christ the Head, supplying the vitalizing power: The real body, being constituted by vital union with Christ, is not synonymous with any single outward society. One Spirit; viz. the Holy Spirit, who alone applies the redemption of Christ, and works in the members of the Church the graces of the new creation. As ye also were called in one hope of your calling. This is one of the re-suits of the Spirit's work; when the Spirit called you he inspired you all with one hope, and this one hope was involved in the very essence of your calling (comp. Titus 2:13, "Looking for the blessed hope, even the glorious appearing of the great God and our Savior Jesus Christ"). To all believers the Spirit imparted this one blessed hope. One Lord; Jesus Christ, unique and beyond comparison: as Teacher, all hang on his words; as Master, all own his supreme authority; to his example all refer as the standard; his likeness all covet as the highest excellence (where Mary is worshipped, though nominally you have but one Lord, virtually you have two). One faith; not objective in the sense of creed, but as denoting the one instrument of receiving salvation (Ephesians 2:8), the one belief in the one Savior by which we are justified, adopted, and in other ways blessed. One baptism. One initiatory rite admitting into the visible Church - baptism in name of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, symbolic of the washing of regeneration, the one way of entering the Church invisible. One God and Father of all. We rise now to the fountain of Godhead, the one supreme Being with whom all have to do, the only Being who is or can be the Father of us all; who can be to us what is implied in the name "Father," who, so love and grace can satisfy our hearts. Who is over all; the supreme and only Potentate, exercising undivided jurisdiction, "doing according to his will in the armies of heaven." etc. And through all; pervading the whole universe, sustaining and ruling it, not dwelling apart from his works, but pervading them; not, however, in any pantheistical sense, but as a personal God, whose essence is separate from his works. And in all. A closer and more abiding influence; he dwells in them, and walks in them, molding their inner being, and filling them with his own light and love. Some commentators of mark have tried to find a reference to each of the persons of the Godhead in the three prepositions over, through, and by, but this seems a strained view. The three persons, however, appear clearly in the seven elements of unity, but, as before (Ephesians 3:16-19), in the reverse of the common order - first, the Spirit; second, the Son; and third, the Father. These seven elements constitute the true rarity of the Church. It is out of the question to identify the Church which is thus one, with any external organization like the Roman Catholic Church. How many millions have been connected with it who have notoriously been destitute of the one hope, the one Spirit, the one Father! It is of the invisible Church the apostle speaks, and his exhortation is, seeing that this blessed sevenfold unity is the unity wrought by the Holy Spirit, maintain that unity; maintain the manifestation of it; give no occasion to any one to say that there is no such unity - that the Holy Ghost is a Spirit of confusion and not a Spirit of order and unity.
One Lord, one faith, one baptism,
One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.
But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ.
Verses 7-16. - VARIETY OF GIFTS IN CONNECTION WITH UNITY; USE TO BE MADE OF THEM. Verse 7. - But to each one of us was grace given according to the measure of the gift of Christ. In the Church all do not get alike; grace is not given in equal measures as the manna in the wilderness; Christ, as the great Bestower, measures out his gifts, and each receives according to his measure. Compare parable of talents. "Grace" does not refer merely to supernatural gifts, but also to the ordinary spiritual gifts of men. These are varied, because what each gets he gets for the good of the rest; the Church is a fellowship or brotherhood, where each has an interest in all and all in each, and is bound to act accordingly.
Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men.
Verse 8. - Wherefore he saith, When he ascended on high he led captivity captive, and received gifts for men. The speaker is God, the author of Scripture, and the place is the sixty-eighth psalm. That psalm is a psalm of triumph, where the placing of the ark on Zion is celebrated as if it had been a great victory. As this quotation shows, the psalm in its deepest sense is Messianic, celebrating the victory of Christ. The substance rather than the words of the passage are given, for the second person ("thou hast ascended," etc.) is changed into the third; and whereas in the psalm it is said, "gave gifts to men," as modified by the apostle it is said, "received gifts for men." As in a literal triumph, the chiefs of the enemy's army are led captive, so the powers of darkness were led captive by Christ (captivity, αἰχμαλωσία, denotes prisoners); and as on occasion of a triumph the spoils of the enemy are made over to the conqueror, who again gives them away among the soldiers and people, so gifts were given to Christ after his triumph to be given by him to his Church. We must not force the analogy too far: the point is simply this - as a conqueror at a triumph gets gifts to distribute, so Christ, on his resurrection and ascension, got the Holy Spirit to bestow on his Church (comp. Ephesians 1:22).
(Now that he ascended, what is it but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth?
Verse 9. - Now (the fact) that he ascended, what does it imply but that he descended first? The ascent implied a previous descent; that is, the ascent of the Son of God - of one who was himself in heaven, who was in the bosom of the Father (comp. John 3:13), implied that he had come down from heaven, a striking proof of his interest in and love for the children of men. And the descent was net merely to the ordinary condition of humanity, but to a more than ordinarily degraded condition, not merely to the surface of the earth, but to the lower parts of the earth. This has sometimes been interpreted of Hades, but surely without reason. If the expression denotes more than Christ's humble condition, it probably means the grave. This was the climax of Christ's humiliation; to be removed out of men's sight, as too offensive for them to look on - to be hidden away in the depths of the earth, in the grave, was indeed supremely humbling. The object is to show that, in bestowing gifts on men, Christ did not merely bring into play his inherent bountifulness as the Son of God, but acted as Mediator, by right of special purchase, through his work of humiliation on earth; and thus to lead us to think the more highly both of the Giver and of his gifts.
He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things.)
Verse 10. - He that descended is the same also that ascended far above all the heavens. There was a proportion between the descent and the ascent. His descent was deep - into the lower parts of earth; but his ascent was more glorious than his descent had been humbling. The Hebrew idea of various heavens is brought in; the ascent was not merely to the third heaven, but far above all heavens. That he might fill all things. A very sublime view of the purpose for which Christ reigns on high. The specific idea with which the apostle started - to give gifts to men - is swallowed up for the moment by a view far grander and more comprehensive, "to fill all things." Jesus has gone on high to pour his glory and excellence over every creature in the universe who is the subject of grace, to be the Light of the world, the one Source of all good. As in the solar system it is from one sun that all the supplies of light and heat come, all the colors that beautify earth, sea, and sky, all the influences that ripen the grain and mature the fruit, all the chemical power that transforms and new-creates; so the ascended Jesus is the Sun of the universe; all healing, all life, all blessing are from him. It is quite in the manner of the apostle, when he introduces the mention of Christ, to be carried, in the contemplation of his person, far above the immediate occasion, and extol the infinite perfection and glory that distinguish him.
And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;
Verse 11. - And he gave some (to be) apostles. Coming back to the diversity of gifts (ver. 7), He enumerates some of these, as Christ (αὐτὸς, he, emphatic) bestowed them. The organization of the Church is not a mere human arrangement; its officers are of Divine appointment. The first gift is, his apostles. It is not meant that he gave to some the gifts needed to constitute them apostles, though that is true; but that, having qualified some to be apostles, he gave them to the Church. An apostle had his commission direct from Christ (Matthew 10:5); he possessed supernatural gifts (Matthew 10:8); it was necessary for him to have seen the Lord (Acts 1:22); his diocese was the whole world (Matthew 28:19; Mark 16:15). The apostles were the constituent body of the Church - they had all necessary gifts for setting it up, and as all Christian history has testified, they were a marvelous gift of Christ to his Church. And some, prophets. Next to the apostles in point of value, as gifts to the Church, having supernatural knowledge of God's will present and future (Acts 21:11). Prophets were indispensable before the New Testament was given as the Church's infallible guide to the will of God, but not apparently necessary after the will of God was fully recorded. And some, evangelists. The nature of this office is known only from the meaning of the term and the work of those who bore the designation (Acts 21:8; 2 Timothy 4:5) - persons not attached to a particular congregation, but who went about preaching the glad tidings, and otherwise building up the Church, but without the full powers of apostles. And some, pastors and teachers. The more ordinary settled ministers of congregations, called pastors, because they watched over the flock, trying to lead all in right ways; and teachers, because they communicated Divine knowledge. Some have thought that each expression denotes a separate office, but, coupled as they are together, it is better to regard them as indicating two functions of one office (see 1 Timothy 5:17; Acts 13:1).
For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:
Verse 12. - In order to the perfecting of the saints. The ultimate end for which the gifts bestowed (comp. Hebrews 12:1). A work of completion is in hand, which must be fulfilled (see ver. 13): the saints, now compassed about with infirmity, have to be freed from all stain (Ephesians 5:26, 27), and as instruments towards this end, the ministers of the Church are given by Christ; they are not mere promoters of civilization, men of culture planted among the rude, but instruments for advancing men to complete holiness. For the work of the ministry. The preposition is changed from πρὸς to εἰς πρὸς denoting the ultimate end, εἰς the immediate object (comp. Romans 15:2); the office of the Church officers is not lords, but διακονοί, servants, as Christ himself was (Matthew 20:28). For the building up of the body of Christ. Bringing bone to its bone and sinew to its sinew, increasing the number of believers, and promoting the spiritual life of each; carrying on all their work as Christ's servants and with a definite eye to the promotion of the great work which he undertook when he came to seek and to save the lost.
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:
Verse 13. - Until we all come. This marks the duration of the office of the ministry. Some maintain that it implies that all these offices are to continue in the Church until the result specified is obtained (Catholic Apostolic or Irvingite Church): this is contradicted by Scripture and by experience, so far as apostles and prophets are concerned, for the gifts for these offices were not continued, and without the gifts the offices are impossible. The meaning is that, till the event specified, there is to be a provision in the Church of the offices that are needed, and the apostle, in using "until," probably had in view the last office in his list - pastors and teachers. To the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God. Both genitives are governed by unity; already there is one faith (ver. 5), but we all, i.e. all who compose or are yet to compose the body of Christ, the totality of this body, have to be brought to this faith. As in ver. 5 "faith" is not equivalent to "creed," or truth believed, but the act of believing; so here the consummation which the ministers of the Church are given to bring about is a state in which faith in the Son of God shall characterize all, and that, not a blind faith, but a faith associated with knowledge. Usually faith and knowledge are opposed to each other; but here faith has more the meaning of trust than of mere belief - trust based on knowledge, trust in the Son of God based on knowledge of his Person, his work, and his relation to them that receive him. To bring all the elect to this faith is the object of the ministry; when they are all brought to it, the body of Christ will be complete, and the functions of the Christian ministry will cease. Unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ. The idea of organic completeness is more fully expressed by these two clauses; the consummation is the completeness of the whole body of Christ as such; but that involves the maturity of each individual who is a constituent part of that body; and the measure or sign of maturity, both for the individual and for the whole, is the stature of the fullness of Christ (comp. Romans 8:29, "Whom he did foreknow, them he also foredained to be conformed to the image of his Son"). The question has been put - Will this consummation be in this life or the next? The one seems to melt into the other; the idea of a complete Church and that of a new economy seem inseparable; as the coming of Christ will terminate the observance of the Lord's Supper, so it will terminate the ministries ordained by Christ for the completion of his Church.
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;
Verse 14. - That we he no more children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of teaching. The apostle goes back to illustrate in another way the purpose of the ministry; it is designed to remedy childish fickleness and the causes that lead to it. The ignorant and inexperienced lie at the mercy of abler persons, and, when there is no regular ministry provided by Christ, are liable to be swept along by any plausible person that professes to be a Christian teacher, and such persons are often very dangerous, working by the sleight of men, i.e. the cunning legerdemain by which the teachings of men - teachings devised by the hearts of men - are made to appear to the uninitiated the same as Christ's teaching. In craftiness, tending to the scheme of error. Such teachers employ crafty methods, apparently harmless, but tending to further the method or scheme of error. The strong language here used corresponds with that in which, at Miletus, the apostle warned the elders of Ephesus of the "grievous wolves" that were to come in among them, and of the men "speaking perverse things" that were to arise among themselves, not sparing the flock (Acts 20:29, 30).
But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ:
Verse 15. - But speaking the truth in love. Ἀληθεύοντες is hardly translatable in English it implies being true as well as speaking the truth and following the truth. Truth is the element in which we are to live, move, and have our being; fidelity to truth is the backbone of the Christian ministry. But truth must be inseparably married to love; good tidings spoken harshly are no good tidings; the charm of the message is destroyed by the discordant spirit of the messenger. The more painful the first impression which a truth is fitted to produce (e.g., Ephesians 2:1-3), the more need is there for dealing with it in love - a much-needed and much-neglected exhortation. May grow up into him in all things who is the Head, namely, Christ. Growing up into Christ is like baptizing into the Name of the Father, etc.; it implies that the growth tends to a closer union to Christ, as, on the other hand, union to Christ causes the growth: the two act and react on each other. This growth is to be "in all things" - in the whole man - in knowledge, righteousness, and holiness, in all the communicable properties of Christ. How great the work of growth is that should be sought in the case of every living believer is evident from the enormous gulf there is between his spiritual and moral state and that of Christ. Yet such growth is reasonable, considering the relation of the body to him, its Head. The fact of this relation should encourage us to seek and expect the growth, and encourage ministers to labor hopefully towards promoting it.
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.
Verse 16. - From whom all the body fitly framed and knit together through that which every joint supplieth. The relation of ἐκ in this verse to εἰς in ver. 15 is to be noted - growing up vitally into him, the body derives vital substance from him. Not, however, in a mere individual sense, but as an organization, the parts being adapted and articulated to one another (this process being continuous; see present participles, (συναρμολογούμενον and συνβιβαζόμενον). In the Church there are babes in Christ, also young men and old men; some are clear in intellect, some strong in faith, some warm in love, some excel in passive virtues, some in active; but in a well-ordered Church these should be getting jointed together, and learning to work with and for one another, no one despising gifts which he has not but another has; in tiffs sense, there ought to be a spiritual communism, for all are one spiritual body. But spiritual communism does not involve social communism or even social equality, nor will social distinctions be obliterated in a pure Church, except so far as they hinder spiritual communion. According to the energy in the measure (or, proportion) of each individual part. This clause seems to be most naturally connected with what follows. In the fit framing of the body, channels as it were are laid for the propagation and working of the vital force throughout the body; this force is not alike, but of various amount in the different parts; some members have much of it, some little, but the measure of this vital three regulates the growth. Carries on the growth of the body. The middle voice, ποιεῖται, indicates that it is a growth from within, while depending on the energy furnished by Christ. For building up of itself in love. This is the end, so far as the body itself is concerned, though, of course, the completed spiritual body, like the completed natural body, has work to do outside itself. In a healthy Church there is a continual work of building up: construction, not destruction, is its proper business - promoting peace, purity, prayerfulness, trust, activity in the work of the Lord, but all in love, the absence of which makes winter instead of summer, declension instead of progress, death instead of life. In illustration of the various measure of grace, and yet its real efficiency in all the members of the Church, Eadie says, "No member or ordinance is superfluous. The widow's mite was commended by him who sat over against the treasury. Solomon built a temple. Joseph provided a tomb. Mary the mother gave birth to the child, and the other Marys wrapped the corpse in spices. Lydia entertained the apostle, and Phoebe carried an Epistle of old, the princes and heroes went to the field, and wise-hearted women did spin. While Joshua fought, Moses prayed. The snuffers and trays were as necessary as the magnificent lampstand.... The result is that the Church is built up, for love is the element of spiritual progress. That love fills the renewed nature." The Church has been defined as an institution that has truth for its nourishment, love for its atmosphere, and Christ for its Head.
This I say therefore, and testify in the Lord, that ye henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind,
Verses 17-24. - CONSTRASTED PRINCIPLES OF GENTILE AND CHRISTIAN CHARACTER. Verse 17. - This I say therefore, and testify in the Lord. There is no sign of the apostle, when he comes to the practical part of his Epistle, deeming it of less importance than the doctrinal. The formula is very expressive; the apostle sinks his personality, and brings forward Christ as the Exhorter. That ye no longer walk as the rest of the Gentiles walk. First, he indicates what they are not to be. "Be not conformed to this world." In four particulars they are to be different from Gentiles. The first of these is in the vanity of their mind. The allusion is to their frivolous, empty aims in life, and their unfixed, unsettled impulses. The Gentiles were chasing shadows, blowing bubbles, doing anything to make time pass agreeably; not considering or knowing either what they were, or whence they came, or whither they were going.
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:
Verse 18. - Being darkened in their understanding (second point of difference), and thus blind to all that is most vital - ignorant of God, of the way of salvation, of the love of Christ. Even at best the natural understanding cannot discover these things, and when it is not only imperfect but darkened - made more obscure than ever by sin (see after) - its guidance is altogether defective. It has been said truly that the youngest scholar in a Sunday school that has been taught the elements of the gospel has more light than the wisest of the heathen. Alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart (third point of difference). Two causes are given for their alienation, viz. ignorance, and hardness of heart, this last being the ultimate cause. Through worldly living, their hearts have become hard, callous, insensible to spiritual influences, perceiving no beauty in Divine things, no preciousness in Divine promises, no excellence in the Divine image; this makes them ignorant, careless, foolish; and such being their state of heart, they are alienated from the life of God, can't bear vital religion, hate the very idea of spiritual and holy service.
Who being past feeling have given themselves over unto lasciviousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness.
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.
But ye have not so learned Christ;
Verse 20. - But ye did not thus learn Christ. "But" emphatic - a great contrast, that must come home to the conscience of every Christian, and to his whole heart and soul. The expression, "learn Christ," is a pregnant one, corresponding to "preaching Christ" (Acts 8:5) - all about Christ, Christ in all his offices, and in all his influence. He that learns Christ appropriates him in the efficacy of his atonement, in the power of his Spirit, in the force of his lessons, and in the spirit of his influence, and finds the whole to be diametrically opposite to the godless world.
If so be that ye have heard him, and have been taught by him, as the truth is in Jesus:
Verse 21. - If so be that ye heard him. A word of caution. We are not to assume too readily that we are in a right relation to Christ. We must look within and make sure of that. To hear him, here, is to hear him as his sheep hear his voice and follow him, recognizing the voice of the Shepherd, a voice to be implicitly obeyed. And were taught in him, as truth is in Jesus. The peculiar force of this clause is the double ἐν, not given in the first clause in A.V., thereby obscuring the sense, which is, that all teaching and all truth acquires a different hue and a different character when there is a personal relation to Jesus. Truth apart from the person of Christ has little power; abstract doctrines have little influence; the very atonement may be a barren dogma. But the atonement taught "in Jesus," in connection with the living, loving, dying, risen Savior tells; the blood of redemption in connection with the Son of God incarnate thus loving us, and meekly, patiently suffering the agonies of the cross in our room, is not only a power, but the greatest moral power that can move the heart.
That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts;
Verse 22. - That ye put off, as concerning the former conversation, the old man. The sum of Christ's practical lessons is given in two particulars - putting off and putting on. The change is very decided and very complete. It is emphatically personal; not a mere change of opinions or of religious observances, but of life, habit, character; not altering a few things, but first putting off the man as we put off a garment. "It is a change which brings the mind under the government of truth, and gives to the life a new aspect of integrity and devoutness." Which is rotting according to the lusts of deceit. The present participle, φθειρόμενον, indicates continuance or progress in corruption. Sin is a disintegrating dissolving thing, causing putridity, and in all cases, when unchecked, tending towards it. Deceit is personified; it is an agent of evil, sending out lusts which seem harmless but are really ruinous - their real character is concealed; they come as ministers of pleasure, they end as destructive tyrants. Lust of power, lust of money, lust of pleasure, have all this character; they are the offspring of deceit, and always to be shunned.
And be renewed in the spirit of your mind;
Verse 23. - And that ye be renewed in the spirit of your mind. Between the first and second practical change, derived from being taught by Christ, the apostle inserts this counsel applicable to both. This renewal is the work of the Holy Spirit; how, then, can it be the subject of an exhortation to us? In this sense, that we are to prize, long for, encourage, watch, this work of the Holy Spirit, feeling it to be most vital and essential, not to be neglected without awful sin and danger. Usually the Holy Spirit works in us by stirring up our spirit to desire and endeavor after holiness; to resist these strivings of the Spirit, or even to be indifferent to them, is a deadly and most dangerous sin.
And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.
Verse 24. - And put on the new man. As the fruit of inward renewal, let there be outward renovation. A new object is clean, fresh, tidy; let your life have something of the same aspect - let your principles, aims, habits, be new, in the sense of being conformed to Christ, who is your life. Which after God has been created in righteousness and holiness of truth. "After God," equivalent to "after the image of him that created him" (Colossians 3:10). Some think" the new man" equivalent to "Christ" (Romans 13:14), constituted the Head of renewed humanity, as Adam of depraved. But this would not correspond with the exhortation to put off the old man, nor should we be exhorted to put on Christ after being exhorted to be renewed in the spirit of our minds. In what sense, then, has the "new man" been created? The idea presented itself to the apostle in the abstract - there has been a creation of a new man; but concretely, we have to conform to the Divine creation, in respect of righteousness and holiness; righteousness denoting personal uprightness and fidelity to all social duties; holiness, the state of the spirit toward God. The last words, "of truth," denote the relation of righteousness and holiness to the truth. The words are opposed to "of deceit" in ver. 22. Lust is bred of deceit, but righteousness and holiness of truth. They never deceive, never disappoint, are solid to the end.
Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbour: for we are members one of another.
Verse 25. - Ephesians 5:2. - RAGS OF THE OLD MAN AND ROBES OF THE NEW. Verse 25. - Wherefore, putting away falsehood, speak every man truth with his neighbor. Lying or falsehood is pre-eminently a heathen vice, as missionaries in India and other countries abundantly testify. It is an attribute of fallen humanity: "They go astray from the womb, speaking lies;" and one of the earliest vices that appear in children is deceit. Not only is it God's will and command that we speak the truth, but it is peculiarly incumbent on Christians as children of the light, as followers of him who is the Truth, as having renounced the devil, who is the father of lies. Another reason is added. For ye are members one of another. Falsehood is always designed to mislead; but to deceive our own members is emphatically wicked. Says Chrysostom (quoted by Eddie), "Let not the eye lie to the foot, nor the foot to the eye. If there be a deep pit, and its mouth, covered with reeds, shall present to the eye the appearance of solid ground, will not the eye use the foot to ascertain whether it is hollow underneath or whether it is firm and resists? Will the foot tell a lie, and not the truth as it is? And what, again, if the eye were to spy a serpent or a wild beast, will it lie to the foot?"
Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath:
Verse 26. - Be ye angry, and sin not. Quotation from the Septuagint version of Psalm 4:5. Anger, the feeling and expression of displeasure, is not wholly forbidden, but is guarded by two checks. Our Lord did not make anger a breach of the sixth commandment, but being angry with a brother without cause. The first check is to beware of sinning; to keep your anger clear of bitterness, spite, malevolence, and all such evil feelings. The second is, Let not the sun go down on your irritation; examine yourself in the evening, and see that you are tranquil. Eadie quotes Thomas Fuller: "St. Paul saith, 'Let not the sun go down upon your wrath,' to carry news to the antipodes in another world of thy revengeful nature. Yet let us take the apostle's meaning rather than his words - with all possible speed to depose our passion; not understanding him so literally that we may take leave to be angry till sunset; then might our wrath lengthen with the days, and men in Greenland, where day lasts above a quarter of a year, have plentiful scope of revenge. And as the English, by command of William the Conqueror, always raked up their fire, and put out their candles when the curfew bell was rung, let us then also quench all sparks of anger and heat of passion." It is especially becoming in men, when about to sleep the sleep of death, to see that they are in peace and charity with all men; it were seemly always to fall asleep in the same temper.
Neither give place to the devil.
Verse 27. - Neither give place to the devil. Place or room, opportunity and scope for acting in and through you. There seems no special reference to the last exhortation, but as that demands a special act of vigilance and self-control, so the activity of the devil demands vigilance and self-control on all occasions, and especially on those on which the devil is most apt to try to get a foothold. The reference to the devil is not a figure, but an obvious recognition of his personality, and of the liability of all Christians to fall under his influence.
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.
Verse 28. - Let the stealer stem no more. Ὁ κλέπτων may be translated either as a noun or as the present participle. In either case it implies that even Christians might continue to steal, and that they had to be warned against the habit. This may seem strange to us, but not to those who consider how little theft was thought of among the pagans, and how liable such habits are to remain among converts from heathenism. Where there is a low moral tone and an uneducated conscience, very great irregularities may be found. Dishonesty in trade, deceit in business, are just the same. Among the Ephesians, thieving was probably the result of idle habits and of dislike to hard work. Hence the apostle says, But rather let him labor, working with his hands the things that are good, that he may have to impart to him that hath need. Idleness is mean, labor is honorable; Christ calls us to work, not for this reason only, but in order that we may have something to give away. Paganism would rob others of what is rightfully their own; Christianity leads me to give to others what is rightfully my own. This different genius of the two systems appears here very clearly. Observe the true use of superfluities - look out for the needy, and give for their relief.
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.
Verse 29. - Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth. Not pagans only, but some of whom better things might be expected, need this charge. How revolting is the tendency in some circles to foul and blasphemous conversation; to profane and obscene jests, songs, and allusions: to feed as it were on moral garbage! From Christian mouths no such word should ever issue - it is simply abominable. But that which is good for improvement of the occasion, that it may give grace to them that hear. Speaking should ever bear on improvement or edification, especially on turning passing things to good account. This should be the aim; it does not require speaking to be uniformly grave, but to have an object. It may be quite right to have an enlivening object, but among Christians it should always be such as befits their profession, and tends to help on the exalted objects at which they aim.
And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption.
Verse 30. - And grieve not the Holy Spirit of God. Very solemn and emphatic counsel. The name is given with unusual fullness, in order to show the magnitude of the sin - τὸ Πνεῦμα τὸ ἅγιον τοῦ Θεοῦ, "The Spirit, the Holy Spirit of God." By an anthropopathy the Spirit is represented as grieved by such treatment as would grieve us - e.g. when his work is obstructed, when sin is trifled with, when Deity is treated carelessly, when place is given to the devil, when the spirit of the world is cherished. Those who act thus resemble the Sanballats and Tobiahs of the time of the restoration, who hindred the rebuilding of the temple and the restoration of order and prosperity. When the Holy Spirit would urge consecration, separation from the world, holy exercises, active service, our indolent and worldly hearts are liable to rebel and vex him. To grieve a parent heedlessly is a great sin; how much more to grieve the Spirit of God? In whom ye were sealed unto the day of redemption. The Spirit being rather the Seal than the Sealer, who is the Father (see Ephesians 1:13), it is better to translate in whom than by whom; besides, this preserves the force of the ἐν, which, whether used of Christ or of the other persons of the Godhead, is so characteristic of the Epistle. To grieve the Spirit is to help to obliterate the seal, and thus weaken the evidence of our redemption.
Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice:
Verse 31. - Let all bitterness; not only in speech, but in mind, disposition, habit. And wrath and anger; nearly synonymous, but perhaps" wrath" is equivalent to the tumultuous excited state of mind, out of which comes anger, the settled feeling of dislike and enmity. And clamor and evil-speaking be put away from you; "clamor," equivalent to the loud noise of strife, the excited shouting down of opponents; "evil-speaking," the more deliberate habit of running down their character, exciting an evil feeling against them in the minds of others. With all malice; equivalent to wishing evil, whether in a more pronounced or in a latent and half-conscious form, whether expressing itself in the way of coarse malediction or lurking in a corner of the heart, as an evil spirit of which we should be ashamed; all are rags of the old man, as disgraceful to Christians as literal rags to a man of position; utterly unworthy of the regenerated child of God. Chrysostom, rather fancifully, treats them as a genealogy: "Bitterness bred wrath, wrath anger, anger clamor, clamor evil-speaking, which is railing."
And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you.
Verse 32. - But be ye kind one to another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another (opposed to bitterness, wrath, anger; Bengel). Kind (χρηστοί), sweet, amiable in disposition, subduing all that is harsh and hasty, encouraging all that is gentle and good; tender-hearted (εὔσπλαγχνοι), denoting a specially compassionate feeling, such as may arise from the thought of the infirmities, griefs, and miseries to which more or less all are subject; these emotional conditions to bear the practical fruit of forgiveness, and the forgiveness to be mutual (χαριζόμενοι ἑαυτοῖς), as if under the feeling that what you give today you require to ask tomorrow, net being too hard on the faults of others, remembering that you have your own. Even as God in Christ also forgave you. The A.V. rendering, "for Christ's sake," is objectionable every way: it is not literal; it omits the characteristic feature of the Epistle, "in Christ," losing the force of the consideration that the forgiveness was dispensed by the Father, acting with or wholly one with the Son; and it gives a shade of countenance to the great error that the Father personally was not disposed to forgive till he was prevailed on to do so by the interposition of the Son. The aorist, "forgave," is more literal and better than the perfect, "hath forgiven;" it points to a definite time when forgiveness was bestowed, viz. the moment of real belief in Christ, and hearty acceptance of his grace. The vague atmosphere in which many envelop the question of their forgiveness is very hurtful; it checks their thanksgivings, dulls their joy, quenches hope, and dilutes the great dynamic power of the gospel - the power that impels us to forgive our brother, as well as to abound in the work of the Lord with a tender conscience, the sense of forgiveness urges to the most full and hearty doing of God's will; but when hypocrites, with seared consciences claim to be forgiven, they steal what is not their own, and become more abandoned to wickedness.

The Pulpit Commentary, Electronic Database. Copyright © 2001, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2010 by BibleSoft, inc., Used by permission

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