4:1 This exhortation serves as a major transition in the letter as it moves from the church’s belief statement to the church’s mission statement. Paul insisted that a believer’s behavior must be worthy of his divine calling.
4:2 Humility, gentleness, and patience are absolutely essential if unity is to be maintained.
4:3-6 Believers have the responsibility to keep unity in the body of Christ. The seven “ones” enumerated in these verses constitute the foundation on which the Trinitarian God creates a oneness in the church. Paul’s plan can be seen from the vantage point of the work of the one Spirit creating one body; the one Lord Jesus Christ creating one hope, faith, and baptism; and the one God the Father bringing about one people of God.
4:6 One God and Father of all reminds believers that God’s oneness defines the church’s oneness.
4:7 Paul grounds variety within the church’s unity. God has granted a measure of grace to each believer as a gift from Christ.
4:8 This verse is an allusion to Ps 68:18. The essence of the psalm is that a military victor has the right to receive gifts from the people he has conquered and who now are his subjects. Paul suggested that Christ has conquered his enemies and has given gifts to them, with Paul himself being the perfect example. As victor over sin and death, Christ gives gifts to his new devoted followers, his captives.
4:11 The description here is more about gifted people (natural gifts that can be honed and used for the kingdom) than about spiritual gifts (contrast with Paul’s meaning in Rm 12; 1Co 12-14). Five groups of gifted people are listed: apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers. Apostles and prophets are foundational for the church’s work (Eph 3:5; see note at 2:20). The term apostles primarily refers to people sent with a divine mission or task. They also served as spokesmen for God, bringing new revelation and understanding to the church. Prophets revealed God’s will to believers for the present (forthtelling) and predicted the future (foretelling). All apostles were prophets, but not all prophets were apostles.
Evangelists were gifted to spread the gospel and plant churches. Evangelists proclaimed the good news in word and deed and instructed others in evangelism. Pastors and teachers shared similar responsibilities. Pastors provided oversight, comfort, and guidance as the church’s shepherds (Ac 20:28; 1Pt 5:1-4). Teachers instructed and helped apply God’s revelation to the life of the church. Teachers were concerned with passing on the church’s revealed teachings (1Co 15:3-4) rather than bringing new inspirational insights like the prophets. Teachers are indispensable for building up the church and are necessary to enable believers to distinguish false doctrine from true teaching.
4:12 The purpose of the gifted people is to equip others to minister. Like many other long sentences in Ephesians, vv. 11-16 form one long sentence in the original Greek text. The term translated equipping was sometimes used to refer to mending or restoring.
4:13 Ministry is intended to move believers toward accomplishing three goals: (1) unity of faith and full knowledge of God’s Son, (2) maturity, and (3) the fullness of Christ. Maturity and unity are measured in terms of the relationship of the body to the head, Christ.
4:14 When the gifted people equip the church, the community of faith will evidence stability in precept and practice.
4:15 Speaking the truth in love: When a church is faithful to speak truth in love, it will have transparent relationships where people edify and benefit one another.
4:16 Ultimately the church will grow up into Christ in all aspects, with each part fitting together and supporting the other. Each member of the body must function properly if the body is to grow. We get our English word harmony from the Greek term translated fitted and knit together.
4:17-19 This section of the letter provides the practical outworking of v. 1. Paul’s exhortations denounced the readers’ former way of life. The content of the exhortation clearly parallels early Christian baptismal practices of putting off old clothes before putting on new clothes to enter the baptismal water. The picture is similar to one in Col 3:5-11, except that the Colossians passage contrasts heavenly and earthly life. The Ephesians passage contrasts a person’s former lifestyle and the new life in Christ.
4:22-24 The apostle often described who believers already are, while also pointing to what they should strive to become. The practical paradox is that while freedom from sin’s eternal penalty is already ours, freedom from the former way of life (a life of sin) comes only through our daily quest for obedience and purity. These are lifestyle commitments that every believer is called to make.
4:25-32 Paul offered five examples of what living the new life means in the context of relationship with others. All of the examples include a negative command, a positive command, and a spiritual principle on which the commands are based. At the base of all of Paul’s commands is a God-centered spiritual foundation.
4:32 Paul used a play on words to illustrate his point. Believers are urged to be kind (Gk chrestos) because of Christ (Gk Christos).