Ephesians 4:1-32 . EXHORTATIONS TO CHRISTIAN DUTIES RESTING ON OUR CHRISTIAN PRIVILEGES, AS UNITED IN ONE BODY, THOUGH VARYING IN THE GRACES GIVEN TO THE SEVERAL MEMBERS, THAT WE MAY COME UNTO A PERFECT MAN IN CHRIST.
17. therefore--resuming the exhortation which he had begun with, "I therefore beseech you that ye walk worthy," &c. ( Ephesians 4:1 ).
testify in the Lord--in whom (as our element) we do all things pertaining to the ministry ( 1 Thessalonians 4:1 [ALFORD]; Romans 9:1 ).
henceforth . . . not--Greek, "no longer"; resumed from Ephesians 4:14 .
other--Greek, "the rest of the Gentiles."
in the vanity, &c.--as their element: opposed to "in the Lord." "Vanity of mind" is the waste of the rational powers on worthless objects, of which idolatry is one of the more glaring instances. The root of it is departure from the knowledge of the true God ( Ephesians 4:18 Ephesians 4:19 , Romans 1:21 , 1 Thessalonians 4:5 ).
18. More literally, "Being darkened in their understanding," that is, their intelligence, or perceptions (compare Ephesians 5:8 , Acts 26:18 , 1 Thessalonians 5:4 1 Thessalonians 5:5 ).
alienated--This and "darkened," imply that before the fall they (in the person of their first father) had been partakers of life and light: and that they had revolted from the primitive revelation (compare Ephesians 2:12 ).
life of God--that life whereby God lives in His own people: as He was the life and light in Adam before the irruption of death and darkness into human nature; and as He is the life in the regenerate ( Galatians 2:20 ). "Spiritual life in believers is kindled from the life itself of God" [BENGEL].
through--rather as Greek, "on account of the ignorance," namely, of God. Wilful ignorance in the first instance, their fathers not "choosing to retain God in their knowledge." This is the beginning point of their misery ( Acts 17:30 , Romans 1:21 Romans 1:23 Romans 1:28 , 1 Peter 1:14 ).
because of--"on account of."
blindness--Greek, "hardness," literally, the hardening of the skin so as not to be sensible of touch. Hence a soul's callousness to feeling ( Mark 3:5 ). Where there is spiritual "life" ("the life of God") there is feeling; where there is not, there is "hardness."
19. past feeling--senseless, shameless, hopeless; the ultimate result of a long process of "hardening," or habit of sin ( Ephesians 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 ( Jeremiah 2:25 , 18:12 ).
given themselves over--In Romans 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 Romans 13:13 , 2 Peter 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 ( Ephesians 5:3 Ephesians 5:5 , Colossians 3:5 ); though "greediness" here includes all kinds of self-seeking.
20. learned Christ--( Philippians 3:10 ). To know Christ Himself, is the great lesson of the Christian life: this the Ephesians began to learn at their conversion. "Christ," in reference to His office, is here specified as the object of learning. "Jesus," in Ephesians 4:21 , as the person.
21. If so be that--not implying doubt; assuming what I have no reason to doubt, that
heard him--The "Him" is emphatic: "heard Himself," not merely heard about Him.
taught by him--Greek, "taught IN HIM," that is, being in vital union with Him ( Romans 16:7 ).
as the truth is in Jesus--Translate in connection with "taught"; "And in Him have been taught, according as is truth in Jesus." There is no article in the Greek. "Truth" is therefore used in the most comprehensive sense, truth in its essence, and highest perfection, in Jesus; "if according as it is thus in Him, ye have been so taught in Him"; in contrast to "the vanity of mind of the Gentiles" ( Ephesians 4:17 ; compare John 1:14 John 1:17 , 18:37 ). Contrast John 8:44 .
22. That ye--following "Ye have been taught" ( Ephesians 4:21 ).
concerning the former conversation--"in respect to your former way of life."
the old man--your old unconverted nature ( Romans 6:6 ).
is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts--rather, "which is being corrupted ('perisheth,' compare Galatians 6:8 , 'corruption,' that is, destruction) according to (that is, as might be expected from) the lusts of deceit." Deceit is personified; lusts are its servants and tools. In contrast to "the holiness of the truth," Ephesians 4:24 , and "truth in Jesus," Ephesians 4:21 ; and answering to Gentile "vanity," Ephesians 4:17 . Corruption and destruction are inseparably associated together. The man's old-nature-lusts are his own executioners, fitting him more and more for eternal corruption and death.
23. be renewed--The Greek (ananeousthai) implies "the continued renewal in the youth of the new man." A different Greek word (anakainousthai) implies "renewal from the old state."
in the spirit of your mind--As there is no Greek for "in," which there is at Ephesians 4:17 , "in the vanity of their mind," it is better to translate, "By the Spirit of your mind," that is, by your new spiritual nature; the restored and divinely informed leading principle of the mind. The "spirit" of man in New Testament is only then used in its proper sense, as worthy of its place and governing functions, when it is one spirit with the Lord. The natural, or animal man, is described as "not having the Spirit" ( Jude 1:19 ) [ALFORD]. Spirit is not in this sense attributed to the unregenerate ( 1 Thessalonians 5:23 ).
24. put on the new man--Opposed to "the old man," which is to be "put off" ( Ephesians 4:22 ). The Greek here (kainon) is different from that for "re-new-ed" ( Ephesians 4:23 ). Put on not merely a renovated nature, but a new, that is, altogether different nature, a changed nature (compare Note,,
after God, &c.--Translate, "Which hath been created (once for all: so the Greek aorist means: in Christ, Ephesians 2:10 ; so that in each believer it has not to be created again, but to be put on) after (the image of) God" ( Genesis 1:27 , Colossians 3:10 , 1 Peter 1:15 ), &c. God's image in which the first Adam was originally created, is restored, to us far more gloriously in the second Adam, the image of the invisible God ( 2 Corinthians 4:4 , Colossians 1:15 , Hebrews 1:3 ).
in righteousness--"IN" it as the element of the renewed man.
true holiness--rather, as the Greek, "holiness of the truth"; holiness flowing from sincere following of "the truth of God" ( Romans 1:25 , 3:7 , 15:8 ): opposed to "the lusts of deceit" (Greek, Ephesians 4:22 ); compare also Ephesians 4:21 , "truth is in Jesus." "Righteousness" is in relation to our fellow men, the second table of the law; "Holiness," in relation to God, the first table; the religious observance of offices of piety (compare Luke 1:75 ). In the parallel ( Colossians 3:10 ) it is, "renewed in knowledge after the image," &c. As at Colosse the danger was from false pretenders to knowledge, the true "knowledge" which flows from renewal of the heart is dwelt on; so at Ephesus, the danger being from the corrupt morals prevalent around, the renewal in "holiness," contrasted with the Gentile "uncleanness" ( Ephesians 4:19 ), and "righteousness," in contrast to "greediness," is made prominent.
25. Wherefore--From the general character of "the new man," there will necessarily result the particular features which he now details.
putting away--Greek, "having put away" once for all.
lying--"falsehood": the abstract. "Speak ye truth each one with his neighbor," is quoted, slightly changed, from Zechariah 8:16 . For "to," Paul quotes it "with," to mark our inner connection with one another, as "members one of another" [STIER]. Not merely members of one body. Union to one another in Christ, not merely the external command, instinctively leads Christians to fulfil mutual duties. One member could not injure or deceive another, without injuring himself, as all have a mutual and common interest.
26. Be ye angry, and sin not--So the Septuagint, Psalms 4:4 . Should circumstances arise to call for anger on your part, let it be as Christ's "anger" ( Mark 3:5 ), without sin. Our natural feelings are not wrong when directed to their legitimate object, and when not exceeding due bounds. As in the future literal, so in the present spiritual, resurrection, no essential constituent is annihilated, but all that is a perversion of the original design is removed. Thus indignation at dishonor done to God, and wrong to man, is justifiable anger. Passion is sinful (derived from "passio," suffering: implying that amidst seeming energy, a man is really passive, the slave of his anger, instead of ruling it).
let not the sun go down upon your wrath--"wrath" is absolutely forbidden; "anger" not so, though, like poison sometimes used as medicine, it is to be used with extreme caution. The sense is not, Your anger shall not be imputed to you if you put it away before nightfall; but "let no wrath (that is, as the Greek, personal 'irritation' or 'exasperation') mingle with your 'anger,' even though, the latter be righteous, [TRENCH, Greek Synonyms of the New Testament]. "Put it away before sunset" (when the Jewish day began), is proverbial for put it away at once before another day begin ( Deuteronomy 24:15 ); also before you part with your brother for the night, perhaps never in this world to meet again. So JONA, "Let not night and anger against anyone sleep with you, but go and conciliate the other party, though he have been the first to commit the offense." Let not your "anger" at another's wickedness verge into hatred, or contempt, or revenge [VATABLUS].
27. Neither give place--that is, occasion, or scope, to the devil, by continuing in "wrath." The keeping of anger through the darkness of night, is giving place to the devil, the prince of darkness ( Ephesians 6:12 ).
28. Greek, "Let him that stealeth." The imperfect or past tense is, however, mainly meant, though not to the exclusion of the present. "Let the stealing person steal no more." Bandits frequented the mountains near Ephesus. Such are meant by those called "thieves" in the New Testament.
but rather--For it is not enough to cease from a sin, but the sinner must also enter on the path that is its very opposite [CHRYSOSTOM]. The thief, when repentant, should labor more than he would be called on to do, if he had never stolen.
let him labour--Theft and idleness go together.
the thing which is good--in contrast with theft, the thing which was evil in his past character.
with his hands--in contrast with his former thievish use of his hands.
that he may have to give--"that he may have wherewith to impart." He who has stolen should exercise liberality beyond the restitution of what he has taken. Christians in general should make not selfish gain their aim in honest industry, but the acquisition of the means of greater usefulness to their fellow men; and the being independent of the alms of others. So Paul himself ( Acts 20:35 , 2 Thessalonians 3:8 ) acted as he taught ( 1 Thessalonians 4:11 ).
29. corrupt--literally, "insipid," without "the salt of grace" ( Colossians 4:6 ), so worthless and then becoming corrupt: included in "foolish talking" ( Ephesians 5:4 ). Its opposite is "that which is good to edifying."
that which, &c.--Greek, "whatever is good."
use of edifying--literally, "for edifying of the need," that is, for edifying where it is needed. Seasonably edifying; according as the occasion and present needs of the hearers require, now censure, at another time consolation. Even words good in themselves must be introduced seasonably lest by our fault they prove injurious instead of useful. TRENCH explains, Not vague generalities, which would suit a thousand other cases equally well, and probably equally ill: our words should be as nails fastened in a sure place, words suiting the present time and the present person, being "for the edifying of the occasion" ( Colossians 4:6 ).
minister--Greek, "give." The word spoken "gives grace to the hearers" when God uses it as His instrument for that purpose.
30. grieve not--A condescension to human modes of thought most touching. Compare "vexed His Holy Spirit" ( Isaiah 63:10 , Psalms 78:40 ); "fretted me" ( Ezekiel 16:43 : implying His tender love to us); and of hardened unbelievers, "resist the Holy Ghost" ( Acts 7:51 ). This verse refers to believers, who grieve the Spirit by inconsistencies such as in the context are spoken of, corrupt or worthless conversation, &c.
whereby ye are sealed--rather, "wherein (or 'in whom') ye were sealed." As in Ephesians 1:13 , believers are said to be sealed "in" Christ, so here "in the Holy Spirit," who is one with Christ, and who reveals Christ in the soul: the Greek implies that the sealing was done already once for all. It is the Father "BY" whom believers, as well as the Son Himself, were sealed ( John 6:27 ). The Spirit is represented as itself the seal ( Ephesians 1:13 , for the image employed, is the element IN which the believer is sealed, His gracious influences being the seal itself.
unto--kept safely against the day of redemption, namely, of the completion of redemption in the deliverance of the body as well as the soul from all sin and sorrow ( Ephesians 1:14 , Luke 21:28 , Romans 8:23 ).
31. bitterness--both of spirit and of speech: opposed to "kind."
wrath--passion for a time: opposed to "tender-hearted." Whence BENGEL translates for "wrath," harshness.
anger--lasting resentment: opposed to "forgiving one another."
clamour--compared by CHRYSOSTOM to a horse carrying anger for its rider: "Bridle the horse, and you dismount its rider." "Bitterness" begets "wrath"; "wrath," "anger"; "anger," "clamor"; and "clamor," the more chronic "evil-speaking," slander, insinuations, and surmises of evil. "Malice" is the secret root of all: "fires fed within, and not appearing to by-standers from without, are the most formidable" [CHRYSOSTOM].
32. ( Luke 7:42 , Colossians 3:12 ).
even as--God hath shown Himself "kind, tender-hearted, and forgiving to you"; it is but just that you in turn shall be so to your fellow men, who have not erred against you in the degree that you have erred against God ( Matthew 18:33 ).
God for Christ's sake--rather as Greek, "God in Christ" ( 2 Corinthians 5:19 ). It is in Christ that God vouchsafes forgiveness to us. It cost God the death of His Son, as man, to forgive us. It costs us nothing to forgive our fellow man.
hath forgiven--rather as Greek, "forgave you." God has, once for all, forgiven sin in Christ, as a past historical fact.