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Barnes' New Testament Notes
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EPHESIANS - Chapter 4 - Verse 1

 

Ephesians Chapter 4

 

Analysis of the Chapter

THIS chapter 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, Eph 4:1-6. He entreats them to walk worthy of their vocation, Eph 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, Eph 4:2 and particularly exhorts them to unity, Eph 4:3 for they had one God, one Saviour, one baptism, one religion, Eph 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, Eph 4:7-16. He assures them that to every Christian is given grace in the Redeemer adapted to his circumstances, Eph 4:7; that the Lord Jesus ascended to heaven to obtain gifts for his people, Eph 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, Eph 4:11,12; that this was in order that they might attain to the highest elevation in Christian knowledge and piety, Eph 4:13; and particularly that they might not be driven to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, Eph 4:14-16.

III. Having these arrangements made for their knowledge and piety, he exhorts them not to live as the heathen around them lived, but to show that they were under a better influence, Eph 4:17-24. Their understanding was darkened, and they were alienated from the life of God, or true religion, Eph 4:18; they were past feeling, and were given over to every form of sensuality, Eph 4:19. The Ephesians, however, had been taught a different thing, Eph 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, Eph 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, Eph 4:25. In particular, he entreats them to avoid lying, Eph 4:25; anger, Eph 4:26; theft, Eph 4:28; corrupt and corrupting conversation, Eph 4:29; grieving the Holy Spirit, Eph 4:30;) bitterness, evil-speaking, and malice, Eph 4:31; and entreats them to manifest, in their intercourse with each other, a spirit of kindness and forgiveness, Eph 4:32.

Verse 1. I therefore. In view of the great and glorious truths which God has revealed, and of the grace which he has manifested towards you who are Gentiles. See the previous chapters. The sense of the word "therefore"—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 honour 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. Marg., 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 Barnes "Eph 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 Barnes "Ro 4:12"; See Barnes "Ro 6:4"; See Barnes "2 Co 5:7".

 

Of the vocation. Of the callingthv klhsewv. 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 Ro 11:29; 1 Co 1:26; 7:20; Eph 1:18; 4:1,4; Php 3:14; 2 Th 1:11; 2 Ti 1:9; Heb 3:1; 2 Pe 1:10. It does not elsewhere occur. 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 suasion;" some by physical power; some by an act of creation; some by inclining the mind to exert its proper powers in 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 Joh 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 fitted for it. The pulpit has higher advantages for acting on the mind than any other means of affecting men. 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 fitted to affect men, 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 men into his kingdom. God appeals to men 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 men into the kingdom. The Bible is the great means—and if we can get men 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 Dairy-man'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 men 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 gay to the grave, 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 men "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 fitted 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 not his home; that he is a stranger and a pilgrim here; that riches, honours, 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 to-morrow 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."

{1} "prisoner of" "in {*} "of" "on account of"

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