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AN EXHORTATION TO UNITY, VS. 1-16.—AN EXHORTATION TO HOLINESS AND TO SPECIFIC VIRTUES, VS. 17-32.
SECTION I.—Vs. 1-16.
1. I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called,
2. with all lowliness and meekness, with long-suffering, forbearing one another in love;
3. endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
4. There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling;
5. one Lord, one faith, one baptism,
6. one God and Father of all, who is above 7. all, and through all, and in you all.
7. But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ.
8. Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men.
9. Now that he ascended, what is it but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth?
10. He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things.
11. And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;
12. for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ;
13. 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:
14. 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:
15. but speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ:
16. 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 untc the edifying of itself in love.
The apostle exhorts his readers to walk worthy of their vocation. Such a walk should be characterized by humility, meekness, long-suffering, and zeal to promote spiritual unity and peace, vs. 1-3. The church is one because it is one body, has one Spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and one God and Father who is over, through, and in all its members, vs. 4-6. This unity, however, is consistent with great diversity of gifts, which Christ distributes according to his own will, v. 7. This is confirmed by a passage from the Psalms which speaks of the Messiah as giving gifts to men; which passage it is shown must refer to Christ, since it speaks of a divine person ascending to heaven, which necessarily implies a preceding descent to the earth, vs. 9-10. The gifts which Christ bestows on his church are the various classes of ministers, apostles, prophets, evangelists, and pastors who are teachers. v. 11. The design of the ministry is the edification of the church, and to bring all its members to unity of faith and knowledge, and to the full stature of Christ; that they should no longer have the instability of children, but be a firm, compact, and growing body in living union with Christ its head, vs. 12-16.
V. 1. Παρακαλῶ οὖν ὑμᾶς ἐγὼ ὁ δέσμιος ἐν Κυρίῳ. The exhortation is a general one; it flows from the preceding doctrines, and is enforced by the authority, and the sufferings of him who gave it. As you are partakers of the redemption purchased by Christ, "I therefore beseech you." I the prisoner, not of, but in the Lord, ἐν Κυρίῳ. He was a prisoner because he was in the Lord and for his sake. It was as a Christian and in the cause of Christ he suffered bonds. Compare the frequently occurring expressions, συνεργὸς ἐν Χριστῷ, ἀγαπητὸς ἐν Κυρίῳ, δόκιμος ἐν Χριστῷ, ἐκλεκτὸς ἐν Κυρίῳ. He speaks as a prisoner not to excite sympathy, not merely to add weight to his exhortation, but rather as exulting that he was counted worthy to suffer for Christ’s sake. This is in accordance with the beautiful remark of Theodoret: τοῖς διὰ τὸν Χριστὸν δεσμοῖς ἐναβρύνεται μᾶλλον ἤ βασιλεὺς διαδήματι, he glories in his chains more than a king in his diadem. ‘I, the martyr Paul, the crowned apostle, exhort you,’ &c. All is thus in keeping with the elevated tone of feeling which marks the preceding passage.
The exhortation is, ἀξίως περιπατῆσαι τῆς κλήσεως ἧς ἐκλήθητε, to walk worthy of the vocation wherewith they were called. That vocation was to sonship; ch. 1, 5. This includes three things—holiness, exaltation, and unity. They were called to be conformed to the image of Christ, to share in his exaltation and glory, and to constitute one family as all are the children of God. A conversation becoming such a vocation, therefore, should be characterized by holiness, humility, and mutual forbearance and brotherly love. The apostle, therefore, immediately adds, with all lowliness and meekness. Undeserved honour always produces these effects upon the ingenuous. To be raised from the depths of degradation and misery and made the sons of God, and thus exalted to an inconceivable elevation and dignity, does and must produce humility and meekness. Where these effects are not found, we may conclude the exaltation has not taken place. Lowliness of mind, ταπεινοφροσύνης, includes a low estimate of one’s self, founded on the consciousness of guilt and weakness, and a consequent disposition to be low, unnoticed, and unpraised. It stands opposed not only to self-complacency and self-conceit, but also to self-exaltation, and setting one’s self up to attract the honour which comes from men. This is taught in Rom. 12, 16, where τὰ ὑψηλὰ φρονοῦντες, seeking high things, is opposed to the lowliness of mind here inculcated. There is a natural connection between humility and meekness, and therefore they are here jcined together as in so many other places. Πραότης is softness, mildness, gentleness, which when united with strength, is one of the loveliest attributes of our nature. The blessed Saviour says of himself, "I am meek (πρᾶος) and lowly in heart," Matt. 11, 29; and the apostle speaks of "the gentleness of Christ," 2 Cor. 10, 1. Meekness is that unresisting, uncomplaining disposition of mind, which enables us to bear without irritation or resentment the faults and injuries of others. It is the disposition of which the lamb, dumb before the shearers, is the symbol, and which was one of the most wonderful of all the virtues of the Son of God. The most exalted of all beings was the gentlest.
The third associated virtue which becomes the vocation wherewith we are called, is long-suffering; μακροθυμία, a disposition which leads to the suppression of anger, 2 Cor. 6, 6. Gal. 3, 22. Col. 3, 12; to deferring the infliction of punishment, and is therefore often attributed to God, Rom. 2, 4; 9, 22. 1 Pet. 3, 10; and to patient forbearance towards our fellow men, 2 Tim. 4, 2. 1 Tim. 1, 16. It is explained by what follows, forbearing one another in love. Or, rather, the three virtues, humility, meekness, and long-suffering, are all illustrated and manifested in this mutual forbearance. Ἀνέχω, is to restrain, ἀνέχομαι to restrain oneself, ἀνεχόμενοι ἀλλήλων ἐν ἀγάπῃ, therefore, means restraining yourselves in reference to each other in love. Let love induce you to be forbearing towards each other.
The construction of the passage adopted by our translators is preferable to either connecting μετὰ μακροθ. with ἀνεχ. "with long-suffering forbearing," or detaching ἐν ἀγάπῃ from this clause and connecting it with the following one, so as to read ἐν ἀγάπῃ σπουδάζοντες. The participle σπουδάζοντες is of course connected with what precedes. They were to walk worthy of their vocation, forbearing one another, endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit. Of the phrase unity of the spirit, there are three interpretations. 1. Ecclesiastical unity, so Grotius: unitatem ecclesiae, quod est corpus spirituale. Instead of that discordance manifested in the church of Corinth, for example, not only in their division into parties, but in the conflict of "spirits," or contentions among those endowed with spiritual gifts, the apostle would have the Ephesians manifest in the church that they were animated by one spirit. But this is foreign not only to the simple meaning of the terms, but also to the context. 2. The word spirit is assumed to refer to the human spirit, and the unity of the spirit to mean, concordia animorum, or harmony. 3. The only interpretation in accordance with the ordinary usage of the words and with the context, is that which makes the phrase in question mean that unity of which the Spirit is the author. Every where the indwelling of the Holy Ghost is said to be the principle of unity in the body of Christ. This unity may be promoted or disturbed. The exhortation is that the greatest zeal should be exercised in its preservation; and the means by which it is to be preserved is the bond of peace. That is, that bond which, is peace. The peace which results from love, humility, meekness, and mutual forbearance, is essential to the union and communion of the members of Christ’s body, which is the fruit and evidence of the Spirit’s presence. As hatred, pride and contention among Christians cause the Spirit to withdraw from them, so love and peace secure his presence. And as his presence is the condition and source of all good, and his absence the source of all evil, the importance of the duty enjoined cannot be over-estimated. Our Lord said: "Blessed are the peace-makers." Blessed are those who endeavour to preserve among the discordant elements of the church, including as it does men of different nations, manners, names and denominations, that peace which is the condition of the Spirit’s presence. The apostle labours in this, as in his other epistles, to bring the Jewish and Gentile Christians to this spirit of mutual forbearance, and to convince them that we are all one in Christ Jesus.1212O si animis nostris insideret haec cogitatio, hanc legem nobis esse propositam, ut non magis dissidere inter se possint filii Dei, quam regnum coelorum dividi, quanto in colenda fraterna benevolentia essemus cautiores? quanto nobis horrori essent omnes simultates, si reputaremus, ut decet, eos omnes se alienare a regno Dei, qui a fratribus se disjungunt? sed nescio qui fit, ut secure nos esse filios Dei gloriemur, mutuae inter nos fraternitatis obliti. Discamus itaque ex Paulo, ejusdem hereditatis minime esse capaces, nisi qui unum corpus sunt et unus spiritus.—CALVIN.
As in Col. 3, 14, love is said to be "the bond of perfectness," many commentators understand "the bond of peace" in this passage to be love. So Bengel: Vinculum quo pax retinetur est ipse amor. But as the passages are not really parallel, and as in Colossians love is mentioned and here it is not; and as the sense is simple and good without any deviation from the plain meaning of the words, the great majority of interpreters adopt the view given above.
V. 4. Having urged the duty of preserving unity, the apostle proceeds to state both its nature and grounds. It is a unity which arises from the fact—there is and can be but one body, one Spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and one God.
One body, ἓν σῶμα. This is not an exhortation, but a declaration. The meaning is not, Let us be united in one body, or in soul and body; but, as the context requires, it is a simple declaration. There is one body, viz. one mystical body of Christ. All believers are in Christ; they are all his members; they constitute not many, much less conflicting bodies, but one. "We, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another." Rom. 12, 5. 1 Cor. 10, 17; 12, 27. In ch. 1, 23, the church is said "to be his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all." As all true believers are members of this body, and as all are not included in any one external organization, it is obvious that the one body of which the apostle speaks, is not one outward visible society, but a spiritual body of which Christ is the head and all the renewed are members. The relation, therefore, in which believers stand to each other, is that which subsists between the several members of the human body. A want of sympathy is evidence of want of membership.
One spirit, ἓν πνεῦμα. This again does not mean one heart. It is not an exhortation to unanimity of feeling, or a declaration that such unanimity exists, Quasi diceret, nos penitus corpore et anima, non ex parte duntaxat, debere esse unitos. The context and the analogy of Scripture, as a comparison of parallel passages would evince, prove that by spirit is meant the Holy Spirit. As there is one body, so there is one Spirit, which is the life of that body and dwells in all its members. "By one Spirit," says the apostle, "are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have all been made to drink into one Spirit." 1 Cor. 12, 13. Of all believers, he says, " The Spirit of God dwelleth in you." 1 Cor. 3, 16; 6, 19. Rom. 8, 9. 11. There is no doctrine of Scripture more plainly revealed than that the Spirit of God dwells in all believers, and that his presence is the ultimate ground of their unity as the body of Christ. As the human body is one because pervaded by one soul; so the body of Christ is one because it is pervaded by one and the same Spirit, who dwelling in all is a common principle of life. All sins against unity, are, therefore, sins against the Holy Ghost. They dissever that which he binds together. Our relation to Christ as members of his body; and our relation to the Holy Spirit who is our life, demands of us that we love our brethren and live at peace with them.
Even as ye are called in one hope of your calling. καθὼς καὶ ἐκλήθητε ἐν μιᾷ ἐλπίδι τῆς κλήσεως ὑμῶν. Inasmuch as. That is, believers are one body and have one spirit, because they have one hope. The fact that they all have the same high destiny, and are filled with the same expectations, proves that they are one. The unity of their hope is another evidence and element of the communion of saints. The Holy Ghost dwelling in them gives rise to the same aspirations, to the same anticipations of the same glorious inheritance, to a participation of which they had been called. The word hope is sometimes used for the things hoped for, as when the apostle speaks of the hope laid up in heaven. Col. 1, 5. See also Titus 2, 13. Heb. 6, 18. Most frequently of course it has its subjective sense, viz. the expectation of future good. There is no reason for departing from that sense here, though the other is intimately allied with it, and is necessarily implied. It is because the object is the same, that the expectation is the same. Hope of your calling, is the hope which flows from your vocation. The inward, effectual call of the Holy Spirit gives rise to this hope for two reasons. First, because their call is to the inheritance of the saints in light. They naturally hope to obtain what they are invited to receive. They are invited to reconciliation and fellowship with God, and therefore they hope for his salvation; and in the second place, the nature of this call makes it productive of hope. It is at once an earnest and a foretaste of their future inheritance. See ch. 1, 14, and 1 Cor. 1, 22. It assures the believer of his interest in the blessings of redemption, Rom. 8, 16; and as a drop of water makes the thirsty traveller long for the flowing stream, so the first fruits of the Spirit, his first sanctifying operations on the heart, cause it to thirst after God. Ps. 42, 1. 2. Hope includes both expectation and desire, and therefore the inward work of the Spirit being of the nature both of an earnest and a foretaste, it necessarily produces hope.
Another ground of the unity of the church is, that all its members have ONE LORD. Lordship includes the ideas of possession and authority. A lord, in proper sense, is both owner and sovereign. When used in reference to God or Christ, the word expresses these ideas in the highest degree. Christ is THE LORD, i. e. omnium rerum summus dominus et possessor. He is our Lord, i. e. our rightful owner and absolute sovereign. This proprietorship and sovereignty pertain to the soul and to the body. We are not our own, and should glorify him in our body and spirit which are his. Our reason is subject to his teaching, our conscience to his commands, our hearts and lives to his control. We are his slaves. And herein consists our liberty. It is the felix necessitas boni of which Augustin speaks. It is analogous to absolute subjection to truth and holiness, only it is to a person who is infinite in knowledge and in excellence. This lordship over us belongs to Christ not merely as God, or as the Logos, but as the Theanthropos. It is founded not simply on his divinity, but also and specially on the work of redemption. We are his because he has bought us with his own most precious blood. 1 Cor. 6, 20. 1 Pet. 1, 1. For this end he both died and rose again, that he might be Lord both of dead and of living. Rom. 14, 9. Such being the nature and the grounds of the sovereignty of Christ, it necessarily binds together his people. The slaves of one master and the subjects of the same sovereign are intimately united among themselves, although the ownership and authority are merely external. But when, as in our relation to Christ, the proprietorship and sovereignty are absolute, extending to the soul as well as to the body, the union is unspeakably more intimate. Loyalty to a common Lord and master animates with one spirit all the followers of Christ.
One faith. This is the fifth bond of union enumerated by the apostle. Many commentators deny that the word πίστις is ever used for the object of faith, or the things believed; they therefore deny that one faith here means one creed. But as this interpretation is in accordance with the general usage of language, and as there are so many cases in which the objective sense of the word is best suited to the context, there seems to be no sufficient reason for refusing to admit it. In Gal. 1, 23, Paul says, "He preached the faith;" in Acts 6, 7, men, it is said, "were obedient to the faith." The apostle Jude speaks of "the faith once delivered to the saints." In these and in many other instances the objective sense is the natural one. In many cases both senses of the word may be united. It may be said of speculative believers that they have one faith, so far as they profess the same creed, however they may differ in their real convictions. All the members of the Church of England have one faith, because they all profess to adopt the Thirty-Nine Articles, although the greatest diversity of doctrine prevails among them. But true believers have one faith, not only because they profess the same creed, but also because they really and inwardly embrace it. Their union, therefore, is not merely an external union, but inward and spiritual. They have the same faith objectively and subjectively. This unity of faith is not perfect. That, as the apostle tells us in a subsequent part of this chapter, is the goal towards which the church contends. Perfect unity in faith implies perfect knowledge and perfect holiness. It is only as to fundamental doe trines, those necessary to piety and therefore necessary to salvation, that this unity can be affirmed of the whole church as it now exists on earth. Within these limits all the true people of God are united. They all receive the Scriptures as the word of God, and acknowledge themselves subject to their teachings. They all recognize and worship the Lord Jesus as the Son of God. They all trust to his blood for redemption and to his Spirit for sanctification.
One baptism. Under the old dispensation when a Gentile became a Jew, he professed to accede to the covenant which God had made with his people, and he received the sign of circumcision not only as a badge of discipleship but as the seal of the covenant. All the circumcised therefore were foederati, men bound together by the bonds of a covenant which united them to the same God and to each other. So under the new dispensation the baptized are foederati; men bound together in covenant with Christ and with each other. There is but one baptism. All the baptized make the same profession, accept the same covenant, and are consecrated to the same Lord and Redeemer. They are, therefore, one body. " For as many as have been baptized into Christ, have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female, for ye are all one in Christ Jesus." Gal. 3, 27. 28.
V. 6. One God and Father of all, who is over all, and through all and in us all, εἷς Θεὸς καὶ Πατὴρ πάντων, ὁ ἐπὶ πάντων καὶ διὰ πάντων καὶ ἐν πᾶσιν ἡμῖν. As the church is one because pervaded by one Spirit, and because it is owned and governed by one Lord, so it is one because it has one God and Father; one glorious Being to whom it sustains the twofold relation of creature and child. This God is not merely over us, as afar off, but through all and in us all, i. e. pervading and filling all with his sustaining and life-giving presence. There are many passages to which the doctrine of the Trinity gives a sacred rhythm, though the doctrine itself is not directly asserted. It is so here. There is one Spirit, one Lord, one God and Father. The unity of the church is founded on this doctrine. It is one because there is to us one God the Father, one Lord, one Spirit. It is a truly mystical union; not a mere union of opinion, of interest, or of feeling; but something supernatural arising from a common principle of life. This life is not the natural life which belongs to us as creatures; nor intellectual: which belongs to us as rational beings; but it is spiritual life, called elsewhere the life of God in the soul. And as this life is common, on the one hand, to Christ and all his members—and on the other, to Christ and God, this union of the church is not only with Christ, but with the Triune God. Therefore in Scripture it is said that tile Spirit dwells in believers, that Christ dwells in them, and that God dwells in them. And, therefore, also our Lord prays for his people, "That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us." John 17, 21.
It is obvious from the whole connection that the word πάντων ("of all," and "through all"), is not neuter. The apostle does not refer to the dominion of God over the universe, or to his providential agency throughout all nature. Neither is the reference to his dominion over rational creatures or over mankind. It is the relation of God to the church, of which the whole passage treats. God as Father is over all its members, through them all and in them all. The church is a habitation of God through the Spirit. It is his temple in which he dwells and which is pervaded in all its parts by his presence. The preposition διά, therefore, does not here express instrumentality, but diffusion. It is not that God operates "through all" (διὰ πάντων), but that he pervades all and abides in all. This is the climax. To be filled with God; to be pervaded by his presence, and controlled by him, is to attain the summit of all created excellence, blessedness and glory.
V. 7. This unity of the church, although it involves the essential equality of all believers, is still consistent with great diversity as to gifts, influence, and honour. According to the apostle’s favourite illustration, it is like the human body, which is composed of many members with different functions. It is not all eye nor all ear. This diversity of gifts is not only consistent with unity, but is essential to it. The body is not one member but many. In every organism a diversity of parts is necessary to the unity of the whole. If all were one member, asks the apostle, where were the body? Summa praesentis loci est, says Calvin, quod Deus in neininem omnia contulerit; sed quisque certam mensuram receperit; ut alii aliis indigeant et in commune conferendo quod singulis datum est, alii alios mutuo juvent. The position, moreover, of each member in the body, is not determined by itself, but by God. The eye does not make itself the eye, nor the ear, the ear. It is thus in the church. The different positions, gifts, and functions of its members, are determined not by themselves but by Christ. All this is taught by the apostle when he says, "But (i. e. notwithstanding the unity of the church) unto every one of us is given grace, according to the measure of the gift of Christ." There is this diversity of gifts, and the distribution of these gifts is in the hand of Christ. The grace here spoken of includes the inward spiritual gift, and the influence, function or office, as the case might be, flowing from it. Some were apostles, some prophets, some evangelists. The grace which made them such, was the inward gift and the outward office.
The giver is Christ; he is the source of the spiritual influence conferring power, and the official appointment conferring authority. He, therefore, is God, because the source of the inward life of the church and of its authority and that of its officers. He is sovereign in the distribution of his gifts. They are distributed, κατὰ τὸ μέτρον τῆς δωρεᾶς τοῦ Χριστοῦ, according to the measure of the gift of Christ; that is, as he sees fit to give. The rule is not our merit, or our previous capacity, nor our asking, but his own good pleasure. Paul was made an apostle, who before was a blasphemer and injurious. The duty, as the apostle teaches, which arises from all this is, that every one should be contented with the position assigned him; neither envying those above, nor despising those below him. To refuse to occupy the position assigned us in the church, is to refuse to belong to it at all. If the foot refuses to be the foot, it does not become the hand, but is cut off and perishes. Sympathy is the law of every body having a common life. If one member suffers, all suffer; and if one rejoices, all rejoice. We can tell, therefore, whether we belong to the body of Christ, by ascertaining whether we have this contentment with our lot, and this sympathy with our fellow members.
V. 8. The position which the preceding verse assigns to the Lord Jesus as the source of all life and power in the church, is so exalted, that the apostle interrupts himself to show that this representation is in accordance with what the Scriptures had already taught on this subject. The seventh verse speaks of Christ giving gifts. As this was his office, the Scriptures speak of him as a conqueror laden with spoils, enriched by his victories, and giving gifts to men. That the Psalmist had reference to the Messiah, is evident, because the passage speaks of his ascending. But for a divine person to ascend to heaven, supposes a previous descent to the earth. It was the Son of God, the Messiah, who descended, and therefore it was the Son of God who ascended, and who is represented by the sacred writer as enriched by his triumphant work on earth, and distributing the fruits of his conquest as he pleased. This seems to be the general sense of the passage in the connection, although it is replete with difficulties. The great truth is, that Christ’s exaltation is the reward of his humiliation. By his obedience and sufferings he conquered the Prince of this world, he redeemed his people, and obtained the right to bestow upon them all needed good. He is exalted to give the Holy Ghost, and all his gifts and graces, to grant repentance and remission of sins. This great truth is foreshadowed and foretold in the Old Testament Scriptures. Wherefore he saith, διὸ λέγει, i. e. God, or the Scriptures. "Having ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men." That is, what I have said respecting Christ being the distributor of spiritual gifts, is in accordance with the prophetic declaration, that the ascended Messiah should give gifts to men. The Messiah is represented by the Psalmist as a conqueror, leading captives in triumph, and laden with spoils which he distributes to his followers. Thus Christ conquered. He destroyed him that hath the power of death, i. e. the devil. He delivered those who through the fear of death were subject to bondage. Heb. 2, 15. Having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a show of them openly, triumphing over them. Col. 2. 15. When a strong man armed keepeth his palace, his goods are in peace; but when a stronger than he cometh upon him, and overcometh him, he taketh from him all his armour wherein he trusted, and divideth his spoil. Luke, 11, 21. 22. Such is the familiar mode of representation respecting the work of Christ. He conquered Satan. He led captivity captive. The abstract is for the concrete—captivity for captives—αἰχμαλωσία for αἰχμάλωτοι as συμμαχία for σύμμαχοι. Compare Judges 5, 12, "Awake, awake, Deborah, awake, awake, utter a song: arise, Barak, and lead thy captivity captive, thou son of Abinoam." These captives thus led in triumph may be either the enemies of Christ, Satan, sin, and death, which is the last enemy which shall be destroyed; or his people, redeemed by his power and subdued by his grace. The former is perhaps the more consistent with the figure, and with the parallel passages quoted above. Both are true; that is, it is true that Christ has conquered Satan, and leads him captive; and it is also true that he redeems his people and subdues them to himself, and leads them as willing captives. They are made willing, in the day of his power. Calvin, therefore, unites both representations: Neque enim Satanam modo et peccatum et mortem totosque inferos prostravit, sed ex rebellibus quotidie facit sibi obsequentem populum, quum verbo suo carnis nostræ lasciviam domat; rursus hostes suos, h. e. impios omnes quasi ferreis catenis continet constrictos, dum illorum furorem cohibet sua virtute, ne plus valeant, quam illis concedit. This clause of the quotation is, however, entirely subordinate. The stress lies on the last clause, "He gave gifts to men."
There are two serious difficulties connected with this citation. The first is, that the quotation does not agree with the original. In the Ps. 68, 18, the passage is, "Thou hast received gifts among men." Paul has it, "He gave gifts to man." To get over this difficulty some have supposed that the apostle does not quote the Psalm, but some Hymn which the Ephesians were in the habit of using. But this is not only contrary to the uniform usage of the New Testament writers, but also to the whole context, for the apostle argues from the passage quoted as of divine authority. Others have assumed an error in the Hebrew text. Rationalists say it is a misquotation from failure of memory. Others argue that the word לָקַח, used by the Psalmist, means to give as well as to take. Or, at least, it often means to bring; and therefore, the original passage may be translated, "Thou hast brought gifts among men;" the sense of which is, ‘Thou hast given gifts to men.’ The difference is thus reduced to a mere verbal alteration, the sense remaining the same. It is a strong confirmation of this view that the Chaldee Paraphrase expresses the same sense: dedisti dona filiis hominum. Dr. Addison Alexander in his comment on Ps. 68, 18 remarks, "To receive gifts on the one hand and bestow gifts on the other are correlative ideas and expressions, so that Paul, in applying this description of a theocratic triumph to the conquests of our Saviour, substitutes one of these expressions for the other." This is perhaps the most natural solution. The divine writers of the New Testament, filled with the same Spirit, which moved the ancient prophets, are not tied to the mere form, but frequently give the general sense of the passages which they quote. A conqueror always distributes the spoils he takes. He receives to give. And, therefore, in depicting the Messiah as a conqueror, it is perfectly immaterial whether it is said, He received gifts, or, He gave gifts. The sense is the same. He is a conqueror laden with spoils, and able to enrich his followers.
The second difficulty connected with this quotation is that Ps. 68 is not Messianic. It does not refer to the Messiah, but to the triumphs of God over his enemies. Yet the apostle not only applies it to Christ, but argues to prove that it must refer to him. This difficulty finds its solution in three principles which are applicable not only to this, but also to many similar passages. The first is the typical character of the old dispensation. It was a shadow of good things to come. There was not only a striking analogy between the experience of the ancient people of God, in their descent into Egypt, their deliverance from the house of bond. age, their journey through the wilderness, and their entrance into Canaan, and the experience of the church, but this analogy was a designed prefiguration—God’s dealings as the head of the ancient theocracy, were typical of his dealings with the church. His delivering his people, his conquering their enemies, and his enriching his followers with their spoil, were all adumbrations of the higher work of Christ. As the passover was both commemorative of the deliverance out of Egypt and typical of the redemption effected by Christ; so, many of the descriptions of the works and triumphs of God under the old economy are both historical and prophetic. Thus the Psalm quoted by the apostle is a history of the conquests of God over the enemies of his ancient people, and a prophecy of the conquests of the Messiah.
The second principle applicable to this and similar cases, is the identity of the Logos or Son manifested in the flesh under the new dispensation with the manifested Jehovah of the old economy. Hence what is said of the one, is properly assumed to be said of the other. Therefore, as Moses says Jehovah led his people through the wilderness, Paul says Christ led them. 1 Cor. 10, 4. As Isaiah saw the glory of Jehovah in the temple, John says he saw the glory of Christ. John 12, 41. As it is written in the prophets, "As I live, saith Jehovah, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God," Is. 45, 23, Paul says, this proves that we must all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. Rom. 14, 10. 11. What in Ps. 102, 25, &c., is said of God as creator, and as eternal and immutable, is in Hebrews 1, 10, applied to Christ. On the same principle what is said in Ps. 68, 18, of Jehovah as ascending to heaven and leading captivity captive, is here said to refer to Christ.
There is still a third principle to be taken into consideration. Many of the historical and prophetic descriptions of the Old Testament are not exhausted by any one application or fulfilment. The promise that Japheth should dwell in the tents of Shem, was fulfilled every time the descendants of the former were made to share in the blessings temporal or spiritual of the latter. The predictions of Isaiah of the redemption of Israel were not exhausted by the deliverance of the people of God from the Babylonish captivity, but had a direct reference to the higher redemption to be effected by Christ. The glowing descriptions of the blessings consequent on the advent of the Messiah, relate not merely to the consequences of his first advent, but to all that is to follow his coming the second time without sin unto salvation. The prediction that every knee shall bow to God and every tongue confess to him, is a prediction not only of the universal prevalence of the true religion; but also, as the apostle teaches, of a general judgment at the last day. In like manner, what the Old Testament says of Jehovah descending and ascending, of his conquering his enemies and enriching his people, is not exhausted by his figurative descending to manifest his power, nor by such conspicuous theophanies as occurred on Sinai and in the Temple, or in the triumphs recorded in the Hebrew Scriptures, but refer also to his personal advent in the flesh, to his ascension and his spiritual triumphs. It is, therefore, in perfect accordance with the whole analogy of Scripture, that the apostle applies what is said of Jehovah in Ps. 68 as a conqueror, to the work of the Lord Jesus, who, as God manifested in the flesh, ascended on high leading captivity captive and giving gifts unto men.
Vs. 9. 10. Now that he ascended, what is it but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth? He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things.
The obvious design of these verses is to show that the passage quoted from the Psalmist refers to Christ. The proof lies in the fact that ascension in the case of a divine person, a giver of spiritual gifts to men, implies a previous descent. It was Christ who descended, and therefore, it is Christ who ascended. It is true the Old Testament often speaks of God’s descending, and therefore, they may speak of his ascending. But according to the apostle, the divine person intended in those representations was the Son, and no previous descent or ascent, no previous triumph over his enemies, included all that the Spirit of prophecy intended by such representations. And, therefore, the Psalmist must be understood as having included in the scope of his language the most conspicuous and illustrious of God’s condescensions and exaltations. All other comings were but typical of his coming in the flesh, and all ascensions were typical of his ascension from the grave.
The apostle, therefore, here teaches that God, the subject of the sixty-eighth Psalm, descended "into the lower parts of the earth;" that "he ascended up above all heavens," and that this was with the design "that he might fill all things."
The Hebrew phrase תַחְתִּיוׄת אֶרֶץ to which the apostle’s τὰ κατώτερα μέρη τῆς γῆς, (the lower parts of the earth,) answers, is used for the earth in opposition to heaven, Is. 44, 23; probably for the grave in Ps. 63, 10; as a poetical designation for the womb in Ps. 139, 15; and for Hades or the invisible world, Ez. 32, 24. Perhaps the majority of commentators take this last to be the meaning of the passage before us. They suppose the reference is to the desensus ad inferos, or to Christ’s "descending into hell." But in the first place this idea is entirely foreign to the meaning of the passage in the Psalm on which the apostle is commenting. In the second place, there as here, the only descent of which the context speaks is opposed to the ascending to heaven. ‘He that ascended to heaven is he who first descended to earth.’ In the third place, this is the opposition so often expressed in other places and in other forms of expression, as in John 3, 13, "No man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of Man who is in heaven." John 6, 38, "I came down from heaven." John 8, 14, "I know whence I came and whither I go." John 16, 28, "I came forth from the Father, and am come into the world; again, I leave the world, and go to the Father." The expression of the apostle therefore means, "the lower parts, viz. the earth." The genitive τῆς γῆς is the common genitive of apposition. Compare Acts 2, 19, where the heaven above is opposed to the earth beneath; and John 8, 23.
He that descended to earth, who assumed our nature, is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens. Ὑπεράνω, longe supra, expressing the highest exaltation. As the Hebrew word for heaven is in the plural form, the New Testament writers often use the plural even when the heavens are considered as one, as in the phrase βασιλεία τῶν οὐρανῶν. But often there is a reference to a plurality of heavens, as when the expression "all heavens" is used. The Jews reckoned seven heavens, and Paul, 2 Cor. 12, 2, speaks of the third heavens; the atmosphere, the region of the stars, and above all the abode of God. Above all heavens plainly means above the whole universe; above all that is created visible and invisible; above thrones, principalities, and powers. All things, all created things, are subject to the ascended Redeemer.
He is thus exalted, ἵνα πληρώσῃ τὰ πάντα, that he might fill all things. As the word πληρόω signifies to fill, to fulfil, to render perfect, and to accomplish, these words may mean—1. That he might fill all things, i. e. the universe with his presence and power. 2. That he might fulfil all the predictions and promises of God respecting his kingdom. 3. That he might render all perfect, replete with grace and goodness. 4. That he might accomplish all things necessary to the consummation of his work. The first interpretation is greatly to be preferred. Τὰ πάντα properly means the universe; and if taken to mean any thing else, it must be because the context demands it, which is not the case here. Secondly, this passage is evidently parallel with ch. 1, 21, where also it is said of Christ as exalted, that "he fills the universe in all its parts." Thirdly, the analogy of Scripture is in favour of this interpretation. The omnipresence and universal dominion of God are elsewhere expressed in a similar way. "Do I not fill heaven and earth, saith the Lord." Jer. 23, 24. The same grand idea is expressed in Matt. 28, 18, "All power is given unto me in heaven and upon earth;" and in Phil. 2, 9. 10, and in many other places. It is not of the ubiquity of Christ’s body of which the apostle speaks, as the Lutherans contend, but of the universal presence and power of the ascended Son of God. It is God clothed in our nature, who now exercises this universal dominion; and, therefore, the apostle may well say of Christ, as the incarnate God, that he gives gifts unto men.
V. 11. Καὶ αὐτὸς ἔδωκε, and He gave. He, the ascended Saviour, to whom all power and all resources have been given—he gave, some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers. These were among the gifts which Christ gave his church; which, though implying diversity of grace and office, were necessary to its unity as an organized whole. These offices are mentioned in the order of their importance. First the apostles the immediate messengers of Christ, the witnesses for him, of his doctrines, his miracles, and of his resurrection; infallible as teachers and absolute as rulers in virtue of the gift of inspiration and. of their commission. No man, therefore, could be an apostle unless—1. He was immediately appointed by Christ. 2. Unless he had seen him after his resurrection and had received the knowledge of the Gospel by immediate revelation. 3. Unless he was rendered infallible by the gift of inspiration. These things constituted the office and were essential to its authority. Those who without these gifts and qualifications claimed the office, are called "false apostles."
2. Prophets. A prophet is one who speaks for another, spokesman, as Aaron was the prophet of Moses. Those whom God made his organs in speaking to men were prophets, whether their communications were doctrinal, preceptive, or prophetic in the restricted sense of the term. Every one who spoke by inspiration, was a prophet. The prophets of the New Testament differed from the apostles, in that their inspiration was occasional, and therefore their authority as teachers subordinate. The nature of their office is fully taught in 1 Cor. 14, 1-40. As the gift of infallibility was essential to the apostolic office, so the gift of occasional inspiration was essential to the prophetic office. It is inconceivable that God should invest any set of men with the authority claimed and exercised by the apostles and prophets of the New Testament, requiring all men to believe their doctrines and submit to their authority, on the pain of perdition, without giving the inward gifts qualifying them for their work. This is clearly stated by Calvin in his comment on this verse; to a certain difficulty, he says, "Respondeo, quoties a Deo vocati sunt homines, dona necessarie conjuncta esse officiis; neque enim Deus, apostolos aut pastores instituendo, larvam illis duntaxat imponit; sed dotibus etiam instruit, sine quibus rite functionem sibi injunctam obire nequennt. Quisquis ergo Dei auctoritate constituitur apostolus, non inani et nudo titulo, sed mandato simul et facultate praeditus est."
And some, evangelists. There are two views of the nature of the office of the evangelists. Some regard them as vicars of the apostles—men commissioned by them for a definite purpose and clothed with special powers for the time being, analogous to the apostolic vicars of the Romanists; or to the temporary superintendents appointed after the Reformation in the Scottish church, clothed for a limited time and for a definite purpose with presbyterial powers, i. e. to a certain extent, with the powers of a presbytery, the power tc ordain, install and depose. Evangelists in this sense were temporary officers. This view of the nature of the office prevailed at the time of the Reformation.1313CALVIN in his comment on this verse, says: Apostolis proximi erant Evangelistae, et munus affine habebant; tantum gradu dignitatis erant dispares; ex quo genere erant Timotheus et similes. Nam quum in salutationibus illum sibi adjungit Paulus, non tamen facit in apostolatu socium, sed nomen hoc peculiariter sibi vindicat. Ergo, secundum Apostolos, istorum subsidiaria opera usus est Dominus.—And in his Institutes IV, 3, 4, he says: Per Evangelistas eos intelligo, qui quum in dignitate apostolis minores, officio tamen proximi erant, adeoque vices eorum gerebant. Quales fuerunt, Lucas, Timotheus, Titus, et reliqui similes.
According to the other view, the evangelists were itinerant preachers, οἱ περιΐοντες ἐκήρυττον, as Theodoret and other early writers describe them. They were properly missionaries sent to preach the Gospel where it had not been previously known. This is the commonly received view, in favour of which may be urged—1. The signification of the word, which in itself means nothing more than preacher of the Gospel. 2. Philip was an evangelist, but was in no sense a vicar of the apostles; and when Timothy was exhorted to do the work of an evangelist, the exhortation was simply to be a faithful preacher of the Gospel. Acts 21, 8; Eph. 4, 11; and 2 Tim. 4, 5, are the only passages in which the word occurs, and in no one of them does the connection or any other consideration demand any other meaning than the one commonly assigned to it. 3. Εὐαγγέλισθαι and διδάσκειν are both used to express the act of making known the Gospel; but when as here, the εὐαγγελιστής is distinguished fromr the διδάσκαλος, the only point of distinction implied or admissible is between one who makes known the Gospel where it had not been heard, and an instructor of those already Christians. The use of εὐαγγέλισθαι in such passages as Acts 8, 4; 14, 7; 1 Cor. 1, 17, and 2 Cor. 10, 16, serves to confirm the commonly received opinion that an evangeli1st is one who makes known the Gospel. That Timothy and Titus were in some sense apostolic vicars, i. e. men clothed with special powers for a special purpose and for a limited time, may be admitted, but this does not determine the nature of the office of an evangelist. They exercised these powers not as evangelists, but as delegates or commissioners.
And some pastors and teachers, τοὺς δὲ ποιμένας καὶ διδασκάλους. According to one interpretation we have here two distinct offices—that of pastor and that of teacher. The latter, says Calvin, "had nothing to do with discipline, nor with the administration of the sacraments, nor with admonitions or exhortations, but simply with the interpretation of Scripture." Institutes IV, 3, 4. All this is inferred from the meaning of the word teacher. There is no evidence from Scripture that there was a set of men authorized to teach but not authorized to exhort. The thing is well nigh impossible. The one function includes the other. The man who teaches duty and the grounds of it, does at the same time admonish and exhort. It was however on the ground of this unnatural interpretation that the Westminster Directory made teachers a distinct and permanent class of jure divino officers in the church. The Puritans in New England endeavoured to reduce the theory to practice, and appointed doctors as distinct from preachers. But the attempt proved to be a failure. The two functions could not be kept separate. The whole theory rested on a false interpretation of Scripture. The absence of the article before διδασκάλους proves that the apostle intended to designate the same persons as at once pastors and teachers. The former term designates them as ἐπίσκοποι, overseers, the latter as instructors. Every pastor or bishop was required to be apt to teach. This interpretation is given by Augustin and Jerome; the latter of whom says: Non enim ait: alios autem pastores et alios magistros, sed alios pastores et magistros, ut qui pastor est, esse debeat et magister. In this interpretation the modern commentators almost without exception concur. It is true the article is at times omitted between two substantives referring to different classes, where the two constitute one order—as in Mark 15, 1, μετὰ τῶν πρεσβυτέρων καὶ γραμματέων, because the elders and scribes formed one body. But in such an enumeration as that contained in this verse, τοὺς μὲν ἀποστόλους, τοὺς δὲ προφήτας, τοὺ δὲ εὐαγγελιστάς, τοὺς δὲ ποιμένας, the laws of the language require τοὺς δὲ διδασκάλους, had the apostle intended to distinguish the διδάσκαλοι from the ποιμένες. Pastors and teachers, therefore, must be taken as a two-fold designation of the same officers, who were at once the guides and instructors of the people.
V. 12. Having mentioned the officers Christ gave his church, the apostle states the end for which this gift was conferred—it was πρὸς τὸν καταρτισμὸν τῶν ἁγίων, εἰς ἔργον διακονίας, εἰς οἰκοδομὴν τοῦ σώματος τοῦ Χριστοῦ, for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ.
Both the meaning of the words and the relation of the several clauses in this verse, are doubtful. The word καταρτισμός, rendered perfecting, admits of different interpretations. The root ἄρω, means to unite or bind together. Hence ἄρτιος signifies united, complete, perfect; and the verb καταρτίζω is literally to mend, Matt. 4, 21; to reduce to order, to render complete, or perfect, Luke 6, 40; 2 Cor. 13, 11; to prepare or render fit for use, Heb. 10, 5; 13, 21. The substantive may express the action of the verb in the various modifications of its meaning. Hence it has been rendered here-1. To the completion of the saints, i. e. of their number. 2. To their renewing or restoration. 3. To their reduction to order and union as one body. 4. To their preparation (for service). 5. To their perfecting. This last is to be preferred because agreeable to the frequent use of the verb by this apostle, and because it gives the sense best suited to the context.
The word διακόνια, service, may express that service which one man renders to another—Luke 10, 40, "with much serving;" or specially the service rendered to Christians, 1 Cor. 16, 15, "addicted themselves to the ministry of the saints;" or the official service of the ministry. Hence the phrase εἰς ἔργον διακονίας may mean ‘to the work of mutual service or kind offices,’ or to the work of the ministry—in the official sense. The latter is the common interpretation, and is to be preferred not only on account of the more frequent use of the word in that sense, but also on account of the connection, as here the apostle is speaking of the different classes of ministers of the word.
The principal difficulty connected with this verse concerns the relation of its several clauses. 1. Some propose to invert the first and second so that the sense would be, ‘Christ appointed the apostles, &c., for the work of the ministry, the design of which is the perfecting of the saints and the edifying of the body of Christ.’ But although the sense is thus good and pertinent, the transposition is arbitrary. 2. Others regard the clauses as coordinate. ‘These officers were given for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying the body of Christ.’ To this is objected the change in the prepositions (πρὸς, εἰς—εἰς), and the incongruity of the thoughts—the expressions not being parallel. 3. The two latter clauses may be made subordinate to the first. ‘Christ has appointed the ministry with the view of preparing the saints, for the work of serving one another,’ (compare εἰς διακονιαν τοῖς ἁγίοις, 1 Cor. 16, 15,) and for the edification of his body. This however assumes διακονία to have a sense unsuited to the context. 4. Others make the two clauses with εἰς explanatory of the first clause, ‘Christ appointed these officers for the preparation of the saints, some for the work of the ministry, and some for the edifying of his body.’ But this is inconsistent with the structure of the passage. It would require the introduction of τοὺς μὲν—τοὺς δὲ, ’some, for this, and some, for that.’ 5. Others again, give the sense thus, ‘For the sake of perfecting the saints, Christ appointed these officers to the work of the ministry, to the edification of his body.’ The first clause πρὸς κατ. expresses the remote, εἰς—εἰς the immediate end of the appointment in question. The "work of the ministry" is that work which the ministry perform, viz. the edifying of the body of Christ. This last view is perhaps the best.
"He could not," says Calvin, "exalt more highly the ministry of the Word, than by attributing to it this effect. For what higher work can there be than to build up the church that it may reach its perfection? They therefore are insane, who neglecting this means hope to be perfect in Christ, as is the case with fanatics, who pretend to secret revelations of the Spirit; and the proud, who content themselves with the private reading of the Scripture, and imagine they do not need the ministry of the church." If Christ has appointed the ministry for the edification of his body, it is in vain to expect that end to be accomplished in any other way.
V. 13. The ministry is not a temporary institution, it is to continue until the church has reached the goal of its high calling. This does not prove that all the offices mentioned above are permanent. By common consent the prophets were temporary officers. It is the ministry and not those particular offices, that is to continue. The goal of the church is here described in three equivalent forms—1. Unity of faith and knowledge of the Son of God. 2. A perfect man. 3. The measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ.
1. Till we all come to the unity, &c., μέχρι καταντήσωμεν οἱ πάντες. The all here mentioned is not all men, but all the people of Christ. The reference is not to the confluence of nations from all parts of the earth, but to the body of Christ, the company of saints of which the context speaks. The church is tending to the goal indicated.1414The ministry is to continue until καταντήσωμεν we (all) shall have attained to unity of faith. Our version has in unity, but the Greek is εἰς τὴν ἑνότητα, and therefore should be rendered, to or unto, just as in the following clauses, εἰς ἄνδρα τέλειον and εἰς μέτρον, κτλ. The unity of faith is the end to which all are to attain. The genitive υἱοῦ τοῦ Θεοῦ belongs equally to πίστις and ἐπιγνωσις. The Son of God is the object both of the faith and of the knowledge here spoken of. Many commentators understand knowledge and faith as equivalent, and therefore make the latter member of the clause explanatory of the former: ‘to the unity of the faith, that is, to the knowledge of the Son of God.’ But this overlooks the καὶ. The apostle says, "faith and knowledge." Thus distinguishing the one from the other. And they are in fact different, however intimately related, and however often the one term may be used for the other. Faith is a form of knowledge, and therefore may be expressed by that word. But knowledge is not a form of faith, and therefore cannot be expressed by it. Knowledge is an element of faith; but faith, in its distinctive sense, is not an element of knowledge. The Greek word here used is not γνῶσις but ἐπιγνωσις. We have no word to express the distinction as the Germans have in their Kennen and Erkennen. It is not merely cognition but recognition. Faith and knowledge, πίστις and ἐπιγνωσις, express or comprehend all the elements of that state of mind of which the Son of God, God manifested in the flesh, who loved us and gave himself for us, who died on Calvary and is now enthroned in heaven, is the object. A state of mind which includes the apprehension of his glory, the appropriation of his love, as well as confidence and devotion. This state of mind is in itself eternal life. It includes excellence, blessedness, and the highest form of activity, i. e. the highest exercise of our highest powers. We are like him when we see him. Perfect knowledge is perfect holiness. Therefore when the whole church has come to this perfect knowledge which excludes all diversity, then it has reached the end. Then it will bear the image of the heavenly.
The object of faith and knowledge is the Son of God. This designation of our Lord declares him to be of the same nature with the Father, possessing the same attributes and entitled to the same honour. Were this not the case the knowledge of Christ as the Son of God, could not be eternal life; it could not fill, enlarge, sanctify, and render blessed the soul; nor constitute the goal of our high calling; the full perfection of our nature.
It has excited surprise that the apostle should here present unity of faith as the goal of perfection, whereas in ver. 6, Christians are said now to have "one faith," as they have one Lord and one baptism. Some endeavour to get over this difficulty by laying the emphasis upon all. The progress of the church consists in bringing all to this state of unity. But Paul includes all in his assertion in ver. 6. And if the "one faith" of that verse, and "unity of faith" here are the same, then the starting-point and the goal of the church are identical. Others say that "the unity of faith and knowledge" means not that all should be united in faith and knowledge, but that all should attain that state in which faith and knowledge are identified—faith is to be lost in knowledge. The unity, therefore, here intended, is unity between faith and knowledge, and not the unity of believers. But this is evidently unnatural. "We all come to unity," can only mean, " we are all united." There is no real difficulty in the case. Unity is a matter of degrees. The church is now and ever has been one body, but how imperfect is their union! Our Lord’s praying that his people may be one, does not prove that they are not now one. It is here as in other cases. Holiness is the beginning and holiness is the end. We must be holy to belong to the church, and yet holiness is the ultimate perfection of the church. The unity of faith is now confined to the first principles; the unity of faith contemplated in this place is that perfect unity which implies perfect knowledge and perfect holiness.
Unto a perfect man, εἰς ἄνδρα τέλειον. This clause is explanatory of the former and determines its meaning. Perfection is the end; perfect manhood. Τέλειος signifies ad finem perductus; when used of a man, it means an adult, one who has reached the end of his development as a man. When applied to a Christian it means one who has reached the end of his development as a Christian, Heb. 12, 23; and the church is perfect when it has reached the end of its development and stands complete in glory. In 1 Cor. 13, 10, τὸ τέλειον stands opposed to τὸ ἐκ μέρους, and there as here indicates the state which is to be attained hereafter when we shall know even as we are known. The standard of perfection for the church is complete conformity to Christ. It is to attain εἰς μέτρον ἡλικίας τοῦ πληρώματος τοῦ Χριστοῦ. These words are explanatory of the preceding. The church becomes adult, a perfect man, when it reaches the fulness of Christ. However these words may be explained in detail, this is the general idea. Whether ἡλικία means stature or age depends upon the context. Most commentators prefer the latter signification here, because τέλειος in the preceding clause means adult, in reference to age rather than to stature, and νήπιος in the following verse means a child as to age and not as to size.
If the phrase "fulness of Christ," be explained according to the analogy of the phrases " fulness of God," " fulness of the Godhead," &c., it must mean the plenitude of excellence which Christ possesses or which he bestows. And the " age of the fulness of Christ," means the age at which the fulness of Christ is attained. Compare 3, 19, where believers ars said to be filled unto the fulness of God.
If, however, reference is had to the analogy of such expressions as "fulness of the blessing of the Gospel," Rom. 15, 29, which means ‘the full or abundant blessing,’ then the passage before us means ‘the full age (or stature) of Christ.’ The church is to become a perfect man, i. e. it is to attain the measure of the full maturity of Christ. In other words, it is to be completely conformed to him, perfect as he is perfect. This interpretation, which supposes πληρώματος to qualify adjectively ἡλικίας, is in accordance with a familiar characteristic of Paul’s style, who frequently connects three genitives in this way, the one governing the others, where one is to be taken adjectively. See Col. 1, 13, εἰς βασιλείαν τοῦ υἱοῦ τῆς ἀγάπης αὐτοῦ, "Son of his love," for ‘his beloved Son;’ "age of fulness," for ‘full age.’ Col. 2, 2. 18. 2 Thess. 1, 9.
Commentators are much divided on the question whether the goal, the terminus ad quem of the church’s progress here spoken of, is to be attained in this world or the next. Those who say it is to be attained here, rely principally on the following verse: ‘We are to become men in order that we should be no longer children,’ &c. To determine this question it would seem to be enough to state what the contemplated consummation is. It is perfection, and perfection of the whole church. We are to become perfect men, we are to attain complete conformity to Christ; and we are all to reach this high standard. The Bible, however, never represents the consummation of the church as occurring in this life. Christ gave himself for the church that he might present it to himself a glorious church without spot or wrinkle, but this presentation is not to take place until he comes a second time to be glorified in the saints and admired in all them that believe. The context instead of forbidding, demands this view of the apostle’s meaning. It would be incongruous to say we must reach perfection in order to grow. But it is not incongruous to say that perfection is made the goal in order that we may constantly strive after it.
V. 14. What has been said may be sufficient to indicate the connection between this and the preceding verses, as indicated by ἵνα (in order that). This and the following verses are not subordinate to the 13th, as though the sense were, ‘we are to reach perfection in order to grow,’—but they are coördinate—all relating to the design of the ministry mentioned in v. 12. Between the full maturity aimed at, and our present state is the period of growth—and Christ appointed the ministry to bring the church to that end, in order that we should be no longer children but make constant progress. This intermediate design is expressed negatively in this verse and affirmatively in the 15th and 16th. We are not to continue children, v. 13, but constantly to advance toward maturity, vs. 15. 16. The characteristic of children here presented is their instability and their liability to be deceived and led astray. The former is expressed by comparing them to a ship without a rudder, tossed to and fro by the waves, and driven about by every wind—κλυδωνιζόμενοι καὶ περιφερόμενοι παντὶ ἀνέμῳ—or to two unstable things, a restless wave, and something driven by the wind. In the use of much the same figure the apostle in Heb. 13, 9 exhorts believers not "to be carried away with diverse and strange doctrines." And the apostle James compares the unstable to "a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed," 1, 6. One of the principal elements of the perfection spoken of in v. 13, is stability in the truth; and, therefore, the state of imperfection as contrasted with it is described as one of instability and liability to be driven about by every wind of doctrine.
Children are not only unstable but easily deceived. They are an easy prey to the artful and designing. The apostle therefore adds: ἐν τῇ κυβείᾳ τῶν ἀνθρώπων, through (ἐν being instrumental) the artifice of men. Κυβεία from κυβος (cube, die) means dice-playing; in which there are many arts of deception, and therefore the word is used for craft or deceit. It is explained by the following phrase, ἐν πανουργίᾳ πρὸς τὴν μεθοδείαν τῆς πλάνης, which, according to Luther’s version, means Tauscherei damit sie uns erschleichen zu verfuhren, the cunning with which they track us to mislead. The artifice (κυβεία) is that craft which is used by seducers or errorists. The preposition πρὸς may mean according to. ‘Cunning according to the craft which error uses; or which is characteristic of error.’ Or it may agreeably to its common force indicate direction or tendency. ‘The cunning which is directed to the craft of error, i. e. that craft which is designed to seduce.’ The sense is the same. The word μεθοδεία occurs only here and in 6, 11—where in the plural form it is rendered wiles; "the wiles of the devil." It is derived from μεθοδεύω (μετὰ ὁδός), to follow any one, to track him, as a wild animal its prey. Hence the substantive means the cunning or craft used by those who wish to entrap or capture.
There are two things in this connection which can hardly escape notice. The one is the high estimate the apostle places on truth; and the other is the evil of error. Holiness without the knowledge and belief of the truth, is impossible; perfect holiness implies, as v. 13 teaches, perfect knowledge. Error, therefore, is evil. Religious error springs from moral evil and produces it. "False teachers" are in Scripture always spoken of as bad, as selfish, malignant, or deceitful. This principle furnishes incidentally one of the surest of the criteria of truth. Those doctrines which the good hold, which are dear to the spiritual, to the humble and the holy, and true. This is the only real authority which belongs to tradition. In this passage the apostle attributes departure from the truth to the cunning and deceit which are characteristic of error, or of false teachers. In Rom. 16,17. 18; 2 Cor. 2, 17; 11, 13; Gal. 2, 4; Col. 2, 8. 18, the same character is given of those who seduce men from the faith. Error, therefore, can never be harmless, nor false teachers innocent. Two considerations however should secure moderation and meekness in applying these principles. The one is, that though error implies sin, orthodoxy does not always imply holiness. It is possible "to hold the truth in unrighteousness;" to have speculative faith without love. The character most offensive to God and man is that of a malignant zealot for the truth. The other consideration is, that men are often much better than their creed. That is, the doctrines on which they live are much nearer the truth, than those which they profess. They deceive themselves by attaching wrong meaning to words, and seem to reject truth when in fact they only reject their own misconceptions. It is a common remark that men’s prayers are more orthodox than their creeds.
V. 15. These remarks are not foreign to the subject; for the apostle, while condemning all instability with regard to faith, and while denouncing the craft of false teachers, immediately adds the injunction to adhere to the truth in love. It is not mere stability in sound doctrine, but faith as combined with love that he requires. The only saving, salutary faith is such as works by love and purifies the heart.
Ἀληθεύοντες δὲ ἐν ἀγάπῃ our version renders "but speaking the truth in love." But this does not suit the context. This clause stands opposed to what is said in verse 14. We are not to be children driven about by every wind of doctrine, but we are to be steadfast in professing and believing the truth. This interpretation which is demanded by the connection is justified by the usage of the word ἀληθεύειν, which means not only to speak the truth, but also to be ἀληθής in the sense of being open, upright, truthful, adhering to the truth. And the truth here contemplated is the truth of God, the truth of the Gospel, which we are to profess and abide by. The words ἐν ἀγάπῃ are commonly and properly connected with ἀληθεύοντες, "professing the truth in love." They may however be connected with the following word, so as to give the sense, "let us increase in love." But this leaves the participle too naked, and is not indicated by the position of the words. Besides, in the next verse, which is part of the same sentence, we have αὔξησιν ποιεῖται εἰς οἰκοδομὴν, εν ἀγάπῃ, which would be a needless repetition of the same idea.
We are "to grow up into (rather unto) him," εἰς αὐτόν. This is to be explained by a reference to the expressions εἰς ἄνδρα τέλειον, εἰς μέτρον ἡλικίας, κτλ. in v. 13. These are different forms of expressing the idea that conformity to Christ is the end to be attained. We are to grow so as to be conformed to him, τὰ πάντα, as to all things. Him, "who is the head, viz. Christ." We are to be conformed to our head—because he is our head, i. e. because of the intimate union between him and us. The slight confusion in the metaphor which presents Christ as the model to which we are to be conformed, and the head with whose life we are to be pervaded, is no serious objection to this interpretation, which is demanded by the context.
V. 16. 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 to the edifying of itself in love. The church is Christ’s body; he is the head. The body grows. Concerning this growth the apostle says—1. It is from him, (ἐξ οὗ). He is the causal source, from whom all life and power are derived. 2. It depends on the intimate union of all the parts of the body with the head by means of appropriate bonds. 3. It is symmetrical. 4. It is a growth in love. Such is the general meaning of this passage; though there is much diversity of opinion as to the meaning of some of the terms employed, and as to the relation of the several clauses.
First as to the meaning of the words: Συναρμολογέω (ἁρμός and λέγω) to bind together the several parts of any thing. It is used of a building 2, 21, and of the human body. In both cases there is a union of parts fitted to each other. It is peculiarly appropriate here, as the church is compared to the body composed of many members intimately connected. Συμβιβάζω, to bring together, to convene, to join; figuratively, to combine mentally. It is properly used of bringing persons together, so as to reconcile them, or to unite them in friendship. It therefore serves to explain the preceding term. The church is figuratively a body composed of many joints or members; and literally, it is a company of believers intimately united with each other. Hence the apostle uses both terms in reference to it. Ἁφή (ἁπτώ) properly means touch, the sense of touch. Hence metonymically feeling. Therefore διὰ πάσης ἁφῆς ἐπιχορηγίας may mean, ‘by every feeling, or experience of aid.’ The word however is sometimes used in the sense of band or joint. The parallel passage in Col. 2, 19, διὰ τῶν ἁφῶν καὶ συνδέσμων, by joints and bands, seems to be decisive for that sense here. The word ἐπιχορηγία (χορηγέω, χορός, ἄγω), supply, aid, has no difficulty in itself. The only question is what aid or contribution is meant, and what is the force of the genitive. The word may refer to the mutual assistance furnished each other by the constituent members of the body. Thus Luther, who paraphrases the clause in question,—durch alle Gelenke, dadurch eins dem andern Handreichung thut—by every joint whereby one member aids another. Or it may refer to the supplies of vital influence received from Christ the head. "Through every joint of supply," then means, through every joint or band which is the means of supply. The parallel passage in Col. 2, 19, is in favour of the latter view. There it is said: τὸ σῶμα διὰ τῶν ἁφῶν ἐπιχορηγούμενον, the body receiving nourishment or supplies through the joints or bands. The nourishing and sustaining influence, the ἐπιχορηγία, is certainly in this case that which flows from Christ, and therefore the same interpretation should be given to the passage before us. As to the force of the case, it is by some taken as the genitive of apposition. "Joint or band of supply," would then mean, the band which is a supply. The divine influence furnished by Christ is the bond by which the members of his body are united. This is true, but in Col. 2, 19, which, being the plainer passage, must be our guide in interpreting this, the supply is said to be διὰ τῶν ἁφῶν, through the joints. Here, therefore, the parallel phrase, διὰ πάσης ἁφῆς τῆς ἐπιχορηγίας, must mean, ‘through every joint for supply;’ that is, which is the means or channel of the divine influence. There is an obvious distinction between "the bands" and "the aid" here spoken of. The latter is the divine life or Holy Spirit communicated to all parts of the church; the former (the ἁφαά) are the various spiritual gifts and offices which are made the channels or means of this divine communication.
The second point to be considered is the relation of the several clauses in this passage. The clause διὰ πάσης ἁφῆς, κτλ. may be connected with the last clause of the verse, αὔξησιν ποιεῖται. The sense would then be, ‘The body by means of every joint of supply makes increase of itself.’ This sense is correct and suited to the context. This however is not the most natural construction. The relative position of the members of the sentence is in favour of referring this clause to the preceding participles. ‘The body joined together and united by means of every joint of supply.’ The parallel passage in Colossians determines this to be the apostle’s meaning. He there refers the union of the body, and not its growth, to the bands (ἁφαί) of which he speaks. He describes the body as συμβιβαζόμενον διὰ τῶν ἁφῶγ, and therefore here συμβιβ. διὰ πάσης ἁφῆς, which are in juxtaposition, should go together.
The clause, "according to the effectual working in the measure of every part," admits of three constructions. It may be connected with the preceding participles—"joined together by every joint of supply according to the working, &c., συμβιβ. διὰ—κατὰ. Or it may be connected with the preceding words, ἐπιχορηγίας κατ᾽ ἐνέργειαν,—‘the supply is according to the working of each particular part.’ Or thirdly, it may be connected with αὔξησιν ποιεῖται; the increase is according to the working, &c. It is hard to decide between these two latter methods. In favour of the second is the position of the words—and also the congruity of the figure. It is more natural to say that the divine influence is according to the working of every part, i. e. according to its capacity and function; than to say, "the growth is according to the working, &c." The increase of the body is due to the living influence which pervades it, and not to the efficiency of the several members. In either case, however, the idea of symmetrical development is included.
The body—maketh increase of the body, i. e. of itself. The substantive is repeated on account of the length of the sentence. This increase is an edification in love, i. e. connected with love. That is the element in which the progress of the church to its consummation is effected.
As then the human body, bound together by the vital influence derived from the head through appropriate channels and distributed to every member and organ according to its function, constantly advances to maturity; so the church, united as one body by the divine influence flowing from Christ its head through appropriate channels, and distributed to every member according to his peculiar capacity and function, continually advances towards perfection. And as in the human body no one member, whether hand or foot, can live and grow unless in union with the body; so union with the mystical body of Christ is the indispensable condition of growth in every individual believer. Faltitur ergo siquis seorsum crescere appetit.—CALVIN. And further, as in the human body there are certain channels through which the vital influence flows from the head to the members, and which are necessary to its communication; so also there are certain divinely appointed means for the distribution of the Holy Spirit from Christ to the several members of his body. What these channels of divine influence are, by which the church is sustained and carried forward, is clearly stated in v. 11, where the apostle says, "Christ gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers, for the perfecting of the saints." It is, therefore, through the ministry of the word that the divine influence flows from Christ the head to all the members of his body, so that where that ministry fails the divine influence fails. This does not mean that the ministry as men or as officers are the channels of the Spirit to the members of the church, so that without their ministerial intervention no man is made a partaker of the Holy Ghost. But it means that the ministry as dispensers of the truth are thus the channels of divine communication. By the gifts of revelation and inspiration, Christ constituted some apostles and some prophets for the communication and record of his truth; and by the inward call of his Spirit he makes some evangelists and some pastors for its constant proclamation and inculcation. And it is only (so far as adults are concerned) in connection with the truth, as thus revealed and preached, that the Holy Ghost is communicated. The ministry, therefore, apostles, prophets, evangelists and teachers, were given for the edification of the church, by the communication of that truth in connection with which alone the Holy Ghost is given.
All this Rome perverts. She says that prelates, whom she calls apostles, are the channels of the Holy Spirit, first to the priests and then to the people; and that this communication, is not by the truth, but tactual, by the laying on of hands. No one therefore can be united to Christ except through them, or live except as in communion with them. Thus error is always the caricature of truth.
SECTION II.—Vs. 17-32.—C. V. 1-2.
17. This I say therefore, and testify in the Lord, that ye henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind,
18 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:
19. who, being past feeling, have given themselves over unto lasciviousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness.
20. But ye have not so learned Christ;
21. if so be that ye have heard him, and have been taught by him, as the truth is in Jesus:
22. that ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts;
23. and be renewed in the spirit of your mind;
24. and that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.
25. Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbour: for we are members one of another.
26. Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath:
27. neither give place to the devil.
28. 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.
29. 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.
30. And grieve not the Holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption.
31. Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil-speaking, be put away from you, with all malice:
32. and be ye kind one to another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.
CH. V. 1. Be ye therefore followers of God as dear children;
2. and walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling savour.
This Section contains first a general exhortation to holiness, vs. 17-24; and secondly, injunctions in respect to specific duties, vs. 25-ch. V. 2. The exhortation to holiness is, agreeably to the apostle’s manner, first in the negative form not to walk as the heathen do, vs. 17-19, and secondly, positive, to walk as Christ had taught them, vs. 20-24. The heathen walk in the vanity of their mind, i. e. in a state of moral and spiritual fatuity, not knowing what they are about, nor whither they are going, v. 17; because they are in mental darkness, and are alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, and through the hardness of their hearts, v. 18; as is evinced by their giving themselves up to uncleanness and avarice, v. 19. The Christian walk is the opposite of this—because believers have been taught. Instead of ignorance, truth dwells in them, enlightening and purifying. Hence they are led to put off the old man—and to put on the new man, which is more and more conformed to the image of God, vs. 20-24. Therefore, they must avoid lying and speak the truth, v. 25; abstain from anger and guard against giving Satan any advantage, vs. 26. 27. Avoid theft, and be diligent and liberal, v. 28. Avoid all corrupting language, but let their conversation be edifying, so as not to grieve the Holy Spirit, vs. 29. 30. Instead of malicious feelings, they should exercise and manifest such as are mild, benevolent, and forgiving, being in this matter the followers of God, vs. 31—ch. V. 2.
V. 17. The apostle, having in the preceding section taught that Christ had destined his church to perfect conformity to himself, and made provision for that end, as a natural consequence, solemnly enjoins on those who profess to be Christians to live in accordance with this high vocation. "This therefore I say and testify in the Lord, that he henceforth walk not as the other Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind." To testify, in this case, is solemnly to enjoin, as a man does who calls upon God to bear witness to the truth and importance of what he says. Μαρτυρέω is to act as a witness, and μαρτύρομαι to invoke as a witness. The latter is the word here used. In the Lord, means in communion with the Lord. Paul speaks as one who had access to the mind of Christ, knew his will, and could therefore speak in his name. The exhortation is, not to walk as the Gentiles do. To walk, in Scripture language, includes all the manifestations of life, inward and outward, seen and unseen. It does not express merely the outward, visible deportment. Men are said to walk with God, which refers to the secret fellowship of the soul with its Maker, more than to the outward life. So here the walk, which the apostle enjoins us to avoid, is not only the visible deportment characteristic of the Gentiles, but also the inward life of which the outward deportment is the manifestation.
They walk "in the vanity of their mind." The language of the New Testament being the language of Jews, is more or less modified by Hebrew usage. And the usage of Hebrew words is of course modified by the philosophy and theology of the people who employed them. There are two principles which have had an obvious influence on the meaning of a large class of Hebrew words, and therefore on the meaning of the Greek terms which answer to them. The one is the unity of the soul which forbids any such marked distinction between its cognitive and emotional faculties, i. e. between the understanding and the heart, as is assumed in our philosophy, and therefore is impressed on our language. In Hebrew the same word designates what we commonly distinguish as separate faculties. The Scriptures speak of an "understanding heart," and of "the desires of the understanding," as well as of "the thoughts of the heart." They recognize that there is an element of feeling in our cognitions and an element of intelligence in our feelings. The idea that the heart may be depraved and the intellect unaffected is, according to the anthropology of the Bible, as incongruous, as that one part of the soul should be happy and another miserable, one faculty saved and another lost.
Another principle nearly allied to the former is the moral and spiritual excellence of truth. Truth is not merely speculative, the object of cognition. It has moral beauty. In scriptural language, therefore, knowledge includes love; wisdom includes goodness; folly includes sin; the wise are holy, fools are wicked. Truth and holiness are united as light and heat in the same ray. There cannot be the one without the other. To know God is eternal life; to be without the knowledge of God is to be utterly depraved. Saints are the children of light; the wicked are the children of darkness. To be enlightened is to be renewed; to be blinded is to be reprobated. Such is the constant representation of Scripture.
The νοῦς, mind, therefore, in the passage before us, does not refer to the intellect to the exclusion of the feelings, nor to the feelings to the exclusion of the intellect. It includes both; the reason, the understanding, the conscience, the affections are all comprehended by the term. Sometimes one and sometimes another of these modes of spiritual activity is specially referred to, but in the present case the whole soul is intended. The word ματαιότης, vanity, according to the scriptural usage just referred to, includes moral as well as intellectual worthlessness, or fatuity. It is of all that is comprehended under the word νοῦς, the understanding and the heart, that this vanity is predicated. Every thing included in the following verses respecting the blindness and depravity of the heathen is therefore comprehended in the word vanity.
V. 18. 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. This verse at once explains and confirms the preceding statement. The heathen walk in vanity, i. e. in intellectual and moral darkness, because their understanding is darkened, and because they are alienated from the life of God.
The word διανοία, understanding, in the first clause, means a thinking through; the mind (quatenus intelligit, appetit et sentit) as opposed to the body; an act of the mind, a thought, purpose, or disposition; the intelligence as opposed to the feelings. We are required to love God, ἐν ὅλῃ τῇ διανοίᾳ, with the whole mind; men are said to be enemies, τῇ διανοίᾳ, Col. 1, 21, as to their state of mind, and proud τῇ διανοίᾳ τῆς καρδίας αὐτῶν. The apostle Peter exhorts us "to gird up the loins of the mind;" and speaks of our "pure mind." And the apostle John says: " God has given us διανοίαν that we may know." The word is opposed σάρξ in Eph. 2, 3, and to καρδία in Matt. 22, 37, Heb. 8, 10 and elsewhere. It depends therefore on the connection whether the word is to be understood of the whole soul, or of the intelligence, or of the disposition. In this case it means the intelligence; because it is distinguished from νοῦς in the preceding verse, and from καρδία in the last clause of this one.
"Alienated from the life of God," means strangers to that life. "The life of God," means the life of which God is the author. It is spiritual life. That is, the life of which the indwelling Spirit is the principle or source. "Vitam Dei," says Beza, "appellat vitam illam, qua Deus vivit in suis." Comp. 3, 16, 17, and the remarks on that passage.
In the last clause of the verse πώρωσις is rendered blindness, it more properly means hardness. It does not come from πωρός, blind, but from πῶρος a peculiar kind of stone, and then any thing hard or callous. The verb πωρόω is rendered to harden, Mark 6, 52; 8, 17; John 12, 40, and in all these passages it is used of the heart. So in Rom. 11, 7, "the rest were hardened." The noun is rendered "hardness" in Mark 3, 5, and "blindness" in Rom. 11, 25. This is easily accounted for, as the verb is often used in reference to the eyes when covered with an opaque hardened film, and hence πεπώρωται is the same at times with τετύφλωται. The phrase, therefore, πώρωσιν τῆς καρδίας, may be rendered either blindness or hardness of the heart. The latter is the proper meaning, unless the other be required by the context, which is not the case in the present instance.
The principal difficulty in this verse concerns the relation of its several clauses. First, the participle ὄντες may be connected with the second clause, so as to read, "Dark as to the understanding, being (ὄντες) alienated from the life of God." This is the view taken by our translators, which supposes that the first clause merely expresses a characteristic of the heathen, for which the second assigns the reason. ‘They are darkened, because alienated.’ But this is not consistent with the relation of this verse to the preceding. ‘The heathen walk in vanity because darkened,’ &c. Besides, according to the apostle, the heathen are not in darkness because alienated from the life of God, but they are alienated from that life because of their ignorance. Secondly, the four clauses included in the verse may be considered as so related that the first is connected with the third, and the second with the fourth. The passage would then read, ‘Having the understanding darkened on account of the ignorance that is in them; alienated from the life of God on account of the hardness of their hearts.’ But this unnaturally dissociates the clauses, contrary to one of the most marked peculiarities of the apostle’s style; whose sentences are like the links of a chain, one depending on another in regular succession. This mode of construction also makes ignorance the cause of the darkness, whereas it is the effect. A man’s being enveloped in darkness is the cause of his not seeing, but his not seeing is not the cause of the darkness. Idiocy is the cause of ignorance and not the reverse. The apostle conceives of the heathen as men whose minds are impaired or darkened, and therefore they are ignorant. Thirdly, the clauses may be taken as they stand, ὄντες being connected with the first clause. ‘The heathen walk in vanity, being (i. e. because they are) darkened as to the understanding, alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, through the hardness of their heart.’ Darkness of mind is the cause of ignorance, ignorance and consequent obduracy of heart are the cause of alienation from God. This is both the logical and theological order of sequence. The soul in its natural state cannot discern the things of God—therefore it does not know them, therefore the heart is hard and therefore it is destitute of holiness. This is what the apostle teaches in 1 Cor. 2, 14-16. The blind cannot see; therefore they are ignorant of the beauty of creation, therefore they are destitute of delight in its glories. You cannot heal them by light. The eye must first be opened. Then comes vision, and then joy and love. This view of the passage is in accordance with the analogy of Scripture; which constantly represents regeneration as necessary to spiritual discernment, and spiritual discernment as necessary to holy affections. Therefore the apostle says of the heathen that their understanding is darkened, a film is over their eyes, and they are alienated from God because of the ignorance consequent on their mental blindness.
V. 19. Who, not the simple relative, but οἵτινες, such as who. The practical proof of their being in the state described is to be found in the fact that being without feeling they give themselves over to the sins mentioned. Ἀπηλγηκότες, no longer susceptible of pain. Conscience ceases to upbraid or to restrain them. They, therefore, give themselves up to excess, to practise all kinds of uncleanness, ἐν πλεονεξίᾳ, with greediness, i. e. insatiably. The parallel passage, 2 Pet. 2, 14, "Having eyes full of adultery, and that cannot cease from sin," would favour this interpretation so far as the idea is concerned. But the word πλεονεξία always elsewhere means, covetousness; a desire to have more. And as this gives a good sense it is not right to depart from the established meaning. Ἐν πλεονεξίᾳ, therefore, means with, i. e. together with, covetousness. The heathen give themselves up to uncleanness and covetousness. These two vices are elsewhere thus associated, as in ch. 5, 3. 5, "Let not uncleanness or covetousness be named among you." "No unclean person, nor covetous man, &c." See also Col. 3, 5. Rom. 1, 29. 1 Cor. 5, 10. Here as in Rom. 1, 24, immorality is connected with impiety as its inevitable consequence. Men in their folly think that morality may be preserved without religion, and even that morality is religion; but reason, experience and Scripture all prove that if men do not love and fear God they give themselves up to vice in some form, and commonly either to uncleanness or avarice. There is a two-fold reason for this; one is the nature of the soul which has no independent source of goodness in itself, so that if it turns from God it sinks into pollution, and the other is the punitive justice of God. He abandons those who abandon him. In Rom. 1, 24 and elsewhere, it is said ‘God gives the impious up to uncleanness;’ here it is said, they give themselves up. These are only different forms of the same truth. Men are restrained from evil by the hand of God, if he relaxes his hold they rush spontaneously to destruction. All systems of education, all projects of reform in social or political life, not founded in religion, are, according to the doctrine of this passage and of all Scripture, sure to lead to destruction.
V. 20. But ye have not so learned Christ. That is, your knowledge of Christ has not led you to live as the heathen. As we are said to learn a thing, but never to learn a person, the expression μανθάνειν τὸν Χριστόν, is without example. But as the Scriptures speak of preaching Christ, which does not mean merely to preach his doctrines, but to preach Christ himself, to set him forth as the object of supreme love and confidence, so "to learn Christ" does not mean merely, to learn his doctrines, but to attain the knowledge of Christ as the Son of God, God in our nature, the Holy one of God, the Saviour from sin, whom to know is holiness and life. Any one who has thus learned Christ cannot live in darkness and sin. Such knowledge is in its very nature light. Where it enters, the mind is irradiated, refined, and purified. Nihil ergo de Christo didicit qui nihil vita ab infidelibus differt; neque eninm a mortificatione carnis separari potest Christi cognitio.—CALVIN.
V. 21. If so be ye have heard him. "To hear him does not mean to hear about him. This the apostle in writing to Christians could not express in a hypothetical form. He knew that the Ephesian Christians had heard about Christ. To hear, in this connection, implies intelligence and obedience, as in the frequently occurring phrase, "He that hath ears to hear, let him hear;" and "To-day if ye will hear his voice, &c.," and in a multitude of other cases. To hear the voice of God or of Christ, therefore, is not merely to perceive with the outward ear but to receive with the understanding and the heart. The particle εἴγε, if indeed, does not express doubt; but ‘if, as I take for granted.’ The apostle assumes that they were obedient to the truth. ‘Ye have not so learned Christ as to allow of your living as do the Gentiles, if, as I take for granted, you have really heard his voice and have been taught by him. Ἐν αὐτῷ, however, does not properly mean by him, but ‘in communion with him.’ ‘Ye have been taught in him, inasmuch as truth is in Jesus, to put off the old man.’ The knowledge of Christ, hearing him, union with him, his inward teaching, are necessarily connected with the mortification of sin.
The clause καθώς ἐστιν ἀλήθεια ἐν τῷ Ἰησοῦ, rendered in our version as the truth is in Jesus, is variously explained. The interpretation intimated above supposes καθώς, to have its frequent causal sense; since, inasmuch as; and truth to mean moral truth, or excellence. This sense it very often has. It frequently means true religion, and is used antithetically to unrighteousness, as in Rom. 2, 8. The principle here involved is, that knowledge of God is inconsistent with a life of sin, because knowledge implies love, and God is holy. To know him, therefore, is to love holiness. The apostle’s argument is: ‘If you know Christ you will forsake sin, because he is holy—truth, i. e. moral excellence is in him. If you have been taught any thing in virtue of your communion with him, you have been taught to put off the old man.’
Another interpretation supposes καθώς to mean as, expressing the manner. ‘If ye have been taught as the truth is in Jesus,’ i. e. correctly taught. But this requires the article even in English—the truth, meaning the definite system of truth which Jesus taught. In the Greek, however, the article necessary to give colour to this interpretation is wanting. Besides, the expression "the truth is in Jesus" is obscure and unscriptural, if truth be taken to mean true doctrine. And more than this, this interpretation supposes there may be a true and false teaching by, or in communion with, Christ. This cannot be. The apostle’s hypothesis is, not whether Christ has taught them correctly, but whether he has taught them at all.
A third interpretation makes the following infinitive the subject of the sentence; ‘Truth in Jesus is, to put off the old man.’ The meaning of the whole passage would then be, ‘If you know Christ ye cannot live as the heathen, for truth in Jesus is to put away sin,’ i. e. true fellowship with Christ is to put off, &c. But this violates the natural construction of the passage, according to which the infinitive ἀποθέσθαι depends on ἐδιδάχθητε, ‘Ye have been taught to put off, &c.’ And the expression, ‘It is truth in Jesus to put away sin’ is in itself awkward and obscure. The first mentioned interpretation, therefore, is on the whole to be preferred.
V. 22. Sanctification includes dying to sin, or mortification of the flesh, and living to righteousness; or as it is here expressed, putting off the old man and putting on the new man. The obvious allusion is to a change of clothing. To put off, is to renounce, to remove from us, as garments which are laid aside. To put on, is to adopt, to make our own. We are called upon to put off the works of darkness, Rom. 13, 12, to put away lying, Eph. 4, 25; to put off anger, wrath, malice, &c., Col. 3, 8; to lay aside all filthiness, James 1, 21. On the other hand, we are called upon to put on the Lord Jesus Christ, Rom. 13, 14, Gal. 3, 27; the armour of light, Rom. 13, 12; bowels of mercy, Col. 3, 12; and men are said to be clothed with power from on high, Luke 24, 49; with immortality or incorruption, &c., 1 Cor. 15, 53. As a man’s clothes are what strike the eye—so these expressions are used in reference to the whole phenomenal life—all those acts and attributes by which the interior life of the soul is manifested;—and not only that, but also the inherent principle itself whence these acts flow. For here we are said to put off the old man, that is, our corrupt nature, which is old or original as opposed to the new man or principle of spiritual life. Comp. Col. 3, 9, "Lie not one to another, seeing you have put off the old man with his deeds." Rom. 6, 6, "Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him." What is here called "the old man " Paul elsewhere calls himself, as in Rom. 7, 14, "I am carnal," "In me there dwelleth no good thing," v. 18; or, "law in the members," v. 23; or "the flesh" as opposed to the spirit, as in Gal. 5, 16. 17. This evil principle or nature is called old because it precedes what is new, and because it is corrupt. And it is called "man," because it is ourselves. We are to be changed—and not merely our acts. We are to crucify ourselves. This original principle of evil is not destroyed in regeneration, but is to be daily mortified, in the conflicts of a whole life.
The connection, as intimated above, is with the former clause of v. 21,ἐδιδάχθητε—ἀποθέσθαι ὑμᾶς. When the subject of the infinitive in such construction is the same with that of the governing verb, it is usually not expressed. The presence of ὑμᾶς therefore in the text is urged as a fatal objection to this construction. A reference, however, to Luke 20, 20, Rom. 2, 19, Phil. 3, 13, will show that this rule has its exceptions.
The intervening clause, κατὰ τὴν προτέραν ἀναστροφὴν, concerning the former conversation, belongs to the verb and not to the following noun. The meaning is not, ‘the old man as to the former conversation,’ (which would require τὸν κατὰ τὴν προτ. κτλ.); but, ‘put away as concerns the former conversation the old man.’ It is not the old nature as to its former manifestations only that is to be put away, but the old principle entirely. And as that was formerly dominant, the apostle says, as to your former manner of life, put off the old man.
"Which is corrupt," φθειρόμενον; "which tends to destruction." This latter rendering is to be preferred, because the epithet old includes the idea of corruption. It would be, therefore, tautological to say, ‘the corrupt man which is corrupt.’ It is the old man or corrupt nature which tends to perdition (qui tendit ad exitium.—GROTIUS), which is to be laid aside, or continually mortified.
It tends to destruction, κατὰ τὰς ἐπιθυμίας τῆς ἀπάτης, according to the deceitful lusts, or as ἀπάτης has the article and therefore is not so properly a mere qualifying genitive—the lusts which deceit has. The apostle says, Rom. 7, 11, sin deceived him, and Heb. 3, 11, speaks of "the deceitfulness of sin." It is indwelling sin itself which deceives by means of those desires which tend to destruction.
V. 23. In this and the following verse we have the positive part of sanctification which is expressed by "renewing" and "putting on the new man." The verb ἀνανεοῦσθαι, to be made new, is passive. This renewal is always represented as the work of God. "We are his workmanship created in Christ Jesus unto good works," ch. 2, 10. It is therefore called "a renewing of the Holy Ghost." Titus 3, 5. Both these phrases "to be renewed" and "to put on the new man" may express either the instantaneous act of regeneration, or the gradual work of sanctification. Thus in Rom. 12, 2, we are exhorted "not to be conformed to the world, but to be transformed by the renewing of the mind." So in this place, and in the parallel passage in Col. 3, 9. 10, these terms express the whole process by which the soul is restored to the image of God. It is a process of renewal from the beginning to the end. The apostle says, "his inner man is renewed day by day." 2 Cor. 4, 16.
The distinction between νέος, young, new as to origin; and καινός, fresh, bright, unused, new as to natue or character, is generally preserved in the New Testament. Thus i n Matt 9, 17, οἶνον νέον εἰς ἀσκοὺς καινούς, recent, or newly made wine into fresh bottles. Μνημεῖον καινὸν, new sepulchre, i. e. one which had not been used, however long it may have been prepared. Hence καινός, is an epithet of excellence. In the passage "Until I drink it new with you in the kingdom of God," Mark 14, 25, the word is καινόν, not νέον. The same idea is implied in all the expressions, new creature, new heavens, new commandment, new name, new Jerusalem, &c., &c. In all these cases the word is καινός. The same distinction properly belongs to the derivatives of these words; ἀνανεόω is to make νέος, and ἀνακαινίζο, ἀνακαινόω, is to make καινός. Hence when reference is had to the renewal of the soul, which is a change for the better, the words used are always the derivatives of καινός, except in this passage. See Rom. 12, 2; 2 Cor. 4, 16; Col. 3, 10; Tit. 3, 5. Still as what is νέος is also καινός; as freshness, vigour and beauty are the attributes of youth, the same thing may be designated by either term. The soul as renewed is, therefore, called in this passage καινὸς ἄνθρωπος and νέος ἄνθρωπος in Col. 3, 10; and the spiritual change which in Col. 3, 10, is expressed by ἀνακαινόω, and in Rom. 12, 2, and Tit. 3, 5, by ἀνακαίνωσις, is here expressed by ἀνανεόω.
The subject of this renewal, that as to which men are to be made new, is expressed in the clause τῷ πνεύματι τοῦ νοὸς ὑμῶν, i. e. as to the spirit of your mind. This combination is unexampled. Grotius says: Spiritus mentis est ipsa mens; as Augustin before him had said: Spiritum mentis dicere voluit eum spiritum, quae mens vocatur. But here spirit and mind are distinguished. The spirit of a man is not that spirit which is a man; but which man has. Others take the word spirit here to be temper, disposition. "Renewed as to the temper of your mind." This is a very unusual, if not doubtful meaning of the word in the New Testament. Others, again, say that the word spirit means the Holy Spirit, and that the passage should be rendered, "by the Spirit which is in your mind." But this is impossible. The "spirit of the mind" is here as plainly distinguished from the Spirit of God as in Rom. 8, 16, where the Spirit of God is said to bear witness with our spirit.
It may be remarked in reference to this phrase:—1. That although the passage in Rom. 12, 2, "renewal of your mind," obviously expresses the same general idea as is here expressed by saying, " renewed as to the spirit of the mind," it does not follow that "mind" and "spirit of the mind," mean exactly the same thing. The one expression is general, the other precise and definite. 2. The words πνεῦμα, νοῦς, καρδία, ψυχή, spirit, mind, heart, soul, are used in Scripture both for the whole immaterial and immortal element of our nature, that in which our personality resides; and also for that element under some one of its modes of manifestation, sometimes for one mode and sometimes for another; as νοῦς sometimes designates the soul as intelligent and sometimes the soul as feeling. 3. Though this is true, yet predominantly one of these terms designates one, and another a different mode of manifestation; as νοῦς the understanding, καρδία the feelings, ψυχή the seat of sensation. 4. Of these terms πνεῦμα is the highest. It means breath, wind, invisible power, life. The idea of power cannot be separated from the term; τὸ πνεῦμά ἐστιν τὸ ζῳοποιοῦν. John 6, 63. It is, therefore, applied to God, to the Holy Ghost, to angels, to Satan, to demons, to the soul of man. The "spirit of the world," 1 Cor. 2, 12, is the controlling, animating principle of the world, that which makes it what it is. The spirit of the mind therefore is its interior life; that of which the νοῦς, καρδία, ψυχή are the modes of manifestation. That, therefore, which needs to be renewed, is not merely outward habits or modes of life; not merely transient tempers or dispositions, but the interior principle of life which lies back of all that is outward, phenomenal, or transient.
V. 24. Καὶ ἐνδύσασθαι τὸν καινὸν ἄνθρωπον, and that ye put on the new man. As we are called to put off our corrupt nature as a ragged and filthy garment, so we are required to put on our new nature as a garment of light. And as the former was personified as an old man, decrepit, deformed, and tending to corruption, so the latter is personified as a new man, fresh, beautiful, and vigorous, like God, for it is τὸν κατὰ Θεὸν κτισθέντα, κτλ., after God created in righteousness and holiness of the truth. In the parallel passage it is said to be renewed "after the image of God," Col. 3, 10. "After God," therefore, means after his image. That in which this image consists is said to be righteousness and holiness. The former of these words, δικαιοσύνη, when it stands alone often includes all the forms of moral excellence; but when associated with ὁσιότης, the one means rectitude, the being or doing right; and the other, holiness. The one renders us just to our neighbours; the other, pious towards God. The two substantives are united in Luke 1, 75; the adjectives, just and holy, in Tit. 1, 8; and the adverbs, holily and justly, in 1 Thess. 2, 10. The Greeks made the same distinction, πρὸς θεοὺς ὅσιον καὶ πρὸς ἀνθρώπους δίκαιόν ἐστι. In our version this clause is rendered, "in righteousness and true holiness;" but the word ἀληθείας stands in the same relation to both nouns, and if taken as a mere qualifying genitive the translation should be, "in true righteousness and holiness." Most modern commentators, however, consider "the truth" here as opposed to "the deceit" spoken of in verse 22. "Righteousness and holiness of the truth" would then mean that righteousness and holiness which the truth has, or which the truth produces. If the principle of indwelling sin is there personified as ἀπάτη, deceit, producing and exercising those lusts which lead to destruction; the principle of spiritual life is here personified as ἀλήθεια, truth, which produces righteousness and holiness. Truth is spiritual knowledge, that knowledge which is eternal life, which not only illuminates the understanding but sanctifies the heart. The Holy Ghost is called the Spirit of truth as the author of this divine illumination which irradiates the whole soul. This truth came by Jesus Christ, John 1, 17. He is the truth and the life, John 14, 6. We are made free by the truth, and sanctified by the truth. The Gospel is called the word of truth, as the objective revelation of that divine knowledge which subjectively is the principle of spiritual life. Taking the word in this sense, the passage is brought into nearer coincidence with the parallel passage in Col. 3, 10. Here the image of God is said to consist in righteousness and holiness of the truth; there it is said to consist in knowledge. "The new man is renewed unto knowledge after the image of him that created him." These passages differ only in that the one is more concise than the other. Knowledge (the ἐπίγνωσις τοῦ Θεοῦ) includes righteousness, holiness, and truth. Nothing, therefore, can be more contrary to Scripture than to undervalue divine truth, and to regard doctrines as matters pertaining merely to the speculative understanding. Righteousness and holiness, morality and religion, are the products of the truth, without which they cannot exist.
This passage is of special doctrinal importance, as teaching us the true nature of the image of God in which man was originally created. That image did not consist merely in man’s rational nature, nor in his immortality, nor in his dominion, but specially in that righteousness and holiness, that rectitude in all his principles, and that susceptibility of devout affections which are inseparable from the possession of the truth, or true knowledge of God. This is the scriptural view of the original state of man, or of original righteousness, as opposed, on the one hand, to the Pelagian theory that man was created without moral character; and on the other, to the Romish doctrine, that original righteousness was a supernatural endowment not belonging to man’s nature. Knowledge, and consequently righteousness and holiness, were immanent or concreated in the first man, in the same sense as were his sense of beauty and susceptibility of impression from the external world. He opened his eyes and saw what was visible, and perceived its beauty; he turned his mind on God, perceived his glory, and was filled with all holy affections.
V. 25. Having enforced the general duty of holiness, or of being conformed to the image of God, the apostle insists on specific duties. It will be observed that in almost every case there is first a negative, then a positive statement of the duty, and then a motive. Thus here: lie not, but speak truth, for ye are members one of another. Wherefore, i. e. on the ground of the general obligation to be conformed to the divine image, putting away lying, as one part of the filthy garments belonging to the old man; speak every man truth with his neighbour. A neighbour, ὁ πλησίον, the Scripture teaches us, is any one near to us, a fellow man of any creed or nation; and to all such we are bound to speak the truth. But the context shows that Paul is here speaking to Christians, and the motive by which the duty is enforced shows that by neighbour he here means a fellow-Christian, as in Rom. 15, 2. The motive in question is the intimate relation in which believers stand to each other. They are all members of the same body intimately united, as he taught in verse 16, with each other and with Christ their common head. As it would be unnatural and absurd for the hand to deceive the foot, or the eye the ear, so there is a violation of the very law of their union for one Christian to deceive another. It is characteristic of the apostle and of the Scriptures generally, to enforce moral duties by religious considerations. This method, while it presents the higher and peculiar ground of obligation, is not intended to exclude other grounds. The obligation of veracity rests on the intrinsic excellence of truth, on the command of God, and on the rights of our fellow men. They have the same right that we should not deceive them as that we should not defraud them. But all this does not hinder that the duty should be enforced by a reference to the peculiar relation of believers as united by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit into the mystical body of Christ.
Vs. 26. 27. His next exhortation has reference to anger; with regard to which he teaches —1. Not to allow anger to be an occasion of sin. 2. Not to cherish it. 3. Not to give Satan any advantage over us when we are angry. The words ὀργίζεσθε καὶ μὴ ἁμαρτάνετε, be ye angry and sin not, are borrowed from the Septuagint version of Ps. 4, 5, and admit of different interpretations. 1. As the original text in Ps. 4, 5, admits of being rendered Rage and sin not, i. e. do not sin by raging1515See Dr. J. A. Alexander’s Commentary on the Psalms.—so the words of the apostle may mean, do not commit the sin of being angry. To this it is objected, that it makes the negative qualify both verbs, while it belongs really only to the latter. It is not necessary to assume that the apostle uses these words in the precise sense of the original text; for the New Testament writers often give the sense of an Old Testament passage with a modification of the words, or they use the same words with a modification of the sense. This is not properly a quotation; it is not cited as something the Psalmist said, but the words are used to express Paul’s own idea. In Rom. 10, 18, "Their sound is gone into all the earth," we have the language of the 19th Ps. but not an expression of the sense of the Psalmist. 2. Others make the ‘first imperative in this clause permissive and the second commanding, ‘Be angry and (but) do not sin.’ 3. Or the first is conditional, ‘if angry, sin not.’ That is, sin not in anger; let not your anger be an occasion of sin. Repress it and bring it under control that it may not hurry you into the commission of sin. The meaning is the same as would be expressed by saying, ὀργίζόμενοὶ μὴ ἁμαρτάνετε, being angry sin not. This is perhaps the most satisfactory view of the passage. It is indeed objected that the apostle is here speaking of sins, and that in v. 31, he forbids all anger, and therefore any interpretation which assumes that anger is not itself a sin is inadmissible. But it is certain that all anger is not sinful. Christ himself, it is said, regarded the perverse Jews "with anger." Mark 3, 5. The same generic feeling, if mingled with holy affections, or in a holy mind, is virtuous; if mingled with malice it is sinful. Both feelings, or both combinations of feeling, are expressed in Scripture by the term anger. Nothing in itself sinful can be attributed to God, but anger is attributed to him. Verse 31 is not inconsistent with this interpretation, for there the context shows the apostle speaks of malicious anger—just as "all hatred" means all malice, and not the hatred of evil.
Let not the sun go down upon your wrath. The word is here παροργισμός, paroxysm or excitement. Anger even when justifiable is not to be cherished. The wise man says: "Anger resteth in the bosom of fools." Eccl. 7, 9.
Neither give place to the devil.—"So give place to" is to get out of the way of, to allow free scope to; and therefore to give an occasion or advantage to any one. We are neither to cherish anger, nor are we to allow Satan to take advantage of our being angry. Anger when cherished gives the Tempter great power over us, as it furnishes a motive to yield to his evil suggestions. The word διάβολος is rendered by Luther, Lästerer, slanderer. It is used as an adjective in that sense in 1 Tim. 3, 11; 2 Tim. 3, 3, and Tit. 2, 3, but with the article (ὁ διάβολος) it always means Satan—the great accuser—the prince of the demons or fallen angels, who is the great opposer of God and seducer of men against whose wiles we are commanded to be constantly on our guard.
V. 28. The next exhortation relates to theft—we are not to steal—but to labour, that we may not only honestly support ourselves, but be able also to give to those who need.
The word ὁ κλέπτων does not mean one who stole, but one who steals, the thief. But how, it is asked, could the apostle assume that there were thieves in the Ephesian church, especially as he is addressing those who had been renewed, and whom he is exhorting to live agreeably to their new nature? To get over this difficulty Calvin says, Paul does not refer merely to such thefts as the civil law punishes, but to all unjust acquisition. And Jerome says, Ephesios monet, ne sub occasione emolumenti furti crimen incurrant, furtum nominans, omne quod alterius damno quaeritur. This enlargement of the idea of theft, though it transcends the limits assigned the offence in human laws, does not go beyond the law of God. As the command, "Thou shalt do no murder," includes the prohibition of malice; so the command, "Thou shalt not steal," forbids every thing that doth or may unjustly hinder our neighbour’s wealth or outward estate. It is very certain that many things tolerated by the customs of men; many modes of getting the property of others into our own possession practised even by those professing to be Christians, are in the light of the divine law only different forms of theft, and will be revealed as such in the judgment of the last day. The spirit of the apostle’s command no doubt includes all the forms of dishonesty. Still it may be questioned if this principle gives the true explanation of the passage. Others say, that as in the Corinthian church fornication and even incest was tolerated, See 1 Cor. 6, 1-6,—it is not incredible that theft should be disregarded in the church of Ephesus, or at least not visited with discipline. It is however probable that our version, which agrees with the Vulgate and with Luther’s translation, expresses the true sense. Not that ὁ κλέπτων means the same with ὁ κλέψας, but as "murderer" means one guilty of murder, however penitent, so "thief" may. mean one guilty of theft. Certain inmates of the prisons are called thieves because of their past, and not because of their present conduct.
The positive part of the apostle’s injunction is, instead of sustaining himself unjustly on the labour of others, let him labour, working with his hands the thing that is good. As he used his hands to steal, let him use them in doing what is right—i. e. in honest labour. Paul elsewhere lays down the general principle, "if any would not work neither should he eat." 2 Thess. 3, 10. No one is entitled to be supported by others, who is able to support himself. This is one great principle of scriptural economics. Another, however, no less important is, that those who cannot work are entitled to aid—and therefore the apostle adds as a motive why the strong should labour—that they may have to contribute to him that hath need. No man liveth for himself; and no man should labour for himself alone, but with the definite object to be able to assist others. Christian principles, if fairly carried out, would speedily banish pauperism and other cognate evils from our modern civilization.
Vs. 29, 30—Forbid corrupt communication—enjoin profitable discourse, assign as a motive the good of others and reverence for the Holy Spirit.
Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth. Πᾶς λόγος σαπρός, any foul word. The word σαπρός means literally putrid, and then figuratively offensive and injurious. But that which is good to the use of edifying, ἀγαθὸς πρὸς οἰκοδομὴν, adapted to edification. The words οἰκοδομὴν τῆς χρείας, edification of the necessity, means the edification the necessity calls for—or which is suited to the occasion. This is the common and satisfactory interpretation. Our version "to the use of edifying"—transposes the words. That it may give grace to the hearers. The phrase χάριν διδόναι, to give grace, is one of frequent occurrence, and always means—to confer a favour—i. e. to give pleasure or profit. There is no necessity for departing from this sense here. The meaning is, ‘that it may benefit the hearers.’ And grieve not the Holy Spirit of God, i. e. by such corrupt language. Under the head of πᾶς λόγος σαπρος the apostle includes, as appears from Col. 3, 8, all irreligious, malicious and impure language, which not only injures others, but grieves the Holy Spirit. As a temple is sacred, and every thing that profanes it is an offence to God, so the indwelling of the Holy Ghost in the people of God is made the reason why we should treat them with reverence, as this apostle teaches when he says, "Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? If any man defile the temple of God, him will God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are." 1 Cor. 3, 16. 17. To pollute, therefore, the souls of believers by suggesting irreligious or impure thoughts to them, is a profanation of the temple of God and an offence to the Holy Ghost. This is one phase of the truth here presented. Another, and the one more immediately intended in this clause is, that the blessed Spirit who condescends to dwell in our own hearts is grieved and offended whenever we thus sin. Thus in 1 Cor. 6, 19, Paul says, "What! know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost, which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?" Reverence, therefore, for the Holy Spirit who dwells in others, and for that same Spirit as dwelling in ourselves, should prevent our ever giving utterance to a corrupting thought. The Spirit, says the apostle, is grieved. Not only is his holiness offended, but his love is wounded. If any thing can add to the guilt of such conduct, it is its ingratitude, for it is by him, as the apostle adds, We are sealed unto the day of redemption. His indwelling certifies that we are the children of God, and secures our final salvation. See 1, 13. To grieve Him, therefore, is to wound him on whom our salvation depends. Though he will not finally withdraw from those in whom he dwells, yet when grieved he withholds the manifestations of his presence. And a disregard for those manifestations is proof that we have not the Spirit of Christ and are none of his.
The apostle next exhorts his readers to put away all malicious and revengeful feelings, to be kind and forgiving. This exhortation is enforced by the consideration of the mercy of God, and the great love of Christ, vs. 31-ch. V. 2.
V. 31. Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamor, and evil speaking, be put away from you. These are intimately related evils. Bitterness, a word transferred from the sphere of sensations to that of the mind. The adjective πικρός means sharp, as an arrow, then pungent to the taste, disagreeable, and then venomous. The poisonous water given to the woman suspected of adultery, Numbers 5, 18, is called the "bitter water." The word bitterness, therefore, in its figurative sense means what is corroding, as grief, or any thing which acts on the mind as poison does on the body, or on the minds of others as venom does on their bodies. The venom of the serpent lies harmless in his fang; but all evil feelings are poison to the subject of them as well as venom to their object. The command, therefore, to lay aside all bitterness, is a command to lay aside every thing which corrodes our own minds or wounds the feelings of others. Under this head are the particulars which follow, viz. wrath; θυμός, (from θύω, to burn,) means the mind itself as the seat of passions and desires—then the mind in the commotion of passion. Ὀργή, anger, is the passion itself, i. e. the manifestation of θυμός, as clamor and evil speaking are the outward expression of anger. The context shows that βλασφημία is neither blasphemy as directed against God, nor merely slander as directed against men; but any form of speech springing from anger, and adapted either to wound or to injure others. With all malice. Κακία is a general term for badness or depravity of any kind. Here the context shows that it means malevolence, the desire to injure. We are to lay aside not only wrath and anger but all other forms of malevolent feeling.
V. 32. Exhortation to the opposite virtues. We are required to be χρηστοί. The word properly means useful; then disposed to do good. Thus God is said to be χρηστός, kind or benignant, to the unthankful and the evil, Luke 6, 35. Tender-hearted, εὔσπλαγχνοι, which in the parallel passage, Col. 3, 12, is expressed by "bowels of compassion." That is, pity, compassion towards the suffering. Forgiving one another, χαριζόμενοι ἑαυτοῖς. The verb means to give as a matter of favour, then to forgive, to pardon freely. Even as, i. e. because God in Christ hath freely forgiven you. This is the motive which should constrain us to forgive others. God’s forgiveness towards us is free; it precedes even our repentance and is the cause of it. It is exercised notwithstanding the number, the enormity and the long continuance of our transgressions. He forgives us far more than we can ever be called upon to. forgive others. God forgives us in Christ. Out of Christ he is, in virtue of his holiness and justice, a consuming fire; but in him, he is long-suffering, abundant in mercy, and ready to forgive.
Vs. 1. 2. As God has placed us under so great obligation, "be ye, therefore, imitators of God." The exhortation is enlarged. We are not only to imitate God in being forgiving, but also as becomes dear children, by walking in love. As God is love, and as we by regeneration and adoption are his children, we are bound to exercise love habitually. Our whole walk should be characterized by it. As Christ also hath loved us. This is the reason why we should love one another. We should be like Christ, which is being like God, for Christ is God. The apostle makes no distinction between our being the objects of God’s love and our being the objects of the love of Christ. We are to be imitators of God in love, for Christ hath loved us. And given himself for us. Here as elsewhere the great evidence of divine love is the death of Christ. See ver. 25. ch. 3, 19. John 15, 13. "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends." Gal. 2, 20, "Who loved me and gave himself for me." 1 John 3, 16, "Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren." Christ’s death was for us as a sacrifice, and therefore, from the nature of the transaction, in our place. Whether the idea of substitution be expressed by ὑπὲρ ἡμῶν depends on the context rather than on the force of the preposition. To die for any one, may mean either for his benefit or in his stead, as the connection demands. Christ gave himself, as an offering and a sacrifice, προσφορὰν καὶ θυσίαν; the latter term explains the former. Any thing presented to God was a προσφορά, but θυσία was something slain. The addition of that term, therefore, determines the nature of the offering. This is elsewhere determined by the nature of the thing offered, as in Heb. 10, 10, "the offering of the body of Christ;" or, "himself," Heb. 9, 14. 25; by the effects ascribed to it, viz. expiation of guilt and the propitiation of God, which are the appropriate effects of a sin-offering; see Heb. 2, 17; 10, 10. 14; Rom. 3, 25; 5, 9. 10: by explanatory expressions, "the one offering of Christ" is declared to be μίαν ὑπὲρ ἁμαρτιῶν θυσίαν, Heb. 10, 12; "a sacrifice for sin," and προσφορὰ περὶ ἁμαρτίας, Heb. 10, 18; ἀντίλυτρον, and λύτρον ἀντὶ πολλῶν, as in 1 Tim. 2, 6. Matt. 20, 28; it is called a propitiation, Rom. 3, 25, as well as a ransom. Christ himself, therefore, is called the Lamb of God who bore our sins; his blood is the object of faith or ground of confidence, by which, as the blood of a sacrifice, we are redeemed, 1 Pet. 1, 18. 19. He saves us as a priest does, i. e. by a sacrifice. Every victim ever slain on Pagan altars was a declaration of the necessity for such a sacrifice; all the blood shed on Jewish altars was a prophecy and promise of propitiation by the blood of Christ; and the whole New Testament is the record of the Son of God offering himself up as a sacrifice for the sins of the world. This, according to the faith of the church universal, is the sum of the Gospel—the incarnation and death of the eternal Son of God as a propitiation for sin. There can, therefore, be no doubt as to the sense in which the apostle here declares Christ to be an offering and a sacrifice.
There is some doubt as to the construction of the words, "to God." They may be connected with what precedes, "He gave himself as a sacrifice to God;" or with the following clause, "For a sweet savour to God," i. e. acceptable to him. The sense of the whole would then be, ‘He gave himself, παρέδωκεν ἑαυτὸν, (unto death, εἰς θάνατον,) an offering and sacrifice well pleasing to God.’ The reasons in favour of this construction are—1. That παραδιδόναι means properly to deliver up to the power of any one, and is not the suitable or common term to express the idea of presenting as a sacrifice. The word almost always used in such cases is προσφέρειν, to bring near to, to offer. 2. With Paul the favourite construction of παραδιδόναι is with εἰς and not with the dative. 3. In Hebrew, from which the phrase εἰς ὀσμὴν εὐωδίας here used is borrowed, the expression is רֵיחַ־נִיחֹחַ לַיהוָה, (a sweet smelling savour to Jehovah), which the Septuagint render, ὀσμὴ εὐωδίας τῷ Κυρίῳ. It is not probable in using so familiar a scriptural phrase Paul would depart from the common construction. The Hebrew phrase properly means a savour of rest; that is, one which composes, pacifies, or pleases. The last is what the Greek expresses, and therefore the equivalent expression is εὐάρεστον τῷ Θεῷ, well pleasing to God. Rom. 12, 1. Phil. 4, 18. It was in the exercise of the highest conceivable love, which ought to influence all our conduct, that Christ delivered himself unto death, an offering and sacrifice well pleasing unto God.
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