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SPECIFIC EXHORTATIONS, VS. 3-20.—RELATIVE DUTIES OF HUSBANDS AND WIVES, vs. 21-33.
SECTION I.—Vs. 3-20.
3. But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not be once named among you, as becometh saints;
4. neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting, which are not convenient: but rather giving of thanks.
5. For this ye know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.
6. Let no man deceive you with vain words: for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience.
7. Be not ye therefore partakers with them.
8. For ye were sometime darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light;
9. (for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, and righteousness, and truth;)
10. proving what is acceptable unto the Lord.
11. And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them.
12. For it is a shame even to speak of those things which are done of them in secret.
13. But all things that are reproved, are made manifest by the light: for whatsoever doth make manifest is light.
14. Wherefore he saith, Awake, thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light.
15. See that ye walk circumspectly; not as fools, but as wise,
16. redeeming the time, because the days are evil.
17. Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is.
18. And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit;
19. speaking to yourselves in psalms, and hymns, and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord;
20. giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
It becomes saints to avoid not only the sins of uncleanness and covetousness, but also all impropriety of conduct and frivolity of language, vs. 3-4. Because uncleanness and covetousness not only exclude from heaven, but, whatever errorists may say, bring down the wrath of God, vs. 5-6. Christians, therefore, should not participate in those sins, seeing they have been divinely enlightened and made the recipients of that light whose fruits are goodness, righteousness and truth. They are bound to exemplify this in their conduct, avoiding and reproving the deeds of darkness, vs. 7-10. Those deeds are too shameful to be named; still they may be corrected by the power of that light which it is the prerogative of believers to disseminate. Therefore the Scriptures speak of the light which flows from Christ as reaching even to the dead, vs. 12-14. Christians therefore should be wise, making the most of every occasion for good, in the midst of the evils by which they are surrounded, vs. 13-16. They should seek exhilaration not from wine, but from the Holy Spirit, and give expression to their gladness in psalms and hymns, praising and thanking God through Jesus Christ, vs. 17-20.
V. 3. But fornication and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not be once named among you, as becometh saints.
In the preceding section the apostle had spoken of sins against our neighbour; here from v. 3 to v. 20 he dwells principally on sins against ourselves. Not only fornication, but every thing of the same nature, or that leads to it, is to be avoided—and not only avoided, but not even named among believers. The inconsistency of all such sins with the character of Christians, as saints, men selected from the world and consecrated to God, is such as should forbid the very mention of them in a Christian society. With the sins of uncleanness the apostle here, as in the preceding chapter, v. 19, connects πλεονεξία, covetousness. The word is to be taken in its ordinary sense, as there is nothing in the context to justify any departure from it. The assumption that sins of sensuality are alone mentioned in this and the following verse, leads to very forced interpretations of several of the terms employed.
V. 4. Neither filthiness. The word αἰσχρότης, is not simply obscenity, but whatever is morally hateful. The adjective αἰσχρος means deformed, revolting, what excites disgust, physical or moral. It is the opposite of καλός, which means both beautiful and good; and hence τὸ καλόν καὶ τὸ αἰσχρόν, means virtue and vice, The substantive is equally comprehensive, and includes whatever is vile or disgusting in speech or conduct. Lesser evils are expressed by the words μωρολογία and εὐτραπελία, foolish talking and jesting. The former means such talk as is characteristic of fools, i. e. frivolous and senseless. The latter, according to its etymology and early usage, means urbanity, politeness. Naturally enough however the word came to have a bad sense, as the adjective εὐτράπελος, what turns easily, as the wind, when applied to language or speech, means not only adroit, skilful, agreeable, witty, but also flippant, satirical, scurrilous. Hence the substantive is used for jesting and scurrility. The former sense is best suited to this passage, because it is connected with foolish talking, and because the apostle says of both simply that they are not convenient, not becoming or suitable. This is too mild a form of expression to be used either of αἰσχρότης (filthiness) or of εὐτραπελία in the worse sense of those terms. Paul says, these things (foolish talking and jesting) do not become Christians; οὐκ ἀνήκοντα, what does not pertain to any one, or, to his office. Foolish talking and jesting are not the ways in which Christian cheerfulness should express itself, but rather giving of thanks. Religion is the source of joy and gladness, but its joy is expressed in a religious way, in thanksgiving and praise.
V. 5. The apostle reverts to what he said in v. 3. and enforces the exhortation there given. "For this ye know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God." The form of expression is peculiar, ἴστε1616The common text has ἐστε, but the evidence in favour of ἴστε is so strong that it is adopted by all recent editors. γινώσκοντες, ye know knowing. Many refer this to the familiar Hebrew idiom, in which the infinitive and finite tense of a verb are thus joined, which in Greek and English is imitated by uniting the participle and verb; as "dying thou shalt die," "multiplying I will multiply," "blessing I will bless," &c. But in all these cases the infinitive and finite tense are different forms of the same verb. Here we have different words. The preferable interpretation is to refer ἴστε to what precedes in v. 3, and γινώσκοντες to what follows: ‘This ye know, viz., that such vices should not be named among you, knowing that no one who indulges in them, &c.’
Covetous man who is an idolater. The words ὅς ἐστιν εἰδωλολάτρης are by many referred to all the preceding nouns, so that the fornicator, the unclean person, and the covetous man, are all alike declared to be idolaters. This is possible so far as the grammatical construction is concerned; but it is not natural, and not consistent with the parallel passage in Col. 3, 5, where the apostle singles out covetousness from a list of sins, and says, ‘It is idolatry.’ This too has its foundation both in nature and in Scripture. The analogy between this supreme love of riches, this service of Mammon and idolatry, is more obvious and more distinctly recognized in Scripture than between idolatry and any other of the sins mentioned. It is well that this should be understood, that men should know, that the most common of all sins, is the most heinous in the sight of God. For idolatry, which consists in putting the creature in the place of God, is every where in his word denounced as the greatest of all sins in his sight. The fact that it is compatible with outward decorum and with the respect of men, does not alter its nature. It is the permanent and controlling principle of an irreligious heart and life, turning the soul away from God. There is no cure for this destructive love of money, but using it for other than selfish purposes. Riches, therefore, must ruin their possessor, unless he employs them for the good of others and for the glory of God.
It is of the covetous man no less than of the fornicator, the apostle says, he has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ. That is, in that kingdom which Christ came to establish—which consists of all the redeemed, washed in his blood, sanctified by his Spirit, and made perfectly blessed in the full enjoyment of God to all eternity. This kingdom is sometimes called the kingdom of Christ, and sometimes the kingdom of God; for where Christ reigns, God reigns. Here it is designated the βασιλείᾳ τοῦ Χριστοῦ καὶ Θεοῦ, that is, of him who is at once Χριστός and Θεός; Christ and God. This is certainly the most natural interpretation. As every one admits that τῷ Θεῷ καὶ πατρί means "to him who is at once God and Father." There is no reason why the same rule should not be applied in this case. Compare Titus 2, 13. This view of the passage, which makes it a direct assertion of the divinity of our Lord, is strenuously insisted upon by some of the most eminent of modern interpreters, as Harless and Rückert, the one orthodox and the other rationalistic. Others, however, say that Christ here designates the Redeemer, and God, the divine Being; and that the kingdom is called not only the kingdom of Christ, but also the kingdom of God. This is the view more commonly adopted, though in violation of a general rule of grammar, the article being omitted before Θεοῦ. If, in Titus 2, 13, ἐπιφάνειαν τῆς δόξης τοῦ μεγάλου Θεοῦ καὶ σωτῆρος ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ, means that Jesus Christ is at once the great God and our Saviour, and Winer admits (Gram. p. 148) that it is for doctrinal reasons only he dissents from that interpretation; then there can be no reasonable doubt in the present case, where the form of expression is so similar, the writer being the same, that the idea is the same. If it were a rare or uncertain thing for Paul to recognize Christ as God, it would be wrong to press rules of grammar to make him teach that doctrine. But since every page almost of his epistles teems with evidence that Christ was his God, it is wrong to depart from those rules in order to prevent his teaching it.
V. 6. It is not only among the heathen, but among the mass of men in all ages and nations, a common thing to extenuate the particular sins to which the apostle here refers. It is urged that they have their origin in the very constitution of our nature; that they are not malignant; that they may co-exist with amiable tempers; and that they are not hurtful to others, that no one is the worse for them if no one knows them, &c. Paul, therefore, cautions his readers in every age of the church, not to be deceived by such vain words; assuring them that for these things (for fornication and covetousness), the wrath of God cometh on the children of disobedience. With vain words, κενοῖς λόγοις. Κενός means empty. Κενοὶ λόγοι, therefore, are empty words; words which contain no truth, and are therefore both false and fallacious, as those will find who trust to them. The wrath of God. This expression is a fearful one, because the wrath of man is the disposition to inflict evil, limited by man’s feebleness; whereas the wrath of God is the determination to punish in a being without limit either as to his presence or power. This wrath, the apostle says, cometh on the children of disobedience. The present is either for the certain future, ‘will assuredly come;’ or it has its proper force. The wrath of God against these sins is now manifested in his dealings with those who commit them. He withdraws from them his Spirit, and finally gives them up to a reprobate mind. On the phrase "children of disobedience," see ch. 2, 2.
V. 7. Such being the determination of God to punish the unclean and the covetous, the apostle says, "Be ye not therefore partakers with them." That is, be not their associates in these sins, which of necessity would expose you to the penalty threatened against them.
V. 8. This is enforced by a reference to their conversion from a previous state of sin and misery to one of holiness and blessedness. For ye were sometime darkness. As light stands for knowledge, and as knowledge, in the scriptural sense of the word, produces holiness, and holiness happiness; so darkness stands for ignorance, such ignorance as inevitably produces sin, and sin misery. Therefore, the expression, "ye were darkness," means, ye were ignorant, polluted, and wretched. But now ye are light in the Lord, i. e. in virtue of union with the Lord, ye are enlightened, sanctified, and blessed. Walk as children of the light, i. e. as the children of holiness and truth. " Children of light," means enlightened; as ‘children of famine,’ means the ‘famished;’ see ch. 2, 2. The exhortation is that they should walk in a way consistent with their character as men illuminated and sanctified by their union with the Lord Jesus.
V. 9. For the fruit of light,1717The common text has here πνεύματος instead of φωτός. The latter reading is now universally adopted as the correct one on the authority not only of the MSS. but of the context. i. e. the fruit or effect of divine illumination is in all, i. e. consists in all the forms of goodness, righteousness, and truth. Goodness, ἀγαθωσύνῃ, is that which makes a man ἀγαθός, good; and righteousness, δικαιοσύνη, is that which makes a man δίκαιος, righteous. These Greek words differ very much as the corresponding English terms do. Goodness is benevolence and beneficence; righteousness is adherence to the rule of right. Yet both are used for moral excellence in general. The evil and the good, included all classes of the vicious and the virtuous. Good works are works of any kind which are morally excellent. When however the words are contrasted as in Rom. 5, 7, or distinguished as in Rom. 7, 12, good means benevolent or beneficent; and righteous, just or upright. Goodness is that quality which adapts a thing to the end for which it was designed, and renders it serviceable. Hence we speak of a good tree, of good soil, as well as of a good man. Righteousness can properly be predicated only of persons or of what is susceptible of moral character; as it means conformity to law; or if predicated of the law itself, it means conformity to the nature of God, the ultimate standard of rectitude. Truth, here means religious or moral truth, or religion itself. The fruits of light, therefore, are all the forms of piety and virtue.
V. 10. Verse 9 is a parenthesis, as the 10th verse is grammatically connected with the 8th. "Walk as children of the light, proving, &c.," περιπατεῖτε—δοκιμάζοντες. Δοκιμάζειν is to try, to put to the test, to examine; then to judge or estimate; and then to approve. Thus it is said, "The fire shall try every man’s work;" God is said "To try the heart;" we are said "To be renewed so as to prove the will of God," Rom. 12, 2, that is, to examine and determine what the will of God is. And so in this passage believers are required to walk as children of light, examining and determining what is acceptable to the Lord. They are to regulate their conduct by a regard to what is well pleasing to Him. That is the ultimate standard of judging whether any thing is right or wrong, worthy or unworthy of those who have been enlightened from above.
The word LORD is in the New Testament so predominantly used to designate the Lord Jesus Christ, that it is always to be referred to him unless the context forbids it. Here the context so far from forbidding, requires such reference. For in the former part of the sentence Lord evidently designates Christ. "Ye are light in the Lord, therefore, walk as children of the light, proving what is acceptable to the Lord." This, therefore, is one of the numerous passages in the New Testament, in which Christ is recognized as the Lord of the conscience, whose will is to us the ultimate standard of right and wrong, and to whom we are responsible for all our inward and outward acts. It is thus that the sacred writers show that Christ was their God, in whose presence they constantly lived, whose favour they constantly sought, and on whom all their religious affections terminated. He was not merely the God of their theology, but of their religion.
V. 11. The apostle having in the previous verse insisted on the duty of Christians of so walking as to show by their works that they were the subjects of divine illumination, adds here a statement of their duty in reference to the sins of those still in darkness. Those sins he calls "the unfruitful works of darkness." By unfruitful is meant not merely barren or worthless, but positively evil. For in a moral subject the negation of good is evil. Works of darkness are those works which spring from darkness, i. e. from ignorance of God; as "works of light" are those works which light or divine knowledge produces.
The duty of Christians in reference to the works of darkness is twofold; first, to have no communion with them; and secondly, to reprove them. The former is expressed by the words μὴ συγκοινωνεῖτε, have not fellowship with them. Those who have things in common; who are congenial; who have the same views, feelings, and interests; and who therefore delight in each other’s society, are said to be in fellowship. In this sense believers have fellowship with God and with each other. So we are said to have fellowship in any thing which we delight in and partake of. To have fellowship with the works of darkness, therefore, is to delight in them and to participate in them. All such association is forbidden as inconsistent with the character of the children of light. Our second duty is to reprove them. Ἐλέγχεινis not simply to reprove in the sense of admonishing or rebuking. It means to convince by evidence. It expresses the effect of illumination by which the true nature of any thing is revealed. When the Spirit is said to reprove men of sin, it means that he sheds such light upon their sins as to reveal their true character, and to produce the consequent consciousness of guilt and pollution. In Paul says the effect of intelligible preaching of the Gospel is conviction—which is explained by saying "the secrets of the heart are revealed." The duty, therefore, here enjoined is to shed light on these works of darkness; to exhibit them in their true nature as vile and destructive. By this method they are corrected; as is more fully taught in the following verses. The ethics as well as the theology of the Bible are founded on the principle, that knowledge and holiness, ignorance and sin, are inseparable. If you impart knowledge you secure holiness; and if you render ignorant you deprave. This of course is not true of secular knowledge—i. e. of the knowledge of other than religious subjects; nor is it true of mere speculative knowledge of religious truth. It is true only of that knowledge which the Scriptures call spiritual discernment. Of that knowledge, however, intellectual cognition is an essential element. And so far as human agency in the production of the conviction of sin is concerned, it is limited to holding forth the word of life; or letting the light of divine truth shine into the darkened minds of men, and upon their evil deeds.
V. 12. These works of darkness should be thus reproved, "for it is a shame even to speak of those things which are done of them in secret." There are two reasons why sins are called works of darkness. The first and principal one is, as before remarked, because they spring from darkness or ignorance of God; and the second is, because they are committed in darkness. They shun the light. The exceeding turpitude of these sins the apostle gives as the reason why they should be reproved.
V. 13. Vile however as those sins are, they are capable of being corrected. They are not beyond cure. Reprove them. Let in the light of divine truth upon them, and they will be corrected or healed. For the truth is divinely efficacious. It is the organon of God; that through which he exerts his power in the sanctification and salvation of men. Such seems to be the general meaning of this difficult verse.
It is connected with the preceding verse, and is designed to enforce the command, ἐλέγχετε, reprove. ‘Reprove the things done in secret by the wicked—for though they are too bad to be even named, yet being reproved, they are made manifest by the light, and thereby corrected, for every thing made manifest, i. e. revealed in its true nature by divine light, becomes light; that is, is reformed.’ This interpretation gives a simple and consistent sense, assumes no unusual signification of the terms employed, nor any forced construction, and is suited to the context. It supposes—1. That τὰ πάντα ἐλεγχόμενα refers to τὰ κρυφῇ γινόμενα of v. 12. The things done in secret are the all things, which being reproved, are manifested. 2. The words ὑπὸ τοῦ φωτός are not to be connected with ἐλεγχόμενα, as though the sense were, ‘being reproved by the light;’ but with φανεροῦται, so that the sense is, ‘are made manifest by the light.’ This construction is required by the following clause. 3. φανερούμενον, is passive, and not middle with an active sense. The meaning is, ‘Whatever is manifested;’ not ‘whatever makes manifest.’ As the word φανεροῦται just before is passive, it is unnatural to make φανερούμενον active. Besides, the apostle is not speaking of the nature of spiritual light, but of its effects. It illuminates or turns into light all it touches, or wherever it penetrates.
If φανερούμενον be taken as active, as is done by Calvin and many others, and by our translators, the sense would be, ‘Reprove these things; it is your office to do so, for you are light, and light is that which makes manifest.’ This however is not what Paul says. He does not say ‘Reprove evil, for you are light,’ but, ‘Reprove evil, for evil when reproved by light is manifest, and when manifest, it is light,’ that is, it is changed into light, or corrected. In v. 8, he had said, "Ye are light;" so here he says, what is illuminated by the truth becomes light. The sense is the same in both cases. The penetration of spiritual light, or divine truth, carries with it such power, that it illuminates and sanctifies all in whom it dwells. Hence the apostle elsewhere prays that the word of God may dwell in the hearts of believers in all wisdom and spiritual understanding. According to the apostle, the relation between truth and holiness is analogous to that between light and vision. Light cannot create the eye, or give to a blind eye the power of vision. But it is essential to its exercise. Wherever it penetrates, it dissipates darkness and brings every thing into view—and causes it to produce its appropriate effect. So truth cannot regenerate, or impart the principle of spiritual life. But it is essential to all holy exercises. And wherever the truth penetrates, it dissipates the clouds of error, and brings every thing to view, so that when spiritually discerned it produces its proper effect on the soul. Truth being thus essential, it is the duty of Christians to bring it to bear upon all those who are ignorant and on all the works of darkness.
V. 14. As light is thus efficacious, and as it is accessible, or may be obtained, therefore the Scriptures call even upon the sleeping and the dead to arise and meet its life-giving beams. Διὸ λέγει, scil. ἡ γραφή. As this formula of quotation is never used in the New Testament except when citations are made from the Old Testament, it cannot properly be assumed that the apostle here quotes some Christian hymn with which the believers in Ephesus were familiar; or some apocryphal book; or some inspired book no longer extant. We must understand him either as referring to many exhortations of the Old Testament Scriptures, the substance of which he condenses in the few words here used; or as giving the spirit of some one passage, though not its words. Both these methods of explanation may be sustained by appeal to similar passages. The apostles in quoting the Old Testament sometimes combined several passages in the same quotation—and sometimes give as the teaching of the prophets what is nowhere taught or asserted in express terms, but is abundantly or clearly implied in what they say. At other times again, the reference is obviously to some one passage, and yet neither the Hebrew nor Septuagint is accurately followed, but the general idea is reproduced. We without the authority and divine guidance of the apostles deal in the same way with the word of God, of which almost every sermon would furnish examples. It is generally assumed that Paul here refers to Is. 60, 1, "Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee." Or, as De Wette renders it; "Auf, werde licht, denn es kommt dein Licht, und die Herrlichkeit Jehovah’s gehet iiber dir auf." Up, become light; for thy light comes, and the glory of Jehovah riseth over thee. The analogy between this passage and the quotation of the apostle is plain. There are in both—1. The call to those who are asleep or dead to rise. 2. To receive the light. 3. The promise that Jehovah, Lord, or Christ, equivalent terms in the mind of the apostle, would give them light. There can, therefore, be little doubt that it was the language of Isaiah Paul intended in substance to quote. Beza thinks that Is. 26, 19, "Awake and sing, ye that dwell in the dust," &c., is to be included in the reference; and others join Is. 9, 2, "The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light; they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined." It is true that in these, as well as in other passages, the power of light, i. e. of divine truth, its advent in the person of Christ, and the call to those who are in darkness to accept it, are included. But the probability is that Is. 60, 1, was the passage most distinctly in the apostle’s
Those asleep and the dead are in darkness, and therefore those involved in spiritual darkness are addressed as sleeping. The light which comes from Christ has power to reach even the dead—as our Lord, in the use of another figure, says, "The hour is coming, and now is, that the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God, and they that hear shall live," John 5, 25. This does not mean that the dead must be revived before they hear the voice of the Son of God, but his voice causes them to hear and live. So the passage before us does not mean that those asleep must arise from the dead and come to Christ for light; but that the light which Christ sheds around him, has power to awake the sleeping dead. Thus the passage is a confirmation of what is said in the preceding verse, viz., that every thing made manifest by the light, is light.
V. 15. If this verse be considered as connected inferentially by οὖν with the preceding, then the association of ideas is: ‘If believers are bound to dispel the darkness from the hearts and lives of others, how careful should they be not to be dark themselves, i. e. they should walk as wise men.’ This however seems forced. The exhortation contained in this and the following verse is most naturally connected with that contained in verses 10 and 11. Believers as children of light are required to have no fellowship with the works of darkness, but rather to reprove them; see therefore, i. e. take heed therefore, πῶς ἀκριβῶς περιπατεῖτε, that ye walk circumspectly. Πῶς, however, does not mean that, though often used where ὅτι or ἵνα might be employed. It here as elsewhere means how, in what manner. "See in what manner ye render your deportment accurate." Ἀκριβῶς περιπατεῖν is to walk strictly by rule, so as not to deviate by a hair’s breadth. Not as unwise, but as wise. Paul often uses the word σοφία for divine truth. The σοφοί are those who possess this truth, which he had before called light, and the ἄσοφοι are those who have it not. So that wise and unwise are here equivalent to the enlightened and those in darkness. His exhortation, therefore, is that believers should carefully deport themselves not as the heathen and unrenewed, who have not the divine light of which he had been speaking, but as those who are enlightened from above and are therefore wise.
V. 16. Ἐξαγοραζόμενοι τὸν καιρόν, redeeming the time. This is one manifestation of wisdom, one method in which their Christian character as the children of light should be exhibited. The words have been variously explained:—1. Making use of, availing yourselves of the occasion for doing good, not allowing it to pass unimproved. 2. Buying back the time, redeeming it, as it were, from Satan or from the world. 3. Making the most of time, i. e. using it to the best advantage. 4. Adapting yourselves to the occasion, &c. The decision between these different views depends partly on the sense to be given to ἐξαγοραζόμενοι, and partly on the question whether καιρός is to be taken in its proper sense, opportunity, appropriate time; or in the general sense of χρόνος, time. The words αγοράζειν and ἐξαγοράζειν, have in common the idea of acquiring by purchase. The latter in virtue of the force of the ἐκ properly means to purchase back, or tc make free by purchase. But it is also used in the sense of the simple verb, as in Daniel 2, 8, whence the expression in the text is probably derived. There, according to the Septuagint, the king said to the Chaldeans, who declined to interpret his dream until they knew what it was, οἶδα ἐγὼ ὅτι καιρὸν ὑμεῖς ἐξαγοράζετε, "I know you wish to gain time." This sense of the verb suits the passage before us. Then if καιρός means here what it does in almost every other passage, where it occurs in the New Testament, the most natural interpretation of the clause is, "availing yourselves of the occasion," i. e. improving every opportunity for good. If καιρός be taken for χρόνος, which is barely admissible, the sense would be, " making the most of time," i. e. rescuing it from waste or abuse. Both of these interpretations are good and suited to the following clause, because the days are evil. Πονηρός, evil, may be taken either in a physical or moral sense. The patriarch said, "Few and evil have the days of the years of my life been;" Gen. 47, 9. The moral sense of the word, however, is better suited to the context. Evil days, mean days in which sin abounds. It is parallel to the expressions, "evil generation," Matt. 12, 39; and "evil world," Gal. 1, 4. Because sin abounds is a good reason why Christians should seize upon every opportunity to do good; and also why they should make the most of time. So that this clause suits either of the interpretations of the first part of the verse. That καιρός properly and commonly means opportunity, or suitable time, is a strong reason for preferring the former of the two interpretations mentioned. The same exhortation and in the same connection is found in Col. 4, 5. Here the apostle says, "See that ye walk as wise men, redeeming the time;" there, "Walk in wisdom, redeeming the time." So that this right use of time, or this seizing on every opportunity for doing good, is in both places represented as the evidence and effect of wisdom, i. e. of divine truth, which is the wisdom of God, which he has revealed, 1 Cor. 2, 6-13.
V. 17. Therefore, i. e. either because the days are evil; or, because ye are bound to walk as wise men. The latter mode of connection is to be preferred, because the reference is to the main idea of the preceding verses 15 and 16, and not to a subordinate clause. Be ye not, ἄφρονες, senseless, unthinking, trifling. Comp. Luke 11, 40, "Ye fools (ye unthinking ones), did not he that made that which is without, make that which is within also;" also Luke 12, 20; 1 Cor. 15, 36; 2 Cor. 11, 16, &c. In all these cases ἄφρων means one who does not make a right use of his understanding; who does not see things in their true light, or estimate them according to their relative importance. It is here opposed to συνιέντες. ‘Be ye not senseless, undiscriminating between what is true and false, right and wrong, important and unimportant, but understanding, i. e. discerning what the will of the Lord is.’ That is, seeing things as he sees them, and making his will or judgment the standard of yours, and the rule of your conduct. The will of the Lord is the will of Christ. That Lord here means Christ, is plain not only from the general usage of the New Testament, so often referred to, but also from the constant use of the word in this chapter as a designation of the Redeemer. Here again, therefore, the divinity of Christ is seen to be a practical doctrine entering into the daily religious life of the believer. His will is the rule of truth and duty.
V. 18. And (especially) be not drunk with wine. This is an ἀφρόσυνη, a want of sense, especially inconsistent with the intelligence of the true believer. The man who has a right discernment will not seek refreshment or excitement from wine, but from the Holy Spirit. Therefore the apostle adds, but be filled with the Spirit. In drunkenness, he says, there is ἀσωτία, revelry, debauchery, riot, whatever tends to destruction; for the word is derived from ἄσωτος, which means, what cannot be saved, one given up to a destructive course of life. Comp. Tit. 1, 6. 1 Pet. 4, 4. Men are said to be filled with wine when completely under its influence; so they are said to be filled with the Spirit, when he controls all their thoughts, feelings, words, and actions. The expression is a common one in Scripture. Of our Lord himself it was said, "He was full of the Holy Ghost," Luke 4, 1; so of Stephen that "he was full of faith and of the Holy Ghost," Acts 6, 5; and of Barnabas, Acts 11, 24, &c. To the Christian, therefore, the source of strength and joy is not wine, but the blessed Spirit of God. And as drunkenness produces rioting and debauchery, so the Holy Spirit produces a joy which expresses itself in psalms, and hymns, and spiritual songs. Quid gignit ebrietas? dissolutam proterviam, ut quasi excusso freno indecenter homines exultent. Quid spiritualis laetitia, quum ea perfusi sumus? hymnos, psalmos, laudes Dei, gratiarum actiones. Hi sunt vere jucundi fructus et delectabiles. CALVIN.
V. 19. Λαλοῦντες ἑαυτοῖς (i. e. ἀλλήλοις, as in 4, 32, and elsewhere), speaking to each other, not to yourselves. Compare Col. 3, 16, where it is, διδάσκοντες καὶ νουθετοῦντες ἑαυτούς, teaching and admonishing one another. "Speaking to each other," signifies the interchange of thoughts and feelings expressed in the psalms and hymns employed. This is supposed to refer to responsive singing, in the private assemblies and public worship of Christians, to which the well-known passage of Pliny: Carmen Christo quasi Deo dicunt secum invicem, seems also to refer. Whether the passage refers to the responsive method of singing or not, which is somewhat doubtful from the parallel passage in Colossians (where Paul speaks of their teaching one another), it at least proves that singing was from the beginning a part of Christian worship, and that not only psalms but hymns also were employed.
The early usage of the words ψαλμός, ὕμνος, ῷδή, appears to have been as loose as that of the corresponding English terms, psalm, hymn, song, is with us. A psalm was a hymn, and a hymn a song. Still there was a distinction between them as there is still. A psalm was, agreeably to the etymology of the word ψαλμός, a song designed to be sung with the accompaniment of instrumental music. 2. It was one of the sacred poems contained in the book of Psalms, as in Acts 13, 33, ἐν τῷ ψαλμῳ τῷ δευτέρῳ, in the second Psalm; and Acts 1, 20, ἐν βίβλῳ ψαλμῶν, in the book of Psalms. 3. Any sacred poem formed on the model of the Old Testament Psalms, as in 1 Cor. 14, 26, where ψαλμόν appears to mean such a song given by inspiration, and not one of the psalms of David. A Hymn was a song of praise to God; a divine song. ARRIAN, Exped. Alex. 4, ὔμνοι μὲν ἐς τοὺς θεοὺς ποιοῦνται, ἔπαινοι δὲ ἐς ἀνθρώπους. AMMON. de differ. vocbl. ὁ μὲν γὰρ ὕμνος ἔστι θεῶν, τὸ δὲ ἐγκώμιον τῶν ἀνθρώπων. PHAVOR. ὕμνος· ἡ πρὸς θεὸν ᾠδή. Such being the general meaning of the word, Josephus uses it of those Psalms which were songs of praise to God: ὁ Δαυΐδος ᾠδὰς εἰς τὸν Θεὸν καὶ ὕμνους συνετάξατο, Ant. 7. 12, 3. Psalms and hymns then, as now, were religious songs; ὠδαί were religious or secular, and therefore those here intended are described as spiritual. This may mean either inspired, i. e. derived from the Spirit; or expressing spiritual thoughts and feelings. This latter is the more probable; as not only inspired men are said to be filled with the Spirit, but all those who in their ordinary thoughts and feelings are governed by the Holy Ghost.
Singing and making melody in your hearts to the Lord. If this clause be considered as coordinate with the preceding, then it refers to a different kind of singing. The former expressed by λαλοῦντες ἑαυτοῖς is singing audibly, the latter by ᾄδοντες ἐν τῇ καρδίᾳ is the music of the heart, the rhythm of the affections not clothed in words. In favour of this view, which is adopted by several of the best modern commentators, as Harless, Rückert, Olshausen, and Meyer, it is urged that the apostle says, ἐν τῇ καρδίᾳ ὑμῶν and not simply ἐκ καρδίας, from the heart; and that the pronoun ὑμῶν, your, would be unnecessary, had he meant only that the singing was to be cordial. Besides, the singing here referred to is that of those filled with the Spirit, and therefore the caution that it should not be a mere lip service is out of place. Notwithstanding these reasons, the great majority of commentators make this clause subordinate to the preceding and descriptive of the kind of singing required, "You are to commence with each in Psalms and Hymns, singing in your heart." Comp. Rom. 1, 9, where the apostle says: ᾧ λατρεύω (not ἐκ πνεύματος but) ἐν τῷ πνεύματί μου, whom I serve in my spirit, and 1 Cor. 14, 15. There is no sufficient reason for departing from the ordinary view of the passage.
ᾄδοντες καὶ ψάλλοντες, singing and making melody, are two forms of expressing the same thing. The latter term is the more comprehensive; as αἴδειν is to make music with the voice; ψάλλειν, to make music in any way; literally, to play on a stringed instrument; then, to sing in concert with such an instrument; then, to sing or chant. See 1 Cor. 14, 15; James 5, 13; Rom. 15, 9.
To the Lord, i. e. to Christ. In the parallel passage: Col. 3, 16, it is to God. In either form the idea is the same. In worshipping Christ we worship God. God in Christ, however, is the definite, special object of Christian worship, to whom the heart when filled with the Spirit instinctively turns. This special worship of Christ is neither inconsistent with the worship of the Father, nor is it ever dissociated from it. The one runs into the other. And
V. 20. Therefore the apostle connects the two; "Be ye filled with the Spirit, singing hymns to Christ, and giving thanks to God even the Father." The Spirit dictates the one as naturally as the other. We are to give thanks always. It is not a duty to be performed once for all, nor merely when new mercies are received; but always, because we are under obligation for blessings temporal and spiritual already received, which calls for perpetual acknowledgment. We are to give thanks for all things; afflictions as well as for our joys, say the ancient commentators. This is not in the text, though Paul, as we learn from other passages, gloried in his afflictions. Here the words are limited by the context, for all our mercies. In the name of the Lord Jesus. The apostles preached in the name of the Lord Jesus; they wrought miracles in his name; believers are commanded to pray in his name; to give thanks in his name, and to do all things in his name. In all these cases the general idea is that expressed by [Bengel: ut perinde sit, ac si Christus faciat. What we do in the name of Christ we do by his authority, and relying on him for success. Christ gives us access to the Father; we come to God through him; he gives the right to come, and it is on him we depend for acceptance when we come. Τῷ Θεῷ καὶ πατρί, God even the Father, i. e. to God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. This is the covenant title of God under the new dispensation, and presents the only ground on which he can be approached as our Father.
SECTION II.—Vs. 17-33.
21. Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God.
22. Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord.
23. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the Saviour of the body.
24. Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing.
25. Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it;
26. that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word:
27. that he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.
28. So ought men to love their wives, as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself.
29. For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church:
30. for we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones.
31. For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh.
32. This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church.
33. Nevertheless, let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself: and the wife see that she reverence her husband.
The apostle enjoins mutual obedience as a Christian duty, v. 21. Under this head he treats of the relative duties of husbands and wives, parents and children, masters and servants. The remainder of this chapter is devoted to the duties of husbands and wives. As the conjugal relation is analogous to that which Christ sustains to the church, the one serves to illustrate the others. The apostle, therefore, combines the two subjects throughout the paragraph.
Wives should be subject to their husbands as the church is to Christ. 1. The motive to this subject is a regard to the Lord, v. 22. 2. The ground of it is, that the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ is the head of the church, v. 23. 3. This subjection is not confined to any one sphere, but extends to all, v. 24.
Husbands should love their wives. 1. The measure of this love is Christ’s love for the church for whose redemption he died, vs. 25-27. 2. The ground of love is in both cases the same—the wife is flesh of her husband’s flesh, and bone of his bone. So the church is flesh of Christ’s flesh and bone of his bone. Husband and wife are one flesh; so are Christ and the church. What is true of the one is true of the other, vs. 29-31. 3. The union between Christ and his church is indeed of a higher order than that between husband and wife—nevertheless the analogy between. the two cases is such as to render it obligatory on the husband to love his wife as being himself, and on the wife to reverence her husband, vs. 32-33.
V. 21. That a new paragraph begins with this verse is generally conceded. First, because the preceding exhortations are evidently brought to a close in v. 20—with the words to God even the Father. And secondly, because the command to be obedient one to another, amplified through this chapter and part of the next, does not naturally cohere with what precedes. This being the case, the participle ὑποτασσόμενοι being obedient, with which this verse begins, cannot be explained by referring it to the verb πληροῦσθε in v. 18. The sense would then be, ‘Be filled with the Spirit—submitting yourselves one to another.’ This construction of the passage for the reasons just stated is rejected by most commentators. Others take the participle for the imperative and render the words, ‘Be subject one to another.’ But this is contrary to the usage of the language. The most common explanation is to connect this verse with the following, ‘Being subject one to another (as ye are bound to be), ye wives be subject to your husbands.’ From the general obligation to obedience follows the special obligation of wives, children, and servants, as explained in what follows.
This command to submit one to another is found in other passages of the New Testament, as in 1 Pet. 5, 5, "All of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility." Rom. 12, 10. Phil. 2. 3. The scriptural doctrine on this subject is that men are not isolated individuals, each one independent of all others. No man liveth for himself and no man dieth for himself. The essential equality of men and their mutual dependence lay the foundation for the obligation of mutual subjection. The apostle however is here speaking of the duties of Christians. It is, therefore, the Christian duty of mutual submission of which this passage treats. It not only forbids pride and all assumption of superiority, but enjoins mutual subjection, the subjection of a part to the whole, and of each one to those of his fellow believers with whom he is specially connected. Every Christian is responsible for his faith and conduct to his brethren in the Lord, because he constitutes with them one body having a common faith and a common life. The independency of one Christian of all others, or of one Christian society of all similar societies, is inconsistent with the relation in which believers stand to each other, and with the express commands of Scripture.
We are to be thus subject one to another ἐν φοβῷ Χριστοῦ.1818The common text reads Θεοῦ, but the authority of the MSS. and versions is so decidedly in favour of Χριστοῦ that it is now universally adopted. This may mean either that the fear of Christ, at whose bar we are to stand in judgment, should constrain us to this mutual subjection; or that the duty should be religiously performed. The motive should be reverence for Christ, a regard for his will and for his glory. It is in this way all social duties, even the most humiliating, are raised into the sphere of religion, and rendered consistent with the highest elevation and liberty. This idea is specially insisted upon by the apostle when he comes to speak of the duty of servants to their masters. It ought not to escape the reader’s notice that the relation in which this and similar passages suppose us to stand to Christ, is such as we can sustain to no other than to a divine person. He to whom we are responsible for all our conduct, and reverence for whom is the great motive to the performance of duty, is God.
V. 22. Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands, as unto the Lord. The general duty of mutual submission includes the specific duty of wives to be subject to their husbands, and this leads the apostle to speak of the relative duties of husbands and wives. And as the marriage relation is analogous to the relation. between Christ and his church, he is thus led to illustrate the one by the other. As the relation is the same, the duties flowing from it are the same; obedience on the part of the wife, and love on the part of the husband. The apostle teaches the nature, the ground, and the extent of the obedience due from the wife to the husband.
As to the nature of it, it is religious. It is ὡς τῷ Κυρίῳ, as to the Lord. The ὡς, as, does not express similarity, as though the obedience of the wife to her husband was to be as devout and as unconditional as that which she is bound to render to the Lord. But her obedience to her husband is to be regarded as part of her obedience to the Lord. See 6, 5. 6. It terminates on him, and therefore is religious, because determined by religious motives and directed towards the object of the religious affections. This makes the burden light and the yoke easy. For every service which the believer renders to Christ, is rendered with alacrity and joy.
V. 23. But although the obedience of the wife to the husband is of the nature of a religious duty because determined by religious motives, it has in common with all other commands of God, a foundation in nature. The apostle, therefore, says, wives are to be obedient to their husbands, because the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church. The ground of the obligation, therefore, as it exists in nature, is the eminency of the husband; his superiority in those attributes which enable and entitle him to command. Ile is larger, stronger, bolder; has more of those mental and moral qualities which are required in a leader. This is just as plain from history as that iron is heavier than water. The man, therefore, in this aspect, as qualified and entitled to command, is said to be the image and glory of God, 1 Cor. 11, 7; for, as the apostle adds in that connection, the man was not made out of the woman, but the woman out of the man; neither was the man created for the woman, but the woman for the man. This superiority of the man, in the respects mentioned, thus taught in Scripture, founded in nature, and proved by all experience, cannot be denied or disregarded without destroying society and degrading both men and women; making the one effeminate and the other masculine. The superiority of the man, however, is not only consistent with the mutual dependence of the sexes, and their essential equality of nature, and in the kingdom of God, but also with the inferiority of men to women in other qualities than those which entitle to authority. The scriptural doctrine, while it lays the foundation for order in requiring wives to obey their husbands, at the same time exalts the wife to be the companion and ministering angel to the husband. The man, therefore, so far as this particular point is concerned, stands in the same relation to his wife, that Christ does to the church. There is however a relation which Christ bears to his church, which finds no analogy in that of the husband to the wife. Christ is not only the head of the church, but he is its Saviour, καὶ αὐτός ἐστι σωτὴρ τοῦ σώματος. Why the apostle added these words is not easy to determine. Perhaps it was to mark the distinction between the cases otherwise so analogous. Perhaps it was, as many suppose, to suggest to husbands their obligation to provide for the safety and happiness of their wives. Because Christ is the head of the church, he is its Saviour; therefore as the husband is the head of the wife, he should not only rule, but protect and bless.1919Sicuti Christus ecclesiae suae praeest in ejus salutem, ita nihil esso mulieri utilius nec magis salubre, quam ut marito subsit. Perire igitur affectant quae renuunt subjectionem, sub qua salvae esse poterant.—CALVIN. The most probable explanation is, that as the apostle’s design is not merely to teach the nature of the relation between husband and wife, but also that between Christ and the church, the clause in question is added for that purpose, without any bearing on the conjugal relation. This clause is not in apposition with the preceding, but is an independent proposition. Christ is the head of the church; and he is the Saviour of his body.
V. 24. But, ἀλλὰ, i. e. notwithstanding there is this peculiarity in the relation of Christ to the church which has no parallel in the relation of the wife to the husband, ‘nevertheless, as the husband is the head of the wife, let the wife be subject to her husband in every thing, even as the church is subject to Christ her head.’ Our translators give ἀλλὰ here a syllogistic force and render it, therefore, as though it introduced the conclusion from the preceding argument. But this is contrary to the common use of the particle and is unnecessary, as its ordinary meaning gives a good sense.
As verse 22 teaches the nature of the subjection of the wife to her husband, and verse 23 its ground, this verse teaches its extent. She is to be subject ἐν παντί, in every thing. That is, the subjection is not limited to any one sphere or department of the social life, but extends to all. The wife is not subject as to some things, and independent as to others, but she is subject as to all. This of course does not mean that the authority of the husband is unlimited. It teaches its extent, not its degree. It extends over all departments, but is limited in all; first, by the nature of the relation; and secondly, by the higher authority of God. No superior, whether master, parent, husband or magistrate, can make it obligatory on us either to do what God forbids, or not to do what God commands. So long as our allegiance to God is preserved, and obedience to man is made part of our obedience to him, we retain our liberty and our integrity.
V. 25. As the peculiar duty of the wife is submission, the special duty of the husband is love. With regard to this the apostle teaches its measure and its ground. As to its measure it should be analogous to the love which Christ bears to his church. Its ground is the intimate and mysterious union which subsists between a man and his wife.
Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church and gave himself for it. Husbands should love their wives, καθώς, even as, i. e. both because and as. As their relation to their wives is analogous to that of Christ to his church, it imposes the obligation to love them as he loves the church. But Christ so loved the church as to die for it. Husbands, therefore, should be willing to die for their wives. This seems to be the natural import of the passage, and is the interpretation commonly given to it. It has also its foundation in nature. Christ’s love is held up as an example and a rule. His love is indeed elsewhere declared to be infinite. We cannot love as he loved, in any other sense than that in which we can be merciful as our Father in heaven is merciful. Nevertheless, it cannot be doubted that true conjugal love will ever lead the husband to sacrifice himself for his wife.2020The idea that all love, and therefore all holiness, is benevolence, and is proportioned to the capacity of its object, is one of those absurdities into which men inevitably fall when they give themselves up to the guidance of the speculative understanding, and disregard the teachings of the heart and of the conscience. A mother loves her infant, in every true sense of the word love: a hundred fold more than she loves a stranger, though he may be the greatest man who ever lived.
Vs. 26. 27. As the apostle unites with his design of teaching the duties arising from the conjugal relation, the purpose to illustrate the nature of the union between Christ and his church, these verses relate to the latter point and not to the former. They set forth the design of Christ’s death. Its remote design was to gain the church for himself as an object of delight. Its proximate design was to prepare it for that high destiny. These ideas are presented figuratively. The church is regarded as the bride of Christ. This is designed to teach—1. That it is an object of a peculiar and exclusive love. As the love which a bridegroom has for his bride is such as he has for no one else; so the love which Christ has for his church is such as he has for no other order of creatures in the universe, however exalted. 2. As the bride belongs exclusively to her husband, so the church belongs exclusively to Christ. It sustains a relation to him which it sustains to no other being, and in which no other being participates. 3. This relation is not only peculiar and exclusive, but the union between Christ and his church is more intimate than any which subsists between him and any other order of creatures. We are flesh of his flesh, and bone of his bones. 4. The church is the special object of delight to Christ. It is said of Zion, "As the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall thy God rejoice over thee," Is. 62, 5. He is to present it to himself as his own peculiar joy. Such being the high destiny of the church, the proximate end of Christ’s death was to purify, adorn, and render it glorious, that it might be prepared to sit with him on his throne. She is to be as a bride adorned for her husband. These are not imaginations, nor exaggerations, nor empty figures; but simple, scriptural, sanctifying, and saving truths. And what is true of the church collectively, is true of its members severally. Each is the object of Christ’s peculiar love. Each sustains to him this peculiar, exclusive, and intimate relation. Each is the object in which he thus delights, and each is to be made perfectly holy, without spot, and glorious.
Though the general sense of this passage is thus plain, there is no little difficulty attending the interpretation of its details. Christ, it is said, gave himself for the church, ἵνα αὐτὴν ἁγιάσῃ, which Calvin renders, Ut segregaret eam sibi, that he might separate it for himself; which, he says, is done by the remission of sin, and the renewing of the Holy Ghost. Though the verb ἁγιάζειν has this sense, yet as in Paul’s writings it is commonly used to express cleansing from pollution, and as this sense best suits the context, it is generally preferred. The design of Christ’s death was to make his people holy. It accomplishes this end by reconciling them to God, and by securing for them the gift of the Holy Ghost. Thus in Gal. 3, 13. 14, it is said, "Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, that we might receive the promise of the Spirit."
With regard to the next clause, καθαρίσας τῷ λουτρῷ τοῦ ὕδατος, having cleansed (or cleansing) it with the washing of water, we must inquire—1. What is intended by λουτρὸν τοῦ ὕδατος. 2. What is meant by καθαρίσας; and 3. In what relation this clause stands to the preceding. Does "the washing of water" here mean baptism, or a washing which is analogous to a washing with water? The latter interpretation is admissible. The apostle may mean nothing more than a spiritual lustration. In Ez. 16, 9, speaking of Israel, God said, "Then washed I thee with water; yea, I thoroughly washed away thy blood from thee, and I anointed thee with oil." And in 36, 25, " Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean." Also in Heb. 10, 22, it is said, "Let us draw near with a true heart, in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water." In all these cases washing with water is a figurative expression for spiritual purification. Commentators, however, almost without exception understand the expression in the text to refer to baptism. The great majority of them, with Calvin and other of the Reformers, do not even discuss the question. or seem to admit any other interpretation to be possible. The same view is taken by all the modern exegetical writers. This unanimity of opinion is itself almost decisive. Nothing short of a stringent necessity can justify any one in setting forth an interpretation opposed to this common consent of Christians. No such necessity here exists. Baptism is a washing with water. It was the washing with water with which Paul’s readers as Christians were familiar, and which could not fail to occur to them as the washing intended. Besides, nothing more is here attributed to baptism than is attributed to it in many other passages of the word of God. Compare particularly Acts 22, 16, "Arise, be baptized, and wash away thy sins, ἀπόλουσαι τὰς ἁμαρτίας σου." There can be little doubt, therefore, that by "the washing with water," the apostle meant baptism.
As to the meaning of the participle καθαρίσας, there is more doubt. The verb signifies to cleanse either literally, ceremonially, or figuratively. As the Scriptures speak of a twofold purification from sin, one from guilt by expiation, the other from pollution by the Spirit, and as καθαρίζειν is used in reference to both, the question is, which is here intended. Does the apostle speak of pardon, or of sanctification as effected by this washing with water? The word expresses sacrificial purification. Heb. 9, 22. 23. 1 John 1, 7, "The blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanses us from all sin." Heb. 9, 14; comp. Heb. 1, 3, "Having by himself made purification of our sin." In favour of taking it in this sense here, is the fact that baptism is elsewhere connected with the remission of sin; as in Acts 22, 16, and Acts 2, 38, "Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ, for the remission of sins." The meaning of the word, however, depends upon its relation to the preceding clause. Καθαρίσας may be connected with ἁγιάσῃ, and taken in the same tense with it. It then expresses the mode in which Christ cleanses his church. ‘He gave himself for it that he might cleanse it, purifying it by the washing of water.’ In this case, if ἁγιάσῃ expresses moral purification or sanctification, so must καθαρίσας. But if this participle be taken in the past tense, according to its form, then it must express something which precedes sanctification. The meaning would then be, ‘Christ gave himself for the church, that he might sanctify it, having purified it by the washing with water.’2121Participium Graecum καθαρίσας est praeteriti temporis, ac si dicas: Postquam mundarit. Verum quia apud Latinos nullum est tale participium activum, malui tempus negligere, quam vertendo Mundatum pervertere quod erat longe majoris momenti, nempe ut soli Deo relinquatur mundandi officium. In this case καθαρίσας must refer to expiation or sacrificial purification, i. e. to washing away of guilt. The context is in favour of this view, and so is the analogy of Scripture. The Bible always represents remission of sin or the removal of guilt as preceding sanctification. We are pardoned and reconciled to God, in order that we may be made holy. Christ, therefore, having by his blood cleansed his church from guilt, sanctifies or renders it holy. In either view we are said to be cleansed (whether from guilt or from pollution). by baptism. What does this mean? How does baptism in either of these senses wash away sin? The Protestant and scriptural answer to this question is, that baptism cleanses from sin just as the word does. We are said to be saved by the truth, to be begotten by the truth, to be sanctified by the truth. This does not mean—1. That there is any inherent, much less magic, power in the word of God as heard or read to produce these effects. 2. Nor that the word always and every where, when rightly presented, thus sanctifies and saves, so that all who hear are partakers of these benefits. 3. Nor does it mean that the Spirit of God is so tied to the word as never to operate savingly on the heart except in connection with it. For infants may be subjects of regeneration, though incapable of receiving the truth. In like manner when the Scriptures speak of baptism as washing away sin, Acts 22, 16; or as uniting us to Christ, Gal. 3, 27; or as making Christ’s death our death, Rom. 6, 4; Col. 2, 12; or as saving us, 1 Pet. 3, 21; they do not teach-i. That there is any inherent virtue in baptism, or in the administrator, to produce these effects; nor 2. That these effects always attend its right administration; nor 3. That the Spirit is so connected with baptism that it is the only channel through which he communicates the benefits of redemption, so that all the unbaptized perish. These three propositions, all of which Romanism and Ritualism affirm, are contrary to the express declarations of Scripture and to universal experience. Multitudes of the baptized are unholy many of the unbaptized are sanctified and saved.
How then is it true that baptism washes away sin, unites us to Christ, and secures salvation? The answer again is, that this is true of baptism in the same sense that it is true of the word. God is pleased to connect the benefits of redemption with the believing reception of the truth. And he is pleased to connect these same benefits with the believing reception of baptism. That is, as the Spirit works with and by the truth, so he works with and by baptism, in communicating the blessings of the covenant of grace. Therefore, as we are said to be saved by the word, with equal propriety we are said to be saved by baptism; though baptism without faith is as of little effect as is the word of God to unbelievers. The scriptural doctrine concerning baptism, according to the Reformed churches is—1. That it is a divine institution. 2. That it is one of the conditions of salvation. "Whosoever believes and is baptized shall be saved," Mark 16, 16. It has, however, the necessity of precept, not the necessity of a means sine qua non. It is in this respect analogous to confession. "With the heart man believeth unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation," Rom. 10, 10. And also to circumcision. God said, "The uncircumcised male child —should be cut off from his people," Gen. 17, 14. Yet children dying before the eighth day were surely not cut off from heaven. And the apostle teaches that if an uncircumcised man kept the law, his uncircumcision was counted to him for circumcision," Rom. 3, 26. 3. Baptism is a means of grace, that is, a channel through which the Spirit confers grace; not always, not upon all recipients, nor is it the only channel, nor is it designed as the ordinary means of regeneration. Faith and repentance are the gifts of the Spirit and fruits of regeneration, and yet they are required as conditions of baptism. Consequently the Scriptures contemplate regeneration as preceding baptism. But if faith, to which all the benefits of redemption are promised, precedes baptism, how can those benefits be said to be conferred, in any case, through baptism? Just as a father may give an estate to his son, and afterwards convey it to him formally by a deed. Besides, the benefits of redemption, the remission of sin, the gift of the Spirit, and the merits of the Redeemer, are not conveyed to the soul once for all. They are reconveyed and appropriated on every new act of faith, and on every new believing reception of the sacraments. The sinner coming to baptism in the exercise of repentance and faith, takes God the Father to be his Father; God the Son, to be his Saviour; and God the Holy Ghost to be his Sanctifier, and his word to be the rule of his faith and practice. The administrator then, in the name and by the authority of God, washes him with water as a sign of the cleansing from sin by the blood of Christ, and of sanctification by the Holy Spirit; and as a seal to God’s promise to grant him those blessings on the condition of the repentance and faith thus publicly avowed. Whatever he may have experienced or enjoyed before) this is the public conveyance to him of the benefits of the covenant, and his inauguration into the number of the redeemed. If he is sincere in his part of the service, baptism really applies to him the blessings of which it is the symbol. 4. Infants are baptized on the faith of their parents. And their baptism secures to them all the benefits of the covenant of grace, provided they ratify that covenant by faith; just as circumcision secured the benefits of the theocracy, provided those circumcised in infancy kept the law. The doctrine of baptismal regeneration, that is, the doctrine that inward spiritual renovation always attends baptism rightly administered to the unresisting, and that regeneration is never effected without it, is contrary to Scripture, subversive of evangelical religion, and opposed to universal experience. It is, moreover, utterly irreconcilable with the doctrine of the Reformed churches. For that doctrine teaches that all the regenerated are saved. "Whom God calls them he also glorifies," Rom. 8, 30. It is, however, plain from Scripture, and in accordance with the faith of the universal church, that multitudes of the baptized perish. The baptized, therefore, as such, are not the regenerated.
The foregoing remarks are intended to show in what sense the Reformed understand this and similar declarations of Scripture. Christ purifies his church by baptism. That is the initiatory rite; which signifies, seals, and applies to believers all the benefits of the Redeemer’s death. The apostle is speaking of the church, the body and bride of Christ, and of the effect of baptism on those who constitute that church, not of its effect on those who are not included in the covenant and are aliens from the commonwealth of Israel.2222Quod Baptismo nos ablui docet Paulus, ideo est, quod illic nobis ablutionem nostram testatur Deus, et simul efficit quod figurat. Nisi enim conjuncta esset rei veritas, aut exhibitio, quod idem est, impropria haec loqutio esset. Baptismus est lavacrum animae. Interea cavendum, ne quod unius Dei est, vel ad signum, vel ad ministrum transferatur; hoc est, ut minister censetur ablutionis auctor, ut aqua putetur animae sordes purgare; quod nonnisi Christi sanguini convenit. Denique cavendum, ne ulla fiduciae nostrae portio vel in elemento, vel in homine haereat. Quando hic demum veruns ac rectus sacramenti usus est, recta nos ad Christum manu ducere, et in ipso sistere. Quod autem aliqui in hoc baptismi elogio magis extenuando sudant, ne signo nimium tribuatur, si vocetur animae lavacrum; perperam faciunt. Nam primum apostolus non docet signum esse, quod mundet sed asserit solius Dei esse opus. Est ergo Deus qui mundat; nec transferri hoc honoris ad signum fas est, aut signo communicari. Verum signo Deum tanquam organo uti, non est absurdum; non quia virtus Dei inclusa sit in signo, sed quia nobis eam pro imbecilitatis nostrae captu tali adminiculo distribuat. Id quosdam male habet, quia putant Spiritui sancto auferri, quod est ejus proprium et quod illi scriptura passim vindicat. Sed falluntur; nam ita Deus per signum agit, ut tota signi efficacia nihilominus a Spiritu suo pendeat. Ita nihil plus signo tribuitur, quam ut sit inferius organum, et quidem a seipso inutile, nisi quatenus aliunde vim suam mutuatur. Quod praeterea verentur ne libertas Dei sit alligatur, frivolum est. Neque enim affixa est signis Dei gratia, quin citra adminiculum signi libere eam distribuat, si velit, deinde multi signum recipiunt, qui tamen gratiae non fiunt participes, quia signum omnibus est commune, hoc est, bonis indifferenter ac malis; Spiritus autem nonnisi electis confertur; acqui signum, ut diximus, absque Spiritu est inefficax. CALVIN.
There is one other remark suggested by this passage. The turning point in the discussion between Baptists and Paedobaptists, so far as the mode of baptism is concerned, is, whether it is in its essential nature an immersion, or a washing. If the former, then there is but one mode in which it can be administered. If the latter, it may be administered in any mode by which washing can be effected, either by sprinkling, affusion, or immersion. In the passage before us, it is said to be a "washing with water."
The principal exegetical difficulty in this verse is the explanation of the words ἐν ῥήματι, by the word. Ῥῆμα is used not only for any particular dictum, whether command, promise, or prophecy, but also for the word of God collectively, and that either with or without the article; Rom. 10, 8. 17. Eph. 6, 17. These words may be connected, as is commonly done, with the preceding clause, ‘washing of water.’ The idea then is that this washing with water is connected with the word. It is not an ordinary ablution, but one connected with the word of God. This is considered a description of baptism, which is by that connection distinguished from all other washings. By the word may then be understood either, the formula of baptism, or the promise of remission of sins and regeneration of which baptism is the sign and seal, and which is the special object of faith to the recipient of the sacrament. Luther’s translation is, "Durch das Wasserbad im Wort;" according to the saying of Augustine, which he often quotes, accedit verbum ad elementum et fit sacramentum. To this interpretation it is objected, first, that if ῥῆμα be made to mean any thing more than the word of God in general, whether the command to baptize, or the promise, or the formula of baptism, it must have the article. It should be, with the word. But the article is wanting in the Greek. Secondly, the obscurity of the expression, "washing of water with the word," or, "baptism with the word." Thirdly, that in order to justify the connection in question, the passage should read, τῷ λουτρῷ τοῦ ὕδατος τῷ, or τοῦ ἐν ῥήματι. Had Paul thus written there would, indeed, be no question as to the connection intended, but the exceptions to the rule requiring the connecting article in such cases, are very numerous in Paul’s writings. Still its absence is certainly in favour of seeking another construction, if such can be found. Others connect the words ἐν ῥήματι with καθαρίσας, and make them explanatory of the preceding clause, ‘Having purified it by the washing of water, i. e. having purified it by the word.’ But this is certainly unnatural, first because καθαρίσας has in τῷ λουτρῷ, κτλ., its limitation; and secondly, because the phrase "washing with water," needs no explanation. The third method of explanation is to connect the words with ἁγιάσῃ, ‘Christ cleansed his church, by the word, having purified it with the washing of water.’ The sense is thus good. In John 17, 17, our Lord prays, "Sanctify them by thy truth;" and every where in Scripture the word of God is represented as the great means of sanctification. This interpretation is adopted by many of the best expositors, as Rückert, Meyer, and Winer The position of the words, however, is so decidedly in favour of the first mentioned explanation, that it has commanded the assent of the great body of interpreters.
V. 27. The ultimate end for which Christ gave himself for the church, and for which he sanctifies it, is to present it to himself, i. e. to gain it for himself as his peculiar possession. There are two questions raised by commentators as to this verse. The first concerns the nature of the metaphor here employed; and the second, the time contemplated in which Christ is thus to present the church to himself. Some, although very few, argue from the character of the epithets, without spot and blameless, here applied to the church, that the figure is derived from law of sacrifices. Christ is to present the church to himself as an offering without defect. But 1. This is entirely out of keeping with the whole context, which has reference to the conjugal relation, and is intended to illustrate the union between Christ and the church, by a reference to that between the bridegroom and the bride. 2. The comparison of the church to an offering is not only out of keeping with the context, but with the whole current of scriptural representation. Whereas the comparison of it to a bride is appropriate and familiar. 3. The epithets in question, though often used in reference to sacrifices, are not only appropriate, but are actually employed to express personal or corporeal beauty, which is here the symbol of inward purity.
A larger number of commentators take the ground that the end contemplated in this verse is accomplished in the present life. In other words, that the state of the church here described is one attained in this world. Of those who take this view, some, as the ancient Pelagians, interpret the passage as teaching that perfect holiness is not only attainable, but is actually attained by believers before death. Others do not understand the passage as speaking of holiness, but of propitiation, which is effected once for all. In this view it is parallel to Heb. 10, 10, where we are said to be "sanctified by the offering of the body of Christ once for all;" and ver. 14, where it is said, "By the one offering up of himself he hath for ever perfected them that are sanctified." Both of these passages in Hebrews evidently refer to the perfection of Christ’s sacrifice, and they undoubtedly prove, what no one questions, that the words ἁγιάζειν and καθαρίζειν here used, may express sacrificial purification or expiation. But this is far from proving that these words, and especially the former, are to be so taken here. To sanctify is colmmonly, in Scripture language, to make spiritually holy, and this sense is far better suited to the context than any other meaning of the word. But if the design of Christ’s death as here expressed is to render his church perfectly holy, then there can be no debate as to the time when this end is to be accomplished. For even should it be granted, that here and there one among the multitude of believers does attain perfection in this life, of which neither Scripture nor experience affords any example, still this cannot be affirmed of the whole body of believers. The great majority of commentators, therefore, from Augustin down to the present time, understand the apostle as stating what is to take place when Christ comes the second time to be admired in all them that believe. It is then, when the dead are raised in the likeness of the Son of God, and when those who shall be alive shall be changed—when this corruption shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality—it is then that the church shall be "as a bride prepared for her husband," Rev. 21, 2, and 19, 7-9.
Ἵνα παραστήσῃ depends upon what immediately precedes: "having purified it that he might present it," i. e. cause it to stand before or near him as a bride. So the apostle writing to the Corinthians says, he had "espoused them to one husband, παρθενὸν ἁγνὴν παραστῆσαι τῷ Χριστῷ, to present you as a chaste virgin unto Christ." Here the figure is somewhat different. Christ presents the church to himself, αὐτὸς ἑαυτῷ2323The common Text reads αὐτὴν instead of αὐτὸς. The latter reading on the authority of the MSS. ABDFG, has, since Griesbach, been almost universally adopted. he and no other, to himself. He does it. He gave himself for it. He sanctifies it. He, before the assembled universe, places by his side the bride purchased with his blood. He presents it to himself a glorious church. That is glorious which excites admiration. The church is to be an object of admiration to all intelligent beings, because of its freedom from all defect, and because of its absolute perfection. It is to be conformed to the glorified humanity of the Son of God, in the presence of which the disciples on the mount became as dead men, and from the clear manifestation of which, when Christ comes the second time, the heavens and the earth are to flee away. God has predestined his people to be conformed to the image of his Son. And when he shall appear, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is, 1 John 3, 2. The figure is preserved in the description here given of the glory of the consummated church. It is to be as a faultless bride; perfect in beauty and splendidly adorned. She is to be without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, i. e. without any thing to mar her beauty, free from every indication of age, faultless and immortal. What is thus expressed figuratively is expressed literally in the last clause of the verse, that it should be holy and without blame, ἁγία καὶ ἄμωμος. Compare 1, 4, where it is said God hath chosen us, εἶναι ἁγιους καὶ ἀμώμους. It is, therefore, the original purpose of election formed before the foundation of the world, that is to be fulfilled in this consummation of the church.
V. 28. So ought men to love their wives, as their own bodies. This does not mean that men ought to love their wives so as they love their own bodies; as though the particles so and as, οὕτως and ὡς, stood related to each other. Οὕτως, so, at the beginning of the verse, refers to the preceding representation. As Christ loves the church and gave himself for it, and as the church is his body, so, in like manner and agreeably to the analogous relation between them, husbands should love their wives as, i. e. as being, or because they are, their own bodies. Christ loves his church because it is his body. Husbands should love their wives because they are their bodies. Ὡς, as, before the latter member of the sentence is not comparative, but argumentative. It does not indicate the measure of the husband’s love, as though the meaning were, he should love his wife as much as he loves his own body. But it indicates the nature of the relation which is the ground of his love. He should love his wife, because she is his body.
How is this to be understood? In what sense does the apostle say that the wife is the body of the husband, or, in the following verse, that they are one flesh? It is plain—1. That this does not refer to any material identification. When Adam said of Eve, "This is bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh," Gen. 2, 23, reference was no doubt had to her being formed out of his substance. But as these terms are used to express the relation of all wives to their husbands, they must have some other meaning than sameness of substance. 2. It is also plain that these terms are not to be understood in any sense inconsistent with the separate subsistence of husband and wife as distinct persons. The consciousness of the one is not the consciousness of the other. 3. It is further plain that the marriage relation is not essential to the completeness or perfection of our nature, in all states of its existence. It is to cease at the resurrection. In the future state men are to be, in this respect, like the angels of God, neither marrying nor given in marriage. 4. On the other hand the marriage union is not merely one of interests and feeling. Husbands and wives are in such. a sense one, that the husband is the complement of the wife and the wife of the husband. The marriage relation is necessary to the completeness of our nature and to its full development in the present state. Some indeed, as Paul, may attain a higher degree of perfection in celibacy than in marriage. But this arises from some peculiarity of character or circumstances. There are faculties and virtues, excellencies and feelings, which are latent until developed in the conjugal relation. The Romish doctrine, therefore, which degrades marriage as a state less holy than celibacy, is contrary to nature and the word of God. 5. Besides this oneness between husband and wife arising from the original constitution of their nature, rendering the one necessary as the completion of the other, there is doubtless a oneness of life involved in our Lord’s declaration, "They are no more twain, but one flesh," which no one can understand.
Such being the nature of marriage, it follows:—1. That it is a union for life between one man and one woman; and consequently that bigamy, polygamy, and voluntary divorce are all inconsistent with its nature. 2. That it must be entered into freely and cordially by the parties, i. e. with the conviction that the one is suited to the other, so that they may complement each other, and become one in the scriptural sense of those words. All coercion on the part of parents, therefore, is contrary to the nature of the relation; and all marriages of mere convenience are opposed to the design of the institution. 3. The State can neither make nor dissolve the marriage tie. It may enact laws regulating the mode in which it shall be solemnized and authenticated, and determining its civil effects. It may shield a wife from ill-usage from her husband, as it may remove a child from the custody of an incompetent or cruel parent. When the union is in fact dissolved by the operation of the divine law, the State may ascertain and declare the fact, and free the parties from the civil obligation of the contract. But it is impossible that the State should have authority to dissolve a union constituted by God, the duties and continuance of which are determined by his law. 4. According to the Scriptures, as interpreted by Protestant churches, nothing but the death of one of the parties, or adultery, or wilful desertion, can dissolve the marriage contract. When either of the last mentioned causes of dissolution is judicially ascertained and declared, the injured party is free to contract a new marriage.
It is of vital importance to the best interests of society that the true doctrine of marriage, as taught in this passage and in other portions of God’s word, should be known and regarded. The highest social duty of a husband is to love his wife; and a duty which he cannot neglect without entailing great injury on his own soul as well as misery on his household. The greatest social crime, next to murder, which any one can commit, is to seduce the affections of a wife from her husband, or of a husband from his wife. And one of the greatest evils which civil authorities can inflict on society, is the dissolution of the marriage contract (so far as it is a civil contract, for further the civil authority cannot go), on other than scriptural grounds. The same remark may be made in reference to all laws which tend to make those two whom God has pronounced one, by giving to the wife the right to carry on business, contract debts, hold property, sue and be sued, in her own name. This is attempting to correct one class of evils at the cost of incurring others a hundred-fold greater. The word of God is the only sure guide of legislative action as well as of individual conduct.
If, as the Scriptures teach, husband and wife are one, he that loveth his wife loveth himself, for she is himself. This is the language of God, originally recorded in Gen. 2, 24, and repeated by our Lord, Matt. 19, 4-6, who after citing the passage in Genesis, adds, "Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh." Calvin, in his comment on the passage in Matthew, says, Hoc autem axioma sumit Christus, Ab initio Deus marem adjunxit feminae, ut duo efficerent integrum hominem. Ergo qui uxorem repudiat, quasi dimidiam sui partem a seipso avellit. Hoc autem minime patitur natura, ut corpus suum quispiam discerpat. Neither God by the mouth of Moses, nor our Lord says simply that husband and wife ought to be, but that they are one. It is not a duty, but a fact which they announce. So also it is a fact which the apostle declares when he says, "He that loves his wife loves himself."
V. 29. Conjugal love, therefore, is as much a dictate of nature as self-love; and it is just as unnatural for a man to hate his wife, as it would be for him to hate himself, or his own body. A man may have a body which does not altogether suit him. Ile may wish it were handsomer, healthier, stronger, or more active. Still it is his body, it is himself; and he nourisheth it and cherishes it as tenderly as though it were the best and loveliest man ever had. So a man may have a wife whom he could wish to be better, or more beautiful, or more agreeable; still she is his wife, and by the constitution of nature and ordinance of God, a part of himself. In neglecting or ill-using her he violates the laws of nature as well as the law of God. It is thus Paul presents the matter. If the husband and wife are one flesh, the husband must love his wife, "for no man ever yet hated his own flesh, but nourisheth and cherisheth it." Ἐκτρέφειν is properly to nourish up), to train up by nurture, as a parent a child; comp. 6, 4. Θάλπειν is, to warm m, to cherish as a mother does an infant in her bosom. Both terms express tenderness and solicitude, and therefore both are suited to express the care with which every man provides for the wants and comfort of his own body.
Καθὼς καὶ, even as also, Χριστὸς τὴν ἐκκλησίαν, Christ the church, i. e. Christ also nourishes and cherishes the church as a man does his own body. The relation between a man and his wife is analogous to that between a man and his own body. And the relation between Christ and his church is analogous to that between a husband and his wife; therefore Christ nourishes and cherishes the church as man does his own body.
V. 30. This verse assigns the reason of the preceding declaration. Christ acts towards his church as a man does towards his body, for we are members of his body. This might mean simply that we stand to him in the same intimate and vital union, that a man’s body sustains to the man himself. But the meaning is rendered more definite by the words which follow, ἐκ τῆς σαρκὸς αὐτοῦ καὶ ἐκ τῶν ὀστέων αὐτοῦ;2424These words are omitted in MSS. A B 17, and in the Coptic and Ethiopic versions, and are left out of the text by Lachmann and Tischendorf. The other Uncial MSS., the Syriac version, the Fathers, are in their favour. They are required by the context, and their omission is easily accounted for. Even Mill and Griesbach retain them, as do all other editors, and the commentators almost without exception. not members of, but derived from, and partakers of, his flesh and his bones. This is the signification of the words, whatever their meaning may be. Ἐκ expresses derivation and participation. This is one of the most difficult passages in the Bible. The doctrine which it teaches is declared by the apostle, in a following verse, to be a great mystery. Any explanation, therefore, which dispels that mystery, and makes the6 doctrine taught perfectly intelligible, must be false. All that can properly be attempted is to guard against false interpretations, and leave the matter just where the apostle leaves it, as something to be believed and reverenced but not understood.
The lowest explanation of the passage before us is that which departs entirely from the signification of the words, and supposes that the apostle intended to teach nothing at all as to the nature of our union with Christ, but simply to affirm the fact. Husbands and wives are intimately united, and so are Christ and his church. This is no explanation at all. It is simply saying that the apostle meant nothing, or nothing specific, by what he says. The Scriptures teach in general terms that Christ and his people are one. When our Lord says they are one as the vine and its branches are one, he teaches something more than the mere fact of union between himself and his people. So, too, when the apostle says the union in question is analogous to that between Adam and his posterity, he teaches not only the fact but also one aspect of its nature. In like manner, when he illustrates it by a reference to the conjugal relation, and says that the point of analogy is that as Eve was formed out of the flesh and bone of Adam, so we are partakers of the flesh and bones of Christ, it is impossible that nothing more should be meant than that we are united to him.
A second interpretation takes the words figuratively, and supposes the apostle meant that as Eve derived her physical existence from Adam, so we derive our spiritual existence from Christ. This interpretation has many advocates from Chrysostom downwards, but it is liable to the same objection as the preceding. It refuses to admit what the apostle asserts. He says not merely that we derive our life from Christ, which is true; but also that we derive our life from his flesh, and are partakers of it. This must mean something more specific than simply that Christ is the author of our life, and that he lives in us.2525Diese Form des Ausdrucks ist Reminiscenz von Gen. 2, 23, wo Adam die Entstehung der Eva aus seinem Gebeinen und aus seinem Fleische ausspricht, welcher Entstehung das genetische Verhältniss der Christen zu Christo analog ist, naturlich nicht physich, sondern im geistlichen, mystischen Sinne, in so fern die christliche Dasein und Wesen der Christen, aus Christo originirt, in Christo sein Principium essendi hat, wie physicher Weise Eva aus Adam herrührte. MEYER.
A third view of the passage assumes that the reference is to the incarnation. We are partakers of the flesh of Christ because we have the same human nature which he assumed. In Heb. 2, 10, it is said, "Both he that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one," i. e. of one nature; and in ver. 14, " Forasmuch then as the children were partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same." These and similar passages do indeed prove that one of the essential elements of the union with Christ is this community of nature. And it is also true that the more specific union indicated in the text presupposes and rests upon the fact of the incarnation. But the incarnation cannot be what Paul here refers to. The incarnation consists in the eternal Son of God taking to himself a true body and a reasonable soul; but the union here spoken of arises from our participation of Christ’s body; that is, of his flesh and of his bones. It is not his taking our flesh and blood, but our partaking of his, after he had assumed them, that is here asserted. Besides, so far as the mere assumption of human nature is concerned, it is a bond of union between Christ and the whole human race; whereas the apostle is here speaking of a union with Christ peculiar to his people.
Fourth; Romanists, Lutherans, and the elder Calvinists,
as Calvin himself and Beza, seek a solution of this passage in the Lord’s Supper.
As in that ordinance we are said to partake of the body and blood of Christ, it
is assumed that the union here spoken of is that which is thereby effected. We are
"one flesh" with him, because we partake of his flesh. This of course is differently
understood according to the different views entertained of that sacrament. Romanists,
believing that by the act of consecration the whole substance of the bread is transmuted
into the substance of Christ’s body, which is received by the communicant, of course
believe that in the most literal sense of the words, we are flesh of his flesh.
Lutherans, although they believe that the bread remains bread in the Eucharist after
consecration, yet as they hold that the true body of Christ is locally present in,
with and under the bread, and is received by the mouth, come to the same conclusion
as to the nature of the union thereby effected. Partaking literally of Christ’s
flesh, Christians are literally of one flesh with him. Calvin
did not hold that Christ’s body was locally present in the Lord’s Supper, nor that
it was received by the mouth, nor that it was received in any sense by unbelievers.
Ife did hold, however, that the substance of Christ’s glorified body, as enthroned
in heaven, was in some miraculous way communicated to believers together with the
bread in that ordinance. He, therefore, understands the apostle as here referring
to that fact, and asserting that we are members of Christ’s body because the substance
of his body is in the Eucharist communicated to us.2626
Dicit nos esse ejus membra,
ex carne et ossibus. Primum non est hyperbolica loquutio, sed simplex; deinde non
tantum significat Christum esse naturae nostrae participem, sed altius quiddam exprimere
καὶ ἐμφατικώτερον. Refert enim Mosis verba, Gen. 2, 24. Quis ergo exit
sensus? quemadmodum Heva ex Adae mariti sui substantia formata est, ut esset quasi
pars illius; ita nos ut simus vera Christi membra, substantiae ejus communicatione
nos coalescere in unum corpus. Denique eam nostri, cum Christo unionem hic Paulus
describit, cujus in sacra coena symbolum et pignus nobis datur . . . Paulus nos ex
membris et ossibus Christi esse testatur. Miramur ergo si corpus suum in coena fruendum
nobis exhibet, ut sit nobis vitae aeternae alimentum? ita ostendimus nullam nos
in coena repraesentationem docere, nisi cujus effectus et veritas hic a Paulo praedicatur. CALVIN.
On the following verse, he says, Totum autem ex eo pendet quod uxor ex carne et ex ossibus viri formata est. Eadem ergo unionis ratio inter nos et Christum, quod se quodammodo in nos transfundit. Neque enim ossa sumus ex ossibus ejus, et caro ex carne, quia ipse nobiscum est homo; sed quia Spiritus sui virtute nos in corpus suum inserit, ut vitam ex eo hauriamus. There are two objections to these interpretations:—1. That, according to the common belief of the Reformed churches, the Bible teaches no such doctrine concerning the Lord’s Supper, as either of these several views of the passage supposes. 2. That there is not only no allusion to the Lord’s Supper in the whole context, but the terms here employed are never used in Scripture when treating of that ordinance. "Body and blood" are the sacramental words always used, and never " flesh and bones." The reference is to the creation of woman and to the marriage relation, and not to the Eucharist.
Fifth; The advocates of that philosophical form of theology of which Schleiermacher was the founder, understand the passage before us to teach that we are partakers of the theanthropic life of Christ. The leading idea of that system, so far as the person of Christ is concerned, is the denial of all dualism. He has but one life. That life is not human, and not divine, but divine and human, or human made divine. Neither is there any dualism as to soul and body. These are the same life under different manifestations. To partake of Christ, is to partake of his life. To partake of his life, is to partake of his theanthropic nature. To partake of his theanthropic nature, is to partake of his human, as well as of his divine nature; and to partake of his human nature is to partake of his body as well as of his soul and divinity. We partake of the theanthropic nature of Christ, as we partake of the corrupt human nature of Adam. The life of Adam is the general life of his race, manifested in the individuals composing that race. The theanthropic life of Christ is the general life of the church, manifested in its members. The church is the development of Christ, as the human race is the development of Adam; or as the oak or forest is the development of an acorn. As, therefore, we are said to be flesh of Adam’s flesh and bone of his bones, in the same sense and with the same propriety, are we said to be flesh of Christ’s flesh and bone of his bones.2727OLSHAUSEN, in his comment on this verse, says: Nicht die geistige Geburt ist es zunächst, von der hier die Rede ist, die leibliche Seite wird hier und v. 31, zu ausdrücklich hervorgehoben; es ist die Selbstmittheilung seines göttlich-menschlichen Wesens, wodurch Christus uns zu seinem Fleisch und Bein macht, er giebt den Seinigen sein Fleisch zu essen, sein Blut zu trinken. On the following verse he remarks: Wie wir zu v. 30, sahen, dass die Gläubigen von Christi Fleisch und Bein sind, weil sie seiner verklärten Leiblichkeit theilhaftig wurden; so ist hier auch die σάρξ μία mit Beziehung auf die Mittheilung des Fleisehes und Blutes Christi an seine Gläubiger zu verstehen. Dies sein göttlich-menschliches Wesen theilt der Erlöser zwar auch im Glauben mit (John 6, 45) aber die intensiveste, concentrirteste Mittheilung desselben erfolgt im heiligen Abendmahl. The correctness of this explanation depends on the correctness of the system on which it is founded. As a theology, that system is a revival of the Sabellian and Eutychian heresies; and as a philosophy, it is in the last resort pantheistic. It makes the life of God and the life of man identical. God lives only in his creatures.
Sixth; We must content ourselves with briefly stating what the apostle affirms, guarding against a perversion of his language, and making some approximation to its meaning without pretending to dissipate the mystery which he teaches us rests upon the subject.
The text asserts—1. That we are members of Christ, s body. 2. That we are partakers of his flesh and of his bones, in such a sense that our relation to Christ is analogous to Eve’s relation to Adam.
The three general interpretations of the passage are, First, That as Eve derived her physical life from Adam, so we derive our spiritual life from Christ. This says too little, as it leaves out of view the specific affirmation of the text. Second, That as Eve was formed out of the substance of Adam’s body, so we are partakers of the substance of Christ’s body. This is Calvin’s interpretation, which includes the views given by Romanists, by Lutherans, and Transcendentalists. This goes beyond the declaration of the text, and imposes a meaning upon it inconsistent with the analogy of Scripture. The third interpretation takes a middle ground, and understands the apostle to teach, that as Eve derived her life from the body of Adam, so we derive our life from the body of Christ, and as she was partaker of Adam’s life, so we are partakers of the life of Christ. The doctrine taught, therefore, is not community of substance between Christ and his people, but community of life, and that the source of life to his people is Christ’s flesh.
In support of this interpretation it may be urged: 1. That it leaves the passage in its integrity. It neither explains it away, nor does it make it assert more than the words necessarily imply. The doctrine taught remains a great mystery, as the apostle declares it to be. 2. It takes the terms employed in their ordinary and natural sense. To partake of one’s flesh and blood. does not, in ordinary life nor according to scriptural usage, mean to partake of his substance, but it does mean to partake of his life. The substance of which the body of any adult is composed is derived exclusively from his food and from the atmosphere. A few years after the formation of Eve not a particle of Adam’s body entered into the composition of her frame; and yet she was then as truly as at the beginning, bone of his bone and flesh of his flesh, because derived from him and partaker of his life. For the same reasons and in the same sense we are said to be flesh of Adam’s flesh and bone of his bones, although in no sense partakers of the substance of his body. In like manner nothing is more common than to speak of the blood of a father flowing in the veins of his descendants, and of their being his flesh. This means, and can only mean, that they are partakers of his life. There is no community of substance possible in the case. What life is no man knows. But we know that it is not matter; and, therefore, there may be community of life, where there is no community of substance. There is a form of life peculiar to nations, tribes, families, and individuals; and this peculiar type is transmitted from generation to generation, modifying the personal appearance, the physical constitution, and the character of those who inherit it. When we speak of the blood of the Hapsburghs, or of the Bourbons, it is this family type that is intended and nothing material. The present Emperor of Austria derives his peculiar type of physical life from the head of his race, but not one particle of the substance of his body. Husband and wife are in Scripture declared to be one flesh. But here again it is not identity of substance, but community of life that is intended. As, therefore, participation of one’s flesh does not in other connections, mean participation of his substance, it cannot be fairly understood in that sense when spoken of our relation to Christ. And as in all analogous cases it does express derivation or community of life, it must be so understood here.
3. It is clearly taught in Scripture that the union with Christ here described is essential to salvation. It is also clearly taught in the word of God, and held by all Protestants, though not by Romanists, that believers under the Old Dispensation were fully saved. Whatever, therefore, is the nature of the union with Christ here taught, it must be such as is common to believers who lived before and to those who live after the advent of Christ. It is possible that the saints under the Old Dispensation should have derived their life from the body of Christ, as he was the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world, but it is not possible that they could be partakers of the substance of his body, or of his glorified humanity. The passage before us, therefore, cannot teach any such community of substance.
4. The community of life with Christ and derivation of life from his flesh, which is the doctrine this interpretation supposes the passage before us to teach, is a doctrine elsewhere taught in Scripture. We are not only said to be saved by his body, Rom. 7, 4; by his blood, Eph. 2, 13; by his flesh, 2, 15; by the body of his flesh, Col. 1, 22; but his flesh is said to be our life, and participation of it is said to be the source of eternal life. "Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of Man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you. Whoso eateth my flesh and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life." John 6, 53. 54.
The union, therefore, between Christ and his people is mysterious. It may be illustrated, but cannot be fully explained. It is analogous to the union between husband and wife, who are declared to be one flesh to express their community of life; and especially to the union between Adam and Eve because she derived her life from his flesh. As the relations are thus analogous, what is said of the one may be said of the other. To prove this, and to justify the use of the language which he had employed, the apostle cites the language of God in Gen. 2, 24. Ver. 31. For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. That is, because the relation between husband and wife is more intimate than any other, even than that between parents and children; therefore a man shall consider all other relations subordinate to that which he sustains to his wife, with whom he is connected in the bonds of a common life. As the Scripture speaks in such terms of the conjugal relation, the apostle was justified in using the same terms of the union between Christ and his people. They also are one flesh because they have a common life, and because his people derive their life from his flesh as Eve derived hers from the flesh of Adam.
The principal difficulty here relates to the connection. The passage stands thus: ‘We are members of Christ’s body, of his flesh, and of his bones. For this cause a man shall leave his father and mother, and be joined to his wife, and they two shall be one flesh.’ There is an apparent incongruity between the premises and the conclusion. How does our being members of Christ’s body, prove that a man should leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife? There are three methods of getting over this difficulty. First, some assume that there is no connection between the two verses, but that the 31st refers back to the 28th. The sense would then be, ‘A man should love his wife, because she is his body. For this cause, a man should leave his father and cleave to his wife,’ &c. This method of solution is inconsistent both with what precedes and with what follows. It does not agree with what precedes, because the words, of his flesh, &c., in ver. 30, referring to Christ, form part of the passage in Genesis, the continuation of which is given in ver. 31. If the one refers to Christ, the other must. It contradicts what follows; for in ver. 32, the main idea contained in ver. 31 (they shall be one flesh), is expressly said to be affirmed in reference to Christ and the church.
The second method of explanation assumes an immediate connection between the two verses 30 and 31, and understands the whole of the latter to refer to the relation between Christ and his church. It then may be explained either in reference to the present, or the future. If to the present, the sense would be, ‘We are members of Christ’s body, and, therefore, he left his Father and all dear to him in heaven that he might be united to his people.’ But how is it possible that the words, "a man shall leave his father and mother," can mean Christ left God and heaven? If the passage be understood in reference to the future, the meaning will be, ‘We are members of Christ’s body, and therefore hereafter when he comes the second time, he will leave his Father’s throne, and take his church as his bride.’2828Deshalb, weil wir Glieder Christi, von seinem Fleisch und von seinem Beinen sind, wird verlassen ein Mensch (d. i. Christus, bei der Parusie) seinen Vater und seine Mutter (d. i. nach der mystischen Deutung Pauli: er wird seinen Sitz zur Rechten Gottes verlassen) und vereiniget werden mit seinem Weibe (mit der Gemeinde), und (und dann) werden die Zwei (der Mann und die Frau, d. i. der herabgestiegene Christus und die Gemeinde) zu Einem Fleische sein (Eine ethische Person ausmachen). MEYER. But this view not only does the same violence to the meaning of the words, but is in direct contradiction to the whole context. Paul does not say that hereafter the church shall be united to Christ as his bride, but that his people are now members of his body, flesh of his flesh, and bone of his bones.
The third explanation assumes that the first part of the verse has no reference to Christ and the church, and that the passage is quoted from Genesis solely for the sake of the last words, they shall be one flesh. The meaning and the connection then are, ‘As Eve was formed out of the body of Adam, and therefore, it is said, a man shall leave his father and mother, and be joined to his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. So, since we are members of Christ’s body, therefore, Christ and his church are one flesh.’ This view is, 1. In entire accordance with the context. 2. It avoids the forced and unnatural interpretations which are unavoidable if the former part of the 31st verse be understood in reference to Christ. 3. It satisfies the demands of the 32d verse, which asserts that the words one flesh do refer to Christ and the church. And 4. It is in accordance with the usage of the apostles in quoting the language of the Old Testament. They often recite a passage of Scripture as it stands in the Old Testament, for the sake of some one clause or expression in it, without intending to apply to the case before them, any other portion of the passage quoted. In Heb. 2, 13, the whole stress and argument rest on the single word children; see also Gal. 3, 16. Very frequently the particles indicating the grammatical or logical connection of the passage in its position in the Old Testament, are included in the quotation, although entirely unsuited to the connection in which the passage is introduced. This is so frequently done as to be almost the rule. It is, therefore, not an arbitrary proceeding to make the last words of this verse refer to Christ, while the former part of it is made to refer to the context of the passage as it stands in Genesis.
V. 32. Τὸ μυστήριον τοῦτο μέγα ἐστίν, this mystery is great. The word mystery does not refer to the passage in Gen. 2, 24, as though the apostle intended to say that that passage had a mystical sense which he had just unfolded by applying it to the relation between Christ and his church. It is the union between Christ and his people. the fact that they are one flesh, he declares to be a great mystery. The word μυστήριον is used here, as it is every where else, for something hidden, something beyond the reach of human knowledge. Whether its being thus hidden arises from its lying in the future, or because of being imperfectly revealed, or because it is in its own nature incomprehensible, must be determined by the connection. In this place the last is probably the idea intended. The thing itself is beyond our comprehension. The Vulgate renders this passage, sacramentum hoc magnum est. The Latin word sacramentum, besides its usual classical sense, ‘a sacred deposit,’ was often used to signify any thing sacred, or which had a hidden import. In this latter sense it agrees in meaning with the word μυστήριον, which also is used to designate something the meaning of which is hidden. Hence in the Vulgate it is often translated as it is here. In the Latin church the word sacramentum, however, gradually changed its meaning. Instead of being applied to every thing having a sacred or secret meaning, it was confined to those rites or acts which were assumed to have the power of conferring grace. This is the Romish idea of a sacrament. The Papal theologians taking the word in this sense here, and understanding the apostle to refer to marriage, quote this passage in proof that matrimony is a sacrament. The answer to this argument is obvious. In the first place, it is not marriage, but the union between Christ and his church, that Paul declares to be a μυστήριον, and the Vulgate a sacramentum. And in the second place, neither the Greek nor Latin term means a sacrament in the Romish sense of the word. The Vulgate translates 1 Tim. 3, 16, magnum est pietatis sacramentum, which no Romanist understands as teaching that the manifestation of God in the flesh is a sacrament in the ecclesiastical meaning of the term.
V. 33. The relation of this verse to what precedes, as indicated by πλὴν, admits of two explanations. That particle is used at the beginning of a clause, after an interruption, to introduce the resumption of the main subject. It may be so here. The principal object of the whole paragraph from v. 21, is to unfold the true nature of the conjugal relation and its duties. With this was connected an exposition of the analogous relation between Christ and the church. This latter point in verses 30. 31, is the only one brought into view. Here the apostle reverts to the main subject. But, to resume my subject, let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself. This explanation is the one commonly adopted. Πλήν, however, may mean, nevertheless, as it is rendered in our version, and this verse be connected with the 32d. ‘The relation between Christ and the church is a great mystery; nevertheless, do you also love your wives.’ That is, although there is something in the relation between Christ and the church which infinitely transcends the conjugal relation, nevertheless there is sufficient analogy between the cases, to render it obligatory on husbands to love their wives as Christ loves his church. This view of the connection is to be preferred, especially because of the words καὶ ὑμεῖς, you also, which evidently suppose the reference is to what immediately precedes.
Ὑμεῖς οἱ καθ᾽ ἕνα, you severally, ἕκαστος τὴν ἑαυτοῦ γυναῖκα οὕτως ἀγαπάτω ὡς ἑαυτόν, let each one so love his wife as himself. The construction varies; the verb ἀγαπάτω being made to agree with ἕκαστος, instead of ὑμεῖς the real subject. The meaning is the same as in ver. 28. The husband is to love his wife as being himself. In the next clause (ἡ δὲ γυνὴ ἵνα φοβῆται τὸν ἄνδρα), ἡ δὲ γυνὴ is the nominative absolute, and ἵνα depends on a verb understood. But as to the woman, let her see, that she reverence her husband. The word φοβέω may express the emotion of fear in all its modifications and in all its degrees from simple respect, through reverence, up to adoration, according to its object. It is, however, in all its degrees an acknowledgment of superiority. The sentiments, therefore, which lie at the foundation of the marriage relation, which arise out of the constitution of nature, which are required by the command of God, and are essential to the happiness and well-being of the parties, are, on the part of the husband, that form of love which leads him to cherish and protect his wife as being himself, and on the part of the woman, that sense of his superiority out of which trust and obedience involuntarily flow.
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