Ephesians 4:1 Commentary
EPHESIANS - CHRIST AND THE CHURCH
Click chart to enlarge
Charts from Jensen's Survey of the NT - used by permission
Ephesians 4:1 Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, (NASB: Lockman)
Amplified: I THEREFORE, the prisoner for the Lord, appeal to and beg you to walk (lead a life) worthy of the [divine] calling to which you have been called [with behavior that is a credit to the summons to God’s service, (Amplified Bible - Lockman)
NLT: Therefore I, a prisoner for serving the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of your calling, for you have been called by God. (NLT - Tyndale House)
Phillips: As God's prisoner, then, I beg you to live lives worthy of your high calling. (Phillips: Touchstone)
Wuest: I beg of you, please, therefore, I, the prisoner in the Lord, order your behavior in a manner worthy of the divine summons with which you were called, (Eerdmans Publishing - used by permission)
Young's Literal: I, then, the prisoner for the Master's sake, entreat you to live and act as becomes those who have received the call that you have received
|THE SYMMETRICAL STRUCTURE|
|EPHESIANS 1-3||EPHESIANS 4-6|
|Spiritual Wealth||Spiritual Walk|
of the Believer
of the Believer
Us in Christ
|The World Should See|
Christ in Us
of the Believer
of the Believer
Resources (Riches) in Christ
|Live by faith in the light of your Resources (Riches) in Christ|
of the Christian
of the Christian
|Who You Are|
|Whose You Are|
of the Believer
of the Believer
THEREFORE I, THE PRISONER OF THE LORD, IMPLORE YOU: Parakalo (1SPAI) oun humas ego o desmios en kurio:
Therefore (3767)(oun) is a term of conclusion. In context, Paul is saying that you Gentiles have been blessed with every spiritual blessing. You were once spiritually dead in your sins but are now alive in Christ. You once were far off from Christ, country (citizenship), covenants of promise, hope and God, but now you have been brought near by the blood of Christ, Who is your peace and Who has broken down the enmity between you and the Jews, making you both into one body or one new man, both now being reconciled to God because Christ put to death the enmity on the Cross. Furthermore you are no longer strangers and aliens, but are in the family of God, are a building of God, a holy Temple of God and a dwelling of God. Not to mention that you are fellow heirs, fellow members of the body and fellow partakers of the promise. And besides all these spiritual blessings, I have prayed for you to be enlightened to these truths and to be empowered by the Spirit. So you have the truth and you have the power. Now walk worthy of this high calling in Christ Jesus!
Henry Alford - I beseech you therefore - Seeing that this is your calling: an inference from the former part of the Epistle, as in Ro 12:1, but here perhaps also a resumption of "For this cause" but here perhaps also a resumption of "for this cause" Ep 3:1, 14, and thus carried back to the contents of Ep 1:2.), (The New Testament for English Readers)
Therefore marks the transition from positional to practical truth, from principle to practice. Right practice must always be based on right principle. It is impossible to have a Christian life–style without knowing the realities of the life that Christ has provided.
Someone has said that at this juncture Paul turns from from the credenda of the things to be believed to the agenda of the things to be done.
Belief always precedes behavior. (See the preceding chart) The Christian life is not based on ignorance but knowledge, and the better we understand Bible doctrine, the easier it is to obey Bible duties. When people say, “Don’t talk to me about doctrine—just let me live my Christian life!” they are revealing their ignorance of the way the Holy Spirit works in the life of the believer. We must think rightly if we are to act appropriately. On the other hand if we think wrongly, our actions will end up being wrong no matter how sincere (or how right we think) our wrong thinking!
Oliver Greene - In chapter one we studied the most wonderful story ever heard . . . the story of how GOD provided redemption in CHRIST. In chapter two we learned that believers are a living organism . . . the church is made up of born again persons, members of the most wonderful body ever known. In chapter three we learned further that we are the building of GOD . . . yea, we are the temple of The HOLY SPIRIT. All believers are built together into one holy temple, the habitation of GOD. In our present chapter, Paul begins to outline the walk and the service of the believer. (The Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Ephesians)
Martyn Lloyd-Jones writes that...
The first section, consisting of the first three chapters, has been entirely doctrinal. The Apostle has been unfolding and displaying in his own marvelous manner the great essential doctrines of the Christian faith, everything that is central and vital to an understanding of the way of salvation. There is no greater display of the doctrines of the Christian faith than that found in the first three chapters of this Epistle. But having done that, the Apostle now moves on to the practical application of his doctrine; he goes on to show how it is related to daily life and living. So we are really at a most important point in this Epistle, a point that marks a very real division....
The Apostle Paul, when he used the word ‘therefore’, makes the connection between faith and practice quite clear. He has laid down the doctrine; it has now got to be applied....
Here, then, in chapter 4, the Apostle proceeds to make a great appeal to the Ephesian believers to put into operation the things he has been teaching them. He reminds them of the things that inevitably follow as a natural consequence from an understanding of the great doctrines of the Christian faith....
There is always the danger—and it affects some people more than others—of forgetting that Christianity is, after all, a way of life and a way of living. Of course there are certain people who emphasize that alone, and who know nothing about doctrine and are not interested in doctrine. Such people regard Christianity as a system of morality or of ethics. But I am dealing, rather, with people who are evangelically minded, and whose danger is to stop at doctrine only....
If we really do know these things, then more is expected of us. From the man who has, much is expected; to whom much has been given, much is also expected. So if we really have been grasping the great doctrines of the first three chapters of this Epistle let us remember this word therefore. We are not to call a halt; we are to go on to the practical life and living, to the ordinary day-to-day application of basic Christian doctrine. It is a glorious experience to be on top of that mountain; but we must go down to the valleys, to all the problems of daily life and living. Around us is this godless world which cannot know about Christ unless you and I tell them about Christ, either by preaching or by mixing with them in our work and employment and the ordinary avocations in life. We must show what we know, and what we have, and above all show Him in whom we have believed....
Doctrine must always come first; and we must never reverse this order. It is, I repeat, the invariable practice in the New Testament itself to speak of doctrine before the application of doctrine. We must not act until we are clear about our doctrine. This is, beyond all question, the most vital principle of all in connection with the New Testament doctrine of sanctification. So we are entitled to say that this word therefore introduces us to the doctrine of sanctification. The first three chapters of our Epistle with all their astonishing teaching have not considered the doctrine of sanctification as such...The doctrine of the sealing of the Spirit, and the experience of it, is not sanctification. To know the love of Christ is not sanctification. To be filled with all the fulness of God is not sanctification. What then is the relationship between these things? It is that those are things that promote sanctification, that encourage sanctification, and give us motives for sanctification; but they are not sanctification itself....It (Sanctification) is the outworking, the outliving, by the power that God gives us and that is already in us, of the doctrine we have believed and the experiences we have enjoyed from His gracious hands (Ed: cp Jesus' prayer for us in Jn 17:17 which shows us the "modus operandi", the role of Truth, the Word, in growing us in Christ-likeness! Are you daily in the Word of Truth? If not, you are short cutting your sanctification process. It's that simple! In the Word-Grow. Not in the Word-No Growth!). (Christian Unity Studies in Ephesians)
G Campbell Morgan in his book The True Estimate of Life and How to Live has an entire chapter (VII) on Redeeming the Time writing that...
You cannot have carefully read the epistles of Paul without having noticed how he never forgets the relation that exists between doctrine and duty. He perpetually lays down for us great principles of life, and unfolds before us the great truths of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. But he never does so in order that men and women may possess the knowledge as theorists merely—he always does it in order that he may lead on to a practical application of the truth he declares. The apostle never forgets that the wonderful sanctifying force is the force of truth. Take his epistles and look through them, and you will find invariably that there is a statement of some great doctrine, and then you come to the point in the epistle where he uses his favorite word “Wherefore,” and from that point he begins to apply his doctrine to the details of daily life.
This epistle to the Ephesians may well be spoken of as the epistle of vocation. In it the apostle unfolds the truth concerning vocation, and then endeavors to set their eyes upon God’s ultimate purpose for them, and when he has done so through the first and second and third chapters, you find that the fourth chapter opens thus:
“I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord,
beseech you to walk worthily of the calling.”
The vocation is declared in the opening part of the epistle. The effect that the holding of the truth of that vocation would have upon daily life is declared in the after part of the epistle. He begins by taking us to the heights of vision; then he brings us to the every-day level of life, and shows us how the vision, unfolded before us, should affect us, as fathers, and children, and masters, and servants.
A charge has been made against certain ministers during recent years that their preaching has been “other-worldly.” I am not perfectly sure that we have not been too much afraid of that taunt. The moment the Church of Jesus Christ ceases to be “other-worldly” she loses her power to affect this world. It is only in proportion as we have a true view of the heavenly calling that we are able to touch the earth upon which we live, as men and women of power. It is only as we realise that everything that transpires to us in the little while between our conversion and the coming of Jesus Christ, all the service rendered and all the lessons learned, is to prepare us for the higher service that lies beyond, that we shall ever be able to render service at its fullest and best upon this earth. (Ephesians 5:16 Redeeming the Time from True Estimate of Life)
Ephesians 1-3 = How God sees us in Christ
Ephesians 4-6 = How the world should see Christ in us
Ruth Paxson puts it this way...
Ephesians I-III has given us a revelation of our wealth in Christ. Wealth is never to be hoarded, but rather kept in circulation, that it may minister to the needs of all. The wealth of the Christian should be manifest in his walk. This revelation of divine truth becomes fruitful only as it is transmuted into life. Revelation must eventuate into realization; illumination into application.
One of the brightest converts of a Gospel Mission had become a backslider. In an interview with him, he thought he would gladden my heart by telling me that he believed everything in the Bible from Genesis through Revelation. The only reply that seemed applicable was, "If you believe it, then why do you not live it?" When a friend was speaking to the prisoners in Sing Sing prison, one prisoner said to her very boastfully, "I would have you know that I did not come in here as these other fellows did. I came in here a Christian." My friend quietly replied, "I am very sorry that being a Christian did not keep you out of here." The more we know the truth and believe it, the greater is our responsibility to live it. Head knowledge must become heart experience. Consistency in his daily walk should be the vital concern of the Christian.
Ephesians I-III tells us how God sees us in Christ in the heavenlies; IV-VI, how men should see Christ in us on earth. They unfold with crystal clearness the sevenfold walk of the Christian which is the divine standard for every Christian's life. (The Wealth Walk and Warfare of the Christian. Page 85. Revell Publishing)
Warren Wiersbe observes that "All of Paul’s letters contain a beautiful balance between doctrine and duty, and Ephesians is the perfect example. The first three chapters deal with doctrine, our riches in Christ, while the last three chapters explain duty, our responsibilities in Christ. The key word in this last half of the book is walk (Eph 4:1, 17; 5:2, 8, 15), while the key idea in the first half is wealth. In these last three chapters, Paul admonishes us to walk in unity (Eph. 4:1-6), purity (Eph 4:17-5:17), harmony (Eph. 5:18–6:9), and victory (Eph 6:10-24). These four “walks” perfectly parallel the basic doctrines Paul has taught us in the first three chapters. (Wiersbe, W: Bible Exposition Commentary. 1989. Victor)
John Eadie introduces the last 3 chapters noting that...
THE practical portion of the Epistle now commences...But doctrine has been expounded ere duty is enforced. Instructions as to change of spiritual relation precede exhortations as to change of life.
It is in vain to tell the dead man to rise and walk,
till the principle of animation be restored.
One must be a child of God before he can be a servant of God. Pardon and purity, faith and holiness, are indissolubly united. Ethics therefore follow theology. And now the apostle first proceeds to enjoin the possession of such graces as promote and sustain the unity of the church, the members of which are “rooted and grounded in love” (Ep 3:17-note)—a unity which, as he is anxious to show, is quite compatible with variety of gift, office, and station. Then he dwells on the nature, design, and results of the ministerial functions belonging to the church, points out its special and divine organization, and goes on to the reprobation of certain vices, and the inculcation of opposite graces....
The retrospective oun (therefore) refers us to the preceding paragraph—Christian privilege or calling being so rich and full, and his prayer for them being so fervent and extensive. (Ephesians 4 Commentary)
Therefore walk the talk, beloved Gentiles! Below is the same idea in summary fashion...
BY BLOOD OF CHRIST (CROSS)
|Dead in trespasses and sins|
The world, the flesh, the devil
|Alive with Christ|
Raised with Christ
Seated with Christ
|Separated from Christ|
One new man
Reconciled to each other
Reconciled to God
Access to God
Family of God
Temple of God
Dwelling of God
In Paul's benediction which immediately precedes this verse he writes...
"To Him be the glory in the church..." (Ep 3:21-note)
And then he immediately implores the church to walk worthy of their calling. Clearly these are related ideas because when believers walk worthy they fulfill one of their purposes as recorded in the Sermon on the Mount to...
"Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven. (Mt 5:16-note)
In other words when a formerly godless, hopeless, Christless idol worshiping Gentile walks worthy of their calling it testifies that there is a God and in this way gives Him glory. The world then receives a proper opinion of our great God and Father when they see His good works in and through His family members, His children.
Ruth Paxson explains therefore - Therefore" does not indicate the commencement of something altogether new, but rather the consequence of what has preceded. Here it does not present a change of thought, but a call to prove the reality of our wealth through the rightness of our walk. "To turn from the doctrinal to the practical is not a break or a breach. There is no divorcement between Christian doctrine and Christian doing." The condition of the Christian must harmonize with his position. Being in Christ he should grow up into Christ. (Ibid)
Lloyd-Jones considers the therefore as an introduction to sanctification (progressive growth in Christ-likeness) writing that the great doctrinal truths in chapters 1-3 "are things that promote sanctification, that encourage sanctification, and give us motives for sanctification; but they are not sanctification itself. (Lloyd-Jones, D. M. Exposition of Ephesians in 8 Vol. Baker Book)
Barnes explains the therefore this way - "Such being your exalted privileges; since God has done so much for you; since he has revealed for you such a glorious system; since he has bestowed on you the honour of calling you into his kingdom, and making you partakers of his mercy, I entreat you to live in accordance with these elevated privileges, and to show your sense of his goodness by devoting your all to his service." (Albert Barnes. Barnes NT Commentary)
As William MacDonald writes "The position into which grace has lifted us was the dominant theme up to now. From here on it will be the practical outworking of that position. Our exalted standing in Christ calls for corresponding godly conduct. So it is true that Ephesians moves from the heavenlies in chapters 1-3, to the local church, to the home, and to general society in chapters 4-6. As Stott has pointed out, these closing chapters teach that “we must cultivate unity in the church, purity in our personal lives, harmony in our homes and stability in our combat with the powers of evil.” (MacDonald, W & Farstad, A. Believer's Bible Commentary: Thomas Nelson)
I - Observe that with this personal pronoun Paul clearly testifies he is the author of this letter.
Compare Ephesians 3:1-note
For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles
Prisoner of the Lord - Literally "The prisoner in the Lord" upon which Henry Alford says "who am, as regards, and for the sake of the cause, of the Lord, a prisoner; so that my captivity is in the Lord, as its element and sphere, and therefore to be regarded as an additional inducement to comply with my exhortation. "For whatever is Christ's even though disgraceful in the eyes of the world, ought to be regarded by you with the utmost respect." (Calvin). (The New Testament for English Readers)
Walter Taylor notes that "“Paul” speaks with the authority of one who is in prison because of his loyalty to the Lord, and therefore his ethical directives carry a particular weight. (Augsburg Commentary on the New Testament)
Prisoner(1198) (desmios from desméo = bind from desmos = bind, chain) is a captive or one who is bound or who is in bonds. One under custody in prison.
Paul became the Lord’s prisoner on the road to Damascus and never sought to be free of that divine imprisonment. He may be reminding his readers of his imprisonment to present them a realistic picture of what he was willing to go through to “walk worthy” as a model to them, and what it might cost them to walk worthy.
Webster says that a prisoner is "a person deprived of liberty and kept under involuntary restraint, confinement, or custody." Yes, Paul was a prisoner to Rome but much more significantly he was a prisoner of Christ voluntarily and at liberty, which is the antithesis of the worldly definition of a prisoner! May God grant each of us the will by His Spirit to make the wise choice to be prisoners of Christ! Amen
Actual imprisonment underlies the usage, but the real bondage is to Christ for whose sake it is suffered and to whom self-will is offered in sacrifice. In answer to the idea that Paul borrows here from the concept in the mysteries that katoche precedes the final dedication, it should be noted that Paul nowhere calls imprisonment a penultimate stage prior to being with Christ ( Phil. 1:23). Imprisonment symbolizes his whole life and ministry.
Desmios - 16x in 16v - Mt 27:15, 16; Mark 15:6; Acts 16:25, 27; 23:18; 25:14, 27; Acts 28:17 (Desmios has no definite article which stresses the character); Eph 3:1 (Prisoners often had time to think, read, write, etc); Eph 4:1; 2Ti 1:8 (To show sympathy to a prisoner and to offer him help could be very dangerous since it involved one in the charges against the prisoner); Philemon 1:1, 9; Heb 10:34; 13:3. NAS translates as prisoner(12), prisoners(4).
Desmios - 4x in the non-apocryphal Septuagint - Eccl 4:14; Lam 3:34; Zech 9:11, 12. Uses in the Apocrypha - 2 Macc 14:27, 33; 3 Macc 4:7; 7:5; Wis 17:2;
Moule - His bonds are due to his union with Christ. They are thus a strong Christian argument with his converts...Under all aspects of life Paul belongs to Christ. Whatever he is, does, or suffers, it is as Christ’s property. There is also an obvious reference to the fact that his imprisonment was for Christ’s cause; but this is not all. (Cambridge Bible Commentary)
John Eadie comments that Paul's "writing to them while he was in chains proved the deep interest he took in them and in their spiritual welfare—showed them that his faith in Jesus, and his love to His cause, were not shaken by persecution—that the iron which lay upon his limb had not entered into his soul—and that his apostolic prerogative was as intact, his pastoral anxiety as powerful, and his relation to the Lord as close and tender as when on his visit to them he disputed in the school of Tyrannus, or uttered his solemn and pathetic valediction to their elders at Miletus. Letters inspired by love in a dungeon might also have a greater charm than his oral address. (cp Gal 6:17) Ephesians 4 Commentary
MacArthur - By mentioning his imprisonment he gently reminds his readers that he knows the worthy Christian walk can be costly and that he has paid considerable cost himself because of his obedience to the Lord. He would not ask them to walk in a way in which he had not himself walked or pay a price that he himself was not willing to pay. His present physical circumstance seemed extremely negative from a human perspective, but Paul wanted his readers to know that this did not change his commitment to or his confidence in the Lord. (MacArthur, J: Ephesians. Chicago: Moody Press)
McGee comments that Paul "is a “prisoner of the Lord.” He is a prisoner because of his position in Christ. Isn’t it interesting that Paul can be seated in the heavenlies in Christ and can also be seated in a prison because he was a witness for Christ to the Gentiles? (McGee, J V: Thru the Bible Commentary: Thomas Nelson)
Theodoret comments that “What the world counted ignominy, he counts the highest honor, and he glories in his bonds for Christ, more than a king in his diadem.”
The Prisoner of the Lord
The great Apostle called himself
"The prisoner of the Lord;"
He was not held by Roman chains
Nor kept in Caesar's ward;
Constrained by love alone,
By cords of kindness bound,
The bondslave of the living Christ,
True liberty he found.
Oh, happy those who see
In poverty and pain,
In weakness and in toil,
Their Father's golden chain;
Who feel no prison walls
Though shut in narrow ways,
And though in darkness fettered fast
Can still rejoice and praise;
From sin's dread bondage bought,
They own their Master's ward,
They bear the brand of Christ,
Blest prisoners of the Lord!
--Annie Johnson Flint
Of the Lord - not of Rome (which was the reality). But Paul walked not by sight (seeing Roman prison) but by faith (seeing His risen Lord) and with an eternal purpose, for he knew that his tribulations were not wasted but were for the sake of the Gentiles. This divine purpose gave him an eternal perspective on his afflictions.
This description is literally not "of the Lord" but "in the Lord". S Lewis Johnson explains that...
In the Greek text, it is not “of” but “in,” so he speaks of himself as the prisoner in the Lord. In other words, it is his relationship of vital communion to the Lord Jesus Christ that lends authority to what he is saying. He’s a prisoner alright, but he’s a prisoner in the Lord. So what he says is to be regarded as coming from someone who is in vital union with the Lord Jesus Christ.
One of the ancient church fathers said, “He glories in his chains more than a king in his diadem.” Paul had reason in the chains in which he found himself, because he was in those chains because of his testimony for Jesus Christ. A man has a perfect right to glory in the marks that mark him out as one who belongs to the Lord Jesus Christ, if it is because of his relationship to the Lord. But of course if he suffers merely because he has been out of the will of God or has done something foolish, and as a Christian at the same time, then he has no right to glory in the things that have happened to him. Peter tells us that we ought to suffer as Christians in our suffering. So, the Apostle speaks of himself as a prisoner in the Lord. (Unity of the Body)
I implore you - I beseech you continually. I beg you continually. I am earnestly asking you. He is urging them in order to stimulate them to begin the process of progressive, step by step (like walking), sanctification (growth in holiness), growing in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. He is saying in essence that truth demands an appropriate response. In other words a true understanding of Christian doctrine should stimulate a desire to live a holy life, the character of that life he will outline in these next 3 chapters.
Are you living in the light of the of the unfathomable riches of Christ which you are learning that you possess from your study in Ephesians? Are these great truths in Ephesians making any perceptible difference in your Christian life? If not, why not?
The truths about our heavenly position and possession are wonderful but Paul wants to make sure that these believers are not so heavenly minded that they are no earthly good to God and His work!
McGee makes an interesting observation of the flow of these first six verses writing that...
In his discussion of this walk of the believer, Paul speaks first to the individual. The individual is to walk in lowliness and meekness. Then he widens out to the entire church, which is one body and one spirit. Finally, he brings this passage to a great, tremendous crescendo, which pictures the eminence and transcendence of God. (Ibid)
Implore(3870) (parakaleo from para = side of, alongside, beside + kaleo [ word study] = call) means literally to call one alongside, to call someone to oneself, to call for, to summon. Parakaleo can include the idea of giving help or aid but the primary sense in the NT is to urge someone to take some action, especially some ethical course of action. Sometimes the word means convey the idea of comfort, sometimes of exhortation but always at the root there is the idea of enabling a person to meet some difficult situation with confidence and with gallantry. See the following discussion for elaboration on the nuances of this great Greek verb.
One writer has said that Paul's use of parakaleo in verses like Eph 4:1, Ro 12:1, 1Th 4:1 is “one of the tenderest expressions in all the Bible.”
Kent Hughes illustrates the root idea of parakaleo "to come alongside and encourage" with the following example - I see this exemplified every time my church has a roller skating party, and the parents put their little ones on skates for the first time. Mom and Dad skate with their child, holding on to his or her hands, sometimes with the child’s feet on the ground and sometimes in the air. But all the time the parents are alongside encouraging....[exhortation] is a wonderful gift, and we are to place it at Christ’s feet and be willing to be worn out in its use.
Encourage one another - Study the "one anothers" - most positive, some negative
Our English word "encourage" means literally “with heart.” To encourage in a sense is to give them new heart. Shallow sympathy makes people feel worse --- true spiritual encouragement makes them feel better. It brings out the best in people.
It is worth noting that parakaleo is the verb root of parakletos, our Helper (Comforter = The Holy Spirit) in Jn 14:16;26;15:26;16:7 and our “Advocate” (Jesus)1Jn 2:1;. Kenneth Wuest adds that...
The verb parakaleo refers to the act of calling someone to one’s side in order to help one. The noun parakletos refers to the one who is called upon to render aid. It was used in the law courts of one who pleads another’s cause before a judge, a counsel for the defence, an advocate. In the widest sense it means “a helper, a succorer, one who aids another.” In the three passages in the Gospel noted above, the Holy Spirit is the Comforter to the saint, not that He comforts him in the sense of consoling him merely, but that He is sent to be the One to come to the aid of the Christian in the sense of ministering to him in his spiritual life. In the first epistle of John (1Jn 2:1), the Lord Jesus is the parakletos of the believer in the sense that He pleads our cause before our heavenly Father in relation to sin in the life of the Christian, praying us back into fellowship with God by the way of our confession and the cleansing blood. (Wuest Word Studies - Eerdman Publishing Company)
In the context of Ephesians 4:1, parakaleo is not simply a request but a plea, an imploring or begging. The idea of implore is to beg earnestly or even desperately. Interestingly, the English word implore is from the Latin implorare meaning to "invoke with tears"! Clearly, Paul wants the Gentile believers in Ephesus to be all they can be in Christ (cp one of Paul's life goals for all disciples - Col 1:28-note, Col 1:29-note, which is a good goal for all believers to pursue given the fact that we have all been commissioned by our Lord to go and make disciples. Mt 28:18, 19, 20)
The present tense indicates that it was Paul's practice (even though separated from them physically in prison) to continually come alongside the believers (via this epistle, and surely also via his prayers for them). It is notable that Paul does not issue a command to walk worthy (even as he did not make Ro 12:1 a command-see below). Instead Paul based his call upon the glorious truths that had brought his readers from far away to near (to God), and in so doing was gently and tenderly appealing to them in the "language of grace" (cp Ep 4:29-note). Similarly at the beginning of his practical section in the letter to the saints at Rome Paul wrote...
I urge (parakaleo) you therefore (Paul uses "therefore" as in Eph 4:1 to draw his reader's attention back to the preceding glorious truths, including the mercies of God, cp Ro 11:30, 31), brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. (Ro 12:1-note; Ro 12:2-note)
Regarding implore (beseech) Ruth Paxson writes...
Oh! the intensity of desire and the deep sense of responsibility which the aged apostle writes into that word "beseech!" He has already given them a marvellous revelation of their heavenly calling. Now with equal clarity he would show their responsibility for a corresponding conduct. It would well repay you to make a study of such words and phrases as "therefore," "wherefore," "for," "that," "as," "so," "let," "be ye," "be not ye," "see then," in Ephesians to see how Paul's appeals are always made on the ground of one's condition corresponding with one's position. "Ye are" -- "therefore be ye" -- is invariably the basis of Paul's appeal. (Ibid. Page 86)
Since a person can be called alongside for many purposes, the Greek word parakaleo has a wide range of meanings as evidenced by the many ways it is translated into English in the NAS version (kaleo). The meanings of parakaleo include to entreat, to appeal to, to summon, to comfort, to exhort, or to encourage.
The familiar English word paraclete (transliteration of the Greek term parakletos) is derived from parakaleo. Webster's 1828 dictionary defines paraclete as "Properly, an advocate; one called to aid or support; hence, the consoler, comforter or intercessor, a term applied to the Holy Spirit." Nelson's New Illustrated Bible Dictionary adds that paraclete is “one who speaks in favor of” as an intercessor, advocate, or legal assistant. The word, translated as “Comforter” or “Counselor,” appears only in the Gospel of John. Jesus applied the term to the Holy Spirit, who would be an advocate on behalf of Jesus’ followers after His ascension; the Spirit would plead their cause before God (John 14:16, 26; 15:26; 16:7)." In sum, the idea of paraclete is one who speaks or intercedes for someone in the presence of another, often with a legal connotation in the ancient world.
Our Daily Bread Devotionals Related to Encouragement and Comfort:
Devotionals from Bible.org:
Here's a great example of an encouraging illustration called "Helpful Honks"...
Each fall we are visited by flocks of migrating geese who stop off at a meadow near our home. For several weeks those birds fly in long, wavy V-formations over our house, honking as they go. But then, as winter approaches, they are off again on their long flight south.
A student of mine furthered my education and my appreciation for these visitors from the north. I learned that geese fly at speeds of 40 to 50 miles per hour. They travel in formation because as each bird flaps its wings, it creates an updraft for the bird behind it. They can go 70 percent farther in a group than they could if they flew alone.
Christians are like that in a way. When we have a common purpose, we are propelled by the thrust of others who share those same goals. We can get a lot further together than we can alone.
Geese also honk at one another. They are not critics but encouragers. Those in the rear sound off to exhort those up front to stay on course and maintain their speed.
We too move ahead much more easily if there is someone behind us encouraging us to stay on track and keep going.
Is there someone flying in formation with you today to whom you might give some “helpful honks?” --by Haddon W. Robinson (Our Daily Bread, Copyright RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, MI. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved) (Bolding and color added)
Let’s encourage one another
As we seek to stay on track;
If we keep our goal before us,
We will not be looking back. —Sper
We can go a lot farther together than we can alone.
Correction may mold us, but encouragement will motivate us.
(See Six Ways You Can Encourage Someone Today)
Someone has written that more people fail for lack of encouragement than for any other reason. Chuck Swindoll rightly remarked "How many people stop because so few say, 'Go!'" Even in the secular world encouragement is a powerful motivator. How much more so when Spirit controlled believers let their light shine by giving encouragement that brings glory to their Father in heaven (Mt 5:16)! Spurgeon once said "It does people good to be told how highly we value them. There is many a Christian man and woman who would do better if now and then someone would speak a kindly word to them, and let them know that they had done well." Encouragement is like a peanut butter sandwich—the more you spread it around, the better things stick together.
Flatter me, and I may not believe you.
Criticize me, and I may not like you.
Ignore me, and I may not forgive you.
Encourage me, and I will not forget you.
- William Arthur Ward
The meanings of parakaleo include the following nuances, with the context determining which is the most appropriate in a given verse. One often encounters different English words when comparing translations of parakaleo on the same verse, and this simply reflects the overlap of these various meanings. For example, to make this point notice that parakaleo in Mt 8:5 is translated with almost every one of the possible English words -- imploring = NAS, asking for help = NIV, NET, beseeching = KJV, Geneva, ASV, RSV, pleading with = NKJV, calling upon = Young's Literal, plead with = Living Bible, begged = Good News Translation, with a request = Bible in Basic English, begging = Amplified, entreated = Weymouth, appealed to = New American Bible., appealing to = NRSV, ESV, begged him repeatedly = International Std Version, Take a moment and read through the NT occurrences of parakaleo below (click) to give you a better sense of how this word is used by the NT writers.
(1) To exhort: (Related Resource: See Brief Discussion of the Spiritual Gift of Exhortation)
Our English word is derived from Latin exhortari, from ex = out + hortari = to excite. Exhort = to incite or stimulate to exertion or action by argument or advice, to strongly urge, to persuade someone strongly, to make urgent appeal to someone. Some synonyms for exhort = egg on, goad, prick, prod, prompt, spur. The idea of exhort (giving exhortation) is to motivate someone to action, to rouse them (eg, out of there "spiritual stupor") to their godly duty by virtue of proposing suitable motives (eg, see Ro 12:8-note). Do you have the "gift" of exhortation? Are you using your gift in the body in which God has placed you? Does your exhortation sound more like a goad or an appealing appeal? Remember also that it's difficult for "spiritual hermits" to come alongside other believers unless they come out of their isolation. Like the old secular commercial said "Reach out and touch someone". Good advice for believers!
Closely related to the meaning "to exhort" is the meaning "to urge" (Urge from Latin urgere = to press, push) which means to press, to push, to drive, to impel, to apply force to, to press the mind or will, to press by motives, arguments, persuasion or importunity.
The New Unger's Bible Dictionary says that exhortation has been defined as "the act of presenting such motives before a person as may excite him to the performance of duty." (E.g., a good example of motivating one to action is seen in use of parakaleo in the LXX of Dt 3:28)
(2) To implore, to beg, to beseech, to entreat, to earnestly ask for, to appeal to (Mt 8:5, 18:32, Mk 1:40, Acts 9:38, 16:9, Philemon 1:10. In Lk 8:41 clearly parakaleo conveys the sense of to help or bring aid.) - The idea here in part is that one is speaking with persistence to another person, making a strong request.
The demons entreat Jesus in Mt 8:31, 18:29, Mk 5:12, Lk 7:4. How sad that men entreated Jesus to depart (Mk 5:17, Mt 8:34). On the other hand those who were suffering entreated Him for healing and relief (Mt 14:36, Mk 5:18, 6:56, 7:32, 8:22)
Entreat means ask earnestly; to beseech, to petition or plead with urgency and especially in order to persuade, to solicit pressingly, to beg, to importune.
Implore (see above)
Beseech means to ask urgently and fervently for something.
Therefore, we are ;;ambassadors for Christ, ;;as though God were making an appeal (parakaleo) through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be ;;reconciled to God. (2 Co 5:20).
(3) To console, to comfort (Ep 6:22-note, 2Th 2:17, In the Greek or LXX of Ps 23:4-note [where God parakaleo's David] and Ru 2:13-note, where Ruth is referring to the comfort Boaz had shown her. Men, do you "comfort" your wives or "combat" with your wives? cp Pr 31:28) Notice how the literal meaning of parakaleo (to come alongside) comes into play when comforting someone. We can hardly comfort them if we don't draw near (which can be physically, by phone, email, etc).
Comfort (from Late Latin confortāre to strengthen very much, from Latin con- = intensives meaning + fortis = strong = to strengthen much) means to ease the pain of, to strengthen, to invigorate, to cheer, to enliven, to soothe. Webster's 1828 definition says that to comfort is "To strengthen the mind when depressed or enfeebled; to console; to give new vigor to the spirits; to cheer, or relieve from depression, or trouble."
Note the source of the Psalmist's comfort in the following verse which uses parakaleo...in each case in some way connected with the Word of God (Are you going to the Word to be comforted? Or are you looking for comfort in all the wrong places, to make a play on an old country and western song?)
Psalm 119:50 This is my comfort (LXX = parakaleo) in my affliction, that Your word has revived me.
Spurgeon comments: it is clear that the Psalmist had affliction -- affliction peculiar to himself, which he calls "my affliction"; that he had comfort in it, -- comfort specially his own, for he styles it "my comfort"; and that he knew what the comfort was, and where it came from, for exclaims -- "this is my comfort". The worldling clutches his money bag and says, "this is my comfort"; the spendthrift points to his gaiety, shouts, "this is my comfort"; the drunkard lifts his glass, and sings, "this is my comfort"; but the man whose hope comes from God feels the giving power of the word of the Lord, and he testifies, "this is my fort." Paul said, "I know whom I have believed." Comfort is desirable all times; but comfort in affliction is like a lamp in a dark place. Some unable to find comfort at such times; but it is not so with believers, their Savour has said to them, "I will not leave you comfortless." have comfort and no affliction, others have affliction and no comfort; the saints have comfort in their affliction.
The word frequently comforts us by increasing the force of our inner "this is my comfort; thy word hath quickened me." To quicken the is to cheer the whole man. Often the near way to consolation is sanctification and invigoration. If we cannot clear away the fog, it may be to rise to a higher level, and so to get above it. Troubles which weigh down while we are half dead become mere trifles when we are full of Thus have we often been raised in spirit by quickening grace, and the thing will happen again, for the Comforter is still with us, the Consolation of Israel ever liveth, and the very God of peace is evermore our Father. Looking back upon our past life there is one ground of comfort as to state -- the word of God has made us alive, and kept us so. We were but we are dead no longer. From this we gladly infer that if the had meant to destroy he would not have quickened us. If we were only hypocrites worthy of derision, as the proud ones say, he would not revived us by his grace. An experience of quickening is a fountain of cheer.
Psalm 119:52 I have remembered Your ordinances from of old, O LORD, and comfort (LXX = parakaleo) myself.
When we see no present display of the divine power it is wise to fall back upon the records of former ages, since they are just as available as if the transactions were of yesterday, seeing the Lord is always the same. Our true comfort must be found in what our God works on behalf of truth and right, and as the histories of the olden times are full of divine interpositions it is well to be thoroughly acquainted with them (Ed: In other words, make sure you spend some time in the Old Testament. It is very "modern" when it comes to its salutary effects to one's soul!). Moreover, if we are advanced in years we have the providence of our early days to review, and these should by no means be forgotten or left out of our thoughts. The argument is good and solid: He who has shown Himself strong on behalf of His believing people is the immutable God, and therefore we may expect deliverance at His hands. The grinning of the proud will not trouble us when we remember how the Lord dealt with their predecessors in by gone periods; He destroyed them at the deluge, He confounded them at Babel, He drowned them at the Red Sea, He drove them out of Canaan: He has in all ages bared His arm against the haughty, and broken them as potters' vessels. While in our own hearts we humbly drink of the mercy of God in quietude, we are not without comfort in seasons of turmoil and derision; for then we resort to God's justice, and remember how He scoffs at the scoffers: "He that sitteth in the heavens doth laugh, the Lord doth have them in derision." (Ps 2:4-note)
When he was greatly derided the Psalmist did not sit down in despair, but rallied his spirits. He knew that comfort is needful for strength in service, and for the endurance of persecution, and therefore he comforted himself. In doing this he resorted not so much to the sweet as to the stern side of the Lord's dealings, and dwelt upon His judgments. If we can find sweetness in the divine justice, how much more shall we perceive it in divine love and grace. How thoroughly must that man be at peace with God who can find comfort, not only in His promises, but in His judgments. Even the terrible things of God are cheering to believers. They know that nothing is more to the advantage of all God's creatures than to be ruled by a strong hand which will deal out justice. The righteous man, has no fear of the ruler's sword, which is only a terror to evil doers. When the godly man is unjustly treated he finds comfort in the fact that there is a Judge of all the earth who will avenge his own elect, and redress the ills of these disordered times.
Psalm 119:76-note O may Your lovingkindness comfort (LXX = parakaleo) me, According to Your word to Your servant.
Verse 76. -- Comfort
1) May be a matter of prayer.
2) Is provided for in the Lord.
3) Is promised in the word.
4) Is of great value to the believer.
Verse 76. --
1) The need of comfort.
2) The source of comfort: "Thy merciful kindness."
3) The rule of comfort: "According to thy word." --G.R.
Psalm 119:82-note My eyes fail with longing for Your word, while I say, "When will You comfort (LXX = parakaleo) me?"
(4) To encourage (Col 2:2-note; Col 4:8-note, LXX = Isa 35:3) This sense is often very difficult for me to separate from the idea of exhorting as discussed in #1 above.
MacArthur notes that the "the ministry of exhortation has several elements. It involves persuasion (;Acts 2:14;14:22;Titus 1:9), pleading (2Co 8:17), comforting (1Th 2:11), encouraging (1Th 4:1), and patient reiterating of important doctrine (;2Ti 4:2;)."
Encourage (From French = encourager in turn from en- + courage, which is from coeur, = the heart) from it's derivation means “with heart”. To encourage means to (in a sense) give another person "new heart". Webster's 1828 dictionary says encourage means "To give courage to; to give or increase confidence of success; to inspire with courage, spirit, or strength of mind; to embolden; to animate; to incite; to inspirit." To encourage means to fill with courage or strength of purpose especially in preparation for a hard task. Synonyms include to animate, buoy up, cheer, embolden, enhearten, hearten, inspire, inspirit, nerve, reassure, rouse, steel, strengthen. Shallow sympathy makes people feel worse- genuine spiritual encouragement makes them not just feel better but most importantly brings out the best in them. It is instructive to study the antonyms of encourage including words like "daunt, depress, deter, discourage, dishearten, dispirit, dissuade, hinder, inhibit, intimidate, prevent, retard, scare, throw cold water on" (from Collins Thesaurus. Glasgow: HarperCollins) Dearly beloved of God, would you place yourself in the "synonym" or the "antonym" group?
Note that this sense of parakaleo is found especially in the Epistle to the Hebrews, which the author even refers to as a "word of exhortation (or encouragement)" (He 13:22-note)
But (see context He 3:12-note) encourage (present imperative = not a suggestion but a command for these Hebrew Christians to make this a continual practice in light of the ever present danger he goes on to explain [by way of application there is a continual need for this genre of encouragement in our churches for the same reason - so they do not become hardened!]) one another day after day, as long as it is still called "Today," so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. (Heb 3:13-note including in depth discussion about the "deceitful" nature of sin.)
He 10:25-note (context = He 10:24) not forsaking our own assembling together (Note how forsaking impedes "coming alongside"! You cannot truly "do church" unless you are mingling with the members!), as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; (What should motivate all believers to be encouragers? What "time" is it? What "day" is "drawing near"?) and all the more as you see the day drawing near.
(5) With the nuance of to teach or to instruct (Titus 1:9)
(6) To summon (as to one's aid - Mt 26:53), to call for, to call to one's side (Acts 28:20).
(7) To invite (Acts 28:14)
William Barclay has a very insightful note on some of the secular uses of parakaleo and the derivative word parakletos...
(i) At its most general parakalein (parakaleo) means to call in, to summon. So a man is said to call in an ally (summachos) (Herodotus, 7.158); to call in a counselor to give advice (sumboulos) (Xenophon, Anabasis 1.6.5); to call in an advocate to plead a case in the law courts (sunegoros) (Aeschines, 2.184).
It is also used of calling upon a man to undertake a public duty such as the duty of gymnasiarch, whose duty it was to maintain and train a team at his own expense to run in the torch race.
Finally, it is used of calling in the gods as helpers (boethoi) (Epictetus, 3.21.12).
It is clear that in every case the summons is to help, to service, to assistance. Therefore at its widest a parakletos (derived from parakaleo - used of the Holy Spirit in Jn 14:16, 26, 15:26, 16:7, and Jesus in 1Jn 2:1) is a person who is called in to help in a situation with which a man by himself cannot cope. It is true that the basic meaning of parakletos is helper, but we must now try to put some more definite content into the meaning of the help which is sought and given.
(ii) Let us look next at one of the rare meanings of the word parakalein (parakaleo). In ordinary secular Greek the word parakalein very rarely means to comfort, in the sense of to console. But it does have that meaning in the Septuagint. It is so used in Ps 71.21, `Thou shalt increase my greatness and comfort me on every side.' It is the word which is used in the great passage in Isa 40.1, 2, `Comfort ye, comfort ye, my people, saith your God.' In the two later versions of the Septuagint, those of Aquila and Theodotion, parakletos is the word used in Job 16.2, `Miserable comforters are ye all.' It is then possible to take parakletos to mean one called in to comfort and to console; but two things have to be noted. First, it is by far the rarest meaning of the word. Second, even if it be taken in that sense, it still has the background of a comfort which makes a man able to stand on his two feet and face life. In Job 4.4 the Moffatt translation is, `Your words have kept men on their feet,' and that is a description of the effect of the comfort which parakalein describes.
(iii) In ordinary secular Greek by far the most characteristic usage both of parakalein (parakaleo) and parakletos is in connexion with help given in some kind of legal trial. In Greece the parakletos was the friend of the accused person, called in to speak in support of his character, in order to enlist the sympathy of the judges in his favour. In Demosthenes it can be used for the counsel for the defence. It means someone who will present someone else's case to some other person or to some other authority in the most favourable light. Diogenes Laertius (4.50) tells about the answer of the philosopher Bion to a man who was a talkative nuisance. Bion said : 'I will do my of the Law gains for himself one parakletos, advocate; he who commits one transgression gains to himself one kategoros, accuser."In the heavenly judgment a man's parakletoi, advocates, are repentance and good works."All the righteousness and mercy which an Israelite doeth in the world, are great peace and great parakletoi, advocates, between him and his Father in heaven.'...
But above all parakalein (parakaleo) is used of exhorting troops who are about to go into battle. Aeschylus (Persae 380) says of the ships sailing into battle;
'The long galleys cheered (parakalein) each other, line by line.'
Euripides (Phoenissae 1254) describing the plans for battle says:
'So did they hail them, cheering them to fight.'
Xenophon uses it of urging the soldiers to embark upon the ships and to set out on an adventurous voyage (Anabasis 5.6. 19).
Polybius uses it of Lutatius addressing his troops before a naval battle with the Carthaginians (1.60.5). He uses it of Demetrius rallying his men and addressing the ranks before they embarked upon battle (3.19.4). And the word he uses of embarking upon battle is diakinduneuein, which means to accept the risk of battle.
Again and again we find that parakalein (parakaleo) is the word of the rallying-call; it is the word used of the speeches of leaders and of soldiers who urge each other on. It is the word used of words which send fearful and timorous and hesitant soldiers and sailors courageously into battle.(Ed comment: Brethren, does this not have an excellent application!? Believers are engaged in a continual war with the world, the flesh and the devil -- how important are our encouragements/exhortations to fellow soldiers of the Cross, that they might be thereby strengthened to persevere in the fight, to finish the course, to keep the faith! Who have you encouraged today? this week? Do it while today is still called today [cp Heb 3:13-note].)
A parakletos is therefore an encourager, one who puts courage into the faint-hearted, one who nerves the feeble arm for fight, one who makes a very ordinary man cope gallantly with a perilous and a dangerous situation. Here then we have the great work of the Holy Spirit. To put it in modern language, the Holy Spirit makes men able to cope with life. The Holy Spirit is in fact the fulfilment of the promise, 'Lo, I am with you always even unto the end of the world' (Matt. 28.20).
It is quite clear that the translation comforted which in the days of Wycliffe was perfectly adequate and correct for parakletos has now become much too narrow and much too limited. To limit, even by suggestion, the work of the Holy Spirit to consolation and to comfort is sadly to belittle the work of the Spirit. By the study of the word parakletos we have come to see the wide scope in time and eternity of the parakletos.
(i) The word parakletos always means someone called in to help and to render some service; therefore the Holy Spirit is essentially the helper of men.
(ii) The word parakletos has a great Septuagint background to that kind of comfort and consolation in distress which keeps a man on his feet, when, left to himself, he would collapse. It is the comfort which enables a man to pass the breaking-point and not to break.
(ill) The word parakletos has a great background in Greek law. The parakletos was the prisoner's friend, the advocate and counsel for the defence, the man who bore witness to his friend's character when he most needed it, and when others wished to condemn him; therefore when we describe the glorified Christ as our parakletos we mean that he is there to speak for us before God.
(iv) The word parakalein (parakaleo) is the word for exhorting men to noble deeds and high thoughts; it is especially the word of courage before battle. Life is always calling us into battle and the one who makes us able to stand up to the opposing forces, to cope with life and to conquer life is the parakletos, the Holy Spirit, who is none other than the presence and the power of the risen Christ. (Barclay, William: New Testament Words:. Westminster John Know Press, 1964)
109x in 105v in NAS
Gospel Uses of Parakaleo = Mt 2:18; 5:4; 8:5, 31, 34; 14:36; 18:29, 32; 26:53; Mk 1:40; 5:10, 12, 17, 18, 23; 6:56; 7:32; 8:22; Lk 3:18; 7:4; 8:31, 32, 41; 15:28; 16:25;
Acts Uses of Parakaleo =Acts 2:40; 8:31; 9:38; 11:23; 13:42; 14:22; 15:32; 16:9, 15, 39, 40; 19:31; 20:1, 2, 12; 21:12; 24:4; 25:2; 27:33, 28; 28:14, 20;
Pauline Uses of Parakaleo = Ro 12:1-note, Ro 12:8-note; Ro 15:30-note; Ro 16:17-note; 1Cor 1:10; 4:13, 16; 14:31; 16:12, 15; 2Co 1:4, 6; 2:7, 8; 5:20; 6:1; 7:6, 7, 13; 8:6; 9:5; 10:1; 12:8, 18; 13:11; Ep 4:1-note; Ep 6:22-note; Php 4:2-note; Col 2:2-note; Col 4:8-note; 1Th 2:12-note; 1Th 3:2-note, 1Th 3:7-note; 1Th 4:1-note, 1Th 4:10-note, 1Th 4:18-note; 1Th 5:11-note, 1Th 5:14-note; 2Th 2:17; 3:12; 1Ti 1:3; 2:1; 5:1; 6:2; 2Ti 4:2-note; Titus 1:9-note; Titus 2:6-note, Titus 2:15-note; Philemon 1:9, 10;
Non-Pauline Uses of Parakaleo = Heb 3:13-note; He 10:25-note; He 13:19-note, He 13:22-note; 1Pe 2:11-note; 1Pe 5:1-note, 12; Jude 1:3
Parakaleo has a host of renderings in the English (NAS) reflecting the various nuances of meaning of this major NT verb = appeal(4), appealed(1), appealing(2), beg(1), begging(2), beseeching(1), comfort(5), comforted(11), comforts(2), conciliate(1), encourage(6), encouraged(4), encouraging(3), entreat(1), exhort(8), exhortation*(1), exhortations(1), exhorted(2), exhorting(3), exhorts(1), given(1), implore(4), implored(9), imploring(5), invited(2), making an appeal(1), plead(1), pleaded(1), pleading(1), preach(1), requested(1), urge(17), urged(5), urging(1). (The KJV versions translates parakaleo as beseech 43, comfort 23, exhort 21, desire 8, pray 6, intreat 3, misc 4, vr besought 1)
Parakaleo - 82v in the non-apocryphal Septuagint (LXX) - Ge 24:67 (comforted); Ge 37:35 (comforted); Ge 38:12; 50:21; Ex 15:13; Dt 3:28; 13:6; 32:36; Jdg 2:18; 21:6, 15; Ru 2:13; 1Sa 15:11; 22:4; 2Sa 10:2, 3; 12:24; 13:39; 24:16; 1Chr 7:22; 19:2, ; Es 5:1, 2; Job 2:11; 4:3; 7:13; 21:34; 29:25; 42:11; Ps 23:4; 69:20; 71:21; 77:2; 86:17; 90:13; 119:50, 52, 76, 82; 126:1; 135:14; Pr 1:10; 8:4; Ec 4:1; Is 10:31, 32; 13:2; 21:2; 22:4; 33:7; 35:4; 38:16; 40:1, 2, 11; 41:27; 49:10, 13; 51:3, 12, 18, 19; 54:11; 57:5, 18; 61:2; 66:12, 13; Lam 1:2, 9, 16, 21; 2:13; Ezek 14:23; 24:17, 22, 23, 31:16; 32:31; Zech 10:2. Notice especially the 16 uses in Isaiah 40-66, chapters in which deliverance is promised to the people, truth which would bring comfort to those (who had ears to hear) who were in Babylonian captivity.
Isaiah 35:4 Say to those with anxious heart, "Take courage (a command in Hebrew) (LXX = parakaleo; Brenton's English translation = "Comfort [parakaleo] one another" = a command in the aorist imperative calling for immediate attention!), fear not. Behold, your God will come with vengeance; The recompense of God will come, But He will save you."
Comment: God is speaking to Israel, but the principle is applicable to any believer who is suffering from an "anxious heart" condition.
Isaiah 40:1 "Comfort (LXX = parakaleo in the present imperative = continually comfort is the idea!), O comfort (see prior comment) My people," says your God. (Listen to Handel's beautiful 'Comfort Ye My People' and ponder His comfort for you as His child by grace through faith')
Isaiah 51:12 "I, even I, am He who comforts (LXX = parakaleo) you. Who are you that you are afraid of man who dies And of the son of man who is made like grass,
Isaiah 61:2 To proclaim the favorable year of the LORD (The first part of the verse is quoted by Jesus in Lk 4:19 but not the second part of the verse and he declared these prophecies as fulfilled in Lk 4:20, 21. There is a clear gap of time [See discussion of Prophetic Time Gaps] between the first part of Isa 61:2 fulfilled in Messiah's First Coming and the second part which is yet to be fulfilled at His Second Coming - notice that although there will be vengeance when Messiah returns, there will be comfort for those who mourn - see Zech 12:10 for those Jews who will mourn) and the day of vengeance of our God; To comfort all who mourn.
Here are all the uses of parakaleo in the NT...
Matthew 2:18 "A VOICE WAS HEARD IN RAMAH, WEEPING AND GREAT MOURNING, RACHEL WEEPING FOR HER CHILDREN; AND SHE REFUSED TO BE COMFORTED, BECAUSE THEY WERE NO MORE."
Matthew 5:4 "Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
Matthew 8:5 And when Jesus entered Capernaum, a centurion came to Him, imploring (present tense = continually) Him,
Matthew 8:31 The demons began to entreat Him, saying, "If You are going to cast us out, send us into the herd of swine."
Matthew 8:34 And behold, the whole city came out to meet Jesus; and when they saw Him, they implored Him to leave their region.
Matthew 14:36 and they implored Him that they might just touch the fringe of His cloak; and as many as touched it were cured.
Matthew 18:29 "So his fellow slave fell to the ground and began to plead with him, saying, 'Have patience with me and I will repay you.'
Matthew 18:32 "Then summoning him, his lord said to him, 'You wicked slave, I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me.
Matthew 26:53 "Or do you think that I cannot appeal to My Father, and He will at once put at My disposal more than twelve legions of angels?
Mark 1:40 And a leper came to Jesus, beseeching Him and falling on his knees before Him, and saying, "If You are willing, You can make me clean."
Mark 5:10 And he began to implore Him earnestly not to send them out of the country.
Mark 5:12 The demons implored Him, saying, "Send us into the swine so that we may enter them."
Mark 5:17 And they began to implore Him to leave their region.
Mark 5:18 As He was getting into the boat, the man who had been demon-possessed was imploring Him that he might accompany Him.
Mark 5:23 and implored Him earnestly, saying, "My little daughter is at the point of death; please come and lay Your hands on her, so that she will get well and live."
Mark 6:56 Wherever He entered villages, or cities, or countryside, they were laying the sick in the market places, and imploring Him that they might just touch the fringe of His cloak; and as many as touched it were being cured.
Mark 7:32 They brought to Him one who was deaf and spoke with difficulty, and they implored Him to lay His hand on him.
Mark 8:22 And they came to Bethsaida. And they brought a blind man to Jesus and implored Him to touch him.
Luke 3:18 So with many other exhortations he preached the gospel to the people.
Luke 7:4 When they came to Jesus, they earnestly implored Him, saying, "He is worthy for You to grant this to him;
Luke 8:31 They were imploring Him not to command them to go away into the abyss. 32 Now there was a herd of many swine feeding there on the mountain; and the demons implored Him to permit them to enter the swine. And He gave them permission.
Luke 8:41 And there came a man named Jairus, and he was an official of the synagogue; and he fell at Jesus' feet, and began to implore Him to come to his house;
Luke 15:28 "But he became angry and was not willing to go in; and his father came out and began pleading with him.
Luke 16:25 "But Abraham said, 'Child, remember that during your life you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus bad things; but now he is being comforted here, and you are in agony.
Acts 2:40 And with many other words he solemnly testified and kept on exhorting them, saying, "Be saved from this perverse generation!"
Acts 8:31 And he said, "Well, how could I, unless someone guides me?" And he invited Philip to come up and sit with him.
Acts 9:38 Since Lydda was near Joppa, the disciples, having heard that Peter was there, sent two men to him, imploring (KJV = desiring) him, "Do not delay in coming to us."
Acts 11:23 Then when he arrived and witnessed the grace of God, he rejoiced and began to encourage them all with resolute heart to remain true to the Lord;
Comment: As an aside the call or encouragement to remain faithful is common in Acts - Acts 2:40, 14:22, 15:32, 16:39, 20:1,2.
Acts 13:42 As Paul and Barnabas were going out, the people kept begging that these things might be spoken to them the next Sabbath.
Acts 14:22 strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying, "Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God."
Acts 15:32 Judas and Silas, also being prophets themselves, encouraged and strengthened the brethren with a lengthy message.
Acts 16:9 A vision appeared to Paul in the night: a man of Macedonia was standing and appealing to him, and saying, "Come over to Macedonia and help us."
Acts 16:15 And when she and her household had been baptized, she urged us, saying, "If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come into my house and stay." And she prevailed upon us.
Acts 16:39 and they came and appealed to them, and when they had brought them out, they kept begging them to leave the city. 40 They went out of the prison and entered the house of Lydia, and when they saw the brethren, they encouraged them and departed.
Acts 19:31 Also some of the Asiarchs who were friends of his sent to him and repeatedly urged him not to venture into the theater.
Acts 20:1 After the uproar had ceased, Paul sent for the disciples, and when he had exhorted them and taken his leave of them, he left to go to Macedonia. 2 When he had gone through those districts and had given them much exhortation, he came to Greece.
Acts 20:12 They took away the boy alive, and were greatly comforted.
Acts 21:12 When we had heard this, we as well as the local residents began begging him not to go up to Jerusalem.
Acts 24:4 "But, that I may not weary you any further, I beg you to grant us, by your kindness, a brief hearing.
Acts 25:2 And the chief priests and the leading men of the Jews brought charges against Paul, and they were urging him,
Acts 27:33 Until the day was about to dawn, Paul was encouraging them all to take some food, saying, "Today is the fourteenth day that you have been constantly watching and going without eating, having taken nothing. 34 "Therefore I encourage you to take some food, for this is for your preservation, for not a hair from the head of any of you will perish."
Acts 28:14 There we found some brethren, and were invited to stay with them for seven days; and thus we came to Rome.
Acts 28:20 "For this reason, therefore, I requested to see you and to speak with you, for I am wearing this chain for the sake of the hope of Israel."
Romans 12:1 Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.
Romans 12:8 or he who exhorts, in his exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness.
Romans 15:30 Now I urge you, brethren, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to strive together with me in your prayers to God for me,
Romans 16:17 Now I urge you, brethren, keep your eye on those who cause dissensions and hindrances contrary to the teaching which you learned, and turn away from them.
1 Corinthians 1:10 Now I exhort you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all agree and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be made complete in the same mind and in the same judgment.
1 Corinthians 4:13 when we are slandered, we try to conciliate; we have become as the scum of the world, the dregs of all things, even until now.
1 Corinthians 4:16 Therefore I exhort you, be imitators of me.
1 Corinthians 14:31 For you can all prophesy one by one, so that all may learn and all may be exhorted;
1 Corinthians 16:12 But concerning Apollos our brother, I encouraged him greatly to come to you with the brethren; and it was not at all his desire to come now, but he will come when he has opportunity.
1 Corinthians 16:15 Now I urge you, brethren (you know the household of Stephanas, that they were the first fruits of Achaia, and that they have devoted themselves for ministry to the saints),
2 Corinthians 1:4 who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort (paraklesis = act of emboldening another in belief or course of action) with which we ourselves are comforted by God....6 But if we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; or if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which is effective in the patient enduring of the same sufferings which we also suffer;
2 Corinthians 2:7 so that on the contrary you should rather forgive and comfort him, otherwise such a one might be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. 8 Wherefore I urge you to reaffirm your love for him.
The believers at Corinth were to come alongside a repentant sinner and strengthen him (cp Gal 6:1), to lift him up and to give him aid so that he is able to walk worthy of his calling henceforth.
2 Corinthians 5:20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg (deomai = to ask for with pleading) you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.
2 Corinthians 6:1 And working together with Him, we also urge you not to receive the grace of God in vain--
2 Corinthians 7:6 But God, who comforts the depressed, comforted us by the coming of Titus; 7 and not only by his coming, but also by the comfort with which he was comforted in you, as he reported to us your longing, your mourning, your zeal for me; so that I rejoiced even more.
2 Corinthians 7:13 For this reason we have been comforted. And besides our comfort, we rejoiced even much more for the joy of Titus, because his spirit has been refreshed by you all.
2 Corinthians 8:6 So we urged Titus that as he had previously made a beginning, so he would also complete in you this gracious work as well.
2 Corinthians 9:5 So I thought it necessary to urge the brethren that they would go on ahead to you and arrange beforehand your previously promised bountiful gift, so that the same would be ready as a bountiful gift and not affected by covetousness.
2 Corinthians 10:1 Now I, Paul, myself urge you by the meekness and gentleness of Christ-- I who am meek when face to face with you, but bold toward you when absent!
2 Corinthians 12:8 Concerning this I implored the Lord three times that it might leave me.
Compare uses of parakaleo in the Gospels which also convey the sense of implore ((Matt. 8:5; 14:36; Mark 1:40; 5:23; 6:56; 7:32; 8:22; Luke 7:4; 8:41).
2 Corinthians 12:18 I urged Titus to go, and I sent the brother with him. Titus did not take any advantage of you, did he? Did we not conduct ourselves in the same spirit and walk in the same steps?
2 Corinthians 13:11 Finally, brethren, rejoice, be made complete, be comforted, be like-minded, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you.
Ephesians 4:1 Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called,
In context Paul uses parakaleo to convey an intense feeling, strong desire, not simply a request but a plea or a begging.
Ephesians 6:22 I have sent him to you for this very purpose, so that you may know about us, and that he may comfort your hearts.
Philippians 4:2 I urge Euodia and I urge Syntyche to live in harmony in the Lord.
Colossians 2:2 that their hearts may be encouraged, having been knit together in love, and attaining to all the wealth that comes from the full assurance of understanding, resulting in a true knowledge of God's mystery, that is, Christ Himself,
Vine: (Parakaleo) denotes either to comfort or encourage or exhort. Here the context points to the meaning to encourage, to kindle spiritual activity
Barclay: It should be a Church of courageous hearts. Paul prays that their hearts may be encouraged. The word which he uses is parakalein (parakaleo). Sometimes that word means to comfort, sometimes to exhort, but always at the back of it there is the idea of enabling a person to meet some difficult situation with confidence and with gallantry. One of the Greek historians uses it in a most interesting and suggestive way. There was a Greek regiment which had lost heart and was utterly dejected. The general sent a leader to talk to it to such purpose that courage was reborn and a body of dispirited men became fit again for heroic action. That is what parakalein means here. It is Paul’s prayer that the Church may be filled with that courage which can cope with any situation.
Colossians 4:8 For I have sent him to you for this very purpose, that you may know about our circumstances and that he may encourage your hearts;
1 Thessalonians 2:11 (Note some versions have this in 1Th 2:12ESV) just as you know how we were exhorting and encouraging (paramutheomai = console, cheer up) and imploring each one of you as a father would his own children,
1 Thessalonians 3:2 and we sent Timothy, our brother and God's fellow worker in the gospel of Christ, to strengthen and encourage you as to your faith,
What is the potential effect of encouragement? What will be impacted according to this verse? Beloved, we are all involved in a "good fight of faith" and it behooves each of us to seek to intentional encouragers of one another (not flatters, but encouragers).
1 Thessalonians 3:7 for this reason, brethren, in all our distress and affliction we were comforted about you through your faith;
1 Thessalonians 4:1 Finally then, brethren, we request and exhort you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us instruction as to how you ought to walk and please God (just as you actually do walk), that you excel still more.
Notice this exhortation parallels that found in Eph 4:1 and Ro 12:1.
1 Thessalonians 4:10 for indeed you do practice it toward all the brethren who are in all Macedonia. But we urge you, brethren, to excel still more,
Paul does not command them to excel but urges or pleads with them.
1 Thessalonians 4:18 Therefore comfort (come alongside) one another with these words.
1 Thessalonians 5:11 Therefore encourage one another and build up one another, just as you also are doing.
1 Thessalonians 5:14 We urge you, brethren, admonish the unruly, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with everyone.
2 Thessalonians 2:17 comfort and strengthen your hearts in every good work and word.
2 Thessalonians 3:12 Now such persons we command and exhort in the Lord Jesus Christ to work in quiet fashion and eat their own bread.
1 Timothy 1:3 As I urged you upon my departure for Macedonia, remain on at Ephesus so that you may instruct certain men not to teach strange doctrines,
Here parakaleo has the sense of Paul pleading with Timothy to stay on at Ephesus.
1 Timothy 2:1 First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men,
1 Timothy 5:1 Do not sharply rebuke an older man, but rather appeal to him as a father, to the younger men as brothers,
The idea of parakaleo in this context is "I beg of you".
1 Timothy 6:2 Those who have believers as their masters must not be disrespectful to them because they are brethren, but must serve them all the more, because those who partake of the benefit are believers and beloved. Teach and preach these principles.
2 Timothy 4:2 preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction. (All verbs in red are aorist imperative = command to do this now. The need is urgent!)
John MacArthur comments that the meaning of parakaleo ranges "from simply calling out to someone to admonishing, which is clearly the meaning in this context. It also carries the idea of encouragement. After having reproved and rebuked disobedient believers under his care, the faithful preacher is then to come alongside them in love and encourage them to spiritual change."
Titus 1:9 holding fast (continually clinging strong to) the faithful word which is in accordance with the teaching, so that he will be able both to exhort in sound doctrine and to refute those who contradict.
How can one (context refers primarily to elders, but applicable to all saints) best exhort? Clearly he needs to be holding fast the trustworthy Word, which is the source of sound doctrine and doctrine that counters erroneous teaching.
MacArthur writes: "It is failure in the area of holding fast the faithful word that is largely responsible for the superficial, self-elevating preaching and teaching in many evangelical churches. Here is the real culprit in the weak, shallow, insipid “;sermonettes for Christianettes;” that are such common church fare today. Here is the real villain that has led so many to be converted to what they consider relevancy and therefore to preach a pampering psychology or become stand-up comics, storytellers, clever speechmakers or entertainers who turn churches into what John Piper in his most excellent book The Supremacy of God in Preaching has called “;the slapstick of evangelical worship;” ([Grand Rapids: Baker, 1990], p. 21)."
William Barclay emphasizes that pastors, elders and overseers "must be able to encourage the (saints)...The navy has a rule which says that no officer shall speak discouragingly to any other officer in the performance of his duties. There is always something wrong with preaching or teaching whose effect is to discourage others. The function of the true Christian preacher and teacher is not to drive a man to despair, but to lift him up to hope." (Barclay, W: The Daily Study Bible Series, Rev. ed. Philadelphia: The Westminster Press)
Titus 2:6 Likewise urge the young men to be sensible
The idea of parakaleo in this verse is to strongly entreat or admonish.
Titus 2:15 These things speak and exhort and reprove with all authority. Let no one disregard you.
Philemon 1:9 yet for love's sake I rather appeal to you-- since I am such a person as Paul, the aged, and now also a prisoner of Christ Jesus--10 I appeal to you for my child Onesimus, whom I have begotten in my imprisonment,
Hebrews 3:13 But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called "Today," so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.
Hebrews 10:25 not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.
Hebrews 13:19 And I urge you all the more to do this, so that I may be restored to you the sooner.
Hebrews 13:22 But I urge you, brethren, bear with this word of exhortation, for I have written to you briefly.
1 Peter 2:11 Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts which wage war against the soul.
1 Peter 5:1 Therefore, I exhort the elders among you, as your fellow elder and witness of the sufferings of Christ, and a partaker also of the glory that is to be revealed,
1 Peter 5:12 Through Silvanus, our faithful brother (for so I regard him), I have written to you briefly, exhorting and testifying that this is the true grace of God. Stand firm in it!
Jude 1:3 Beloved, while I was making every effort to write you about our common salvation, I felt the necessity to write to you appealing that you contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints.
EVEN THE "GREATEST" SAINT NEEDS ENCOURAGEMENT - For years William Wilberforce pushed Britain's Parliament to abolish slavery. Discouraged, he was about to give up. In 1791, his elderly friend, John Wesley, heard of it and from his deathbed called for pen and paper.
With trembling hand, Wesley wrote: "Unless God has raised you up for this very thing, you will be worn out by the opposition of men and devils. But if God be for you, who can be against you? Are all of them stronger than God? Oh be not weary of well-doing! Go on, in the name of God and in the power of his might, till even American slavery shall vanish away before it."
Though Wesley died less than a week after writing that letter, it remained an inspiration to Wilberforce through years of disappointment after disappointment. Wilberforce fought for forty-five more years and in 1833, three days before his own death, saw slavery abolished in Britain. Wilberforce might not have prevailed if it had not been for the encouragement of his friend who strengthened him in the Lord. Before you pray, "Lord, give me a friend like that," try praying: "Lord, make me a friend like that." Remember, even the greatest ones need encouragement.
A doctor wrote a letter of thanks to a schoolteacher for having given him so much encouragement when he had been in her class 30 years before. He later received this reply: "I want you to know what your note meant to me. I am an old lady in my eighties, living alone in a small room, cooking my own meals, lonely, and seeming like the last leaf on the tree. You will be interested to know that I taught school for 50 years, and yours is the first letter of appreciation I have ever received. It came on a cold, blue morning and cheered my lonely old heart as nothing has cheered me in many years." – A Treasury of Bible Illustrations.
On the cold days of winter, one often finds that the car battery has lost its charge during the night. The engine will not turn over because the battery is too weak. The ministry of encouragement is like a car that comes alongside ours and gives us a jump start. The strength of the operative car is transferred into the weak battery, and the inoperative car is rejuvenated to action. When we see people who are discouraged, saddened by the trials and afflictions, or straying from the path of obedience, we need to recognize these moments as opportunities (see study of kairos, the Greek word for opportunity) and come alongside to give them a spiritual jump start. Has God placed a someone in your path who is need of a spiritual "jump start"?
ILLUSTRATION OF OUR NEED FOR ENCOURAGEMENT - Years ago, a Dear Abby column ran a story by a retired schoolteacher. One day she had her students take out two sheets of paper and list the names of the other students in the room. Then she told them to think of the nicest thing they could say about each of their classmates and write it down by their names. She took the papers home that weekend and compiled a list for each student of what the others had said about him or her. On Monday she gave each student his or her list. Before long, everyone was smiling. Really? one whispered. I never knew that meant anything to anyone. I didn't know anyone liked me that much! Years later, the teacher went to the funeral of one of her former students, who had been killed in Vietnam. Many who had been in that class years before were there. After the service, the young mans parents approached the teacher and said, We want to show you something. Mark was carrying this when he was killed. The father pulled out of a wallet the list of all the good things Marks classmates had said about him. Thank you so much for doing that, Marks mother said. As you can see, Mark treasured it. A group of Marks classmates overheard the exchange. One smiled sheepishly and said, I still have my list. Its in my top desk drawer at home. Another said, I have mine, too. Its in my diary. I put mine in our wedding album, said a third. I bet we all saved them, said a fourth. I carry mine with me at all times. At that point, the teacher sat down and cried. And, she used that assignment in every class for the rest of her teaching career. Robert Orben said it well "A compliment is verbal sunshine." THE LESSON: We all need encouragement, which is "like oxygen" to our soul. Nothing succeeds like encouragement. Who have you encouraged this week?
GROW IN GROVES- If we are going to be spiritually healthy, we need all the encouragement and support we can get. And in this section our "trainer" is telling us that spiritual fitness calls for team effort. Yes, we are to be oaks of righteousness, but God desires us not to be isolated oaks but growing "groves" of oaks, as is so well illustrated in nature by the giant sequoia trees of California that tower up to 300 feet. These beautiful behemoths belie their unusually shallow root systems that reach out in all directions to capture the greatest amount of surface moisture. As their roots extend horizontally, the intertwining roots of the juxtaposed trees weave a network of support which provides stability against violent storms (think "storms of life"). In short, these gentle giants are so constructed by their Creator that they need each other, which explains why you virtually always see them growing assembled together in clusters ("not forsaking their assembling together"). Seldom do you see a Giant Redwood standing alone, because the high winds would quickly uproot the shallow root system of these "loners". Because of the opposition to "The Way", the believers of the first century desperately needed to grow in groves and we of the 21st century are no different!
Christian fellowship provides us
With encouragement and love;
It will help us in our journey,
Till we reach our home above. --Sper
Mark Dever has this note especially for pastors - Giving and receiving godly encouragement and criticism. This is a skill set that too few pastors have deliberately developed among local church leaders. Improving the mechanics and underpinnings of your church comes only through constructive criticism and encouragement. Provide a periodic time for trusted leaders to give godly, gentle, but forthright feedback on the weekly services, your sermons, the prayers or Scripture readings of other leaders, the business/members’ meetings, and even the elders’ meetings. Providing that periodic time—whether weekly, twice a month, or monthly—will help sharpen the spiritual senses of your leaders, give them practice at encouraging and sharpening you, and give you practice at receiving godly encouragement and criticism. (The Deliberate Church- Building Your Ministry on the Gospel or Doxadigital Version)
SIX WAYS TO BE
A MODERN DAY "BARNABAS"
("Son of Encouragement" - Acts 4:36)
Below are six ways to encourage someone - When was the last time you encouraged someone in any of the following ways? Have you ignored some gentle promptings by the Spirit to encourage someone? Perhaps today you might ask God to whom you might send a note or make a call? Yes, dear brother or sister in Christ, it does cost to encourage another (eg, it always costs our time, our "agenda", etc), but it might just be the most wisely invested moment of your day!
1) Provide materially – meet their material needs.
2) Drop a line – send notes of encouragement.
3) Reach out and touch – give an appropriate touch such as a pat, hug, etc.
4) Listen up – listen actively. (Oh my, I need to heed this one!)
5) Empathize – comfort others in their pain.
6) Give of your time – give your undivided attention.
Debora Coty summarizes her article encouraging us all to become active, intentional encouragers...
The encouragement we pour into the lives of those around us will spill over into the lives of countless others, even as it buoys our own spirits. Proverbs 11:25 states, “A generous man will prosper; he who refreshes others will himself be refreshed.” When we encourage others, we cannot help but be encouraged ourselves. (Debora M Coty: "Just What They Need - 6 Ways to Encourage Others": Discipleship Journal: Issue 147 - May/June 2005)
To whom can you be a "Barnabas" today?
Being an encourager requires thought, time, and energy. Most of us live such fast paced, self-centered lives that it can be very difficult to even see another person's need for encouragement. We need to remember that God commands us to be encouragers (Heb 3:13 encourage is present imperative = command to make it our lifestyle), to build each other up (1Th 5:11-note - present imperative), to bear (present imperative) one another's burdens (Gal 6:2, cp Pr 17:17), to regard one another as more important than our self (Php 2:3-note) and to look out for the interests of others (Php 2:4-note). In short, being an encourager requires (supernatural) intentionality. Encouragement is not doing for someone what they can do for themselves and is not removing pain from their lives, but instead is noticing them, feeling with them, and reminding them of the great hope (absolute assurance of future good) we have in Christ as we persevere in our walk with Him.
It is difficult to improve on God's charge in Isaiah...
Encourage the exhausted,
and strengthen the feeble.
Say to those with anxious heart,
"Take courage(parakaleo) , fear not."
(Isaiah 35:3, 4)
TO WALK IN A MANNER WORTHY OF THE CALLING WITH WHICH YOU HAVE BEEN CALLED: axios peripatesai (AAN) tes kleseos es eklethete, (2PAPI):
Earlier Paul had taught that our "walk" has in one sense been prepared for us even before we were created writing that " we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them." (Eph 2:10-note)
John Eadie - It is a stroke of very miserable wit which Adam Clarke ascribes to the apostle, when he represents him as saying, “Ye have your liberty and may walk, I am deprived of mine and cannot.” Their calling, so high, so holy, and so authoritative, and which had come to them in such power, was to be honored by a walk in perfect correspondence with its origin and spirit, its claims and destiny. (Ephesians 4 Commentary)
Moule on the metaphor of "walk" - The distinctive notion of the word is that of the moral action and conduct of life....Ideally, of course, no human walk is “worthy of” the Gospel, the Call, or the Divine Caller. But practically it can and should be so, in the sense of being governed at every step by the Divine motives (Ed: In other words, only as enabled by the Holy Spirit!), applied by grace, and so presenting a true correspondence to those motives. (The Cambridge Bible Commentary)
Walk worthy - Paul is not asking too much of the saints (set apart ones) at Ephesus. Indeed, this is a call to walk on a plane commensurate with our heavenly position in Christ and our earthly possession of every spiritual blessing in Christ (Eph 1:3). Our walk have an "equal weight" with the truth in chapters 1-3. Our calling and our conduct should be in balance. We do not become Christians by living the Christian life; rather, we are exhorted to live the Christian life because we are Christians, that our lives may measure up to our position in Christ. Paul's call for a worthy walk resonates throughout his epistles. The point is that it is not enough to just know the truth, but we must live it out...
Philippians 1:27(note) Only conduct (peripateo) yourselves in a manner worthy (axios) of the gospel of Christ; so that whether I come and see you or remain absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel; (Comment: Paul is exhorting the church at Philippi to live their lives like what they are -- citizens of heaven -- [see Phil 3:17 below] so their conduct in a sense "weighs as much as" the gospel they preach and the faith they profess. In other words, they are to see to it that they practice what they preach, that their experience measures up to their new standing as children of the King. We do not behave (or conduct ourselves in a certain way) in order to go to heaven, as though we could be saved by our good works, but we conduct ourselves because our names are already written in heaven, and our citizenship is in heaven.)
Philippians 3:17(note) Brethren, join in following my example, and observe those who walk (peripateo) according to the pattern you have in us. 3:18 For many walk (peripateo), of whom I often told you, and now tell you even weeping, that they are enemies of the cross of Christ, 3:19 whose end is destruction, whose god is their appetite, and whose glory is in their shame, who set their minds on earthly things.
Colossians 1:9(note) For this reason also, since the day we heard of it, we have not ceased to pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, 1:10 so that you may walk (peripateo) in a manner worthy (axios) of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God;
1Thessalonians 2:11(note) just as you know how we were exhorting and encouraging and imploring each one of you as a father would his own children, 12 so that you may walk (peripateo) in a manner worthy (axios) of the God who calls you into His own kingdom and glory.
|A WORTHY WALK|
|Ephesians 5:2||In love||As Christ|
|Ephesians 5:14||Careful||As Wise Men|
To Walk (4043) (peripateo [word study] from peri = about, around + pateo = walk, tread) (Click word study on peripateo) means literally to go here and there or to tread all around.
Most NT uses are figurative referring to the daily conduct of one's life or how they order their behavior or pass their life. In the figurative sense then peripateo refers to one's habitual way or direction of life, and so to their life-style. In simple terms to walk in the Christian life pictures (1) activity and (2) an advance step by step.
We see this figurative use of peripateo throughout Paul's letters...
and (Abraham) the father of circumcision to those who not only are of the circumcision, but who also follow in the steps of the faith of our father Abraham which he had while uncircumcised. (Ro 4:12-note)
Comment: Although peripateo is not used Ro 4:12 clearly illustrates the essential dynamic of the spiritual life which is pictured as a walk.
Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, in order that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk (peripateo) in newness (a brand new life heretofore unknown, "resurrection life" in resurrection power enabled by the indwelling Spirit of the living God) of life. (Ro 6:4-note)
for we walk by faith, not by sight (2Cor 5:7)
Comment: Although we cannot see Christ visibly today, we can live by faith in the reality of His presence in us and the certainty of all His promises concerning our future
Paul is saying conduct your life in a manner consistent with (worthy of) your glorious position as a member of the body of Christ (your calling).
Peripateo used in a good sense by Luke describes Zacharias and Elizabeth, the parents of John the Baptist, as being
“righteous in the sight of God, walking (peripateo) blamelessly in all the commandments and requirements of the Lord” (Lk 1:6).
In contrast, earlier (Ep 2:2- see note) Paul referred to the lifestyle of unbelievers and in this same chapter counsels the Ephesian believers to
walk no longer just as the Gentiles (in context a description of all the unsaved) also walk, in the futility of their mind (see noteEphesians 4:17).
In Colossians 1:10 Paul prayed for the saints to be filled with a knowledge of God's will in all spiritual wisdom, which the specific practical purpose that they would...
walk in a manner worthy of the Lord to please Him in all respects bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God (see noteColossians 1:10)
The concept of a Christian's walk that matches our Christian talk is reiterated throughout the last 3 application rich chapters of Ephesians...
Ephesians 5:1-note Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children; 5:2 and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you, and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma. (See note Eph 5:2)
Ephesians 5:8-note for you were formerly darkness, but now you are light in the Lord; walk as children of light
Ephesians 5:15-note Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men, but as wise, 16 making the most of your time, because the days are evil. (See note Eph 5:16)
In Colossians 4 Paul uses peripateo charging the saints to
Conduct (command to continually - present imperative) yourselves with wisdom (living prudently and with discretion) toward outsiders (non-Christians, whether Jew or Gentile), making the most of the opportunity (present tense - continually seizing, redeeming or buying up the opportunity). (see noteColossians 4:5)
Ruth Paxson explains that...
Before making this appeal Paul has shown them what is their high calling. How could they be expected to walk worthily without knowing what their calling was? Yet this is the mistake which many Christians make. They know that they are not living as they ought, and they try to mend their ways and improve their manner of living without having knowledge of the divine standard and its requirements. They try to "be" (See Ephesians 4:32-note; Eph 5:1-note), before they "know what" (Ep 1:18-note). There is tremendous danger in some present-day movements that ignore or even discard doctrine and place emphasis primarily, or even solely, upon experience. Such experiences are as untrustworthy and unacceptable to the Lord as the premises upon which they are built.
"Therefore -- walk." To walk indicates motion. There are many words that indicate motion, such as leap, run, float, drift, creep, but you cannot substitute one of them for the word "walk." To walk implies purpose, starting for a goal; progress, steadily advancing step by step; perseverance, keeping on until the goal is reached. Walking stands for steady, sustained motion, and involves the action of the mind in the decision to start; of the heart in the desire to continue, and of the will in the determination to arrive.
Then what does to "walk" mean in relation to the Christian's life? The whole course of his daily living; his habitual conduct before men; his life lived out in the open. (Ibid. Page 86)
J Vernon McGee explains that
"Walking is not a balloon ascension. A great many people think the Christian life is some great, overwhelming experience and you take off like a rocket going out into space. That’s not where you live the Christian life. Rather, it is in your home, in your office, in the schoolroom, on the street. The way you get around in this life is to walk. You are to walk in Christ. God grant that you and I might be joined to Him in our daily walk."...
(Dr McGee adds that here in Ephesians 4:1) Paul begs us to walk worthy of the gospel. People may not be telling you this, but they are evaluating whether you are a real child of God through faith in Christ. The only way they can tell is by your walk. It’s not so much how you walk as it is where you walk!..
We have previously told the incident of a man handing out tracts, a ministry, by the way, that takes much prayer and intelligence. A black man who could neither read nor write was handed a tract. He asked, “What is this?” When he was told it was a tract, he said, “Well I can’t read it; so I’ll watch your tracks.” That was the greatest short sermon this Christian could ever have had preached to him. Someone was watching his tracks. (McGee, J V: Thru the Bible Commentary: Nashville: Thomas Nelson) (Bolding added)
S Lewis Johnson - There’s an old story about St. Francis of Assisi, who one morning said to the disciples that he was responsible for training, let’s go down into the village from the monastery and preach. And, according to this ancient story, St. Francis went out with a group of young men, they walked down from the monastery into the village, they walked through the streets of the village, they made contact with a number of people, primarily about the things of ordinary life. They walked up and down the few streets of the village, finally walked out of the village. Walked to the next little community and then finally made their way back to the monastery when one of the young men said, “But, sir, you said we were going down to the village and preach.” And he is reported to have said, “That’s exactly what we did. We went down to preach. My sons, it is of no use that we walk anywhere to preach unless we preach as walk.” He was trying to make the point that in our daily life, we preach. (Unity of One Body)
Ray Stedman simplifies the idea of the Christian walk in works God prepared beforehand writing that ""a walk, of course, merely consists of two simple steps, repeated over and over again. It is not a complicated thing. In the same way, the Christian life is a matter of taking two steps, one step after another. Then you are beginning to walk. Those two steps follow in this passage. Paul describes them as, "Put off the old man" (see note on Ephesians 4:22 where "self" in NAS is "man" in KJV) and "put on the new self." (Read following for what new man looks like - Eph 4:24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32 -see notesEph 4:24 then 4:254:26; 4:27; 4:28; 4:29; 4:30; 4:31; 4:32) Then repeat them. That is all. Keep walking through every day like that. That is how Scripture exhorts us to live." (full text of True Human Potential)
Paul wants his readers to clearly understand that the purpose of correct knowledge is right conduct --not smarter sinners but saved sinners more like their Savior. The ultimate goal of all inductive Bible study is life transformation!
As the well known Evangelist D. L. Moody once said, “Every Bible should be bound in shoe-leather.”
In a manner worthy (516) (axios from axios  = having the weight of another) means weighing as much as, of like value, worth as much. "Literally, “bringing up the other beam of the scales” suggests that there must be a balance between one’s profession and one’s practice. So Paul provides a criterion by which possible courses of action can be weighed. Christians will always seek to do what is most in keeping with their “calling.” By definition this is a calling they have received, not one they have acquired by self-effort. Those who share such a divine call constitute the church (ekklesia), the “called-out company” of those who are in Christ." (Expositor's Bible Commentary).
Axios means having the weight of another thing and so being of like value or worth as much. Worthy (axios) is literally "bringing up the other beam of the scales" and hence indicates equivalence. In other words axios has the root meaning of balancing the scales—what is on one side of the scale should be equal in weight to what is on the other side. By extension, the word came to be applied to anything that was expected to correspond to something else. A person worthy of his pay was one whose day’s work corresponded to his day’s wages. True grace in the heart must show itself by true goodness in the life. Walk is on one side and calling on the other side of the "scales".
Paul is saying in essence, I implore you to let your walk be balanced by your calling. He is exhorting them to demonstrate a balance between their profession and their practice. Our profession is we are Christians. Our practice is we live like Christ. And the only way to "balance" our profession and practice is to renounce self-reliance and rely wholly on the Holy Spirit to give us the desire and power to live like Jesus (Php 2:13-note)
Your conduct should "balance the scales" the other side of the scale being Christ's life (our pattern to imitate - cp 1Pe 2:21-note) and the riches of His grace (His transforming power to live a "balanced" life enabled by His Spirit - Eph 1:7-note)! It's a high calling but is to be our goal and is our potential since the Spirit of Christ is in us (Ro 8:9-note) to strengthen our inner man for such a supernatural walk (Eph 3:16-note). There is no way a man or woman can "balance the scales" in their own strength or self efforts (cp our need to "cooperate" with the Spirit = Ro 8:13-note, 2Cor 3:5, 6-note).
In the context of Ephesians which emphasizes Jew and Gentile in one body, to walk worthy entails both groups behaving in a united way despite their racial/ethnic/custom differences.
As Jesus says, He and the Father (along with the Spirit) "make their abode" with us! (John 14:23) That is why it is so essential that you and I "walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called." Our lives are to demonstrate Him (Mt 5:16-note, cp Php 2:15-note)! We bear His name (Acts 11:26, cp Jesus' charge to Paul - Acts 9:15)!
EQUAL WEIGHT ON
DOCTRINE & PRACTICE
Martyn Lloyd-Jones writes that worthy conveys two basic ideas...
The first idea is that of equal weight or balancing. Think of two things which are of the same weight, so that when you put them on opposite sides of the scale there is no tilting to one side or the other, but they balance perfectly. That is the original derivation of the word translated here by ‘worthy’. So what the Apostle is saying is that he is beseeching them and exhorting them always to give equal weight in their lives to doctrine and practice. They must not put all the weight on doctrine and none on practice; nor all the weight on practice and just a little, if any at all, on doctrine. To do so produces imbalance and lopsidedness. The Ephesians must take great pains to see that the scales are perfectly balanced. However packed your head may be with knowledge, if you are failing in your life you will be a hindrance to the spreading of the Kingdom, you will bring the cause of God and His Christ into disrepute. But it is equally true to say that if your conception of the Christian life is that it means no more than that you live a good life, that you should be moral, and that doctrine is of no importance, again you will be a hindrance to the cause. There must be true balance, we must be ‘worthy of the vocation wherewith we are called’.
The Bible frequently uses this argument. It is found for instance in the sixth chapter of the Epistle to the Hebrews where we read,
‘But, beloved, we are persuaded better things of you, and things that accompany salvation, though we thus speak. For God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labour of love which ye have showed toward his name, in that ye have ministered to the saints, and do minister. And we desire that every one of you do show the same diligence to the full assurance of hope unto the end’ (Heb 6:9–11).
The author of the Epistle commends them for having shown marvellous diligence on the practical side of their lives, but then urges them to show the same diligence in the matter of grasping the doctrines of the faith and especially that of the full assurance of hope to the end. Those Hebrew Christians were in trouble because they had failed to maintain the balance between doctrine and practice; they were not being ‘worthy’ of their calling.
The other idea contained in this word is of something that is ‘becoming’. It is interesting to observe how the translators of this Authorized or King James Version translated the same word in the Greek original in different ways at different points. They might very well have translated as follows, ‘I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that you walk in a manner which is “becoming of” the calling wherewith you are called’, because when they translate the same Apostle, in the first chapter of his Epistle to the Philippians, where he again writes about himself in prison and his suffering they have, ‘Only let your conversation be as it becometh the gospel of Christ’ (Php 1:27KJV). It is exactly the same idea. The idea conveyed is of matching, it is of putting on a piece of clothing that is consistent with another, something that is suited to and matches something else.
Paul means, negatively, that we must always avoid a clash of colour or appearance. There must never be a clash between our doctrine and our practice. This is something which is recognized in the matter of dress; there must never be a clash of colours that is not becoming. There are certain colours that do not match, which do not go together; and when you see a person with such clashing, contrasting colours you say that that person is lacking in taste. We can extend the idea and say that the same clothing is not always becoming at every age. There is nothing quite so ridiculous as to see an elderly person dressing as if he or she were young, and vice versa. There are certain things that are not becoming. This is the idea that the Apostle conveys here; there must never be an element of incongruity or of sharp contrasts in our lives. (Christian Unity Studies in Ephesians)
Ruth Paxson writes that...
The characteristics of a worthy walk are given in Eph 4:1-6:9... But here let us consider briefly the Godward and the manward aspects of such a walk. God has already determined both its starting point and its goal, and the road over which the walk is to be made. His starting point is Ephesians 1:4-note, His goal is Ephesians 5:27-note, and His path of travel is Eph 5:18. God has determined that we shall "walk even as He (Christ) walked" (1John 2:6). God's goal for every Christian is complete conformity to the image of His Son, and He would have every step in our walk bring us that much nearer to the goal.
Such a walk requires on the manward side fullest co-operation with God (See Php 2:12-note; Php 2:13-note). It demands a set purpose, a steady progress, and a strong perseverance. The Christian must resolutely purpose to "put off the old man," (Eph 4:22-note; compare Colossians 3:8-note; Colossians 3:9-note) and to "put on the new man" (see Eph 4:24-note; compare Colossians 3:10-note); he must not be content without a step-by-step growth "up into Him in all things"; and be must keep steadily on his course without faltering or fainting in spite of all opposition by not "giving place to the devil," or "grieving the Spirit," (Eph 4:30-note) but rather by being filled with the Spirit and empowered by Him (Ephesians 5:18-note).
But how exceedingly difficult is such a walk! The old habits of life are so binding; the worldly currents about us are so strong; the temptations of the world, the flesh and the devil are so subtle; the fear of being considered peculiar is so gripping; the opportunity of fellowship with spiritually-minded Christians is so limited. To maintain a steady, sustained consistency in daily conduct is not an easy task. It is far easier to float downstream with the tide of nominal Christianity; to drift in the listlessness and lukewarmness of a worldly church; to creep along as a spiritual babe, fed on the milk of elementary doctrines of salvation; easier even to mount up with eagle's wing and soar to spiritual heights of sudden inspiration on some spiritual Mount of Transfiguration only to relapse into a backslidden condition when facing the stern realities of Christian living in an unsympathetic atmosphere; very much easier, even, to run, rising to some particular task such as teaching a Bible class, or leading a meeting, or preaching a sermon, than to practice consistently in the home, office, or social circle the truth preached.
A daily, consistent Christlike walk;
no stagnancy, slump or sloth --
So the aged apostle devotes the very heart of this epistle to telling us what a worthy walk is. Eight times he uses the word "walk." What shall we do with this divine standard set for the Christian's walk? We may reject it as impossible and impracticable, or we may receive it as possible and livable and rejoice in it, as daily our faithful Father enables us "to walk even as he walked" by the power of the divine Spirit. (The Wealth, Walk and Warfare of the Christian. Page 86-88).
Boice has explains walking in a manner worthy in much the same way as Lloyd-Jones did earlier...
There are some Christians who are primarily intellectual in nature. They love books, enjoy study, and delight in the exposition of the Bible’s great doctrinal passages. This is a good thing. It is proper to love doctrine and rejoice at what God has done for us in Christ. Paul himself obviously did this; we can tell from the way he has unfolded his doctrines in the first three chapters of this letter. But the intellectual believer faces a great danger and often has a great weakness as a result of failing to overcome the danger. He loves doctrine so much that he stops with doctrine. He reads the first three chapters of Ephesians and delights in them; but when he comes to chapter 4 he says, “Oh, the rest is just application. I know all about that.” Then he skips ahead to the next doctrinal section and neglects what he perhaps most needs to assimilate.
On the other hand, some Christians are primarily oriented to experience. They thrive under the teaching found in the second half of this book. They want to know about spiritual gifts and their own exercise of them. They are excited about Paul’s teaching about the family and other such things. This is “where it’s at” for them; they find the doctrinal section dry and impractical.
But, you see, each of these is an error. Doctrine without practice leads to bitter orthodoxy; it gives correctness of thought without the practical vitality of the life of Christ. Practice without doctrine leads to aberrations; it gives intensity of feeling, but it is feeling apt to go off in any (and often a wrong) direction. What we need is both, as Paul’s letters and the whole of Scripture teach us. We can never attach too much importance to doctrine, for it is out of the doctrines of God, man, and salvation that the direction and impetus for the living of the Christian life spring. At the same time, we can never attach too much importance to practice, for it is the result of doctrine and proof of its divine nature. (Boice, J. M.: Ephesians: An Expositional Commentary)
F B Meyer - The simplest words are the deepest. Take, for example, the word call. It is constantly on our lips. The shepherd's call to his sheep, the herdsman's on the hills, the mother's to her child. And God appropriates it in his dealings with men. He calls them. From the throne of his glory He speaks to every soul of man once, twice, many times; as when He said "Samuel, Samuel," or "Saul, Saul." In some solemn hour of decision, in a moment of awful crisis, by human voice or written word, or by the pleading and remonstrance of conscience, God's voice may be heard calling men to Himself, to Heaven, and to a saintly life. On that call the apostle bases his argument for holiness. Act worthily of the love which summoned you, and of the goal to which you have been called. Stand still and ask yourself before you speak, or act, or decide--Is this worthy of that great ideal which God has conceived for me, when He called me from the rest of men to be his priest, his saint, his son? If not, eschew (avoid habitually especially on moral or practical grounds) it! (F. B. Meyer. Ephesians - A Devotional Commentary)
Calling (2821) (klesis from kaléo = to call) means a call and was used for an invitation to a banquet. In the context of Ephesians the calling is the sovereign, saving calling of God to the Gentile resulting their receipt of every spiritual blessing and their new position as fellow heirs, fellow members of the body and as fellow partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus.
Net Bible Note says that...
The calling refers to the Holy Spirit’s prompting that caused them to believe. The author is thus urging his readers to live a life that conforms to their saved status before God. (NET Bible)
The emphasis is upon what God has done, which is the point Paul has been elaborating in the opening chapters of Ephesians. Because God has set his hand upon us and called us, changing us from what we were into what we have now become, we are to live as Christians in this world. (Ibid)
Louw Nida defines klesis as an
"urgent invitation to someone to accept responsibilities for a particular task, implying a new relationship to the one who does the calling; the station in life or social role which one has." Vines defines klesis as "a calling, is always used in NT of that calling the origin, nature and destiny of which are heavenly (the idea of invitation being implied); it is used esp of God's invitation to man to accept the benefits of salvation." (Louw, J. P., & Nida, E. A. Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: Based on Semantic Domains. United Bible societies)
In the NT the metaphorical meaning is that of an invitation by God to come into His Kingdom with all the privileges of a Kingdom citizen...and with all the responsibilities of such a citizen!
The Westminster Shorter Catechism explains calling this way...
"Effectual calling is the work of God's Spirit, whereby convincing us of our sin and misery, enlightening our minds in the knowledge of Christ, and renewing our wills, he doth persuade and enable us to embrace Jesus Christ freely offered to us in the gospel."
Here "klesis" refers to the divine call by which Christians are introduced into the privileges of the gospel. God’s invitation (klesis) to man to accept the benefits of His salvation is what this calling is all about, particularly in the gospels. It is God’s first act in the application of redemption according to His eternal purpose (Ro 8:28-note). A distinction is made between God’s calling and men’s acceptance of it (Mt 20:16).
Hoehner adds that...
“The calling” refers not only to believers’ salvation (cf. Ro1:5; 1:6-note; 1Co 1:9) but also to their union in one body. Therefore a Christian’s conduct concerns both his personal life and his responsibility to other believers in the church. (Walvoord, J. F., Zuck, R. B., et al: The Bible Knowledge Commentary. 1985. Victor).
A LENGTHY DESCRIPTION
The called are those who have been summoned by God...called... (the following phrases are meant to be read as one long sentence which gives a Biblical statement regardingcalling)...
- according to His purpose (Ro 8:28-note)
- to salvation (Ro 8:30-note),
- saints by calling (1Co 1:2),
- both Jews and Greeks (1Co 1:24),
- having been called....
- with a holy (2Ti 1:9-note),
- a heavenly calling (Heb 3:1-note)
- out of darkness into His marvelous light (1Pe 2:9-note)
- by grace (Gal 1:6)
- not from among Jews only, but also from among Gentiles (Ro 9:24-note)
- through the "Gospel" that we "may gain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ" (2Th 2:14)
- and be brought "into fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord" (1Co 1:9)
- and return in triumph "with Him" at the end of this age (Re 17:14-note).
God's great doctrine of our calling should cause all the "called of Jesus Christ" to exclaim "Glory!"
Spurgeon makes the distinction between "general" and "special" calling (similar to the approach of many evangelical scholars) writing that "By the word "calling" in Scripture, we understand two things—one, the general call, which in the preaching of the gospel is given to every creature under heaven; the second call (that which is here intended) is the special call—which we call the effectual call, whereby God secretly, in the use of means, by the irresistible power of his Holy Spirit, calls out of mankind a certain number, whom he himself hath before elected, calling them from their sins to become righteous, from their death in trespasses and sins to become living spiritual men, and from their worldly pursuits to become the lovers of Jesus Christ."
Have Been Called (2564) (kaleo) means to speak to another in order to bring them nearer, either physically or in a personal relationship. The Gentile believers were supernaturally called into the kingdom of God and its requisite duties, privileges, and bliss in this world and the world to come.
The passive voice is the divine passive, for it was God Who called them from far off and brought them near through the Cross of His Son.
Who are the called? In the New Testament, they are those who have heard. The Lord Jesus made it clear when He said,
"My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me” (Jn 10:27).
If you are following someone or something else, you haven’t heard Him, you are not one of His sheep. The ones who hear and follow Him are the called ones. Let’s not argue about election. It is as simple as this: He calls, and you answer. If you have answered, you are among the elect, one of “the called of Jesus Christ.”
Paul assures the Roman Christians that they are called ones. In the writings of both Paul & Peter when they mention "called" ("call", "calling", etc), the reference is to an "effectual" call, that is a call which is answered and thus "the called" equates essentially with those who are "the chosen" or "the elect".
Note that the Gospels use the term "called" differently -- in (Mt 22:1-13,14) many were "called" to the "wedding feast" but few were "chosen", so in the gospels the term "call..." was not synonymous with an effectual call to salvation.
John MacArthur has a helpful note explaining that in Matthew 22, "The call spoken of...is sometimes referred to as the “general call” (or the “external” call)—a summons to repentance and faith that is inherent in the gospel message. This call extends to all who hear the gospel. “Many” hear it; “few” respond... Those who respond are the “chosen,” the elect. In the Pauline writings, the word “call” usually refers to God’s irresistible calling extended to the elect alone (Ro 8:30-note)—known as the “effectual call” (or the “internal” call). The effectual call is the supernatural drawing of God which Jesus speaks of in John 6:44. Here (in Matthew's gospel) a general call is in view, and this call extends to all who hear the gospel—this call is the great “whosoever will” of the gospel (cf. Rev 22:17-note, Ro 10:13-note). Here, then, is the proper balance between human responsibility and divine sovereignty: the “called” who reject the invitation do so willingly, and therefore their exclusion from the kingdom is perfectly just. The “chosen” enter the kingdom only because of the grace of God in choosing and drawing them." (MacArthur, J.: The MacArthur Study Bible Nashville: Word Pub)
Andrew Murray (from Living To Please God - Chap 11 - One in the Spirit -Eph 4:1-3)
The letter to the Ephesians is divided into two equal parts. In chapters one through three, we have the divine life in its heavenly origin as revealed in the heart of man by the Holy Spirit. In chapters four through six, we see the Christian life in the ordinary conduct of our daily walk. The two halves correspond to what we said of devotion as an act and as a habit.
The first three chapters begin with adoration: "Blessed be God...who hath blessed us" (Eph 1:3-note). They tell us what all those blessings are and end by glorifying Him who is able to do above all that we can ask or think. In every act of prayer and praise, the soul takes its place in the midst of all those riches and seeks to enter more fully into their possession.
The last three chapters begin with an admonition to walk worthy of our high calling. We are taught how to show our devotion as a habit in the common actions of daily life. Devotion lifts us up into the heavenlies to return to this earth charged with blessings. In all our actions, we will prove that our whole life is devoted to God alone.
The Evidence Of Our Calling
The opening words of the second half of the letter bring us down to the roots of the Christian life. The great mark of our high calling is a Christlike humility. The unity of the Spirit is to be maintained in our relationships with our fellow believers. Amid all diversity of character and all the temptations arising from the imperfections of those around us, the first mark of a life wholly devoted to God is this: "Walk...with all lowliness and meekness."
To realize the full impact of this command, first look at it in its connection with the first three chapters. Think of the heavenly blessings God has given us. Think of the greatness of His power to us who believe and of the Holy Spirit who reveals that power in us. Through Him we have access to God in Christ and are built up as a habitation of God. We are mightily strengthened by Him according to the riches of God's glory so that Christ can dwell in our hearts.
Take time and form a true conception of the wonderful standard of spiritual life indicated in these words. The one fruit of this astonishing revelation of the grace of God and the one mark that you are truly a partaker of it will be a deep and never ceasing humility. Your humility proves that God has revealed Himself to you and brought self and pride down into the dust.
Lowliness and meekness should compromise your attitude toward man as well as toward God. You can have no surer proof that God's spiritual blessings in Christ Jesus have reached and mastered a man than his lowliness and meekness in his relationships with his fellowmen. The greatness of God's power raised us out of the death with Christ Jesus to the throne. This same power makes us, like Christ, willing to wear the servant's robe and do the servant's work. What is impossible with men is possible with God.
Following Jesus' Example
We see the true Christlike disposition in Paul's words to the Philippians: "Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves" (Php 2:3-note). The Master Himself, the meek and lowly Lamb of God commanded us, "Learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart" (Mt 11:29).
Paul emphasizes what he has written by adding, "Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who...took upon him the form of a servant...and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross" (Php 2:5-note, Php 2:7,8-note). The self-emptying in the heavenly glory, the form of a servant during His earthly life, and then the humbling death of the cross--this was the mind of Christ. Our salvation is rooted in the spirit and practice of a life like this. Through our lowliness and meekness, as we bear with one another in love, Christ will be magnified and our hearts sanctified. It will become obvious to all that we have been with Jesus.
The heart of a servant diligently works to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. It is not what we know or say about the beauty of love, the unity of the Body, and the power of the Holy Spirit that proves the true Christian life, Only through our meekness and lowliness in our daily dealings with our fellow-Christians, even when they tempt and try us, do we show we will sacrifice anything to maintain the unity of the Spirit. Jesus gives the name of chief to the servant of all. It may not be easy, but Christ came from heaven to bring humility hack to this earth and to work it out in our hearts.
Is the Church teaching the lowliness and meekness of Christ and giving it the place it holds in the will and Word of God? Do we make an effort to maintain this standard of Christian living and keep the unity of the Spirit from being disturbed by pride? In our own search after a deeper spiritual life, is this meekness and lowliness our heart's desire and confident hope?
Let this be the first thing we ask of God--a heart humbled by His infinite love and yielded to His Holy Spirit to work out in us, and in His Body around us, the blessed likeness of Jesus our Lord. By the Spirit's grace, humility can become the habit of a life devoted to God.
Let us not forget to link the thought of a Christlike lowliness with the Holy Spirit and His power. In the power of the Spirit, Christ humbled Himself on the cross as a sacrifice to God. As we fully yield ourselves to the life of the Spirit, the meekness and lowliness of our Lord can be found in us. Let us believe that He can and will work it in us.
Octavius Winslow. Daily Walking with God
The calling here referred to is that inward, effectual calling of which the same apostle speaks in another place "Among whom are you also the called of Jesus Christ: to all that be in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints." What a glorious vocation is this! To have heard the Holy Spirit's divine yet gentle voice in the deep recesses of the soul—to have felt the drawings of the Savior's love upon the heart—to have listened to a Father's persuasive assurance of a love that has forgotten all our enmity, forgiven all our rebellion, and that remembers only the kindness of our youth, and the love of our espousals—"called to be saints," God's holy ones—called to be sons, the Father's adopted ones—oh, this were a vocation worthy indeed of God, and demanding in return our supremest, deepest affection!
The principle upon which this call proceeds, is said to be "according to His purpose." Thus it is a calling over which we have no control, either in originating or frustrating it, and therefore there is no ground of self-boasting. "In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of Him who works all things after the counsel of His own will." It excludes all idea of merit on the part of the called. "Who has saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began." Oh, yield your heart to the full belief and holy influence of this truth. Does it clash with your creed?—then your creed is defective. Does it awaken the opposition of your heart?— then your heart is not right. Are you really among the "called of God"?—then ascribe it to His eternal purpose, and believe that you have no ground of boasting, in the possession of a favor so distinguished, save in the sovereign will and most free grace of the most holy Lord God who has called you. Has this call reached you, my reader? Ministers have called you—the gospel has called you—providences have called you—conscience has called you—but has the Spirit called you with an inward and effectual vocation? Have you been called, spiritually called, from darkness to light—from death to life—from sin to holiness—from the world to Christ—from self to God? Examine your heart and ascertain. It is a matter of the greatest moment that you know that you are truly converted—that you are called of God. Has the thrilling, life-inspiring music of that call sounded and reverberated through all the chambers of your soul?
Are we called? Then let us heed the earnest entreaty of the apostle, in the words of our motto, "I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that you walk worthy of the vocation with which you are called." Let the lowliest and the highest vocation of life be dignified and sanctified by the heavenly calling. Wherever you are, and in whatever engaged, do not forget your high calling of God. You are called to be saints; called to a separation from the world; called to a holy, heavenly life; called to live for God, to labor for Christ; and soon will be called to be with the Lord forever!
Ephesians 4 Bible Commentary
Exhortations to mutual forbearance and union. (1-6) To a due use of spiritual gifts and graces. (7-16) To purity and holiness. (17-24) And to take heed of the sins practised among the heathen. (25-32)
Commentary on Ephesians 4:1-6
(Read Ephesians 4:1-6)
Nothing is pressed more earnestly in the Scriptures, than to walk as becomes those called to Christ's kingdom and glory. By lowliness, understand humility, which is opposed to pride. By meekness, that excellent disposition of soul, which makes men unwilling to provoke, and not easily to be provoked or offended. We find much in ourselves for which we can hardly forgive ourselves; therefore we must not be surprised if we find in others that which we think it hard to forgive. There is one Christ in whom all believers hope, and one heaven they are all hoping for; therefore they should be of one heart. They had all one faith, as to its object, Author, nature, and power. They all believed the same as to the great truths of religion; they had all been admitted into the church by one baptism, with water, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, as the sign of regeneration. In all believers God the Father dwells, as in his holy temple, by his Spirit and special grace.
Commentary on Ephesians 4:7-16
(Read Ephesians 4:7-16)
Unto every believer is given some gift of grace, for their mutual help. All is given as seems best to Christ to bestow upon every one. He received for them, that he might give to them, a large measure of gifts and graces; particularly the gift of the Holy Ghost. Not a mere head knowledge, or bare acknowledging Christ to be the Son of God, but such as brings trust and obedience. There is a fulness in Christ, and a measure of that fulness given in the counsel of God to every believer; but we never come to the perfect measure till we come to heaven. God's children are growing, as long as they are in this world; and the Christian's growth tends to the glory of Christ. The more a man finds himself drawn out to improve in his station, and according to his measure, all that he has received, to the spiritual good of others, he may the more certainly believe that he has the grace of sincere love and charity rooted in his heart.
Commentary on Ephesians 4:17-24
(Read Ephesians 4:17-24)
The apostle charged the Ephesians in the name and by the authority of the Lord Jesus, that having professed the gospel, they should not be as the unconverted Gentiles, who walked in vain fancies and carnal affections. Do not men, on every side, walk in the vanity of their minds? Must not we then urge the distinction between real and nominal Christians? They were void of all saving knowledge; they sat in darkness, and loved it rather than light. They had a dislike and hatred to a life of holiness, which is not only the way of life God requires and approves, and by which we live to him, but which has some likeness to God himself in his purity, righteousness, truth, and goodness. The truth of Christ appears in its beauty and power, when it appears as in Jesus. The corrupt nature is called a man; like the human body, it is of divers parts, supporting and strengthening one another. Sinful desires are deceitful lusts; they promise men happiness, but render them more miserable; and bring them to destruction, if not subdued and mortified. These therefore must be put off, as an old garment, a filthy garment; they must be subdued and mortified. But it is not enough to shake off corrupt principles; we must have gracious ones. By the new man, is meant the new nature, the new creature, directed by a new principle, even regenerating grace, enabling a man to lead a new life of righteousness and holiness. This is created, or brought forth by God's almighty power.
Commentary on Ephesians 4:25-28
(Read Ephesians 4:25-28)
Notice the particulars wherewith we should adorn our Christian profession. Take heed of every thing contrary to truth. No longer flatter or deceive others. God's people are children who will not lie, who dare not lie, who hate and abhor lying. Take heed of anger and ungoverned passions. If there is just occasion to express displeasure at what is wrong, and to reprove, see that it be without sin. We give place to the devil, when the first motions of sin are not grievous to our souls; when we consent to them; and when we repeat an evil deed. This teaches that as sin, if yielded unto, lets in the devil upon us, we are to resist it, keeping from all appearance of evil. Idleness makes thieves. Those who will not work, expose themselves to temptations to steal. Men ought to be industrious, that they may do some good, and that they may be kept from temptation. They must labour, not only that they may live honestly, but that they may have to give to the wants of others. What then must we think of those called Christians, who grow rich by fraud, oppression, and deceitful practices! Alms, to be accepted of God, must not be gained by unrighteousness and robbery, but by honesty and industry. God hates robbery for burnt-offerings.
Commentary on Ephesians 4:29-32
(Read Ephesians 4:29-32)
Filthy words proceed from corruption in the speaker, and they corrupt the minds and manners of those who hear them: Christians should beware of all such discourse. It is the duty of Christians to seek, by the blessing of God, to bring persons to think seriously, and to encourage and warn believers by their conversation. Be ye kind one to another. This sets forth the principle of love in the heart, and the outward expression of it, in a humble, courteous behaviour. Mark how God's forgiveness causes us to forgive. God forgives us, though we had no cause to sin against him. We must forgive, as he has forgiven us. All lying, and corrupt communications, that stir up evil desires and lusts, grieve the Spirit of God. Corrupt passions of bitterness, wrath, anger, clamour, evil-speaking, and malice, grieve the Holy Spirit. Provoke not the holy, blessed Spirit of God to withdraw his presence and his gracious influences. The body will be redeemed from the power of the grave at the resurrection day. Wherever that blessed Spirit dwells as a Sanctifier, he is the earnest of all the joys and glories of that redemption day; and we should be undone, should God take away his Holy Spirit from us.
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About this letter
Christian Belief and Behaviour
An EasyEnglish Bible Version and Commentary (2800 word vocabulary) on Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians
Les Painter (Bible text by Cynthia Green)
This commentary has been through Advanced Checking.
Words in boxes are from the Bible.
A word list at the end explains words with a *star by them.
The *apostle Paul wrote this letter when he was in a prison in Rome. He wrote it to people in the town called Ephesus. This was about 61 years after the birth of Christ.
At one time, *Greek leaders had ruled Ephesus. Now the *Romans ruled the city. It was the capital of the *Roman region called Asia. It was a busy port and the centre of much trade. The *temple of the goddess (female god) Diana (or Artemis) was there. The business people sold models of Diana’s *temple there. But Paul’s *preaching affected their trade. This caused confusion and trouble in the city (Acts 19:23-41).
This letter is different from other letters by Paul. The main differences are:
a) he does not give any special greetings;
b) he does not send a message to any one particular person;
c) he does not talk about special problems.
Paul wrote the letter to encourage the personal *faith of the Christians. It gives teaching, prayers and great *praises to God. It is about God’s Son, Jesus Christ. He came to our world in order to put right all the things that had gone wrong. Paul makes clear that Christ is the head of the *church. He will work out his purposes in and by the *church.
It is possible that Paul sent this letter to other *churches in Asia. Then they too could read it.
The letter is in two parts. First is the teaching part. It mainly teaches us about God’s plan for the world. This plan is for all time. It is about the gathering together of all things to Jesus Christ as head. God created men and women. He created them to be his friends. But now they are apart from him. They are his enemies.
There is no unity in a world without Christ. One person is against another person. Nations fight each other. *Jews and *Gentiles are against each other. There is a battle between evil *angels and good *angels. There is a battle between God and *Satan. Most people in the world do not know Christ. This is the reason for all that is wrong. But this is not God’s purpose for the world. There can be unity only when all things come together with Christ as head. Unity should first be inside the *church. Then it should be for all people everywhere. Then it should be with everything that God has made. This unity is for the entire world and for all ages. This is what Paul teaches in the first three chapters.
God’s plan is to fix the unity that is spoiled. The last three chapters teach about how God will use Christians in this plan. Paul teaches that the *church is like the body of Christ. Christians must be like Christ’s hands to do Christ’s work. Christians must be like his mouth to speak for him. They must be like his feet to take his *gospel to all the people in the world. God wants to deal with all the things that divide people. God will do this in and by the *church. Paul speaks about the different ways in which his message will apply. Change will come by the good behaviour of God’s people in the home and in the world.
Part 1: The place of the *believer in Christ (chapters 1-3)
1:3-14 *Praise for all the *blessings of God
1:15-23 Paul’s first prayer
2:1-10 *Salvation by *grace
2:11-22 *Jews and *Gentiles are united in Christ
3:1-13 God has made his secret known
3:14-21 Paul’s second prayer
Part 2: The behaviour of the *believer in the world (chapters 4-6)
4:1-16 To live a life that has value
4:17-32 A different way to live
6:10-20 The Christian life as a war
6:21-24 Final greeting
1:1-2 ~ Greetings
v1 I am the *apostle Paul. I am an *apostle by God’s will. I am writing this letter to the *saints (God’s people) in Ephesus. You believe in Christ Jesus and you are in him.
v2 I pray that God, our Father, and the *Lord Jesus Christ will send you *grace and *peace.
Verse 1 Paul calls himself an ‘*apostle’. He is a person whom God has chosen. God has chosen him to be a leader in the *church and to act with God’s authority. First, Paul refers to himself as the writer of the letter. This was the custom at that time. Then he refers to his readers, as the ‘*saints’. The meaning of ‘*saints’ is ‘the holy persons’. It means those that God has set apart to live holy lives. These are the Christians in Ephesus. They remain strong in their belief. Paul greets them.
Verse 2 Paul changes the common *Greek word for ‘greetings’ to another word, ‘*grace’. The common *Hebrew greeting was ‘shalom’ or ‘*peace’. Paul brings the two greetings together as a *blessing and a prayer. He prays that his readers will know the free help of God the Father and the *Lord Jesus Christ. They do not need to earn this. He also prays that they will know peace with God. And he prays that they will have peace with each other. The *peace of God is not just the lack of trouble. The word ‘shalom’ has many meanings. It means to be well. It means to have enough for your needs. It means safety and health. We can have peace inside us even if life is difficult.
1:3-14 ~ *Praise for all the *blessings of God
In the original *Greek language, this song of *praise (verses 3-14) is one sentence. The thoughts of Paul follow from one to the next at great speed. It is as if he wants to say it all at once.
In this passage, Paul writes about the good things that the Father gives to us. The Father has *blessed us (verse 3). He has chosen us (verse 4). He has decided that we shall become his sons and daughters (verse 5). He has given his *grace to us (verse 6). *Grace is the gift of God that we cannot buy. Neither can we work to earn it (2:8-9). He has told us about his choice and purpose. It is to bring together all things in heaven and on earth. Then all will have one head, that is, Christ (verses 9-10).
1:3-6 ~ The Father has chosen us
v3 We praise the God and Father of our *Lord Jesus Christ who has greatly *blessed us. God has *blessed us in the *heavenly places with every *spiritual *blessing in Christ. v4 Before he made the world, he chose us. He wants us to live holy lives. He wants us to do nothing wrong, but only things that are good. He loved us. v5 So he chose to make us his sons and daughters by Jesus Christ. He did this so that we can be *holy and without *sin in his sight. v6 We praise him for his wonderful *grace. We thank him for the free gift that he gave to us. He gave it to us in the son that he loves.
Verse 3 God has *blessed us ‘in the *heavenly places with every *spiritual *blessing in Christ’. The *heavenly places refer to an area that you cannot see or touch. In that area, there are *beings that you cannot see. These *beings are both good and evil. The good *beings serve God and the evil *beings serve *Satan. The evil *beings try to rule society and the lives of people. Paul often uses the words ‘*heavenly places’. He uses them 5 times in this letter. If we are Christians, we live now in the *heavenly places. This is true even now whilst we live on earth. It refers to any place where Christ rules over all. His people rule with him too (1:20; 2:6).
Verse 4 Jesus Christ has always existed; he is *eternal. God chose us before our birth to be together with Christ. God made this choice before he made the world. This choice has nothing to do with the kind of person that we are. It does not depend on whether we are good or bad. Therefore, we cannot be proud. We cannot say that we have made the choice. We can only agree with what God has done. Christ *justifies us in front of God. Then we need to obey God. We must live holy lives as God intends.
Paul writes, ‘He wants us to live holy lives.’ The meaning of the *Greek word ‘holy’ is to be separate or different. Christians live in the world. But they must be different from the people round them. They will be different in their homes. And they will be different in the place where they work.
‘He wants us to do nothing wrong.’ The whole life of a Christian is like something that we are offering to God.
Verse 5 In the *Roman family, the father had great power. He could do as he wished to his sons. He could make them work without pay. He could sell them as slaves. He could hit them. He could even kill them. This power lasted all through the life of the son. It did not matter how old he was.
A father might decide to adopt a son. Then he would ask the court to give him legal authority to be the father of the child. The judge would pass all the power of the original father to this new father. All the rights of the old father then ended. The son became a new person. If he had any debts in the old family, the court ended them. It would be as if the debts had never existed.
That is what God has done for us. We were under the power of *sin and the *devil. God, by Jesus, removed us from that power. He put us into his new family. He took away the old debts (our *sins). It was as if they had never existed. We became part of his family and we became new people.
Verse 6 All this makes us *praise him for his wonderful *grace. This *grace is free. Moreover, he gave us this in the ‘son that he loves’ - Jesus. The *grace of God is everything that he has chosen to show us about himself.
1:7-12 ~ The Son gave his life for us
v7 Christ *saved us and made us free by his blood (death). God forgave our *sins. By this, God shows us his rich *grace. v8 With it, he gave us wisdom and understanding. They pour over us like water from a great river. v9 God decided to show us his secret plan that Christ would complete. He was pleased to do this. v10 He will complete his plan when the time is right. Then he will bring together all things in heaven and earth, to Christ. Christ will be the head of them all.
v11 God also chose us because of Christ. God had already decided what his plan should be. He chose us to receive an *inheritance. That was his plan. He uses everything that happens in his plans and his purposes. v12 So then we, the first people to have hope in Christ, would bring *praise and *glory to him.
Verses 7-8 In Paul’s days, you might have been a slave. Sometimes a kind person would pay money to free you. The *Israelites had been slaves in Egypt, but God made them free. God made them his people (Exodus 15:13). A person could make a *sacrifice to God. God would then *forgive his *sin. *Sacrifice was the way by which God would *forgive you. It was the way that God could deal with *sin. ‘If there is no *sacrifice of blood, God will not forgive our *sins’ (Hebrews 9:22).
Christ himself became this *sacrifice. He gave his blood when he died on the *cross. This *forgiveness is because ‘God shows us his rich *grace’. This *grace is greater than we can understand. It is beyond any riches of the earth (Hebrews 11:26).
God is so kind to us. He gave us ‘wisdom and understanding. They pour over us like water from a great river.’ His *blessings never dry up. Wisdom is the gift to be able to see things as they really are. But this wisdom is not just an idea in your head. Wisdom gives you knowledge. You are then able to use your knowledge to solve the problems of daily life.
Verses 9-10 God lets us know ‘his secret plan that Christ would complete’. He makes it possible for us to understand this. But he did not show his plan before Jesus came.
God’s plan was that Jesus Christ will be the head (or ruler) of the whole *universe (heaven and earth). God arranges the time of all things. He does this in perfect wisdom. God has fixed all the ages and seasons. He has decided when they will end. God is now working out his plan (that Christ will rule the whole *universe). His plan is working all the time. One day God will complete it. History is ‘his story’.
Through the ages, God is bringing everything together under his rule. The meaning of the *Greek words is that God will add up everything. He will put it all under Christ as head.
It would be difficult for a person who is not a Christian to understand this. He would not make sense of history. Different events have taken place in different ages. They would not link with each other. Paul shows that God has a plan for the history of men and women. Once God hid this secret. Now he makes his plan plain. Christians today can now understand it. It is the job of Christians to tell the world about it.
Verses 11-12 From the beginning, God chose us to ‘have hope in Christ’, the *Messiah. He chose that we should be a part of his plan. God works out everything in agreement with his choice. Everything that he wants to do, he does. Everything will be as he said. This plan includes Paul and the *Jewish *believers (‘we’ verse 12). They were the first to hope in Christ, the *Messiah. They hoped in him before he came (see Acts 28:20). They looked forward to him as their *Saviour. The plan then includes ‘you also’ (the *Gentile Christians) who believe in him (verse 13).
1:13-14 ~ The mark of the *Holy Spirit
v13 You also later heard the word of truth, the good news about how Christ could *save you. Then you, too, became united with Christ. When you believed in him, he marked you with a special sign. The *Holy Spirit was the sign. v14 The *Holy Spirit is the promise that God will give complete freedom to his people. We must praise God for his *glory.
Verse 13 The most important thing is to hear God’s word. God’s word is the word of truth. The word of truth is the *gospel. The *gospel is the good news about *salvation. The knowledge of *salvation comes by hearing about Jesus Christ (Romans 10:14). Hearing, however, must lead to *faith. God can *bless us only if we have *faith.
So, when you believe, God marks you with a special sign. This is for both *Jews and *Gentiles. It is for those who have heard and believed. In those days, a *seal was a person’s own sign. It was a stamp or mark. It showed that he was the owner. He used it when he sent something important to another person. He would use this on a letter. It showed that everything was true and not false. It was a promise. You could be sure that no one had opened the letter and changed it.
The *Holy Spirit is the *seal for the Christian. The *Holy Spirit in him is a proof to himself of his *faith. It also shows other people how real his *faith is. The *Holy Spirit makes the Christian certain that he has *salvation. This *seal also keeps the Christian safe. No one can break the *seal. No one can break into his life. In the end, he will be safe with Jesus.
Verse 14 In those days, when you bought something, you paid some money. This was only a part of the whole price. You made a promise to the seller. You promised that later you would pay the rest of the price. The *Holy Spirit is God’s *seal or promise. It is a promise to all those who believe in him. He promises that one day he will make them completely his own possession. They will belong completely to him. That includes both *Jews and *Gentiles. This will be completely to God’s *glory.
1:15-23 ~ Paul’s first prayer
v15 I heard about your *faith in the *Lord Jesus, and your love for all the *saints. Ever since that time, v16 I have never stopped thanking God for you. And I remember you when I pray. v17 God is the wonderful Father of our *Lord Jesus Christ. I am always asking that he will give you great wisdom and knowledge about himself. He will show himself to you, so that you can know him better. v18 I pray too, that you will understand what he has promised to give you. You will know the hope to which he has called you. You will know the *glory of the rich *blessings that he has prepared for you. v19 And you will know how very great his power is. This power works in those who believe in him. He used the same strong power v20 after Christ had died. He used this power to make Jesus Christ come back to life again. He used his power to cause Christ to sit at his right side in heaven. v21 God put Christ far above all people with authority, *lords and other rulers on earth and in heaven. Christ rules over them now and he will rule over them in the future. v22 God put all things under the authority and power of Christ. God put him in the highest place as head over everything for the *church. v23 The *church is the body of Christ. It is complete in him, who fills everything everywhere.
Verses 15-16 In the rest of this chapter, Paul prays for his readers. He asks God to give them real understanding. He wants them to understand how wonderful and exciting the good news is.
He speaks about their *faith and love. He tells his readers that their behaviour towards the *Lord is important. So too is their behaviour with each other. Paul says that he does not stop thanking God for them. He also remembers them all in his prayers.
Verse 17 Paul is always asking that God:
· will give them wisdom and
· that he will show himself to them so that they can know him better.
God the Father is a ‘wonderful Father’. All *glory and all power and all greatness belong to him. God made the earth, the sky and everything. We see his greatness in all that he has made. We see his greatness in the way that he provides. He provides for everyone and everything on the earth. It all comes from God.
By God the Son we have wonderful freedom from *sin. We see his greatness in this. That should cause us to wonder. It should increase our *faith when we pray. God the *Holy Spirit helps us to understand all this. He helps us to know God better.
Verses 18-23 We cannot understand such knowledge by ourselves. It is far too great. God must help us to understand. To know God is more than to know facts about him. It is to know him as a person and to share our lives with him.
Paul prays that three things will happen:
· First, that they will know ‘the hope to which he has called’ them. God called us to himself at the very beginning. He called us to be united with Jesus Christ. He called us to be holy even as he is holy (4:1). This is the call that God brings to those without hope (2:12). The hope is about our future. We will then be with Christ for ever. We can think about a time after our present suffering. We can think about a wonderful future. God’s promise to us is that we can have the *Holy Spirit inside us now (verse 14). The promise is also about what he is keeping for us in the future.
· Second, that they ‘will know the *glory of the rich *blessings that he (God) has prepared’ for them. God has given these rich *blessings to those who believe. Christians can expect to enjoy this *inheritance.
Peter describes the *inheritance that God has prepared for us. It never dies. It is not like rubbish. It never disappears. God is ‘keeping it in heaven for you’ (1 Peter 1:4). The children of God are the heirs of God. They are heirs together with Christ (Romans 8:17). Everything that belongs to a person will belong to his heirs one day. That is what ‘heirs’ means. One day our *inheritance will be complete. We shall be completely God’s possession. We do not know what it will be like. We do know that we shall see Christ. And we shall *worship him. When he appears, we shall be like him. We shall be like him in our bodies. We shall be like him in his character. We shall be united with each other. It will be perfect. God wants us to know about this. He wants us to think about it. He wants us to know how wonderful it will be.
· Third, that ‘you will know how very great his power is’ (verse 19). Nothing compares with that power. It is far greater than any other power. We cannot measure it. By this power, God made everything in heaven and earth. This power is working ‘in (or ‘for’ or ‘towards’) those who believe’.
Paul describes this great power by three events (verses 19-23):
· First, God made ‘Jesus Christ come back to life again’ (verse 20).
· Second, ‘He used his power to cause Christ to sit at his right side in heaven.’ This was far above ‘all people with authority, *lords and other rulers on earth and in heaven’. It was above every title (or rank) that anyone can give. And ‘Christ rules over them now and he will rule over them in the future’ (verse 21).
· Third ‘and God put all things under the authority and power of Christ. God put him in the highest place as head over everything for the *church’ (verse 22). ‘All things’ include the world, the stars and all physical things. ‘All things’ also include all people, good *angels and bad *angels. God made Christ head over all things. He also made him head over everything for the *church. The *church is his body. So both the *church and everything that is have the same head. He completely fills everything in every way. He also fills the *church (verses 22-23).
There are two powers that men cannot control. One power is death and the other power is the devil. Jesus Christ won the battle over both. He did this by his death and *resurrection. He can rescue us from both death and the devil. God raised Jesus from death. He raised him to new life where there is no more death. This new life lasts for ever and ever. God caused Jesus to sit at God’s right side in heaven. God made him king over every power that there is. Jesus rules in heaven as king. He rules over all people. He rules over all nations. He rules over all *spirits, both good and evil.
Verse 21 also includes every title (or rank) that anyone can give. In Genesis chapter 1, God told man to rule over all things. When Adam *sinned, people lost the power to rule. Christ now rules over everything. So he gives back to us the power to rule.
The *church is the body of Christ. The *church consists of his people (Christians). Jesus is the head of his *church. The job of the *church is to explain Jesus to the world. To do this, the *church needs to be full of his *Holy Spirit.
2:1-10 ~ *Salvation by *grace
2:1-3 ~ Our past life
v1 In past days, you were *spiritually dead because of your *sins, and because you did not obey God. v2 You used to copy the bad ways of the people in the world (non-Christians). You used to do the things that pleased the devil. He is the king who rules the *spiritual forces in the air. He is a *spirit. He now controls the people who do not obey God’s rules. v3 We all used to live like them, just to satisfy our own desires. We did what our physical body wanted. God was angry with us, as he was angry with them.
In this part, Paul shows what *sinful people are like. He then shows what we can become by the *grace of God. Jesus died, but God raised him to life. God then put him in a very high place in heaven. It is just like that for us. We were dead, but God raised us too. He placed us together with Jesus. We are close to Jesus. We are in heaven with him. This is true even whilst we live on earth.
Verses 1-3 All people are *sinners. Paul first makes this clear in verse 1. He says, ‘you were *spiritually dead because of your *sins and because you did not obey God.’ And then in verse 3, Paul uses the word ‘we’ (verse 3). ‘We all used to live like them.’ We are all *sinners.
Often you fail to be the person that wants you to be. That is *sin. Often you do not live as God wants you to live. That is *sin. You also *sin when you do something wrong. But sometimes you do not do something that you should do. That is *sin too.
The old way to live moves away from God. This old life, says Paul, is the way that ‘we all used to live’ (verse 3). Every thing that we did was against God. It moved away from God. It moved in the direction of evil things. Either we can walk with God or we can walk away from him. Paul speaks about this wrong way to live in three ways.
· First, it is when you ‘used to copy the bad ways of the people in the world (non-Christians).’ In the *Greek language, it means ‘people who belong to the age of this world’. In the world, there are different systems. They could be political, social or money systems. The ‘age of this world’ might apply to any of these. It could refer to any system that does not have God in it. The people in these systems do not think about God. They do not discuss things with him.
· Second, ‘the king who rules the *spiritual forces in the air’. This means *Satan, who is the head of all the evil *spirits. We cannot see them. However, they are there and they work in the world.
· Third, they belonged to the person who ‘now controls the people who do not obey God’s rules’. Paul tells us that, ‘He is a *spirit.’ Again this means *Satan.
We have this *sinful nature as the result of Adam’s *sin. It means that I am at the centre of my life. Apart from God, I live with me at the centre. I think about myself. And I do what I want to do.
There is nothing wrong with physical desires. We have many of these. Some desires are for food, sleep or sex. God made our body to want these things. But they are wrong when we eat too much. They are wrong when we sleep too much. They are wrong when we have sex outside marriage.
Paul says that we all ‘did what our physical body wanted. God was angry with us.’ We all have Adam’s *sinful nature. It comes to us by Adam’s *sin. By his *sin, we share his *sinful nature. That is how we are children of Adam.
We need to understand the meaning of ‘God was angry with us’. It does not mean that he is in a bad temper. Nor that he hates us and he wants to punish us. God’s anger (or wrath) means that he is always an enemy of evil things. He hates evil things. He hates them very much. He never stops hating them. This is because he is God. He is a *righteous God. By his very nature, he cannot stop being angry against *sin.
2:4-6 ~ Our present life
v4 But God wants to forgive people. He loved us so much that v5 he gave each of us a new life in Christ. He did this, although we were *spiritually dead. God’s *grace has *saved you. v6 God has raised us up with Christ to sit with him in the *heavenly places.
Verse 4 Paul has described the sad situation of men and women. He has spoken about the anger of God. But this is not the last word. Paul now writes some wonderful words. He speaks about God’s goodness and *grace. God wants to forgive people. He pities those who do not deserve his *grace. Paul writes, ‘He loved us so much’. God wants to be kind, even to bad people. God has acted. We were dead, but God made us alive with Christ. God has acted because of our *sin. He is rich in kindness. That kindness comes from his great love. His love reaches down from heaven to us on earth. ‘While we were still *sinners, Christ died for us’ (Romans 5:8).
Verse 5 We were objects of God’s anger. We are now objects of his love. Think about what God has done to change our state. He has *saved us. ‘God’s *grace has *saved you.’ By his death, Christ suffered for our *sin. Our *sin was like a wall between God and us. It separated us from him. Jesus’ death removed that wall. By his *resurrection, he won the battle against death. God raised Christ from death. Because of that, he raised men and women from being dead in *sins. He won both in his body and in his *spirit. Now we have a new life with Christ and in Christ.
Verse 6 ‘God has raised us up with Christ’. Paul is not now writing about when God raised Christ. He is writing about us. God ‘gave each of us a new life in Christ’ (verse 5). God raised us with Christ. God caused us to sit with Christ ‘in the *heavenly places’. Here we see three events in history.
· First, we see Jesus’ *resurrection.
· Second, we see his return to heaven.
· Third, we see him sitting at the right side of God. He sits there as the King in heaven. Some Christians say this in the Creed (statement of Christian belief). It says, ‘on the third day he rose again from death. Then he went up into heaven. Now he sits at the right side of God the Father.’
Here Paul writes about Christ’s *church. All together, we are one body ‘in Christ’. It does not matter what our nationality is. It does not matter whether we are men or women. It does not matter who we are. We are a part of Christ. Also, Christ is on the *throne (the seat of the king). So we are there too. We have a new life. We know that God is real. We have a new love for him and his people. We were dead and we are now alive. It was as if we were in chains. Christ has removed them. We are free. Now we sit with Jesus on the top seat!
2:7-10 ~ Our future life
v7 He did this to show for all time, his rich *grace to us. He expressed this *grace in the kindness that he showed to us in Christ Jesus. v8 God has *saved you by his *grace by your *faith in Christ. You could not do this by yourselves, but God gave you this free gift. v9 Not one of us can say that he *saved himself. The good things that we do cannot *save us. Only the gift of God can do this. So you cannot tell people how good you are! v10 God made us in Christ Jesus. He had already prepared good things for us to do. He made us so that we could do them.
Verse 7 Paul now comes to the purpose of God’s great power. He writes about the reason why God raised Jesus from death. And he writes about the reason why he raised us with him. ‘He did this to show for all time, his rich *grace.’ Nothing can compare with that. He showed this ‘in the kindness that he showed to us in Christ Jesus’.
Verses 8-9 These verses again show God’s *grace and kindness. We are in Christ Jesus. God has *saved us and he has shown his *grace towards us. He helps us to become free from our *sins. We are also free from God’s anger. *Grace belongs to God. It is his gift. To have *faith means to trust in God. We can trust him to give us all that he has for us. We turn to God because we are weak and empty. We turn to God because we need him.
We must have *faith in God. However, *faith itself is not enough. God wants to give us everything. We receive *salvation by *faith. We are *justified by *faith. But *salvation is by God’s *grace. *Faith itself does not give us any right to receive. Nor do good deeds give us this right. We would be proud if that were true. We might say, ‘This all comes from me. It is the result of my great *faith.’
Everything, including *faith, is a gift from God. He wakes us up, *spiritually. He causes us to think and to ask about him. Only by God’s power are we able to receive from him. We can live good lives and be good people. But that cannot *save us. However, if God *saves us, we will want to be good. That will be because we love God. And because we want to please him.
Verse 10 This verse ends this part of the letter. It ends it with two statements. ‘God made us in Christ Jesus. He had already prepared good things for us to do.’ He made us in a careful way. He made us in Christ Jesus to do good things. God prepared these good things for us to do. Paul has already described what *salvation is. Because of our *sins, we are like dead people. *Salvation is when God brings dead people to life. God frees us from our *sins. God has given us true life. (We cannot give ourselves life.) He has also prepared good things for us to do. We used to do wrong things. Now we do good things. God prepared these for us in the beginning. He prepared us to do these good things. God tells us what to do. We decide whether to follow him or not.
2:11-22 ~ *Jews and *Gentiles are united in Christ
2:11-12 ~ What the *Gentiles were without Christ
v11 Remember that you were *Gentiles, not *Jews, when you were born. *Jews call themselves ‘*circumcised’ but you are ‘not *circumcised’. (They are talking about the *circumcision that men’s hands do.) v12 So you did not belong to the people of *Israel, and you were separate from Christ. You did not receive the promises that God had made to *Israel’s people. You did not belong to God and you had no hope in the world.
Verse 11 God chose *Israel to be a holy people. He intended them to be separate from the other nations. Many years before, he had made an agreement with Abraham. This separated the *Israelites for God. He made them his special people. This agreement did not depend on their goodness. It had nothing to do with how good, or strong or beautiful the people were. God chose them only because he wanted to. He did this in order that he could *bless all the other families on the earth. Then all the other families could come to know him as well. But the *Jewish leaders had different thoughts. They thought that their nation was better than the other nations. They thought that God loved only the people in *Israel. They thought that he would send the people in all the other nations to hell.
*Jews were ‘*circumcised’. *Gentiles were ‘not *circumcised’. God gave the custom of *circumcision to Abraham. It became part of the *Jewish religion. He gave it as an outer sign of his choice of the *Israelites. People could see that they were his special people. Paul refers to this *circumcision as ‘the *circumcision that men’s hands do’. He seems to be saying that the physical sign is not important. What happens inside us is important. In that way, *Jews and *Gentiles are the same.
Verse 12 Paul says this about the *Gentiles at that time. They were separate from Christ. They were not a part of the people of *Israel. They were without God in the world. They were without hope. God wanted the *Gentiles to belong to him. He wanted them to share the promises that he had made to the *Jews. God had made these promises to *Israel’s people. But he wanted them to be for everyone. He did not want the *Gentiles always to be separated from him.
But the *Gentiles did not know this because no one told them. So they ‘did not belong to God’ and they ‘had no hope in the world’. God made himself known to the *Jews. He had planned and promised to include the *Gentiles one day. But the *Gentiles did not know it. Therefore, they had no hope. Paul tells us in the letter to the *Romans that God shows his power and his character in *creation. That is, in the things that people can see (see Romans 1:18-20). Other than that, there was only one way that the *Gentiles could see God. That was by other people. This was our situation before we knew Jesus as our *Saviour and *Lord. We should always remember this and we should be grateful.
2:13-18 ~ The one body
v13 Before, you were far away, but now the blood of Christ has brought you near to God.
v14 Christ himself is our *peace. He has destroyed the hate which was like a wall between *Jews and *Gentiles. So he has made us united. v15 When he took this wall away, the *Jewish rules became of no use. Christ wanted to make the *Jews and *Gentiles into one people. He wanted to unite them with himself. He wanted them to have *peace with each other. v16 This one body of people would become a friend of God by the death of Christ on the *cross. So men and women from different nations should not hate each other. v17 Christ came and told you people who were far away to be at peace. He told the same thing to those people who were near to him. v18 Because of Christ we all have the same Spirit and we can come near to the Father.
Verse 13 Those who were once ‘far away’ were the *Gentiles. Sometimes a *Gentile might want to become a *Jew. Then the teacher would say that he would ‘come near’. There is good news for the *Gentiles. They can now be in Christ Jesus. God has brought them to him by the blood of Christ. It was like a closed door. Now it is like an open door. *Gentiles were ‘far away’ from God. Now God has brought them ‘near’. The door is open to everyone. We are now ‘in Christ’. We can now come near to God our Father.
Verse 14 Not only does Jesus bring us *peace. Now he ‘is our *peace’. Jesus Christ is the Prince of *Peace (Isaiah 9:6). Now God brings men and women together. They find peace with God. They find peace with each other. They leave behind their differences. ‘He has destroyed the hate which was like a wall between *Jews and *Gentiles.’ So he has made them ‘united’. There is now no division between the *Jews and the *Gentiles.
In the *Temple, where the *Jews *worshipped God, there were different courts (sections).
a) the Court of the *Gentiles;
b) the Court of the Women;
c) the Court of the *Israelites;
d) the Court of the Priests;
e) the Most Holy Place.
Between the Court of the *Gentiles and the rest of the *Temple there was a wall. The *Jews did not allow the *Gentiles to pass this wall. There were warning signs on the wall. The message to the *Gentiles was this. ‘If you go past this sign, you will die!’
A few years ago, someone found one of these signs. It reads, ‘Let nobody from any other nation come inside the fence and boundary round the Most Holy Place’. It warned also that such a person would be responsible for his own death. This boundary, therefore, was like a fence to a *Gentile. *Jews thought that God was present in the Most Holy Place. So this fence kept the *Gentiles away from the place where God lived. The ‘wall between’ in the *Temple separated *Jews and *Gentiles. This made them enemies. God ‘destroyed’ this wall.
We know from history that the *Romans broke down the wall in the *Temple. But that was in *AD 70. It was when their army entered Jerusalem. The soldiers destroyed the *Temple. However, the wall was still there in the *Temple when Paul wrote his letter. No one had destroyed it yet. But in a *spiritual sense the wall was already destroyed. That happened about *AD 30 when Jesus died on the *cross.
Verses 15-16 These verses tell us how Jesus did this. He did it in three ways:
a) First, for Christians, he ended the authority of the laws and customs of the *Jewish religion. These were about *circumcision, food and drink. They were also about holy days and seasons and many other things. These laws became of no use as a way to please God.
Jesus said that he did not come to end the law. (See Matthew chapters 5-7.) He ended the laws and customs of the *Jewish religion. But he did not end the moral law. That is about right and wrong actions. Jesus came to show us how to live as God intended. He did this by the example of his own life. Paul explains it in another way. He says, ‘the law is like a master at school. His job is to bring us to Christ’ (Galatians 3:24). Jesus died on the *cross. By his death, he ended these customs.
Jesus brought a new way for *salvation – *faith in him. He made the law complete. He brought new meaning to it. But we no longer have to keep the moral law as a way of *salvation. We cannot *save ourselves by our good actions. We cannot always do right things, however hard we try. We ought always to obey the moral law. That is what God requires from us. But it is impossible for us to do this. Not to obey the moral law separates us from God. It also separates us from each other. When we do not obey God, the result is death. However, the good news is this: When we confess our *sins, God will *forgive us our *sins. He will make us clean us from all that is wrong in us (1 John 1:9).
God accepts us not because we keep the moral law. He accepts us because we believe in Jesus Christ. Jesus obeyed the moral law completely in his life. He took our failure to keep that law upon him. He took all our *sin in his own body when he died. His death made it possible for God to accept us. Now both *Jews and *Gentiles come to God in the same way. They come not by keeping laws. They come by *faith in Jesus Christ. Jesus put away the regulations that were about ceremonies of the law. The moral law tells us that we are wrong and guilty. He put away that guilt too. Jesus put both things aside by his death on the *cross.
b) Second, he ‘wanted to make the *Jews and *Gentiles into one people’. The *Jewish laws made *Jews and *Gentiles enemies. In his body, Jesus made them friends. Jesus has formed a new body, the *church. It consists of both *Jews and *Gentiles. He made the two into one. That made peace possible between them. All kinds of people are now in one body. There are *Jews and *Gentiles. There are men and women. There are rich and poor. There are people in prison and free people. All are equal in front of God. There is a new unity in Christ.
Third, God ‘wanted to unite them with himself. He wanted them to have peace with each other’. Jesus did this by the *cross. *Jews and *Gentiles are no longer enemies. Jesus has ended that. Neither are they enemies of God. Jesus has ended that too. The result of being an enemy of God is death. Now both *Jews and *Gentiles are together friends of God.
Verse 17 ‘Christ came and told you people who were far away to be at *peace. He told the same thing to those people who were near to him.’ The *prophet Isaiah spoke about this. He said ‘peace, peace, to those far and near’ (Isaiah 57:19). God has brought peace to those who were ‘far away’. Those were the *Gentiles. Before, they ‘did not belong to God’ and they ‘had no hope in the world’ (verse 12). God has also brought peace to ‘those people who were near’. Those were the *Jews. They were those who had ‘the promises that God had made to *Israel’s people’ (verse 12).
God gave these promises to Abraham (Genesis 12:1-3). This was the promise to the *Jews about the *Messiah. The same promise came to *Israel as a nation. This was when Moses was their leader (Exodus 24:1-11). The promises brought *Israel’s people into a special relationship with God. It was a relationship of *grace. So they had hope for a future rescue and future *glory. But up to this time, the *Gentiles had not been included in these promises. They were a people without hope.
God chose *Israel out of all the nations to be his special people (Deuteronomy 7:6). God did not choose them because they were better than other nations. God’s purpose was that they should bring his *blessing to all the people in the world. But they forgot why God had chosen them. Later, other people would belong to God. God would *bless them all. These are his children. The promises were for the *Jews. But now the promises are also for the *Gentiles. Both now have *peace with God. And they have peace with each other.
Verse 18 ‘Because of Christ we all have the same Spirit and we can come near to the Father.’ Paul uses a word that means to have the right to come near to an important person. That person might be a king. You have a friend. Suppose he is also the friend of the king. He could take you to see the king. He could do this because he is your friend. He is the king’s friend too. This is what happens for us. Jesus is the friend of the King, his Father.
He is also the door, the way in (John 10:9). He gives us the right to come to the Father. Both *Jews and *Gentiles come by ‘the same Spirit’. The same *Holy Spirit is working in both *Jews and *Gentiles.
2:19-22 ~ The one building
v19 So now you are not strangers and foreigners to God’s people. You are God’s people, as all Christians are. And you are part of his family. v20 This family is like a building. The *apostles and *prophets are like the important stones at the base of the building. You are like the other stones. You depend on them. Christ Jesus is the most important stone in the building. v21 He holds the whole building together so that it becomes a *holy *temple for the *Lord. v22 God is building you together in Christ into a house where God lives by his Spirit.
Verses 19-22 Before, the *Gentiles in *Israel were ‘strangers and foreigners’. They might live with the people of *Israel. But they did not own land. They had no rights. But it is not like this in the *church. *Gentiles have the same rights as other people in the *church. They are all citizens together. They are citizens of King Jesus. They are in the *kingdom of God. They are also in the family of God. They are all together his children. God is their Father.
All are part of the *church. And the *church is like a *temple or a building. God built it on the base of the *apostles and *prophets. Jesus Christ himself is the chief corner stone. Paul first speaks about the base of the building. God builds his *Temple on this. It is the ‘*apostles and *prophets’. Jesus Christ himself is the most important stone. All the other stones fit into him. All the stones will then be straight and level. All the other stones depend on this important stone. It is the most important stone. This stone holds the building together.
God gave his word to the *prophets in the *Old Testament. When they received it, they spoke it. What they said happened. The *apostles are the first 12 whom Jesus appointed (except for Judas). They also include other people such as Paul himself, Barnabas and Silas. God is building the *Temple on this firm base. In Jesus, the building grows.
Verse 22 says, ‘God is building you together with Christ into a house where God lives by his Spirit.’ The people whom God builds together are *Jews and *Gentiles. Jesus Christ is the most important stone. He holds together both groups of stones. In him, they grow together. They can grow because they are like living stones (1 Peter 2:5). They come to Christ. Then God builds them together. They will be like a house where God himself will live.
The *Jews believed that God lived in the centre of the *Temple. But God is so great that we cannot contain him in a building. The whole *universe, the sun and all the stars in space cannot contain him. The central part of the *Temple was the Most Holy Place. In it there was a clear, bright light. It showed that God was near.
God did not make the new building out of stones. All the people together are the family of God. This is the *church. It is present in every age. It is all over the world. The *church is the home of God. Christ’s *church is living and growing.
3:1-13 ~ God has made his secret known
3:1-6 ~ God made his secret known to Paul
v1 For this reason, I, Paul the prisoner of Christ Jesus on behalf of you *Gentiles –
v2 you must have heard about the responsibilities that God has given me for you *Gentiles. I am a *steward of his *grace towards you. v3 As I have already written briefly, he made his special secret clear to me. v4 And as you read this, you will understand how he did this. And you will understand why he did this. v5 Men who lived in earlier days did not understand the secret of Christ. But now the Spirit has shown it to God’s *holy *apostles and *prophets. v6 This secret is that God wants *Gentiles and *Israelites to unite together in the same group. He wants *Gentiles to have a share in all his promises. He gives these promises by Christ Jesus. He wants the *Gentiles to share these with his people, *Israel.
Verse 1 ‘For this reason, I, Paul the prisoner of Christ Jesus on behalf of you *Gentiles –’. Paul does not finish this sentence in verse 1 but see verse 14. In verse 14, he repeats ‘For this reason’. The *Roman ruler, Nero, had put Paul in prison. They had put chains on him. Paul wrote this letter from prison. But now he has new understanding. He knows King Jesus as his *Lord. Now he thinks about himself as a prisoner of Jesus Christ. He does not think about himself as a prisoner of Nero, the *Roman ruler. He thinks about his whole life in a different way. Both good and bad events happen in his life. But Jesus controls his life. He is sure about that.
So Paul is in prison. He gives his *Gentile readers a reason for this. He is there because of them. Moreover, it is for their benefit. Now he is able to tell them the good news. This is the *gospel about Jesus Christ. Paul has been teaching about the *Gentiles. He has taught that they too are God’s chosen people (chapter 2). Both share in the promises. God gave these to Abraham. Paul has been teaching that the *Gentiles and the *Jews are members of the same group. By the *gospel, they have the same promise in the *Messiah Jesus. The *Jewish leaders believed that God had chosen *Israel alone to be his people. So the *Jewish leaders objected to what Paul taught. It was dangerous to their religion. Yes, the *Roman ruler had put Paul in prison. But what really put Paul there was what he taught.
Verse 2 God has given his *grace to Paul. By his *grace, God sent Paul to the *Gentiles. By his *grace, God gave Paul the honour to be their *apostle. Paul knows that he is responsible to use this special *blessing. He must use it in a responsible way. He must be a good *steward. God gave Paul special understanding about his plans for the *Gentiles. God also gave Paul the *grace to tell them about God’s plans. What God made known to him, Paul must make known to other people.
Verse 3 In this chapter, Paul uses the word ‘secret’ 4 times (verses 3, 5, 6 and 9). In many religions, only those who belong can understand. They hide it from other people. For the Christian, these ‘secrets’ are truths. They are truths that God makes known to us. However, these truths are not just for a few chosen people. They are for everybody. A ‘secret’ or *mystery is something that once God hid. Now he wants us to know about it.
Verses 4-6 The ‘secret’ is the good news that Christ has joined *Jews and *Gentiles together. He wants them to become one people. Jesus offers them life and *salvation. Both groups share that promise.
3:7-13 ~ God chose Paul to *preach this secret
v7 God gave me his *grace. And he made me his servant to tell people his good news. His power worked in me to do this. v8 I am less important than any of God’s people. But God gave me the *grace to teach the *Gentiles about his rich gifts. He gives us these gifts in Christ. His riches are very great. We shall never know how great they are. v9 God wants me to show everyone how to understand this secret. God, who created everything, hid his plan from his people. He hid it through all the past years. v10 He would show his immense wisdom to the rulers and authorities in the heavens. He would do this by the *church. v11 This was the plan that God had in the beginning. It is the plan that he will complete in Christ Jesus, our *Lord. v12 If we believe and trust in Christ, we can approach God. Christ gives us courage and confidence so that we can come close to him. v13 So you must not lose courage because I am suffering for you. My suffering causes *glory for you.
Verse 7 God gave Paul the power to tell people the good news. Paul knew that he was not strong enough. He knew that he could not do the work without God’s help.
Verse 8 Paul says that he is ‘less important than any of God’s people’. In Latin (the language of the *Romans), Paulus (his name) means little or small. Paul thinks about himself like this because he feels so weak. He can do nothing without God’s help. He also remembers that he was once an enemy of God. He used to put Christians in prison. God has been so kind to him. God has *forgiven him. So now he thanks God.
God has given Paul a gift. It is the power to ‘teach the *Gentiles about his (God’s) rich gifts’. God’s riches are difficult to discover. No one can measure them. They are like wealth at the bottom of the sea. It is so deep that you cannot bring it to the shore. This wealth is the greatness of God. It is the riches of his wisdom, knowledge, beauty and power.
This wealth is not money and possessions. We can receive *spiritual riches now in our life upon the earth. The death of Jesus has made this possible. But there is even more wealth. We will share the life of Christ in heaven. This wealth is greater than anything that we can think of. Moreover, it is for ever.
Verse 9 Paul wants to ‘show everyone how to understand this secret’. The *Greek word ‘to show’ is something like the English word ‘photo’. It means to bring light to something. The message is for both *Jews and *Gentiles.
Verse 10 God wants to make known his ‘immense wisdom’. He has many different kinds of wisdom, which he wants men and women to learn. There are *spiritual authorities and rulers who are surrounding us. They are the good *angels and bad *angels that we cannot see. God wants them to know about it too. He makes this wisdom known ‘by the *church’. There is no other way that everybody can know it.
God has given Paul the special task to be the *apostle to the *Gentiles. God has made known the secret of his plan to Paul himself. He has also made it known to the other *apostles and *prophets (verse 5). We have seen the complete plan of God. First, he shows his plan to Paul. Then he sends Paul (and other people) to *preach the *gospel in the entire world. This is by the spoken message. It is the task of the growing *church. There are *angels in the air round us. We cannot see them. They watch the *church as it grows. So they see the immense wisdom of God too.
Verse 11 ‘This was the plan that God had in the beginning.’ It is all ‘in Christ Jesus our *Lord’. God is working out his plan in history. The whole world is included.
Verse 12 Paul has been speaking about the great plan of God in history. But in this verse, Paul explains what this means to Christians now. Christians have received the gift of *salvation from God. We have received it by *faith. We can now come straight to God. We can come without fear. We can come at any time. It is like a little child who runs to his father. That is how it is with us. Praise God!
Verse 13 Paul is suffering and he is in prison. Paul knows that there is a reason for this. It will benefit his Christian friends. He warns them not to be sad or afraid. The situation is becoming more and more to the *glory of God. Paul is certain about this. There is no better way for God to achieve his purpose.
3:14-21 ~ Paul’s second prayer
v14 For this reason, I kneel and I pray to the Father of our *Lord Jesus Christ. v15 Each member of his whole family in heaven and on earth has his name. v16 I pray that he will make you strong with power from the riches of his *glory. He will do this in you (in your inner person) by his *Holy Spirit. v17 When you have *faith in Christ, he will live in you. Then your lives will be like plants with roots in the ground of his love. v18 And I pray that you and all the *saints will know more of the love of Christ. You will be able to understand that his love is immense. It is so very wide and long and high and deep. v19 His love is much too great to know completely. But I pray that the Father of our *Lord Jesus Christ will fill you until you are full. I pray that he will fill you with the whole nature of God.
v20 Let us give *glory to God. He can do so much more than we can ever ask or think. His power is very great and it is working in us. v21 Let the whole *church in Christ Jesus give him *glory. Let all the *church, now and for all the years to come, give him *glory. *Amen!
Verse 14 ‘For this reason, I kneel and I pray to the Father of our *Lord Jesus Christ.’ It was the custom of *Jews to stand when they prayed (see Matthew 6:5; Luke 18:11, 13). However, sometimes they would kneel. This would show a great desire to pray. Ezra prayed like this (Ezra 9:5). Jesus prayed like this. He fell to the ground in the garden. This was just before he died on the *cross (Matthew 26:39). Stephen prayed like this just before he died (Acts 7:60).
Verse 15 ‘Each member of his whole family in heaven and on earth has his name.’ Our Father in heaven is completely wise. He is completely loving. He is completely powerful. He provides everything that we need. He looks after us. He corrects us when we go wrong. A human father does all that he can for his children. Our Father in heaven is much greater. His ways with us are perfect and complete.
Verse 16 Our strength comes ‘from the riches of his *glory’. We can describe God’s *glory in many ways. It is his greatness. We see it in the powerful way that he made everything. He made it all out of nothing. His *glory is great and powerful. We see his *glory in Exodus chapter 19. Moses climbed Sinai Mountain to meet with God. There was thunder, lightning and a thick cloud over the mountain. Thunder is the loud noise that we hear during a storm. The noise was very great. It caused everyone in the camp to tremble with fear. Paul prays that God will make us strong by the ‘riches of his *glory’.
‘He will do this in you by his *Holy Spirit.’ God will give us *spiritual strength with power from his *Holy Spirit. It will be in our ‘inner person’. The inner person is the place where we experience our feelings. We can be happy. We can be sad. We can be angry. We can hate people. The inner person is the place where we think about things. It is where we make decisions. It is the centre of a person. It is where the *Holy Spirit lives. The *Holy Spirit works from this centre of our person. He works from there to change us. He changes us from one experience of *glory to another (2 Corinthians 3:18).
Verse 17 When we have *faith in Christ, he lives in our ‘inner person’. There he gives us his love. ‘Your lives will be like plants with roots in the ground of his love’. It is as if we have deep roots. It is like the roots of a strong tree. They go down deep into the soil. Christ’s love is like the soil that the roots grow into. His love gives strong life to the roots. He holds us firmly. In Christ, we are safe and we can grow. It is also like the firm rock under a building. With hard rock underneath it, the building cannot fall down.
Verse 18 The love of God is wide. It is for everyone in the world. Paul is talking especially about *Jews and *Gentiles. So it is for them. It is long enough for all time and every age. It is high enough to bring *praise to God in heaven. It is deep enough to reach down to the worst *sinner. The root is love in the inner person. It is not love in the head and the mind. It does not mean knowledge in the mind. Also, a person does not receive this love only for himself. He receives it together with ‘all the *saints’. We share this wonderful love with each other.
Verse 19 This love of Christ is ‘much too great to know completely’. Our minds are not large enough to understand it all. It is beyond our best prayers, desires, thoughts or hopes. This love is more than to know something in our heads. We need to express Christ’s love in all the daily experiences in life. His love is with us in our joys, difficulties and suffering too.
Here we have the most important part of Paul’s prayer. He prays that the Father ‘will fill you until you are full’ - ‘with the whole nature of God’. But God is completely powerful and he lives for ever. It is not possible to contain him inside any human person. In verse 19, Paul is asking that we receive all that we can of God. It is so that God can enter into us.
Also, we must go on and on receiving him. Christ now sits at the right side of God. Only at the end, in heaven, shall we be like him. We shall then be perfect and complete in his love.
Verse 20 Paul now starts a *hymn of *praise to God. God knows what we ask. And he knows it even before we ask. He knows our thoughts. He knows what we imagine. He knows what we dream. He has the power to go beyond any of these. His thoughts and his ways are greater than ours. He is able to do much more than we can ever ask or imagine. The power comes from Christ. He lives in our inner person by *faith. Paul writes about the same power that raised Jesus from death. The same power put Jesus at the right side of God. And it puts us there with him.
Verse 21 Everything that there is will give God *glory. It will be for ever and ever through all the ages. This is his great master plan of *salvation. He gave it to us by Jesus Christ. Christ’s love and power are in the Christian and in the *church. The *church will work out God’s purposes in the world. They will have the strength of God’s *Holy Spirit to do this.
What Paul taught in chapters 1-3 was first about God and his Son Jesus Christ. Then it was about the *church and our *salvation.
What Paul teaches in chapters 4-6 is about how to live as Christians. We see practical ways in which God’s *glory enters the *church. Then Paul shows how the *church will express God’s *glory to the world.
4:1-16 ~ To live a life that has value
4:1-6 ~ Try hard to stay together
v1 I am in prison because I serve the *Lord. So I am asking you to live good lives. God has called you, so your lives must give him honour. v2 You should be completely humble, gentle and patient. And you should show love to people who do not agree with you. v3 The Spirit, who gives peace, binds you together. And you must try hard to stay together. v4 God called you to one hope. In the same way, there is one body and one Spirit. v5 There is one *Lord, one *faith, one *baptism. v6 There is one God and Father of all. He is over all. He works by all and he lives in you all.
Verse 1 Christ has chosen us to sit with him in the *heavenly places (2:6). The name of Jesus is a statement about who he is. His name means ‘the *Lord *saves’. He is great and powerful. We are united with Jesus. We are with him at his side. We represent his name in our daily lives. In Ephesians 1:18, Paul speaks about the hope that we have in Christ. He now urges his readers to live as Christ taught us.
Verse 2 Paul now lists 4 qualities. The first is that we need to be ‘humble’. All people are of equal value to God. So no one Christian is more important than any other Christian is. To be humble means to recognise this. We should not be proud. We should not think that we are more important than other people. The *Greeks understood this differently from the *Jews. The *Greeks did not think that people should be humble. They did not want to be humble. To be humble was to be weak. They used a plant to describe it. This plant kept close to the ground and it always seemed to be trying to hide itself. The *Greeks did not like that. They did not think that to be humble was a good quality. Neither do many people today.
Paul, however, gives a new meaning to the word ‘humble’. A Christian should not have too great an opinion about himself. But he will want to know himself as he really is. He will look at the life of Christ. He will compare his life with his *Lord’s life. He will see then how weak and selfish he is. He will see the great difference. Then he will have a true opinion about himself. Because he thinks like this, he will respect other people. He will be kind towards them. Jesus was humble when he became a man (Philippians 2:6-7). Also, Paul says that it is not just ‘be humble’ but ‘be completely humble’. A Christian should be humble in every way.
However, a Christian can think well about himself and he should do so. But this is only when he understands the truth about himself. Yes, he has become the kind of person that God wants. But it is only by the *grace that God has given him. This means that God does not want you always to think that you are a bad person. He wants you to think about yourself for less time.
The second quality is to be ‘gentle’. This means to be under control. It is like a horse. He is strong but in perfect control. It is like a strong man who is able control himself. He uses his strength for good purposes. He is gentle with other people. He will be kind to them. It is like Jesus. He said about himself, ‘my attitude is gentle and humble’. A gentle person will not worry if someone hurts him. And he will not worry if someone does something wrong to him.
The third quality is to be ‘patient’ (or longsuffering). It means not to give up when things are against you. Suppose someone acts wrongly towards you. You must not do the same to them. This is what God is like (Romans 2:4). He does not act badly against us when we act badly against him.
The fourth quality is to be tolerant. This is to practise patience in daily life. It is to ‘show love to people who do not agree with you’. It is to be patient with the faults of another person. You continue to love a person when he does the wrong things. That means things that you do not like. Paul wants his friends to have these qualities only in love. Paul has already prayed for his friends (3:17). He prayed that they would ‘be like plants with roots in the ground of his love’ (3:17). Now he prays that Christians will have all these qualities in love.
Verse 3 Some people describe verses 4-6 as part of an early Christian *hymn. Paul uses the word ‘one’ 7 times. By Christ, we have unity. We should be united in the Spirit of God. This does not happen to us by our own efforts. However, we must work hard to keep it. We do this as we live in peace. The peace is the peace that Christ has given to us. We also live in peace with each other.
Verse 4 The *church is a like a body. It is a body of people - men, women and children. God has joined everyone together. Each person belongs to the other people. It is a group of people who work together for God. So people can see the *church. It is like the different parts of our physical bodies. Our bodies have many different parts. These parts all belong to each other. All the parts work together.
There is also ‘one Spirit’. He is the *Holy Spirit. There is only one body because there is only one Spirit. The *church consists of *Jewish and *Gentile *believers. Its unity comes from the one *Holy Spirit.
The *Holy Spirit is in the *church and he gives it life. He joins the people together. This makes unity in the *church. The *church is not a club or society. It is a body. It is alive and it is always growing. It grows by the power of the *Holy Spirit inside it.
There is ‘one hope’. This hope is that one day we shall all be like Jesus. We will live close to him for ever.
Verse 5 Next comes, ‘one *Lord, one *faith, one *baptism’. There is ‘one *Lord’, Jesus Christ. He is the *Lord of the *church. He is the same *Lord for all people. It does not matter who they are. They can be *Jews or *Gentiles. They can be black or white people. They can be rich or poor, great or small. Jesus Christ joins them all together and he keeps them together with him.
There is ‘one *faith’. All who love God share the same truths. These are truths about Jesus and his plan for our *salvation. *Faith in Jesus Christ means that we trust him for all of our life. All Christians share together in this.
There is ‘one *baptism’. We are not sure what Paul is referring to here. There is a *baptism in water. There is a *baptism into Christ (Galatians 3:27). There is a *baptism into one body (1 Corinthians 12:13).
Verse 6 ‘There is one God and Father of all. He is over all. He works by all and he lives in you all.’ In this one sentence, Paul speaks about the greatness and wonder of God. We live in a world where God is at the head of everything. This is what Christians believe. God is in control of everything. God keeps everything going and he holds everything together (Colossians 1:17). God is in all Christians. He knows about everything that happens. This same God is in us. He is working out his plan by us.
In verses 4-6, we see the Three in One God. We have the *Holy Spirit (verse 4), the *Lord Jesus (verse 5) and God the Father (verse 6).
4:7-12 ~ The gifts of Christ
v7 Christ has given a share of his *grace to each of us. v8 This is why scripture (the *Old Testament) says, ‘When Christ went up to the highest place, he took prisoners with him. And he gave gifts to men.’
v9 (When it says ‘He went up’, it must mean that he also descended into the lower parts of the earth. v10 The person who went down is also the person who went up higher than all things. He fills everything that exists.) v11 It was he who gave gifts to his *church. He gave some *apostles and some *prophets. He gave some people the gift to tell out the good news about Christ. He gave some *pastors and teachers. v12 This is how he prepares God’s people to do his work. He builds them up into one body in Christ.
God tells us to keep this unity in the Spirit (‘stay together’ verse 3). But it does not mean that we are all alike. It does not mean that we all have the same gifts. God gives many different kinds of gifts to the members of Christ’s body. No one has all the gifts but each member has some gift. All gifts come from God, so we cannot be proud of our gifts. We did not give ourselves the gifts. They come by God’s *grace.
There are two ways that we can use the word ‘*grace’. First, it is God’s *grace that *saves *sinners (2:5, 8). That is ‘*grace that *saves’. God gives this to everyone who believes in him. Second, there is God’s *grace in the special gifts that he gives to us. These help us to serve him. Here in verse 7, Paul says, ‘Christ has given a share of his *grace to each of us.’ He gives *grace in the way that he wants to distribute it. Christ gives us what he chooses to give us. He gives from the rich wealth of his gifts.
Verse 8 ‘When Christ went up to the highest place, he took prisoners with him. And he gave gifts to men.’
Paul now refers to a verse from the Psalms (Psalm 68:18). He starts his sentence with the words; ‘This is why scripture (the *Old Testament) says’. He is explaining what this verse means. It says, ‘When Christ went up to the highest place, he took prisoners with him. And he gave gifts to men.’ This speaks about the *Lord who has just won a war. He returns either to the *Temple or to heaven. This is what happened in *Old Testament days. The person who won the war would take valuable things from his prisoners. He would return home with his enemies as prisoners. He would then give the valuable things to his own people. After winning the war, he takes the prizes of war (gifts). He can now give them to his own people. But Paul says that this *Old Testament verse is about Christ. He has won the war against *Satan. Then he returns to be in the most high place with his Father. In that place, he is able to give good things to his people. Of course, the gifts that Christ gives to us come from God. They do not come from the enemy.
As he returns to the Father, Christ brings with him his enemies. These are the evil *spiritual forces of *spiritual rulers. He has defeated them. He has taken their *weapons. Now they have no power over us.
He also gives gifts to his own people. This is what Acts 2:33 means. It says that Jesus has ‘gone up to the right side of God’. ‘He has received from the Father the Spirit that the Father promised.’ ‘He has poured out what you now see and hear’ (the gift of the *Holy Spirit).
Verses 9-10 We understand ‘went up’ to mean his return to be in heaven with the Father. ‘He descended into the lower parts of the earth’. This is more difficult to understand. One possible meaning is this. He returned to the Father. Then he sent down his *Holy Spirit to the world below. It could be what Peter says in 1 Peter 3:19. He writes, ‘He went and gave a message to the *spirits in prison’ (see also 1 Peter 4:6). When Jesus died, God made his *spirit alive. Then he went to *preach to the *spirits of those who had already died (who were in prison). Another possible meaning is this. First, he came to earth from heaven as a baby. Then later he died on the *cross. There he suffered the worst pain possible (Philippians 2:5-11).
There may be doubt about the exact meaning of these words. But we can be certain about one thing: He did everything in order to fill the whole *universe. Jesus was here as a man on the earth. His body could be in only one place at one time. After the *resurrection, he is everywhere in the world by his Spirit. Everywhere Jesus is King. He is King in the heavens, on the earth or under the earth. Everything and everyone will be under his authority. And his *glory will fill the heavens and the earth (see Philippians 2:1-11).
Verses 11-12 In the original *Greek, it says that Jesus has given certain people to the *church as a gift. These people have different gifts. But together they are God’s gift to the *church. Here Paul describes the gifts that God has given to these people. He gives them the gifts to help other members of the *church. They then use their gifts and do their jobs in the *church. The result of this is that God can build up the *church. Now it can grow.
The first of these people are ‘*apostles’. These include the first 12 *disciples. They would include Matthias who replaced Judas. They include people such as Paul himself, Barnabas and Silas. The *Lord sent the *apostles out into the world. Everyone could see how God was using the *apostles. They worked by the power of the *Holy Spirit. People saw the wonderful events that took place. The results were powerful actions (2 Corinthians 12:12). The *apostles also taught the facts about Jesus. They taught about his life, death and *resurrection.
Together with the *apostles in the work of building the *church were the ‘*prophets’ (2:20 and 3:5). Their work was like that of the *Old Testament *prophets. It was to speak the word of God. This might mean to make the *sins of the people clear. Also it might mean to bring words of hope to the *church. This would give the people new strength. Judas and Silas did this in Acts 15:32. They encouraged the brothers with many words. They helped them to be strong in their *faith. This was like putting solid rock beneath the *church. Both the *apostles and the *prophets did this.
Next, come people with ‘the gift to tell out the good news about Christ’. We sometimes call a person who tells people the good news about Jesus an evangelist. Acts 21:8 describes Philip as an evangelist. In 2 Timothy 4:5, Paul tells Timothy to ‘do the work of an evangelist’. All Christians should be telling the *gospel (good news) to other people. But God has given some people a special gift to do that. Evangelists have the gift to teach the message of the *gospel. They do it in a way that people can understand. Then people can receive the offer of *salvation from Jesus.
Then there are ‘*pastors’ (that is *shepherds) and ‘teachers’. Paul does not separate these two gifts. They are together responsible to look after the *church. They teach the Bible to the members. The *shepherds and teachers have a duty. It is to feed the members of the *church with the ‘food’ of God’s Spirit. This ‘food’ is the word of God, the Bible. The *shepherds and teachers help people to understand the word of God. People will then remember it. The *pastors and teachers help people to obey God’s word. Then they will use God’s word in their daily lives. The *shepherds and teachers also guard the people. They keep them safe from attack. This might be from any enemy of the *gospel (1 Peter 5:2). Such an enemy might teach wrong things or cause trouble in the church.
The *church is the body of Christ. In the body, it is not necessary for any one member to have all the gifts. These gifts should be for all the members. God’s gift was for some people to be *apostles and for some people to be *prophets. Also, it was for some people to tell the good news about Jesus. And it was for some people to be *pastors and teachers. The purpose is to prepare ‘God’s people to do his work’. This is so that Christ can build up the *church, his body. The leaders’ work is to give the members the equipment that they need. Then the members can do their different jobs in the *church. Think about the reason for this. It is because God was ‘building them up into one body in Christ’.
The *apostles, *prophets, *pastors and other people that Paul mentioned earlier have their different gifts. They use these gifts to help all the members of the church to be Jesus’ servants. They can then do the work of Christ. They can tell people outside the *church about Jesus. Jesus Christ is the head. He gives gifts to each member. God then builds up his *church. And it grows as all the members use their gifts.
4:13-16 ~ *Faith and knowledge
v13 So we shall all become one body. We shall have the same *faith and knowledge of the Son of God. We shall all become mature and we shall grow *spiritually into complete adults like Christ himself.
v14 We shall not be like small children any longer. We shall not be like boats that the wind blows about. Some things that people teach are like winds. They change our thoughts. They can turn us away from the word of Christ. This is how false teachers tempt us to go away from the truth. v15 We must speak the truth with love. Then we shall grow up into Christ, who is the head of the body. v16 He controls all the different parts of the body. He joins them strongly together. Then the body grows in love as each part does its work.
Verse 13 To have the same *faith is not just to believe the teachers of that *faith. It is unity in knowing the Son of God. We cannot know people only with our minds. We must know them as they really are. It is like husbands and wives. They live their lives in each other’s company. In this way, they get to know each other. The person that we should really know is Jesus Christ the Son of God.
We need to grow and to become mature, that is to become completely developed in our *faith. We need to be like adults and not like children in our *faith (1 Corinthians 13:11). ‘Mature’ here means to be complete or ripe (like fruit that is ready to eat). It is what God wants for us.
We, all together, must ‘grow *spiritually into complete adults like Christ himself’. In every way, he is the complete and grown up person. He is our model. Jesus himself has the whole nature of God (Colossians 1:19). God wants us to receive the gifts and the *grace of Christ. His great desire is to give us these. God wants us to become more and more like Christ.
Verse 14 Jesus said that we should be like children. They have a simple *faith and trust in their parents. But there is one way in which we should not be like children. They may not have much knowledge about God’s word. We should not let things move us away from our *faith. The winds are like a picture of the false things that clever men can teach. They lead us away from the truth. It is like the snake that led Adam and Eve away from God.
Verse 15 Unlike such evil men, we should ‘speak the truth with love’. This means that we should not only speak the truth. We should also act the truth. We act the truth as we behave properly towards other people. Truth and love must be in the right balance. It is possible to have all truth but no love. It is also possible to have all love but no truth. We speak the truth ‘with love’ to help other people. We must spread the truth and we must love each other.
Verse 16 The whole body, the *church, depends upon Jesus. This verse is about a body like the human body. God joins the many parts of the body. They all work together. God is feeding the whole body. He is building it up (Colossians 2:19). The arm or the leg in the human body does not grow by itself. It is not there to satisfy its own needs. It grows for the benefit of the whole body. The *church grows as all the members use their gifts.
The *church grows when new members join it. But that is not the only way that it grows. The *church grows as the members learn to love each other more. More of Jesus’ love will grow in the people. Then more members will join (Acts 2:42-47).
4:17-32 ~ A different way to live
4:17-19 ~ How the *Gentiles live
v17 I tell you very strongly not to continue to live as the *Gentiles do. I say this in the name of the *Lord, because their ideas have no value. v18 Their minds are confused. They are like blind men, who can see nothing. They do not know about the life that God gives. They refuse to listen to him. v19 They do many things that are wrong. But they are not ashamed. So they do all kinds of wicked things and they become even worse. And they want more and more to continue to do these terrible things.
In these verses, Paul describes how these people lived before they became Christians. The new Christians should have now stopped living that kind of life. But all round them are those who still live in a bad way. These people do not know God. Paul writes to those who are *Gentiles. But now, by the *grace of God, they are different from the other *Gentiles. They are no longer without God in the world. They are no longer without hope (see 2:12). They share the promises that God made to the *Jews.
Verses 17-18 Paul writes about the *Gentiles. ‘Their minds are confused. They are like blind men, who can see nothing.’ There is no real wisdom in their minds. Paul is now speaking very seriously. He wants the new Christians to be careful. He wants them to listen to what he is saying. ‘I say this in the name of the *Lord’, he says. He describes the kind of life that they used to live. They lived like that before they became Christians. It was the very worst kind of life that you can think of. It was very evil. That is how it was in Greece and Rome then. And it is like that in our world today.
The first description of this evil life is, ‘They do not know about the life that God gives.’ Their minds are confused. Many people who do not know God have no real purpose in life. They do not plan their lives well. However, all people are not as Paul describes. But this is how their lives will develop if they do not know God. This is how it is when people have no thought about God in their lives.
Next, they ‘refuse to listen to him’. These people are separate from God because they have no knowledge of God. They are separate from God, who alone gives life.
You could ask why these people did not know about the life that God gives. It might be because they did not hear the good news. But they are without excuse. This is because they have not lived by the knowledge that they already have (Romans 1:18-23). We cannot see God. But we can see the things that he has made. These things are everywhere for everyone to see. The *spirits and minds of these people have become like hard stones.
Verse 19 ‘They do many things that are wrong. But they are not ashamed. So they do all kinds of wicked things and they become even worse.’ They have no shame for their evil ways. Also, they are not sad about this. Wrong thoughts in the mind lead to wrong desires. Wrong desires lead to evil actions. They do not care about the effect that their actions have on other people. Neither do they care what people think about their *sin.
They put everything that they have into their evil actions. It is like their business or trade. They put all their time and energy into it. They do all kinds of disgusting things. They are *greedy for it. They want more and more of it.
4:20-24 ~ Take off the old nature and put on the new nature
v20 But you know that Christ taught you a better way to live. v21 You heard about him. You learnt the truth that is in Jesus. v22 You must stop doing the bad things that your old nature liked. These things were destroying you. v23 You must learn to think in a completely new way. v24 God made you to be like himself. He has given you a new nature so put it on. God will make you *holy and good.
Verse 20 ‘you know that Christ taught you a better way to live’. You are different from the people that Paul has just described. Your minds are not dark any more. God lights up your life as you live side by side with him. You have finished with all *sinful behaviour.
Verse 21 The Christians at Ephesus have heard about Jesus. Their Christian teachers have told them his words. Paul himself has taught them about the truth that is ‘in Jesus’. The whole truth is ‘in Jesus’. The truth is in Jesus because he is the truth. The truth is in his life, death and *resurrection.
Verse 22 A Christian should leave behind the old way to live. Before, you used to put yourself at the centre of everything. Your desires came from that centre. Your desires led to bad behaviour. That was your old way to live. An example is the effect that an insect has on a good apple. The good apple becomes bad. The effect that *sin has on human nature is the same. Paul taught people to take off this old person and to put on the new person. The old person is the old nature. We should take it off like a piece of clothing. We need to become a new person.
The old way to live was wrong and it led to death. It was ‘destroying you’. This way brought desires that you might think are pure. But they are not. They are pleasures that you want in order to please yourself. We think that they will give us joy. And we think that they will benefit us. But this is not true. All *sin is like that. We never get what we hope to get. *Sin damages all the good things that God has given. It leads to the death of the *sinner. But the Christian can praise God. God has *forgiven all these old *sins. He has put them away for ever.
Verse 23 You have stopped thinking in the old way. That was your old way to live before you became a Christian. This is so that you can ‘learn to think in a completely new way’. Your mind was dead and it has become alive again. It should continue to become alive every day and every moment. Your mind became dark. That was what went wrong in the first place. Now you have the Spirit of God in you. So you think in new ways. This leads to a new way to live.
Verse 24 ‘God has given you a new nature, so put it on’. Now that we have taken off the old nature, Paul asks us to put on the new nature. It is our new way to live. God *created Adam and Eve. He made them perfect and he gave them his own nature. It is a nature of true goodness and holy ways. God was close to them all the time. He walked with them and he talked with them. But their *sin caused everything to go wrong. They lost this close relationship and they lost God’s nature.
But now God has given that relationship back to us. This is by Christ who died for us on the *cross. It is the relationship of the new birth. By his death, men and women can be born a second time. God has given us again a relationship with himself. It is now as it was when God first created Adam and Eve. Jesus’ death made right all that the *sin of Adam and Eve had spoilt.
The new nature is the new *creation of God. It is the act of God alone. You cannot *create it. It is a new birth from God. You cannot yourself cause your physical birth. Neither can you cause yourself to be born again. You have now left behind your old person. You must therefore leave behind the old kind of behaviour. People can now see God in you. They can see him in you because ‘God will make you *holy and good’. The old nature was false. It made false promises (verse 22). The new nature is ‘*holy and good’. To be ‘good’ is to be right with other people. To be ‘*holy’ is to be right with God. This is God’s purpose for all of us.
4:25-32 ~ Live as a Christian
v25 You must not tell lies any more. We must all speak the truth to each other, because we are all parts of Christ’s body. v26 If you are angry, you must not let this anger make you *sin. You must stop being angry before sunset. v27 Otherwise, the *Devil could make you do something that is wrong. v28 If you were a thief, you must stop stealing things. You should work and do something useful with your hands. Then you will earn something that you can share with other people. They may need your help.
v29 Do not use bad words that may hurt somebody. Your words should help other people, as they need it. These words should help them to become better people. v30 You must not make God’s *Holy Spirit sad. Remember that he is God’s promise. He shows that you belong to God. And one day he will set you completely free. v31 You must not hold on to any bitter hurts, *rage or anger. You must not fight each other or say bad things about each other. You must not think or act because of spite. v32 You should be friends and you should be kind to each other. You must forgive each other, just as God forgave you. God forgave you because of Christ.
This part of the letter shows how we should be ‘*holy and good’. Paul has asked us to take off the old nature and to put on the new nature. He now gives a list of things that we should stop doing. He tells us what we should do instead.
Verse 25 The first thing is not to tell lies. This is something that every good person would agree with. Both Christians and those who are not Christians agree about that.
But if Christians lie, they damage their love and unity. Christians belong together in one body. Therefore, they must be honest with each other. To tell lies prevents the body (the *church) from working well.
Verse 26 Another part of the old nature is bad temper. This is anger that has no good cause. There is a right anger. Jesus himself showed this (Mark 3:5). Someone may do wrong things to another person. You feel angry towards the person who has acted in that way. It is then right that you feel angry. That is *righteous or right anger. Anger must not be the result of an attack against you. It must not be because someone has hurt your pride. We must be careful that there is no *sin in our anger.
Paul adds, ‘You must stop being angry before sunset’. People do wrong things to us. But we should not hold on to our anger for a long time. ‘If you are angry, you must not let this anger make you *sin.’ These words are from Psalm 4:4. It adds, ‘when you are on your beds, search your minds and be silent’. You may be angry when you go to bed. But then you will not be able to think good thoughts. You must stop being angry before you go to sleep. Otherwise, your anger will keep growing. You must first examine yourself about your anger. Then you will ask yourself, ‘Is my anger right?’ ‘Am I happy and at peace about it?’ If so, I can sleep in peace.
Verse 27 Paul gives a further thought in this verse. He writes, ‘Otherwise, the *Devil could make you do something that is wrong.’ To continue to be angry is like leaving a door open. The *devil can then enter. Then you will have bad thoughts and you will do wrong things. That spoils the unity of the body (the *church). The *Greek word for ‘devil’ is also the word for ‘slanderer’. A slanderer says things that are not true about another person.
Verse 28 Those who steal must stop stealing. Some people may have lived by stealing. A Christian must not take things from other people. They have had to work for these things. Instead, the Christian must use his hands to earn money. He must not be afraid of honest, hard work. Then he can look after his own family. And he can have what he needs himself. But he will also want to give to those who do not have enough. Jesus was not rich. But he gave to poor people from the small amount of money that he had (John 13:29). The same was true about Paul (Acts 20:34-35).
Verse 29 Paul now talks about the way that Christians should talk. ‘Do not use bad words that may hurt somebody. Your words should help other people’. We should speak only words that help other people. We should speak to help other people grow. God can help us to say the words that they need. How we speak is very important. Jesus taught that. There will be a day for judgement. Then Jesus will remind us about the words that we have spoken. We will have spoken many words without care and thought. He will want to know about these. James also spoke about the great importance of the tongue. We can use it to speak in a good way or in an evil way (James 3:1-12).
There should be no bad language or language that does not help anyone. ‘A man is happy when he gives a right reply. How good is a word that you speak at the proper time’ (Proverbs 15:23). Our words should not only be true and pure. They should help those who hear them. Our words should build up the Body of Christ (the *church). Our example again is Jesus himself. ‘All spoke well about him. The kind words that he spoke astonished them’ (Luke 4:22).
Verse 30 There was an instruction about anger in verse 26. Then a warning followed in verse 27, ‘the *Devil could make you do something that is wrong.’ It is the same in Paul’s instruction about how we talk. He follows it with a warning. He warns, ‘You must not make God’s *Holy Spirit sad’. All *sin makes God sad. The *Holy Spirit is a Person. He is the *Holy Spirit of truth. Anything that is not holy or true hurts the Spirit of God. He lives in a Christian.
And Paul reminds us that the *Holy Spirit is God’s promise (or *seal). He *sealed us for the day of freedom. This *seal of the *Holy Spirit gives the Christian certainty. It makes us sure about *salvation. It makes us sure that we will have a home in heaven for ever.
Verse 31 There are 5 things that the Christian must stop doing.
· First, is to be ‘bitter’. A person may have done something wrong to you. And perhaps you refuse to become friends again. Or, you may have done wrong things to someone. They *forgive you, but you do not accept their *forgiveness. You continue to think angry, evil things about them. If so, then you are bitter.
· Next come ‘*rage’ and ‘anger’. ‘Rage’ is a sudden burst of anger like a storm. Anger itself is a wrong feeling against an enemy. It is a deep, slow feeling. It grows inside you (please see explanation of verse 26).
· We should not shout and ‘fight’. An angry man shouts. He thinks that everything that he says must be right. Someone has done something wrong to him. He wants everyone to hear about it. We should watch for times when we shout. We should watch when we are not speaking with a normal voice. We sometimes have arguments and we quarrel. But we must not be angry and shout at people.
· We must not ‘say bad things about each other’. To ‘slander’ means to tell lies and offend people. The Bible uses this word for speaking against God. It uses it too for making wrong statements against another person.
· Last, we must not ‘think or act because of spite’. This could mean to plan evil things against another person. It could include all the other *sins that we have described. It could also be other similar bad things.
Verse 32 We need to think in the way that pleases God. This will help us to stop evil words and actions. So ‘be friends’ and ‘be kind to each other.’ And ‘*forgive each other, just as God forgave you. God forgave you because of Christ.’ God shows his kindness even to those who do not honour him. God shows his kindness to us (2:7). Kindness is to put love into action. It is to think about someone else. You think about them as much as you think about yourself.
So Paul goes on to say, ‘forgive each other’. The *apostle knows, however, what prevents us from being kind and thinking good things about each other. We can all think of an occasion when another person did something wrong to us. We need to forgive that person. For ‘kind’, Paul uses the *Greek word for ‘*grace’. It means to act in *grace towards each other. It means to give *grace to someone. This is how God in Christ has acted in *grace towards us. You can be sure that God forgave you. You love God. So you too will want to *forgive (give *grace) to other people. God has put our *sin away. He has put it away as far as the east is from the west (Psalm 103:12). Jesus is our example of *forgiveness.
5:1-14 ~ Love
5:1-7 ~ Live in love
v1 You must try to be as much like God as you can. You are his children and he loves you. v2 So you must let his love rule your life. You must love each other as Christ himself loved you. He gave his life for us. That was like a gift to God that had a sweet smell.
v3 You know God’s rules about sex. So you must not even think about doing something that he does not allow. You must not be *greedy or do other bad things. These things are not suitable for God’s people. Do not even talk about these things. v4 Nor should you speak bad words, or say silly things. Instead, you should thank God. v5 Other people may have sex in a way that God does not allow. They may do other bad things. They may be *greedy. You can be sure that they are not *worshipping God. They are like people who *worship *idols. They will not have a share in the *kingdom of Christ and of God. v6 Do not let anyone who does not speak the truth pull you away from God. God is angry with all those people who do not obey him. He will punish those people who do these bad things. v7 You must not be partners with them.
Verse 1 ‘You must try to be as much like God as you can.’ By *grace God has made you his child. Children copy their parents. Therefore, copy God and continue to copy him. Then you will become more like him.
Verse 2 Our perfect example is Jesus himself. He lived his life on earth as we do. He loves us as the Father loves him. We must love other people as Jesus loves us (John 13:34; 1 John 4:10-11; 1 Corinthians chapter 13). Christ *sacrificed his life for us on the *cross. That is how he showed his love for us. Our love also should be a *sacrifice.
We see the meaning of *sacrifice in 1 John 3:16. It says, ‘this is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ gave his life for us’. Then it says, ‘and we ought to give our lives for our brothers (other Christians)’. The offering of Christ, however, was more than an example to us. It was an offering ‘to God’ and ‘for us’.
The *Old Testament described a *sacrifice as a sweet smell. This meant that God liked it. There was, however, a far, far greater *sacrifice by Jesus for us. In the same way, we should give ourselves to God and to other people. This is our life of *sacrifice. It is like a sweet smell to God. It is also like a sweet smell to other people. Paul gives the same thoughts in 2 Corinthians 2:14-16.
Verses 3-4 The *Greek people could see nothing wrong in bad *sexual behaviour. It was quite natural for a man to have sex with any woman. He would do this whenever it pleased him. Paul gave a completely new way to think.
Paul now starts to teach about wrong and *sinful acts. People do *sinful things. They think that they are acting with love. But it is a false kind of love. Paul is speaking about wrong *sexual behaviour. There is a proper use of sex. It is in marriage. Paul teaches that any other kind of sex is wrong. Sex in marriage is not wrong or dirty. There is a shared pleasure and delight in sex between a husband and wife. It is a gift from God. It brings him *glory.
But, to use sex in the wrong way is *greedy. It pleases one person but it hurts another person. God gives us some wonderful powers. It is not right to use them wrongly. God does not allow it for his holy people. We should not even talk between us about such things. It is not right for the people of God.
Paul now uses three more words. These describe a wrong way to live and a wrong way to talk. These ways should have no place in the Christian life. The first is talk that is ‘not suitable for God’s people’ or ‘obscenity’. Obscenity is bad talk, especially about sex. The second is to say ‘bad words’. These might be the words of a man who is drunk. Such words do not benefit the people who hear them. The third is to joke in a wrong way or to ‘say silly things’. This could mean to tell jokes that are not suitable for a Christian. But it does not mean that a Christian should always be serious. He should be able to laugh about amusing things.
Paul adds the words, ‘Instead, you should thank God.’ You should consider other people when you talk. Your words should be helpful to those who hear. It should not be silly, foolish talk. To thank God is the best kind of talk. Some people want wrong things for their own pleasure. This is the opposite of thanking God. You should thank God for his gifts. You should not joke about them. However, Paul does not forbid talk about sex. Also, he does not say that we should not tell jokes. But he says that our talk should be helpful to God’s holy people.
Verses 5-6 A person who has no morals is not pure. He is *greedy. Such a person does not *worship God. He or she has no place in the *kingdom of Christ and of God. Paul says that Christians should not listen to those who do not speak the truth. Otherwise, this will pull them away from God. God is angry with these people because of such things. They will have no place with God’s people in heaven. They are people who continue in their *sin. They do not *repent. Paul says that they can be sure that his warning words are true. But some people think that they are not important. Those people laugh at them.
In those days, there were people who thought that only the *spirit was important. The body did not matter. So they thought that it was good to *sin. You could *sin as much as you wanted. It would not matter because the body was not important. Other people even went further than that. They thought that the more you *sinned, the more God would *forgive you. He would be able to give you more *grace (see Romans 6:1). So, they thought that it benefited both you and God. But this is false. Those who think like this may try to ‘pull you away from God’. Such people are not part of the *kingdom of God. Only those people who turn away from their *sin can be in God’s *kingdom.
Paul adds more warning words: ‘God is angry with all those people who do not obey him.’ God is holy. This means that he is separate and completely different from us. Everything about God is right. Everything that God does is right. Because he is God, he can do nothing wrong. He is completely good and pure. He cannot allow anything not pure or not clean to come near him. He is like fire. He burns and destroys anything that is not good and pure. It says in Hebrews, ‘our God is like a fire that destroys’ (Hebrews 12:29).
Because God is like this, it is not possible for a *sinner to come near him. God is angry with all of us because of *sin. We deserve punishment from God. We must *repent and receive God’s gift of *forgiveness. There is no *sin in Jesus. ‘Christ did not know any *sin. But God made him become *sin for us. As a result, we can receive God’s goodness by him.’ (2 Corinthians 5:21). God is angry with *sin. But he loves the *sinner. Jesus *saves us from God’s anger. What Jesus did was to stand in our place in front of God’s anger. He did this when he died for us on the *cross. God asks us to *repent and to accept Jesus’ *sacrifice.
The *sins that Paul names in these verses are the same as those in verse 3. Here, however, Paul says that *greed is like the *worship of *idols. An *idol is a thing or a desire that we make more important than the *worship of God. A strong desire for money or for wrong sex is an *idol. The Bible says that *sexual *sins are serious. They result in broken marriages. Children usually suffer when a marriage ends. They lose the love and discipline of two parents. But pride, *greed and to live for oneself are also *sins.
Paul says that none of these people has ‘a share in the *kingdom of Christ and of God.’ These words put Christ and God together as equal. Jesus Christ became a man for us. But he is also God. The *kingdom of God is also the *kingdom of Christ. This *kingdom is only for people who are right with God. No one who is not right with God belongs to it. It is possible for any of us to *sin in many ways. But God will *forgive those who *repent. The story about David, Bathsheba and Uriah in 2 Samuel 11:1-27 is a good example. Some people continue in their *sin. They are the people who have no part in the *kingdom. They are without shame. They are not sad about their *sin and they do not *repent.
Verse 7 ‘You must not be partners with them.’ We have to mix with other people in our daily lives. Otherwise, we would not be able to tell them the good news about Jesus. But Christians must not share in their way of life. We must not share with them in their evil actions. Christians should be holy, which means different or separate. (See Ephesians 1:4.)
5:8-14 ~ Live in light
v8 You used to live as they do. You were once darkness. And you lived without the light that God gives. Now you are light and you must live as God’s children. You must live in the light of the *Lord. v9 (This light produces in men all that is good and pure and true.) v10 Discover those things that please the *Lord. And then do them. v11 You must not have anything to do with the bad things that people do in the dark. Instead, you must bring them into the light. Such bad things produce no fruit. And you must say that they are wrong. v12 They do these things in secret. It is a shame even to talk about them. v13 We can see things that we bring into the light. v14 The light shows us everything clearly. That is why men say, ‘Wake up, you who are sleeping. Rise from death, and Christ shall give you light.’
Verse 8 God is light (1 John 1:5). Jesus is ‘the light of the world’ (John 8:12). You are united with him. Therefore ‘you are light’. Light shows the greatness and *glory of God. It shows his perfect, holy nature. The opposite of that holy nature is darkness. Apart from God, people in the world live in darkness. God has transferred those who have life in Christ. He has moved them out of the power of darkness. He has moved them into his *kingdom of light (Colossians 1:12-13).
Paul says, ‘you were once darkness’. You used to be like people who are living in the dark. He did not say ‘darkness surrounded them’. Darkness was not only part of the world that they lived in. It was actually in them. But now ‘you are light’ in the *Lord. You are not only living in the light, but ‘you are light’. You are children of light. So now, ‘live in the light of the *Lord’. Be what you are. Life is like a path that God will light up. He will do this as you walk along it as God’s children.
Verse 9 This verse is about ‘the fruit of the Spirit’ (Galatians 5:22). Fruit grows in a natural way. It is its nature to grow. It does not need to obey a book of rules. We should grow in the light as fruit does. Fruit is open for all to see. It does not hide itself because of fear. ‘Live in the light as he is in the light’ (1 John 1:7). The Christian needs to be honest with people.
Verse 10 Verse 9 is in brackets. Brackets are marks like this () that we use to separate words from the main part of a sentence. That means that verse 10 follows on from verse 8. So, ‘live in the light of the *Lord’ (verse 8). Then, ‘Discover those things that please the *Lord. And then do them’. This means that you must learn for yourself what pleases God. You learn this in your daily life.
Verses 11-13 The *apostle warns the Christians again. He warns them about people who do not obey God. He warns them about what they do in secret (verse 12). Christians must have nothing ‘to do with the bad things that men do in the dark’. Instead, ‘you must bring them into the light’. Let everyone know that these actions are evil. The light makes them clear. Therefore, the Christian must have nothing to do with these bad actions. He must not even talk about the things that they do in secret. It brings shame even to mention these evil things.
Moreover, these things ‘produce no fruit’. Fruit here means what pleases God. They do not just produce little fruit. They produce no fruit at all. The fruits of darkness are like weeds instead of wheat. We do not need always to be trying to be good. That way does not succeed. We should allow the *Holy Spirit to produce fruits of goodness in us. It is a natural development of the life of God in us. Fruit does not have to try hard to grow; it grows by nature. In the same way, Christians do not have to try very hard to produce good things in themselves. Instead, we should allow the *Holy Spirit to produce the good things in our life.
The steady, normal work of the *Holy Spirit in the life of the *believer will produce good things. People will see the *believer’s good deeds. His life will be completely different from the life of someone who does not have the *Holy Spirit. He may not even need to tell a person about his *sin (verse 12). The life of Christ is like a light that shines through those who know him. It shows the darkness of the *sinner. The *sinner will then realise that his life is dark. And he will realise that he has no good things in his life. This will force people to make a decision. Either they must decide to accept God’s light themselves or else they must remain in darkness.
If people hate the light, they will try to get away from it. If you pick up a big stone, all the insects underneath try to run away. This is because the light has come into their darkness. They do not like it. It is like that when the light of Christ shows through his people. Jesus spoke about this in John 3:19-21.
Verse 14 Paul writes, ‘The light shows us everything clearly’. We may not want to show up darkness. But the action of light makes things clear. Light, because it is light, must show up the darkness.
‘Wake up, you who are sleeping. Rise from death, and Christ shall give you light.’ This could be a part of an early Christian *hymn. They might have used it at *baptism. The new Christian would come up out of the water and the people would sing these words. ‘Wake up from the dark sleep of *sin. Rise up from the death of *sin. Rise into the new life of light that Christ gives you.’
5:15-6:9 ~ Wisdom
5:15-17 ~ What wisdom is
v15 You must be very careful how you live. You should live as men and women who are wise, not as fools. v16 You must use every part of every day for good things, because these are bad days. v17 So you must not be foolish. You must try to find out what the *Lord wants you to do.
Verses 15-16 God has given us wisdom (1:8). We can ask God for wisdom (1:17). Therefore, God will make his wisdom known to the world. He will also make it known to the *spiritual powers. He will do this by us (3:10).
So ‘be very careful how you live. You should live as men and women who are wise, not as fools. You must use every part of every day to do good things, because these are bad days.’ (See also Colossians 4:5.) This advice is very practical. Take care, especially about how you use your time. Use it in the right way. Use every opportunity to turn people from darkness to light. Use it to show the life of God to other people. The days are evil and the time left is short. Therefore, rescue or buy back as much time as you can. You are rescuing your time from the evil things of this world.
Verse 17 Jesus taught us to pray, ‘The things that you want happen in heaven. We want the things that you want here on earth’ (Matthew 6:10). God has a general will or purpose for everything. We find this in the Bible. But there is also a special will or purpose for each of us. We find it by prayer and by thinking. We can also ask for advice from other people. We need to discover the will of God for ourselves. It is important to know God’s plan for our lives. We must do everything that we can to know this. Otherwise, we cannot be certain about what we should do.
5:18-21 ~ Live full of the *Holy Spirit
v18 You must not drink too much wine or you will suffer. Instead let God fill you with his Spirit. v19 When you meet together, sing *spiritual songs. Sing and praise the *Lord in your mind. v20 Always give thanks to the God the Father for everything, in the name of Jesus Christ, our *Lord.
v21 You should *submit to each other, because you respect Christ.
Verse 18 Someone has said ‘a man must fill himself with something’. The man who is not a Christian fills his life with wine and pleasures of the world. The Christian is happy when he allows God to fill him with the Spirit.
One of the evil ways of the old life is to drink too much wine. This causes a loss of control of one’s actions. People have always tried to forget their cares and worries by drinking strong drink. It makes them feel good. That is true. But the feeling does not last. The Bible does not say that we should not have any strong drink. To those who would become leaders, the Bible warns about this (Titus 1:7). To drink too much alcohol and to lose control of yourself is clearly a *sin. Such people behave like animals. To drink too much wine is also a waste. That is the meaning of the *Greek word that Paul used here. We should control ourselves and not waste money. This is good advice for those who desire wisdom.
But Paul does not want to take away our joys and pleasures. In Acts chapter 2, the crowd saw wonderful things happening. People were becoming full with God’s Spirit. Some people thought that these people had been drinking too much wine. It is the same here as in Acts chapter 2. To let God fill us ‘with his Spirit’ is a better way to have joy. It is also an instruction from God. It is not just something to do if we feel like it. Moreover, we should let the Spirit fill us more than once. We should let the Spirit continue to fill us all the time. Then the *Holy Spirit will control every part of our life.
Verse 19 Paul tells Christians what should happen when they meet together. They should be glad and they should *praise God. They should sing and so encourage each other. This is much better than the false happiness of too much alcohol. Joy comes from inside us. Music can be inside us too. It may be silent and we may be singing only to the *Lord. Christians have always sung to God. Every new movement of the *Holy Spirit brings new songs of joy.
Verse 20 Paul tells Christians always to give thanks to God the Father. This can be by songs or in any other way. To complain is a *sin. In the *Old Testament, it was one of the *sins of the *Israelites. It does not please God. *Believers who are filled with the *Holy Spirit should not complain. They should always give thanks to God for everything. There is only one way to obey this instruction: that is to have a complete *faith in God. We do not praise God for evil things. We praise him for the benefit that he will cause from them.
All this comes from ‘God the Father’. But it is ‘in the name of Jesus Christ, our *Lord’. This is because every good thing comes by him. Again, we see here our Three in One God. God fills us with the *Holy Spirit. We then give thanks to God the Father. We do it in the name of our *Lord Jesus Christ.
Verse 21 Next Paul says, ‘*submit to each other, because you respect Christ’. This verse leads into the next part of the letter (5:22-6:9). That part is about how we should live our life. We should live at peace with each other. Paul tells us the secret. He tells us how Christians can live a good and happy life together. This is in the *church and in the world. But it is possible only if one person gives in to the other. Each person should not do only what he or she wants to do. It is wrong to be proud about our opinion. It is wrong always to be giving orders to other people. Such behaviour destroys our life together. Paul emphasises why we should *submit to each other. It is ‘because you respect Christ’.
Here are some ways that we can live this kind of life. We should each be willing
(a) to help each other;
(b) to listen to each other;
(c) to learn from each other;
(d) to allow another person to correct us.
It makes no difference what kind of person you are. You can be a man or a woman. You can be young or old. You can be a master or a servant. You need to work out what it means to ‘let God fill you with his Spirit’. Paul mentions practical ways to do these things. You can do them wherever you are.
All our actions then should be because of love and respect for Christ.
5:22-33 ~ Wives and husbands
v22 Wives, *submit to your husbands, as you do to the *Lord. v23 The husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the *church. Christ *saved the *church. v24 The *church obeys Christ. So the wife should allow her husband to have authority in everything. v25 Husbands should love their wives as Christ loved the *church. And he gave his life for it. v26 He did this to make the *church *holy. He intended to wash it with water by the word. v27 He intended to make it pure, without any bad marks or stains or anything like that. Christ does this so that he will have a *holy *church without any *sins. v28 Men should love their wives in the same way, just as they love their own bodies. A man who loves his wife loves himself. v29 No man hates his own body. No, he feeds it and he looks after it. He looks after his body as Christ looks after the *church. v30 We, the *church, are parts of his living body. v31 The *Old Testament says, ‘A man will leave his father and his mother. He will join to his wife. The two will become one body.’ v32 This is a great *mystery. But I am speaking especially about Christ and his *church. v33 It also refers to you. Every husband must love his wife as he loves himself. And the wife must respect her husband.
The word ‘*submit’ means to give in to another person. But sometimes we think that it is a sign of weakness. The words of Jesus Christ have brought many changes to society. In many countries, it has made a big difference to the state of women. In the time of Jesus, a girl was completely under the authority of her father. A wife was completely under the authority of her husband. A *Jewish man, in his morning prayer, would thank God for three things. These were that God had not made him ‘a *Gentile, a slave or a woman’.
By *Jewish law, a woman had very few rights. Her husband could divorce her almost as he wanted. It was the same in the *Greek and *Roman societies. A husband could leave his wife and marry someone else. He could do absolutely what he wanted to do. Divorce was not a rare event. What Paul was teaching would therefore be new. It would seem strange. The word ‘*submit’ has a new meaning.
Verse 22 This section follows verse 21. It is about *submitting to each other because of respect for Christ. We spend much of our lives in the home. At home, we can practise Paul’s teaching in our daily lives. It is the first and most important place to do this. At home, husbands, wives and children work out the principles that Paul taught. What follows is not about our rights. It is about our duties to each other.
God made men and women equal (Galatians 3:28). It is important to remember this. In the *New Testament, they are equal in Christ. This means that to God they are equal. To *submit to each other is for everybody. We saw this in verse 21. It therefore applies to husbands and wives. All are worth the same to God.
However, God has made two different kinds of people, male and female. So, in this way, they are not the same. The way that God makes a man is something special to that man. The way that God makes a woman is something special to that woman. A man finds his place in God’s plan by being a man. A woman finds her place in God’s plan by being a woman. Because they are different, they can help each other better.
The Bible tells us in Genesis how God first made man and woman. God made man the head of the family. God also gave the wife her place in the family. That place is by the side of her husband. It is as his helper. It says, ‘But for Adam there was no suitable helper… Then the *Lord God made a woman from the bone that he had taken out of the man. And he brought her to the man’ (Genesis 2:20-22). The wife should not be against her husband. By her own choice, she should *submit to him. But to *submit is not something only for a wife. She should *submit as Paul asks each person to *submit in verse 21.
God is wise. And he knows that the world needs authority. When we *submit to authority, we agree with God’s plan. God wants us to live peaceful lives. He does not want us to have unnecessary troubles. So God gives authority to those people who lead us. It is for our benefit. It is ‘out of respect for Christ’ that we *submit to authority. We do this in order to please our *Lord and Master, Jesus Christ.
There needs to be agreement and unity in the family. This requires a leader. God has given the husband and father the authority to be this leader. So Paul says, ‘Wives, *submit to your husbands, as you do to the *Lord.’ A wife *submits to the *Lord and she *submits to her husband. The two relationships are different. For example, she might do something for her husband. She should do it as she would do it for the *Lord.
Jesus himself was under the orders of his Father. He only did what the Father told him to do. He did not have ideas of his own. (See John 5:19-20.) But Jesus was not less important than God the Father (Philippians 2:6). We can understand, therefore, that to *submit does not make a person less important. But it does make him or her more like Jesus.
Those to whom God has given authority are responsible to him. So they should use their authority fairly. They should not use it to make life easier or better for themselves. Husbands should use their authority in love. Fathers should be gentle as they bring up their children. Masters should act fairly towards their servants.
Verse 23 When God made Adam and Eve, he gave them an instruction. He said that the husband should be the head over the wife. Paul does not explain this here in this letter. But he does explain it in 1 Corinthians 11:3-12 and 1 Timothy 2:11-13. Jesus also referred to what God had said ‘at the beginning’ (Matthew 19:4-6). This instruction about the relationship between husband and wife is for all ages. It is not just for the time when Paul lived.
Christ is the head and the leader of the *church. The *church is his body and he ‘*saved the *church’. As *Saviour, he gave his life as a *sacrifice for the *church. There is a connection with this truth and marriage. The husband is the leader in the house. So this is how the husband should be towards his wife. It is as Christ is to his *church. The husband must not be a hard and cruel leader. No, he should love his wife. He should give himself and his time. He does this for her benefit and for her happiness. He should guard her and protect her. No one should be able to attack her or hurt her.
Verse 24 ‘The *church obeys Christ. So the wife should allow her husband to have authority in everything.’ Everyone would agree that Christ is the leader of his *church. All the people are under his authority. In the same way, the husband is the leader in the home. In front of God, the wife has taken on the duty of wife and mother. In the family, she should allow her husband to be leader. There are occasions, however, when these instructions may not apply. For example, husbands and wives may have different jobs. The husband does not have authority over his wife in her work.
Verse 25 There are 4 different *Greek words for love. One word is for *sexual love. Two more are about the ordinary relationships that people have with each other. The fourth is for a special kind of love that only Christians have. It is the kind of love that God has for every one of us. It is the love of Christ. It is the love that caused him to die for us on the *cross. ‘Christ loved the *church. And he gave his life for it.’ It is that kind of love. With this love, you do not think about yourself. With this love, you want only the best for the person that you love. It is the kind of love that we read about in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7. This is the love that the husband should show towards his wife.
Verses 26-27 In these next verses, Paul writes about the kind of love that Christ has for the *church. Christ gave himself up for the *church to make us ‘pure, without any bad marks or stains’. He wants us to be *holy (or set apart). The work of Christ washes us. That means that it makes us clean from the old way. And it sets us apart for the new way.
The *cleansing is ‘by the word’ (John 15:3; 17:7). These are not words like those that someone might speak at a *baptism. It is the word of the *gospel. It is the word of the Bible. A person needs to receive the word. Then it makes them clean and *holy.
There is something else in marriage that helps us to understand more about Christ. We see this in the way that the bride gets ready for her marriage. She wants to come to her husband looking as beautiful as she can. She wants to be ‘without any bad marks or stains’ or any other marks. It is the same with the *church, the bride of Christ. There is, however, a difference. The bride can make herself look beautiful for her husband but the *church cannot do this for itself. Christ did it for the church. So he makes it ‘pure’. We cannot wash away the marks of *sin ourselves. Think about the marks of age on our faces. We cannot remove them ourselves. And we cannot take away the results of *sin. It is by the death of Jesus on the *cross. Only his death can remove the marks of *sin.
Verses 28-29 Paul says, ‘A man who loves his wife loves himself’. He is thinking about Genesis 2:24. He writes about this later in verse 31. Genesis 2:24 says that the husband and wife are ‘one flesh’ or ‘one body’. In the act of sex, they join together. They become one body. This is why an act of sex should only be between husband and wife. It is wrong for people who are not man and wife to join in sex. When a man and woman marry, they become one body. So, if the husband does not love his wife, he does not love his own body. Therefore, he does not love himself.
If a husband loves himself, he will try to discover the best kind of life. It will benefit him. But it will benefit his wife too. That is because the two are one body. His wife will share his good life. She will enjoy any good things that he enjoys.
The *Greek word for love describes the love that God has for us. We have seen that before. Here again Paul uses this special *Greek word. He is writing about something beyond the love of brother or sister. It is beyond the love that people have in *sexual acts. Paul is speaking about the best kind of love. It is the best possible love that you can give to another person. It is the same love, with which Christ loved us. He gave himself for us.
Paul never says that the wife is a less valuable person than the husband is. Neither does he say that the husband owns his wife. The wife is part of the husband because they join in marriage.
Paul adds to this the words, ‘No man hates his own body. No, he feeds it and looks after it.’ To love yourself in this way is not wrong. It is necessary. If you do not look after yourself, you will die.
Verse 30 In marriage, the wife becomes part of the life of her husband. He therefore loves her and helps her to know Christ better. Jesus is like that to us. He has joined us to himself. We are part of his life. No one can break this union.
Verse 31 Now comes the verse from Genesis (Genesis 2:24). ‘A man will leave his father and his mother. He will join to his wife. The two will become one body.’ This is God’s plan for marriage. It is the most important statement in the Bible about marriage. It tells us that it is wrong for a man to have more than one wife. It is wrong too for a man to have sex with any woman who is not his wife. It tells us that God does not like divorce. Here is God’s perfect plan for marriage. It is that a man and woman should stay together for life.
Someone asked Jesus about this. Why was there a law that allowed divorce? He said that it was ‘because you were bad. You did not want to obey God’ (Matthew 19:8). That is why there is need for such a law. It is because the world is not perfect. But this is not part of God’s plan.
Before marriage, a man or woman share their lives with their parents. However, after they marry, they do not share their lives with their parents in the same way. But they still have a duty towards their parents. The parents have allowed their children to leave. They have ended all their rights over their children. God has now joined the husband and wife. They are like two pieces of wood that someone has glued together. You cannot separate them again. The two persons become ‘one body’. God *blesses their life together and they *bless each other.
Verse 32 Paul now says, ‘This is a great *mystery. But I am speaking especially about Christ and his *church.’ Paul has already spoken about this *mystery (3:1-13). It is about God’s great secret. It is his plan for everyone. It is for every age in history. God hid it before, but now he makes it plain.
This *mystery has great meaning. It is difficult to understand. Sometimes Paul calls it wonderful or great. In earlier times, God had hidden a very important truth. Now Christ makes it plain. Paul has been teaching about husbands and wives. But Paul makes it clear that the *mystery is more than that. It is about ‘Christ and his *church’. ‘Christ wanted to make the *Jews and *Gentiles into one people. He wanted to unite them with himself. He wanted them to have peace with each other’ (Ephesians 2.15). The ‘one people’ is *Jews and *Gentiles together. (In the Greek language, it is ‘one new person’.)
The husband is head of the family. In the same way, Christ is the head of the *church. The husband shows love and care for his wife. He does this by giving himself to her. This is the best example that Paul can give. Christ showed love and care for his *church. He did this by giving his life. The wife depends on her husband as guide and leader. In the same way, the *church depends on the *Lord.
Verse 33 But again Paul returns to the subject of husband and wife. He says, ‘Every husband must love his wife, as he loves himself.’ The duty of the husband is to love his wife. It is with the same kind of love that Christ has for his *church.
Paul continues, ‘And the wife must respect her husband.’ The *Greek word ‘respect’ used here is ‘fear’. You might fear someone who frightens you. But it is not that kind of fear. It is about your relationship with someone that you love. You want to please that person. You might do something that will not please him or her. That is what you fear. That is what our relationship with God is like. It is the kind of fear and love that each of us should have towards God. The Bible says that this kind of fear of the *Lord is ‘the beginning of wisdom’. When you fear the *Lord, you start to be wise.
6:1-4 ~ Children and parents
v1 Children, you must obey your parents. This is because the *Lord has given them authority to look after you. And this is the right thing for you to do. v2 ‘Respect your father and your mother’. (This was the first *commandment with a promise.) v3 God promised to give us a long and *blessed life if we kept this promise.
v4 Fathers, you must not make your children think that you are not fair to them. Instead, you must look after them. And you must correct them. You must do this as the *Lord has taught us.
Verse 1 Paul has finished teaching about husbands and wives. He now starts to teach children and parents. It is good to see children and older people together. Especially when they all come together to praise God. It is good, too, that the children have teachers. Jesus himself said, ‘let the children come to me’ (Matthew 19:14). The *Lord commands us to *submit to each other (5:21). Children are also included in this. But there is more than that. The instruction for children is, ‘Children, you must obey your parents.’
· First, it is because ‘the *Lord has given them authority to look after you’. The fifth *commandment is to ‘Respect your father and your mother’. To respect is to obey. Colossians 3:20 tells us why children should obey their parents. It is, ‘because this pleases the *Lord’. If the children love the *Lord, they will want to please him.
· Next, ‘it is the right thing for you to do’. This means that it is the right and natural thing to do. It is for all children everywhere. It is right and natural in any society.
Verses 2-3 Paul now refers to the fifth *commandment. It is, ‘Respect your father and your mother’. He adds that it was ‘the first *commandment with a promise’ (Exodus 20:12). In those days, a child might refuse to obey his parents. If he continued like that, it was a very serious matter. The authorities could kill him or her. That was the old law. Paul, however, refers to a promise. It follows the *commandment. If we obey this *commandment, God promises us ‘a long and *blessed life’.
In most things, children should obey their parents. But this command could be difficult for some children. It could be difficult if their parents do not believe in Jesus. Their parents might refuse to allow their children to attend *church. Or they might not allow *baptism. The children should still obey them. However, there are some things that parents should not stop their children from doing. It would be wrong to tell them not to believe in Jesus. It would be wrong to tell them not to praise him.
There are different ages at which children need no longer to obey this command. In *Roman society, it was as long as the father lived. While he was still alive, his children had to obey him. In other societies, it could be when a child becomes an adult. The laws of each country would decide what this age should be. It could be when the law allows marriage. It could be when the children leave home to marry. The age would be different for each country. Each country will have its own customs.
Verse 4 A *Roman father could do anything that he wanted with his children. He could make them work in the fields. He could even put chains on them. He could sell them as slaves. He could punish them, as he liked. He could even kill them. When a girl was born, the father might throw her away.
Paul now gives instructions to parents and children. The Christian father must love his children. He should love them as God loves him. Do not make your children angry. Your children will do many wrong things. But most of those things will not be very important. Do not always be telling them that they are wrong. Decide on what is important and what is not. Decide on the things that you should not approve of. Do not be cruel to them. Do not always tell them that they are bad. If you do, they might stop trying to be good. Always try to say good and helpful things to your children.
Parents must help their children. Father’s ‘must look after’ their children. And they ‘must correct’ them. They should train them in the ways of Christ. The *Greek word that Paul used here is the same as in 5:29. It referred there to a man who looks after his own body. To look after their children should be the parents’ most important duty.
Sometimes education is hard and difficult. The child may not like this. The book of Proverbs has many words about this. But parents must always remember one thing. They should not be too hard or cruel to their children. A child is a person and not a thing. ‘Train a child in the way that he should go. Then, when he is old, he will not turn from it’ (Proverbs 22:6). Discipline at times may be hard. But we should always praise the child when he or she has done well.
6:5-9 ~ Slaves (servants) and masters
v5 Slaves, respect and obey your masters in this world. Be loyal to them, as you would be to Christ. v6 You must not obey them only when they are watching you. You might do this only to make them think that you are good. But, because you are servants of Christ, you should be obeying God sincerely. v7 You must work well and responsibly, as if you served Christ, not men. v8 The *Lord will reward every man for anything good that he does. You know this. He will reward both slaves and free men.
v9 Those of you who are masters must also be fair to your slaves. You must not frighten them by saying that you will hurt them. Remember that you and your slaves have the same master in heaven. God is fair and you are all his slaves. He does not think that masters in this world are more important than their slaves.
Verse 5 In Bible times many families had slaves. They did all the work in the house. They were the property of their master. They had no rights. Their owner could buy or sell them. He could punish his slave if he wanted to. He could whip him or put him in prison. He could even kill him. A slave might escape. If the master caught him, he would whip him. Or he might kill him. Some slaves would kill themselves. They did this because they were so unhappy.
A slave did not always have an unpleasant life. It was certainly better for the master if he dealt well with his slave. The slave would then work harder. He would try to please his master.
Paul writes, ‘Slaves, respect and obey your masters in this world. Be loyal to them, as you would be to Christ.’ These instructions are right for any time in history. They are a benefit in the home or at work. A slave or worker should obey his master or manager. He does this as he would obey Christ. He obeys his master on earth. Then he remembers that he has a greater master. His greater master is the *Lord.
Also, servants should ‘respect’ their masters. This whole passage is about the way that we live with each other. Paul teaches that we should *submit to each other because of respect for Christ (5:21). This means that we should respect and value other people.
These instructions are for workers today. We work for our employers. We should do it as if we are working for God. It was more difficult in those days than it is today. We should be ‘loyal’. We should do it as we would do it ‘to Christ’.
Verses 6-7 Next Paul writes, ‘you should be obeying God sincerely’. God wants us to do our work well. And that is why we should do it well. Christians are servants and even slaves of the *Lord. Therefore, they do their work for him and not for men. We can cook a meal as if Jesus is going to eat it. We can clean the house as if Jesus will be the visitor. Shop workers sell goods to people. Nurses look after people. They should do it as if they are doing it for Jesus Christ. The desire to do the work must be sincere. We do it to please the *Lord. The work must be good enough to show to him.
Verse 8 Paul also teaches this in Colossians 3:24-25. The *Lord sees everything that we do, whether good or bad. We will receive a reward from him. God will give us a good reward if we do good things. And he will punish us if we do evil things. Here Paul mentions only good things. This is to help the Christians and to encourage them. Paul tells them that God sees every good thing that they do. There may be no one to thank them on earth. But God will reward them for service that they do well.
This is not about our *salvation. No amount of good work will give us that. Our *salvation is not a reward for good work. It is God’s gift of *grace. We will receive a reward from God for what we have done. But we receive it only by God’s *grace. Some people think only about themselves. That is *sin. They need to *repent of it. They may give service to other people. But if they do not give it sincerely and to the *Lord, God cannot reward it.
Paul now talks to masters. Therefore, he adds the words, ‘both slaves and free men’. Paul’s words apply to everyone. They apply to those who are rich. And they apply to those who are poor. They apply to slaves and to free people. They apply to servants and masters, to workers and managers (bosses).
Verse 9 Masters must remember that ‘you and your slaves have the same master in heaven. God is fair and you are all his slaves. He does not think that masters in this world are more important than their slaves.’ God, who is master of both slaves and servants, is in heaven. There are no favourites with him. All are equal in front of God. But people may not be equal in the world. God has no favourites. He considers everyone the same. Masters must remember that they too are servants. They are under the authority of their master in heaven. It is the same for both masters and servants. They both have the same master and judge in heaven. When they remember this, they will behave well towards other people.
People allowed *slavery in those days. But now we believe that *slavery is wrong. It is wrong for one person to buy and sell another person. It is wrong to do as you please to another person. This is what the Bible teaches. All people are equal in front of God. Christians are like brothers and sisters in Christ. The letter of Paul to Philemon tells us about a slave called Onesimus. He had escaped from his master, Philemon. He had come to Paul and he had become a Christian. Paul then wanted to return him to Philemon. So Paul writes to Philemon. He asks him to be kind to Onesimus when he returns. He asks Philemon to receive Onesimus both as a man and as a brother (Philemon 16). Paul taught that a slave could become a Christian brother.
For the *Jews, there were laws about slaves. These laws were very generous. They are in Exodus chapter 21. Slaves should serve for 6 years. Their masters freed them in the seventh year. They would not need to pay their masters anything (Exodus 21:2). A slave might have a good master. If he did not want to leave him, they had a ceremony. The slave stood by a door. His master would make a hole through the slave’s ear with a sharp tool. The tool would go into the door and fix the slave to the door. After that, there would be a hole in the slave’s ear. This was to show that the slave wanted to stay with his master. He wanted to stay with him always (Exodus 21:6). This is an example of the Christian. He wants to be with his Master Jesus for ever. He will never want to be free from being a servant of Jesus.
The principles that Paul taught are true for today. Both workers and bosses have duties. The worker should give good work. And the boss should pay a proper wage. It is the worker’s duty to give good work. It is the right of the boss to expect it. It is the duty of the boss to pay a fair wage. It is the worker’s right to expect it. Sometimes things do not work out well at work. This is the reason. One side thinks only about its own rights. Or it urges the other side to do its duty. Paul tells each side to concentrate on their responsibilities, not their rights. That would lead to an improvement for everyone.
Later, this teaching led to the end of *slavery in many countries. It happened in one country after another.
6:10-20 ~ The Christian life as a war
6:10-17 ~ Be strong in the *Lord
v10 Finally, you must be strong in the *Lord. He will give you his great power so that you can do this. v11 You must wear all the *armour that the *Lord gives to protect you. Then you can stand against the evil attacks of the *Devil. v12 We are not fighting a human army, but we are fighting against the powers of this dark world. We are fighting against the rulers, authorities and evil *spiritual forces in the heavens. v13 So, wear God’s whole *armour to protect yourself. Then you will be able to stand firm on the evil day when they attack you with their great power. And, when the battle is over, you will still be standing firm. v14 So, stand with the belt of truth round you. And wear the *breastplate of *righteousness. v15 On your feet, put on the *gospel of peace like shoes that are ready to use. v16 Always carry *faith like a *shield. This *faith will protect you from any attack of the *Devil. His attacks are like burning arrows. v17 You know that God has *saved you by the love of Christ. Use this knowledge, like a hard hat that protects your head. Attack the *Devil with the word of God. This word is like a sword. It cuts with the power of the *Holy Spirit.
Verse 10 Paul knows from his own experience that he is in a war. His enemy is the *Devil (*Satan). *Satan will fight against all that God has done by Jesus Christ. He will work as hard as he can to destroy God’s work. The new Christians now enjoy unity and peace. The *Devil will try to destroy that. We would all like to live peaceful lives. We would all like a life with no worries. But this is not possible in the world as it is. We need to know that we are in a battle. We need to know our enemy. We need to know how strong he is.
We have one important need as we fight this war. It is the power of God. We ‘must be strong in the *Lord’. You cannot make yourself strong. God must give you strength. He must give it to you more than once. He must give it to you all the time. The *Greek word means ‘continue to let God make you strong’. Then Paul says ‘in the *Lord’, not ‘by the *Lord’, although that would be true. The strength comes from being united with Jesus. It comes from being ‘in Christ’. This is what Jesus taught (John 15:1-5). Apart from Jesus, the Christian can do nothing. So the strength that we have is in ‘his great power’. You could also say, ‘in the strength of his great power’.
Verse 11 In Ephesians 1:19, Paul talks about God’s great power. It was the power that God used to raise Jesus from death. With that power, he defeated his enemies. Paul uses the same words here - power, strength and might. We are at war against our enemy, the *Devil (*Satan). We therefore need all these qualities. But we need something more. ‘You must wear all the *armour that the *Lord gives to protect you. Then you can stand against the evil attacks of the *Devil.’
When Paul was in prison, they chained him to a *Roman soldier. Therefore, he could always see the soldier’s *armour. But our *weapons for war are not *weapons with sharp points like a sword. They are *weapons of the Spirit. You need these so that ‘you can stand against the evil attacks of the *Devil’. The word used here is ‘stand’. It is as if you are in a castle. It is the castle of the *church of Jesus Christ. You are guarding the castle against all the clever and evil plans of the enemy.
Verse 12 This war is different from a war with *weapons like guns. This battle is not against people. It is against all kinds of ‘*spiritual forces’. They are in a world that you cannot see. ‘We are not fighting a human army, but we are fighting against the powers of this dark world. We are fighting against the rulers, authorities and evil *spiritual forces in the heavens.’ These evil forces will use people to do their evil work. The war is against the *Devil and his armies. These armies consist of many different kinds of *spirits.
In 2:2, Paul speaks about ‘the king who rules the *spiritual forces in the air. He is a *spirit.’ This means *Satan. He is the head of all the evil *spirits. We cannot see them. But they are working in this world. These *spirit forces are very real. We see this all through the *New Testament. Jesus fought and won against all these evil forces. He did this when he died on the *cross.
‘Rulers’ refers to world rulers. This does not mean human rulers. This refers to those who rule the whole world. And the chief ruler is *Satan. Jesus said that this ruler is *Satan. Jesus said that *Satan is ‘the ruler of this world’ (John 12:31; 14:30). John says that ‘the whole world is in the control of the *devil’ (1 John 5:19). Paul calls him ‘the god of this age’ (2 Corinthians 4:4). The world is in the power of the *devil. The *New Testament often states this.
The fight is against the evil rulers. They are part of the ‘dark’ world that you cannot see. They are powerful *spirits of *Satan. They are great evil princes of darkness. They rule this world. We fight against large numbers of wicked *spirits. These are in the *spirit world. We cannot see them, but they are real. They hate the light. They try to get away from it. Darkness is where they live. They have no rules of right behaviour. They have no kind, pleasant feelings. They know nothing about right. They know only about wrong things.
Only the power of God can keep us safe from the evil actions of the *devil. The *spiritual powers are strong, but the power of God is stronger. That power raised Jesus from death. God caused him to sit on the *throne in the *heavenly places (the *spiritual world) (1:20). He has also raised us up into ‘the *heavenly places’. We sit there on the *throne with Christ (2:6). The *spiritual world is where this *spiritual war takes place. These powers attack us there and Christ defends us. Christ defeated these powers at the *cross. They are under his authority and under ours. This *spiritual world is where Christ has *blessed us (1:3). This is where these *spiritual forces will try to steal our *blessings.
Verses 13-14 These *spiritual forces are fighting against the Christians. The power of these forces is very strong. So Paul tells the Christians to ‘wear God’s whole *armour’. Paul encourages them. The evil day will come. They will have done everything possible. Then, after that, they will be able to stand. They will stand firm against the devil’s attacks. He will not be able to knock them down.
Paul writes about a ‘whole’ suit of *armour. It was all the equipment of a soldier ready for battle. Our ‘whole *armour’ is from God. It is important to understand this. We find this in the *Old Testament. God himself wears things like *armour as he fights. ‘He put on goodness like a *breastplate. He put *salvation like a hard hat on his head’ (Isaiah 59:17). Now God gives these same *weapons to his people. It is to help them in the war against *Satan.
Notice how often Paul uses the word ‘stand’. The first time it means, ‘stand against’ or ‘stand firm’. It is because your enemy is very strong. A time will come, when the fight will be very hard. It will be in two places. It will be both inside and outside the *church. The fight will get more and more difficult. This will be as ‘the day of the *Lord gets near’ (Mark 13:4-23). Every day can be such an evil day. So the Christian should be ready for it. So Paul says, ‘And having done all, you will still stand firm’. Then, ‘when the battle is over, you will still be standing firm.’
Paul would have watched the soldier who was always near him. He would have seen him put on his *armour. The soldier put on each piece in the right order. So Paul tells his readers: Wear your *armour as the soldier does. The belt is first before any of the outer pieces. The clothes underneath must first be in place. Then the soldier can put on the outer pieces. The belt will hold all the pieces together. Then the soldier will be ready for action.
‘Truth’ can be everything that God has told us about himself and Jesus Christ. We read about this in the Bible. Jesus said, ‘then you will know the truth and the truth will make you free’ (John 8:32). The Bible speaks about ‘truth in the inner parts’ (Psalm 51:6). If we know truth, the inner part of us will be right. If we are not right inside, we will not feel right. We will have no inner *peace. We will not feel comfortable with people. We will not be right with God and with other people. We will lose our peace. This will stop us from doing the things that we ought to do. It will stop us saying the things that we ought to say. So, we must make the belt of truth firm round us.
The second piece to be put on is ‘the *breastplate of *righteousness’. We read about this piece of *armour in Isaiah 59:17. It is God’s *righteousness. God himself puts it on us (Romans 3:21-22). This is our *justification. It makes us right with God. It is as if we had never *sinned. It is goodness on the inside of us. A soldier wears the *breastplate at the front of the body. It will not be of much use if there is a hole in it. The purpose of all the *armour is to stop the enemy hurting you.
Verse 15 The third piece of *armour is for the feet. We should ‘put on the *gospel of peace like shoes’. Paul is now thinking about the shoes of the *Roman soldier. They must fit well and they must be ‘ready to use’. It could be about speaking the *gospel to other people. This is the good news about the *peace of God. We should always be ready to tell this to other people. The *apostle Peter said this too. He said, ‘always be prepared to give an answer to everyone. Be ready when they ask you. Be ready to give the reason for the hope that you have’ (1 Peter 3:15).
The *Roman soldier’s shoes were short leather boots. These would grip the ground and they would keep his feet firm on the ground. They would prevent him from falling. The idea is that we should stand firm in the war. But this is not all. We should also tell the good news to other people. Our *gospel boots should be a proper fit. We fight the war. But we send out the good news about *peace at the same time.
Verse 16 Next comes the ‘*shield’. This protects all the rest of the *armour. It was a large object in the shape of a door. The *Greek word for ‘*shield’ is from the *Greek word for ‘door’. The *shield is ‘*faith’, which is trust in God.
Before a soldier shot an arrow from his bow, he could set fire to the point of the arrow. The burning arrow would hit the *shield. So the wooden *shields needed a leather cover. They would also put the *shields into water. Then the wet shields could put out the fire quickly.
The evil plans of the enemy, *Satan, are like these ‘burning arrows’. They could be angry words. They could be doubt. They could be fear, or they could be love of ourselves. They could be lies. The enemy puts these into our minds. One of these lies would be that God does not *forgive us. Then the enemy might remind us about all the *sins that God has *forgiven. God has forgotten them too. The enemy will try to use all these ‘arrows’ to destroy our *faith. God himself is ‘a *shield to those who take shelter in him’ (Proverbs 30:5). Only one thing can put out the ‘fire’ of these ‘burning arrows’. It is a strong *faith in God.
The *Romans would fix their *shields together. That would make a larger wall. It would cover more soldiers. It is the same with the Christian *church. Christians can join together. Then they can be safe from the attacks of the enemy.
Verse 17 ‘You know that God has *saved you by the love of Christ.’ Such knowledge is a gift from God. The gift is *salvation from *sin and the results of *sin. Romans 6:23 says, ‘*sin pays a wage and the wage is death. But the gift of God is *eternal life in Jesus Christ our *Lord.’ We receive this gift from God. God rescues us from all the *sin in the past. God *saves us from the power of *sin today too. He also gives us hope to be free from *sin in the future. Such knowledge protects us, like wearing a ‘hard hat’. Otherwise *Satan can hurt us. It is wonderful to know that God has *saved us. It makes us very happy. We can have confidence in our *salvation.
The hard hat covers the head. This is where we have our thoughts. We need something that will protect us from wrong and unpleasant thoughts. We should keep remembering that God has *saved us. Then we can enjoy good and pleasant thoughts (Philippians 4:8).
The last piece of *armour is the ‘sword’. That is the word of God. The sword is the only piece of *armour that they used for attack. The other pieces are for protection. In the Bible, words are often like a sword (Psalm 57:4). The word of God is itself is like a ‘sword’ (Hebrews 4:12). The Bible is like a sword. We must hold it in a strong hand. The enemy, *Satan, attacks us. We must then use our *weapon. A good example of this is our *Lord himself. *Satan attacked him in the desert. *Satan put thoughts into his mind. These were not God’s thoughts (Matthew 4:1-10). Jesus used the word of God against *Satan. When *Satan attacked him, Jesus said, ‘it is written’. We should hold the word of God in our minds (Psalm 119:11).
There is another kind of word. This is any word (or message) that comes from the *Holy Spirit. But any such word must be in agreement with the Bible. Enemies of the *disciples would bring them to the courts. Jesus gave them this promise. He told them not to worry. The *Holy Spirit would tell them what to say. He would tell them how to say it. ‘It will not be you who are speaking. It will be the Spirit of your Father. He will be speaking by you’ (Matthew 10:20).
6:18-20 ~ A prayer for everyone
v18 At all times, pray in the Spirit. Then you can ask God for anything. So remember to be always ready, like a guard with his eyes open. And continue to pray for all Christians. v19 And pray for me too. Pray that God will give me his words. And pray that I will speak boldly, whenever I open my mouth. I want to tell everybody about Christ’s wonderful good news. v20 God has appointed me as his special *messenger, although I wear chains. Pray that I will declare the message bravely, as I should do.
Verse 18 As we put on each piece of our *spiritual *armour, we need to pray. Four times Paul uses the *Greek word for ‘all’. This is what he is saying. Christians should be praying at all times. They should pray about everything that happens. They should pray on all occasions (‘at all times’). Life should be one great prayer to God.
But there is another kind of prayer. It is to pray when we do not really want to pray. We all know about this. Then we need to speak to ourselves. We should say, ‘Yes, I do not feel that I want to pray. But still I will pray.’
Then Paul adds, ‘Then you can ask God for anything.’ We should pray with all kinds of prayers and requests. There are many kinds of prayers. In one kind of prayer, we tell God how good and great he is. There is the kind of prayer when we thank God. We thank him for who he is. Or, we thank him for what he does for us. There is the kind of prayer for other people. There is the kind of prayer for ourselves and about the events in our lives. We must ask God to guide us. And there is the kind of prayer for kings and our rulers (1 Timothy 2:1-2).
Then Paul adds ‘continue to pray for all Christians’. Prayer should become a habit. Paul writes, ‘So remember to be always ready, like a guard with his eyes open.’ Jesus himself told his *disciples to ‘watch and pray’ (Matthew 26: 41).
Verse 19 Last, Paul asks for prayers for himself. He is still in prison. He wants to be free. He could ask people to pray that God would free him. That would have been a natural thing to ask. But he does not ask for that. He knows how important he is in God’s plan. Even in prison, he works to spread the *gospel. Yes, he is in prison. But he knows that he is in God’s war.
Paul asks for two things.
First, he asks them to pray ‘that God will give me his words’. This is for whenever he is able to speak. Paul wants God to give him the right words and the right message each time that he speaks. Then everyone that he speaks to will clearly understand God’s message.
Next, Paul always needs God’s power to speak. He needs to ‘speak boldly’ and bravely. This is how he is asking the Christians to pray. He will *preach the *gospel. But he wants to do this without fear. He wants everyone to understand Christ’s wonderful good news.
All the early *apostles were like this. They did not pray to be free from danger. They did not pray to be free from injury or even death. They prayed that they would be brave. Whatever happened, they had to *preach the *gospel of Jesus Christ.
Every Christian is in the war against *Satan. But a Christian prays not only for himself. He prays not only for his own part in the war. He prays also for the whole *church of Christ. He prays ‘for all Christians’ (verse 18).
Verse 20 Before this, Paul has not said much about himself. Twice he reminds his readers that he is in prison. But there is an advantage in that. He is God’s ‘special *messenger, although I wear chains’. An *ambassador (or special *messenger) represents his king in another country. He has a job to do in that country. It is to show all the good things about his king and country.
Paul thinks that his work is far more important than a *Roman *ambassador’s work. He is the *ambassador of the King of kings. He brings a message from his Royal Master. It is a message with very great value. He speaks to people who are God’s enemies. And he tells them how they can become God’s friends.
Paul is in prison. But he does not tell the Christians to be sorry for him. They should not pray that God would free him. No, he wants them to pray that he will continue to *preach the *gospel. He must not stop. So this is how he is really asking them to pray. ‘Do not ask God to free me from these chains. Instead, pray that God will free my mouth to speak. Then I will be able to *preach the *gospel.’ He knows that God has given him this one main purpose. So far in his life, everything has been for this purpose. So, he asks his readers, ‘Pray that I will declare the message bravely, as I should do.’
6:21-24 ~ Final greeting
v21 Tychicus is a dear Christian brother and he is a loyal servant of the *Lord. He will tell you everything. Then you will know how I am. And he will tell you what I am doing. v22 This is why I am sending him to you. He will give you my news and he will encourage you.
v23 I am asking God the Father and the *Lord Jesus Christ to send *peace and love with *faith. I am asking them to send these things to all the brothers and sisters. v24 Some people love our *Lord Jesus Christ with a love that will never end. I want God’s *grace to be with all those people.
Verses 21-22 Paul has been dictating this letter. Now he takes the pen in his own hand. He writes these last few sentences himself. The writer may have been Tychicus. Now Paul mentions him by name. Tychicus is a Christian and he is a friend of Paul. He will take this letter to the Christians at Ephesus. Paul chose him also to deliver another letter. It was the one that he wrote to the Christians in Colosse (Colossians 4:7).
We see Tychicus’s name also in Acts 20:4, Titus 3:12 and 2 Timothy 4:12. Paul wanted to give the Christians recent news. That is why he sent Tychicus with the letter. Also, Tychicus would ‘encourage’ them and make them strong.
The Christians probably worried that Paul was in prison. Paul has told them before that he is God’s servant. This is by the gift of God’s *grace (3:7). So Paul reminds them again about this. God is using all the events of his life. Everything would therefore bring *glory to God.
Verse 23 Now, we go back to the first words of Paul’s letter. There, he wrote about ‘*grace and *peace’ from God and from Christ (1:2). Here, Paul ends with the same two words, ‘peace’ in this verse and ‘*grace’ in verse 24.
Paul has spoken often about three *blessings in his letter. The first *blessing is ‘peace’. This peace is the peace of God. We can have it in our *spirits. It is peace ‘to the brothers and sisters’. That means that it is for all the Christians.
Then comes ‘love with *faith’. We have love from our *faith in Christ. We have this only by unity with him. ‘*Faith’, or to be full of *faith, is a fruit of the Spirit. All these *blessings come from ‘God the Father’. Everything comes from him in the first place. These *blessings also come from ‘the *Lord Jesus Christ’. He brings us all the *blessings of the Spirit of God (1:3).
Verse 24. And Paul prays for all the people who really love the *Lord Jesus Christ. They love him ‘with a love that will never end’. He prays that God’s *grace will be with all of those people. As in the beginning of this letter, the final prayer is for ‘*grace’. In the *Greek language, it is ‘the *grace’. This could mean the *grace that Paul has spoken so much about. The *grace is for all those who ‘love our *Lord Jesus Christ’. They love him ‘with a love that will never end’. *Grace is for everyone. But we need to receive it in love. Only such people can experience it completely. It is *grace that will never fail or end. The love of God never fails (1 Corinthians 13:8).
AD ~ AD 50 means the year that was 50 years after Jesus came, and so on.
ambassador ~ a person that a king of one country employs to act for him in another country.
Amen ~ a word that shows that one agrees (usually after a prayer).
angel ~ a servant from God who brings messages from heaven; angels are pure *spirits, greater than men and women; they give love to God; they do what he wants; they look after those who have come into God’s family; a bad angel serves *Satan.
apostle ~ a man that God has chosen to lead his *church; one of the 12 men that Jesus chose to be his helpers and to teach about him.
armour ~ equipment that protects a soldier.
baptise, baptism ~ to put a person into water, or to put water on a person; it is to show the way that Christ makes us clean; when the *Holy Spirit comes into a person who knows Christ; the way we show to everyone that we belong to Christ and his *church.
being ~ a person or animal that is alive.
believer ~ a person who knows Christ.
bless ~ to cause good things to happen to someone.
blessing, blessed ~ the good things that God does for us; a blessing can be a prayer that God will *bless someone.
breastplate ~ a piece of *armour that protects the upper part of the body.
Caesar ~ a name for *Roman rulers.
centurion ~ a *Roman soldier in charge of a group of about 100 men.
church ~ a group of people who follow and believe in Jesus Christ; a group of Christians who meet together. It can also mean all the Christians in the world.
circumcise, circumcision ~ to cut off the loose skin from the end of the sex part of a boy or man; for *Israelites it was a proof that a man agreed to obey God’s laws; a sign of a pure *spirit.
cleanse, cleansing ~ to make clean by washing.
commandment ~ a command that God gave; the ten important commands or rules that God gave to Moses on Sinai mountain.
create, creation ~ the act of God when he made the world and everything there is; everything that God has made.
cross ~ two pieces of wood that someone has fixed together. The *Romans punished people by fixing them to a cross to die. Jesus died on this; the cross is now the sign of the *church of Christ; not to put yourself first but to put Jesus and other people first in your life.
devil ~ another name for *Satan, the chief evil *spirit.
disciple ~ someone who follows another person and learns from him; a person who obeys what Jesus taught.
eternal ~ things that have always been and will continue for all time; a thing which has no beginning or end; a thing which never changes.
faith ~ the belief in someone or something; to agree with and to do the things that God teaches; to obey his commands even when they seem difficult; belief and trust in God and in Jesus his Son; belief that the Bible is true; ‘the *faith’ means the things that Christians believe about Jesus.
forgive ~ when someone stops being angry with another person who has done bad things.
Gentiles ~ people who are not *Jews; people who do not know God; people from all nations.
glory, glorious ~ the power and great importance of God; great beauty and like a great king; a bright light that comes from God or Jesus.
gospel ~ the good news that God has helped people who love Jesus; he has helped them by the life, death and raising from death of Jesus Christ; the good news about the things that Jesus has done for us; the message from God to us; one of the four books at the beginning of the *New Testament.
grace ~ a gift, from God or from people, that we do not deserve and cannot earn; what God or people give because they are generous; the help and protection that comes from God.
greed, greedy ~ a great desire for food or wealth; to have a great desire for these things.
Greek ~ the language of Greece. Paul wrote his letter in the Greek language.
heavenly ~ in or about heaven.
Hebrew ~ the language of *Jewish people.
Holy Spirit ~ The Holy Spirit is a person, but not human as we are; he lives and works for God; he is equal and joined with God and Christ; he does the work of God among the people in the world; God’s Spirit that Jesus sent to help people; another name for God; also called the Spirit of God, the Spirit of Christ and the Comforter. We cannot see the Holy Spirit. But he joins with the *spirit of those that know Jesus; he helps them to follow Jesus and to do good things.
holy, holiness ~ description of God, set apart, perfect, wonderful; completely good, with nothing bad in it; belonging to God; separate from *sin, pure, clean.
hymn ~ a song to praise God, like those in the Psalms in the Bible.
idol ~ an image of a person or object that people love instead of loving God; a false god; an object out of wood, stone or metal for people to show love to instead of love to the real God.
inheritance ~ to legally pass on property after death; something that passes on to us to possess by right after the death of another person.
Israel ~ the name that God gave to Jacob; the name of the people from the family of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob; the group of people that God chose; the nation of the *Jews and those who speak *Hebrew.
Israelites ~ the people from *Israel; people that speak *Hebrew; the people who are *Jews and live in *Israel.
Jew, Jewish ~ a person who is from the family of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob; a person who believes the *faith of the *Jews, called Judaism.
justification, justify, justified ~ the act of God when he says that he sees us as good; this happens at the moment when we trust Jesus; the state of being right with God.
kingdom ~ where God rules as king; land where a king rules.
lord ~ someone with authority.
Lord ~ the name for God or Jesus; it means that he is head over all.
messenger ~ a person who brings messages.
Messiah ~ the special servant of God, the name that God chose for Jesus Christ. The person whom God sent to *save his people from their *sins. God promised the *Jews that Messiah would come. Jesus is that Messiah but most *Jews still do not believe it.
mystery ~ something hidden that we cannot explain; something that is secret and unknown.
New Testament ~ the last part of the Bible, which the writers wrote after the life of Jesus.
Old Testament ~ the first part of the Bible, which the writers wrote before the life of Jesus.
pastor(s) ~ men that God has chosen to look after the *church.
peace ~ when we are friends with God and with other people; freedom from mental troubles or troubles in the *spirit; a friendly attitude towards other people.
praise ~ words that say how good a person is; words that give love to God, as when we are praying and singing to him.
preach ~ to tell and explain the good news about Jesus Christ to a group of people.
Ephesians 4 – Living to God’s Glory
A. A call for unity among God’s people.
1. (1) The foundation for all exhortation.
I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called,
a. Therefore: Paul spent three chapters spelling out in glorious detail all that God did for us, freely by His grace. Now he brings a call to live rightly, but only after explaining what God did for us.
b. Walk worthy of the calling with which you were called: When we really understand how much God did for us, we will naturally want to serve and obey Him out of gratitude.
i. Understanding who we are is the foundation of this worthy walk. “Luther counsels men to answer all temptations of Satan with this only, Christianus sum, I am a Christian.” (Trapp)
ii. The idea is clear. We don’t walk worthy so that God will love us, but because He does love us. It is motivated out of gratitude, not out of a desire to earn merit.
iii. “Every believer is God’s first-born; and so higher than the kings of the earth, Psalm 89:27. He must therefore carry himself accordingly, and not stain his high blood.” (Trapp)
2. (2-3) The character of a worthy walk.
With all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
a. With all lowliness and gentleness: A worthy walk before God will be marked by lowliness and gentleness, not a pushy desire to defend our own rights and advance our own agenda.
i. Before Christianity, the word lowliness always had a bad association to it. In the minds of many it still does; but it is a glorious Christian virtue (Philippians 2:1-10). It means that we can be happy and content when we are not in control or steering things our way.
b. Longsuffering, bearing with one another: We need this so that the inevitable wrongs that occur between people in God’s family will not work against God’s purpose of bringing all things together in Jesus – illustrated through His current work in the church.
i. Chrysostom defined longsuffering as the spirit that has the power to take revenge, but never does. It is characteristic of a forgiving, generous heart.
c. Endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace: This humble, forgiving attitude towards each other naturally fulfills this gift of the unity of the Spirit.
i. We must endeavor to keep this unity – we do not create it. God never commands us to create unity among believers. He has created it by His Spirit; our duty is to recognize it and keep it.
ii. This is a spiritual unity, not necessarily a structural or denominational unity. It is evident in the quick fellowship possible among Christians of different races, nationalities, languages, and economic classes.
iii. We can understand this unity of the Spirit by understanding what it is not. In a sermon on this text, Charles Spurgeon pointed out some of the things that the text does not say.
· It does not say, “To endeavor to maintain the unity of evil, the unity of superstition, or the unity of spiritual tyranny.”
· It does not say, “Endeavoring to keep up your ecclesiastical arrangements for centralization.”
· It does not say, “Endeavoring to keep the uniformity of the Spirit.”
iv. Structural unity can even work against true unity of the Spirit. We can perhaps see a purpose God has in preventing a structural unity of the church right now, to keep misdirected efforts of the church (such as ambitions for political power) from fulfillment. “It is not a desirable thing that all Churches should melt into one another and become one; for the complete fusion of all Churches into one ecclesiastical corporation would inevitably produce another form of Popery, since history teaches us that large ecclesiastical bodies grow more or less corrupt as a matter of course. Huge spiritual corporations are, as a whole, the strongholds of tyranny and the refuges of abuse; and it is only a matter of time when they shall break to pieces.” (Spurgeon)
v. “For the church fellowship in which the Gentile and Jewish believers were united was no mere enrollment on a register of membership; it involved their union with Christ by faith and therefore their union with each other as fellow-members of his body.” (Bruce)
vi. We are confident that this unity is found in Jesus Christ, by the Spirit of God. “We want unity in the truth of God through the Spirit of God. This let us seek after; let us live near to Christ, for this is the best way of promoting unity. Divisions in Churches never begin with those full of love to the Savior.” (Spurgeon)
3. (4-6) The description of the unity of the Church.
There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.
a. There is one body and one Spirit: We have unity because of what we share in common. In Jesus we share one body, one Spirit, one hope of our calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and one Father. Each of these common areas is greater than any potential difference.
b. One baptism: Some think that because Paul says there is one baptism that the idea of the baptism of the Holy Spirit as a subsequent experience is invalid. But Paul only spoke here of the baptism by water which is the visible token of God’s common work in every believer, and thus a basis of unity. There aren’t separate baptisms for Jew and Gentile.
i. The concept of the baptism in the Holy Spirit is spoken of clearly in Matthew 3:11, Acts 1:5 and 11:16. This may be considered an initial (and sometimes dramatic) experience one has with the fullness of the Holy Spirit, a filling God wants to continue through a person’s Christian life.
B. The way God works unity: through spiritual gifts of leadership in the church.
1. (7-10) The giving of spiritual gifts to the church.
But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift. Therefore He says:
“When He ascended on high,
He led captivity captive,
And gave gifts to men.”
(Now this, “He ascended”; what does it mean but that He also first descended into the lower parts of the earth? He who descended is also the One who ascended far above all the heavens, that He might fill all things.)
a. Grace was given: We all have grace given to us according to the measure of Jesus’ gift. This is basis for God’s distribution of spiritual gifts through His church: grace, the free, unmerited giving of God. No one deserves or has earned spiritual gifts.
b. When He ascended on high: This giving happened (as described prophetically in Psalm 68:18) when Jesus ascended to heaven. This was evidence of His triumph over every foe (the leading of captivity captive).
i. Bruce on the picture from Psalm 68: “One may picture a military leader returning to Jerusalem at the head of his followers, after routing an enemy army and taking many prisoners.”
ii. As Jesus said, It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you (John 16:7).
c. When He ascended on high, He led captivity captive, and gave gifts to men: Paul did not quote the passage exactly as it appears in Psalm 68. Either he altered it under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit or under similar inspiration he quoted from an ancient translation (called a Targum) that quotes the Psalm in this manner.
i. Psalm 68:18 reads: You have ascended on high, You have led captivity captive; You have received gifts among men. There is certainly enough room in the language of the original Hebrew to allow Paul’s reading, even though it is unusual.
ii. “It is enough for me that the apostle, under the inspiration of God, applied the verse in this way; and whatever David might intend, and of whatever event he might have written, we see plainly that the sense in which the apostle uses it was the sense of the Spirit of God.” (Clarke)
d. Now this, “He ascended”; what does it mean: In this, Paul demonstrated how the words He ascended in Psalm 68:18 had reference to the resurrection of Jesus, speaking first of His rising from the lower parts of the earth, and secondly of His ascension far above all the heavens.
i. Some think that the phrase lower parts of the earth refers to Jesus’ preaching to the spirits in prison described in 1 Peter 3:19 and 4:6. While this aspect of Jesus’ ministry in Hades following His work on the cross is true (and prophesied in Isaiah 61:1-2 and Luke 4:18), Paul did not necessarily refer to it here.
2. (11-12) The offices of spiritual leadership in the church and their purpose.
And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ,
a. He Himself: This means that Jesus established these offices. They are the work and appointment of Jesus, not men. Though pretenders may lay claim to them, the offices themselves are a Divine institution and not a human invention.
b. Gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers: Paul described four offices (not five, as in the commonly yet erroneously termed “five-fold ministry”).
i. Apostles, who are special ambassadors of God’s work, though not in the same authoritative sense of the first century apostles. Those first century apostles were used to provide a foundation (preserved as the New Testament) as described in Ephesians 2:20.
ii. Prophets, who speak forth words from God in complete consistency with the foundation of the Old and New Testaments. Sometimes they speak in a predictive sense, but not necessarily so, and they are always subject to the discernment and judgment of the church leadership (1 Corinthians 14:29). As with the apostles, modern prophets do not speak in the same authority as the first century prophets brought God’s foundational word spoke (Ephesians 2:20).
iii. Evangelists, who are specifically gifted to preach the good news of salvation in Jesus Christ.
iv. Pastors and teachers (or, pastor-teachers; the ancient Greek clearly describes one office with two descriptive titles), who shepherds the flock of God primarily (though not exclusively) through teaching the Word of God. “Teaching is an essential part of the pastoral ministry; it is appropriate, therefore, that the two terms, pastors and teachers, should be joined together to denote one order of ministry.” (Bruce)
v. These gifts are given at the discretion of Jesus, working through the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:11). The importance of having “all four in operation” in any church body is up to Jesus who appoints the offices. The job of responsible church leadership is to not hinder or prevent such ministry, but never to “promote it into existence.”
c. For the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry: The purpose of these gifts of leadership is also clear. It is that saints (God’s people) might be equipped for the work of ministry (service), so that the body of Christ would be built up (expanded and strengthened).
i. Equipping also has the idea of “to put right.” This ancient Greek word was used to describe setting broken bones or mending nets. These ministries work together to produce strong, mended, fit Christians.
ii. God’s people do the real work of ministry. Leaders in the church have the first responsibility to equip people to serve and to direct their service as God leads.
iii. “The primary purpose of the Church isn’t to convert sinners to Christianity, but to perfect (complete and mature) the saints for the ministry and edification of the Body.” (Smith)
3. (13-16) The desired goal of God’s work through church leadership and equipped saints.
Till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head; Christ; from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.
a. Till we all come to the unity of the faith: This is the first goal of God’s work through the gifted offices and equipped saints. This is consistent with both the ultimate purpose of God (Ephesians 1:10) and the mystery of God revealed through Paul (Ephesians 3:6).
i. Again, by clearly stating that this is a unity of the faith, Paul did not command a structural or organizational unity, but a spiritual unity around a common faith.
b. And of the knowledge of the Son of God: When the gifted offices work right and the saints are properly equipped, Christian maturity increases and there is greater intimacy in the experience of God.
c. To a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ: The gifted offices and equipped saints bring the saints to maturity, according to the measure of Jesus Himself. As years pass by, we should not only grow old in Jesus, but more mature in Him as well, as both individuals and as a corporate body.
d. We should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine: The gifted offices and equipped saints result in stability, being firmly planted on the foundation of the apostles and prophets (Ephesians 2:20).
i. Those who do not mature in this way are targets of deceivers, who are effective precisely because they operate with trickery and cunning craftiness – and they lie in wait to deceive. They are out there like land minds that the mature can avoid.
ii. The ancient Greek word for tossed to and fro is from the same words used to describe the stormy Sea of Galilee in Luke 8:24 (raging of the water). We can wrongly value movement over growth; mere movement is being tossed to and fro, but God wants us to grow up in all things.
iii. By the trickery of men: “The words… refer to the arts used by gamesters, who employ false dice that will always throw up one kind of number, which is that by which those who play with them cannot win.” (Clarke) Running after spiritual fads always leaves one a loser.
e. Speaking the truth in love: This speaks to not only how we are to relate to one another in God’s family, but also to how leaders and saints are to deal with deceivers. We should deal with them in love, but never budging from the truth.
f. May grow up in all things into Him who is the head: Another way maturity is described is as the growing up into Jesus, who is the head. Again, this defines the direction of maturity. We never grow “independent” of Jesus, we grow up into Him.
i. “A church that is only united in itself, but not united to Christ, is no living church at all. You may attain to the unity of the frost-bound earth in which men and women are frozen together with the cold proprieties of aristocracy, but it is not the unity of life.” (Spurgeon)
ii. Adam Clarke on grow up… into Him: “This is a continuance of a metaphor taken from the members of a human body receiving nourishment equally and growing up, each in its due proportion to other parts, and to the body in general.”
g. According to the effective working by which every part does its share: The evidence of maturity – that the leaders and the saints are all doing their job – is this effective working. This means every part and joint provides what it can supply in a coordinated effort. When this happens, it naturally causes the growth of the body (both in size and strength), but especially growth for building itself up in love.
i. Some people think of the church as a pyramid, with the pastor at the top. Others think of the church as a bus driven by the pastor, who takes his passive passengers where they should go. God wants us to see the church as a body, where every part does its share.
C. Putting off the old man, putting on the new man.
1. (17-19) The character of the old man.
This I say, therefore, and testify in the Lord, that you should no longer walk as the rest of the Gentiles walk, in the futility of their mind, having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart; who, being past feeling, have given themselves over to lewdness, to work all uncleanness with greediness.
a. Therefore: This makes the connection, not only with the glorious spiritual privileges laid out in Ephesians 1 through 3, but also with the high call of a unified, mature body as described in Ephesians 4:1-6. Because of this high calling, we should walk (live) in a different way than the world around us does.
i. There is a constant tendency for Christians to display to the world that we really aren’t so different after all. This is usually a misguided effort to gain the world’s “respect” or approval. This must be resisted at all costs, because the goal in itself is both undesirable and unachievable.
ii. This principle of compromise can be illustrated by the exchange between a liberal scholar theologian and a Christian professor. The liberal agreed, “I’ll call you a scholar if you’ll call me a Christian.” The trade isn’t worth it.
b. No longer walk as the rest of the Gentiles walk: The Gentile walk is characterized by the futility of their mind. In the end, their thinking is futile because their understanding is darkened – because they are alienated from the life of God.
i. This is not to say that man, in his rebellion against God, is not capable of mighty intellectual achievements. Instead it is to say that all such achievements fall short of true wisdom, because the fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom (Proverbs 9:10).
ii. Futility: “The thought is not that unregenerate minds are empty. It is that they are filled with things that lead to nothing.” (Vaughan)
iii. As Christians, we have a proper way and place to walk. It is as if Jesus turned us around and put us in the right direction, and now we have to walk and progress in that direction.
c. Because of the blindness of their heart: Fundamentally, the ignorance and lack of understanding of man is a heart problem. It is shown not only in a foolish denial of God, but also in his moral failures (licentiousness, uncleanness, greediness).
i. The Gentiles Paul speaks of were either atheists or they believed in gods who were themselves immoral. Therefore in their denial of the true God, they denied any standard of morality that they must answer to.
ii. Past feeling has the idea of one’s skin becoming callous and no longer sensitive to pain. It is the logical result of the blindness of their heart. Blindness can also be understood here as hardening, and this ancient Greek word “is used medically to denote the callus formed when a bone has been fractured and reset. Such a callus is even harder than the bone itself.” (Wood)
iii. Licentiousness is sin that flaunts itself, throwing off all restraint and having no sense of shame or fear; uncleanness is a broad word, mostly with reference to sexual impropriety.
iv. Barclay elaborates on the Greek word aselgeia, translated licentiousness: “The great characteristic of aselgeia is this – the bad man usually tries to hide his sin; but the man who has aselgeia in his soul does not care how much he shocks public opinion so long as he can gratify his desires.” (Barclay)
2. (20-24) Putting on the new man.
But you have not so learned Christ, if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught by Him, as the truth is in Jesus: that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness.
a. Put off… the old man… put on the new man: This has the same idea of putting off or putting on a set of clothes. The idea is to “change into” a different kind of conduct.
i. Think of a prisoner who is released from prison, but still wears his prison clothes and acts like a prisoner and not as a free man. The first thing to tell that person is that they should put on some new clothes.
ii. Even as putting on different clothes will change the way you think about yourself and see yourself, even so putting on a different conduct will start to change your attitudes. This means that we shouldn’t wait to feel like the new manbefore we put on the new man.
iii. Fundamentally, Paul says that for the Christian, there must be a break with the past. Jesus isn’t merely added to our old life; the old life dies and He becomes our new life.
b. You have not so learned Christ: The repetition of this idea shows that putting on the new man has a strong aspect of learning and education to it. You have heard Him and have been taught by Him, as the truth is in Jesus… and be renewed in the spirit of your mind.
i. Our Christian life must go beyond head knowledge, but it must absolutely include head knowledge and influence our whole manner of thinking. This is not just in the sense of knowing facts, but the ability to set our minds on the right things. This is so fundamental to the Christian life that Christian growth can even be described as the renewing of your mind (Romans 12:2).
ii. The Ephesians learned Christ, not only learning about Jesus, but also learning Him. This means a living, abiding knowledge of Jesus will keep us from the kind of sinful conduct Paul speaks of. Just knowing about Jesus isn’t enough to keep us pure.
iii. “So, if you want to know the Lord Jesus Christ, you must live with him. First he must himself speak to you, and afterwards you must abide in him. He must be the choice Companion of your morning hours, he must be with you throughout the day, and with him you must also close the night; and as often as you may wake during the night, you must say, ‘When I awake, I am still with thee.’ ” (Spurgeon)
c. Put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness: The new man is the new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17) created in us at conversion. It is the person created according to the image of Jesus Christ and instinctively righteous and holy. It is in contrast to the old man, who is the person inherited from Adam and who instinctively rebels against God.
3. (25-32) The conduct of the new man.
Therefore, putting away lying, “Let each one of you speak truth with his neighbor,” for we are members of one another. “Be angry, and do not sin”: do not let the sun go down on your wrath, nor give place to the devil. Let him who stole steal no longer, but rather let him labor, working with his hands what is good, that he may have something to give him who has need. Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God in Christ forgave you.
a. Therefore, putting away lying: The new man tells the truth. The motive for doing this is because we are members of one another, therefore there is no place for lying.
i. A body can only function properly if it tells itself the truth. If your hand touches something hot but your hand tells your brain that the thing is cool, your hand will be severely burned. That’s why telling the truth is so important, because we are members of one another.
b. Be angry, and do not sin: The new man may get angry, but he does not sin. The new man knows how to let go of his wrath, thus giving no opportunity to the devil.
i. “Here it is suggested that anger can be prevented from degenerating into sin if a strict time limit is placed on it: do not let the sun set on your anger.” (Bruce)
ii. The devil’s work is to accuse and divide the family of God, and to sow discord among them. When we harbor anger in our heart, we do the devil’s work for him.
c. Let him who stole steal no longer: The new man does not steal, but he works with his hands. He does this not only to provide for his own needs, but also to have something to give him who has need.
i. Let him labor: Labor is literally “to exert himself to the point of exhaustion.” This is the kind of working heart God commands those who used to steal to have. Paul’s idea is that we should work so that we can give. The purpose for getting becomes giving.
d. Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth: The new man knows how to watch his tongue, speaking only what is good for necessary edification, desiring to impart grace to all who hear him.
i. Corrupt communication: “Not only obscene vulgarity but slanderous and contemptuous talk.” (Bruce)
e. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God: The new man will not grieve the Holy Spirit, knowing that He is our seal both in the sense of identification and protection.
i. There are many ways to grieve the Holy Spirit. We can neglect holiness and grieve the Holy Spirit. We can think in purely materialistic terms and grieve the Holy Spirit. The Spirit exalts Jesus (John 15:26); when we fail to do the same, we grieve the Spirit.
ii. “I think I now see the Spirit of God grieving, when you are sitting down to read a novel and there is your Bible unread… You have no time for prayer, but the Spirit sees you very active about worldly things, and having many hours to spare for relaxation and amusement. And then he is grieved because he sees that you love worldly things better than you love him.” (Spurgeon)
iii. The Holy Spirit’s grief is not of a petty, oversensitive nature. “He is grieved with us mainly for our own sakes, for he knows what misery sin will cost us; he reads our sorrows in our sins… He grieves over us because he sees how much chastisement we incur, and how much communion we lose.” (Spurgeon)
f. Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you: The new man has control of his emotions (bitterness, wrath, anger and so forth). When such things do emerge, he is able to deal with them in a manner glorifying to God.
i. Aristotle defined bitterness as “the resentful spirit that refuses reconciliation.”
ii. Wrath speaks of an outburst of the moment; anger speaks of a settled disposition. Both must be put away.
g. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another: The new man seeks to show the same kindness, tender heartedness and forgiveness to others that God shows him. If we treat others as God treats us, we fulfill every thing Paul told us to do in this chapter.
h. Just as God in Christ forgave you: Our forgiveness to others is patterned after the forgiveness of Jesus towards us. When we think of the amazing way God forgives us, it is shameful for us to withhold forgiveness from those who have wronged us.
· God holds back His anger a long time until He forgives. He bears with us for a long time though we sorely provoke Him.
· God reaches out to bad people to woo them to Himself, and attempts reconciliation with bad people.
· God always makes the first move in forgiveness, trying to reconcile even though the guilty party is uninterested in forgiveness.
· God forgives our sin knowing that we will sin again, often in exactly the same way.
· God’s forgiveness is so complete and glorious that He grants adoption to those former offenders.
· God, in His forgiveness, bore all of the penalty for the wrong we did against Him. He was innocent yet He bore the guilt.
· God keeps reaching out to man for reconciliation even when man rejects Him again and again.
· God requires no probationary period to receive His forgiveness.
· God’s forgiveness offers complete restoration and honor. He loves, adopts, honors, and associates with those who once wronged Him.
· God puts His trust in us and invites us to work with Him as co-laborers when He forgives us.
i. The older King James Version puts it like this: even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you. This gives us an assurance of forgiveness – that it is for Christ’s sake. “God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven thee. Get hold of that grand truth, and hold it, though all the devils in hell roar at thee. Grasp it as with a hand of steel; grip it as for life: ‘God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven me,’ – may each one of us be able to say that. We shall not feel the divine sweetness and force of the text unless we can make a personal matter of it by the Holy Ghost.” (Spurgeon)
ii. “If anyone here who is a Christian finds a difficulty in forgiveness, I am going to give him three words which will help him wonderfully. I would put them into the good man’s mouth. I gave them to you just now, and prayed you to get the sweetness of them; here they are again! ‘For Christ’s sake.’ Cannot you forgive an offender on that ground?” (Spurgeon)
iii. It isn’t that we must forgive because Jesus will forgive us. We forgive because He has forgiven us. “It is the historical fact of Christ once for all putting away sin by the sacrifice of Himself, which is alluded to.” (Moule)
©2018 David Guzik – No distribution beyond personal use without permission
Commentary ephesians 4
Ephesians chapter 4
1 As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. 2 Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. 3 Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.
7 But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.
8 This is why it says: 'When he ascended on high, he took many captives and gave gifts to his people.'
9 (What does 'he ascended' mean except that he also descended to the lower, earthly regions? 10 He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe.) 11 So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, 12 to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.
14 Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. 15 Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. 16 From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.
17 So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. 18 They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. 19 Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, and they are full of greed.
20 That, however, is not the way of life you learned 21 when you heard about Christ and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. 22 You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; 23 to be made new in the attitude of your minds; 24 and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.
25 Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbor, for we are all members of one body. 26 In your anger do not sin': Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, 27 and do not give the devil a foothold. 28 Anyone who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with their own hands, that they may have something to share with those in need.
29 Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. 32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.
1 I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 3 eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. 7 But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift. 8 Therefore it says, “When he ascended on high he led a host of captives, and he gave gifts to men.”
9 (In saying, “He ascended,” what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower regions, the earth? 10 He who descended is the one who also ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things.) 11 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, 14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. 15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.
17 Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. 18 They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. 19 They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. 20 But that is not the way you learned Christ!— 21 assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, 22 to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, 23 and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, 24 and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.
25 Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another. 26 Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, 27 and give no opportunity to the devil. 28 Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need. 29 Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. 32 Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.
1 I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called,
2 With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; 3 Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; 5 One Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all. 7 But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ. 8 Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men. 9 (Now that he ascended, what is it but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth? 10 He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things.) 11 And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; 12 For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: 13 Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: 14 That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; 15 But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: 16 From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.
17 This I say therefore, and testify in the Lord, that ye henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind, 18 Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart: 19 Who being past feeling have given themselves over unto lasciviousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness. 20 But ye have not so learned Christ; 21 If so be that ye have heard him, and have been taught by him, as the truth is in Jesus: 22 That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; 23 And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; 24 And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness. 25 Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbour: for we are members one of another. 26 Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath: 27 Neither give place to the devil. 28 Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labour, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth. 29 Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers. 30 And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption. 31 Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: 32 And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you.
1 Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 3 being diligent to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4There is one body and one Spirit, just as you also were called in one hope of your calling; 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all.
7 But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift.
8 Therefore it says, 'WHEN HE ASCENDED ON HIGH, HE LED CAPTIVE the captives, AND HE GAVE GIFTS TO PEOPLE.'
9 (Now this expression, 'He ascended,' what does it mean except that He also had descended into the lower parts of the earth? 10 He who descended is Himself also He who ascended far above all the heavens, so that He might fill all things.) 11 And He gave some as apostles, some as prophets, some as evangelists, some as pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the building up of the body of Christ; 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ. 14 As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of people, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; 15 but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, that is, Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.
17 So I say this, and affirm in the Lord, that you are to no longer walk just as the Gentiles also walk, in the futility of their minds, 18 being darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart; 19 and they, having become callous, have given themselves up to indecent behavior for the practice of every kind of impurity with greediness. 20 But you did not learn Christ in this way, 21 if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught in Him, just as truth is in Jesus, 22 that, in reference to your former way of life, you are to rid yourselves of the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, 23 and that you are to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, 24 and to put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.
25 Therefore, ridding yourselves of falsehood, SPEAK TRUTH EACH ONE of you with his neighbor, because we are parts of one another. 26 BE ANGRY, AND yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, 27 and do not give the devil an opportunity. 28 The one who steals must no longer steal; but rather he must labor, producing with his own hands what is good, so that he will have something to share with the one who has need. 29 Let no unwholesome word come out of your mouth, but if there is any good word for edification according to the need of the moment, say that, so that it will give grace to those who hear. 30 Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 All bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and slander must be removed from you, along with all malice. 32 Be kind to one another, compassionate, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.
1 Therefore I, a prisoner for serving the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of your calling, for you have been called by God. 2 Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other's faults because of your love. 3 Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace. 4 For there is one body and one Spirit, just as you have been called to one glorious hope for the future.
5 There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 and one God and Father, who is over all and in all and living through all.
7 However, he has given each one of us a special gift through the generosity of Christ.
8 That is why the Scriptures say, 'When he ascended to the heights, he led a crowd of captives and gave gifts to his people.'
9 Notice that it says 'he ascended.' This clearly means that Christ also descended to our lowly world. 10 And the same one who descended is the one who ascended higher than all the heavens, so that he might fill the entire universe with himself.
11 Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. 12 Their responsibility is to equip God's people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ. 13 This will continue until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God's Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ.
14 Then we will no longer be immature like children. We won't be tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching. We will not be influenced when people try to trick us with lies so clever they sound like the truth. 15 Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church. 16 He makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.
17 With the Lord's authority I say this: Live no longer as the Gentiles do, for they are hopelessly confused. 18 Their minds are full of darkness; they wander far from the life God gives because they have closed their minds and hardened their hearts against him. 19 They have no sense of shame. They live for lustful pleasure and eagerly practice every kind of impurity.
20 But that isn't what you learned about Christ. 21 Since you have heard about Jesus and have learned the truth that comes from him, 22 throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception. 23 Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. 24 Put on your new nature, created to be like God--truly righteous and holy.
25 So stop telling lies. Let us tell our neighbors the truth, for we are all parts of the same body. 26 And 'don't sin by letting anger control you.' Don't let the sun go down while you are still angry, 27 for anger gives a foothold to the devil.
28 If you are a thief, quit stealing. Instead, use your hands for good hard work, and then give generously to others in need. 29 Don't use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them.
30 And do not bring sorrow to God's Holy Spirit by the way you live. Remember, he has identified you as his own, guaranteeing that you will be saved on the day of redemption.
31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. 32 Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.
1 Therefore I, the prisoner in the Lord, urge you to live worthy of the calling you have received, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 3 making every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit--just as you were called to one hope at your calling-- 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all.
7 Now grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ's gift.
8 For it says: When he ascended on high, he took the captives captive; he gave gifts to people.
9 But what does "he ascended" mean except that he also descended to the lower parts of the earth? 10 The one who descended is also the one who ascended far above all the heavens, to fill all things. 11 And he himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, 12 equipping the saints for the work of ministry, to build up the body of Christ, 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of God's Son, growing into maturity with a stature measured by Christ's fullness. 14 Then we will no longer be little children, tossed by the waves and blown around by every wind of teaching, by human cunning with cleverness in the techniques of deceit. 15 But speaking the truth in love, let us grow in every way into him who is the head--Christ. 16 From him the whole body, fitted and knit together by every supporting ligament, promotes the growth of the body for building up itself in love by the proper working of each individual part.
17 Therefore, I say this and testify in the Lord: You should no longer live as the Gentiles live, in the futility of their thoughts. 18 They are darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them and because of the hardness of their hearts. 19 They became callous and gave themselves over to promiscuity for the practice of every kind of impurity with a desire for more and more.
20 But that is not how you came to know Christ, 21 assuming you heard about him and were taught by him, as the truth is in Jesus, 22 to take off your former way of life, the old self that is corrupted by deceitful desires, 23 to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, 24 and to put on the new self, the one created according to God's likeness in righteousness and purity of the truth.
25 Therefore, putting away lying, speak the truth, each one to his neighbor, because we are members of one another. 26 Be angry and do not sin. Don't let the sun go down on your anger, 27 and don't give the devil an opportunity. 28 Let the thief no longer steal. Instead, he is to do honest work with his own hands, so that he has something to share with anyone in need. 29 No foul language should come from your mouth, but only what is good for building up someone in need, so that it gives grace to those who hear. 30 And don't grieve God's Holy Spirit. You were sealed by him for the day of redemption. 31 Let all bitterness, anger and wrath, shouting and slander be removed from you, along with all malice. 32 And be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving one another, just as God also forgave you in Christ.
Matthew Henry :: Commentary on Ephesians 4
We have gone through the former part of this epistle, which consists of several important doctrinal truths, contained in the three preceding chapters. We enter now on the latter part of it, in which we have the most weighty and serious exhortations that can be given. We may observe that in this, as in most others of Paul's epistles, the former part is doctrinal, and fitted to inform the minds of men in the great truths and doctrines of the gospel, the latter is practical, and designed for the direction of their lives and manners, all Christians being bound to endeavour after soundness in the faith, and regularity in life and practice. In what has gone before we have heard of Christian privileges, which are the matter of our comfort. In what follows we shall hear of Christian duties, and what the Lord our God requires of us in consideration of such privileges vouchsafed to us. The best way to understand the mysteries and partake of the privileges of which we have read before is conscientiously to practise the duties prescribed to us in what follows: as, on the other hand, a serious consideration and belief of the doctrines that have been taught us in the foregoing chapters will be a good foundation on which to build the practice of the duties prescribed in those which are yet before us. Christian faith and Christian practice mutually befriend each other. In this chapter we have divers exhortations to important duties.
- I. One that is more general (v. 1).
- II. An exhortation to mutual love, unity, and concord, with the proper means and motives to promote them (v. 2-16).
- III. An exhortation to Christian purity and holiness of life; and that both more general (v. 17-24) and in several particular instances (v. 25-32).
This is a general exhortation to walk as becomes our Christian profession. Paul was now a prisoner at Rome; and he was the prisoner of the Lord, or in the Lord, which signifies as much as for the Lord. See of this, ch. 3:1. He mentions this once and again, to show that he was not ashamed of his bonds, well knowing that he suffered not as an evil doer: and likewise to recommend what he wrote to them with the greater tenderness and with some special advantage. It was a doctrine he thought worth suffering for, and therefore surely they should think it worthy their serious regards and their dutiful observance. We have here the petition of a poor prisoner, one of Christ's prisoners: "I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you," etc. Considering what God has done for you, and to what a state and condition he has called you, as has been discoursed before, I now come with an earnest request to you (not to send me relief, nor to use your interest for the obtaining of my liberty, the first thing which poor prisoners are wont to solicit from their friends, but) that you would approve yourselves good Christians, and live up to your profession and calling; That you walk worthily, agreeably, suitably, and congruously to those happy circumstances into which the grace of God has brought you, whom he has converted from heathenism to Christianity. Observe, Christians ought to accommodate themselves to the gospel by which they are called, and to the glory to which they are called; both are their vocation. We are called Christians; we must answer that name, and live like Christians. We are called to God's kingdom and glory; that kingdom and glory therefore we must mind, and walk as becomes the heirs of them.
Here the apostle proceeds to more particular exhortations. Two he enlarges upon in this chapter:-To unity an love, purity and holiness, which Christians should very much study. We do not walk worthy of the vocation wherewith we are called if we be not faithful friends to all Christians, and sworn enemies to all sin.
This section contains the exhortation to mutual love, unity, and concord, with the proper means and motives to promote them. Nothing is pressed upon us more earnestly in the scriptures than this. Love is the law of Christ's kingdom, the lesson of his school, the livery of his family. Observe,
- I. The means of unity: Lowliness and meekness, long-suffering, and forbearing one another in love,v. 2. By lowliness we are to understand humility, entertaining mean thoughts of ourselves, which is opposed to pride. By meekness, that excellent disposition of soul which makes men unwilling to provoke others, and not easily to be provoked or offended with their infirmities; and it is opposed to angry resentments and peevishness. Long-suffering implies a patient bearing of injuries, without seeking revenge. Forbearing one another in love signifies bearing their infirmities out of a principle of love, and so as not to cease to love them on the account of these. The best Christians have need to bear one with another, and to make the best one of another, to provoke one another's graces and not their passions. We find much in ourselves which it is hard to forgive ourselves; and therefore we must not think it much if we find that in others which we think hard to forgive them, and yet we must forgive them as we forgive ourselves. Now without these things unity cannot be preserved. The first step towards unity is humility; without this there will be no meekness, no patience, or forbearance; and without these no unity. Pride and passion break the peace, and make all the mischief. Humility and meekness restore the peace, and keep it. Only by pride comes contention; only by humility comes love. The more lowly-mindedness the more like-mindedness. We do not walk worthy of the vocation wherewith we are called if we be not meek and lowly of heart: for he by whom we are called, he to whom we are called, was eminent for meekness and lowliness of heart, and has commanded us therein to learn of him.
- II. The nature of that unity which the apostle prescribes: it is the unity of the Spirit,v. 3. The seat of Christian unity is in the heart or spirit: it does not lie in one set of thoughts, nor in one form and mode of worship, but in one heart and one soul. This unity of heart and affection may be said to be of the Spirit of God; it is wrought by him, and is one of the fruits of the Spirit. This we should endeavour to keep. Endeavouring is a gospel word. We must do our utmost. If others will quarrel with us, we must take all possible care not to quarrel with them. If others will despise and hate us, we must not despise and hate them. In the bond of peace. Peace is a bond, as it unites persons, and makes them live friendly one with another. A peaceable disposition and conduct bind Christians together, whereas discord and quarrelling disband and disunite their hearts and affections. Many slender twigs, bound together, become strong. The bond of peace is the strength of society. Not that it can be imagined that all good people, and all the members of societies, should be in every thing just of the same length, and the same sentiments, and the same judgment: buy the bond of peace unites them all together, with a non obstante to these. As in a bundle of rods, they may be of different lengths and different strength; but, when they are tied together by one bond, they are stronger than any, even than the thickest and strongest was of itself.
- III. The motives proper to promote this Christian unity and concord. The apostle urges several, to persuade us thereto.
- 1. Consider how many unities there are that are the joy and glory of our Christian profession. There should be one heart; for there is one body, and one spirit,v. 4. Two hearts in one body would be monstrous. If there be but one body, all that belong to that body should have one heart. The Catholic church is one mystical body of Christ, and all good Christians make up but one body, incorporated by one charter, that of the gospel, animated by one Spirit, the same Holy Spirit who by his gifts and graces quickens, enlivens, and governs that body. If we belong to Christ, we are all actuated by one and the same Spirit, and therefore should be one. Even as you are called in one hope of your calling. Hope is here put for its object, the thing hoped for, the heavenly inheritance, to the hope of which we are called. All Christians are called to the same hope of eternal life. There is one Christ that they all hope in, and one heaven that they are all hoping for; and therefore they should be of one heart. One Lord (v. 5), that is, Christ, the head of the church, to whom, by God's appointment, all Christians are immediately subject. One faith, that is, the gospel, containing the doctrine of the Christian faith: or, it is the same grace of faith (faith in Christ) whereby all Christians are saved. One baptism, by which we profess our faith, being baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost; and so the same sacramental covenant, whereby we engage ourselves to the Lord Christ. One God and Father of all,v. 6. One God, who owns all the true members of the church for his children; for he is the Father of all such by special relation, as he is the Father of all men by creation: and he is above all, by his essence, and with respect to the glorious perfections of his nature, and as he has dominion over all creatures and especially over his church, and through all, by his providence upholding and governing them: and in you all, in all believers, in whom he dwells as in his holy temple, by his Spirit and special grace. If then there be so many ones, it is a pity but there should be one more-one heart, or one soul.
- 2. Consider the variety of gifts that Christ has bestowed among Christians: But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ. Though the members of Christ's church agree in so many things, yet there are some things wherein they differ: but this should breed no difference of affection among them, since they are all derived from the same bountiful author and designed for the same great ends. Unto every one of us Christians is given grace, some gift of grace, in some kind or degree or other, for the mutual help of one another. Unto every one of us ministers is given grace; to some a greater measure of gifts, to others a less measure. The different gifts of Christ's ministers proved a great occasion of contention among the first Christians: one was for Paul, and another for Apollos. The apostle shows that they had no reason to quarrel about them, but all the reason in the world to agree in the joint use of them, for common edification; because all was given according to the measure of the gift of Christ, in such a measure as seemed best to Christ to bestow upon every one. Observe, All the ministers, and all the members of Christ, owe all the gifts and graces that they are possessed of to him; and this is a good reason why we should love one another, because to every one of us is given grace. All to whom Christ has given grace, and on whom he has bestowed his gifts (though they are of different sizes, different names, and different sentiments, yet), ought to love one another. The apostle takes this occasion to specify some of the gifts which Christ bestowed. And that they were bestowed by Christ he makes appear by those words of David wherein he foretold this concerning him (Ps. 68:18), Wherefore he saith (v. 8), that is, the Psalmist saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men. David prophesied of the ascension of Christ; and the apostle descants upon it here, and in the three following verses. When he ascended up on high. We may understand the apostle both of the place into which he ascended in his human nature, that is, the highest heavens, and particularly of the state to which he was advanced, he being then highly exalted, and eminently glorified, by his Father. Let us set ourselves to think of the ascension of Jesus Christ: that our blessed Redeemer, having risen from the dead, in gone to heaven, where he sits at the right hand of the Majesty on high, which completed the proof of his being the Son of God. As great conquerors, when they rode in their triumphal chariots, used to be attended with the most illustrious of their captives led in chains, and were wont to scatter their largesses and bounty among the soldiers and other spectators of their triumphs, so Christ, when he ascended into heaven, as a triumphant conqueror, led captivity captive. It is a phrase used in the Old Testament to signify a conquest over enemies, especially over such as formerly had led others captive; see Judges 5:12. Captivity is here put for captives, and signifies all our spiritual enemies, who brought us into captivity before. He conquered those who had conquered us; such as sin, the devil, and death. Indeed, he triumphed over these on the cross; but the triumph was completed at his ascension, when he became Lord over all, and had the keys of death and hades put into his hands. And he gave gifts unto men: in the psalm it is, He received gifts for men. He received for them, that he might give to them, a large measure of gifts and graces; particularly, he enriched his disciples with the gift of the Holy Ghost. The apostle, thus speaking of the ascension of Christ, takes notice that he descended first,v. 9. As much as if he had said, "When David speaks of Christ's ascension, he intimates the knowledge he had of Christ's humiliation on earth; for, when it is said that he ascended, this implies that he first descended: for what is it but a proof or demonstration of his having done so?" Into the lower parts of the earth; this may refer either to his incarnation, according to that of David, Ps. 139:15, My substance was not hidden from thee, when I was made in secret, and curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth; or, to his burial, according to that of Ps. 63:9, Those that seek my soul to destroy it shall go into the lower parts of the earth. He calls his death (say some of the fathers) his descent into the lower parts of the earth. He descended to the earth in his incarnation. He descended into the earth in his burial. As Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale's belly, so was the Son of man in the heart of the earth. He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens (v. 10), far above the airy and starry (which are the visible) heavens, into the heaven of heavens; that he might fill all things, all the members of his church, with gifts and graces suitable to their several conditions and stations. Observe, Our Lord humbled himself first, and then he was exalted. He descended first, and then ascended. The apostle next tells us what were Christ's gifts at his ascension: He gave some apostles, etc., v. 11. Indeed he sent forth some of these before his ascension, Mt. 10:1-5. But one was then added, Acts 1:26. And all of them were more solemnly installed, and publicly confirmed, in their office, by his visibly pouring forth the Holy Ghost in an extraordinary manner and measure upon them. Note, The great gift that Christ gave to the church at his ascension was that of the ministry of peace and reconciliation. The gift of the ministry is the fruit of Christ's ascension. And ministers have their various gifts, which are all given them by the Lord Jesus. The officers which Christ gave to his church were of two sorts-extraordinary ones advanced to a higher office in the church: such were apostles, prophets, and evangelists. The apostles were chief. These Christ immediately called, furnished them with extraordinary gifts and the power of working miracles, and with infallibility in delivering his truth; and, they having been the witnesses of his miracles and doctrine, he sent them forth to spread the gospel and to plant and govern churches. The prophets seem to have been such as expounded the writings of the Old Testament, and foretold things to come. The evangelists were ordained persons (2 Tim. 1:6), whom the apostles took for their companions in travel (Gal. 2:1), and sent them out to settle and establish such churches as the apostles themselves had planted (Acts 19:22), and, not being fixed to any particular place, they were to continue till recalled, 2 Tim. 4:9. And then there are ordinary ministers, employed in a lower and narrower sphere; as pastors and teachers. Some take these two names to signify one office, implying the duties of ruling and teaching belonging to it. Others think they design two distinct offices, both ordinary, and of standing use in the church; and then pastors are such as are fixed at the head of particular churches, with design to guide, instruct, and feed them in the manner appointed by Christ; and they are frequently called bishops and elders: and the teachers were those whose work it was also to preach the gospel and to instruct the people by way of exhortation. We see here that it is Christ's prerogative to appoint what officers and offices he pleases in his church. And how rich is the church, that had at first such a variety of officers and has still such a variety of gifts! How kind is Christ to his church! How careful of it and of its edification! When he ascended, he procured the gift of the Holy Ghost; and the gifts of the Holy Ghost are various: some have greater, others have less measures; but all for the good of the body, which brings us to the third argument,
- 3. Which is taken from Christ's great end and design in giving gifts unto men. The gifts of Christ were intended for the good of his church, and in order to advance his kingdom and interest among men. All these being designed for one common end is a good reason why all Christians should agree in brotherly love, and not envy one another's gifts. All are for the perfecting of the saints (v. 12); that is, according to the import of the original, to bring into an orderly spiritual state and frame those who had been as it were dislocated and disjointed by sin, and then to strengthen, confirm, and advance them therein, that so each, in his proper place and function, might contribute to the good of the whole.-For the work of the ministry, or for the work of dispensation; that is, that they might dispense the doctrines of the gospel, and successfully discharge the several parts of their ministerial function.-For the edifying of the body of Christ; that is, to build up the church, which is Christ's mystical body, by an increase of their graces, and an addition of new members. All are designed to prepare us for heaven: Till we all come, etc., v. 13. The gifts and offices (some of them) which have been spoken of are to continue in the church till the saints be perfected, which will not be till they all come in the unity of the faith (till all true believers meet together, by means of the same precious faith) and of the knowledge of the Son of God, by which we are to understand, not a bare speculative knowledge, or the acknowledging of Christ to be the Son of God and the great Mediator, but such as is attended with appropriation and affection, with all due honour, trust, and obedience.-Unto a perfect man, to our full growth of gifts and graces, free from those childish infirmities that we are subject to in the present world.-Unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ, so as to be Christians of a full maturity and ripeness in all the graces derived from Christ's fulness: or, according to the measure of that stature which is to make up the fulness of Christ, which is to complete his mystical body. Now we shall never come to the perfect man, till we come to the perfect world. There is a fulness in Christ, and a fulness to be derived from him; and a certain stature of that fulness, and a measure of that stature, are assigned in the counsel of God to every believer, and we never come to that measure till we come to heaven. God's children, as long as they are in this world, are growing. Dr Lightfoot understands the apostle as speaking here of Jews and Gentiles knit in the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, so making a perfect man, and the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ. The apostle further shows, in the following verses, what was God's design in his sacred institutions, and what effect they ought to have upon us. As,
- (1.) That we henceforth be no more children, etc. (v. 14); that is, that we may be no longer children in knowledge, weak in the faith, and inconstant in our judgments, easily yielding to every temptation, readily complying with every one's humour, and being at every one's back. Children are easily imposed upon. We must take care of this, and of being tossed to and fro, like ships without ballast, and carried about, like clouds in the air, with such doctrines as have no truth nor solidity in them, but nevertheless spread themselves far and wide, and are therefore compared to wind. By the sleight of men; this is a metaphor taken from gamesters, and signifies the mischievous subtlety of seducers: and cunning craftiness, by which is meant their skilfulness in finding ways to seduce and deceive; for it follows, whereby they lie in wait to deceive, as in an ambush, in order to circumvent the weak, and draw them from the truth. Note, Those must be very wicked and ungodly men who set themselves to seduce and deceive others into false doctrines and errors. The apostle describes them here as base men, using a great deal of devilish art and cunning, in order thereunto. The best method we can take to fortify ourselves against such is to study the sacred oracles, and to pray for the illumination and grace of the Spirit of Christ, that we may know the truth as it is in Jesus, and be established in it.
- (2.) That we should speak the truth in love (v. 15), or follow the truth in love, or be sincere in love to our fellow-christians. While we adhere to the doctrine of Christ, which is the truth, we should live in love one with another. Love is an excellent thing; but we must be careful to preserve truth together with it. Truth is an excellent thing; yet it is requisite that we speak it in love, and not in contention. These two should go together-truth and peace.
- (3.) That we should grow up into Christ in all things. Into Christ, so as to be more deeply rooted in him. In all things; in knowledge, love, faith, and all the parts of the new man. We should grow up towards maturity, which is opposed to being children. Those are improving Christians who grow up into Christ. The more we grow into an acquaintance with Christ, faith in him, love to him, dependence upon him, the more we shall flourish in every grace. He is the head; and we should thus grow, that we may thereby honour our head. The Christian's growth tends to the glory of Christ.
- (4.) We should be assisting and helpful one to another, as members of the same body, v. 16. Here the apostle makes a comparison between the natural body and Christ's mystical body, that body of which Christ is the head: and he observes that as there must be communion and mutual communications of the members of the body among themselves, in order to their growth and improvement, so there must be mutual love and unity, together with the proper fruits of these, among Christians, in order to their spiritual improvement and growth in grace. From whom, says he (that is, from Christ their head, who conveys influence and nourishment to every particular member), the whole body of Christians, fitly joined together and compacted (being orderly and firmly united among themselves, every one in his proper place and station), by that which every joint supplies (by the assistance which every one of the parts, thus united, gives to the whole, or by the Spirit, faith, love, sacraments, etc., which, like the veins and arteries in the body, serve to unite Christians to Christ their head, and to one another as fellow-members), according to the effectual working in the measure of every part (that is, say some, according to the power which the Holy Ghost exerts to make God's appointed means effectual for this great end, in such a measure as Christ judges to be sufficient and proper for every member, according to its respective place and office in the body; or, as others, according to the power of Christ, who, as head, influences and enlivens every member; or, according to the effectual working of every member, in communicating to others of what it has received, nourishment is conveyed to all in their proportions, and according to the state and exigence of every part) makes increase of the body, such an increase as is convenient for the body. Observe, Particular Christians receive their gifts and graces from Christ for the sake and benefit of the whole body. Unto the edifying of itself in love. We may understand this two ways:-Either that all the members of the church may attain a greater measure of love to Christ and to one another; or that they are moved to act in the manner mentioned from love to Christ and to one another. Observe, Mutual love among Christians is a great friend to spiritual growth: it is in love that the body edifies itself; whereas a kingdom divided against itself cannot stand.
The apostle having gone through his exhortation to mutual love, unity, and concord, in the foregoing verses, there follows in these an exhortation to Christian purity and holiness of heart and life, and that both more general (v. 17-24) and in several particular instances, v. 25-32. This is solemnly introduced: "This I say therefore, and testify in the Lord; that is, seeing the matter is as above described, seeing you are members of Christ's body and partakers of such gifts, this I urge upon your consciences, and bear witness to as your duty in the Lord's name, and by virtue of the authority I have derived from him." Consider,
- I. The more general exhortation to purity and holiness of heart and life.
- 1. It begins thus, "That you henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk-that for the time to come you do not live, and behave yourselves, as ignorant and unconverted heathens do, who are wholly guided by an understanding employed about vain things, their idols and their worldly possessions, things which are no way profitable to their souls, and which will deceive their expectations." Converted Gentiles must not live as unconverted Gentiles do. Though they live among them, they must not live like them. Here,
- (1.) The apostle takes occasion to describe the wickedness of the Gentile world, out of which regenerate Christians were snatched as brands out of the burning.
- [1.] Their understandings were darkened,v. 18. They were void of all saving knowledge; yea, ignorant of many things concerning God which the light of nature might have taught them. They sat in darkness, and they loved it rather than light: and by their ignorance they were alienated from the life of God. They were estranged from, and had a dislike and aversion to, a life of holiness, which is not only that way of life which God requires and approves, and by which we live to him, but which resembles God himself, in his purity, righteousness, truth, and goodness. Their wilful ignorance was the cause of their estrangement from this life of God, which begins in light and knowledge. Gross and affected ignorance is destructive to religion and godliness. And what was the cause of their being thus ignorant? It was because of the blindness or the hardness of their heart. It was not because God did not make himself known to them by his works, but because they would not admit the instructive rays of the divine light. They were ignorant because they would be so. Their ignorance proceeded from their obstinacy and the hardness of their hearts, their resisting the light and rejecting all the means of illumination and knowledge.
- [2.] Their consciences were debauched and seared: Who being past feeling,v. 19. They had no sense of their sin, nor of the misery and danger of their case by means of it; whereupon they gave themselves over unto lasciviousness. They indulged themselves in their filthy lusts; and, yielding themselves up to the dominion of these, they became the slaves and drudges of sin and the devil, working all uncleanness with greediness. They made it their common practice to commit all sorts of uncleanness, and even the most unnatural and monstrous sins, and that with insatiable desires. Observe, When men's consciences are once seared, there are no bounds to their sins. When they set their hearts upon the gratification of their lusts, what can be expected but the most abominable sensuality and lewdness, and that their horrid enormities will abound? This was the character of the Gentiles; but,
- (2.) These Christians must distinguish themselves from such Gentiles: You have not so learned Christ,v. 20. It may be read, But you not so; you have learned Christ. Those who have learned Christ are saved from the darkness and defilement which others lie under; and, as they know more, they are obliged to live in a better manner than others. It is a good argument against sin that we have not so learned Christ. Learn Christ! Is Christ a book, a lesson, a way, a trade? The meaning is, "You have not so learned Christianity-the doctrines of Christ and the rules of life prescribed by him. Not so as to do as others do. If so be, or since, that you have heard him (v. 21), have heard his doctrine preached by us, and have been taught by him, inwardly and effectually, by his Spirit." Christ is the lesson; we must learn Christ: and Christ is the teacher; we are taught by him. As the truth is in Jesus. This may be understood two ways: either, "You have been taught the real truth, as held forth by Christ himself, both in his doctrine and in his life." Or thus, "The truth has made such an impression on your hearts, in your measure, as it did upon the heart of Jesus." The truth of Christ then appears in its beauty and power, when it appears as in Jesus.
- (1.) The apostle takes occasion to describe the wickedness of the Gentile world, out of which regenerate Christians were snatched as brands out of the burning.
- 2. Another branch of the general exhortation follows in those words, That you put off, concerning the former conversation, the old man, etc., v. 22-24. "This is a great part of the doctrine which has been taught you, and which you have learned." Here the apostle expresses himself in metaphors taken from garments. The principles, habits, and dispositions of the soul must be changed, before there can be a saving change of the life. There must be sanctification, which consists of these two things:-
- (1.) The old man must be put off. The corrupt nature is called a man, because, like the human body, it consists of divers parts, mutually supporting and strengthening one another. It is the old man, as old Adam, from whom we derive it. It is bred in the bone, and we brought it into the world with us. It is subtle as the old man; but in all God's saints decaying and withering as an old man, and ready to pass away. It is said to be corrupt; for sin in the soul is the corruption of its faculties: and, where it is not mortified, it grows daily worse and worse, and so tends to destruction. According to the deceitful lusts. Sinful inclinations and desires are deceitful lusts: they promise men happiness, but render them more miserable, and if not subdued and mortified betray them into destruction. These therefore must be put off as an old garment that we should be ashamed to be seen in: they must be subdued and mortified. These lusts prevailed against them in their former conversation, that is, during their state of unregeneracy and heathenism.
- (2.) The new man must be put on. It is not enough to shake off corrupt principles, but we must be actuated by gracious ones. We must embrace them, espouse them, and get them written on our hearts: it is not enough to cease to do evil, but we must learn to do well. "Be renewed in the spirit of your mind (v. 23); that is, use the proper and prescribed means in order to have the mind, which is a spirit, renewed more and more." And that you put on the new man,v. 24. By the new man is meant the new nature, the new creature, which is actuated by a new principle, even regenerating grace, enabling a man to lead a new life, that life of righteousness and holiness which Christianity requires. This new man is created, or produced out of confusion and emptiness, by God's almighty power, whose workmanship it is, truly excellent and beautiful. After God, in imitation of him, and in conformity to that grand exemplar and pattern. The loss of God's image upon the soul was both the sinfulness and misery of man's fallen state; and that resemblance which it bears to God is the beauty, the glory, and the happiness, of the new creature. In righteousness towards men, including all the duties of the second table; and in holiness towards God, signifying a sincere obedience to the commands of the first table; true holiness in opposition to the outward and ceremonial holiness of the Jews. We are said to put on this new man when, in the use of all God's appointed means, we are endeavouring after this divine nature, this new creature. This is the more general exhortation to purity and holiness of heart and life.
- 1. It begins thus, "That you henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk-that for the time to come you do not live, and behave yourselves, as ignorant and unconverted heathens do, who are wholly guided by an understanding employed about vain things, their idols and their worldly possessions, things which are no way profitable to their souls, and which will deceive their expectations." Converted Gentiles must not live as unconverted Gentiles do. Though they live among them, they must not live like them. Here,
- II. The apostle proceeds to some things more particular. Because generals are not so apt to affect, we are told what are those particular limbs of the old man that must be mortified, those filthy rags of the old nature that must be put off, and what are the peculiar ornaments of the new man wherewith we should adorn our Christian profession.
- 1. Take heed of lying, and be ever careful to speak the truth (v. 25): "Wherefore, since you have been so well instructed in your duty, and are under such obligations to discharge it, let it appear, in your future behaviour and conduct, that there is a great and real change wrought in you, particularly by putting away lying." Of this sin the heathen were very guilty, affirming that a profitable lie was better than a hurtful truth; and therefore the apostle exhorts them to cease from lying, from every thing that is contrary to truth. This is a part of the old man that must be put off; and that branch of the new man that must be put on in opposition to it is speaking the truth in all our converse with others. It is the character of God's people that they are children who will not lie, who dare not lie, who hate and abhor lying. All who have grace make conscience of speaking the truth, and would not tell a deliberate lie for the greatest gain and benefit to themselves. The reason here given for veracity is, We are members one of another. Truth is a debt we owe to one another; and, if we love one another, we shall not deceive nor lie one to another. We belong to the same society or body, which falsehood or lying tends to dissolve; and therefore we should avoid it, and speak truth. Observe, Lying is a very great sin, a peculiar violation of the obligations which Christians are under, and very injurious and hurtful to Christian society.
- 2. "Take heed of anger and ungoverned passions. Be you angry, and sin not,"v. 26. This is borrowed from the Septuagint translation of Ps. 4:4, where we render it, Stand in awe, and sin not. Here is an easy concession; for as such we should consider it, rather than as a command. Be you angry. This we are apt enough to be, God knows: but we find it difficult enough to observe the restriction, and sin not. "If you have a just occasion to be angry at any time, see that it be without sin; and therefore take heed of excess in your anger." If we would be angry and not sin (says one), we must be angry at nothing but sin; and we should be more jealous for the glory of God than for any interest or reputation of our own. One great and common sin in anger is to suffer it to burn into wrath, and then to let it rest; and therefore we are here cautioned against that. "If you have been provoked and have had your spirits greatly discomposed, and if you have bitterly resented any affront that has been offered, before night calm and quiet your spirits, be reconciled to the offender, and let all be well again: Let not the sun go down upon your wrath. If it burn into wrath and bitterness of spirit, O see to it that you suppress it speedily." Observe, Though anger in itself is not sinful, yet there is the upmost danger of its becoming so if it be not carefully watched and speedily suppressed. And therefore, though anger may come into the bosom of a wise man, it rests only in the bosom of fools. Neither give place to the devil,v. 27. Those who persevere in sinful anger and in wrath let the devil into their hearts, and suffer him to gain upon them, till he bring them to malice, mischievous machinations, etc. "Neither give place to the calumniator, or the false accuser" (so some read the words); that is, "let your ears be deaf to whisperers, talebearers, and slanderers."
- 3. We are here warned against the sin of stealing, the breach of the eighth commandment, and advised to honest industry and to beneficence: Let his that stole steal no more,v. 28. It is a caution against all manner of wrong-doing, by force or fraud. "Let those of you who, in the time of your gentilism, have been guilty of this enormity, be no longer guilty of it." But we must not only take heed of the sin, but conscientiously abound in the opposite duty: not only not steal, but rather let him labour, working with his hands the thing that is good. Idleness makes thieves. So Chrysostom, To gar kleptein argias estin-Stealing is the effect of idleness. Those who will not work, and who are ashamed to beg, expose themselves greatly to temptations to thievery. Men should therefore be diligent and industrious, not in any unlawful way, but in some honest calling: Working the thing which is good. Industry, in some honest way, will keep people out of temptation of doing wrong. But there is another reason why men ought to be industrious, namely, that they may be capable of doing some good, as well as that they may be preserved from temptation: That he may have to give to him that needeth. They must labour not only that they may live themselves, and live honestly, but they may distribute for supplying the wants of others. Observe, Even those who get their living by their labour should be charitable out of their little to those who are disabled for labour. So necessary and incumbent a duty is it to be charitable to the poor that even labourers and servants, and those who have but little for themselves, must cast their mite into the treasury. God must have his dues and the poor are his receivers. Observe further, Those alms that are likely to be acceptable to God must not be the produce of unrighteousness and robbery, but of honesty and industry. God hates robbery for burnt-offerings.
- 4. We are here warned against corrupt communication; and directed to that which is useful and edifying, v. 29. Filthy and unclean words and discourse are poisonous and infectious, as putrid rotten meat: they proceed from and prove a great deal of corruption in the heart of the speaker, and tend to corrupt the minds and manners of others who hear them; and therefore Christians should beware of all such discourse. It may be taken in general for all that which provokes the lusts and passions of others. We must not only put off corrupt communications, but put on that which is good to the use of edifying. The great use of speech is to edify those with whom we converse. Christians should endeavour to promote a useful conversation: that it may minister grace unto the hearers; that it may be good for, and acceptable to, the hearers, in the way of information, counsel, pertinent reproof, or the like. Observe, It is the great duty of Christians to take care that they offend not with their lips, and that they improve discourse and converse, as much as may be, for the good of others.
- 5. Here is another caution against wrath and anger, with further advice to mutual love and kindly dispositions towards each other, v. 31, 32. By bitterness, wrath, and anger, are meant violent inward resentment and displeasure against others: and, by clamour, big words, loud threatenings, and other intemperate speeches, by which bitterness, wrath, and anger, vent themselves. Christians should not entertain these vile passions in their hearts not be clamorous with their tongues. Evil speaking signifies all railing, reviling, and reproachful speeches, against such as we are angry with. And by malice we are to understand that rooted anger which prompts men to design and to do mischief to others. The contrary to all this follows: Be you kind one to another. This implies the principle of love in the heart, and the outward expressions of it, in an affable, humble, courteous behaviour. It becomes the disciples of Jesus to be kind one to another, as those who have learned, and would teach, the art of obliging. Tender-hearted; that is, merciful, and having tender sense of the distresses and sufferings of others, so as to be quickly moved to compassion and pity. Forgiving one another. Occasions of difference will happen among Christ's disciples; and therefore they must be placable, and ready to forgive, therein resembling God himself, who for Christ's sake hath forgiven them, and that more than they can forgive one another. Note, With God there is forgiveness; and he forgives sin for the sake of Jesus Christ, and on account of that atonement which he has made to divine justice. Note again, Those who are forgiven of God should be of a forgiving spirit, and should forgive even as God forgives, sincerely and heartily, readily and cheerfully, universally and for ever, upon the sinner's sincere repentance, as remembering that they pray, Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. Now we may observe concerning all these particulars that the apostle has insisted on that they belong to the second table, whence Christians should learn the strict obligations they are under to the duties of the second table, and that he who does not conscientiously discharge them can never fear nor love God in truth and in sincerity, whatever he may pretend to.
In the midst of these exhortations and cautions the apostle interposes that general one, And grieve not the Holy Spirit of God,v. 30. By looking to what precedes, and to what follows, we may see what it is that grieves the Spirit of God. In the previous verses it is intimated that all lewdness and filthiness, lying, and corrupt communications that stir up filthy appetites and lusts, grieve the Spirit of God. In what follows it is intimated that those corrupt passions of bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, and malice, grieve this good Spirit. By this we are not to understand that this blessed Being could properly be grieved or vexed as we are; but the design of the exhortation is that we act not towards him in such a manner as is wont to be grievous and disquieting to our fellow-creatures: we must not do that which is contrary to his holy nature and his will; we must not refuse to hearken to his counsels, nor rebel against his government, which things would provoke him to act towards us as men are wont to do towards those with whom they are displeased and grieved, withdrawing themselves and their wonted kindness from such, and abandoning them to their enemies. O provoke not the blessed Spirit of God to withdraw his presence and his gracious influences from you! It is a good reason why we should not grieve him that by him we are sealed unto the day of redemption. There is to be a day of redemption; the body is to be redeemed from the power of the grave at the resurrection-day, and then God's people will be delivered from all the effects of sin, as well as from all sin and misery, which they are not till rescued out of the grave: and then their full and complete happiness commences. All true believers are sealed to that day. God has distinguished them from others, having set his mark upon them; and he gives them the earnest and assurance of a joyful and glorious resurrection; and the Spirit of God is the seal. Wherever that blessed Spirit is as a sanctifier, he is the earnest of all the joys and glories of the redemption-day; and we should be undone should God take away his Holy Spirit from us.
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Commentary on Ephesians 4:1-16
This passage forms the hinge between the theological statement of Ephesians 1-3 and the exhortatory material that follows (4:17-6:20).
It provides a theological rationale for the behavior that is required of the church.
The primary call is to unity. The recipients of the letter should make “every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (4:3). They are to equip the saints for ministry “until all of us come to the unity of faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God” (4:13). The sevenfold use of the word “one” (4:4-6) forms the center of a poetic statement of the church’s unity. The list culminates with the oneness of God. Just as earlier parts of Ephesians have identified God as the source of the church’s identity (cf. 1:3-8), so here the unity of the church reflects the oneness of God.
In the Greek, verse 7 also begins with the word “one.” In English translation, it is not possible to maintain the parallel. “And each one of us was given grace” is one way to think of the parallel made by the Greek. Following on the heels of verses 4-6, verse 7 brings the notion of oneness back to the individual experience–each one of us. The believer’s experience of God’s grace relates to the larger goal of the oneness of the body.
The unity of the church is a reflection of God’s gift of reconciliation in Christ. The opening “therefore” (4:1) indicates that the argument here follows logically upon the previous verses. In Ephesians 1-3, the author has elaborated upon the reconciliation between Jews and Gentiles that God has brought about in Christ. The repeated use of the word “one” in 2:14-16 (as in 4:4-8) highlights this aspect of the message: the church is “one new humanity” created by Christ. The mystery of the faith (cf. 3:9) is that, through the one body of Jesus, God has brought together two disparate groups under one plan of salvation. While both Jews and Gentiles once lived according to the flesh (2:3), Jews were nevertheless “near” to God, while Gentiles were “far off” (2:17). Through Christ, both groups are now joined together and draw nearer to God. The writer uses two metaphors to express the joining and the resulting closeness with God: Jews and Gentiles form one body with Christ as its head (1:22-23), and one structure with Christ as its cornerstone (2:21-22).
The church should reflect this unity. However, the author makes clear that the perfection of the church is a process and not a completed event. Christ has equipped the church with gifts (4:7, 11) so that the church as Christ’s body may reach maturity. The body metaphor of verses 12-16 is interesting: the church is depicted as growing into its own body. Christ is already “mature” (verse 13; the Greek that the NRSV translates as “maturity” is more literally “the complete man”). Yet the church, which is Christ’s body, must build up the body until it arrives at the stature of Christ (verse 13). Likewise, in verses 14-15 the image evoked is that of the body growing up to meet its head, Christ. In the author’s view, the church is already the body of Christ, even as it continues to grow toward Christ.
The list of offices in 4:11-13 poses a theological problem for many interpreters. In these verses, the gifts given by Christ appear to be identified with various leaders, whose job it is to train all the saints. By contrast, the “gifts of the Spirit” of which Paul speaks of in 1 Corinthians 12 seem to be gifts that any believer may possess and use for the good of the body (cf. 1 Corinthians 12:4-11). For many readers, the related text in 1 Corinthians may be more appealing because the whole church shares equally in the gifts of God. Here, the gifts seem to belong exclusively to church leaders–or, more precisely, the gifts are the church leaders.
However, it is also possible to read 4:11-13 as a recognition that good leaders are necessary for the church’s unity. Elsewhere, the author has already assumed that God has given grace as a gift to every believer (4:7; cf. 1:3-6). Nevertheless, certain people are gifted in particular ways for the building up of the body, and this is a gift of God’s grace. The language here does not demand uncritical obedience to leaders, but understands leaders as a gift from God to guide the growth of the body.
Seen in the context of Ephesians, the unity to which the church is called in 4:1-16 can have challenging implications for contemporary churches. In the first century, many Jews and Gentiles struggled to accept the message of reconciliation of Jews and Gentiles (cf. Galatians, Acts 10-15). God’s gift of reconciliation means that those who were understood to be “far off” are now those who are equally gifted by God. The “dividing walls” of today’s churches might also be seen in this light, although in our case the more relevant categories would be those of gay and straight, black and white, rich and poor, or men and women. In its unity the church should embody the reconciliation made possible in Christ, who “has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us” (2:14).
In Ephesians, unity is not the same as uniformity. The mystery of God that is revealed in Christ and results in the reconciliation of Jews and Gentiles does not obliterate the distinctions between these different groups. Instead, what is made known through the church is “the wisdom of God in its rich variety” (3:10). Part of the call of 4:1-16 is to tolerance, or “bearing with one another” (4:2). The assumption is not that all distinctions will cease, but that even with the persistence of differences, the church may nevertheless grow together as a body.