The Agora
Bible Commentary

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Ephesians 4

Eph 4:2

Following the example of Christ: Phi 2:3-8.

GENTLE: See Lesson, Gentleness.

BEARING WITH ONE ANOTHER IN LOVE: Humility is stressed again here, and a rider is added -- to achieve this aim, we need to "forbear one another in love": Isa 57:15; 61:1-3; Mat 11:29; Col 3:12,13; James 3:15-18.

Eph 4:3

UNITY: Between Jew and Gentile: Eph 2:16,17.

Eph 4:4

Vv 4-6: See Lesson, Eph summary of faith.

ONE BODY: See Eph 1:23; 2:15,16. The church is not an organization, but an organism. It is alive. It has a life of its own.

ONE SPIRIT: See Eph 2:18.

ONE HOPE: Eph 1:18.

Eph 4:5

ONE LORD: 1Co 8:6,12.

ONE FAITH: Eph 4:13.

Eph 4:8

THIS IS WHY IT SAYS: "WHEN HE ASCENDED ON HIGH, HE LED CAPTIVES IN HIS TRAIN AND GAVE GIFTS TO MEN": A citation of Psa 68:18. Several of Paul's phrases indicated that, in quoting Psa 68, he was also acutely aware of the wilderness-journey allusions there. "Unto every one of us was given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ" (v 7). Here "grace" (chares) is certainly used in the sense of 'a gift of the Spirit' (as in a good many other places). "Wherefore it [Psa 68] saith, When he [Christ] ascended on high, he led captivity captive" -- that is, he brought into a much lighter bondage (Mat 11:28,29) those who had been the captives of sin (see the meaning given this phrase in Jdg 5:12). This he did, in the ultimate sense, by destroying the devil (the power of sin) and by becoming the firstfruits of the dead (Heb 2:14,15; 4:15; 1Co 15:20 -- cp Col 1:18). The gifts, almost an ecstatic experience, were an open proof of the light and joyful character of this new service. The parallel with Num 11 needs to be borne in mind: There the Angel of the Covenant "came down in a cloud... and took of the Spirit that was upon Moses, and gave it unto the seventy elders" (Num 11:25). That phrase "came down" is the idiomatic way of describing a "theophany", and in the same way "ascended" means not only an actual ascension to the presence of God but also is the now obvious idiom for the end of a theophany (Psa 47:5n). The theophany in Christ began when he "descended (here is the idiom) into the lower parts of the earth"; this latter phrase means the lower parts, even the earth (Psa 139:15 shows this to be a prophecy of the birth of Christ; cp Luk 1:35). "Descended first" emphasizes that if ascended means God-manifestation concluded, then descended is the appropriate phrase to describe Xt's open exhibition among men of the character and purpose of his Father (Joh 7:16; 10:36,37; etc). This was fully achieved in his ministry. This great work having been achieved, Jesus after his resurrection "ascended far above all heavens... that he might fill all things" (cp 1Ti 3:16: "received up into glory"). Here are two more phrases borrowed from the wilderness experience of Israel. When the covenant was ratified at Sinai, the seventy saw a vision of God enthroned: see Exo 24:10. This was the Almighty enthroned "above the heavens" (the sky). In his ascension Jesus lit shared not only the personal presence but also the status of the Father (Phi 2:9-11; Eph 1:22). And as "the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle" at its consecration (Exo 40:34), so after his ascension did the gifts of the Spirit "fill all things in the church".

Eph 4:13

Examples of personification: riches (Mat 6:24); sin (Joh 8:34; Rom 5:21; 6:16); spirit (Joh 16:13); wisdom (Pro 3:13-15; 9:1); Israel (Jer 31:4,18); people of Christ (Eph 4:4,13; 5:23; Rev 19:7; 1Co 12:27; 2Co 11:2; Col 1:18,24).

Eph 4:15

GROW UP: "Be a 'man of God' -- externally and internally: to the world, and to yourself. Bring everything you do into harmony with this holy pattern. Make it your life's goal and ideal. Eschew everything that is inconsistent with it. Be real, and solid, and genuine all through. Man is not true man at all, unless he becomes a man of God. This is his divinely intended glory and destiny. Grow up unto God -- this is the purpose for which we are given the wonderful gift of life. Keep growing, keep learning, keep developing. So many are content to stop growing, and to just vegetate -- to be childish and ignorant and immature all their lives. It is a tragedy, when the human mind and character have such incredible potentials for divine development" (GVG).

Eph 4:18

"Strangers from the covenants": Eph 2:12,13; Psa 49:20; Rom 1:28; 2Co 3:14,15; 4:3,4.

Eph 4:22

Vv 22-24: See Article, "Old man" and "new man".

Eph 4:23

TO BE MADE NEW IN THE ATTITUDE OF YOUR MINDS: // Col 2:12; 3:1,9. "Lift up your mind to God. Naturally it is low and animal and fleshly, like the beasts of the field. Clean out the things that hold it down. Fill it with things that will raise it up. The higher you go, the further you can see -- the broader the view, the more glorious the prospect. Most minds are in narrow ditches of their own making: hemmed in by the humdrum immediate present: the passing, meaningless, animal things -- self-created problems and frustrations. Lift your sights. Lift your heart. Lift your mind to glory and eternity. The mind of man is the most marvelous thing in God's creation. Man was designed to fill his mind with God, to be a divinely reflecting vessel of beauty and glory and honor. What tragic failure! What lost potential! But the Divine Plan will work out at last, and a small, faithful, purified remnant of mankind, wise in their generation, will attain divine glory" (GVG).

Eph 4:24

AND TO PUT ON THE NEW SELF: "It is a vain effort to try to exorcise the evil only. Character is not a negation" (cp Mat 12:45; CEph 102), nor a vacuum.

Eph 4:25

ALL MEMBERS OF ONE BODY: A single body must work in harmony with itself.

Eph 4:26

Citing Psa 4:4.

ANGER... ANGRY: Both from root "orge": a cold anger of policy, not of emotion (ie "thumos").

DO NOT LET THE SUN GO DOWN WHILE YOU ARE STILL ANGRY: "Let your anger set with the sun and not rise again" (Irish proverb). "Suppressing a moment of anger may save a day of sorrow" (American proverb). "All time spent angry is time lost being happy" (Mexican proverb). "Any person capable of angering you becomes your master; he can anger you only when you permit yourself to be disturbed by him" (Epictetus).

Eph 4:27

Thus "devil" (v 27) = "anger" (v 26). Do not give any adversary an occasion to find fault with you.

Eph 4:28

HE WHO HAS BEEN STEALING MUST STEAL NO LONGER, BUT MUST WORK, DOING SOMETHING USEFUL WITH HIS OWN HANDS, THAT HE MAY HAVE SOMETHING TO SHARE WITH THOSE IN NEED: "Great achievements are nearly always preceded by great aspirations. Behind every piece of good work there is a thought, an intention, a desire, an ambition for something of the best. Ambition is defined as a desire for achievement or distinction. It means a desire to discover and develop individual talents to the best possible advantage, but it is a definition which needs qualification. The best possible advantage must always mean an advantage which is in harmony with God's will and never against it. The best must always mean that which advances the purpose of God and never hinders it. Ambition which is selfish is ungodly and dangerous. A man driven by it will covet success without reference to who is harmed in the process; he will seek his triumph indifferent to the fate of others.

"By contrast this helps in understanding the nature of true ambition. It is not a lonely and selfish thing. It ought not to exist in isolation. Those who live in the atmosphere of the gospel must recognize that their way of life is constantly being regulated and conditioned by their relationship to others. The success of the individual is not mainly for the individual's sake, it is for the realization of the common good. Its objective ought to be usefulness in the cause of bringing good to others, the development of ability in order to serve rather than to amass. Even when men with right ambition amass anything for themselves, the same principle applies; said Paul of one who had sought his living in the wrong way, 'Let him labour, working with his hands the thing which is good that he may have to give to him that needeth' (Eph 4:28). Gaining to give is better than gaining to keep, judged by the gospel. In 1Co 12 Paul emphasizes that honours, ambitions and gifts in the church of Christ are not to be coveted for the sake of individual fame and satisfaction, but for the glory of God and for the blessing of the church in all its needs. They are for attaining the good of the whole through the capacities and abilities of each member. Consecrated ambition consists in being lured by the prospect of helping God's other children who are in need.

"What is true on the highest level is true also on the lower level of daily work. If there is no love in ambition it is a perilous thing. If it is motivated by a desire to achieve the best in order to confront the worst; to equip in order to sustain: to gather in order to give, then it will stand the test, measured by the Word of God. Such ambition will become an inspiration: an inspiration to work for others and for God. The ambition which is selfish, ruthless and loveless is a curse deadly and destructive, utterly out of harmony with the gospel of the Kingdom of God. The ambition of Jesus Christ, the King, is the establishment of God's Kingdom in the earth. For those who have committed themselves to his cause and given him their allegiance, all smaller ambitions ought to be dominated by the ambition of the King" (DG).

Eph 4:29

// Col 3:8; 4:6.

Eph 4:30

DO NOT GRIEVE THE HOLY SPIRIT OF GOD: God can be grieved! "In all their affliction He was afflicted" (Isa 63:7-10).

REDEMPTION: "Apolutrosis" = to be bought away from. See Lesson, Redemption.

Eph 4:31

BRAWLING: Outcry, shrieking, screaming. "Clamour" (KJV): "the loud recriminations of the embittered soul" (CEph 109).

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