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 has spent three chapters spelling out in glorious detail all that God has done for us, freely by His grace. Now comes the call to live rightly, but only after we understand all God has done for us.
b. When we really understand how much God has done for us, we will naturally want to serve and obey Him out of gratitude; we will want to have a walk worthy of the calling with which we were called.
c. Again, we don't walk worthy so that God will love us, but because He does. It is out of gratitude, not out of a desire to earn merit.
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 at all costs.
i. Christians need to experience the joy of lowliness, of not wanting to control others and events.
ii. 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).
b. Longsuffering and bearing with one another will mean 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.
c. People with the attitudes described in this passage will naturally be fulfilling the goal in this passage. There will be a natural unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
i. The unity Paul speaks of, and that God desires, is a unity of the Spirit. It is a spiritual unity, not necessarily a structural or denominational unity. 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.
ii. "For the church fellowship in 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)
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. Some have thought 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 speaks 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 that 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, 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 does not quote the passage exactly as it appears in Psalm 68. Either he is, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, altering it to suit the present message, or under similar inspiration he is quoting from an ancient translation (called a Targum) that quotes the Psalm in this manner.
i. In any regard, there is certainly enough room in the language of the original Hebrew to allow Paul's reading, even though it is unusual.
d. Now this, "He ascended"; what does it mean: In this, Paul demonstrates how the words He ascended in Psalm 68:18 have 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 have thought 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 does 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 has established these offices. These are the work and appointment of Jesus, not men. Though pretenders may lay claim to them, the offices themselves are a Divine institution, not a human invention.
b. Gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers: Paul describes 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. They 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 total 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 authoritative sense that the first century prophets brought God's foundational word (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 shepherd 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. The purpose of these gifts of leadership is also clear: 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." It was used for setting broken bones, and for mending nets.
ii. The real work of ministry is done by God's people; 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. The first goal mentioned is the unity of the faith. Again, 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 does not command a structural or organizational unity, but a spiritual unity around a common faith.
b. Another goal is the knowledge of the Son of God, meaning increased maturity and greater intimacy in our experience of God.
c. Another goal is a perfect (mature) man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ. 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. An important aspect of this maturity is that we are no longer tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine; that we have 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 value movement over growth; mere movement may be being tossed to and fro, but God wants us to grow up in all things.
e. Speaking the truth in love 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.
g. The evidence of maturity - that the leaders and the saints are all doing their job - is the effective working by which every part does its share, with every part and joint providing 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. But 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 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 (conduct our lives) in a different manner than the world around us.
i. There is a constant tendency for Christians to display to the world that we really aren't so different after all, in some misguided effort to gain the world's "respect" or approval. This must be resisted at all costs, because the goal in itself is undesirable and unachievable.
ii. This principle of compromise can be illustrated by the exchange between a liberal scholar theologian and a Christian professor: "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. But 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)
c. Because of the blindness of their heart: Fundamentally, their ignorance and lack of understanding is a heart problem. It is shown not only in a foolish denial of God, but also in their moral failures (licentiousness, uncleanness, greediness).
i. The Gentiles Paul speaks of were either atheists or believed in gods who were themselves immoral. Therefore, in their denial of the true God, they deny any standard of morality that they will 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. On licentiousness, the Greek word aselgeia: "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. To put off . . . the old man and to put on the new man 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, not a free man. The first thing you would tell that person is "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 different conduct will start to change your attitudes. This means that we shouldn't wait to feel like the new man before we put on the new man.
iii. Fundamentally, Paul is saying that for the Christian, there must be a break with the past. Jesus isn't just added to our old life; the old life dies and He becomes our new life.
b. Putting on the new man has a strong aspect of learning and education to it: you have not so learned Christ . . . 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 affect our whole manner of thinking. 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 had learned Christ, not only learning about Jesus, but 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.
c. So, putting on the new man has a great deal to with both our thinking and our conduct. God wants each to be patterned after Jesus Christ, not the model of this world.
d. 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, instead of the old man, who is the person inherited from Adam, and 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, putting away lying - because we are members of one another, so 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; he 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 hearts, we are doing the devil's work for him!
iii. The name devil literally means "slanderer." Paul may be saying that when we hold on to our anger, creating bitterness, we give place to the slanderer - either because we become one, or we occasion their slander.
c. Let him who stole steal no longer: The new man does not steal, but he works with his hands, and 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 those who used to steal must 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. We may grieve the Holy Spirit either by our neglect of the gifts, or by fleshly imitation of the spiritual gifts. But in context, Paul especially thinks of how we grieve the Holy Spirit by our unloving conduct towards others.
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 which 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 tells us to do in this chapter.