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EPHESIANS - Chapter 5 - Verse 4

Verse 4. Neither filthiness. That is, obscene or indecent conversation. Literally, that which is shameful, or deformed— aiscrothv. The word does not elsewhere occur in the New Testament.

Nor foolish talking. This word—mwrologia—does not occur elsewhere in the New Testament. It means that kind of talk which is insipid, senseless, stupid, foolish; which is not fitted to instruct, edify, profit—the idle chit-chat which is so common in the world. The meaning is, that Christians should aim to have their conversation sensible, serious, sincere remembering the words of the Lord Jesus, "that every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment," Mt 12:36.

Nor jesting. eutrapelia. This word occurs also nowhere else in the New Testament. It properly means, that which is well-turned, (eu well, and trepwto turn;) and then that which is sportive, refined, courteous; and then urbanity, humour, wit; and then jesting, levity—which is evidently the meaning here. The apostle would not forbid courteousness, or refinement of manners, (comp. 1 Pe 3:8;) and the reference, therefore, must be to that which is light and trifling in conversation; to that which is known among us as jesting. It may be observed,

(1.) that courteousness is not forbidden in the Scriptures, but is positively required, 1 Pe 3:8.

(2.) Cheerfulness is not forbidden—for if anything can make cheerful, it is the hope of heaven.

(3.) Pleasantry cannot be forbidden. I mean that quiet and gentle humour that arises from good-nature, and that makes one good-natured in spite of himself. Such are many of the poems of Cowper, and many of the essays of Addison in the "Spectator"— benevolent humour which disposes us to smile, but not to be malignant; to be good-natured, but not to inspire levity. But levity and jesting, though often manifested by ministers and other Christians, are as inconsistent with true dignity as with the gospel. Where were they seen in the conversation of the Redeemer? Where in the writings of Paul?

Which are not convenient. That is, which are not fit or proper; which do not become the character of Christians. See Barnes "Ro 1:28".

Christians should be grave and serious, though cheerful and pleasant. They should feel that they have great interests at stake, and that the world has too. They are redeemed—not to make sport; purchased with precious blood—for other purposes than to make men laugh. They are soon to be in heaven—and a man who has any impressive sense of that will habitually feel that he has muck else to do than to make men laugh. The true course of life is midway between moroseness and levity; sourness and lightness; harshness and jesting. Be benevolent, kind, cheerful, bland, courteous, but serious. Be solemn, thoughtful, deeply impressed with the presence of God and with eternal things, but pleasant, affable, and benignant. Think not a smile sinful; but think not levity and jesting harmless.

But rather giving of thanks. Thanks to God, or praises, are more becoming Christians than jesting. The idea here seems to be, that such employment would be far more appropriate to the character of Christians, than idle, trifling, and indelicate conversation. Instead, therefore, of meeting together for low wit and jesting; for singing songs, and for the vulgar discourse which often attends such "gatherings" of friends, Paul would have them come together for the purpose of praising God, and engaging in his service. Men are social in their nature; and if they do not assemble for good purposes, they will for bad ones. It is much more appropriate to the character of Christians to come together to sing praises to God, than to sing songs; to pray, than to jest; to converse of the things of redemption, than to tell anecdotes; and to devote the time to a contemplation of the world to come, than to trifles and nonsense.

{e} "which are not convenient" Ro 1:28

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