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The Unity of the Church
Summary —The Exhortation to Unity. The Seven Bonds of Unity. The Various Gifts Given to the Church. The Offices for Its Edification. The Church Compacted in Christ. The Gentiles Called from Their Former Lives. A New and Holy Life Commanded.
1–3. I, therefore. Practical duties are now urged which grow out of their glorious privileges in Christ. The prisoner of the Lord. See 3:1, and note. Compare Philemon 1:9. He was a prisoner because he was a servant of the Lord. Walk worthy of the calling. They had been called to a glorious calling, as he had shown in chapter 3. The Christian has been called to the highest calling with which man has ever been honored. 2. With all lowliness and meekness. Walk in humility and gentleness of spirit. These are characteristics of walking worthily. Other are long-suffering and forbearance. To take offense easily, and to seek to “pay back” any fancied injuries, are the opposite of these qualities. In love. If the heart is filled with love, the other qualities will be shown forth. Read 1 Corinthians, chapter 13. 3. Endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit. Forbearance and long suffering are essential to unity and peace. The unity of the Spirit. The unity of those who have the same Spirit, not merely an outward unity. In the bond of peace. An outward unity, which does not secure peace, cannot be the unity of the Spirit.
4–6. There is one body. The Unity commanded has a basis in seven unities which existed in the church, and should exist in all ages. There was then only one body, the church, the body of Christ; not a Gentile body and a Jewish body. Modern denominations were unknown. Compare Rom. 12:5; 1 Cor. 12:12, 13; Eph. 2:16. And one Spirit. The same Spirit bestowed upon Jew and Gentile, 197and upon all saints. Called in one hope. Wherever called and from whatever state, all were filled with one hope, that of immortality. 5. One Lord. Christ, the Head of the church (1 Cor. 1:13; Eph. 1:10). All saints have one Master. One faith. One Lord who is the object of faith, and whom both Jews and Gentiles lay hold upon by faith in him. One baptism. All have been baptized into the “one Lord” upon the profession of the “one faith” by one rite. It would be utterly inconsistent with the Apostle's argument, if there could be anything divisive about baptism, as three different ways of administering itself. He is showing that there is unity in each one of seven essential features of Christianity, and hence all should seek to “keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” 6. One God. Not gods many, but one God for all; “The Father of all, above all, through all, in all.” Meyer, upon this passage, says that the elements of church unity are: (1) The church itself constituted as a unity: One Body, one Spirit, one Blessed Hope. (2) The means by which this united church is built up: One Lord, one Faith, one Baptism. (3) Over all one Supreme Ruler, the God and Father of all. Bishop Pearson, on the creed, notes “Points of Unity of the Church.” He enumerates, (1) Unity of the Head; (2) Unity of the Spirit dwelling in it; (3) Unity of hope; (4) Unity of faith; (5) Unity of ordinance for admission; (6) Unity of the one Father; (7) Unity or organization, one Body.
7–10. But unto every one of us. While all named above is common, the Lord has given grace to each one according to the measure of the gift of Christ. That is, there are special offices, and special gifts, that Christ deals to each. 8. Wherefore he saith. The citation is from Psalm 68:18. It is cited to show that Christ gives. When he ascended on high. Paul applies this to Christ's ascension to heaven. Led captivity captive. The captives, led captive by Christ, are sin, the curse of the law, and death. Gave gifts unto men. As a conqueror, returning in triumph, was wont to distribute gifts, so Christ signalized his ascension by gifts. 9. Now that he ascended. Paul, in applying this to Christ, shows that it implies that he must have descended from heaven, before his ascension to heaven. This must necessarily follow, if the one ascending is divine, and has a home in heaven, as the psalm indicates. 10. Above all heavens. The one who descended is now exalted to the right hand of God. God's throne is represented above the heavens, as God is above all. Compare Heb. 4:14; 7:26. That he might fill all things. And hence reach every place with his grace and glory.
11–13. And he gave. It has just been shown that Christ “gave gifts to men” (verse 7, 8). Of these gifts were various offices. The object of all these offices was to promote “the unity of the faith” (verse 13). Christ has appointed the offices, and gives the men in the church who are fitted for these offices. In the matter of those offices that continue, it is the duty of the church to recognize and call out the men who meet the conditions Christ has given. Some to be apostles. The apostles were all chosen by Christ. All had to be witnesses of his resurrection (Acts 1:22). They, therefore, could have no successors, but their own office continues. They still remain teachers and in authority by their writings and example. And some, prophets. An inspired office, essential in the church for its teaching until 198the New Testament was completed. And some, evangelists. Such as Philip (Acts 8:4–12; 21:8), Timothy, Titus, etc. This office is to preach the gospel, and will be necessary as long as the church continues on earth. As this office did not require extraordinary gifts, it is permanent. Pastors and teachers. These were not distinct offices. Bishops, or elders, and especially those “who labored in word and doctrine,” came under this head. A pastor should always be an elder, but it is not certain that a teacher was always an elder. These offices were all given for the purposes indicated in the next verse. 12. For the perfecting of the saints. Helping them to higher and holier lives. For the work of the ministry. For carrying on the various works assigned to the ministry. For the edifying of the body of Christ. All was intended to minister to the upbuilding of the church, within and without. 13. Till we all come. These offices are given in order that all may come to a goal that is named just below. They must be continued in some form until that goal is reached. Unto the unity of the faith. This is one of the great objects to be attained through these offices. In verse 2, Paul, as an apostle and a prophet, exhorts to the same end. As an apostle and prophets, he so exhorts still. Every evangelist and pastor who is under God's spirit should labor to the same end. Not only “unity of the faith,” but unity of the knowledge of the Son of God is aimed at. Full unity of the faith will be found when all alike know Christ. Unto a full-grown man (Revision). The second end to be attained is a noble manhood, fully developed, after the modes of life furnished in Christ Jesus. This must be the aim of all teaching, and of all living. If we cannot attain fully to it in the flesh, we certainly can aim at it and grow more and more into Christ's likeness.
14–16. That we henceforth be no more children. This should be the aim; to reach a stature such that we are no more froward children. Children are feeble, inexperienced, and easily deceived. Tossed. Tossed about like a wave by every wind of doctrine. It is “doctrines,” in great part, which have broken up unity. By the sleight of men. Their tricks. And cunning craftiness. Craft and cunning, employed by teachers of false doctrine in order to deceive. There can be little doubt that Paul refers to the false teachers against whom he warned the Ephesian elders in Acts 20:30. 15. Speaking the truth in love. Truth is never to give way to false doctrine, but it must be spoken in love. Some cling to the truth tenaciously, but forget to speak it in love. May grow. This continues the characteristics of those “who are no longer children.” They should grow up into him in all things. In all their growth there should be a growth of Christ's traits, a growth into his likeness. In all their growth there should be a growth of Christ's traits, a growth into his likeness. 16. From whom. The Head of the body, the church. He is the source of all life, power and growth in the body. Fitly framed together. The body of Christ, composed of many individuals, is one, like a building composed of many parts framed together. Through that which every joint supplieth. As in the body every joint and part does its work towards compacting the body into a harmonious whole, and towards its growth, so in the body of Christ every member deriving life from the Head is to work in his place, and harmoniously, for the increase of the body. 199
17–19. This I say, therefore. Now, after the statement of the great principles named in verses 3–16, Paul returns to the exhortation of verses 1–3. Walk not as other Gentiles. Having come out from the heathen and abandoned all their sins. The vanity of their mind. Vanity of mind means what is a waste of life. 18. Having the understanding darkened. He shows how the Gentiles walk in vanity. They are in darkness, unenlightened by the gospel. Alienated. Without the spiritual life that comes from knowing God. Because of blindness of heart. The idea is a willful blindness. 19. Who being past feeling. Having trampled conscience under foot until it is calloused. Having silenced its admonitions, they give themselves over to licentiousness and evil. This description is not overdrawn. Purity of life was not even considered a virtue among the Gentiles of that period.
20–24. But ye have not so learned Christ. You are Gentiles by birth, like those just described, but you have learned otherwise from Christ. 21. If so be that ye have heard him. This does not express a doubt that they had heard and been taught by Christ. The idea is: If ye have heard, etc., as I know you have, you have been taught the truth in Jesus, that (verse 22) ye put off concerning the former manner of life the old man and his deeds. “The old man” is the old sinful life, in contrast with “the new man,” or new life in Christ. 23. And be renewed. That is, be made new by having a new mind, or spirit. See Rom. 12:2. 24. And that ye put on the new man. He who has a new mind within him is a new man. He who is born anew, “of water and of the Spirit” (John 3:5), is newly created in righteousness. This is still part of what they were taught (verse 21). The new creation described took place at conversion.
25–28. Wherefore. Since you were so taught, putting away falsehood, speak the truth. We are members of one another. All members of one Christian household; hence every member has a right to the truth. 26. Be ye angry, and sin not. Quoted from Psalm 4:4, Septuagint Version. Do not sin through anger is the thought. If circumstances arouse your indignation, do not be led astray. Let not the sun go down upon your wrath. Let there be no long continuance of your wrathful mind. 27. Neither give place to the devil. By cherishing anger. A person under the dominion of anger is in a fit state to be tempted to evil deeds. 28. Let him that stole. All sorts of sinners had been 200converted among the Gentiles, even thieves. In this exhortation, “To put off the old man and his deeds” (verse 22), this class is embraced also by name. Let him labor. Honest labor is the best antidote to a dishonest life. Every man is to labor in order that he may not only supply his needs, but have that which he can give.
29–32. Let no corrupt communication. What is rotten. Anything that will demoralize others. Obscene, licentious, or immoral language is forbidden. All that the Christian speaks should be that which is good to the use of edifying, building the hearers up in Christ. 30. Grieve not the Holy Spirit. Such sins as those described above grieve the Holy Spirit, nor will he continue to dwell those addicted to them. Sealed unto the day of redemption. The sealing of the Holy Spirit is an earnest, a proof, an assurance of the final redemption. See 1:13. If we grieve him away, the seal will be gone. 31, 32. These verses enforce sundry duties essential to keeping “the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” plain, every-day duties of life. Those of verse 31 are negative; those of verse 32 are positive. 200
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