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4 I therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, 2with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 3making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, 5one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all. 7 But each of us was given grace according to the measure of Christ’s gift. 8Therefore it is said,
Unity in the Body of Christ
I therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, 2with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 3making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, 5one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all.
7 But each of us was given grace according to the measure of Christ’s gift. 8Therefore it is said,
“When he ascended on high he made captivity itself a captive;
he gave gifts to his people.”
9 (When it says, “He ascended,” what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower parts of the earth? 10He who descended is the same one who ascended far above all the heavens, so that he might fill all things.) 11The gifts he gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, 12to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13until all of us come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ. 14We must no longer be children, tossed to and fro and blown about by every wind of doctrine, by people’s trickery, by their craftiness in deceitful scheming. 15But speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by every ligament with which it is equipped, as each part is working properly, promotes the body’s growth in building itself up in love.
The Old Life and the New
17 Now this I affirm and insist on in the Lord: you must no longer live as the Gentiles live, in the futility of their minds. 18They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of their ignorance and hardness of heart. 19They have lost all sensitivity and have abandoned themselves to licentiousness, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. 20That is not the way you learned Christ! 21For surely you have heard about him and were taught in him, as truth is in Jesus. 22You were taught to put away your former way of life, your old self, corrupt and deluded by its lusts, 23and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, 24and to clothe yourselves with the new self, created according to the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.
Rules for the New Life
25 So then, putting away falsehood, let all of us speak the truth to our neighbors, for we are members of one another. 26Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, 27and do not make room for the devil. 28Thieves must give up stealing; rather let them labor and work honestly with their own hands, so as to have something to share with the needy. 29Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only what is useful for building up, as there is need, so that your words may give grace to those who hear. 30And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with which you were marked with a seal for the day of redemption. 31Put away from you all bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander, together with all malice, 32and be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you.
Eph 4:1-32. Exhortations to Christian Duties Resting on Our Christian Privileges, as United in One Body, though Varying in the Graces Given to the Several Members, that We May Come unto a Perfect Man in Christ.
1. Translate, according to the Greek order, "I beseech you, therefore (seeing that such is your calling of grace, the first through third chapters) I the prisoner in the Lord (that is, imprisoned in the Lord's cause)." 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 [Theodoret]. His bonds, too, are an argument which should enforce his exhortation.
vocation—Translate, "calling" to accord, as the Greek does, with "called" (Eph 4:4; Eph 1:18; Ro 8:28, 30). Col 3:15 similarly grounds Christian duties on our Christian "calling." The exhortations of this part of the Epistle are built on the conscious enjoyment of the privileges mentioned in the former part. Compare Eph 4:32, with Eph 1:7; Eph 5:1 with Eph 1:5; Eph 4:30, with Eph 1:13; Eph 5:15, with Eph 1:8.
2, 3. lowliness—In classic Greek, the meaning is meanness of spirit: the Gospel has elevated the word to express a Christian grace, namely, the esteeming of ourselves small, inasmuch as we are so; the thinking truly, and because truly, therefore lowlily, of ourselves [Trench].
meekness—that spirit in which we accept God's dealings with us without disputing and resisting; and also the accepting patiently of the injuries done us by men, out of the thought that they are permitted by God for the chastening and purifying of His people (2Sa 16:11; compare Ga 6:1; 2Ti 2:25; Tit 3:2). It is only the lowly, humble heart that is also meek (Col 3:12). As "lowliness and meekness" answer to "forbearing one another in love" (compare "love," Eph 4:15, 16), so "long-suffering" answers to (Eph 4:4) "endeavoring (Greek, 'earnestly' or 'zealously giving diligence') to keep (maintain) the unity of the Spirit (the unity between men of different tempers, which flows from the presence of the Spirit, who is Himself 'one,' Eph 4:4) in (united in) the bond of peace" (the "bond" by which "peace" is maintained, namely, "love," Col 3:14, 15 [Bengel]; or, "peace" itself is the "bond" meant, uniting the members of the Church [Alford]).
4. In the apostle's creed, the article as to THE Church properly follows that as to THE Holy Ghost. To the Trinity naturally is annexed the Church, as the house to its tenant, to God His temple, the state to its founder [Augustine, Enchiridion, c. 15]. There is yet to be a Church, not merely potentially, but actually catholic or world-wide; then the Church and the world will be co-extensive. Rome falls into inextricable error by setting up a mere man as a visible head, antedating that consummation which Christ, the true visible Head, at His appearing shall first realize. As the "SPIRIT" is mentioned here, so the "Lord" (Jesus), Eph 4:5, and "God the Father," Eph 4:6. Thus the Trinity is again set forth.
hope—here associated with "the Spirit," which is the "earnest of our inheritance" (Eph 1:13, 14). As "faith" is mentioned, Eph 4:5, so "hope" here, and "love," Eph 4:2. The Holy Spirit, as the common higher principle of life (Eph 2:18, 22), gives to the Church its true unity. Outward uniformity is as yet unattainable; but beginning by having one mind, we shall hereafter end by having "one body." The true "body" of Christ (all believers of every age) is already "one," as joined to the one Head. But its unity is as yet not visible, even as the Head is not visible; but it shall appear when He shall appear (Joh 17:21-23; Col 3:4). Meanwhile the rule is, "In essentials, unity; in doubtful questions, liberty; in all things, charity." There is more real unity where both go to heaven under different names than when with the same name one goes to heaven, the other to hell. Truth is the first thing: those who reach it, will at last reach unity, because truth is one; while those who seek unity as the first thing, may purchase it at the sacrifice of truth, and so of the soul itself.
of your calling—the one "hope" flowing from our "calling," is the element "IN" which we are "called" to live. Instead of privileged classes, as the Jews under the law, a unity of dispensation was henceforth to be the common privilege of Jew and Gentile alike. Spirituality, universality, and unity, were designed to characterize the Church; and it shall be so at last (Isa 2:2-4; 11:9, 13; Zep 3:9; Zec 14:9).
5. Similarly "faith" and "baptism" (the sacramental seal of faith) are connected (Mr 16:16; Col 2:12). Compare 1Co 12:13, "Faith" is not here that which we believe, but the act of believing, the mean by which we apprehend the "one Lord." "Baptism" is specified, being the sacrament whereby we are incorporated into the "one body." Not the Lord's Supper, which is an act of matured communion on the part of those already incorporate, "a symbol of union, not of unity" [Ellicott]. In 1Co 10:17, where a breach of union was in question, it forms the rallying point [Alford]. There is not added, "One pope, one council, one form of government" [Cautions for Times]. The Church is one in unity of faith (Eph 4:5; Jude 3); unity of origination (Eph 2:19-21): unity of sacraments (Eph 4:5; 1Co 10:17; 12:13): unity of "hope" (Eph 4:4; Tit 1:2); unity of charity (Eph 4:3): unity (not uniformity) of discipline and government: for where there is no order, no ministry with Christ as the Head, there is no Church [Pearson, Exposition of the Creed, Article IX].
6. above—"over all." The "one God over all" (in His sovereignty and by His grace) is the grand source and crowning apex of unity (Eph 2:19, end).
in you all—The oldest manuscripts omit "you." Many of the oldest versions and Fathers and old manuscripts read, "in us all." Whether the pronoun be read or not, it must be understood (either from the "ye," Eph 4:4, or from the "us," Eph 4:7); for other parts of Scripture prove that the Spirit is not "in all" men, but only in believers (Ro 8:9, 14). God is "Father" both by generation (as Creator) and regeneration (Eph 2:10; Jas 1:17, 18; 1Jo 5:1).
7. But—Though "one" in our common connection with "one Lord, one faith, &c., one God," yet "each one of us" has assigned to him his own particular gift, to be used for the good of the whole: none is overlooked; none therefore can be dispensed with for the edifying of the Church (Eph 4:12). A motive to unity (Eph 4:3). Translate, "Unto each one of us was the grace (which was bestowed by Christ at His ascension, Eph 4:8) given according to," &c.
8. Wherefore—"For which reason," namely, in order to intimate that Christ, the Head of the Church, is the author of all these different gifts, and that giving of them is an act of His "grace" [Estius].
he saith—God, whose word the Scripture is (Ps 68:18).
When he ascended—God is meant in the Psalm, represented by the ark, which was being brought up to Zion in triumph by David, after that "the Lord had given him rest round about from all his enemies" (2Sa 6:1-7:1; 1Ch 15:1-29). Paul quotes it of Christ ascending to heaven, who is therefore God.
captivity—that is, a band of captives. In the Psalm, the captive foes of David. In the antitypical meaning, the foes of Christ the Son of David, the devil, death, the curse, and sin (Col 2:15; 2Pe 2:4), led as it were in triumphal procession as a sign of the destruction of the foe.
gave gifts unto men—in the Psalm, "received gifts for men," Hebrew, "among men," that is, "thou hast received gifts" to distribute among men. As a conqueror distributes in token of his triumph the spoils of foes as gifts among his people. The impartation of the gifts and graces of the Spirit depended on Christ's ascension (Joh 7:39; 14:12). Paul stops short in the middle of the verse, and does not quote "that the Lord God might dwell among them." This, it is true, is partly fulfilled in Christians being an "habitation of God through the Spirit" (Eph 2:22). But the Psalm (Ps 68:16) refers to "the Lord dwelling in Zion for ever"; the ascension amidst attendant angels, having as its counterpart the second advent amidst "thousands of angels" (Ps 68:17), accompanied by the restoration of Israel (Ps 68:22), the destruction of God's enemies and the resurrection (Ps 68:20, 21, 23), the conversion of the kingdoms of the world to the Lord at Jerusalem (Ps 68:29-34).
9. Paul reasons that (assuming Him to be God) His ascent implies a previous descent; and that the language of the Psalm can only refer to Christ, who first descended, then ascended. For God the Father does not ascend or descend. Yet the Psalm plainly refers to God (Eph 4:8, 17, 18). It must therefore be God the Son (Joh 6:33, 62). As He declares (Joh 3:13), "No man hath ascended up to heaven, but He that came down from heaven." Others, though they did not previously descend, have ascended; but none save Christ can be referred to in the Psalm as having done so; for it is of God it speaks.
lower parts of the earth—The antithesis or contrast to "far above all heavens," is the argument of Alford and others, to show that this phrase means more than simply the earth, namely, the regions beneath it, even as He ascended not merely to the visible heavens, but "far above" them. Moreover, His design "that He might fill all things" (Eph 4:10, Greek, "the whole universe of things") may imply the same. But see on Eph 4:10 on those words. Also the leading "captive" of the "captive hand" ("captivity") of satanic powers, may imply that the warfare reached to their habitation itself (Ps 63:9). Christ, as Lord of all, took possession first of the earth the unseen world beneath it (some conjecture that the region of the lost is in the central parts of our globe), then of heaven (Ac 2:27, 28). However, all we surely know is, that His soul at death descended to Hades, that is, underwent the ordinary condition of departed spirits of men. The leading captive of satanic powers here, is not said to be at His descent, but at His ascension; so that no argument can be drawn from it for a descent to the abodes of Satan. Ac 2:27, 28, and Ro 10:7, favor the view of the reference being simply to His descent to Hades. So Pearson in Exposition of the Creed (Php 2:10).
might fill—In Greek, the action is continued to the present time, both "might" and "may fill," namely, with His divine presence and Spirit, not with His glorified body. "Christ, as God, is present everywhere; as glorified man, He can be present anywhere" [Ellicott].
11. Greek, emphatical. "Himself" by His supreme power. "It is He that gave," &c.
gave some, apostles—Translate, "some to be apostles, and some to be prophets," &c. The men who filled the office, no less than the office itself, were a divine gift [Eadie]. Ministers did not give themselves. Compare with the list here, 1Co 12:10, 28. As the apostles, prophets, and evangelists were special and extraordinary ministers, so "pastors and teachers" are the ordinary stated ministers of a particular flock, including, probably, the bishops, presbyters, and deacons. Evangelists were itinerant preachers like our missionaries, as Philip the deacon (Ac 21:8); as contrasted with stationary "pastors and teachers" (2Ti 4:5). The evangelist founded the Church; the teacher built it up in the faith already received. The "pastor" had the outward rule and guidance of the Church: the bishop. As to revelation, the "evangelist" testified infallibly of the past; the "prophet," infallibly of the future. The prophet derived all from the Spirit; the evangelist, in the special case of the Four, recorded matter of fact, cognizable to the senses, under the Spirit's guidance. No one form of Church polity as permanently unalterable is laid down in the New Testament though the apostolical order of bishops, or presbyters, and deacons, superintended by higher overseers (called bishops after the apostolic times), has the highest sanction of primitive usage. In the case of the Jews, a fixed model of hierarchy and ceremonial unalterably bound the people, most minutely detailed in the law. In the New Testament, the absence of minute directions for Church government and ceremonies, shows that a fixed model was not designed; the general rule is obligatory as to ceremonies, "Let all things be done decently and in order" (compare Article XXXIV, Church of England); and that a succession of ministers be provided, not self-called, but "called to the work by men who have public authority given unto them in the congregation, to call and send ministers into the Lord's vineyard" [Article XXIII]. That the "pastors" here were the bishops and presbyters of the Church, is evident from Ac 20:28; 1Pe 5:1, 2, where the bishops' and presbyters' office is said to be "to feed" the flock. The term, "shepherd" or "pastor," is used of guiding and governing and not merely instructing, whence it is applied to kings, rather than prophets or priests (Eze 34:23; Jer 23:4). Compare the names of princes compounded of "pharnas," Hebrew, "pastor," Holophernes, Tis-saphernes (compare Isa 44:28).
12. For—with a view to; the ultimate aim. "Unto."
perfecting—The Greek implies correcting in all that is deficient, instructing and completing in number and all parts.
for—a different Greek word; the immediate object. Compare Ro 15:2, "Let every one … please his neighbor for his good unto edification."
edifying—that is, building up as the temple of the Holy Ghost.
13. come in—rather, "attain unto." Alford expresses the Greek order, "Until we arrive all of us at the unity," &c.
faith and … knowledge—Full unity of faith is then found, when all alike thoroughly know Christ, the object of faith, and that in His highest dignity as "the Son of God" [De Wette] (Eph 3:17, 19; 2Pe 1:5). Not even Paul counted himself to have fully "attained" (Php 3:12-14). Amidst the variety of the gifts and the multitude of the Church's members, its "faith" is to be ONE: as contrasted with the state of "children carried about with EVERY WIND OF DOCTRINE." (Eph 4:14).
perfect man—unto the full-grown man (1Co 2:6; Php 3:15; Heb 5:14); the maturity of an adult; contrasted with children (Eph 4:14). Not "perfect men"; for the many members constitute but one Church joined to the one Christ.
stature, &c.—The standard of spiritual "stature" is "the fulness of Christ," that is, which Christ has (Eph 1:23; 3:19; compare Ga 4:19); that the body should be worthy of the Head, the perfect Christ.
14. Translate, "To the end that"; the aim of the bestowal of gifts stated negatively, as in Eph 4:13 it is stated positively.
tossed to and fro—inwardly, even without wind; like billows of the sea. So the Greek. Compare Jas 1:6.
carried about—with every wind from without.
by—Greek, "in"; expressing "the evil atmosphere in which the varying currents of doctrine exert their force" [Ellicott].
sleight—literally, "dice playing." The player frames his throws of the dice so that the numbers may turn up which best suit his purpose.
of men—contrasted with Christ (Eph 4:13).
cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive—Translate as Greek, "craftiness tending to the methodized system of deceit" ("the schemes of error") [Alford]. Bengel takes "deceit," or "error," to stand for "the parent of error," Satan (compare Eph 6:11); referring to his concealed mode of acting.
15. speaking the truth—Translate, "holding the truth"; "following the truth"; opposed to "error" or "deceit" (Eph 4:14).
in love—"Truth" is never to be sacrificed to so-called "charity"; yet it is to be maintained in charity. Truth in word and act, love in manner and spirit, are the Christian's rule (compare Eph 4:21, 24).
grow up—from the state of "children" to that of "full-grown men." There is growth only in the spiritually alive, not in the dead.
into him—so as to be more and more incorporated with Him, and become one with Him.
the head—(Eph 1:22).
16. (Col 2:19).
fitly joined together—"being fitly framed together," as in Eph 2:21; all the parts being in their proper position, and in mutual relation.
compacted—implying firm consolidation.
by that which every joint supplieth—Greek, "by means of every joint of the supply"; joined with "maketh increase of the body," not with "compacted." "By every ministering (supplying) joint." The joints are the points of union where the supply passes to the different members, furnishing the body with the materials of its growth.
effectual working—(Eph 1:19; 3:7). According to the effectual working of grace in each member (or else, rather, "according to each several member's working"), proportioned to the measure of its need of supply.
every part—Greek, "each one part"; each individual part.
maketh increase—Translate, as the Greek is the same as Eph 4:15, "maketh (carrieth on) the growth of the body."
17. therefore—resuming the exhortation which he had begun with, "I therefore beseech you that ye walk worthy," &c. (Eph 4:1).
henceforth … not—Greek, "no longer"; resumed from Eph 4:14.
other—Greek, "the rest of the Gentiles."
in the vanity, &c.—as their element: opposed to "in the Lord." "Vanity of mind" is the waste of the rational powers on worthless objects, of which idolatry is one of the more glaring instances. The root of it is departure from the knowledge of the true God (Eph 4:18, 19; Ro 1:21; 1Th 4:5).
alienated—This and "darkened," imply that before the fall they (in the person of their first father) had been partakers of life and light: and that they had revolted from the primitive revelation (compare Eph 2:12).
life of God—that life whereby God lives in His own people: as He was the life and light in Adam before the irruption of death and darkness into human nature; and as He is the life in the regenerate (Ga 2:20). "Spiritual life in believers is kindled from the life itself of God" [Bengel].
through—rather as Greek, "on account of the ignorance," namely, of God. Wilful ignorance in the first instance, their fathers not "choosing to retain God in their knowledge." This is the beginning point of their misery (Ac 17:30; Ro 1:21, 23, 28; 1Pe 1:14).
because of—"on account of."
blindness—Greek, "hardness," literally, the hardening of the skin so as not to be sensible of touch. Hence a soul's callousness to feeling (Mr 3:5). Where there is spiritual "life" ("the life of God") there is feeling; where there is not, there is "hardness."
19. past feeling—senseless, shameless, hopeless; the ultimate result of a long process of "hardening," or habit of sin (Eph 4:18). "Being past hope," or despairing, is the reading of the Vulgate; though not so well supported as English Version reading, "past feeling," which includes the absence of hope (Jer 2:25; 18:12).
given themselves over—In Ro 1:24 it is, "God gave them up to uncleanness." Their giving themselves to it was punished in kind, God giving them up to it by withdrawing His preventing grace; their sin thus was made their punishment. They gave themselves up of their own accord to the slavery of their lust, to do all its pleasure, as captives who have ceased to strive with the foe. God gave them up to it, but not against their will; for they give themselves up to it [Zanchius].
lasciviousness—"wantonness" [Alford]. So it is translated in Ro 13:13; 2Pe 2:18. It does not necessarily include lasciviousness; but it means intemperate, reckless readiness for it, and for every self-indulgence. "The first beginnings of unchastity" [Grotius]. "Lawless insolence, and wanton caprice" [Trench].
to work all uncleanness—The Greek implies, "with a deliberate view to the working (as if it were their work or business, not a mere accidental fall into sin) of uncleanness of every kind."
20. learned Christ—(Php 3:10). To know Christ Himself, is the great lesson of the Christian life: this the Ephesians began to learn at their conversion. "Christ," in reference to His office, is here specified as the object of learning. "Jesus," in Eph 4:21, as the person.
21. If so be that—not implying doubt; assuming what I have no reason to doubt, that
heard him—The "Him" is emphatic: "heard Himself," not merely heard about Him.
taught by him—Greek, "taught IN Him," that is, being in vital union with Him (Ro 16:7).
as the truth is in Jesus—Translate in connection with "taught"; "And in Him have been taught, according as is truth in Jesus." There is no article in the Greek. "Truth" is therefore used in the most comprehensive sense, truth in its essence, and highest perfection, in Jesus; "if according as it is thus in Him, ye have been so taught in Him"; in contrast to "the vanity of mind of the Gentiles" (Eph 4:17; compare Joh 1:14, 17; 18:37). Contrast Joh 8:44.
22. That ye—following "Ye have been taught" (Eph 4:21).
concerning the former conversation—"in respect to your former way of life."
the old man—your old unconverted nature (Ro 6:6).
is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts—rather, "which is being corrupted ('perisheth,' compare Ga 6:8, 'corruption,' that is, destruction) according to (that is, as might be expected from) the lusts of deceit." Deceit is personified; lusts are its servants and tools. In contrast to "the holiness of the truth," Eph 4:24, and "truth in Jesus," Eph 4:21; and answering to Gentile "vanity," Eph 4:17. Corruption and destruction are inseparably associated together. The man's old-nature-lusts are his own executioners, fitting him more and more for eternal corruption and death.
23. be renewed—The Greek (ananeousthai) implies "the continued renewal in the youth of the new man." A different Greek word (anakainousthai) implies "renewal from the old state."
in the spirit of your mind—As there is no Greek for "in," which there is at Eph 4:17, "in the vanity of their mind," it is better to translate, "By the Spirit of your mind," that is, by your new spiritual nature; the restored and divinely informed leading principle of the mind. The "spirit" of man in New Testament is only then used in its proper sense, as worthy of its place and governing functions, when it is one spirit with the Lord. The natural, or animal man, is described as "not having the Spirit" (Jude 19) [Alford]. Spirit is not in this sense attributed to the unregenerate (1Th 5:23).
24. put on the new man—Opposed to "the old man," which is to be "put off" (Eph 4:22). The Greek here (kainon) is different from that for "re-new-ed" (Eph 4:23). Put on not merely a renovated nature, but a new, that is, altogether different nature, a changed nature (compare Note,, see on Col 3:10).
after God, &c.—Translate, "Which hath been created (once for all: so the Greek aorist means: in Christ, Eph 2:10; so that in each believer it has not to be created again, but to be put on) after (the image of) God" (Ge 1:27; Col 3:10; 1Pe 1:15), &c. God's image in which the first Adam was originally created, is restored, to us far more gloriously in the second Adam, the image of the invisible God (2Co 4:4; Col 1:15; Heb 1:3).
in righteousness—"IN" it as the element of the renewed man.
true holiness—rather, as the Greek, "holiness of the truth"; holiness flowing from sincere following of "the truth of God" (Ro 1:25; 3:7; 15:8): opposed to "the lusts of deceit" (Greek, Eph 4:22); compare also Eph 4:21, "truth is in Jesus." "Righteousness" is in relation to our fellow men, the second table of the law; "Holiness," in relation to God, the first table; the religious observance of offices of piety (compare Lu 1:75). In the parallel (Col 3:10) it is, "renewed in knowledge after the image," &c. As at Colosse the danger was from false pretenders to knowledge, the true "knowledge" which flows from renewal of the heart is dwelt on; so at Ephesus, the danger being from the corrupt morals prevalent around, the renewal in "holiness," contrasted with the Gentile "uncleanness" (Eph 4:19), and "righteousness," in contrast to "greediness," is made prominent.
25. Wherefore—From the general character of "the new man," there will necessarily result the particular features which he now details.
putting away—Greek, "having put away" once for all.
lying—"falsehood": the abstract. "Speak ye truth each one with his neighbor," is quoted, slightly changed, from Zec 8:16. For "to," Paul quotes it "with," to mark our inner connection with one another, as "members one of another" [Stier]. Not merely members of one body. Union to one another in Christ, not merely the external command, instinctively leads Christians to fulfil mutual duties. One member could not injure or deceive another, without injuring himself, as all have a mutual and common interest.
26. Be ye angry, and sin not—So the Septuagint, Ps 4:4. Should circumstances arise to call for anger on your part, let it be as Christ's "anger" (Mr 3:5), without sin. Our natural feelings are not wrong when directed to their legitimate object, and when not exceeding due bounds. As in the future literal, so in the present spiritual, resurrection, no essential constituent is annihilated, but all that is a perversion of the original design is removed. Thus indignation at dishonor done to God, and wrong to man, is justifiable anger. Passion is sinful (derived from "passio," suffering: implying that amidst seeming energy, a man is really passive, the slave of his anger, instead of ruling it).
let not the sun go down upon your wrath—"wrath" is absolutely forbidden; "anger" not so, though, like poison sometimes used as medicine, it is to be used with extreme caution. The sense is not, Your anger shall not be imputed to you if you put it away before nightfall; but "let no wrath (that is, as the Greek, personal 'irritation' or 'exasperation') mingle with your 'anger,' even though, the latter be righteous, [Trench, Greek Synonyms of the New Testament]. "Put it away before sunset" (when the Jewish day began), is proverbial for put it away at once before another day begin (De 24:15); also before you part with your brother for the night, perhaps never in this world to meet again. So Jona, "Let not night and anger against anyone sleep with you, but go and conciliate the other party, though he have been the first to commit the offense." Let not your "anger" at another's wickedness verge into hatred, or contempt, or revenge [Vatablus].
27. Neither give place—that is, occasion, or scope, to the devil, by continuing in "wrath." The keeping of anger through the darkness of night, is giving place to the devil, the prince of darkness (Eph 6:12).
28. Greek, "Let him that stealeth." The imperfect or past tense is, however, mainly meant, though not to the exclusion of the present. "Let the stealing person steal no more." Bandits frequented the mountains near Ephesus. Such are meant by those called "thieves" in the New Testament.
but rather—For it is not enough to cease from a sin, but the sinner must also enter on the path that is its very opposite [Chrysostom]. The thief, when repentant, should labor more than he would be called on to do, if he had never stolen.
let him labour—Theft and idleness go together.
the thing which is good—in contrast with theft, the thing which was evil in his past character.
with his hands—in contrast with his former thievish use of his hands.
that he may have to give—"that he may have wherewith to impart." He who has stolen should exercise liberality beyond the restitution of what he has taken. Christians in general should make not selfish gain their aim in honest industry, but the acquisition of the means of greater usefulness to their fellow men; and the being independent of the alms of others. So Paul himself (Ac 20:35; 2Th 3:8) acted as he taught (1Th 4:11).
29. corrupt—literally, "insipid," without "the salt of grace" (Col 4:6), so worthless and then becoming corrupt: included in "foolish talking" (Eph 5:4). Its opposite is "that which is good to edifying."
that which, &c.—Greek, "whatever is good."
use of edifying—literally, "for edifying of the need," that is, for edifying where it is needed. Seasonably edifying; according as the occasion and present needs of the hearers require, now censure, at another time consolation. Even words good in themselves must be introduced seasonably lest by our fault they prove injurious instead of useful. Trench explains, Not vague generalities, which would suit a thousand other cases equally well, and probably equally ill: our words should be as nails fastened in a sure place, words suiting the present time and the present person, being "for the edifying of the occasion" (Col 4:6).
minister—Greek, "give." The word spoken "gives grace to the hearers" when God uses it as His instrument for that purpose.
30. grieve not—A condescension to human modes of thought most touching. Compare "vexed His Holy Spirit" (Isa 63:10; Ps 78:40); "fretted me" (Eze 16:43: implying His tender love to us); and of hardened unbelievers, "resist the Holy Ghost" (Ac 7:51). This verse refers to believers, who grieve the Spirit by inconsistencies such as in the context are spoken of, corrupt or worthless conversation, &c.
whereby ye are sealed—rather, "wherein (or 'in whom') ye were sealed." As in Eph 1:13, believers are said to be sealed "in" Christ, so here "in the Holy Spirit," who is one with Christ, and who reveals Christ in the soul: the Greek implies that the sealing was done already once for all. It is the Father "BY" whom believers, as well as the Son Himself, were sealed (Joh 6:27). The Spirit is represented as itself the seal (Eph 1:13, for the image employed, see on Eph 1:13). Here the Spirit is the element IN which the believer is sealed, His gracious influences being the seal itself.
31. bitterness—both of spirit and of speech: opposed to "kind."
wrath—passion for a time: opposed to "tender-hearted." Whence Bengel translates for "wrath," harshness.
anger—lasting resentment: opposed to "forgiving one another."
clamour—compared by Chrysostom to a horse carrying anger for its rider: "Bridle the horse, and you dismount its rider." "Bitterness" begets "wrath"; "wrath," "anger"; "anger," "clamor"; and "clamor," the more chronic "evil-speaking," slander, insinuations, and surmises of evil. "Malice" is the secret root of all: "fires fed within, and not appearing to by-standers from without, are the most formidable" [Chrysostom].
even as—God hath shown Himself "kind, tender-hearted, and forgiving to you"; it is but just that you in turn shall be so to your fellow men, who have not erred against you in the degree that you have erred against God (Mt 18:33).
God for Christ's sake—rather as Greek, "God in Christ" (2Co 5:19). It is in Christ that God vouchsafes forgiveness to us. It cost God the death of His Son, as man, to forgive us. It costs us nothing to forgive our fellow man.
hath forgiven—rather as Greek, "forgave you." God has, once for all, forgiven sin in Christ, as a past historical fact.