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4. Unity in the Body of Christ

I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, 2With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; 3Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4 There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in 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 you all. 7But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ. 8Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men. 9(Now that he ascended, what is it but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth? 10He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things.) 11And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; 12For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: 13Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: 14That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; 15But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: 16From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.

17This I say therefore, and testify in the Lord, that ye henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind, 18Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart: 19Who being past feeling have given themselves over unto lasciviousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness. 20But ye have not so learned Christ; 21If so be that ye have heard him, and have been taught by him, as the truth is in Jesus: 22That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; 23And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; 24And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.

25Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbour: for we are members one of another. 26Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath: 27Neither give place to the devil. 28Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labour, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth. 29Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers. 30And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption. 31Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: 32And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.

9. Now that he ascended. Here again the slanderers exclaim, that Paul’s reasoning is trifling and childish. “Why does he attempt to make those words apply to a real ascension of Christ, which were figuratively spoken about a manifestation of the Divine glory? Who does not know that the word ascend is metaphorical? The conclusion, that he also descended first, has therefore no weight.”

I answer, Paul does not here reason in the manner of a logician, as to what necessarily follows, or may be inferred, from the words of the prophet. He knew that what David spake about God’s ascension was metaphorical. But neither can it be denied, that the expression bears a reference to some kind of humiliation on the part of God which had previously existed. It is this humiliation which Paul justly infers from the declaration that God had ascended. And at what time did God descend lower than when Christ emptied himself? ( ᾿Αλλ ᾿ ἑαυτὸν ἐκένωσε, Philippians 2:7.) If ever there was a time when, after appearing to lay aside the brightness of his power, God ascended gloriously, it was when Christ was raised from our lowest condition on earth, and received into heavenly glory.

Besides, it is not necessary to inquire very carefully into the literal exposition of the Psalm, since Paul merely alludes to the prophet’s words, in the same manner as, on another occasion, he accommodates to his own subject a passage taken from the writings of Moses. “The righteousness which is of faith speaketh in this manner, Say not in thine heart, who shall ascend into heaven? (that is, to bring Christ down from above;) or, who shall descend into the deep (that is, to bring up Christ again from the dead.”) (Romans 10:6,7 Deuteronomy 30:12.) But the appropriateness of the application which Paul makes of the passage to the person of Christ is not the only ground on which it must be defended. Sufficient evidence is afforded by the Psalm itself, that this ascription of praise relates to Christ’s kingdom. Not to mention other reasons which might be urged, it contains a distinct prophecy of the calling of the Gentiles.

Into the lower parts of the earth. 140140     For ‘the lower parts of the earth,’ they may possibly signify no more than the place beneath; as when our Savior said, (John 8:23,) ‘Ye are from beneath, I am from above; ye are of this world, I am not of this world;’ or as God spake by the prophet, ‘I will shew wonders in heaven above, and signs in the earth beneath.’ Nay, they may well refer to his incarnation, according to that of David, (Psalm 139:15,) or to his burial. (Psalm 63:9.)” — Pearson. These words mean nothing more than the condition of the present life. To torture them so as to make them mean purgatory or hell, is exceedingly foolish. The argument taken from the comparative degree, “the lower parts,” is quite untenable. A comparison is drawn, not between one part of the earth and another, but between the whole earth and heaven; as if he had said, that from that lofty habitation Christ descended into our deep gulf.


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