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Ephesians 4:1-32

Author: Dr. George M. Flattery

Ephesians 4:1-32

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More Thoughts about Ephesians 4:1-6

In this chapter, Paul begins the second half of his letter with an appeal for unity. Throughout history, an appeal for unity in the church has been necessary. There are so many ways that unity can be disrupted. Because of the need for unity, Paul’s message is so very applicable to our lives today. Paul states:

“1 I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, entreat you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing forbearance to one another in love, 3 being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling; 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all.”

Several points stand out. First, Paul identifies himself as a “prisoner of the Lord.” He is in prison in Rome. However, he regarded himself as the Lord’s prisoner. His being a prisoner in Rome was just an aspect of His service to the Lord. Even if he were not in prison, he would still have called himself a prisoner of the Lord.

Second, Paul entreated the Ephesians to work worthy “of the calling to which they have been called.” The word “calling” encompasses two aspects of our spiritual lives. One is the calling to be a son of God, an emphasis on our spiritual position and experience. The other is our calling about our ministry. In this passage, Paul’s major emphasis is on our spiritual position and maturity.

Third, Paul spells out what the calling involves. The Ephesians have been called to be “diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” They can contribute to peace through “humility and gentleness, with patience, showing forbearance to one another in love.” This is an amazing calling!

Fourth, Paul reminds the Ephesians that there is one Spirit, one Lord, and one God. We serve the one Triune God. We are a part of one body, the body of Christ. Upon believing in Christ, we then are exhorted to be baptized in water. All of this adds up to the fact that we have “one hope of your calling.” Our hope focuses on eternal life and the return of Christ Jesus.

The unity of the Spirit is extremely important for us. Unfortunately, unity is often sacrificed over relatively unimportant matters. In his letter to the Romans Paul writes: “If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men (Rom. 12:18 NAS). That sounds like a good goal for today.

More Thoughts about Ephesians 4:7-13

Paul has just emphasized the unity of the Spirit. That unity should prevail in the body of Christ. Now, in this passage, he turns to a discussion of the individual diversity of the one body. The body of Christ, although it is one body, is individually diverse.

Today, we will focus on verses 7-10 where Paul writes: “7 But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift. 8 Therefore it says, “When He ascended on high, He led captive a host of captives, And He gave gifts to men.” 9 (Now this expression, “He ascended,” what does it mean except that He also had descended into the lower parts of the earth? 10 He who descended is Himself also He who ascended far above all the heavens, that He might fill all things.)

According to verse 7, each member of the body of Christ has received grace. That grace is according to the measure of Christ’s gift. It is Christ who has given the gift of grace to us. It is significant that in Paul’s thinking, God (Romans 12:3), Christ (Ephesians 4:7), and the Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:11) are all three named as givers of spiritual gifts. The grace that each person receives is following God’s will.

Paul’s comments in verses 8-10 are based to some extent on Psalm 68:18. Paul applies the Old Testament passage to the descent and ascent of Christ. With the spiritual gifts in mind, Paul says that “He who descended is Himself also He who ascended far above all the heavens, that He might fill all things.”

Concerning the descent and ascent of Christ, there are two main lines of thought concerning what Paul meant. One is that Christ descended into the underworld after his death (Compare Col. 2:15; 1 Peter 3:19; 1 Peter 4:6) and then ascended. The second line of thought is that Christ descended from heaven to earth in the Incarnation and ascended to heaven after His resurrection. Another view, espoused by G. B. Caird, is that Christ ascended to heaven and then descended in the person of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.

In any case, we do know that Christ came to earth in the form of a human being, that He ministered on earth, and that He ascended into heaven. We know, also, that He received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and that He poured out the Spirit on the Day of Pentecost. In addition, Christ gave spiritual gifts to individual members of the body of Christ. Each of us as believers has at least one gift that we can exercise on behalf of the body of Christ.

More Thoughts about Ephesians 4:11-13

Paul has entreated the Ephesians to have the unity of the Spirit among them. Then, he writes about the individual gifts that Christ gives. In his writing Paul names God and the Holy Spirit as well as Christ as the givers of gifts. Here, he states:

“11 And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fulness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:11-13 NAS).

Right away, we notice that the gifts include ministerial positions that various people held and expressed respectively in the early church. The persons who minister include apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers. They are known for the kind of ministry that they have. For example, a person who evangelizes is known as an evangelist. The gift could be either the evangelist or the ministry of evangelism. Here, Paul emphasizes the person.

All of these positions and ministries should be present in the church today except for apostles in the narrow sense of the term. Narrowly speaking, the term “apostles’ refers only to the apostles in the early church. When the term is used in the
literal and broad sense, it refers to anyone who has been “sent on a mission.” In a broad sense, there are many apostles in the church.

Our discussion of these verses will continue in my next post. Meanwhile, we can express our gratitude to God for the many gifts He has bestowed on people in the body of Christ.

More thoughts about Ephesians

In my last post, I began a discussion of Ephesians 4:11-13. Today, I will continue that discussion with additional “thoughts” about the gifts that Christ bestows. Paul said:

“11 And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fulness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:11-13 NAS).

All of these gifts are present in the church today. Although there are no more apostles in the sense of Pauline apostleship, there are many who are sent into the harvest field to proclaim Christ to the world. A similar situation exists concerning being a prophet. Because “prophet” is often a term of honor, not many people call themselves prophets. On the other hand, prophecy is a gift of the Spirit that can be exercised in the church of today.

With regard to pastors and teachers, this could refer to two different persons or, as many hold, to pastors-teachers. In other words, the phrase can refer to people who are gifted both in being a pastor and in teaching. In other words, they are teaching pastors.

Christ has given all these gifts for a purpose. That purpose is to equip the saints for the work of service, the building up of the body of Christ. The body of Christ is to be built up “until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fulness of Christ.”

Paul starts chapter four with an appeal to unity. Then, he deals with the diverse gifts of individuals. These gifts, properly used, lead to the unity of the faith. We can say that Paul believed in diversity within unity or unity including diversity. Because God has given us our gifts, our gifts, our lives count. We are a part of God’s team.

More Thoughts about Ephesians 4:14-16

There were problems with some people in the church at Ephesus teaching false doctrine. For the church to be united, and the ministers to use their diverse gifts properly, the false teachings must be avoided. The true teachers will equip the saints for life and the ministry. Several points stand out.

First, Paul states: “As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves, and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming” (verse 14). As a result of proper teaching, and proper equipping, the saints will not be persuaded by every “wind of doctrine.” Popular teachings are not always right. All teaching must be in harmony with the Word of God.

Second, Paul states: “but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him, who is the head, even Christ” (verse 15). Concerning this point, Max Anders writes: “The believers are to speak the truth in love. Speaking the truth in love is a mark of maturity, which will enable us to grow up spiritually. Immature people often fall into one of two opposite errors. They speak the truth, but without love, or they love without speaking the truth. When we do the first, we often brutalize others, pounding them with truth but doing it in an unloving way. When we do the second, we don’t tell others the truth, thinking that by shielding them from the truth we are sparing them from pain. We are not, however. All we are doing is delaying their maturation.”

Third, Paul tells us that Christ causes the growth of the body. He says “from [Christ] whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by that which every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.”

Fourth, when Christ causes the growth of the body, the result is that the body is built up in love. Once again, Paul stresses love as the enduring attribute that motivates the saints to blend together in life and ministry. When the members of the body of Christ pull together in love, they become a powerful force for the kingdom of God.

More Thoughts about Ephesians 4:17-24

In this paragraph, Paul addresses the Ephesians Christians. The Christians included believing Gentiles and Jews. Paul contrasts the way that sinful Gentiles lived with the way that Christians ought to live. He states:

“17 This I say, therefore, and affirm together with the Lord, that you walk no longer just as the Gentiles also walk, in the futility of their mind, 18 being darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart; 19 and they, having become callous, have given themselves over to sensuality, for the practice of every kind of impurity with greediness. 20 But you did not learn Christ in this way, 21 if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught in Him, just as truth is in Jesus, 22 that, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, 23 and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, 24 and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth” (Ephesians 4:17-24 NAS).

First, Paul exhorts the believers to not walk as the Gentiles “also walk.” He tells the believers to “walk no longer” as the Gentiles also walk. This suggests that some of the Ephesian believers had not yet totally left the old life behind. Paul describes the life of the unbelieving Gentiles in strong terms. The believers need to diligently avoid their way of life.

Second, Paul tells the Ephesians that “you did not learn Christ in this way.” In other words, the way of Christ is different than the way of the unbelieving Gentiles. The Christians had Christ as their example. Paul preached Christ and held Him up as the highest example for our way of life.

Third, the Ephesians had heard of Christ and had been taught in Him. Therefore, they should lay aside the old self and “be renewed in the spirit of your mind.” The renewal of the spirit is ongoing and repeated. Here, the word “spirit” is sometimes taken to mean Holy Spirit. Given the addition of “your mind,” it seems that the human spirit is intended. However, in Paul’s writings, “spirit” often means the human spirit inspired by the Holy Spirit.

When we accept Christ as Savior, we make a lifelong commitment to Him. However, we also actively “renew” our commitment to Him in an ongoing way. We accept Him as the pattern for our lives and seek to live up to His standard. We walk the pathway of maturation and service.

More Thoughts About Ephesians 4:25-32

In the previous verses, Paul exhorted the Ephesians to put off the old man and put on the new man. In other words, they should put off the old nature and put on the new nature. Then Paul sets down what this means in practice. He states:

“25 Therefore, laying aside falsehood, speak truth, each one of you, with his neighbor, for we are members of one another. 26 Be angry, and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, 27 and do not give the devil an opportunity. 28 Let him who steals steal no longer; but rather let him labor, performing with his own hands what is good, in order that he may have something to share with him who has need.”

First, Paul says that the Ephesians should lay aside falsehood. This is always true, but all the more so because, as members of the body of Christ, they are “members of one another.” Instead of lying, they are to “speak truth.”

Second, Paul tells the Ephesians to “be angry, and yet do not sin.” Sometimes we may get angry. Indeed, we should be “angry” about some things. However, the anger should be controlled. We should not sin as a result of anger. We may need to take action about some things, but the strong feelings of anger need not control us. Other things are not deserving of anger. In such cases, especially, we need to keep anger under control. We should not allow the devil to lead us to sin.

Third, Paul says that the one who steals should not steal any longer. Instead, he or she should work. Elsewhere Paul says, “if anyone will not work, neither let him eat” (2 Thessalonians 3:10 NAS). Here, Paul encourages each Ephesian to work “in order that he may have something to share with him who has need” (verse 28). Instead of stealing, the Ephesians should work so that they can be a blessing to others.

Paul’s exhortations about actions to avoid apply to unbelievers. However, in these verses, Paul is addressing members of the body of Christ. The list of behaviors to avoid is rather striking. For example, one wonders why Paul would need to encourage believers not to steal. However, it is significant that Paul does remind them of this point. People who have put on the new man do not steal.

More thoughts about Ephesians 4:29-32

Here, Paul continues to explain the impact that putting off the old man and putting on the new man ought to have. He gives this exhortation:

“29 Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, that it may give grace to those who hear. 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. 32 And be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you” (Ephesians 4:25-32 NAS).

Paul draws a sharp contrast between the behavior of a person living in accordance with the old man (old nature) and a person living in harmony with the new man (new nature). A person living as a new man will speak edifying words and avoid the unwholesome talk. Such a person will speak wisely and in a timely fashion. Going further, with the new man, a person will put aside all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and slander. Instead, he will be kind to others. He will forgive others just as Christ has forgiven him.

In the middle of this paragraph, Paul writes a key exhortation. He says: “And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.” All of the actions and talk stems from the old man grieving the Holy Spirit. Paul exhorts the Ephesians not to grieve the Holy Spirit.

The phrase “by whom” you were sealed could mean or “in whom.” If the translation “by whom” is used, then the Holy Spirit is the agent of the sealing. However, if Pal intended to say, “in whom,” then it would be understood that God is the agent, and the Holy Spirit is the person in whom the sealing is done. This interpretation is in harmony with Paul’s other uses of the phrase and, in my view, is preferable.

God seals believers in the Holy Spirit. The purpose of the sealing is to mark people as believers. Instead of being marked by anger, slander, and other features, the believer is marked by the presence of the Spirit. His presence lets others know we are believers. The Holy Spirit empowers us to live in harmony with God’s will and purpose for our lives.

George M. Flattery, Ph.D., is the founder of Global University and Network211.

Excerpts transferred from a series originally posted on Dr. George's Facebook.

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