The Apostle Paul called upon the church (believers) to grow up. He implored them to learn the Word, to live the Word, and to press away the polluting influences of the sinful world to which they were formally emotional, intellectual, physical, and spiritual slaves.
Paul did not request, nor did he expect perfection any more than Jesus did; Jesus provided for confession, repentance, and forgiveness for good reason. Paul was clear in all of his writings that he had his own struggles and thus anticipated the same in the Christian walk of others.
Paul’s message was that we be intentional in the pursuit of holiness, that such be a major focus of our lives, because in so doing we honor God and we are continually moving away from potential temptation.
Live in Unity
4:1 I, therefore, the prisoner for the Lord, urge you to live worthily of the calling with which you have been called, 4:2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love,
4:3 making every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
4:4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as you too were called to the one hope of your calling,
4:5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism,
4:6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.
Lord, You ask us to be intentional in the pursuit of personal holiness, because You are Holy and we belong to You. May I make time for Bible study and reflection, find prayer and accountability partners, and be faithful in sacrificial service to others so that You make draw me every-nearer to You.
“... live worthily of the calling”—We are children of God, “saints”, destined for eternity in Heaven, privileged to carry His name in this temporary world.
We rightly condemn sports stars and political leaders when they behave in anti-social ways because they bring shame upon the name of their team or their nation; therefore, we must also understand that the Lord God desires that we honor His name in our conduct.
Paul was a living example of humility. He confessed his own failings in several of his letters—we are never to think ourselves better than our peers—or the apostles.
No former enemy of the Lord God (that’s us), saved by God’s grace through faith in Him alone, has justification for arrogance.
Gentleness marks the maturing believer, patience with loving endurance of occasional immaturity toward those who are learning and growing as we had to learn and to grow—older “siblings” to younger “children in the faith”.
Paul reminded us to remember that the newly saved are “The Church” [believers] and we all have the same Holy Spirit; therefore, one does not war with oneself.
The Lord God is one, and we are one as His Church (believers), and our peace comes from our joy in the eternal promise of Heaven through our trust that He is in control.
There is no conflict inside “The Church” [among believers] so long as our eyes are on Him alone.
Children often put-down their younger sibling, taunting them with “little baby” or take advantage of their lack of life experience and knowledge with tricks; sadly, many adults never mature out of this abusive, destructive, and ignorant behavior.
Old-school parents may often chide their children as they head out the door “remember not to do anything that would bring shame to the family name”, so great was their traditional belief in the value of integrity before the watching world. This has been largely lost in a fragmented society where selfishness rules—God calls us to integrity in everything we do as the bearers of the name of Christ. How might we remind children, and peers, to take care how they present the Lord God to a watching world?
Jesus and the apostles modeled humility, yet still there was a constant problem in the early church with arrogant and proud people assuming roles of leadership, the problem continues.
When have you discovered that knowing that you are a “child of God” gave you the perspective and motivation to walk away from sin that otherwise may have ensnared you?
Ask the Holy Spirit to find you teachable and guide you away from an old sin (or perhaps a new one) and toward righteousness instead.
Today I will ask a fellow believer to pray in agreement for this and will share with them what God does to honor our prayers. I will also thank the Lord God for the Holy Spirit who equips us to live worthy of God and in peace with fellow believers—doing so without Him is impossible.
4:7 But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of the gift of Christ.
4:8 Therefore it says, “When he ascended on high he captured captives; he gave gifts to men.”
4:9 Now what is the meaning of “he ascended,” except that he also descended to the lower regions, namely, the earth?
4:10 He, the very one who descended, is also the one who ascended above all the heavens, in order to fill all things.
Lord, You came and rescued humankind—captives of sin in this fallen world—and incarnated in Jesus the Christ and Your Holy Spirit You completed Your plan to provide a path of redemption. May I understand that You love Your creation so dearly that You sacrificed on our behalf—and my response will be a grateful surrender to Your Lordship.
One school of Biblical scholarship teaches that Jesus on the Cross carried our sin down to Hell, left it there, announced our freedom, and rose again. He then ascended back to His home in Heaven to prepare a place for “the captives” whom He had rescued via the Cross. Another suggests that we may read this as a reference to Jesus leaving Heaven for His earthly ministry to later return to His home in Heaven. In either case the most important element is that Jesus is our intercessor.
“... in order to fill all things.” echoes Paul’s prior reference to God’s promises.
The US Secret Service protects the President and others. The job description of an Agent includes literally “taking a bullet” if such is necessary to defend the President from harm. Jesus “took the bullet” of sin’s eternal punishment for us.
When you study the differing views of "descended", separating what the Bible says versus what are the fanciful extra-Biblical notions of classical fictional literature by Dante and modern fictional works of Hollywood, what do you conclude?
“... in order to fill all things” is a reminder that God keeps all of his promises.
When have you discovered that knowing that God keeps His promises provided the strength and trust to walk through an otherwise very difficult experience?
Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal to you someone "considering Christ" with whom He would like you to share this message.
Today I will Thank God that Jesus the Christ humbled Himself to come down to earth, took and dumped our sins in Hell, rose again to Heaven to make a way for us.
Thank God that Jesus took my punishment and made a way for me back to fellowship with God, the purpose for which mankind was originally designed.
Today I will share the amazing story of God's provision for salvation through Jesus—and His continuing provision to His children. It may be on an Internet discussion list (appropriate to the list parameters), a text message, a phone call, a letter, a personal conversation, or some other format—but I make a commitment to "just do it".
4:11 It was he who gave some as apostles, some as prophets, some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers,
4:12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, that is, to build up the body of Christ,
4:13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God—
a mature person, attaining to the measure of Christ’s full stature.
Lord, You choose to use us as Your tools for building the quantity and quality of Your “Church” (believers) and You equip and sends those who will lead and train us in doing so. May I go and serve where I am sent and follow and learn when I need to be lead.
Between the moment of of saving faith—our absolute surrender to Christ—and our arrival in Heaven for eternity (following the Great White Throne Judgment) we are all constantly in the process of maturing.
Jesus provided everything that we needed “... to build up the body of Christ”, that is, to grow His “Church” (believers) in both quality and quantity. Among those resources are apostles, prophets, evangelists, teachers (some of whom are pastors)—their job is not to build buildings, gather adoring fans, create local doctrines, or to do “the work of ministry”—the text is clear that their job is to “equip the saints for the work of ministry”, which is, “to build up the body of Christ”.
This is very important because it means that every single “saint” (believer) is called to “the work of ministry” and that it cannot be delegated-away to apostles, prophets, evangelists, teachers and/or pastors.
This is also very important because it means that every single saint must be constantly-maturing so that they become more and more valuable to the Lord God in His ministry of building up the body of Christ.
Paul elsewhere (1 Cor. 12, etc.) described the various roles of members of the “body” or family of believers that is “the Church”, with an emphasis on the importance that all are serving (and are serving as-called), that none is more important nor any capable of everything. Every part of the body is dependent on the others.
Here Paul emphasized the role of the leaders, from the founding of The Church (believers) until this very day, and until Jesus calls His children home. Apostles were called to establish the Church and to equip those who would sustain the Church once they departed. Prophets, then and now, remind us of Who God is, what He has done, and what He has promised to do. Once the “canon”, the trustworthy Word of the Bible, was closed by the Lord God there is “nothing new under the sun” (or the Son), Rev. 22:18-19 makes that profoundly clear.
Evangelists and teachers (some whom are pastors) tell His-story, feed His sheep, and protect His sheep.
There is an “old school” religious tradition where all of “the work of ministry” is foisted upon the pastor-teacher. He is often expected to perform every function from prayer, teaching, caring, service, evangelism, even “church” property maintenance! This is despite the clear teaching of the Bible about the distributed responsibilities of “the body” and the instruction that the “elders” focus upon their duties as spiritual leaders and delegate overflow-tasks to “deacons”.
In what ways may a pastor-teacher emphasize the “equip(ing) of the saints for the work of ministry”? How can he be protected from becoming too-busy doing their “work” for them.? How might the pastor, and certain hyper-active “saints”, may resist leaping to do most of the “work of the ministry”—because in so doing they deny the blessing of service to others? Is it not evidence of maturity and wisdom for them to learn to to wait a bit when a need arises to allow the Lord God, through His indwelling Holy Spirit, to make clear whom He has been preparing in the body to be blessed as a conduit of His blessing?
What does the phrase “... to equip the saints for the work of ministry” mean to you?
When have you experienced an example of a faithful teacher preparing you "for the work of ministry", showing you opportunities to serve, coaching and mentoring you, but then allowing you to do and to grow and then to multiply yourself as they multiplied themselves in you and others?
Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal to you some things you have been doing which you have not been called and/or have not been gifted to do?
Today I commit to partner with the Holy Spirit in “... equip[ing] the saints for the work of ministry” by teaching, coaching, equipping, and mentoring others to do what they have been called and/or have been gifted to do—so that I may focus on those things to which I have been called.
4:14 So we are no longer to be children, tossed back and forth by waves and carried about by every wind of teaching by the trickery of people who craftily carry out their deceitful schemes.
4:15 But practicing the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into Christ, who is the head.
4:16 From him the whole body grows, fitted and held together through every supporting ligament. As each one does its part, the body grows in love.
Lord, You draw us together for safety and strength and from that safe place we are able to discern falsehoods and to resist manipulation. May I invest in intimate fellowship with mature fellow believers.
We are to be as teachable as children but not as gullible. Paul previously complimented the Bereans for their intentional-validation of all teaching by consulting the Word of God (as much as they had of it in their day).
We have the Word of God, the indwelling Holy Spirit, and are engaged in constant growth in maturity; therefore, we are without excuse for a lack of discernment and/or a lack of progress toward intentional-holiness.
Paul warned again that there would be people who would “craftily carry out their deceitful schemes” with the intent of creating non-Biblical fads “every wind of teaching” and that believers are not to be “tossed back and forth by waves and carried about”.
He concluded with the reminder that together, in unity from love, we may stand strong against deceivers and that the truth will be found in the atmosphere of God’s love and unity.
There may be local “preachers” as well as radio and television “preachers” who promote all manner of magical thinking; the “prosperity gospel”, magical healing from a napkin touched by them (which one may receive for a “small donation”), legalism-equals-righteousness, tradition-equals-truth, etc. They were condemned in the most strident terms by Jesus and by the faithful apostles and prophets and teachers of the New Testament Bible as well.
What is the result when people join fellowships as members, or as leaders, and then they attempt to “craftily carry out their deceitful schemes”?
If the Holy Spirit is to use the Word to guide and to protect us from the charlatans the Word needs to be in our minds for Him to reference, and the Word needs to be authoritative so that we are willing to accept a hard teaching—no matter the circumstances. Walking together with others provides us with shared wisdom and strength.
When have you shared Biblical knowledge and maturity within a fellowship and then together, in unity from love, you stood strong against deceivers. What was the result?
Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal new opportunities to study the Word, together with others, in order to be better equipped to discern and to resist deceivers.
Today I will ask another believer to join me in a brief topical study, in-person or online, of deceivers from the New Testament. (See http://bible.org/seriespage/instruction-concerning-false-teachers-church... )
Live in Holiness
4:17 So I say this, and insist in the Lord, that you no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking.
4:18 They are darkened in their understanding, being alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardness of their hearts.
4:19 Because they are callous, they have given themselves over to indecency for the practice of every kind of impurity with greediness.
Lord, You rescued us from our Godless existence and You gave us purpose versus futility, understanding versus ignorance, adoption versus alienation toward You, sensitivity versus callousness, decency versus indecency, purity versus impurity, and generosity versus greediness. My I be grateful through a life surrendered to Your good works in and through me rather than the meaningless business of the world apart from You.
Paul used the colloquial term “Gentiles”, which was a Jewish slur to refer to all non-Jews, and which carried the instant-meaning, even to Gentiles, of one who is apart from the Lord God. (In the context of “neither Jew nor Greek, male nor female, slave nor free” it still meant the same to Christians but no longer bore the racial epithet of “non-Jewish”.)
He reminded the Ephesians that without Christ, and therefore without the indwelling Holy Spirit, all people are clueless; trapped in the “futility of their thinking”, “darkened in their understanding”, “alienated from the life of God”, crippled by the “ignorance that is in them”, compromised by the “hardness of their hearts”, and desensitized because they were “callous”.
Paul also described the result “they have given themselves over to indecency for the practice of every kind of impurity with greediness.” Their lusts had no ending thus they were slaves to the hopeless pursuit of more and more of nothing that contained and true or lasting value.
The Lord God those who have surrendered to the Lordship of Christ as adults, and even teens, recall the sort of hopeless and senseless “chasing after the wind” that epitomized their choices and priorities; waking every morning desperate to prove-value in the eyes of others—who are themselves also desperate to prove their value to others who are desperate to prove their value to others ... all equally clueless about what is truly valuable.
What is the practical daily-value of knowing the huge chasm between who we were and who we are, because of “Whose” we are, and how critical that is in our battle to successfully resist Satan’s manipulations?
They “old man” Paul described earlier is a constant target of the Enemy, his evil scheming is designed to find any weakness by which he may draw us back into our pre-salvation confusion.
How have you found a way to avoid the people and the places that are rife with temptation, never underestimating either our vulnerability or our enemy?
Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal to you a place in your life where the influence of the world poisons you to the freedom that is right-thinking and right-living in Christ.
Today I will confess and repent, seek and accept the forgiveness of the Lord God, and invest in the priorities and relationships that keep me focused on the Lord.
4:20 But you did not learn about Christ like this,
4:21 if indeed you heard about him and were taught in him, just as the truth is in Jesus.
4:22 You were taught with reference to your former way of life to lay aside the old man who is being corrupted in accordance with deceitful desires,
4:23 to be renewed in the spirit of your mind,
4:24 and to put on the new man who has been created in God’s image—in righteousness and holiness that comes from truth.
Lord, You have made me new—in Your existence outside of created-time You see me already made-new. May I see myself as You do, pressing-away the things that might soil my robes-of-righteousness, pressing-toward the things that draw me nearer to You.
Paul reminded the Ephesians that if they were truly saved then they would have been taught to “... lay aside the old man who is being corrupted” (as a part of their salvation-education).
He emphasized that the corruption of the temporal flesh was continual and that temptations of the flesh did not end at salvation.
“... the truth is in Jesus.” We are “... to be renewed in The Spirit of your mind”, which is to say that we are renewed by the Holy Spirit who dwells within and we are to have our spiritual-selves renewed; our thinking will thereby be radically changed. The change that comes to the way we think, heart-change, is the real-change. Change in our external conduct may or not be real as it may be evidence of internal change or merely something done to seek the approval of others.
Righteousness: ”the state of him who is such as he ought to be”http://net.bible.org/dictionary.php?word=Righteousness
Holiness: ”conformed in all things to the will of God”
Truth: that which is opposed to falsehood”
(Truth is defined by Jesus and found in Him. Knowing Jesus is how we know truth.)
While we move in the direction of holiness and righteousness we must be realistic that perfection can never be ours until we lose what Paul referred to as "this body of death" and are made completely new in Heaven.
Picture yourself as the outline of a heart filled with squares; each square is a piece of you. Imagine that you are driving in rush-hour traffic and are stressed, or you are dealing with a difficult boss or co-worker or family member, or you are struggling with an addiction, bad habit, or an obsession. How do you surrender these things, one-by-one, to the Lordship of Christ through the indwelling Holy Spirit? How do you partner with The Lord God to keep them under His control as you move on to the next and the next, making incremental progress?
It is folly to invest a great deal of energy in the non-Biblical philosophies of “positive mental attitude”, and it is misleading others and ourselves to believe that we can master our imperfections using only our own strength. Real and lasting change comes in partnership with the Lord God where we provide a willing heart and He provides the wisdom and strength.
When have you experienced the Lord God causing change where the world's philosophies and politics have failed you?
Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal to the next place where He wants to partner with you to “take captive” one more as-yet unmastered weakness.
Today I follow where the Holy Spirit leads. I will thank the Lord God for the truth that we may, with the help of the Holy Spirit. resist “deceitful desires”, have our minds are renewed to pre-Fall Eden clarity, and that we may live more-and-more holy and righteous.
4:25 Therefore, having laid aside falsehood, each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members of one another.
4:26 Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on the cause of your anger.
4:27 Do not give the devil an opportunity.
4:28 The one who steals must steal no longer; rather he must labor, doing good with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with the one who has need.
4:29 You must let no unwholesome word come out of your mouth, but only what is beneficial for the building up of the one in need, that it may give grace to those who hear.
4:30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.
4:31 You must put away every kind of bitterness, anger, wrath, quarreling, and evil, slanderous talk.
4:32 Instead, be kind to one another, compassionate, forgiving one another, just as God in Christ also forgave you.
Lord, You protect Your Church (believers) from sin through mutual-accountability and when we are faithful in enforcing Your love-based standard we will have a healthy and safe household of faith. May I seek accountability and warn others when they are without.
Paul directed the Ephesians to always be honest with one another inside the church. He explained that righteous anger is appropriate but that one is never to sin in that anger. (e.g. one may be righteously-angry when someone misquotes the Bible in order to manipulate another for personal gain, but one does not curse at that person or physically-strike them.)
When he warned the Ephesians to not allow the sun to “go down on the cause of your anger” he was addressing the cause and not the symptom; righteous anger at sin inside of the Christian community, insisting that such sin must be immediately confronted “... do not let the sun go down on the cause”.
The NET Bible translator’s notes observe that this appears to be a reference to church discipline as a means of “preventing the devil from gaining a foothold” and furthermore and encouragement for church discipline that is timely and not delayed.
Paul reminded the Ephesians that the devil actively-sought opportunities to lead them into sin and to harm the fellowship—when they did not discipline themselves they created opportunities for the evil one rather than for the Lord God.
Discipline within our fellowship of believers is to be conducted in love (see Eph. 4:1-6) so that those administering the discipline are themselves not drawn into sin.
Paul described some of the sins that they were to avoid.
He warned them that while their salvation was secure, based on the “first downpayment of their salvation”, the indwelling-presence of the Holy Spirit—that same presence meant that every time they sinned they grieved Him.
When our brother or sister sins we must confront that sin immediately and in love, treating them as we would want to be treated, with respect and with a common commitment to persevere along the path to confession, repentance, forgiveness, and restoration.
Does it help to overcome our desire to avoid conflict if we remember that when we tolerate sin within our fellowship it festers and presents a poor model for others, especially the less spiritually mature, and it provides a spiritual point of entry for the Enemy?
Paul’s list of stealing, laziness, crass talk, bitterness, anger, wrath, quarreling, and evil, slanderous talk are sins we must respond to immediately, bit they are not the only sins for which we must watch.
When have you observed the Lord God calling upon a fellowship to respond decisively to sin; what was the result of an obedient response, or the consequences of a failure to respond?
Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal to you a sin in your own walk that you are failing to address.
Today I will confess and repent, seek and accept the forgiveness of the Lord God, and I will ask a fellow believer to be my accountability and prayer-partner as I partner with the Holy Spirit to purge that sin from my life.
All Bible text is from the NET unless otherwise indicated—http://bible.org
Note 1: These Studies often rely upon the guidance of the NET Translators from their associated notes. Careful attention has been given to cite that source where it has been quoted directly or closely paraphrased. Feedback is encouraged where credit has not been sufficiently assigned.
Note 2: When NET text is quoted in commentary and discussion all pronouns referring to God are capitalized, though they are lower-case in the original NET text.
Commentary text is from David M. Colburn, D.Min. unless otherwise noted.
Copyright © 2011 by David M. Colburn. This is a BibleSeven Study— “Ephesians”—prepared by David M. Colburn and edited for bible.org in October of 2011. This text may be used for non-profit educational purposes only, with credit; all other usage requires prior written consent of the author.