Where the world comes to study the Bible

Ephesians 4

 

PARAGRAPH DIVISIONS OF MODERN TRANSLATIONS

UBS4 NKJV NRSV TEV NJB
The Unity of the Body Walk in Unity An Appeal to Maintain the Unity of the Faith The Unity of the Body A Call to Unity
4:1-8 4:1-6 4:1-16 4:1-6 4:1-6
  Spiritual Gifts      
  4:7-16   4:7-16 4:7-16
4:9-16        
The Old Life and New The New Man An Appeal to Renounce Pagan Ways The New Life in Christ The New Life in Christ
    (4:17-5:20)    
4:17-24 4:17-24 4:17-24 4:17-19 4:17-24
      4:20-24  
Rules for the New Life Do Not Grieve the Spirit      
4:25-5:5 4:25-32 4:25-5:2 4:25-32 4:25-5:20

READING CYCLE THREE (from "A Guide to Good Bible Reading")

FOLLOWING THE ORIGINAL AUTHOR'S INTENT AT THE PARAGRAPH LEVEL

This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects. Compare your subject divisions with the five modern translations. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one main subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.

CONTEXTUAL INSIGHTS 4:1-32

A. Chapter 4 begins the practical section of the letter (i.e., "walk," cf. 4:1, 17; 5:2,15). Doctrine must affect lifestyle! Truth is relational! Salvation is not a product, a fire insurance policy, or a ticket to heaven, but an ongoing repentance/faith relationship with Christ which issues in Christlikeness.

 

B. Verses 1-6 focus on the theme of the entire book-unity (cf. 1:10). Unity of believers is based on the unity of the Triune God. The corporate fellowship of the gospel challenges the exclusivism of the false teachers and the Jews. The spiritual qualities that lead to unity are stated in verses 2-3. Unity is every believer's responsibility. Unity is the prayer of Jesus (cf. John 17:11,21-22; also note v. 23).

 

C. Unity must be continuously and intentionally pursued because of the diverse giftedness of the people of God. Every believer has been given an effective ministry gift at salvation (I Cor. 12:7,10). The fact that believers are gifted ministers of Jesus, not which particular gift one possesses, is the key to unity in the church. Believers are one body and must function together.

 

D. The modern western church desperately needs the truth of verses 11-12. Church leaders are gifts to Christ's body (the church), given to help and encourage the entire body to function in ministry. Ministry is the task of all believers. There are no "clergy-laity" categories in the New Testament. If you are a Christian, you are a called, gifted, full-time minister. Not all are called vocationally, but all are called to serve!

The task of church leaders (v. 11) is to train the people of God to do the work of ministry, which is to evangelize the lost and mature the saved (v. 12; Matt. 28:19-20).

E.  Ephesians 4:17-5:20 describes the sins of either paganism (cf. 4:17) or the teachings of the Antinomian Gnostic false teachers. How believers live is crucial! No fruit, no root (cf. Matthew 6; 7:15-23)! Eternal life has observable characteristics! The changed and changing lives of believers are evidence of their salvation (cf. James; I John).

 

WORD AND PHRASE STUDY

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 4:1-6
 1Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, 2with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, 3being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling; 5one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all.

4:1 "the prisoner of the Lord" Literally "in the Lord." This is one of Paul's prison letters, probably written in Rome in the early 60's. It is different from 3:1, which has "prisoner of Christ Jesus." Paul saw believers as encompassed by Christ. They live and move and have their being in Him (cf. Job 12:10; Dan. 5:23; Acts 17:28).

▣ "walk in a manner worthy" This begins the practical section of the letter. Unity is maintained by purposeful actions of Christlike living (cf. 2:2, 10; 4:1,17; 5:2, 15; Col. 1:10; 2:6). Christianity is an initial decision followed by lifestyle discipleship (i.e., a gate and a road, cf. Matt. 7:13-14). This follows the same concept as the early designation for the church, "the Way" (cf. Acts 9:2; 19:9, 23; 22:4; 24:14, 22). The term "worthy" is described beautifully in I John 2:6.

Notice that we are to walk worthy because of our calling, not to receive a calling. This pattern follows 2:8-9, 10. We are to do good works because we are saved by grace through faith. Good works and the worthy walk are only possible because we are saved and indwelt by the Holy Spirit! They flow from‒not into. They are the result, not the means (cf. 2:8-9).

Salvation is a gate followed by a way! It is a free gift followed by a "cost everything" lifestyle.

▣ "the calling with which you have been called" This is an aorist passive indicative. The call always comes from God (cf. John 6:44, 65). The word "call" is etymologically related to the term "church" in 3:21. There is an obvious word play on this term (cf. v. 1 [twice] and 4 [twice]).

Believers are called to holiness (cf. 1:4). This is the theological balance to the doctrine of election; mankind must receive God's initiating call (cf. 1:13). The sovereign God has chosen to receive fallen mankind through Christ's work and their repentant faith response (cf. Mark 1:15; Acts 3:16,19; 20:21). The sovereign call and necessary response are the theological twin pillars of both the OT and NT covenants, but the third pillar is godly living. God wants a people who reflect His character (i.e., Holy ones, cf. I Pet. 1:13-25).

SPECIAL TOPIC: CALLED

4:2

NASB, NRSV"all humility"
NKJV"all lowliness"
TEV"be humble"
NJB"complete selflessness"

This term begins a list of Christian virtues which produces unity. "Humility" is uniquely a Christian virtue which was not included in the Greek moralist's (Stoics) list of virtues. Both Moses (cf. Num. 12:3) and Jesus (cf. Matt. 11:29) are described by this term. Paul uses it several times (cf. Phil. 2:3; Col. 2:18, 23; 3:12).

▣ "gentleness" This refers to "domesticated strength" like a trained animal. The KJV translates it "meekness." Wild animals have been tamed to serve mankind. God does not want to break believers' spirits (cf. Psalm 139, He made them), but channel their energies for His purposes. This is one of Paul's favorite metaphors for the Christian life (cf. I Cor. 4:21; II Cor. 10:1; Gal. 5:23; 6:1; Col. 3:12; I Tim. 6:11; II Tim. 2:25; Titus 3:2).

▣ "patience" This term is another favorite of Paul (cf. Rom. 2:4; 9:22; II Cor. 6:6; Gal. 5:22; Col. 1:11; 3:12; I Tim. 1:16; II Tim. 3:10; 4:2). Believers are patient with one another because God is patient with them. Both gentleness and patience are fruits of the Spirit (cf. Gal. 5:22-23).

▣ "showing forbearance to one another in love" This is a present middle participle. Forbearance is another word Paul used often, twelve times in his writings. As God has long-suffering patience with unbelievers (cf. Rom. 2:4; 9:22) believers should continue to deal with the faults and weaknesses (cf. I Tim. 1:6) of other believers in the same gracious way. Believers must put others for whom Christ died before themselves (cf. Rom. 14:1-15:13; Gal. 5:22; Phil. 2:3; 4:5; Col. 3:12-13). This self-giving emulates Jesus (cf. I John 3:16).

4:3

NASB"being diligent to preserve"
NKJV"endeavoring to keep"
NRSV"making every effort to maintain"
TEV"do your best to preserve"
NJB"do all you can to preserve"

This is a present active participle with a present active infinitive. The New English Bible translates it as "spare no effort." Unity is the recurrent motif of the entire letter, much like Philippians. Unity is the will of God for His church (cf. John 17:11,21,23), but it must be aggressively, continually, individually pursued!

▣ "the unity" Remember, the goal is unity, not uniformity! This passage emphasizes oneness to refute the Gnostic emphasis on (1) many emanations and (2) intellectual exclusivism. Believers must sense the need for the health of Christ's Body (the church) and take personal responsibility for its maintenance! This is such a needed truth in our day of individual rights and privileges and personal preferences!

▣ "the bond of peace" Believers are personally responsible for the corporate health and vitality of Christ's body (the church cf. Col. 3:14-15 and I Cor. 12:7). This means you! Only active submission to the good of the whole can maintain peace (cf. Eph. 5:21). See note at 2:15.

4:4 "one body" Paul uses this metaphor often in Ephesians (cf. 2:16; 3:6; 4:4; also Col. 1:18). This refers to the universal church because of the cyclical nature of the book. Most uses of the term "church" in the NT refer to local congregations. The universal church is addressed in Matt. 16:18 and Ephesians. The emphasis is on the unity and oneness of all of God's people and churches.

▣ "one Spirit" This refers to the Holy Spirit. Without the Spirit it is impossible to know God, to come to Christ, and to live the Christian life in unity (cf. John 16:8-15). See note at 3:17. The Gnostics asserted several "spirits" or aeons (i.e., angelic levels).

The term "Trinity" is not a biblical word, but the concept surely is. It is expressed in several passages (cf. Matt; 3:16-17; 28:19; John 14:26; Acts 2:33-34,38-39; Rom. 1:4-5;5:15; 8:9-10; I Cor. 12:4-6; II Cor. 1:21-22; 13:14; Gal. 4:4-6; Eph. 1:3-14,17; 2:18; 3:14-17; 4:4-6; II Thess. 2:13; Titus 3:4-6; I Pet. 1:2; Jude 20-21). If Jesus is divine and the Spirit is a person, then the monotheism of Judaism (cf. Deut. 6:4-6 but notice Isa. 63:9-10) must be reinterpreted in light of one divine essence but three eternally co-existent, co-dependent, personal manifestations. There is mystery here but also clear biblical teaching! See Special Topic at 1:3.

▣ "one hope" Paul uses this term often in several different but related senses. Often it is associated with the consummation of the believer's faith. The consummation is certain, but the time element is future and unknown. See Special Topic: Hope at Col. 1:5.

4:5 "one Lord" This title has both an OT background for YHWH (cf. Exod. 3:14, see Special Topic: Names for Deity at Col. 1:3), and a NT usage in connection with Jesus' deity (cf. Rom. 10:9; I Cor. 12:3; Phil. 2:9-11). There is only one way to be right with God-faith in Christ (cf. John 1:9-18, 3:16; 10:7-18; 14:6; 20:31).

▣ "one faith" This refers either to doctrine (cf. Gal. 1:23; 3:23, 25; Phil. 1:27; Jude 3, 20), which fits the larger context of Ephesians and Colossians, or personal trust, which fits this immediate context best (cf. Gal. 2:16; 3:6-9).

▣ "one baptism" Because of the Trinity being mentioned earlier in this context, this probably refers to water baptism, which was the early church's public confession of faith (cf. Matt. 28:19; Rom. 10:9-13). It symbolized death to the old life and the beginning of the new life in Christ (Rom. 6:4; Col. 2:12).

However, it could refer to Spirit baptism (cf. Acts 2:38; I Cor. 12:13). Even though the Spirit is mentioned in v. 4, these two initial events, one inward (Spirit baptism) and one outward (water baptism), are closely linked in the NT.

4:6 "one God and Father of all" It is somewhat shocking to call God Father (cf. Mal. 2:10). In one important sense all humans are related to God. They have been created by Him, in His image and likeness (cf. Gen. 1:26-27). But in this context, the focus is not on creation but recreation, the second birth, redemption through the efforts of the Triune God (cf. 1:3-14). All humans are not right with God by means of creation, but by personal repentance and faith in the finished work of Christ (cf. Mark 1:15; Acts 3:16, 19; 20:21).

SPECIAL TOPIC: MONOTHEISM

▣ "who is over all and through all and in all" The NT stresses the ultimacy of the Father (cf. I Cor. 3:23; 15:28). This context is one example of how the Bible merges the redemptive actions of the three persons of the Godhead. Here, the Father's indwelling (cf. John 14:23) is emphasized. In Matthew 28:20 and Col. 1:27 the Son's indwelling was emphasized. It is the Spirit, however, to whom this task is normally assigned (cf. John 14:17; Rom. 8:9). This context expresses the priority of the Father (cf. 1:3-14; Rom. 11:36). In Col. 1:16 the same terminology is applied to the Son. There is a fluidity and equality that flows among the persons of the Trinity in their actions which bring salvation to mankind.

The term "all" (pas) is repeated several times for emphasis. Grammatically, it could be neuter, referring to all creation, or masculine, referring to the body of Christ (the church) both corporately and individually.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 4:7-16
 7But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ's gift. 8Therefore 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? 10He who descended is Himself also He who ascended far above all the heavens, so that He might fill all things.) 11And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, 12for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; 13until 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 fullness of Christ. 14As 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; 15but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, 16from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what 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.

4:7 "to each one of us grace was given" Notice the switch from the corporate aspect of the church to the individual aspect. Every believer has a spiritual gift, given at salvation by the Spirit for the common good (cf. I Cor. 12:7, 11). The NT lists of the gifts (cf. I Cor. 12:1-13, 28-29; Rom. 12:3-8; Eph. 4:11) are representative, not exhaustive. This can be seen from the fact that the listing of the gifts and the order in which they are listed varies.

Believers are often counterproductive if they

1. boast over their gifts

2. compare one gift to another

3. define the exact characteristics of each gift

The NT does not dwell on these issues. The reality of a called, gifted family of ministers, a kingdom of priests is the issue (cf. I Pet. 2:5,9; Rev. 1:6). Believers are called to service, not privilege!

▣ "according to the measure of Christ's gift" Jesus is God's gift to fallen humanity. His personality ("gifts of the Spirit," I Cor. 12) and ministry ("the fruit of the Spirit," Gal. 5:22-23) are divided among His people to assure the furtherance of the gospel through their unity and cooperation in the Spirit.

4:8 This is a quote from Psalm 68:18, which originally referred to YHWH. The phrase "gave gifts to men" is found in one Aramaic Targum, the Peshitta (Syriac), and Chaldee translations, while "received gifts from men" is in the Masoretic Text (Hebrew text) and the Septuagint (Greek translation). Paul obviously picked an OT translation that reflected his theological purposes. God in Christ has gifted His people. He gifted them for service, not for a privileged position (cf. Matt. 20:25-28; 23:1-12).

▣ "He led captive a host of captives" The Colossian parallel (cf 2:15) implies that this verse refers to a Roman military triumphal parade, in which the defeated forces were displayed. Here it refers to Christ's victory over the hostile spiritual forces of the universe (possibly related to the Gnostic aeons).

4:9 This verse refers to either (1) the Incarnation (cf. Phil. 2:6-11) or (2) Jesus' descent into Hades (cf. Acts 2:31; Rom. 10:6-7; or possibly I Pet. 3:18-20; 4:6; which is reflected in the early creeds of the Church, "descended into hell").

4:10 "far above all the heavens" This is the parallel contrast to "the lower parts of the earth." Jesus left heaven to become a human. He returned to the highest heaven as the victorious Savior! Note the plural, "heavens" (cf. II Cor. 12:2). The rabbis argued whether there were three or seven heavens. It refers to God's presence or throne room as in Revelation 4-5.

SPECIAL TOPIC: THE HEAVENS

▣ "that He might fill all things" Jesus came to fulfill God's eternal plan for the uniting and redeeming of all mankind as well as physical creation (cf. Rom. 8:19-21). This term "fill" (plēroō, cf. 1:23; 3:19; 4:10; 5:18) was a special term used by the false teachers to describe the angelic levels (aeons). Salvation is not in human knowledge but in repentant faith in Christ's finished work-His incarnation, life, teachings, crucifixion, resurrection, ascension, intercession and promised return.

4:11

NASB"He gave"
NKJV"He Himself gave"
NRSV"the gifts He gave"
TEV"It was he who gave gifts to men,"
NJB"and to some, his gift was"

Christ Himself, or rather the Trinity (cf. 4:4-6; I Cor. 12:4-6), gives spiritual gifts to His/their people. Believers are all gifted ministers. Some are leaders, but all are ministers.

There are several lists of spiritual gifts in Paul's writing (cf. I Cor. 12: 8-10, 28-30; Rom. 12:6-8; Eph. 4:11). These lists are not identical. This implies that these lists are not exhaustive, but representative. For Paul the gifts are aspects of Jesus' ministry given to His body (the church) to continue His ministry. The NT never gives a definitive list of the gifts or a guideline for believers' knowing which gifts they are given. The focus is not on identifying gifts, but on the diverse aspect of ministry. One of the best practical guidelines for knowing one's spiritual gift is found in an IVP booklet called "Affirming the Will of God" by Paul Little. The same guidelines for knowing God's will apply to discovering one's spiritual gift.

▣ "apostles" This is the ongoing usage of the term beyond "The Twelve" (cf. Acts 14:4, 14, Barnabas; Rom. 16:7, Andronicus and Junias; I Cor. 4:6, 9; 12:28-29; 15:7, Apollos; Phil. 2:25, Epaphroditus; I Thess. 2:6, Silvanus and Timothy). Their exact task is uncertain, but it involves proclamation of the gospel and servant leadership of the church. It is even possible that Rom. 16:7 (KJV "Junia") refers to a feminine apostle!

▣ "prophets" The exact function of these gifted believers is also uncertain (cf. Acts 11:28; 21:9-11; 15:32). They are not the same as OT prophets who wrote Scripture. New Testament prophets apply Scripture to new and different situations. They are linked with apostles, evangelists, pastors and teachers because they all proclaim the gospel, but with different emphases. See Special Topic at 2:20.

▣ "evangelists" Surprisingly, in light of Matt. 28:19-20, this gift is mentioned only three times in the NT. Their task in the early church, like the previous two, is uncertain (cf. Acts 21:8; II Tim. 4:5), but again obviously involved proclamation of the gospel and servant leadership. It is possible that these first three gifted leaders had itinerant or regional ministries.

▣ "pastors and teachers" The titles "elders" (presbuteroi), "bishops" (episkopoi), and "pastors" (poimenas) all refer to one function and later office (cf. Acts 20:17, 28; and Titus 1:5-7). The term "elder" had an OT background, while the term "bishop" or "overseer" had a Greek city-state background. The Greek syntax (one conjunction [de] and one article [tous]) links these two titles together as one function, one gifted person who proclaims and explains the gospel to a local situation.

It is interesting that in Rom. 12:7 and 12:28 teachers are listed as a separate gift and pastors are not mentioned at all (unless it is "he who exhorts" in Rom. 12:8). There is so much we moderns do not know about the early church.

4:12

NASB"for the equipping of the saints for the work of service"
NKJV"For the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry"
NRSV"to equip the saints for the work of ministry"
TEV"He did this to prepare all God's people for the work of Christian service"
NJB"so that the saints together make a unity in the work of service"

Leaders are God's gifts given to train the Body of Christ for the work of ministry! The church needs to recapture the power, giftedness and biblical assignment of all the members of the church (clergy - laity, old - young, male - female, cf. Joel 2:28 quoted in Peter's Pentecost sermon in Acts 2). Every Christian is a full-time, God-called, God-gifted minister.

The term "equip" means to cause something to be ready for its assigned purpose. It is used of:

1. broken limbs being healed and made useful again

2. torn fishing nets being mended and thereby able to catch fish

3. ships being fitted with ropes and sails and tacked for sea

4. chicks who had grown large enough to be taken to market

Also, notice the goal is not that only some believers became mature, but all (cf. v. 13). For "saints" see Special Topic at Col. 1:2.

The gifts are given to every believer for the common good (cf. I Cor. 12:7,11). Every believer is a called, gifted, full-time minister of Christ. Not all are "vocational" ministers, but all are servants. The modern church is crippled by (1) a clergy/laity mentality and (2) the concept of salvation as a product instead of a relational process of servanthood!!!

▣ "to the building up of the body of Christ" Paul mixes his building metaphor (cf. 2:20-27) with his body metaphor (cf. 1:23; 4:12; 5:30). Believers are gifted for the common good, not for individual acclaim (I Cor. 12:7). The focus is not on the individual but on the body (cf. v. 4-6). Spiritual gifts are servant towels, not merit badges! Believers are worker bees! See Special Topic: Edify at 2:21.

4:13 "until we all attain" This is an Aorist active subjunctive which denotes an aspect of contingency. It literally means "to arrive at a destination." Note that "all" speaks of our corporate responsibility. Notice the three aspects of maturity mentioned: (1) unity of the faith; (2) knowledge of the Son of God; unto a (3) Christlike maturity. Also, notice the goal is not that some mature, but all!

▣ "the knowledge" This is the compound Greek term (epiginōskō), which implies a full experiential knowledge. This was an obvious rejection of the Gnostic false teachers' emphasis on secret, exclusive knowledge. The believers' knowledge is complete in Christ. This may be a play on the Hebrew concept of "know" as personal relationship (cf. Gen. 4:1; Jer. 1:5; Phil. 3:8,10) versus the Greek concept known as cognitive information. Both are needed for a mature Christianity.

▣ "mature man" This is in contrast to "children" of verse 14. The Greek root (telos) means "complete," "fully equipped," not sinless or perfect (KJV).

4:14 "as a result, we are no longer to be children" This implies that many believers were saved but immature (cf. I Cor. 3:1-3; Heb. 5:11-14). They still did not sense the necessary submission and dedication needed to be servant ministers. Believers must die to self and be alive to God (cf. Rom. 6:1-14; II Cor. 5:14-15; Gal. 2:20; I John 3:16).

NASB"tossed here and there by waves, and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming"
NKJV"tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness by which they lie in wait to deceive"
NRSV"tossed to and fro and blown about by every wind of doctrine, by people's trickery, by their craftiness in deceitful scheming"
TEV"carried by the waves and blown about by every shifting wind of the teaching of deceitful men, who lead others to error by the tricks they invent"
NJB"or tossed one way and another and carried along by every wind of doctrine, at the mercy of all the tricks men play and their cleverness in practicing deceit"

This obviously refers to the false teachers, who seem to be a combination of Greek philosophers and Jewish legalists. This phrase refers both to human deception (the false teachers) and angelic deception (craftiness in deceitful scheming). Behind these false teachers lay the activity of the fallen angelic levels (cf. 6:10-12; I Cor. 10:20; Daniel 10). God's people are tricked, manipulated and deceived because they have not matured in Christ. There is a spiritual battle even after conversion. The goal of the Christian is not just heaven when they die but Christlikeness and ministry now (cf. v. 15; Rom. 8:28-30; Gal. 4:19)!

4:15 Believers are not just to speak the truth, but to live and to teach the truth in love (cf. Ezra 7:10). The goal is unity (vv. 2-3)! How different this was from the confusion and rivalry of the false teachers.

4:16 Paul uses the metaphor of the human body to emphasize unity in love, amidst diversity. Disunity opens the door to Satan, his angels, and false teachers (cf. Col. 2:8). See Special Topic: Edify at 2:21.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 4:17-24
 17So this I say, and affirm together with the Lord, that you walk no longer just as the Gentiles also walk, in the futility of their mind, 18being 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; 19and they, having become callous, have given themselves over to sensuality for the practice of every kind of impurity with greediness. 20But you did not learn Christ in this way, 21if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught in Him, just as truth is in Jesus, 22that, 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, 23and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, 24and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.

4:17

NASB"This I say, and affirm together with the Lord"
NKJV"This I say, therefore, and testify in the Lord"
NRSV"Now this I affirm and insist on in the Lord"
TEV"In the Lord's name, then, I say this and warn you"
NJB"In particular, I want to urge you in the name of the Lord"

This claim of co-affirmation with the Lord shows Paul's apostolic authority and knowledge of Jesus' teachings.

▣ "that you walk no longer" In verses 17-19 there is a series of characteristics of the heathen lifestyle. These new believers themselves used to live like this (cf. v. 28). Paul lists the characteristics of fallen humanity several times in his writings (cf. Rom. 1:29-31; I Cor. 5:11; 6:9; II Cor. 12:20; Gal. 5:19-21; Eph. 4:19,31; 5:3-4; Col. 3:5-9). See Special Topic at Col. 3:5.

How to produce holiness was the major conflict between Paul and the Jewish legalists. Both Paul and the Judaizers wanted a righteous lifestyle in converts. Paul acknowledged the past pagan sins of these believers, but believed that free grace, an indwelling Spirit, and a growing knowledge of the gospel would produce what legalism could not. The performance of the Old Covenant has been replaced by the new heart and mind of the New Covenant (cf. Jer. 31:31-34; Ezek. 36:22-32).

NASB, NKJV,
NRSV"in the futility of their mind,"
TEV"whose thoughts are worthless"
NJB"the empty-headed life"

This term means "vain," "empty," "aimless" (cf. Rom. 1:21). Verses 17-19 refer to either (1) the false teachers' speculations or (2) the believers' previous lives in paganism.

4:18 "being darkened in their understanding" This is a perfect passive participle. Their current state of spiritual blindness (as is ours) is a result of (1) supernatural temptation; (2) heretical influence; and (3) personal choice.

▣ "excluded from the life of God" This is another perfect passive participle. This refers to separation from the OT covenant God and His promises (cf. 2:12).

▣ "because of the ignorance that is in them" This refers to self-willed ignorance (cf. Romans 1:18-3:20).

▣ "because of the stubbornness of their hearts" This is the abiding results of the fall (cf. Gen. 3; John 3:17-25). See Special Topic: Heart at Col. 2:2.

4:19

NASB"having become callous"
NKJV"being past feeling"
NRSV"have lost all sensitivity"
TEV"have lost all feeling of shame"
NJB"sense of right and wrong once dulled"

This is another perfect active participle. Fallen humanity had become, and remained, insensitive or hardened beyond feeling, to both natural revelation (cf. Ps. 19:1-6; Rom. 1:18-2:16) and special revelation of the Bible and the Son, the written word (cf. Ps. 19:7-12) and the living Word (cf. John 1:1-14).

NASB"having given themselves over to sensuality"
NKJV"having given themselves over to licentiousness"
NRSV"have abandoned themselves to licentiousness"
TEV"give themselves over to vice"
NJB"have abandoned themselves to sexuality"

This literally means "open shamefulness" (cf. Rom. 1:24, 26, 28). Fallen humanity has abandoned all restraints, social and spiritual. These false teachers even shocked other pagans.

NASB"for the practice of every kind of impurity with greediness"
NKJV"to work all uncleanness with greediness"
NRSV"greedy to practice every kind of impurity"
TEV"and all sorts of indecent things without restraint"
NJB"eagerly pursue a career of indecency of every kind"

This means more and more for me at any cost (cf. Col. 3:5). Fallen humanity has lost the sense of corporate good. Humans live only for themselves, for the moment. This is the curse of the Fall of Genesis 3. It is so clearly manifested in modern western society!

4:20 "but you did not learn Christ in this way" This is a strong contrast between Christ's preachers and the false teachers. Verse 17 implies a contrast between their previous life in paganism and their new life in Christ.

4:21 "if" This is a first class conditional sentence which was assumed to be true from the author's perspective or for his literary purposes. These believers had heard the truth.

▣ "Jesus" This was a rare use of the name "Jesus" by itself, in Paul's writings. It may be related to the false teachings concerning Jesus the man (i.e., His humanity) versus Christ the Spirit (i.e., His deity). In Gnosticism Jesus could not be fully God and fully man because "spirit" (i.e., God) is good, but matter (i.e., humanity) is evil. They would assert His deity but deny His humanity (cf. I John 4:1-6). It is interesting that modern society has reversed this heresy.

4:22 "lay aside" There are three aorist infinitive clauses in vv. 22, 23 and 24. Clothing is used as a metaphor to describe spiritual characteristics (cf. Job 29:14; Ps. 109:29; and Isa. 61:10). This was also an emphasis on the need for repentance and a resulting changed life (cf. Mark 1:15; Acts 3:16,19; 20:21).

NASB"your former manner of life"
NKJV"your former conduct"
NRSV"your former way of life"
TEV"which made you live as you used to"
NJB"give up your old way of life"

The KJV translation has "conversation," which meant "lifestyle" in a.d. 1611 when that translation was written. This clearly shows the need for updating translations! No translation is inspired. Their job is to communicate the gospel to one or more generations. Only the original message given by God is inspired.

▣ "the old self" This refers to mankind's fallen characteristics and propensities in Adam (cf. Rom. 6:6; Col. 3:9). It is the priority of self, independence from God, more and more for me at any cost!

4:23 "you be renewed in the spirit of your mind," This is a present passive infinitive. Believers are to continue to be made new in their thinking by allowing the Spirit to develop the mind of Christ in them (cf. Rom. 12:2; Titus 3:5). This is an aspect of the "new covenant" from Jer. 31:31-34 (cf. Ezek. 36:22-38).

4:24 "put on" This is an aorist middle infinitive. This is the clothing metaphor which emphasizes the continuing decision to be in Christ (cf. Rom. 13:14; Gal. 3:27; Col. 3:8,10,12,14; James 1:21; I Pet. 2:1). This terminology of putting on Christ may have even been connected to the ordinance of baptism in the early church, where new converts put on clean, white clothing after baptism. It denotes a volitional choice!

▣ "new self" This is a metaphor for the new life in Christ. Peter called it "partaking of the divine nature" in II Pet. 1:4. This is in contrast to the old fallen Adamic nature of v. 22.

▣ "in the likeness of God" Believers should have the family characteristics of God (cf. Rom. 8:28-29; Gal. 4:19). The Bible emphasizes our position in Christ and also our need for progressive Christlikeness. Salvation is free, but maturity costs everything! Christianity is both a death and a life, a point and a process, a gift and a reward! This paradox is very difficult for modern people to grasp. They tend to emphasize one aspect or the other. See Special Topic below.

SPECIAL TOPIC: RIGHTEOUSNESS

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 4:25-32
 25Therefore, laying aside falsehood, speak truth each one of you with his neighbor , for we are members of one another. 26be angry, and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, 27and do not give the devil an opportunity. 28He who steals must steal no longer; but rather he must labor, performing with his own hands what is good, so that he will have something to share with one who has need. 29Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear. 30Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. 32Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.

4:25 "lay aside" This is an aorist middle participle used as an imperative. It continues the metaphor of clothing (cf. v. 24). The believer needs to make an initial decision followed by repeated (i.e., daily, even hourly) decisions to live a holy life. See Special Topic: Vices and Virtues in the NT at Col. 3:5.

▣ "falsehood" This refers to either

1. lying

2. "the lie" of unbelief as it was used in I John 2:22

3. the message of the false teachers

 

▣ "speak truth each one of you with his neighbor," This is a quote from Zechariah 8:16. Notice Paul quotes the OT as encouragement for new covenant believers (cf. v. 26). The OT is not a means of salvation, but it is still the revealed and authoritative revelation of God (cf. Matt. 5:17-19). The OT still functions in sanctification, just not in justification. See Special Topic: Truth at 1:13.

▣ "for we are members of one another" The "body" is one of Paul's metaphors for the church (cf. I Cor. 12:12-30). Believers are gifted for the common good (cf. I Cor. 12:7). Believers live for the family. They cannot live as isolated individuals.

4:26 "Be angry, and yet do not sin" This is a present middle (deponent) imperative. This is a quote from Ps. 4:4. There are some areas of life where anger is appropriate, but it must be handled properly (i.e., Jesus cleansing the temple, cf. John 2:13-17).

 This begins a series of present imperatives with the negative particle which usually means to stop an act already in progress (cf. vv. 26, 27, 28, 29, and 30).

▣ "Do not let the sun go down on your anger" This may have been an allusion to Deut. 24:15. The Jewish day began at sunset (cf. Gen. 1:5). Anger is a powerful emotion which must be dealt with quickly. This may refer metaphorically to time or literally to sleep which allows anger to become a subconscious force.

4:27

NASB"do not give the devil an opportunity"
NKJV"nor give a place to the devil"
NRSV"do not make room for the devil"
TEV"don't give the Devil a chance"
NJB"or else you will give the devil a foothold"

This is a present active imperative with the negative particle which usually implies to stop an act in process. Anger which is not godly is an opening for spiritual attack; even godly anger (cf. John 2:13-17; Matt. 21:12-13) must be dealt with quickly (cf. Eph. 6:10-18).

The term "devil" is a Greek compound (diabolos) which meant "to throw across" (cf. Acts 13:10; Eph. 4:27; 6:11; I Tim. 3:6,7; II Tim. 2:26). It was a metaphorical way of referring to the OT angel, Satan the accuser. Paul referred to Satan in several passages (cf. Acts 26:18; Rom. 10:20; I Cor. 5:5; 7:5; II Cor. 2:11; 11:14: 12:7; I Thess. 2:18; II Thess. 2:9; I Tim. 1:20; 5:15). Satan was apparently an angelic being who rebelled against God (cf. Gen. 3; Job 1-2; Zech. 3). It is biblically difficult to talk about Satan because

1. the Bible never speaks definitively of the origin or purpose of evil

2. the OT texts which are usually seen as possibly related to Satan's rebellion are specifically directed to the condemnation of prideful earthly rulers (King of Babylon, Isaiah 14 and King of Tyre, Ezekiel 28) and not Satan (see Special Topic: Personal Evil at 2:2)

It is obvious from several NT passages that there was conflict in the spiritual realm (Matt. 4:10; 12:26; 16:23; John 13:27; 14:30; 16:11; Acts 5:3; II Cor. 4:4. Eph. 2:2; I John 5:19; Rev. 2:9,13,24; 3:9; 12:9; 20:2,7). Where, when, and how are all mysteries. Believers do have an angelic enemy (cf. 2:2)!

The relationship between God and Satan has developed from one of service to antagonism. Satan was not created evil. His adversarial work in Genesis 3, Job 1-2 and Zechariah 3 were within God's will (cf. A. B. Davidson's An Old Testament Theology, pp. 300-306, for the development of evil in the Bible). It provided a test for human loyalty and trustworthiness. Mankind failed!

4:28 "he who steals must steal no longer" The new life in Christ has the potential and goal to radically and permanently change one's actions and character. This change is an evidence of one's salvation and a witness to the lost.

▣ "he must labor" This is a present active imperative. Judaism held manual labor in high regard; so too, did early Christianity (cf. I Thess. 4:11; II Thess. 3:10-12).

▣ "in order that he may have something to share with him who has need" Labor is not only the will of God for mankind, but a way to share with those in need. Believers are stewards of God-given prosperity (cf. Deut. 8:11-20), not owners. Our giving is a true barometer of our spiritual health (cf. II Corinthians 8-9).

SPECIAL TOPIC: WEALTH

4:29

NASB"Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth"
NKJV"Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth"
NRSV"Let no evil talk come out of your mouth"
TEV"Do not use harmful words in talking"
NJB"Guard against foul talk"

This term literally was used of something rotten or of crumbling stone work (cf. Matt. 7:17-18; 12:37; Luke 6:43). It came to be used metaphorically of something "corrupt," "depraved," "vicious," "foul," or "impure." In context it refers to the teachings and lifestyles of the false teachers (cf. Col. 3:8). It does not, in this context, refer to jokes, or coarse jesting (cf. 5:4; Col. 4:6). Jesus taught that speech reveals the heart (cf. Mark 7:15; 18-23). See Special Topic: Human Speech at Col. 3:8.

▣ "but only such a word as is good for edification" One evidence of God-given spiritual gifts is that they edify the whole body (cf. Rom. 14:13-23; I Cor. 14:4,5,12,17,26). Believers must live, give, and minister for the good of the body (the church, cf. I Cor. 12:7), not for themselves (cf. v. 3). Again the corporate aspect of biblical faith is emphasized above individual freedom (cf. Rom. 14:1-15:13). See Special Topic: Edify at 2:21.

▣ "that it may give grace to those who hear" In context this cannot mean "grace," as in salvation, but goodness or favor to other believers, especially those tempted and tested by (1) false teachers (cf. II Pet. 2:1-21) or (2) the pull of one's previous life in paganism (cf. II Pet. 2:22).

4:30 "Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God" This is a present active imperative with the negative particle which usually means to stop an act in process. This expresses the truth that the Spirit is a person. It also shows that believers' actions cause pain to the Holy Spirit (cf. I Thess. 5:19). This may be an allusion to Isa. 63:10. The Spirit's goal for all believers is Christlikeness (cf. 1:4; 2:10; 4:13; Rom. 8:28-29; Gal. 4:19). See Special Topic: The Personhood of the Spirit at 1:14.

▣ "by whom you were sealed" This is an aorist passive indicative. This sealing is done by the Spirit at salvation (cf. Eph. 1:13-14; Rev. 7:2-4). Sealing was a cultural sign of ownership, security, and genuineness. Believers belong to Christ! See Special Topic: Seal at 1:13.

▣ "for the day of redemption" This refers to the Second Coming, Resurrection Day, or Judgment Day, depending on one's relationship to Christ. See Special Topic: Ransom/Redeem at Col. 1:14. For a good discussion of this verse see Gordon Fee, To What End Exegesis? pp. 262-275.

4:31 "all bitterness" This refers to a settled state of animosity with no chance of reconciliation.

▣ "wrath" This (thumos) refers to a fast burning anger or rage (cf. II Cor. 12:20; Gal. 5:20; Col. 3:8).

▣ "anger" This (orgē) refers to a slow burning or settled resentment (cf. II Cor. 12:20; Gal. 5:20; Col. 3:8).

▣ "clamor" This refers to an outcry (cf. Matt. 25:6; Acts 23:9). In this context it might refer to loud threats or charges of wrong doing by the false teachers or their followers.

▣ "slander. . .with all malice" This may also reflect the techniques of the false teachers. This list shows the problems caused by (1) the false teachers or (2) the characteristics that cause disunity. These same sins are also listed in Col. 3:8.

▣ "put away" This is an aorist passive imperative. Believers must allow the Spirit to remove these characteristics of the old, fallen, Adamic nature once and for all. As salvation involves a decisive personal choice, so does the Christian life.

4:32 "Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other" This is contrasted with v. 31. It is a present middle (deponent) imperative. These are the positive continuing commands (cf. Col. 3:12-13) that

1. please the Spirit

2. build the fellowship of the saints

3. attract lost people

 

"just as God in Christ also has forgiven you" This is the underlying motive for believers' actions, the actions of Christ toward them (cf. Matt. 6:12, 14-15; 18:21-35; Phil. 2:1-11; I John 3:16).

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought provoking, not definitive.

1. List the characteristics of "worthy lives." How does your life compare?

2. Why is unity so important?

3. What is Paul stressing in verses 4-6?

4. Does every Christian have a spiritual gift? When do they receive it? Who gives it? For what purpose?

5. What is the goal of the church?

6. List the plight of the heathen (vv. 17-19).

7. List three things that the Christian should do (vv. 22-24).

8. List the four vices of Christians listed in vv. 25-31.

 

Copyright © 2012 Bible Lessons International