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Study Notes on Ephesians 4

Ephesians 4

We now get to the practical half of this epistle. Typically easier to understand, but harder to obey.

1 I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called,

Therefore, for the cause of Jesus and for preaching the great salvation we have, am in prison. You all are free, and should walk in worthy of the Lord in whatever state you are in. This is a command and therefore not something that comes automatically.

A great verse and a reminder that Paul is writing this from prison, which is pertinent because he says to walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called. Just because he was locked up didn't stop him from serving the Lord.

"The context shows that condition, employment, or business of life, is that to which the apostle refers." - Adam Clarke

1 Corinthians 7:20-22, Let every man abide in the same calling wherein he was called. Art thou called being a servant? care not for it: but if thou mayest be made free, use it rather.

For he that is called in the Lord, being a servant, is the Lord's freeman: likewise also he that is called, being free, is Christ's servant.

2 With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love;

3 Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

How do we walk worthy? These verses give specifics and there's numerous verses in the bible on what the conduct of the believer should be.

Lowliness means humility. Meekness includes the ideas of self-control, a lack of retaliation, a mild spirit. Longsuffering is patience, endurance. Forbearing one another is supporting one another, and bearing each others' burdens.

How can such things be obeyed if one is not in church? They can't. There should be unity in each church and this unity should be worked at to maintain.

Romans 12:10 Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another

Galatians 6:2, Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.

4 There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling;

5 One Lord, one faith, one baptism,

These are things that each body should have to unify them.

Think about this logically: If there is one Spirit, does that mean the Holy Spirit only inhabits one person? Of course not. If there is one faith, does only one person have faith? Of course not. If there is one baptism, does that mean baptism only happened once? Of course not. In the same way, one body does not denote one single church body; there are churches all over the world.

There is one kind of body (a biblical church), just as there is one Holy Spirit (not various kinds of Holy Spirit).

There is only one hope of our calling, and one faith (not many hopes, or many paths to heaven). There is only one baptism, and that is after someone believes on Christ for salvation (not various ways to be baptized, or different kinds of baptism).

"Neither the expression "invisible church" nor the idea of such an expression can be found in the New Testament.

The whole purpose of the "invisible church" dogma is to justify the Protestant splits from Roman Catholicism. But since Baptists are not Protestants and were never a part of the heretical Catholic system, we have no need of any such dogma to justify our existence.

Most Protestants and many ignorant Baptists suppose that Christ built two churches; that is, two kinds of churches: the "invisible church" of their own vain imagining and the organized assemblies that they cannot help recognizing in the New Testament. Then, to add insult to injury, they call their imaginary monstrosity the "true" church! But the Bible says there is only one body (church), that is, one kind of body, just as there is only one baptism, that is, one kind of baptism [Ephesians 4:4-5].

Since there is no just reason to do otherwise, we must understand that Jesus used the word, "church" [Greek - ekklesia] in Matthew 16:18 in the same general sense that it has everywhere else in the New Testament: that is, an assembly, almost always an organized assembly. The word here is used abstractly; that is, it expresses an idea whose realization is to be found in a particular organized assembly." - Rosco Brong

"The 'one body' means one kind of body (a local assembly), institutionally called 'the church.'" - Garner-Howes

6 One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.

God is above everything. He is King, He is through all creation and time, and in every believer.

Jeremiah 23:24, Can any hide himself in secret places that I shall not see him? saith the Lord. Do not I fill heaven and earth? saith the Lord.

7 But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ.

After establishing the unity that should exist in the church, Paul talks about some of the gifts that each person has, and how those should be used for the benefit of each other in the church (see verse 12).

There isn't room here for a full discussion, but "gifts" don't necessary denote one specific skill someone could have, but rather gifts represent opportunities one has to edify the body. It's a fallacy to think that you don't have the gift of evangelism and therefore you are exempt from sharing the gospel. However, in this passage the gifts mentioned pertain to specific functions in the church.

See Romans 12 and 1 Corinthians 12 for similar passages on this topic.

"In the Church all do not get alike; grace is not given in equal measures as the manna in the wilderness; Christ, as the great Bestower, measures out his gifts, and each receives according to his measure...These are varied, because what each gets he gets for the good of the rest; the Church is a fellowship or brotherhood, where each has an interest in all and all in each, and is bound to act accordingly." - TPC

8 Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men.

This is quoted from Psalm 68:18 showing that it is a Messianic Psalm.

Now this verse and the next two are hotly debated, but I'll attempt to provide a reasoned explanation.

When Christ acended He showed His victory over sin and death. He sent the Holy Spirit down (John 16:7) for indwelling believers, and for various gifts such as those temporary ones at Pentecost (Acts 2:33) as well as those described in this passage. Leading captivity captive illustrates Christ's triumph over the enemy.

" a conqueror at a triumph gets gifts to distribute, so Christ, on his resurrection and ascension, got the Holy Spirit to bestow on his Church." - TPC

"...the allusion is to the public triumphs of the Romans, in which captives were led in chains, and exposed to open views." - John Gill

9 (Now that he ascended, what is it but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth?

10 He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things.)

So what does "descended first into the lower parts of the earth" mean? Some think it means Hell, or Abraham's Bosom. I would suggest it merely means His incarnation, humiliation, death, and resurrection. Compare with Psalm 139:13-15.

Psalm 139:15, My substance was not hid from thee, when I was made in secret, and curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth.

"This has sometimes been interpreted of Hades, but surely without reason. If the expression denotes more than Christ's humble condition, it probably means the grave. This was the climax of Christ's humiliation; to be removed out of men's sight, as too offensive for them to look on—to be hidden away in the depths of the earth, in the grave, was indeed supremely humbling." - TPC

11 And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;

Connect this verse with verse 8 above considering that 9 & 10 are paranthetical in the apostle's thought. Some of the gifts that Christ gave when He ascended (remember this passage is about unity and peace in the church) include these ministries:

Apostles: Those who had seen the risen Lord. Not an office for today.

Prophets: Like Agabus or John. Not an office for today since Scripture is now complete. If used in the other sense of preaching, like in 1 Corinthians 14, then this would obviously apply to preachers.

Evangelists: Like Philip the evangelist of Acts 21:8. This is a work of spreading the gospel (also see 2 Timothy 4:5) like a missionary or soul winning leader.

Pastors and teachers: Terms applied to the same office. Pastor means to shepherd because they watch over the flock, the congregation they have been appointed to. Bishop, Elder, and Pastor refer to the same office (Acts 20:17-28; Titus 1:5-7; 1 Peter 5:1-4 etc.).

12 For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:

This is the purpose these gifts serve. Imagine reading this section of Scripture and thinking it's ok to forsake church. The church, and those in it, are to equip the saints for God's work and to edify one another.

Also, I’ve never seen or even heard of a modern day example where alleged “tongue-speaking” did this in the slightest.

13 Till 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:

This is what church does. You cannot grow and have a successful Christian life apart from the instution Jesus ordained.

14 That 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;

One thing I see very often is that people who shout forth all manner of strange heresies are also anti-church. People are getting their doctrine from TikTok clips rather than from Scripture and men chosen and gifted by God to preach from it (see Acts 20:29-30).

A "perfect man" in verse 13 is contrasted with "children" here in verse 14.

15 But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ:

Speaking truth contrasted with those lying in wait to deceive. The truth matters and must reign. Compromise is not permitted in the Faith. We should be growing more Christ-like as verse 13 says.

16 From 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.

The Christian life is not one of solitude. We are to edify, encourage, and sharpen one another.

"The apostle's meaning is, that, as the human body is formed by the union of all the members to each other, under the head, and by the fitness of each member for its own office and place in the body, so the Church is formed by the union of its members under Christ, the head. Farther, as the human body increases till it arrives at maturity by the energy of every part in performing its proper function, and by the sympathy of every part with the whole, so the body or Church of Christ grows to maturity by the proper exercise of the gifts and graces of individuals for the benefit of the whole." - Dr. Macknight

17 This I say therefore, and testify in the Lord, that ye henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind,

Therefore, because of everything that's been said thus far and to continue from the first three verses, do not live as others live. Again, a command in Scripture showing that this isn't automatic. It's completely possible and common that someone will get saved but no outward difference will be seen in their life. Paul says that is far from ideal.

18 Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart:

19 Who being past feeling have given themselves over unto lasciviousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness.

Verse 18 places the fault for unbelief at the feet of the sinner. Their hearts and their ignorance (see 2 Peter 3:5) is the cause for their rejection of the gospel.

Verse 19 seems to describe those that are more far-gone and committed in their rejection of truth. Being "past feeling" certainly seems to describe those with a seared conscience (1 Timothy 4:2) and those God has "given over" to a reprobate mind (Romans 1:28-29). After striving with them, God finally allowed them to pursue the evil that they wanted.

They pursue sin greedily.

20 But ye have not so learned Christ;

But you , on the other hand, have been taught to be entirely different from those just described.

21 If so be that ye have heard him, and have been taught by him, as the truth is in Jesus:

22 That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts;

If ye have heard Him, and believed on Him, put away your former life. Of course we can't do this completely, and will sin our whole lives, but we are still commanded to mortify sin.

Colossians 3:5, Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry.

The "old man" is our corrupt nature, our flesh, in contrast with our new nature, that "sinneth not" (1 John 5:18). We eagerly await the redemption of our bodies.

Romans 7:18-20, For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not. For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do. Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.

23 And be renewed in the spirit of your mind;

24 And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.

Our new man is that which is born again, born of the Spirit. We were born once in water in the womb, and reborn when we believed on Christ. Let's put on that new man and seek holiness.

How will you dress today? Will you wear that which delights in sin or that which pleases God? Choose each moment what you will put on.

By the way all of these commands throughout Scripture refute Calvinism. They are completely unnecessary if God is controlling everything we do.

Romans 13:14, But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof.

25 Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbour: for we are members one of another.

First general commands, now starting in verse 25 we get specifics of how to put on the new man.

Always tell the truth. The neighbor here is those in your church with you, another member of the body you are in. Of course we should always speak the truth regardless of where we are.

“Sin has many tools, but a lie is the handle which fits them all.” - Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr

26 Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath:

If you become angry, be careful to not let that lead to sin. Be careful that you don't hold on to that anger.

"Do not cherish anger. Do not sleep upon it. Do not harbor a purpose of revenge; do not cherish ill-will against another." - Albert Barnes

27 Neither give place to the devil.

Don't give him opportunity to negatively influence you. The previous two verses seem to indicate things that can do this: Don't lie, and guard your anger.

Ephesians 6:11, Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.

28 Let 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.

Did you previously steal? Stop. Instead work, and don't just work for your own advancement but for the welfare of others also. Many great verses about this in the bible.

2 Thessalonians 3:10, For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat.

Ecclesiastes 5:12, The sleep of a labouring man is sweet, whether he eat little or much: but the abundance of the rich will not suffer him to sleep.

Proverbs 28:27, He that giveth unto the poor shall not lack: but he that hideth his eyes shall have many a curse.

29 Let 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.

No corrupt communication. This includes much more than just cussing. Foolish speech, ridicule, discussion of wicked things (Ephesians 5:12) would all fall under this.

Colossians 3:8, But now ye also put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth.

30 And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption.

Wonderful passage proving eternal security. By being disobedient to the things the apostle here describes we can grieve the Holy Spirit. However, we remain sealed by Him until our body is redeemed which is the Second Coming. To grieve means to afflict with sorrow, and this is what our sin does to God.

Hebrews 12:6-8, For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not? But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons.

31 Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice:

Wrath could refer more to outbursts, while anger refers to a state of anger or continuous pattern of anger. Clamour would be noise and outbursts, slander and so forth. Evil speaking is from the word blasphemy, meaning to use false and hurtful words.

James 3:5-6, Even so the tongue is a little member, and boasteth great things. Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindleth! And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity: so is the tongue among our members, that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell.

32 And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you.

A great bookend statement to how the chapter started. Tenderhearted means compassionate. Don't make excuses, but obey, and do these things.


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