“Body Unity Resulting from Gifts in Men and the New Person”

[A commentary on Ephesians chapter four by Mark Heber Miller ©2000]

One of Paul’s major themes in Ephesians is the unity of the Body of Christ. He has in chapters two and three indicated the former divisiveness between Jew and non-Jew. This had wormed its way into the early Church. [See Commentary On Romans chapters 9, 11.] This conflict between Jew and non-Jew remained an inner Church problem for many decades in the 1st Century. Now Paul gives practical counsel on how unity may be attained and maintained within the Body of Christ. This involves two primary factors:

  1. the appointed men who served as elders with various capacities; and,
  2. the individual Christian as a New Person in Christ.

Paul begins with one of his classic appeals and exhortations. He first makes it clear that this maintenance of Body unity involves the worthiness of the calling.

Observe the Oneness [Ephesians 4:1-6]

1 Therefore, I -- bound in the Lord -- encourage you to walk worthily of the calling by which you were called, 2 with all humility of mind and mildness, putting up with one another in love, 3 fervently attentive to the unity of the Pneuma in the joint bond of peace: 4 one body and one Pneuma, even as you were called in one hope of your calling - 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of everyone, the One who is over all, through all, and in all. [NCMM Literal]

1 And so, as the prisoner of the Lord, I beg you to conduct yourselves in a way worthy of that invitation by which you were called. 2 Do this in all lowliness and meekness, persevering in tolerance for one another in loving concern. 3 Earnestly endeavor to observe the oneness of the Spirit in the uniting bond of peace. 4 There is only one Body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling. 5 There is only one Master, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of everyone. God the Father is the One who is over all, through all, and in all. [NCMM Paraphrase]

An Exhortation to Unity

Paul offers one of his many exhortations or encouragements. His intent is that the mixed congregation in Ephesus of both Jewish and non-Jewish Christians strive for unity and harmony among their fellowship. He appeals as one who is a prisoner “bound in the Lord.” [Or, KJV: the prisoner of the lord.] He wants to “encourage” them to a certain course of action. [Or. KJV: beseech; TCN: urge; PME: beg. Compare Philippians 2:1.]

His encouragement, exhortation or urging is that they “walk worthily.” [Or, TCN: to live lives worthy; TAY: to live and act in a way worthy; NEB: live up to.] Compare Philippians 1:27. In Colossians 1:10 he puts it, “... in order to walk worthily of the Lord to the end of fully pleasing him.” The Christian’s life-style and conduct must be worthy of the glorious celestial calling. It must be accompanied by a “humility of mind.” [Or, KJV: lowliness; MOF: perfect modesty; GDS: perfect humility.] Humility is a great aid in preserving unity and harmony, for the humble will not insist on their own selfish way. The humble do not create disunity.

Two other attributes or characteristics describe those who desire unity and harmony. One is an attitude of “mildness.” [Or, KJV: meekness; CON: gentleness.] The meek, mild, or gentle are persons around which unity is possible for they are not so arrogant or egotistical to divide their Christian companions. And the other is a tolerant love. Paul says, “putting up with one another in love.” [Or, KJV: with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; RHM: bearing one ith another in love; TCN: patient, bearing lovingly with one another; KNX: patient, too, in bearing with one another’s faults, as charity bids; PME: making allowances for one another because you love one another.] Compare these exhortations to Paul’s definition of AGAPE (AGAPOO) in 1 Corinthians chapter 13. Tolerance and forgiveness contribute greatly to unity. Love, or AGAPE, may be defined as concern followed by action which seeks the highest good of another. Therefore it does not insist on its own interests and opinions.

Paul urges them to pay fervent attention to “the unity of the Pneuma (or, Spirit).” [Or, KJV: endeavoring to keep; ASV: giving diligence to keep; ALT: earnestly striving to maintain; WMS: continuing with eager earnestness to maintain.] This is more than a passing, casual interest in Church unity. It is something to be diligent and earnest about. The phrase “unity of the Spirit” is also rendered: RHM: oneness of the Spirit; CON: unity of the Spirit; TCN: unity given by the Spirit.] God’s Pneuma causes only one result: loving unity.

Note that divisiveness and dissension come from another source. James warns: “If you have in your heart bitter jealousy and selfishness, do not boast and continue to lie against the truth. This is not the wisdom which descends from above, but rather, is earthly, soul-like, demonic. For where there is jealousy and selfishness there is disorder and the practice of every kind of evil.” [James 3:14-16 NCMM]

Paul now lists some factors or attributes that encourage unity and harmony.

Unifying Factors

1. One hope

Paul says there is only “one hope.” [Or, CON: called to share in common hope; TCN: just as there was but one hope set before you; WEY: the same hope; WMS: there is but one hope resulting from the call.] There is only “one hope” in the Christian Church and that is the one hope as a result of “a heavenly calling” to take up residence wherever Christ resides. (Hebrews 3:1; John 14:1-3) This hope is to dwell “eternal in the heavens.” [2 Corinthians 5:1 KJV] When a group of people have one common hope or expectation they will rally around this conviction and create their own unity.

2. One Master

[Or, one Lord] That is, Jesus Christ as the lord and master of his disciples. Paul teaches elsewhere that there are “many lords” in a generic sense. (1 Corinthians 8:5) Also, Yehowah is described as “Lord of lords.” Psalm 110:1 in the KJV has two Lords: one Yehowah and one the Messiah. In Paul’s qualified and limited context here he has in mind the Lord Jesus. When slaves have one master they have on direction. On the other hand, if a person has two masters - as in the case of “God or Riches” the Nazarene mentions in Matthew 6:24 - then his slavery is divided and conflicted.

3. One baptism

Paul states that the “one (common) baptism” of all Christians contributes to congregational unity. [Or, RHM: one immersion.] In Hebrews 6:2 “baptisms” (plural) are part of the “elementary doctrine of the Christ.” Several baptisms can be identified in the Christian Bible: water baptism (Matthew 3:15; 1 Peter 3:21), spirit baptism (1 Corinthians 12:13), baptism into leadership (1 Corinthians 10:2-4), baptism into Christian death (Romans 6:3-5), baptism in fire (destruction) (Matthew 3:11). There are different views on this “one baptism.” It is possible Paul means the whole process beginning with water immersion, followed by spirit baptism into Church membership under the leadership of Christ and the consecration into a life-course of baptism into a death like that of Jesus.

4. One God

Obviously if worshippers have two or more gods they will be divided in favor of one over the other. [Compare the notes above on “one Lord.”] In the absolute sense there is only one God as expressed in both the Hebrew and Christian Bible. However, in a more qualified or limited sense the Bible also teaches there are others called “god.” Jesus taught this (John 10:34. 35) as well as Paul. (1 Corinthians 8:5, 6) Compare Deuteronomy 10:17. The Bible, as well as the early “church fathers” of the first and second centuries were henotheistic. For more information on this research henotheism. This “one God” is identified in the Hebrew Bible as Yehowah and in the Christian Bible as the Father, “the God of our Lord Jesus.” [See notes on Ephesians 1:3, 17.] Even Jesus has but one God he obeys and worships. [Revelation 3:12] This God -- usually called “the God” [HO THEOS] by Paul - is the “Father of everyone” including His “only-begotten Son.” The Bible does not teach that God is the Father of all, including the wicked. It is possible Paul means “Father of all His children.” Research fatherhood elsewhere for detail on what is required to become a child of God. (John 1:12, 13) Such a God and Father is “over all.” [Or, KJV: above all; WEY: rules over all; KNX: above all beings.] This would include His Son, Jesus Christ. He is “through all.” [Or, CON: works through all; TCN: pervades all; WEY: acts through all.] That includes His Son. The Father is also “in all.” [Or, KJV: in you all; CON: dwells in all; KNX: lives in all of us.] This also includes His Son.

Study Questions:

  1. What does Paul exhort?
  2. What should be their earnest endeavor?
  3. What are some unifying elements?

Unifying Gifts Given to Humans [Ephesians 4:7-10]

How else does God provide the keys to unity and harmony within the Church of Christ? Paul now uses a key verse from the Psalms to prove that God, by Christ, has provided certain “gifts” with the purpose of achieving and maintaining unity.

7 But to each one was given unmerited charity according to the measure of the free gift of Christ. 8 Wherefore He says, “Upon his ascension into the height he led prisoners into captivity and he gave gifts to humans.” 9 But, the “He ascended,” what is it if not that he also descended ‘into the lower parts of the earth’? 10 The one who descends this is also the one who ascends far above all the heavens so hat he might completely fulfill everything. [NCMM Literal]

7 Now Grace was given to everyone in the way it was measured out as a free gift from the Christ. 8 That is why David writes, “When he ascended on high he led in procession captives as prisoners of war and these he gave as gifts to people.” 9 Now what does, “he ascended,” mean but that Christ also descended ‘into the lowest places on earth’? 10 The person who descended to the earth is the same one who ascended above the entire celestialum. This was so that Christ might fulfill completely everything (purposed). [NCMM Paraphrase]

Paul is to discuss “gifts” but he begins by assuring that “to each one was given unmerited charity” as God “measured out the free gift.” [Or, KJV: unto every one of us is given grace; KNX: his own special grace; TAY: special abilities; TCN: entrusted with some charge; NEB: each one of us has been given his gift.] Compare Romans 12:3. Others render “the measure of the free gift as -- WEY: measured out with the munificence of Christ; GDP: generous measure; PME: rich diversity; NEB: due portion of Christ’s bounty. Every member of the Body of Christ is possessed of certain gifts. [See notes on Ephesians 4:16. Read carefully 1 Corinthians chapter 12 and Romans chapter 12.] To prove the point that special gifts have been provided through Christ to attain and maintain Church unity Paul points to a verse in the Psalms.

The quote is from Psalm 68:18. Both the Hebrew and Jewish Greek texts say “in men” while Paul paraphrases slightly “to humans.” It is clear the allusion to David’s imprisoned human booty that was contributed to the Tabernacle and future Temple to become “hewers of wood and drawers of water.” (Hebrew: Nethinim) Psalm 68:18 reads: “You [YHWH] have ascended on high; You have carried away captives; You have taken gifts in the form of men.” Or, it may read: “gave gifts to humans.”

Though the credit for these captives of war is giving rightly to Yehowah, it was actually David who captured them and ascended Mount Zion to present them as gifts for Temple service and thus gifts to not only the priesthood but the Hebrew worshippers who benefited from these human gifts. Compare 2 Samuel 5:7. Likewise, Paul’s inspired interpretation has the David Messiah-type, Christ Jesus, doing something similar. (Compare Deuteronomy 29:11; Joshua 9:21, 23; 1 Chronicles 9:2; Ezra 8:17 Nehemiah 3:26; Psalm 68:6; Psalm 69:33.

Paul strongly affirms that Jesus of Nazareth had a heavenly pre-existence when he argues from Psalm 68:18 that the one who had “ascended” and “descended” prior to this. Christ himself taught the same thing. Compare John 3:13; 6:62; 17:5. (Acts 1:9-11; Daniel 7:13) This “descent” was into “the lower regions.” There is a high degree of possibility that this phrase is a strong allusion to Psalm 139:15 (LXX: Psalm 138:15). The Septuagint reads en tois katotato tes ges; and Paul’s phrase, eis ta katotera mera tes ges. If this be the case then this Hebraism refers to the womb where the fleshly body of Jesus was being formed from the embryo. Following his death and resurrection, the Christ then “ascended … far above all the heavens.” [Or, TCN: beyond the highest Heaven.] Beginning with Acts 1:9-11 Jesus’ ascent passed through the atmosphere, the solar system, the stellar universe, the angelic “heavens” to God’s own celestial dwelling. (Daniel 7:13; John 6:62) Hebrews 4:14 puts it, “We have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God.” But, what were these “gifts given to humans” as a result of this ascension? Paul explains:

Study Questions:

  1. What gift was given?
  2. What text does Paul quote? Proving what?
  3. What of Christ’s ascension?

Divine Gifts and Their Unifying Functions [Ephesians 4:11-16]

11 And he gave these in fact: apostles, prophets, evangelizers, shepherds and teachers, 12 for the purpose of reorganizing the Saints for work of servants, for building up the Body of Christ, 13 until we all might attain the oneness of the faith and a heightened knowing of the Son of The God, (attaining) perfect manhood unto the measure of stature of the fullness of Christ, 14 so that we may not remain babes, being tossed about by waves and borne around by every wind of teaching, by the slight of hand of persons always working toward methodical error, 15 but rather maintaining truth in love, growing into him in everything, the one who is the head, Christ, 16 from whom all the body joined together and made to go together by means of every connection of the supply according to the energizing within in each one’s measure, a part of the growth of the body it makes for building up itself in love. [NCMM Literal]

11 These “gifts” given to humans include apostolic representatives, prophetic spokesman, missionaries of the good news, pastoral shepherds of congregations, and teachers within the Church. 12 The purpose of these “gifts” is to rearrange and perfectly equip all the Saints for the work of service to others; and, for the upbuilding and strengthening of the whole Body of Christ. 13 And this until all of us attain a perfect unity of faith and a heightened relationship with the Son of God. Until we all together grow into perfect maturity measured by the full stature of the Christ. 14 So we no longer remain babies, tossed here and there by (doctrinal) waves, carried aimlessly by every wind of teaching. By the deceptive slight of hand always engaging in methodical plans. 15 Rather, these “gifts” aid all of us to maintain loving truth, constantly growing in Christ in every way. Christ is the Head, the one from whom the whole Body is perfectly joined and fitted together by means of every connective muscle and tissue. 16 Thus the entire Body is furnished by an inner energy according to each members gift, each one a part contributing to the Body’s growth and maturing as it is built up in loving concern. [NCMM Paraphrase]

Five “Gifts” to the Body

Paul says that after his ascension Christ “gave gifts to humans.” [Or, “gifts in the form of men.” That is Christ presented these “gifts” to the Father upon his ascension. He went to heaven with the perfect price in the value of his blood to purchase such gifts. These gifts took the form of male elders in the Christian Church who held at least five different offices. These were, “apostles, prophets, evangelizers, shepherds and teachers.” For details research these individual words that describe the work of elders. Compare 1 Corinthians chapter 12 for more information. What was the purpose of these male “gifts” to the Church?

The Six-fold Purpose of these “Gifts”

1. Readjusting

Paul first mentions these gifts were for the purchase of readjusting the Church. The Greek kat-artismon [Strong's Exhaustive Concordance #2677] is use as a medical term for the resetting of a broken bone. It is a metaphor for a range of meanings: KJV: perfecting; RHM: the fitting; WEY: to order fully to equip; PME: properly equipped. The Body or Church of Christ was to become a tool or agency for the revealing of God’s “eternal purpose.” Compare notes on Ephesians 3:10. In order to be such a fit and proper vehicle for the dispensation of God’s will it had to be equipped or readjusted perfectly. This was the first purpose of these “gifts to [Christian] humans.” Here it can be noted that some of these men were to end up abusing their authority, and as “ravenous wolves they did not treat the flock with tenderness.” [Acts 20:29]

2. Work of servants

These “gifts to humans” were to prepare the individual members of the Body of Christ for the “work of servants.” [Or, KJV: work of the ministry; CON: appointed service; WEY: work of serving; BEC: to serve as workers.] All the Saints should be workers in the service of others in imitation of their Lord. These gifts of anointed elders were to aid in the training of the Saints for the work of serving others, whether materially or spiritually.

3. Building up the Body

The result was that the entire Body of Christ would be built up or strengthened. [Or, KJV: edifying; WMS: ultimate building up.] These gifts of anointed elders are to build up and not tear down. 1 Corinthians 14:26 encourages, “Let all things take place for upbuilding.” Though some of these men throughout the Church Age proved destructive does not negate the original spiritual gifts from the Lord Jesus. Just as God has appointed the political rulers for the social order among humanity, He has also appointed men in the Church to do constructive work that leads to the mature faithfulness of all. [Romans 13:1ff] If any of these men abuse their authority or position they will have to answer to the Head of the Church, Christ Jesus. These men will receive “a heavier judgment.” [James 3:1-3]

4. Attaining Unity of Faith

These “gifts to humans” would continue throughout the Gospel Age to “unify all in the faith.” This is a unified attainment, and it is a process of maturing as Paul goes on to say. In 1 Corinthians 13:11 Paul likens the Church to a babe growing up to maturity into full adulthood. There are two major things to attain: unity of faith and perfect knowledge. Simply put Paul calls it a “oneness of the Faith.” [Or, KJV: unity of the faith; TAY: believe alike; TCN: that unity which is given by faith.] Paul has already said there was “one faith” and the Nazarene asks: “When the Son of Man arrives will he really find The Faith on earth?” (Luke 18:8) The Church must not become a divided tool made up of many faiths. It has one “creed” [Latin = CREDO = I believe] and this based upon the solid Word of God.

5. A heightened knowing

This unified faith would also be based upon, or result in, a “heightened knowing.” The Greek is epi-gnoseos or (over + know) [Strong's Exhaustive Concordance # 1922, precise and correct knowledge]. [Or, ALF: perfect knowledge; TCN: personal knowledge, fuller knowledge.] Suck knowledge or knowing may be viewed from two standpoints: a) a heightened or elevated ‘knowing’ of the Son in an intimate personal relationship; b) a complete or more accurate knowledge of what Jesus taught. One of purposes of these “gifts to humans” is their teaching abilities to educate and encourage in the Sayings of the Nazarene and his inspired disciples.

6. Attaining maturity

The final result of these “gifts to humans” is the attainment of personal maturity and overall Church maturity. The Greek is EIS (into) ANDRA (male) TELEION (end) and means full-growth into maturity or manhood. [Or, KJV: a perfect man; ASV: full grown man; CON: reach the stature of manhood; TCN: until we reach the ideal man -- the full standard of perfection; WEY: to mature manhood.] Compare 1 Corinthians 13:11 and 1 Corinthians 14:20. This maturity s individuals as well as the corporate whole of the Body of Christ is measured by Christ’s own stature. Paul says, “unto the measure of stature of the fullness of the Christ.” [Or, GDS: that full measure of development found in Christ; NEB: to mature manhood measured by nothing less than the full stature of Christ.] On the individual level it is a matter of growing in Christ to his full image. [2 Corinthians 3:18] As a Body, the Church also grows from infancy to adulthood. The traits of babyhood included those gifts of the spirit provided before the Christian Bible was completed and full separation from the Jewish example around the year 150 AD.

The Result of these “Gifts”

The end result to the Church as a whole and as individuals is that its membership “no longer remain infants.” Compare 1 Corinthians 13:11. That is, TCN: no longer be like infants. Christian growth continues throughout one’s life, and each year witnesses an ever closer growth in Christ manifest by faith and love. Proof of this grow is that grown up Christians are no longer “tossed about by waves” of different and conflicting teachings. [Or, KJV: tossed to and fro; RHM: billow-tossed and shifted around; CON: by every current of teaching; TCN: tossed backward and forward.] The mature Christian is not like a rudderless ship at the mercy of tossing seas.

Paul here warns regarding “every wind of teaching.” [Or, KJV: every wind of doctrine; TCNT: blown round by every breath of human teaching; WEY: every changing wind of doctrine; KNX: the wind of each new doctrine; NEB: every fresh gust of teaching; BEC: every windy thing that is taught. An infant can be taught almost anything, but a mature adult may follow reasonable logic founded on the Scriptures. It is a knowledge of the Scriptures which provide a firm anchor. Thus, the mature Christian has no difficulty in defining and explaining the established truths or doctrines of the Bible and Christ Jesus. He or she is not confused, or in a quandary as to what to believe. They have come to know the Truth.

Mature Christians will not be misled “by the slight of hand” of false teachers. The Greek is CUBIA and refers to dice. [Strong's Exhaustive Concordance # 2940] These teachings are about as trustworthy as a lucky throw of the dice whether one teaching is accepted over another. [Or, KJV: sleight of men; TCN: craftiness and trickery; NEB: dupes of crafty rogues; PME: the jockeying of men who are expert in the crafty presentation of lies. These men, or women, present no firm foundation in the Scriptures and the teachings of the Nazarene. Rather they result in “working toward methodical error.” The Greek is panourgia pros ten methodian tes planes. [Or, NEB: deceitful schemes; GDS: ingenuity in inventing error.] This is not a case of just a mistaken idea though sincere. It is a deliberate plan to lead others astray. Paul warns of this throughout his letters. [Acts 20:30]

There is one motivating force behind God’s “gift to humans” within the Christian Church. That is, the “maintaining of truth in love.” [Or, KJV: speaking the truth in love; ALF: being followers of truth in love; WEY: lovingly hold to the truth; AMP: let our lives lovingly express truth in all things. Love must be honest and truthful, not deceitful. This loving truth continues to “grow into Christ in everything.” [Or, KJV: grow up into him in all things; CON: grow up in ever part.] We should mature in every part of our lives, in our character, as Christ is our single focus. “What would Christ do?” must be our continual question. The result of such truth and love will be that “all the body will be joined together and made to go together.” [Or, KJV: fitly joined together and compacted; WEY: various parts closely fitting and firmly adhering to one another; TCN: closely joined and knit together.] Note Paul’s illustration of the human body and its mutual need for all its parts in 1 Corinthians chapter 12.

This unity involving the whole Church and the “gifts given to humans” leads to unity if applied rightly and in harmony with Scripture. Paul says it is “by means of every connection of the supply.” [Or, KJV: every joint supplieth; WEY: every contributing ligament; TCN: by the contact of every part with the source of its life; RSV: every joint with which it is supplied. Compare a similar idea by Paul at Colossians 2:19, “ ... the head, to the one from whom all the body, being supplied and harmoniously joined together by means of its joints and ligaments.” Some believe these connective tissues and joints are the “gifts to humans” themselves.

Whatever, the result is “the energizing within in each one’s measure.” The Greek is energeian en metro enos ekastou merous. [Or, KJV: the effectual working in the measure of every part; WEY: aid of every contributory ligament, with power proportioned to the need of each individual part; TCN: in proportion to the vigour of each individual part; RSV: when each part is working properly.] So that “a part of the growth of the body it makes for building up itself in love.” [Or, KJV: maketh increase of he body unto the edifying of itself in love; WEY: so as to build itself up in a spirit of love; RSV: makes bodily growth and upbuilds itself in love. Not only does each individual contribute to the whole growth of the Body but also the individual part will grow only as long as it is part of the Body.

However, the above deals mainly with the part the “gifts to humans” play in unifying the Body of Christ. What about each individual member of the Body? What must each Church member do, or not do, in order to assure total Body harmony? First, there is a certain way the membership of the Nazarene CANNOT conduct themselves and maintain unity in the Body.

Study Questions:

  1. What were these gifts?
  2. Given for what purpose?
  3. Until when?
  4. How is maturity measured?
  5. How are we to grow?
  6. How does Paul describe this Body unity?
  7. Growing in what main characteristic?

The Unified Walk Not as Worldly [Ephesians 4:17-19]

17 Therefore, this is what I tell you (and I give my testimony in the Lord): do not also continue walking just as the non-Jews in walking in a vanity of their minds, 18 their perceptions darkened, those who are alienated from the life of The God, because of their ignorance, by the dulling of their hearts, 19 ceasing to feel in themselves any pain, they surrendered to loose conduct, greedy to work all uncleanness. [NCMM Literal]

17 Because of this I tell you this testimony in the Lord: Do not continue to conduct yourselves as the Gentiles. They conduct themselves with empty minds. 18 Their understanding is blind. They are estranged from the Life that comes from God. They no longer have a conscience that can pain them because of their willful stupidity and their numb hearts. 19 They have surrendered to sensuality and licentious behavior. They have an insatiable appetite for every kind of filthiness. [NCMM Paraphrase]

So, now Paul moves on to what each individual Christian can do. He offers another exhortation continuing from verse 1. “This is what I tell you,” Paul says. [Or, RHM: protesting in the Lord; CON: adjure you in the Lord; NASB: affirm together with the Lord; TCN: I urge upon you; GDP: so what I mean and insist upon in the Lord’s name; TAY: speaking for the Lord. He then gives this command: “Do not also continue walking as the world does.” [Or, KJV: walk not as other Gentiles walk. Go back to Ephesians 2:11. And what kind of walk or conduct was this? He writes: “walking in a vanity of their minds: [Or, GDS: with their frivolity of mind; KNX: who make vain fancies their rule; NEB: good-for-nothing notions; CON: whose minds are filled with folly.] Compare Romans 1:21. This includes that “their perceptions were darkened.” [Or, KJV: understanding darkened; TCN: powers of discernment darkened; KNX: their minds are clouded with darkness; PME: they live blindfold; NEB: their wits are beclouded; NWT: in darkness mentally.] Compare 2 Corinthians 4:4 and Romans 1:21. Note Paul’s commission from the Lord at Acts 26:18.

These persons in the social order of humanity are “alienated from the life of The God.” [Or, TCN: cut off from; WEY: having no share in; NEB: strangers to the life that is in God; BEC: excluded from.] Compare Ephesians 2:12. This is “because of their ignorance.” [Or, NEB: because ignorance prevails among them.] Paul writes in a similar vein at Colossians 1:21 has it, “You were also formerly estranged and enemies because your thinking concentrated on evil works.” This resulted also in “the dulling of their hearts.” [Or, KJV: past feeling; TCN: lost all sense of shame; GDS: become callous; PME: they have stifled their consciences; NEB: dead to all feeling.] Such words can be used to describe the world today despite the fact that one third of it claims to be Christian.

In this mental state “they surrendered to loose conduct.” [Or, KJV: lasciviousness; GDS: abandoned themselves to sensuality; NEB: vice.] See notes on uncleanness, loose conduct, or aselgeia [Strong's Exhaustive Concordance #766, unbridled lust, excess, licentiousness, lasciviousness, wantonness, outrageousness, shamelessness, insolence]. Compare Galatians 5:19. They were “greedy to work all uncleanness.” [Or, KJV: to work all uncleanness with greediness; RHM: making a trade of all impurity with greed; TCN: to practice every kind of impurity without restraint; WMS: excessive practices of all sorts of immorality; PME: practicing any form of impurity which lust can suggest.] Compare the same thing among apostate Jews at Romans 1:24-32. The Greek for “greed(iness)” is PLEOEXIA [Strong's Exhaustive Concordance # 4124] and means the desire for more. The Greek for “uncleanness” is AKATHARSIAS [Strong's Exhaustive Concordance # 167] which is from the metaphor of garbage thrown out. No such person who is characterized by the above can contribute to the unity of the Body of Christ from a moral sense. Permitting such persons who are habitual sinners membership in the Church leads only to moral confusion and disunity. What kind of person, then, ought each member of the Church be?

Study Questions:

  1. What should the Ephesians cease?
  2. What does Paul write about this past life?

Unity and the New Person in Christ [Ephesians 4:20-24]

20 But you (Ephesians) did not learn about Christ like that, 21 if really you heard and we taught according to the truth that is in the Jesus, 22 to put away the old person (your former course of conduct) who was corrupted by seductive desires, 23 but be renewed in the spirit of your minds, 24 and put on the new person (the one God created according to righteousness and true loyalty. [NCMM Literal]

20 This is not at all the way you learned about the Christ 21 because you certainly heard and were taught in accordance with that truth in Jesus. 22 You were taught to put away the former type of person you were by ceasing your former life-style that was completely perverted by a deceptive desire for more. 23 Rather let your mental attitude undergo a complete renovation. 24 Put on the New Person created by God in accordance with righteousness and true loyalty to God. [NCMM Paraphrase]

Learning Comes First

There is nothing in learning about Jesus Christ the Nazarene that is harmful or dangerous. There is nothing in him that is unclean or unkind. These Ephesian non-Jews had “learned” about Jesus and his teachings. Hebrews 7:26 describes Christ as, “ .. loyal, guileless, undefiled, separated from the sinners.” [NWT] [Or, TCN: far different is the lesson you learnt from the Christ; TAY: that isn’t the way Christ taught you. Rather, each “genuine disciple” first heard and then were taught about what kind of person they need to become. [Or, TCN: you really listened to him; GDS: instructed in him. New Christians received instruction even as Jesus commanded his apostles. [Matthew 28:19] Paul also writes at 1 Thessalonians 4:1, “Just as you received [the instruction] from us on how you ought to walk and please God.” Whatever that comes from such instruction confirms that “the truth is in the Jesus.” [Or, WEY: this is true Christian teaching; WMS: as it is seen in Jesus; TCN: to be found in Jesus.] John 1:14 describes, “(Jesus) was full of truth.” This full “truth” encompasses all that is spiritual and moral.

A Real Inner Change

There must be a real change in the Christian’s conduct, and in time in his or her character and personality. So that the latter person is much different than the former. Paul says to “put away the old person.” [Or, KJV: the former conversation of the old man; RHM: strip off; TCN: cast off your old nature; WEY: your original evil nature; PME: to fling off the dirty clothes of the old way of living.] Romans 6:6 puts it, “our old Self was crucified with Jesus.” Colossians 3:9 has it, “Remove the old person’s clothes with its bad habits.” This past conduct, like old dirty clothing were “corrupted by seductive desires.” [Or, CON: whose way is destructive, following the desires which deceives; TCN: yielding to deluded passions, grows corrupt; KNX: the self that wasted it aim on false dreams.] Romans 7:23 describes sin’s work, “There is another principle fighting with my mind’s own law taking me as a prisoner to the principle of sin at work in my bodily parts.” (Romans 7:23; James 1:14, 15)

How is such a change to take place? How is it achieved? Paul says, “by the renewing in the spirit of your minds.” [Or, GDS: adopt a new attitude of mind; PME: with yourselves mentally and spiritually remade; TCN: constantly renewed.] Read and prayerfully meditate on Psalm 51:10, “Create in me even a pure heart, O God, and put within me a new spirit, a steadfast one.” [NWT] Romans 12:2 describes the process, “Stop moulding yourselves after this time period. Undergo a metamorphosis by your remade mind.” There must be a real change, so that an old friend meeting such a New Person will have difficulty identifying the person they knew before.

This results in the “putting on of the New Person.” [Or, KJV: put on the new m; TCNT: clothe yourselves in that new nature; WEY: new and better self; PME: put on the clean fresh clothes of the new life.] Colossians 3:10 has it, “Put on the New Person which is renewed through a heightened knowing in accordance to the image of the One who created it.” Galatians 3:27 simple says, “Put on Christ.” As if the Christ were an entire new wardrobe, the Christian has become a New Person, one “God created.” [Or, TCN: created to resemble God; PME: made by God’s design; BEC: created to be like God.] See notes on Ephesians 2:10. Two attributes describe this New Person: “righteousness and true loyalty.” The Greek here for “loyalty” is rare, HOSISTETI and infers piety to God in holiness [Strong's Exhaustive Concordance # 3742, piety towards God, fidelity in observing the obligations of piety, holiness]. [Or, TCN: holiness springing from the Truth; PME: holiness which is no illusion.] So, one may recognize such a New Person by their habitual obeying God’s law and a pious lifestyle in devotion to Christ.

However, there is a danger here which may not only corrupt the unity of the Body, but also offend God.

Study Questions:

  1. How did they learn of Christ?
  2. What should be put off?
  3. How should they be renewed?

Ephesians 4:25-30 -- How Not to Grieve God’s Pneuma

25 So having put off the pseudo let each one ‘speak truthfully to his neighbor’, because we are members of one another. 26 ‘Do not sin if you become angry’; do not let the sun go down on your provocation to wrath, 27 nor give the Devil any room. 28 Let the former thief no longer steal, but rather let him do laborious work with his own hands so that he may have something good to give a share to the person in need. 29 Let not a single rotten word proceed out of your mouth, but rather any good word for building up of the needy, so that those listening are favored. 30 Also do not sadden the holy Pneuma of The God in which you were sealed unto a day of releasing by ransom. [NCMM Literal]

25 Therefore, having gotten rid of that fake life let everyone ‘speak honestly with a neighbor’, because we all really belong to one another in our community. 26 If you should become very upset or ‘angry do not let this lead to a sinful action’. Do not let the sun set while you are still provoked to anger. 27 Do not let the Devil have a place among you. 28 Let the person who used to steal stop stealing. Now let him work hard with his own hands so he will have something good to share with the needy. 29 Do not speak a single putrid remark come out of your mouth. Rather speak good words to upbuild the needy. Thus those who hear you will feel blessed. 30 Additionally, do not grieve God’s holy spirit. With this spirit you were confirmed with a seal until that Day of Redemption. [NCMM Paraphrase]

What now, then? Paul begins, “having put off the pseudo.” There are those false, fake, phony clothes to remove. The Greek is PSEUDOS [Strong's Exhaustive Concordance # 5579]. [Or, KJV: putting away lying; RHM: stripping off what is false; KNX: away with the falsehood then; PME: finish, then, with lying.] Colossians 3:9 puts it, “Do not be lying to one another.” The New Person in Christ is characterized by honest and truthfulness and is no liar. Rather, Paul urges, “Let each one speak truthfully to his neighbor.” [Or, KJV: speak every man truth with his neighbor; WEY: truth to his fellow man.] This phrase is an allusion to Zechariah 8:16, which is from the Hebrew Text: “Speak truthfully with one another.” And why be truthful? Because “we are members of one another.” [Or, TCNT: we are united to one another like the parts of a body; PME: intimately related to one another; KNX: membership of the body binds us to one another.] Compare Romans 12:5. But, there are other attributes of this honest and truthful New Person in Christ.

The kernel of the problem of human character or personality is ego or self-centeredness. This causes many thoughts and inclinations, or conduct and actions to be selfishly motivated. Paul exhorts” “Do not sin if you become angry.” This phrase is an exact quote from Psalm 4:4 in the Jewish Greek Septuagint, “Be ye angry, and sin not.” [Or, KJV: be ye angry, and sin not; WMS: if you do get angry, you must stop sinning in your anger; KNX: do not let resentment lead you into sin; TAY: don’t sin by nursing your grudge.] This requires a deep introspection as to what is best for another. So, Paul urges, “Do not let the sun go down on your provocation to wrath.” [Or, KNX: the sunset must not find you still angry; PME: never go to bed angry; NEB: do not let sunset find you still nursing it.] If you have been provoked to anger, you must let it go, or settle it before sundown. Colossians 3:13 puts it, “Continue putting up with one another and forgiving one another freely if anyone has a cause for complaint against another.” [NWT] The New Person in Christ cannot demand on his or her own opinion, but be willing to forgive before the sun sets. There is a real danger here.

This danger is to “give the Devil any room.” [Or, KJV: neither give place to the devil; TCNT: give no opportunity to; GDS: you must not give the devil a chance; PME: don’t give the devil that sort of foothold; NEB: leave no loop-hole for the devil.] James 4:7 puts it, “Oppose the Devil, and he will flee from you.” [NWT] And, how does one know whether the Devil is being allowed into the Church? James 3:15, 16 gives some parameters: “This is not the wisdom which descends from above, but rather, is earthly, soul-like, demonic. For where there is jealousy and selfishness there is disorder and the practice of every kind of evil.” [NCMM]

Paul gives a specific example of a former thief who has now become a Christ. He says to such a person: “Let him do laborious work with his own hands.” [Or, TCNT: let him toil with his hands at honest work; WMS: rather he must keep on working ad toiling with his own hands at some honest vocation; PME: you must learn to make an honest living. 2 Thessalonians 3:10, “If anyone does not want to work, neither let him eat.” And, what is the intent or purpose of such honest work? Paul states one of the only two exhortations to save: “So that he may have something good to give a share to the person in need.” [Or, WEY: so that he may have something of which he can give the needy to share; WMS: something to contribute to the needy.] Paul gives one reason to save a surplus: charity. Acts 20:35 records Paul’s words to Ephesian elders, “By so laboring I have demonstrated to you [elders] in every way how you must also work hard and thus assist those who are weak. You must keep in mind the words of the Lord Jesus, when he said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive’.” [NCMM]

Not is only right and godly action necessary but also speech. Paul commands: “Let not a single rotten word proceed out of your mouth.” [Or, KJV: no corrupt communication; RHM: putrid discourse; WEY: no unwholesome words ever pass your lips; TCN: never let any foul word.] Colossians 3:8 puts it, “Put them all away from you, wrath, anger, badness, abusive speech, and obscene talk.” [NWT] Jesus gives a warning on such speech that will be condemned on Judgment Day. [Matthew 12:35-37] Rather, the New Person in Christ must speak “Any good word for building up of the needy.” [Or, ASV: such as is good for edifying as the need may be; RSV: as fits the occasion; TCN: let all your words be good for benefiting others according to the need of the moment.] Colossians 4:6, “Let your language be always seasoned with the salt of grace, so that you may know how to give every man a fitting answer.” [Weymouth Translation] The reason for this is “so that those listening are favored.” [Or, KJV: that it may minister grace unto the hearers; WEY: a means of blessing to the hearers; PME: which God can use to help other people.]

The terrible danger of failure to put on the New Person and to walk accordingly is not limited to just the ruin if Church unity. Such negative attitudes and actions can also “sadden the holy Spirit.” [Or, KJV: grieve not the holy Spirit; GDS: not offend; KNX: not distress; PME: never hurt.] The phrase is very similar to Isaiah 63:10, “ ... and [they] made His holy spirit feel hurt.” The one saddened or grieved is God who is the source of the Pneuma, the mental force of His mind. (1 Corinthians 2:16; Isaiah 40:13 LXX) It is like trying to resist the wind at sea in a sailboat. If God sent a favorable wind and a sailor deliberately resists this blessing, then it amounts to grieving God.

It was with this holy Pneuma or Spirit that “you were sealed unto a day of releasing by ransom.” [Or, WEY: in preparation for the day of redemption; GDS: marked; PME: the personal pledge of your eventual full redemption; NEB: marked for the day of our final liberation.] See notes on Ephesians 1:13. The initial “seal” bestowed upon spirit-begettal confirms sonship with the Father as His possession. (2 Corinthians 1:22) The end-time Saints (144,000 / Large Crowd) receive the final and absolute “seal” or confirmation in their flesh before the Rapture. (Revelation 7:1-4, 9; 11:12, 13; 1 Thessalonians 4:16) Compare Romans 8:23. Thus, it is always dangerous to resist, and thus grieve, that divine pressure that comes from God’s will to move each one toward the fulfillment of His “eternal purpose.” What else is involved in this Spirit-directed walk as a New Person in Christ? Paul continues in chapter five to discuss more specifics.

Study Questions:

  1. How should a neighbor be treated?
  2. What should stop by sunset?
  3. Who is not welcome?
  4. What counsel is given to the former thief?
  5. Why?
  6. What counsel is given regarding the mouth and speech?
  7. What should not be grieved?

Speech and Forgiveness [Ephesians 4:31, 32]

31 Remove from yourselves every bitterness and animosity and vengeance and shouting and blasphemy, together with every kind of hurtfulness. 32 Rather become benevolent to one another, well inclined to sympathy, compassionately forgiving to others, just as The God in Christ graciously forgave you. [NCMM Literal]

31 Rid your whole community of every kind of bitterness, hatred, angry screaming and speech that is abusive. Also, remove every type of wrong. 32 On the other hand become graciously charitable to each other, with a tendency to sympathetic compassion full of forgiveness to all, exactly as God by Christ graciously forgave you. [NCMM Paraphrase]

The wrong persons in any community can destroy its unity. It is no different with the Church. So, Paul commands, “Remove from yourselves” … and then goes on to list several attitudes that ought not exist among harmonious Christians. [Or, KJV: put away from you; TCN: be banished from among you; WEY: be unknown among you.] First, “bitterness.” Compare James 3:14, “ ... bitter jealousy and contentiousness in your hearts.” Bitterness always leads to hatred that drives Christ from the heart. Second, “animosity.” [Or, NWT: anger.] Such is contradictory to that love the Nazarene taught. Third, “vengeance.” [Or, KJV: anger; NWT: wrath.]

The above always lead to “shouting and blasphemy.” That is, these attributes may always be identified by the raised voice that slanders. [Or, KJV: clamour; ASV: railing; TCN: brawling and abusive language; PME: no more violent assertiveness, no more slander.] We may assume these Ephesians suffered from these problems in their congregation otherwise Paul would have no need to tell them to get rid of such attitudes. Note how Paul writes to the Colossians, “But now you must rid yourselves of every kind of sin -- angry and passionate outbreaks, ill-will, evil speaking, foul-mouthed abuse -- so that these may never soil your lips.” [Colossians 3:8 Weymouth Translation] The Nazarene warns about Judgment Day, “But I tell you that every fruitless word human’s speak will be held to account on Judgment Day. For by your words you will be declared ‘Not Guilty,’ and by your words you will be accursed.” (Matthew 12:36, 37 NCMM) This clearly involves “every kind of hurtfulness,” as Paul puts it. [Or, KJV: all malice.]

In contrast to the above Paul says, “Rather become benevolent to one another.” [Or, KJV: be ye kind one to another; NEB: be generous to one another.] That is, “Well inclined to sympathy.” [Or, KJV: tenderhearted; RHM: tenderly affectionate; PME: be understanding.] To the Colossians Paul writes something similar: “Clothe yourselves with the tender affections of compassion, kindness, lowliness of mind, mildness, and long-suffering.” (Colossians 3:12 NWT) This sincere feeling of empathy leads to “compassionately forgiving.” [Or, TCN: ready to forgive.] Colossians 3:12, 13 has it, “Clothe yourselves therefore, as God's own people holy and dearly loved, with tender-heartedness, kindness, lowliness of mind, meekness, long-suffering; bearing with one another and readily forgiving each other, if any one has a grievance against another. Just as the Lord has forgiven you, you also must forgive.” [Weymouth Translation]

Study Questions:

  1. What bad things should be stopped?
  2. What should characterize the Christian?

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Nazarene Commentary 2000© by Mark Heber Miller

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