Ephesians 4


The apostle exhorts them to walk worthy of their vocation, and

to live in peace and unity, 1-6.

Shows that God has distributed a variety of gifts, and

instituted a variety of offices in his Church, for the building

up and perfecting of the body of Christ, 7-13.

Teaches them the necessity of being well instructed and steady

in Divine things, 14.

Teaches how the body or Church of Christ is constituted, 15, 16.

Warns them against acting like the Gentiles, of whose conduct he

gives a lamentable description, 17-19.

Points out how they had been changed, in consequence of their

conversion to Christianity, 20, 21.

Gives various exhortations relative to the purification of their

minds, their conduct to each other, and to the poor, 22-28.

Shows them that their conversation should be chaste and holy,

that they might not grieve the Spirit of God; that they should

avoid all bad tempers, be kindly affectioned one to another,

and be of a forgiving spirit, 29-32.


Verse 1. I therefore] Therefore, because God has provided for

you such an abundant salvation, and ye have his testimonies among

you, and have full liberty to use all the means of grace;

The prisoner of the Lord] Who am deprived of my liberty for the

Lord's sake.

Beseech you that ye walk] Ye have your liberty, and may walk; I

am deprived of mine, and cannot. This is a fine stroke, and

wrought up into a strong argument. You who are at large can show

forth the virtues of him who called you into his marvellous light;

I am in bondage, and can only exhort others by my writing, and

show my submission to God by my patient suffering.

The vocation wherewith ye are called] The calling, κλησις, is

the free invitation they have had from God to receive the

privileges of the Gospel, and become his sons and daughters,

without being obliged to observe Jewish rites and ceremonies.

Their vocation, or calling, took in their Christian profession,

with all the doctrines, precepts, privileges, duties, &c., of the

Christian religion.

Among us, a man's calling signifies his trade, or occupation

in life; that at which he works, and by which he gets his bread;

and it is termed his calling, because it is supposed that God, in

the course of his providence, calls the person to be thus

employed, and thus to acquire his livelihood. Now, as it is a

very poor calling by which a man cannot live, so it is a poor

religion by which a man cannot get his soul saved. If, however,

a man have an honest and useful trade, and employ himself

diligently in labouring at it, he will surely be able to maintain

himself by it; but without care, attention, and industry, he is

not likely to get, even by this providential calling, the

necessaries of life. In like manner, if a man do not walk worthy

of his heavenly calling, i.e. suitable to its prescriptions,

spirit, and design, he is not likely to get his soul saved unto

eternal life. The best trade, unpractised, will not support any

man; the most pure and holy religion of the Lord Jesus, unapplied,

will save no soul. Many suppose, because they have a sound faith,

that all is safe and well: as well might the mechanic, who knows

he has a good trade, and that he understands the principles of it

well, suppose it will maintain him, though he brings none of its

principles into action by honest, assiduous, and well-directed


Some suppose that the calling refers to the epithets usually

given to the Christians; such as children of Abraham, children of

God, true Israel of God, heirs of God, saints, fellow citizens

with the saints, &c., &c.; and that these honourable appellations

must be a strong excitement to the Ephesians to walk worthy of

these exalted characters But I do not find that the word κλησις,

calling, is taken in this sense any where in the New Testament;

but that it has the meaning which I have given it above is evident

from 1Co 7:20: εκαστοςεντηκλησειηεκληθηενταυτημενετω.

Let every man abide in the calling to which he hath been called.

The context shows that condition, employment, or business of life,

is that to which the apostle refers.

Verse 2. With all lowliness] It is by acting as the apostle

here directs that a man walks worthy of this high vocation;

ταπεινοφροσυνη signifies subjection or humility of mind.

Meekness] The opposite to anger and irritability of


Long-suffering] μακροθυμια. Long-mindedness-never permitting

a trial or provocation to get to the end of your patience.

Forbearing one another] ανεχομενοιαλληλων. Sustaining one

another-helping to support each other in all the miseries and

trials of life: or, if the word be taken in the sense of bearing

with each other, it may mean that, through the love of God working

in our hearts, we should bear with each other's infirmities,

ignorance, &c., knowing how much others have been or are still

obliged to bear with us.

Verse 3. Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the

bond of peace.] There can be no doubt that the Church at Ephesus

was composed partly of converted Jews, as well as Gentiles. Now,

from the different manner in which they had been brought up, there

might be frequent causes of altercation. Indeed, the Jews, though

converted, might be envious that the Gentiles were admitted to the

same glorious privileges with themselves, without being initiated

into them by bearing the yoke and burden of the Mosaic law. The

apostle guards them against this, and shows them that they should

intensely labour (for so the word σπουδαζειν implies) to promote

and preserve peace and unity. By the unity of the Spirit we are

to understand, not only a spiritual unity, but also a unity of

sentiments, desires, and affections, such as is worthy of and

springs from the Spirit of God. By the bond of peace we are to

understand a peace or union, where the interests of all parties

are concentrated, cemented, and sealed; the Spirit of God being

the seal upon this knot.

Verse 4. There is one body] Viz. of Christ, which is his


One Spirit] The Holy Ghost, who animates this body.

One hope] Of everlasting glory, to which glory ye have been

called by the preaching of the Gospel; through which ye have

become the body of Christ, instinct with the energy of the Holy


Verse 5. One Lord] Jesus Christ, who is the governor of this


One faith] One system of religion, proposing the same objects

to the faith of all.

One baptism] Administered in the name of the holy Trinity;

indicative of the influences, privileges, and effects of the

Christian religion.

Verse 6. One God] The fountain of all being, self-existent and

eternal; and Father of all, both Jews and Gentiles, because he is

the Father of the spirits of all flesh.

Who is above all] οεπιπαντων. Who is over all; as the

King of kings, and Lord of lords.

And through all] Pervading every thing; being present with

every thing; providing for all creatures; and by his energy

supporting all things.

And in you all.] By the energy of his Spirit, enlightening,

quickening, purifying, and comforting; in a word, making your

hearts the temples of the Holy Ghost. Some think the mystery of

the blessed Trinity is contained in this verse: God is over all,

as Father; through all, by the Logos or Word; and in all,

by the Holy Spirit.

Verse 7. Unto every one of us is given grace] Grace may here

signify a particular office; as if the apostle had said: Though we

are all equal in the respects already mentioned, yet we have all

different offices and situations to fill up in the Church and in

the world; and we receive a free gift from Christ, according to

the nature of the office, that we may be able to discharge it

according to his own mind. So the free gift, which we receive

from Christ, is according to the office or function which he has

given us to fulfil; and the office is according to that free gift,

each suited to the other.

Verse 8. Wherefore he saith] The reference seems to be to

Ps 68:18, which, however it may speak of the removal of the

tabernacle, appears to have been intended to point out the

glorious ascension of Christ after his resurrection from the dead.

The expositions of various commentators have made the place

extremely difficult. I shall not trouble my reader with them;

they may be seen in Rosenmuller.

When he ascended up on high] The whole of this verse, as it

stands in the psalm, seems to refer to a military triumph. Take

the following paraphrase: Thou hast ascended on high: the

conqueror was placed in a very elevated chariot. Thou hast led

captivity captive: the conquered kings and generals were usually

bound behind the chariot of the conqueror, to grace the triumph.

Thou host received gifts for (Paul, given gifts unto) men: at

such times the conqueror was wont to throw money among the crowd.

Even to the rebellious: those who had fought against him now

submit unto him, and share his munificence; for it is the property

of a hero to be generous. That the Lord God might dwell among

them: the conqueror being now come to fix his abode in the

conquered provinces, and subdue the people to his laws.

All this the apostle applies to the resurrection, ascension, and

glory of Christ; though it has been doubted by some learned men

whether the psalmist had this in view. I shall not dispute about

this; it is enough for me that the apostle, under the inspiration

of God, applied the verse in this way; and whatever David might

intend, and of whatever event he might have written, we see

plainly that the sense in which the apostle uses it was the sense

of the Spirit of God; for the Spirit in the Old and New Testaments

is the same. I may venture a short criticism on a few words in

the original: Thou hast received gifts for men,

lakachta mattanoth baadam, thou hast taken gifts in man, in

Adam. The gifts which Jesus Christ distributes to man he has

received in man, in and by virtue of his incarnation; and it is in

consequence of his being made man that it may be said, The Lord

God dwells among them; for Jesus was called Immanuel, God with us,

in consequence of his incarnation. This view of the subject is

consistent with the whole economy of grace, and suits well with

the apostle's application of the words of the psalmist in this


Verse 9. But that he also descended] The meaning of the

apostle appears to be this: The person who ascended is the

Messiah, and his ascension plainly intimates his descension; that

is, his incarnation, humiliation, death, and resurrection.

Verse 10. He that descended] And he who descended so low is

the same who has ascended so high. He came to the lower parts of

the earth-the very deepest abasement; having emptied himself;

taken upon him; the form of a servant, and humbled himself unto

death, even the death of the cross; now he is ascended far above

all heavens-higher than all height; he has a name above every

name. Here his descending into the lower parts of the earth is

put in opposition to his ascending far above all heavens. His

abasement was unparalleled; so also is his exaltation.

That he might fill all things.] That he might be the fountain

whence all blessings might flow; dispensing all good things to all

his creatures, according to their several capacities and

necessities; and, particularly, fill both converted Jews and

Gentiles with all the gifts and graces of his Holy Spirit. Hence

it follows: Eph 4:11

Verse 11. He gave some, apostles] He established several

offices in his Church; furnished these with the proper officers;

and, to qualify them for their work, gave them the proper gifts.

For a full illustration of this verse, the reader is requested to

refer to the notes on 1Co 12:6-10, 28-30; and to the concluding

observations at the end of that chapter.

Verse 12. For the perfecting of the saints] For the complete

instruction, purification, and union of all who have believed in

Christ Jesus, both Jews and Gentiles. For the meaning of

καταρτισμος, perfecting, See Clarke on 2Co 13:9.

For the work of the ministry] All these various officers, and

the gifts and graces conferred upon them, were judged necessary,

by the great Head of the Church, for its full instruction in the

important doctrines of Christianity. The same officers and gifts

are still necessary, and God gives them; but they do not know

their places. In most Christian Churches there appears to be but

one office, that of preacher; and one gift, that by which he

professes to preach. The apostles, prophets, evangelists,

pastors, and teachers, are all compounded in the class preachers;

and many, to whom God has given nothing but the gift of

exhortation, take texts to explain them; and thus lose their time,

and mar their ministry.

Edifying of the body] The body of Christ is his Church, see

Eph 2:20, &c.; and its edification consists in its thorough

instruction in Divine things, and its being filled with faith and


Verse 13. In the unity of the faith] Jews and Gentiles being

all converted according to the doctrines laid down in the

faith-the Christian system.

The knowledge of the Son of God] A trite understanding of the

mystery of the incarnation; why God was manifest in the flesh, and

why this was necessary in order to human salvation.

Unto a perfect man] ειςανδρατελειον. One thoroughly

instructed; the whole body of the Church being fully taught,

justified, sanctified, and sealed.

Measure of the stature] The full measure of knowledge, love,

and holiness, which the Gospel of Christ requires. Many

preachers, and multitudes of professing people, are studious to

find out how many imperfections and infidelities, and how much

inward sinfulness, is consistent with a safe state in religion but

how few, very few, are bringing out the fair Gospel standard to

try the height of the members of the Church; whether they be fit

for the heavenly army; whether their stature be such as qualifies

them for the ranks of the Church militant! The measure of the

stature of the fulness is seldom seen; the measure of the stature

of littleness, dwarfishness, and emptiness, is often exhibited.

Verse 14. Be no more children] Children, here, are opposed to

the perfect man in the preceding verse; and the state of both is

well explained by the apostle's allusions. The man is grown up

strong and healthy, and has attained such a measure or height as

qualifies him for the most respectable place in the ranks of his


The child is ignorant, weak, and unsteady, tossed about in the

nurse's arms, or whirled round in the giddy sports or mazes of

youth; this seems to be the apostle's allusion. Being tossed to

and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, refers to

some kind of ancient play, but what I cannot absolutely determine;

probably to something similar to a top, or to our paper kite.

By the sleight of men] The words εντηκυβεια refer to the arts

used by gamesters, who employ false dice that will always throw up

one kind of number, which is that by which those who play with

them cannot win.

Cunning craftiness] It is difficult to give a literal

translation of the original words: ενπανουργιαπροςτηνμεθοδειαν

τηςπλανης. "By cunning, for the purpose of using the various

means of deception." πανουργια signifies craft and subtlety in

general, cheating and imposition: μεθοδεια, from which we have

our term method, signifies a wile, a particular sleight, mode of

tricking and deceiving; it is applied to the arts which the devil

uses to deceive and destroy souls; see Eph 6:11, called there the

WILES of the devil. From this it seems that various arts were

used, both by the Greek sophists and the Judaizing teachers, to

render the Gospel of none effect, or to adulterate and corrupt it.

Verse 15. But, speaking the truth in love] The truth

recommended by the apostle is the whole system of Gospel doctrine;

this they are to teach and preach, and this is opposed to the

deceit mentioned above. This truth, as it is the doctrine of

God's eternal love to mankind, must be preached in love. Scolding

and abuse from the pulpit or press, in matters of religion, are

truly monstrous. He who has the truth of God has no need of any

means to defend or propagate it, but those which love to God and

man provides.

Grow up into him] This is a continuance of the metaphor taken

from the members of a human body receiving nourishment equally and

growing up, each in its due proportion to other parts, and to the

body in general. The truth of God should be so preached to all

the members of the Church of God, that they may all receive an

increase of grace and life; so that each, in whatever state he may

be, may get forward in the way of truth and holiness. In the

Church of Christ there are persons in various states: the

careless, the penitent, the lukewarm, the tempted, the

diffident, the little child, the young man, and the father.

He who has got a talent for the edification of only one of those

classes should not stay long in a place, else the whole body

cannot grow up in all things under his ministry.

Verse 16. From whom the whole body] Dr. Macknight has a just

view of this passage, and I cannot express my own in more suitable

terms: "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."

This verse is another proof of the wisdom and learning of the

apostle. Not only the general ideas here are anatomical, but the

whole phraseology is the same. The articulation of the bones, the

composition and action of the muscles, the circulation of the

fluids, carrying nourishment to every part, and depositing some in

every place, the energy of the system in keeping up all the

functions, being particularly introduced, and the whole

terminating in the general process of nutrition, increasing the

body, and supplying all the waste that had taken place in

consequence of labour, &c. Let any medical man, who understands

the apostle's language, take up this verse, and he will be

convinced that the apostle had all these things in view. I am

surprised that some of those who have looked for the discoveries

of the moderns among the ancients, have not brought in the

apostle's word επιχορηγια, supply, from επιχορηγεω, to lead up,

lead along, minister, supply, &c., as some proof that the

circulation of the blood was not unknown to St. Paul!

Verse 17. Walk not as other Gentiles walk] Ye are called to

holiness by the Gospel, the other Gentiles have no such calling;

walk not as they walk. In this and the two following verses the

apostle gives a most awful account of the conduct of the heathens

who were without the knowledge of the true God. I shall note the


1. They walked in the vanity of their mind, ενματαιοτητιτου

νοοςαυτων. In the foolishness of their mind; want of genuine

wisdom is that to which the apostle refers, and it was through

this that the Gentiles became addicted to every species of

idolatry; and they fondly imagined that they could obtain help

from gods which were the work of their own hands! Here their

foolishness was manifested.

Verse 18. 2. Having the understanding darkened] This is the

second instance alleged by the apostle of the degradation of the

Gentiles. Having no means of knowledge, the heart, naturally

dark, became more and more so by means of habitual transgression;

every thing in the Gentile system having an immediate tendency to

blind the eyes and darken the whole soul.

3. Being alienated from the life of God] The original design of

God was to live in man; and the life of God in the soul of man was

that by which God intended to make man happy, and without which

true happiness was never found by any human spirit: from this

through the ignorance that was in them, διατηναγνοιαντηνουσαν,

through the substantial or continually existing ignorance, which

there was nothing to instruct, nothing to enlighten; for the most

accurate writings of their best philosophers left them entirely

ignorant of the real nature of God. And if they had no correct

knowledge of the true God they could have no religion; and if no

religion, no morality. Their moral state became so wretched that

they are represented as abhorring every thing spiritual and pure,

for this is the import of the word απηλλοτριωμενοι (which we

translate alienated) in some of the best Greek writers. They

abhorred every thing that had a tendency to lay any restraint on

their vicious passions and inclinations.

4. Blindness of their heart] διατηνπωρωσιν. Because of the

callousness of their hearts. Callous signifies a thickening of

the outward skin of any particular part, especially on the hands

and feet, by repeated exercise or use, through which such parts

are rendered insensible. This may be metaphorically applied to

the conscience of a sinner, which is rendered stupid and

insensible by repeated acts of iniquity.

Verse 19. 5. Who being past feeling] οιτινεςαπηλγηκοτες.

The verb απαλγειν signifies, 1. To throw off all sense of shame,

and to be utterly devoid of pain, for committing unrighteous acts.

2. To be desperate, having neither hope nor desire of

reformation; in a word, to be without remorse, and to be utterly

regardless of conduct, character, or final blessedness. Instead

of απηλγηκοτες, several excellent MSS. and versions have

απηλπικοτες, being without hope; that is, persons who, from their

manner of life in this world, could not possibly hope for

blessedness in the world to come, and who might feel it their

interest to deny the resurrection of the body, and even the

immortality of the soul.

6. Have given themselves over unto lasciviousness]

Lasciviousness, ασελγεια, is here personified; and the Gentiles in

question are represented as having delivered themselves over to

her jurisdiction. This is a trite picture of the Gentile world:

uncleanness, lechery, and debauchery of every kind, flourished

among them without limit or restraint. Almost all their gods and

goddesses were of this character.

7. To work all uncleanness with greediness.] This is a complete

finish of the most abandoned character; to do an unclean act is

bad, to labour in it is worse, to labour in all uncleanness

is worse still; but to do all this in every case to the utmost

extent, ενπλεονεξια, with a desire exceeding time, place,

opportunity, and strength, is worst of all, and leaves nothing

more profligate or more abandoned to be described or imagined;

just as Ovid paints the drunken Silenus, whose wantonness survives

his strength and keeps alive his desires, though old age has

destroyed the power of gratification:-

Te quoque, inextinctae Silene libidinis, urunt:

Nequitia est, quae te non sinit esse senem.

Fast., lib. i. v. 413.

Thee also, O Silenus, of inextinguishable lust, they inflame;

Thou art old in every thing except in lust.

Such was the state of the Gentiles before they were blessed with

the light of the Gospel; and such is the state of those nations

who have not yet received the Gospel; and such is the state of

multitudes of those in Christian countries who refuse to receive

the Gospel, endeavour to decry it, and to take refuge in the

falsities of infidelity against the testimony of eternal truth.

Verse 20. But ye have not so learned Christ] Ye have received

the doctrines of Christianity, and therefore are taught

differently; ye have received the Spirit of Christ, and therefore

are saved from such dispositions. Some would point and translate

the original thus: υμειςδεουχουτως. εμαθετετονχριστον. But

ye are not thus; ye have learned Christ.

Verse 21. If so be that ye have heard him] ειγε, Seeing that,

since indeed, ye have heard us proclaim his eternal truth; we have

delivered it to you as we received it from Jesus.

Verse 22. That ye put off] And this has been one especial part

of our teaching, that ye should abandon all these, and live a life

totally opposite to what it was before.

The old man] See Clarke on Ro 6:6, and especially the

notes on Ro 13:13, 14.

Which is corrupt] The whole of your former life was corrupt and

abominable; ye lived in the pursuit of pleasure and happiness; ye

sought this in the gratification of the lusts of the flesh; and

were ever deceived by these lusts, and disappointed in your


Verse 23. And be renewed in the spirit of your mind] Their old

mode of living was to be abandoned; a new one to be assumed. The

mind is to be renovated; and not only its general complexion, but

the very spirit of it; all its faculties and powers must be

thoroughly, completely, and universally renewed. Plautus uses a

similar expression describing deep distress, and answerable to our

phrase innermost soul:-

Paupertas, pavor territat mentem animi.

Poverty and dread alarm my innermost soul.

Epid., l. 519.

Verse 24. Put on the new man] Get a new nature; for in Christ

Jesus-under the Christian dispensation, neither circumcision

avails any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation.

Therefore ye must be renewed in the spirit of your mind.

Which after God is created in righteousness] Here is certainly

an allusion to the creation of man. Moses tells us, Ge 1:27,

that God created man in his own image; that is, God was the model

according to which he was formed in the spirit of his mind. St.

Paul says here that they should put on the new man, which after

God is created in righteousness and true holiness, or, οσιοτητι

τηςαληθειας, in the holiness of truth. Both certainly refer to

the same thing, and the one illustrates the other. From the

apostle we learn what Moses meant by the image of God; it was

righteousness and the truth of holiness.

See Clarke on Ge 1:26.

It is not this or the other degree of moral good which the soul is

to receive by Jesus Christ, it is the whole image of God; it is to

be formed καταθεου, according to God; the likeness of the Divine

Being is to be traced upon his soul, and he is to bear that as

fully as his first father Adam bore it in the beginning.

Verse 25. Wherefore putting away lying] All falsity, all

prevarication, because this is opposite to the truth as it is in

Jesus, Eph 4:21,

and to the holiness of truth, Eph 4:24.

Speak every man truth with his neighbour] Truth was but of

small account among many of even the best heathens, for they

taught that on many occasions a lie was to be preferred to the

truth itself. Dr. Whitby collects some of their maxims on this


κρειττονδεελεσθαιψευδοςηαληθεςκακον. "A lie is better

than a hurtful truth."-Menander.

τογαραγαθονκρειττονεστιτηςαληθειας. "Good is better than


ενθαγαρτιδεικαιψευγδοςλεγεσθαιλεγεσθω. "When telling a

lie will be profitable, let it be told."-Darius in Herodotus, lib.

iii. p. 101.

"He may lie who knows how to do it εςδεοντικαιρω, in a

suitable time."-Plato apud Stob., ser. 12.

"There is nothing decorous in truth but when it is profitable;

yea, sometimes καιψευδοςωνησενανθρωρουςκαιταληθεςεβλαψεν,

truth is hurtful, and lying is profitable to men."-Maximus Tyrius,

Diss. 3, p. 29.

Having been brought up in such a loose system of morality, these

converted Gentiles had need of these apostolic directions; Put

away lying; speak the truth: Let lying never come near you; let

truth be ever present with you.

We are members one of another.] Consider yourselves as one

body, of which Jesus Christ is the head; and as a man's right hand

would not deceive or wrong his left hand, so deal honestly with

each other; for ye are members one of another.

Verse 26. Be ye angry, and sin not] οργιζεσθε, here, is the

same as ειμενοργιζεσθε, IF YE be angry, do not sin. We can

never suppose that the apostle delivers this as a precept, if we

take the words as they stand in our version. Perhaps the sense

is, Take heed that ye be not angry, lest ye sin; for it would be

very difficult, even for an apostle himself, to be angry and not

sin. If we consider anger as implying displeasure simply, then

there are a multitude of cases in which a man may be innocently,

yea, laudably angry; for he should be displeased with every thing

which is not for the glory of God, and the good of mankind. But,

in any other sense, I do not see how the words can be safely


Let not the sun go down upon your wrath] That is: If you do get

angry with any one, see that the fire be cast with the utmost

speed out of your bosom. Do not go to sleep with any unkind or

unbrotherly feeling; anger, continued in, may produce malice and

revenge. No temper of this kind can consist with peace of

conscience, and the approbation of God's Spirit in the soul.

Verse 27. Neither give place to the devil.] Your adversary

will strive to influence your mind, and irritate your spirit;

watch and pray that he may not get any place in you, or ascendancy

over you.

As the word διαβολος is sometimes used to signify a calumniator,

tale-bearer, whisperer, or backbiter; (see in the original,

1Ti 3:11; 2Ti 3:3, and Tit 2:3;) here it may have the same

signification. Do not open your ear to the tale-bearer, to the

slanderer, who comes to you with accusations against your

brethren, or with surmisings and evil speakings. These are human

devils; they may be the means of making you angry, even without

any solid pretence; therefore give them no place, that you may not

be angry at any time; but if, unhappily, you should be overtaken

in this fault, let not the sun go down upon your wrath; go to your

brother, against whom you have found your spirit irritated; tell

him what you have heard, and what you fear; let your ears be open

to receive his own account; carefully listen to his own

explanation; and, if possible, let the matter be finally settled,

that Satan may not gain advantage over either.

Verse 28. Let him that stole steal no more] It is supposed

that, among the rabbins, stealing was not entirely

discountenanced, provided a portion was given to the poor. The

apostle here teaches them a different doctrine: as they should

speak truth every man with his neighbour, so they should in every

respect act honestly, for nothing contrary to truth and

righteousness could be tolerated under the Christian system. Let

no man, under pretence of helping the poor, defraud another; but

let him labour, working with his hands to provide that which is

good, that he may have to give to him who is in necessity.

Stealing, overreaching, defrauding, purloining, &c., are

consistent with no kind of religion that acknowledges the true

God. If Christianity does not make men honest, it does nothing

for them. Those who are not saved from dishonesty fear not God,

though they may dread man.

Verse 29. Let no corrupt communication] πασλογοςσαπρος.

Kypke observes that λογοςσαπρος signifies a useless, putrid,

unsavoury, and obscene word or conversation. 1. Useless,

particularly that which has been rendered so by old age and

corruption. 2. Putrid, impure; so Aristophanes in Lysistrat.,

p. 859, calls a bad woman σαπραεμοισυλουτρονωσαπρα. Tune,

Spurca! balneum mihi parabis? 3. Calumnious, or reproachful;

whatever has a tendency to injure the name, fame, or interest of

another. In short, it appears to mean any word or thing obscene,

any thing that injures virtue, countenances vice, or scoffs at

religion. In the parallel place, Col 4:6, the apostle exhorts

that our speech may be seasoned with salt, to preserve it from

putrefaction. See Kypke and Macknight.

But that which is good to the use of edifying] To be good for a

thing is a Graecism, as well as an Anglicism, for, to be fit,

proper, suitable, &c.; so Achilles Tatius, lib. iv. p. 231:

αγαθονειςφιλιανοιδασε. I know thee to be good (formed) for

friendship. And Appian, de Bell. Hisp., p. 439, terms both the

Scipios, ανδραςεςπαντααγαθουςγενομενουχ, men who were good

(suitable) for all things. And also Lucian, in Toxari, p. 53:

ουμονοναρατοξευειναγαθοιησανσκυθαι. The Scythians were not

good (expert) in archery only. See Kypke, from whom I quote.

That it may minister grace] ιναδωχαριν. This may be

understood thus: 1. Let your conversation be pure, wise, and holy,

that it may he the means of conveying grace, or Divine influences,

to them that hear. 2. Let it be such as to be grateful or

acceptable to the hearers. This is the meaning of ιναδωχαριν

in some of the most correct Greek writers. Never wound modesty,

truth, or religion with your discourse; endeavour to edify those

with whom you converse; and if possible, speak so as to please


Verse 30. Grieve not the Holy Spirit of God] By giving way to

any wrong temper, unholy word, or unrighteous action. Even those

who have already a measure of the light and life of God, both of

which are not only brought in by the Holy Spirit, but maintained

by his constant indwelling, may give way to sin, and so grieve

this Holy Spirit that it shall withdraw both its light and

presence; and, in proportion as it withdraws, then hardness and

darkness take place; and, what is still worse, a state of

insensibility is the consequence; for the darkness prevents the

fallen state from being seen, and the hardness prevents it from

being felt.

Whereby ye are sealed] The Holy Spirit in the soul of a

believer is God's seal, set on his heart to testify that he is

God's property, and that he should be wholly employed in God's

service. It is very likely that the apostle had in view the words

of the prophet, Isa 63:10:

But they rebelled, and VEXED his HOLY SPIRIT; therefore he was

turned to be their enemy, and fought against them. The psalmist

refers to the same fact in nearly the same words, Ps 78:40:

How oft did they PROVOKE him in the wilderness, and GRIEVE him in

the desert! Let every man, therefore, take heed that he grieve

not the Spirit of God, lest God turn to be his enemy, and fight

against him.

Verse 31. Let all bitterness] πασαπικρια. It is astonishing

that any who profess the Christian name should indulge bitterness

of spirit. Those who are censorious, who are unmerciful to the

failings of others, who have fixed a certain standard by which

they measure all persons in all circumstances, and unchristian

every one that does not come up to this standard, these have the

bitterness against which the apostle speaks. In the last century

there was a compound medicine, made up from a variety of drastic

acrid drugs and ardent spirits, which was called Hiera Picra, ιερα

πικρα, the holy bitter; this medicine was administered in a

multitude of cases, where it did immense evil, and perhaps in

scarcely any case did it do good. It has ever appeared to me to

furnish a proper epithet for the disposition mentioned above, the

holy bitter; for the religiously censorious act under the pretence

of superior sanctity. I have known such persons do much evil in a

Christian society, but never knew an instance of their doing any


And wrath] θυμος is more properly anger, which may be

considered the commencement of the passion.

Anger] οργν is more properly wrath-the passion carried to its

highest pitch, accompanied with injurious words and outrageous

acts, some of which are immediately specified.

And clamour] κραυγη Loud and obstreperous speaking, brawling,

railing, boisterous talk, often the offspring of wrath; all of

which are highly unbecoming the meek, loving, quiet, sedate mind

of Christ and his followers.

And evil speaking] βλασφημια. Blasphemy; that is, injurious

speaking-words which tend to hurt those of whom or against whom

they are spoken.

With all malice] κακια. All malignity; as anger produces

wrath, and wrath clamour, so all together produce malice; that

is, settled, sullen, fell wrath, which is always looking out for

opportunities to revenge itself by the destruction of the object

of its indignation. No state of society can be even tolerable

where these prevail; and, if eternity were out of the question, it

is of the utmost consequence to have these banished from time.

Verse 32. Be ye kind one to another] γινεσθεχρηστοι. Be kind

and obliging to each other; study good breeding and gentleness of

manners. A Christian cannot be a savage, and he need not be

a boor. Never put any person to needless pain.

Tender-hearted] ευσπλαγχνοι. Compassionate; having the

bowels easily moved (as the word implies) to commiserate the state

of the wretched and distressed.

Forgiving one another] Should you receive any injury from a

brother, or from any man, be as ready to forgive him, on his

repentance and acknowledgment, as God was, for Christ's sake, to

forgive you when you repented of your sins, and took refuge in his


1. THE exhortations given in this chapter, if properly attended

to, have the most direct tendency to secure the peace of the

individual, the comfort of every family, and the welfare and

unity of every Christian society. That God never prohibits any

thing that is useful to us, is an unshaken truth. And that he

never commands what has not the most pointed relation to our

present and eternal welfare, is not less so. How is it, then,

that we do not glory in his commandments and rejoice in his

prohibitions? If the gratification of our fleshly propensities

could do us good, that gratification had never been forbidden.

God plants thorns in the way that would lead us to death and


2. From the provision which God has made for the soul's

salvation, we may see the nature, and in some sense the extent, of

the salvation provided. Much on this subject has been said in the

preceding chapter, and the same subject is continued here. God

requires that the Church shall be holy, so that it may be a proper

habitation for himself; and he requires that each believer should

be holy, and that he should, under the influences of his grace,

arrive at the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ!

Eph 4:13. This is astonishing; but God is able to make all

grace abound towards us.

3. It is the will of God that Christians should be well

instructed; that they should become wise and intelligent; and

have their understandings well cultivated and improved. Sound

learning is of great worth, even in religion; the wisest and best

instructed Christians are the most steady, and may be the most

useful. If a man be a child in knowledge, he is likely to be

tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine;

and often lies at the mercy of interested, designing men: the more

knowledge he has, the more safe is his state. If our

circumstances be such that we have few means of improvement, we

should turn them to the best account. "Partial knowledge is

better than total ignorance; he who cannot get all he may wish,

must take heed to acquire all that he can." If total ignorance be

a bad and dangerous thing, every degree of knowledge lessens both

the evil and the danger. It must never be forgotten that the Holy

Scriptures themselves are capable of making men wise unto

salvation, if read and studied with faith in Christ.

4. Union among the followers of Christ is strongly recommended.

How can spiritual brethren fall out by the way? Have they not all

one Father, all one Head? Do they not form one body, and are

they not all members of each other? Would it not be monstrous to

see the nails pulling out the eyes, the hands tearing off the

flesh from the body, the teeth biting out the tongue, &c., &c.?

And is it less so to see the members of a Christian society bite

and devour each other, till they are consumed one of another?

Every member of the mystical body of Christ should labour for the

comfort and edification of the whole, and the honour of the Head.

He that would live a quiet life, and keep the unity of the Spirit

in the bond of peace, must be as backward to take offence as to

give it. Would all act on this plan (and surely it is as rational

as it is Christian) we should soon have glory to God in the

highest, and on earth peace and good will among men.

5. A roughness of manners is to some unavoidable; it is partly

owing to the peculiar texture of their mind, and partly to their

education. But there are others who glory in, and endeavour to

cultivate, this ungentle disposition; under this is often

concealed a great degree of spiritual pride, and perhaps some

malignity; for they think that this roughness gives them a right

to say grating, harsh, and severe things. They should be taught

another lesson; and if they will not demean themselves as they

ought, they should be left to themselves, and no man should

associate with them. They are not Christians, and they act

beneath the character of men.

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