1Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called,
2with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love,
3being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
In light of God’s love and abundant provision for godliness, Paul implores the Ephesians to walk in holiness because this is their calling as children of God. Paul describes himself as a prisoner of the Lord, and he literally was imprisoned as he wrote this epistle. Yet he may also be implying that he had fully surrendered his life and behavior to the will of God, which enabled him to fulfill his calling. It is this total obedience that he desires for the Ephesians also. In order to fulfill their calling, they must be humble, not thinking of themselves more highly than they ought (Romans 12:3). Christians are not to be consumed or preoccupied with self but with God and others. Humility recognizes its utter dependence upon God for grace to do anything of value, and it delights in seeing Him get glory and in being the servant of all. Humility does not gloat in one’s own ability, achievements, or power to influence. It rejoices in God alone Who gives the strength and fills the believer with the power to do what is right and good. Christians should also be gentle, being tender and meek. Rather than being harsh, believers should be sensitive to the needs and interests of others, even ahead of their own (Philippians 2:4-5). They should be patient, enduring difficulty, bearing with others, and not seeking to take revenge (Romans 12:19). They should be tolerant in that they hold their ground in truth and godliness, not being negatively influenced by others or condoning sin. Yet, they are not to be judgmental but rather loving and desiring to see others receive the grace of God and be restored and forgiven. They are willing to endure quirks and different personality types, and they are willing to forgive as many times as it takes. Yet never do they shrink from calling sin “sin.” These characteristics are that which are indicative of godliness and love and which enable the corporate body of Christ to remain unified in the Spirit and held together in peace. Christians are to be diligent and eager about doing their part to maintain Biblical unity in the body as each individual member is encouraged and supported to be growing in godliness.
4There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling;
5one Lord, one faith, one baptism,
6one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all.
The true church of Christ is one body, Christ being the head. There is one Spirit of God which indwells the body of Christ, His church. All who come to faith in Christ have the same hope of being forgiven, being adopted as a child of God, and receiving a certain future inheritance of eternal life. The true church is made up of all who have responded to the call of God in Christ to repent and be forgiven. It has the same Spirit indwelling it, and it has the same Lord to Whom it submits. It possesses the same faith in that it adheres to the same doctrine and gospel (Galatians 1:8-9). All were buried with Christ by baptism into His death and were raised to new life in Him (Romans 6:4,6). We are one because we are all born again in Christ, and we need to live out our calling as those who are saved from bondage to sin. All Christians worship the one true God and Father Who is in charge of all things, involved in all things, and working always in the world and in history. God is very real, active, and alive, working His power and will in the world in and through His church.
7But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ's gift.
8Therefore it says,
"WHEN HE ASCENDED ON HIGH,
HE LED CAPTIVE A HOST OF CAPTIVES,
AND HE GAVE GIFTS TO MEN."
9(Now this expression, "He ascended," what does it mean except that He also had descended into the lower parts of the earth?
10He who descended is Himself also He who ascended far above all the heavens, so that He might fill all things.)
Every believer is gifted by God by His grace according to the measure of Christ’s gift. In other words, God enables us and designs us to advance His kingdom in a particular way, and the only way we can advance it is to yield ourselves to Him so that Christ’s power (Colossians 1:29) can be rendered effective in and through us. Paul uses Psalm 68:18 as analogous to how Christ conquered sin and death once and for all. As a king would lead away the captives and take the spoils from the enemy, so too did Christ defeat Satan and sin and through His resurrection power pass on the ability to reign victoriously in life over sin by His grace (c.f. Colossians 2:15). Christ ascended into heaven after He descended to earth. He demonstrated His obedience and humility by being incarnated as a man, and He them demonstrated His power and authority by ascending into heaven to be at God’s right hand. He even proclaimed His victory to the spirits in prison (1 Peter 3:18-19), descending into the depths, before rising to the highest of heights (Philippians 2:9-11) at God’s right hand. His power is now no longer confined by a mortal body, but He fills all things with all power.
11And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers,
The apostles are those who were commissioned by Christ Himself, having seen for themselves the risen Christ. This included the twelve disciples of Christ and Paul to whom Christ appeared miraculously on the Damascus Road. These alone were the apostles of Jesus Christ, being sent personally by Him (the word “apostle” means “delegate,” “messenger,” or “one sent forth with orders). Timothy, Barnabas, and Silvanus are referred to as apostles but as apostles of the church, not of Christ (Acts 14:4, 1 Thessalonians 2:6, Romans 16:7, Philippians 2:25, 2 Corinthians 8:23). In other words, they were messengers and representatives of Christ generally and of the church but not in the particular, special sense that the original thirteen were apostles. These were commissioned to lay the foundation of the church (Ephesians 2:20), to receive, preach, and write the Scripture (Ephesians 3:5), and they were empowered by Christ to work special miracles, signs, and wonders (Acts 8:6-7, Hebrews 2:3-4). This special office of apostle expired with the death of the thirteen, though there is a sense in which we are all messengers of Christ. Yet there are clearly no special apostles alive today with special apostolic power (Hebrews 2:3-4).
There were certain men in the early church who occupied the office of prophet. These taught direct revelation from God to the church for its edification and instruction (Acts 11:21-28), and sometimes they instructed based upon Scripture already received (Acts 13:1). Any who prophesied needed to be judged by other prophets for validity (1 Corinthians 14:32), and their teaching needed to be in line with the Scripture already given and in regard to what the apostles were teaching (1 Corinthians 14:37). Prophets were responsible for laying the foundation of the church along with the apostles until the Scripture was completed (Ephesians 2:20). After the foundation was laid by these godly men, then the elders (pastors) were to shepherd the flock and teach them the Word of God. There were also to be evangelists who, though not giving new revelation or called to work miracles, were to preach the gospel. Timothy was an elder, a teacher of the Word, and an evangelist (2 Timothy 4:5). Those who shepherded the flock were called to care for the sheep (1 Peter 5:2), preach the Word (2 Timothy 4:1-2), and witness (2 Timothy 4:5).
12for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ;
13until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ.
The purpose of the church is to make disciples, baptize them, and teach them all that Christ has commanded us (Matthew 28:19-20). The purpose of the pastors, teachers, and evangelists is to equip the saints to serve God and others and to be built up in Christ. This involves learning the Scriptures, being versed in sound doctrine, and being able to communicate the gospel to others accurately. We serve others many times by encouraging them or counseling them with the Scripture, and we must know it in order to be stabilized and strengthened ourselves and in order to be able to have worthwhile things to say to someone else in their time of need. As pastors teach us God’s Word and we all grow together in sound doctrine, we can be unified. If false teaching enters the flock, then division and destruction will result. Obedience to God’s Word as we learn a right understanding of it is the only hope of true unity. We cannot be mature and grow to be like Christ if we do not know the Word, if we are not being taught the Word, or if we are being given worldly substitutes. The church can and will grow to maturity if pastors teach the Word of God, enabling and encouraging believers to teach others also (2 Timothy 2:2) and to serve others (Galatians 6:10). If we do not grow to maturity, we will be very vulnerable to deception, pride, and the condemnation of the devil. We won’t lose our salvation, but we will not do well in terms of fulfilling our calling (Hebrews 6:1-8).
14As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming;
15but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ,
16from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.
It is imperative for every Christian to grow to maturity, which takes time, service, and accurate, faithful teaching of God’s Word. We are not to remain children, but we are to get beyond the milk to the meat. We are to press on beyond the elemental teachings (Hebrews 6:1) and get on to the deeper truths about Christ, His will, and His ways. We should not be tossed here and there as we read some false teaching or hear a new idea or form of worldly wisdom disguised as Biblical truth. We should be able to identify the error, and we will only be able to do this if we have been trained in righteousness according to the Scriptures (2 Timothy 3:16-17). Wisdom is from Christ (Colossians 2:3), and He will enable us to sense error if we are sensitive to Him and humble (John 16:13). There are many out there who deceive and are extremely cunning, and many scheme so as to find ways to lead the church astray, all doing the work of the devil. Christians are not to fall victim to these things, and they will be able to identify errors if they know the Word are draw near to the heart of Christ. They will be able not only to identify truth when they hear it, but they will be able to speak it themselves so as to continue its propagation. They will not do it with ill motives or for selfish gain but in love because they adore Christ and care about the needs of others. They will truly believe that the Bible has the answers and that it is the truth which sets people free (John 8:31-32). As the truth is taught from the pulpit and shared in the body, Christians will grow to maturity in Christ.
Christ is the head of the body, and Christians are to do what the head desires. Each part of the body matters and has a purpose. It is essential that all parts work properly in order for the body to function optimally. No joint is insignificant because God works through the body as a whole, not giving preference to any one part. Love must govern all things that the body does and is because its head is love (1 John 4:7-8). (c.f. 1 Corinthians 12, Romans 12:3-8)
17So this I say, and affirm together with the Lord, that you walk no longer just as the Gentiles also walk, in the futility of their mind,
18being darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart;
19and they, having become callous, have given themselves over to sensuality for the practice of every kind of impurity with greediness.
Paul says that believers must walk worthy, fulfilling their calling, meaning that we don’t walk after the flesh but rather after the Spirit. Believers can fall, be deceived, and not grow to maturity. This is why it is so important that pastors teach the Word and that we all grow so that we can serve and not be led astray. Unbelievers live according to the desires of their hearts, which are evil (Jeremiah 17:9). Their hearts are stubborn against God, being unwilling to open up to receive His forgiveness and respond to His authority. Their hardening keeps them in darkness and ignorance, being fools when they think they are wise. They do not have eternal life, but they are dead, deserving of hell. This is because they have allowed themselves to be apathetic to God and to His commands, choosing rather to indulge sensual pleasures of impurity according to lust and greed. They are consumed with self and their own pleasure, and they do not love God or others. They have of their own volition given themselves over to deeper and deeper evil and slavery to sin.
20But you did not learn Christ in this way,
21if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught in Him, just as truth is in Jesus,
22that, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit,
23and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind,
24and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.
Paul does not want believers to live as unbelievers in immorality and evil. The Ephesians understood that they needed to walk after Christ when they first came to Christ, and they need to remain steadfast in this commitment. If they have indeed heard the truth about the gospel and Christ and if they have been indeed learning His Word, then it is imperative that they lay aside their old selves in the sense that they do not live according to their former lusts any longer. They are to lay aside and abandon their former way of living. When they do this, they live in light of the new creation that they are in Christ and by faith reckon themselves to be new (2 Corinthians 5:17). The old way is a way of corruption, lust, and deceit, and believers must reckon their old selves dead and gone, having been crucified with Christ (Romans 6:4, 6, Galatians 2:20). They must then put on the new self, which is already on, by reckoning it to indeed be on (Colossians 3:9-10). They need to think new thoughts as the Spirit transforms them (Romans 12:1-2), and they need to let the truth of the Word of God dwell in them richly (Colossians 3:16). The new self is created in Christ and in holiness and righteousness. Believers are new and have the capacity by faith to live holy, and this is what Paul desires the Ephesians to do. As believers learn the Word and conform their lives to it, they will be sanctified (John 17:17).
25Therefore, laying aside falsehood, SPEAK TRUTH EACH ONE of you WITH HIS NEIGHBOR, for we are members of one another.
26BE ANGRY, AND yet DO NOT SIN; do not let the sun go down on your anger,
27and do not give the devil an opportunity.
28He who steals must steal no longer; but rather he must labor, performing with his own hands what is good, so that he will have something to share with one who has need.
29Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.
Paul addresses four very practical areas of sin and subsequent sanctification. First, he commands the Ephesians not to lie but to speak truth, especially given that believers are all part of the same body. It makes no sense for one part of the body not to help the other, let alone to deceive it. Second, he commands the believers not to let anger give way to sin. There is a place for being angry at unrighteousness, but anger turns to sin when it becomes vengeance or hate. Reconciliation and forgiveness must be sought quickly, lest things spiral out of control as it did for Cain who then killed Abel. To let anger fester and to not deal with it Biblically is to give the devil room to expand it and open the door to worse things. Third, believers are not to steal from others but to work so that they earn money. Then they will be able to provide for themselves and their own and give to those in need. Fourth, believers are not to say or think any unwholesome words or thoughts. The tongue can do great damage, and it needs to be bridled (James 1:26). Words spoken should build up others and encourage them in righteousness. Words should be used to meet needs and give grace to those who hear. Words should not destroy another, and they should not be defiling or corrupt. The speech of the Christian should be decisively different from that of the world, cutting the vulgarity, crude joking, and profanity. It shouldn’t tear down but uplift according to truth. Words can only edify if they are consistent with Scripture.
30Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.
31Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.
32Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.
Any time we sin, we grieve the Holy Spirit, offending God and bringing Him great sorrow. He has sealed us as His own, making our redemption sure, and we need to give Him reverence, yielding to His prompting and leading. So that we don’t grieve Him, we must put away bitterness, anger, wrath, clamor, slander, and malice. These are all variations of anger which seeks to do ill to another person. We should not wish evil or do evil to another, but we should rather be kind, gentle, tender, and willing to forgive. Rather than being hostile and seeking a fight, we should put the needs and interests of others ahead of our own. God has forgiven us, and we need to extend that forgiveness to others. We are not to hold grudges or take revenge, but we are to do what we can to live peaceably with all people (Romans 12:18).