PRACTICAL PORTION OF THE EPISTLE
Church Principle of Growth and Progress – the Church as a Body (vs. 1-16)
1 “I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the
vocation wherewith ye are called.”I therefore. Inference not only from last chapter,
but the whole Epistle. Paul’s interest in the Ephesians led him to a double application
of the great subject which he had expounded:
measure of the blessing to which of His grace they were entitled
(ch. 3:14-21); and
calling (chps. 4-6.). To this second application he proceeds now.
The prisoner in the Lord. Not merely “of the Lord,” but ἐν Κυρίῳ - en kurio -
in the Lord– the usual formula for vital communion with Christ, indicating that his
captivity was the captivity of a part or member of the Lord. An exhortation from
such a prisoner ought to fall with double weight. Beseech you that ye walk worthy
of vocation wherewith ye were called. The word “vocation” means “call” - their call
was to be God’s people (compare Romans 9:25); this not a mere speculative distinction,
but one that must have practical form and that must lead to suitable fruit. True grace
in the heart must show itself by true goodness in the life. They were not to conceal
their religion, not to be ashamed of it, but to avow it and glory in it, and their lives
were not to be disgraced by unworthy conduct, but to be brightened and elevated by
their relation to Christ. Our walk is to be a pattern for others to follow, pointing to
Christ, as we follow Him! It is a great obligation and a great blessing to walk that
walk! Christ has given us an ensample that we should follow. (I Peter 2:21)
Christianity includes duties as well as doctrines. It does not merely hold out a refuge
to the guilty, but takes all who accept Christ under its supreme and exclusive
direction. It evangelizes human life by impregnating its minutest transactions
with the spirit of the gospel. But we must be always careful, in preaching the
necessity of good works and in enforcing Christian duties, to ground them, as the
Scriptures ground them, in the doctrines of grace. The true walk of the saint
tends powerfully to promote the unity of the church.
The Christian Walk (v. 1)
“Walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called.” We now come to
the practical part of the Epistle, and the first exhortation is a striking one.
Paul attached great importance to the element of walk or character. He
skillfully puts two things in connection with each other — vocation on the
one hand, and walk on the other. The preceding chapters had shown the
wonderful glory of the Christian vocation. The succeeding chapters are
directed to secure a correspondingly elevated Christian walk. Two main
topics present themselves.
1. Generally, the value of the Christian walk or character.
2. The kind of walk required — “worthy of the vocation,” etc.
· VALUE OF CHRISTIAN WALK OR CHARACTER. This may be
shown in three aspects. As a plea for Christianity, or evidence of the reality
of Christian faith; or as a persuasive towards it, and as a pattern for imitation.
ü A plea. Skeptical tendencies of the present age are such that logic is not
sufficient for them. The strongest popular evidence of Christianity is its
inherent truthfulness and its self-commending power. But next in power
is the consistent lives of earnest Christians. Men and women
consistently following Christ, breathing His spirit, and moving
heavenwards, show that His religion is not a sham or a deception,
but a great reality.
ü A persuasive. Such lives appeal to the heart as well as the head. They
show religion to be, not only a reality, but a great obligation and a great
blessing which appeals to the conscience and force it to say, “That is
what we ought to be.” Men feel they ought to live like such, and
certainly they would fain die like them.
ü A pattern. Do we need it? Have we not other and more perfect patterns
like the Sermon on the mount and the life of Christ? Yes, but human
nature yearns for something on its own level — something visible and
tangible, a steppingstone between heaven and earth. Hence Paul gave
thanks that the Thessalonians became followers of him and of the Lord,
and he told the Philippians that he and others were given them “for an
ensample.” Every Christian congregation should have a number of
model Christians fitted to be examples to the rest — the elders and
elderly people especially. Men may sneer at model Christians, but
they do not sneer at model soldiers or model servants, and certainly
every Christian worthy of the name should aim at being as near Christ
· THE KIND OF WALK. “Worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are
called.” We have all an idea of consistency; inconsistency should be the
object of our abhorrence. The world has a keen eye for inconsistencies of
Christians, and exposes them mercilessly. It takes comfort from them to
continue in sin. Sins detestable in the godly are thought nothing of in the
worldly. If what David did in re Uriah had been done by Nebuchadnezzar, no
one would have said anything. A consistent walk is, by God’s help, within
the reach of all. It is an impressive sermon to the world, a continual sermon,
an unanswerable sermon. Let all preach this sermon, though it be their only one.
The “walk worthy” is a walk of holiness, humility, forbearance, forgiveness,
patience, charity. In order to promote it, let us be much with Christ, and as far
as we can, with those who are like Christ. Let us study the biographies of
Christ-like men and aim at conformity to their example. Let us often pray
the prayer of the third chapter of this book, and other prayers of the like tenor.
Let us use earnestly our means of grace, praying that each sabbath, each
sermon, each sacrament, may serve to make us more worthy of the vocation
wherewith we are called.
Ethics after Theology (v. 1)
The doctrinal part of the Epistle is now finished and the practical part
begins. This is the true and natural order.
· IT IS IN THE SPHERE OF THE DOCTRINAL THAT WE FIND THE
POWER THAT CARRIES US THROUGH ALL PRACTICAL DUTIES.
In all the Epistles the duties enforced are grounded in the doctrines
declared or explained. The doctrines are the reservoir which sends its
stream of power down over the human life. The engineer scoops out a
hollow space to be filled with water, constructs his machinery, and then
lifts the sluice that sets all the machinery in motion. When the doctrines of
grace have been fully expounded, the apostle lifts the sluice and lets on the
stream that sends life spinning round and round in a course of holy activity.
“I beseech you therefore, by the mercies of God, that ye present your
bodies a living sacrifice” (Romans 12:1).
· IT IS NECESSARY TO INCULCATE CHRISTIAN DUTIES EVEN
IN THE CASE OF CHRISTIANS. If the apostles did it, we must do it. It
is only Antinomianism — resting on the doctrines of grace without
watchfulness of the walk before God — that contests this principle. An
Antinomian Bible would have no place for duties. Christianity includes
duties as well as doctrines. It does not merely hold out a refuge to the
guilty, but takes all who accept Christ under its supreme and exclusive
direction. It evangelizes human life by impregnating its minutest
transactions with the spirit of the gospel. But we must be always careful, in
preaching the necessity of good works and in enforcing Christian duties, to
ground them, as the Scriptures ground them, in the doctrines of grace.
The Obligations of the Christian Calling (v. 1)
“Walk worthy of the calling wherewith ye are called.”
· THE NATURE OF THIS CALLING. It is the Christian vocation. We
ü out of darkness into God’s marvelous light (I Peter 2:9),
ü into the grace of Christ (Galatians 1:6),
ü into the fellowship of Christ (I Corinthians 1:9);
ü unto holiness (I Thessalonians 4:7);
ü unto glory and virtue (II Peter 1:3);
ü unto peace (I Corinthians 7:15),
not only with God, but with our consciences and with one another (ch. 4:2;
Acts 24:16). This calling is a high calling, a holy calling, a heavenly
calling. We may well, therefore, walk worthy of it.
· THE WALK IN HARMONY WITH OUR CALLING. It is
emphatically “to walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing”
(Colossians 1:10); “to walk worthy of God who hath called you unto
His kingdom and glory” (I Thessalonians 2:12); to have a conversation
becoming the gospel of Christ (Philippians 1:27). In human society,
men are often kept from unworthy courses by a feeling of honor, as
gentlemen; how much more ought Christians to cherish a sense of honor as
disciples of the Savior and joint-heirs with Him of the kingdom of heaven!
The feeling of family honor is often a powerful guard against mean or
ungenerous actions. It is a profound disgrace to find the descendant of an
ancient and noble family forswear all its best traditions. As members of the
household of God, as brethren of Jesus Christ Himself, shall we disgrace
this sublime relationship? We cannot afford:
ü to bring shame upon our profession (Hebrews 6:6),
ü to lose the comfort of our calling (Psalm 19:11), or
ü to lose its end (Hebrews 12:14).
Let us not, therefore, affront our calling by inconsistencies, but walk in a
way that will fully harmonize with its nature, glory, and end. It is all the
more necessary to do so as the true walk of a saint tends so powerfully to
promote the unity of the Church.
2 “With all lowliness and meekness, with long-suffering, forbearing one another
in love.” Here are some points of a worthy walk. He begins his enumeration with
passive graces — eminently those of Christ. Lowliness or humility may well be
gendered by our remembering what we were when God’s grace took hold of us
Believers are not to think of themselves more highly than they ought to think (Romans
12:3), nor exalt themselves above their degree (II Corinthians 10:13-15), but to esteem
others better than themselves (Philippians 2:3). Let believers, therefore, have a humble
apprehension of their knowledge, for “knowledge puffeth up” (I Corinthians 8:1);
and humble thoughts of their goodness, for we cannot understand all our errors, and
need to be cleansed from our secret faults (Psalm 19:12). Let them “put on
humbleness of mind,” as the brightest ornament of Christian character (Colossians 3:12).
Meekness is the natural expression of a lowly state of mind, opposed to boisterous
self-assertion and rude striving with others; it genders a subdued manner and a
peace-loving spirit that studies to give the soft answer that turneth away wrath.
(Proverbs 15:1) –
victories are often gained by meekness and endurance — what
called “the invincible might of meekness.” It is that disposition which does not arraign
God and does not avenge itself on man. As regards God, it implies a ready submission
to the authority of His Word (James 1:21), and a cheerful resignation to His
providence, as opposed to murmuring and fretfulness (Psalm 39:9; see whole psalm).
As regards man, the meek will have a calm temper under provocations; he will
be “slow to wrath” (James 1:19); he will give “the soft answer that turneth away wrath”
(Proverbs 15:1); he will show that ornament of a meek and quiet spirit which adorns
more than rubies (I Peter 3:4). When joined with strength, it makes one of the most
effective characters. It is especially to be esteemed in a religious life. Therefore the
apostle says, “Let him show out of a good conversation his works with meekness of
wisdom” (James 3:13). It is with meekness and fear that we are to give a reason of our
hope (I Peter 3:15), and it is in a spirit of meekness we are to recover the erring
(Galatians 6:1). It is one of the nine graces of the Spirit (ibid. 5:23). The meek
man has great power with men. See how it contributes to the comfort of life;
for it keeps him from the friction of temper that so often detracts from true repose;
it brings us nearer and nearer to Him who was preeminently “meek and lowly of
spirit” (Matthew 11:29); and it has the promise of the earth for an inheritance
( ibid. ch. 5:5). Let us, therefore, seek meekness (Zephaniah 2:3).
“Longsuffering” is the disposition that leads us to suppress our anger (II Corinthians 6:6;
Galatians 5:22); and is opposed to that irritability often expressively called shortness of
temper, which is quick to show resentment. This spirit is of great moment in the Church,
where there may be frequent collisions of opinion, or interest, or feeling, and it waits with
patience till the passionate or obstinate see their way to more reasonable courses.
God commands it (Romans 12:17). He exemplifies it (Matthew 5:44; Romans 5:6-8),
and His Son has left us a most impressive exhibition of it (I Peter 2:21-23). We all fail in
our duty and need to have due consideration made to our failings. We are above all to
bear and. forbear in matters of religious fellowship (Romans 15:1).
“forbearing one another in love” - Christians are not to resent injuries or retaliate for
wrongs done to them, but are to bear with each other’s infirmities, to cover each other’s
weaknesses, to pity each other’s frailties, and to forgive the provocations they inflict upon
each other. This is to be done, not from a principle of merely worldly courtesy or from
contemptuous indifference, but from that love which “suffereth long, and is kind.”
(I Corinthians 13: 4) - It is “charity which covereth a multitude of sins,” (James 5:20;
I Peter 4:8) - just as surely as “hatred stirreth up strife” (<201012>Proverbs 10:12).
Long-suffering and loving forbearance are phases of the same state of mind — denoting
the absence of that irascibility and proneness to take offence which flares up at every
provocation or fancied neglect, and strives to maintain self-control on every occasion.
It is from such qualities in God that our redemption has come; it is miserable to accept
the redemption and not try to attain and exhibit its true spirit. Neglect of this verse has
produced untold evil in the Christian Church. These graces have reference mainly to the
ordinary intercourse of social life; what follows has to do more with the public life
of` the Church.
Believers are not to think of themselves more highly than they ought to think (Romans
12:3), nor exalt themselves above their degree (II Corinthians 10:13-15), but to esteem
others better than themselves (Philippians 2:3).
Graces that Promote the Harmony of the Church (v. 2)
“All lowliness and meekness, with long-suffering, forbearing one another in
love.” These graces are specially needful in the Church; for their opposites,
pride, irascibility, and impatience do much to create heart-burning and
· LOWLINESS OF MIND.
ü Its nature. It is that deep humility, as opposed to pride, arrogance, and
conceit, which is produced by a right sense of our weakness, ignorance,
and dependence, and by a due appreciation of the undeserved glory to
which we are called in Christ Jesus. Men are made humble and self-
distrustful less by the knowledge that they are weak, ignorant, and mortal,
than by the fact that, while striving for a higher end, they are always
coming short of it by their mistakes and their follies, and are in constant
need of a strength greater than their own. It is thus possible to unite a
high aim with a profound humility.
ü Its importance. It is necessary because:
Ø God requires it (Micah 6:8);
Ø Christ exemplified it (Matthew 11:29);
Ø God dwells with the humble (Isaiah 57:15);
Ø it is the way:
o to learn wisdom (Proverbs 11:2),
o to attain grace and holiness (ibid. ch 3:5-6; James 4:6),
and to preserve unity in the Church.
It has many promises made to it. God will:
Ø respect the humble (Isaiah 66:2),
Ø give them grace (I Peter 5:6),
Ø exalt them (ibid.), and
Ø reward them with all good things.
Its importance is specially manifest in Church relations. Believers are
not to think of themselves more highly than they ought to think
(Romans 12:3), nor exalt themselves above their degree (II Corinthians
10:13-15), but to esteem others better than themselves (Philippians 2:3).
Let believers, therefore, have a humble apprehension of their knowledge,
for “knowledge puffeth up” (I Corinthians 8:1); and humble thoughts
of their goodness, for we cannot understand all our errors, and need to
be cleansed from our secret faults (Psalm 19:12). Let them “put on
humbleness of mind,” as the brightest ornament of Christian character
· MEEKNESS. There is a natural connection between meekness and
humility, and therefore they are often joined together.
ü Its nature. It is that disposition which does not arraign God and does not
avenge itself on man. As regards God, it implies a ready submission to
the authority of His Word (James 1:21), and a cheerful resignation to His
providence, as opposed to murmuring and fretfulness (Psalm 39:9). As
regards man, the meek will have a calm temper under provocations; he
will be “slow to wrath” (James 1:19); he will give “the soft answer that
turneth away wrath” (Proverbs 15:1); he will show that ornament of a
meek and quiet spirit which adorns more than rubies (I Peter 3:4).
When joined with strength it. makes one of the most effective characters.
It is especially to be esteemed in a religious life. Therefore the apostle
says, “Let him show out of a good conversation his works with meekness
of wisdom” (James 3:13). It is with meekness and fear that we are to give
a reason of our hope (I Peter 3:15), and it is in a spirit of meekness we
are to recover the erring (Galatians 6:1). It is one of the nine graces of
the Spirit (ibid. ch. 5:22-23).
ü Its importance. See how largely it contributes to the usefulness of
Christian life. The meek man has great power with men. See how it
contributes to the comfort of life; for it keeps him from the friction of
temper that so often detracts from true repose; it brings us nearer and
nearer to Him who was pre-eminently “meek and lowly of spirit”
(Matthew 11:29); and it has the promise of the earth for an inheritance
(ibid. ch. 5:5). Let us, therefore, seek meekness (Zephaniah 2:3).
ü Its nature. It is the disposition that leads us to suppress our anger (II
Corinthians 6:6; Galatians 5:22); and is opposed to that irritability often
expressively called shortness of temper, which is quick to show
resentment. This spirit is of great moment in the Church, where there
may be frequent collisions of opinion, or interest, or feeling, and it
waits with patience till the passionate or obstinate see their way to
more reasonable courses.
ü Its importance. God commands it (Romans 12:17). He exemplifies it
(Matthew 5:44; Romans 5:6-8), and His Son has left us a most
impressive exhibition of it (I Peter 2:21-23). We all fail in our duty
and need to have due consideration made to our failings. We are above
all to bear and forbear in matters of religious fellowship (Romans 15:1).
· THE SPIRIT IN WHICH THIS LONG-SUFFERING IS TO BE
EXERCISED. “Forbearing one another in love.” Christians are not to
resent injuries or retaliate for wrongs done to them, but are to bear with
each other’s infirmities, to cover each other’s weaknesses, to pity each
other’s frailties, and to forgive the provocations they inflict upon each
other. This is to be done, not from a principle of merely worldly courtesy
or from contemptuous indifference, but from that love which “suffereth
long, and is kind.” (I Corinthians 13:4) It is “charity which covereth a
multitude of sins” (I Peter 4:8), just as surely as “hatred stirreth up strife”
(Proverbs 10:12). It would be impossible to secure the equanimity (self-
control in a difficult situation) of life if the principle of forbearance,
prompted and guided by love, were not generally exercised. The counsel
of the apostle in this whole passage pointedly condemns the proud, arrogant,
censorious disposition, which tramples, not only on the rules of courtesy,
but of Christian affection. We owe to others what they require at our
hands. (Do unto others as ye would have them do to you! (Luke 6:31)
There is much in us they have to allow for, and therefore it becomes
us to allow for much in them. Therefore our very manners ought to show
true Christian consideration, for the poet has rightly said —
“ And manners are not idle, but the fruit
Of loyal nature and of noble mind.”
3 “Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”
Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit. The concord to be preserved is
the “unity of the Spirit” —the unity of which the Holy Spirit is the Author; not
mere external uniformity, but inward agreement. It is a fact that there is much inward
agreement wherever the Spirit of God works. It is our duty to preserve this — to keep
it from being broken or even appearing as if broken. Σπουδάζοντες - spoudazontes -
striving; make haste to be zealous – is stronger than the Authorized Version’s
“endeavoring,” and denotes an object to be carefully and earnestly watched for and
promoted. “The unity of the Spirit” is equivalent to the unity of which the Spirit is
the Author. In all in whom He works savingly, the Spirit produces a certain oneness
in faith, in repentance, in knowledge, in their views of sin, grace, Christ, the world, etc.
This oneness exists, and cannot but exist, even when Christians are not careful of it,
but the manifestation of it is lost; it seems to the world as if there were no such oneness.
“Many men, many minds,” says the world, when believers differ much and contend
much, and are at no pains to preserve and manifest the unity wrought by the Spirit.
It is due
to the Spirit, as well as to the interests of the
of the Spirit be maintained in the bond of peace. This unity is to be maintained by
the bond which consists of “peace;” by a peace-loving and peace-seeking spirit,
that spirit of which Christ said, “Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be
called the children of God.” (Matthew 5:9) The danger of breaking the unity of the
Spirit is great;
ü readiness to take offence,
ü regardlessness of the welfare of others,
ü forgetfulness of the vast Christian work and warfare committed to us,
are temptations to this.
On the other hand, the habitual striving after the graces enumerated above, and trying
to exercise them habitually, tend to preserve the unity of the Spirit, and to a large extent,
too, to preserve external agreement in the government and worship and work of the
Church. The genitive, εἰρήνης – eiraenaes – peace – is commonly held to be that of
apposition, the bond which consists of peace — a peace-loving spirit, a spirit laying
more stress on the points in which Christians agree than those in which they differ.
Those who are combative, censorious, careless of peace, do not walk worthy
of their vocation. We are:
ü called by the God of peace,
ü redeemed by Christ who is our Peace,
ü sanctified by the Spirit whose fruit is peace, and
ü edified by the gospel of peace,
that we may walk as sons of peace.
Walking Worthy of Our Vocation (vs. 1-3)
“I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord,” etc. The verses, looked at homiletically,
suggest the following truths:
· THAT MAN’S EXTERNAL CONDITION IN THIS WORLD IS NO
TRUE TEST OF HIS REAL WORTH. A greater man than Paul, greater in
true thought, lofty aims, disinterested sympathies, self-sacrificing love,
Christ-like devotion, and philanthropy, never lived. He was great in
himself, great in his spiritual influence, great in the estimation of all capable
of appreciating worth. Yet he was a “prisoner” and doomed to martyrdom
— a condition the most ignominious and painful. This fact shows:
ü The corruption of human society. So blind in moral judgment and so
perverse in heart has civil society been, almost from the beginning
(compare Genesis 6:5), that it has doomed its best men to degradation,
suffering, and often martyrdom.
ü The reality of a future retributive dispensation. The beheading
of John the Baptist, the imprisonment of a Paul, the crucifying of the
Christ, proclaim with a tongue of thunder a coming judgment, a day when
“all ungodly men shall be convinced of all ungodly things which they
have ungodly committed.” (Jude 1:15)
· THAT THE END OF ALL TRUE THEOLOGY IS THE
IMPROVEMENT OF CHARACTER. The apostle, after laying down in
the preceding chapters the grandest theological truths, begins in these
verses an application of these truths to practical life. “I beseech you
therefore.” “Therefore.” Why? Because of the wonderful things I have
stated. Theology, if it remains with us merely as a science, will do us no
spiritual service. It may stimulate thought, widen the realm of intelligence,
afford scope and incentive to our speculative faculties, and develop our
powers of logic and controversy. But what boots all this? Devils in
depravity and torture are theologians. It is only when theological truths
pass from the intellect to the heart, and thence circulate as blood through
every particle of our being — in other words, when doctrines are translated
into deeds — that they really serve us. Theology is bread; but undigested
bread does not impart health, but impairs it, does not invigorate the man,
but enfeebles him. A great theologian is often a moral invalid.
· THAT THE PRIVILEGES OF A MORAL BEING ARE THE
MEASURE OF HIS OBLIGATIONS. “Walk worthy of the vocation,” etc.
The Bible teaches us our duty, not so much by written precepts as by
principles, either expressed or implied. Indeed, it seems to me no code of
legislative propositions, though its volumes filled the world, could supply
directions for the boundless activities of an undying soul. You cannot bring
all the obligations of souls into any number of written sentences. Hence we
have principles, and often one principle will meet all the possible activities
of a soul, determine its duty in every separate act. The principle we have
stated is an example. When a real Christian is told to “act worthy of his
vocation,” he is told everything touching all conceivable obligations. This
point supplies us with two general remarks.
ü Christians are called into a Divine sonship, and their duty is to walk
worthy of that. The call you have in the fifth verse of the first chapter.
“Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ
to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will.” We are called
to be the sons of God. What is our duty? To act worthy of our
relationship, act as sons ought to act towards such a Father.
Ø The highest reverence. Our heavenly Father is not only greatest
to us, BUT GREATEST TO THE UNIVERSE! Therefore
Ø The highest gratitude. We owe everything to Him — being
and the highest blessings of being. Therefore to Him our
profoundest and incessant thanks are due.
Ø The highest esteem. He is:
o the best of Beings,
o the Fountain of all virtues,
o the Standard of all character,
o the Totality of goodness.
Therefore He should be loved with all our soul and strength.
Ø The highest confidence. Yield to Him a cheerful trust, a
boundless reliance. TRUST IN HIM FOREVER!
Ø The highest attention. He should occupy more of our
thoughts than any other being. You should:
o study His character,
o trace His ways,
o anticipate His wishes,
o imbibe His Spirit,
o imitate His character, and thus become
o partakers of His nature.
When Christians are told to walk worthy of their sonship,
what more can be said? It means to live a pure, useful,
elevated, morally royal life.
ü Christians are called into a spiritual corporation, and their duty is to
walk worthy of that. When on earth Christ founded a new society, its
members consisted of those who practically accepted Him as their great
Teacher, Example, Savior and Lord. That society, few in numbers at first,
has been increasing ever since. Millions have gone to heaven, and
millions are still on this earth found in connection with all Churches,
and not a few in connection with none. This society, though its members
are divided by sentiment and ritual and distance, are nevertheless one —
Ø purpose, and
They are but branches of one tree, the Root of which is CHRIST,
members of one body the Head of which is Christ. Now, every
Christian is called into this grand corporation. And the apostle here
states two things concerning our relation to it.
Ø The grand purpose we should aim at. “Endeavoring to keep the
unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” “Unity of the Spirit”
means the unity of which the Spirit is the Author. Unity, not
merely doctrinal or ecclesiastical, for there may be doctrinal
and ecclesiastical unity where there is spiritual separation.
It is the unity of souls IN CHRIST! Now, every one belonging
to this corporation should diligently endeavor to maintain its
unity. This unity is consonant with diversity; the waves are
different, but the ocean is one; the branches are different, but
the tree is one; the members are different, but the body is one;
the stars are different, but the system is one. Men’s thoughts
may be different, but men’s loves may be one, and loves are the
bonds of souls.
Ø The method for promoting this purpose. Three things are
o Humility. “With all lowliness and meekness.” Pride,
arrogance, and haughtiness in all its forms, have ever
been amongst the most disturbing elements in Church life.
o Mutual forbearance. “Forbearing one another.” The
best members of this Church are imperfect in belief,
sympathies, and conduct; hence mutual forbearance is
necessary in order to maintain unity. He who feels
disposed to quarrel with every fault of his associates
may spend his time in doing nothing else.
o Brotherly love. “Forbearing one another in love.” Love
is the healer of discords. No hand but hers can retune the
discordant harp of Church life. These — lowliness,
meekness, long-suffering, loving forbearance — quiet,
unpretending, unshowy virtues are amongst the best
means for promoting true unity in the
is the most useful Christian? Not as a rule he who has the
most transcendent genius, brilliant talents, and
commanding eloquence, but he who has the most of
this quiet, loving, forbearing spirit. The world may do
without its Niagaras, whose thundering roar and majestic
rush excite the highest amazement of mankind, but it
cannot spare the thousand rivulets that glide unseen and
unheard every moment through the earth, imparting life
and verdure and beauty wherever they go. And so the
Church may do without its men of splendid abilities,
but it cannot do without its men of tender, loving,
Walking Worthily (vs. 1-3)
It is touching to see how the great apostle, who had a right to issue
commands to the Churches in the name of Christ, prefers to beseech his
readers with gentle entreaty as “the prisoner in the Lord.” This method is
as much a mark of his wisdom as of his humility and kindness of heart. For
we are all more easily moved by persuasion and sympathy than by
patronage and authority.
· CHRISTIANS ARE CALLED TO A HIGH VOCATION.
ü There is a Divine call. We are not left to drift through life aimlessly, nor
are we permitted to carve out careers for ourselves. Divine purposes go
before us, mapping out our course of future service; and Divine voices in
the gospel and in our hearts bid us follow our vocation.
ü The call is lofty and worthy of all honor. Christians are not saved with a
bare and beggarly deliverance, like shipwrecked mariners flung upon the
beach, half drowned and bereft of everything. When we enter the Christian
life we commence a course of high service, vast enterprise, and splendid
ü The purpose of this vocation is to glorify God and bless the world by
realizing the idea of the Christian Church. In the previous chapter Paul
has been describing some of the great privileges of Christians, which
consist chiefly in their being built into one great temple and growing
together in union. The breaking down of national, ecclesiastical,
intellectual, and moral barriers, and the building up of one great family,
knit together by love and united through a common union with Christ, is
Paul’s magnificent conception of the fruits that the gospel is to bear onearth.
· IT IS THE DUTY OF CHRISTIANS TO WALK WORTHILY OF
THEIR HIGH CALLING.
ü The responsibility of fulfilling our vocation rests upon us. We are called,
not driven, and we can disobey the Divine voice. But though we are free
from compulsion, we are not free from responsibility. For God has a right
to call us whither He wilt, and Christ has laid us under peculiar obligations
by His work and sacrifice for us.
ü This fulfillment of our vocation must be in our daily conduct. We are to
“walk worthily.” Belief and worship are not enough. The life and the whole
work and daily occupation are to follow the Divine call.
ü Christian consistency is squaring our conduct with our calling. Many
make much of mere self-consistency; but it is well often to be inconsistent
with ourselves, or we can never progress, much less repent and amend.
Nor is it enough to make our actions consistent with our opinions, unless
both opinions and actions are consistent with truth, with God’s will, and
with our vocation.
· WALKING WORTHILY OF THE CHRISTIAN CALLING
CONSISTS CHIEFLY IN MAINTAINING AND INCREASING OUR
MUTUAL BROTHERHOOD. Love is the queen of the New Testament
graces. Selfishness, moroseness, lack of sympathy, and the like are sins
against the peculiar genius of the gospel. To be zealous in defending the
faith, to be pure as white marble in saintly separation from vice, to be strict
in integrity, etc., will not be enough; for our calling is to a brotherhood,
and our worthy walking must help this.
ü Negatively, we must have:
Ø lowliness which declines to assert one’s self before one’s
Ø meekness which acts gently to them, and
Ø longsuffering which bears with any provocations they
may give us.
ü Positively, we must extend Christian unity and the spirit of peace.
The peaceful brotherly spirit must not only be passively harmless,
it must be earnest, active, and diligent.
The Unity of the Spirit and the Mode of Its Keeping (v. 3)
“Endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond- of peace.”
· CONSIDER THE NATURE OF THIS UNITY.
ü It is not the unity of the body, the Church. That is an immutable unity
which man cannot keep. God alone keeps it. Neither are we commanded
to make the unity of the Spirit, but simply to keep it — for it exists, in a
sense, independently of man’s fidelity; but in the degree in which it is
kept in the bond of peace, it will eventually lead to visible oneness.
ü Much less is it a unity of external organization. That unity existed
which must have existed at
mixed membership of Jews and Gentiles. Christ did undoubtedly make
both one on the cross, but the apostles allowed a considerable diversity
of order and usage to exist in the Churches, according to the dominance
of the Jewish or the Gentile element in them. There were Churches that
followed the rule of Moses — the apostles themselves holding by the
ceremonial law till the end of their lives (Acts 21:20-26). And there
were Churches that did not observe days nor follow Jewish usage,
but took a course authorized by apostolic command itself. If the
differences that existed in the days of the apostles did not destroy
the unity of the body, it is difficult to see how similar differences
in order and worship can destroy it now.
ü The unity of the Spirit is that unity of which the Spirit is the Author. His
indwelling is the principle of unity in the body of Christ. Man, therefore,
cannot make it, nor can he destroy it, though he can thwart or disturb its
manifestations. The use of the word “endeavoring” implies that it may be
kept with a greater or lesser degree of fidelity.
· CONSIDER HOW THIS UNITY IS TO BE PRESERVED. “In the
bond of peace.” That is, the bond which is peace, springing out of humility,
meekness, and forbearance. Just as pride, arrogance, and contention are
separating elements, the opposite dispositions are conducive to unity. The
peace which is the element of Christian society is that to which we are
called in one body; for:
ü we are called by the God of peace,
ü redeemed by Christ who is our Peace,
ü sanctified by the Spirit whose fruit is peace, and
ü edified by the gospel of peace, that we may walk
as sons of peace.
Thus the unity is preserved and manifested by peace, as it is marred or lost sight
of amidst conflicts and disagreements. The apostolic injunction is very
inconsistent with the Darbyite principle that the unity of the Spirit is to be
preserved by separation from evil, theological, ecclesiastical, or moral.
It is strange that the apostle never hints at such a thing as separation, but
speaks only of such graces as “lowliness, meekness, with long-suffering,”
which are but little exemplified in many of the separations brought about
by such a principle. The Darbyite principle is not a bond of peace. It multiplies
separations and divides the saints of God. There is uniting power in a
common belief or in a common affection, but there is none in mere
separation from evil. The common rejection of Arianism can never become
a center of union for Protestants and Roman Catholics, because they are
still so fundamentally apart in the whole spirit of their theology. The unity
of the Spirit which we are enjoined to keep is, therefore, a unity compatible
with minor differences, and ought to be the grand means of growing the
unity of the body into more glorious distinctness before the world.
Seven Particulars of Unity (vs. 4-6)
4 “There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your
calling; 5 One Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 One God and Father of all,
who is above all, and through all, and in you all.” There is one body. (see ch. 2:16).
The Church is an organic whole, of which believers are the members, and Christ the
Head, supplying the vitalizing power: The real body, being constituted by vital
union with Christ, is not synonymous with any single outward society. One Spirit;
viz. the Holy Spirit, who alone applies the redemption of Christ, and works in the
members of the Church the graces of the new creation – All sins against unity are
sins against the indwelling Spirit. Sectarian or diversive course have a tendency
to grieve the Spirit. Indeed, it is a mark of a separating APOSTASY that it HAS
NOT THE SPIRIT! (Jude 1:19) As ye also were called in one hope of your
calling.” This is one of the results of the Spirit’s work; when the Spirit called you
He inspired you all with one hope, and this one hope was involved in the very
essence of your calling (compare Titus 2:13, “Looking for the blessed hope, even
the glorious appearing of the great God and our Savior Jesus Christ”). To all
believers the Spirit imparted this one blessed hope. Hope is the expectation of future
good. All believers have the same aspirations, the same anticipations of the coming
glory – we have “a lively hope” because of the resurrection of Jesus from the grave.
(I Peter 1:3) One Lord. Jesus Christ, unique and beyond comparison:
ü as Teacher, all hang on His words;
ü as Master, all own His supreme authority;
ü to His example all refer as the standard;
ü in His likeness all covet as the highest excellence!
(where Mary is worshipped, though nominally you have but one Lord, virtually
you have two) – There is no part of our being, there is no event of our lives, that is
not subject to this authority which brooks NO RIVAL! One faith. not objective
in the sense of creed, but as denoting the one instrument of receiving salvation
(ch. 2:8), the one belief in the one Savior by which we are justified, adopted, and
in other ways blessed – The grace of faith has a thoroughly uniting tendency,
because it brings us near to the Savior, and the nearer we stand to Him we stand
the nearer to one another. One baptism. One initiatory rite admitting into the
visible Church — baptism in name of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, symbolic of
the washing of regeneration, the one way of entering the Church invisible.
One God and Father of all. We rise now to the fountain of Godhead, the one
supreme Being with whom all have to do, the only Being who is or can be the
Father of us all; who can be to us what is implied in the name “Father, whose
love and grace can satisfy our hearts. There is no part of our being, there is no
event of our lives, that is not subject to His authority which brooks no rival.
Who is above all. The supreme and only Potentate, (I Timothy 6:15) exercising
undivided jurisdiction, “doing according to His will in the armies of heaven.”
(Daniel 4:35) And through all. Pervading the whole universe, sustaining and ruling it,
not dwelling apart from His works, but pervading them; not, however, in any
pantheistical sense, but as A PERSONAL GOD, whose essence is separate
from His works. And in you all. A closer and more abiding influence; He dwells in
them, and walks in them, molding their inner being, and filling them with His own light
and love. Some commentators of mark have tried to find a reference to each of the
persons of the Godhead in the three prepositions over, through, and by, but this seems
a strained view. The three persons, however, appear clearly in the seven elements of
unity, but, as before (ch. 3:16- 19), in the reverse of the common order:
These seven elements constitute the true rarity of the Church. It is out of the question
to identify the Church which is thus one, with any external organization like the
Roman Catholic Church. How many millions have been connected with it who
have notoriously been destitute of the one hope, the one Spirit, the one Father!
It is of the invisible Church the apostle speaks, and his exhortation is, seeing
that this blessed sevenfold unity is the unity wrought by the Holy Spirit, maintain
that unity; maintain the manifestation of it; give no occasion to any one to say
that there is no such unity - that the Holy Ghost is a Spirit of confusion and
not a Spirit of order and unity.
The unity of the Church finds its consummation at last in God, who originated the
scheme of grace and from whom all the other unities are derived. If God be our Father,
then are we members of one family, brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus, and are
therefore bound to live together in unity. The counsel may well come to us,
“See that ye fall not out by the way” (Genesis, 45:24).
Details of a Walk Worthy of the Vocation (vs. 2-6)
This walk demands:
PRESERVATION OF SOCIAL
QUIET OR PASSIVE VIRTUES, which, having been very characteristic
of Christ, are eminently incumbent on all who bear His Name.
ü Lowliness, arising from a chastened sense of our sin and unworthiness.
ü Meekness, which is in speech what lowliness is in spirit.
ü Long-suffering and forbearance in love; in opposition to hastiness,
irascibility, impatience, ill temper, which, though often little thought of,
are eminently unworthy of the Christian calling. Christian victories are
often gained by meekness and endurance — what
invincible might of meekness.” These graces have reference mainly
to the ordinary intercourse of social life; what follows has to do more
with the public life of` the Church
PRESERVATION OF ECCLESIASTICAL
THROUGH THE BOND OF PEACE. The concord to be preserved is the
“unity of the Spirit” —the unity of which the Holy Spirit is the Author; not
mere external uniformity, but inward agreement. It is a fact that there is
much inward agreement wherever the Spirit of God works. It is our duty to
preserve this — to keep it from being broken or even appearing as if
broken. This unity is to be maintained by the bond which consists of
“peace;” by a peace-loving and peace-seeking spirit, that spirit of which
Christ said, “Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the
children of God.” (Matthew 5:9) The danger of breaking the unity of the
Spirit is great:
ü readiness to take offence,
ü regardlessness of the welfare of others,
ü forgetfulness of the vast Christian work and warfare committed to us,
are temptations to this. On the other hand, the habitual striving after the graces
enumerated above, and trying to exercise them habitually, tend to preserve
the unity of the Spirit, and to a large extent, too, to preserve external
agreement in the government and worship and work of the Church.
· In connection with this subject, the apostle shows WHEREIN THE
UNITY OF THE SPIRIT CONSISTS, AND WHEREIN IT IS TO BE
PRESERVED. There is a sevenfold unity (see Exposition). That true
believers are ONE IN CHRIST is one of those truths which happily even
controversy and sectarianism do not quite obliterate. But a more full, rich,
and constant manifestation of this unity would make a great impression on
the world; it would remove one of the most common excuses of
skepticism; it would tend powerfully both to edify and to extend the cause
of Christ; and it would make the fellowship of the Church much more
delightful, spreading more of the atmosphere of heaven upon earth.
The Unities of Christianity a Reason for
“Endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is
one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling;
one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above
all, and through all, and in you all.” These various unities in Christianity are
here specified by the apostle in order to enforce the importance and
obligation of a loving concord amongst all true Christians. By noticing
these unities with a little closer attention we shall see how they formed in
the apostle’s mind an argument for a loving union amongst all the
disciples of Christ.
“One body.” Though they are very numerous and ever increasing, though
they differ widely in many morally fundamental points, and live in
different lands and different worlds, still they are parts of one great whole.
The tree, though it has a thousand branches all varying in size and shape
and hue, is an organic whole. This unity, though not visible, really exists.
To be a Christian is to be a branch of the one tree, a stone in the one
building, a member of the one body. Now, this fact is certainly a strong
reason for the cherishing amongst all of brotherly love and hearty
fellowship. “That there should be no schism in the body; but that the
members should have the same care one for another. And whether one
member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honored,
all the members rejoice with it.” (I Corinthians 12:25-26)
“One Spirit.” What the body is to the human soul, this great organization,
this universal Church, is to the Spirit of the living God.
ü Servant. As every member of the body is the servant of the soul, every
genuine Christian is the servant of the Spirit, and obeys His dictates in
ü Symbol. As the body reveals and expresses the soul by its looks, words,
and operations, so the true Church reveals the Divine Spirit; reveals its
quickening, redeeming, elevating, sanctifying influence.
ü Residence. As the body is the residence of the soul, even so the Church
is the temple for the Holy Ghost to dwell in. If there is this one Spirit
running through all, guiding, animating, overruling all, should there not
be through all a mutual, loving sympathy and interest?
What is the object of a true Christian’s hope? Not happiness. He whose grand
object in life is his own happiness is under the influence of that selfishness
which is the essence of sin and the devil of the soul. That spirit in Churches
which cries, “Oh that I had the wings of a dove! then would I fly away and
be at rest” (Psalm 55:6), is discontented selfishness, nothing more. Alas! that
there should be churches, chapels, and pulpits ministering to an
insatiable avarice that considers this beautiful world not good enough for
its home! But if the object of a true Christian’s hope is not happiness, what
then? Moral goodness. Goodness as exemplified in the life of Jesus. To
become like Christ, to be partakers of the Divine nature, to be holy even as
God is holy, — this is the great object of a true Christian’s hope. And
herein is heaven and nowhere else. To be happy is to be good, to be good
is to be like God, and this is the grand object of genuine Christian hope.
“Then shall I be satisfied when I awake up in thine own image.” (Psalm
17:15) Moral goodness
is the only true
Who is this one Lord? By the general consent of acknowledged expositors,
THE ONE LORD JESUS! “One is your Master, even Christ.” (Matthew
23:10) There are men in Christendom who assume titles indicating authority
over human souls. We have the Pope of Rome, the lord bishop, and the “Primate
lay His head, and who taught that the least should be greatest in His kingdom,
thereshould be found men either so dull or daring as to assume such titles as
these. Call no man “master,” said this “one Lord.” He is the Head of the
Church which is His body, the only Head. Is not this also a potent reason
for loving concord among Christians? They have to:
ü draw their doctrines from one Teacher,
ü learn their duty from one Master,
ü fashion their character after one Model, and
ü depend for reconciliation to God upon one Mediator.
means, as we have seen, one Object of faith. What is the one creed?
Theological propositions put forth as articles of belief? If so, there are
many faiths — faiths almost as numerous as there are Christian professors.
No two men can perhaps believe the same thing in exactly the same way; the
same proposition shapes itself differently to different souls. The New Testament
teaches with unmistakable explicitness that the true creed of a Christian is
not a propositional manifesto, but a personal life — the life of Christ. In
more than thirty passages of one Gospel, the Gospel of John, we find
with reference to Christ the expressions:
ü “trusting to me,”
ü “trusting to him,” or
ü “trusting to the Son.”
Take two or three as specimens.
ü “This is the work of God, that ye believe on Him whom He hath sent.”
ü Again, “He that believeth on me hath everlasting life.” (ibid. v. 47)
ü Again, “He that believeth on Him shall not be damned.” (ibid. ch. 3:17)
ü Again, “He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also.”
(ibid. ch. 14:12)
ü “Do this in remembrance of me.” (I Corinthians 11:24)
Christ is the one Creed. He is, in truth, the Bible. See how this one creed
argues the importance of loving union amongst Christians. If our creed is a
series of propositions we shall be divided, but if our creed is the personal life
of One all-holy, all-loving, all-good, we shall be united. If all the members
of all the Churches believed with a living faith in the one personal Christ,
there would be a loving concord of souls.
The primary meaning of "baptism” is cleansing. βαπτισµός - baptismos - is
rendered "washing" in several places (Mark 7:4, 8; Hebrews 9:10). There are
two kinds of baptisms or cleansings mentioned in the New Testament —
the material and the spiritual, that of water and that of fire. The latter,
namely, the fiery baptism of the Spirit, is the great thing. This undoubtedly
is the one baptism, the one cleansing.
ü This is the one essential cleansing. Without this, though we were
baptized in all the rivers of the world, we are not members of that one
body of which Christ is the Head. Millions have entered heaven without
water baptism, but not one without the spiritual.
ü This is the one Divine cleansing. It is the Spirit’s work. This is the
“washing of regeneration and the renewing of the Holy Ghost".
(Titus 3:5) Is not this one essential, Divine cleansing another good
argument for unity of love in all Christians?
· ALL CHRISTIANS HAVE ONE ADORABLE GOD. “One God and Father
of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.”
ü THERE IS BUT ONE GOD! This fact is supported by the structure
and order of nature; stands in direct antagonism to atheism, fetichism,
polytheism, and pantheism; and is accepted as a fundamental truth in
all evangelical Churches throughout the world. The glorious fact
reveals the greatness of the Creator, the definiteness of moral
obligations, the fitness of religion for the constitution of man, and
the universal brotherhood of souls.
ü This one God is universal Father. “Father of all.” “Of all and through
all.” “All" is not neuter: πάντων - panton. It is true that God is the
Author of all nature, is over all nature, and lives through all nature;
but the apostle’s reference here is undoubtedly to intelligent existences,
and it may be that he intends only the members of the true Church. All
the members of the true Church recognize Him as “the Father of all,
over all, through all, and in all.”
true union amongst men. Notwithstanding all the discords and conflicts
that rage and revel through the world, there lies deep down in the heart of
humanity an ineradicable desire for unity. The greatest events that have
marked and helped the progress of the human race are the outcomes of this
desire. Mankind have tried for this unity in many different ways. They have
ü Political means. In ancient times kings and warriors endeavored to bring
men together under one iron scepter. The Assyrian, the Persian, the
Greek, the Roman, each in his turn made the desperate endeavor. In
is the antichrist and his cronies - CY - 2019) Far enough are we from
denouncing or even depreciating such a grand political purpose. For our
own part, we should like to see what we think will one day appear on this
earth — one great cosmopolitan government — a government embracing
within its majestic arms of righteous and sanitary law all the children of
men the world over. The fact that
religion, habit, nor remoteness of position from the central power are
necessary obstructions to the establishment of such a rule. With such a
government immense and manifold would be the advantages. The
liberties of all would be secured. The spirit of nationality, the prolific
parent of desolating wars, would find no place. All would be fellow-
citizens of one state. All the tyrannies and rivalries of little despots
would be played out. The age of standing armies would be over.
The markets of the world be open alike to all. Such a government,
I believe, will come. The gradual absorption of the smaller into the
larger states, the ever-multiplying facilities of intercourse between
the remotest parts of the globe and diversified races of mankind, and
the ever-advancing intellectual, moral, numerical, and colonizing
superiority of the Anglo-Saxon race charm my poor soul at times
with the belief that such an empire is in the tenor of things inevitable.
But let it come. The real unity for which the human soul craves will
not be met. Law cannot create love.
ü Ecclesiastical means. Religion has made one great attempt to bind the
human race into one grand confederation. The Church of Rome sets up
one head to which all souls must bow, prescribes one ritual through
which all souls must move, propounds one creed to which all souls
must adhere. The object is a noble one; our hearts go with it. But the
means, involving priestly assumptions and the infringement of the rights
of conscience, are amongst the worst damnabilities of history. Hence it
has failed in its object. Aiming at unity, it has led to endless divisions.
Many a peace-loving soul, pained with the controversies of the sects,
has sought refuge in
ü Commercial means. Merchandise in this age is preached as the uniting
power. Self-interest is to be the golden chain to bind all men together.
Nothing is more unphilosophic than this. Self-interest is not a uniting
but an insulating power. The battles of the market, if not as bloody,
are as base and as heartless as those of the field and the ocean. The
true principles of union are in the text. For universal union
there must be universal love, for universal love there must be
universal excellence, and for universal excellence there must
be the universal recognition of the one body, the one Spirit,
the one heaven, the one Master, the one creed, the one
cleansing, the one God and Father of all.
The Sevenfold Unity (vs. 4-6)
The apostle proceeds to state the nature and grounds of the unity which is
to be so carefully guarded. It has its basis in the fact that the Church is one,
and does not consist of two rival societies.
· “THERE IS ONE BODY.” The body with its many members and its
many functions is yet one. Similarly, “we being many, are one body in
Christ, and every one members one of another” (Romans 12:5); so that
believers, no matter how separated by race, color, language, station,
opinion, interest, circumstance, experience, are members of this one body.
The body cannot, therefore, be an external visible society, but a spiritual
body of which Christ is the Head. It may not be so easy to realize this unity
in the midst of the multiplication of sects and denominations, each with its
well-defined lines, of doctrine and order, and each more or less sharply
distinguished from its neighbor. Yet there is still but “ONE BODY” —there is
amidst accidental diversities a substantial unity, a unity that covers all truly
essential elements. The diversity arising from temperament, culture, habit,
has had its due effect in the development of truth; for some parts of the
Church have thus given prominence to some truth which other parts have
allowed to fall into the background. The beauty of the Church is manifest
in this very diversity, just as it requires all the hues of the rainbow to make
the clear, white ray of colorless sunshine. The duty, therefore, of believers
is to regard the differences that keep them apart, not as hindrances to
loving fellowship, but as helps to the fuller development of Divine truth
and the fuller manifestation of the mind of God to the Church.
· “ONE SPIRIT.” As in the human body there is but one spirit, with a
single vivifying power, so IN THE CHURCH THERE IS BUT ONE SPIRIT
animating all its members, as the common principle of life. “By one Spirit were
we all baptized into one body,” and “were made to drink into one Spirit”
(I Corinthians 12:13). “We have access by one Spirit unto the Father.” There
is, therefore, no room for a conflicting administration. “There are
diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit” (ibid. v. 4); and therefore all
sins against unity are sins against the indwelling Spirit. Sectarian or
divisive courses have a tendency to grieve the Spirit. Indeed, it
is a mark of a separating apostasy that it has not the Spirit (Jude 1:19).
Let us remember that the one Spirit who animates the body of Christ
produces as His own choicest fruits — “love, joy, peace, long-suffering,
gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance” (Galatians 5:22-23).
These are graces with a distinctly unifying tendency.
· “ONE HOPE OF YOUR CALLING.”
ü Its nature. Here it is not the thing “hoped for,” as it is in Colossians 1:5
and Titus 2:13, but the emotion of hope, the expectation of future
good. All believers have the same aspirations, the same anticipations of
coming glory, as the effect of the Spirit’s indwelling. The hope is
ü Its origin. The hope is “of your calling.” It springs out of the effectual
call of THE SPIRIT, who begets us to “a lively hope” (I Peter 1:3), being
HIMSELF THE EARNEST AND SEAL of the future inheritance. We
naturally hope for what we are invited to receive.
ü Its effect. Just as two strangers meeting for the first time on the deck of
an emigrant ship, both bound for the same new land, and purposing to
pursue the same occupation, are united by a common interest of
expectation, so believers are drawn together into unity by a
consideration of their common hopes.
· “ONE LORD.” As the Head of the Church, the supreme Object of
faith, and into whose Name all saints are baptized. There are two ideas
involved in this blessed lordship:
Ø ownership and
ü Ownership. Jesus Christ is not only Lord of all, but especially Lord of
His own people. We are not our own, for we have been redeemed and
bought with a price (I Corinthians 6:20), even with His precious blood.
For this end He both died and rose and revived, that He might be Lord
both of the dead and of the living (Romans 14:9).
ü Authority. Therefore we are subject to Him:
Ø our reason to His guidance,
Ø our conscience to His precepts,
Ø our hearts to His constraining love.
There is no part of our being, there is no event of our lives, that is
not subject to THIS AUTHORITY which brooks no rival. It is this
subjection of all believers to one Lord that marks the inner unity of
the Church; for loyalty to a common Lord makes them stand together
Ø a common hope,
Ø a common life, and
Ø a common love.
· “ONE FAITH.” Not one creed, though all believers do really hold all
that is essential to salvation, but one faith in its subjective aspect, through
which the one Lord is apprehended. It is one in all believers, for they are all
JUSTIFIED IN EXACTLY THE SAME MANNER and it is in all a faith
ü “purifieth the heart” (I John 3:3),
ü “worketh by love” (Galatians 5:6) and
ü “overcometh the world.” (I John 5:4)
It is not, therefore, an external unity that this faith builds up, but a union of a
spiritual character, wrought by the grace of God. This principle or grace of
faith has a thoroughly uniting tendency, because it brings us near to the
Savior, and the nearer we stand to Him we stand the nearer to one another.
· “ONE BAPTISM.” There is but one baptism, once administered, as
the expression of our faith in Christ; one initiation into the one body by one
Spirit (I Corinthians 12:13); one dedication to the one Lord. All
believers are baptized unto the Name of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. “As
many as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither
Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor
female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:27-28).
Christendom owns but one baptism. It has been remarked as strange that
the Lord’s Supper — “the one bread” (I Corinthians 10:17) — should
not have a place among the unities, as it is essentially the symbol of union
among believers. But it differs from baptism in two important respects:
ü baptism is individual, the Lord’s Supper is social;
ü it is by baptism, spiritually regarded, we are carried into the unity of the
one body (I Corinthians 12:13); it is by the Lord’s Supper we
recognize continuously a unity already accomplished. Thus baptism is
included among the seven unities, because it embodies the initial
elements that enter into the unity.
· “ONE GOD AND FATHER OF ALL, who is above all, and through
all, and in all.” The unity of the Church finds its consummation at last in
Him, who originated the scheme of grace and from whom all the other
unities are derived. If God be our Father, then are we members of one
family, brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus, and are therefore bound to live
together in unity. The counsel may well come to us, “See that ye fall not
out by the way” (Genesis, 45:24). All the unities are secured by the relation
of God the Father to the Church. He is “over all” its members, and
therefore there can be no rival sovereignty. The Church “is the habitation
of God through the Spirit.” (ch. 2:22) HE IS “through all,” in respect of
pervading and supporting energy; HE IS “in all” as the Source and Spring
of constant light and grace and goodness. Thus there are seven unities, like so
many distinct obligations, to incline believers to the unity of the Spirit, which
can only be preserved in the bond of peace. Believers ought, indeed, to be of
one heart and one soul.
Christian Unity (vs. 4-6)
This is a frequently recurring theme in the Epistle to the Ephesians, and it is
always treated with an emphasis that marks its supreme importance, and
with a prophetic hopefulness that regards the higher development of it as
one of the grandest features of the ideal future.
· WHEREIN CHRISTIAN UNITY CONSISTS.
ü Externally it consists in the “one body.” Plainly the “one body” is the
Church, the community of Christians. It should be clear to an impartial
reader of the New Testament that neither Christ nor His apostles
contemplated the ideal of the kingdom of heaven on earth as we see that
kingdom realized only in a Christendom torn and distracted with the
bitter rivalries and mutual excommunications of innumerable sects. The
one great family, harmonious, mutually sympathetic and mutually helpful.
ü Internally it consists in the “one Spirit.” So long as there is not oneness
of spirit in the Church, the attempt to preserve external union by force is
futile; nay, it is positively hurtful. It is best not to have a mock semblance
of union when at heart we differ strongly. But if there is a unity of spirit,
that should be regarded as the most essential thing. History shows that the
greatest breaches of unity have been caused by the illiberal efforts of bigots
to constrain uniformity. If we want true unity we must dispense with
agreement in doctrine, form of worship and ecclesiastical order, and be
content with oneness of spirit. This unity will be realized, not by increasing,
but by minimizing, the points of uniformity; in comprehensiveness, not in
stringent discipline; with larger charity, never with more absolute authority.
· TOWARDS WHAT END CHRISTIAN UNITY IS TENDING. The
Christian calling points to “one hope.” All things make for final integration
(ch. 1:10). We fail of our vocation if we are satisfied with a
churlish isolation. There will be varieties of life in the future, no doubt, as
there will be “many mansions.” But all Christians will be united in the one
becomes, therefore, our manifest duty to heal the breaches
Controversialists should ask themselves whether they bring the millennium
nearer by their pugnacious advocacy of pet doctrines, or drive it further off
by deepening the fissures of a sorely divided Christendom; and
ecclesiastical advocates of Church unity should consider whether it is likely
they will win over to their side all the divergent sects by standing on the
narrowest possible ground and erecting about it frowning ramparts.
· ON WHAT ORIGINAL FOUNDATIONS CHRISTIAN UNITY IS
ü One Lord. We all have one and the same Christ, and in Him we are one.
In proportion as Christianity becomes less an affair of theological dogmas
and ecclesiastical systems, and more a religion of personal devotion to
Christ, shall we be able to realize our true unity.
ü One faith. All Christians must experience the same spiritual faith in
becoming Christ’s, and must walk equally by faith. Opinions and rules may
differ, but we do not live by opinions and rules — we live by faith. Now,
faith is the same spiritual act in a child and in a philosopher, in a penitent
and in a saint, in the shouting recruit of the Salvation Army and in the grave
Quaker, in the evangelical Methodist and in the devout restorer of
ü One baptism. There is one outward sacrament common to nearly the
whole of Christendom significant of the washing and renewal all need and
all can receive in Christ.
ü One God and Father. A common worship unites. Communion with our
one Father makes us members of one family.
The Variety of Gifts in Connection with Unity
the Use to be Made of Them (vs. 7-16)
The marks of Christ’s care for His church are innumerable, they recede back through
all eternity and forward for evermore. (ch. 3:18-19)
The subject of gifts divides into two:
7 “But to each one of us is grace given according to the measure of the gift of
Christ.” Christ leaves no one out! To every one of us is given grace! In the Church
all do not get alike; grace is not given in equal measures as the manna in the wilderness;
Christ, as the great Bestower, measures out His gifts, and each receives according to
His measure. Compare parable of talents. “Grace” does not refer merely to supernatural
gifts, but also to the ordinary spiritual gifts of men. These are varied, because what each
gets he gets for the good of the rest; the Church is a fellowship or brotherhood, where
each has an interest in all and all in each, and is bound to act accordingly.
DIVERSITY OF GIFTS. As in the human body there are many members
with different functions, so the Church is “not one member, but many.”
Diversity of gift, so far from being inconsistent with unity, is really essential
to it. “If all were one member, where were the body?” (I Corinthians 12:
14, 20) All the great purposes of life would be frustrated if every part of the
organism did not find its due place.
This does not say that any one member has all gifts. Each has received his
measure. There are those who would make the Church all “tongue,” as if
all were called to the gospel ministry. The gifts differ both in nature and in
measure. One has the gift of speech, another the gift of sagacity, another
the gift of enterprise, another the gift of sympathy, another the gift of
wealth and influence. All ought to be contributory to the unity of the
TRACED TO CHRIST. The position of each member in the body is not
determined by itself, but by God. The eye does not make itself the eye, nor
the hand the hand. So the position of believers in the Church is determined,
not by themselves, but by Christ. The grace “is given according to the
measure of the gift of Christ.” Christ is the Source of all spiritual gifts, and
He determines their adjustment as well as their amount. He does not give
according to our merit, or our capacity, or our desires, but according to His
sovereign pleasure. There is, therefore,
ü no room for self-inflation if we have received the largest gifts;
ü there is no room for envy or jealousy because others have received
more gifts than ourselves;
ü but rather an argument in the fact that one has a grace which another
wants, for our helping each other in the Lord. Thus the true unity of the
Church is promoted.
Measured Grace (v. 7)
· CHRISTIANS ARE RECIPIENTS OF GRACE.
ü Without grace we can do nothing. All our attainments will be
proportionate to the amount and kind of grace we receive. We cannot
fulfill our vocation nor realize the grand unity of the Church by
unaided human efforts.
ü But grace is vouchsafed to Christians. It is the peculiar privilege of
the New Testament dispensation that it brings the energy of grace as
well as the light of truth.
· CHRISTIAN GRACE IS THE GIFT OF CHRIST.
ü Grace must be a gift. It would cease to be grace if we could create,
earn, or deserve it. All the blessings of the gospel are free gifts,
as are also our natural endowments.
2. Christian grace comes direct from Christ. His sacrifice won it. His
ascension enables him to dispense it (vers. 8-10).
· THIS GRACE IS GIVEN TO ALL CHRISTIANS. It is not reserved
for high ecclesiastical officials and select saints. We are no Christians if we
have it not. The Church is the body of all Christians, and it is one because
‘the same grace flows through the whole brotherhood. The gospel is broad
· THIS GRACE IS DISPENSED TO EACH INDIVIDUAL SEVERALLY.
(I Corinthians 12:11) Each one receives the gift. We cannot be blessed by
Divine grace in crowds and masses. The Church can only be endowed with
grace when her private members are personally blessed. We do not receive
grace by becoming part of the grand universal Church. But we realize the
unity of the Church when we have been first blessed with Christ’s grace
in our own souls.
· THIS GRACE IS MEASURED OUT IN VARYING PROPORTIONS.
In Christ there was grace without measure. In us it is measured. Christ
has a right to measure it, because it is a gift which He can withhold or bestow
as He pleases. Yet if it is measured there is no stint, for if Christ has first given
us Himself, we may be sure that He will never keep back any needful lower
blessings. The measure of the grace is determined by:
ü our spiritual capacity,
ü our faith,
ü our need, and
ü our special mission.
8 “Wherefore He saith, When He ascended on high He led captivity captive,
and gave gifts unto men.” The speaker is God, the author of Scripture, and the place
is the Psalm 68:18. That psalm is a psalm of triumph, where the placing of the ark
in its deepest sense is Messianic, celebrating the victory of Christ. The substance rather
than the words of the passage are given, for the second person (“thou hast ascended,”)
is changed into the third; and whereas in the psalm it is said, “gave gifts to men,” as
modified by the apostle it is said, “received gifts for men.” As in a literal triumph, the
chiefs of the enemy’s army are led captive, so the powers of darkness were led
captive by Christ (captivity, αἰχμαλωσία - aichmalosia – captivity – and denotes
prisoners); and as on occasion of a triumph the spoils of the enemy are made over
to the conqueror, who again gives them away among the soldiers and people,
so gifts were given to Christ after His triumph to be given by Him to His Church.
We must not force the analogy too far: the point is simply this — as a conqueror
at a triumph gets gifts to distribute, so Christ, on His resurrection and ascension,
got the Holy Spirit to bestow on His Church (compare ch.1:22
The same Lord who went about every day doing good upon earth, is now doing
good every day in the fullness of spiritual blessings which He is dispensing from
the throne of His ascension-glory.
Even the unworthy may be recipients of these gifts. “Yea, for the rebellious also”
(Psalm 68:18). They were for men, as the apostle asserts; for rebels, as the psalmist
asserts. It is not usual for conquerors to divide their spoils among rebels, yet our
conquering Lord gives gifts even to those who put Him to death. The ministry is
still the Lord’s gift to A WICKED WORLD, for He is still the Source of the inward
life of the Church and of its authority.
9 ("Now that He ascended, what is it but that He also descended first into the
lower parts of the earth?" Now that He ascended, what is it but that He also
descended first” The ascent implied a previous descent; that is, the ascent of the
Son of God — of one who was Himself in heaven, who was in the bosom of the
Father (compare John 3:13), implied that He had come down from heaven, a striking
proof of His interest in and love for the children of men. And the descent was
not merely to the ordinary condition of humanity, but to a more than ordinarily
degraded condition, not merely to the surface of the earth, but into the lower
parts of the earth? This has sometimes been interpreted of Hades. If the
expression denotes more than Christ’s humble condition, it probably means the
grave. This was the climax of Christ’s humiliation; to be removed out of men’s
sight, as too offensive for them to look on - to be hidden away in the depths of
the earth, in the grave, was indeed supremely humbling. (Here is the One who
carried out the designs of the Creator, hidden in a hole in the earth! CY - 2019)
The object is to show that, in bestowing gifts on men, Christ did not merely bring
into play His inherent bountifulness as the Son of God, but acted as Mediator,
by right of special purchase, through His work of humiliation on earth; and
thus to lead us to think the more highly both of the Giver and of His gifts.
10 “He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens,
that He might fill all things.)" He that descended is the same also that ascended
up far above all heavens. When Christ came to earth and took upon Himself our
form, it was no holiday visit to earth! “He was taken from prison and from
judgment” (Isaiah 53:8) Yet even there He triumphed over all His enemies, and
now He is exalted “far above all heavens.” This last expression is very remarkable,
especially in the view of what modem astronomy teaches on the extent of the heavens.
(See Fantastic Trip on You Tube. CY - 2019) It is a marvelous testimony to the
glory of the risen Lord. Still higher is the testimony to His glory in the purpose
for which He has gone on high —“that He might fill all things.” There was a
proportion between the descent and the ascent. His descent was deep — into
the lower parts of earth; but His ascent was more glorious than His descent had
been humbling. The Hebrew idea of various heavens is brought in; the ascent
was not merely to the third heaven, but far above all heavens. That He
might fill all things. A very sublime view of the purpose for which Christ reigns
on high. The specific idea with which the apostle started — to give gifts to men —
is swallowed up for the moment by a view far grander and more comprehensive,
“to fill all things.” Jesus has gone on high to pour His glory and excellence over
every creature in the universe who is the subject of grace, to be THE LIGHT OF
THE WORLD THE ONE SOURCE OF ALL GOOD! As in the solar system it
is from one sun that all the supplies of light and heat come, all the colors that
beautify earth, sea, and sky, all the influences that ripen the grain and
mature the fruit, all the chemical power that transforms and new-creates;
so the ascended Jesus is the Sun of the universe; all healing, all life, all
blessing are FROM HIM! It is quite in the manner of the apostle, when He
introduces the mention of Christ, to be carried, in the contemplation of His
person, far above the immediate occasion, and extol HHE INFINITE
PERFECTION AND GLORY that distinguish Him.
The Source of all the Gifts (vs. 8-10)
It is Christ Himself in virtue of His exaltation.
· THE ASCENSION IS THE GROUND ALIKE OF THE FOUNDING,
THE PRESERVATION, AND THE PERFECTION OF THE CHURCH,
This historic circumstance is the sequel of our Lord’s resurrection from the
dead, and can only be rightly appreciated by marking its connection with
the humiliation by which it was preceded. It was the Son of God who
descended, and therefore it was the Son of God who ascended up far
above all heavens, and who, like a conqueror, is here represented as
dividing the spoils of conquest. He is exalted to give the Holy Ghost with
all His gifts and graces. It is a very touching as well as inspiring thought
that the humanity of our ascended Lord has not been so transmuted as to
change His relation to us. We cannot doubt the identity of His person. The
same Lord (Acts 1:11) who went about every day doing good upon earth,
is now doing good every day in the fullness of spiritual blessings which
He is dispensing from the throne of His ascension-glory.
· THE GIFTS OF THE ASCENSION. These stand in abiding
connection with the peace, the sanctification, the hope, of believers. But
the special reference is to the blessing of the Christian ministry. Ministers
may be nothing in themselves, but as the gifts of Christ they ought to be
highly esteemed. If we love Christ, we ought to set store by His servants,
who shepherd the flock in the absence of the great Shepherd.
· THE UNWORTHY RECIPIENTS OF THESE GIFTS. “Yea, for the
rebellious also” (Psalm 68:18). They were for men, as the apostle
asserts; for rebels, as the psalmist asserts. It is not usual for conquerors to
divide their spoils among rebels, yet our conquering Lord gives gifts even
to those who put Him to death. The ministry is still the Lord’s gift to a
wicked world, for He is still the Source of the inward life of the Church
and of its authority.
The Universal Experience of Christ (vs. 9-10)
· THE ASCENSION OF CHRIST IMPLIES THAT HE HAD PREVIOUSLY
ü It implies that He was low down at some period. Had He always enjoyed
His rightful honors there could have been no act of rising to them. The
coronation shows that the sovereign had once been a subject. The
greatness of the elevation of Christ and the stir and change it produces
are significant of the low depth of an earlier state.
ü It implies that He had been highly exalted at a previous period. The
mere act of ascension may not show this, but the spiritual character of it
does. All things ultimately find their level. The high-shooting fountain is an
evidence that its water has come from a great elevation.
ü It implies that by His deep humiliation Christ merited His great
exaltation. He did not simply deserve it by way of compensation. He
earned the high honor of the Ascension by the patient sacrifice of Himself in
his descent down to a life of lowly service, down to the cross, down even
to the dim land of the dead (Philippians 2:5-11). Thus the last is first,
and He who humbled Himself is exalted.
· THE ASCENSION AND PREVIOUS DESCENDING OF CHRIST
ENABLE HIM TO FILL ALL THINGS.
ü His presence enters into every grade of being. From His awful primeval
glory down to the dread depths of Hades and then up to the throne and
the right hand of God, by the vast sweep and range of His profound
humiliation and superb exaltation, along every step of existence
traversed, Christ comes into personal contact with all life and death.
ü His experience gives him knowledge of every grade of being. And with
this knowledge He has sympathy for all. Our lack of wide sympathies is
chiefly owing to our narrow experience. Christ’s sympathy is as universal
as His experience. In His exaltation He does not forget the scenes that
moved His heart in lowlier walks.
“...Resting by th’ incarnate Lord,
Once bleeding, now triumphant for my sake,
I mark Him, how by seraph hosts adored,
He to earth’s lowest cares is still awake.”
ü Filling all things by experience, knowledge, and sympathy, He has power
over all things. Down even to the spirits in prison to whom He preached
(I Peter 3:19) by the Divine Spirit, and through every rank of life, He has:
Ø influences to exert,
Ø graces to bestow,
Ø redemption to accomplish.
There is no order of things, BEYOND THE REACH OF CHRIST!
As the great reward of:
Ø His sacrifice and triumph,
Ø His deepest humiliation and His highest exaltation,
Ø earth, and
with a presence as when He lived among men, is EVERYWHERE
HEALING and REDEMPTIVE!
11 “And He gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists;
and some, pastors and teachers;” And He gave some (to be) apostles. Coming back
to the diversity of gifts (v. 7), He enumerates some of these, as Christ (αὐτὸς – autos –
He, emphatic) bestowed them. The organization of the Church is not a
mere human arrangement; its officers are of Divine appointment. The first
gift is, His apostles. It is not meant that He gave to some the gifts needed to
constitute them apostles, though that is true; but that, having qualified
some to be apostles, He gave them to the Church. An apostle had his
commission direct from Christ (Matthew 10:5); he possessed supernatural
gifts (ibid. v. 8); it was necessary for him to have seen the Lord
(Acts 1:22); his diocese was the whole world (Matthew 28:19; Mark 16:15).
The apostles were the constituent body of the Church — they had all necessary
gifts for setting it up, and as all Christian history has testified, they were a
marvelous gift of Christ to His Church. And some, prophets. Next to
the apostles in point of value, as gifts to the Church, having supernatural
knowledge of God’s will present and future (Acts 21:11). Prophets were
indispensable before the New Testament was given as the Church’s infallible
guide to the will of God, but not apparently necessary after the will of God
was fully recorded. And some, evangelists.The nature of this office is
known only from the meaning of the term and the work of those who bore
the designation (Acts 21:8; II Timothy 4:5), persons not attached to a
particular congregation, but who went about preaching the glad tidings, and
otherwise building up the Church, but without the full powers of apostles.
And some, pastors and teachers. The more ordinary settled ministers of
congregations, called pastors, because they watched over the flock, trying
to lead all in right ways; and teachers, because they communicated Divine
knowledge. Some have thought that each expression denotes a separate
office, but, coupled as they are together, it is better to regard them as
indicating two functions of one office (see I Timothy 5:17; Acts 13:1).
Christ’s Gifts to His Church (vs. 7-11)
The grand object of the apostle in this section of his Epistle is to show the
ample provision made by Christ for the welfare of His Church. The Church
may sing as well as the individual, “The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want.”
(Psalm 23:1) The particular object is to indicate that the gifts conferred by Him
on the members individually (vs. 7-10), and especially the appointment of
the several classes of office-bearers (v. 11), show the Lord’s earnest
desire to raise His Church:
ü to the highest possible condition of grace and honor;
ü to make her complete and glorious, as the one body of
which He is the Head,
ü the one vessel into which He is to pour all His fullness, and
ü the brideon whom He is to exhaust every ornament.
The marks of Christ’s care for His Church are innumerable; they recede back
through all eternity and project forward for evermore (ch. 3:18-19). His death
marked the climax of His self-sacrifice; but even that did not end Christ’s service
for His Church. For her He not only descended from heaven to earth, but for her
too He ascended from earth back to heaven; like the high priest, He went into
the holiest of all with His Name on His breastplate, and He only changed the
sphere in which His mediatorial office was exercised. But more; the good
Shepherd is ever renewing the miracle of the five loaves and two fishes;
ever saying with reference to His people, “Give ye them to eat” (Matthew 14:16;
Mark 6:37); and ever appointing and qualifying suitable officers to take care of His
Church and break among them the bread of life. He is ever qualifying His ministers
ü ruling and feeding His flock,
ü filling the empty soul,
ü speaking a word in season to the weary,
ü guiding the perplexed,
ü reclaiming the erring,
ü strengthening the weak,
ü supporting the feeble-minded, and
on the ransomed of the Lord to
everlasting joy upon their heads. (Isaiah 35:10)
The subject divides into two:
ü the gift-giving (vs. 7-11), and
ü the end or purpose for which the gifts are given (vs. 12-16).
In the first part we find:
1. The source of the gifts and the principle of distribution (v. 7).
2. Confirmation of this from the Psalm 68:18.
3. Commentary and inferences therefrom (vs. 9-10).
4. The special gift of suitable officers.
· CHRIST IS THE GREAT SOURCE OF GRACE including ordinary
and extraordinary gifts (“the gift of Christ”).
ü Christ leaves no one out; to every one of us is given grace.
ü The grace was not given in equal measures to all.
ü But according to the measure of the gift of Christ,
· From the sixty-eighth psalm it appears that this proceeding was
symbolized when the ark was placed on
victories were celebrated, and a distribution of gifts took place.
· The word “ascended,” applied to the Son of God, implied a previous
descent; for when He ascended, He went to His own home and seat;
previous to this He came down, and the apostle dwells especially on His
having come down to the lower parts of the earth, such as:
ü the grave.
His was no holiday visit to earth, to green fields, or golden palaces; “He was
taken from prison and from judgment.” (Isaiah 53:8) Yet even
there He triumphed over all His enemies, and now He is exalted “far above
all heavens.” This last expression is very remarkable, especially in the view
of what modem astronomy teaches on the extent of the heavens. It is a
marvelous testimony to the glory of the risen Lord. Still higher is the
testimony to His glory in the purpose for which He has gone on high —
“that He might fill all things.” The sun, in the center of the solar system, fills
that system, spreading light and heat and manifold influences to its
extremest limits. All the colors that beautify earth, sea, and sky; all the heat
that fosters life and gladdens living creatures of every kind; all the chemical
influences that are so manifold in their effects on the economy of nature,
radiate from the sun. So Christ is Sun and Center of the infinite universe,
and THE UNIVERSE IS FILLED BY HIM WITH HEAVENLY
INFLUENCES! There are many suns, but only one Savior; there are many
systems of worlds, according to our modern astronomy, and even firmaments
of worlds, beyond the reach of our strongest instruments; but all are joined
by one glorious bond; for not only have they been all formed by
ONE CREATOR but all have been “filled” by the ONE ALL-GLORIOUS
MEDIATOR-LORD! What resources does that expression, “that He might
fill all things,” ascribe to Christ! If He can fill all things, HE CAN FILL US,
our hearts are not easily filled; but what can be wanting to us out of such
fullness? (This would fulfill man’s hankering! See Ecclesiastes 3:11! CY –
· But from the stars we come back to the Church, and consider Christ
as exalted to fill His Church. With this view He has qualified and
commissioned certain officers to minister to His Church. Of these it is
generally allowed that apostles and prophets were special and temporary;
while evangelists, pastors, and teachers are ordinary and permanent (see
Exposition). Observe that such men are to be received (and when needed
to be asked too) as gifts of Christ to His Church. It is the Lord of the
harvest who equips and furnishes laborers for His harvest. We should not
seek ministers of the gospel, as some do, for our own pleasure or credit,
rejecting them if they do not quite answer our idea; but as gifts of Christ, in
which their great object will be to build up His Church and promote the
beauty of His bride.
The Variety of the Gifts (v. 11)
The Lord Himself gave apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and
teachers. Provision is thus made for three great objects.
inspired men to lay the foundations. Hence believers are said “to be built
upon the foundation of apostles and prophets” (ch. 2:20). The
foundation, however, had only to be laid once for all, and these apostles
and prophets passed away in the first age of Christianity. There is no place,
therefore, now in the Church for either class; for the “apostles” of the
Irvingite sect possess no single qualification of the original apostles of
Christ. As the apostles wrote nearly the whole of the New Testament
Scriptures, which supply the literary foundation of Christianity, they may
thus be regarded as still identified with the progress of the gospel in all
lands and all ages.
designed to preach the gospel in districts where it had not been previously
known. They are on this ground distinguished from pastors and teachers.
They itinerated from place to place, carrying with them the wonderful story
of the cross, and were quite exempt, as such, from the labors of
organization or discipline. Our missionaries in modern times do the work
were stationary ministers appointed for the continuous edification of the
flock. They represent, not two classes of office-bearers, but two aspects of
one and the same office. They are distinguished alike from prophets and
from evangelists, and had to do with the permanent instruction and
guidance of the flock. The existence of such an order of teachers proves
that the Christian Church was not to be propagated or maintained by mere
gifted persons. Why, in that case, should the Lord have appointed such
ordinary officers at all? The pastors of
from the prophetically gifted persons in both Churches (v. 11; I Corinthians
14). Private persons, no matter how gifted, were not allowed to take the place
of apostles and prophets at
If they could not take the place of the one, they could not take the place of
the other. If all believers were to exercise the gift of ministry in the Christian
dispensation, why should not the apostles have started with this arrangement
from the first? Why should the Lord give pastors and teachers to one
generation — and that a generation provided with at least two inspired orders
of teachers — and make no similar provision for all future generations?
12 “For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying
of the body of Christ:” For the perfecting of the saints. The ultimate end for which
the gifts bestowed (compare Hebrews 12:1). Christ has a work of perfection on hand.
This denoted by — “for the perfecting of the saints” , and “unto a perfect
man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” (v. 13).
What a high aim with reference to creatures so poor and needy as the
members of His Church! A work of completion is in hand, which must
be fulfilled (see v. 13): the saints, now compassed about with infirmity, have
to be freed from all stain (ch. 5:26-27), and as instruments towards this end,
the ministers of the Church are given by Christ; they are not mere promoters
of civilization, men of culture planted among the rude, but instruments for
advancing men to complete holiness. For the work of the ministry.
The preposition is changed from πρὸς – pros – toward - to εἰς πρὸς – eis pros -
into toward - denoting the ultimate end, εἰς (into) the immediate object (compare
Romans 15:2); the office of the Church officers is not lords, but διακονοί - diakonoi –
servants, as Christ Himself was (Matthew 20:28). For the edifying of the body of
Christ. Bringing bone to its bone and sinew to its sinew, increasing the number
of believers, and promoting the spiritual life of each; carrying on all their work
as Christ’s servants and with a definite eye to the promotion of the great work
which He undertook when He came to seek and to save the lost.
A revival of religion is always accompanied or followed by “a building up
of the body of Christ.”
The Design of the Ministry (v. 12)
It is to perfect the saints for Christian service and for sharing in the
edification of the Church. The ministry is intended to “equip or prepare for
future enterprise by means of perfecting the power and adaptation of the
man for his task.” It prepares the saints for two services.
· THE WORK OF MINISTRY. It is maintained by some that this passage
warrants all saints to preach the gospel, because the four classes of officers
spoken of are said to prepare saints for the work of ministry. If so, then
these officers, or some of them, are still needed for the purpose; yet this is
expressly denied. The passage, however, implies that the preparation in
question is to be continuous, for it is to last till the end of time. The word
“ministry,” however, must be taken in a large sense to signify general
spiritual service, that may assume a thousand different forms (Hebrews 6:10;
Acts 6:4; 11:29; I Corinthians 16:15; II Corinthians 9:12-13; 11:8; II Timothy
4:11). Every believer is not only to be “fruitful in every good work”
(Colossians 1:10); but to “hold forth the
Word of life” (
though he should be neither trained nor called to the Christian pastorate.
· THE EDIFICATION OF THE CHURCH. This is the second end
included in the Christian pastorate. The action of the ministry upon the
saints is blessed to the enlargement of the Church, both in numbers and in
spirituality. A revival of religion is always accompanied or followed by “a
building up of the body of Christ.”
13 “Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the
Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness
of Christ:” Till we all come. This marks the duration of the office of the ministry.
Some maintain that it implies that all these offices are to continue in the Church
until the result
specified is obtained (Catholic Apostolic or
is contradicted by Scripture and by experience, so far as apostles and prophets
are concerned, for the gifts for these offices were not continued, and without
the gifts the offices are impossible. The meaning is that, till the event specified,
there is to be a provision in the Church of the offices that are needed, and the
apostle, in using “until,” probably had in view the last office in his list — pastors
and teachers. In the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the
Son of God. Both genitives are governed by unity; already there is
one faith (v. 5), but we all, i.e. all who compose or are yet to compose the body
of Christ, the totality of this body, have to be brought to this faith. As in v. 5
“faith” is not equivalent to “creed,” or truth believed, but the act of believing; so
here the consummation which the ministers of the Church are given to
bring about is a state in which faith in the Son of God shall characterize all,
and that, not a blind faith, but a faith associated with knowledge. Usually
faith and knowledge are opposed to each other; but here faith has more the
meaning of trust than of mere belief — trust based on knowledge, trust in
the Son of God based on knowledge of His Person, His work, and His
relation to them that receive Him. To bring all the elect to this faith is the
object of the ministry; when they are all brought to it, THE BODY OF CHRIST
WILL BE COMPLETE and the functions of the Christian ministry will cease.
Unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness
of Christ:” The idea of organic completeness is more fully expressed by these
two clauses; the consummation is the completeness of the whole body of
Christ as such; but that involves the maturity of each individual who is a
constituent part of that body; and the measure or sign of maturity, both for
the individual and for the whole, is the stature of THE FULLNESS OF CHRIST!
(compare Romans 8:29, “Whom he did foreknow, them he also foredained to
be conformed to the image of his Son”). The question has been put — Will this
consummation be in this life or the next? The one seems to melt into the other;
the idea of a complete Church and that of a new economy seem inseparable;
as the coming of Christ will terminate the observance of the Lord’s Supper,
so it will terminate the ministries ordained by Christ for the completion of `
“A perfect man” - points to the full development of our manhood. We are
fragmentary and often one-sided. The believer is imperfect both in faith and in
knowledge, but he is growing into that unity of life which involves perfect knowledge
and perfect holiness unto “the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ”.
The true standard is CONFORMITY TO CHRIST! The stature of the Church is
ever expanding, as it receives of Christ’s fullness, into that very fullness. The end
of this growth cannot be seen in this life. The Bible nowhere represents the perfection
of the Church as occurring on earth. It is to be without spot or wrinkle when the
day of its glorious presentation comes. Thus the design of the Christian ministry
is to labor for the perfection of the Church.
The Ministry is not a Temporary Institution (v. 13)
It is to continue till the Church shall have arrived at its completed unity.
This does not imply that there are still apostles and prophets in the Church.
It is the ministry, not these particular offices, that is to continue in the
Church. The ministry is to continue till the Church reaches its destined
goal, which is here described in three forms.
· UNITY OF FAITH AND KNOWLEDGE OF THE SON OF GOD.
ü That faith and knowledge are distinct from each other in nature, though
they are inseparable in the experience of Christian men. Faith is fed by
knowledge, and knowledge, especially in the sphere of Divine realities, is
based on faith.
ü That religion is not a mere matter of feeling, but intellectual as well,
resting upon correct apprehensions of Divine truth.
ü That the central Object of religion is the Son of God, not only
apprehended, but appropriated by faith. It is eternal life to know Him.
ü That saints have yet to attain to a truer faith and a larger knowledge of
the Son of God. All believers, it is true, have “one faith;” yet they are to
attain to the unity of faith. Unity is a matter of degrees. The apostle does
not, however, say that we are to begin with it, but to end with it. It is to be
realized, not in the course of the dispensation, but as one of its blessed
results. The unity of the faith includes more than the unity of the Spirit —
that unity of mutual kindness and forbearance that will promote the other
unity — for it points to the result of the Spirit’s continuous working in the
Church. There is an absolute truth independent of all our opinions, and the
same to every man, whether he believes it or not. We shall not here attain
to it; but we shall reach it when we are at length set free from our
imperfections and our infirmities. We shall then be of one mind, because
we shall be conformed to one image.
· A PERFECT MAN. This points to the full development of our
manhood. We are fragmentary, one-sided, without a true adjustment of
powers. The believer is imperfect both in faith and in knowledge, but he is
growing into that unity of life which involves perfect knowledge and
· THE MEASURE OF THE STATURE OF THE FULLNESS OF
CHRIST. The true standard is conformity to Christ. The stature of the
Church is ever expanding, as it receives of Christ’s fullness, into that very
fullness. The end of this growth cannot be seen in this life. The Bible
nowhere represents the perfection of the Church as occurring on earth. It is
to be without spot or wrinkle when the day of its glorious presentation
comes. Thus the design of the Christian ministry is to labor for the
perfection of the Church.
14 “That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried
about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness,
whereby they lie in wait to deceive;” That we henceforth be no more children,
tossed to and fro, and carried about by every wind of doctrine. The apostle goes
back to illustrate in another way the purpose of the ministry; it is designed to
remedy childish fickleness and the causes that lead to it. We are consequently
warned not to continue children, but to advance steadfastly towards manhood.
Children are immature and inexperienced. They have not become so firmly
rooted in the truth as to be settled against the influences in their world within
or without! They are like “a wave of the sea driven of the wind and tossed.”
(James 1:6) - Believers ought to be well founded in the truth; not mere babes,
but such as “are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses
exercised to discern both good and evil” (Hebrews 5:14). They are warned
against the tendency to be blown about by the winds of doctrine that blow from
every quarter. The counsel is much needed in this age of startling suggestion,
radical denial, (separation of church and state, to the entirety of separation from
God and things spiritual – CY – 2010) and deep unsettlement. There are men who
go the rounds of all the sects, swinging from side to side with a movement which
indicates that they are true to nothing but the love of change. (Mr. Spurgeon once
said that “There is nothing new except that which is FALSE” – CY – 2010) It is
hard for unstable natures to hold the poise of their judgment in the midst of such
terrible cross-fires of theological and DIABOLICAL PHILOSOPHICAL
SPECULATION! (Like Paul, we should “...marvel that ye are so soon removed
from Him that called you into the grace of God unto another gospel.” Galatians
1:6 – CY – 2019) The ignorant and inexperienced lie at the mercy of abler persons,
and, when there is no regular ministry provided by Christ, are liable to be swept
along by any plausible person that professes to be a Christian teacher, and such
persons are often very dangerous, working By the sleight of men. I.e. the cunning
legerdemain (skillful use of one's hands when performing conjuring tricks) by which
the teachings of men — teachings devised by the hearts of men — are made to appear
to the uninitiated the same as Christ’s teaching. And cunning craftiness, whereby
they lie in wait to deceive. (Like their father “The Old Deluder Satan” – CY – 2010)
That Satan often succeeds in seducing the unwary by the dexterous tricks of such
teachers, who cunningly mingle the truth with such error as robs it of its healing
virtues. Such teachers employ crafty methods, apparently harmless, but tending to
further the method or scheme of error. The strong language here used corresponds
in which, at
“grievous wolves” that were to come in among them, and of the men “speaking
perverse things” that were to arise among themselves, not sparing the flock
Warnings against Instability and Deception (v. 14)
The ministry has been appointed to bring the Church forward to maturity, and
therefore it is concerned to carry it safely through the intermediate stages. We
are consequently warned not to continue children, but to advance steadfastly
towards manhood. There are two faults hinted at by the apostle.
· CHILDREN ARE APT TO BE UNSTABLE. “Tossed to and fro and
carried about by every wind of doctrine.” They have not become so firmly
rooted in the truth as to be proof against unsettling influences either within
or without them. Consequently, they are like “a wave of the sea driven of
the wind and tossed.” (James 1:6)
ü The warning implies that truth is a matter of supreme moment. Holiness
of character is impossible without it. Believers ought to be well founded
in the truth; not mere babes, but such as “are of full age, even those who
by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and
evil” (Hebrews 5:14).
ü They are warned against the tendency to be blown about by the winds of
doctrine that blow from every quarter. The counsel is much needed in
this age of startling suggestion, radical denial, and deep unsettling
times. There are men who go the rounds of all the sects, swinging
from side to side with a movement which indicates that they are true
to nothing but the love of change. It is hard for unstable natures to
hold the poise of their judgment in the midst of such terrible cross-fires
of theological and secular philosophical speculation.
· CHILDREN ARE APT TO BE DECEIVED. Their want of knowledge
leaves them open to imposition and deception. The apparatus of
theological seduction is always at hand. The language of the apostle
ü That there
were errorists either at
the Christian communion, marked by “the sleight of men and cunning
craftiness whereby they lie in wait to deceive.” It is a mere dream to
suppose that the primitive Church was perfectly pure either in doctrine
or practice. The apostle’s farewell address to the Ephesian elders at
ü That such “false teachers” were marked by selfishness, deceit, and
malignity. This is the character which the apostle usually ascribes to such
men (Romans 16:17-18; Colossians 2:18; Galatians 2:4; II Corinthians
2:17). Error is, therefore, not harmless, though it may appear to be the
mere sword-play of a speculative temperament. False teachers are
not innocent. Yet our judgment in all cases of this sort must be exercised
with charity and meekness, because men may be better than their creed,
and may be influenced by the sounder parts of it.
ü That Satan often succeeds in seducing the unwary by the dexterous
tricks of such teachers, who cunningly mingle the truth with such
error as robs it of its healing virtues.
15 “But speaking the truth in love,” - Ἀληθεύοντες – aletheuontes – being true -
is hardly translatable in English it implies being true as well as speaking the truth
and following the truth. We are to speak the truth, especially as the truth
is in Jesus – (v. 21) Truth is the element in which we are to live, move, and
have our being; fidelity to truth is the backbone of the Christian ministry.
But truth must be inseparably married to love; good tidings spoken harshly
are no good tidings; the charm of the message is destroyed by the discordant
spirit of the messenger. The more painful the first impression which a truth is
fitted to produce (ch. 2:1-3), the more need is there for dealing with it in love
- a much-needed and much-neglected exhortation. . “may grow up into Him
in all things, which is the head, even Christ” - The whole Church is articulated
with Christ; (see ch. 3:20-22 – today I have been working on laying stones for
steps to my house – a part of the building – we are like those stones joined
together in Christ – CY – 2010) its parts are articulated with each other, but
all are designed to communicate with the Head, and to GROW! So it is in
the human body; it is all jointed and connected together; but the object of
this is to facilitate the transmission of the vital force throughout the whole.
Growing up into Christ is like baptizing into the Name of the Father, etc.; it
implies that the growth tends to a closer union to Christ, as, on the other hand, union
to Christ causes the growth: the two act and react on each other. This growth is to be “
in all things” - in the whole man — in knowledge, righteousness, and holiness, in all
the communicable properties of Christ. How great the work of growth is that should
be sought in the case of every living believer is evident from the enormous
gulf there is between his spiritual and moral state and that of Christ. Yet
such growth is reasonable, considering the relation of the body to Him, its
Head. The fact of this relation should encourage us to seek and expect the
growth, and encourage ministers to labor hopefully towards promoting it
(Like it or not, the following paragraph tells the story of our wonderful plight –
CY – 2010) - As the Church is a spiritual body, so the characteristics of the
natural body are found in it. It is a body divinely framed as truly as the
natural body, and designed to bring greater glory to God than the body
which types it. Its Head is the Lord Himself. It has its being and form in Him,
as well as all its nurture, such as its life and light, grace and joy, strength and fruitfulness;
it depends upon the Head for subsistence and for safety; it is united to the Head by a
bond that is both close and indissoluble.
The agent of this growth is THE HOLY SPIRIT. For “by one Spirit were we all
baptized into one body” (I Corinthians 12:13). As the one spirit of man wields at
will all the functions of the body, and concentrates the various members upon its
purposes as they arise, so the Holy Spirit gives each member of the mystic body its
peculiar action and power in the divinely appointed diversity which contributes
to its eventual unity.
16 "From whom the whole body joined together and compacted by that which
every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of
every part, maketh increace of the body unto the edifying of itself in love."
From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by
that which every joint supplieth. The relation of ἐκ in this verse to εἰς in
v. 15 is to be noted — growing up vitally into Him, the body derives vital substance
from Him. Not, however, in a mere individual sense, but as an organization, the
parts being adapted and articulated to one another (this process being continuous;
see present participles, (συναρμολογούμενον - soon-ar-mol-og-eh’-o – menon –
fitly compacted together; and συνβιβαζόμενον - soom-bib-ad’-zo-menon – knit
together). In the Church there are babes in Christ, also young men and old men; some
are clear in intellect, some strong in faith, some warm in love, some excel in passive
virtues, some in active; but in a well-ordered Church these should be getting
jointed together, and learning to work with and for one another, no one
despising gifts which he has not but another has; in this sense, there ought
to be a spiritual communism, for all are one spiritual body. But spiritual
communism does not involve social communism or even social equality,
nor will social distinctions be obliterated in a pure Church, except so far as
they hinder spiritual communion - “The whole body is fitly joined together and
compacted by that which every joint supplieth.” Each member is in relation
with all other members as well as with the Head. Each is dependent upon the other.
No member can dismiss another as useless; none is so great as not to be indebted
to the least. “God has tempered the body together.” (I Corinthians 12:24) - Now,
just as the parts of the human frame are necessarily of different functions, and set, some
in superior, some in inferior, places, yet all act together in the fullest sympathy; so all
the members of Christ’s body must keep rank and order, acting within their own
sphere with due wisdom, harmony, and love, the eye not doing the work of the hand,
nor the hand the work of the foot, but abiding each in his own calling. According to
the effectual working of the measure (proportion) of every part. This clause seems to
be most naturally connected with what follows. In the fit framing of the body, channels
as it were are laid for the propagation and working of the vital force throughout the
body; this force is not alike, but of various amount in the different parts; some members
have much of it, some little, but the measure of this vital force regulates the growth.
Maketh increase of the body. Or growth of the body. The middle voice, ποιεῖται -
poieotai – is being made; is making - indicates that it is a growth from within,
while depending on the energy furnished by Christ. Unto the edifying of itself in love.
This is the end, so far as the body itself is concerned, though, of course, the
completed spiritual body, like the completed natural body, has work to do outside
itself. In a healthy Church there is a continual work of building up: construction,
not destruction, is its proper business — promoting peace, purity, prayerfulness,
trust, activity in the work of the Lord, but ALL IN LOVE, the absence of which
makes winter instead of summer, declension instead of progress, death instead of life.
In illustration of the various measure of grace, and yet its real efficiency in all the
members of the Church, Eadie says, “No member or ordinance is superfluous.
The widow’s mite was commended by Him who sat over against the treasury.
Solomon built a temple. Joseph provided a tomb. Mary the mother gave birth
to the child, and the other Marys wrapped the corpse in spices.
the apostle, and Phoebe carried an Epistle of old, the princes and heroes went to
the field, and wise-hearted women did spin. While Joshua fought, Moses prayed.
The snuffers and trays were as necessary (Exodus 27:37-40; Numbers 4:9) as the
magnificent lamp-stand.... The result is that the Church is built up, for love is the
element of spiritual progress. That love fills the renewed nature.” The Church has
been defined as an institution that has:
ü truth for its nourishment,
ü love for its atmosphere, and
ü CHRIST FOR ITS HEAD!
One great lesson here is that, as Christ is the Truth, so He also is the Life.
The gospel as a system of truth has Christ in the center; so the Church as a
living agency has Christ in the center. Take Christ from either, and
“Ichabod” (I Samuel 4:21) may be inscribed on the wall.
The Unity of the Church (vs. 1-16)
The doxology has just died away with its ascription of glory to God in the
Church throughout all ages, and now the apostle turns from his
intercession to admonish the Ephesian Christians about the necessity of
cultivating lowliness of mind and mutual consideration, that in the Church
there may be preserved “the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” It is
plain from the verses that follow that Paul’s conviction was that the Divine
glory could only be manifested in a Church thoroughly united. To the all-important
subject of the unity of the Church we are consequently led