Ephesians 4:1-7, 11-16


The appointed reading for today excludes verses 8-10. These omitted verses inform us that after His humiliation the exalted Christ ascended to heaven. He now fills all things. His human nature now fully uses all the properties of the divine nature.

Verses 1-7 divide themselves into three sections. Verses 1-3 are an exhortation; verses 4-6 give us the basis for the unity of the Church. Verse 7 introduces the thought that, in addition to the great gifts of redemption and everlasting life, the ascended Christ has given individual and corporate gifts to the Church. Note that the Nestle Greek text begins subparagraphs at verses 4, 7, and 11.

Ephesians 4:1 As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.

Compare this verse with Rom. 12:1. Both there and here Paul is beginning what is called the practical or parenetic section of the epistle. The verse points back to the doctrinal part of the letter.

"Urge" is "to beseech, exhort, encourage." 

The Lord had allowed Paul's imprisonment. It worked for Paul's benefit and the furtherance of the Church.

"To walk" is a Biblical metaphor for "to live." 

"The calling you have received" eliminates the possibility of synergism. God and God alone calls a person into His Kingdom. Paul is not saying: Live in keeping with God's call and your decision. No. He is saying: Live in keeping with the principle that the Holy Ghost has called you by the Gospel.

Ephesians 4:2 Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.

Verses 1-3 comprise one sentence.

From John 17 we learn that only God can cause the unity of the Church. Christians do not cause the unity of the Church. But Christians are told to maintain the unity of the Church through the mutual attitudes of the Christians.

Kretzmann: 'Humble' -- That very disposition of mind which was despised by the heathen as unworthy of a man, the deep sense of one's own smallness in insignificance, the Christians are to cultivate.
Rienecker: The quality of esteeming ourselves as small but at the same time recognizing the power and ability of God.
Again: "The humble and gentle attitude which expresses itself in a patient submissiveness to offense, free from malice and desire for revenge." Jesus is our model for both of these virtues, Matt. 11:29.

"Patient." This noun in the New Testament is used of both God and Christians. God exercised this virtue with man for 120 years before the flood. He waited for their repentance.

Lenski: A long holding out of the mind before it gives room to action or passion.

Next, in verses 2 and 3, follow two participles of attendant circumstance. The first reads: "putting up with one another in love." 

Kretzmann: We should endure even the unpleasant peculiarities of our Christian brethren without a hint of impatience.
Lenski: Even 'long suffering' has its limits.
That is correct. Sometimes there comes the moment when, for someone's good, we must become harsh and adamant, lest we further him in his sin.

Ephesians 4:3 Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.

The two initial words mean "being zealous to preserve." We do not cause unity in the Church. But God gives us the ability to preserve it. It is our duty. This must be done at all times, not only when there is tension and strife.

Peace and the bond are the same thing. If the saints do what they are told in verse 2, peace will result. And that is the only quality which will preserve God-given peace in the Church.

Kretzmann: As soon as these virtues are disregarded, the result is dissension and disagreement, division and sectarianism.

Ephesians 4:4 There is one body and one Spirit -- just as you were called to one hope when you were called --

Concerning verses 1-6 Kretzmann remarks: "This passage describes, in a wonderfully clear and brief way, the holy Christian Church, the communion of saints." 

The Augsburg Confession (Tappert 32.1-4): Our churches also teach that the holy church is to continue forever. The church is the assembly of saints in which the Gospel is taught purely and the sacraments are administered rightly. For the true unity of the church it is enough to agree concerning the teaching of the Gospel and the administration of the sacraments. It is not necessary that human traditions or rites and ceremonies, instituted by men, should be alike everywhere. It is as Paul says 'One faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all' etc, Eph 4:5-6.

These verses are not admonition. They state facts.

Stoeckhardt: In verses 4-6 this conception 'unity of the Spirit' is still further developed . . . It is not a continuation of the admonition. Verses 4-6 lend force to the admonition in 1-3.

"Spirit" denotes the Holy Spirit who is the Author of the Church.

The last part of the verse repeats several words found in verse 1. Paul is stressing the monergistic nature of the Christian's conversion.

The call caused the hope, here the objective usage. My hope is everlasting life, an objective hope.

Lenski: 'One hope' is the one item that contains a personal reference to the Ephesians. In a marked way it reverts to verse 1: 'The calling with which you were called.'

Ephesians 4:5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism;

In verse 4 we had three items modified by the number "one." We have that again in this verse. Franzmann says of these three that they look to the historical origin of the church. "One Lord" is Jesus Christ. "One faith" is likely the objective usage of this word, meaning "that which is believed." "The baptism" is the initial sacrament, the one whereby one enters this church. For this reason the Lord's Supper is not mentioned. The Nicene Creed repeats this thought: "I acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins." 

The charismatics are wrong when they claim a second baptism in the Holy Spirit.

Incidentally the substance of the third article, both in the Apostles and Nicene Creeds, is much influenced by these verses.

Ephesians 4:6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.

The words of the Apostle reach their climax in this verse. "One God and Father of all " is soteriological just as was the word "Lord" in verse 5. The word "all" is used four times in verse 6. All are masculine. The first is genitive of relation. The last three are governed by prepositions. We shall meet the word "all" again in verse 13. These several references to "all" are individualization of the "one body." All make up one body.

Only the Christian religion calls its God "Father." And He is the Father of every believer.

Now follow the three prepositional phrases. "Over all" means that God is their loving Creator, Lord and Master. He provides for them. "Through all" means through them He carries out His will and plans. "In all" means that the Triune God dwells in all of them. All facets of the relationship between God and the church are covered in this single line which is introduced by "One God and Father of all." 

Stoeckhardt: Verses 4-6 are a 'Classical Location' for the doctrine of the Church. They describe the very nature of the Church . . . Only those who believe are members of Christ's body . . . The Christian faith possesses a uniting power. It binds human hearts together . . . It is not true that Christians must, through their own efforts, consultation, and agreement bring about this union. It is the creation of God . . . This union endures beyond death and even beyond the end of the earth . . . The Church of God at present is still a hidden thing . . . It exhibits certain visible well-known and recognized marks, Word and Sacraments.

Ephesians 4:7 But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.

In this verse we have "one" whereas in the preceding verses the text spoke of  "all." Paul is stressing "to each one of us." 

It is given. We did not work for it. Here "grace" does not mean salvation, forgiveness of sins, everlasting life. It simply means "gift," something with which to serve the church. In this phrase lies the diversity of gifts given to Christians, "in keeping with the measure of the gift of Christ." 

We prefer the translation of the AAT: "But each of us has been given the gift measured out by Christ who gave it." There is no such thing as a Christian who has not received some gift with which to serve the church.

(Verses 8-10 omitted)

Ephesians 4:11 It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers,

In the Greek text verses 11-16 are one long sentence. The main clause is found in verse 11. The most important gifts of Christ to the Una Sancta are people.

In this verse we have four groups, each introduced by "some." AAT translates:  "And He gave some men to be apostles, etc. " By the way, AAT renders " prophets" with "some to speak the word" which we think is very good.

Kretzmann: The apostles were and are the infallible teachers of all Christendom, their doctrine is authoritative for the doctrine of the Christian teachers of all times. Prophets and evangelists were special revelations for special purposes, which they then, in inspired speech, declaimed to the Christian assembly, see Romans 12:6. The evangelists, to whom, for example, Philip, Acts 21:8, belonged, proclaimed the Gospel in missionary activity . . . spread the apostolic word in places where the apostles themselves had not come; to their calling corresponds probably the service of our present missionaries. With pastors and teachers the apostle describes the regular ministry of the Word, which in all periods of the Church has been and remained the same, the public office of preaching. The expression 'teachers' probably refers chiefly to the public activity as preachers, the other, 'pastors,' to the pastoral activity which applied the Word to the individual members of the congregation.
Franzmann: A comparison with 1 Corinthians 12:26-28 shows that the list is not intended to be exhaustive . . . Pastors and teachers attend to the day-by-day nurture and edification of the churches established by the labors of apostle and evangelist.

Ephesians 4:12 to prepare God's people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up

This verse is a purpose clause going back to the verb "build" in the previous verse. AAT: "Iin order to get His holy people ready to serve as workers and build the body of Christ." 

Christ gave the several offices, verse 11, to equip the members of the church to edify and to maintain the unity of the church. No member is excluded from the edifying of the church.

Stoeckhardt: The proclamation of the divine Word is the only means through which the Church of Christ is built. The purpose of this service is the 'perfecting of the saints,' the completion of the saints.

Ephesians 4:13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.

Bengel, Kretzmann and Stoeckhardt think that this verse cannot be attained in this life. Lenski thinks that it can. We agree with the first three for the following reasons:

Kretzmann: The apostle here has in mind the congregation of the elect in heaven, and he refers to the time at which the great end in view is to be realized. At the present time many of these chosen children of Christ are still without the knowledge of their Savior. But when these all, through the preaching of the Gospel, have become one with the present believers, one in faith and in the knowledge of their Savior, the Son of God, then the object of the ministry of the Word will have been realized.
The verse has two metaphors to describe the perfection of the saints in heaven. Verses 12, 13, and 14 each go back to "build" in verse 11. Verse 12 gives us the purpose of Christ gift in time. Verse 13 tells us when Christ's gift will no longer be necessary. Verse 14 brings us back into time, a negative purpose clause. With St. Paul we must confess: "Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on" (Philippians 3:12)

And 1 John 3:2 comforts us: "We know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him." 

But until then we must listen to our pastors who preach the Apostolic Word.

Ephesians 4:14 Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming.

With Stoeckhardt we attach "then" to "build" in verse 11. Lenski calls this result. Stoeckhardt sees it as purpose. The difference in their interpretation of verse 13 causes this difference. We follow Stoeckhardt. The Lord Jesus gave us the Apostolic Word and our pastors in order that we might no longer be infants, irresponsible, naive, ignorant people.

The picture here is of people tossed this way and that, anchorless victims of the elements. This verse is highly metaphorical. The whole verse is talking about deliberately deceptive and false teachers who make easy victims of Christians who cannot stand on their own feet so far as doctrine is concerned. Here Paul talks of intentional fraud. "According to the deceit of delusion." 

Verse 14 is a frightening picture of the fraudulent and clever nature of false doctrine. AAT: "We shouldn't be babies any longer, tossed and driven by every windy thing that is taught, by the trickery of men and their clever scheming in error." 

The antidote is to listen to Jesus' gift to me, my pastor, who preaches the Apostolic Word.

Ephesians 4:15 Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ.

The whole sentence means: "But in order that, by speaking the Truth in a loving way, we might grow in every respect in our relation to Him, Who is the Head, Christ." 

Jesus spoke the Truth in love, whether it was Law or Gospel. Our objective for ourselves and for others is the salvation of the soul and body. We need Jesus' gift of pastors to the church so that we might learn to speak the Truth, the Gospel, in love. The phrase will occur again in verse 16.

Ephesians 4:16 From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.

 "The entire body causes the growth of the body." 

The source of this growth is Christ. In Ephesians 2:21 we are told: "In Whom (Christ) all the building (the Church), fitly framed together grows." And in Colossians 2:19 we read: "FROM WHOM (Christ) ALL THE BODY, NOURISHED and KNIT TOGETHER BY JOINTS and ligaments, grows WITH THE INCREASE, etc. " We have CAPITALIZED the words which, in the Greek, correspond with words in EphESIANS 4:16.

This ligament phrase means literally: "through the supply afforded by each ligament. " RSV translates: "From whom the whole body, joined and knit together by every joint with which it is supplied, when each part is working properly, makes bodily growth and upbuilds itself in love." 

Stoeckhardt: The Apostle, both in Colossians and here tells us that the human body when it is in action and moves receives assistance and is closely joined by the intensive straining of the muscles and sinews, so that each part contributes its share to the effort of the whole, because all the members unite in action and cooperate . . . The same persons of the individual Christians are pictured as members and also as the muscles, tendons, ligaments. The proper use of the gifts of the Lord by the individual Christian in the service of others redounds to the good of the entire body, by which the entire body of the Church is strengthened, firmly joined, and made unitedly effective . . . Whenever, therefore, the individual Christian performs the work for which he is fitted and appointed, then the harmony, the conscious unity of the Christians is firmly established, then the members are drawn more closely together, they live a brethren, in peace and harmony with one another, share joy and sorrows, and thus with united powers they labor effectively in the work of the Lord.

The ascended Jesus gave the church the gifts of the apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers to prepare the people for everlasting life. Nothing needs to be added to their salvation. That is already done. When we arrive in heaven we shall understand what Paul meant here in verse 13.


(Adapted from Exegetical Notes Epistle Texts, Series B, Sundays after Pentecost,
by Harold H. Buls, Concordia Theological Seminary Press: Ft Wayne IN, 1987, pp. 41-45)

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