Confraternity Bible: New Testament and Supplemental Commentary

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EPHESIANS - Chapter 4

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Ephesians 4

Supplemental Commentary:

II.  MORAL  4, 1 -- 6, 20

1.  For Christians in General  4, 1 -- 5, 20

4, 1-6:  Unity in the Mystical Body.    1.  Therefore: the moral part of the Epistle is closely connected with the previous teaching.  Christians must behave themselves as befits their calling.  First of all there must be unity in the one body of the Church.  Cf. 1 Cor. 1, 13: Christ is not divided.  As whenever he urges unity, the Apostle urges humility as a preliminary condition: cf. Phil. 2, 3-11.  Unity also requires meekness and loving patience in bearing with one another (longsuffering).    3.  Careful to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.  Unity exists already; we must give diligence to preserve it.    4.  The essential unity of the Church arises from the fact that it is one body, animated by one Spirit (the soul of the Mystical Body).  There is one Lord, Christ; one faith, which is fixed on Christ; one baptism, in which men confess their faith; one hope, by which all are cheered.  There is one God and Father of all who is above all, and throughout all, and in us all.

4, 7-16:  Diversity of Graces.  The gifts chiefly in view are those which Christ communicates to us after the Ascension; cf. 1 Cor. 12-14.  The Spirit of Christ gives to each Christian his allotted measure of grace according to the function he has to fulfill.    7 f.  To illustrate the idea of Christ's sending us spiritual gifts, St. Paul cites freely Ps. 67, 19, which depicts a great triumph of God in His temple.  Where the Psalm says that the Lord receives gifts from men, the Apostle says that Jesus "gave gifts to men."    9.  Our Lord comes down to this earth by the Incarnation and then ascends into heaven, whence He sends the Holy Spirit.  He led away captives: these captives, says St. John Chrysostom, are the enemies of Christ.  The figure is that of a triumphant conqueror leading his captives in his train.  There is no reason to dwell on the nature of the captives.    11.  That he might fill all things: with His power and His gifts.  In particular (11 ff) He gives gifts to the Church.  He has established for her some as apostles (like the Twelve, St. Paul, St. Barnabas and others of inferior rank sent forth to establish churches); prophets who speak God's word not only concerning the future but the present and the past; evangelists who complete the work of the Apostles in the building up of the churches; pastors and teachers, doubtless established with some permanence in particular places.  St. Paul does not aim at completeness.    12 f.  For the work of the ministry appears to refer to the use of the gifts rather than to pastoral duties.  All so endowed build up the body of Christ, contribute to the growth of the Church.  All together as one body, we have come to the same faith and a true knowledge of Christ the Son of God; and we have reached the perfection of the grown man, that maturity of our Christianity which will make us fit to receive the fullness of the gifts of Christ, to be the perfect receptacle of His graces.  One who pursues this perfection is no longer a child, tossed to and fro and carried away by every wind of doctrine.

4, 17-24:  Change of Self.  See Col. 3, 5-11 on taking off the old man and putting on the new.    18.  The life of God is that which God lives and which He communicates to men.  On the corruption of paganism see Rom. 1, 18-32.    21.  Paul is evidently not writing exclusively to the Ephesians he had himself evangelized.    22.  The old man is the unregenerate man, not under the influence of the Holy Spirit; the new man is he who is under the influence of the Spirit.    24.  In justice and holiness of truth seems to mean simply, in true justice and true holiness.

4, 25 -- 5, 20:  Vices to Be Avoided.  Six are specified: lying, anger, stealing, bad language, bad temper, lust.  Although lying is the only one pointed out as unbecoming fellow-members of the body of Christ, the same can be said in regard to all vices and sins.  [Commentary on this section is continued at the beginning of the next chapter.]

Confraternity Bible:

Unity in the Mystical Body  1 I therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, exhort you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you were called, 2 with all humility and meekness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 3 careful to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace: 4 one body and one Spirit, even as you were 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 throughout all, and in us all.

Diversity of Graces  7 But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ's bestowal.  8* Thus it says,
"Ascending on high, he led away captives; he gave gifts to men." 
9 Now this, "he ascended," what does it mean but that he also first descended into the lower parts of the earth?  10 He who descended, he it is who ascended also above all the heavens, that he might fill all things.  11 And he himself gave some men as apostles, and some as prophets, others again as evangelists, and others as pastors and teachers, 12* in order to perfect the saints for a work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the deep knowledge of the Son of God, to perfect manhood, to the mature measure of the fullness of Christ.  14 And this he has done that we may be now no longer children, tossed to and fro and carried about by every wind of doctrine devised in the wickedness of men, in craftiness, according to the wiles of error.  15 Rather are we to practice the truth in love, and so grow up in all things in him who is the head, Christ.  16* For from him the whole body (being closely joined and knit together through every joint of the system according to the functioning in due measure of each single part) derives its increase to the building up of itself in love.

Change of Self  17 This, therefore, I say and testify in the Lord, that henceforward you are not to walk as the Gentiles walk in the futility of their mind, 18 having their understanding clouded in darkness, estranged from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart.  19 For they have given themselves up in despair to sensuality, greedily practising every kind of uncleanness.  20 But you have not so learned Christ--- 21 for surely you have heard of him and have been taught in him (as truth is in Jesus) 22 that as regards your former manner of life you are to put off the old man, which is being corrupted through its deceptive lusts.  23* But be renewed in the spirit of your mind, 24 and put on the new man, which has been created according to God in justice and holiness of truth.

Vices to Be Avoided  25 Wherefore, put away lying and speak truth each one with his neighbor, because we are members of one another.  26 "Be angry and do not sin": do not let the sun go down upon your anger: 27 do not give place to the devil.  28 He who was wont to steal, let him steal no longer; but rather let him labor, working with his hands at what is good, that he may have something to share with him who suffers need.  29 Let no ill speech proceed from your mouth, but whatever is good for supplying what fits the current necessity, that it may give grace to the hearers.  30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, in whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.  31 Let all bitterness, and wrath, and indignation, and clamor, and reviling, be removed from you, along with all malice.  32 On the contrary, be kind to one another, and merciful, generously forgiving one another, as also God in Christ has generously forgiven you.


8: Ps. 67, 19.

12: The body of Christ: the mystical body, of which Christ is the head and the source of supernatural life.

16: This is a description of the spiritual organization of the mystical body for distributing from Christ through its various members its life of divine love.

23: The spirit of your mind: spirit here seems to mean, not the Holy Spirit nor yet grace in itself, but that interior and higher aspect of the mind by which it is open to the influence to grace, in contrast to the futility of the Gentiles' mind spoken of in v. 17.