Ephesians 4 Bible Commentary

John Wesley’s Explanatory Notes

(Read all of Ephesians 4)

Verse 1

[1] I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called,

I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord — Imprisoned for his sake and for your sakes; for the sake of the gospel which he had preached amongst them. This was therefore a powerful motive to them to comfort him under it by their obedience.

Verse 3

[3] Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit — That mutual union and harmony, which is a fruit of the Spirit. The bond of peace is love.

Verse 4

[4] There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling;

There is one body — The universal church, all believers throughout the world.

One Spirit, one Lord, one God and Father — The ever-blessed Trinity.

One hope — Of heaven.

Verse 5

[5] One Lord, one faith, one baptism,

One outward baptism.

Verse 6

[6] One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.

One God and Father of all — That believe.

Who is above all — Presiding over all his children, operating through them all by Christ, and dwelling in all by his Spirit.

Verse 7

[7] But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ.

According to the measure of the gift of Christ — According as Christ is pleased to give to each.

Verse 8

[8] Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men.

Wherefore he saith — That is, in reference to which God saith by David, Having ascended on high, he led captivity captive - He triumphed over all his enemies, Satan, sin, and death, which had before enslaved all the world: alluding to the custom of ancient conquerors, who led those they had conquered in chains after them. And, as they also used to give donatives to the people, at their return from victory, so he gave gifts to men - Both the ordinary and extraordinary gifts of the Spirit. Psalms 68:18.

Verse 9

[9] (Now that he ascended, what is it but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth?

Now this expression, He ascended, what is it, but that he descended — That is, does it not imply, that he descended first? Certainly it does, on the supposition of his being God. Otherwise it would not: since all the saints will ascend to heaven, though none of them descended thence.

Into the lower parts of the earth — So the womb is called, Psalms 63:9.

Verse 10

[10] He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things.)

He that descended — That thus amazingly humbled himself.

Is the same that ascended — That was so highly exalted.

That he might fill all things — The whole church, with his Spirit, presence, and operations.

Verse 11

[11] And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;

And, among other his free gifts, he gave some apostles - His chief ministers and special witnesses, as having seen him after his resurrection, and received their commission immediately from him.

And same prophets, and some evangelists — A prophet testifies of things to come; an evangelist of things past: and that chiefly by preaching the gospel before or after any of the apostles. All these were extraordinary officers. The ordinary were.

Some pastors — Watching over their several flocks.

And some teachers — Whether of the same or a lower order, to assist them, as occasion might require.

Verse 12

[12] For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:

In this verse is noted the office of ministers; in the next, the aim of the saints; in the 16th, the way of growing in grace. And each of these has three parts, standing in the same order.

For the perfecting the saints — The completing them both in number and their various gifts and graces.

To the work of the ministry — The serving God and his church in their various ministrations.

To the edifying of the body of Christ — The building up this his mystical body in faith, love, holiness.

Verse 13

[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 fulness of Christ:

Till we all — And every one of us.

Come to the unity of the faith, and knowledge of the Son of God — To both an exact agreement in the Christian doctrine, and an experimental knowledge of Christ as the Son of God.

To a perfect man — To a state of spiritual manhood both in understanding and strength.

To the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ — To that maturity of age and spiritual stature wherein we shall be filled with Christ, so that he will be all in all.

Verse 14

[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;

Fluctuating to and fro — From within, even when there is no wind.

And carried about with every wind — From without; when we are assaulted by others, who are unstable as the wind.

By the sleight of men — By their "cogging the dice;" so the original word implies.

Verse 15

[15] But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ:

Into him — Into his image and Spirit, and into a full union with him.

Verse 16

[16] From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.

From whom the whole mystical body fitly joined together - All the parts being fitted for and adapted to each other, and most exactly harmonizing with the whole.

And compacted — Knit and cemented together with the utmost firmness.

Maketh increase by that which every joint supplieth — Or by the mutual help of every joint.

According to the effectual working in the measure of every member — According as every member in its measure effectually works for the support and growth of the whole. A beautiful allusion to the human body, composed of different joints and members, knit together by various ligaments, and furnished with vessels of communication from the head to every part.

Verse 17

[17] This I say therefore, and testify in the Lord, that ye henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind,

This therefore I say — He returns thither where he begun, Ephesians 4:1.

And testify in the Lord — In the name and by the authority of the Lord Jesus.

In the vanity of their mind — Having lost the knowledge of the true God, Romans 1:21. This is the root of all evil walking.

Verse 18

[18] Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart:

Having their understanding darkened, through the ignorance that is in them — So that they are totally void of the light of God, neither have they any knowledge of his will.

Being alienated from the life of God — Utter strangers to the divine, the spiritual life.

Through the hardness of their hearts — Callous and senseless. And where there is no sense, there can be no life.

Verse 19

[19] Who being past feeling have given themselves over unto lasciviousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness.

Who being past feeling — The original word is peculiarly significant. It properly means, past feeling pain. Pain urges the sick to seek a remedy, which, where there is no pain, is little thought of.

Have given themselves up — Freely, of their own accord. Lasciviousness is but one branch of uncleanness, which implies impurity of every kind.

Verse 20

[20] But ye have not so learned Christ;

But ye have not so learned Christ — That is, ye cannot act thus, now ye know him, since you know the Christian dispensation allows of no sin.

Verse 21

[21] If so be that ye have heard him, and have been taught by him, as the truth is in Jesus:

Seeing ye have heard him — Teaching you inwardly by his Spirit.

As the truth is in Jesus — According to his own gospel.

Verse 22

[22] That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts;

The old man — That is, the whole body of sin. All sinful desires are deceitful; promising the happiness which they cannot give.

Verse 23

[23] And be renewed in the spirit of your mind;

The spirit of your mind — The very ground of your heart.

Verse 24

[24] And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.

The new man — Universal holiness.

After — In the very image of God.

Verse 25

[25] Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbour: for we are members one of another.

Wherefore — Seeing ye are thus created anew, walk accordingly, in every particular.

For we are members one of another — To which intimate union all deceit is quite repugnant.

Verse 26

[26] Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath:

Be ye angry, and sin not — That is, if ye are angry, take heed ye sin not. Anger at sin is not evil; but we should feel only pity to the sinner. If we are angry at the person, as well as the fault, we sin. And how hardly do we avoid it.

Let not the sun go down upon your wrath — Reprove your brother, and be reconciled immediately. Lose not one day. A clear, express command. Reader, do you keep it?

Verse 27

[27] Neither give place to the devil.

Neither give place to the devil — By any delay.

Verse 28

[28] Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labour, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth.

But rather let him labour — Lest idleness lead him to steal again. And whoever has sinned in any kind ought the more zealously to practise the opposite virtue.

That he may have to give — And so be no longer a burden and nuisance, but a blessing, to his neighbours.

Verse 29

[29] Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.

But that which is good — Profitable to the speaker and hearers.

To the use of edifying — To forward them in repentance, faith, or holiness.

That it may minister grace — Be a means of conveying more grace into their hearts. Hence we learn, what discourse is corrupt, as it were stinking in the nostrils of God; namely, all that is not profitable, not edifying, not apt to minister grace to the hearers.

Verse 30

[30] And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption.

Grieve not the Holy Spirit — By any disobedience. Particularly by corrupt discourse; or by any of the following sins. Do not force him to withdraw from you, as a friend does whom you grieve by unkind behaviour.

The day of redemption — That is, the day of judgment, in which our redemption will be completed.

Verse 31

[31] Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice:

Let all bitterness — The height of settled anger, opposite to kindness, verse 32.

And wrath — Lasting displeasure toward the ignorant, and them that are out of the way, opposite to tenderheartedness.

And anger — The very first risings of disgust at those that injure you, opposite to forgiving one another.

And clamour — Or bawling. "I am not angry," says one; "but it is my way to speak so." Then unlearn that way: it is the way to hell.

And evil speaking — Be it in ever so mild and soft a tone, or with ever such professions of kindness. Here is a beautiful retrogradation, beginning with the highest, and descending to the lowest, degree of the want of love.

Verse 32

[32] And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you.

As God, showing himself kind and tenderhearted in the highest degree, hath forgiven you.