Bible Book: Ephesus 4

Admonition to be unanimous, Gifts of Christ for the edifying of his body, the church  
1 I therefore, the prisoner for the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, 2 with all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love, 3 endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. Nobility obliges and great blessings ask appreciation and caution not to spoil the blessings. In view of the greatness of what God has given us, Christians ought to abhor any inclination to vainglory and to have much patience with all, show meekness and to do all to keep the unity of the Spirit. A difference between Jews and gentiles, a silent divisive element, ought to be out of the question in the church. The unity of the Spirit is not absolutely identical to the unity of the body. It is the unity in which the Spirit of God can go with us. That Spirit rejects connections with sin and wrong teachings with which we would grieve Him. The admonition to walk worthy of our vocation excluded all connections with unrighteousness in teaching and life, though some might defend it. Unity between light and darkness is an impossibility. 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. The unity of the church of Christ is not the result of all Christians being equal. All are different and everyone is unique. The unity is to be found in God and in what He has done for us and made from us. There is one body of which all believers are members, a different thing from have being joined to some denomination. Christians have one hope, one Lord, one baptism. With respect to the latter it can be said that various denominations have more than one baptism: one after birth and one after rebirth. The two cannot have the same foundation and there must be a mistake. One Spirit, one Lord, one God and Father. It stresses that we as the church know a trio in the one and only God, a Trinity. He is the God and Father of all, above all, through all and in all. I am convinced that here the apostle is still speaking of the church, her calling and her position, so that the “all” here refer to the church with its often very different members. The “through all” seems to be strange, but may mean, that He must be called Father because He has us as his children and consequently is Father through us. That He is in us, is a great miracle, too great to be true. Yet it is true, He is living in us through Jesus Christ. 7 But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ. Unanimity cannot exist where envy and neglect are ruling. The Lord gave anyone his own gift and He has decided what gift and in what measure. Who are we to be dissatisfied about it or to slight this one or another. Let us rather be grateful that the Lord is caring for his church and us all individually. 8 Therefore He saith, "When He ascended up on high, He led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men." This is a quotation from Psalm 68:19 (or 18) Thou hast ascended on high, Thou hast led captivity captive; Thou hast received gifts for men, yea, for the rebellious also, that the LORD God might dwell among them. It seems to be strange, that Ephesians 4:8 says that He gave gifts, whereas Psalm 68 says that He received gifts. Yet there is no contradiction. Among his redeemed ones Christ took some and made them apostle or teacher, which He then gave to his church. With relation to the sentence “Thou hast led captivity captive” I cannot but think of Samson, who led the captivity captive when he took the gates of Gaza and put them on the mountain in view of the city. So Christ took the gates of death in which satan thought to keep Him, showing them in his resurrection. As for the gifts, they have been given in order God can abide in the church, quite another thought than that we shall abide in his house. We certainly shall, but I think it is not the thought here. 9 (Now the saying, "He ascended" —what does it mean but that He also first descended into the lower parts of the earth?
 10 He that descended is the same who also ascended up far above all heavens, that He might fill all things.) Speaking of a normal man like us, it could be said that he ascended without saying with it, that he first descended. It has been the case with Elias. But how could Christ, the Son of God ascend without having descended first? John wrote in his gospel that He was in the beginning, that He, the Word, was with God and was God and that all things were made by Him. How great then is He, that he descended to be able to exalt the most low, us, sinners. He filled all things. No, in heaven there has not been shortage. But the love of God looked for a way to save them that were on the way to perdition and give them a destination quite the reverse: God, who hath called you unto His Kingdom and glory. (1 Thessalonians 2:12). That purpose of God can go on thanks to the redeeming work of Christ. Moreover it was Gods purpose to gather together in one all things in Christ, as we read in chapter 1:10. That too will be fulfilled with all that is attached to it. 11 And He appointed some to be apostles, and some prophets, and some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, 12 for the perfecting of the saints for the work of the ministry, and for the edifying of the body of Christ, The gifts Christ has taken from among men He gave to the church. Apostles we do no longer have nor can we appoint them, because the Lord Himself chose and sent them. And an apostle must be ear- and eyewitness of the life and the resurrection of he Lord (Acts 1:21 and 22). That was true for the eleven and for Paul as well (1 Corinthians 15:8). The work and the witness of the apostles we still have in the New Testament, exactly what we need. The other gifts the Lord still gives, for He is true. But owing to the discord in Christianity (the many separations and differences) we miss much of what the Lord is willing to give. The edifying of the church has not been stopped indeed, but the individual believer will feel the sad results of the failing of the church. We all ought to acknowledge our failing before the Lord and pray for Gods mercy and care for his children. The Lord gives prophets, pastors, teachers. We, the believers, cannot choose them. We have to recognize what the Lord gives, and the standard we have for it is the Word of God and not our taste. Clergymen, rectors, vicars of church X we do not find in Scripture, still less their initiation or appointment. But few realize that in these things too we ought to be obedient to the Lord. People usually do according to custom or tradition without asking whether that tradition is according to the Word of God. To appoint teachers or clergymen certainly is not what the Bible teaches us. The words in 2 Timothy 4:3 are clear: For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but having itching ears, they shall heap to themselves teachers in accordance with their own lusts.Believers have to be prepared or made perfect for the work God wants them to do. It is what God will do by his Word and Spirit in a life of prayer, obedience to his Word and fellowship with the Father and the Son. So a gift can be developed in order to be a blessing for the church and the believers individually. That is where our responsibility plays a role. 13 until we all come into 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, Unity of faith! How many differences and disputes exist between Christians. Some say that with the Bible one can defend any view. That however is a mistake. The matter is that often the right spiritual food and right teaching is lacking. Then the human spirit assumes the authority as interpreter of the Scriptures, the exclusive prerogative of the Spirit of God. Then indeed several conflicting views will emerge. The Lord wants us to understand what is the meaning of his Spirit, which will bring us to unity of faith indeed. The heart of the matter however is the full knowledge of the Lord as Son of God and the Christ of God. That concerns every believer individually. Nobody can say that he does not need Gods gifts for that spiritual growth. Would a little child know better what it needs than the loving parents? The result God has in view for us is the full “knowledge of the Son of God, the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” indeed. Would not the result be that we will be more and more like Him, as seen in Stephan? Gods purpose is not our fullness, but “the fullness of Christ”. We see it in Stephan, who dying prayed for his murderers and recommended his spirit to God. What a blessing it would be for the world if we could be recognized as sent by Him, which would make our witness much more powerful.
 14 that we henceforth be no longer children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine by the sleight of men and their cunning and craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; Satan is very willing to suggest several teachings to us. He therefore uses men, who by his influence are wise in slyness to deceive when possible even the children of God. The Lord wants to protect us by moulding, nourishing and building us in order we grow spiritually by the teaching of the apostles and the ministry of prophets and teachers. First of all Apostles. As said, they are no longer here, but their teaching, the completion of their task, we have in the Word of God. In the first century there was nothing else and it was what the Lord deemed necessary for the growth of the church and the believers. To day we need exactly the same. It is very harmful if we replace the biblical teaching of the apostles by younger extracts, work of men merely and not of the Spirit. Sola Scriptura has been the well known principle of Dr. Maarten Luther, quite rightly, but kept to by few. The expression “Scripture and confession” seems to point to zeal for keeping the truth of Gods Word. In fact it raises human writings to the same level as the Holy Word of God. Well meaning Christian reader, that is wrong. The Word of God alone has authority. Whosoever refers to the writings in the confession will, considering his conviction of the authority of those writings, have little inclination to investigate into what the Bible says and teaches. That is a great success for the wicked one, satan. To appoint teachers and pastors means searching after our own taste and usually finding them as well. Moreover the one appointed will be inclined to take into account the taste and intention of the people that appointed him. One day it will be seen how great the spiritual damage of that practice will be. Achab consulted his prophets and unanimously they played up to him with their lies, whereas Micha, the prophet of the Lord who foretold truth, was imprisoned. Let that be a warning. Who has to be grateful to men for his position, has to take their opinion and will into account and will probably neglect the will of our sole Lord. In view of the various teachings of men it is necessary to know the truth and understand the will of God, in order to have the standard which enables us to test and judge the influences and teachings we meet. 15 but speaking the truth in love, may grow up into Him in all things, who is the Head, even Christ. Christ is the Truth, but the whole word of God is the truth as well. We ought to hold fast the Lord and his word. Then we shall abide in Him and shall we grow and bear fruit for Him. But that holding fast should not be a matter of the head only, it should intensify our love to Him and make us loving. The world should not recognize in us highhanded and proud wiseacres, but followers of Him who said: Take My yoke upon you and learn of Me, for I am meek and lowly in heart, and ye shall find rest unto your souls. (Matthew 11:29). 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. Not only a believer will grow spiritually by abiding in Christ, the whole body, the church will grow by her union with and abiding in Him, and the Lord makes use of the members of the body, as in a natural body the various organs and parts play their role in the growth. Every member has a function, some striking, others unnoticed, everyone according to his gift and the will of the Lord. If members of the body deviate from their function, we say that the body is ill. Likewise in the church. 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, 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. 19 They, being past feeling, have given themselves over unto lasciviousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness. Vain, that is without sense, purpose or value. So is the walk of them that follow their own thoughts and lusts and do not take God into account. There are unbelievers we have to honour because they are self-sacrificing, philanthropic and still more. But their thinking is vain. They often suppose that the scales will tip in their advantage. They ignore that they too have  their dark side, only known by God and themselves. Moreover, God does not use scales. A lifelong striving to do good had been the characteristic of the man who asked the Lord "Good Master, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?" (Marc 10:17-22). He thought to have complied with all commandments of God. Two things he could not do: ‘Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.’ And the second ‘Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.’ (Matthew 22:37 and 39). But that meant that he had fully failed in the two halves of the law. He had not yet complied with the smallest part of the law.Amiable people of these days are not different from this man. Their life without Christ, however very admirable, leads them to death and judgment and so is vain. Others, because their understanding is darkened, gave themselves up to the most repulsive licentiousness. Life out of God they do not know, and, having shut their hearts for the Word of God which spreads light, they remain in darkness, are ignorant and not only do unrighteousness, but try to earn money with it as well. With Christians such things even ought not to be mentioned. 20 But ye have not so learned Christ. With Christ things are different and He is our standard, because He is our life. And it is our responsibility during our lifetime to show Christ, however feebly we are able to do so. 21 if so it be that ye have heard Him and have been taught by Him as the truth is in Jesus: 22 that ye put off, concerning your former manner of living, the old man which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, 23 and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, 24 and that ye put on that new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness. Verse 21 says what is our responsibility in life. Galatians 3: 27 says: For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ, have put on Christ. That is not he same. It is what we are before God in Christ Jesus. Here and in Romans 13:14 is spoken of what is our responsibility to make true in life: 14 But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh to fulfill the lusts thereof. The difference between the two is the difference between what we are and what we show to be. A born prince is a prince, always and everywhere. Another matter is whether in his life and conduct can be seen that he is a prince; he might live in drunkenness and scandalously. He then still is a prince but does not put on a princely lifestyle. It is the difference between position and condition. A spasmodic trial to put off the old man and to put on the new one, not realizing that God does not see us in Christ as “old men”, but as being renewed, will paralyze us spiritually or bring us to unfounded self-satisfaction. Quite different it is to be able to praise God for what He has given us in Jesus Christ and the position in which He has brought us, with the prayer for power and help to do what the next verses say: 25 Therefore, putting away lying, let every man speak truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another. 26 Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down on your wrath; 27 neither give any place to the devil. 28 Let him that stole steal no more, but rather let him labor, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth. 29 Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to use in edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers. 30 And grieve not the Holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption. 31 Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice; 32 and be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you. What is impressed on us in these verses, will be seen by everyone, except verse 30, so that they must recognize that Christians are different. Is that the case with us, or have we to admit something different, that we terribly fall short of this admonition? We are inclined willingly to read and hold fast what is comforting for us and what is speaking of our blessings by faith in Jesus Christ. Admonitions like the one in these verses we read, but forget readily. We should take heed for the danger that we have more satisfaction  than gratefulness and not realize sufficiently that our God is holy. The thirtieth verse confirms that the Holy Spirit is not an influence or state of mind, but a Person in the Godhead. There is more to be said about the Spirit than we find here, but here is emphasized that God gave his Spirit to the believers as a seal of the fact that He knows and accepts him as his child.That the day of redemption is mentioned does not signify that the believer has not been redeemed, but that a part of our redemption has not yet been effectuated, the redemption of our mortal body (See Romans 8:23 for it: And not only they, but ourselves also, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body.) In stead of this corruptible body we’ll receive an incorruptible body: who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto His glorious body, according to the working whereby He is able even to subdue all things unto Himself (Philippians 3:21). What a glorious future God has given us!  
J. Ph. Buddingh