By Stan Brown
Ephesians 4:6 one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all.
The seventh element that emphasizes the unity that we have as members of the body of Christ is one God and Father. In verse four Paul mentioned three elements that cluster around the Holy Spirit. In verse five he mentioned three elements that center on the Son. In this verse where the Father is central, he describes the Father with three prepositional phrases ((1) who is over all; (2) who is through all; (3) who is in all). The context reveals that the word all (Father of all) refers to all believers and not all humans. Paul is driving home the point that we, as believers are united in one body with God as our one Father. It would be incongruous to have this refer to all of humanity as he emphasizes the point that all believers are united in Christ. He is our Father as we are His children (But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name (John 1:12), For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus (Gal. 3:26).) When we believe through faith, we together become members of one family with God as one Father.
Although it is true that God is the one who is supreme in all creation, the context would once more suggest that he is speaking of believers. The four uses of all in this verse agree as He is Father of all believers and over all believers and through all believers and in all believers. Paul is emphasizing the unity of all believers. Paul uses three prepositions to describe our relationship with the Father. (1) He is over all. Paul pictures the sovereignty of God in our lives. When we take the sovereignty of God seriously it will result in the realization that He remains in control as we endure trials. We will trust His wisdom in shepherding us through all that occurs in our lives. We will be united together in Him. He is our Father and cares deeply for each one of His children. (2) He is through all. The Father has chosen to work through the lives of believers. He empowers us to accomplish His purpose (Paul will shortly speak of the gifts with which He has entrusted us.). (we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works (2:9)). God is alive and active in the world today through the lives of His children united together in one body. (3) He is in all. God indwells us through the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives to perform the tasks to which He has called us. In 3:17 Paul prayed that Christ might be at home in our hearts. Does Christ feel at home in my heart?
The central theme of these three verses is that the one God, in the persons of the Holy Spirit, the Son and the Father, is both our example of unity and provides the enabling of that unity in our lives. Paul goes against most of our statements of faith in these verses as he reverses the order in that he begins with the Holy Spirit and ends with the Father. In context, Paul speaks of the unity of the Spirit (v.3) and continues with a discussion of the gifts of the Spirit in the following verses. It is only natural that he would use the order that he does. (He had probably not read the Apostle’s Creed.) It also serves to emphasize the equality and unity within the Trinity.
By Stan Brown
Ephesians 4:5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism,
Paul continues with his list of singular elements that demonstrate our unity in Christ; indeed in His body. In the previous verse the Son crept in when Paul discussed the one (Holy) Spirit. In this verse the Holy Spirit slides in as Paul emphasizes the Son (one Lord). Why would this not be? The unity of the Godhead subtly sneaks in as Paul discusses the unity of the body of Christ.
(4) One Lord. This refers to Jesus Christ. This fits in the progression from the Holy Spirit (v.4) to the Son (v.5) to the Father (v.6.). In Ephesians the term Lord refers to the Son. We have only one Lord. We do not serve a multitude of ideologies or gods. We do not have to sift through the internet to decide what it is we should do when faced with a conundrum. We are united together in the Lord Jesus Christ. He is the one Lord who provided redemption 1:7) and hope (1:12). He is the one Lord who brought all believers into one body (3:6). He is the one Lord who is head over the church which is His body (1:22-23). He is the one Lord who gives us access to God (3:12). We are united together in His body.
(5) one faith. This does not refer to the entire body of what we believe. It refers to the personal faith that we place in Jesus Christ. It is the faith described in 2:8 for by grace you have been saved through faith. It is the faith mentioned in 1:13 and 1:15 having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise,… For this reason I too, having heard of the faith in the Lord Jesus which exists among you and your love for all the saints. We have all been united in the body of Christ through the same faith; that is faith in the shed blood of Jesus Christ.
(6) one baptism. The commentators disagree about whether this refers to water baptism or Spirit baptism. I believe that it refers to Spirit baptism. Water baptism is only the outward symbol of the internal reality and takes several forms. The baptism of the Holy Spirit is that which actually places us into the body of Christ. In 1:13, Paul speaks of the fact that we were sealed by the Holy Spirit. Here he speaks of being baptized by the Holy Spirit. Paul also speaks of this reality in Gal. 3:27 For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. Just as in the previous verse, the Son and the Spirit are united together in placing us into one body through one faith.
Paul’s point continues as believers are all united together into the one body of the one Lord.
By Stan Brown
Ephesians 4:4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling;
With an abrupt change of style, Paul highlights the unity of the body of Christ in verses four through six with a series of seven elements that demonstrate that unity. Each of these elements is preceded by the word one. The Trinity is in view here as well. The Holy Spirit is emphasized in verse four, the Son in verse five and the Father in verse six. This is not Paul’s first mention of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit together. They have been mentioned together five times before (1:13-14; 1:17; 2:18; 2:22; 3:14-17). In 3:14-17, Paul spoke of the Trinity: the Father (3:14 For this reason, I bow my knees before the Father), the Spirit (3:16 to be strengthened with power through His Spirit), and the Son (3:17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts).” The unity of the Godhead is on display here as Paul creates what some consider to be an anthem extolling the unity of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit that is to be displayed in the unity of the body of Christ.
(1) There is one body. Paul’s emphasis here is on the fact that all believers of this age are joined together in one entity described as the one body. This is a remarkable statement that Paul emphasizes throughout Ephesians. Jews and Gentiles are made into one body. Gentiles do not become Jews nor do Jews become Gentiles but rather all are placed into one new entity described as one body. This unity is played out in the unity that is to exist in each local body of believers. Our unity depicts God’s unity.
(2) There is one Spirit. Paul has previously said that it is through the Holy Spirit that we have access to God (for through Him we both have our access in one Spirit to the Father (3:18)) as we are being built up into a Holy Temple where God dwells (you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit (3:22)). There is one Holy Spirit who works in us to bring about unity in each and every local body of believers and among true believers everywhere. When we fail to see that unity, it is not the Holy Spirit who has failed.
(3) There is one hope of your calling. This was described in 1:18 so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints. We look forward to the ultimate hope that we have in Christ and that hope is united together as one hope through the calling of the Holy Spirit. We look forward to the time when we will meet the Son in the air. We look forward to the time when we will be united together in Him for all eternity. There are not multiple hopes but rather one as we are united together in Christ as one body in Christ. We must walk worthy of this hope.
You may have noticed that although the Holy Spirit is the One mentioned in this verse, the Son is able to sneak in here as well. It seems as if mentions of the Son surround the Holy Spirit as it is one body of Christ and one hope in the return of the Son. As there is one God, it is only natural that as Paul speaks about the Holy Spirit the Son should creep into the picture. This passage is a portrayal of both the unity and distinctiveness of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. This anthem that extols our God portrays the unity that exists in the body of Christ.
By Stan Brown
Ephesians 4:3 being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
The unity of the body of Christ is certainly prominent in this passage. It is based on the theology of chapters one through three where Paul speaks of the mystery that has united Jews and Gentiles into one body. Unity is an essential element in the body of Christ. After all we are one body. Jesus said in His prayer to the Father in John 17, “I am no longer in the world; and yet they themselves are in the world, and I come to You. Holy Father, keep them in Your name, the name which You have given Me, that they may be one even as We are. … “I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word; that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me (John 17:11,20-21). Paul writes that we must make a strong concerted effort (being diligent) to preserve what God has already provided through the power of His Holy Spirit. That is the uniting together in Christ all those who have been saved by grace through faith. This requires walking worthy of our calling with an attitude of humility, gentleness and patience. The bond of peace has already been accomplished in Christ as he has united all believers into one body. This unity has been provided through the concerted effort of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit working together as One.
This is not a namby-pamby unity that throws aside the foundations of what we believe but rather a unity that is based on who God is and what He has accomplished in our lives. We believe that He is the Triune God who is all powerful and beyond time and space. He has revealed Himself to us in His creation and in His written word and in the revelation of the incarnate Son of God who came to die for us. He rose from the dead, ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father. We receive eternal life as we believe in Him. We are united through faith in the grace through faith salvation that He has provided as a gift. We are united in the theology that Paul has espoused in the first three chapters of this epistle. We are united in the body of Christ. We are united in His truth. In the next few verses, Paul will go on to describe how God has intentionally brought together a diverse group into one body through the working of the Holy Spirit, the Son and the Father (they are mentioned in that order in the next three verses).
The practical problem is that believers divide from one another because we fail to walk worthy of our calling with an attitude of humility, gentleness and patience. We elevate ourselves over one another and perhaps God as well rather than elevating God to His proper place in our lives. We ignore the admonition of gentleness and patience as our own preferences take the place of God’s truth. It is likely that we will disagree with one another on a variety of issues (maybe even politics). Someone has once said that if we agreed on everything there would be no need for one of us. In the next three verses Paul will elucidate seven elements that demonstrate our unity in Christ. We are called to walk in unity.
By Stan Brown
Ephesians 4:2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing forbearance to one another in love,
Paul now describes three characteristics that are vital as we walk in a manner worthy. The first two are similar in meaning and Paul pairs them together by means of the grammatical construction. Both words speak of a middle ground between extremes.
The first word humility stands between the two extremes of arrogance and self-abasement. This is illustrated by the fact that Paul elsewhere uses the word in both positive and negative connotations. In Phil. 3:2 he speaks of it as a virtue as he writes but with humility of mind let each of you regard one another as more important than himself. In Col. 2:18 he uses it as a negative quality as he writes Let no one keep defrauding you of your prize by delighting in self-abasement. We walk in this balance between the two extremes as we eschew both arrogance and self-abasement. We walk with an understanding that we are created by God in His image and gifted by God to perform His tasks. We walk in unity with other believers realizing that they are gifted as well. Arrogance points to “me” rather than God as the source of my gifts. Self-abasement denies what God has accomplished in me and wants to accomplish through me. Humility elevates God to His proper position rather than diminishes what He has accomplished in my life.
The second word gentleness stands between the two extremes of roughness and weakness. Jesus and Moses are both described as gentle. In Matt. 11:29 Jesus said “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS. In Num. 12:3 Moses is described (Now the man Moses was very humble, more than any man who was on the face of the earth.). Yet in their gentleness they both demonstrated strength when required. Jesus threw the money changers out of the temple. Moses exhibited righteous anger when the Israelites made a golden calf to worship. Barclay writes, “The man who is gentle is the man who is always angry at the right time and never angry at the wrong time”. It is only the person who is controlled by the Holy Spirit who can exhibit the qualities of humility and gentleness.
The word patience stands in parallel to humility and gentleness as we walk in a manner worthy. The idea of patience is best illustrated in the example of the long-suffering of God, (What if God, although willing to demonstrate His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction? ( Rom. 9:22)). As believers we wait patiently for Christ’s return even in the light of ever-increasing evil around us. We wait patiently as we anticipate His answers to our prayers. We eschew vengeance when wronged. We walk with all humility and gentleness, as we walk with patience.
Finally, as we walk in a manner worthy, we are to show forbearance to one another with an attitude of love. Simply stated, sometimes other believers drive us crazy with their attitudes and even their weird beliefs and we drive them crazy with our own. We and they are to abide each in love. They will offend us. We will offend them. We are to forbear one another in love as we walk in a manner worthy.
By Stan Brown
Ephesians 4:1 I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, entreat you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called,
Paul now begins the final three chapters of Ephesians where he applies the doctrine that he has exposed in the first three chapters. Knowledge apart from living has little value. Living apart from knowledge can easily deteriorate into heresy and apostasy. Paul demonstrates the importance of living in light of the knowledge he has imparted in the first three chapters as he uses the imperative mood forty times in the final three chapters. He only used it once in the first three chapters (2:11). In the first three chapters he has emphasized unity in the body of Christ as we are built together into God’s dwelling place. The practical imperatives of the final three chapters apply to individual believers as well as the functioning of the body as a whole. It also applies to our relationships with unbelievers. Remember that we are God’s message to the world.
In chapters four through six Paul uses the metaphor walk five times as He calls on us to (1) Walk in unity (4:1-16); (2) Walk in holiness (4:17-32); (3) Walk in Love (5:1-6); (4) Walk in light (5:7-14); (5) Walk in wisdom (5:15-6:9). In 6:10-20 we are admonished to stand against evil. Paul concludes the book in 6:21-24 (I borrowed this outline from Harold Hoehner.).
The word therefore looks back on the entire first three chapters of the epistle where he speaks (1) of our inheritance; (2) of our transformation from sinners to saints; (3) of our being united together into one body; (4) of the empowering love of God that makes possible the practical living that is extolled in the final three chapters of the epistle. Paul begins this section with a call to unity (v.3) as he speaks with an authoritative exhortation. He is not merely suggesting how we are to live. He tells us to get with the program that is based on what Christ has already done for us.
Paul’s authoritative exhortation calls on us to live a lifestyle (walk) that is worthy of what God has done for us. That is a mighty high bar to reach and while it is true that we will never completely achieve it on earth, it remains a goal toward which we walk. The word worthy means “having equal weight” or to keep in equilibrium. The idea is that calling (chapters 1-3) and conduct (chapters 1-4) should have equal weight. Since we are part of the body, our walk is not just about how we live in our relationship with God but also in how we interact with other believers. We have been called to a relationship with God. We have been called to a relationship with each other. We have been called to be His message to the world. We must walk in light of that calling.
I know. I ignored the phrase prisoner of the Lord. At the beginning of chapter three he had referred to himself as prisoner of Christ Jesus. There is little difference in the essence of these two statements. These references certainly pick up on the fact that he is currently in prison in Rome. Yet, he views his state in a positive light as being the Lord’s prisoner rather than in the negative light of being imprisoned by Rome. Whatever we are doing and wherever we are, we belong to Christ. He has paid the price for our sins.
By Stan Brown
Ephesians 3:21 to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen.
Paul completes the doxology as he attributes glory to the One whom He described in the previous verse. He simply says to Him be the glory. The glory of God has to do with His essential essence. In this context it refers to His splendor, His power, His radiance and His love. Paul first praises Him for who He is. We often come to Him with requests and well we should as He invites us to do so. It is also important to sit back or kneel down or stand and look upward as we consider who He is. He is beyond our comprehension. He has revealed to us as much of who He is as we can understand in both His creation and in His written Word. He continues to reveal more of Himself to us as we walk with Him each day. We can have a personal relationship with Him through faith, indeed with the One who possesses all glory. It is by faith that we are saved. It is by faith that we live. We ascribe glory to Him for who He is.
His glory is revealed in the church and in Christ Jesus. The theologians debate over the word order in that the church comes before Christ Jesus in the sentence, but I suspect this is because sometimes theologians just don’t have enough to do. In the first three chapters of Ephesians the two are inseparably related as the church and its unity are exposed. The church is being built up into a dwelling place for God. The church is the body of Christ (which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all (Eph. 1:23)). The church exists because of what Christ has done. Without the work of Christ there is no church. Christ always displays the glory of God in His essential essence. The church is being formed by God as a display of His glory (I could ponder this for a while). We are part of the body of Christ.
Paul attributes this glory to God for both time and eternity (to all generations forever and ever). When we look to God right now, glory is due to His name. This attribution of glory continues into the ages of the ages. He, in all His glory, exists forever and we are there with Him. The final word of the doxology (amen) says “yes” to the praise Paul has expressed. Paul is overwhelmed by God’s glory. May we as well be overwhelmed by His glory.
This doxology serves as a transition as it points back to the first three chapters concerning what God has done and points forward to how we should live based upon what He has done and is doing. It is great to know all that God has done for us as we praise Him. It is vital to know that He continues to work in our lives now. He has not forgotten us once we received His salvation. It is also important to consider what happens when the rubber meets the road. Paul will consider that in the remainder of the epistle.
By Stan Brown
Ephesians 3:20 Now to Him who is able to do exceeding abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us,
Paul closes the prayer and the initial section of the book with a doxology in which he first describes the One to whom he attributes praise. Paul uses seven different words that relate to power in the first three chapters of Ephesians. He uses them a total of sixteen times. Thirteen of these relate specifically to the power of God. The final three times occur in this verse (is able, power, works.) This is the power that is effectively at work in us. This is the power that enables us to love Him and to love one another.
The force of this doxology clearly looks to the One who possesses all power as it ascribes praise to Him. There is nothing that is beyond the capability of the One to whom Paul ascribes this power. The word translated exceeding abundantly beyond is “the highest form of comparison imaginable and might also be translated as exceedingly, infinitely or very in excess of.” So, how much power does God possess? Whatever we might ask, whatever thoughts we might think, whatever we might imagine; the extent of the power of God far exceeds them all. The power and ability of God infinitely surpasses everything that we could ever verbalize in prayer; it extends beyond our wildest imagination. He is the One who spoke creation into existence. He is never overwhelmed with our requests.
But wait a minute, God is in no way selfish in His use of this unfathomable power. This power is continually working in us at all times as the tense of the word works indicates. We might paraphrase this phrase as the exceedingly abundant power possessed only by God is constantly energizing us in the deepest recesses of our inner being. Don’t forget the power of love exhibited in the death of Christ on the cross. The power of love invigorates our ability to express God’s love to one another. This power is always at work within me.
But wait another minute as we might say, “If God is so powerful, why am I suffering through all this stuff?” I have two thoughts. (1) God has already done more in my life than I can possibly imagine. My understanding of eternal life is beyond my complete comprehension. I also lack understanding of all that He is accomplishing in my life right now. (2) There is an element of faith at work here as well. I received eternal life through faith even though I cannot comprehend all that it means. I walk now by faith. I know that His power is energizing me right now because He has told me so and I believe Him. I do not see all of His power but He shows me glimpses of it each day. I am saved by faith and I live by faith in the unlimited power of the One who has graced me with His love. This is unimaginable. The Creator of the universe not only desires fellowship with me, He enables this fellowship through the constant working of His power within me.
By Stan Brown
Ephesians 3:19 and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fulness of God.
Paul completes his prayer that is essentially about each believer coming to an understanding of the love of Christ. Paul prays that the power of God might strengthen us in the inner person resulting in Christ dwelling in us (this is not the salvation experience of the indwelling Holy Spirit but rather experiencing Christ’s love daily) so that we might experientially understand the love of Christ. It is the love of Christ that empowers our living.
The word order of the sentence in Greek is different than the English translation as it begins with the phrase to know that which surpasses knowledge. Both the verb to know and the noun knowledge are from the same root. The word order emphasizes that Paul is praying that we might know the unknowable. How can we possibly know that which is unknowable? He has told us how in the preceding verses when he writes so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. It is a matter of Christ being in complete control of our lives in order that we might EXPERIENCE HIS LOVE. All the teaching in the world will never let us understand the richness and deepness of God’s love but as the Holy Spirit empowers us in our inner person to let Christ dwell there, we experience that which is unknowable. The more we know about Christ’s love the more we are amazed by it. The more we experience Christ’s love the more real it becomes in our lives.
We trust in the fact that we are loved by God because He says so. We trust in the fact that we are loved by Christ because He died for us. We go through turbulent times in our lives which may cause us to doubt that love. We live by faith under the promise of His love and as we experience that love, we come to know more and more about that love. This love is then lived out in our relationship with others. Paul has written about the unity that now exists among all believers. This love must be practically lived out in our relationships with each other.
What then but the most magnificent answer possible? As this love grabs hold of us in our inner person, we may be filled up to all the fulness of God. We are filled to overflowing with His fullness. It is only as we experience the love of Christ in our lives and let it flow out to each other that the fullness of God truly reigns in our lives. Let that fullness of God, displayed forever in the love of Christ, reign in our lives! Indeed, let it pour down unimpeded by any barrier!! The entire first three chapters of Ephesians have been leading to this point. He will end this section with a doxology that ascribes praise to God before telling us how to live in light of His great love. We are empowered through His love.
By Stan Brown
Ephesians 3:18 may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth,
When we describe God, we often discuss love and holiness as being His primary attributes. Love without holiness leaves us struggling in sentimentality while holiness without love would leave us absolutely hopeless. God remains perfect in both His holiness and His love. He also possesses all power. Although we never leave His holiness behind, this passage, including his prayer, emphasizes the concepts of power in all its aspects and love in all its power. (I have lost track of all the words he uses for power in Ephesians.) The main clause of this prayer asks that we be empowered in our inner person through the power of the Holy Spirit. In this verse the concept of power rests between two expressions of love. The previous verse has spoken of being rooted and grounded in love. In this verse Paul asks that we might understand breadth and length and height and depth of love.
(1) The word translated be able is used only here in the New Testament. It means to ‘have strength or power enough’. The Holy Spirit gives us the power to comprehend as we ‘seize’ or ‘grasp hold of’ the understanding of God’s love. The most powerful weapon that God has placed in our internal arsenal is His love. Remember that it is always paired with His holiness lest it descend into the realm of mere sentimentality. Now, Paul will describe the riches of His love that are part of the riches of His glory.
(2) what is the breadth and length and height and depth. These words refer back to the love of the previous verse. The commentators give a vast array of what these words mean, some of them fanciful such as the one that suggests they picture the shape of the cross (a powerful sermon could certainly be built on that picture.). Yet, it seems best to keep it simple. The previous verse makes it clear that it refers to the love of Christ. The picture here is of the vastness of Christ’s love. “The more we know of God’s love the more we are amazed by it. (Hoehner)” The more we know of God’s love, the more it can empower our lives.
(3) We cannot forget the three words with all the saints. Remember that Paul has been speaking of the unity of Gentiles and Jews in one body, into one building that is becoming the dwelling place of God. Understanding God’s love is not just an individual effort nor even an effort of one local body of believers. It is an effort that involves all of God’s saints together. This understanding is not achieved by only associating with the believers whom we especially like or who are just like us. It involves association with all believers.
We are empowered by the Holy Spirit as we work together in the body of Christ to understand the love of Christ and the vast power that it exhibits to the world. We are an expression of God’s love as we are the message that proclaims His love.