Paul Kretzmann Commentary - Ephesians 4:1 - 4:6

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Paul Kretzmann Commentary - Ephesians 4:1 - 4:6

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Apostolic Admonitions to Unity, to Perfection in Knowledge, to Holiness, and to Peace. Eph_4:1-32

Paul exhorts to unity:

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

v. 2. with all lowliness and meekness, with long-suffering, for bearing one another in love;

v. 3. endeavoring to keep the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace.

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

v. 5. one Lord, one faith, one Baptism,

v. 6. one God and father of all, who is above all and through all and in you all.

Having brought the doctrinal section of his letter to a close, the apostle bases his admonitions to holiness of life upon the foundation of Christian knowledge thus laid. He opens the second part of his letter just as he did Rom_12:1 : I beseech you, therefore, I, the prisoner in the Lord, to live your life worthy of the calling wherewith you were called. As the apostle of the Gentiles he was very much concerned about his charges' remaining in faith and leading a holy life. Emphatically he speaks of himself as the prisoner in the Lord, thus reminding them of the reason for his present state. He was a prisoner because of his connection with Christ, the Lord, in behalf of the Gentiles. As such he exhorts or entreats his readers to conduct themselves at all times so, to lead their entire life in such a manner, as to be worthy of their calling as Christians, to prove themselves true members of the Christian congregation. It was God that had called them to the fellowship of His Son, Jesus Christ; as children of God they could not afford to bring disgrace upon the name of their heavenly Father.

They should walk and conduct themselves, therefore: With all lowliness and meekness, with long-suffering, bearing one another in love. These Christian virtues, according to God's will, are to attend the Christians, to be their constant companions and associates. All possible lowliness they should use in their fellowship toward one another, as fellow-members of the same body of the Church. 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. And this is to be accompanied by gentleness, loving submissiveness, patient yielding to others even under provocation, willingness to serve and share rather than to demand. The apostle, moreover, expects from the Christians long-suffering, in this connection not so much the endurance of tribulations from without as patience under provocations on the part of friends and brethren, as Paul himself adds, in explanation, that we should forbear one another in love, that we should endure even the unpleasant peculiarities of our Christian brethren without a hint of impatience. The apostle here paints an ideal of the relation that should obtain among the members of the Christian Church, which may well provoke all Christians to eager emulation.

With these virtues as a basis, the next admonition expands the idea of the relation among Christians: Giving diligence to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. While the believers strive after the virtues indicated above, they should incidentally make use of all energy, work with all zeal, to hold fast with watchful care the glorious possession of the oneness of the Spirit, the unity in feeling, interest, and purpose which accompanies the unity in doctrine. It is the unity of the Spirit, wrought by the Spirit of God, the unity in the truth. This splendid gift and possession is to be kept in the bond of peace, this being the tie that binds the hearts together. By striving after the virtues named by the apostle: love, peace, meekness, humility, long-suffering, patience, the Christians maintain the unity of the Spirit given to them in the Word. As soon as these virtues are disregarded, the result is dissension and disagreement, division and sectarianism.

That the apostle, however, by no means advocates or sanctions the modern perversion of his words which the spirit of unionism, now rampant, shows, he indicates in the next words: One body and one Spirit, just as you also are called in one hope of your calling. This is not an admonition referring to the future, but one which calls upon the Christians to hold fast that which they have. They are one body, as closely connected and joined together as the members of one body. They are united and kept in the union of Christ's body by the one Spirit who lives in them, the Holy Ghost being, as it were, the soul of this body, of the Christian Church, who directs and governs the entire body. They are all looking forward to the same goal, for they are all called in or with the one hope of their calling. When the call of the Lord was realized in them, the hope of eternal salvation was held before them all, and this hope holds them together, emphasizes their unity.

The Christians, moreover, have in common: One Lord, one faith, one Baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all, and through all, and in all. The Lord of the Christians to whom they belong, who has redeemed them with His holy, precious blood, is Christ. In Him they believe, Him they recognize and acknowledge as their Lord; for Him they have put on in Baptism. So they all have the same faith, which united them with their one Lord by means of the same Sacrament. But the climax is reached in the words: One God and Father of us all. Through Christ's vicarious work God is our Father, the Father of all Christians without exception. He is over them all, He rules over them, He exercises His gracious parental authority over them as His dear children, He is their Guardian and Guide. He is through them all, through them, as through the instruments of His mercy, He carries out many of His intentions; all the good works which the Christians perform, especially such as serve the Church, they do by the power of God which works in them. He is in them all, He has deigned to dwell in them; they are His temple, His constant abode. Thus the Christians, in and through the Triune God, in whom they live, and move, and have their being, are most intimately connected with one another; they are bound together by the strongest ties that can be conceived of.

Note: This passage describes, in a wonderfully clear and brief way, the holy Christian Church, the communion of saints. "Here St. Paul says and teaches what the true Christian Church is and by what signs one can recognize it, namely, that there is no more than one single Church or people of God on earth, that has one faith, Baptism, one confession of God the Father and of Christ, etc. , and therein holds and remains together in complete harmony. In this Church every one that wants to be saved and come to God, must be found and be embodied, and outside of her no one is saved. Therefore this unity of the Church does not consist in various forms of outside government, law, and precept, nor in having and observing church customs,... but is found where this harmony of the one faith, Baptism, etc. , is. Therefore it is called one holy Catholic or Christian Church."