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Bible Commentaries

Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges

Ephesians 5



Other Authors
Verse 1

1. γίνεσθε οὖν μιμηταὶ τοῦ θεοῦ, ὡς τέκνα ἀγαπητά. The thought of the Divine Example is repeated and enforced by reference to the thought of the Fatherhood of God (bringing the passage into yet closer relation with Matthew 5:48), and to the love which on His side expresses the heart of the relationship, cf. on Ephesians 1:6. This brings the exhortation to fulfil the Christian ideal to its natural climax in the command ‘to walk in love.’ The note has been often struck since its first occurrence in Ephesians 1:4. Here it finds its supreme manifestation in the self-surrender of Christ on our behalf.

Verses 1-14

Ephesians 4:25 to Ephesians 5:14. THE CONTRAST IN DETAIL

Verse 2

2. καθὼς καὶ ὁ χριστὸς ἠγάπησεν ὑμᾶς καὶ παρέδωκεν ἑαυτὸν ὑπὲρ ὑμῶν. Familiarity ought not to dull our sense of wonder at this instinctive re-enforcement of the appeal to the example of God by an appeal to the example of Christ. It has its ground in the Gospels. Because He could say ‘He that hath seen me hath seen the Father,’ He could say also ‘Take my yoke upon you and learn from me,’ and His example in loving is the measure and ground of the ‘New Commandment ‘John 13. The love of Christ is characteristically and finally displayed in His Death. It is this that gives the Cross its constraining power over the hearts of men. See 2 Corinthians 5:14; Galatians 2:20. And it was meant from the first to bear fruit after its kind, in similar acts of self-surrender on the part of His disciples, Mark 10:45. Later, in this Epistle, Ephesians 5:25 f., one result of the self-surrender is seen in its power to consecrate and cleanse the Church. Here it is regarded in its Godward aspect as the final expression of human adoration and worship, ‘an offering of a sweet savour.’ As a sacrifice for sin the offering of Christ on our behalf is represented especially in the Epistle to the Hebrews as single and complete. There is no hint anywhere that we can share any part of that burthen with Him. But as this verse more than any other helps us to realize, there is another side to the Cross. Regarded as the perfect expression of dutiful love to God and man, finding expression in the uttermost self-sacrifice for the service of His brethren, there is that in the Cross on which the heart of the Father can rest with infinite satisfaction, and which makes it a worthy offering in our name as well as on our behalf, gathering up into itself every longing to find some outlet for adoring gratitude and every aspiration after Divine Communion which the heart of man has known or can know. In this aspect of the sacrifice of the Cross St Paul here calls Christians to take a living and personal share. He reminds us that what we do in loving service of our brethren after the example of Christ is at the same time an offering of a sweet savour before God. It is the service which we offer in the temple which we are. On this side of Christian life and on the whole thought of Christian sacrifice, see Hort’s notes on 1 Peter 2:5. The thought that the restored Israel would constitute a ‘sacrifice of sweet savour’ is found in Ezekiel 20:41. Cf. also Philippians 4:18 where the kindness shown by the Philippians to St Paul at Rome is described in the same terms.

Verse 3

3. Πορνεία δὲ κ.τ.λ. After the height to which we have been raised in Ephesians 5:2 this comes as a rude shock. But St Paul is always in close touch with the facts of the situation. His clear vision of the glory of the true Christian life did not blind him to the dangers to which it was exposed by the state of public opinion in his day. These dangers were of two kinds. The first came from the prevailing tone of Greek society in regard to sexual morality, the second from the popular assumption that self-aggrandisement is the only effective motive in human action. St Paul has already traced the moral darkness of the Gentile world to its root in sensual indulgence, Ephesians 5:19. He here warns against the danger of dallying with impurity in ordinary conversation, and he couples with it a similar warning in regard to ‘covetousness.’ The collocation has seemed strange to many commentator’s and an attempt has been made to find another meaning for πλεονέκτης and πλεονεξία. Lightfoot (on Colossians 3:5) and Robinson are no doubt right in contending that the attempt has failed. On the relation between the two contrasted forms of evil see on Ephesians 4:19. What should be noted here is that St Paul would have us guard as carefully against listening to tales that would excite the passion of greed in us, as against tales that inflame the fires of lust. He would exclude from ordinary conversation the assumption or imputation of selfish just as much as of impure motives.

καθὼς πρέπει ἁγίοις. Cf. 2 Corinthians 7:1. The thought is that as God’s people they were bound to keep free from contact with that which might defile, and so fulfil the Levitical regulations for ceremonial purity for worshippers under the Old Covenant. Such regulations applied only, as our Lord’s seeming disregard of them shows, to careless, indifferent contact, not to the touch which brought healing and life. So here St Paul is not breaking his own rule in laying it down. πλεονεξία occurs in the Gospels only in Mark 7:22; Luke 12:15.

Verse 4

4. St Paul is still thinking of topics of conversation.

αἰσχρότης is any discreditable action belonging to either of the excluded classes. Notice e.g. αἰοχροῦ κέρδους χάριν, Titus 1:11.

μωρολογία ἢ εὐτραπελία. This pair of words describes contrasted forms of wrong conversation, that which is coarse and outwardly repulsive, and that in which the foulness is delicately veiled in innuendo or double entendre. Both alike St Paul brands as ‘in bad taste,’ οὐκ ἀνῆκεν; cf. Romans 1:28; Colossians 3:18. μωρολογία in Plutarch is the kind of talk that comes from a man when he is drunk. It is possible that it may not be worse than inane, cf. Matthew 7:26. But ‘the fool’ in the Wisdom literature has a darker side, εὐτραπελία. This word started with a good sense. In Aristotle the mean between the boor (ἄγροικος) the man who has no manners, and the unctuous person (βωμολόχος) who has too much manners, is εὐτράπελος, the well-bred gentleman. It came to describe the tone of ‘good society,’ and was used to glose over all manner of evil. Cf. Minucius Felix, c. 20, tota impudicitia vocatur urbanitas.

ἀλλὰ μᾶλλον εὐχαριστία, ‘let the grace of wit be superseded by the grace of thanksgiving’ Robinson Here, as elsewhere, St Paul ‘empties by filling,’ cf. Philippians 4:8. He helps us to consecrate our lips by reminding us of the highest use of language; cf. Hebrews 13:15; 1 Peter 4:11. So St James checks the violence of theological invective, Ephesians 3:9. St Paul suggests at the same time that if we look out for them we need never be at a loss for material for thanksgiving in benefits received and good observed; cf. on Ephesians 5:20. In view of St Paul’s uniform usage εὐχαριστία can hardly be anything but ‘thanksgiving to God.’ The word is not found in LXX. outside the Apocrypha. It is common in Papyri. See Milligan on 1 Thessalonians 1:2. Robinson however is no doubt right in pointing out that the associations of εὐχάριστος (= gracious) must have made the word suggest ‘grace of speech’ which would help out the antithesis to εὐτραπελία.

Verse 5

5. τοῦτο γὰρ ἴστε γινώσκοντες. ‘Ye know by your own observation’ or ‘Observe and know.’ It is interesting to notice with Robinson that this combination is found once or perhaps twice in LXX. as the rendering of a familiar Hebrew idiom. It is even probable that the idiom may have suggested the combination to St Paul. None the less the phrase has a natural meaning of its own in Greek which is fuller than that of the Hebrew to which it corresponds. For the two words for knowing are distinct and are each used in their proper signification, εἰδέναι (to know) describes the result, γινώσκειν (to perceive) the process in the acquisition of knowledge. ‘You know the fact and you are daily observing instances of its application,’ or perhaps better as imperative (with Hort on James 1:19) ‘Take note of this fact by observing.’

πᾶςοὐκ ἔχει. Cf. Ephesians 4:29. ‘Every—is excluded from.’ Similar lists are found in 1 Corinthians 5:11; 1 Corinthians 6:9; Galatians 5:21; Romans 1:29; Colossians 3:5; 1 Timothy 1:10; 2 Timothy 3:2; Revelation 21:8; Revelation 22:15; cf. Mark 7:22; Matthew 15:19. Some of these follow the lines of the Decalogue. But some are independent. As Robinson points out the language here and in Gal. and 1 Cor. suggests that there was a recognized body of moral teaching in use in the different Churches. The material however does not seem sufficient to enable us to determine its contents.

πλεονέκτης, ὅ ἐστιν εἰδωλολάτρης. Cf. Colossians 3:5 and Lightfoot’s note. The covetous man sets up another object of worship besides God. Though there is no trace of ‘Mammon’ as the object of any established cult, our Lord certainly in Matthew 6:24 (= Luke 16:13) treats it as claiming a service from men inconsistent with whole-hearted devotion to God, i.e. He implies that covetousness is idolatry. The reminder is necessary for those whether Jews or Gentiles who were tempted to imagine that there could be no question of their loyalty to Jehovah as long as they turned their backs on the established forms of heathenism.

οὐκ ἔχει κληρονομίαν. Cf. on Ephesians 1:14. The Kingdom and the inheritance come together in Matthew 25:34. In 1 Corinthians 6:9; Galatians 5:21 the inheritance is future.

ἐν τῇ βασιλείᾳ τοῦ χριστοῦ καὶ θεοῦ. References to the Kingdom are found in the records of St Paul’s preaching at Derbe etc. (Acts 14:22), Corinth (Acts 19:8), Ephesus (Acts 20:25) and Rome (Acts 28:23 and Acts 28:31). It is also mentioned by name in 1 Thessalonians 2:12; 2 Thessalonians 1:5; 1 Corinthians 4:20; 1 Corinthians 6:9 f., 1 Corinthians 15:24; 1 Corinthians 15:50; Galatians 5:21; Romans 14:17; Colossians 1:13; Colossians 4:11; 2 Timothy 4:1; 2 Timothy 4:18. It is sometimes definitely future as in 2 Thessalonians 1:5; 1 Corinthians 6:9 f., 1 Corinthians 15:50; Galatians 5:21; 2 Timothy 4:18 (τὴν ἐπουράνιον). It is sometimes present, 1 Corinthians 4:20; Romans 14:17; Colossians 1:13, as it seems to be here. In the other passages it is indeterminate. It is generally ‘the Kingdom of God.’ It some cases 1 Corinthians 15:24; Colossians 1:13; 2 Timothy 4:1; 2 Timothy 4:18 it is by implication the Kingdom of Christ. The actual title however ‘the Kingdom of Christ’ does not appear elsewhere. (Similarly αἱ ἐκκλησίαι τοῦ χριστοῦ is only found in Romans 16:16.)

τοῦ χριστοῦ καὶ θεοῦ, ‘of Christ and of God.’ This is better than the other possible rendering ‘of Him who is Christ and God.’ There is no clear instance in St Paul where Christ is called θεὸς absolutely. In Romans 9:5 the punctuation is at best uncertain. In relation to the Kingdom the Son expressly shares the sovereignty with His Father, Revelation 3:21; Revelation 11:15; Revelation 20:6.

Verse 6

6. In these matters the Christian standard involved a complete reversal of the popular standard. ‘Covetousness’ in the shape of a desire for large possessions was nowhere regarded as in itself a religious failing, while ‘prostitution’ (as distinct from ‘adultery’) was regarded as at worst a venial offence in a man, where it was not actually practised under the cloak of religion. St Paul feels it necessary, therefore, solemnly to reiterate his warning on the reality of the evil, coupling it with a vision of the service that the Church could render to the world by faithfulness to the light entrusted to her.

΄ηδεὶς ὑμᾶς ἀπατάτω κενοῖς λόγοις. In Romans 16:18; 2 Thessalonians 2:3, St Paul has definite false teachers in view, as in Colossians 2. Here, however (as in 1 Corinthians 6:9; 1 Corinthians 15:33; Galatians 6:7), there is no need to assume that the deceiver was doing more than making a mock at sin. It is, however, worth remarking that according to Revelation 2:14; Revelation 2:20, at Pergamum and Thyatira, and by implication at Ephesus (Ephesians 2:6), there were those who were teaching the Christians to commit fornication.

ἔρχεται ἡ ὀργὴ τοῦ θεοῦ. Cf. Colossians 3:6 and Romans 1:18; John 3:36. Notice in each case the use of the present tense. On ὀργὴ, see on Ephesians 2:3. On τοὺς υἱοὺς τῆς ἀπειθίας, see on Ephesians 2:2.

Verse 7

7. μὴ γίνεσθε, ‘do not develope into,’ ‘prove in the end,’ implying danger, but not actual failure, cf. Ephesians 5:17.

συνμέτοχοι, ct. Ephesians 3:6. There is solidarity in evil as well as in good. The tares are bound into bundles (Matthew 13:30) for burning.

Verse 8

8. ἦτε γάρ ποτε σκότος. St Paul has come back now to the broad contrast between the New and the Old with which he started in Ephesians 4:17. Just as he contrasted their present with their former position in point of spiritual privilege (Ephesians 2:12), so here he points the contrast from the side of moral responsibility. The figure that he employs is that of light and darkness. It is a figure of frequent occurrence in Isaiah, especially in the later chapters, where the world both Jewish and Gentile is described as lying in darkness, and Jehovah (Isaiah 60:19) and the Servant (Isaiah 42:6, Isaiah 49:6) and Zion (Isaiah 60:2) are in various ways sources of light. The figure had passed into general currency, the Pharisees regarding themselves as in a special sense called to be the light of those in darkness (Romans 2:19). Hence the bitter irony of our Lord’s description of them as ‘blind guides’ and His warning Matthew 6:23; Luke 11:35. At the same time He claims the figure of light for Himself (John 8:12; John 9:5; John 12:46), and for His disciples (Matthew 5:14), and describes the condition of men apart from Him as darkness (John 12:35; John 12:46) and the force opposed to Him as ‘the power of the darkness’ (Luke 22:53). In the same way the figures are applied in direct dependence on Isaiah in Luke 1:79; Luke 2:32; Matthew 4:16. The figure is first found in connexion with St Paul at the critical moment in the evangelization of Antioch in Pisidia, Acts 13:47, where Isaiah 49:6 is boldly claimed as supplying decisive guidance to Paul and Barnabas in turning to the Gentiles. How fundamental the thought was in St Paul’s conception of his office is clear from Acts 26:18. From this point of view he speaks of the world apart from Christ as ‘this darkness’ (Ephesians 6:12, cf. 2 Corinthians 6:14). The men belonging to it are ‘darkened in mind’ (Ephesians 4:18), blinded by the god of this world (2 Corinthians 4:4), and do the works of darkness (Romans 13:12; Ephesians 5:11). For this darkness is a dominion (Colossians 1:13; cf. Acts 26:18) and spiritual powers of evil exercise authority within it (Ephesians 6:12). The deliverance effected by the Gospel is a transference of men to a new allegiance in the kingdom of the Son of His Love, which is another name for the inheritance of the Saints in light. It is the work of God Himself (Colossians 1:13) and is strictly parallel to the original creation of light out of (physical) darkness (2 Corinthians 4:6). It is effected as God Himself shines in our hearts to enable us to see His Glory in the face of Christ. The result is a moral transformation. Christians become sons of light (1 Thessalonians 5:5; cf. John 12:36). They put on the armour of light (Romans 13:12). They become themselves luminaries, spreading light and life in the world (Philippians 2:15; cf. Matthew 5:14). Bearing these passages in mind the sequence of thought here can be followed without difficulty.

νῦν δὲ φῶς ἐν κυρίῳ. In union with and in loving obedience to their Lord they had become luminous. Cf. Matthew 5:14; John 8:12; Revelation 21:11.

ὡς τέκνα φωτὸς περιπατεῖτε. Cf. Luke 16:8; John 12:36; 1 Thessalonians 5:5 and note on Ephesians 2:3. They were moulded and transformed by the light that shines from Him into its own likeness, and the consequence must be seen in their daily life.

περιπατεῖτε. This picks up Ephesians 4:17, Ephesians 5:2 and is picked up in Ephesians 5:15. John 12:35 supplies an interesting parallel emphasizing as John 9:4, John 11:9 the fact that the possession of the light is a call to work.

Verse 9

9. ὁ γὰρ καρπὸς τοῦ φωτὸς. See Ephesians 5:1. This clause defines both the character of the children of light and the blessings inherent in the light which they are called to radiate.

ἀγαθωσύνῃ. Kindness in action, active benevolence, the opposite of κακία, Ephesians 4:31; part of the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22. δικαιοσύνῃ. ‘Justice’ recognizing the claims of men Ephesians 4:24, Ephesians 6:14. ἀληθείᾳ. ‘Truthfulness’ Ephesians 4:21, Ephesians 6:14; 1 Corinthians 5:8. Sincerity in word and deed, the opposite of ὑπόκρισις.

Verse 10

10. These elements in character are to be guided in action by reference to the will of the Lord; cf. 1 John 5:2. This constant surrender of the will completes the thought of the offering of the whole life as a sacrifice implied in Ephesians 5:2. Cf. Romans 12:2.

εὐάρεστον. Cf. John 8:29; 1 John 3:22; 2 Corinthians 5:9; Hebrews 13:16; Wisdom of Solomon 9:10.

Verse 11

11. καὶ μὴ συνκοινωνεῖτε κ.τ.λ. Cf. Ephesians 5:7; Revelation 18:4; 1 Timothy 5:22; 2 John 1:11; Psalms 50:18. ‘Have a share with them in—become jointly responsible for’ by approving (Romans 1:32) or acquiescing in without protest.

ἔργοις, as in Galatians 5:19; Romans 13:12. The word is constantly used in a disparaging sense in St Paul.

μᾶλλον δὲ καὶ ἐλέγχετε. ‘Awaken their consciences,’ ‘convict’ them, ‘show them to themselves in their true colours.’ This may be by public exposure or open reproof, but the word refers rather to the result than to the means, cf. John 16:8; Wisdom of Solomon 1:3; Wisdom of Solomon 1:5; Wisdom of Solomon 12:2, esp. Ephesians 2:11 τὸ γὰρ ἀσθενὲς ἄχρηστον ἐλέγχεται, 1 Corinthians 14:24. For object supply αὐτοὺς, the sinners, not the sin.

Verse 12

12. τὰ γὰρ κρυφῇ γινόμενα ὑπʼ αὐτῶν. The two clauses τὰ κρυφῇ γινόμενατὰ δὲ πάντα should be taken closely together. ‘For though the things that are done in secret … yet everything when convicted by the light.…’ The γὰρ really connects the second clause with the preceding imperatives. For the omission of μὲν in the first clause, cf. Romans 6:17. The effort after concealment shows that their consciences are still sensitive to the reproof of the light. John 3:20 is a close parallel.

αἰσχρόν ἐστιν καὶ λέγειν. A lesson in method. Conviction of sin will follow from the presence of the light without elaborate word-painting of its horrors.

Verse 13

13. τὰ πάντα here must be taken quite generally. It is in strong contrast to τὰ κρυφῇ γινόμενα. St Paul does not mean that Gentile abominations become edifying by being dragged into the light. They are sheer darkness and vanish before the light. But everything that can stand the light is manifested in its true nature as God made it under the searching action of the light. The light judges, no doubt, but it does not destroy. It reveals and quickens. However painful the work of reproving may be there is hope in it.

πᾶν γὰρ τὸ φανερούμενου φῶς ἐστὶν. ‘In fact everything that is made manifest is light.’

γὰρ here as often in St Paul is best translated ‘in fact.’ See Shilleto on Thuc. I. 25, 4. What St Paul says is obviously true in the physical sphere. Everything substantial will bear the light, and becomes visible by reflecting it. His argument asserts that it is true also in the spiritual sphere. Here also whatever will bear the light becomes itself a source of light. The logical connexion may be variously interpreted. The clause explains the fruitfulness of the light, in itself and in every heart in which it finds a home. This whole passage should be carefully compared with John 3:20 f..

Verse 14

14. διὸ λέγει. ‘Wherefore one saith.’ The quotation is not taken from the O.T. though Isaiah 60:1 f. has some points of contact with the thought of it. Nor is it apparently taken from any Apocryphal source. In all probability it is part of an early (most probably baptismal) hymn like the Odes of Solomon. Baptism is early spoken of as φωτισμός, cf. Hebrews 6:4.

ὁ καθεύδων. Cf. Romans 13:11; 1 Thessalonians 5:6 f. καὶ ἀνάστα (= ἀνάστηθι) ἐκ τῶν νεκρῶν. Cf. Ephesians 2:5, a baptismal thought, cf. Romans 6:13.

καὶ ἐπιφαύσει σοι ὁ Χριστός. ‘And Christ shall give light for thee.’ ἐπιφαύσκω is found only in the LXX. of Job 25:5; Job 31:26; Job 41:9. For the dative, cf. Mal. 3:20 (Ephesians 4:2) ἀνατελεῖ ὑμῖν τοῖς φοβουμένοις τὸ ὄνομα ἥλιος δικαιοσύνης. The point of the quotation is the promise of light for the new life of the believer radiating from the Christ. The only other passage in St Paul in which light comes from the Person of Christ is 2 Corinthians 4:6. Yet the thought of Christ as ‘the Glory of God’ is closely akin to it. See Additional Note on ὁ πατὴρ τῆς δόξης.


Verse 15

15. For a life according to this ideal St Paul feels that two qualities are pre-eminently necessary, ‘moral thoughtfulness’ and spiritual enthusiasm overflowing at once in thankfulness to God and in disciplined subordination. He contrasts it with the recklessness and drunken dissipation of the society by which they were surrounded.

Βλέπετε οὖν ἀκριβῶς πῶς περιπατεῖτε. Here, as in 2 Corinthians 7:1, we have a clear expression of the good after which the Pharisees were striving. St Paul’s training κατὰ ἀκρίβειαν τοῦ πατρῴου νόμου (Acts 22:3; cf. Acts 26:5) had not been all thrown away. Only it is important to notice the change in emphasis produced by the change in order according to the true text. St Paul does not require men ‘to walk circumspectly.’ That suggests a life in the fetters of an external scrupulosity. He bids them keep a close watch on the principles by which they are regulating their lives. Contrast the description of modern practice in Westcott’s Disciplined Life, p. 2, ‘We trust to an uncultivated notion of duty for an improvised solution of unforeseen difficulties.’

μὴ ὡς ἄσοφοι ἀλλʼ ὡς σοφοί. Cf. the stress on σοφία in Ephesians 1:8; Ephesians 1:17.

Verse 16

16. ἐξαγοραζόμενοι τὸν καιρὸν. ‘Buying up the opportunity,’ cf. Lightfoot on Colossians 4:5. The reference in Col. and, in view of the preceding paragraph, here also, is to the opportunity of influencing ‘those without,’ which is given us now. The ‘day of salvation’ which St Paul in 2 Corinthians 6:2 following Isaiah 49:8 recognized as present, was, as the context both in Isaiah 49 and in 2 Corinthians 6 implies, a day for bringing salvation to others, not primarily a day for making sure of our own. See esp. Isaiah 19:6 = Acts 13:47; cf. 1 Peter 1:9. τὸν καιρὸν most probably refers to the whole period of life granted to each man, cf. John 7:6; John 11:9; John 12:35; though it might be taken of each opportunity of helping another that comes in our way. In any case 2 Timothy 4:2 ἐπίστηθι εὐκαίρως ἀκαίρως, is in the same strain.

ὅτι αἱ ἡμέραι πονηραί εἰσιν, cf. Ephesians 6:13, Amos 5:13. Days take their character from the forces that are dominant in them. In St Paul’s view though the present was in a true sense ‘a day of salvation,’ it was also an ‘evil day.’ The present age was evil (Galatians 1:4). The present was a time of distress (1 Corinthians 7:26) with a prospect of yet harder times in store (1 Timothy 4:1; 2 Timothy 3:1) owing both to persecution coming from without and to false teachers within. Here the evil of the time would seem to be connected with the moral corruption of society. In the presence of such an all-pervading atmosphere of evil to relax vigilance for a moment would be to court disaster. The thought has no doubt its root in the Gospels (cf. Luke 17:22; Luke 21:21-34). But in the form in which it comes before us in Eph., the thought is not of the special tribulation that marks the end of the age, ‘the birth pangs’ of the Messiah, but of the abiding moral characteristic of the present dispensation. It is the same thought which finds expression in the last clause of the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:13; cf. John 17:15; 1 John 5:19). We have indeed been transferred from the power of darkness (Colossians 1:13), the spirit that now worketh in the sons of disobedience (Ephesians 2:2). Yet as long as we are in the flesh we are open to attack from the Evil One, as we shall see in Ephesians 6:10 ff. Contact with the world may at any time sully our purity, James 1:27 (cf. Hort in loc.). The thought is saved from pessimism and becomes a salutary stimulus to unceasing watchfulness under the conviction that the Evil One has in fact been overcome. Cf. 1 John 2:13.

Verse 17

17. διὰ τοῦτο,, Ephesians 6:13. Such being the need for watchfulness.

μὴ γίνεσθε ἄφρονες. Cf. Ephesians 5:7. ἄφρων is constant in the Wisdom literature for various Hebrew equivalents. It suggests the thought of moral recklessness. It is a characteristic of heathen society in 1 Peter 2:15. For the distinction between σοφία, φρόνησις, σύνεσις see on Ephesians 1:8 and Ephesians 3:4.

ἀλλὰ συνίετε. The opposite to insensate recklessness is quick discernment of the signs of God’s Will. συνίετε is constantly used of the power of spiritual apprehension, the understanding of Parables, &c., Matthew 13:10 ff., Matthew 13:19 &c.

τί τὸ θέλημα τοῦ κυρίου. Cf. Romans 12:2; Colossians 1:9. This is another way of expressing the thought of Ephesians 5:10.

Verse 18

18. καὶ μὴ μεθύσκεσθε οἴνῳ. From LXX. of Proverbs 23:31. Drunkenness was one of the chief dangers threatening Christian life in heathen surroundings. Warnings against it are not prominent in the Gospels (Luke 21:34; of. Matthew 24:49 only, not in Mark 7:21 f. nor in Revelation 21:8). In St Paul references appear in every group, 1 Thessalonians 5:7; 1 Corinthians 6:10; Galatians 5:21; Romans 13:13; cf. 1 Peter 4:3. Even in Christian circles its presence was not unknown. Cf. 1 Corinthians 11:21; 1 Timothy 3:2; 1 Timothy 3:8; 1 Timothy 3:11; Titus 2:2 f.

ἐν ᾦ ἐστὶν ἀσωτία., Titus 1:6; 1 Peter 4:4; of. Luke 15:13; 2 Maccabees 6:4. A term clearly implying the gravest moral censure. Cf. Arist. Eth. Nic. IV. 1 τοὺς ἀκρατεῖς καὶ εἰς ἀκολασίαν δαπανηροὺς ἀσώτους καλοῦμεν.

ἀλλὰ πληροῦσθε ἐν πνεύματι. Cf. Ephesians 3:19. See Additional Note on πλήρωμα. Here the antithesis to drunkenness is supplied not by sobriety, which in itself is by no means a merely negative conception (cf. 1 Peter 1:13; 1 Peter 4:7), but by a condition of spiritual, not necessarily emotional, exaltation, all the faculties of our nature being raised to their highest power by the power of the Spirit—as they are artificially and for a time by wine. ἐν πνεύματι. On the ‘dynamic’ force of this phrase, see on Ephesians 2:18.

Verse 19

19. λαλοῦντες ἐαυτοῖς. Cf. Ephesians 4:32. In the parallel Colossians 3:16 we find διδάσκοντες καὶ νουθετοῦντες ἐαυτοὺς ψαλμοῖς κ.τ.λ. It seems natural therefore to take λαλοῦντες (as e.g. in 1 Peter 4:11) of speaking in the Christian assembly. The thought of the social gatherings of the heathen suggested by μὴ μεθύσκεσθε οἴνῳ would call up at once the thoughts of Christian gatherings esp. for Agapè or Communion and the music and song by which they were accompanied.

ψαλμοῖς κ.τ.λ. Cf. Lightfoot on Colossians 3:16. The ref. here is prepared for by the quotation in Ephesians 5:14.

ᾄδοντες καὶ ψάλλοντες τῇ καρδίᾳ ὑμῶν τῷ κυρίῳ. The heart is lifted up to the Lord while the mouth is giving expression to its joy in the congregation. In music in the congregation, ritual expression is in danger of outrunning the inward devotion. In the matter of public confession of faith in the sight of an opposing world, the danger is the other way, and the order of reference to heart and mouth is reversed in Romans 10:10.

Verse 20

20. εὐχαριστοῦντες πάντοτε ὑπὲρ πάντων. Cf. Ephesians 5:4; 1 Thessalonians 5:16 ff.; Colossians 3:17. The tone of spiritual exhilaration that St Paul requires is strange in this context, where no effort is made to keep out of sight the discouraging character of the surroundings. It can only be maintained by the deliberate development of a habit of thanksgiving. Cf. the connexion in 1 Thessalonians 5:16 ff. between the commands to rejoice and to give thanks. The command here is as inclusive as possible. ‘At all times for all people (or things).’ For the masc. (which in any case cannot be excluded) cf. 1 Timothy 2:1. St Paul’s Epp. (cf. Ephesians 1:16) show that he practised what he preached. Though the word can hardly be regarded as having yet attained to a technical signification as describing the central act of Christian worship, yet thanksgiving to God was certainly from the first a prominent feature in Christian assemblies, 1 Corinthians 14:16; Hebrews 13:15.

ἐν ὀνόματι τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ. This formula occurs twice (2 Thessalonians 3:6; 1 Corinthians 5:4) characterizing acts of St Paul himself; first as laying down a binding regulation for the life of a community (2 Thessalonians 3:6), and then as pronouncing sentence on an offender (1 Corinthians 5:4). In 1 Corinthians 6:11 it describes the authority by which Baptism had been administered and all its blessed consequences secured to men conscious of the foul defilements of the heathenism out of which they had been taken. Here and in the parallel passage Colossians 3:17 it describes the position at once of privilege and responsibility in which every Christian stands, both regulating and inspiring every act and every word, and keeping the whole life in the presence of God. The passages in Jn (John 14:13 f., John 15:16, John 16:23 f.) which define the condition of prevailing prayer after the Ascension are closely parallel. They may well have moulded Christian liturgical forms from the beginning. According to Acts 4:23-30 when for the first time the Church was called to suffer persecution ‘for the Name’ they pray for a public manifestation of power through the Name.

τῷ θεῷ καὶ πατρί. Cf. on Ephesians 2:18.

Verse 21

21. ὑποτασσόμενοι ἀλλήλοις ἐν φόβῳ Χριστοῦ. An unexpected conclusion to the devotional outburst keeping it in strict relation to the commonplace duties of everyday life. This law of mutual subjection is paradoxical not in form only but in substance, for it covers all cases including those in authority as well as those under authority (see Hort Village Sermons in outline, p. 107). The closest parallels are Romans 12:10; Philippians 2:3. Origen adds Galatians 5:13 with a reference to the Feet-washing in John 13. It rests on the law of Christian leadership laid down by the Lord in Mark 10:43-45; cf. John 10:11. The devotion of the Good Shepherd to the service of His Flock is absolute.

ἐν φόβῳ Χριστοῦ. The relationship is consecrated and safeguarded on both sides by the thought of Christ. He is the ideal Husband, Parent, and Lord as well as Judge. Cf. Ephesians 6:5-9. On the place of ‘fear’ in the Christian life see Hort on 1 Peter 1:17.

Verse 22

22. Αἱ γυναῖκες τοῖς ἰδίοις ἀνδράσιν ὡς τῷ κυρίῳ. Cf. 1 Corinthians 11:3. Wifely subjection is commended in Colossians 3:18 as ‘seemly.’ In. 1 Peter 3:1 it is part of the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, commended for its winning power as a revelation (ἐποπτεύσαντες) of the Divine, and by the example of the holy women of old. Here the attitude follows naturally on the recognition of the Divine antitype of the marital relation. It is the acknowledgement of the Lord as the real source of the husband’s authority.

Verses 22-33


Cf. Colossians 3:18 to Colossians 4:1; 1 Peter 2:18 to 1 Peter 3:7

Verse 23

23. ὅτι ἀνήρ ἐστιν κεφαλὴ τῆς γυναικὸς ὡς καὶ ὁ χριστὸς κεφαλὴ τῆς ἐκκλησίας. On the figure of ‘the Head,’ cf. on Ephesians 1:22. It is applied as here to the relation of husband to wife in 1 Corinthians 11:3. Only there Christ is spoken of as Head of every man individually and not as here as Head of the Church. The position in regard to the race is a development of the thought of Christ as the Second Adam. See Hort Chr. Eccl. p. 151.

αὐτὸς. Himself—by His own act—or in His own person; cf. Ephesians 2:14.

σωτὴρ τοῦ σώματος. Christ is called Saviour in St Paul outside the Pastoral Epistles [4] only in Philippians 3:20. In the rest of the N.T. only in Luke 2:11; Acts 5:31; Acts 13:23; John 4:42; 1 John 4:14; 2 Pet. [5]. For its use as an Imperial Title see Deissmann, Light from Ancient East, pp. 368 ff. The nature of the salvation is defined in Acts 5:31, ἀρχηγὸν καὶ σωτῆρατοῦ δοῦναι μετάνοιαν τῷ Ἰσραὴλ καὶ ἄφεσιν ἁματριῶν. In Acts 13:23 there is no definition. It may, however, be implied in the closing words of the speech Acts 13:39, ἐν τούτῳ πᾶς ὁ πιστεύων δικαιοῦται. In Philippians 3:20, the salvation lies in the future and is closely connected with the transformation of ‘the body of our humiliation.’ It might be possible therefore to take the salvation of the body here as referring to the consecration of sexual relations of which St Paul speaks in 1 Corinthians 6:13-15. But τὸ σῶμα can hardly be anything else than the Church esp. as Christ has just been described as κεφαλή, cf. Ephesians 1:23, Ephesians 4:16. The salvation therefore is no doubt to be understood in the light of Ephesians 5:23-25. The thought is introduced here because the Headship had been displayed most clearly in the sacrifice by which the salvation had been wrought out (cf. Acts 5:31, ἀρχηγὸν καὶ σωτῆρα) and because the same sacrifice constitutes His final claim on our allegiance, cf. 1 Corinthians 6:20.

Verse 24

24. ἀλλὰ ὡς ἡ ἐκκλησία ὑποτάσσεται τῷ χριστῷ. On the description of the Church as the Bride of the Christ, see Hort Christian Ecclesia, pp. 150 f. It is based on the O.T. Primarily on Hosea 2 (cf. Rob. Smith, Prophets of Israel, 170 ff.). Cf. Jeremiah 2:2; Ezekiel 16.; and Isaiah 54. The comparison is taken over, with the Christ as Bridegroom, into the Gospels. See Matthew 9:15 and parallels, John 3:29; Matthew 22:2 ff. It reappears prominently in Revelation 19:7-9; Revelation 21:2 f., 9 f. In St Paul the figure had been used (2 Corinthians 11:2) of a single local Ecclesia, cf. lessons from the marriage law in Romans 7:4, and Isaiah 54 had been appropriated to the Church as the New Jerusalem in Galatians 4:26. But a personification so complete that the ideal relation of the spiritual Bride and her Bridegroom is taken as the model for actual husbands and wives is startling to our modern and western imaginations. As the language of O.T. shows, it would cause no difficulty to the Jew. In St Peter Sarah supplies a concrete example of the right attitude of the dutiful wife.

ἀλλὰ. See Robinson ‘How be it’ (‘to resume,’ ‘anyway’) 1 Corinthians 12:24; 2 Corinthians 3:14; 2 Corinthians 8:7; Galatians 4:23; Galatians 4:29.

οὕτως καὶ αἱ γυναῖκες τοῖς ἀνδράσιν ἐν παντί. The authority of the husband is rooted in the overlordship of Christ, so any demands of a husband, inconsistent with that overlordship, do not come within the scope of this instruction.

Verse 25

25. The primary duty on the husband’s side is self-sacrificing affection. The pattern of Christ in this respect is concrete enough. It has already been dwelt upon in Ephesians 5:2. It is worth noting how constantly (here and Ephesians 5:2, and in Galatians 2:20, and in Revelation 1:5) the love and the sacrifice are commemorated together. The sacrifice was a ‘ransom’ and it is possible that St Paul regards it here in the light of a dowry. For the preparations for the wedding described in the next verse depend on the sacrifice.

Verses 25-33


Verse 26

26. ἵνα αὐτὴν ἁγιάσῃ καθαρίσας τῷ λουτρῷ τοῦ ὕδατος. “That he might expressly claim her for Himself after cleansing her by the bathing with the water.” Cleansing and sanctifying are two results of the one act of baptism, but St Paul (1 Corinthians 6:11) regards them separately, the removal of defilement preceding the consecration.

ἐν ῥήματι. τῷ λ. τ. . and ἐν ῥ. are syntactically independent and probably τῷ λ. should be taken closely with καθαρίσας and ἐν ῥ. with the main verb ἁγ. St Paul’s main business is with the duties of husbands and wives, so the antitype is indicated with the utmost conciseness. The ref. in τῷ λ. τ. ὕδατος is certainly to Baptism (cf. Titus 3:5; Hebrews 10:22), λουτρὸν being (see Robinson) the act of washing rather than the laver. This is naturally connected with καθαρίσας, nor does it seem to require any further definition to justify the effect claimed for it. ἐν ῥήματι ‘in the power of a word’ is best connected with ἁγιάσῃ as the means by which He ‘set her apart.’ The key to St Paul’s meaning is to be found in Romans 10:8-17, where the thought of τὸ ῥῆμα is dwelt upon in detail. He starts with a quotation from Deuteronomy 30:14 where ῥῆμα = ‘the commandment of the Lord.’ This corresponds under the new dispensation to τὸ ῥῆμα τῆς πίστεως, i.e. the Christian Creed Κύριους Ἰησοῦς, the living Lord, who is the perfect revelation of the Will of God, and is accepted as Sovereign in the confession of the Christian Faith. Then in Ephesians 5:14 St Paul asks, “How can men believe one whose voice they have not heard (οὗ οὐκ ἤκουσαν)? How can they hear without a preacher?” implying that the preacher not only brings a message about Christ but in a real sense speaks the words of Christ (2 Corinthians 13:3), or at least brings a message from Him. His conclusion is summed up in Ephesians 5:17, ἄρα ἡ πίστις ἐξ ἀκοῆς ἡ δὲ ἀκοὴ διὰ ῥήματος Χριστοῦ, where again Christ is the source and not only the subject of the ‘Word.’ So here ἐν ῥήματι in a sentence describing an action of Christ must refer to a word spoken by or at least in the name of Christ, i.e. to ‘the Gospel’ as resting on His commission to His Apostles, e.g. Luke 24:47; Acts 26:17 f.; cf. Matthew 28:19 f. The Gospel is primarily a declaration of the Lordship of Jesus and a call to baptism into that Name on the acceptance of that Creed. The Gospel therefore, thus linking men to Christ, is regarded as ‘a power of God unto salvation’ Romans 1:16. Through the Gospel the Gentiles enter into their inheritance with the Jew (Ephesians 3:6). It is the means by which men are ‘begotten anew,’ cf. 1 Peter 1:23-25 and 1 Corinthians 4:15. Elsewhere both cleansing, Acts 15:9, and consecration, Acts 26:18, are ascribed to ‘faith,’ but this as we have seen implies a ‘word.’ Of course the ‘Gospel’ is identical both with the Baptismal Creed and the Baptismal Formula and a meaning can be extracted from ἐν ῥήματι if the phrase is connected with τῷ λ. τ. ὕδατος. But the form of expression is unnatural. The clue to the meaning and construction of the whole phrase is to be found no doubt in the marriage customs of the time. The reference to these customs is unmistakeable in παραστήσῃ (cf. 2 Corinthians 11:2). It is hardly less clear in τῷ λ. τ. . both in Greek and in Jewish marriage ceremonies. See esp. Ezekiel 16:9. It is natural therefore to connect ἐν ῥήματι with the formal claiming of the Bride by the Bridegroom, which in the modern Jewish rite takes place at the bestowal of the ring, in words which Mr Abrahams tells me are at least as old as cent. II A.D.: ‘Behold, thou art sanctified to me.’ (Talmud, Qiddushim, pp. 5–8).

Verse 27

27. ἵνα παραστήσῃ αὐτὸς ἑαυτῷ. Cf. 2 Corinthians 11:2. Christ takes the part both of the Bridegroom and of the Bridegroom’s Friend. Cf. Ezekiel 16:10, of Jehovah and Israel. This clause carries on the thought both of ἁγ. and καθ. but with growing emphasis on the object and results of the cleansing. In Revelation 19:7 f. we have the Bride’s share in the preparation.

ἐνδοξον. In all her glory, Psalms 45:13; Isaiah 62:1-5 : see Additional Note on ὁ πατὴρ τῆς δόξης.

μὴ ἔχουσαν σπίλον ἢ ῥυτίδα ἤ τι τῶν τοιούτων. σπίλον, any defilement. ῥυτίδα, a mark of age or decay; a vision of eternal youth. The New Birth is into a life in which corruption and death have no place, cf. Ephesians 6:24. The Church therefore when her transformation is complete will embody the characteristics of the ideal Bride, Song of Solomon 4:2.

ἀλλʼ ἵνα ᾗ ἁγία καὶ ἄμωμος. Cf. Ephesians 1:4. The fulfilment of the end marked out for us by the Father ‘before the foundation of the world’ in Christ is here seen to be realized as the result of His consecration of Himself on our behalf (John 17:19).

Verse 28

28. οὕτως. ‘Following this example.’ The sentence reads awkwardly because ὡς τὰ ἑαυτῶν σώματα introduces what seems to us an alien illustration of the claims of the wife on the husband, based on the unity involved in the marriage bond when seen in the light of its original institution in Genesis 2 (cf. Matthew 19:5 and Hort Chr. Ec. p. 150). It is true that this claim also is accepted and responded to by Christ in His relation to the Church. But it belongs to the period of wedded life and not to the time of espousal. So if καὶ before οἱ ἄνδρες were not genuine it would be simpler to connect οὕτως closely with ὡς τὰ ἑαυτῶν σώματα and let the sentence start quite abruptly. We must not, however, forget that the comparison started from the idea of the husband as ‘Head,’ implying that the wife may be regarded as his ‘Body ‘apart from the idea underlying Genesis 2. Just as the Church has already twice (Ephesians 1:23, Ephesians 4:15 f.) been described as ‘the Body’ of Christ her Head.

ὀφείλουσιν. Cf. Romans 13:8; 1 John 2:6; 1 John 3:16.

Verse 29

29. τὴν ἑαυτοῦ σάρκα. The change from σῶμα marks the transition to the new aspect of the thought. Husband and wife, though not ‘one body’ as Christ and the Church, are as Genesis 2 witnesses ‘one flesh.’

ἀλλὰ ἐκτρέφει καὶ θάλπει αὐτήν. Both words are used in O.T. esp. of a mother’s care of her children. The love of Christ is generally (e.g. Ephesians 2:4, Ephesians 5:2; Ephesians 5:25; Galatians 2:20; Romans 8:37; cf. 1 John 4:10) expressed by an aorist with reference to its supreme manifestation on the Cross. The use of the present is rare (Revelation 1:5; Revelation 3:19; cf. Hebrews 12:6 only). The continued outflowing of the love in all its tender thoughtfulness is implied however in passages like 2 Corinthians 1:5; Philippians 1:8.

Verse 30

30. ὅτι μέλη ἐσμὲν τοῦ σώματος αὐτοῦ. Cf. Ephesians 4:16; 1 Corinthians 6:15; 1 Corinthians 12:27. In Romans 12:5 we are ‘members one of another.’

Verse 31

31.ἀντὶ τούτου κ.τ.λ., Genesis 2:24 = LXX. with ἀντὶ for ἕνεκεν and πρὸς τὴν γυναῖκα for τῇ γυναικὶ, and om. of αὐτοῦ after πατέρα and μητέρα. For this use of ἀντὶ cf. ἀνθʼ ὦν, 2 Thessalonians 2:10; Lk. [3]; Acts [1].

Verse 32

32. τὸ μυοτήριον τοῦτο μέγα ἐστίν. Cf. Hort Chr. Eccl. p. 151. ‘If we are to interpret ‘mystery’ in the difficult 32nd verse, as apparently we ought to do, by St Paul’s usage, i.e. take it as a Divine age-long secret only now at last disclosed, he wished to say that the meaning of that primary institution of human society, though proclaimed in dark words at the beginning of history, could not be truly known till its heavenly archetype was revealed, even the relation of Christ and the Ecclesia.”

μέγα ‘important’ is applied to μυστήριον also in 1 Timothy 3:16.

λέγω εἰς,, Hebrews 7:14. ‘I speak with reference to.’

Verse 33

33. πλὴν. Cf. ἀλλὰ,, Ephesians 5:24 resumptive. ‘However that may be.’

ἵνα φοβῆται = imperative. Cf. Moulton, Proleg. p. 179; Mark 5:23; Revelation 14:13. φοβῆται ‘reverence,’ cf. ἐν φόβῳ Χριστοῦ (Ephesians 5:21), and cf. Romans 13:7; 1 Peter 2:18; 1 Peter 3:16.


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Bibliography Information
"Commentary on Ephesians 5:4". "Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges". 1896.

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