corner graphic

Bible Commentaries

Vincent's Word Studies

Ephesians 4



Other Authors
Verse 1

In the Lord

See on Philemon 1:14.

Verse 2

Lowiness - meekness

See on Matthew 11:29; see on Matthew 5:5.


See on James 5:7.

Forbearing ( ἀνεχόμενοι )

See on Luke 9:41.

Verse 3

Endeavoring ( σπουδάζοντες )

Not strong enough. Originally the verb means to make haste. So the kindred noun σπουδή haste Mark 6:25; Luke 1:39. Hence diligence. Rev., here, giving diligence.

To keep ( τηρεῖν )

See on reserved, 1 Peter 1:4.

Unity of the Spirit

Wrought by the Holy Spirit.

Bond of peace

The bond which is peace. Compare Ephesians 2:14, our peace - made both one. Christ, our peace, is thus a bond of peace. Others, however, treat in the bond as parallel with in love of Ephesians 4:2, and cite Colossians 3:14, “love the bond of perfectness.”

Verse 4

d The connection with the preceding verses is as follows: I exhort you to unity, for you stand related to the Church, which is one body in Christ; to the one Spirit who informs it; to the one hope which your calling inspires; to the one Lord, Christ, in whom you believe with one common faith, and receive one common sign of that faith, baptism. Above all, to the one God and Father.

Body - Spirit

The body is the invisible Church, the mystical body of Christ: the Spirit, the Holy Spirit. Πνεῦμα spiritis never used in the New Testament of temper or disposition.

Even as

To the facts of one body and one Spirit corresponds the fact of their calling in one hope. Compare Colossians 3:15.

In one hope of your calling ( ἐν μιᾷ ἐλπίδι τῆς κλήσεως ὑμῶν )

In, not by. Their calling took place in the one hope as its moral element or sphere, since they were called to fellowship with Christ who is the one object and the one inspirer of hope. Compare called in peace, 1 Corinthians 7:15; in sanctification, 1 Thessalonians 4:7(Rev.). Hope here is not the object but the principle of hope. The phrase hope of your calling signifies hope which is characteristic of God's call to salvation, and is engendered by it. See on Ephesians 1:18.

Verse 5


The principle of faith; not that which is believed - the body of Christian doctrine, which does not promote unity. See on Acts 6:7.


The external sign of faith, but of no significance without the Lord and the faith. Baptism is emphasized instead of the Eucharist, because the latter assumes and recognizes unity as an established fact; while faith and baptism precede that fact, and are essential to it. Baptism, moreover, is not administered to the Church as a body, but to individuals, and therefore emphasizes the exhortation to each member to be in vital union with the whole body.

Verse 6

One God and Father

The fundamental ground of unity. Note the climax: One Church, one Christ, one God.

Above all ( ἐπὶ πάντων )

Rev, over: as ruler.

Through - in ( διὰ - ἐν )

Through, pervading: in, indwelling. Compare Ephesians 2:22; Ephesians 3:17.

Verse 7

Every one ( ἑνὶ ἑκάστῳ )

Rev., each. From the Church as a whole, he passes to its individual members. In the general unity the individual is not overlooked, and unity is consistent with variety of gifts and offices.

Grace ( ἡ χάρις )

The article, omitted by A.V., is important: the one grace of God, manifesting itself in the different gifts.

Verse 8


Confirming by Scripture what has just been said.

When He ascended, etc.

Quoted from Psalm 68:19(Sept. 67:18). The Hebrew reads: “Ascending to the height thou didst lead captive captivity, and received gifts in man.” So Sept. Paul changes thou didst lead, didst receive, into he lead and he gave. The Psalm is Messianic, a hymn of victory in which God is praised for victory and deliverance. It is freely adapted by Paul, who regards its substance rather than its letter, and uses it as an expression of the divine triumph as fulfilled in Christ's victory over death and sin.


The ascent of Jehovah is realized in Christ's ascent into heaven.


Abstract for the body of captives. See on Luke 4:18. The captives are not the redeemed, but the enemies of Christ's kingdom, Satan, Sin, and Death. Compare on Colossians 2:15, and 2 Corinthians 2:14.


In the Hebrew and Septuagint, received or took; but with the sense received in order to distribute among men. Compare Genesis 15:9, take for me: Genesis 18:5, I will fetch for you: Exodus 27:20, bring thee, i.e., take and present to thee: Acts 2:33, “Having received of the Father, etc., He hath shed forth.” Thus Paul interprets the received of the Old Testament. His point is the distribution of grace by Christ in varied measure to individuals. He confirms this by Scripture, seeing in the Jehovah of this Old-Testament passage the Christ of the New Testament - one Redeemer under both covenants - and applying the Psalmist's address to Christ who distributes the results of His victory among His loyal subjects. These results are enumerated in Ephesians 4:11sqq.

Verse 9

Now that He ascended

Ephesians 4:9and Ephesians 4:10are parenthetical, showing what the ascension of Christ presupposes. By descending into the depths and ascending above all, He entered upon His function of filling the whole universe, in virtue of which function He distributes gifts to men. See Ephesians 1:23. Rev., properly, inserts this, thus giving the force of the article which calls attention to the fact of ascension alluded to in the quotation. “Now the or this 'He ascended.”'

What is it but

What does it imply?

Descended first ( καὶ κατέβη )

His ascent implies a previous descent. A.V. reads first, following the Tex. Rec. πρῶτον . Rev., correctly, He also descended. Compare John 3:13.

The lower parts of the earth ( τὰ κατώτερα μέρη τῆς γῆς )

The under world. The reference is to Christ's descent into Hades. Some give the words a comparative force, deeper than the earth.

Verse 10

Fill all things

Compare Ephesians 1:23.

Verse 11

d The gifts specified.

He gave

He is emphatic. It is He that gave. Compare given in Ephesians 4:7.


Properly, as apostles, or to be apostles. Christ's ministers are gifts to His people. Compare 1 Corinthians 3:5, “ministers as the Lord gave;” also 1 Corinthians 3:21, 1 Corinthians 3:22. The distinguishing features of an apostle were, a commission directly from Christ: being a witness of the resurrection: special inspiration: supreme authority: accrediting by miracles: unlimited commission to preach and to found churches.


Preachers and expounders under the immediate influence of the Spirit, and thus distinguished from teachers. 1 Corinthians 12:10.


Traveling missionaries.

Pastors and teachers

Pastors or shepherds. The verb ποιμαίνω totend as a shepherd, is often used in this sense. See on 1 Peter 5:2; see on Matthew 2:6. The omission of the article from teachers seems to indicate that pastors and teachers are included under one class. The two belong together. No man is fit to be a pastor who cannot also teach, and the teacher needs the knowledge which pastoral experience gives.

Verse 12

For the perfecting ( πρὸς τὸν καταρτισμὸν )

Only here in the New Testament. In classical Greek of refitting a ship or setting a bone. The preposition for denotes the ultimate purpose. Ministering and building are means to this end. Hence its emphatic position in the sentence. For perfecting, see on mending, Matthew 4:21; see on perfected, Matthew 21:16; see on Luke 6:40; see on 1 Peter 5:10. Compare 1 Corinthians 1:10; Hebrews 13:21. The radical idea of adjustment is brought out in Ephesians 4:13.

For the work of the ministry ( εἰς ἔργον διακονίας )

Rev., much better, unto the work of ministering. Εἰς untomarks the immediate purpose of the gift. He gave apostles, etc., unto the work of ministering and building, for the perfecting, etc. The prevailing sense of διακονία ministryin the New Testament, is spiritual service of an official character. See Acts 1:25; Acts 6:4; Acts 20:24; Romans 11:13; 1 Timothy 1:12; 2 Timothy 4:5.

Edifying ( οἰκοδομὴν )

Rev., building up. See on Acts 20:32. Notice the combination of perfecting and building. Building defines the nature of the work of ministry, and perfecting comes through a process.

Verse 13

Till ( μέχρι )

Specifying the time up to which this ministry and impartation of gifts are to last.

Come ( καταντήσωμεν )

Arrive at, as a goal. See Acts 16:1; Acts 18:19; Acts 25:13. Rev., attain.

In the unity ( εἰς )

Rev., correctly, unto. Compare one faith, Ephesians 4:5.

Knowledge ( τῆς ἐπιγνώσεως )

The full knowledge. Not identical with faith, since the article puts it as a distinct conception; but related to faith. Compare Philemon 3:9, Philemon 3:10; 1 John 4:16. “Christians are not to be informed merely on different sections of truth and erring through defective information on other points, but they are to be characterized by the completeness and harmony of their ideas of the power, work, history, and glory of the Son of God” (Eadie).

Of the Son of God

Belongs to both faith and knowledge. Faith in Him, knowledge of Him.

Perfect ( τέλειον )

Rev., full grown. See on 1 Corinthians 2:6.

Measure of the stature ( μέτρον ἡλικίας )

Defining perfect man. For stature, see on Luke 12:25. The word is rendered age, John 9:21, John 9:23; Hebrews 11:11. So here, by some, the age when the fullness of Christ is received. But fullness and grow up (Ephesians 4:15) suggest rather the idea of magnitude.

Fullness of Christ

Which belongs to Christ and is imparted by Him. See John 1:16, and compare Ephesians 3:19.

Verse 14

Children ( νήπιοι )

See on 1 Corinthians 2:6; see on 1 Corinthians 3:1. As to the connection, Ephesians 4:13states the ultimate goal of christian training; Ephesians 4:14that which is pursued with a view to the attainment of that goal. Ephesians 4:14is subordinate to Ephesians 4:13, as is shown by the retention of the same figure, and is remotely dependent on Ephesians 4:11, Ephesians 4:12. The remote end, Ephesians 4:13, is placed before the more immediate one, as in Ephesians 4:12. See note.

Tossed to and fro ( κλυδωνιζόμενοι )

Only here in the New Testament. See on wave, James 1:6. For Paul's use of nautical metaphors, see on Philemon 1:23. Compare Plato: “Socrates. In a ship, if a man having the power to do what he likes, has no intelligence or skill in navigation, do you see what will happen to him and to his fellow-sailors? Alcibiades. Yes, I see that they will all perish” (“Alcibiades,” i., 135).

Wind of doctrine

Or of the teaching. The different teachings of philosophers or of religious quacks are represented as winds, blowing the unstable soul in every direction.

Sleight ( κυβείᾳ )

Only here in the New Testament. From κύβος acube or die. Lit., dice-playing.

Cunning craftiness ( πανουργίᾳ )

See on Luke 20:23. The craft which gamblers use.

Whereby they lie in wait to deceive ( πρὸς τὴν μεθοδείαν τῆς πλάνης )

Lit., tending to the system of error. Rev., after the wiles of error. Μεθοδεία means a deliberate planning or system. Of error includes the idea of deceit or delusion. See Matthew 27:64; Romans 1:27; 2 Peter 2:18; 2 Peter 3:17; James 5:20. Error organizes. It has its systems and its logic. Ellicott remarks that here it is almost personified.

Verse 15

Speaking the truth ( ἀληθεύοντες )

Only here and Galatians 4:16. In classical Greek it means to be true, to arrive at truth, and to speak truth. Here the idea is rather that of being or walking in truth. Rev., in margin, dealing truly.

In love

Some connect with grow up. The parallel construction, tossed and carried about in the sleight, in craftiness, speaking truth in love, favors the A.V. and Rev., as does the awkwardness of speaking truth standing alone. Moreover, Paul's habit is to subjoin, and not to prefix, his qualifying clauses.

Verse 16

Fitly joined - compacted ( συναρμολογούμενον - συμβιβαζόμενον )

The present participles denote present, continuous progress. The two participles represent respectively the ideas of harmony or adaptation and compactness or solidity. See on Acts 9:22, and see on Colossians 2:2.

By that which every joint supplieth ( διὰ πάσης ἁφῆς τῆς ἐπιχορηγίας )

Lit., through every joint of the supply. For joint, see on Colossians 2:19; for supply, see on 2 Peter 1:5. The supply specifies it as peculiarly Christ's. The phrase joint of the supply signifies joint whose office or purpose it is to supply. Construe with the two participles, as Colossians 2:19.

According to the working

Construe with maketh increase.

In the measure of every part

According as each part works in its own proper measure.


Notice the peculiar phrase; the whole body maketh increase of the body. It is a living organism, and its growth is produced by vital power within itself.

In love

As the element in which the upbuilding takes place. Compare Ephesians 3:17-19.

Verse 17

This - therefore

Referring to what follows. Therefore, resuming the exhortation of Ephesians 4:1-3.


Solemnly declare. Compare Acts 20:26; Galatians 5:3.

Other Gentiles

Omit other.

Vanity of their mind ( ματαιότητι τοῦ νοὸς αὐτῶν )

For vanity see on Romans 1:21; see on Romans 8:20. For mind, see on Romans 7:23.

Verse 18

Understanding ( διανοίᾳ )

See on Luke 1:51. The moral understanding.

Life of God ( ζωῆς )

See on John 1:4. The life which God bestows; life in Christ. See 1 John 5:11.

Through the ignorance

The cause of the alienation. Not to be construed with darkened, since ignorance is the effect, and not the cause, of the darkness of the understanding.

Which is in them ( τὴν οὖσαν ἐν αὐτοῖς )

The participle of the substantive verb expresses the deep-seated, indwelling character of the ignorance.

Hardening ( πώρωσιν )

See on Mark 3:5. Dependent, like ignorance, on alienated. Arrange the whole clause thus:

The Gentiles walk in the vanity of their mind,

being darkened in their understanding,

being alienated from the life of God,

because of the ignorance that is in them,

because of the hardening of their heart.

Verse 19

Who ( οἵτινες )

Explanatory and classifying: men of the class which.

Being past feeling ( ἀπηλγηκοτες )

Only here in the New Testament. Lit, the verb means to cease from feeling pain. Hence to be apathetic.

Have given themselves over ( παρέδωκαν )

See on Matthew 4:12; see on Matthew 11:27; see on Matthew 26:2; see on Mark 4:29; see on Luke 1:2; see on 1 Peter 2:23. The verb is frequently used of Christ giving Himself for the world. Romans 4:25; Galatians 2:20; Ephesians 5:5, Ephesians 5:25. It indicates a complete surrender. Meyer says, “with frightful emphasis.” Where men persistently give themselves up to evil, God gives them up to its power. See Romans 1:24.

Lasciviousness ( ἀσελγείᾷ )

See on Mark 7:22.

To work ( εἰς ἐργασίαν )

Lit., to a working. In Acts 19:25, used of a trade. Not precisely in this sense here, yet with a shade of it. They gave themselves up as to the prosecution of a business. The εἰς untois very forcible.

With greediness ( ἐν πλεονεξίᾳ )

The noun commonly rendered covetousness: in an eager grasping after more and more uncleanness. Not with, but in, as the state of mind in which they wrought evil.

Verse 20

Have not learned ( οὐχ ἐμάθετε )

Rev., giving the force of the aorist tense, did not learn; at the time of your conversion, when you were instructed in Christ's precepts. The phrase learn Christ occurs nowhere else. Christ does not stand for the doctrine of Christ; but Christ is the subject of His own message. See Ephesians 4:21.

Verse 21

If so be that ye heard Him ( εἴ γε αὐτὸν ἠκούσατε )

The indicative mood implies the truth of the supposition: if ye heard as ye did. Him is emphatic. If it was Him that ye heard. Compare John 10:27.

By Him ( ἐν αὐτῷ )

Rev., correctly, in Him. In fellowship with.

As the truth is in Jesus ( καθώς ἐστιν ἀλήθεια ἐν τῷ Ἱησοῦ )

As corresponds with not so. Ye did not in such a manner learn Christ if ye were taught in such a manner as is truth, etc. Render, as Rev., as truth is in Jesus. Schaff paraphrases: “If you were taught so that what you received is true as embodied in the personal Savior.” “Taught in the lines of eternal fact and spiritual reality which meet in him” (Moule). Jesus is used rather than Christ: the historical rather than the official name. The life of Christianity consists in believing fellowship with the historic Jesus, who is the Christ of prophecy.

Verse 22

That ye put away

Dependent upon ye were taught, and specifying the purport of the teaching.

The old man

See on Romans 6:6. Compare Colossians 3:9.

Which is corrupt ( τὸν φθειρόμενον )

The A.V. misses the force of the participle. The verb is passive, which is being corrupted, and marks the progressive condition of corruption which characterizes “the old man.” Rev., correctly, waxeth corrupt.

According to the deceitful lusts ( κατὰ τὰς ἐπιθυμίας τῆς ἀπάτης ).

Rev., correctly, lusts of deceit. On the vicious rendering of similar phrases in A.V., see on Ephesians 1:19. Deceit is personified.

Verse 23

In the spirit of your mind ( τῷ πνεύματι τοῦ νοὸς ὑμῶν )

The spirit is the human spirit, having its seat in and directing the mind. In the New Testament the Holy Spirit is never designated so as that man appears as the subject of the Spirit. We have Spirit of adoption, of holiness, of God, but never Holy Spirit of man. Furthermore, the apostle's object is to set forth the moral self-activity of the christian life. Hence πνεῦμα spiritis here the higher life-principle in man by which the human reason, viewed on its moral side - the organ of moral thinking and knowing is informed. The renewal takes place, not in the mind, but in the spirit of it. “The change is not in mind psychologically, either in its essence or in its operation; and neither is it in the mind as if it were a superficial change of opinion either on points of doctrine or practice: but it is in the spirit of the mind; in that which gives mind both its bent and its materials of thought. It is not simply in the spirit as if it lay there in dim and mystic quietude; but it is in the spirit of the mind; in the power which, when changed itself, radically alters the entire sphere and business of the inner mechanism” (Eadie).

Verse 24

New man ( καινὸν )

See on Matthew 26:29.

Created ( κτισθέντα )

See on Ephesians 2:10.

In righteousness and true holiness ( ἐν δικιαιοσύνη καὶ ὁσιότητι τῆς ἀληθείας )

Rev., correctly, in righteousness and holiness of truth. See on Luke 1:75. Truth. Opposed to deceit, Ephesians 4:22, and likewise personified. Righteousness and holiness are attributes of truth.

Verse 25

Falsehood ( τὸ ψεῦδος )

Lit., the lie; used abstractly. See on John 8:44.

Members one of another

Compare Romans 12:5; 1 Corinthians 12:12-27. Chrysostom says: “Let not the eye lie to the foot, nor the foot to the eye. If there be a deep pit, and its mouth covered with reeds shall present to the eye the appearance of solid ground, will not the eye use the foot to ascertain whether it is hollow underneath, or whether it is firm and resists? Will the foot tell a lie, and not the truth as it is? And what, again, if the eye were to spy a serpent or a wild beast, will it lie to the foot?”

Verse 26

Be ye angry and sin not ( ὀργίζεσθε καὶ μὴ ἁμαρτάνετε )

Cited from Psalm 4:5, after the Septuagint. Hebrew, stand in awe and sin not. Righteous anger is commanded, not merely permitted.

Wrath ( παροργισμῷ )

Irritation, exasperation; something not so enduring as ὀργή angerwhich denotes a deep-seated sentiment. See on John 3:36.

Verse 27



Verse 29

Corrupt ( σαπρὸς )

See on Luke 6:43, and see on Colossians 4:6.

That which is good ( εἴ τις ἀγαθὸς )

Lit., if any is good. Discourse that is good, whatever it be.

To the use of edifying ( πρὸς οἰκοδομὴν τῆς χρείας )

Lit., for the building up of the need. Rev., edifying as the need may be. Compare 1 Thessalonians 5:11, 1 Thessalonians 5:14.

Verse 31

Bitterness ( πικρία )

Bitter frame of mind.


What is commanded in Ephesians 4:26is here forbidden, because viewed simply on the side of human passion.

Anger ( θυμὸς )

Violent outbreak. See on John 3:36; see on James 5:7.

Clamor ( κραυγὴ )

Outward manifestation of anger in vociferation or brawling.

Evil-speaking ( βλασφημία )

See on Mark 7:22.

Malice ( κακίᾳ )

The root of all the rest. See on James 1:21.

Verse 32

Be ye ( γίνεσθε )

Lit., become, as following the putting away of anger, etc.

Kind ( χρηστοί )

See on easy, Matthew 11:30; see on gracious, 1 Peter 2:3.

Each other ( ἑαυτοῖς )

Lit., yourselves. See on Colossians 3:13. “Doing as a body for yourselves that which God did once for you all” (Alford).


Copyright Statement
The text of this work is public domain.

Bibliography Information
Vincent, Marvin R. DD. "Commentary on Ephesians 4:4". "Vincent's Word Studies in the New Testament". Charles Schribner's Sons. New York, USA. 1887.

Commentary Navigator
Search This Commentary
Enter query in the box below
To report dead links, typos, or html errors or suggestions about making these resources more useful use our convenient contact form
Powered by Lightspeed Technology