Ephesians 4:1-31 NIV
Unity and Maturity in the Body of Christ
1As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. 2Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. 3Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.
4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 6 one God and Father of all, Who is over all and through all and in all.
“When He ascended on high,
He took many captives
and gave gifts to His people.”b
9(What does “He ascended” mean except that He also descended to the lower, earthly regionsc ? 10He Who descended is the very One Who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe.) 11So Christ Himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, 12to equip His people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.
14Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. 15Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of Him Who is the Head, that is, Christ. 16From Him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.
Instructions for Christian Living
17So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. 18They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the Life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. 19Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, and they are full of greed.
20That, however, is not the way of life you learned 21when you heard about Christ and were taught in Him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. 22You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; 23to be made new in the attitude of your minds; 24and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.
25Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbor, for we are all members of one body. 26“In your anger do not sin”d : Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, 27and do not give the devil a foothold. 28Anyone who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with their own hands, that they may have something to share with those in need.
29Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.
30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with Whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.
31Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. 32Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.
The apostle exhorts them to walk worthy of their heavenly calling, and to live in peace and unity, Ephesians 4:1-6. Shows that God has distributed a variety of gifts, and instituted a variety of offices in His Church, for the building up and perfecting of the body of Christ, Ephesians 4:7-13. Teaches them the necessity of being well instructed and steady in Divine things, Ephesians 4:14. Teaches how the body or Church of Christ is constituted, Ephesians 4:15, Ephesians 4:16. Warns them against acting like the Gentiles, of whose conduct he gives a lamentable description, Ephesians 4:17-19. Points out how they had been changed, in consequence of their conversion to Christianity, Ephesians 4:20, Ephesians 4:21. Gives various exhortations relative to the purification of their minds, their conduct to each other, and to the poor, Ephesians 4:22-28. Shows them that their conversation should be chaste and holy, that they might not grieve the Spirit of God; that they should avoid all bad tempers, be affectionate and be of a forgiving spirit, Ephesians 4:29-32.
“When He ascended on high,
He took many captives
and gave gifts to His people.”
“When you ascended on high, you took many captives; you received gifts from people, even from the rebellious-- that you, LORD God, might dwell there.”
To serve the purpose of his argument, Paul has departed not a little from the true meaning of this quotation. What is said of God, is applied by them to David or to the people. "David, or the people," they say, "ascended on high, when, in consequence of many victories, they rose superior to their enemies." But a careful examination of the Psalm will convince any reader that the words, “He ascended up on high”, are applied strictly to God alone.
The whole Psalm 68 may be regarded as a song of triumph, which David sings to God on account of the victories which he had obtained; but, taking occasion from the narrative of his own exploits, he makes a passing survey of the astonishing deliverances which the Lord had formerly wrought for his people. What is said of God, is applied by them to David or to the people. "David, or the people," they say, "ascended on high, when, in consequence of many victories, they rose superior to their enemies."
But a careful examination of the Psalm will convince any reader that the words, “He ascended up on high”, are applied strictly to God alone. His object is to show, that we ought to contemplate in the history of the Church the glorious power and goodness of God; and among other things Paul says, “You ascended on high.” (Psalm 68:18.)
To the view of men, when the Church is oppressed, God is in some manner humbled; but, when He stretches out His avenging arm for her deliverance, He then appears to rouse Himself, and to ascend His Throne of Judgment.
“Then the Lord awaked as one out of sleep, and like a mighty man that shouts by reason of wine. And He smote His enemies in the hinder parts; He put them to a perpetual reproach.” (Psalm 78:65, 66.)
This mode of expression is sufficiently common and familiar; and, in short, the deliverance of the Church is here called “the ascension of God.”
Perceiving that it is a song of triumph, in which David celebrates all the victories which God had done for the salvation of His Church, Paul very properly quoted the account given of God's Ascension, and applied it to the Person of Christ. The noblest triumph which God ever gained was when Christ, after subduing sin, conquering death, and putting Satan to flight, rose majestically to heaven, that He might exercise His glorious reign over the Church.
There is no ground for the objection, that Paul has applied this quotation in a manner inconsistent with the design of the Psalmist. The continued existence of the Church is represented by David to be a manifestation of the Divine Glory. But no ascension of God more triumphant or memorable will ever occur, than when it took place when Christ was carried up to the Right Hand of the Father, that He might rule over all authorities and powers, and might become the everlasting guardian and protector of His people.
He led captivity captive. Captivity is a collective noun for captive enemies; and the plain meaning is, that God reduced His enemies to subjection, which was more fully accomplished in Christ than in any other way. He has not only gained a complete victory over the devil, and sin, and death, and all the power of hell, but out of rebels He forms every day "a willing people," (Psalm 110:3,) when He subdues by His word the obstinacy of our flesh. On the other hand, His enemies - to which class all wicked men belong - are held bound by chains of iron, and are restrained by His power.
And gave gifts to men. There is rather more difficulty in this clause; for the words of the Psalm are, “You received gifts for men,” while the apostle changes this expression into gave gifts, and thus appears to exhibit an opposite meaning. Still there is no absurdity here; for Paul does not always quote the exact words of Scripture, but, after referring to the passage, satisfies himself with conveying the substance of it in his own language.
Now, it is clear that the gifts which David mentions were not received by God for Himself, but for His people; and accordingly we are told, in an earlier part of the Psalm, that “the spoil” had been “divided” among the families of Israel. (Psalm 68:12.) Since therefore the intention of receiving was to give gifts, Paul can hardly be said to have departed from the substance, whatever alteration there may be in the words.