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In this Chapter the Apostle considereth the Oneness and Unity of the Church in Christ. He sweetly sheweth how, as one Body, the Church is supplied with every suited Grace to each Member. He closeth in an Exhortation to Love and Concord.
(1) ¶ I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, (2) ¶ With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; (3) Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. (4) There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; (5) One Lord, one faith, one baptism, (6) One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.
It is truly blessed always to trace effects to their cause. The Apostle having opened this chapter in a word of exhortation, takes effectual care at the same time, to show the Church how, and by what means, the blessed properties he recommends are to be accomplished. Not in any strength of our own, but from the gracious influences of the Spirit. It is well worthy the Reader's observation, that all the exhortations of the Gospel, are accompanied with this direction, that we may always seek strength in divine help, and trust not to human weakness. There is no possibility of mortifying the deeds of the flesh, but by the Spirit's strength. Paul knew this, and was as highly taught it as any man. And, therefore, he saith, I can do nothing of myself. But I can do all things through Christ, who strengtheneth me. Reader! it is blessed to know our own nothingness, that we may the more highly prize the Lord's all-sufficiency.
I desire the Reader's close attention to the beautiful account the Apostle hath here drawn of the Oneness and Unity of Christ and his Church. He takes up the figure of an human body by way of describing the whole, taken collectively as One, and the several parts which make up the individual members of it. And he draws from the whole the just and proper influence, which cannot but arise out of it, to the mutual comfort and welfare of all when the subject is considered in this oneness of character.
The Church is but One great whole. Christ is the glorious Head. Every member is united to him, and to each other. So that they are knit in one, all intimately linked in one common interest, and alike concerned for the happiness of each other.
But what I more particularly beg the Reader to remark in this place, (because it is what the Apostle is more particularly noting,) is, that while the whole Church of God, in all the variety of the members of it, forms but one, the Holy Ghost is the great source giving life to all He who anointed and filled the Head, is the same which anoints and fills the members. And, this is one of the most blessed of all thoughts. Though You or I have ever so small portions of grace, yet what we have comes from the same Almighty Giver, and is part of the same nature in grace, as the Holy Ghost communicated to Christ himself. In Him, as a fountain. In us, his members as streams. For the Father gave not the Spirit by measure unto, him, John 3:34 . But unto everyone of us is given grace, according unto the measure of the gift of Christ. Reader! do not for a moment lose sight of this! For what can be more blessed ? The same Spirit which dwelt in Christ's heart when on earth; yea, which dwells in Christ's heart now in heaven, (for it would be little short of blasphemy to say, that the Spirit which Jehovah said rested upon him, is departed from him. Isaiah 11:2 .) dwells in ours. When once the Lord the Spirit, hath regenerated our spirit, there the Lord dwells forever. For so Christ said, He shall abide with you forever. John 14:16 . So then the whole Church, when brought into spiritual union by the new-birth, with Christ the glorious Head, and with each other as members of his body; is actuated by the same Spirit, and made partaker of the same grace, however variously given by that Almighty Lord, who divideth to every man severally as he will. 1 Corinthians 12:11 . Reader! pause over the sweet consideration, and ponder it well. How can a child of God do otherwise than well, be his exercises whatever they may, when he considers that while the same Spirit which dwells in us, dwells in Christ, acts in Him, and from Him in us; and the very prayers the Lord the Spirit teaches Christ's members to put up before the mercy-seat here on earth, are so many responses and echos to the intercession of Christ in heaven ! Romans 8:26-27 .
I will detain the Reader no longer on this most blessed passage, than just to observe how blessedly the Holy Ghost is forever teaching the Church the grand fundamental doctrine of all our faith, the unity of the Divine essence, existing in a threefold character of Person. One God, Father, Son, and Spirit, is manifested by the oneness of design and agency, in all the revelations which Jehovah hath been pleased to make of himself. And the Lord makes a yet further display of himself, in the several revelations by which, his people shall know him, in being the God and Father of all because all acts of his are in a fatherly way. He hath from everlasting chosen the Church in Christ, predestinated the Church to a sonship in Christ, and brought all the children into their adoption-character in Christ. Hence he is known by them under those divine distinctions, as above all being not only great and Almighty in their - view, but above all in their affections, and praise, and delight. He is through all, for whatever blessings they receive of temporals, spirituals, and eternals, they eye Him through all. And he is in all, for, from the first call of awakening grace, until grace is finished in glory, they behold Him as the great Author. Pardoning, justifying, sanctifying grace, are given to everyone of Christ's mystical members, according to the measure of the gift of Christ. What a blessed view the whole opens!
(7) But unto everyone of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ. (8) Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men. (9) (Now that he ascended, what is it but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth? (10) He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things.) (11) And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; (12) For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: (13) Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ:
Every verse here is a sermon, and full of the most blessed heads of discourse. Oh ! that God the Holy Ghost, the Almighty Preacher of it, may again preach the whole life-giving contents to my soul, and engraft them there. If the Reader hath My Poor Man's Commentary by him on the Psalms, he will find some few observations on the some Scripture, from whence the first of the verses here is taken. Psalms 68:18 . In addition, let me beg him to remark, how blessedly, Christ's triumph in our nature is celebrated, and the blessed effects which followed. In the original Scripture, it is said, that he received gifts. Yes! Christ had not then accomplished redemption-work. But here the Apostle celebrates the thing done. Now it is said, he gave them, Jesus had now returned to glory, and, therefore, all his ascension-gifts were sent down, And let not the Reader for a moment overlook, that the whole is spoken of Jesus in our nature. For his ascension implied, his descension. Christ is the same identical Person, who from everlasting, stood up the Covenant-head of his body the Church, when his delights were with the sons of men. Proverbs 8:22-23 etc. Hence descension, therefore, preceded his ascension, and both proved his identity. But I refer the Reader, on this point, to the Poor Man's Commentary. John 3:13 .
One part, connected with this subject, I must not suffer to escape, until that I have first called the Reader's attention to it. I mean the very blessed, and most interesting record here given of Christ's ascension in our nature, that he might fill all things. The Holy Ghost had before recorded in the sixty-eighth Psalm, that what Christ received when he led captivity captive, he received in the man, that is, in his human nature, as the man, the God-man Christ Jesus.
Now it is the sweetest and most interesting of all subjects, the contemplation of the Son of God in our nature, Jesus still wears our nature in heaven. When he ascended, he ascended in our nature. And all he received, he received in our nature, on purpose that he might convey his mercies, gifts, and graces, to a nature like his own. Hence, this was one reason, among others, wherefore he took into union with his divine nature the human nature, that the communications might be natural. Add to these, in the Son of God assuming our nature, it qualified him for the office of a Mediator, and High Priest. Not to inform him what we are, for by his Godhead he knew this. But by a fellow feeling, that he might enter into all our concerns, and give him a pity that is natural, and which might sympathize with the nature he relieved. How sweet is it thus to view Jesus, in all his offices, and characters, and relations!
I do not think it necessary to offer any observations on the diversity of appointments in the Church, neither of the various qualifications with which the several departments are distinguished. These are all sufficiently obvious to need nothing explanatory. But I venture to make one remark from the whole, which it were to be wished was more seriously regarded. I mean, that in all the appointments, whether Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, Pastors, or Teachers, all had their appointment and their qualification from the Lord. What would have been thought, in the days of the Apostles, and in the forming of the Church, if men uncalled by the Lord, and unordained by the Holy Ghost, had rushed into the ministry? Who would have dared to have taken upon him either of those offices, so soon after the descent of God the Holy Ghost, without hearing somewhat like the voice, saying, Separate me Barnabas and Saul, for the work whereunto I have called them! Acts 13:2 . Could it ever have entered into the minds of the Apostles of Christ, that the days would come in the Church of Christ, when men, ignorant of the very Being of God the Holy Ghost, would declare themselves moved with the Holy Ghost, to take upon them the sacred office for the sake of filthy lucre?
Readers do not fail to take with you the great and important design, for which the Lord the Spirit hath established a standing ministry in his Church. It is for the perfecting of the saints, for establishing the whole mystical body of Christ, in Christ, their glorious head. Nothing, under the Lord's teaching, can more contribute to this, than the ministry of the word and ordinances. And when the Lord causeth his people to assemble together, and He comes himself in the midst of them, everything is made blessed and refreshing. I might appeal to every well organized Church Of the Lord Jesus upon earth in confirmation. There is, no leaness of soul, no spiritual want, nothing but life and prosperity where Christ visits his Churches. The body is, indeed, edified, when the good will of Him that dwelt in the bush, dwells in the assembly of his saints. That good will flows from his heart into the hearts, of his people, and the fragrancy and savor of Christ's name, is as ointment poured forth! Deuteronomy 33:16 ; Song of Solomon 1:3 .
(14) That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; (15) But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: (16) From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.
By the similitude of children, whose teachable minds are easily led, the Apostle meant to show, that God's people are exempt from deception, when established in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. It is a blessed thing when taught of God. Divine teachings differ wholly from human. What we learn from men may be forgotten, may be contradicted, overruled, denied; so, that like children who are pleased with what they hear today, and may be displeased tomorrow; so, what is taken up upon trust, may be put down with the same. But when God is the Teacher, he teacheth powerfully, infallibly, savingly, and abidingly. Hence, one of old said, I shall never forget thy word, for by it thou hast quickened me. Psalms 119:93 . And when from the true saving grace, which is imparted by God the Holy Ghost at regeneration, the child of God is brought into a life communion, as a member of Christ's mystical body, he groweth up into him in all things, and deriving strength from Him which is the head, the whole, and every member become knit together as one complete whole, unto the general edifying of the body in love.
(17) ¶ This I say therefore, and testify in the Lord, that ye henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind, (18) Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart: (19) Who being past feeling have given themselves over unto lasciviousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness. (20) But ye have not so learned Christ; (21) If so be that ye have heard him, and have been taught by him, as the truth is in Jesus: (22) That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; (23) And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; (24) And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness. (25) Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbour: for we are members one of another. (26) Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath: (27) Neither give place to the devil. (28) Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labour, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth. (29) Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers. (30) And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption. (31) Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: (32) And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you.
The Apostle hath here drawn a striking contrast between the men of the world and the godly, between him that serveth God, and him that serveth him not. The expressions are so plain, and the truth so very obvious, that I do not think it necessary to enlarge, upon the subject. The putting off the old man, and the putting on the new, very decidedly show the wonderful change wrought by regeneration. The old man is a strong phrase, to denote the corruption of our fallen state in Adam. And, in like manner, so is the new man in Christ. But the putting off the one, and putting on the other, is not man's work, but God's. We are altogether passive in the act of regeneration, as in the original generation. And I pray the Reader to remark yet further, what all the scripture of God teacheth, and what all the experience of the Church of God confirms; the old man, though put off, remains; not dead, but dying; not buried, but crucified. There is no change in the old man; he is the same old man of sin, wholly sin, and all sin, as ever. Hence Paul himself groaned, under the body of sin as long as he remained in the body. And hence he looked only to Jesus for deliverance. Romans 7:24-25 . And hence he told the Church: if Christ be in you (said he) the body, is dead because of sin: but the Spirit is life, because of righteousness. Romans 7:10 . Reader! if this were better understood than it is; and men, professing godliness, were better acquainted than they are with the plague of their own heart, we should not hear so much talking of inherent holiness in the creature, while they themselves daily, hourly, if they were to look more closely to what passeth in the old unrenewed nature of their own bodies, manifest that, in them, that is in their flesh, dwelleth no good thing !
On the other hand, putting on the new man, is neither their act, nor their merit. Christ is the new man, formed in the souls of the regenerate, by the Holy Ghost. And every child of God, at his new birth, is formed in Christ's image, and Christ formed in his heart the hope of glory. Hence, united to his person, and having a spiritual union with him, quickened, and brought forth into life, which before was dead in trespasses and sins, the regenerated part the spirit, manifests, in all its breathings, desires, and longings after Christ, that Christ is its life, its portion, its one unceasing pursuit. The child of God, new born in Christ lives upon Christ, and lives to Christ. And Jesus saith: because I live, ye shall live also. Hence, while the Spirit is thus holy in Christ; and the flesh unholy, and nothing but corruption in nature; those opposite principles are perpetually producing those effects the children of God all feel, from such a conflict, and of which they continually complain, Romans 7:21 , &c . Galatians 5:17 . But most evident it is, that such, more of less, will continue through the whole time-state of the Church here below; and that this competition, in every child of God's own person, from the moment of regeneration, never ceaseth, neither can cease, until the body returns to its original dust, and, the spirit joins the spirits of just men made perfect.
I pause a moment over the verse, in which the Apostle cautions the Church, to an holy weariness against grieving the Holy Spirit of God. And what a blessed thing was it in the Lord, that his servant should add, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption. How sweetly gracious was it to hold up the sorrowful soul of a child of God, that would rather die than grieve that Almighty Lord by whose regenerating grace he was first quickened into spiritual life; I say how sweetly gracious was it in the Lord, to assure the timid soul, that amidst all his unworthiness, and backslidings, and departures, the sealing of the Holy Ghost could not lose its efficacy. Oh ! Reader ! what shall speak his praise, that though we so often change, our God changeth not. Malachi 3:6 . Though we fail in our love, Jesus faileth not in his. Our interest in the Covenant arose, not from our obedience; but in God's purposes, and Christ's merits and blood. The everlasting worth and efficacy of Christ's ransom, pleads more for his redeemed than all their sins plead against them. Unworthy as they are in themselves, yet are they everlastingly accepted in the Beloved. And this sweet scripture settles the point: they are sealed unto the day of redemption.
Nevertheless, the Child of God knows, to his sorrow, when the body of sin breaks out into some new transgression the awfulness of the offence. And that solemn scripture conies home directed to the heart, by the Lord in great poignancy of affliction. Thine own wickedness shall correct thee, and thy backslidings shall reprove thee. Know, therefore, and see, that it is an evil thing, and bitter, that thou hast forsaken the Lord thy God, and that my fear is not in thee, saith the Lord God of hosts ! See Psalms 36:1 . Reader ! if you are a child of God, and renewed by sovereign grace; I need not tell you what these Scriptures mean. You know them, and feel them; and from a conscious sense of the indwelling corruption of nature, you can best say how much you dread the very apprehension of grieving the Holy Spirit! But oh! thou Holy God! when I call to mind what a mass of sin and transgression my whole unrenewed nature is, how am I lost in amazement at thine unchanging love, that while thou makest the bodies of thy people thy temple, so much of evil dwells there. If Lot was vexed with the filthy conversation of the wicked from day to day, what must be the feeling of God the Holy Ghost, at the daily view of indwelling corruption, and out-breaking sin, in his redeemed ones? Lord, I pray thee! keep thy servant from presumptuous sins! And do thou, O Lord, (for thou truly canst accomplish it,) mortify all the corrupt thoughts and deeds of my body, that I may never grieve thee, by whom I am sealed, unto the day of redemption !
The Apostle sweetly closeth the Chapter, in calling upon the Church to the exercise of the fruits of the Spirit, instead of grieving Him. And, he adopts the strongest, and most persuasive of all arguments, to a tender-hearted deportment, among the people of God, when holding forth, as a model of everything that is lovely in mutual forbearance, and charity, he proposeth to their view that Lord Jesus. Oh ! what a volume of motives, ariseth from the Person of Christ! And how strong the appeal in God's forgiving the Church for Christ's sake, doth it come home to the heart, to the brethren, to forgive one another ?
READER! pause over the very blessed things contained In this Chapter, in setting forth the oneness and unity in Christ, and his Church. And then say, what powerful persuasions are continually arising from thence, that there should be one heart, and one affection, in everything which can contribute to the spiritual union, among the people. If one God and Father, one Lord Jesus Christ, one Holy Ghost, one Church, one faith, one baptism of the Spirit; how can it be otherwise, while under the sweet and gracious influences of those principles, but that oneness of affection, like a golden chain, must link the whole together; and the whole Church of God, be as brethren, dwelling together in unity !
Blessed be the glorious Head of his Church, who hath sent down his ascension-gifts upon his Church, and thereby manifested the fullest assurance, that redemption-work is finished. God the Father hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand: and sent down, according to his own most sure promise, the Holy Ghost, And God the Holy Ghost hath graciously given his gifts, to every man, severally as he will ! Lord! let the whole manifestations, whether to Apostles, or Prophets, or Evangelists or Pastors, or Preachers, be accompanied with thy blessing! Let the work of the ministry, and the perfecting of the saints, and the edifying of the body of Christ, be carried on in the earth, until the whole Church be brought home to Jesus our perfection ! And do thou, blessed Spirit, for to thee the blessed work belongs, do thou put off the old man, in all the Lord's redeemed ones, and put on the new man, which after God, is created in righteousness, and true holiness; for then shall we speak every man truth with his neighbor. Then shall we not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, whereby we are sealed unto the day of redemption; but walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us; and forgive one another, as God for Christ's sake, hath forgiven us.
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Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on Ephesians 4". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". https://studylight.org/
the Fourth Week after Epiphany