There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism,
(a) One body. The body of Christ is the Church, of which Christ is the head (Eph. 5:23). “We who are many are one body in Christ” (Rom. 12:5). See entry for 1 Cor. 12:27.
(b) The one Spirit is the Holy Spirit a.k.a. the Spirit of Christ (Rom. 8:9) and the Spirit of Grace (Heb. 10:29). “For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body” (1 Cor. 12:13).
(c) One Lord. Jesus Christ is the Lord of lords (1 Tim. 6:15).
When Jesus walked the earth he was known as Jesus of Nazareth or the Son of Man. But after he ascended to heaven he was given a new name above every name, and that name is Lord (Php. 2:9–11). On the Day of Pentecost, Peter stood up and preached the new name of the Lord. “God has made him both Lord and Christ” (Acts 2: 36). Towards the end of the first century, there was growing pressure to refer to the Roman emperor as lord. But in Asia, the saints refused to call anyone Lord but Jesus (see entry for Rev. 3:8).
(d) One faith. The body of Christ is characterized by the faith or belief or persuasion that Jesus is Lord. Faith is not merely intellectual assent; it is living from the revelation that Jesus really is Lord with all that implies.
(e) One baptism. Several types of baptism are mentioned in scripture including: John’s baptism of repentance (Acts 19:3–4), water baptism done in Jesus’ name (Acts 10:48, 19:5), Holy Spirit baptism (Act 11:16), Jesus’ baptism of suffering (Matt. 20:22), and baptism for the dead (1 Cor. 15:29). Since there are different baptisms, why does Paul say there is only one? He is referring to the baptism that happens to every believer when they are put into the body of Christ by the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 12:12–13).
The moment you came to Jesus, you were baptized or placed in him by the Spirit. To be baptized means to be dipped or immersed. To use an obscure word, it is to be whelmed. To whelm something is to bury it in dirt or sink it in water. It is what happens when a ship goes down in a storm or a skier is hit with an avalanche. To be baptized or whelmed is a dramatic and catastrophic event and it happened to you (Rom. 6:3).
Your old self had issues that you could never resolve. The Holy Spirit’s solution was to whelm or bury your old nature in the ground with Jesus. This is what it means to be baptized into his death. But the Holy Spirit didn’t leave you in the ground. Just as he raised Jesus, he raised you (Rom. 6:6–7). Because of that one baptism you are now free from sin and free to live in Christ.
Further reading: “What is the baptism that saves?”
one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all.
See entry for Eph. 3:14.
But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift.
Grace was given. The grace of God is a gift (Eph.3:7). You cannot earn it through your good works and moral excellence (Rom. 11:6, Gal. 2:21). You can only receive it through faith (Gal. 5:4).
Therefore it says, “WHEN HE ASCENDED ON HIGH, HE LED CAPTIVE A HOST OF CAPTIVES, AND HE GAVE GIFTS TO MEN.”
(a) A host of captives. Paul quotes Psalm 68:18 to say that Jesus led Old Testament saints to heaven.
Just as a conquering general would march his captives in triumph through Rome, Jesus returned to heaven in triumph with “captives” in his train. These captives were those who had died before the cross and to whom Jesus preached the good news (see next verse).
(b) He gave gifts. Spiritual gifts (1 Cor. 12:1) along with all the blessings of heaven (forgiveness, acceptance, righteousness, holiness, eternal life, etc.).
(Now this expression, “He ascended,” what does it mean except that He also had descended into the lower parts of the earth?
(a) Descended. After his death on the cross, Jesus went to the depths to preach the good news to the dead (1 Pet. 3:19). “For the gospel has for this purpose been preached even to those who are dead” (1 Pet. 4:6).
(b) The lower parts of the earth. Sheol (Hebrew) or Hades (Greek), the abode of the dead. It is not to be confused with Hell.
The Apostles’ Creed claims that after Jesus was buried “he descended to hell” before rising on the third day. The Creed was included in the English Book of Common Prayer in the 17th century. At that time, the word hell had a different connotation from its modern meaning. The middle English word Hell means to conceal or hide and is synonymous with being buried in the depths or the grave. But in modern English the word Hell connotes fiery judgment. Thus the hell of the Apostles’ Creed is more likely a reference to Hades than what we understand as Hell.
See also the entry for Matt. 16:18.
from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.
The whole body; see entry for 1 Cor. 12:27.
So this I say, and affirm together with the Lord, that you walk no longer just as the Gentiles also walk, in the futility of their mind,
(a) Walk no longer. To walk as the Gentiles walk is to walk after the old ways of the flesh instead of the new way of the spirit. It’s living in response to the natural world (what we see, hear, and touch) and without regard for the spiritual world. See entry for Rom. 8:5.
(b) The futility of their mind. The original word for futility (mataiotes) means vain, empty, and devoid of truth. It is not a moral state per se, but an incomplete or disconnected state (see next verse). It’s the same word Paul uses when he says “creation was subjected to futility” (Rom. 8:20).
The natural life is devoid of the truth of God’s Word. The natural mind can only process what is in the natural world. It can read the words in the Bible but cannot make sense of them because spiritual truth dawns by revelation. Just as an old radio cannot detect a wifi signal, the natural man cannot accept the things of the Spirit of God. “They are foolishness to him” (1 Cor. 2:14).
being darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart;
(a) Excluded. The original word (apallotrioo) means to be “shut out from fellowship and intimacy” (Thayers) or a “non-participant” (Strongs). The natural (unregenerate) person is disconnected from the life of God. In contrast, the Christian enjoys koinonia-fellowship (see entry for 1 John 1:3).
(b) Life of God. Two kinds of life are described in the Bible; the psuche- or soul life we inherited from Adam and the zoe- or spirit life that comes from God (John 5:26). It’s the second kind of life that is described here. See entry for New Life.
(c) Because of the ignorance. People were put on death row on account of Adam’s sin, but they stay there out of ignorance. Jesus has broken the prison of sin. All may walk free and come to him for life.
(d) Because of the hardness of their heart. People are not excluded from the life of God on account of sin but stubborn unbelief.
that, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit,
Lay aside the old self. Our old self was crucified with Christ (Rom. 6:6), so why are we exhorted to lay the old self aside (Col. 3:9)? Because many Christians, unaware that they died with Christ, are trying to reform their old selves. It’s a lost cause. Our flesh cannot be improved. What we need and what Christ offers is a brand new life; his life. See entry for New Life.
The supernatural and abundant life that we’re called to live can only be received by faith and experienced by walking in the spirit. This is why the New Testament writers admonish us to put off the old ways of the flesh and put on the new ways of the spirit (Eph 4:22-24). We don’t put off and put on to become spiritual; we do this because we are spiritual. Everyone who is born again is born of the spirit (John 3:7-8). Since we are already in the spirit, let us walk after the spirit (Gal 5:25).
and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind,
Be renewed in the spirit of your mind. Change the way you think.
On the day you were born again, a lot of things changed, but your way of thinking probably did not change. If you liked chocolate and drove recklessly before you were saved, then you probably liked chocolate and drove recklessly after you were saved. This is why the scriptures exhort us to put off the old and put on the new and be renewed in the spirit of our minds.
What you do follows what you think and what you think follows what you believe. Renew your thinking so that your thoughts align with what God says about you.
and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.
(a) Put on the new self. You are righteous and holy, so act like it. See yourself as God sees you. Be who you truly are.
To put on the new man is to be renewed in the spirit of your mind (see previous verse). It is choosing to walk in the new way of the spirit instead of the old ways of the flesh. We don’t put off and put on to become spiritual; we do this because we are spiritual. Everyone who is born again is born of the spirit (John 3:7-8). Since we are already in the spirit, let us walk after the spirit (Gal 5:25).
(b) Created in righteousness. You have been made into a brand new person, as righteous and holy as Jesus.
Jesus was made to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in him (2 Cor. 5:21). Jesus was not made sin because he was a sinner and you were not made righteous because you acted righteously. God did it all. The moment you put your faith in Jesus, you were stamped righteous for all eternity. At one time you were unrighteous, but you were washed, you were sanctified, and you were declared righteous in the name of the Lord (1 Cor. 6:9–11).
What does it mean to be righteous? It means you have had a complete renovation, a Holy Spirit renewal, an entire rebuild. You have been straightened out. You are no longer the crooked person you used to be. While in Adam you had inclinations that led you towards sin no matter how hard you tried to avoid it, in Christ you are inclined to walk straight and true. Your desire is to please the Lord. It’s not that you are incapable of sinning. It’s just that sinning no longer appeals. When you sin it bothers you—“I wish I hadn’t done that”—testifying that this sort of behavior is contrary to your new nature.
See entry for Righteousness.
BE ANGRY, AND yet DO NOT SIN; do not let the sun go down on your anger,
Anger is a lit stick of dynamite that can hurt us if we bottle it up and hurt others if we let it loose. Anger is a valid emotion but we need to handle it with care. When we are angry, it is easy to stumble and give place to the devil (Eph. 4:27). For this reason we are to be slow to anger (Jas. 1:19) and quick to lay it aside (Col. 2:8).
and do not give the devil an opportunity.
Anger begets anger (Ps. 37:8). It leads sin, not righteousness (Jas. 1:20).
Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.
(a) Do not grieve the Holy Spirit. Don’t do things that make God sad.
Our choices bring our heavenly Father pleasure and pain. When we stumble in sin, he grieves because sin hurts his kids. The sins Paul has just listed – speaking falsehoods, stealing, unwholesome speech (which would include quarrelling, gossip, and backbiting) – are all relational sins. When we act like jerks we hurt those around us and make our Father sad.
Your behavior matters to God because you matter to God. He wants you to prosper and thrive in every area of your life. He doesn’t want you opening the door to trouble by sowing to the flesh. But even if you do—even if you make one dumb mistake after another—he will still be your Father and you will still be his dearly loved child. Your actions may be harmful and saddening to him but you will always be the apple of his eye.
Act like a sinner and you’ll grieve the Holy Spirit, but here’s what won’t happen: The Holy Spirit won’t record your sins (he promised not to; Heb. 10:15–17); nor will he send you on a guilt-trip (he’s the Spirit of grace not the spirit of guilt; Heb. 10:29); and he won’t withdraw from you until you get your act together (Jesus said he would never leave you; John 14:16).
When you sin, the Holy Spirit will always point you to Jesus. He knows that as we behold the kindness and compassion of Christ, we become kind and compassionate. As we gaze at his forgiving face, we become forgiving. As we marvel at his beauty, we become beautiful. As we behold Jesus we are transformed into his shining testimonies of grace.
(b) By whom you were sealed. The moment you said yes to Jesus, God stamped you with his seal of ownership and gave you his Spirit as a guarantee of your salvation (2 Cor. 1:22, Eph. 1:13).
Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.
(a) Bitterness, etc. To this short list we might add deceit, hypocrisy, enmity, hatred, drunkenness, immorality, bitterness, jealousy, envy, slander, profanity, tantrums (e.g., Gal. 5:19–21, Eph. 4:31, Col. 3:8, 1 Pet. 2:1) All these things proceed from a selfish and unregenerate heart and corrupt us (Mark 7:20–23).
(b) Put away from you. We put aside the old life, and put on the new self which has been created in the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness (Eph. 4:22–24).
Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.
(a) Forgiving… forgiven. The original words (charizomai) mean to show favor or kindness. They are closely related to the word that means grace (charis). In context, both words means unconditional forgiveness (see also Col. 2:13, 3:13). When we receive the unconditional forgiveness of God, we are empowered to be unconditionally forgiving of others. See also the entry for Forgiveness.
(b) God in Christ. God’s forgiveness comes to us through Christ. It is but one of the many blessings that we experience in our union with the Lord. See entry for Philemon 1:6.
(c) Christ has forgiven you. You need to be fully persuaded that you are completely and eternally forgiven. You were not forgiven because you said or did the right things. You were forgiven on account of his great love and grace (Eph. 1:7, 1 John 2:12).
The Grace Commentary is a work in progress with new content added regularly. Sign up for occasional updates below. Got something to say? Please use the Feedback page. To report typos or broken links on this page, please use the comment form below.
- Ephesians 4:4-5
- Ephesians 4:6
- Ephesians 4:7
- Ephesians 4:8
- Ephesians 4:9
- Ephesians 4:16
- Ephesians 4:17
- Ephesians 4:18
- Ephesians 4:22
- Ephesians 4:23
- Ephesians 4:24
- Ephesians 4:26
- Ephesians 4:27
- Ephesians 4:30
- Ephesians 4:31
- Ephesians 4:32