Ephesians 4

1 Paul transitions into the second half of the letter, moving from the description of our position in Christ to our conduct as Christians. The Christian can say that Jesus is Lord of their life, but it is not a reality if he never submits to Jesus' authority. One might say he has a relationship with Christ, but if he does not spend time with Him in prayer or learning from Scripture, he can not really know Him.

This should not be a difficult desire for those who know Jesus. When we are living in His love, we want to please Him; similar to how any person would want to please someone he loves.

2 When we walk with God, we can not be filled with pride -- not in who or where we are, what we have or can do, or even in our salvation. We must be humble, knowing how much we depend on God for everything.

The word "meekness" or "gentleness" comes from the word for taming a wild animal. Therefore, in addition to the mild qualities that this word stands for, it also means that the person will respond to God in a similar way a tamed animal will respond to the trainer. If an animal has been trained to do useful things, then we are often amazed. If we, as Christians, will be learning from God and then responding to His commands, we will also amaze the heavenly hosts.

People can be difficult to get along with, even if they are our relatives. We brothers and sisters in Christ, but if we do not allow the love of God to fill and guide us, we will not be united, and will be ineffective as a witness to the world. We must decide to get along with each other, but we must also be determined to rely on God to help us love one another. Once we learn how to love those in Christ, it should be easier to learn to love those outside the Church.

3 The Holy Spirit binds the people of God together. We can not be united by our own efforts. In addition, the unity we share is not merely organizational. We are united in a supernatural way in God. We can either allow or hinder the Holy Spirit in this work. We are encouraged to cooperate with God.

God brought peace between individuals and Himself. He also makes it possible for us to have true peace with one another. The key is that God is the center of our focus. We are obedient to Him, and He desires that we live in unity. When we love one another, it is possible to be at peace with one another.

4 The Christian community is made up of people with many personalities, backgrounds, mannerisms, and worship style preferences. Some churches are rife with discord, which happens when the members forget how much they have in common. Paul gives a list of things that all true Christians have in common. When we remember this, it should be very easy for us to stay united and be at peace with one another.

Body
The Church is the body of Christ as He continues to minister through us to the world. Jesus is the head of the church, and each individual serves a purpose in the body. There are not multiple bodies, and no part of the body is useless.
Spirit
This is the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of God. He teaches and comforts each Christian. He gives each Christian one or more special gifts that are to be used for their service to God. The same Spirit is the inspiration in dynamic worship services as in the most conservative. The Spirit binds Christians together.
Hope
This is our future perspective as Christians. We look forward to the day when we will be united with Christ without any hindrance from sin.
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Lord
This is the Lord Jesus Christ. He is our common ruler. All Christians submit their lives to Him and are obedient to Him. If there are any disputes about what we are to believe and do, we must look at the Scriptures and submit to what they say.
Faith
Our faith is based on what Jesus did for us. All Christians believe that Jesus died for our sins, rose from the dead, and will one day judge the earth and establish a perfect, eternal kingdom where all believers will live forever with Him. The rest of this list that Paul is writing contains other necessary components to this faith. If a person claims to be a Christian, but denies some or all of these basic principles, he can not be considered a true believer.
baptism
Commenators seem divided on this component. Some define this as the baptism of the Spirit, not physical baptism. Others waver because of the controversy over what physical baptism is and means. Considering that the Sprit has already been mentioned, it is likely that this is referring to physical baptism. This is, ideally, a Christian's first act of obedience to Christ. Jesus makes it very clear that all believers are to be baptized (the thief on the cross being the only recorded exception). The one baptism refers to being baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The act symbolizes a believer's death to the world and resurrection to life with God. Baptism is supposed to be one of the unifying components of the Church, but ironically, it has often been a dividing point because people have allowed traditions to dictate its practice and meaning, rather than the word of God.
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God and Father
Scripture is clear from beginning to end that there is only one true God. Most of the world, however, denies this. Christians, however, embrace this as a point on which we are united. God, however, is a complex being, and people dispute over the meaning and composition of the Trinity (i.e., the one God being composed of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit). While this is something the human mind will not be able to understand, the Word of God gives strong hints about this, although it is not explicit. This is something we are to accept by faith, not by reasoning.
God is the Father of all life because He created all things, and is the only source of life. However, for the believer this has more significance because through His grace, He gave us spiritual life as well as physical life. Thus, He will be our one Father forever.

The Father is above all, and has set the plan for the universe. The Son and Sprit, while also united in the Godhead (i.e., the Trinity), take their directions from the Father. The Scriptures tell us that God holds all things together and can be recognized in His creation. The Father also lives in believers through the Holy Spirit.

When Christ comes again to rule, there will be no more disputes, because everything will be clear. However, even before then, Christians should be united and work together because we hold the same foundational beliefs listed here. Denominations are not important in God's eyes. God is concerned about our foundational beliefs and how we express them through our thoughts, words, and actions. The core beliefs mentioned here are not simply Paul's views -- they are eternal principles of God. If someone claims to be a Christian, but does not agree with these foundational beliefs, he should earnestly seek God in prayer and ask Him to work in his heart to know these things are true.

7 We are to be united in the Church, but that does not mean we lose our individuality or do everything the same as others. There are common "must" beliefs as outlined above, but a person with these common beliefs can fill a variety of ministries. No one person can fill all the roles that are necessary to continue the ministry of Christ on a worldwide basis. Thus, it is necessary that individuals work together in various capacities to ensure that overall progress is made.

In a business, there are people who administrate, those who make sales, those who keep the finances, etc. While it is possible for a single person to fill all these roles, a one-man business will remain small by necessity. A single person is simply not capable of doing all the activities that would service many people.

Likewise, the Church is not made up of one person, but of many people. Local congregations themselves may have different foci. For example, teaching may be emphasized in one while another emphasizes service. Different people are gifted with different aspects of ministry. One may be able to reach some categories of people more effectively than another may. No single person can effectively minister to large numbers of people with a variety of backgrounds. We must learn to work together in the capacity that we are most suited for to ensure the success of the organization we are in.

Jesus was the only person in history that could have covered all the aspects of ministry. Yet, we see Him delegating authority to His disciples repeatedly because He had limited Himself to a physical body. Since Pentecost, He has chosen to minister to the world through His people. Therefore, we should not be fooled into thinking that we can effectively minister to people on our own. If we want to see large-scale advancement of the Gospel, we must work with each other using our various God-given capacities to their greatest extent.

8 The quote is a variation on Psa 68:17. The original verse itself can be translated in various ways, so the reference is not intuitively clear. However, Paul, through the guidance of the Holy Spirit, makes the explanation more clear here. His main point is that Christ gave gifts to men through the Holy Spirit after His ascension. The next two verses are a parenthetical explanation of the reference, but then Paul returns to his main topic.

There has been some discussion on what leading "captivity captive" might mean. When a conquering king would return from battle, he would often be followed by many prisoners of war. Some see this verse as referring to the defeat of defeat of death and evil. Another way to look at this is that the saints, who were held captive by sin, have been freed and will follow Christ into heaven. Another view is that this refers to the saints who lived before Christ. They are saved through Christ because they believed in the Messiah before He came to earth. This view holds that their spirits were in "paradise," but Christ brought them to be with God where all saints who have died will be until the resurrection. Since we are given so little information about what happens to a person's spirit between death and resurrection, it is difficult to say which of these views might be accurate.

9 In further explaining the quoted verse. He is speaking about Jesus. Paul deduces that for Christ to ascend, He must have first descended. Christ originated in heaven, so He had to descend first.

The "lowest parts of the earth" may refer to Christ's ministry on earth, or to His descent into the place of the dead (1 Pet 3:19).

10 Intellectually, we know that God fills the universe and holds it together. Still, we feel that God does not understand how difficult it is to be human. Christ coming to earth and living among us solved that problem. Jesus can sympathize with out condition because He lived here with us. He suffered the worse that humanity could inflict on a person. Therefore, God has experienced it all from the highest heavens, to earthly places, to the place of the dead. In doing so, He demonstrated that He fills all things and is Lord of all things.
11 Although commonly referred to as gifts, this list consists of positions held within the Church. The implication is that Jesus gifts people in particular ways and then appoints them to positions that will utilize those gifts.

Biblically, an apostle is someone who has seen the resurrected Christ, and has been explicitly commissioned to minister by Him. The position, as described in the New Testament, is a combination of the remaining positions listed here. Some believe that this position ceased to exist after the first century. The Scriptures do not make any such pronouncement, but there are currently no known (or at least, widely recognized) apostles.

A prophet is someone who is a spokesperson for God. They are able to communicate what the Holy Spirit speaks through them. People often associate prophecy with pronouncements about the future. It does include that, but it also includes pronouncements including doctrines of faith, words of correction, or whatever else God may want to communicate to His people (or the world). This is another position that some believe no longer exists. However, the Scriptures (specifically the letters of Paul) encourage people to prophecy (this seems to emphasize "small scale" prophecy as opposed to far-reaching prophecies like those given in Revelation). Acts 2:17 seems to indicate that men will have visions and dreams, implying that they would be prophetic.

An evangelist is literally a "good messenger." These people are specially gifted with the ability to present the Good News of Jesus in such a way that people are receptive to it. The Holy Spirit gives the evangelist the necessary words to reach those in his audience.

Pastor comes from the word "to feed." He acts like a shepherd for God's people. The Spirit gifts pastors with a caring heart and the abilities to assist those with spiritual needs.

A teacher is one who can accurately explain the word of God and the sayings of prophets. God's words are often difficult to understand if one has not studied them completely. Some of God's commands are general, and people need assistance to apply them to their everyday lives. Some things we encounter in life are not explicitly explained in the Scriptures, but the teacher is able, with the Spirit's help, to piece together what is explained to determine what to do about those things that are not explained.

12 The gifts of the Spirit are intended to build up the Church, not the individual. They are not intended to be used to set up an authority structure. The gifts will not conflict or contradict the gifts of others. Those with special gifting must be careful to keep their attitudes subject to God and not become proud.
13 The purpose of gifting people is to mature the Church. As the people of God, we are to be united as a kingdom of priests. We are to become as identified with Christ. This means that Christian "lay people" must be active in their faith. In today's church it seems most common that Christians gather for an hour on Sunday, hear a lesson, and leave no different, no more effective, and no better for having attended. For whatever reason, the typical layperson does not understand or is not willing to accept the idea that each Christian is to participate in ministry.

Every Christian has been called to be a witness for Christ. Every Christian is to depend on God to given them the right words to say whether they are witnessing or defending the faith. Every Christian is to use every opportunity to share their faith with those who do not believe in a way that will encourage them to seek Christ. Every Christian is to care about the spiritual and physical needs of his fellow Christians. Every Christian can teach or disciple other Christians in some matter of their faith. Just because some are given special abilities in particular areas does not mean that those who are not so gifted are absolved from all responsibility. Christianity is active, not passive.

14 A child has limited experience and teaching. When he comes across difficult situations, he will likely not have the knowledge he needs to make a correct decision. He will not know right from wrong if he has never been taught. If a person does not have a clear understanding of who he is or what God expects of him, then he will not be able to make good choices.

A child is easy to deceive because he is unaware of ulterior motives, and do not anticipate the consequences of their actions. It is easier to deceive someone who is uncertain about his faith and doctrine.

It is a shame for a Christian to continue as a child in the faith. Yet, many Christians are content to stay in their "retarded" state because preparing for eternal life takes "too much" of their temporary stay here. In this state, it is easy for a Christian to be led astray, which displeases God and harms their witness for Christ. In other cases, Christians are mocked as people who have a mindless faith. They are unable to defend their faith in Christ because they do not understand it, or why it is important.

Those who are gifted should train new Christians. The goal is to make them stable and able to share their faith confidently with others. When they are taught what good doctrine is and how to use it to make right choices, they will not be deceived by those with bad doctrine or make bad choices. For the believer's part, he must be willing and eager to learn. God has blessed us with His word and gifted people, but if one is not willing to learn from these resources, then he will never mature.

15 In contrast to the deceitfulness of the world, Christians are to hold to the truth. However, we must wield truth with love. Our purpose is not to harm people with select parts of the truth, but we are to encourage them to follow whole truth of God because we genuinely care about them.

As a Christian is trained he further matures in Christ. Every thought and actions should originate with, or at least be mediated by, Christ. He is to the Church as the brain is to the body. The brain sends out messages for the body to do various things, and the body responds. If the body senses something, that information is sent to the brain for interpretation and then the brain determines with which action to respond. Is the modern church like this? What would your body be like if it responded to your brain the way the Church relates with Christ?

Notice that the focus has shifted from leaders to Christ. The purpose of a leadership position is not to have people following the leader. Instead, the leader is supposed to train people how to follow Christ. It is easy for people to focus on human leaders because they are visible, audible, and touchable. For the majority of us, God is intangible, which can make it difficult for us to relate to Him. Nonetheless, it is the leadership's responsibility to help people overcome this problem so that they will relate to the living God as well or better than they would with any other person.

16 An important part of unity is working together. The Church is led by the one Christ, so there should be no confusion about what our purpose is. Most of what Jesus commanded is very clear, and we should follow it without compromise. We are warned not to quibble about disputable matters.

Each person has talents and gifts he can bring to assist the Church. There are no useless parts in Christ's body. If someone is not doing anything to assist the Church in time and money, he seriously needs to consider participating. God does not place people in churches to absorb sermons. He puts each of us there to assist and encourage fellow believers as we receive or give training.

An essential element of love is giving up things that are "yours" for the benefit of others. Your time and money spend for the cause of Christ and the assistance of fellow believers will help the Church grow stronger.

17 Here, Paul contrasts the Christian way of life from the worldly way of life. He does not say this on his own, but assures us that is Jesus' desire that Christians live to a higher standard of morality (which flows naturally from a closer relationship with God).

Unsaved people live a life of futility. They desire to find happiness and fulfillment apart from God. They try to make the most out of life without knowing what life is about. They try to set up their own rules and morals without considering that God knows what is best for them.

18 Many unsaved people are simply ignorant of God. They have not heard about Him, nor have they taken the time to discern the evidence of Him in creation. Others have heard about Him or have understood the possibility of His existence in creation, but have refused to believe. Some may have heard incorrect things about Him, but that does not prevent them from seeking the truth.

When people are separated from God they can not have the illumination of understanding that comes from Him. The fulfillment of human life is in a good relationship with God. Apart from God, people can not have the life of God.

19 It is very easy for people to get addicted to sin (activities that are offensive to God). A little sin may seem satisfying at first, but then people develop a tolerance for it. They then need more and different types of sin to get a similar sense of satisfaction. It is very similar to the addiction cycle we see with some drugs. As with drug addiction, sin addiction is futile because the satisfaction is short-lived. Yet, the people so addicted will deny there is a problem, and will not seek help unless it becomes obvious there is a problem that they want to solve. Some never get to that point, and they are killed in their addiction.

In a sense, Christians go through "sin rehab" for the rest of our lives. For some, it is easy to abandon most of their sins as they turn to God. For others, the struggle can be more difficult. However, we know what the problem is, and we know what the solution is. We are motivated by God's love for us and our desire to be with Him forever. Thus, Christians have good reason to avoid the sinful activities that hinder our relationship with God.

20 One can not learn about Christ through the ways of the world because the world is separated from God. No amount of worldly knowledge of philosophy can bring us into a right relationship with Christ. Although we should be able to discern Him through creation, we are so separated from God that He must make Himself known to us through special revelation.
21 Jesus teaches the Christian in many ways. His word, the Bible, is the definitive resource for knowing God's will in our everyday life. Other ways He can teach us include circumstances, the words of fellow believers, the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and visions.

It is possible to know Truth, because it is in Jesus.

22 When Christ is revealed to us, we must decide whether to follow Him. If a person follows him, then he must put aside the things of the world that only serve to separate him from God. The lusts for wealth and pleasure encouraged by the world have no eternal profit for the individual.

We can not do this on our own. We must have help from Christ. We also can not be discouraged at the process. The changes are not all instant, nor will we be able to rid ourselves of all sin in this lifetime. However, we should always be making progress.

23 The focus is on changing the intangible parts of our being -- the mind and the spirit. God does want our behavior to be appropriate for His followers, but the change must begin on the inside. Any godless person can follow the "rules" of Christianity, but the purpose of the Christian life is to know God and be changed by Him.
24 When we give up something, we must replace it with something else. When we give up the thoughts and actions that separate us from God, we must replace them with those things that bring us close to Him. We were created in His image, but that was marred by sin. The "new self" that we put on is much closer to the image He intends for us. The new self is set apart for God (holy), takes actions that are right in God's eyes (righteousness), and thrust those things that God has ordained to last forever (truth).
25 God is Truth. Therefore, if we are to put on His likeness, we must live truthfully. If we tell lies or act deceitfully, how will others believe God, whom we claim to be imitating? If we lie to our fellow Christians, how can we possibly be united in Christ?

In a body, if the eyes "see" things that are not really there, then the whole body may be put into jeopardy. Likewise, if we are not truthful and honest with others, we will cause problems for the community and ourselves. We must remember that we are not independent. We need other people. When people are truthful with each other, it makes relationships much more secure.

If we prove to be liars in day-to-day life, why would people believe us when we tell them about the salvation available only through Christ?

We also need to practice truthfulness as we minister to our families. In this country, for example, children are assured and convinced that there is a "Santa Clause" who gives presents to children at Christmas. When they grow up, some of them are crushed to find that their parents, trusted adults, friends, and merchant advertisers were all lying to them. Why would they trust them if they tell them about Jesus, who is currently "less tangible" than the so-called "Santa Clause"?

26 Anger in itself is not sin. On several occasions God announces His anger and acts on it. However, God's anger is always aimed at ungodliness and injustice. When people get angry we tend to get angry for selfish reasons, not because of offenses against God. When we do get angry, we must settle the matter quickly, either by confronting the offender or by confronting our own motivation. If we let anger fester in our hearts it will turn into bitterness and will make us more likely to explode emotionally at an unexpected time.

If someone we are angry with wants to make things right again we should immediately forgive him. God immediately forgives any sinner who repents of wickedness. As imitators of Christ, we should do the same. We should even go further, taking whatever steps are necessary to solve the problem and restore (or make) a good relationship.

27 It is easy for the devil to use anger and lies because these focus our attention on ourselves and away from God. Remember that the devil's goal for our lives is to get us to look to anyone or anything except God for help.

The devil is our accuser. He delights in exposing the sins of the saints for our harm. Anger and dishonesty are two things that can expose us to public disgrace and ruin our reputations. Even worse, people will focus on these faults and not see how God has transformed our lives in other ways, and completely miss the message of forgiveness through faith. If the actions people can see do not reflect the changes God has made in our lives, why would they believe us when we tell them that God can change their lives for the better?

28 God designed us from the beginning to work (Gen 2:15), so part of become the people He wants us to be involves working for our food, clothing, and shelter. Stealing for any reason is wrong. We are not to be parasites off someone else's work. If someone can work, he should. Not only should he desire not to steal and not to be a burden on others, but he should desire to make more than he needs so that he can share with those who can not work and have no other source of income.

Not every type of work is acceptable. We are encouraged to do something good. To gain money through a sinful activity and then offer it as a gift to God or assistance to others is hypocritical at best.

Stealing gives the devil another opportunity to accuse us and can diminish the effectiveness of our witness to others.

29 Unwholesome words can have several forms: language referring to immorality, cursing, destructive criticism, thoughtless statements, etc. Christians should practice using wholesome words. This involves listening and understanding people as well as empathizing and caring. The a variation on the Golden Rule could say, "say to others what you would want them to say to you." We are to have grace (patience) when dealing with others. Even if we do not feel comfortable around certain people, we should make an effort to really care about them and encourage them in whatever will bring them closer to God.
30 When we develop and maintain good and truthful relationships with each other God is pleased. When we lie, cheat, steal, or in other ways show unconcern, God is grieved. God has gone though great lengths to bring us into a proper relationship with Him. It hurts Him to see us return to or continue in unfruitful activities that keep us away from Him and prevent us from accomplishing everything He wants us to do and be. He does not like to see us hurt each other or ourselves -- especially when we know better.

Even when we do grieve Him, He will never leave us. We are sealed by Him for the day of redemption.

31 See Eph 4:26. Anger that is not dealt with properly leads to these kinds of violent outbursts. These activities are destructive, and do not help people know about God's love and forgiveness. There will be times when we can not resolve a problem about which we are angry. In those cases we must give up that anger and leave it for God to handle. Our true desire should be that others be saved in Christ, not destroyed by our own anger.
Bitterness
Obsession with an offense that prevents resolution. This tends to poison all this person's relationships and can lead to slander.
Wrath
An acute outburst of passion. This is where anger leads to murder, for example.
Anger
An emotional state where an offense, real or imagined, is internalized and must be dealt with. Anger can be dealt with in a loving and proper way, or it will eventually come out in a destructive manner. When someone has a reputation of being angry, it typically refers to the harmful outcomes that result when a person does not handle offenses correctly.
Clamor
This may refer to rounding up people to sympathize with "your side" of a problem. This is not the same as outlined in Mat 18:15-17, because the purpose here is to harm the other person, not resolve the problem.
Slander
Legally, this refers to someone who publicly tells lies about someone else in order to ruin their reputation. In a more general sense, this would include any public statement made to degrade someone else for selfish reasons. Gossip is a form of slander.
Malice
A concealed hatred. While bitterness is expressed, malice remains hidden. It taints the relationship, and may show up as passive-aggressive behavior.
32 In contrast, we should react with kindness and patience when we are offended. It seems we can not spend any amount of time with someone and not be offended about something. When someone has offended us, we should forgive him, even if he does not ask us to. We certainly want this from others. We may not need to forgive them verbally for every offense, but we should always forgive them in our hearts. This also means we must determine not to dwell on it or bring it up later. Also, if you are in a situation where both sides are offended, take the first step to mend the relationship. True love forgives others, just as God forgave us.