1. Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children;
1. Sitis ergo imitatores Dei quemadmodum filii dilecti;
2. And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given
himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet smelling
2. Et ambulate in charitate quemadmodum et Christus nos dilexit,
ac se ipsum tradidit pro nobis oblationem et hostiam Deo, in odorem bonae
1. Be ye therefore followers. The same principle is followed
out and enforced by the consideration that children ought to be like their
father. He reminds us that we are the children of God, and that therefore
we ought, as far as possible, to resemble Him in acts of kindness. It is
impossible not to perceive, that the division of chapters, in the present
instance, is particularly unhappy, as it has made a separation between
parts of the subject which are very closely related. If, then, we are the
children of God, we ought to be followers of God. Christ also declares,
that, unless we shew kindness to the unworthy, we cannot be the children
of our heavenly Father.
“Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that
hate you, and pray for them who despitefully use you and persecute you;
that ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven; for he maketh
his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just
and on the unjust.”
2. And walk in love as Christ also hath loved us. Having called
on us to imitate God, he now calls on us to imitate Christ, who is our
true model. We ought to embrace each other with that love with which Christ
has embraced us, for what we perceive in Christ is our true guide.
And gave himself for us. This was a remarkable proof of the highest
love. Forgetful, as it were, of himself, Christ spared not his own life,
that he might redeem us from death. If we desire to be partakers of this
benefit, we must cultivate similar affections toward our neighbors. Not
that any of us has reached such high perfection, but all must aim and strive
according to the measure of their ability.
An offering and a sacrifice to God of a sweet smelling savor. While
this statement leads us to admire the grace of Christ, it bears directly
on the present subject. No language, indeed, can fully represent the consequences
and efficacy of Christ’s death. This is the only price by which we are
reconciled to God. The doctrine of faith on this subject holds the highest
rank. But the more extraordinary the discoveries which have reached us
of the Redeemer’s kindness, the more strongly are we bound to his service.
Besides, we may infer from Paul’s words, that, unless we love one another,
none of our duties will be acceptable in the sight of God. If the reconciliation
of men, effected by Christ, was a sacrifice of a sweet smelling savor,
we, too, shall be “unto God a sweet savor,” (2 Corinthians 2:15,) when
this holy perfume is spread over us. To this applies the saying of Christ,
“Leave thy gift before the altar, and go and be reconciled to thy brother.”
Ephesians 5: 3-7
3. But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it
not be once named among you, as becometh saints;
3. Scortatio vero et omnis immundities, aut avaritia, ne nominentur
quidem inter vos; sicut decet sanctos.
4. Neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting, which are
not convenient; but rather giving of thanks.
4. Turpitudo, stultiloquium, facetia; quae non conveniunt, sed magis
5. For this ye know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor
covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of
Christ and of God.
5. Hoc enim scitis, quod omnis scortator, vel immundus, vel avarus,
qui est idololatra, non obtinebit haereditatem in regno Christi et Dei.
6. Let no man deceive you with vain words: for because of these
things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience.
6. Nemo vos decipiat inanibus verbis; nam propter haec venit ira
Dei in filios inobedientes (vel, incredulos.)
7. Be not ye therefore partakers with them.
7. Ne sitis igitur illorum consortes.
3. But fornication. This chapter, and the third of the Epistle
to the Colossians, contain many parallel passages, which an intelligent
reader will be at no loss to compare without my assistance. Three things
are here enumerated, which the apostle desires Christians to hold in such
abhorrence, that they shall not even be named, or, in other words, shall
be entirely unknown among them. By uncleanness he means all base and impure
lusts; so that this word differs from fornication, only as the whole class
differs from a single department. The third is covetousness, which is nothing
more than an immoderate desire of gain. To this precept he adds the authoritative
declaration, that he demands nothing from them but that which becometh
saints, — manifestly excluding from the number and fellowship of the saints
all fornicators, and impure and covetous persons.
4. Neither filthiness. To those three — other three are now added.
By filthiness I understand all that is indecent or inconsistent with the
modesty of the godly. By foolish talking I understand conversations that
are either unprofitably or wickedly foolish; and as it frequently happens
that idle talk is concealed under the garb of jesting or wit, he expressly
mentions pleasantry, — which is so agreeable as to seem worthy of commendation,
— and condemns it as a part of foolish talking. The Greek word eujtrapeli>a
is often used by heathen writers, in a good sense, for that ready and ingenious
pleasantry in which able and intelligent men may properly indulge. But
as it is exceedingly difficult to be witty without becoming satirical,
and as jesting itself carries in it a portion of conceit not at all in
keeping with the character of a godly man, Paul very properly dissuades
from this practice. Of all the three offenses now mentioned, Paul
declares that they are not convenient, or, in other words, that they are
inconsistent with Christian duty.
But rather grace. Others render it giving of thanks; but I prefer Jerome’s
interpretation. With the vices which had been formerly mentioned it was
proper that Paul should contrast something of a general character, displaying
itself in all our communications with each other. If he had said, “While
they take pleasure in idle or abusive talk, do you give thanks to God,”
the exhortation would have been too limited. The Greek word, eujcaristi>a,
though it usually signifies Thanksgiving, admits of being translated Grace.
“All our conversations ought to be, in the true sense of the words, sweet
and graceful; and this end will be gained if the useful and the agreeable
are properly mingled.”
5. For this ye know. If his readers were at all captivated by
the allurements of those vices which have been enumerated, the consequence
would be that they would lend a hesitating or careless ear to his admonitions.
He determines, therefore, to alarm them by this weighty and dreadful threatening,
that such vices shut against us the kingdom of God. By appealing to their
own knowledge, he intimates that this was no doubtful matter. Some might
think it harsh, or inconsistent with the Divine goodness, that all who
have incurred the guilt of fornication or covetousness are excluded from
the inheritance of the kingdom of heaven. But the answer is easy. Paul
does not say that those who have fallen into those sins, and recovered
from them, are not pardoned, but pronounces sentence on the sins themselves.
After addressing the Corinthians in the same language, he adds:
“And such were some of you; but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified,
but ye are justified, in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit
of our God.” (1 Corinthians 6:11.)
When men have repented, and thus give evidence that they are reconciled
to God, they are no longer the same persons that they formerly were. But
let all fornicators, or unclean or covetous persons, so long as they continue
such, be assured that they have no friendship with God, and are deprived
of all hope of salvation. It is called the kingdom of Christ and of God,
because God hath given it to his Son that we may obtain it through him.
Nor covetous man, who is an idolater. “Covetousness,” as he says in
another place, “is idolatry,” (Colossians 3:5,) — not the idolatry which
is so frequently condemned in Scripture, but one of a different description.
All covetous men must deny God, and put wealth in his place; such is their
blind greediness of wretched gain. But why does Paul attribute to covetousness
alone what belongs equally to other carnal passions? In what respect is
covetousness better entitled to this disgraceful name than ambition, or
than a vain confidence in ourselves? I answer, that this disease is widely
spread, and not a few minds have caught the infection. Nay, it is not reckoned
a disease, but receives, on the contrary, very general commendation. This
accounts for the harshness of Paul’s language, which arose from a desire
to tear from our hearts the false view.
6. Let no man deceive you. There have always been ungodly dogs,
by whom the threatenings of the prophets were made the subject of merriment
and ridicule. We find such characters in our own day. In all ages, indeed,
Satan raises up sorcerers of this description, who endeavor by unholy scoffs
to escape the Divine judgment, and who actually exercise a kind of fascination
over consciences not sufficiently established in the fear of God. “This
is a trivial fault. Fornication is viewed by God as a light matter. Under
the law of grace God is not so cruel. He has not formed us so as to be
our own executioners. The frailty of nature excuses us.” These and similar
expressions are often used by the scoffers. Paul, on the contrary, exclaims
that we must guard against that sophistry by which consciences are ensnared
to their ruin.
For because of these things cometh the wrath of God. If we consider
the present tense to be here used, agreeably to the Hebrew idiom, for the
future, these words are a threatening of the last judgment. But I agree
with those who take the word cometh in all indefinite sense, — the word
of God usually cometh, — as reminding them of the ordinary judgments of
God which were executed before their own eyes. And certainly, if we were
not blind and slothful, there are sufficiently numerous examples by which
God testifies that he is the just avenger of such crimes, — examples of
the pouring out of divine indignation, privately against individuals, and
publicly against cities, and kings, and nations.
Upon the children of disobedience, — upon unbelievers or rebels. This
expression must not be overlooked. Paul is now addressing believers, and
his object is not so much to present alarming views of their own danger,
as to rouse them to behold reflected in wicked men, as in mirrors, the
dreadful judgments of God. God does not make himself an object of terror
to his children, that they may avoid him, but does all that can be done
in a fatherly manner, to draw them to himself. They ought to learn this
lesson, not to involve themselves in a dangerous fellowship with the ungodly,
whose ruin is thus foreseen.
8. For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord:
walk as children of light;
8. Eratis aliquando tenabrae; nunc autem lux in Domino; tanquam
filii lucis ambulate;
9. (For the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, and righteousness,
9. (Fructus enim lucis in omni bonitate, et justitia, et veritate:)
10. Proving what is acceptable unto the Lord.
10. Probantes, quid sit acceptum Deo.
11. And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness,
but rather reprove them.
11. Et ne communicetis operibus infructuosis tenebrarum; quin potius
12. For it is a shame even to speak of those things which are done
of them in secret.
12. Quae enim clam fiunt ab illis, turpe est vel dicere.
13. But all things that are reproved are made manifest by the light:
for whatsoever doth make manifest is light.
13. Omnia autem, dum coarguuntur, a luce manifestantur; omne enim
quod manifestat lux est.
14. Wherefore he saith, Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from
the dead, and Christ shall give thee light.
14. Quamobrem dicit: Surge qui dormis, et exsurge ex mortuis; et
illucescet tibi Christus.
8. For ye were once darkness. The precepts which immediately
follow derive greater weight from the motives with which they are mingled.
Having spoken of unbelievers, and warned the Ephesians not to become partakers
of their crimes and their destruction, he argues still further, that they
ought to differ widely from the life and conduct of those men. At the same
time, in order to guard them against ingratitude to God, he refreshes their
remembrance of their own past life. “You ought,” he says, “to be very different
persons from what you formerly were; for out of darkness God hath made
you light.” Darkness is the name here given to the whole nature of man
before regeneration; for, where the brightness of God does not shine, there
is nothing but fearful darkness. Light, again, is the name given to those
who are enlightened by the Spirit of God; for immediately afterwards in
the same sense, he calls them children of light, and draws the inference,
that they ought to walk in light, because by the mercy of God they had
been rescued from darkness. Observe here, we are said to be light in the
Lord, because, while we are out of Christ, all is under the dominion of
Satan, whom we know to be the Prince of darkness.
9. For the fruit of the light. This parenthesis is introduced,
to point out the road in which the children of light ought to walk. A complete
description is not given, but a few parts of a holy and pious life are
introduced by way of example. To give them a general view of duty, their
attention is again directed to the will of God. Whoever desires to live
in a proper and safe manner, let him resolve to obey God, and to take his
will as the rule. To regulate life entirely by his command is, as he says
in another Epistle, a reasonable service, (Romans 12:1,) or, as another
inspired man expresses it, To obey is better than sacrifice. (1 Samuel
15:22.) I wonder how the word Spirit (pneumatoj) has crept into many Greek
manuscripts, as the other reading is more consistent, — the fruit of the
light. Paul’s meaning indeed is not affected; for in either case it will
be this, that believers must walk in the light, because they are “children
of the light.” This is done, when they do not live according to their own
will, but devote themselves entirely to obedience to God, when they undertake
nothing but by his command. Besides, such obedience is testified by its
fruits, such as goodness, righteousness, and truth.
11. And have no fellowship. As “the children of light” dwell
amidst the darkness, or, in other words, in the midst of “a perverse and
crooked generation,” (Deuteronomy 32:5,) — there is good reason for warning
them to keep themselves apart from wicked actions. It is not enough that
we do not, of our own accord, undertake anything wicked. We must beware
of joining or assisting those who do wrong. In short, we must abstain from
giving any consent, or advice, or approbation, or assistance; for in all
these ways we have fellowship. And lest any one should imagine that he
has done his duty, merely by not conniving, he adds, but rather reprove
them. Such a course is opposed to all dissimulation. Where a manifest
offense is committed against God, every man will be eager to vindicate
himself from any share in the guilt, but very few will guard against connivance;
nearly all will practice some kind of dissimulation. But rather than the
truth of God shall not remain unshaken, let a hundred worlds perish.
The word ejle>gcein, which is translated reprove, answers to the metaphor
of darkness; for it literally signifies to drag forth to the light what
was formerly unknown. As ungodly men flatter themselves in their vices,
(Psalm 36:2,) and wish their crimes to be concealed, or to be reckoned
virtues, Paul enjoins that they shall be reproved. He calls them unfruitful;
because they not only do no good, but are absolutely hurtful.
12. Which are done by them in secret. This shews the advantage
of reproving the ungodly. If they do but escape the eyes of men, there
is no crime, however shocking to be mentioned, which they will not perpetrate.
To use a common proverb, “Night has no shame.” What is the reason of this?
Sunk in the darkness of ignorance, they neither see their own baseness,
nor think that it is seen by God and by angels. But let the torch of God’s
word be brought forward, and their eyes are opened. Then they begin to
blush and be ashamed. By their advices and reproofs the saints enlighten
blind unbelievers, and drag forth from their concealment to the light of
day those who were sunk in ignorance.
When unbelievers keep the doors of their houses shut, and withdraw from
the view of men, it is a shame even to speak of the baseness and wickedness
with which they rush into all manner of licentiousness. Would they thus
lay aside all shame, and give loose reins to their passions, if darkness
did not give them courage, if they did not entertain the hope that what
is hidden will pass unpunished? But do you, by reproving them, bring forward
the light, that they may be ashamed of their own baseness. Such shame,
arising from an acknowledgment of baseness, is the first step to repentance.
“If there come in one that believeth not, or one unlearned, he is convinced
of all, he is judged of all; and thus are the secrets of his heart made
manifest; and so, falling down on his face, he worships God” (1 Corinthians
It may be thought that the word is used here in an unusual acceptation.
Erasmus, by substituting another word for reprove, has destroyed the whole
meaning; for Paul’s object is to shew that it will not be without advantage
if the works of unbelievers are reproved.
13. But when all things are reproved. As the participle, (fanerou>menon,)
which is translated, that which doth make manifest, is in the middle voice,
it admits either of a passive or active signification. It may be either
rendered, that which is made manifest, or that which doth make manifest.
If the passive signification, which is followed by the ancient translator,
be preferred, the word light will denote, as formerly, that which gives
light, and the meaning will be, that evil works, which had been concealed,
will stand out to public view, when they have been made manifest by the
word of God: If the participle be taken actively, there will still be two
ways of expounding it: 1. Whatever manifests is light; 2. That which manifests
anything or all things, is light; taking the singular as put for the plural
number. There is no difficulty, as Erasmus dreaded, about the article;
for the apostles are not in the habit of adhering very strictly to rule
about placing every article, and even among elegant writers this mode of
using it would be allowable. The context appears to me to shew clearly
that this is Paul’s meaning. He had exhorted them to reprove the evil works
of unbelievers, and thus to drag them out of darkness; and he now adds,
that what he enjoins upon them is the proper business of light — to make
manifest. It is Light, he says, which makes all things manifest; and hence
it followed that they were unworthy of the name, if they did not bring
to light what was involved in darkness.
14. Wherefore he saith. Interpreters are at great pains to discover
the passage of Scripture which Paul appears to quote, and which is nowhere
to be found. I shall state my opinion. He first exhibits Christ as speaking
by his ministers; for this is the ordinary message which is every day delivered
by preachers of the gospel. What other object do they propose than to raise
the dead to life?
“The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice
of the Son of God, and they that hear shall live”
Let us now attend to the context. “Unbelievers,” Paul had said, “must
be reproved, that, being brought forth to the light, they may begin to
acknowledge their wickedness.” He therefore represents Christ as uttering
a voice which is constantly heard in the preaching of the gospel,
Arise, thou that sleepest. The allusion, I have no doubt, is to the
prophecies which relate to Christ’s kingdom; such as that of Isaiah ,
“Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of Jehovah
is risen upon thee” (Isaiah 60:1.)
Let us therefore endeavor, as far as lies in our power, to rouse the
sleeping and dead, that we may bring them to the light of Christ.
And Christ shall give thee light. This does not mean that, when we have
risen from death to life, his light begins to shine upon us, as if our
performances came before his grace. All that is intended is to show that,
when Christ enlightens us, we rise from death to life, — and thus to confirm
the former statement, that unbelievers must be recovered from their blindness,
in order to be saved. Instead of ejpifau>sei, he shall give light, some
copies read ejfa>uetai, he shall touch; but this reading is an evident
blunder, and may be dismissed without any argument.