1. I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord,) beseech you, that ye
walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called,
1. Obsecro itaque vos, ego vinctus in Domino, ut digne ambuletis
vocatione, ad quam vocati estis,
2. With all lowliness and meekness, with long-suffering, forbearing
one another in love;
2. Cum omni humilitate et mansuetudine, cum tolerantia sufferentes
vos invicem in dilectione,
3. Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
3. Studentes servare unitatem Spiritus, in vinculo pacis.
4. There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one
hope of your calling;
4. Unum corpus et unus spiritus; quemadmodum vocati estis in una
spe vocationis vestrae.
5. One Lord, one faith, one baptism,
5. Unus Dominus, una fides, unum baptisma.
6. One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all,
and in you all.
6. Unus Deus et Pater omnium, qui est super omnia, et per omnia,
(vel, super omnes et per omnes,) et in omnibus vobis.
The three remaining chapters consist entirely of practical exhortations.
Mutual agreement is the first subject, in the course of which a discussion
is introduced respecting the government of the church, as having been framed
by our Lord for the purpose of maintaining unity among Christians.
1. I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord. His imprisonment, which
might have been supposed more likely to render him despised, is appealed
to, as we have already seen, for a confirmation of his authority. It was
the seal of that embassy with which he had been honored. Whatever belongs
to Christ, though in the eyes of men it may be attended by ignominy, ought
to be viewed by us with the highest regard. The apostle’s prison is more
truly venerable than the splendid retinue or triumphal chariot of kings.
That ye may walk worthy. This is a general sentiment, a sort
of preface, on which all the following statements are founded. He had formerly
illustrated the calling with which they were called, and now reminds
them that they must live in obedience to God, in order that they may not
be unworthy of such distinguished grace.
2. With all humility. He now descends to particulars, and first
of all he mentions humility. The reason is, that he was about to enter
on the subject of Unity, to which humility is the first step. This again
produces meekness, which disposes us to bear with our brethren, and thus
to preserve that unity which would otherwise be broken a hundred times
in a day. Let us remember, therefore, that, in cultivating brotherly kindness,
we must begin with humility. Whence come rudeness, pride, and disdainful
language towards brethren? Whence come quarrels, insults, and reproaches?
Come they not from this, that every one carries his love of himself, and
his regard to his own interests, to excess? By laying aside haughtiness
and a desire of pleasing ourselves, we shall become meek and gentle, and
acquire that moderation of temper which will overlook and forgive many
things in the conduct of our brethren. Let us carefully observe the order
and arrangement of these exhortations. It will be to no purpose that we
inculcate forbearance till the natural fierceness has been subdued, and
mildness acquired; and it will be equally vain to discourse of meekness,
till we have begun with humility.
Forbearing one another in love. This agrees with what is elsewhere
taught, that “love suffereth long and is kind.” (1 Corinthians 13:4.) Where
love is strong and prevalent, we shall perform many acts of mutual forbearance.
3. Endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit. With good reason
does he recommend forbearance, as tending to promote the unity of the Spirit.
Innumerable offenses arise daily, which might produce quarrels, particularly
when we consider the extreme bitterness of man’s natural temper. Some consider
the unity of the Spirit to mean that spiritual unity which is produced
in us by the Spirit of God. There can be no doubt that He alone makes us
“of one accord, of one mind,” (Philippians 2:2,) and thus makes us one;
but I think it more natural to understand the words as denoting harmony
of views. This unity, he tells us, is maintained by the bond of peace;
for disputes frequently give rise to hatred and resentment. We must live
at peace, if we would wish that brotherly kindness should be permanent
4. There is one body. He proceeds to show more fully in
how complete a manner Christians ought to be united. The union ought to
be such that we shall form one body and one soul. These words denote the
whole man. We ought to be united, not in part only, but in body and soul.
He supports this by a powerful argument, as ye have been called in one
hope of your calling. We are called to one inheritance and one life; and
hence it follows, that we cannot obtain eternal life without living in
mutual harmony in this world. One Divine invitation being addressed to
all, they ought to be united in the same profession of faith, and to render
every kind of assistance to each other. Oh, were this thought deeply impressed
upon our minds, that we are subject to a law which no more permits the
children of God to differ among themselves than the kingdom of heaven to
be divided, how earnestly should we cultivate brotherly kindness! How should
we dread every kind of animosity, if we duly reflected that all who separate
us from brethren, estrange us from the kingdom of God! And yet, strangely
enough, while we forget the duties which brethren owe to each other, we
go on boasting that we are the sons of God. Let us learn from Paul, that
none are at all fit for that inheritance who are not one body and one spirit.
5. One Lord. In the first Epistle to the Corinthians, he employs
the word Lord, to denote simply the government of God.
“There are differences of administration, but the same Lord.”
(1 Corinthians 12:5)
In the present instance, as he shortly afterwards makes express mention
of the Father, he gives this appellation strictly to Christ, who has been
appointed by the Father to be our Lord, and to whose government; we cannot
be subject, unless we are of one mind. The frequent repetition of the word
one is emphatic. Christ cannot be divided. Faith cannot be rent. There
are not various baptisms, but one which is common to all. God cannot cease
to be one, and unchangeable. It cannot but be our duty to cherish holy
unity, which is bound by so many ties. Faith, and baptism, and God the
Father, and Christ, ought to unite us, so as almost to become one man.
All these arguments for unity deserve to be pondered, but cannot be fully
explained. I reckon it enough to take a rapid glance at the apostle’s meaning,
leaving the full illustration of it to the preachers of the gospel. The
unity of faith, which is here mentioned, depends on the one, eternal truth
of God, on which it is founded.
One baptism, This does not mean that Christian baptism is not
to be administered more than once, but that one baptism is common to all;
so that, by means of it, we begin to form one body and one soul. But if
that argument has any force, a much stronger one will be founded on the
truth, that the Father, and Son, and Spirit, are one God; for it is one
baptism, which is celebrated in the name of the Three Persons. What reply
will the Arians or Sabellians make to this argument? Baptism possesses
such force as to make us one; and in baptism, the name of the Father, and
of the Son, and of the Spirit, is invoked. Will they deny that one Godhead
is the foundation of this holy and mysterious unity? We are compelled to
acknowledge, that the ordinance of baptism proves the existence of Three
Persons in one Divine essence.
6. One God and Father of all. This is the main argument, from
which all the rest flow. How comes it that; we are united by faith, by
baptism, or even by the government of Christ, but because God the Father,
extending to each of us his gracious presence, employs these means for
gathering us to himself? The two phrases, ejpi< pa>ntwn kai< dia<
pa>ntwn, may either mean, above all and through all Things, or above all
and through all Men. Either meaning will apply sufficiently well, or rather,
in both cases, the meaning will be the same. Although God by his power
upholds, and maintains, and rules, all things, yet Paul is not now speaking
of the universal, but of the spiritual government which belongs to the
church. By the Spirit of sanctification, God spreads himself through all
the members of the church, embraces all in his government, and dwells in
all; but God is not inconsistent with himself, and therefore we cannot
but be united to him into one body.
This spiritual unity is mentioned by our Lord.
“Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast, given
me, that they may be one as we are.”
This is true indeed, in a general sense, not only of all men but of
all creatures. “In him we live, and move, and have our being.” (Acts 17:28.)
And again, “Do not I fill heaven and earth, saith the Lord?” (Jeremiah
23:24.) But we, must attend to the connection in which this passage stands.
Paul is now illustrating the mutual relation of believers, which has nothing
in common either with wicked men or with inferior animals. To this relation
we must limit what is said about God’s government and presence. It is for
this reason, also, that the apostle uses the word Father, which applies
only to the members of Christ.