4. The practical application of oneness, 4:1-6:9

iii] Imitators of Christ


Paul has set out in 4:17 to remind his readers that a pagan lifestyle does not reflect the new person they are in Christ; they have put off the old man and put on the new - died with Christ, alive with Christ, daily renewed by Christ. Now, in the passage before us, Paul gives practical examples of the behavior that properly reflects their new life in Christ. Since we have already put on Christ, his "righteousness and holiness", let us act in love toward others in our daily lives - let us be what we are.


i] Context: See 4:1-16.


ii] Background: See 1:1-2.


iii] Structure: Imitators of Christ:

The doe's and don'ts, 4:25-5:2:

Speak the truth, v25;

Keep anger in check, v26-27;

Work rather than steal, v28;

Let speech edify rather than debase, v29-30;

Be forgiving rather than malicious, v31-32.

Be imitators of God and walk in love, 5:1-2.


iv] Interpretation:

Paul's ethical instructions, dealing with the conduct of the new self, present in two parts. In the first part, the ethical instructions are presented negatively and positively, along with a reason for the proposed action. The instructions are framed in exhortatory sentences that call for specific ethical action covering common vices and virtues. Such lists were common in Hellenistic Judaism.


Ethics and a believer's identification with Christ: Having established that believers in Christ have put off the old self and put on the new, Paul now states dio apoqemenoi, "therefore put off ...." What we have here is a simple indicative-imperative match. Paul's readers have put off the old self in Christ, and so "therefore" they are to put off the old self in their daily life, ie., be what they are. They are to "put off falsehood .........", and put on kindness, compassion, and forgiveness, v32; they are to "walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us", 5:2.

Believers are to put off the old self and put on the new. Putting on the new man / self is outwardly expressed by ethically putting on Christ-likeness - a being clothed with Christ-likeness. Through the power of Christ's Spirit-inspired word, we are made new in the attitude of our minds and are thus assisted in the business of putting off the "old self, corrupt and deluded in its lusts" and of putting on the "new self, created according to the likeness of God". Both putting off the old self and putting on the new, is integrally linked to our identification with Christ, our being clothed with Christ, in his death and life / resurrection. In dying with Christ our old life is put to death - we are no longer slaves to sin; sin has lost its power. In rising with Christ we are enlivened to live for God - renewed by the indwelling-compelling of the Spirit of Christ. When we cooperate with this reality, by grace through faith, it is then we have the power to "put away falsehood" and "speak the truth." In the NT the imperative always rests on the indicative.


v] Exposition: A simple exposition of this passage may be found in the linked pew-level Sermon Notes.

Text - 4:25

Six exhortations concerning the conduct of a believer, v25-32: i] Speak the truth, v25. Paul encourages his readers to put off lying and put on truth-telling. God is the God of truth and the Devil the father of lies, Jn.8:44. So, don't lie to one another. Be like your heavenly Father and tell the truth to each other, Col.3:9. The members of Christ's body should be truthful.

dio "therefore" - therefore. Inferential, establishing a logical connection with the preceding paragraph. Since we are clothed with the new self, let us therefore ...... "Therefore, for this reason."

apoqemenoi (apotiqhmi) aor. part. "[each of you] must put off" - having put off. Attendant circumstance participle expressing action accompanying the imperative verb "let us speak [truth]", and so therefore also imperatival, as NIV; "Lay aside falsehood", Moffatt.

to yeudoV (oV ouV) "falsehood" - deception, falsehood. Accusative direct object of the participle "having put off." The old lifestyle was one of deception.

laleite (lalew) pres. imp. "speak" - let us speak [truth]. The first in a series of 12 imperatives. Most likely with Zechariah 8:16 in mind. Although, reflecting popular ethics of the time, the "neighbor" is one's brother or sister in the Lord. This exhortation to truth-telling in the church is supported by noting that believers are fellow members of Christ's body, and that the body grows when the members speak the truth to each other in love, 4:15. cf., Rom.12:5.

meta + gen. "to [your neighbor]" - [each one] with [the neighbor of him]. Expressing association / mutual interaction.

oJti "because" - Introducing a causal clause.

allhlwn gen. pro. "of one body" - [we are members] of one another. The genitive is adjectival, partitive.


ii] Be angry, but sin not, v26-27. How do we deal with the idea that Paul seems to encourage anger? Jesus clearly states that if we are angry with a brother we place ourselves under the judgment of God, Matt.5:22. We can get around Jesus' words by defining our "anger" as "righteous indignation", but the truth is that anger is anger, and it is but another sign of our sinful condition, and thus of our need for divine mercy. This, of course, is the point that Jesus was making - all have sinned and stand under the judgment of God. The simple fact is that we all get angry from time to time. Given the reality of our sinful condition, Paul encourages us to not let our anger become irrational and out of control such that it turns into bitterness and hate. "Don't get so angry that you sin", CEV.

orgizesqe (orgizomai) pres. pas. imp. "in your anger" - be angry. It is often argued that this phrase is a conditional imperative, "if you are angry do not sin." Such a translation would solve the problem associated with Paul seemingly encouraging anger. The trouble is that both verbs are imperatives, rather than an imperative followed by an indicative, Wallace, Syntax 491. It is far better to take both as simple imperatives, "be angry but do not sin", Moffatt.

mh aJmartanete (aJmartanw) pres. imp. "do not sin" - [and] do not sin. The negated imperative forms a prohibition.

oJ hlioV mh epiduetw "do not let the sun go down" - do not let the sun set. In the Deuteronomic Law, the setting of the sun signals the ending of action toward another, eg. the return of a poor man's coat held as collateral for a loan, or the payment of wages due to a poor man. So, the setting of the sun is a good time to end ones outrage for some failure, or personal hurt caused by a fellow-believer.

epi + dat. "while" - upon. The preposition here is temporal, as NIV.

parorgismw/ (oV) dat. "angry" - the anger [of you]. The word for "anger" here usually refers to some provocation to anger, a source of anger. This irritation promotes the inflaming of a hurtful response made up of cutting words, or actions.


Anger can lead to bitter resentment which, over time, can multiply the need for payback.

mhde "and [do] not [give]" - neither. The use of this negation serves to continue the list of "don'ts". "And do not ...."

topon (oV) "a foothold" - [give] a place, foothold. Here an opportunity, chance, foothold, possibility. "Don't let anger fester away such that it allows hate to grow."

tw/ diabolw/ (oV) dat. "the devil" - to / for the enemy, adversary, slanderer. Dative of indirect object. The word is only used here and in the Pastorals. Paul normally uses the word "Satan."


iii] Don't steal, but rather give to the needy, v28. Replace stealing with hard work. In the first century, pilfering was part of everyday life, but such a way of life is not to be practiced by a Christian. So, give up living by your wits and advancing yourself at the expense of others, rather, apply yourself to productive hard work whereby you earn a good living and have resources spare to use for an eternal purpose.

oJ kleptwn (lkeptw) "he who has been stealing [must steal no longer]" - [let] the one stealing [steal no more]. The participle is taken in the NIV to precede the action of the main verb "steal" ie., he who used to steal must steal no more. Yet "the one stealing" is best taken as equivalent to a substantive, "the thief." Therefore "let the pilferer steal no more."

kopiatw (kopiaw) pres. imp. "[he] must work" - [but/and rather] let him apply effort, labor. Paul often uses the word to describe his striving in ministry. The sense is "let them labour to the point of weariness."

ergazomenoV (ergazomai) pres. part. "doing" - working. Wallace classifies this participle as adverbial, expressing the means (pos. manner) of the toil; "let him labor by working hard with his hands." "Put his hands to a useful task", Moffatt.

to agaqon adj. "something useful" - the good. The adjective serves as a substantive, direct object of the participle "working"; "that which is good, useful."

taiV cersin (ceir roV) dat. "with [his own] hands" - The dative is instrumental, expressing means. Paul is not promoting manual labor, rather he is promoting honourable work instead of pilfering. The variant "one's own [hands]" may possibly be making the point that one's own hand is to be put to life's tasks rather than constantly using servants. "Doing an honorable day's work with his own hands", Barclay.

iJna + subj. "that" - that [he may have]. Introducing a final clause expressing purpose, "in order that ..."

metadidonai (metadidwmi) pres. inf. "to share" - to share with, distribute. The infinitive may express purpose, "in order that he might have and to share / so that he can share ..."; "His aim must be to have enough to share ...", Barclay. Hoehner takes the infinitive as complementary, completing the sense of the subjunctive verb ech/, "may have"; "in order that he might share ..." Believers are to work in order that they might possess, and as a consequence, are then able to give to the needs of the brotherhood.

tw/ .. econti (ecw) dat. pres. part. "with those [in need]" - the ones having [need]. The participle serves as a substantive, dative of indirect object / interest.


iv] Don't use vulgar language, but rather let your speech be edifying, v29-30. Replace corrupt speech with edifying speech. Unwholesome talk probably means foul language, but it also covers destructive, nasty, back biting, and even frivolous speech. Aim at speech that is helpful for building others up according to their needs. One of the functions of the Holy Spirit is to unite the fellowship of believers in love, so when we affront each other with destructive words, we "grieve" the Holy Spirit.

mh ekporeuesqw (ekporeuomai) pres. imp. "do not let ....... come out" - [every rotten word from the mouth of you] should not proceed, go out, come out. The NIV has treated the negation with the imperative as a prohibition. "No spoken word should be harmful."

saproV adj. "unwholesome [talk]" - rotten, corrupt. Attributive adjective limiting "word / talk", subject of the negated verb "should not proceed." The word literally means decayed, but here it takes on the meaning "harmful". "Do not let vulgar / slanderous / contemptuous talk ..."

ek + gen. "out of" - from. Expressing source / origin, "from", or separation, "away from."

but "but" - Strong adversative standing in a counterpoint construction; "let no ......., but ....."

ei + ind. "-" - if, as is the case, [any good word is uttered, then let it be toward building up = edification]. Introducing a 1st. class conditional clause where the proposed condition is assumed to be true.

proV + acc. "for" - toward . Probably serving to express object / purpose, "so as to edify"; "let your words be for the improvement of others", NJB.

thV creiaV "according to their needs" - of the need. Often treated as an objective genitive, sometimes as adverbial, reference / respect, so Ellicott, but it is possibly just adjectival, attributive, limiting "edify", "the needed upbuilding", Barth, the building up of believers when there is a need for it, or an opportunity opens for doing so, so Best, cf., NRSV, REB and NJB. We must use our speech in a constructive way, to build up rather than pull down. "For the building up of what is needed or lacking", BAGD.

iJna + subj. "that [it may benefit]" - that [it may give grace]. Introducing a final clause expressing purpose, although a consecutive clause expressing result is possible; "in order that" / "with the result that." "Presenting the rationale of the implied imperative in the alla, "but", clause", Larkin, as NIV.

toiV akouousin (akouw) pres. part. "those who listen" - to the ones hearing. The participle serves as a substantive, dative of indirect object.


mh lupeite (lupew) imp. "do not grieve [the Holy Spirit]" - [and] do not cause sorrow to, sadness, distress. "The Spirit who makes men attest to the truth is put to shame when the saints lie to one another and utter foul talk", Barth. We should also note that the term "grieve the Holy Spirit" is a very personal one. The choice of the word "grieve" supports the view that the Spirit is a person and not just the impersonal power of God.

tou qeou (oV) gen. "of God" - [the holy spirit] of god. The genitive here prompts numerous ways to view how the Spirit and God relate. Taking qeoV as the Father, the genitive may be adjectival, relational, "God's Holy Spirit", or ablative, expressing source / origin, "from God." Relational seems best.

en/ + dat. "with" - by [whom]. The sense may be local, "in whom", or it may express association, as NIV, or be instrumental / agent, "by whom", ESV. Instrumental / agent seems best; "by whom God's sign of ownership has been set upon you", Barclay.

esfragisqhte (sfragizw) pas. "you were sealed" - The term "sealed" may seem a little unusual, but it is simply describing the Spirit as a pledge, or evidence, of the inheritance which will one day be ours.

eiV "for [the day of redemption]" - to, into. The NIV, as with most translations, has opted for a final (purpose) sense, but a temporal sense is possible, "until."

apolutrwsewV (iV ewV) gen. "of redemption" - [the day] of redemption. The genitive is most likely adjectival, attributive / idiomatic, temporal, "the day when God's redeems his people" limiting the "day". This phrase, "the day of redemption", refers to the day of the glorification of the saints of God, Rom.8:19, 2Thes.1:10.


v] Don't be malicious, but rather be forgiving, v31-32. Paul now gives a list of things to get rid of: "bitterness" - annoying pinpricking; "rage and anger" - outbursts of uncontrolled anger; "brawling" - public quarreling; "slander" - back biting, whispering; "every form of malice" - maliciousness and ill-will. Instead of these evils, we should seek to be: "kind" - mutual kindness; "compassionate"; "forgiving". These qualities are exhibited by God and they express the Christ-like nature a believer has put on in him, and therefore we should seek to exhibit these positive characteristics in our own lives.

arqhtw (airw) aor. pas. imp. "get rid of" - remove, take away [from you]. The passive is stylistic; "this must be removed", O'Brien. The preposition apo, "from", expresses separation, "away from".

pikria (a) "bitterness" - [all] sour, crabby, uncharitable, intensely resentful, hateful [and anger and wrath and clamor and slander]. "Resentment", Phillips; "bitter", CEV.

sun + dat. "along with [every form of malice]" - with [all evil]. Expressing association; "along with all maliciousness", Barclay.


de "-" - but/and. This variant may be original; transitional, indicating a step in the argument to a contrast.

ginesqe (gimomai) pres. imp. "be" - let be [kind to one another, tenderhearted]. "Be kind toward (eiV, "to", expresses direction / goal) toward one another, tender hearted, mutually forgiving", Berkeley.

carizomenoi (carizomai) pres. part. "forgiving" - forgiving, showing favor toward. Is the participle adverbial, modal, expressing the manner in which the action of the verbs "be kind and compassionate" is fulfilled, or means, so Hoehner, or substantival, nominative predicate of the verb "be", as Berkeley above? Here taking the particular sense of "forgiving", as NIV. For believers, forgiveness fulfills neighborly love.

eJautoiV dat. reflex. pro. "each other" - one another. Dative of direct object / complement.

kaqwV kai "just as" - just as also. Possibly carrying a comparative sense; we are to forgive as Christ forgives us. Yet, it could also carry a causal force; we are to forgive because Christ forgave us, so Best. "Because the Lord has forgiven you, so you should forgive one another", Col.3:13.

en + dat. "in" - in [christ]. Either an instrumental sense, "through Christ", or a local sense, "in your union with Christ", O'Brien.

uJmin dat. pro. "[forgave] you" - [god forgave] to you. Dative of direct object after the verb "to forgive."


vi] Be loving, v1-2. Paul sums up his exhortation by encouraging his readers to "live a life of love." The love he speaks of is the type of love exhibited by Christ - a self giving love. To make his point, Paul uses an Old Testament image - a "fragrant offering and sacrifice to God". The reference is to the sacrificial offerings given to God at the temple. Paul applies this image to the life of the believer.

oun "therefore" - Drawing a logical conclusion / inferential, harking back to 4:1, 17, and "making another application from the first three chapters", Hoehner.

mimhtai (hV ou) "be imitators / follow [God's] example" - be imitators. This is the only reference in either the Old or New Testament where a child of God is encouraged to "imitate" God. The sense is carried in other exhortations: walk worthily of our calling, walk by the Spirit, be merciful as our Father is merciful, Lk.6:35-36. Paul often encourages his readers to imitate him as he imitates Christ, 1Cor.4:16 ....... In v2 we are encouraged to imitate Christ, to love as he loves. This imitation is of Christ's self-sacrifice, not of his style of living, and explains what imitating God entails, cf., kai, v2..

tou qeou (oV) gen. "of God" - Usually treated as an objective genitive, so Hoehner, Larkin; of imitating God.

wJV "as" - as [beloved children]. Possibly introducing a comparison, "you must try to be like God", Barclay, but better here introducing a characteristic quality denoting the manner in which a person imitates God; "follow God's example in the manner of dearly beloved children."


kai "and" - and. Here the conjunction takes on an epexegetic task, introducing an explanation of what the imitation of God entails. "That is, ..."

peripateite (peripatew) pres. imp. "live a life / walk" - walk. A believer's life should be characterized by compassion, as imaged in God's compassion toward us in Christ.

en + dat. "of / in the way of [love]" - in [love]. Local, expressing sphere; "the sphere in which one lives, or ought to live, so as to be characterized by that sphere", BDAG; "live in a loving way", Berkeley.

kaqwV "just as" - See 4:32: we are to love just as Christ has loved us, or because Christ loved us. The model and / or the ground of our love is Christ's sacrificial love for us.

kai "-" - and. Here adjunctive, "also"; "just as Christ also loved us."

paredwken (paradidwmi) aor. "gave [himself] up" - [christ loved us and] gave himself. The verb "gave over", "deliver over", with the reflective pronoun "himself", indicates that Jesus gave himself up to the cross - he went to the cross as a willing victim.

uJper + gen. "for [us]" - on behalf of [us]. Here expressing representation / substitution, "in place of / instead of", ie., with the same meaning as anti, but possibly advantage, "for us."

prosforan (a) "offering" - an offering [and sacrifice]. With "sacrifice", the accusative complement of the direct object "himself" standing in a double accusative construction. The term serves to include all forms of sacrifice, grain and animals, cf., Ps.40:6. Christ's offering and sacrifice is "a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice which is pleasing to God", Phil.4:18.

tw/ qew/ (oV) dat. "to God" - to god. O'Brien and others treat this dative as if a dative of interest, advantage, the advantage being God's good pleasure, thus we are to walk in the way of love, a way which is "well-pleasing to God", a sweet aroma / a sacrifice for him. The NT rests on the idea of a God who acts for our advantage, a gracious God, before whom we can offer nothing. All we can do is be accepting of his grace in Christ. So, a dative of direct object is a better classification, rather than a dative of interest.

eiV + acc. "-" - to, into [an odor, aroma]. Possibly expressing purpose, "for", "an offering and sacrifice made to God for the purpose of a fragrant odor", but more likely expressing result, as Cassirer below.

euwdiaV (a) gen. "-" - of fragrance. The genitive is adjectival, attributive, limiting "aroma"; "giving forth a savior which was sweetness itself", Cassirer.


Ephesians Introduction



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