As we continue to study through this book and walk through the meaning of Ephesians 4 we will see, in increasing detail, what it means to be a child of God and how we, as His adopted children, are to live.
Do you have a firm understanding of all that it means to be a child of God? Did God save us just so we can one day enjoy eternity with Him? Or does His plan for the body of believers involve something more? Let’s dive into Ephesians chapter 4 and find out!
What is the Main Message of Ephesians
There are many themes in the book of Ephesians that we can pull out and apply to our own lives today. In the first three chapters, Paul explains to the Ephesians church how they, as Gentiles, have been invited to receive the blessings of the Jews. Mainly, that salvation has been offered to all through Christ.
They had been called to become fellow members of the body of Christ.
Meaning of Ephesians 4
Now, beginning in chapter four, Paul begins to tell them, in very practical ways, how they are to respond to all that God had done for them and how they were to live.
There is so much from this chapter that we can apply to our lives today. Let’s dig in and take a look at the meaning of Ephesians 4 verse by verse.
Walk Worthy of Your Calling
Ephesians 4:1 Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called.
This chapter begins with a “therefore”. Anytime we see this word we know that whatever is said next is somehow connected to the previous verses.
Paul had spent the previous three chapters explaining their calling. They were called to be members of the body of Christ.
As the body of Christ, we have been given the authority to make known the manifold wisdom of God not only in the world but also to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places.
Now, beginning in chapter four, Paul, as a prisoner, is urging the believers to walk worthy of their calling.
Word Study: Worthy – properly, that which balances the scales.
Paul had walked worthy of his calling, to the point of imprisonment. He is, therefore, urging the Ephesians, by the power of the Spirit, to walk worthy of theirs.
The remainder of his letter to the Ephesians is his instructions on how they are to walk according to all that Christ has done for them.
Ephesians 4:2-3 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 3 being diligent to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
These verses begin to explain how they are to walk worthy of their calling.
- Diligent – to use speed, to make effort, be prompt or earnest
- Preserve – to guard (from loss or injury, properly, by keeping the eye upon
- Unity – oneness
It takes effort and intention to guard the oneness that we have been given in Christ. It requires that each member of the body walk in humility, gentleness, patience, and love towards one another. We must continue to walk in the Spirit and lean on His strength.
Ephesians 4:4-6 There is one body and one Spirit, just as you also were called in one hope of your calling; 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all.
- One body – the church is one body
- One Spirit – all believers have been sealed with one Spirit (Eph 1:13-14); we all have our access to God through the Spirit (Eph 2:18-22)
- One hope – we all have the same hope of eternal life through faith in Christ
- One Lord – “Lord” means “master”. We all have one Lord and Master
- One faith – our faith is in the work of God through Christ
- One baptism – we are all baptized into one body (1 Corinthians 12:13)
- One God – God is one (Mark 12:29)
Ephesians 4:7 But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift.
This verse begins with a contrast. We saw in the previous verses that we have been called to walk in unity as the body of Christ, however, within that oneness there is variety.
Word Study: grace (v. 7 and 8) – a free gift with a focus on the “freeness” of the gift.
God has given each believer a free gift of grace. The next few verses tell us why…
Ephesians 4:8-13 8 Therefore it says, “When He ascended on high, He led captive the captives, And He gave gifts to people.” 9 (Now this expression, “He ascended,” what does it mean except that He also had descended into the lower parts of the earth? 10 He who descended is Himself also He who ascended far above all the heavens, so that He might fill all things.)
In verses 8-9 Paul is quoting from Psalm 68:18. This Psalm is a Psalm of David about God’s victory. God’s captives were a reference to His people, Israel. God had rescued his people from captivity and shared the plunder, the land of Jerusalem, with them.
In a similar way, when Christ claimed victory over sin, He gave gifts to his new followers, who are now his ‘captives’.
There are some different thoughts on what it means that he descended into the lower parts of the earth. Some believe it’s a reference to Him coming down from heaven to be born as a man. Others believe it’s a reference to Him descending into the lower parts of the earth after the cross.
Here are some more scriptures you can look up if you’d like to study this further: Acts 2:22-36; 1 Peter 3:18-22; Matthew 16:18; Luke 16:23; Revelation 1:18; Revelation 20:13-14
Ephesians 4:11-13 11 And He gave some as apostles, some as prophets, some as evangelists, some as pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the building up of the body of Christ; 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ.
We also learn that Christ established and handed out spiritual gifts meant for the common good of the body of Christ. The gifts mentioned in this section are specifically for spiritual leadership within the church.
However, we have all been given spiritual gifts for the common good of the body as a whole (1 Corinthians 12). They are not meant to be kept to ourselves. We are to exercise them for the purpose of building up the body of Christ.
This is such a great reminder that we cannot walk in a manner worthy of our calling apart from the body of Christ. So much of our spiritual growth and maturity happens within the functioning of the body of Christ.
We cannot walk the Christian life apart from the body of believers.
and let’s consider how to encourage one another in love and good deeds, 25 not abandoning our own meeting together, as is the habit of some people, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near. – Hebrews 10:24-25
Called to Grow In Christ
Ephesians 4:14-16 As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of people, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; 15 but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, that is, Christ, 16 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.
Paul is now referring back to his statement in Ephesians 4:1-3. Considering all that we learned in chapters 1-3, now seeing that we have been given the spiritual gifts required for growth, we can understand the command to walk worthy of our calling. The result of all that Christ has done for us should be walking according to the new life we have been given in Him.
Be Careful How You Walk
Ephesians 4:17-2017 So I say this, and affirm in the Lord, that you are to no longer walk just as the Gentiles also walk, in the futility of their minds, 18 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; 19 and they, having become callous, have given themselves up to indecent behavior for the practice of every kind of impurity with greediness. 20 But you did not learn Christ in this way, 21 if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught in Him, just as truth is in Jesus
I love the progression in this chapter and how each section builds upon the previous. We first learned that we have been given all the resources we need for growth. Then, we learned the importance of each part of the body fulfilling its role and function.
This section begins by connecting to the previous verses about the proper function of the body. It’s also directly connected to Paul’s command in verse 1.
The way we walk, the choices we make, and the things we set our minds on all affect how we function within the body of Christ.
This verse it talking specifically about unbelievers. However, I believe, as believers, we must also notice and be aware of this warning. There is danger in giving ourselves over to sensuality and impurity. When we make these choices it causes hardening in our hearts.
This hardening begins a chain reaction that leads to a darkened understanding, which leads to futility and ignorance in our thinking.
Thankfully, as believers, we have been enlightened and empowered by God through the gift of indwelling Spirit. He works within our heart, mind, and conscience to reveal and convict us of these attitudes and actions.
Those who are truly in Christ cannot continue to habitually walk in these ways. 1 John 3:9
Put Off the Old Man, Put On the New Man
Ephesians 4:22-24 that, in reference to your former way of life, you are to rid yourselves of the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, 23 and that you are to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, 24 and to put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.
Ephesians 4:22-32 Paul continues to instruct the Ephesians on how to walk worthy of their calling. He commands what they need to put off then tells them what needs to be put on in replacement. Finally, he tells them why it’s important for the proper function of the body.
Verse 25 – Therefore, ridding yourselves of falsehood, speak truth each one of you with his neighbor, because we are parts of one another.
- Put off – falsehood
- Put on – speak truth
- Why? – we are parts of one another
Verse 26-27 – Be angry, and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, 27 and do not give the devil an opportunity.
- Put off – sin in anger
- Put on – do not let sun go down in anger
- Why? – don’t give devil an opprotunity
Verse 28 – The one who steals must no longer steal; but rather he must labor, producing with his own hands what is good, so that he will have something to share with the one who has need.
- Put off – stealing
- Put on – labor
- Why? – so he will have something to share
Verse 29 – 29 Let no unwholesome word come out of your mouth, but if there is any good word for edification according to the need of the moment, say that, so that it will give grace to those who hear.
- Put off – unwholesome words
- Put on – words for edification
- Why? – good words give grace
Verse 30-32 – 30 Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 All bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and slander must be removed from you, along with all malice. 32 Be kind to one another, compassionate, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.
- Put off – bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, slander
- Put on – kindness, compassion, forgiveness
- Why? – because this is what God has done for us in Christ
I love how the commentary in my Bible explains this passage:
“The apostle often described who believers already are, while also pointing to what they should strive to become. The practical paradox is that while freedom from sin’s eternal penalty is already ours, freedom from the former way of life comes only through our daily quest for obedience and purity. These are lifestyle commitments that every believer is called to make.” Holman Study Bible
For the sake of our own growth and for the proper function of the body of Christ, we must choose to be led by the Spirit and not our old sinful nature.
But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. – Galatians 5:16
Final Thoughts on the Meaning of Ephesians 4
Whew! There was a lot to unpack in this chapter. I absolutely love the practical advice and commands Paul gave for how believers are to walk worthy of their calling.
These commands given to the church in Ephesus are just as relevant for us today as they were back then. We have been called to be members of the body of Christ. Therefore, we have also been called to walk in a way that is fitting for a child of God.
Related Posts and Resources: