A Commentary on the Epistle to the Ephesians

RPM Volume 17, Number 6, February 1 to February 7, 2015
A Commentary on the Epistle to the Ephesians
By Charles Hodge
New York: Robert Carter and Bros. [1860]
Note: some of the "words" in the original text in unintelligible. We have left the original
"words" just as they are presently found in the text.
AND WIVES, vs.21-33.
SECTION I.--Vs. 3-20.
3. But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not be once named
among you, as becometh saints;
4. neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting, which are not convenient: but
rather giving of thanks.
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
6. Let no man deceive you with vain words: for because of these things cometh
the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience.
7. Be not ye therefore partakers with them.
8. For ye were sometime darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as
children of light;
9. (for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, and righteousness, and truth;)
10. proving what is acceptable unto the Lord.
11. And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather
reprove them.
12. For it is a shame even to speak of those things which are done of them in
13. But all things that are reproved, are made manifest by the light: for
whatsoever doth make manifest is light.
14. Wherefore he saith, Awake, thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and
Christ shall give thee light.
15. See that ye walk circumspectly; not as fools, but as wise,
16. redeeming the time, because the days are evil.
17. Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is.
18. And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit;
19. speaking to yourselves in psalms, and hymns, and spiritual songs, singing
and making melody in your heart to the Lord;
20. giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of
our Lord Jesus Christ.
It becomes saints to avoid not only the sins of uncleanness and covetousness,
but also all impropriety of conduct and frivolity of language, vs. 3-4. Because
uncleanness and covetousness not only exclude from heaven, but, whatever
errorists may say, bring down the wrath of God, vs. 5-6. Christians, therefore,
should not participate in those sins, seeing they have been divinely enlightened
and made the recipients of that light whose fruits are goodness, righteousness
and truth. They are bound to exemplify this in their conduct, avoiding and
reproving the deeds of darkness, vs. 7-10. Those deeds are too shameful to be
named; still they may be corrected by the power of that light which it is the
prerogative of believers to disseminate. Therefore the Scriptures speak of the
light which flows from Christ as reaching even to the dead, vs. 12-14. Christians
therefore should be wise, making the most of every occasion for good, in the
midst of the evils by which they are surrounded, vs. 13-16. They should seek
exhilaration not from wine, but from the Holy Spirit, and give expression to their
gladness in psalms and hymns, praising and thanking God through Jesus Christ,
vs. 17-20.
V. 3. But fornication and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not be once
named among you, as becometh saints.
In the preceding section the apostle had spoken of sins against our neighbour;
here from v. 3 to v. 20 he dwells principally on sins against ourselves. Not only
fornication, but every thing of the same nature, or that leads to it, is to be
avoided--and not only avoided, but not even named among believers. The
inconsistency of all such sins with the character of Christians, as saints, men
selected from the world and consecrated to God, is such as should forbid the
very mention of them in a Christian society. With the sins of uncleanness the
apostle here, as in the preceding chapter, v. 19, connects pleonexia,
covetousness. The word is to be taken in its ordinary sense, as there is nothing
in the context to justify any departure from it. The assumption that sins of
sensuality are alone mentioned in this and the following verse, leads to very
forced interpretations of several of the terms employed.
V. 4. Neither filthiness. The word aischro'tes, is not simply obscenity, but
whatever is morally hateful. The adjective aischros means deformed, revolting,
what excites disgust, physical or moral. It is the opposite of kalos, which means
both beautiful and good; and hence to kalon kai to aischron, means virtue and
vice, The substantive is equally comprehensive, and includes whatever is vile or
disgusting in speech or conduct. Lesser evils are expressed by the words
morologia and eutrapelia, foolish talking and jesting. The former means such talk
as is characteristic of fools, i. e. frivolous and senseless. The latter, according to
its etymology and early usage, means urbanity, politeness. Naturally enough
however the word came to have a bad sense, as the adjective eutrapelos, what
turns easily, as the wind, when applied to language or speech, means not only
adroit, skilful, agreeable, witty, but also flippant, satirical, scurrilous. Hence the
substantive is used for jesting and scurrility. The former sense is best suited to
this passage, because it is connected with foolish talking, and because the
apostle says of both simply that they are not convenient, not becoming or
suitable. This is too mild a form of expression to be used either of aischro'tes
(filthiness) or of eutrapelia in the worse sense of those terms. Paul says, these
things (foolish talking and jesting) do not become Christians; ouk anekonta, what
does not pertain to any one, or, to his office. Foolish talking and jesting are not
the ways in which Christian cheerfulness should express itself, but rather giving
of thanks. Religion is the source of joy and gladness, but its joy is expressed in a
religious way, in thanksgiving and praise.
V. 5. The apostle reverts to what he said in v. 3. and enforces the exhortation
there given. "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." The form of expression is peculiar, i'ste1 gino'skontes, ye know
knowing. Many refer this to the familiar Hebrew idiom, in which the infinitive and
finite tense of a verb are thus joined, which in Greek and English is imitated by
uniting the participle and verb; as "dying thou shalt die," "multiplying I will
multiply," "blessing I will bless," &c. But in all these cases the infinitive and finite
tense are different forms of the same verb. Here we have different words. The
preferable interpretation is to refer i'ste to what precedes in v. 3, and gino'skontes
to what follows: This ye know, viz., that such vices should not be named among
you, knowing that no one who indulges in them, &c.'
Covetous man who is an idolater. The words o's estin eidolola'tres are by many
referred to all the preceding nouns, so that the fornicator, the unclean person,
and the covetous man, are all alike declared to be idolaters. This is possible so
far as the grammatical construction is concerned; but it is not natural, and not
consistent with the parallel passage in Col. 3, 5, where the apostle singles out
covetousness from a list of sins, and says, It is idolatry.' This too has its
foundation both in nature and in Scripture. The analogy between this supreme
love of riches, this service of Mammon and idolatry, is more obvious and more
distinctly recognized in Scripture than between idolatry and any other of the sins
mentioned. It is well that this should be understood, that men should know, that
the most common of all sins, is the most heinous in the sight of God. For idolatry,
which consists in putting the creature in the place of God, is every where in his
word denounced as the greatest of all sins in his sight. The fact that it is
compatible with outward decorum and with the respect of men, does not alter its
nature. It is the permanent and controlling principle of an irreligious heart and life,
turning the soul away from God. There is no cure for this destructive love of
money, but using it for other than selfish purposes. Riches, therefore, must ruin
their possessor, unless he employs them for the good of others and for the glory
of God.
It is of the covetous man no less than of the fornicator, the apostle says, he has
no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ. That is, in that kingdom which Christ
came to establish--which consists of all the redeemed, washed in his blood,
sanctified by his Spirit, and made perfectly blessed in the full enjoyment of God
to all eternity. This kingdom is sometimes called the kingdom of Christ, and
sometimes the kingdom of God; for where Christ reigns, God reigns. Here it is
designated the basilei'a tou Christou kai` Theou, that is, of him who is at once
Christos and Theos; Christ and God. This is certainly the most natural
interpretation. As every one admits that to Theo kai patri means "to him who is at
once God and Father." There is no reason why the same rule should not be
applied in this case. Compare Titus 2, 13. This view of the passage, which
makes it a direct assertion of the divinity of our Lord, is strenuously insisted upon
by some of the most eminent of modern interpreters, as Harless and Rueckert,
The common text has este, but the evidence in favour of i'ste is so strong that it
is adopted by all recent editors.
the one orthodox and the other rationalistic. Others, however, say that Christ
here designates the Redeemer, and God, the divine Being; and that the kingdom
is called not only the kingdom of Christ, but also the kingdom of God. This is the
view more commonly adopted, though in violation of a general rule of grammar,
the article being omitted before Theou. If, in Titus 2, 13, epipha'neian tes do'xes
tou mega'lou Theou kai` soteros emon Iesou Christou, means that Jesus Christ
is at once the great God and our Saviour, and Winer admits (Gram. p. 148) that it
is for doctrinal reasons only he dissents from that interpretation; then there can
be no reasonable doubt in the present case, where the form of expression is so
similar, the writer being the same, that the idea is the same. If it were a rare or
uncertain thing for Paul to recognize Christ as God, it would be wrong to press
rules of grammar to make him teach that doctrine. But since every page almost
of his epistles teems with evidence that Christ was his God, it is wrong to depart
from those rules in order to prevent his teaching it.
V. 6. It is not only among the heathen, but among the mass of men in all ages
and nations, a common thing to extenuate the particular sins to which the apostle
here refers. It is urged that they have their origin in the very constitution of our
nature; that they are not malignant; that they may co-exist with amiable tempers;
and that they are not hurtful to others, that no one is the worse for them if no one
knows them, &c. Paul, therefore, cautions his readers in every age of the church,
not to be deceived by such vain words; assuring them that for these things (for
fornication and covetousness), the wrath of God cometh on the children of
disobedience. With vain words, kenois logois. Kenos means empty. Kenoi logoi,
therefore, are empty words; words which contain no truth, and are therefore both
false and fallacious, as those will find who trust to them. The wrath of God. This
expression is a fearful one, because the wrath of man is the disposition to inflict
evil, limited by man's feebleness; whereas the wrath of God is the determination
to punish in a being without limit either as to his presence or power. This wrath,
the apostle says, cometh on the children of disobedience. The present is either
for the certain future, will assuredly come;' or it has its proper force. The wrath of
God against these sins is now manifested in his dealings with those who commit
them. He withdraws from them his Spirit, and finally gives them up to a reprobate
mind. On the phrase "children of disobedience," see ch. 2, 2.
V. 7. Such being the determination of God to punish the unclean and the
covetous, the apostle says, "Be ye not therefore partakers with them." That is, be
not their associates in these sins, which of necessity would expose you to the
penalty threatened against them.
V. 8. This is enforced by a reference to their conversion from a previous state of
sin and misery to one of holiness and blessedness. For ye were sometime
darkness. As light stands for knowledge, and as knowledge, in the scriptural
sense of the word, produces holiness, and holiness happiness; so darkness
stands for ignorance, such ignorance as inevitably produces sin, and sin misery.
Therefore, the expression, "ye were darkness," means, ye were ignorant,
polluted, and wretched. But now ye are light in the Lord, i. e. in virtue of union
with the Lord, ye are enlightened, sanctified, and blessed. Walk as children of the
light, i. e. as the children of holiness and truth. " Children of light," means
enlightened; as children of famine,' means the famished;' see ch. 2, 2. The
exhortation is that they should walk in a way consistent with their character as
men illuminated and sanctified by their union with the Lord Jesus.
V. 9. For the fruit of light,2 i. e. the fruit or effect of divine illumination is in all, i. e.
consists in all the forms of goodness, righteousness, and truth. Goodness,
agathosu'ne, is that which makes a man agathos, good; and righteousness,
dikaiosu'ne, is that which makes a man dikaios, righteous. These Greek words
differ very much as the corresponding English terms do. Goodness is
benevolence and beneficence; righteousness is adherence to the rule of right.
Yet both are used for moral excellence in general. The evil and the good,
included all classes of the vicious and the virtuous. Good works are works of any
kind which are morally excellent. When however the words are contrasted as in
Rom. 5, 7, or distinguished as in Rom. 7, 12, good means benevolent or
beneficent; and righteous, just or upright. Goodness is that quality which adapts
a thing to the end for which it was designed, and renders it serviceable. Hence
we speak of a good tree, of good soil, as well as of a good man. Righteousness
can properly be predicated only of persons or of what is susceptible of moral
character; as it means conformity to law; or if predicated of the law itself, it
means conformity to the nature of God, the ultimate standard of rectitude. Truth,
here means religious or moral truth, or religion itself. The fruits of light, therefore,
are all the forms of piety and virtue.
V. 10. Verse 9 is a parenthesis, as the 10th verse is grammatically connected
with the 8th. "Walk as children of the light, proving, &c.," peripateite-?dokima'zontes. Dokimazein is to try, to put to the test, to examine; then to judge
or estimate; and then to approve. Thus it is said, "The fire shall try every man's
work;" God is said "To try the heart;" we are said "To be renewed so as to prove
the will of God," Rom. 12, 2, that is, to examine and determine what the will of
God is. And so in this passage believers are required to walk as children of light,
examining and determining what is acceptable to the Lord. They are to regulate
their conduct by a regard to what is well pleasing to Him. That is the ultimate
standard of judging whether any thing is right or wrong, worthy or unworthy of
those who have been enlightened from above.
The word LORD is in the New Testament so predominantly used to designate the
Lord Jesus Christ, that it is always to be referred to him unless the context
forbids it. Here the context so far from forbidding, requires such reference. For in
the former part of the sentence Lord evidently designates Christ. "Ye are light in
The common text has here pneumatos instead of photos. The latter reading is
now universally adopted as the correct one on the authority not only of the MSS.
but of the context.
the Lord, therefore, walk as children of the light, proving what is acceptable to the
Lord." This, therefore, is one of the numerous passages in the New Testament, in
which Christ is recognized as the Lord of the conscience, whose will is to us the
ultimate standard of right and wrong, and to whom we are responsible for all our
inward and outward acts. It is thus that the sacred writers show that Christ was
their God, in whose presence they constantly lived, whose favour they constantly
sought, and on whom all their religious affections terminated. He was not merely
the God of their theology, but of their religion.
V. 11. The apostle having in the previous verse insisted on the duty of Christians
of so walking as to show by their works that they were the subjects of divine
illumination, adds here a statement of their duty in reference to the sins of those
still in darkness. Those sins he calls "the unfruitful works of darkness." By
unfruitful is meant not merely barren or worthless, but positively evil. For in a
moral subject the negation of good is evil. Works of darkness are those works
which spring from darkness, i. e. from ignorance of God; as "works of light" are
those works which light or divine knowledge produces.
The duty of Christians in reference to the works of darkness is twofold; first, to
have no communion with them; and secondly, to reprove them. The former is
expressed by the words me` sunkoinoneite, have not fellowship with them. Those
who have things in common; who are congenial; who have the same views,
feelings, and interests; and who therefore delight in each other's society, are said
to be in fellowship. In this sense believers have fellowship with God and with
each other. So we are said to have fellowship in any thing which we delight in
and partake of. To have fellowship with the works of darkness, therefore, is to
delight in them and to participate in them. All such association is forbidden as
inconsistent with the character of the children of light. Our second duty is to
reprove them. Ele'ncheinis not simply to reprove in the sense of admonishing or
rebuking. It means to convince by evidence. It expresses the effect of illumination
by which the true nature of any thing is revealed. When the Spirit is said to
reprove men of sin, it means that he sheds such light upon their sins as to reveal
their true character, and to produce the consequent consciousness of guilt and
pollution. In Paul says the effect of intelligible preaching of the Gospel is
conviction--which is explained by saying "the secrets of the heart are revealed."
The duty, therefore, here enjoined is to shed light on these works of darkness; to
exhibit them in their true nature as vile and destructive. By this method they are
corrected; as is more fully taught in the following verses. The ethics as well as
the theology of the Bible are founded on the principle, that knowledge and
holiness, ignorance and sin, are inseparable. If you impart knowledge you secure
holiness; and if you render ignorant you deprave. This of course is not true of
secular knowledge--i. e. of the knowledge of other than religious subjects; nor is
it true of mere speculative knowledge of religious truth. It is true only of that
knowledge which the Scriptures call spiritual discernment. Of that knowledge,
however, intellectual cognition is an essential element. And so far as human
agency in the production of the conviction of sin is concerned, it is limited to
holding forth the word of life; or letting the light of divine truth shine into the
darkened minds of men, and upon their evil deeds.
V. 12. These works of darkness should be thus reproved, "for it is a shame even
to speak of those things which are done of them in secret." There are two
reasons why sins are called works of darkness. The first and principal one is, as
before remarked, because they spring from darkness or ignorance of God; and
the second is, because they are committed in darkness. They shun the light. The
exceeding turpitude of these sins the apostle gives as the reason why they
should be reproved.
V. 13. Vile however as those sins are, they are capable of being corrected. They
are not beyond cure. Reprove them. Let in the light of divine truth upon them,
and they will be corrected or healed. For the truth is divinely efficacious. It is the
organon of God; that through which he exerts his power in the sanctification and
salvation of men. Such seems to be the general meaning of this difficult verse.
It is connected with the preceding verse, and is designed to enforce the
command, ele'nchete, reprove. Reprove the things done in secret by the wicked-for though they are too bad to be even named, yet being reproved, they are
made manifest by the light, and thereby corrected, for every thing made manifest,
i. e. revealed in its true nature by divine light, becomes light; that is, is reformed.'
This interpretation gives a simple and consistent sense, assumes no unusual
signification of the terms employed, nor any forced construction, and is suited to
the context. It supposes--1. That ta` pa'nta elencho'mena refers to ta` kruphe
gino'mena of v. 12. The things done in secret are the all things, which being
reproved, are manifested. 2. The words upo` tou photos are not to be connected
with elencho'mena, as though the sense were, being reproved by the light;' but
with phaneroutai, so that the sense is, are made manifest by the light.' This
construction is required by the following clause. 3. phanerou'menon, is passive,
and not middle with an active sense. The meaning is, Whatever is manifested;'
not whatever makes manifest.' As the word phaneroutai just before is passive, it
is unnatural to make phanerou'menon active. Besides, the apostle is not
speaking of the nature of spiritual light, but of its effects. It illuminates or turns
into light all it touches, or wherever it penetrates.
If phanerou'menon be taken as active, as is done by Calvin and many others,
and by our translators, the sense would be, Reprove these things; it is your office
to do so, for you are light, and light is that which makes manifest.' This however
is not what Paul says. He does not say Reprove evil, for you are light,' but,
Reprove evil, for evil when reproved by light is manifest, and when manifest, it is
light,' that is, it is changed into light, or corrected. In v. 8, he had said, "Ye are
light;" so here he says, what is illuminated by the truth becomes light. The sense
is the same in both cases. The penetration of spiritual light, or divine truth, carries
with it such power, that it illuminates and sanctifies all in whom it dwells. Hence
the apostle elsewhere prays that the word of God may dwell in the hearts of
believers in all wisdom and spiritual understanding. According to the apostle, the
relation between truth and holiness is analogous to that between light and vision.
Light cannot create the eye, or give to a blind eye the power of vision. But it is
essential to its exercise. Wherever it penetrates, it dissipates darkness and
brings every thing into view--and causes it to produce its appropriate effect. So
truth cannot regenerate, or impart the principle of spiritual life. But it is essential
to all holy exercises. And wherever the truth penetrates, it dissipates the clouds
of error, and brings every thing to view, so that when spiritually discerned it
produces its proper effect on the soul. Truth being thus essential, it is the duty of
Christians to bring it to bear upon all those who are ignorant and on all the works
of darkness.
V. 14. As light is thus efficacious, and as it is accessible, or may be obtained,
therefore the Scriptures call even upon the sleeping and the dead to arise and
meet its life-giving beams. Dio` le'gei, scil. he graphe. As this formula of quotation
is never used in the New Testament except when citations are made from the
Old Testament, it cannot properly be assumed that the apostle here quotes some
Christian hymn with which the believers in Ephesus were familiar; or some
apocryphal book; or some inspired book no longer extant. We must understand
him either as referring to many exhortations of the Old Testament Scriptures, the
substance of which he condenses in the few words here used; or as giving the
spirit of some one passage, though not its words. Both these methods of
explanation may be sustained by appeal to similar passages. The apostles in
quoting the Old Testament sometimes combined several passages in the same
quotation--and sometimes give as the teaching of the prophets what is nowhere
taught or asserted in express terms, but is abundantly or clearly implied in what
they say. At other times again, the reference is obviously to some one passage,
and yet neither the Hebrew nor Septuagint is accurately followed, but the general
idea is reproduced. We without the authority and divine guidance of the apostles
deal in the same way with the word of God, of which almost every sermon would
furnish examples. It is generally assumed that Paul here refers to Is. 60, 1,
"Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee."
Or, as De Wette renders it; "Auf, werde licht, denn es kommt dein Licht, und die
Herrlichkeit Jehovah's gehet iiber dir auf." Up, become light; for thy light comes,
and the glory of Jehovah riseth over thee. The analogy between this passage
and the quotation of the apostle is plain. There are in both--1. The call to those
who are asleep or dead to rise. 2. To receive the light. 3. The promise that
Jehovah, Lord, or Christ, equivalent terms in the mind of the apostle, would give
them light. There can, therefore, be little doubt that it was the language of Isaiah
Paul intended in substance to quote. Beza thinks that Is. 26, 19, "Awake and
sing, ye that dwell in the dust," &c., is to be included in the reference; and others
join Is. 9, 2, "The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light; they
that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined." It
is true that in these, as well as in other passages, the power of light, i. e. of divine
truth, its advent in the person of Christ, and the call to those who are in darkness
to accept it, are included. But the probability is that Is. 60, 1, was the passage
most distinctly in the apostle's
Those asleep and the dead are in darkness, and therefore those involved in
spiritual darkness are addressed as sleeping. The light which comes from Christ
has power to reach even the dead--as our Lord, in the use of another figure,
says, "The hour is coming, and now is, that the dead shall hear the voice of the
Son of God, and they that hear shall live," John 5, 25. This does not mean that
the dead must be revived before they hear the voice of the Son of God, but his
voice causes them to hear and live. So the passage before us does not mean
that those asleep must arise from the dead and come to Christ for light; but that
the light which Christ sheds around him, has power to awake the sleeping dead.
Thus the passage is a confirmation of what is said in the preceding verse, viz.,
that every thing made manifest by the light, is light.
V. 15. If this verse be considered as connected inferentially by oun with the
preceding, then the association of ideas is: If believers are bound to dispel the
darkness from the hearts and lives of others, how careful should they be not to
be dark themselves, i. e. they should walk as wise men.' This however seems
forced. The exhortation contained in this and the following verse is most naturally
connected with that contained in verses 10 and 11. Believers as children of light
are required to have no fellowship with the works of darkness, but rather to
reprove them; see therefore, i. e. take heed therefore, pos akribos peripateite,
that ye walk circumspectly. Pos, however, does not mean that, though often used
where o'ti or hina might be employed. It here as elsewhere means how, in what
manner. "See in what manner ye render your deportment accurate." Akribos
peripatein is to walk strictly by rule, so as not to deviate by a hair's breadth. Not
as unwise, but as wise. Paul often uses the word sophia for divine truth. The
sophoi are those who possess this truth, which he had before called light, and
the a'sophoi are those who have it not. So that wise and unwise are here
equivalent to the enlightened and those in darkness. His exhortation, therefore, is
that believers should carefully deport themselves not as the heathen and
unrenewed, who have not the divine light of which he had been speaking, but as
those who are enlightened from above and are therefore wise.
V. 16. ?Exagorazo'menoi to`n kairo'n, redeeming the time. This is one
manifestation of wisdom, one method in which their Christian character as the
children of light should be exhibited. The words have been variously explained:-1. Making use of, availing yourselves of the occasion for doing good, not allowing
it to pass unimproved. 2. Buying back the time, redeeming it, as it were, from
Satan or from the world. 3. Making the most of time, i. e. using it to the best
advantage. 4. Adapting yourselves to the occasion, &c. The decision between
these different views depends partly on the sense to be given to
?exagorazo'menoi, and partly on the question whether kairos is to be taken in its
proper sense, opportunity, appropriate time; or in the general sense of chronos,
time. The words agorazein and exagorazein, have in common the idea of
acquiring by purchase. The latter in virtue of the force of the ek properly means
to purchase back, or to make free by purchase. But it is also used in the sense of
the simple verb, as in Daniel 2, 8, whence the expression in the text is probably
derived. There, according to the Septuagint, the king said to the Chaldeans, who
declined to interpret his dream until they knew what it was, oida ego o'ti kairo`n
umeis exagora'zete, "I know you wish to gain time." This sense of the verb suits
the passage before us. Then if kairos means here what it does in almost every
other passage, where it occurs in the New Testament, the most natural
interpretation of the clause is, "availing yourselves of the occasion," i. e.
improving every opportunity for good. If kairos be taken for chronos, which is
barely admissible, the sense would be, " making the most of time," i. e. rescuing
it from waste or abuse. Both of these interpretations are good and suited to the
following clause, because the days are evil. Poneros, evil, may be taken either in
a physical or moral sense. The patriarch said, "Few and evil have the days of the
years of my life been;" Gen. 47, 9. The moral sense of the word, however, is
better suited to the context. Evil days, mean days in which sin abounds. It is
parallel to the expressions, "evil generation," Matt. 12, 39; and "evil world," Gal.
1, 4. Because sin abounds is a good reason why Christians should seize upon
every opportunity to do good; and also why they should make the most of time.
So that this clause suits either of the interpretations of the first part of the verse.
That kairos properly and commonly means opportunity, or suitable time, is a
strong reason for preferring the former of the two interpretations mentioned. The
same exhortation and in the same connection is found in Col. 4, 5. Here the
apostle says, "See that ye walk as wise men, redeeming the time;" there, "Walk
in wisdom, redeeming the time." So that this right use of time, or this seizing on
every opportunity for doing good, is in both places represented as the evidence
and effect of wisdom, i. e. of divine truth, which is the wisdom of God, which he
has revealed, 1 Cor. 2, 6-13.
V. 17. Therefore, i. e. either because the days are evil; or, because ye are bound
to walk as wise men. The latter mode of connection is to be preferred, because
the reference is to the main idea of the preceding verses 15 and 16, and not to a
subordinate clause. Be ye not, a'phrones, senseless, unthinking, trifling. Comp.
Luke 11, 40, "Ye fools (ye unthinking ones), did not he that made that which is
without, make that which is within also;" also Luke 12, 20; 1 Cor. 15, 36; 2 Cor.
11, 16, &c. In all these cases a'phron means one who does not make a right use
of his understanding; who does not see things in their true light, or estimate them
according to their relative importance. It is here opposed to sunientes. Be ye not
senseless, undiscriminating between what is true and false, right and wrong,
important and unimportant, but understanding, i. e. discerning what the will of the
Lord is.' That is, seeing things as he sees them, and making his will or judgment
the standard of yours, and the rule of your conduct. The will of the Lord is the will
of Christ. That Lord here means Christ, is plain not only from the general usage
of the New Testament, so often referred to, but also from the constant use of the
word in this chapter as a designation of the Redeemer. Here again, therefore, the
divinity of Christ is seen to be a practical doctrine entering into the daily religious
life of the believer. His will is the rule of truth and duty.
V. 18. And (especially) be not drunk with wine. This is an aphrosune, a want of
sense, especially inconsistent with the intelligence of the true believer. The man
who has a right discernment will not seek refreshment or excitement from wine,
but from the Holy Spirit. Therefore the apostle adds, but be filled with the Spirit.
In drunkenness, he says, there is asoti'a, revelry, debauchery, riot, whatever
tends to destruction; for the word is derived from asotos, which means, what
cannot be saved, one given up to a destructive course of life. Comp. Tit. 1, 6. 1
Pet. 4, 4. Men are said to be filled with wine when completely under its influence;
so they are said to be filled with the Spirit, when he controls all their thoughts,
feelings, words, and actions. The expression is a common one in Scripture. Of
our Lord himself it was said, "He was full of the Holy Ghost," Luke 4, 1; so of
Stephen that "he was full of faith and of the Holy Ghost," Acts 6, 5; and of
Barnabas, Acts 11, 24, &c. To the Christian, therefore, the source of strength and
joy is not wine, but the blessed Spirit of God. And as drunkenness produces
rioting and debauchery, so the Holy Spirit produces a joy which expresses itself
in psalms, and hymns, and spiritual songs. Quid gignit ebrietas? dissolutam
proterviam, ut quasi excusso freno indecenter homines exultent. Quid spiritualis
laetitia, quum ea perfusi sumus? hymnos, psalmos, laudes Dei, gratiarum
actiones. Hi sunt vere jucundi fructus et delectabiles. CALVIN.
V. 19. Lalountes eautois (i. e. allelois, as in 4, 32, and elsewhere), speaking to
each other, not to yourselves. Compare Col. 3, 16, where it is, dida'skontes kai`
nouthetountes eautou's, teaching and admonishing one another. "Speaking to
each other," signifies the interchange of thoughts and feelings expressed in the
psalms and hymns employed. This is supposed to refer to responsive singing, in
the private assemblies and public worship of Christians, to which the well-known
passage of Pliny: Carmen Christo quasi Deo dicunt secum invicem, seems also
to refer. Whether the passage refers to the responsive method of singing or not,
which is somewhat doubtful from the parallel passage in Colossians (where Paul
speaks of their teaching one another), it at least proves that singing was from the
beginning a part of Christian worship, and that not only psalms but hymns also
were employed.
The early usage of the words psalmos, u'mnos, ode, appears to have been as
loose as that of the corresponding English terms, psalm, hymn, song, is with us.
A psalm was a hymn, and a hymn a song. Still there was a distinction between
them as there is still. A psalm was, agreeably to the etymology of the word
psalmos, a song designed to be sung with the accompaniment of instrumental
music. 2. It was one of the sacred poems contained in the book of Psalms, as in
Acts 13, 33, en to psalmo to deute'ro, in the second Psalm; and Acts 1, 20, en
bi'blo psalmon, in the book of Psalms. 3. Any sacred poem formed on the model
of the Old Testament Psalms, as in 1 Cor. 14, 26, where psalmon appears to
mean such a song given by inspiration, and not one of the psalms of David. A
Hymn was a song of praise to God; a divine song. ARRIAN, Exped. Alex. 4,
umnoi men es tous theous poiountai, epainoi de es anthropous. AMMON. de
differ. vocbl. ho men gar humnos esti theon, to de enkomion ton anthropon.
PHAVOR. humnos; he pros theon ode. Such being the general meaning of the
word, Josephus uses it of those Psalms which were songs of praise to God: ho
Dauidos odas eis ton Theon kai humnous sunetaxato, Ant. 7. 12, 3. Psalms and
hymns then, as now, were religious songs; odai were religious or secular, and
therefore those here intended are described as spiritual. This may mean either
inspired, i. e. derived from the Spirit; or expressing spiritual thoughts and
feelings. This latter is the more probable; as not only inspired men are said to be
filled with the Spirit, but all those who in their ordinary thoughts and feelings are
governed by the Holy Ghost.
Singing and making melody in your hearts to the Lord. If this clause be
considered as coordinate with the preceding, then it refers to a different kind of
singing. The former expressed by lalountes eautois is singing audibly, the latter
by a'dontes en te kardi'a is the music of the heart, the rhythm of the affections not
clothed in words. In favour of this view, which is adopted by several of the best
modern commentators, as Harless, Rueckert, Olshausen, and Meyer, it is urged
that the apostle says, en te kardi'a humon and not simply ek kardias, from the
heart; and that the pronoun humon, your, would be unnecessary, had he meant
only that the singing was to be cordial. Besides, the singing here referred to is
that of those filled with the Spirit, and therefore the caution that it should not be a
mere lip service is out of place. Notwithstanding these reasons, the great majority
of commentators make this clause subordinate to the preceding and descriptive
of the kind of singing required, "You are to commence with each in Psalms and
Hymns, singing in your heart." Comp. Rom. 1, 9, where the apostle says: ho
latreu'o (not ek pneumatos but) en to pneu'mati' mou, whom I serve in my spirit,
and 1 Cor. 14, 15. There is no sufficient reason for departing from the ordinary
view of the passage.
a'dontes kai` psa'llontes, singing and making melody, are two forms of
expressing the same thing. The latter term is the more comprehensive; as aidein
is to make music with the voice; psa'llein, to make music in any way; literally, to
play on a stringed instrument; then, to sing in concert with such an instrument;
then, to sing or chant. See 1 Cor. 14, 15; James 5, 13; Rom. 15, 9.
To the Lord, i. e. to Christ. In the parallel passage: Col. 3, 16, it is to God. In
either form the idea is the same. In worshipping Christ we worship God. God in
Christ, however, is the definite, special object of Christian worship, to whom the
heart when filled with the Spirit instinctively turns. This special worship of Christ
is neither inconsistent with the worship of the Father, nor is it ever dissociated
from it. The one runs into the other. And
V. 20. Therefore the apostle connects the two; "Be ye filled with the Spirit, singing
hymns to Christ, and giving thanks to God even the Father." The Spirit dictates
the one as naturally as the other. We are to give thanks always. It is not a duty to
be performed once for all, nor merely when new mercies are received; but
always, because we are under obligation for blessings temporal and spiritual
already received, which calls for perpetual acknowledgment. We are to give
thanks for all things; afflictions as well as for our joys, say the ancient
commentators. This is not in the text, though Paul, as we learn from other
passages, gloried in his afflictions. Here the words are limited by the context, for
all our mercies. In the name of the Lord Jesus. The apostles preached in the
name of the Lord Jesus; they wrought miracles in his name; believers are
commanded to pray in his name; to give thanks in his name, and to do all things
in his name. In all these cases the general idea is that expressed by [Bengel: ut
perinde sit, ac si Christus faciat. What we do in the name of Christ we do by his
authority, and relying on him for success. Christ gives us access to the Father;
we come to God through him; he gives the right to come, and it is on him we
depend for acceptance when we come. To Theo kai` patri', God even the Father,
i. e. to God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. This is the covenant title of God
under the new dispensation, and presents the only ground on which he can be
approached as our Father.
SECTION II.--Vs. 17-33.
21. Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God.
22. Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord.
23. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the
church: and he is the Saviour of the body.
24. Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their
own husbands in every thing.
25. Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave
himself for it;
26. that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word:
27. that he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot or
wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.
28. So ought men to love their wives, as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife
loveth himself.
29. For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it,
even as the Lord the church:
30. for we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones.
31. For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined
unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh.
32. This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church.
33. Nevertheless, let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as
himself: and the wife see that she reverence her husband.
The apostle enjoins mutual obedience as a Christian duty, v. 21. Under this head
he treats of the relative duties of husbands and wives, parents and children,
masters and servants. The remainder of this chapter is devoted to the duties of
husbands and wives. As the conjugal relation is analogous to that which Christ
sustains to the church, the one serves to illustrate the others. The apostle,
therefore, combines the two subjects throughout the paragraph.
Wives should be subject to their husbands as the church is to Christ. 1. The
motive to this subject is a regard to the Lord, v. 22. 2. The ground of it is, that the
husband is the head of the wife, as Christ is the head of the church, v. 23. 3. This
subjection is not confined to any one sphere, but extends to all, v. 24.
Husbands should love their wives. 1. The measure of this love is Christ's love for
the church for whose redemption he died, vs. 25-27. 2. The ground of love is in
both cases the same--the wife is flesh of her husband's flesh, and bone of his
bone. So the church is flesh of Christ's flesh and bone of his bone. Husband and
wife are one flesh; so are Christ and the church. What is true of the one is true of
the other, vs. 29-31. 3. The union between Christ and his church is indeed of a
higher order than that between husband and wife--nevertheless the analogy
between. the two cases is such as to render it obligatory on the husband to love
his wife as being himself, and on the wife to reverence her husband, vs. 32-33.
V. 21. That a new paragraph begins with this verse is generally conceded. First,
because the preceding exhortations are evidently brought to a close in v. 20--with
the words to God even the Father. And secondly, because the command to be
obedient one to another, amplified through this chapter and part of the next, does
not naturally cohere with what precedes. This being the case, the participle
upotasso'menoi being obedient, with which this verse begins, cannot be
explained by referring it to the verb plerousthe in v. 18. The sense would then be,
Be filled with the Spirit--submitting yourselves one to another.' This construction
of the passage for the reasons just stated is rejected by most commentators.
Others take the participle for the imperative and render the words, Be subject
one to another.' But this is contrary to the usage of the language. The most
common explanation is to connect this verse with the following, Being subject
one to another (as ye are bound to be), ye wives be subject to your husbands.'
From the general obligation to obedience follows the special obligation of wives,
children, and servants, as explained in what follows.
This command to submit one to another is found in other passages of the New
Testament, as in 1 Pet. 5, 5, "All of you be subject one to another, and be clothed
with humility." Rom. 12, 10. Phil. 2. 3. The scriptural doctrine on this subject is
that men are not isolated individuals, each one independent of all others. No man
liveth for himself and no man dieth for himself. The essential equality of men and
their mutual dependence lay the foundation for the obligation of mutual
subjection. The apostle however is here speaking of the duties of Christians. It is,
therefore, the Christian duty of mutual submission of which this passage treats. It
not only forbids pride and all assumption of superiority, but enjoins mutual
subjection, the subjection of a part to the whole, and of each one to those of his
fellow believers with whom he is specially connected. Every Christian is
responsible for his faith and conduct to his brethren in the Lord, because he
constitutes with them one body having a common faith and a common life. The
independency of one Christian of all others, or of one Christian society of all
similar societies, is inconsistent with the relation in which believers stand to each
other, and with the express commands of Scripture.
We are to be thus subject one to another en phobo Christou.3 This may mean
either that the fear of Christ, at whose bar we are to stand in judgment, should
constrain us to this mutual subjection; or that the duty should be religiously
performed. The motive should be reverence for Christ, a regard for his will and
for his glory. It is in this way all social duties, even the most humiliating, are
raised into the sphere of religion, and rendered consistent with the highest
elevation and liberty. This idea is specially insisted upon by the apostle when he
comes to speak of the duty of servants to their masters. It ought not to escape
the reader's notice that the relation in which this and similar passages suppose
us to stand to Christ, is such as we can sustain to no other than to a divine
person. He to whom we are responsible for all our conduct, and reverence for
whom is the great motive to the performance of duty, is God.
V. 22. Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands, as unto the Lord. The
general duty of mutual submission includes the specific duty of wives to be
subject to their husbands, and this leads the apostle to speak of the relative
duties of husbands and wives. And as the marriage relation is analogous to the
relation. between Christ and his church, he is thus led to illustrate the one by the
other. As the relation is the same, the duties flowing from it are the same;
obedience on the part of the wife, and love on the part of the husband. The
The common text reads Theou, but the authority of the MSS. and versions is so
decidedly in favour of Christou that it is now universally adopted.
apostle teaches the nature, the ground, and the extent of the obedience due from
the wife to the husband.
As to the nature of it, it is religious. It is os to Kuri'o, as to the Lord. The os, as,
does not express similarity, as though the obedience of the wife to her husband
was to be as devout and as unconditional as that which she is bound to render to
the Lord. But her obedience to her husband is to be regarded as part of her
obedience to the Lord. See 6, 5. 6. It terminates on him, and therefore is
religious, because determined by religious motives and directed towards the
object of the religious affections. This makes the burden light and the yoke easy.
For every service which the believer renders to Christ, is rendered with alacrity
and joy.
V. 23. But although the obedience of the wife to the husband is of the nature of a
religious duty because determined by religious motives, it has in common with all
other commands of God, a foundation in nature. The apostle, therefore, says,
wives are to be obedient to their husbands, because the husband is the head of
the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church. The ground of the obligation,
therefore, as it exists in nature, is the eminency of the husband; his superiority in
those attributes which enable and entitle him to command. Ile is larger, stronger,
bolder; has more of those mental and moral qualities which are required in a
leader. This is just as plain from history as that iron is heavier than water. The
man, therefore, in this aspect, as qualified and entitled to command, is said to be
the image and glory of God, 1 Cor. 11, 7; for, as the apostle adds in that
connection, the man was not made out of the woman, but the woman out of the
man; neither was the man created for the woman, but the woman for the man.
This superiority of the man, in the respects mentioned, thus taught in Scripture,
founded in nature, and proved by all experience, cannot be denied or
disregarded without destroying society and degrading both men and women;
making the one effeminate and the other masculine. The superiority of the man,
however, is not only consistent with the mutual dependence of the sexes, and
their essential equality of nature, and in the kingdom of God, but also with the
inferiority of men to women in other qualities than those which entitle to authority.
The scriptural doctrine, while it lays the foundation for order in requiring wives to
obey their husbands, at the same time exalts the wife to be the companion and
ministering angel to the husband. The man, therefore, so far as this particular
point is concerned, stands in the same relation to his wife, that Christ does to the
church. There is however a relation which Christ bears to his church, which finds
no analogy in that of the husband to the wife. Christ is not only the head of the
church, but he is its Saviour, kai autos esti sote`r tou so'matos. Why the apostle
added these words is not easy to determine. Perhaps it was to mark the
distinction between the cases otherwise so analogous. Perhaps it was, as many
suppose, to suggest to husbands their obligation to provide for the safety and
happiness of their wives. Because Christ is the head of the church, he is its
Saviour; therefore as the husband is the head of the wife, he should not only rule,
but protect and bless.4 The most probable explanation is, that as the apostle's
design is not merely to teach the nature of the relation between husband and
wife, but also that between Christ and the church, the clause in question is added
for that purpose, without any bearing on the conjugal relation. This clause is not
in apposition with the preceding, but is an independent proposition. Christ is the
head of the church; and he is the Saviour of his body.
V. 24. But, ?alla`, i. e. notwithstanding there is this peculiarity in the relation of
Christ to the church which has no parallel in the relation of the wife to the
husband, nevertheless, as the husband is the head of the wife, let the wife be
subject to her husband in every thing, even as the church is subject to Christ her
head.' Our translators give ?alla` here a syllogistic force and render it, therefore,
as though it introduced the conclusion from the preceding argument. But this is
contrary to the common use of the particle and is unnecessary, as its ordinary
meaning gives a good sense.
As verse 22 teaches the nature of the subjection of the wife to her husband, and
verse 23 its ground, this verse teaches its extent. She is to be subject en panti',
in every thing. That is, the subjection is not limited to any one sphere or
department of the social life, but extends to all. The wife is not subject as to some
things, and independent as to others, but she is subject as to all. This of course
does not mean that the authority of the husband is unlimited. It teaches its extent,
not its degree. It extends over all departments, but is limited in all; first, by the
nature of the relation; and secondly, by the higher authority of God. No superior,
whether master, parent, husband or magistrate, can make it obligatory on us
either to do what God forbids, or not to do what God commands. So long as our
allegiance to God is preserved, and obedience to man is made part of our
obedience to him, we retain our liberty and our integrity.
V. 25. As the peculiar duty of the wife is submission, the special duty of the
husband is love. With regard to this the apostle teaches its measure and its
ground. As to its measure it should be analogous to the love which Christ bears
to his church. Its ground is the intimate and mysterious union which subsists
between a man and his wife.
Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church and gave
himself for it. Husbands should love their wives, kathos, even as, i. e. both
because and as. As their relation to their wives is analogous to that of Christ to
his church, it imposes the obligation to love them as he loves the church. But
Christ so loved the church as to die for it. Husbands, therefore, should be willing
to die for their wives. This seems to be the natural import of the passage, and is
the interpretation commonly given to it. It has also its foundation in nature.
Sicuti Christus ecclesiae suae praeest in ejus salutem, ita nihil esso mulieri
utilius nec magis salubre, quam ut marito subsit. Perire igitur affectant quae
renuunt subjectionem, sub qua salvae esse poterant.--CALVIN.
Christ's love is held up as an example and a rule. His love is indeed elsewhere
declared to be infinite. We cannot love as he loved, in any other sense than that
in which we can be merciful as our Father in heaven is merciful. Nevertheless, it
cannot be doubted that true conjugal love will ever lead the husband to sacrifice
himself for his wife.5
Vs. 26. 27. As the apostle unites with his design of teaching the duties arising
from the conjugal relation, the purpose to illustrate the nature of the union
between Christ and his church, these verses relate to the latter point and not to
the former. They set forth the design of Christ's death. Its remote design was to
gain the church for himself as an object of delight. Its proximate design was to
prepare it for that high destiny. These ideas are presented figuratively. The
church is regarded as the bride of Christ. This is designed to teach--1. That it is
an object of a peculiar and exclusive love. As the love which a bridegroom has
for his bride is such as he has for no one else; so the love which Christ has for
his church is such as he has for no other order of creatures in the universe,
however exalted. 2. As the bride belongs exclusively to her husband, so the
church belongs exclusively to Christ. It sustains a relation to him which it sustains
to no other being, and in which no other being participates. 3. This relation is not
only peculiar and exclusive, but the union between Christ and his church is more
intimate than any which subsists between him and any other order of creatures.
We are flesh of his flesh, and bone of his bones. 4. The church is the special
object of delight to Christ. It is said of Zion, "As the bridegroom rejoices over the
bride, so shall thy God rejoice over thee," Is. 62, 5. He is to present it to himself
as his own peculiar joy. Such being the high destiny of the church, the proximate
end of Christ's death was to purify, adorn, and render it glorious, that it might be
prepared to sit with him on his throne. She is to be as a bride adorned for her
husband. These are not imaginations, nor exaggerations, nor empty figures; but
simple, scriptural, sanctifying, and saving truths. And what is true of the church
collectively, is true of its members severally. Each is the object of Christ's
peculiar love. Each sustains to him this peculiar, exclusive, and intimate relation.
Each is the object in which he thus delights, and each is to be made perfectly
holy, without spot, and glorious.
Though the general sense of this passage is thus plain, there is no little difficulty
attending the interpretation of its details. Christ, it is said, gave himself for the
church, ?i'na aute`n agia'se, which Calvin renders, Ut segregaret eam sibi, that
he might separate it for himself; which, he says, is done by the remission of sin,
The idea that all love, and therefore all holiness, is benevolence, and is
proportioned to the capacity of its object, is one of those absurdities into which
men inevitably fall when they give themselves up to the guidance of the
speculative understanding, and disregard the teachings of the heart and of the
conscience. A mother loves her infant, in every true sense of the word love: a
hundred fold more than she loves a stranger, though he may be the greatest man
who ever lived.
and the renewing of the Holy Ghost. Though the verb hagiazein has this sense,
yet as in Paul's writings it is commonly used to express cleansing from pollution,
and as this sense best suits the context, it is generally preferred. The design of
Christ's death was to make his people holy. It accomplishes this end by
reconciling them to God, and by securing for them the gift of the Holy Ghost.
Thus in Gal. 3, 13. 14, it is said, "Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the
law, that we might receive the promise of the Spirit."
With regard to the next clause, kathari'sas to loutro tou u'datos, having cleansed
(or cleansing) it with the washing of water, we must inquire--1. What is intended
by loutron tou u'datos. 2. What is meant by kathari'sas; and 3. In what relation
this clause stands to the preceding. Does "the washing of water" here mean
baptism, or a washing which is analogous to a washing with water? The latter
interpretation is admissible. The apostle may mean nothing more than a spiritual
lustration. In Ez. 16, 9, speaking of Israel, God said, "Then washed I thee with
water; yea, I thoroughly washed away thy blood from thee, and I anointed thee
with oil." And in 36, 25, " Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall
be clean." Also in Heb. 10, 22, it is said, "Let us draw near with a true heart, in
full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and
our bodies washed with pure water." In all these cases washing with water is a
figurative expression for spiritual purification. Commentators, however, almost
without exception understand the expression in the text to refer to baptism. The
great majority of them, with Calvin and other of the Reformers, do not even
discuss the question. or seem to admit any other interpretation to be possible.
The same view is taken by all the modern exegetical writers. This unanimity of
opinion is itself almost decisive. Nothing short of a stringent necessity can justify
any one in setting forth an interpretation opposed to this common consent of
Christians. No such necessity here exists. Baptism is a washing with water. It
was the washing with water with which Paul's readers as Christians were familiar,
and which could not fail to occur to them as the washing intended. Besides,
nothing more is here attributed to baptism than is attributed to it in many other
passages of the word of God. Compare particularly Acts 22, 16, "Arise, be
baptized, and wash away thy sins, apo'lousai ta`s amarti'as sou." There can be
little doubt, therefore, that by "the washing with water," the apostle meant
As to the meaning of the participle kathari'sas, there is more doubt. The verb
signifies to cleanse either literally, ceremonially, or figuratively. As the Scriptures
speak of a twofold purification from sin, one from guilt by expiation, the other
from pollution by the Spirit, and as kathari'zein is used in reference to both, the
question is, which is here intended. Does the apostle speak of pardon, or of
sanctification as effected by this washing with water? The word expresses
sacrificial purification. Heb. 9, 22. 23. 1 John 1, 7, "The blood of Jesus Christ his
Son cleanses us from all sin." Heb. 9, 14; comp. Heb. 1, 3, "Having by himself
made purification of our sin." In favour of taking it in this sense here, is the fact
that baptism is elsewhere connected with the remission of sin; as in Acts 22, 16,
and Acts 2, 38, "Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus
Christ, for the remission of sins." The meaning of the word, however, depends
upon its relation to the preceding clause. Kathari'sas may be connected with
agia'se, and taken in the same tense with it. It then expresses the mode in which
Christ cleanses his church. He gave himself for it that he might cleanse it,
purifying it by the washing of water.' In this case, if agia'se expresses moral
purification or sanctification, so must kathari'sas. But if this participle be taken in
the past tense, according to its form, then it must express something which
precedes sanctification. The meaning would then be, Christ gave himself for the
church, that he might sanctify it, having purified it by the washing with water.'6 In
this case kathari'sas must refer to expiation or sacrificial purification, i. e. to
washing away of guilt. The context is in favour of this view, and so is the analogy
of Scripture. The Bible always represents remission of sin or the removal of guilt
as preceding sanctification. We are pardoned and reconciled to God, in order
that we may be made holy. Christ, therefore, having by his blood cleansed his
church from guilt, sanctifies or renders it holy. In either view we are said to be
cleansed (whether from guilt or from pollution). by baptism. What does this
mean? How does baptism in either of these senses wash away sin? The
Protestant and scriptural answer to this question is, that baptism cleanses from
sin just as the word does. We are said to be saved by the truth, to be begotten by
the truth, to be sanctified by the truth. This does not mean--1. That there is any
inherent, much less magic, power in the word of God as heard or read to produce
these effects. 2. Nor that the word always and every where, when rightly
presented, thus sanctifies and saves, so that all who hear are partakers of these
benefits. 3. Nor does it mean that the Spirit of God is so tied to the word as never
to operate savingly on the heart except in connection with it. For infants may be
subjects of regeneration, though incapable of receiving the truth. In like manner
when the Scriptures speak of baptism as washing away sin, Acts 22, 16; or as
uniting us to Christ, Gal. 3, 27; or as making Christ's death our death, Rom. 6, 4;
Col. 2, 12; or as saving us, 1 Pet. 3, 21; they do not teach-i. That there is any
inherent virtue in baptism, or in the administrator, to produce these effects; nor 2.
That these effects always attend its right administration; nor 3. That the Spirit is
so connected with baptism that it is the only channel through which he
communicates the benefits of redemption, so that all the unbaptized perish.
These three propositions, all of which Romanism and Ritualism affirm, are
contrary to the express declarations of Scripture and to universal experience.
Multitudes of the baptized are unholy many of the unbaptized are sanctified and
How then is it true that baptism washes away sin, unites us to Christ, and
secures salvation? The answer again is, that this is true of baptism in the same
Participium Graecum kathari'sas est praeteriti temporis, ac si dicas: Postquam
mundarit. Verum quia apud Latinos nullum est tale participium activum, malui
tempus negligere, quam vertendo Mundatum pervertere quod erat longe majoris
momenti, nempe ut soli Deo relinquatur mundandi officium.
sense that it is true of the word. God is pleased to connect the benefits of
redemption with the believing reception of the truth. And he is pleased to connect
these same benefits with the believing reception of baptism. That is, as the Spirit
works with and by the truth, so he works with and by baptism, in communicating
the blessings of the covenant of grace. Therefore, as we are said to be saved by
the word, with equal propriety we are said to be saved by baptism; though
baptism without faith is as of little effect as is the word of God to unbelievers. The
scriptural doctrine concerning baptism, according to the Reformed churches is-1. That it is a divine institution. 2. That it is one of the conditions of salvation.
"Whosoever believes and is baptized shall be saved," Mark 16, 16. It has,
however, the necessity of precept, not the necessity of a means sine qua non. It
is in this respect analogous to confession. "With the heart man believeth unto
righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation," Rom. 10,
10. And also to circumcision. God said, "The uncircumcised male child --should
be cut off from his people," Gen. 17, 14. Yet children dying before the eighth day
were surely not cut off from heaven. And the apostle teaches that if an
uncircumcised man kept the law, his uncircumcision was counted to him for
circumcision," Rom. 3, 26. 3. Baptism is a means of grace, that is, a channel
through which the Spirit confers grace; not always, not upon all recipients, nor is
it the only channel, nor is it designed as the ordinary means of regeneration.
Faith and repentance are the gifts of the Spirit and fruits of regeneration, and yet
they are required as conditions of baptism. Consequently the Scriptures
contemplate regeneration as preceding baptism. But if faith, to which all the
benefits of redemption are promised, precedes baptism, how can those benefits
be said to be conferred, in any case, through baptism? Just as a father may give
an estate to his son, and afterwards convey it to him formally by a deed. Besides,
the benefits of redemption, the remission of sin, the gift of the Spirit, and the
merits of the Redeemer, are not conveyed to the soul once for all. They are
reconveyed and appropriated on every new act of faith, and on every new
believing reception of the sacraments. The sinner coming to baptism in the
exercise of repentance and faith, takes God the Father to be his Father; God the
Son, to be his Saviour; and God the Holy Ghost to be his Sanctifier, and his word
to be the rule of his faith and practice. The administrator then, in the name and
by the authority of God, washes him with water as a sign of the cleansing from
sin by the blood of Christ, and of sanctification by the Holy Spirit; and as a seal to
God's promise to grant him those blessings on the condition of the repentance
and faith thus publicly avowed. Whatever he may have experienced or enjoyed
before) this is the public conveyance to him of the benefits of the covenant, and
his inauguration into the number of the redeemed. If he is sincere in his part of
the service, baptism really applies to him the blessings of which it is the symbol.
4. Infants are baptized on the faith of their parents. And their baptism secures to
them all the benefits of the covenant of grace, provided they ratify that covenant
by faith; just as circumcision secured the benefits of the theocracy, provided
those circumcised in infancy kept the law. The doctrine of baptismal
regeneration, that is, the doctrine that inward spiritual renovation always attends
baptism rightly administered to the unresisting, and that regeneration is never
effected without it, is contrary to Scripture, subversive of evangelical religion, and
opposed to universal experience. It is, moreover, utterly irreconcilable with the
doctrine of the Reformed churches. For that doctrine teaches that all the
regenerated are saved. "Whom God calls them he also glorifies," Rom. 8, 30. It
is, however, plain from Scripture, and in accordance with the faith of the universal
church, that multitudes of the baptized perish. The baptized, therefore, as such,
are not the regenerated.
The foregoing remarks are intended to show in what sense the Reformed
understand this and similar declarations of Scripture. Christ purifies his church by
baptism. That is the initiatory rite; which signifies, seals, and applies to believers
all the benefits of the Redeemer's death. The apostle is speaking of the church,
the body and bride of Christ, and of the effect of baptism on those who constitute
that church, not of its effect on those who are not included in the covenant and
are aliens from the commonwealth of Israel.7
There is one other remark suggested by this passage. The turning point in the
discussion between Baptists and Paedobaptists, so far as the mode of baptism is
concerned, is, whether it is in its essential nature an immersion, or a washing. If
the former, then there is but one mode in which it can be administered. If the
Quod Baptismo nos ablui docet Paulus, ideo est, quod illic nobis ablutionem
nostram testatur Deus, et simul efficit quod figurat. Nisi enim conjuncta esset rei
veritas, aut exhibitio, quod idem est, impropria haec loqutio esset. Baptismus est
lavacrum animae. Interea cavendum, ne quod unius Dei est, vel ad signum, vel
ad ministrum transferatur; hoc est, ut minister censetur ablutionis auctor, ut aqua
putetur animae sordes purgare; quod nonnisi Christi sanguini convenit. Denique
cavendum, ne ulla fiduciae nostrae portio vel in elemento, vel in homine haereat.
Quando hic demum veruns ac rectus sacramenti usus est, recta nos ad Christum
manu ducere, et in ipso sistere. Quod autem aliqui in hoc baptismi elogio magis
extenuando sudant, ne signo nimium tribuatur, si vocetur animae lavacrum;
perperam faciunt. Nam primum apostolus non docet signum esse, quod mundet
sed asserit solius Dei esse opus. Est ergo Deus qui mundat; nec transferri hoc
honoris ad signum fas est, aut signo communicari. Verum signo Deum tanquam
organo uti, non est absurdum; non quia virtus Dei inclusa sit in signo, sed quia
nobis eam pro imbecilitatis nostrae captu tali adminiculo distribuat. Id quosdam
male habet, quia putant Spiritui sancto auferri, quod est ejus proprium et quod illi
scriptura passim vindicat. Sed falluntur; nam ita Deus per signum agit, ut tota
signi efficacia nihilominus a Spiritu suo pendeat. Ita nihil plus signo tribuitur,
quam ut sit inferius organum, et quidem a seipso inutile, nisi quatenus aliunde
vim suam mutuatur. Quod praeterea verentur ne libertas Dei sit alligatur, frivolum
est. Neque enim affixa est signis Dei gratia, quin citra adminiculum signi libere
eam distribuat, si velit, deinde multi signum recipiunt, qui tamen gratiae non fiunt
participes, quia signum omnibus est commune, hoc est, bonis indifferenter ac
malis; Spiritus autem nonnisi electis confertur; acqui signum, ut diximus, absque
Spiritu est inefficax. CALVIN.
latter, it may be administered in any mode by which washing can be effected,
either by sprinkling, affusion, or immersion. In the passage before us, it is said to
be a "washing with water."
The principal exegetical difficulty in this verse is the explanation of the words en
rhe'mati, by the word. Rhema is used not only for any particular dictum, whether
command, promise, or prophecy, but also for the word of God collectively, and
that either with or without the article; Rom. 10, 8. 17. Eph. 6, 17. These words
may be connected, as is commonly done, with the preceding clause, washing of
water.' The idea then is that this washing with water is connected with the word. It
is not an ordinary ablution, but one connected with the word of God. This is
considered a description of baptism, which is by that connection distinguished
from all other washings. By the word may then be understood either, the formula
of baptism, or the promise of remission of sins and regeneration of which baptism
is the sign and seal, and which is the special object of faith to the recipient of the
sacrament. Luther's translation is, "Durch das Wasserbad im Wort;" according to
the saying of Augustine, which he often quotes, accedit verbum ad elementum et
fit sacramentum. To this interpretation it is objected, first, that if rhema be made
to mean any thing more than the word of God in general, whether the command
to baptize, or the promise, or the formula of baptism, it must have the article. It
should be, with the word. But the article is wanting in the Greek. Secondly, the
obscurity of the expression, "washing of water with the word," or, "baptism with
the word." Thirdly, that in order to justify the connection in question, the passage
should read, to loutro tou hudatos to, or tou en rhemati. Had Paul thus written
there would, indeed, be no question as to the connection intended, but the
exceptions to the rule requiring the connecting article in such cases, are very
numerous in Paul's writings. Still its absence is certainly in favour of seeking
another construction, if such can be found. Others connect the words en rhemati
with kathari'sas, and make them explanatory of the preceding clause, Having
purified it by the washing of water, i. e. having purified it by the word.' But this is
certainly unnatural, first because kathari'sas has in to loutro, ktl., its limitation;
and secondly, because the phrase "washing with water," needs no explanation.
The third method of explanation is to connect the words with agia'se, Christ
cleansed his church, by the word, having purified it with the washing of water.'
The sense is thus good. In John 17, 17, our Lord prays, "Sanctify them by thy
truth;" and every where in Scripture the word of God is represented as the great
means of sanctification. This interpretation is adopted by many of the best
expositors, as Rueckert, Meyer, and Winer The position of the words, however, is
so decidedly in favour of the first mentioned explanation, that it has commanded
the assent of the great body of interpreters.
V. 27. The ultimate end for which Christ gave himself for the church, and for
which he sanctifies it, is to present it to himself, i. e. to gain it for himself as his
peculiar possession. There are two questions raised by commentators as to this
verse. The first concerns the nature of the metaphor here employed; and the
second, the time contemplated in which Christ is thus to present the church to
himself. Some, although very few, argue from the character of the epithets,
without spot and blameless, here applied to the church, that the figure is derived
from law of sacrifices. Christ is to present the church to himself as an offering
without defect. But 1. This is entirely out of keeping with the whole context, which
has reference to the conjugal relation, and is intended to illustrate the union
between Christ and the church, by a reference to that between the bridegroom
and the bride. 2. The comparison of the church to an offering is not only out of
keeping with the context, but with the whole current of scriptural representation.
Whereas the comparison of it to a bride is appropriate and familiar. 3. The
epithets in question, though often used in reference to sacrifices, are not only
appropriate, but are actually employed to express personal or corporeal beauty,
which is here the symbol of inward purity.
A larger number of commentators take the ground that the end contemplated in
this verse is accomplished in the present life. In other words, that the state of the
church here described is one attained in this world. Of those who take this view,
some, as the ancient Pelagians, interpret the passage as teaching that perfect
holiness is not only attainable, but is actually attained by believers before death.
Others do not understand the passage as speaking of holiness, but of
propitiation, which is effected once for all. In this view it is parallel to Heb. 10, 10,
where we are said to be "sanctified by the offering of the body of Christ once for
all;" and ver. 14, where it is said, "By the one offering up of himself he hath for
ever perfected them that are sanctified." Both of these passages in Hebrews
evidently refer to the perfection of Christ's sacrifice, and they undoubtedly prove,
what no one questions, that the words agiazein and katharizein here used, may
express sacrificial purification or expiation. But this is far from proving that these
words, and especially the former, are to be so taken here. To sanctify is
colmmonly, in Scripture language, to make spiritually holy, and this sense is far
better suited to the context than any other meaning of the word. But if the design
of Christ's death as here expressed is to render his church perfectly holy, then
there can be no debate as to the time when this end is to be accomplished. For
even should it be granted, that here and there one among the multitude of
believers does attain perfection in this life, of which neither Scripture nor
experience affords any example, still this cannot be affirmed of the whole body of
believers. The great majority of commentators, therefore, from Augustin down to
the present time, understand the apostle as stating what is to take place when
Christ comes the second time to be admired in all them that believe. It is then,
when the dead are raised in the likeness of the Son of God, and when those who
shall be alive shall be changed--when this corruption shall have put on
incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality--it is then that the
church shall be "as a bride prepared for her husband," Rev. 21, 2, and 19, 7-9.
Hina paraste'se depends upon what immediately precedes: "having purified it
that he might present it," i. e. cause it to stand before or near him as a bride. So
the apostle writing to the Corinthians says, he had "espoused them to one
husband, parthenon hagnen parastesai to Christo, to present you as a chaste
virgin unto Christ." Here the figure is somewhat different. Christ presents the
church to himself, auto`s eauto 8 he and no other, to himself. He does it. He gave
himself for it. He sanctifies it. He, before the assembled universe, places by his
side the bride purchased with his blood. He presents it to himself a glorious
church. That is glorious which excites admiration. The church is to be an object
of admiration to all intelligent beings, because of its freedom from all defect, and
because of its absolute perfection. It is to be conformed to the glorified humanity
of the Son of God, in the presence of which the disciples on the mount became
as dead men, and from the clear manifestation of which, when Christ comes the
second time, the heavens and the earth are to flee away. God has predestined
his people to be conformed to the image of his Son. And when he shall appear,
we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is, 1 John 3, 2. The figure is
preserved in the description here given of the glory of the consummated church.
It is to be as a faultless bride; perfect in beauty and splendidly adorned. She is to
be without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, i. e. without any thing to mar her
beauty, free from every indication of age, faultless and immortal. What is thus
expressed figuratively is expressed literally in the last clause of the verse, that it
should be holy and without blame, agi'a kai` a'momos. Compare 1, 4, where it is
said God hath chosen us, einai agious kai` amomous. It is, therefore, the original
purpose of election formed before the foundation of the world, that is to be
fulfilled in this consummation of the church.
V. 28. So ought men to love their wives, as their own bodies. This does not mean
that men ought to love their wives so as they love their own bodies; as though
the particles so and as, ou'tos and os, stood related to each other. Ou'tos, so, at
the beginning of the verse, refers to the preceding representation. As Christ loves
the church and gave himself for it, and as the church is his body, so, in like
manner and agreeably to the analogous relation between them, husbands should
love their wives as, i. e. as being, or because they are, their own bodies. Christ
loves his church because it is his body. Husbands should love their wives
because they are their bodies. Hos, as, before the latter member of the sentence
is not comparative, but argumentative. It does not indicate the measure of the
husband's love, as though the meaning were, he should love his wife as much as
he loves his own body. But it indicates the nature of the relation which is the
ground of his love. He should love his wife, because she is his body.
How is this to be understood? In what sense does the apostle say that the wife is
the body of the husband, or, in the following verse, that they are one flesh? It is
plain--1. That this does not refer to any material identification. When Adam said
of Eve, "This is bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh," Gen. 2, 23, reference
was no doubt had to her being formed out of his substance. But as these terms
are used to express the relation of all wives to their husbands, they must have
The common Text reads auten instead of auto`s. The latter reading on the
authority of the MSS. ABDFG, has, since Griesbach, been almost universally
some other meaning than sameness of substance. 2. It is also plain that these
terms are not to be understood in any sense inconsistent with the separate
subsistence of husband and wife as distinct persons. The consciousness of the
one is not the consciousness of the other. 3. It is further plain that the marriage
relation is not essential to the completeness or perfection of our nature, in all
states of its existence. It is to cease at the resurrection. In the future state men
are to be, in this respect, like the angels of God, neither marrying nor given in
marriage. 4. On the other hand the marriage union is not merely one of interests
and feeling. Husbands and wives are in such. a sense one, that the husband is
the complement of the wife and the wife of the husband. The marriage relation is
necessary to the completeness of our nature and to its full development in the
present state. Some indeed, as Paul, may attain a higher degree of perfection in
celibacy than in marriage. But this arises from some peculiarity of character or
circumstances. There are faculties and virtues, excellencies and feelings, which
are latent until developed in the conjugal relation. The Romish doctrine,
therefore, which degrades marriage as a state less holy than celibacy, is contrary
to nature and the word of God. 5. Besides this oneness between husband and
wife arising from the original constitution of their nature, rendering the one
necessary as the completion of the other, there is doubtless a oneness of life
involved in our Lord's declaration, "They are no more twain, but one flesh," which
no one can understand.
Such being the nature of marriage, it follows:--1. That it is a union for life between
one man and one woman; and consequently that bigamy, polygamy, and
voluntary divorce are all inconsistent with its nature. 2. That it must be entered
into freely and cordially by the parties, i. e. with the conviction that the one is
suited to the other, so that they may complement each other, and become one in
the scriptural sense of those words. All coercion on the part of parents, therefore,
is contrary to the nature of the relation; and all marriages of mere convenience
are opposed to the design of the institution. 3. The State can neither make nor
dissolve the marriage tie. It may enact laws regulating the mode in which it shall
be solemnized and authenticated, and determining its civil effects. It may shield a
wife from ill-usage from her husband, as it may remove a child from the custody
of an incompetent or cruel parent. When the union is in fact dissolved by the
operation of the divine law, the State may ascertain and declare the fact, and free
the parties from the civil obligation of the contract. But it is impossible that the
State should have authority to dissolve a union constituted by God, the duties
and continuance of which are determined by his law. 4. According to the
Scriptures, as interpreted by Protestant churches, nothing but the death of one of
the parties, or adultery, or wilful desertion, can dissolve the marriage contract.
When either of the last mentioned causes of dissolution is judicially ascertained
and declared, the injured party is free to contract a new marriage.
It is of vital importance to the best interests of society that the true doctrine of
marriage, as taught in this passage and in other portions of God's word, should
be known and regarded. The highest social duty of a husband is to love his wife;
and a duty which he cannot neglect without entailing great injury on his own soul
as well as misery on his household. The greatest social crime, next to murder,
which any one can commit, is to seduce the affections of a wife from her
husband, or of a husband from his wife. And one of the greatest evils which civil
authorities can inflict on society, is the dissolution of the marriage contract (so far
as it is a civil contract, for further the civil authority cannot go), on other than
scriptural grounds. The same remark may be made in reference to all laws which
tend to make those two whom God has pronounced one, by giving to the wife the
right to carry on business, contract debts, hold property, sue and be sued, in her
own name. This is attempting to correct one class of evils at the cost of incurring
others a hundred-fold greater. The word of God is the only sure guide of
legislative action as well as of individual conduct.
If, as the Scriptures teach, husband and wife are one, he that loveth his wife
loveth himself, for she is himself. This is the language of God, originally recorded
in Gen. 2, 24, and repeated by our Lord, Matt. 19, 4-6, who after citing the
passage in Genesis, adds, "Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh."
Calvin, in his comment on the passage in Matthew, says, Hoc autem axioma
sumit Christus, Ab initio Deus marem adjunxit feminae, ut duo efficerent integrum
hominem. Ergo qui uxorem repudiat, quasi dimidiam sui partem a seipso avellit.
Hoc autem minime patitur natura, ut corpus suum quispiam discerpat. Neither
God by the mouth of Moses, nor our Lord says simply that husband and wife
ought to be, but that they are one. It is not a duty, but a fact which they
announce. So also it is a fact which the apostle declares when he says, "He that
loves his wife loves himself."
V. 29. Conjugal love, therefore, is as much a dictate of nature as self-love; and it
is just as unnatural for a man to hate his wife, as it would be for him to hate
himself, or his own body. A man may have a body which does not altogether suit
him. Ile may wish it were handsomer, healthier, stronger, or more active. Still it is
his body, it is himself; and he nourisheth it and cherishes it as tenderly as though
it were the best and loveliest man ever had. So a man may have a wife whom he
could wish to be better, or more beautiful, or more agreeable; still she is his wife,
and by the constitution of nature and ordinance of God, a part of himself. In
neglecting or ill-using her he violates the laws of nature as well as the law of
God. It is thus Paul presents the matter. If the husband and wife are one flesh,
the husband must love his wife, "for no man ever yet hated his own flesh, but
nourisheth and cherisheth it." Ektre'phein is properly to nourish up), to train up by
nurture, as a parent a child; comp. 6, 4. Thalpein is, to warm m, to cherish as a
mother does an infant in her bosom. Both terms express tenderness and
solicitude, and therefore both are suited to express the care with which every
man provides for the wants and comfort of his own body.
Katho`s kai`, even as also, Christo`s te`n ekklesi'an, Christ the church, i. e. Christ
also nourishes and cherishes the church as a man does his own body. The
relation between a man and his wife is analogous to that between a man and his
own body. And the relation between Christ and his church is analogous to that
between a husband and his wife; therefore Christ nourishes and cherishes the
church as man does his own body.
V. 30. This verse assigns the reason of the preceding declaration. Christ acts
towards his church as a man does towards his body, for we are members of his
body. This might mean simply that we stand to him in the same intimate and vital
union, that a man's body sustains to the man himself. But the meaning is
rendered more definite by the words which follow, ek tes sarkos autou kai ek ton
osteon autou; 9 not members of, but derived from, and partakers of, his flesh and
his bones. This is the signification of the words, whatever their meaning may be.
Ek expresses derivation and participation. This is one of the most difficult
passages in the Bible. The doctrine which it teaches is declared by the apostle, in
a following verse, to be a great mystery. Any explanation, therefore, which
dispels that mystery, and makes the6 doctrine taught perfectly intelligible, must
be false. All that can properly be attempted is to guard against false
interpretations, and leave the matter just where the apostle leaves it, as
something to be believed and reverenced but not understood.
The lowest explanation of the passage before us is that which departs entirely
from the signification of the words, and supposes that the apostle intended to
teach nothing at all as to the nature of our union with Christ, but simply to affirm
the fact. Husbands and wives are intimately united, and so are Christ and his
church. This is no explanation at all. It is simply saying that the apostle meant
nothing, or nothing specific, by what he says. The Scriptures teach in general
terms that Christ and his people are one. When our Lord says they are one as
the vine and its branches are one, he teaches something more than the mere
fact of union between himself and his people. So, too, when the apostle says the
union in question is analogous to that between Adam and his posterity, he
teaches not only the fact but also one aspect of its nature. In like manner, when
he illustrates it by a reference to the conjugal relation, and says that the point of
analogy is that as Eve was formed out of the flesh and bone of Adam, so we are
partakers of the flesh and bones of Christ, it is impossible that nothing more
should be meant than that we are united to him.
A second interpretation takes the words figuratively, and supposes the apostle
meant that as Eve derived her physical existence from Adam, so we derive our
spiritual existence from Christ. This interpretation has many advocates from
Chrysostom downwards, but it is liable to the same objection as the preceding. It
These words are omitted in MSS. A B 17, and in the Coptic and Ethiopic
versions, and are left out of the text by Lachmann and Tischendorf. The other
Uncial MSS., the Syriac version, the Fathers, are in their favour. They are
required by the context, and their omission is easily accounted for. Even Mill and
Griesbach retain them, as do all other editors, and the commentators almost
without exception.
refuses to admit what the apostle asserts. He says not merely that we derive our
life from Christ, which is true; but also that we derive our life from his flesh, and
are partakers of it. This must mean something more specific than simply that
Christ is the author of our life, and that he lives in us.10
A third view of the passage assumes that the reference is to the incarnation. We
are partakers of the flesh of Christ because we have the same human nature
which he assumed. In Heb. 2, 10, it is said, "Both he that sanctifieth and they
who are sanctified are all of one," i. e. of one nature; and in ver. 14, " Forasmuch
then as the children were partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise
took part of the same." These and similar passages do indeed prove that one of
the essential elements of the union with Christ is this community of nature. And it
is also true that the more specific union indicated in the text presupposes and
rests upon the fact of the incarnation. But the incarnation cannot be what Paul
here refers to. The incarnation consists in the eternal Son of God taking to
himself a true body and a reasonable soul; but the union here spoken of arises
from our participation of Christ's body; that is, of his flesh and of his bones. It is
not his taking our flesh and blood, but our partaking of his, after he had assumed
them, that is here asserted. Besides, so far as the mere assumption of human
nature is concerned, it is a bond of union between Christ and the whole human
race; whereas the apostle is here speaking of a union with Christ peculiar to his
Fourth; Romanists, Lutherans, and the elder Calvinists, as Calvin himself and
Beza, seek a solution of this passage in the Lord's Supper. As in that ordinance
we are said to partake of the body and blood of Christ, it is assumed that the
union here spoken of is that which is thereby effected. We are "one flesh" with
him, because we partake of his flesh. This of course is differently understood
according to the different views entertained of that sacrament. Romanists,
believing that by the act of consecration the whole substance of the bread is
transmuted into the substance of Christ's body, which is received by the
communicant, of course believe that in the most literal sense of the words, we
are flesh of his flesh. Lutherans, although they believe that the bread remains
bread in the Eucharist after consecration, yet as they hold that the true body of
Christ is locally present in, with and under the bread, and is received by the
mouth, come to the same conclusion as to the nature of the union thereby
effected. Partaking literally of Christ's flesh, Christians are literally of one flesh
with him. Calvin did not hold that Christ's body was locally present in the Lord's
Diese Form des Ausdrucks ist Reminiscenz von Gen. 2, 23, wo Adam die
Entstehung der Eva aus seinem Gebeinen und aus seinem Fleische ausspricht,
welcher Entstehung das genetische Verhaeltniss der Christen zu Christo analog
ist, naturlich nicht physich, sondern im geistlichen, mystischen Sinne, in so fern
die christliche Dasein und Wesen der Christen, aus Christo originirt, in Christo
sein Principium essendi hat, wie physicher Weise Eva aus Adam herruehrte.
Supper, nor that it was received by the mouth, nor that it was received in any
sense by unbelievers. Ife did hold, however, that the substance of Christ's
glorified body, as enthroned in heaven, was in some miraculous way
communicated to believers together with the bread in that ordinance. He,
therefore, understands the apostle as here referring to that fact, and asserting
that we are members of Christ's body because the substance of his body is in the
Eucharist communicated to us.11 There are two objections to these
interpretations:--1. That, according to the common belief of the Reformed
churches, the Bible teaches no such doctrine concerning the Lord's Supper, as
either of these several views of the passage supposes. 2. That there is not only
no allusion to the Lord's Supper in the whole context, but the terms here
employed are never used in Scripture when treating of that ordinance. "Body and
blood" are the sacramental words always used, and never " flesh and bones."
The reference is to the creation of woman and to the marriage relation, and not to
the Eucharist.
Fifth; The advocates of that philosophical form of theology of which
Schleiermacher was the founder, understand the passage before us to teach that
we are partakers of the theanthropic life of Christ. The leading idea of that
system, so far as the person of Christ is concerned, is the denial of all dualism.
He has but one life. That life is not human, and not divine, but divine and human,
or human made divine. Neither is there any dualism as to soul and body. These
are the same life under different manifestations. To partake of Christ, is to
partake of his life. To partake of his life, is to partake of his theanthropic nature.
To partake of his theanthropic nature, is to partake of his human, as well as of his
divine nature; and to partake of his human nature is to partake of his body as well
as of his soul and divinity. We partake of the theanthropic nature of Christ, as we
partake of the corrupt human nature of Adam. The life of Adam is the general life
Dicit nos esse ejus membra, ex carne et ossibus. Primum non est hyperbolica
loquutio, sed simplex; deinde non tantum significat Christum esse naturae
nostrae participem, sed altius quiddam exprimere voluit, kai emphatikoteron.
Refert enim Mosis verba, Gen. 2, 24. Quis ergo exit sensus? quemadmodum
Heva ex Adae mariti sui substantia formata est, ut esset quasi pars illius; ita nos
ut simus vera Christi membra, substantiae ejus communicatione nos coalescere
in unum corpus. Denique eam nostri, cum Christo unionem hic Paulus describit,
cujus in sacra coena symbolum et pignus nobis datur . . . Paulus nos ex membris
et ossibus Christi esse testatur. Miramur ergo si corpus suum in coena fruendum
nobis exhibet, ut sit nobis vitae aeternae alimentum? ita ostendimus nullam nos
in coena repraesentationem docere, nisi cujus effectus et veritas hic a Paulo
praedicatur. CALVIN. On the following verse, he says, Totum autem ex eo
pendet quod uxor ex carne et ex ossibus viri formata est. Eadem ergo unionis
ratio inter nos et Christum, quod se quodammodo in nos transfundit. Neque enim
ossa sumus ex ossibus ejus, et caro ex carne, quia ipse nobiscum est homo; sed
quia Spiritus sui virtute nos in corpus suum inserit, ut vitam ex eo hauriamus.
of his race, manifested in the individuals composing that race. The theanthropic
life of Christ is the general life of the church, manifested in its members. The
church is the development of Christ, as the human race is the development of
Adam; or as the oak or forest is the development of an acorn. As, therefore, we
are said to be flesh of Adam's flesh and bone of his bones, in the same sense
and with the same propriety, are we said to be flesh of Christ's flesh and bone of
his bones.12 The correctness of this explanation depends on the correctness of
the system on which it is founded. As a theology, that system is a revival of the
Sabellian and Eutychian heresies; and as a philosophy, it is in the last resort
pantheistic. It makes the life of God and the life of man identical. God lives only in
his creatures.
Sixth; We must content ourselves with briefly stating what the apostle affirms,
guarding against a perversion of his language, and making some approximation
to its meaning without pretending to dissipate the mystery which he teaches us
rests upon the subject.
The text asserts--1. That we are members of Christ, s body. 2. That we are
partakers of his flesh and of his bones, in such a sense that our relation to Christ
is analogous to Eve's relation to Adam.
The three general interpretations of the passage are, First, That as Eve derived
her physical life from Adam, so we derive our spiritual life from Christ. This says
too little, as it leaves out of view the specific affirmation of the text. Second, That
as Eve was formed out of the substance of Adam's body, so we are partakers of
the substance of Christ's body. This is Calvin's interpretation, which includes the
views given by Romanists, by Lutherans, and Transcendentalists. This goes
beyond the declaration of the text, and imposes a meaning upon it inconsistent
with the analogy of Scripture. The third interpretation takes a middle ground, and
understands the apostle to teach, that as Eve derived her life from the body of
Adam, so we derive our life from the body of Christ, and as she was partaker of
Adam's life, so we are partakers of the life of Christ. The doctrine taught,
therefore, is not community of substance between Christ and his people, but
OLSHAUSEN, in his comment on this verse, says: Nicht die geistige Geburt ist
es zunaechst, von der hier die Rede ist, die leibliche Seite wird hier und v. 31, zu
ausdruecklich hervorgehoben; es ist die Selbstmittheilung seines goettlichmenschlichen Wesens, wodurch Christus uns zu seinem Fleisch und Bein macht,
er giebt den Seinigen sein Fleisch zu essen, sein Blut zu trinken. On the
following verse he remarks: Wie wir zu v. 30, sahen, dass die Glaeubigen von
Christi Fleisch und Bein sind, weil sie seiner verklaerten Leiblichkeit theilhaftig
wurden; so ist hier auch die sarx mia mit Beziehung auf die Mittheilung des
Fleisehes und Blutes Christi an seine Glaeubiger zu verstehen. Dies sein
goettlich-menschliches Wesen theilt der Erloeser zwar auch im Glauben mit
(John 6, 45) aber die intensiveste, concentrirteste Mittheilung desselben erfolgt
im heiligen Abendmahl.
community of life, and that the source of life to his people is Christ's flesh.
In support of this interpretation it may be urged: 1. That it leaves the passage in
its integrity. It neither explains it away, nor does it make it assert more than the
words necessarily imply. The doctrine taught remains a great mystery, as the
apostle declares it to be. 2. It takes the terms employed in their ordinary and
natural sense. To partake of one's flesh and blood. does not, in ordinary life nor
according to scriptural usage, mean to partake of his substance, but it does
mean to partake of his life. The substance of which the body of any adult is
composed is derived exclusively from his food and from the atmosphere. A few
years after the formation of Eve not a particle of Adam's body entered into the
composition of her frame; and yet she was then as truly as at the beginning,
bone of his bone and flesh of his flesh, because derived from him and partaker of
his life. For the same reasons and in the same sense we are said to be flesh of
Adam's flesh and bone of his bones, although in no sense partakers of the
substance of his body. In like manner nothing is more common than to speak of
the blood of a father flowing in the veins of his descendants, and of their being
his flesh. This means, and can only mean, that they are partakers of his life.
There is no community of substance possible in the case. What life is no man
knows. But we know that it is not matter; and, therefore, there may be community
of life, where there is no community of substance. There is a form of life peculiar
to nations, tribes, families, and individuals; and this peculiar type is transmitted
from generation to generation, modifying the personal appearance, the physical
constitution, and the character of those who inherit it. When we speak of the
blood of the Hapsburghs, or of the Bourbons, it is this family type that is intended
and nothing material. The present Emperor of Austria derives his peculiar type of
physical life from the head of his race, but not one particle of the substance of his
body. Husband and wife are in Scripture declared to be one flesh. But here again
it is not identity of substance, but community of life that is intended. As, therefore,
participation of one's flesh does not in other connections, mean participation of
his substance, it cannot be fairly understood in that sense when spoken of our
relation to Christ. And as in all analogous cases it does express derivation or
community of life, it must be so understood here.
3. It is clearly taught in Scripture that the union with Christ here described is
essential to salvation. It is also clearly taught in the word of God, and held by all
Protestants, though not by Romanists, that believers under the Old Dispensation
were fully saved. Whatever, therefore, is the nature of the union with Christ here
taught, it must be such as is common to believers who lived before and to those
who live after the advent of Christ. It is possible that the saints under the Old
Dispensation should have derived their life from the body of Christ, as he was the
Lamb slain from the foundation of the world, but it is not possible that they could
be partakers of the substance of his body, or of his glorified humanity. The
passage before us, therefore, cannot teach any such community of substance.
4. The community of life with Christ and derivation of life from his flesh, which is
the doctrine this interpretation supposes the passage before us to teach, is a
doctrine elsewhere taught in Scripture. We are not only said to be saved by his
body, Rom. 7, 4; by his blood, Eph. 2, 13; by his flesh, 2, 15; by the body of his
flesh, Col. 1, 22; but his flesh is said to be our life, and participation of it is said to
be the source of eternal life. "Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of Man, and drink
his blood, ye have no life in you. Whoso eateth my flesh and drinketh my blood,
hath eternal life." John 6, 53. 54.
The union, therefore, between Christ and his people is mysterious. It may be
illustrated, but cannot be fully explained. It is analogous to the union between
husband and wife, who are declared to be one flesh to express their community
of life; and especially to the union between Adam and Eve because she derived
her life from his flesh. As the relations are thus analogous, what is said of the one
may be said of the other. To prove this, and to justify the use of the language
which he had employed, the apostle cites the language of God in Gen. 2, 24.
Ver. 31. For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be
joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. That is, because the relation
between husband and wife is more intimate than any other, even than that
between parents and children; therefore a man shall consider all other relations
subordinate to that which he sustains to his wife, with whom he is connected in
the bonds of a common life. As the Scripture speaks in such terms of the
conjugal relation, the apostle was justified in using the same terms of the union
between Christ and his people. They also are one flesh because they have a
common life, and because his people derive their life from his flesh as Eve
derived hers from the flesh of Adam.
The principal difficulty here relates to the connection. The passage stands thus:
We are members of Christ's body, of his flesh, and of his bones. For this cause a
man shall leave his father and mother, and be joined to his wife, and they two
shall be one flesh.' There is an apparent incongruity between the premises and
the conclusion. How does our being members of Christ's body, prove that a man
should leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife? There are three
methods of getting over this difficulty. First, some assume that there is no
connection between the two verses, but that the 31st refers back to the 28th. The
sense would then be, A man should love his wife, because she is his body. For
this cause, a man should leave his father and cleave to his wife,' &c. This method
of solution is inconsistent both with what precedes and with what follows. It does
not agree with what precedes, because the words, of his flesh, &c., in ver. 30,
referring to Christ, form part of the passage in Genesis, the continuation of which
is given in ver. 31. If the one refers to Christ, the other must. It contradicts what
follows; for in ver. 32, the main idea contained in ver. 31 (they shall be one flesh),
is expressly said to be affirmed in reference to Christ and the church.
The second method of explanation assumes an immediate connection between
the two verses 30 and 31, and understands the whole of the latter to refer to the
relation between Christ and his church. It then may be explained either in
reference to the present, or the future. If to the present, the sense would be, We
are members of Christ's body, and, therefore, he left his Father and all dear to
him in heaven that he might be united to his people.' But how is it possible that
the words, "a man shall leave his father and mother," can mean Christ left God
and heaven? If the passage be understood in reference to the future, the
meaning will be, We are members of Christ's body, and therefore hereafter when
he comes the second time, he will leave his Father's throne, and take his church
as his bride.'13 But this view not only does the same violence to the meaning of
the words, but is in direct contradiction to the whole context. Paul does not say
that hereafter the church shall be united to Christ as his bride, but that his people
are now members of his body, flesh of his flesh, and bone of his bones.
The third explanation assumes that the first part of the verse has no reference to
Christ and the church, and that the passage is quoted from Genesis solely for the
sake of the last words, they shall be one flesh. The meaning and the connection
then are, As Eve was formed out of the body of Adam, and therefore, it is said, a
man shall leave his father and mother, and be joined to his wife, and they two
shall be one flesh. So, since we are members of Christ's body, therefore, Christ
and his church are one flesh.' This view is, 1. In entire accordance with the
context. 2. It avoids the forced and unnatural interpretations which are
unavoidable if the former part of the 31st verse be understood in reference to
Christ. 3. It satisfies the demands of the 32d verse, which asserts that the words
one flesh do refer to Christ and the church. And 4. It is in accordance with the
usage of the apostles in quoting the language of the Old Testament. They often
recite a passage of Scripture as it stands in the Old Testament, for the sake of
some one clause or expression in it, without intending to apply to the case before
them, any other portion of the passage quoted. In Heb. 2, 13, the whole stress
and argument rest on the single word children; see also Gal. 3, 16. Very
frequently the particles indicating the grammatical or logical connection of the
passage in its position in the Old Testament, are included in the quotation,
although entirely unsuited to the connection in which the passage is introduced.
This is so frequently done as to be almost the rule. It is, therefore, not an
arbitrary proceeding to make the last words of this verse refer to Christ, while the
former part of it is made to refer to the context of the passage as it stands in
V. 32. To` muste'rion touto me'ga esti'n, this mystery is great. The word mystery
does not refer to the passage in Gen. 2, 24, as though the apostle intended to
Deshalb, weil wir Glieder Christi, von seinem Fleisch und von seinem Beinen
sind, wird verlassen ein Mensch (d. i. Christus, bei der Parusie) seinen Vater und
seine Mutter (d. i. nach der mystischen Deutung Pauli: er wird seinen Sitz zur
Rechten Gottes verlassen) und vereiniget werden mit seinem Weibe (mit der
Gemeinde), und (und dann) werden die Zwei (der Mann und die Frau, d. i. der
herabgestiegene Christus und die Gemeinde) zu Einem Fleische sein (Eine
ethische Person ausmachen). MEYER.
say that that passage had a mystical sense which he had just unfolded by
applying it to the relation between Christ and his church. It is the union between
Christ and his people. the fact that they are one flesh, he declares to be a great
mystery. The word muste'rion is used here, as it is every where else, for
something hidden, something beyond the reach of human knowledge. Whether
its being thus hidden arises from its lying in the future, or because of being
imperfectly revealed, or because it is in its own nature incomprehensible, must
be determined by the connection. In this place the last is probably the idea
intended. The thing itself is beyond our comprehension. The Vulgate renders this
passage, sacramentum hoc magnum est. The Latin word sacramentum, besides
its usual classical sense, a sacred deposit,' was often used to signify any thing
sacred, or which had a hidden import. In this latter sense it agrees in meaning
with the word muste'rion, which also is used to designate something the meaning
of which is hidden. Hence in the Vulgate it is often translated as it is here. In the
Latin church the word sacramentum, however, gradually changed its meaning.
Instead of being applied to every thing having a sacred or secret meaning, it was
confined to those rites or acts which were assumed to have the power of
conferring grace. This is the Romish idea of a sacrament. The Papal theologians
taking the word in this sense here, and understanding the apostle to refer to
marriage, quote this passage in proof that matrimony is a sacrament. The answer
to this argument is obvious. In the first place, it is not marriage, but the union
between Christ and his church, that Paul declares to be a muste'rion, and the
Vulgate a sacramentum. And in the second place, neither the Greek nor Latin
term means a sacrament in the Romish sense of the word. The Vulgate
translates 1 Tim. 3, 16, magnum est pietatis sacramentum, which no Romanist
understands as teaching that the manifestation of God in the flesh is a sacrament
in the ecclesiastical meaning of the term.
V. 33. The relation of this verse to what precedes, as indicated by ple`n, admits
of two explanations. That particle is used at the beginning of a clause, after an
interruption, to introduce the resumption of the main subject. It may be so here.
The principal object of the whole paragraph from v. 21, is to unfold the true
nature of the conjugal relation and its duties. With this was connected an
exposition of the analogous relation between Christ and the church. This latter
point in verses 30. 31, is the only one brought into view. Here the apostle reverts
to the main subject. But, to resume my subject, let every one of you in particular
so love his wife even as himself. This explanation is the one commonly adopted.
Plen, however, may mean, nevertheless, as it is rendered in our version, and this
verse be connected with the 32d. The relation between Christ and the church is a
great mystery; nevertheless, do you also love your wives.' That is, although there
is something in the relation between Christ and the church which infinitely
transcends the conjugal relation, nevertheless there is sufficient analogy between
the cases, to render it obligatory on husbands to love their wives as Christ loves
his church. This view of the connection is to be preferred, especially because of
the words kai` umeis, you also, which evidently suppose the reference is to what
immediately precedes.
Humeis oi kath' e'na, you severally, e'kastos te`n eautou gunaika ou'tos agapa'to
os eauto'n, let each one so love his wife as himself. The construction varies; the
verb agapa'to being made to agree with e'kastos, instead of umeis the real
subject. The meaning is the same as in ver. 28. The husband is to love his wife
as being himself. In the next clause (e de` gune` i'na phobetai to`n a'ndra), e de`
gune` is the nominative absolute, and i'na depends on a verb understood. But as
to the woman, let her see, that she reverence her husband. The word phobeo
may express the emotion of fear in all its modifications and in all its degrees from
simple respect, through reverence, up to adoration, according to its object. It is,
however, in all its degrees an acknowledgment of superiority. The sentiments,
therefore, which lie at the foundation of the marriage relation, which arise out of
the constitution of nature, which are required by the command of God, and are
essential to the happiness and well-being of the parties, are, on the part of the
husband, that form of love which leads him to cherish and protect his wife as
being himself, and on the part of the woman, that sense of his superiority out of
which trust and obedience involuntarily flow.
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