Ephesians 4.1-6

(14-21)
For this reason, I bow my knees before the Father from whom every family in heaven and on earth receives its name. I pray that upon the basis of his glorious riches, God might grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being and be indwelled by Christ because of the faith in your hearts. I pray because you are rooted and grounded in God’s love that that you might have enough strength to grasp with all of God’s people what is the breadth and length and height and depth to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge. I pray that you might be filled with all the fullness of God. To the one who is able to do vastly abundantly beyond everything that we could ask or imagine according to the power that works within us, to him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen!

Παρακαλῶ οὖν ὑμᾶς ἐγὼ ὁ δέσμιος ἐν κυρίῳ ἀξίως περιπατῆσαι τῆς κλήσεως ἧς ἐκλήθητε, 2 μετὰ πάσης ταπεινοφροσύνης καὶ πραΰτητος, μετὰ μακροθυμίας,
[1] Therefore, as a prisoner in the Lord, I urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you were summoned [2] with all humility and gentleness with composure,

ἀνεχόμενοι ἀλλήλων ἐν ἀγάπῃ,
by showing patience to one another in love,

3 σπουδάζοντες τηρεῖν τὴν ἑνότητα τοῦ πνεύματος ἐν τῷ συνδέσμῳ τῆς εἰρήνης·
[3] and by zealously protecting the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

4 Ἓν σῶμα καὶ ἓν πνεῦμα,
[4] The body is one and the Spirit is one,

καθὼς καὶ ἐκλήθητε ἐν μιᾷ ἐλπίδι τῆς κλήσεως ὑμῶν·
just like all of you were also called in one hope of your calling:

5 εἷς κύριος, μία πίστις, ἓν βάπτισμα,
[5] The Lord is one, one faith, and one baptism

6 εἷς θεὸς καὶ πατὴρ πάντων,
[6] God is one and father of all,

ὁ ἐπὶ πάντων καὶ διὰ πάντων καὶ ἐν πᾶσιν.
who is above all and through and in all.

These six verses seem to pick up from Paul’s prayer for unity and continue the theme. The first clause is rather large and complex, introducing the exhortation that sets the tone for the whole. The subject is likely rather emphatic with the pronoun and appositional nominative phrase, probably to emphasis the seriousness of the exhortation.

The verbal construction itself is combination of Παρακαλῶ (I urge/exhort) and περιπατῆσαι (to walk). Παρακαλῶ, when it is used to mean “urge/exhort,” regularly takes an infinitive (30 times). In other words, you have to urge/exhort the audience to something. This usage of περιπατῆσαι is probably best seen against an Old Testament background in the wisdom tradition where the motif of a path of wisdom is so very prevalent. For that reason, “walking” should be understood as related to how one lives his life.

The verb in the relative clause within the main clause, “ἧς ἐκλήθητε” (to which you were summoned), is the cognate verb form of the noun “κλήσεως” (calling). The relative clause is appended to this noun to create, “the calling to which you were called.” This kind of idiom where two forms of the same word are placed beside each other is very natural in Greek (and quite common), but makes for very poor English, which is why the translation here is expressed by, “to which you were summoned.” Many translations, in order to avoid the awkward English, translate the relative clause as, “which you received.” But the meaning of the clause is the same, since the point of this relative is to remind the Ephesians of who called them. This is probably a divine passive.

The rest of the main clause is made up of adjuncts, prepositional phrases delineating the manner in which the Ephesians are to walk. Walking in a manner worthy of one’s calling meaning living humbly, being meek and gentle, calmly.

To these, we can also add the participial clauses that follow in verses two and three since they are most likely to be participles of result as well. Walking in a worthy manner entails showing patience to one another, which is an act of love. It also means striving to maintain and protect the church’s unity. The translation of this second participle (σπουδάζοντες “being eager to/doing one’s best to”) is quite idiomatic. The verbal idea is completed by the infinitive “τηρεῖν” (guard/keep – implying maintaining or protecting).
This protecting must be done in a peaceful manner. Holding a church community together through violence, intimidation, or any other means is out of place here.

Paul’s exhortation to unity in the previous verses now receives a foundation. Verses 5-6 are probably a piece of Christian tradition inserted here (and potentially verse 4 as well), but that is of little significance for our purposes. The question is how they function in the argument of the letter. In a sense, these verses provide a summary of the previous chapters of the letter. Thus the beginning of this section we saw that these verses pick up directly from the previous material and now we see that they are grounded in the whole of the letter as well.

Why should unity be protected and maintained? Because there is one body and one Spirit, this is an explicit reference back to 1.22. The body is the church. The reference to the Spirit alludes back to 2.18, where Paul told the Ephesians, “we have access to the Father by one Spirit.” A fact that is stated in 2.18 as part of Paul’s argument that Jews and Gentiles have been united together to God (the implication being that Jews and Gentiles cannot be separate if they are coming to God in the same way -through the Messiah by one Spirit).

Indeed the idea of calling itself, seen in the subordinate clause that follows, is drawn from the previous chapters in the ideas of God choosing and electing the Ephesians. They, as gentiles, were formerly foreigners and God brought them near and made citizens and members of God’s household. The Ephesians were called to one hope, which is the blood of the Messiah.

Verses five and six continue to build the foundation of the Ephesians unity by showing that the unity of the church is founded in both the nature of the church itself and in the nature of God as triune. If the καθως clause in verse 4 is viewed as a parenthesis, we seek a unified structure of the section:

4 Ἓν σῶμα
[4] The body is one

καὶ ἓν πνεῦμα,
and the Spirit is one,

καθὼς καὶ ἐκλήθητε ἐν μιᾷ ἐλπίδι τῆς κλήσεως ὑμῶν
– just like you were also called in one hope of your calling –

5 εἷς κύριος, μία πίστις, ἓν βάπτισμα,
[5] The Lord is one, one faith, and one baptism

6 εἷς θεὸς καὶ πατὴρ πάντων,
[6] God is one and father of all,

ὁ ἐπὶ πάντων καὶ διὰ πάντων καὶ ἐν πᾶσιν.
who is above all and through and in all.

The Church, Spirit, Lord, and God are all one. What is more, God is above all, through all, and in all. The baptism and faith are associated with the Lord because it is through Jesus’ death that Jews and Gentiles are reconciled.

Translation:

[1] Therefore, as a prisoner in the Lord, I urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you were summoned [2] with all humility and gentleness with composure, by showing patience to one another in love, [3] and by zealously protecting the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. [4] The body is one and the Spirit is one, just like all of you were also called in one hope of your calling. [5] The Lord is one, one faith, and one baptism. [6] God is one and father of all. He is above all and through and in all.

One thought on “Ephesians 4.1-6

  1. i appreciate a set of new eyes on a familiar verse, and also a break from “church speech” which jades the original meaning. i stumbled over this blog looking for an english grammatical diagram of ephesians 6:10

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