A Mini Commentary (Pt. 2)

Welcome back to part 2 in this series of posts focusing on a particular section of the book of Ephesians, Paul’s letter to the Church at Ephesus.

Yesterday I shared with you the Introduction. Now, let’s jump right into it with the very first verse, Ephesians 4:1

4:1 “I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called,”

I therefore,

The first thing to consider in this verse are the words “I therefore.” As an old saying goes, whenever we see the word therefore, we need to ask what it is there for? Here, therefore is referring us back to the previous chapter, arguably to the very beginning of the letter.

the prisoner

Paul referred to himself as a “prisoner” (δέσμιος) five different times in his letters (Eph. 3:1; 4:1; Phm. 1:1 and 1:9; 2 Tim. 1:8). Interestingly, maybe even ironically, the idea of the word desmios is that of one who has actually committed a crime and is a “person who is under custody in prison—‘prisoner.’”[1] In any other situation, to be a guilty prisoner should expect judgment and condemnation, except the Lord (κύριος) to whom he is a prisoner is Jesus Christ, as seen in 3:1. Because of this, Paul doesn’t recoil from the idea of being a prisoner – he revels in the fact, for it is only THIS Lord who has paid Paul’s debt and imputed His own righteousness. Though a prisoner, he is free.

of the Lord,

The difference between using “Jesus Christ” and “Lord” in 3:1 and 4:1 can be seen in the differing contexts; one being the context of a Messiah for all, the other being the context of those answering to the Master for the task we have been given. Both aspects will contribute to the foundation of Paul’s later argument for unity. Jesus is not only the Messiah for the Jews, but also the Savior of the Gentiles. Yet, as implied in 4:1, Jesus is also our Master. The implication is that what Paul is about to address will be something for which we will be held accountable.

What about the preposition in relation to the prisoner? The KJV renders ἐν as “of,” but according to the Pulpit Commentary, Paul’s prisonership is more than one of association, but partnership: “Not merely “of the Lord,” but ἐν Κυρίῳ, the usual formula for vital communion with Christ, indicating that his captivity was the captivity of a part or member of the Lord.”[2] Here with this preposition we see a foundational stone in the building of Paul’s argument for unity in the Body of Christ, for we are all part of that Body.

beseech you

Speaking to all the Christians who would hear or read this letter, Paul showed concern and passion as he “beseech”-ed the Church to “walk worthy.” The word παρακαλέω (Strong’s G3870) was used by Paul fifty times in his letters and epistles. Sometimes the word was translated as “comforted” (1 Corinthians 14:31) or “exhort” (2 Corinthians 9:5). Yet, more often parakaleo was used with the meaning of “to ask for something earnestly and with propriety.”[3] However, it would be too simple to conclude that Paul’s beseeching was simply “begging” people to do something. The depth of parakaleo implies that Paul was speaking as a friend, a companion on the same journey, to those he called to his side to impart wisdom. One could almost sense that the Apostle couldn’t tell them everything he wanted to, but could only simply say “…please, I beg of you, for your own good…”

that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called,

            The Apostle Paul wrote to the Philippians, “Only let your conversation be as it becometh the gospel of Christ…” [4] Here in Ephesians 4:1 as also in Philippians 1:27, Paul uses the word ἀξίως (axios), which is an adverb modifying the verb “walk.” With the idea of one’s walk being his way of living and choice of conversation, his “walk” should be one that reflects positively on both the calling and the Christ who issued it. Paul goes on in the next verses to give examples of what a “worthy” walk would include.

  • Vocation

 The first thing that probably comes to mind when we see this word is one’s career or job. Some may be familiar with “vocational schools,” places where students learn skills which they will apply in their career, their vocation. When it comes to the Christian, all work should be considered sacred, and every “vocation” should be understood as a calling.

 Translated as “vocation,” κλῆσις (klēseōs Strong’s G2821) means more than one’s career choice, “but invitation to experience of special privilege and responsibility, call, calling, invitation.”[5] Used nine times by the Apostle Paul (Rom. 11:29; 1 Cor. 1:26, 7:20; Eph. 1:18, 4:1, 4:4; Phil. 3:14; 2 Thess. 1:11; 2 Tim. 1:9), once by the writer of Hebrews (Heb. 3:1), and once by the Apostle Peter (2 Pet. 1:10), it’s only in 4:1 that we see κλῆσις translated as “vocation”; every other time it is translated as “calling.” However, if we were to replace calling with vocation in several of these other verses, it might help shed light on the sanctity of work.

Romans 11:29 KJV – For the gifts and [vocation] of God are without repentance.

1 Corinthians 7:20 KJV – Let every man abide in the same [vocation] wherein he was called.

Philippians 3:14 KJV – I press toward the mark for the prize of the high [vocation] of God in Christ Jesus.

Those in ministry often refer to their vocation as a “calling,” i.e., they were “called” into the ministry of the Gospel. When we consider that vocation is another word for calling, every vocation is a calling from God to be a witness where He places us. However, in the context of this passage, part our job description is to “forebear one another” and “endeavor” to keep unity in the Body of Christ.”

[1] Johannes P. Louw and Eugene Albert Nida, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: Based on Semantic Domains (New York: United Bible Societies, 1996), 485.

[2] H. D. M. Spence-Jones, ed., Ephesians, The Pulpit Commentary (London; New York: Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1909), 146.

[3] Johannes P. Louw and Eugene Albert Nida, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: Based on Semantic Domains (New York: United Bible Societies, 1996), 407.

[4] The Holy Bible: King James Version, Electronic Edition of the 1900 Authorized Version. (Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 2009), Php 1:27.

[5] William Arndt et al., A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000), 549.

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