A Mini Commentary (Pt. 3)

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Thank you for coming back!

This is Part 3, but today we are going to be looking at the second verse of Ephesians 4. My hope is that for some of you this develops a desire to go deeper in your own study of Scripture.

Again, I’d love your feedback. Leave a comment and I really would appreciate it.


4:2 “With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love;”

With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering

            Before anything else, it is important to note the prepositional phrases which include the words lowliness, meekness, and longsuffering. In actuality, the second prepositional phrase (“with longsuffering”) modifies the first (“with all lowliness and meekness”), both being prerequisites for “forbearing one another in love.” Matthew Henry commented: “The first step towards unity is humility; without this there will be no meekness, no patience, or forbearance; and without these no unity.”[1] It is with humility (lowliness) that we withhold or set aside our rights or desires for vindication, thereby creating the ability to be patient and “longsuffering” with those who may abuse or misuse us, as even our own brothers and sisters often do.

  • Lowliness

            Lowliness can also be translated as humility. It is “the quality of humility— ‘humble attitude, humility, without arrogance.’”[2] Humility is the fertile soil in which meekness and longsuffering can grow.

  • Meekness

            Meekness is not weakness; it’s mildness and gentleness.[3] In Matthew 11:29 we read that Jesus was “meek and lowly.” Therefore, having the attribute of meekness should in no way imply weakness or impotence. For the Christian, meekness models Christ in that He could have claimed His rights, yet He endured with patience for the sake of others.

  • Longsuffering,

            The Greek word translated as “longsuffering” (μακροθυμία, makrothymia G3116) is found fourteen times in the King James Version of the Bible, and of those fourteen times it is only translated as “patience” twice. However, nearly every other translation of the Bible besides the NKJV and the ASV renders makrothymia as “patience” in this verse. To be fair, patience is the major meaning of this word, but it is also more.

If we look at this old word of “longsuffering,” we may notice that it is made up of two English words: long and suffering. Patience may be equal to suffering, but how long should one be patient? The prefix makro answers that question: a long time. Therefore, longsuffering should be understood to convey a sense of endurance of pain or suffering for a longer period. The same word is used by Paul in 1 Corinthians 13:4 when, describing charity (love), he says it “suffereth long.”

forbearing one another in love;

            It might seem that longsuffering and forbearing are words so similar that using them both is almost redundant. However, Matthew Henry aptly distinguishes the two:

“Long-suffering implies a patient bearing of injuries, without seeking revenge. Forbearing one another in love signifies bearing their infirmities out of a principle of love, and so as not to cease to love them on the account of these.” [4]

To forbear is to endure the undeserved pain and suffering inflicted by the actions or consequences of others’ actions with intent, and in this case the intent being love. The important difference between forbearing with or without love (agape) is how it can affect the one forbearing. One could forbear, patiently bear the burden, the load caused by another, with bitterness, guilt, or resignation and add suffering to suffering. On the other hand, as Paul beseeches the reader, we could forbear one another’s inflictions with a love that demands nothing in return. What joy is had by the latter in contrast to the former!


[1] Matthew Henry, Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible: Complete and Unabridged in One Volume (Peabody: Hendrickson, 1994), 2312.

[2] Johannes P. Louw and Eugene Albert Nida, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: Based on Semantic Domains (New York: United Bible Societies, 1996), 747.

[3] Henry George Liddell et al., A Greek-English Lexicon (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1996), 1459.

[4] Matthew Henry, Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible: Complete and Unabridged in One Volume (Peabody: Hendrickson, 1994), 2312.

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Filed under Bible Study, Christian Unity, Christianity

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