A Mini Commentary, Pt 14 (Ephesians 4:14)

4:14 That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive;

That we [henceforth]

            Henceforth is not a word we use very often these days, and it was not a word used by the Apostle Paul; it was added by the translators for clarification. But the truth expressed in the above three words is that staying the same in the Christian walk is not an option. And, glory be to God, Jesus is the One who can change even the vilest sinner into a saint! God gives us those who can preach and teach His Word so that we can grow spiritually, mature in the Faith, and effective parts of the Body (v. 16). It doesn’t matter from where we come; Jesus can change us!

be no more children,

            To the child, being childish is natural. To the adult, being childish is the sign of immaturity. There is nothing wrong or unnatural for a baby to want milk, but it is entirely unnatural and a sign of severe growth problems for one who is physically or apparently an adult to shun meat and vegetables. Unfortunately, many believers have never even felt the sensation of chewing!

tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine,

            The metaphor is that of a ship on the sea, taken up by one wave and crashed down by another, driven by the shifts of the wind rather than a solid rudder.  Without sound instruction, immature children (babes) in the Faith will be like little sail boats on the sea without any tools with which to navigate. They will bounce from theology to theology, doctrine to doctrine, movement to movement, without every really knowing where they are supposed to go.

            If all one cares to do is float about aimlessly for his entire life, then a rudderless boat will do just that. However, if a watercraft was built for a purpose, owned by One who sends ships across the treacherous seas rather than set them assail to drift, then a rudder, a guide, a means to navigate is critical! There must be rations, supplies, tools to mend torn sails, fuel for the engines (if applicable to this metaphor), and a weighty Anchor when we are told to “be still and know that I am God.”  Thank God for the gifts He has given to equip us! Thank God for the “fulness” of Jesus Christ!

            But this metaphor also applies to those who might be agitated, distraught, confused, torn, and about to sink. Many a soul is troubled from false teaching, bruised from the tossing back and forth, even the tossing through the night as worry and doubt deprive the poor one from sleep. Why would anyone shun the gifts to the Church? Why would anyone choose to be rudderless and without conviction on the tumultuous sea of relativism?

by the sleight of men, [and] cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive;

            We have the “gifts” (v. 11) for our “perfecting” (v. 12), till we all come into the unity of the faith and the knowledge of the Son of God (v. 13). We have them because we do not want to be tossed about and carried away with every knew (or old) wind that comes out of the mouths of deceivers. The waves and the winds are the metaphor, but what are the realities?

  • Sleight of men

            It might be difficult to deduce it from the King James rendering of the original Greek, but the Greek word translated “sleight” is the word κυβεία (kybeia G2940), pronounced koo-bi’-ah. Its meaning has to do with dice (cube) playing, rolling the dice, playing with “loaded dice” to cheat. It means craftiness and/or trickery, and implies anything that is meant to take advantage of another.

  • Cunning craftiness

            Craftiness, cunning, but also a specious wisdom (superficially plausible, but actually wrong; misleadingly attractive in appearance).[1] It cannot be said enough that what may sound good to itching ears may actually be a lie.

  • Lying in wait

            The rendering here is totally adequate to describe the above who both knowingly and without concern preach or teach false doctrine. Like predators; like snakes in the tall grass; like sharks just under the surface; like spiders in their webs; these thieves, abusers, and murderers of hope, peace, joy, and truth wait for those who are weak, unsuspecting, and most of all, unlearned and naïve. Satan, the father of lies, has bred and trained them to take down even the strongest prey, but how much more those who disregard or malign the gifts of God through Jesus by the Holy Spirit to the Church!


[1] Catherine Soanes and Angus Stevenson, eds., Concise Oxford English Dictionary (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004).

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