humility: Or “lowliness of mind.”—See study note on Ac 20:19.
maintain the oneness of the spirit: A Christian who applies this counsel will yield to the influence of God’s spirit and allow it to produce its fruitage. “The spirit” that comes from God is a powerful force that unites people. (1Co 2:12; Ga 5:22, 23) In the preceding verse, Paul mentioned humility, mildness, patience, and love—qualities that promote unity.—Eph 4:2.
the uniting bond of peace: The Greek word for “uniting bond” literally means “that which holds something together; fastener.” The word is used in its literal sense at Col 2:19, where it is rendered “ligaments,” the strong bands of tissue that join one bone to another. Like a ligament, peace forms a durable bond that joins the congregation members together. Such peace involves more than the absence of conflict. It is based on love and requires effort to maintain. (Eph 4:2) Paul uses the same Greek word at Col 3:14, where he calls love “a perfect bond of union.”
One: In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul stresses the importance of unity. At Eph 4:4-6, he provides a list of factors that unite the congregation of anointed Christians.
One body: That is, the Christian congregation, which is compared to a human body. Jesus Christ is the “head” of this spiritual body.—Eph 1:22, 23.
one hope: In this context, “one hope” refers specifically to the heavenly hope of anointed Christians. (Heb 3:1) Additionally, when the anointed serve as heavenly kings and priests, all mankind who desire to serve God and who exercise faith will be “set free from enslavement to corruption” and will enjoy “the glorious freedom of the children of God.”—Ro 8:20, 21, 24.
one Lord: That is, Jesus Christ.—1Co 8:6.
one baptism: The Ephesians had learned that the “one baptism” carried out “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the holy spirit” was the key to their unity. (Mt 28:19, 20) During his third missionary tour, Paul met some in Ephesus who had been baptized “in John’s baptism,” apparently after that ceased to be an acceptable baptism. (See study note on Ac 18:25.) Although they knew about God, they had not heard of Christian baptism. After Paul explained about Christ and the holy spirit, “they got baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.” (Ac 19:1-6) They could then join all the baptized Christians who were serving Jehovah in Ephesus and elsewhere.
one God and Father of all: That is, Jehovah God.—De 6:4.
gifts in men: Or “gifts consisting of men; men as gifts.” Paul here refers to Ps 68:18, where David thanked Jehovah for the conquest of Jerusalem. Jehovah figuratively “ascended on high” by conquering the city atop Mount Zion. He also supplied the Israelites with captives from among the conquered—strong men who became useful workers. Under inspiration, Paul applies this prophetic psalm to Jesus’ acting as a conqueror in behalf of the Christian congregation. (Eph 4:10) After Jesus “ascended on high” to heaven, he had immense authority. (Mt 28:18; Eph 1:20, 21) He used it to bring capable “gifts in men” into his congregation to act as loving shepherds and overseers of God’s flock.—Eph 4:11; see study note on Ac 20:28; compare Isa 32:1, 2.
evangelizers: The Greek word that Paul uses here basically means “those who proclaim, or publish, good news.” The word is related to the Greek term for “gospel,” or “good news,” and it occurs only here and in two other verses in the Christian Greek Scriptures. (2Ti 4:5; see study note on Ac 21:8.) All Christians are commissioned to proclaim the good news. (Mt 24:14; 28:19, 20) However, Paul likely uses the term “evangelizers” here in a special sense, meaning “missionaries.” For example, Paul, Timothy, Barnabas, and Silas traveled far to open up the preaching work in places where the good news had not yet been preached.—Ac 13:2-4; 15:40, 41; 16:3, 4.
readjustment: The Greek noun rendered “readjustment” (ka·tar·ti·smosʹ) here refers to restoring something to a proper condition or putting something into proper alignment. It could also convey the idea of equipping someone for a task. Sometimes the word was used in medical texts to describe the setting of a bone, a limb, or a joint. (See study note on 2Co 13:9.) Jesus readjusted “the holy ones” for “ministerial work” by bringing their thinking, attitudes, and conduct into proper alignment with God’s thinking and will. This “readjustment” (or, “training”) was done by means of “gifts in men,” or spirit-appointed overseers, whom he gave to the congregation.—Eph 4:8, 11, 12; 1Co 16:15-18; 2Ti 2:2; Tit 1:5.
until we all attain: This wording implies that each Christian must work toward the goal of being mature and united with fellow believers.—See study note on full-grown in this verse.
the accurate knowledge: In the Christian Greek Scriptures, there are two words commonly translated “knowledge,” gnoʹsis and e·piʹgno·sis. The word used here, e·piʹgno·sis, is a strengthened form of gnoʹsis (e·piʹ, literally meaning “upon” but here conveying the idea of “additional”). Depending on the context, it may mean “exact, real, or full knowledge.” (See study note on Ro 10:2.) Here Paul uses this word to show that a mature Christian must be united with fellow believers in gaining full knowledge of the Son of God, Christ Jesus.—1Co 1:24, 30; Eph 3:18; Col 2:2, 3; 2Pe 1:8; 2:20.
full-grown: Paul urges the Christians in Ephesus to become spiritually “full-grown,” or “mature.” (1Co 14:20) Set before them was the goal of attaining the measure of stature that belongs to the fullness of the Christ, that is, of becoming spiritual adults by living according to the accurate knowledge they gained about the Son of God. Then they would not be easily swayed by false ideas and teachings. The entire congregation arrangement, with its apostles, prophets, evangelizers, shepherds, and teachers, helped them attain this spiritual stature.—Eph 4:11-14.
by means of the trickery of men: This expression, used only here in the Christian Greek Scriptures, can literally be translated “in the playing of dice of men.” This ancient idiom alludes to the practice of cheating others when playing dice. (See Media Gallery, “Roman Dice.”) Here Paul warns the Christians in Ephesus that they should not be like children, that is, spiritually immature people. Because of lack of experience and good judgment, such ones may be influenced by “the trickery of men” and prevented from making spiritual advancement. Jehovah has provided “gifts in men” to help protect Christians from being deceived by false teachers.—Eph 4:8; see App. A1.
speaking the truth: The Greek verb used here is broad in meaning and might also be rendered “being truthful.” That is why some Bibles use such expressions as “living by the truth” and “practicing the truth.” Here Paul makes a stark contrast between the conduct of genuine Christians and the trickery, cunning, and deception of false teachers he denounced in verse 14. He stresses a similar thought at Eph 4:25, where he apparently quotes from Zec 8:16. Jehovah’s standard for truthfulness is consistent; he asks that his servants always uphold the truth by the way they speak and act.—Le 19:11; Pr 19:9.
is harmoniously joined together: Paul uses a Greek verb that in this context describes the harmony of the human body, which is made up of many different members. Each member contributes to the well-being of the whole. Similarly, Christians in the congregation work together under Christ as their head. (Eph 1:22, 23; 4:4, 15) When individuals all work in harmony, remaining responsive to Christ’s headship, the congregation matures and maintains a spirit of love. (1Co 12:14-27; Col 2:19; 3:14) Paul uses the same Greek word at Eph 2:21 (see study note), where he describes the congregation as a building “harmoniously joined together.”
made to cooperate: Lit., “made to go together.” According to one lexicon, the Greek verb means “to bring together into a unit, unite.”
every joint: A human body is joined together through the major joints, or connections. Jesus Christ supplies the members of the body, or the congregation of anointed Christians, with the things they need “through every joint.” He does so by means of the arrangements for dispensing spiritual food, for communicating within the congregation, and for coordinating its activity. In this way, “the body” is well-fed spiritually, and each part receives direction for carrying out its assigned work. (Eph 4:7-16; see study note on Col 2:19.) Paul uses a term for “joint” that would commonly have been used by physicians. There is archaeological evidence of a medical school in Ephesus, which may be why Paul uses this analogy of the human body.
futility: Or “emptiness; vanity.” According to one lexicon, the thought in this verse is that the people of the nations “walk with their minds fixed on futile things.” Their course leads to frustration and disappointment, which is one reason why Paul urges Christians to stop “walking just as the nations also walk.”—For further comments on the Greek word rendered “futility,” see study note on Ro 8:20.
in darkness mentally: Paul’s remarks are not about the intelligence of unbelievers. The Bible often compares lack of understanding, especially in a spiritual sense, to darkness. (Job 12:24, 25; Isa 5:20; 60:2; Joh 8:12; 2Co 4:6; Eph 1:17, 18; 5:8, 11; 1Pe 2:9; 1Jo 2:9-11) Those who have not come to know Jehovah God and Jesus Christ are “in darkness mentally” because they have no guiding light or sense of direction in their endeavors.—Joh 17:3; Ro 1:21, 28; 2Co 4:4.
the life that belongs to God: According to one reference work, the Greek word here translated “life” means “life as a principle, life in the absolute sense.” (There is a different Greek word for “life” that means “way of life,” or “lifestyle.” See, for example, 1Ti 2:2; 1Jo 2:16.) Thus, Paul is saying that mental and spiritual darkness has alienated, or separated, people from Jehovah, the Source of life and of the hope of everlasting life.—Ps 36:9; Ro 1:21; Ga 6:8; Col 1:21.
insensitivity: Lit., “dulling.” People who are immersed in the thinking and spirit of this unrighteous world have figurative hearts that are insensitive, or dulled. (1Co 2:12; Eph 2:2; 4:17) Thus, they have no desire to gain the knowledge of God. The Greek noun here rendered “insensitivity” is derived from a medical term that among other things refers to skin made insensitive because of calluses. Here it is used to describe the way the figurative heart could gradually become hardened, or unfeeling, toward God.
Having gone past all moral sense: The expression renders a Greek word that literally means “having ceased to feel pain.” It is here used figuratively in the sense that someone is ethically or morally insensitive. Such a person has ceased to feel any pangs of conscience or any accountability to God.—1Ti 4:2.
brazen conduct: Or “shameless conduct.” The Greek word a·selʹgei·a denotes conduct that is a serious violation of God’s laws and that reflects a brazen or boldly contemptuous attitude.—See Glossary and study note on Ga 5:19.
every sort of uncleanness: The term “uncleanness” (Greek, a·ka·thar·siʹa) is broad in meaning. Here it is used in its figurative meaning, referring to impurity of any kind—in sexual matters, in speech, in action, and in spiritual relationships. (Compare 1Co 7:14; 2Co 6:17; 1Th 2:3.) It stresses the morally repugnant nature of the wrong conduct or condition. (See study note on Ga 5:19.) Paul notes that such conduct was carried out with greediness. The Greek word ple·o·ne·xiʹa, rendered “greediness,” denotes an insatiable desire to have more. By adding “with greediness,” Paul shows that “uncleanness” may involve various degrees of seriousness.—See study note on Ro 1:29.
continue to be made new: The Greek verb is in the present tense, expressing continuous action, which indicates that changing one’s dominant mental attitude is an ongoing process.—Php 3:12, 13.
in your dominant mental attitude: Or “in the force actuating your mind.” The Greek expression literally means “to the spirit of your mind.” Here “spirit” is used in the sense of an impelling force that causes a person to say and do things in a certain way. (See Glossary, “Spirit.”) So “the spirit of [the] mind” is the force that influences and shapes the thinking of a person, including his mental tendencies, desires, and motivations. Imperfect humans are inclined toward wrong thinking, and that inclination pushes their minds in a physical, materialistic, or fleshly direction. (Ge 8:21; Ec 7:20; Col 1:21; 2:18) When someone wants to become a Christian, he needs “to be made new in [his] dominant mental attitude” so that this impelling force pushes his thoughts in the right direction, that is, in harmony with God’s thoughts. (See study note on 1Co 2:15.) And after becoming a Christian, he needs to “continue to be made new” in his dominant mental attitude by studying the Bible and letting God’s spirit operate in him.
the new personality: Lit., “the new man.” Along with putting away “the old personality” (lit., “the old man”) with its bad practices (Eph 4:22), a Christian must make a real transformation by putting on “the new personality.” This new personality, which is “created according to God’s will,” reflects, or is an image of, the personality of Jehovah God. (Col 3:9, 10) He wants his worshippers to conform to his image and to reflect his beautiful qualities, such as those listed at Ga 5:22, 23.—See study notes on Ga 5:22; Eph 4:23.
neighbor: See study note on Mt 22:39.
Be wrathful: Paul quotes from Ps 4:4, showing that it is not wrong for Christians to feel anger. Jehovah and Jesus both express anger in response to wickedness and injustice, but their anger is always governed by righteousness and perfect judgment. (Eze 38:18, 19; see study note on Mr 3:5.) Christians too may feel righteous anger, but Paul says do not sin. Christians do not allow anger to lead to uncontrolled outbursts, abusive speech, or violence. (Eph 4:31) Ps 4:4 advises God’s servants to express their concerns about the cause of their anger in private prayer to Jehovah.
do not let the sun set while you are still angry: To the Jews, sunset marked the end of one day and the beginning of another. So Paul here warns against letting anger fester from one day to the next. In fact, Jesus warned his disciples not to continue to be wrathful with someone. (Mt 5:22) Prolonged anger may lead to bitterness, grudges, and divisions in personal relationships and within the congregation. (Le 19:18; Ps 36:4; Ga 5:19-21) Paul offers practical counsel to help Christians resolve problems quickly, the same day if possible.—Ro 12:17-21; Eph 4:2, 3.
do not give the Devil an opportunity: This phrase, which may more literally be rendered “neither allow place for the Devil,” adds force to Paul’s warning about the danger of prolonged anger. (See study note on Eph 4:26.) A Christian who allows anger or hostile feelings to fester in his heart might, figuratively speaking, be making room, or allowing a place, for the Devil to occupy. Satan would thereby have an opportunity to influence such a Christian to commit a serious sin. (Ps 37:8) If the Christian allowed prolonged anger to disrupt the unity of the congregation, he may also be serving the Devil’s interests.—Jas 4:1, 7.
steal no more: Paul’s words may have had special meaning for the working poor who lived in Ephesus. Some may have found that work was sporadic, seasonal, and not always sufficient to provide for their families, so the temptation to steal may have been strong. Paul here urges Christians to refrain from theft for any reason. Instead, they were to work hard with their hands. (De 5:19; 1Th 4:11) Paul had earlier reminded the Ephesian elders of his own example in working hard. (Ac 20:17, 34; see also study note on Ac 18:3.) His counsel required that Ephesian Christians trust in Christ’s promise that God would care for their material needs.—Mt 6:25-33.
a rotten word: The Greek word for “rotten” can describe putrefied fruit, fish, or meat. (Mt 7:17, 18; 12:33; Lu 6:43) This term vividly portrays unwholesome, abusive, or obscene speech, which a Christian would not use. Instead, he would say “only what is good for building up” and “what is beneficial”—using words that are “seasoned with salt.”—Col 4:6 and study note.
do not be grieving God’s holy spirit: The Greek word for “to grieve” could also be translated “to cause sorrow to; to sadden.” Paul uses a figure of speech called personification, saying that the holy spirit, an impersonal force, can be grieved as if it were a person. (Compare study notes on Joh 16:8, 13; Ro 8:27.) God uses his holy spirit to provide guidance and strength to his people. The holy spirit produces good qualities in them, namely, “the fruitage of the spirit.” (Ga 5:22-24) Those who do not appreciate the holy spirit, who resist its working, and who go against the Bible’s spirit-inspired counsel are, in effect, “grieving” it.—Eph 4:17-29; 5:1-5; Isa 63:10; Ac 7:51.
sealed for a day of releasing by ransom: Anointed Christians are sealed with Jehovah’s holy spirit. The seal signifies that they are God’s possession and are in line for heavenly life.—See study notes on 2Co 1:22.
become kind: At Eph 4:31, Paul listed a number of negative traits. Then, as a contrast, he here encourages the Christians in Ephesus to display positive qualities, such as kindness. (Col 3:12, 13) The Greek verb rendered “become” could suggest that they needed to make improvements in showing kindness.