1. I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord,) beseech you, that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called,
1. Obsecro itaque vos, ego vinctus in Domino, ut digne ambuletis vocatione, ad quam vocati estis,
2. With all lowliness and meekness, with long-suffering, forbearing one another in love;
2. Cum omni humilitate et mansuetudine, cum tolerantia sufferentes vos invicem in dilectione,
3. Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
3. Studentes servare unitatem Spiritus, in vinculo pacis.
4. There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling;
4. Unum corpus et unus spiritus; quemadmodum vocati estis in una spe vocationis vestrae.
5. One Lord, one faith, one baptism,
5. Unus Dominus, una fides, unum baptisma.
6. One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.
6. Unus Deus et Pater omnium, qui est super omnia, et per omnia, (vel, super omnes et per omnes,) et in omnibus vobis.
The three remaining chapters consist entirely of practical exhortations. Mutual agreement is the first subject, in the course of which a discussion is introduced respecting the government of the church, as having been framed by our Lord for the purpose of maintaining unity among Christians.
1. I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord. His imprisonment, which might have been supposed more likely to render him despised, is appealed to, as we have already seen, for a confirmation of his authority. It was the seal of that embassy with which he had been honored. Whatever belongs to Christ, though in the eyes of men it may be attended by ignominy, ought to be viewed by us with the highest regard. The apostle's prison is more truly venerable than the splendid retinue or triumphal chariot of kings.
That ye may walk worthy. This is a general sentiment, a sort of preface, on which all the following statements are founded. He had formerly illustrated the calling with which they were called, and now reminds them that they must live in obedience to God, in order that they may not be unworthy of such distinguished grace.
2. With all humility. He now descends to particulars, and first of all he mentions humility The reason is, that he was about to enter on the subject of Unity, to which humility is the first step. This again produces meekness, which disposes us to bear with our brethren, and thus to preserve that unity which would otherwise be broken a hundred times in a day. Let us remember, therefore, that, in cultivating brotherly kindness, we must begin with humility. Whence come rudeness, pride, and disdainful language towards brethren? Whence come quarrels, insults, and reproaches? Come they not from this, that every one carries his love of himself, and his regard to his own interests, to excess? By laying aside haughtiness and a desire of pleasing ourselves, we shall become meek and gentle, and acquire that moderation of temper which will overlook and forgive many things in the conduct of our brethren. Let us carefully observe the order and arrangement of these exhortations. It will be to no purpose that we inculcate forbearance till the natural fierceness has been subdued, and mildness acquired; and it will be equally vain to discourse of meekness, till we have begun with humility.
Forbearing one another in love. This agrees with what is elsewhere taught, that |love suffereth long and is kind.| (1 Corinthians 13:4.) Where love is strong and prevalent, we shall perform many acts of mutual forbearance.
3. Endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit. With good reason does he recommend forbearance, as tending to promote the unity of the Spirit. Innumerable offenses arise daily, which might produce quarrels, particularly when we consider the extreme bitterness of man's natural temper. Some consider the unity of the Spirit to mean that spiritual unity which is produced in us by the Spirit of God. There can be no doubt that He alone makes us |of one accord, of one mind,| (Philippians 2:2,) and thus makes us one; but I think it more natural to understand the words as denoting harmony of views. This unity, he tells us, is maintained by the bond of peace; for disputes frequently give rise to hatred and resentment. We must live at peace, if we would wish that brotherly kindness should be permanent amongst us.
4. There is one body. He proceeds to show more fully in how complete a manner Christians ought to be united. The union ought to be such that we shall form one body and one soul. These words denote the whole man. We ought to be united, not in part only, but in body and soul. He supports this by a powerful argument, as ye have been called in one hope of your calling. We are called to one inheritance and one life; and hence it follows, that we cannot obtain eternal life without living in mutual harmony in this world. One Divine invitation being addressed to all, they ought to be united in the same profession of faith, and to render every kind of assistance to each other. Oh, were this thought deeply impressed upon our minds, that we are subject to a law which no more permits the children of God to differ among themselves than the kingdom of heaven to be divided, how earnestly should we cultivate brotherly kindness! How should we dread every kind of animosity, if we duly reflected that all who separate us from brethren, estrange us from the kingdom of God! And yet, strangely enough, while we forget the duties which brethren owe to each other, we go on boasting that we are the sons of God. Let us learn from Paul, that none are at all fit for that inheritance who are not one body and one spirit.
5. One Lord. In the first Epistle to the Corinthians, he employs the word Lord, to denote simply the government of God.
|There are differences of administration, but the same Lord.| (1 Corinthians 12:5)
In the present instance, as he shortly afterwards makes express mention of the Father, he gives this appellation strictly to Christ, who has been appointed by the Father to be our Lord, and to whose government we cannot be subject, unless we are of one mind. The frequent repetition of the word one is emphatic. Christ cannot be divided. Faith cannot be rent. There are not various baptisms, but one which is common to all. God cannot cease to be one, and unchangeable. It cannot but be our duty to cherish holy unity, which is bound by so many ties. Faith, and baptism, and God the Father, and Christ, ought to unite us, so as almost to become one man. All these arguments for unity deserve to be pondered, but cannot be fully explained. I reckon it enough to take a rapid glance at the apostle's meaning, leaving the full illustration of it to the preachers of the gospel. The unity of faith, which is here mentioned, depends on the one, eternal truth of God, on which it is founded.
One baptism, This does not mean that Christian baptism is not to be administered more than once, but that one baptism is common to all; so that, by means of it, we begin to form one body and one soul. But if that argument has any force, a much stronger one will be founded on the truth, that the Father, and Son, and Spirit, are one God; for it is one baptism, which is celebrated in the name of the Three Persons. What reply will the Arians or Sabellians make to this argument? Baptism possesses such force as to make us one; and in baptism, the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Spirit, is invoked. Will they deny that one Godhead is the foundation of this holy and mysterious unity? We are compelled to acknowledge, that the ordinance of baptism proves the existence of Three Persons in one Divine essence.
6. One God and Father of all. This is the main argument, from which all the rest flow. How comes it that we are united by faith, by baptism, or even by the government of Christ, but because God the Father, extending to each of us his gracious presence, employs these means for gathering us to himself? The two phrases, epi panton kai dia panton, may either mean, above all and through all Things, or above all and through all Men. Either meaning will apply sufficiently well, or rather, in both cases, the meaning will be the same. Although God by his power upholds, and maintains, and rules, all things, yet Paul is not now speaking of the universal, but of the spiritual government which belongs to the church. By the Spirit of sanctification, God spreads himself through all the members of the church, embraces all in his government, and dwells in all; but God is not inconsistent with himself, and therefore we cannot but be united to him into one body.
This spiritual unity is mentioned by our Lord.
|Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast, given me, that they may be one as we are.| (John 17:11)
This is true indeed, in a general sense, not only of all men but of all creatures. |In him we live, and move, and have our being.| (Acts 17:28.) And again, |Do not I fill heaven and earth, saith the Lord?| (Jeremiah 23:24.) But we must attend to the connection in which this passage stands. Paul is now illustrating the mutual relation of believers, which has nothing in common either with wicked men or with inferior animals. To this relation we must limit what is said about God's government and presence. It is for this reason, also, that the apostle uses the word Father, which applies only to the members of Christ.