Commentary on the Bible, by Adam Clarke, , at sacred-texts.com
Christians should imitate their heavenly Father, and walk in love, after the example of Christ, Eph 5:1, Eph 5:2. They should avoid all uncleanness, impurity, covetousness, and foolish jesting, and idolatry, because these things exclude from the kingdom of God, Eph 5:3-7. The Ephesians were once in darkness, but being now light in the Lord, they are exhorted to walk in that light, and bring forth the fruits of the Spirit; and to have no fellowship with the workers of iniquity, whose evil deeds are manifested by the light, Eph 5:8-13. All are exhorted to awake; to walk circumspectly; to redeem the time; and to learn what the will of the Lord is, Eph 5:14-17. The apostle gives particular directions relative to avoiding excess of wine, Eph 5:18. To singing and giving thanks, Eph 5:19, Eph 5:20. Submission to each other, Eph 5:21. To husbands that they should love their wives, as Christ loved the Church; for by the marriage union, the union between Christ and the Church is pointed out; and wives are exhorted to reverence their husbands, Eph 5:22-33.
Be ye therefore followers of God - The beginning of this chapter is properly a continuation of the preceding, which should have ended with the second verse of this. The word μιμηται, which we translate followers, signifies such as personate others, assuming their gait, mode of speech, accent, carriage, etc.; and it is from this Greek word that we have the word mimic. Though this term is often used in a ludicrous sense, yet here it is to be understood in a very solemn and proper sense. Let your whole conduct be like that of your Lord; imitate him in all your actions, words, spirit, and inclinations; imitate him as children do their beloved parents, and remember that you stand in the relation of beloved children to him. It is natural for children to imitate their parents; it is their constant aim to learn of them, and to copy them in all things; whatever they see the parent do, whatever they hear him speak, that they endeavor to copy and imitate; yea, they go farther, they insensibly copy the very tempers of their parents. If ye therefore be children of God, show this love to your heavenly Father, and imitate all his moral perfections, and acquire the mind that was in Jesus.
And walk in love - Let every act of life be dictated by love to God and man.
As Christ - hath loved us - Laying down your lives for your brethren if necessary; counting nothing too difficult to be done in order to promote their eternal salvation.
Hath given himself for us - Christ hath died in our stead, and become thereby a sacrifice for our sins.
An offering - Προσφορα· An oblation, an eucharistic offering; the same as מנחה minchah, Lev 2:1, etc., which is explained to be an offering made unto the Lord, of fine flour, with oil and frankincense. It means, any offering by which gratitude was expressed for temporal blessings received from the bounty of God.
A sacrifice - Θυσια· A sin-offering, a victim for sin; the same as זבח zebach, which almost universally means that sacrificial act in which the blood of an animal was poured out as an atonement for sin. These terms may be justly considered as including every kind of sacrifice, offering, and oblation made to God on any account; and both these terms are with propriety used here, because the apostle's design was to represent the sufficiency of the offering made by Christ for the sin of the world. And the passage strongly intimates, that as man is bound to be grateful to God for the good things of this life, so he should testify that gratitude by suitable offerings; but having sinned against God, he has forfeited all earthly blessings as well as those that come from heaven; and that Jesus Christ gave himself ὑπερ ἡμων, in our stead and on our account, as the gratitude-offering, προσφορα, which we owed to our Maker, and, without which a continuance of temporal blessings could not be expected; and also as a sacrifice for sin, θυσια, without which we could never approach God, and without which we must be punished with an everlasting destruction from the presence of God and the glory of his power. Thus we find that even our temporal blessings come from and by Jesus Christ, as well as all our spiritual and eternal mercies.
For a sweet-smelling savor - Εις οσμην ευωδιας· The same as is expressed in Gen 8:21; Lev 1:9; Lev 3:16 : ריח ניהוח ליהוה reiach nichoach laihovah, "a sweet savor unto the Lord;" i.e. an offering of his own prescription, and one with which he was well pleased; and by accepting of which he showed that he accepted the person who offered it. The sweet-smelling savor refers to the burnt-offerings, the fumes of which ascended from the fire in the act of burning; and as such odors are grateful to man, God represents himself as pleased with them, when offered by an upright worshipper according to his own appointment.
But fornication - It is probable that the three terms used here by the apostle refer to different species of the same thing. The word fornication, πορνεια, may imply not only fornication but adultery also, as it frequently does; uncleanness, ακαθαρσια may refer to all abominable and unnatural lusts - sodomy, bestiality, etc., and covetousness, πλεονεξια, to excessive indulgence in that which, moderately used, is lawful. As the covetous man never has enough of wealth, so the pleasure-taker and the libertine never have enough of the gratifications of sense, the appetite increasing in proportion to its indulgence. If, however, simple covetousness, i.e. the love of gain, be here intended, it shows from the connection in which it stands, (for it is linked with fornication, adultery, and all uncleanness), how degrading it is to the soul of man, and how abominable it is in the eye of God. In other places it is ranked with idolatry, for the man who has an inordinate love of gain makes money his god.
Let it not be once named - Let no such things ever exist among you, for ye are called to be saints.
Neither filthiness - Αισχροτης· Any thing base or vile in words or acts.
Foolish talking - Μωρολογια· Scurrility, buffoonery, ridicule, or what tends to expose another to contempt.
Nor jesting - Ευτραπελια· Artfully turned discourses or words, from ευ, well or easily, and τρεπω, I turn; words that can be easily turned to other meanings; double entendres; chaste words which, from their connection, and the manner in which they are used, convey an obscene or offensive meaning. It also means jests, puns, witty sayings, and mountebank repartees of all kinds.
Which are not convenient - Ουκ ανηκοντα· They do not come up to the proper standard; they are utterly improper in themselves, and highly unbecoming in those who profess Christianity.
But rather giving of thanks - Ευχαριστια· Decent and edifying discourse or thanksgiving to God. Prayer or praise is the most suitable language for man; and he who is of a trifling, light disposition, is ill fitted for either. How can a man, who has been talking foolishly or jestingly in company, go in private to magnify God for the use of his tongue which he has abused, or his rational faculties which he has degraded?
For this ye know - Ye must be convinced of the dangerous and ruinous tendency of such a spirit and conduct, when ye know that persons of this character can never inherit the kingdom of God. See on Eph 5:3 (note); and see the observations on the Greek article at the end of this epistle.
Let no man deceive you - Suffer no man to persuade you that any of these things are innocent, or that they are unavoidable frailties of human nature; they are all sins and abominations in the sight of God; those who practice them are children of disobedience; and on account of such practices the wrath of God - Divine punishment, must come upon them.
Be not ye therefore partakers with them - Do not act as your fellow citizens do; nor suffer their philosophy, to it in vain words, κενοις λογοις, with empty and illusive doctrines, to lead you astray from the path of truth.
That there was much need for such directions and cautions to the people of Ephesus has been often remarked. It appears, from Athenaeus, that these people were addicted to luxury, effeminacy etc. He tells us that the famous Aspasia, who was herself of the Socratic sect, brought a vast number of beautiful women into Greece, and by their means filled the country with prostitutes, και επληθυνεν απο των ταυτης ἑταιριδων ἡ Ελλας, lib. xiii. cap. 25. Ibid. cap. 31, he observes that the Ephesians had dedicated temples ἑταιρᾳ Αφροδιτῃ, to the prostitute Venus; and again, cap. 32, he quotes from Demosthenes, in Orat. contra Neaeram: τας μεν ἑταιρας ἡδονης ἑνεκα εχομεν, τας δε παλλακας της καθ' ἡμεραν παλλακειας, τας δε γυναικας του παιδοποιεισθαι γνησιως, και των ενδον φυλακα πιστην εχειν· "We have whores for our pleasure, harlots for daily use, and wives for the procreation of legitimate children, and for the faithful preservation of our property." Through the whole of this 13th book of Athenaeus the reader will see the most melancholy proofs of the most abominable practices among the Greeks, and the high estimation in which public prostitutes were held; the greatest lawgivers and the wisest philosophers among the Greeks supported this system both by their authority and example. Is it not in reference to their teaching and laws that the apostle says: Let no man deceive you with vain words?
For ye were sometimes (ποτε, formerly) darkness - While ye lived in darkness, ye lived in these crimes.
But now are ye light in the Lord - When ye were in heathenish darkness ye served divers lusts and pleasures, but now ye have the light - the wisdom and teaching which come from God; therefore walk as children of the light - let the world see that ye are not slaves to the flesh, but free, willing, rational servants of the Most High; not brutish followers of devil gods.
For the fruit of the Spirit - Instead of Spirit, Πνευματος, ABD*EFG, the Syriac, Coptic, Sahidic, Ethiopic, Armenian, Vulgate, and Itala, together with several of the fathers, read φωτος, light, which is supposed by most critics to be the true reading, because there is no mention made of the Spirit in any part of the context. As light, Eph 5:8, not only means the Divine influence upon the soul, but also the Gospel, with great propriety it may be said: The fruit of the light, i.e. of the Gospel, is in all goodness, and righteousness, and truth. Goodness, αγαθωσυνῃ, in the principle and disposition; righteousness, δικαιοσυνη, the exercise of that goodness in the whole conduct of life; truth, αληθεια, the director of that principle, and its exercise, to the glorification of God and the good of mankind.
Proving what is acceptable - By walking in the light - under the influence of the Divine Spirit, according to the dictates of the Gospel, ye shall be able to try, and bring to full proof, that by which God is best pleased. Ye shall be able to please him well in all things.
Have no fellowship - Have no religious connection whatever with heathens or their worship.
Unfruitful works of darkness - Probably alluding to the mysteries among the heathens, and the different lustrations and rites through which the initiated went in the caves and dark recesses where these mysteries were celebrated; all which he denominates works of darkness, because they were destitute of true wisdom; and unfruitful works, because they were of no use to mankind; the initiated being obliged, on pain of death, to keep secret what they had seen, heard, and done: hence they were called απορῥητα μυστηρια, unspeakable mysteries - things that were not to be divulged. That the apostle may refer to magic and incantations is also probable, for to these the Ephesians were greatly addicted. See the proofs in the notes on Act 19:19.
Rather reprove them - Bear a testimony against them; convince them that they are wrong; confute them in their vain reasons; reprove them for their vices, which are flagrant, while pretending to superior illumination. All these meanings has the Greek word ελεγχω, which we generally render to convince or reprove.
For it is a shame even to speak - This no doubt refers to the Eleusinian and Bacchanalian mysteries, which were performed in the night and darkness, and were known to be so impure and abominable, especially the latter, that the Roman senate banished them both from Rome and Italy. How the discovery of these depths of Satan was made, and the whole proceedings in that case, may be seen in Livy, Hist. lib. xxxix. cap. 8-19, where the reader will see the force of what the apostle says here: It is a shame even to speak of those things which are done of them in secret; the abominations being of the most stupendous kind, and of the deepest dye.
But all things that are reproved - Dr. Macknight paraphrases this verse as follows: "Now all these reprovable actions, ελεγχομενα, which are practised in celebrating these mysteries, are made manifest as sinful by the Gospel; and, seeing every thing which discovers the true nature of actions is light, the Gospel, which discovers the evil nature of the actions performed in these mysteries, is light."
The apostle speaks against these mysteries as he speaks against fornication, uncleanness, and covetousness; but by no means either borrows expression or similitude from them to illustrate Divine truths; for, as it would be a shame even to speak of those things, surely it would be an abomination to allude to them in the illustration of the doctrines of the Gospel.
Wherefore he saith - It is a matter of doubt and controversy whence this saying is derived. Some think it taken from Isa 26:19 : Thy dead men shall live; with my dead body shall they arise; Awake and sing, ye that dwell in the dust, etc. Others think that it is taken from Isa 60:1-3 : Arise, shine; for thy light is come, etc. But these passages neither give the words nor the meaning of the apostle. Epiphanius supposed them to be taken from an ancient prophecy of Elijah, long since lost: Syncellus and Euthalius think they were taken from an apocryphal work attributed to Jeremiah the prophet: others, that they made part of a hymn then used in the Christian Church; for that there were, in the apostle's time, hymns and spiritual songs, as well as psalms, we learn from himself, in Eph 5:19, and from Col 3:16. The hymn is supposed to have begun thus: -
Εγειραι ὁ καθευδων,
Και αναστα εκ των νεκρων,
Επιφαυσει σοι ὁ Χριστος.
Awake, O thou who sleepest,
And from the dead arise thou,
And Christ shall shine upon thee.
See Rosenmuller, Wolf, and others. But it seems more natural to understand the words he saith as referring to the light, i.e. the Gospel, mentioned Eph 5:13. And the διο λεγει should be translated, Wherefore It saith, Awake thou, etc. that is: This is the general, the strong, commanding voice of the Gospel in every part - Receive instruction; leave thy sins, which are leading thee to perdition; believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and he will enlighten and save thee.
As a man asleep neither knows nor does any thing that can be called good or useful, so the Gentiles and all others, while without the knowledge of Christianity, had not only no proper knowledge of vice and virtue, but they had no correct notion of the true God.
As the dead can perform no function of life, so the Gentiles and the unconverted were incapable of performing any thing worthy either of life or being. But though they were asleep - in a state of complete spiritual torpor, yet they might be awoke by the voice of the Gospel; and though dead to all goodness, and to every function of the spiritual life, yet, as their animal life was whole in them, and perception and reason were still left, they were capable of hearing the Gospel, and under that influence which always accompanies it when faithfully preached, they could discern its excellency, and find it to be the power of God to their salvation. And they are addressed by the apostle as possessing this capacity; and, on their using it properly, have the promise that Christ shall enlighten them.
Walk circumspectly - Our word circumspect, from the Latin circirmspicio, signifies to look round about on all hands; to be every way watchful, wary, and cautious, in order to avoid danger, discern enemies before they come too nigh, and secure a man's interest by every possible and lawful means. But the original word ακριβως signifies correctly, accurately, consistently, or perfectly. Be ye, who have received the truth, careful of your conduct; walk by the rule which God has given you; do this as well in little as in great matters; exemplify your principles, which are holy and good, by a corresponding conduct; do not only profess, but live the Gospel. As you embrace all its promises, be careful also to embrace all its precepts; and behave yourselves so, that your enemies may never be able to say that ye are holy in your doctrines and profession, but irregular in your lives.
Not as fools, but as wise - Μη ὡς ασοφοι, αλλ' ὡς σοφοι. The heathens affected to be called σοφοι, or wise men. Pythagoras was perhaps the first who corrected this vanity, by assuming the title of φιλοσοφος, a lover of wisdom; hence our term philosopher, used now in a much prouder sense than that in which the great Pythagoras wished it to be applied. The apostle here takes the term σοφος, and applies it to the Christian; and, instead of it, gives the empty Gentile philosopher the title of ασοφος, without wisdom, fool.
Redeeming the time - Εξαγοραζομενοι τον καιρον· Buying up those moments which others seem to throw away; steadily improving every present moment, that ye may, in some measure, regain the time ye have lost. Let time be your chief commodity; deal in that alone; buy it all up, and use every portion of it yourselves. Time is that on which eternity depends; in time ye are to get a preparation for the kingdom of God; if you get not this in time, your ruin is inevitable; therefore, buy up the time.
Some think there is an allusion here to the case of debtors, who, by giving some valuable consideration to their creditors, obtain farther time for paying their debts. And this appears to be the sense in which it is used by the Septuagint, Dan 2:8 : Επ' αληθειας οιδα εγω, ὁτι καιρον ὑμεις εξαγοραζετε· I know certainly that ye would gain or buy time - ye wish to have the time prolonged, that ye may seek out for some plausible explanation of the dream. Perhaps the apostle means in general, embrace every opportunity to glorify God, save your own souls, and do good to men.
Because the days are evil - The present times are dangerous, they are full of trouble and temptations, and only the watchful and diligent have any reason to expect that they shall keep their garments unspotted.
Wherefore be ye not unwise - Μη γινεσθε αφρονες· Do not become madmen. Here is a most evident allusion to the orgies of Bacchus, in which his votaries acted like madmen; running about, tossing their heads from shoulder to shoulder, appearing to be in every sense completely frantic. See the whole of the passage in Livy, to which I have referred on Eph 5:12.
But understanding what the will of the Lord is - It is the will of God that ye should be sober, chaste, holy, and pure. Get a thorough understanding of this; acquaint yourselves with God's will, that ye may know how to glorify him.
Be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess - This is a farther allusion to the Bacchanalian mysteries; in them his votaries got drunk, and ran into all manner of excesses. Plato, though he forbade drunkenness in general, yet allowed that the people should get drunk in the solemnities of that god who invented wine. And indeed this was their common custom; when they had offered their sacrifices they indulged themselves in drunkenness, and ran into all kinds of extravagance. Hence it is probable that μεθυω, to get drunk, is derived from μετα, after, and θυω, to sacrifice; for, having completed their sacrifices, they indulged themselves in wine. The word ασωτια, which we translate excess, means profligacy and debauchery of every kind; such as are the general concomitants of drunkenness, and especially among the votaries of Bacchus in Greece and Italy.
But be filled with the Spirit - The heathen priests pretended to be filled with the influence of the god they worshipped; and it was in these circumstances that they gave out their oracles. See a remarkable instance of this quoted in the note on Luk 9:39 (note), where the case of a Bacchanalian is described. The apostle exhorts the Ephesians not to resemble these, but, instead of being filled with wine, to be filled with the Spirit of God; in consequence of which, instead of those discoveries of the Divine will to which in their drunken worship the votaries of Bacchus pretended, they should be wise indeed, and should understand what the will of the Lord is.
Speaking to yourselves in psalms - We can scarcely say what is the exact difference between these three expressions. Psalms, ψαλμοι, may probably mean those of David.
Hymns - Ὑμνοις· Extemporaneous effusions in praise of God, uttered under the influence of the Divine Spirit, or a sense of his especial goodness. See Act 16:25.
Songs - Ωιδαις· Odes; premeditated and regular poetic compositions; but, in whatever form they were composed, we learn that they were all πνευματικα, spiritual - tending to magnify God and edify men.
Singing and making melody in your heart - The heart always going with the lips. It is a shocking profanation of Divine worship to draw nigh to God with the lips, while the heart is far from him. It is too often the case that, in public worship, men are carried off from the sense of the words by the sounds that are put to them. And how few choirs of singers are there in the universe whose hearts ever accompany them in what they call singing the praises of God!
Giving thanks always - God is continually loading you with his benefits; you deserve nothing of his kindness; therefore give him thanks for his unmerited bounties.
God and the Father - That is: God, who is your Father, and the Father of mercies. See the observations on the Greek article at the end of this epistle.
In the name of our Lord Jesus - He is the only mediator; and through him alone can ye approach to God; and it is for his sake only that God will hear your prayers or receive your praises.
Submitting - one to another - Let no man be so tenacious of his own will or his opinion in matters indifferent, as to disturb the peace of the Church; in all such matters give way to each other, and let love rule.
In the fear of God - Setting him always before your eyes, and considering that he has commanded you to love one another, and to bear each other's burdens; and that what you do in this or any other commanded case, you do as unto the Lord. Instead of εν φοβῳ Θεου, in the fear of God, εν φοβω Χριστου, in the fear of Christ, is the reading of ABDEFG, with all others of most value; besides the Syriac, Coptic, Sahidic, Ethiopic, Armenian, Vulgate, and Itala; Basil the Great, and Chrysostom. Neither reading makes any difference in the sense.
Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands - As the Lord, viz. Christ, is the head or governor of the Church, and the head of the man, so is the man the head or governor of the woman. This is God's ordinance, and should not be transgressed. The husband should not be a tyrant, and the wife should not be the governor. Old Francis Quarles, in his homely rhymes, alluding to the superstitious notion, that the crowing of a hen bodes ill luck to the family, has said: -
"Ill thrives the hapless family that shows
A cock that's silent, and a hen that crows:
I know not which live most unnatural lives,
Obeying husbands or commanding wives."
As unto the Lord - The word Church seems to be necessarily understood here; that is: Act under the authority of your husbands, as the Church acts under the authority of Christ. As the Church submits to the Lord, so let wives submit to their husbands.
For the husband is the head of the wife - This is the reason which the apostle gives for his injunctions. See above.
He is the Savior of the body - As Christ exercises authority over the Church so as to save and protect it, so let the husband exercise authority over his wife by protecting, comforting, and providing her with every necessary and comfort of life, according to his power.
In every thing - That is, every lawful thing; for it is not intimated that they should obey their husbands in any thing criminal, or in any thing detrimental to the interests of their souls. The husband may be profligate, and may wish his wife to become such also; he may be an enemy to true religion, and use his authority to prevent his wife from those means of grace which she finds salutary to her soul; in none of these things should she obey him.
Husbands, love your wives - Here is a grand rule, according to which every husband is called to act: Love your wife as Christ loved the Church. But how did Christ love the Church? He gave himself for it - he laid down his life for it. So then husbands should, if necessary, lay down their lives for their wives: and there is more implied in the words than mere protection and support; for, as Christ gave himself for the Church to save it, so husbands should, by all means in their power, labor to promote the salvation of their wives, and their constant edification in righteousness. Thus we find that the authority of the man over the woman is founded on his love to her, and this love must be such as to lead him to risk his life for her. As the care of the family devolves on the wife, and the children must owe the chief direction of their minds and formation of their manners to the mother, she has need of all the assistance and support which her husband can give her; and, if she performs her duty well, she deserves the utmost of his love and affection.
That he might sanctify and cleanse it - The Church is represented as the spouse of Christ, as the woman is the spouse of the man; and, to prepare this Church for himself, he washes, cleanses, and sanctifies it. There is certainly an allusion here to the ancient method of purifying women, who were appointed to be consorts to kings; twelve months, it appears, were in some instances spent in this purification: Six months with oil of myrrh, and six months with sweet odors and with other things, for the purifying of women. See the case of Esther, Est 2:12; see also Psa 45:13, Psa 45:14; Eze 16:7-14.
With the washing of water - Baptism, accompanied by the purifying influences of the Holy Spirit.
By the word - The doctrine of Christ crucified, through which baptism is administered, sin canceled, and the soul purified from all unrighteousness; the death of Christ giving efficacy to all.
That he might present it to himself - It was usual to bring the royal bride to the king in the most sumptuous apparel; and is there not here an allusion to Psa 45:13, Psa 45:14 : The king's daughter (Pharaoh's) is all glorious within, her clothing is of wrought gold; she shall be brought unto the king (Solomon) in raiment of needlework? This presentation here spoken of by the apostle will take place on the last day. See the note on Co2 11:2.
A glorious Church - Every way splendid and honorable, because pure and holy.
Not having spot - Σπιλος· No blemish on the face; no spots upon the garment; the heart and life both holy.
Wrinkle - Ῥυτιδα· No mark of superannuation or decay. The word is commonly applied to wrinkles on the face, indicative of sickness or decrepitude.
Holy and without blemish - In every sense holy, pure, and perfect. Now it was for this purpose that Christ gave himself for the Church; and for this purpose he continues the different ordinances which he has appointed; and, particularly, the preaching of the word - the doctrine of reconciliation through faith in his blood. And it is in this life that all this purification is to take place; for none shall be presented at the day of judgment to him who has not here been sanctified, cleansed, washed, made glorious, having neither spot, wrinkle, blemish, nor any such thing. How vain is the pretension of multitudes to be members of the true Church while full of spots, wrinkles, blemishes, and Many such things; fondly supposing that their holiness is in their surety, because not in themselves! Reader, lay thy hand on thy conscience and say, Dost thou believe that this is St. Paul's meaning? See the notes on Eph 3:14, etc.
As their own bodies - For the woman is, properly speaking, a part of the man; for God made man male and female, and the woman was taken out of his side; therefore is she flesh of his flesh, and bone of his bone; and therefore, he that loveth his wife loveth himself, for they two are one flesh. The apostle, in all these verses, refers to the creation and original state of the first human pair.
No man ever yet hated his own flesh - And this is a natural reason why he should love his wife, and nourish and cherish her.
We are members of his body - He has partaken of our nature, as we have partaken of the nature of Adam. And as he is the head of the Church and the Savior of this body; so we, being members of the Church, are members of his mystical body. That is, we are united to him by one Spirit in the closest intimacy, even similar to that which the members have with the body.
Shall be joined unto his wife - Προσκολληθησεται· He shall be glued or cemented to her; and, as a well-glued board will sooner break in the whole wood than in the glued joint, so death alone can part the husband and wife; and nothing but death should dissolve their affection. See the notes on Gen 2:21-24 (note).
This is a great mystery - Το μυστηριον τουτο μεγα εστιν· This mystery is great. Sacramentum hoc magnum est; this sacrament is great. - Vulgate. And on the evidence of this version the Church of Rome has made matrimony a sacrament, which, as they use it, is no meaning of the original. By mystery, here, we may understand a natural thing by which some spiritual matter is signified, which signification the Spirit of God alone can give. So, here, the creation and union of Adam and Eve, were intended, in the design of God, to point out the union of Christ and the Church: a union the most important that can be conceived; and therefore the apostle calls it a great mystery. See the observations at the end of this chapter, (Eph 5:33 (note)).
Nevertheless - Πλην· Moreover, or therefore, on the consideration of God's design in the institution of marriage, let every one of you love his wife as himself, because she is both naturally and by a Divine ordinance a part of himself.
That she reverence her husband - Let the wife ever consider the husband as her head, and this he is, not only by nature, but also by the ordinance of God. These are very important matters, and on them the apostle lays great stress. See the following observations.
There is one subject in the preceding verse on which I could not enlarge sufficiently in the notes, and which I have reserved for this place; viz. what the apostle says concerning the mystery of marriage, which certainly has a deeper meaning than what is generally apprehended. Dr. Macknight has some good observations on this part of the subject, which I shall beg leave to lay before my readers.
1. "The apostle calls the formation of Eve from Adam's body, his marriage with her; and the intimate union established between them by that marriage, a great mystery, because it contained an important emblematical meaning concerning the regeneration of believers, and their union with Christ, which hitherto had been kept secret, but which he had discovered in the 30th verse. For there, in allusion to what Adam said concerning Eve, 'This now is bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh,' the apostle says, concerning Christ and believers: We are bone of his bones, and flesh of his flesh: that is, we are parts of his body, the Church. And by this application of Adam's words concerning Eve to Christ and to his Church, he intimates,
First, That the formation of Eve of a rib taken out of Adam's body was a figure of the regeneration of believers by the breaking of Christ's body, mentioned Eph 5:25.
Secondly, That Adam's love to Eve, on account of her being formed of his body, was a figure of Christ's love to believers because they are become his body, Eph 5:30.
Thirdly, That Adam's marriage with Eve was a figure of the eternal union of Christ with believers in heaven, mentioned Eph 5:27. For he left his Father to be united to his Church.
2. "In giving this emblematical representation of these ancient facts, the apostle has not exceeded the bounds of probability. In the first age, neither the art of writing, nor any permanent method of conveying instruction, being invented, it was necessary to make such striking actions and events as could not easily be forgotten emblems of the instruction meant to be perpetuated. On this supposition, Adam, in whom the human race began, was a natural image of Christ, in whom the human race was to be restored; and his deep sleep, the opening of his side, and the formation of Eve of a rib taken out of his side, were fit emblems of Christ's death, of the opening of his side on the cross, and of the regeneration of believers by his death. The love which Adam expressed towards Eve, and his union with her by marriage, were lively images of Christ's love to believers, and of his eternal union with them in one society after their resurrection; and Eve herself, who was formed of a rib taken from Adam's side, was a natural image of believers, who are regenerated, both in their body and in their mind, by the breaking of Christ's side on the cross. Thus, the circumstances which accompanied the formation of Eve being fit emblems of the formation of the Church, we may suppose they were brought to pass to prefigure that great event; and, by prefiguring it, to show that it was decreed of God from the very beginning.
3. "The aptness, however, of these images is not the only reason for supposing that the formation of Eve, and her marriage with Adam in paradise, were emblems of the regeneration of believers by the death of Christ, and of their eternal union with him in heaven. The singular manner in which Eve was formed, and the declaration at her marriage with Adam, 'Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and cleave unto his wife, and they shall be one flesh,' strongly lead to that conclusion. Eve was not formed of the dust of the earth, as all other living things were made, (not excepting Adam himself), but of a rib taken from Adam's side while he was in a deep sleep. Now, for this diversity, what reason can be assigned, if that which the apostle hath suggested is not admitted? Farther: unless some deep instruction were couched under the formation of Eve, what occasion was there for Adam, at his marriage with her, to declare, 'This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called woman, because she was taken out of man: therefore shall a man leave,' etc.? For although the taking of Eve out of Adam might be a reason for Adam's affection towards her, it was no reason for the affection of his posterity towards their wives, who were not so formed. The reason of their love to their wives is their being creatures of the same species with themselves. This Eve might have been, though, like Adam, she had been formed of the dust of the earth. Wherefore Adam's declaration concerning Eve being taken out of his body, and concerning his love to her on that account, was intended for some purpose peculiar to himself; namely, as he was a type of Him who was to restore the human race by the breaking of his body on the cross, and who on that account loves them, and will unite them to himself for ever. Upon the whole, the formation of Eve and her marriage with Adam, and his love to and union with her because she was taken out of his side, and the declaration that, on that account, all his posterity should love their wives, and continue united to them through life, (a union which does not subsist among other animals), are events so singular, that I do not see what account can be given of them, unless, with the Apostle Paul, we suppose that, agreeably to the most ancient method of instruction, God intended these things as figurative representations of the regeneration of believers by the death of Christ, and of his eternal union with them in heaven; and that Adam and Eve were taught by God himself to consider them as such.
4. "It is no small confirmation of the apostle's emblematical interpretation of the formation and marriage of Eve, that in Scripture we find a variety of images and expressions founded on that interpretation. For example, Rom 5:14, Adam is expressly called a type of him who was to come, on which account, Co1 15:45, Christ is called the last Adam. Next, the catholic Church, consisting of believers of all nations, is called the body of Christ, and the members thereof are said to be members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones; in allusion to the formation of Eve, the emblem of the Church. For, as Eve was formed of a rib taken out of Adam's body during his deep sleep, so believers are regenerated both in mind and body, and formed into one great society, and united to Christ as their head and governor, by the breaking of his body on the cross. Thirdly, to this emblematical meaning of the formation of Eve, our Lord, I think, alluded when he instituted his supper. For instead of appointing one symbol only of his death, he appointed two; and, in explaining the first of them, he expressed himself in such a manner as to show that he had his eye on what happened to Adam when Eve was formed: This is my body which is broken for you - for your regeneration. Fourthly, the eternal union of the regenerated with Christ after the resurrection is called a marriage, Rev 19:7; and the new Jerusalem, that is, the inhabitants of the new Jerusalem, the society of the redeemed, is termed the bride, the Lamb's wife; and the preparing of men for that happy union, by introducing them into the Church upon earth through faith, and by sanctifying them through the word, is called, Co2 11:2, A fitting them for one husband, that at the resurrection they may be presented a chaste virgin to Christ; in allusion, I suppose, to the presenting of Eve to Adam, in order to her marriage with him; and to show that, in this expression, the apostle had the figurative meaning of Eve's marriage in his mind, he mentions, Co2 11:3, the subtlety of the devil in deceiving Eve. Finally, the union of the Jewish Church with God, as the figure of the catholic Church, consisting of the regenerated of all nations, is by God himself termed a marriage, Jer 3:14; Ezekiel 16:8-32; and God is called the husband of that people, Isa 54:5; and their union to him by the law of Moses is termed, The day of their espousals, Jer 2:2."
1. A truly Christian marriage has an excellence, holiness, and unity in it, that cannot be easily described; and let it be observed that, while it prefigures the union of Christ with his Church, it is one means of giving children to the Church, and members to the mystical body of Christ. It is an ordinance of God, and, cannot be too highly honored; endless volumes might be written on its utility to man: without marriage, by which every man is assigned his own wife, and every woman her own husband, even the multitude of spurious births which would take place would fail to keep up the population of the earth; and natural, moral, and political wretchedness would be the consequence of promiscuous, fortuitous, and transitory connections. For without that ascertainment of peculiar property which marriage gives to every man in his wife, and to every woman in her husband, the human progeny would be unnoticed, unclaimed, uneducated, and totally neglected. This would continually increase the wretchedness, and in process of time bring about the total depopulation of the world.
2. The husband is to love his wife, the wife to obey and venerate her husband; love and protection on the one hand, affectionate subjection and fidelity on the other. The husband should provide for his wife without encouraging profuseness; watch over her conduct without giving her vexation; keep her in subjection without making her a slave; love her without jealousy; oblige her without flattery; honor her without making her proud; and be hers entirely, without becoming either her footman or her slave. In short, they have equal rights and equal claims; but superior strength gives the man dominion, affection and subjection entitle the woman to love and protection. Without the woman, man is but half a human being; in union with the man, the woman finds her safety and perfection. In the above remarks there are many things solid and useful; there are others which rest more on fancy than judgment.
3. Of marriage the Church of Rome has made a sacrament, and it is one of the seven which that Church acknowledges. That it is an ordinance of God is sufficiently evident; that he has not made it a sacrament is not less so. Though the minister of religion celebrates it, yet the regulation of it, in reference to inheritance, etc., is assumed by the state. This is of great moment, as by it many evils are prevented, and many political and domestic advantages secured. If a man enter hastily into this state it is at his own risk; after he has once entered it, the seal of the legislature is imposed upon it, and with his engagements, he cannot trifle. A consideration of this has prevented many hasty and disproportionate alliances. Though they might hope to trifle with the Church, they dare not do it with the state.