TRANSLATION OF THE LETTER TO EPHESIANS WITH COMMENT
EPHESIANS 4: 1ff
Prisoner as I am for the Master, I beg you to walk in a way worthy of God’s call, with complete humility and gentleness, patiently putting up with one another in love, making an effort to maintain spiritual unity in the bond of peace. There is one body and one spirit, just as you were called by God to the one hope; there is one master, one trust, one baptism, one God and father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.
But to each one of us was given kindness in proportion with Messiah’s gift of us. So the psalm says, “He went up on high, he captured captives, he gave gifts to humanity.”
(Now this phrase, he ‘went up’, what does it mean but that he also ‘went down’ to the lower levels, namely the earth? So the one who came down is the one who went up above all the heavens so that he might complete all things.)
And he gave some as emissaries, some as prophets, some as bearers of the joyful message, some as pastors and teachers, in order to enable the holy ones for the tasks of ministry, for building up Messiah’s body, until we all arrive at the unity of trust in, and knowledge of, the Son of God, at complete humanity, at measuring ourselves by the full stature of Messiah.
Here and there in the Greek of this section there are oddities of expression and syntax which force the translator to decide amongst competing meanings.
The author continues here to use the history of the dead Paul to commend his message. He/she is encouraging personal commitment to the health of the Assembly, using the imprisoned Paul as an example. The basis of the believer’s way of life should be the unity of the Assembly in the unity of the one God. Fundamental reality is no longer the individual person but the community. The beautiful virtues of humility, gentleness, patience, love and peace flow from this shared life, and protect it.
But unity does not mean sameness. The author notes that “God’s kindness is given to each believer in proportion to Messiah’s gift of us.” The Greek just says “gift”, but I have added “of us” for this is not Messiah’s gift to us, but his gift of each one of us, with different functions, to the Assembly, as is evident below. Most translators have not noticed this crucial point and have twisted the Greek to fit the more usual idea of “gifts of the spirit” The risen Jesus equips the people by giving them each other, each with specific functions, which express the kindness of God to each.
God gives people to each other in the assembly so that together they can aim at the unity of trust in Messiah ( possessed by all believers) and knowledge of Messiah (possessed variously but encouraged by this author as a sign of maturity.) This letter inculcates knowledge by insisting on the existence of the Assembly IN Messiah, IN the heavens. He does not want his readers to be too modest: they are to measure themselves against the full stature of the Messiah.