Think of That (!)
By Charles H. Welch
The word ‘Selah’ is found in the Psalms some seventythree times. Much has been written as to its precise meaning, but a considerable amount of uncertainty still prevails. It seems practically certain that when the Psalms were sung to musical accompaniment in the Temple a pause was indicated by the ‘Selah’. This pause would not be placed arbitrarily, but at some point where the subject matter of the Psalm calls upon the singer as well as the hearer to stop and think. Once, in Psalm 9:16, we have ‘Higgaion, Selah’ meditate, pause. In many of the Psalms where this term Selah is found, it will be observed that there is some matter either for comparison or of contrast. Take the first Psalm to use it, namely Psalm 3.
Psalm 3 is connected with Psalm 4 by the Selah that comes at the end and suggests that the two Psalms are dealing with much the same subject.
In Psalm 32 we have the Selah of Penitence.
Psalm 46 supplies us with the Selah of Trust.
In Psalm 87 we have the Selah of Adoption. (Adoption being the placing of a son in the position of the firstborn and in Scripture associated with citizenship in each of the three spheres of blessing).
In some of the Psalms the Selah does not so pointedly mark a contrast as a pause, with a continuation of the theme. In this study we are using the Selah in the sense of comparison and of contrasting that which goes before with that which follows after. The apostle Paul of course does not use the word ‘Selah’, but in his writings much precious truth is brought to light by designed contrast. There is no strict equivalent in the Greek language of the New Testament for Selah. We merely use the term as a figure and as a suggestion. What we hope to do is to show the bearing of the Greek particle de upon the teaching of the apostle Paul, showing that in some measure it calls us to ‘think of this, now compare with that’ as the Selah does in the Psalms.
A word or two may not be amiss on the meaning and purpose of particles in general, and of de in particular. The name ‘particle’ suggests that the word is a small part of something; but grammarians are by no means agreed as to what parts of speech should be called ‘particles’, and it will not justify the use of two or more pages of this Analysis to air their conflicting views. Sufficient for us if we remember that particles are ‘the hinges of speech’ and Paley, in The Greek Particles, says that they are ‘an elaborately finished part of a most complex and beautiful machinery’. These particles cannot be fully translated from one language to another.
Let us turn our attention to the Greek particle de. Monro says ‘The adversative de properly indicates that the new clause stands in some contrastto what has preceded. Ordinarily, however, it is used as the continuation of a narrative’. None need stumble over the term ‘adversative’ if the words ‘adverse’, ‘adversary’, ‘adversity’ are kept in mind. De when used as an adversative, indicates ‘opposition’ or ‘contrast’. It is possible that de was originally connected with deuteros ‘second’, and so would have the force of ‘in the second place’ or ‘on the other hand’. Abbott recognizes this sense, saying:
Let us see a few examples of the use of the adversative de. Here are some taken from 1 Corinthians.
The context shows in each case that the word de must be taken adversatively. With this introduction we must be content. No application of the Selah in Paul’s epistles can be made at the end of an article. We trust sufficient has been said to stimulate interest and to explain the way in which the word Selah is to be used in this study. May we all be compelled many a time as we study the record of Divine grace together, to pause, think and compare.
We now point out the use of this adversative in the epistle to the Ephesians.
It is noteworthy that the apostle found no occasion to introduce his ‘Selah’ when writing in Ephesians until he reaches the second chapter. Such was the sublime unfolding of the secret of the ages, that he does not and cannot stop to speak of contrasts or to draw comparisons until he reaches Ephesians 2:4. Then he pauses, then he does say in effect ‘think of that, then observe the difference’. So far as the purpose of the Divine will was concerned, the apostle could go back before age -times, before the overthrow of the world, before man had sinned, before a member of the church had been born or had done either good or evil, and there, ‘in Christ’ see the election, predestination and acceptance in the Beloved of every member of that One Body. He not only looks back to the redemption by blood, but forward to redemption by power at the end (Eph. 1:19), and up to the Ascended Christ far above all, seeing Him there, Head over all things to the Church which is His Body, the Fulness of Him that filleth all in all.
When this goal of the ages and of this dispensation in particular has been expressed, then for the first time (except for the momentary glance in 1:7), Paul allows his eye to rest upon the sinful character of those who became recipients of such overwhelming grace, and in chapter 2 of this Epistle we have two related apostolic ‘Selahs’, the first doctrinal in character, the second dispensational, and both of vital importance to every member of the One Body.
The first adversative de used by the apostle in Ephesians is at 2:4 which we have called ‘The Selah of Quickening Love’. The second adversative de is found in 2:13, and this we have called ‘The Selah of Alienation and Access’. We have already seen that Selah says in effect ‘think of that, now look at this’, and this is indeed what we are called upon to do when we consider what we were by nature and what we are by grace. In The Berean Expositor and in The Testimony of the Lord’s Prisoner we have gone fairly thoroughly into the translation of Ephesians 2:1, and have shown by actual parallels in the A.V. itself that elsewhere the same words and the same grammatical construction translate this passage ‘dead to sins’ not ‘dead insins’. Ephesians 2:1 speaks of the new state by grace, not the old state by nature. For arguments and parallels to prove this statement, the reader is referred to The Berean Expositor Vol. 9, pages 51 and 81, or to The Testimony of the Lord’s Prisoner chapter 7. Ephesians 2:1 does not say what we werebut what we are, the A.V. having translated the present participle ontas‘being’, by the past ‘were’ for which there is no justification. We go back to the past in verses 2 and 3 where in both verses we are referred to ‘time past’. Here we are on solid ground and know without peradventure that these two verses speak of our original state before grace found us.
There is a reason why the reference back to ‘time past’ should be divided under two headings, for verse 2 looks at the external forces that moulded and influenced our lives, while verse 3 speaks of the internal co - operating forces that allied themselves with our evil environment and made our case so hopeless.
Let us see this.
The reader who has learned to realize the fulness of Scripture will readily understand that we have here a far reaching subject if we are to analyse and differentiate between each of these related subjects. To give all the time and space which the subject demands may be outside our power, but we cannot feel that we shall have discharged the obligations of our stewardship by leaving matters where they are. Consequently, though our comments must be brief we trust they will be of help in enabling us to get a fairly true picture of what we once were, so that when the Selah of Ephesians 2:4 is faced, we shall the better realize what ‘quickening Love’ has wrought.
‘Walk’. Our past life is likened in verse 2 to a walk, and this word
is used in the Prison Epistles four times to speak of the walk that is evil
and nine times to speak of the walk that is good. For the moment we are
concerned with the walk that characterized the past and therefore we must
read these four passages together.
There is much food for thought in this fourfold picture of the past. The desires of the flesh and of the mind run through them all and we must either devote considerable space to their comparison or be content with the above presentation. This latter course is the only one that is possible in the circumstances and so we turn our attention to the parallel word to ‘walk’, namely ‘conversation’.The word translated ‘conversation’ in Ephesians 2:3 is anastrepho, and does not occur again in the Prison Epistles. Anastrophe, the noun, occurs in Ephesians 4:22:
It is evident from this reference that the ‘walk’ and the ‘conversation’ in times past of Ephesians 2:3 is but the manifestation of the ‘old man’. When we get this Scriptural portrait of the walk and conversation of times past, with its environment of the world and the devil without, and its heredity of the flesh within, such a picture of fettered misery and hopeless alienation rises before the mind that the relief brought by the blessed words ‘But God’ is unspeakable.
Who but God could break through this dreadful state and what else would be of any avail but ‘quickening Love’? Precepts, commands, ordinances, vows, promises, prayers are all of no avail, for the one crying need is ‘life’ and life is in the gift of God alone. Here then is Paul’s great doctrinal ‘Selah’.
Look on this picture (Eph. 2:2,3) and on that (Eph. 2:4-7). What differences there are between ‘the age of this world’ and those ‘ages to come’ that are to be laden with ‘kindness’! If there be a mighty power that energizes the sons of disobedience, the selfsame word (energeo) is used of that power which raised up Christ from the dead and seated Him, and which raises up the members of His Body and seats them.
The Selahs of the Psalms are wonderful, but what shall we say to this ‘Selah’ written for us and about us!
We have considered the doctrinal Selah of Ephesians 2:2-7, and now turn our attention to the dispensational Selah of Ephesians 2:11-19. The two passages have much in common. They turn the reader’s attention back to ‘times past’ (Eph. 2:2,3,11,12); they describe the terrible condition of that period. One has to do with trespasses and sins, the other with distance and alienation. The desperate condition of the former position is met by ‘life’, and the equally hopeless condition of the dispensational position is met by ‘access’. In the former condition the Gentile is seen ‘alienated from the life of God’ (see ‘walk’ and ‘conversation’ in Eph. 4:17 -22), and in the latter condition ‘aliens from the commonwealth of Israel’. In the first we see a sinner and his need, in the second a Gentile and his far -off condition. In Ephesians 2:2 -7 we saw that environment and heredity, ‘the world’ and ‘the flesh’, played their part. We find these two influences repeated when the apostle treats of the dispensational disability of being a Gentile. He was ‘in the flesh’ (Eph. 2:11) and ‘in the world’ (Eph. 2:12). If his need so far as sin, death and life are concerned could only be met by the Selah of Ephesians 2:4 ‘But God’, his need so far as distance and alienation are concerned, could only be met by the Selah ‘But now’ of Ephesians 2:13.
Let us now give our attention to this second great theme, the one dealing not with sin, but with dispensational disability. We must endeavour to put ourselves back into the time when Ephesians was written. It is ‘a prison epistle’, and therefore was written during the ‘two whole years’ of Acts 28:30. Up till then the Jew had been ‘first’ (Rom. 1:16; 2:9). The believing Gentile was reminded that he was after all but a wild olive grafted contrary to nature into the true olive (Rom. 11:17 -25). Israel as a nation was a people ‘near unto the Lord’ (Psa. 148:14), even though as individuals they were sinners as were the rest of the world. Ephesians 2:11 calls upon the Gentile to ‘remember’ his position ‘in time past’. He was typified by the Gentile Syro -Phoenician woman, who, recognizing Israel as her ‘Lord’, accepting her own position as ‘a little dog’, was glad to be permitted to eat the crumbs that fell from Israel’s table.
‘In the flesh’ these Gentiles were the ‘Uncircumcision’. ‘In the world’, they were ‘without God’. It was impossible for any uncircumcised person to have part or lot with the covenant promises of Israel in the flesh (Gen. 17:14; Exod. 12:48). Such were ‘aliens’ so far as the ‘citizenship’ (politeia) of Israel is concerned, and ‘strangers’ so far as the covenants of promise are concerned.
The word translated ‘stranger’ is xenos and while this word is never translated ‘guest’ in the A.V., this would not be an impossible translation did the context permit such a rendering. The word however cannot be translated ‘guest’ in Ephesians 2:12 for the following reasons. It refers to that period in the Gentiles’ experience when they were called ‘the uncircumcision’ by those who are called the circumcision in the flesh, and it is beyond controversy that at that time and in that circumstance, an uncircumcised Gentile would not be a ‘guest’ of the Covenants; he would be a ‘stranger’. It refers to the time when the Gentile was without Christ, without hope and without God, and it is impossible for even a ‘guest’ of the covenant of promise, to be at the same time Christless, Godless and hopeless! Moreover, at the same time these Gentiles were ‘aliens’ from the citizenship of Israel. These two words ‘aliens’ (apallotrioo) and ‘stranger’ (xenos) come together in the LXX, e.g.
The usage of the LXX, the demands of the Mosaic law and the context of Ephesians 2:11,12, alike forbid any other translation here of xenos than ‘strangers’.
This was the position of the Gentile as such while Israel retained its favoured position, a status that obtains from Genesis 12, when Abraham was called, until Acts 28, when Israel as a nation was set aside. This was the Gentile’s position dispensationally ‘in the flesh’ and ‘in the world’, dreadful heredity, horrible environment! Then comes the second Selah of Ephesians.
Here is the new environment ‘in Christ Jesus’ instead of being in the world, here is the new heredity ‘in Christ Jesus’ instead of being in the flesh.
From ‘alienation’ this apostolic Selah turns to ‘access’; from being ‘in the flesh’ he speaks of access ‘in one Spirit’ (Eph. 2:18). From being ‘without Christ’, Christ becomes his peace; from being without God, he is reconciled to ‘God’ and has access to the ‘Father’ (Eph. 2:16,18). That no mere evolution or perfecting of an immature position is in view let Ephesians 2:15 testify.
Here then is the Selah of Alienation and Access.
This last clause ‘fellowcitizens of the saints’ must not be misinterpreted as though the apostle would say:
There is no citizenship of Israel in view in the Prison Epistles. The citizenship of the Mystery is ‘far above all’ or as Philippians 3:20 puts it:
When it can be proved that the Church of the One Body is looking for the Saviour out of a city of Israel (for the words of Philippians 3:20 ‘out of which’ do not refer to ‘heaven’ but to ‘citizenship’), then it will be time enough to attempt to introduce either the translation ‘guest’ for xenos(Eph. 2:12) or Israel’s citizenship into Ephesians 2:19. Surely, as we behold the marvels of grace expressed in the Selah of quickening love (Eph. 2:4) and in the Selah of alienation and access, our hearts are moved to thanksgiving as we say:
Paul does not use the adversative ‘but’ (de) again until he takes up the practical exposition of the truth. The third Selah is found in Ephesians 4:7. ‘The Selah of individual grace’. Let us see the three together.
It is useless to speak of ‘practice’ until both quickening Love and
reconciling Grace have done their blessed work. When, however, the believer
is ‘made alive’, and when he has been ‘made nigh’ then, and then only, one
may expect some corresponding change to become evident in his daily life.
The practical section of Ephesians opens with chapter 4, where the
exhortation is ‘to walk worthy’. The first and foremost charge laid upon the
member of the One Body is that of keeping the unity of the Spirit. This
unity is defined and given its sevenfold character and leads us to the close
of verse 6. With the opening of verse 7, we meet the adversative ‘but’. Why
does Paul use it here? What is the contrasting thought of verses 6 and 7?
The contrasting ideas are, a Unity in verses 3 to 6, and A Unit in verse 7.
There is always the danger that the individual may be lost in the mass and
while unity is the very soul of the teaching of the apostle here, it is not a
unity that demands self-obliteration, it is rather a unity whose very life
depends upon ‘the effectual working in the measure of every part’ (Eph.
4:16). In 1 Corinthians 12, where the figure of the ‘body’ is used to
illustrate the relation of the various ‘gifts’ both to other members and to
the church as a whole, there we discover the double emphasis, one upon the
Unity, the other upon the Unit.
When Paul wrote 1 Corinthians 12, the dispensation of the Mystery had not been given to him. In this chapter he is not speaking of the church which is the Body of Christ as found in Ephesians, but is dealing with ‘spiritual gifts’ (1 Cor. 12:1) and the members of the body ‘set’ by God (1 Cor. 12:18) are explained as ‘gifts’ including healing and miracles in verse 28, where the same expression ‘set’ occurs. If we are clear as to the primary purpose with which 1 Corinthians 12 was written, we may learn from it a lesson that will help us when reading Ephesians 4. While the unity of the Spirit is all important, the apostle was fully aware of the fact that a unity is made up of units and that every one counts. In Ephesians 4:7 therefore he turns to the individual member of the One Body, and says in effect:
It is an unspeakable comfort that He Who will one day assess our stewardship is the One Who at the beginning arranged the measure of our gift. As in the parable, He gives to every man ‘according to his several ability’ (Matt. 25:15). He commended the servant who having received five talents made them another five talents, He commended just as warmly the man who having two talents made another two, and we are sure that had the servant who had been entrusted with one talent made one more, the commendation of the Lord would have been as hearty.
It is a foolish thing to do nothing because one is not called or equipped to do everything. No man since Paul has received a commission and a qualification as he did, and no man is expected by the Lord to do Paul’s work. The same Lord, however, whose grace was found ‘sufficient’ for Paul’s deepest need, is the Lord that calls and equips each one of us.
The R.V. alters the phrase ‘Unto every one’ and reads ‘Unto each one’, which is preferable. While the two words ‘every’ and ‘each’ are interchangeable in our language, they still, however, retain a distinctive meaning, and the apostle’s intention in verse 7 is not to speak of what is the common possession of ‘every one’, but rather what is the individualpossession of ‘each one’, which though it comes to the same total, places the stress on the unit rather than the unity. There are some gifts that are unique and are not to be looked for today.
‘He gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers’ (Eph. 4:11).
The apostles’ and prophets’ work is done. They were engaged in laying the foundation upon which the superstructure of this dispensation was to rest (Eph. 2:20). The evangelist (2 Tim. 4:5) and the teacher (2 Tim. 2:2) succeeded the apostle and prophet in the work of building. These are outstanding gifts and demand outstanding grace. Where there was one apostle, there would be thousands of ordinary believers. These believers are in view when Paul wrote verse 7 and these are in view when he wrote verse 16.
Paul’s apostolic gift was also according to the measure of the gift of Christ, as he confesses:
When he faced the work that he was called upon to do and realized something of its character and the character of the opposition, he said:
The reader will call to mind many of his other utterances to like effect. What was true of Paul the apostle, is still true for the humblest member of the One Body. We each have our part to play, work to do and path to tread, and for each one of us grace is sufficient. Let us therefore seek grace that we may realize the blessedness of this third Selah of Paul the prisoner. In ourselves, we are like Paul ‘less than the least’, but in Christ we find grace for every need:
The first practical Selah of Ephesians is the ‘but’ of Ephesians 4:7, the Selah of individual grace. We now turn to Ephesians 4:15, for the next Selah of Paul’s epistle, and this we call ‘The Selah of Truth in Practice’.
There is a true sequence here. Individual gift and individual grace, if they mean anything at all, mean that such grace and such gift are responsibilities; gifts must be used. Power that is ‘worked in’ (Eph. 1:19 - 21) is power that is to be ‘worked out’ (Eph. 6:13 ‘having done all’ = ‘work out’ as in Phil. 2:12,13). The gift of teaching must be used for teaching (Rom. 12:7); no one is justified in hiding his light under a bushel (Matt. 5:15). Let us observe the links that bind Ephesians 4:7 to 4:15, the essential association of the Selah of individual grace with the Selah of truth in practice.
First of all there are three great links to be noted before we look
more closely. These links are marked by the word ‘measure’.
These great links are joined by lesser ones which we must now see.
(1) He Who gave this individual grace is the Conqueror of all foes, particularly those spiritual wickednesses that are associated with Satanic opposition. The words ‘led captivity captive’ (Eph. 4:8) employ the figure of leading prisoners at the point of the spear, and cannot refer to the liberating of saints from hades at the Ascension of Christ. The parallel is found in Colossians 2:15;
As the triumphant Victor, the Lord gave gifts to men.
(2) The Lord gave some gifts to men while He walked the earth but the gifts of Ephesians 4 are definitely associated with the Lord in His Ascension ‘far above all heavens that He might fill all things’ (Eph. 4:9,10). Where Ephesians stresses the glorious fact that Christ fills all things (Eph. 4:10), and ‘filleth all in all’ (Eph. 1:23), Colossians emphasizes the equally glorious fact that ‘In Him should all fulness dwell’ (Col. 1:19), and that ‘In Him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily’ (Col. 2:9). In the context of the former reference to the fulness we have the deliverance from the power of darkness (Col. 1:13), and in the context of the latter reference we have the ‘completeness’ of the believer and his total exemption from ‘meats, drinks, new moons’, etc.
This ascended and victorious Christ gave a specific ministry with a specific work to do:
This brings us to the second measure, which is itself a sevenfold composition,
To some at first sight this extreme subdivision may seem trivial. The
seven times repeated ‘of’ creates in the mind a figure something like those
Chinese puzzle boxes we knew as children, and if this figure of the sevenfold
unity of the faith be in mind, the repeated ‘of’ will be but the sign of ever
unfolding fulness. This unity of the faith leads on to the immediate context
of our present ‘Selah’ as follows:
The character of children, when thus employed, is one of instability, of lack of discernment, and so the apostle proceeds:
Moffatt has a suggestive reading:
The R.V. has ‘after the wiles of error’ which is useful in making a connection with Ephesians 6:11 ‘the wiles of the devil’. It is just here that Paul intervenes with his adversative ‘but’. ‘But’, instead of being immature and blown about,
There is actually no word here for ‘speaking’; the A.V. margin gives ‘being sincere’, the R.V. margin gives ‘dealing truly’. If the English language would permit the use of ‘truth’ as a verb we should express the original best by saying ‘truthing in love’, but such an expression is not possible. It is not easy to demonstrate the full meaning of aletheuo. ‘To be sincere’ is not enough, for a person may be sincere in the pursuit of error; ‘to be true’ would answer if such a statement did not easily become a synonym for being ‘sincere’. If we could use the expression ‘To Be the truth’, this would come as near as the English idiom permits.
Some of our readers may be helped by having their attention drawn to
the use of this word in the LXX. It occurs in three places as follows:
The Hebrew word thus translated ‘performeth’ is shalam ‘to finish or complete’.
The more the reader is acquainted with the basis of the Hebrew language, the more will he appreciate the light that these very different words throw upon the meaning of ‘being true’, but we believe all will realize that in Ephesians 4:15 Paul is enjoining a real honest practical exhibition in life and in speech of ‘the truth’ of which he speaks so feelingly in the near context (Eph. 4:21,24,25). This ‘being the truth’ is in direct contrast with the state described in verse 14 and leads on to growth, increase and edifying.
Here then is another Selah that is of great importance. Once you were children tossed to and fro; now you are living, breathing, holding, manifesting the truth.
In the practical section of Ephesians we have met two ‘Selahs’ up to the present:
The Selah we are now about to consider is found in a setting that stresses the ‘mind’ (Eph. 4:17 -25).
‘Vanity of mind’, ‘darkened understanding’, ‘alienation through ignorance’, ‘hardness or stupidity of heart’, ‘learned Christ’, ‘taught by Him’, ‘renewed in the spirit of your mind’.
This Selah we call ‘The Selah of the Renewed Mind’, and it embraces verse 20 as well as verse 23.
What the believer had learned was the truth concerning the renewing of the mind. This truth is a direct contrast with what once characterized his walk, as direct a contrast as is the old man to the new, or as the lie is to the truth. The important teaching that is contained in these verses is that the ‘mind’ controls the ‘walk’.
The practical section of Ephesians opens with the exhortation to ‘walk worthy ... with all humility of mind’ (Eph. 4:1,2 lit.). As there are at least fifteen different words translated ‘with’ in the A.V. of the New Testament it may be as well to be clear as to what is intended by the expression ‘with all humility of mind’. Meta, the Greek preposition here used, and translated ‘with’, means ‘in association, in proximity, in company with’. A.T. Robertson says of meta:
The idea seems to be that in using this word the writer intended us to
see that whatever is linked together by this preposition is to be considered
as being intimately associated, that indeed it lies in the midst. Consequently, the walk that is worthy is impossible apart from humility of
mind. As meta is translated ‘with’ seven times in Ephesians, it may be as
well to see the references together.
The parallel to this in Colossians reads:
This is a most evident reference back to Genesis and the record of the creation of Adam. The advent of sin dethroned reason and put the flesh with its unrestrained desires in the seat of authority. ‘Vanity’ instead of sane judgment now characterized the ‘mind’ nous, the ‘understanding’ dianoia, ‘thinking through’. The faculty of moral reflection became darkened, alienation from the true source of life, namely God, followed upon consequent ‘ignorance’, agnoia want of perception; the result being stupidity or callousness, ‘past feeling’ apalgeo, no longer ‘pained’, leading down to self-abandonment and uncleanness in excess.
In contrast with all this comes the word:
‘Nous is the human side of God’s spirit in man; as to its source, it is spirit; as to its action in man for intellectual purposes it is mind, i.e. the product of the Spirit’ (Dr. Bullinger’s Lexicon).
Closely associated therefore with the renewal of the spirit, the mind, that part of the nous that was subjected to vanity, darkness and blindness at the fall, comes the putting on of the ‘new man’. Now, in resurrection glory, this new man will be complete, but during this life, the outward man of the believer perishes and they who have the first fruits of the spirit, groan as they wait for the redemption of the body. God begins from within, and the blessed work of renewal has already commenced in the mind of the redeemed. This renewal of the mind is the only power that the believer receives to enable him to walk worthy of his calling. The influences of the Spirit in this dispensation must not be confused with that which is Pentecostal.
Here therefore is another Selah. Says the apostle, you were once darkness, once alienated, and the root of your trouble was in the deadness and darkness of your mind. Sin had rendered you unreasonable, you had lost feeling; then you learned Christ, you heard Him, the miracle of grace was performed on your behalf, you put off the former conversation of the old man; you were renewed in the spirit of your mind; you put on the new man.
There are three other occasions in the practical section of Ephesians where Paul calls a halt with the adversative de, namely in Ephesians 4:28,32 and 5:3.
We purpose considering Ephesians 4:28 and 32 together as the closing
number of this study, hoping that those who have profited may be stimulated
to prosecute this search in other epistles and books of the New Testament;
for on every hand grace is contrasted with law, faith with works, man with
God, and at every turn the inspired penman seems to say Selah, think of that!
Ephesians 4:28 and 32 fall together as a part of a larger section; with
the whole section we are not at the moment so much concerned, but we may as
well see how the passage immediately before us is constructed.
A 25. Put away Lie. Speak truth. One another.
A 31,32. Put away bitterness. Be kind. One to another.
The reader will realize that this section with its admonition arises out of the passage we have already considered. There the terrible degeneration of the Gentiles is contrasted with the renewal of the spirit of the mind and the putting on the new man by the grace of God. This renewal and this new man calls loudly for expression, specially as we are in the practical section of the epistle. Consequently the putting away of the lie, instead of leading on here to conflict with spiritual foes, leads on to the relationship of one member to another and shows that anger gives place to the Devil and grieves the Holy Spirit of God whereby we are sealed unto the day of redemption. This expression of truth, this new relationship and its manifestation is introduced by the apostle’s Selah in verse 28, followed by references to ‘works’ and ‘words’, and concludes with the Selah of kindness of verse 32, followed by the blessed admonition to forgive.
The words ‘Let him that stole steal no more’ strike the reader almost like a blow. We are not used to such plainness of speech. Writing to a church, we should hesitate to use such expressions, and while readily acknowledging that ‘we are all sinners’, would feel that to lay a specific charge like theft was ‘not done’. In this we are of course terribly at fault. Sin is not an abstraction. It is a thought of the mind, and an act of the body, generally both together. We need not go outside this glorious epistle to the Ephesians, full as it is of the wonders of spiritual blessings and heavenly places, to read such a list of evils that shame us in the reading. Chapter 2 speaks of ‘trespasses and sins’, ‘the lusts of the flesh’, ‘the desires of the flesh and of the mind’, ‘the course of this world’ and the energizing of the Prince of the power of the air. Then we have that dreadful recital of Gentile alienation, with its recurring emphasis upon its Christless, hopeless and Godless condition. In chapter 4:17 -19 we have a picture of darkness, ignorance and death, while the list of uncleanness that meets us in chapter 5, reveals how deep and wide is the gulf made by sin.
Those who had been in the spiritual darkness depicted by these passages would have thought nothing of stealing or of using corrupting speech. The apostle fastens upon these two activities of sin, activities of work and word, of hand and mouth, activities that invade the rights of our fellows. We have obligation ‘one to another’ if ‘membership’ of One Body means anything. Those hands, that under the authority of darkness once stole that which was our neighbour’s, let them now work so that the believer may have to give to him that needeth. That mouth, that once abused the sacred gift of speech, let it now edify and help, rather than corrupt. So he introduces his Selah.
In the A.V. verse 32 begins with ‘and’. The original presents us with the adversative de once more, and so we translate
We have not dealt with every occurrence of the particle de in
Ephesians, but append a fuller list so that the reader may pursue this
profitable study further.
These ‘Selahs’ of the apostle call upon us as we contrast our
alienation with our access, our darkness with our light, to pause, and in
grateful adoring worship, to punctuate our own Psalm of praise, with many a
Selah Think of that!