The Divine Lamp

The unfolding of thy words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple…Make thy face shine upon thy servant, and teach me thy statutes

Father MacEvily’s Commentary on Ephesians 5:15-21

Posted by Dim Bulb on October 6, 2010

Eph 5:15  See therefore, brethren, how you walk circumspectly: not as unwise,

As, therefore, you are bound to reprove by the bright contrast of your lives, the evil deeds of the wicked and unbelievers; see that you live circumspectly, not as foolish persons, who desert the path of virtue.

The bishop offers no commentary on this verse beyond the above paraphrase, so I’ll offer a few thoughts.

See therefore. The opening of the verse provides both a conclusion to what St Paul has just written and a conjunctive to what he is about to write.

How you walk.  These words are translated in the NAB “how you live,” the word “walk” being used throughout the scripture as a metaphor for one’s moral life and activity.  The word itself calls to mind previous passages of the letter: in time past you walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of this air, of the spirit that now worketh on the children of unbelief (2:2). In accordance with the Father’s plan of salvation, Christ came to sent us free from this sorry state so that our moral life might be re-oriented: For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus in good works, which God hath prepared that we should walk in them (2:10).  Because we can now walk rightly St Paul urges that you walk worthy of the vocation in which you are called (4:1).  St Paul’s testimony is that we walk not as also the Gentiles walk in the vanity of (our) mind (4:17).  Rather, we must walk in love (5:2); children of the light (5:8).

Circumspectly. ἀκριβῶς (akribōs); with care or diligence.

Not as unwise. The Greek ἄσοφος (asophos = without wisdom) is used only here in the NT.  It stands in marked contrast to the σοφία (sophia) of the Father who has made known to us in all wisdom and insight the mystery of his will, according to his purpose which he set forth in Christ (1:8, RSV. See also 1:17; 3:10).

Eph 5:16  But as wise: redeeming the time, because the days are evil.

But as wise men who tread the path of rectitude, making good use of the present opportunity, which you have, of manifesting and bringing to light the evil deeds of others, to the edification of our holy faith, which condemns such enormities; for the days of this life are uncertain, and hence, the present should be turned to good account.

“But as wise,” following the path of virtue, which is true wisdom. “Redeeming
the time,” which may mean (as in Paraphrase), making good use of the present opportunity, which is given you to reprove, by the contrast of your lives, and manifest the evil deeds of others, &c. In this interpretation, “the time” means opportunity, a signification which the Greek word, καιρός (kairos), admits. According to others, “time” refers to the time past, and the sentence means, redouble your exertions during the time that remains for you, and by parting with pleasures, and, in many instances, foregoing an increase of temporal blessings in your zealous exertions for religion, you shall pay for and purchase back the time that has been uselessly squandered.
“Because the days are evil.” These words, if connected with “redeeming the time,” mean, because the time of the present life is uncertain, and, therefore, to be turned to good account; if with the words, “walk circumspectly,” they mean, because the times are dangerous to faith and morals, replete with trials and persecutions. How many squander away this precious treasure of time, this priceless pearl, upon the good use of which depends a happy eternity. Let us interrogate the damned in Hell, or the suffering in Purgatory, or the blessed in Heaven, and they shall give an idea of the priceless value of this
time, which we squander. Should we not be as avaricious of this priceless treasure of time, as the miser is of his hoard, for every moment of which we shall one day be called upon to account? How careful should we be to work while the day lasts, to lay up a treasure of merit against that dreary, never-ending night of eternity, in which no one can work. Knowing that there cannot be too much security when eternity is at stake, and that the most important of all concerns the only necessanj end of our being cannot be left to mere chance, how careful should we be to have our lamps trimmed, and be ever ready for the coming of our heavenly Bridegroom, that when he shall
come in the middle of the night the time he may least be expected we may, after having wisely “redeemed the time,” be found worthy, with the wise Virgins, to be admitted to that marriage feast, in which his friends shall join without fear of its ever terminating for all eternity. How frequently should we ponder, in the heart, on those dreadful words: EVER; NEVER. EVER to continue; NEVER to end. Oh! precious moment of time, on which depends an Eternity, whether of happiness or woe.

Eph 5:17  Wherefore, become not unwise: but understanding what is the will of God.

Wherefore, be not incautious in your conduct, but see what it is God wishes from you.

It is probable that the Apostle here refers to their intercourse with the heathens; for it is to them he alludes (chap. 4, verse 5) of his Epistle to the Colossians, where he uses a similar expression: “Walk with wisdom towards them that are without redeeming the time.” The Greek word for “unwise,” ἄφρων (aphrōn), means, out of their mind. It probably contains an allusion to the drunken orgies of the Pagans practised on the festivals of Bacchus. To this the Apostle appears to allude, next verse, in the caution he gives against drunkenness.

Eph 5:18  And be not drunk with wine, wherein is luxury: but be ye filled with the Holy Spirit,

And be not drunk with wine, in which drunkenness, or wine (if taken to excess), there is a tendency to profligacy and dissoluteness.   But be filled with the Holy Ghost, the principle and source of grace and spiritual joy.

“Wherein”, εν ω, may refer either to “wine,” or to the phrase, “drunk with
wine,” “is luxury.” This is literally true of drunkenness, and of wine, if taken to
excess. It is hard to suppose that a drunkard can be chaste. It would appear to be here revealed, at least by implication, that he cannot. “Venter astuans vino spumat in libidinem.” St. Jerome. Would that those strong drinkers of wino weighed well this truth, of which a sad experience must have convinced them. “Woe to you that are mighty to drink wine, and stout men at drunkenness.” (Isaias, 5:22). Total abstinence is, undoubtedly, most meritorious in the sight of God, and to be encouraged
by all means. “Filled with the Holy Spirit.” The word “Holy,” is not in the Greek; it simply is, εν πνευματι, with the Spirit.

Eph 5:19  Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual canticles, singing and making melody in your hearts to the Lord:

Reciting and singing among yourselves, whether in your public or private meetings, psalms, hymns, and spiritual canticles; singing and chanting them, not only with your tongues, but also from your hearts, unto the honor of the Lord.

The Apostle, after opposing the Spirit of God to the mad inspiration of wine, and cautioning the Ephesians against seeking joy in drunkenness like the Pagans, wishes them to seek consolation from the Holy Ghost, and he shows how this is to be done. If they assemble for purposes of joy, either in the sacred temples to celebrate the Agapes, which, in the infancy of the Church, were preparatory to the celebration of the Holy Eucharist (1st Corinthians, chapter 11.), or, in their private houses, instead of imitating the dissolute songs of their Pagan neighbours, they should give expression to their inward joy in “psalms, hymns, and spiritual canticles .” Music and song were among
the favourite enjoyments of both Jews and Gentiles, as the inspired writers inform us regarding the former, and profane writers regarding the latter. Amorous and dissolute songs were those in use at Pagan entertainments. Hence, the Apostle, to prevent this inconvenience among the Christians, and actuated by the spirit of divine wisdom, which at all times directs the Church to accommodate herself, as far as possible, to the pre-existing practices of the converted Gentiles, or, at least, to give them a religious turn, wishes they should convert this usage to good account by expressing their joy of soul in the praises of God. This advice regarding the singing of “psalms,” & c, had been carried out in the early Church, and was then necessary; the practice commended has also continued with us, so far as religious meetings “the Church are concerned; but as to private entertainments, it has passed away and fallen into disuse, like many other usages of the primitive Church (e.g.), the Agapes, or love feasts, &c. It is no longer necessary, as we have an abundance of other songs of a praiseworthy kind, besides sacred songs nor is there any danger of our adopting the dissolute songs of the Pagans. So that now, such is the” universal usage, the singing of sacred songs could not be resorted to with propriety at private entertainments. It is not easy to see the difference between “psalms,” “hymns,” and “spiritual songs.”  “Psalm,” in general, means a song, particularly a song accompanied with the harp. It here refers to sacred pieces executed on musical instruments, including not only the Psalms of David, but also the inspired compositions of those who received this gift in the infancy of the Church. (1st Corinthians, 14:20). “Hymns,” are songs in which are proclaimed the attributes and praises of God. They were composed in rhythmical measures. “Spiritual songs”-sacred poems, usually recited, or sung without the aid of musical accompaniments. “In your hearts.” The Greek is, εν τη καρδια υμων, “in your heart.” The plural is found in Manuscripts, generally.

Eph 5:20  Giving thanks always for all things, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, to God and the Father:

Always giving thanks for all the blessings and graces bestowed on us, to God the Father, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom alone our thanksgiving can be acceptable with God, and through whom we have received the graces necessary for salvation.

“Always giving thanks,” i.e., by performing actions at all times good, and
referrible to God; for, it is impossible to be always engaged in acts of thanksgiving. “In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ;” because it is owing to his grace that the natural advantages we have viz., our life, etc., should tend to our salvation; and, secondly, because it is through him alone, they are worthy of acceptance.

Eph 5:21  Being subject one to another, in the fear of Christ.

Be subject one to another, the inferior exhibiting obedience to the superior, and the superior reciprocally accommodating himself to the wants of the inferior; and this, from the motive of the reverential fear of Christ.

In this verse, the Apostle lays down a general principle of Christian polity: he inculcates the duty of obedience an 1 subordination, in the different relations of life. Of course, from the very nature of the precept, it is issued to the inferior only, or, to such as are subject to others. At the same time, he inculcates the reciprocal duties, which the relation of superior requires, as may be seen from the examples which he adduces. “Of Christ.” In the common Greek text, of God. The Vulgate reading, “of Christ,” is that of the chief MSS., and the one commonly adopted.


2 Responses to “Father MacEvily’s Commentary on Ephesians 5:15-21”

  1. […] Bishop MacEvily on Ephesians 5:15-21 for Sunday, Oct 10 (Extraordinary Form). Available 12:15 AM EST. […]

  2. […] Bishop MacEvily’s Commentary on Eph 5:15-21. […]

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