Father MacEvilly’s Commentary on Ephesians 5:8-14

This post opens with the bishop’s brief analysis of chapter 5 followed by his commentary on verses 8-14. Text in purple indicate his paraphrasing of the scripture he is commenting on.


In this chapter, the Apostle exhorts the Ephesians to love one another after the example of God (4:32), and also after the example of Christ, who sacrificed himself for us (1, 2). He exhorts them to shun all impurity both in word and deed, because wholly unsuited to the exalted state of sanctity to which they were called, and because it provokes the punishment of exclusion from God’s eternal inheritance (4, 5). He cautions them against listening to the false teachings of some men on this head (6). He dissuades them from all participation whatsoever, in the wicked conduct of their Pagan neighbours. He, on the contrary, adduces several motives of persuasion, to encourage them to set forth, by the pure and bright contrast of their holy lives, in darker and more hideous colours, the wicked deeds of the others (7–15).

He exhorts them to act with wise caution and circumspection in their intercourse with the Pagans, considering the perilous nature of the days upon which they had fallen (15–18). He cautions them against excessive indulgence in wine, and exhorts them to seek consolation from a different source—viz., the Spirit of God; and he points out how, in their different meetings, they are to express their joy in the Holy Ghost, by singing psalms, and other spiritual songs, and by expressing their thankfulness to God (19, 20).

He next lays down a general principle of Christian policy, relative to the duties of subjection and subordination, in the different states of life (21). Descending to particulars, he devotes the remainder of this chapter to the instruction of those engaged in the marriage state, as to the duties they mutually owe each other. In this state, the woman is the party on whom the duty of obedience devolves. He shows the relation of subjection which she bears her husband, to be similar to that which the Church bears to Christ; and hence, she should be subject to him, as the Church is to Christ (22–24), He, on the other hand, adduces the same analogy of relation, as a reason why husbands should love their wives. They hold in their regard a relation of headship, similar to that which Christ holds in regard to the Church (25–27). Another reason for this love is founded on the nature of the conjugal union between man and wife (28, 29). He, next, points out the ground of the comparison of the man and wife with Christ and his Church, by showing that the Church is a part of Christ, and for this purpose he quotes in a mystical sense, the passage in Genesis, where reference is made to the creation of the woman (30). He quotes more largely from the passage in Genesis, in order to develop more fully the motive referred to (in verse 28), and shows the union between man and wife to be a type of the indissoluble and mystic union between Christ and his Church (31, 32). He applies to the Ephesians the motives already adduced, and calls upon husbands and wives to attend to them (33).

8 For you were heretofore darkness, but now light in the Lord. Walk then as children of the light.
9 For the fruit of the light is in all goodness and justice and truth:

8. Such a partnership in crime is wholly at variance with your present calling. You were formerly, indeed, among the children of error and unbelief, but now you are enlightened in the principles of Christian faith and morality. Lead, therefore, the lives of men instructed in Christian virtue, and taught to hold in abhorrence the hideous crime of Paganism.
9. (For the fruits of Christian grace and faith are the works of goodness and benevolence, of justice and truth).

And that as children of light, they should perform works altogether different from those which they practised in Paganism, is clear from the circumstance, that the works of light, or of grace and Christian faith, are opposed to the works of darkness or Paganism. The fruit of grace and faith consists in works of “goodness” and benevolence towards our neighbour—opposed to the spirit of anger and ill will, denounced in the preceding chapter. “Of justice,” opposed to the thefts and injustices there referred to (verse 28). “And of truth,” i.e., works done in candour and openness—opposed to the lies referred to in the last chapter. “The fruit of the light.” In the common Greek, it is, καρπος τοῦ πνεῦματος, the fruit of the spirit. The Vulgate reading, is, however, best supported by the authority of the chief MSS. and Versions.

10 Proving what is well pleasing to God.

Live, like children of light, diligently examining what is the will of God, and faithfully complying with it.

The preceding verse is to be enclosed in a parenthesis (as in Paraphrase), and this verse to be immediately connected with verse 8. The first care of a Christian should be to discover the holy and adorable will of God; and the next, to endeavour to fulfil it. “Thy holy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.” “To God.” In Greek, τῳκυρίω, to the Lord.

11 And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness: but rather reprove them.

And hold no communication cither by act, approval, or consent, with the unfruitful works of darkness; but, on the contrary, reprove such works, and those who do them, by the contrast of your own bright example, and manifest by every means, your utter abhorrence of them.

“Unfruitful works of darkness.” They are called “unfruitful,” because, far from bringing any advantage, they may cause evil to the man who performs them—“Stipendium peccati, mors.”—Romans, 6:23.

12 For the things that are done by them in secret, it is a shame even to speak of.

Hold no communication with such persons; for, the things that they do in secret, are too disgraceful to be uttered.

He gives a reason for his injunction in the first part of verse 11, to hold no communication with these deeds or the perpetrators of them. “It is a shame to speak of.” He probably refers to the disgraceful deeds of the followers of Simon Magus, whose doctrines and deeds of lust were intolerable, and too shameful to mention.

13 But all things that are reproved are made manifest by the light: for all that is made manifest is light.

Pursuing an opposite line of conduct, by the light of your good example, you should reprove them; for all the things that are brought forth to public gaze and reproved by the contrast, are made manifest by the light—it being the nature of light to enlighten—and it is the peculiar property of light—nothing else can do it—for, everything that manifests, is light.

In this verse he assigns a reason for the latter part of verse 11. “But rather reprove them.” Why? Because, it is the nature of light to enlighten. “All things that are reproved, are manifested by the light,” and nothing else can do it; for, this power to enlighten is the peculiar property of light, “for all that manifests is light.” In this interpretation, the verb, “that is made manifest,” which, in the Greek, is a participle, in the middle voice, φανερουμενον, admitting of either an active or passive signification, is taken actively to mean, that manifests; for, it is not easy to see, how it is universally true to say, that everything “that is manifested is light.” Are not sins oftentimes manifested?—and do they, by being made manifest, become light? Moreover, the Apostle is here condemning that against which he cautions them, with the view of inducing them to avoid it altogether. Now, he could not so zealously exhort them to avoid it, if it became light. Nor can it be said, that by being made manifest, sins shall be abandoned and commuted in the light of the gospel; for, in all probability, many of those referred to here by the Apostle never were converted.

14 Wherefore he saith: Rise, thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead: and Christ shall enlighten thee.

Hence, because it is the peculiar property of light to enlighten, the Scripture says:—Arise thou that sleepest (in sin), and arise from the dead: and Christ shall enlighten thee.

Whence are these words taken? Some, with St. Jerome, think they were taken from some Apocryphal book; or, that the Apostle himself, under the influence of a prophetic spirit, now expresses them in the name of the Holy Ghost, as the prophets of old used to say—“hæc dicit Dominus.” Others, with St. Thomas (and this is the more probable opinion), refer them to the 60th chapter of Isaias, in which, addressing the mystic Jerusalem, or the Church, he says—“Surge, illuminare Jerusalem” &c., which is applied by St. Paul, with some change in the words, to his present subject, as they refer almost to the same subject of which he here treats. In this verse, is pointed out the concurrence of man’s free will with the preventing graces of God. These graces find a man in an absolute inability to rouse himself to supernatural acts; they rouse him from this spiritual lethargy; and, if he correspond with them, he shall receive further graces, co-operating graces, &c.

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One Response to Father MacEvilly’s Commentary on Ephesians 5:8-14

  1. Pingback: Resources and Commentaries for the Fourth Sunday of Lent, Year A | stjoeofoblog

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