Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary - Alford
Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children;'5:1, 2.] These verses are best taken as transitional,—the inference from the exhortation which has immediately preceded, and introduction to the dehortatory passage which follows. Certainly Stier seems right in viewing the περιπατεῖτε as resuming περιπατῆσαι ch. 4:1, and indicating a beginning, rather than a close, of a paragraph. Be ye (γίνεσθε, see on last verse) therefore (seeing that God forgave you in Christ, see next verse) imitators of God (viz. in walking in love, see below), as children beloved (see next verse: and 1John 4:19, ἡμεῖς ἀγαπῶμεν, ὅτι αὐτὸς πρῶτος ἠγάπησεν ἡμᾶς) and (shew it by this, that ye) walk in love, as Christ also (this comes even nearer: from the love of the Father who gave His Son, to that of the Son, the Personal manifestation of that love in our humanity) loved (not, ‘hath loved’ as E. V.) you (the ὑμᾶς … ὑμῶν is more a personal appeal: the ἡμᾶς … ἡμῶν of the rec. is a general one, deduced from the universal relation of us all to Christ), and gave up Himself (absol.: not to be joined with τῷ θεῷ) for you (see note on Galatians 3:13:—‘on your behalf:’ in fact, but not necessarily here implied, ‘in your stead’) an offering and a sacrifice (beware of προσφ. κ. θυσ. = θυσίαν προσφερομένην (Conyb.): it is our duty, in rendering, to preserve the terms coupled, even though we may not be able precisely to say wherein they differ. The ordinary distinction, that προσφορά is an unbloody offering, θυσία a slain victim, cannot be maintained, see Hebrews 10:5, Hebrews 10:18; Hebrews 11:4. I believe the nearest approach to the truth will be made by regarding προσφ. as the more general word, including all kinds of offering,—θυσία as the more special one, usually involving the death of a victim. The great prominent idea here is the one sacrifice, which the Son of God made of Himself in his redeeming Love, in our nature—bringing it, in Himself, near to God—offering Himself as our representative Head: whether in perfect righteousness of life, or in sacrifice, properly so called, at his Death) to God (to be joined, as a (dat. commodi, with πρ. κ. θυσ.: not with παρέδωκεν (as De W. and Mey.), from which it is too far removed: still less (as Stier, who would apply the clause τῷ θ … εὐωδίας, to us) with what follows) for an odour of sweet smell (the question so much discussed, whether these words can apply to a sin-offering strictly so called, is an irrelevant one here. It is not [see above] the death of Christ which is treated of, but the whole process of His redeeming Love. His death lies in the background as one, and the chief, of the acknowledged facts of that process: but it does not give the character to what is here predicated of Him. The allusion primarily is to ref. Gen., where after Noah had brought to God a sacrifice of every clean beast and bird, ὠσφράνθη κύριος ὁ θεὸς ὀσμὴν εὐωδίας,—and the promise followed, that He would no more destroy the earth for man’s sake).
3-21.] Dehortation (for the most part) from works unbecoming the holiness of the life of children and imitators of God.
3.] But (not transitional merely: there is a contrast brought out by the very mention of πορνεία after what has just been said) fornication and all impurity or (see ch. 4:19 note) covetousness (ib.), let it not be even named (‘ne nomen quidem audiatur.’ Calv. So Dio Chrys. p. 360 b (Mey.), στάσιν δὲ οὐδὲ ὀνομάζειν ἄξιον παρʼ ὑμῖν: Herod. i. 138, ἅσσα δέ σφι ποιέειν οὐκ ἔξεστι, ταῦτα οὐδὲ λέγειν ἔξεστι. Cf. Psalm 15:4) among you, as becometh saints (meaning, that if it were talked of, such conversation would be unbecoming the holy ones of God): and obscenity (not in word only (αἰσχρολογία, ref. Col.): cf. Plato, Gorg. p. 525 a, ὑπὸ ἐξουσίας κ. τρυφῆς κ. ὕβρεως κ. ἀκρατίας τῶν πράξεων ἀσυμμετρίας τε καὶ αἰσχρότητος γέμουσαν τὴν ψυχὴν εἶδεν) and foolish talking (‘stultiloquium,’ Vulg. Wetst. quotes from Antigonus de Mirabilibus, 126, τὰ μεγάλα κ. ἐπανεστηκότα μωρολογίας κ. ἀδολεσχίας. Trench well maintains, Syn. § 34, that in Christian ethics, it is more than mere ‘random talk:’ it is that talk of fools, which is folly and sin together: including not merely the πᾶν ῥῆμα ἀργόν of our Lord (Matthew 12:36), but in good part also the πᾶς λόγος σαπρός of his Apostle (Ephesians 4:29)) or (disjunctive, marking off εὐτραπελία as πλεονεξία before) jesting (much interest attaches to this word, which will be found well discussed in Trench, as above. It had at first a good signification: Aristot. Eth. Nic. iv. 8, deals with the εὐτράπελος—οἱἐμμελῶς παίζοντες εὐτράπελοι προσαγορεύονται,—and describes him as the mean between the βωμολόχος and ἄγροικος. So too Plato, Rep. viii. p. 563 a,—οἱ δὲ γέροντες ξυγκαθιέντες τοῖς νέοις εὐτραπελίας τε κ. χαριεντισμοῦ ἐμπίπλανται, … ἵνα δὴ μὴ δοκῶσιν ἀηδεῖς εἶναι μηδὲ δεσποτικοί. But Trench remarks that there were indications of a bad sense of the word: e.g. Pind. Pyth. i. 178,—μὴ δολωθῇς, ὦ φίλε, κέρδεσιν εὐτραπέλοις, where he quotes from Dissen—‘primum est de facilitate in motu, tum ad mores transfertur, et indicat hominem temporibus inservientem, diciturque tum de sermone urbano, lepido, faceto, imprimis cum levitatis et assentationis, simulationis notione.’ I may add, as even more apposite here, Pyth. iv. 185, οὔτε ἔργον οὔτʼ ἔπος εὐτράπελον κείνοισιν εἰπών. Aristotle himself, Rhet. ii. 12 end, defines it as πεπαιδευμένη ὕβρις. “The profligate old man in the ‘miles gloriosus’ of Plautus, iii. 1. 42-52, who at the same time prides himself, and with reason, on his wit, his elegance, and his refinement (cavillatus, lepidus, facetus), is exactly the εὐτράπελος: and remarkably enough, when we remember that εὐτραπελία being only expressly forbidden once in Scripture, is forbidden to Ephesians, we find him bringing out, that all this was to be expected from him, seeing that he was an Ephesian: ‘Post Ephesi sum natus: non enim in Apulis, non Animulæ.’ ” Trench: whose further remarks should by all means be read), which are not becoming (the reading τὰ οὐκ ἀνήκοντα has perhaps come into the text from the τὰ μὴ καθήκοντα of Romans 1:28, the οὐκ of the text being preserved through inadvertence. If, however, the participial clause be retained in the text, it may be grammatically justified by remembering that, where the various objects are specified which as matter of fact are οὐκ ἀνήκοντα, the objective negative particle οὐκ may be used: whereas in Romans 1:28, where no such objects are specified, we have ποιεῖν τὰ μὴ καθήκοντα, ‘si quæ essent indecora,’ as Winer, § 55. 5: see Hartung, vol. ii. p. 131): but rather thanksgiving (not, as Jer., Calv., al., ‘sermo qui gratiam apud audientes habet,’ which the word cannot mean. It is a question, what verb is to be supplied: Beng. supposes ἀνήκει, which is perhaps most likely, as suiting the simplicity of the construction of these hortatory verses better than going back to ὀνομαζέσθω (De W., Mey., al.),—and as finding a parallel in ch. 4:29, where the ellipsis is to be supplied from the sentence itself. There is a play perhaps on the similar sound of εὐτραπελία and εὐχαριστία, which may account for the latter not finding so complete a justification in the sense as we might expect: the connexion being apparently, ‘your true cheerfulness and play of fancy will be found, not in buffoonery, but in the joy of a heart overflowing with a sense of God’s mercies’).
5.] Appeal to their own knowledge that such practices exclude from the kingdom of God: see below. For this ye know (indicative, not imperative: this to my mind is decided 1) by the context, in which an appeal to their own consciousness of the fact is far more natural than a communication of the fact to them: 2) by the position of the words, which in the case of an imperative would more naturally be ἴστε γὰρ τοῦτο γινώσκοντες: 3) by the use of the construction ἴστε γινώσκοντες, which almost necessitates a matter of fact underlying γινώσκοντες.—ἴστε γιν. is not an example of the γινώσκων γνώσῃ (Genesis 15:13 al.) of Hebrew usage, the two verbs being different) being aware that every fornicator or (ἤ now, not καί, for individualization of each) unclean man, or covetous man, which is (i.e. ‘that is to say,’—‘quod;’ meaning, the word πλεονέκτης. This reading necessarily confines the reference to that one word) an idolater (cf. Colossians 3:5, which shews that even ὅς ἐστιν would apply to the πλεονέκτης only, not, as Stier, al., to the three: see Job 31:24; Psalm 52:7; Matthew 6:24. Mey. remarks well, that it was very natural for St. Paul, whose forsaking of all things (2Corinthians 6:10; 2Corinthians 11:27) so strongly contrasted with selfish greediness, to mark with the deepest reprobation the sin of πλεονεξία), hath not inheritance (the present implying more the fixedness of the exclusion, grounded on the eternal verities of that Kingdom,—than mere future certainty: see 1Corinthians 15:25) in the Kingdom of Christ and God (not ‘and of God’ (κ. τοῦ θ.) as E. V. No distinction is to be made, χριστοῦ καὶ θεοῦ being in the closest union. Nor is any specification needed that the Kingdom of Christ is also the Kingdom of God, as would be made with the second article. This follows as matter of course: and thus the words bear no. legitimate rendering, except on the substratum of our Lord’s Divinity. But on the other hand, we cannot safely say here, that the same Person is intended by χριστοῦ κ. θεοῦ, merely on account of the omission of the article. For 1) any introduction of such a predication regarding Christ would here be manifestly out of place, not belonging to the context: 2) θεός is so frequently and unaccountably anarthrous, that it is not safe to ground any such inference from its use here).
6.] Let no one deceive you with vain (empty—not containing the kernel of truth, of which words are but the shell—words with no underlying facts. Æschines, de Corona, p. 288, says that Demosthenes had drawn up a decree, κενώτερον τῶν λόγων οὓς εἴωθε λέγειν, κ. τοῦ βίου ὃν βεβίωκε. See other examples in Kypke h. l.) sayings (the persons pointed at are heathen, or pretended Christian, palliators of the fore-mentioned vices. The caution was especially needed, at a time when moral purity was so generally regarded as a thing indifferent. Harl. quotes from Bullinger,—“Erant apud Ephesios homines corrupti, ut hodie apud nos plurimi sunt, qui hæc salutaria Dei præcepta cachinno excipientes obstrepunt: humanum esse quod faciant amatores, utile quod fœneratores, facetum quod joculatores, et idcirco Deum non usque adeo graviter animadvertere in istiusmodi lapsus”); for (let them say what they will, it is a fact, that) on account of these things (the above-mentioned erimes, see Colossians 3:6, διʼ ὃ ἔρχεται ἡ ὀργ. κ.τ.λ.: not the ἀπάτη just spoken of, to which the objection is not so much the plural ταῦτα, as the τοὺς υἱοὺς τ. ἀπειθείας which follows, shewing that the carrying out of their ἀπείθεια are the ταῦτα spoken of; and the μὴ οὖν γίν. κ.τ.λ. of ver. 7) cometh (present, as ἔχει, ver. 5) the wrath of God (not merely, or chiefly, His ordinary judgments, ‘quorum exempla sunt ante oculos,’ as Calv.: nor the ‘antitheton reconciliationis,’ as Beng., for that is on all who are not in Christ (John 3:36): but His special wrath, His vengeance for these sins, over and above their state of ἀπείθεια) on the sons of (see on ch. 2:2) disobedience (the active and practical side of the state of the ἀπειθῶν (John 3:36) is here brought out. The word is a valuable middle term between unbelief and disobedience, implying their identity in a manner full of the highest instruction).
7.] Be not (the distinction ‘Become not’ (‘nolite effici,’ Vulg.: so Stier, Ellic., al.) is unnecessary and indeed unsuitable: it is not a gradual ‘becoming,’ but ‘being,’ like them, which he here dehorts from. See on γίνεσθε not bearing the meaning “become,” note, ch. 4. ult.) therefore (since this is so—that God’s wrath comes on them) partakers (see ch. 3:6) with them (the νἱοὶ τ. ἀπ., not the sins:—sharers in that which they have in common, viz. these practices: their present habitude, not, their punishment, which is future: nor can the two senses be combined, as Stier characteristically tries to do).
8.] For (your state (present, see above) is a totally different one from theirs—excluding any such participation) ye were (emphatic, see ref.) once (no μέν. “The rule is simple: if the first clause is intended to stand in connexion with and prepare the reader for the opposition to the second, μέν is inserted: if not, not: see the excellent remarks of Klotz, Devar. ii. p. 356 sq.: Fritz., Romans 10:19, vol. ii. p. 423.” Ellic.) darkness (stronger than ἐν σκότει, Romans 2:19; 1Thessalonians 5:4: they were darkness itself—see on φῶς below), but now (the ἐστέ is not expressed—perhaps, as Stier suggests, not only for emphasis, but to carry a slight tinge of the coming exhortation, by shewing them what they ought to be, as well as were by profession) light (not πεφωτισμένοι—light has an active, illuminating power, which is brought out in ver. 13) in (‘in union with’—conditioning element—not ‘by’—διὰ τῆς θεοῦ χάριτος, Chr.) the Lord (Jesus): walk (the omission of οὖν makes the inference rhetorically more forcible) as children of light (not τοῦ φωτός, as in Luke 16:8, where τὸ φῶς is contrasted with ὁ αἰὼν οὗτος, and in next verse, where τοῦ φωτός is the figurative φῶς—q. d. ‘the light of which I speak:’ here it is light, as light, which is spoken of. The omission of the article may be merely from the rules of correlation, as Ellic.: but I much prefer here to treat it as significant); for (gives the reason of the introduction of the comparison in the context, connecting this with the moral details which have preceded) the fruit of the light (τοῦ, see above) is in (is borne within the sphere of, as its condition and element) all goodness and righteousness and truth (in all that is good (Galatians 5:22), right, and true. As Harl. observes, the opposites are κακία, ἀδικία, ψεῦδος): proving (to be joined with περιπατεῖτε as its modal predicate, ver. 9 having been parenthetical. The Christian’s whole course is a continual proving, testing, of the will of God in practice: investigating not what pleases himself, but what pleases Him) what is well-pleasing to the Lord