Exhortatio: Eph 4:1-6:9

Previously, we have discussed the exordium (Eph 1:3-23), in which we determined that Ephesians is set on praising God for the deeds he has done on behalf of humanity, specifically in reference to the Church, and the narratio (Eph 2:1-3:21), which picks up on the praise of the exordium and expounds upon and amplifies the praise by giving more details and providing the moral end of the facts. Herein we will look at the exhortatio (Eph 4:1-6:9), which is not a formal section of rhetoric per se. Instead, it is functioning in the stead of the proofs. Since Ephesians is epideictic rhetoric, no formal proofs are utilized, because the orator or author is not attempting to prove but to praise. However, the exhortatio, filled with paraenesis, an acceptable figure, functions as proof precisely because figures were associated with proof (Quintilian, Institutio Oratoria, IX.ii.103; IX.i.19). Furthermore, what is praised in epideictic rhetoric can easily transform into hortatory material (Aristotle, Rhetoric, I.ix.35-37). The exhortatio in Ephesians builds upon the facts in the narratio and expounds and amplifies their moral end, for the Church to live in good works prepared beforehand by God and to make known the mystery, the plan, God’s diverse wisdom. We will look at the different rhetorical units of the exhortatio and see how they correlate with these two moral ends. Established by the οὐν + περιπατέω construction, there are four main sections of the exhortatio in Ephesians, which are as follows: Eph 4:1-16, walking according to the calling; Eph 4:17-29, walking according to the new person; Eph 5:1-14, walking according to love, imitating God; Eph 5:15-6:9, walking according to wisdom.

Walking According to the Calling (Eph 4:1-16)

To start the exhortatio, the author instructs the audience to walk worthily of the calling, and to do so with humility, gentleness, and patience, and by patience the author means enduring with one another in love, making every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. In good rhetorical fashion, the author amplifies this instruction by appealing to two sources, first a hymn and second Ps 68:19 (cf. Quintilian, Institutio Oratoria, III.vii.4). The author justifies the call to unity by quoting a hymn: “One Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and father of all, who is over all things, through all things, and in all things” (vv. 5-6). Out of this unity, each member in the Church has been given grace according to the measure of Christ’s gift (v. 7), for it says, “After ascending on high he captured captives, he gave gifts to men” (v. 8, quoting Ps 68:19). The author infers that if Christ ascended he first descended to earth, and he gave some apostles, and others prophets, evangelists, and shepherd-teachers, for the purpose that these gifts to men would completely furnish them for a work of service, into a building of Christ’s body, until all the people arrive at unity of faith and knowledge of the Son of God, into a complete man, into a measure of mature fullness of Christ. The purpose of these gifts was for the author and audience not to be like infants any longer, being blown and tossed by every wind of the teaching in the fraud of men, in adroitness towards erroneous trickery. but speaking the truth in love, the author and the audience are grown into Christ who is the head of the body, and it is out of him that the body is being fitted together and being brought together through every contributing ligament according to the divine power to make a building in love. This segment about Christ’s gifts and the building in love constitute one sentence and is 6 verses long (vv. 11-16). As such it is a long period, which is characteristic of epideictic rhetoric (cf. Cicero, Orator, 37-38) and also of figures, which bear an effect on proof (cf. Quintilian, Institutio Oratoria, IX.i.19). Furthermore, this sentence builds up an idea–Christ’s gift-giving for the sake of the unity of the Church–throughout its manifold clauses (cf. Quntilian, Institutio Oratoria, VIII.iv.3-27).

The relationship in this section of the exhortatio with the moral end in the narratio explicitly pertains to the first point, that the Church is to walk in good works prepared beforehand by God (cf. Eph 2:10). To do good works is to walk worthily according to the calling of unity (4:1-3). To walk according to the calling of unity is to have humility, gentleness, and patience. To have patience is to bear with others in love and make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. Furthermore, Christ has equipped the Church with gifts in order for it to do a work of service for all to arrive at unity of both faith and knowledge of the Son of God (4:11-16). To do good works is to serve, and this service is connected with unity of faith and knowledge just as much as the call to unity is bound to humility, gentleness, and patience. Implicitly this section of the exhortatio applies to the second point, that the Church is to reveal God’s diverse wisdom. When the Church lives according to its calling, it demonstrates and reveals itself to the world as a unified entity of love and respect, standing in contradistinction to the world’s behavior.

Walking According to the New Person (Eph 4:17-32)

In the next section of the exhortatio, the author of Ephesians instructs the audience out of his own testimony in the Lord no longer to walk according to the new person instead of the old. The author is using the figure of reflection, speaking with a personal touch (cf. Quintilian, Institutio Oratoria, VIII.v.1-7). The old person is characterized by the way the Gentiles live. The author first instructs his audience not to walk as the Gentiles walk (v. 17). The Gentiles walk in the futility of their mind, in blindness of thought, in alienation of life with God through being ignorant, according to the hardness of their heart, in apathy giving themselves over to the licentiousness in business of every impurity with greediness (vv. 17-19). No, the author’s audience, he states, did not learn Christ this way (v. 20). He instructs them to put away the former way of life of the old man that wasted away according to the desires of deceit. He instructs them to renew the spirit of their mind and put on the new man according to God who created him in righteousness and holiness of truth (vv. 22-24). Furthermore, he instructs them to put away falsehood, quoting Zechariah 8:16: “Speak truth, each one of you, with your neighbor.” He instructs them from the Psalms: “Be angry and do not sin” (Ps 4:5). He tells them not to let the sun go down on their anger. The author is following good rhetorical construction by providing proof for the exhortations (cf. Quintilian, Institutio Oratoria, III.vii.4). Building on the old man and new man, the author states that those who steal must steal no longer. He adds that not even a single rotten word should come out from their mouths, but only words that build up those who hear should come out from their mouths. He instructs them not to grieve the Holy Spirit of God. Finally, the author instructs the audience to allow bitterness, rage, anger, grievous shouting, and blasphemous speech be taken up away from them with all evilness. Instead, he instructs them to become loving, tender-hearted, and forgiving, because God in Christ also forgave them. The author is portraying the ways of men, a notable rhetorical figure (cf. Cicero, Orator, 137-138), in order to instruct them in what not to do and conversely what to do.

Again, this section of the exhortatio pertains explicitly to the first moral goal identified in the narratio, that the Church is to walk in good works prepared beforehand by God (cf. Eph 2:10). To do good works is to live like the new man and not the old. To live like the old is to be ignorant, blind, futile, alienated, apathetic, callous, wasteful, deceitful, false, destructive, bitter, full of rage, angry, blasphemous, and evil. To live like the new is to renew the spirit of their mind, speak the truth, be angry but not sin–not even letting the sun go down on their anger–speaking constructively, be loving, be tender-hearted, and be forgiving. This last exhortation, to forgive each other because God forgave them, prepares the way for the next section of the exhortatio. Implicitly it pertains to the second moral goal of the narratio, for the Church to make known God’s diverse wisdom. When the Church lives according to the new person, it demonstrates and reveals God’s creation in contradistinction to the life of the world.

Walking According to Love, Imitating God (Eph 5:1-14)

The author of Ephesians wants his audience to live according to love, thus imitating God and Christ: “Therefore, become imitators of God as beloved children and walk in love, just as also Christ loved us and gave himself on our behalf as an offering and sacrifice for a sweet-smelling aroma to God” (vv. 1-2). Immediately, the author goes to the complete antithesis, stating that sexual immorality, impurity, and greediness must not even be named among them, and filthiness, foolish talk, and coarse jesting is not fitting (and must not occur). However, in their place ought to be thanksgiving. They are not fornicators, immoral people, or greedy people who have no inheritance in the kingdom of God. No, they are not among the sons of disobedience. Instead, formerly darkness, they are now light in the Lord, and they are to walk in the light–in all goodness, righteousness, and truth. They do not partake in the deeds of darkness; they expose them (vv. 3-13). For it says, “Wake up, oh sleeper, and rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you” (v. 14). This last quotation may be an allusion to Is 60:1-5, but it is uncertain. In any case, the author is making a justification for his ethical instruction, though we do not know from where he obtained this quotation. Therefore, it is in good rhetorical fashion, providing justification for the ethical instruction (cf. Quintilian, Institutio Oratoria, III.vii.4).

Still, this section of the exhortatio concerns itself primarily with the first of the two moral ends of the narratio, that the Church is to walk in good works prepared beforehand by God (cf. Eph 2:10). To do good works is to imitate God and walk in love. Imitating God does not include sexual immorality, immoral behavior, or greediness. However, it does include goodness, righteousness, and truth. But, secondly, it amplifies the other moral end, to make known the mystery, the plan, God’s diverse wisdom. Since they are the light, they expose the darkness, thus making it light. Furthermore, like Christ, they shine on others, playing a revealing role as light.

Walking According to Wisdom (Eph 5:15-6:9)

In this final section of the exhortatio, the author instructs the audience to live according to wisdom–they are to be wise and not unwise, they are to make the most of the time. Furthermore, they are not to be foolish, but they are to understand the will of the Lord (to do good works and to reveal the diverse wisdom of God). According to wisdom, they are not to get drunk with wine, but, instead, they are to be filled with the Spirit–speaking to each other with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, singing and making music in their heart to the Lord, always giving thanks for everything in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ to God the Father, and submitting to each other in fear of Christ (5:15-21). Wives are to submit to their husbands, to respect them. Husbands are to submit to their wives, to love them as their own body. These actions on the parts of the wives and the husbands in relation to each other are justified by analogy through the relationship between the Church and Christ, which is described as a great mystery (5:22-33). Children are to submit to their parents, to obey them. Parents are to submit to their children, to nourish them (6:1-4). Slaves are to submit to their masters, to obey them. Masters are to submit to their slaves, not to threaten them (6:5-9). In the section on wives and husbands, the author justifies his ethical instruction by quoting Gen 2:24: “For this reason a man will leave his father and his mother and be united to his wife, and the two will be one flesh.” In the section on children and parents, the author in part quotes Ex 20:12 and Deut 5:16: “Honor your father and your mother”; “in order that it might be good for you and you might be long-lived on the earth” (Deut 5:16); Again, the author is following good rhetorical fashion, supplying justification for the ethical instruction (cf. Quintilian, Institutio Oratoria, III.vii.4).

This section of the exhortatio appeals to both moral ends of the narratio. God deserves praise for the work he has done, and the purpose of his work was for the Church to do good works and to reveal God’s diverse wisdom. In this section, to do good works is to be wise, to make the most of the time. To be wise and make the most of the time is to understand the will of the Lord, to be filled with the Spirit. To be filled with the Spirit is to speak with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, to sing and make music to the Lord, to give thanks for everything in the name of Christ to God the Father, and to submit to each other. To submit to each other is to respect, to love, to obey, and to nourish (build up, train up, or discipline). To be unwise is to be foolish and to get drunk with wine. The Church is to do good works, which means they are to live wisely and not unwisely. But the Church is also to reveal the diverse wisdom of God, the great mystery. The relationship between the Church and the Christ is a great mystery. There is a connection here with the relationship between wives and husbands, children and parents, and slaves and masters. Just as much as it is a great mystery for Gentiles to be joined with Israel in Christ (cf. Eph 3:8-11), so also for the Church to be joined with Christ (cf. Eph 5:31-33). Likewise, the same can be said between wives and husbands, children and parents, and slaves and masters. The two parties are unified into one entity–marriage, family, and business, respectively. The mystery, God’s diverse wisdom, extends to all matters of life. As a result, the mystery of the Gospel, the summation of all things in Christ, the gift of God’s grace by the blood of Christ, this good news, is further evident in the marriage relationship when the wife respects her husband and when her husband loves her. This good news is demonstrated when the child obeys her parent and when her parent nourishes–builds up, trains, and disciplines–her. This good news is revealed when the slave obeys her master and when her master does not threaten her. It is a good work that has a redeeming value as it points to the gospel, which is God’s wisdom. In this way, marriage partners, family members, and business associates are able to have a role in the Church’s role as an evangelist, its role to reveal God’s diverse wisdom.

Conclusion

The exhortatio, though not a formal section of rhetoric, comes in after the narratio further to amplify the moral end of the facts presented in praise of God’s glory. Here’s a breakdown of the amplification:

  • do good works (2:10)
    1. walk worthily of the calling of unity (4:1-16)
      • be humble
      • be gentle
      • be patient
        1. bear with others in love
        2. make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace
      • to serve and make known the unity of faith and knowledge
    2. walk according to the new man (4:17-32)
      • not be like the old
        1. be ignorant
        2. be blind
        3. be futile
        4. be alienated
        5. be apathetic
        6. be callous
        7. be wasteful
        8. be deceitful
        9. be false
        10. be destructive
        11. be bitter
        12. be full of rage
        13. be angry
        14. be blasphemous
        15. be evil
      • but be like the new
        1. renew the spirit of the mind
        2. speak the truth
        3. be angry but not sin
        4. speak constructively
        5. be loving
        6. be tender-hearted
        7. be forgiving
    3. walk according to love, imitating God (5:1-14)
      • imitating God does not include:
        1. sexual immorality
        2. immoral behavior
        3. greediness (idolatry)
      • imitating God does include:
        1. goodness
        2. righteousness
        3. truth
    4. walk according to wisdom (5:15-6:9)
      • not be unwise
        1. be foolish
        2. get drunk with wine
      • but be wise and make the most of the time
        1. understand the will of the Lord
        2. be filled with the Spirit
          • speak with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs
          • sing and make music to the Lord
          • give thanks for everything in the name of Christ to God the Father
          • submit to each other
            1. wives respect their husbands
            2. husbands love their wives
            3. children obey their parents
            4. parents nourish their children
            5. slaves obey their masters
            6. masters do not threaten their slaves
  • reveal God’s diverse wisdom (3:10)
    1. Church as a unified entity of love (4:1-16)
    2. Church as God’s creation (4:17-32)
    3. Church as radiant light (5:1-14)
    4. Church as an evangelist (5:15-6:9)

With the exhortatio complete, the peroratio can come and sum up the entire speech.

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