What does Ephesians chapter 4 mean?Chapter 4 describes both the unity of believers and the new hope which Christians have in Jesus. The passage begins with Paul's mention of his imprisonment and his focus on Christian unity (Ephesians 4:1–16). There, he appeals to Christians to live in a way which reflects the grace we've been given by God. The second part of this passage develops the concept of the new life believers have in Jesus (Ephesians 4:17–32). Paul begins to assign specific actions and attitudes to the "new self" all believers ought to take on.
The first part of the chapter (Ephesians 4:1–6) begins a new section in which Paul urges his readers to live according to the calling they have received as believers (Ephesians 4:1). This includes humility, gentleness, patience, and love (Ephesians 4:2). Unity and peace were essential (Ephesians 4:3), with Paul noting the importance of one Spirit, hope, Lord, faith, baptism, God, and Father of all (Ephesians 4:5–6). Grace is given to each as Christ desires (Ephesians 4:7).
Paul then quotes from Psalm 68:18 (Ephesians 4:8) as the basis for his next teaching. He contrasts ascending and descending, referring most likely to Christ coming from heaven to earth. However, some have understood this as Christ descending "below" the earth in some type of activity during the three days between His death and resurrection. Verse 11 begins an importance discussion of church leaders. Paul includes apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers. Some interpreters believe that pastor–teacher is a single category. These leaders have one main purpose: to equip believers for the work of ministry (Ephesians 4:12). This work builds up the church, and increases unity, knowledge, and maturity (Ephesians 4:12–13). So, not only are spiritual gifts blessings, but those whom God has raised up to lead the church are gifts in their own way, as well.
Maturity is important because it keeps believers from being "up and down" in their walk with God. It also helps us avoid being deceived by false teachings (Ephesians 4:14). Instead, mature believers can speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15), focusing on Christ who keeps the body of Christ together (Ephesians 4:16).
The second part of this chapter (Ephesians 4:17–32) focuses on the new life believers have in Christ. Believers are to no longer live sinfully "as the Gentiles do" (Ephesians 4:17). In this context, Paul is using the term "Gentiles" to refer to those who do not have a saving knowledge of Christ. Non-believers lack understanding and are separated by God due to a hardness of heart (Ephesians 4:18). They are calloused to sin (Ephesians 4:19). Believers must not be known for this way of life (Ephesians 4:20–21). Instead, believers put off this "old self" and set their minds on spiritual things (Ephesians 4:23), putting on the "new self" of godly living (Ephesians 4:24).
As part of this "new self," each believer is called to speak truth to "his neighbor" since we are family (Ephesians 4:25). We are not to sin when angry (Ephesians 4:26), not giving the Devil an opportunity or advantage in our lives (Ephesians 4:27). Believers are to work honestly (Ephesians 4:28), speak encouragement (Ephesians 4:29), and not grieve the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 4:30). Believers are called to put away sinful practices and attitudes (Ephesians 4:31), being kind to one another and forgiving, as Christ has forgiven us (Ephesians 4:32).