Ephesians 5:12
For it is a shame even to speak of those things which are done of them in secret.
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(12) It is a shame even to speak . . .—Comp. Ephesians 5:3. Sin may be plainly indicated, and perhaps most effectually branded, without polluting the tongue by describing its actual developments. The need of St. Paul’s caution is only too obvious when we read some satires and denunciations against sin, or some manuals of self-examination.



Ephesians 5:11-21There are three groups of practical exhortations in this passage, of which the first deals with the Christian as a reproving light in darkness; the second, with the Christian life as wisdom in the midst of folly; and the third with Christian sobriety and inspiration as the true exhilaration in contrast with riotous drunkenness. Probably such intoxication was prevalent in Ephesus in connection with the worship of ‘Diana of the Ephesians,’ for Paul was not the man to preach vague warnings against vices to which his hearers were not tempted. An under-current of allusion to such orgies accompanying the popular cult may be discerned in his words.

These two preceding sets of precepts can only be briefly touched on now. They lead up to the third, and the second is built on the first by a ‘therefore’ {ver.15}. The Apostle has just been saying that Christians were ‘darkness, but are now light in the Lord,’ and thence drawing the law for their life, to walk as ‘children of light.’ A very important part of such walk is recoiling from all share in ‘the unfruitful works of darkness,’-a significant expression branding such deeds as being both bad in their source and in their results. Dark doings have consequences tragic enough and certain enough, but they are barren of all such issues as correspond to men’s obligations and capacities. Their outcome is like the growths on a tree, which are not fruit, but products of disease. There is no fruit grown in the dark; there is no worthy product from us unless Christ is our light. If He is, and we are therefore ‘light in the Lord,’ we shall ‘reprove’ or ‘convict’ the Christless life. Its sinfulness will be shown by the contrast with the Christ-life. A thunder-cloud never looks so lividly black as when smitten by sunshine.

Our lives ought to make evil things ashamed to show their ugly faces. Christians should be, as it were, the incarnate conscience of a community. The Apostle is not thinking so much of words as of deeds, though words are not to be withheld when needful. The agent of reproof is ‘the light,’ which here is the designation of character as transformed by Jesus, and the process of reproof or conviction is simply the manifestation of the evil in its true nature, which comes from setting it in the beams of the light. To show sin as it is, is to condemn it; ‘for everything that is made manifest is light.’ Observe that Paul here speaks of ‘light,’ not ‘the light,’-that is, he is speaking now not of Christian character, which he had likened to light, but of physical light to which he had likened it, and is backing up his figurative statement as to the reproving and manifesting effects of the former, by the plain fact as to the latter, that, when daylight shines on anything, it is revealed, and, as it were, becomes light. He clenches his exhortation by quoting probably an early Christian hymn, which regards Christ as the great illuminator, ready to shine on all drowsy, dark souls as soon as they stir and rouse themselves from drugged and fatal sleep.

The second set of exhortations here is connected with the former by a ‘therefore,’ which refers to the whole preceding precept. Because the Christian is to shake himself free from complicity with works of darkness, and to be their living condemnation, he must take heed to his goings. A climber on a glacier has to look to his feet, or he will slip and fall down a crevasse, perhaps, from which he will never be drawn up. Heedlessness is folly in such a world as this. ‘"Don’t care" comes to the gallows.’ The temptation to ‘go as you please’ is strong in youth, and it is easy to scoff at ‘cold-blooded folks who live by rule,’ but they are the wise people, after all. A great element in that heedfulness is a quick insight into the special duty and opportunity of the moment, for life is not merely made up of hours, but each has its own particular errand for us, and has some possibility in it which, neglected, may be lost for ever.

The mystic solemnity of time is that it is made up of ‘seasons.’ We shall walk heedfully in the degree in which we are awake to the moment’s meaning, and grasp opportunity by the forelock, or, as Paul says, ‘buy up the opportunity.’ But wise heed to our walk is not enough, unless we have a sure standard by which to regulate it. A man may take great care of his watch, but unless he can compare it with a chronometer, or, as they do in Edinburgh, pull out their watches when the one o’clock gun is fired on a signal from Greenwich, he may be far out and not know it. So the Apostle adds the one way to keep our lives right, and the one source of true, practical wisdom-the ‘understanding what the will of the Lord is.’ He will not go far wrong whose instinctive question, as each new moment, with its solemn, animating possibilities, meets him, is, ‘What wilt Thou have me to do?’ He will not be nearly right who does not first of all ask that.

Then Paul comes to his precept of temperance. It naturally flows from the preceding, inasmuch as a drunken man is as sure to be incapable of taking heed to his conduct as of walking straight. He reels in both. He is stone-blind to the meaning of the moments. He hears no call, though the ‘voice of the trumpet’ may be ‘exceeding loud,’ and as for understanding what the will of the Lord is, that is far beyond him. The intoxication of an hour or the habit of drinking makes obedience to the foregoing precepts impossible. This master vice carries all other vices in its pocket.

Paul makes a daring, and, as some would think, an irreverent, comparison, when he proposes being ‘filled with the Spirit’ as the Christian alternative or substitute to being ‘drunken with wine.’ But the daring comparison suggests deep truth. The spurious exhilaration, the loosening of the bonds of care, the elevation above the pettiness and monotony of daily life, which the drunkard seeks, and is degraded and deceived in proportion as he momentarily finds, are all ours, genuinely, nobly, and to our infinite profit, if we have our empty spirits filled with that Divine Life. That exhilaration does not froth away, leaving bitter dregs in the cup. That loosening of the bonds of care, and elevation above life’s sorrows, does not flow from foolish oblivion of facts, nor end in their being again roughly forced on us. ‘Riot’ bellows itself hoarse, and is succeeded by corresponding depression; but the calm joys of the Spirit-filled spirit last, grow, and become calmer and more joyful every day.

The boisterous songs of boon companions are set in contrast with the Christian ‘psalms and hymns and spiritual songs,’ which were already in use, and a snatch from one of which Paul has just quoted. Good-fellowship tempts men to drink together, and a song is a shoeing-horn for a glass; but the camaraderie is apt to end in blows, and is a poor caricature of the bond knitting all who are filled with the Spirit to one another, and making them willing to serve one another. The roystering or maudlin geniality cemented by drink generally ends in quarrels, as everybody knows that the truculent stage of intoxication succeeds the effusively affectionate one. But they who have the Spirit in them, and not only ‘live in the Spirit,’ but ‘walk in the Spirit,’ esteem each the other better than themselves. In a word, to be filled with the Spirit is the way to possess all the highest forms of the good which men are tempted to intoxication to secure, and which in it they find only for a moment, and which is coarse and unreal.

Ephesians 5:14EPHESIANS


Ephesians 5:14This is the close of a short digression about ‘light.’ The ‘wherefore’ at the beginning of my text seems to refer to the whole of the verses that deal with that subject. It is as if the Apostle had said, ‘I have been telling you about light and its blessed effects. Now I tell you how you may win it for yours. The condition on which it is to be received by men is that they awake and arise from the dead.’

‘He saith.’ Who? The speaker whose words are quoted is not named, but this is the common formula of quotation from the Old Testament. It is, therefore, probable that the word ‘Creator’ or ‘God’ is to be supplied. But there is no Old Testament passage which exactly corresponds to the words before us; the nearest approach to such being the ringing exhortation of the prophet to the Messianic Church, ‘Arise! Shine, for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee.’ And it is probable that the Apostle is here quoting, without much regard either to the original connection or the primary purpose of the word, a well-known old saying which seemed to him appropriately to fall in with the trend of his thoughts. Like other writers he often adorns his own words with the citation of those of others without being very careful as to whether he, in some measure, diverts these from their original intention. But the words of my text fairly represent the prophetic utterance, in so far as they echo the call to the sleepers to wake, and share the prophet’s confidence that light is streaming out for all those whose eyes are opened.

The want of precise correspondence between our text and the prophetic passage has led some to suppose that we have here the earliest recorded fragment of a Christian hymn. It would be interesting if that were so, but the formula of citation seems to oblige us to look to Scripture for the source from which my text is taken. However, let us leave these thoughts, and come to the text itself. It is an earnest call from God. It describes a condition, peals forth a summons, and gives a promise. Let us listen to what ‘He saith’ in all these regards.

I. First of all, then, the condition of the persons addressed.

The two sad metaphors, slumberers and dead, are applied to the same persons. There must, therefore, be some latitude in the application of the figures and they must be confined in their interpretation to some one or more points in which sleep and death are alike.

Now we all know that, as the proverb says, ‘sleep is the image of death.’ And what is the point of comparison? Mainly this, that the sleeper and the corpse are alike unconscious of an external world, unable to receive impressions from it, or to put forth action on it; and there, as I take it, is especially the point which is in the Apostle’s view.

The sleeper and the dead man alike are in the midst of an order of things of which they are all unaware. And you and I live in two worlds, one, this low, fleeting, material one; and the other the white, snowy peaks that girdle it as do the Alps the Lombard plains; and men live all unconscious of that which lies on their horizon. But the metaphor of a level ground encircled by mountains does not fully represent the closeness of the connection between these two worlds, of both of which every one of us is a denizen. For on all sides, pressing in upon us, enfolding us like an atmosphere, penetrating into all the material, underlying all which is visible, all of which has its roots in the unseen, is that world which the mass of men are in a conspiracy to ignore and forget. And just as the sleeper is unconscious of all around him in his chamber, and of all the stir and beauty of the world in which he lives, so the bulk of us go blind and darkling through life, absorbed in the things seen, and never lift even a momentary and lack-lustre glance to the august realities which lie behind these, and give them all their significance and beauty.

Yes; and just as in a dream men are busy with baseless phantoms that vanish and are forgotten, and seem to themselves to be occupied, whilst all the while they are lying prone and passive, so the mass of us are sleep-walkers. What are many men who will be hurrying on to the Manchester Exchange on Tuesday? What are they but men who are dreaming that they are at work, but are only at work on dreams which will vanish when the eyes are opened? Practical men, who are busy and absorbed with affairs and with the things of this present, curl their lips about ‘idealists’ of all sorts, be they idealists of thought, or of art, or of benevolence, or of religion, and call them dreamers. The boot is on the other leg. It is the idealists that are awake, and it is you people that live for to-day, and have not learned that to-day is a little fragment and sliver of eternity-it is you who are dreamers, and all these things round about us-the solid-seeming realities-are illusions, and

‘Like the bubbles on a river,

Sparkling, bursting, borne away,’

they will disappear. There is only one reality, and that is God, and the only lives that lay hold of the substance are those which grasp Him. The rest of you are shadows hunting for shadows.

The two metaphors of my text coincide in suggesting another thing, and that is the awful contrast in the average life between what is in a man and what comes out of him. ‘Dormant power,’ we talk about. Ah, how tragically the true man is dormant in all the work of worldly hearts! God has made a great mistake in making you what you are, if there is no place for you to exercise your powers in but this present world, and nothing to exercise them on except the things that pass and perish. Travellers in lands where civilisation used to be, and barbarism now is, find sculptured stones from temples turned into fences for cattle-sheds and walls round pigstyes. And that is something like what men do with the faculties that God has given them. Why, the best part of you, brother, if you are not a Christian, and living a Christian life-the best part of you is asleep, and it is only the lower nature of you that is awake! Sometimes the sleepers stir uneasily. It used to be said that earthquakes were caused by a giant rolling himself from side to side in his troubled slumber. And there are earthquakes in your heart and spirit caused by the half-waking of the dormant self, the true man, who is immersed and embruted in sense and the things of time. Some of you by earthly lusts, some of you by over-indulgence in fleshly appetites, eating and drinking and the like; some of you by absorption in the mere externals of trade and profession and occupation to the entire neglect of the inward thing which would glorify and exalt these-but all of us somehow, unless we are living for God, have lulled our best, true, central self into slumber, and lie as if dead.

Now, brethren, do not forget that this exhortation of my text, and therefore this description, is addressed to a community of professing Christians. I hope you will not misunderstand me as if I thought that such a picture as I have been trying to draw applies only to men that have no religion in them at all. It applies in varying degrees to men that have, as-I was going to say the bulk, but perhaps that is exaggeration, let me say a tragically large number-of professing Christians, and a proportionate number of the professing Christians in this audience have, a little life and a great circumference of death. Dear brethren, you may call yourselves, and may be Christian people, and have somewhat shaken off the torpor, and roused yourself from the slumbering death of which I have been speaking. Remember that it still hangs to you, and that it was of Christians that the Master said: ‘Whilst the Lord was away they all slumbered and slept’; and that it was of a Christian Church, and not of a pagan world, that the same voice from heaven said: ‘Thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead.’ And so I beseech you, bear with me, and do not think I am scolding, or flinging about wild words at random, when I make a very earnest appeal to each individual professing, and real, Christian in this congregation, and ask them to consider, each for themselves, how much of sleep is still in their drowsy eyes, and how far it is true that the quickening life of Jesus Christ has penetrated, as the sunbeams into the darkness, into the heavy mass of their natural death.

II. Secondly, let me ask you to look at the summons to awake.

It comes like the morning bugle to an army, ‘Awake, thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead.’ Now, I am not going to waste your time by talking about the old, well-worn, interminable, and unprofitable controversy as to God’s part and man’s in this awaking, but I do wish to insist upon this plain fact, that the command here presupposes upon our parts, whether we be Christian people or not, the ability to obey. God would not mock a man by telling him to do what he cannot do. And it is perfectly clear that the one attitude in which we may be sure of God’s help to keep any of His commandments, and this amongst the rest, is when we are trying to keep them. ‘Stretch out thy hand,’ said Christ to the man whose disease was that he could not stretch it out. ‘Arise and walk,’ said Christ to the man whose lifelong sadness it was that his limbs had no power. ‘Lazarus, come forth,’ said Christ unto the dull, cold ear of death. And Lazarus heard, wherever he was, and, though his feet were tangled with the graveclothes, he came stumbling out, because the power to do what he was bid had come wrapped in the command to do it. And if these other two men had turned to Jesus and said, ‘What is the use of telling me to stretch out my hand, or me to move my limbs? Thou knowest that I can not,’ they would have lain there paralysed till they died. But when they heard the command there came a tingling sense of new ability into the withered limb. ‘And he stretched forth his hand, and it was restored whole as the other.’ Ay, but the process of restoration began when he willed to stretch it out in obedience to the command, which was a promise as much as a command. So we need not trouble ourselves with the question how the dead man can arise, or how the sleeper can wake himself.

This, at all events, is clear, that if what I have been saying is true as to the main point in view in both the metaphors, viz. the unconsciousness of the unseen world, and the slumbering powers that we have within us, then the remedy for that is in our own hands. There are scarcely any limits to be put to a man’s capacity of determining for himself what shall be the object of his thought, his interest, his affection, or his pursuits. You can withdraw your desires and contemplations from the intrusive and absorbing present. You can coerce yourselves to concentrate more thought than you do, more interest, affection, and effort than you have ever done, upon the things that are unseen. You can turn your gaze thither. You cannot directly and immediately regulate your feelings, but you can settle the thoughts which shall guide the feelings, and you can, and you do, fix for yourselves, though not consciously, the things which shall be uppermost in your regard, and supreme in the ordering of your life.

And so the commandment of my text is but this, ‘Wake from the illusions; rouse yourselves to the contemplation of the things unseen and eternal. Let the Lord always be before your face.’ And you will be awake and alive.

III. And so my last point is the promise of the morning light which gladdens the wakeful eye. ‘Christ shall give thee light.’

Now, if the words of my text are an allusion to the prophecy to which I have already referred, it is striking to observe, though I cannot dwell upon the thought, that Paul here unhesitatingly ascribes to Jesus Christ an action which, in the source of his quotation, is ascribed to Jehovah. ‘Arise, shine, for thy light has come, and the glory of Jehovah is risen upon thee,’ says the prophet. ‘Arise! thou that sleepest,’ says Paul, ‘and Christ shall give thee light.’ As always, he regards his Lord as possessed of fully divine attributes; and he has learned the depth of the Master’s own saying, ‘Whatsoever things the Father doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise.’ But I turn from that to the main point to be insisted upon here, that the Apostle is setting forth this as a certainty, that if a man will open his eyes he will have light enough. The sunshine is flooding the world. It falls upon the closed eyelids of the sleepers, and would fain gently lift them, that it might enter. A man needs nothing more than to shake off the slumber, and bring himself into the conscious presence of the unseen glories that surround us, in order to get light enough and to spare-whether you mean by light knowledge for guidance on the path of life, or whether you mean by it purity that shall scatter the darkness of evil from the heart, or whether you mean by it the joy that comes in the morning, radiant and fresh as the sunrise over the Eastern hills. ‘Awake, and Christ shall give thee light.’

The miracle of Goshen is reversed, in the case of many of us, the land is flashing in the sunshine, but within our houses there is midnight darkness, not because there is not light around, but because the shutters are shut. Oh, brethren, it is a solemn thing to choose the darkness rather than the light. And you do that-though not consciously, and in so many words, making your election-by indifference, by neglect, by the direction of the main current of your thoughts and desires and aims to perishable things, and by the deeds that follow from such a disposition. These choose for you, and you, in effect, choose by them.

I beseech you, do not let Christ’s own trumpet-call fall upon your ears, as if faint and far away, like the unwelcome summons that comes to a drowsy man in the morning. You know that if, having been called, he makes up his mind to lie a little longer, he is almost sure to fall more dead asleep than he was before. And if you hear, however dim, distantly, and through my poor words, Christ’s voice saying to you, ‘Awake! thou that sleepest,’ do not neglect it. The only safe course is to spring up at once. If thou dost, ‘Christ shall give thee light,’ never fear. The light is all about you. You only need to open your eyes, and it will pour in. If you do not, you surround yourself with darkness that may be felt here, and ensures for yourself a horror of great darkness in the death hereafter.

5:3-14 Filthy lusts must be rooted out. These sins must be dreaded and detested. Here are not only cautions against gross acts of sin, but against what some may make light of. But these things are so far from being profitable. that they pollute and poison the hearers. Our cheerfulness should show itself as becomes Christians, in what may tend to God's glory. A covetous man makes a god of his money; places that hope, confidence, and delight, in worldly good, which should be in God only. Those who allow themselves, either in the lusts of the flesh or the love of the world, belong not to the kingdom of grace, nor shall they come to the kingdom of glory. When the vilest transgressors repent and believe the gospel, they become children of obedience, from whom God's wrath is turned away. Dare we make light of that which brings down the wrath of God? Sinners, like men in the dark, are going they know not whither, and doing they know not what. But the grace of God wrought a mighty change in the souls of many. Walk as children of light, as having knowledge and holiness. These works of darkness are unfruitful, whatever profit they may boast; for they end in the destruction of the impenitent sinner. There are many ways of abetting, or taking part in the sins of others; by commendation, counsel, consent, or concealment. And if we share with others in their sins, we must expect to share in their plagues. If we do not reprove the sins of others, we have fellowship with them. A good man will be ashamed to speak of what many wicked men are not ashamed to do. We must have not only a sight and a knowledge that sin is sin, and in some measure shameful, but see it as a breach of God's holy law. After the example of prophets and apostles, we should call on those asleep and dead in sin, to awake and arise, that Christ may give them light.For it is a shame even to speak ... - ; compare notes, Romans 1:24-32. It is still a shame to speak of the practices of the pagan. Missionaries tell us that they "cannot" describe the images on the car of Juggernaut, or tell us what is done in the idol temples. All over the world the same thing is true. The cheek of modesty and virtue would be suffused with shame at the very mention of what is done by the worshippers of idols; and the same is true of what is done by multitudes in Christian lands, who are not worshippers of idols. Their deeds cannot be described in the circles of the refined and the delicate; they cannot be told in the presence of mothers and sisters. Is there not emphasis here in the words "even to speak of these things!" If the apostle would not allow them to name those things, or to "speak" of them, is it wise or safe for Christians now to be familiar with the accounts of those practices of pollution, and for ministers to portray them in the pulpit, and for the friends of "moral reform" to describe them before the world? The very "naming" of those abominations often produces improper associations in the mind; the description creates polluting images before the imagination; the exhibition of pictures, even for the purpose of condemning them, defiles the soul. There are some vices which, from the corruptions of the human heart, cannot be safely described, and it is to be feared that, under the plea of faithfulness, many have done evil by exciting improper feelings, where they should have only alluded to the crime, and then spoken in thunder. Paul did not "describe" these vices, he denounced them; he did not dwell upon them long enough for the imagination to find employment, and to corrupt the soul. He mentioned the vice - and then he mentioned the wrath of God; he alluded to the sin, and then he spoke of the exclusion from heaven; compare notes on 1 Corinthians 6:18.

Which are done of them in secret - Many have supposed that there is an allusion here to the "mysteries" which were celebrated in Greece, usually at night, and far from the public eye. Many of these were indeed impure and abominable, but there is no necessity for supposing that there is such an allusion here. The reference may be to the vices which were secretly practiced then as now; the abominations which flee from the eye of day, and which are performed far from the public gaze.

12. The Greek order is, "For the things done in secret by them, it is a shame even to speak of." The "for" gives his reason for "not naming" (compare Eph 5:3) in detail the works of darkness, whereas he describes definitely (Eph 5:9) "the fruit of the light" [Bengel]. "Speak of," I think, is used here as "speaking of without reproving," in contrast to "even reprove them." Thus the "for" expresses this, Reprove them, for to speak of them without reproving them, is a shame (Eph 5:3). Thus "works of darkness" answers to "things done in secret." For it is a shame even to speak of those things; much more to have fellowship with them in them.

Which are done of them in secret; the darkness adding boldness, as if what men did not see, God did not observe.

For it is a shame even to speak of those things,.... This is a reason, why persons should walk as children of light; why they should prove what is acceptable to God; why they should have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness; why the apostle exhorts to reprove them, and yet does not express what they are; and why they should be reproved rather by deeds than by words: and he tacitly intimates, that if it is a shame to speak of those sins

which are done of them in secret, it is much more shameful to commit them; the persons the apostle refers to, are the unconverted Gentiles in general; such who have no inheritance in the kingdom of God, who deceive men with vain words, who are children of disobedience, who are in darkness, and destitute of the Spirit; and it may be that respect may be had to the followers of Simon Magus, the Gnostics, and such like impure professors, by whom the vilest things were done in secret; for sins, works of darkness, will not bear the light; there is a consciousness in men of the evil of sin, unless past feeling, and therefore they do not care that others should know their crimes; and besides, there is an imaginary pleasure in committing sin secretly; but then though these things are secret to men, they are not to God; nor will they always remain secrets, they will be brought to light, and therefore no fellowship should be had with them; and especially when they are of such a scandalous nature, that it is a shame to mention the very names of them.

For it is a shame even to speak of those things which are done of them in secret.
assigns the reason for the demand just expressed, ἐλέγχετε, by pointing to what quite specially needed the ἐλέγχειν,—by pointing to the secret vicious acts of the unbelievers, which are so horrible, that one must feel ashamed even but to mention them

Ephesians 5:12 assigns the reason for the demand just expressed, ἐλέγχετε, by pointing to what quite specially needed the ἐλέγχειν,—by pointing to the secret vicious acts of the unbelievers, which are so horrible, that one must feel ashamed even but to mention them. Thus, consequently, the ἐλέγχετε has its ground assigned as concerns its great necessity.

κρυφῇ] not elsewhere in the N.T. (but see Deuteronomy 28:57; Wis 18:9; 3Ma 4:12; Xen. Symp. v. 8; Pind. Ol. i. 75; Soph. Trach. 686, Antig. 85; to be written with Iota subscriptum, Ellendt, Lex. Soph. I. p. 992; Lipsius, Gramm. Unters. p. 6 f.), in the protasis has the emphasis,—hence it is prefixed,—and denotes that which takes place in secret, in the darkness of seclusion. More special references, such as to the horrible excesses in connection with the heathen mysteries (Elsner, Wolf, Michaelis, Holzhausen), or even to the “familiam Simonis Magi, quae erat infandarum libidinum magistra” (Estius), have just as little warrant in the context as the weakening of the meaning of the word by Morus, who understands thereby the mores domesticos of the Gentiles. According to Koppe (flagitia quaevis), Meier, Harless, and Olshausen, the κρυφῇ γινόμενα are not meant to be specially the secret deeds of vice, but the ἔργα τοῦ σκότους in general, which are so designated in accordance with the view conditioned by σκότος (see Harless). But against this may be urged, first, the fact that σκότος (here in the ethical sense) and κρυφῇ are quite different notions, inasmuch as manifest vice also is an ἔργον τοῦ σκότους, whereas only the peccata occulta take place κρυφῇ; secondly, the emphasis, which the prefixing of κρυφῇ demands for this word, and which, if κρυφῇ denoted nothing special, would be entirely lost, so that Paul might have written merely τὰ γὰρ γινόμενα ὑπʼ αὐτῶν; thirdly, the contrast of the following φανεροῦται, which presupposes in the ἐλέγχειν something which had been done secretly (comp. Heliodorus, viii. p. 397: ὁ τῆς δίκης ὀφθαλμὸς ἐλέγχων καὶ τὰ ἀμήνυτα κρύφια καὶ ἀθέμιτα φωτίζων); and lastly, that it would in fact be quite an exaggerated assertion to say of the sins of the Gentiles generally, that it is a shame even to mention them.

ὑπʼ αὐτῶν] by the υἱοὶ τῆς ἀπειθείας.

καὶ λέγειν] even only (see Hartung, Partikell. I. p. 136) to say, what they in secret do, one must be ashamed. Comp. Plat. Rep. p. 465 C: ὀκνῶ καὶ λέγειν, Dem. 1262, 11: ἃ πολλὴν αἰσχύνην ἔχει καὶ λέγειν, and the passages in Wetstein. The tacit contrast is the ποιεῖν of the doers. Compare the μηδέ of Ephesians 5:3.


The relation, by way of ground, of Ephesians 5:12 to what precedes has been very variously apprehended, and with various definitions of the sense itself. Calvin, anticipating, holds that the intention is to state what is accomplished by the ἔλεγξις; thereby light is brought into their secret things, “ut sua turpitudine pudefiant,” comparing 1 Corinthians 14:24. Of this there is mention only in the sequel. Entirely at variance with the words is the view of Grotius (comp. Calovius): “nam nisi id fiat, audebunt etiam clam turpiora.” Bengel (comp. already in Oecumenius) finds in Ephesians 5:12 the cause adduced, “cur indefinite loquatur Ephesians 5:11 de operibus tenebrarum, cum fructum lucis Ephesians 5:9 definite descripserit.” Imported, and opposed to the emphatic κρυφῇ. While, moreover, Koppe translates γάρ by doubtless [zwar], Rückert wishes at least to supply a doubtless. “Doubtless their secret sins are not of such kind that they can be mentioned with honour, yet it belongs to you, as children of the light, to convince them of the wickedness of their actings.” But the supplying of μέν is pure invention. See on Ephesians 5:8. Quite mistaken also is the explanation of Meier: “Yes, reprove them severely and openly to the face; for the merely unconcerned speaking and telling of such deeds of shame secretly committed is likewise disgraceful, unworthy, and mean.” This Paul would at least have expressed thus: τὸ γὰρ λέγειν μόνον (antithesis to τὸ ἐλέγχειν) τά κρυφῇ ὑπʼ αὐτῶν γινόμενα αἰσχρ. ἐστι. Impossible, likewise, is Holzhausen’s interpretation: “The sins committed in the darkness of the heathen mysteries the Christians are not to disclose; they are not even to utter the names thereof, they are too abominable.” Apart from the consideration how singular such a precept must appear face to face with the decidedly moral character of the apostle, apart also from the fact that the mysteries are purely imported (see above), such a view should have been precluded as well by the γάρ in itself (since, in fact, no counterpart of κρυφῇ precedes), as by the succeeding τὰ δὲ πάντα, which, according to Holzhausen, is meant to signify the vices, “which can endure your light.” Following Anselm, Piscator, Vorstius, Zanchius, Flatt, Harless finally discovers in Ephesians 5:12 the assigning of a reason not for the ἐλέγχετε, which is held to follow only with Ephesians 5:13, but for μὴ συγκοινωνεῖτε τοῖς ἔργοις τοῖς ἀκάρπ. τοῦ σκότους: “for even but to mention their secret deeds is a shame, to say nothing of doing them.” But against this the right apprehension of the emphatic κρυφῇ (see above) is decisive; moreover, the exhortation μὴ συγκοινωνεῖτε κ.τ.λ., has already, in what precedes, such repeated and such specifically Christian grounds assigned for it (Ephesians 5:3-5; Ephesians 5:8, as also further τοῖς ἀκάρποις, Ephesians 5:11), that the reader, after a new thought has been introduced with μᾶλλον, could not at all expect a second ground to be assigned for the previous one, least of all such a general one—containing no essentially Christian ground—as would be afforded by Ephesians 5:12, but rather would expect a ground to be assigned for the new thought μᾶλλον δὲ καὶ ἐλέγχετε which had just been introduced.

Ephesians 5:12. τὰ γὰρ κρυφῆ γινόμενα ὑπʼ αὐτῶν αἰσχρόν ἐστι καὶ λέγειν: for the things which are done by them in secret it is a shame even to speak of. This rendering of the RV, which follows Ellicott’s, does more justice to the order of the Greek than that of the AV. The term κρυφῆ occurs only this once in the NT; but it is found occasionally in the LXX. Lach., WH, Mey., etc., prefer the form κρυφῆ; most editors and grammarians (Treg., Tisch., Alf., Jelf, Win., etc.) adopt κρυφῇ; cf. Win.-Moult., pp. 52, 53. The γάρ introduces a reason for, or a confirmation of, the charge to reprove the sins. But what of the special point and connection? Some (e.g., Harl.) would refer the γάρ to the μὴ συγκοινωνεῖτε, as if = “do not take part in their sins, for they are too vile even to mention”. But this does not do justice to the difference between the κρυφῆ γινόμενα and the ἔργα τοῦ σκότους. Others, putting more into the λέγειν than it can properly bear, understand it as as = “rebuke these sins openly, for to speak of them in any other terms than that of rebuke is shameful”. Bengel finds in it a reason for the sins being only referred to and not specified by name. Stier, supposing the reproof de facto to be in view, makes it = “do not even name these sins, for if you did so you would yourselves be sinning, whereas your walk in the light will be their reproof”. Others (Von Sod., Abb.), adopting the sense of “expose” for ἐλέγχειν, take the idea to be—“do not participate in these works, but expose them, for the things they do secretly it is a shame even to mention; but all these things when exposed by the light are made manifest in their true character”. But the course of thought is simpler. The secrecy of the works in question is the reason why they require to be openly reproved; and the point is this—the heathen practise in secret vices too abominable even to mention; all the more is the need of open rebuke instead of silent overlooking or connivance (Mey., Ell., etc.). It is not all heathen sins, therefore, that are in view; for it would be an exaggeration to say that all such vices were of a kind too shameful even to speak of; but a certain class of sins, that worst class which are done in secret. This is in harmony with the emphatic position of the κρυφῆ and with the contrast in the φανεροῦται. But if the expression κρυφῆ γινόμενα covers less than the ἔργα τοῦ σκότους, there is nothing on the other hand to indicate that it refers specifically to the immoral licence of the Pagan mysteries, or any other single instance of dark and infamous excess. It includes all those shameless heathen indulgences which sought the cover of secrecy.

12. even to speak] See above on “not once named”, Ephesians 5:12. Perhaps the suggestion here is that the “reproof” of Ephesians 5:11 was to come more through a holy life, and less through condemnatory words. Not that such should never be used; but that they are weak reproofs compared with those issuing from a life of unmistakable holiness brought into contact with the unholy.

The verse was terribly in point at the time, as every reader of ancient literature knows. Is it much less in point to-day, in the midst of our nominal Christendom? Neither, then, is Ephesians 5:11.

Ephesians 5:12. Γὰρ, for) The reason why he speaks indefinitely, Ephesians 5:11, of the works of darkness, whereas he described definitely the fruit of light, Ephesians 5:9. At the same time the kindness, the justice, the wholesomeness of the reproving of them, are distinctly shown from this circumstance.—κρυφῇ, secretly) in avoidance of the light, and most frequently.—ὑπʼ αὐτῶν) by them, who are in darkness.—αἰσχρὸν, it is a shame) Writing rather familiarly to the Corinthians, he names them; in like manner to the Romans, because it was necessary; here however he acts with greater dignity.—καὶ) even to speak of, much less to do them.—λέγειν, to speak of) They may be judged by their contraries [Ephesians 5:9], goodness, righteousness, truth.

Verse 12. - For the things that are done by them in secret it is a shame even to speak of. The groves of Ephesus were notorious for the shamefulness of lust. To speak of such deeds was not only wrong, but shameful; so extreme is the delicacy which Christianity fosters. Too much pains cannot be taken, by parents, masters of schools, and others, to foster this delicacy among the young - to exclude from conversation the faintest touch of what is unbecoming. Ephesians 5:12
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