on Ephesians 4 :16
From whom the whole body - Dr. Macknight has a just view of this passage, and I cannot express my own in more suitable terms: "The apostle's meaning is, that, as the human body is formed by the union of all the members to each other, under the head, and by the fitness of each member for its own office and place in the body, so the Church is formed by the union of its members under Christ, the head. Farther, as the human body increases till it arrives at maturity by the energy of every part in performing its proper function, and by the sympathy of every part with the whole, so the body or Church of Christ grows to maturity by the proper exercise of the gifts and graces of individuals for the benefit of the whole."
This verse is another proof of the wisdom and learning of the apostle. Not only the general ideas here are anatomical, but the whole phraseology is the same. The articulation of the bones, the composition and action of the muscles, the circulation of the fluids, carrying nourishment to every part, and depositing some in every place, the energy of the system in keeping up all the functions, being particularly introduced, and the whole terminating in the general process of nutrition, increasing the body, and supplying all the waste that had taken place in consequence of labor, etc. Let any medical man, who understands the apostle's language, take up this verse, and he will be convinced that the apostle had all these things in view. I am surprised that some of those who have looked for the discoveries of the moderns among the ancients, have not brought in the apostle's word επιχορηγια , supply, from επιχορηγεω, to lead up, lead along, minister, supply, etc., as some proof that the circulation of the blood was not unknown to St. Paul!
on Ephesians 4 :16
From whom the whole body - The church, compared with the human body. The idea is, that as the head in the human frame conveys vital influence, rigor, motion, etc., to every part of the body; so Christ is the source of life, and rigor, and energy, and increase to the church. The sense is, "The whole human body is admirably arranged for growth and rigor. Every member and joint contribute to its healthful and harmonious action. One part lends vigor and beauty to another, so that the whole is finely proportioned and admirably sustained. All depend on the head with reference to the most important functions of life, and all derive their vigor from that. So it is in the church. It is as well arranged for growth and vigor as the body is. It is as beautifully organized in its various members and officers as the body is. Everything is designed to he in its proper place, and nothing by the divine arrangement is lacking in its organization, to its perfection. Its officers and its members are, in their places, what the various parts of the body are with reference to the human frame. The church depends on Christ, as the head, to sustain, invigorate, and guide it, as the body is dependent on the head" See this figure carried out to greater length in 1 Corinthians 12:12-26.
Fitly joined together - The body, whose members are properly united so as to produce the most beauty and vigor. Each member is in the best place, and is properly united to the other members. Let anyone read Paley's Natural Theology, or any work on anatomy, and he will find innumerable instances of the truth of this remark; not only in the proper adjustment and placing of the members, but in the manner in which it is united to the other parts of the body. The foot, for instance, is in its proper place. It should not be where the head or the hand is. The eye is in its proper place. It should not be in the knee or the heel. The mouth, the tongue, the teeth, the lungs, the heart, are in their proper places. No other places would answer the purpose so well. The brain is in its proper place. Anywhere else in the body, it would be subject to compressions and injuries which would soon destroy life. And these parts are as admirably united to file other parts of the body, as they are admirably located. Let anyone examine, for instance, the tendons, nerves, muscles, and bones, by which the "foot" is secured to the body, and by which easy and graceful motion is obtained, and he will be satisfied of the wisdom by which the body is "joined together." How far the "knowledge" of the apostle extended on this point, we have not the means of ascertaining; but all the investigations of anatomists only serve to give increased beauty and force to the general terms which he uses here. All that he says here of the human frame is strictly accurate, and is such language as may be used by an anatomist now, The word which is used here (συναρμολογέω sunarmologeō) means properly to sew together; to fit together; to unite, to make one. It is applied often to musicians, who produce "harmony" of various parts of music. "Passow." The idea of harmony, or appropriate union, is that in the word.
And compacted - συμβιβαζόμενον sumbibazomenon. Tyndale renders this, "knit together in every joint." The word properly means, to make to come together; to join or knit together. It means here that the different parts of the body are "united" and sustained in this manner.
By that which every joint supplieth - Literally, "through every joint of supply;" that is, which affords or ministers mutual aid. The word "joint" hero - ἁφή haphē - (from ἇπτω haptō to fit) - means anything which binds, fastens, secures; find does not refer to the joint in the sense in which we commonly use it, as denoting "the articulation" of the limbs, or the joining of two or more bones; but rather that which "unites or fastens" together the different parts of the frame - the blood vessels, cords, tendons, and muscles. The meaning is, that every such "means of connecting one part of the body with another" ministers nourishment, and that thus the body is sustained. One part is dependent on another; one part derives nourishment from another; and thus all become mutually useful as contributing to the support and harmony of the whole. Thus, it furnishes an illustration of the "connection" in the members of the church, and of the aid which one can render to another.
According to the effectual working - Greek, "According to the energy in the measure of each one part." Tyndale, "According to the operation as every part has its measure." The meaning is, that each part contributes to the production of the whole result, or "labors" for this. This is in proportion to the "measure" of each part; that is, in proportion to its power. Every part labors to produce the great result. No one is idle; none is useless. But, none are overtaxed or overworked. The support demanded and furnished by every part is in exact proportion to its strength. This is a beautiful account of the anatomy of the human frame.
(1) nothing is useless. Every part contributes to the general result - the health, and beauty, and vigor of the system. Not a muscle is useless; not a nerve, not an artery, not a vein. All are employed, and all have an important place, and all contribute "something" to the health and beauty of the whole. So numerous are the bloodvessels, that you cannot perforate the skin anywhere without piercing one; so numerous are the pores of the skin, that a grain of sand will cover thousands of them; so minute the ramifications of the nerves, that wherever the point of a needle penetrates, we feel it; and so numerous the absorbents, that million of them are employed in taking up the chyme of the food, and conveying it to the veins. And yet all are employed - all are useful - all minister life and strength to the whole.
(2) none are overtaxed. They all work according to the "measure" of their strength. Nothing is required of the minutest nerve or blood-vessel which it is not suited to perform; and it will work on for years without exhaustion or decay. So of the church. There is no member so obscure and feeble that he may not contribute something to the welfare of the whole; and no one is required to labor beyond his strength in order to secure the great object. Each one in "his place," and laboring as he should there, will contribute to the general strength and welfare; "out of his place" - like nerves and arteries out of their place, and crossing and recrossing others - he will only embarrass the whole, and disarrange the harmony of the system.
Maketh increase of the body - The body grows in this manner.
Unto the edifying of itself - To building itself up that is, it grows up to a complete stature.
In love - In mutual harmony. This refers to the "body." The meaning is that it seems to be made on the principle of "love." There is no jar, no collision, no disturbance of one part with another. A great number of parts, composed of different substances, and with different functions - bones, and nerves, and muscles, and blood-vessels - are united in one, and live together without collision; and so it should be in the church. Learn, hence:
(1) That no member of the church need be useless, anymore than a minute nerve or blood-vessel in the body need be useless. No matter how obscure the individual may be, he may contribute to the harmony and vigor of the whole,
(2) Every member of the church should contribute something to the prosperity of the whole. He should no more be idle and unemployed than a nerve or a blood-vessel should be in the human system. What would be the effect if the minutest nerves and arteries of the body should refuse to perform their office?. Langour, disease, and death. So it is in the church. The obscurest member may do "something" to destroy the healthful action of the church, and to make its piety languish and die.
(3) there should be union in the church. It is made up of materials which differ much from each other, as the body is made up of bones, and nerves, and muscles. Yet, in the body these are united; and so it should be in the church. There need be no more jarring in the church than in the body; and a jar in the church produces the same effect as would be produced in the body if the nerves and muscles should resist the action of each other, or as if one should be out of its place, and impede the healthful functions of the other.
(4) every member in the church should keep his place, just as every bone, and nerve, and muscle in the human frame should. Every member of the body should be in its right position; the heart, the lungs, the eye, the tongue, should occupy their right place; and every nerve in the system should be laid down just where it is designed to be. If so, all is well If not so, all is deformity, or disorder; just as it, is often in the church.
on Ephesians 4 :16
4:16 From whom the whole mystical body fitly joined together - All the parts being fitted for and adapted to each other, and most exactly harmonizing with the whole. And compacted - Knit and cemented together with the utmost firmness. Maketh increase by that which every joint supplieth - Or by the mutual help of every joint. According to the effectual working in the measure of every member - According as every member in its measure effectually works for the support and growth of the whole. A beautiful allusion to the human body, composed of different joints and members, knit together by various ligaments, and furnished with vessels of communication from the head to every part.