We should be thankful to the God the Father first, then God the Son, giving thanks in the name of Jesus Christ. All thanksgiving should be expressed through Christ.
Martin G. Collins
Those who are filled with the spirit (verse 18) will exhort and instruct each other. Paul does not say that they will judge, criticize, and correct. They will sing songs of praise. They will be grateful always in all things to God for what He has allowed to come into their lives, both the bad and the good things. Those who are filled with the Spirit will be grateful because they understand what God does is for their good. They will mutually defer to each other as long as it is all in the fear of the Lord, that is, they will submit to what is in accord with what pleases God.
Almost the entirety of the remainder of this epistle is devoted to submitting yourselves to one another because it is essential to unity. Paul carries the subject into a smaller venue, the home and marriage relationships. He shows the relevance of submitting to marital unity, then in chapter 6, he moves into parent-and-child unity.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Unity (Part 7): Ephesians 4 (D)
"Joy" does not appear in this passage, but Paul's purpose is to instruct us how to produce the sustained sense of well-being that should mark a Christian's life. When a person feels good about life, about who and what he is, what he is doing with his life, and where it is headed, a sense of joy is always present. Paul's instructions are timeless in producing this.
"Walk circumspectly" indicates keeping the commandments. Paul advises us to make the most profitable use of our time, considering the state of this world. He warns us not to be foolish, and always to consider, search for, and focus upon the purpose God is working out. Then in verse 18 he makes an interesting contrast that directly involves producing the joy that should accompany the life of anyone heeding these instructions.
The verse contains a play on words. It is no accident that alcohol is associated with "Spirit." Paul's counsel is not to seek joy in the sensuous, self-centered, worldly ways that produce dissipation or debauchery, but rather to be filled with the Spirit, singing and meditating on God's Word as we give thanks in all circumstances. This formula is guaranteed to produce a sustained sense of well-being because it removes the natural self-seeking from our lives and replaces it with a God-centered way of glorifying Him. This allows joy to be the fruit, the blessing of the Almighty, rather than the direct object of our pursuit.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fruit of the Spirit: Joy
For some, following the apostle Paul's advice to “give thanks always” is difficult, and indeed, we all often stumble over it. We can be very grateful to God when things go well. Perhaps, after returning safely from a trip, we are quick to thank God for our successful arrival, as if He were personally responsible for the operations of all who worked to get us home. Suppose, however, that the trip was not so successful. Maybe we were involved in an accident and injured or delayed so that we were late for a meeting, costing a large sale or the loss of a client? Or maybe lightning struck the house, an earthquake damaged it, or a burglar broke in and stole valuables?
Do we see God's hand in these circumstances as well? Is God involved only in the "good" things of life? For example, did Job bemoan his "bad luck" or murmur against God? He bowed before Him, even managing to bless Him (Job 1:13-22)! Is this just fatalistic acquiescence or blind credulity? No, in people who live by faith, it is neither of these because real faith always rejoices in the Lord, knowing He is involved in all aspects of life.
Paul's exhortation to the Philippian church (Philippians 4:4) is nothing short of a call to faith of those undergoing some sort of heavy trial. If a Christian believes that his life and all its circumstances are in the hands of the sovereign, wise, and loving God who is always working for his good, then he can truly rejoice always.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Sovereignty and Its Fruit: Part Ten